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fun through the seasons with baby

Summer, fall, winter, spring...with every season comes a change of weather and new opportunities to explore the world with baby. Here's your chance to also do the things you enjoyed so much before your little one's arrival. Take in a ball game, visit the zoo, go apple-picking or listen to a local band. You'll see things in a whole new light — through baby's eyes. Beyond the sheer fun of it, you'll be exposing baby to activities that sharpens his senses and hones his motor skills, making family memories along the way. Wherever you go, be sure to adapt your activities to meet your baby's needs and schedule, which will ensure a happy time for mom, dad and baby.

Here are some ideas to start you off, but think out of the box and you're sure to come up with a few of your own.

summer

zoo or "moo" day Who doesn't enjoy an afternoon at the zoo? For the youngest set, a petting zoo is the perfect choice. Point out how they look, eat and move; and imitate the fun sounds they make, sure to inspire a giggle.

to market to market Why not take baby with you to your local outdoor farmer's market? The sights and sounds, smells and tastes are a treat for the senses. Use the opportunity to take your baby out of his stroller so he can observe the scene from a different vantage point. And bring home some healthy "goodies" that he can enjoy.

aquarium adventure With all the baths baby gets, it's no wonder they're fascinated by water! Watching nature's aquatic wonders in action is amazing, for kids of all ages. To ease baby into the experience, start your tour with the smaller fishes and water creatures and work up to the bigger ones. Some aquariums offer hands-on exhibits for children. Be sure to check age requirements.

in the swim If you're introducing your baby to swimming, do it gradually and with special care. If he's taking swim lessons, support the experience away from swim class in the backyard pool or at the beach. Picture books about water, swimming and aquatic animals, and small water toys can help get baby "in the swim" for summer and beyond.

fall

apple/pumpkin picking time Fall and apple or pumpkin picking go together. Check out an orchard close to you. Many orchards and farms offer children's activities such as hayrides. Let baby touch and feel an apple, maybe reach for one in an apple tree... or see just how big a pumpkin can get! Take the opportunity to prepare the fresh apples into applesauce and the pumpkin into a sweetened pumpkin puree or the all-time fall favorite, a Halloween Jack-o-lantern.

fall for nature Take a nature walk when the leaves are on the ground and watch baby as he experiences the unique "crunch" sound they make as they step — or stroller-through. Watch the leaves float down as they come off a tree and pick them up one by one. Let baby crunch one in his tiny hand. Bring a small, empty, plastic see-through container, collect some acorns together and pop them in (count them as you go) for an instant acorn shaker!

soak up some fall color Sponge-painting fall leaves is a fun, easy project! Cut out a few small leaf shapes from new, clean sponges and set up acrylic paints in fall colors such as red, orange, yellow and brown. Carefully help baby dip 'n print the colorful leaf shapes onto a sheet of paper. Hang up for fall decorations.

learn by scarecrow...or jack-o-lantern Create a festive fall scarecrow or Jack-o-lantern with baby and use it as an opportunity to help him learn words such as eyes, nose, mouth, hair, hat, etc. Together, place or draw on the easy parts of the scarecrow or pumpkin face. Don't forget to name your new friend!

winter

get movin' to music Beat the winter doldrums! Whether it's classic rock or classical, top tunes or baby's favorite songs, turn on the music and get moving. Being active with baby is the best way to start a lifelong appreciation of exercise and activity.

cozy reading spot Carve out a little space for a cozy winter reading — near a window for natural light is extra-nice. Add a brightly colored area rug, some plush animal friends, comfy seating and you're set for wonderful "winter reads."

day at the museum Get out and explore! Children's museums are designed to be interactive and hands-on to keep little ones intrigued. If you don't have a children's museum in your area, check out exhibits at a modern or traditional art museum. Choose an exhibit with bright colors, and interesting shapes and forms to awaken baby's senses. Imagine how delightful a stroll through a sculpture garden could be with your little one on a mild winter day.

pretend play day Pretend and role-play is so much fun, why not make it an event? Set a theme such as songs baby likes or a favorite book or story. Then act them out for baby, using props and dress-up items. Invite a play friend or two, and it's a party!

rock those interactive toys! Host a play date and ask moms to each bring an interactive toy or two that their children enjoy. Sit in a circle and encourage children to share their toys.

spring

pack a picnic Enjoy a picnic in the park with other moms, family or just you and your little one. Bring a playmat and/or blanket for stretching out in the fresh air, and don't forget on-the-go foods, a small toy or two, and a book to read to baby in the great outdoors. Be sure to bring baby sunscreen, a hat and extra clothing in case of a change in weather.

spring taste plate Spring is a perfect time to introduce new flavors into baby's diet or familiar ones presented in a different way. Try a homemade strawberry puree, served plain or mixed with baby cereal or yogurt; sweet spring peas, cooked and mashed; steamed baby spinach or tenderly cooked bite-size carrots. Create a "taste plate" of 3 small mounds of bright and colorful choices and see what baby likes.

flower power walk Boost your stroller walk with a flower-powered theme. Have fun and dress baby (and you!) in floral or jungle-prints, then take off on a garden adventure. See what flowers you can find together; and be sure to stop and enjoy the smells and colors around you.

create a collage An original "made by baby & me" frame may be all the inspiration you need to actually print and display those precious digital photos you've taken. Purchase an unfinished wood collage frame, and with a little dabble here & there from baby, paint it with a sponge applicator or brush. Let it dry, then apply spring-themed embellishments, like faux flowers. See baby's motor skills grow, too!