After getting through that last trimester, most parents are rarin’ to do something outside the house. But what are their options for outings now that they have a tiny human in tow?
Believe it or not, even a 1- or 2-month-old is going to enjoy some outings more than others. We talked to Julie Hupp, an associate professor of developmental psychology at The Ohio State University-Newark campus, about what exactly is going on inside those little noggins and what they notice about the outside world at such young ages. [Disclaimer: We are not providing you with this information so you can improve your baby’s chances of getting into Harvard.]
Hupp, herself the mother of a 6-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, said she enjoyed noticing what her children noticed during those very early years.
“They prefer bold colors and contrast,” Hupp explained. “The face is also one of the most interesting parts of their visual world.”
Parents can expect about a maximum of one hour when it comes to alertness and “being able to attend to what’s around them,” Hupp said. But you also don’t want the experience to offer too much sensory stimulation, which can overwhelm and upset a child, she said: “Make it new but not too stimulating.”
In Central Ohio, these are some of the most enjoyable outings that a parent and a tiny baby (think 6 months and younger) could undertake.
•Visit the flamingoes at the Columbus Zoo (4850 W. Powell Rd., Powell 43065, 614-645-3550, columbuszoo.org): This is the animal exhibit that infants tend to notice and react to first, Hupp said. Their bright pink-orange color set against a year-round backdrop of dark green foliage is very easy for an infant to see and follow, especially since the birds don’t move quickly.
It will take several months’ more development before a baby will get much out of visiting the Aquarium, said Hupp, because the fish do move too quickly to get the baby’s attention. But a visit to this dimly lit and warm environment might be a nice stopping-off point when Baby has fallen asleep and Mom and/or Dad need to relax and recuperate.
•Visit a pet store: Along the same lines, a visit to a pet store also can be stimulating (but not too stimulating) for an infant, said Hupp. In a pet store, the animals tend to be small (think puppies and kittens) and won’t move too quickly. Being able to see their faces is what an infant will enjoy most.
•Visit the Columbus Museum of Art (480 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215, 614-221-6801, columbusmuseum.org): The museum is very stroller-friendly, and talk about bold colors! The Dale Chihuly glass-art exhibit (a tower of squiggly yellow, red and orange pieces of glass) in the center Derby Court often catches the eye of babies. Many other exhibits also are brightly colored and big enough to park a stroller in front of so your baby has time to just sit and take it all in (never underestimate the value of just “putting it in park” with an infant).
The Ohio Craft Museum (1665 W. Fifth Ave. (Grandview Heights), Columbus 43212, 614-486-4402, ohiocraft.org) This place also is a great option: Much of the artwork on display and for sale there is brightly colored and, with a smaller exhibit space, easier for a baby to focus on. Also look for quilt exhibits; this is another art form that can amuse a baby’s eye. Many art centers in the area plus downtown Columbus’ Riffe Gallery (77 S. High St., Columbus 43215, 614-644-9624, oac.state.oh.us/riffe) host quilt shows every year. These spaces are also free to visit.
•Visit the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203, 614-715-8000, fpconservatory.org): A baby backpack will be a better tool for infant transport than a stroller here, but it’s worth it for navigating the gardens. Unlike many outdoor parks, here the foliage is up close and much of it is vividly colored. You also get to enjoy more Chihuly glass art, which is interspersed throughout the gardens.
As for the Conservatory’s famous Blooms and Butterflies exhibit (which happens each year from March to September in the Pacific Island Water Garden area), a very young infant probably won’t notice the butterflies flitting around, but it won’t take too many months before he or she does. In fact, noticing when your baby starts noticing the butterflies can make a nice milestone event for the memory book.