The sun is shining and the long days of summer are here. For those coastal residents who have been part of the great baby boom of the past few years, the question may arise: "What to do with baby?"
The smallest member of the family is developing at a rapid pace and any positive stimulation can go a long way. Early exposure to language, music, nature and activities such as swimming will make a lasting impression on a child by laying the groundwork in their developing brains for them to tap into later in life.
On the North Coast of Oregon, there may be more options for engaging your baby in new activities than you are aware of. There are swim lessons, music and movement classes and informal play groups in which moms get together and let their children socialize.
According to Barbara McCann, director of the North County Recreation Center in Nehalem, summer is a great time to get your baby acclimated to the water. "The younger the better," McCann said when asked what a good age is for introducing infants to the water. "It is safe to bring your baby in to the pool when they are as young as 3 months old, although many parents wait until they are 6 months or older," she added.
McCann said, "Your baby will let you know whether or not they are comfortable in the water."
The Parent Toddler Swim Classes at the NCRD run 9:30 to 10 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. The Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District offers a Kinder Swim Class (0 to 3 years of age) from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, which provides an hour for babies and toddlers to safely play in the water. The Astoria Aquatic Center offers an Aqua Ducks class (6 months to 3 years) as part of their lesson program at 11:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Andy Weaver of the Astoria Aquatic Center described the class as a great way to get your baby comfortable in the water. "They learn to get their face and ears wet, which some babies hate. Most importantly, they learn to relax in the water while having fun playing games and singing songs."
There will also be two Itsy Bitsy Beach Parties over the summer at the Astoria Aquatic Center, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 11 and Aug. 22. These fun-filled events are geared toward toddlers with a mix of activities in the water and poolside.
Any mother who has felt the frustration of dealing with an overtired infant knows the sweet respite of nap time. A long walk through the woods can be a great way to expose your infant to the wonders of nature until they are lulled to sleep. Luckily, there are plenty of paved trails and walkways on the North Coast that a stroller can be pushed along.
In Nehalem, Kyle Bishop Matthews enjoys taking her 17-month old daughter Maya for walks at the Nehalem Bay State Park. A 1.8-mile trail loops through a coastal pine forest and follows the Nehalem Bay. It is uncommon to spot families of deer and such birds as great blue herons and bald eagles, which Maya loves. For Matthews, the walks provide a nice break from the rest of the day and she gets to do something for herself by getting some exercise.
Another great place to walk is the Promenade in Seaside, which is 1.5 miles from Avenue U to 12th Avenue. There is always lots of activity, with a mix of pedestrians, bicyclists and skate boarders. Babies love to watch the action unfold as they stroll along with their parents.
In Astoria, the River Walk provides a nice place to stroll along the water where giant container ships and wildlife can be seen. Angella Coscia of Astoria likes to walk along the river with her 8-month-old daughter Grace in a baby backpack. That way, Grace is up high and can see all of the sights. Coscia says that her daughter loves the sights and smells of the waterfront and that she never cries when they are out walking.
An early exposure to music has been shown to help brain development in a myriad of ways, including spatial awareness, mathematics and language skills. A Music Together class is offered by Molly Sappington at the North Coast Recreation District in Nehalem that meets Tuesdays with two time slots, 10:45 and 11:45 a.m. The series of classes is the result of a research-based program taught nationally and internationally, according to Sappington. The classes feature age-appropriate activities that teach rhythm and how to keep a tune. Sappington says it is wonderful to watch the children interact in this structured environment where music is king.
Many mothers on the North Coast band together in informal play groups where their children can interact with one another and learn precious lessons about sharing with others while having a good time. Kyle Matthews often hosts these get-togethers at her house in Nehalem with coworkers and friends. Matthews sees an intrinsic value in letting Maya learn from her peers while the mothers learn from each other.
And of course, there are always miles of miles of beach where a baby can practice crawling and walking with a minimum of dangerous obstacles. Luckily, eating sand isn't fatal.