Five Extra Special Ideas for Baby’s First Birthday

Your baby’s first year is filled with so many firsts: first smile, first time sitting up, first bite of baby food ... and to top it off, her very first birthday! No doubt you’ll want to throw a party to celebrate, but parties only last a few hours. Try these ideas to mark this important milestone in a way that will last.

1. Plant a tree
Like your baby, a tree will grow with each passing year, putting down roots and branching out into the world. Over the years -- and definitely on each birthday -- you can take photos of your child by her special tree. Not only is this a wonderful way to record your little one’s life, but as she gets older, it will teach her about the important connection we all have to the earth and environment.

2. Make a first-year quilt
Few things are cuter than baby clothes. But babies grow so fast that sometimes it seems your little one has barely worn an outfit before she’s outgrown it. A first-year quilt is a lovely way to save a piece of that adorable newborn onesie you can’t bear to part with or the red jammies with the dinosaur face that always makes your baby laugh. And don’t forget those first-year linens: blankets, sheets, and towels bearing irresistibly cute baby motifs. Assemble all the items, cut them into squares, and turn them into a quilt that you can appreciate for years to come -- and eventually give to your child when she gets older.

3. Record your baby’s story
Select your favorite photos from the past 12 months to go into your baby’s very own storybook. Put them in a scrapbook and write a tale highlighting the special moments and baby development milestones from your baby’s first year. Not a writer? Put the photos in a slideshow and add your little one’s favorite tunes as the soundtrack. Reading your baby’s story or watching the slideshow together is a perfect addition to your child’s bedtime routine, reminding her how special she is and how much you love her.

4. Make a footprint in time
Use a casting kit to make an impression of your child’s foot or hand. Put it in a double frame with the cast on one side and a portrait from her first birthday party on the other. As your child grows, you’ll both look upon the tiny cast and marvel at how little she once was.

5. Create a time capsule
Collect items that capture the essence of your baby’s first year: a photo of your home, a swatch from her favorite blanket, the rattle she adored, a recording of her favorite song, and so on. Then seal them in a box to open on her 18th birthday. It’s something you’ll both cherish for the rest of your lives.

Baby Safety at Home

Babies and toddlers have that sneaky tendency to get into all kinds of mischief, but it’s our job to keep them safe. Here is the baby safety information you need to make sure your living space is ready for your baby.

  • Cover all unused electrical sockets so your baby doesn’t try to put her fingers in them.
  • Remove rubber tips from doorstops. Your baby could try to put them in her mouth.
  • Hide cords for blinds and electrical appliances (or place them out of reach). They are a strangulation hazard.
  • Place protective padding over sharp corners, like the edges of the fireplace or coffee table, where babies and toddlers could injure themselves.
  • Install safety latches on all doors and cabinets. Store medicines and cleaning products only in cabinets your baby won’t be able to reach.
  • To keep them from falling, secure heavy items like TVs onto furniture.
  • Install safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Set your water heater to 125°F to prevent your baby from accidentally getting burned.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.
  • Put emergency numbers (e.g., your pediatrician’s and poison control center’s) near each phone for easy access.

Just as important, remember to share these baby safety tips with other family members or friends who your baby might be visiting often. This way, they’ll be able to make their homes safer for your little one too.

Photo by Khoa Pham on Unsplash

Teach Your Child How to Eat With Utensils

It was cute when your baby first started using his fingers to eat on his own -- and consequently ended up getting food on his face, in his hair, and even in a little circle on the floor around his high chair.

But once your little one’s reached toddlerhood and you’re still picking pieces of spaghetti off the wall, it’s time to make a change. This part of his early childhood development may seem like it will never come -- but it will!

By age 2, your child has the motor skills to use a utensil and drink from a cup using one hand. That’s not to say your attempts at civilized mealtime will always go smoothly: Even if your child likes the idea of using a grown-up fork and spoon, he might sometimes be too hungry or tired to feel like bothering.

Here are some tips to help keep your child on track:

Lead by example. You might not always be able to eat with your child, but share meals as often as possible so he can watch how you eat with a utensil. It won’t be long before he will want to try to copy you.

Be consistent. Give your child utensils at every meal once he’s developed the skills to use them, even if he isn’t interested in using them yet. Over time, he’ll start to get the idea that this is just how big people eat.

Don’t force it. On the days when he’s just not interested in his spoon or fork, don’t pick a battle. Fighting with your child over this issue will just cause a power struggle … and make mealtime unhappy for everyone.

Be patient and stick with the routine. Before you know it, you’ll have a proper little gentleman dining with you at the dinner table!

What You Need to Know About Well-Baby Visits

Well-child visits to your pediatrician provide you with an opportunity to raise any questions you may have about your infant’s development, behavior, and well-being, without the added stress of cramming everything into one visit when your baby is under the weather.

Your baby’s first exam will take place immediately after she’s born, and exams will continue at frequent intervals throughout her first year. During these visits, be sure you and your pediatrician go over the following information:

  • Your baby’s growth. Is her weight on track? What about her measurements and the size of her head? Have your pediatrician track these on a graph and show you your baby’s growth in relation to that of other infants.

  • Your baby’s mouth. Your pediatrician can check for any infection or signs of teething.

  • Your baby’s soft spot. Your infant’s soft spot will be open and flat for the first few months, and by 2 or 3 months, it will begin to close. The front soft spot should be completely closed before she turns 2 years old. Keep track of this aspect of your infant’s development at these visits.

  • Your baby’s hips and legs. Have your pediatrician move your baby’s legs to check for any problems with hip joints, including dislocation or dysplasia of the hip joint.

  • Your baby’s ears and eyes. Make sure your doctor looks inside your baby’s ears, and be ready to discuss any abnormalities you may have noticed with your baby’s hearing, or questions you have about that aspect of her development. The same goes for her vision. Your doctor should shine a bright object or flashlight to catch your baby’s attention and track her eye movements.

  • Your baby’s genitals. At each visit, your pediatrician should check your baby’s genitals for any unusual growths, tenderness, or signs of infection.

  • Your baby’s vital organs. At your well-baby visits, the doctor should check the front and back of your baby’s chest to listen for her heart and lungs. He can also place his hand on your baby’s abdomen and gently press to check that none of her organs are enlarged.

Keep in mind that well-baby visits are also an excellent time to discuss any concerns or questions you have about your infant’s development, especially pertaining to milestones.

To make the most of both your and your pediatrician’s time, it’s a good idea to write down your top questions and bring them with you. It’s easy to get distracted by other topics once you’re in the office, but having the list with you will help you stay on track.

Toddlers and Imaginary Play

Location: Indoor or out

Promotes: Cognitive development

Props: A cardboard box and old clothes for starters (additional props are optional, depending on the type of play you intend to suggest) 

How to play
Help your toddler or preschooler fly like a superhero with pet tigers, all without leaving the safety of his bedroom. It’s easy to feed your toddler’s imagination through simple props and toys. All you have to do is skip the bells and whistles and go for old-school objects. For example, a giant cardboard box can become a rocket ship or even a makeshift canoe.

Old clothes add another fun dimension to pretend play: They can be transformed into any number of things, like a doctor’s uniform or a businessman’s outfit.

Tricks and advice

Resist the urge to become too involved or fact-driven in your toddler’s pretend play routine. The essential idea behind imaginary play is that it allows your child to let his imagination roam.

If you’d like to help him develop new ways to pretend, try giving him a simple suggestion or genre of play, then let him take it from there. For example, you could suggest that he pretend he’s just received some happy news. Ask him how he would react and then let your toddler take it away.

Another fun idea is to come up with an alternative story line for your toddler’s favorite movie or book. Part of this toddler play would involve coming up with new characters and plotlines. You could even write down the new story as you act it out, adding additional developmental skills to his playtime.

Whatever you offer, keep it as simple as possible, and follow your child’s lead to get the most out of the play.

Learning and growing

Imaginary worlds allow toddlers to try out different outcomes and organize their emotions based on those outcomes. Pretend play is a great way for your child to act out make-believe scenarios and practice reactions that can then be reapplied in real life. Encourage your child to continue with his imaginary play by introducing new props from time to time.