When you’re a new parent, especially when you’re staying at home to care for your infant, it can be pretty isolating. Before my maternity leave, I imagined a luxurious year of relaxing in my apartment, finally getting time to clean up and repaint, and enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with getting to stay at home. Ha ha ha…I know, right? I was so looking forward to not having to leave the house and deal with traffic, rude people, or the various annoyances that come along with taking public transit every day. What I discovered is that it didn’t take long for me to develop a serious case of cabin fever.
When I was working, my home was a comforting solace at the end of a hectic and stressful day. Once I stopped working, I quickly got pretty bored of staring at the same four walls day in and day out. All of a sudden, the most banal activities were exciting. A trip to Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate? Woo hoo! Something different to do! Grocery shopping? Bring it on! Just get me out of this messy, cluttered, way-too-tiny apartment!
Of course, there are only so many times that you can think of an excuse to go to the grocery store. I’ve found some other places that I can go with my baby that get us both out of the house and keep him interested and occupied. Each of these things is either free or costs less than $10. So if you’re stuck at home, going out of your mind, and looking for something to do, why not try one of these out? You’ve got nothing to lose, except for a couple of hours confined inside the same walls that you were staring at yesterday.
English: Logo of Ikea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- IKEA – even pre-baby, I loved IKEA. Now it’s one of my favourite places to go with him during the day. It is very baby-friendly, with family parking spaces and nice wide aisles that accommodate strollers. There are lots of colourful things for babies to look at. The store itself is big, so if you take a trip through the showroom and then the marketplace, you can easily kill an hour and get some walking in at the same time. If you’re hungry, you can visit their cafeteria and grab some lunch for around $5. Judging from the number of other moms that I see pushing their strollers through there during the day, I’m not the only one who enjoys going here as a free baby date.
Shopping mall (Photo credit: pix.plz)
The mall – chances are, there is some kind of shopping centre somewhere near where you live. For killing time, nothing beats plopping your baby in a stroller or carrier and taking a stroll through the mall. Again, they are usually family friendly with family wash rooms and lots of space for strollers. The malls in my city all offer free stroller walking classes for new parents. One of them also offers a free mom and baby Zumba class once a week. Check out the shopping centre near you to see if they offer something similar, or just organize a group of parents to get together and walk the mall together. If you live somewhere like me where it rains for most of the year, this is an especially good option.
- The library – I was pleased to recently discover that most libraries offer free story-time for infants and toddlers. The one near me offers a half-hour program, three times a week for free! We sing songs and the librarians read a story or two and play with hand puppets. Babies six months and under might not really appreciate it, but at least it gets you both out of the house. My baby just liked looking around at the other kids and hearing me sing to him. Anything that is free, gets me out of the house, and keeps my baby occupied and happy for half an hour is worth it.
- Outside – One of the easiest ways to get out of the house is just to literally get out of the house. Even if I don’t particularly feel like going anywhere, putting my baby in his stroller and taking a walk around my neighbourhood is often enough to perk me up and make me feel less stir-crazy. There is something about fresh air that my baby likes as well, so if he’s especially whiny or bored, a walk around the block will usually distract him and make him happy. I have lots of hills near where I live, so as an added bonus I get some exercise in too!
- Mom and baby drop-ins – I have to admit, I haven’t fully taken advantage of drop-in programs, but there are a ton of them. Most of them are geared towards new parents, and are offered a rate of $1-2 per session. Some of them are just social, some offer guest speakers on subjects like daycare and car seat safety, and some of them are more structured learning. I’ve been kind of nervous to go to one of these on my own, but I figure that if I go and hate it, I’ve only wasted an afternoon. Google “mom and baby drop-in” and see what’s available in your area. Like me, you might be surprised at how many there are!
These are the ways that I’ve been keeping busy during my baby’s first half year of life. New parents, what do you do to keep you and your baby occupied during the day?
In two previous posts, I let you know what baby items I found useful and which ones I wish I wouldn’t have bought. Today, I’m going to list the items that you should easily be able to find second-hand.
I recently discovered buy/sell/swap/auction pages on Facebook. They’re super popular, so you should see if they have one in your area. These pages are a fantastic place to find deals on baby things. Craigslist and thrift stores are also a great place to find used kids items. I’ve spent some time hunting down deals, and I’m starting to notice some trends for things that parents always seem to be selling for a fraction of the cost of what you would pay if you bought it new. Here are the top five things that you should be able to save money on by buying second-hand:
- Clothes – Parents tend to be given a lot of clothes for their newborn, and babies grow quickly. Especially for sizes newborn to 6 months, you can find brand new or almost new clothes quite inexpensively. Since young babies aren’t mobile, most of these clothes are in pretty good condition. It’s important that babies aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke, so try to find clothes that come from a non-smoking home. Look for parents selling “lots” of clothes; people will often get rid of all of their baby’s clothes in a certain size all at once (I just bought a box of 30 pieces of clothing for $50). Thrift stores are another great place to find good condition, used clothes. When buying second-hand clothing, make sure you wash it well before your baby wears it.
- Books – I was shocked to learn how much a new children’s book costs. $20 for a picture book! It’s easy to find good condition, used kid’s books. Thrift stores are usually overflowing with them and so they sell them super inexpensively. Many also give you a deal if you buy a certain amount (like buy four, get one free). You’ll want to flip through the book before you buy it as many of them have rips, scribbles, stickers, or stains in them…but there are many that are in perfect condition.
- Bassinet – some people may not be comfortable with the idea of buying their baby’s first bed second-hand, but we did and I’m glad that we didn’t spend over $100 to buy one new. My baby initially hated it, then got used to it but quickly outgrew it, so we only got a couple of month’s use out of it. There are lots of parents trying to sell bassinets as many thrift stores won’t accept them. As a result, you can get a great deal (I bought mine used for $40 and ending up reselling it for $20). Look for a modern style to ensure it complies with recent safety regulations. You want something sturdy, and if it comes with a stand make sure that the bed clips or fastens securely to the stand. And, of course, you’ll want to wash all the bedding and mattresses that it comes with before your baby sleeps in it.
- Toys – the second-hand market is saturated with used toys. I have a theory that if we stopped producing new toys now, we’d still have enough to pass down to future generations until the end of time. Because of this, parents have to practically give toys away. I like buying hard plastic toys (like stacking rings, nesting cups, shape sorters) second-hand because they can be washed and sterilized in the dishwasher. Wooden toys can also be easily cleaned. I’m a little iffy on plush toys; they often look grubby and I never know if I can clean them well enough because of all the stuffing. Thrift store toys can be a bit overpriced; I like buying at garage sales or directly from parents because they’re usually so desperate to get rid of it that they’ll give you a deal.
In a previous post, I listed the top five baby items that made my life a lot easier. The overwhelming majority of baby items on the market these days are things that are nice to have, but not really necessary. Following is my list of things that I think you can save your money by not buying.
- Baby shoes – I’m not going to lie. Baby shoes are super cute. My baby gets more compliments on his shoes than on any other part of his wardrobe. But they’re completely unnecessary. He doesn’t walk, and when we go out his feet are usually covered by socks, a sleeper, or a blanket (or all three). Babies’ feet grow quickly, and if you’re like me you’ll end up with a bin of super cute, unworn shoes with the tags still on. If you want to buy shoes for your baby, invest in one pair in a neutral colour.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
- Crib wedges, pillows, bumper pads, etc. – most safe sleep guidelines recommend not placing any additional blankets or paraphenelia in your baby’s bed. A crib all decked out with bumper pads does look pretty cute, but all of the moms that I know who bought them ended up taking them out of the crib once their baby started to roll around. Why take the risk? Save your money and buy a cute fitted sheet for the crib or a mobile that your baby can enjoy too.
- Bottle sterilizer – we actually use our bottle sterilizer all the time, so I’m not going to say that it hasn’t been useful, but it’s a big, clunky, electric thing that takes up an entire counter. When we go to someone else’s house, we inevitably end up steaming our bottles on the stove using a deep pot with a built-in strainer. I wish that we would have bought one of those instead. That way, it could fit in the cupboard and we would have a use for it after our bottle sterilizing days are over.
- Newborn size diapers – you’ll want to have some diapers on hand when your baby arrives, but I would caution against buying too many in the same size or brand. We ended up with boxes of extra newborn diapers because my baby outgrew them so quickly (and he wasn’t a big newborn). We also discovered that a certain brand of diapers leak, so we ended up getting rid of a few boxes of those as well. All parents have a favourite brand and style of diaper. If you want to stock up on diapers before the baby gets here, I would recommend buying a variety of sizes and brands. That way, if one of them doesn’t work out, you’re not stuck giving away hundreds of dollars worth of diapers. If you’re using cloth diapers, the same applies. Buy a variety of styles and see what works before investing too much money.
- Baby videos – I don’t want to mention brand names, but there are some prominent companies out there who make DVD’s designed especially for babies. There is new research being done that has concluded that watching TV may not be beneficial for infants. Now, I’m not telling you to not let your baby watch TV. I have the TV on in my house during the day. I’m just saying that those specialty baby DVD’s are super expensive, and the company that manufactures them has admitted that they have no educational value. Save your money and read to your baby instead. If you want to watch TV with your baby, watch one of the hundreds of kids programs available on the cable that you’re already paying for. Your baby won’t be less of a genius for it!
In an upcoming post, I’ll continue helping you to save money by listing the top 5 baby things that you should buy second-hand.
If you’ve been to a Babies ‘R’ Us lately then you know about the ridiculous variety of items that you can buy for infants and toddlers these days.
When you find out you’re expecting, it can be overwhelming to choose what to buy. Most of us are on a limited budget, and don’t want to spend money on a bunch of crap that we’re never going to use. But how do you know what you need? Well, that’s where I come in because I’m going to tell you. I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of a ton of free baby stuff, given to me by my brother and sister whose kids had just outgrown it. Some of it was useful, and some of it wasn’t. I have compiled a list of the top five items that I would definitely recommend for new parents. I’m not being sponsored or endorsed by any of these companies; this is totally my opinion based on my experience.
- Sleep sack – I love putting my baby to sleep in this. Safe sleep guidelines suggest that you not put your baby to bed with a blanket, but I wanted to keep my baby warm. The sleep sack is warm, comfortable, and roomy enough that your baby can move his legs around inside it. It comes in different sizes, and depending on the brand may be sleeveless or have long sleeves (I love the long-sleeved ones). They can seem a little pricey at $20-$30 each, but if you use it every night like I do, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of it.
- Bottle warmer – babies like warm milk. I didn’t want to warm bottles in the microwave, but waiting for water to heat up on the stove, then placing the bottle in the water until it was warm took forever. When my little guy is hungry, he’s hungry now! The bottle warmer that we have is awesome. It heats up a bottle from the fridge in about 2-3 minutes. You just dump some water in the bottom of the warmer, pop in the bottle, and press a button. Steam heats up the bottle quickly with no hot spots. I love my warmer!
- Receiving blankets – I was given many of these as gifts. At first, I had no clue what they were for. I folded them up and put them in a drawer and figured that if I didn’t need them, I’d just get rid of them. Now, almost six months later, I probably go through two or three blankets a day. They are great for cleaning up spit-up and drool on your baby’s face, clothes, the floor, etc. When your baby is little, you can use them to swaddle him. If I’m out at a play group or someone’s house and want to put my baby on the floor, I can spread one out and put him on top. I tuck one onto my baby when he’s in the car seat or stroller to keep him warm and for easy clean-up. Honestly, it’s rare to see me without one of these blankets tossed over my shoulder. They are so immeasurably useful. Buy more than you think you’ll need, because you’ll be using them all the time and they get dirty quickly.
- Travel system – if you’re going to leave the house with your baby, you’re going to need a car seat and probably a stroller. Travel systems are cool because the car seat clips right on to the stroller, so you can transition the baby from your house to the car to the stroller without having to take him out of the seat. It’s great for babies who like to sleep in the car because you can get them into the house without having to wake them up. My little guy just outgrew his travel system car seat and we’re adjusting to having to strap and unstrap him from the new seat to get him in and out of the car. The travel system was WAY easier. I miss it.
- Video monitor – my partner and I had a lot of discussion about what kind of monitor we wanted. The video monitors are quite a bit more expensive than the ones that just provide audio, so we were trying to decide if it would be worth it. In the end, we decided to splurge and spend a bit more for a video monitor and I’m glad we did. I love being able to turn on the visual and watch my baby in his crib. Even if I can’t hear him, sometimes I can see him wriggling around so I know that he’s okay. When he’s older and more mobile, it will be nice to be able to check on him and see what he’s up to in his room. Considering that we’ll be using the monitor every day for at least a couple of years, it was definitely worth the extra expense.
These are the five items that I have found most useful in the first six months of my baby’s life. I hope that you find this helpful. In my next post, I’ll help you save some money by listing the five baby items that I found totally unnecessary.