May 24, 2013 at 5:48 PM ET
On your baby's to-do list this summer? Have fun! We've got 20 creative ways to make the most of the warm weather together.
Once your baby has mastered head control—usually around six months—you can take her into the the water for a dip. Just be sure to give her plenty of time to acclimate being in the water and start out with gentle movements, like bobbing or swaying from side to side. Then, once she's settled in, you both can up the fun factor by singing songs, blowing bubbles or splashing. Just remember to apply—and reapply—sunscreen with an SPF of 30 (not that you needed us to tell you that).
Enjoy Tub Time
No swimming pool nearby? No problem! Let your baby splash around in a tub indoors at home. He'll love an extra-long tubby—all that space to kick!—and may even enjoy it more during the day when he's super energetic. Plus, you can check bath time off the list when bedtime rolls around.
Read Books at the Library
Hitting up your local library in the dog days of summer is a no-brainer. Babies love being read to; reading there won't cost you a dime; and both of you can soak up some much-needed A/C, sans the pricey utility bill.
Visit the Zoo
Sure, she may not know an orangutan from a lemur, but that doesn't mean she won't enjoy seeing them—and all the other critters—at the zoo. For an even more up-close-and-personal meet and greet, stop by the petting zoo and let her feel the billy goat’s wiry beard or the sheep’s spongy coat.
Have a Spontaneous Snack Break
Pack a blanket or plastic mat and some non-perishable goodies for your and your babe in your stroller's storage basket. Then, on your next walk around the neighborhood, scout out a big, shady tree and have a on-the-fly feast underneath.
Go to the Pet Store
Skip the lines (and pricey admission) of the aquarium and take your baby to a local pet store instead. There, she can watch fish zip around their bowls, turtles snoozing under a rock, and hermit crabs dancing along the rocks.
Watch a Construction Site
Who needs "Bob the Builder" when, chances are, your baby has the real thing just outside his door? Park your wheels by an active construction site and let your wee one take in the parade of front loaders, bulldozers and cranes in action. Point out fun facts, like what the machines are called, what colors they are, and what they’re used for.
Take a Walk on the Lawn
A newly mowed lawn is a veritable feast for the senses for the under-one set. Help yours take her first tentative steps on the grass—she'll love how the soft blades feel underfoot—and let her smell its fresh scent.
Buy Sidewalk Chalk—and Let Him Play With It
How do we love you, sidewalk chalk? Let us count the ways. For starters, it comes in fat sticks that are easy for tiny hands to grip. It also leaves behind bright, thick marks with minimal effort on your baby’s part and—perhaps the best part—you can wash it off skin and clothes in a flash.
Scoop and Dump Water
Tap into your baby’s love of scooping things with this easy cool-down activity: Fill a bin with water, and let her pick up and dump the liquid with measuring cups. Bonus points for adding no-tears shampoo to the mix and creating a mountain o' bubbles.
Make a Smoothie
If your baby has already started solids, whip up a beat-the-heat smoothie using fresh fruit, like bananas and blueberries. It’s also a fun way to sneak in extra vitamins!
Shop the Farmer's Market
A visit to the farmer's market is a win-win—you'll stock up on fresh fruits and veggies and your baby will get a firsthand look at all sorts of colors and textures. Let her run her fingers along the ridges of a carrot; tickle her cheeks with a bunch of fresh parsley; or show her dazzling blue blueberries, dusty brown potatoes, and ruby red strawberries.
Go on a Nature Walk
Save this one for early mornings or evenings or when your baby is extra fussy. Put a sun hat on him, strap him in a carrier, and hit the nature trails in your area. Tell him about the sights (trees, butterflies, flowers) and sounds (birds chirping, airplanes overhead, leaves rustling). He may not understand what you’re saying right now, but he'll find the sound of your voice and the gentle rocking motion of being in the carrier extra soothing.
Play in the Mud
A little dirt can be good for babies. Put yours in an outfit that has seen better days and head outside with a pail and shovel or soup spoon. Add some water to a patch of dirt in the backyard, or let her play with the garden hose and create her own mud puddles. She’ll love making a mess, plus it’s a great way for her to relax outside.
Can't make it to the beach this summer? Create one at home with this easy project: Fill a kiddie pool with sand (available at most gardening or home improvement stores), toss in some plastic storage containers and cups, and let your baby loose to play.
Buy pre-made bubble liquid—or make your own—and collect wands of different sizes and shapes. (Hint: Many everyday household items, like a slotted spoon or a funnel, can double as a wand.) Take the haul outside and blow a steady stream of bubbles for your baby to catch and pop. Cue the squeals of happiness.
Check Out the State Fair
Concerts. Crafts. Barnyard animals. Games. There's no shortage of cool things for you and your baby to see and do at your state fair. Plan to be there for a full day, so bring plenty of snacks and sunscreen. And leave plenty of room in the car for all the loot you’ll surely win him on the midway.
Take Tummy Time Outdoors
Tummy time may not be your baby's favorite activity, but a change of scenery could make it more enjoyable. Find a shady spot in your backyard or at your local park, spread out a big blanket, and let her have fun rolling back and forth and lifting herself off the ground. Bring along the playard in case you both want to take a catnap al fresco afterward.
Okay, you'll be doing most of the heavy lifting here, but your baby can be counted on to help tamp down the wet sand while you mold the structure. If creating castles gets old, take your wee one for a walk along the beach. The cool, wet sand is a welcome relief on warm days.
Make Your Own Goop
Or flubber or slime or play-dough. It may look like the byproduct of last winter's cold, but babies love feeling and smelling the stuff. Luckily, most ooey-gooey substances involve a few ingredients you probably already have sitting in your pantry, and whipping up a batch takes just minutes.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.