March 5, 2009

DTQ: Now What?

Out of the mouths of babe-tending new dads...

Matt Gross, aka the NY Times' Frugal Traveler, just emailed with a great question which, remarkably, I have never heard before:

As a brand-new stay-at-home dad, I'm a little mystified about what to DO all day with the baby. I mean, apart from feeding, changing, playing and putting her down for all-too-short naps, there's a lot of time when she's awake. Our playtime options are limited (she's only 3 months old, after all), and I have no idea what to do. Am I missing something? Do you (or your readers) have ideas for how to play with a baby who doesn't yet realize she has two hands?
For me, when the kid was 3 mos, I was doing whatever I wanted to do--work, meetings, galleries, errands, the gym [which has a sitter]--and taking the kid along. When she was awake, I'd usually talk to her, doing a play-by-play narration of whatever was going on or going by. But I'd also let her chill by herself a lot, too. At that stage, it seemed like just being and observing was plenty for her to process.

I guess I could crack open a parenting or child development book and get "the right" answer, but I'd be interested--and I'm sure Matt'd be, too--to hear what you actually do with a new kid when he's awake. When you're not drilling him with educational DVD's, of course.


My brother in law confided in me once that while he loved his kids, he had very little use for them before they hit a year.

I found with our first that she and I enjoyed hanging together from day one, and she got to experience new things by being my sidekick, just like Greg shared. Our second is now 9 months and is much more interactive than she was a few months ago, but we bonded just being together even back then.

It's amazing and a bit scary how quickly they turn into little people, so I would suggest just enjoying this early phase and feel no pressure to create experiences beyond what life creates. (But my brother in law is right, that when they're ready to really experience the world, it's a blast to be a dad!)

Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. And what Greg said about the carrying around and providing play-by-play.

As for the reading, read anything...books for kids, books for you, newspapers, magazines, whatever comes along. Part of it is having her hear you, and part of it is getting her used to reading.

When she's older and running around and you're not able to get her to sit still for a story, you'll at least know that at some point she was exposed to books.

But seriously, what she probably wants most is just to be with you, wherever that is and whatever that entails.

Things we used to do with our infant:
-Read to her (Roald Dahl, EB White, PC Magazine, etc.)
-Go for a walk. Sling in cold weather, stroller in warmer. A walk is a great way to fill that awkward dead time during the afternoon.
-Take a bath with her.
-Give her to a grandparent and get on with something useful.

It takes a long time to get used to doing "nothing" with an infant. By the time I got used to it, she'd grown past that stage and was demanding individual activities and structured learning following a Waldorf-inspired curriculum.

Oh, how I long for those easy infant days...!

We read to ours a lot, too, and also propped him up on a Boppy for tummy-time play (which didn't last long before he got mad, but he got better at it as time went on). We also went for lots of walks, took him to watch kids play baseball (my husband would wear the bjorn sling), and went to the park to walk around and watch people. He loved other kids and any kind of animal. Another thing that he liked was an Amy Coe crib toy that has farm animals on it. We never attached it to the crib, but we would prop him up or hold him so he could see it, then move the parts and activate the sounds, and try to get him to try it himself. We played music and sang and danced around with him. Played the usual games and sang the songs: Peekaboo, This Little Piggy, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc. Our kid was never satisfied to just sit still and be by himself, so it was definitely a challenge, but it flew by, and I'm glad that I spent so much of it enjoying him and our time together.

3 months old? I'd just lay her on a blanket so stretch and look around. Grab yourself a snack or a book, these pre-mobile days won't last, where merely gazing at the world is education and entertainment .

Wandering around town, parks, or wherever with her strapped to me.

Putting toys in reach.


A tambourine - hold above baby, let baby hit/kick/whatever.

Reading - lying on our backs with the book help up.

did i miss a thing? i'm a stay-at-home dad right now and there is alot of work to do beside playing with k2.

- dress k1 and k2
- prepare breakfast
- feed k2 (ok, you've mentioned that)
- bring k1 to the nursery
- clean up breakfast mess
- shop for food
- prepare cooking
- fill the washing machine
- cook lunch for k2, wife, me (k1 stays in the nursery for lunch)

... and the list goes on and on

in my case there isn't a chance to wonder too much what to do with the baby. if so: take her/him outside, try to find a clean park, took a (thick) picnic blanket with you and let her/him move, watch things and breath fresh air. pls. don't forget a sunshade when the sun shines alot.

(sorry, i'm no native speaker, hope i've find the right words)

btw.: great blog, i'm a frequent reader, keep on!

Basically, I simply do whatever needs doing around the house as well as errands. The kid (18mo by now) absolutely loves helping to empty the dishwasher, doing the laundry, preparing lunch and dinner. Oh, and then there's the occasional TV or Youtube viewing. I do read, listen to music, dance with him, sometimes play music. And in the hour and a half that he naps, I get to play with my computer; read e-mail, read up on DT, stuff like that.

One thing that also easily takes up a chunk of time and is fun for both: walks, outside!

Back when the little boy was 3 months, I was happy to just look at him looking at me! Especially when I was going about my business and he was in a sling. :)

My Teufelkind is going on 3.5 now, but back when he was just 3mo. we used to do a lot of walk & talk. It was mid-winter then, so we were mostly confined to the house or shopping, but we talked a LOT about everything we were doing.

You can't go wrong with reading to them either. Before he was born TK would stop kicking in the womb for stories (especially sing-songy rhymes like Seuss), and would then start kicking again right after we finished reading.

For about 30 minutes leading up to naps we'd read any and every Seuss we could (Cat in the Hat was a favorite). Even now my little devil is a huge Seuss fan.

Once he was on semi-solids we spent a lot of time shopping for, steaming, pureeing and freezing veggies (with plenty of sampling and discussion)

Start READING BOOKS about parenting and child development. Before you know it the current stage will be over, man! Develop a new library.

Read about brain development, or I recommened Waldorf-Steiner philosophy.

good opportunity to say I'm officially NOT opposed to reading books about parenting and child development, in fact, I seek them out.

I AM officially trying to solicit more peoples' direct experience, though, and I find that starting off by quoting an expert's advice can shut down discussion, not foster it.

Yeah, but you're completely right about development at that age. Just experiencing life is exactly what babies need. From their perspective everything is completely new and exciting. They don't have enough experience to be bored by anything.

Going for walks when it's nice and reading when it's not or just talking to the baby while you get some stuff done around the house are all pretty good ways to pass the time with one that little.

I tried as much as I could with both kids to get them to museums right away too. It was important to me to make them familiar with that environment.

Yep. I did what you did. But Talk. A lot. And read. Not kids books. I read whatever I was reading, just aloud to him. He loved the sound of my voice, and I got in a LOT of guilt free reading. :) Talking is vital, and kissing. There really does need to be a lot of kissing.

New to your blog. I like it!

There is one more thing that is worth focusing on more, other than talking, reading, being outdoors or going around museums. It is - TOUCHING THINGS -.

I've developed a little routine around the house when my son was that young. We'd walk around, just touching different surfaces. I would always describe the events in the same way, and go around the objects in the same order. I wanted to achieve an element of surprise by having him tough things that were cold/warm, rough/smooth, edgy/round, hard/soft, sticky/slippery, you name it, while having him "remember" the order of events from the day before. This was a great way to spend some time together, while doing "nothing".

Touching is so important at this age. And I'd even suspect, it must be very exciting ;-)

Thanks for the suggestions! I guess I was worried that if I wasn't stimulating her constantly, then I was doing something wrong—or at least not doing enough. Just having each other as company is, I guess, plenty of activity.

This one coming from an individual with a degree in child development. In the early stages of life the best thing that you can do for an infant is to talk to them, enjoy them and give them an opportunity to experience life (show them things, offer sensory experiences (fuzzy toys, rattles, a swing, bouncy seat, etc...). So pretty much the everyday things that parents do with their children so long as you do talk to them and interact with them throughout the day.

That said Matt, I'm sure you're doing fine. In fact, one of the worst things you can do is constantly stimulate an infant. This often causes them to become dependent upon the stimulation and can lead to an unhappy, fussy baby when you need to get something done.

Spend moments throughout the day cuddling and talking and reading and enjoying and then other moments allowing her to lay alone on a blanket with some toys our in a bouncy seat or in a playpen just taking in her surroundings.

The first three months-especially with winter baby- is all about keeping yourself sane. Get out of the house, go visit people, the kid stays in the bjorn or the bucket most of the time you are out anyway. When you are forced to be home, take some of the time to watch movies that you never really had the chance too - all three Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, for example - and read. Finish up any house projects, especially noisy ones, because once the baby gets a little older, you won't want to do anything that will wake them up.

Carter had one of those activity mats and just stared at the plastic sun at the top that lit up and played songs. It would stop playing until it was touched/kicked again. He learned how to kick it in like 20 minutes. He would stare at that and giggle pretty much all the time.

He loved LOVED certain books at that age too. Not sure why some engaged him more than others but we still have a few memorized.

Walks would've been great if he hadn't been a winter baby.

At that age, what they like is people, not activities or toys. Being carried, being talked to, yes, being read to as well, being looked at by other people. When they get a tiny bit older they love looking at other babies and especially bigger children too - worth taking them to the playground even before they can move about.

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