There is SOOO much STUFF available these days when it comes to entertaining children! If you aren't careful, your house will soon be over run with toys, activity spaces, and gadgets. I have a hard time coping with lots of clutter in my home. I decided early on that Oliver was allowed to have ONE large item in the living room at a time. Everything else was kept in his bedroom or stored in his closet until it was appropriate for his age.
Below, I am going to go through the activity centers that he enjoyed that most at each stage of life from infancy-6 months old. Every time I introduce a new activity center, I try to pack up the one 2 months prior, and I move the one from the month before to his room. This keeps one item in the living room and one in his room. If you gradually introduce your child to new toys or stations, you may be able to keep your home from looking like a Babies R Us.
Newborn- 1 month: Bouncer
When babies are first born, they spend hours upon hours sleeping (those were the days!). You want to stimulate your child with educational toys- even at this age- but Oliver didn't really enjoy his gym or dangling toys for the first month of his life. He just wanted to rock and sleep! For the next child, I won't bring out anything but a rocker for that first month.
2 Months: Swing
As your baby gets older and is awake for longer periods, they may get restless in the rocker and find more enjoyment in a swing. The swing has dangly toys that will allow them to practice their reach and grab motions, and it allows them to sit up with a better view of their surroundings. We would put Oliver in this during meal times and would use it to lull him to sleep. Note- I tried putting him in here at 6 months on a whim and he almost knocked the thing over trying to climb out so be careful with a swing as they get older!
3 Months: Activity Gym
As your baby is able to reach, grab, and hold their head up better, they will most likely enjoy an activity gym. Oliver would spend an hour trying to grab those little toys, and tummy time on most mats introduces new touch sensations. We used this before 3 months, but like I said early, I won't let it clutter my living room until a bit later with my next child. He would just lay there and cry before he was able to actually play with the features of the gym. Note- He still loves his gym at 6 months, but I keep it folded up in his room and bring it out for special occasions.
4 Months: Exersaucer
At 4 months we bought Oliver an Exersaucer (Also referred to as a Stationary Bouncer or Activity Center). 4 months is the youngest recommended age to start with an Exersaucer. Even though he was a bit wobbly at first, we noticed a huge improvement in his hand-eye coordination and leg strength within days of introducing it.
5 Months: Jumper
At 5 months, we brought out the wall hanging jumper. You can begin using these at 4 months, but we wanted to space the new toys out a bit. Also, when we tried it earlier, he just sat there and sucked on the rim. Because the jumper doesn't take up much room in the house and can be easily taken down and put out of sight, I keep both the Exersaucer and the Jumper in the living room at the same time.
6 Months: Bumbo Seat and High Chair
As your baby begins to master siting up and starts eating solid foods, they will likely enjoy sitting and playing with toys in a Bumbo Seat or High Chair. I keep both of these items in Oliver's closet and slide them in and out as needed, but in a few weeks I am going to start leaving the high chair out and put the Exersaucer in the closet. Oliver will sit contently in his high chair for a solid hour eating, playing his piano, or throwing balls!
Whether you use these exact items to entertain your child or not, find a system that helps keep your home looking like adults live there as well! As soon as your child outgrows a center product, pack it away for the next one or donate it to someone in need. Similarly, there is no need to have a fancy high chair sitting in your kitchen for 6 months before you little one can use it. If you do not have adequate storage for things that are not being use, consider waiting to buy items unit they are age appropriate.
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I am 25 years old with a 2 year old son and a wicked handsome husband living in Birmingham, Alabama.