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October 27, 2022

Playgrounds with Your Baby

I can already feel some of you cringing as I'm starting to write this post about babies in public spaces. Especially in the era of Covid, I respect that our feelings about germs, exposure to other people, and being given the freedom to explore is different for all of us. If you're not comfortable with this amount of exposure to germs or people, that's totally alright. I'm sharing what works for us and that doesn't have to be the same for your family. Make decisions that feel best for your baby, your family's situation, and your comfort level while still respecting your child and their developmental needs. 

We are having a warm, beautiful and unseasonably dry autumn season. While the earth definitely needs some rain here, we have been able to take advantage of the weather and get outside a lot more than we normally would this time of year. This means that Penelope has been able to actively participate a lot more in parks and playgrounds as her movement has exploded. 

While I think we often think of playgrounds as perfect for toddlers and older children, babies are often forgot about. Except for a couple of baby swings, not many playgrounds consider having spaces for the youngest children to explore. So, often, babies are stuck in strollers off to the side of all the fun. Or, parents/caregivers are stuck trying to balance a baby in their arms while keeping them away from all the fun the baby wants to be having. 

Tips for Taking Babies to Playgrounds and Public Parks

This reality is really too bad, because a lot of older babies are ready to move their bodies in new, different, and challenging ways. Playgrounds often offer gross motor and sensory experiences that we just can't include in our home. Here are some tips to make playgrounds with babies more successful: 

  • Choose Your Park: Consider the playground's ground medium. For babies, universal playgrounds with rubber playscapes can sometimes be easier to keep babies from eating unsafe things. Searching "universal playground" "inclusive playground" or "accessible playground" can help you find those in your area that include a floor covering that is easier for babies to navigate safely. 
  • Safety: If the playground is sand, mulch, or rocks (or other baby-mouthing material) - bring a chew toy or pacifier and redirect. Try feeding baby right before play to motivate them less to mouth. Sit really close and be prepared to redirect to appropriate mouthing. 
  • Sweep: Before putting baby on the ground, sweep the area for any potential dangers - rocks, bits of broken toys/items, trash, etc. that your baby might get ahold of. 
  • Location: Choose a location on the playground that is within your child's gross motor abilities - so something shorter to pull up on, roll near, or walk between. Mobile babies will likely explore more on their own, but try to find at least something they can use with some independence 

  • Join: Get on your baby's level with them - sit on the ground - this will help you spot them if necessary, but also helps you see potential spots of interest/danger. Also sitting on the ground helps to draw other children's attention to your baby's presence and hopefully not accidentally run into them. 
  • Boundaries: Other children are often super interested in babies playing at the park (babies are cute, but also not seen that much on playground equipment) and may want to touch, talk to, or move a baby. Set clear boundaries, with respect, when necessary: I sometimes invite other children to watch Penelope, or say things like "you can touch her feet" or "she is using this right now." 
  • Trust: Find a line between trusting your baby and keeping them safe. Try not to hover but also don't place them on equipment. Let them figure it out in their own way, they will be safer this way. 
There's something so special about watching your baby explore a new place and learn new skills along the way. See if there's a playground in your area that you can make work for your baby. There are so many amazing opportunities even for the youngest children out in the world. 

Tips from a Montessori mom for bringing babies to parks and playgrounds and letting them explore.

This post is week 37 of my Montessori Baby series featuring Penelope. 


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Anonymous said…
We live in a rural area, so I had never even heard the term "universal playground." Our town's park is mostly just grass, so it was interesting to learn that other options exist.
I will say that I find older babies often enjoy the wooden bench swing alongside momma or daddy, and they can generally climb onto it themselves because they're pretty low.

Thank you for the advice!