My maternity leave was a couple of years ago now, although I still have fond memories of most of it, though I believe I have blocked out the first few months for sanity’s sake.
Everyone will obviously choose to do different things, I remember how shocked I was when I was talking to another mum at a surestart centre, and she said that this was the first time she had left the house. Her baby was almost 6 months old! I shouldn’t have been shocked though, because if someone wants to stay at home the whole time, that’s fine, if it is your choice, however, I do worry about the people who stay at home because they have nowhere to go, no friends or family nearby, or any ideas of where to take their baby.
I was and still am one of those mums who likes to get out of the house. I don’t think I spent a single whole day at home during my maternity leave, but that’s because I like being around people, I would have felt very lonely at home.
Since I was always out and about, I was always on the look out for ideas of places that were baby friendly in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas, and particularly for activities that were aimed at babies or new/first time mums, and this is what I found.
Ideas for things to do/activities for your baby
I’m starting with surestart/children’s centres because these should be the easiest for you to get to, are free and varied. In Milton Keynes there are over 100 Surestart centres, they have one on most estates, meaning they should be walking distance for most, classes are usually free and you can go to any centre you want, you are not limited to just your local centre, although some popular classes only allow those in their catchment to attend.
When your baby is very young you will likely use your centre to get your baby weighed as most health visitors run a weekly weigh-in clinic, and are also available to answer your questions, of which I always had loads! Some centres will also run breastfeeding clinics, which is especially useful if you are struggling, as they can check that the baby is latching on properly or help with the positioning or technique.
Some of the classes they have include:
- Baby massage (Nate loved this and we did it every week in the heated sensory room at Hedgerows)
- Messy play
- Stay and play
- Toddler time (music and dancing)
- Cooking classes
Cinebabies at Cineworld
I wrote a post about Cinebabies whilst I was on maternity leave, because I thought it was such a fantastic idea. If you have read my blog before you will probably have noticed that I love movies, and have continued to go to the cinema a few times a month ever since Nate was born. This was made easier by Cinebabies which is: one morning a week Cineworld show a movie that is a 12A Certificate or lower, aimed at adults, but won’t upset the babies, the sound is turned down, the lights turned up. You get to watch a movie, for you, while your baby sleeps in the car-seat next to you (well that’s what Nate did). Odeon appear to do the same thing, called Newbies.
NCT run useful courses for parents throughout the year such as – early days with your baby, baby massage, baby yoga, introducing solid foods, baby first aid. Most of their courses will involve a cost, but I am sure some of them are well worth it. I did their ante-natal classes and would highly recommend them, if only so you can make friends with like-minded parents who will all have a baby the same age as yours. NCT Course finder.
If you only have one child, you may want to wait until your baby can crawl before you take them to a play centre, that way, assuming there is a baby or toddler zone, they will gain some use from it, although it is vastly better when they can walk. If they are still young, bring your stamina too because those places are a major work out for the parent who runs around with their toddler. I’m surprised, actually, that no celebrity has yet to come out with the ‘play centre’ work-out! We took our son to one of our local play centres called 360 Play when he was 7 months for the first time, and he loved it. They have recently improved their outdoor area so they can be useful in the summer too. Recently he has been to Safari near me in MK, The Riverside Hub in Northampton and Snakes and Ladders in Dunstable. Our favourite is probably the Riverside, shame it is too far away to go there regularly. The best thing about that one is all of the play area is along one long back wall, so no matter where you sit, you can almost always see where your child is, which is perfect for older toddlers/children who are more independent. Play centres are also ideal as they have food and drink, so it is nice to sit and have a hot chocolate whilst watching your little one run around.
We have three gymnastics centres in Milton Keynes, they all run play sessions at different times of the day for babies and toddler to come along and play on the equipment. Again we took Nate when he could crawl, and since they also provide toys, and sometimes a music session this worked well, but again once they can walk, they are off. Our centre in Kingston is particularly huge so you could easily be running from one end of the room to the other every few minutes – another good work-out. The down side with these is that the sessions are time-limited, there is nowhere comfortable for parents to sit and no food or drinks there for adults.
Library sing a long sessions
Most libraries that have a children’s section run rhyme time sessions with young children. In Milton Keynes we have 9 libraries and most of them run: baby song and rhymetime for under 2s and storytime for the under 5s. They run at different times between Tuesday and Saturday and they are free.
David Lloyd/Virgin Active – Creche
I joined David Lloyd for their 3 month membership when Nate was about 2 months old. They have a creche, so it meant I could try to lose a little baby weight in the gym, swimming pool or exercise classes whilst Nate was being taken care of for a short while. It was a real luxury to have a tiny bit of me time during my maternity leave, and when I was having a particularly bad day, like this one, I just sat in the sauna and hot tub, then had a hot chocolate and relaxed for a short while, trying to re-coup my energy from a particularly bad night. Virgin active, also had a creche and were much more affordable.
When Nate was 6 months old we started doing Water babies classes, and even though they were expensive, and quite hard at first with crying babies during the class and trying to get a baby and yourself changed afterwards, which is really tricky. It was worth it to see the change over the 12 week course. Nate became happier in the water, and even being submerged, and learned how to hold onto the side. Another bonus was that he always had a mammoth nap straight after the class. Waterbabies were the most expensive, though they used the best pools for their classes, with the warmest temperatures. Turtles classes were more cost-effective but in pools that were cooler and with less nice changing facilities, with an older baby or toddler I am sure that would be less of an issue.
Buggy in the Park/Buggy Fit
Local parks trusts tend to run sessions for new mums and lots of family event through the year. The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes runs Buggy in the Park sessions and fun events through the year such as the Outdoor Cinema, Proms in the Park, World Picnic, Bark in the Park, MK Play Association fun days and more.
Classes run by private companies such as Baby Signing, Musical Monkeys, Rag Dolly Anna’s and more are also available.