OMG babies are kind of boring
January 27, 2013 4:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I entertain my 3-month-old without dying of tedium myself?

I have a wonderful 3-month old son, who I love a lot. However, spending an entire day with him is still really freaking boring a lot of the time. Although I find him fascinating in the abstract -- I love trying to figure out what he can and can't do, thinking about his cognitive skills and theories of the world -- the minute-to-minute details of playing with objects, sticking objects in the mouth, being held up, looking at things, ad infinitum really wear me down. Since realistically he's not going to be qualitatively that much different for many months until he begins walking and talking, I'm looking for suggestions of things I can do with him that will add some interest to our days.

Things we do right now:

- He loves loves loves to be made to stand. Probably about 40% of his waking hours are spent standing, propped up by us. He can hold himself up by only holding onto one of our thumbs with one of his fists at this point. This is, as you can imagine, kind of tedious for us. We have gotten him a Jolly Jumper and a walker, both of which he also loves, although we don't want to overuse either.

- He also loves to listen to music. My partner plays the guitar, which is good for many minutes of fascinated listening. He also likes to be "danced" to anything, especially if it has a strong rhythm. AC/DC is a favourite. This is also a good time suck, but you can only dance for so long, every day, without your brain turning to mush.

- He likes to hold objects and put them in his mouth. If we put him in his chair with some objects he will self-entertain for 10 minutes or so, several times a day. Will last a lot longer if we "help" him hold the objects, or interact with them at the same time. This is boring but consumes a lot of the day. We try to vary the objects but there are only so many that are safe for him to put in his mouth. Mainly this involves a lot of toys, fingers, cloths, and safe kitchen utensils. Other suggestions here welcome.

- He loves to go "out" and look at people and things. Hikes, parks, wandering around malls, it's all good. In fact, if he spends a day just around the house he is really fussy from boredom by the end of the day. The issue with anything outdoors is that we're in Australia, so it's often super hot and the UV index is extreme. So we try to minimise outdoor time even with sunblock on. As for malls and stores, we pretty much try to visit one or two every day. I am SO sick of wandering around these kinds of places. I vary it between the mall, Target, the grocery store, IKEA, the hardware store, the library, and the pool. Pretty sick of them all at this point.

Things we have tried but don't work well:

- He is high energy. Just putting him in a backpack and "going about our day" is too boring and doesn't let him move, which again, he wants to do all the time. Also, our day often consists of sitting in front of computers, which he is not a fan of.

- He doesn't like the car very much. Either falls asleep or starts squawking after a while of driving. I think it is not stimulating enough(?). Thus, long trips are out.

- He likes to read books but only in small doses. I think he's still a bit young to get much out of them other than gnawing on them and turning the pages.

- He can occasionally be induced to whack at my iPad, but it's not that interesting, and I don't want to get a 3-month old too dependent on screen time anyway.

- We have one of those little gyms where he lies on the floor and swats at dangling objects. This is okay but only for about 15 minutes total all day.

- We do do tummy time, many times a day, but he's not a huge fan and it is more of a chore than anything.

- We often make sounds back and forth to each other but he's mainly only into this while doing something else as well.

- He is in daycare 2 days a week and likes it, but we can't do more than that.

- We do not have a TV.

So… I realise that to some extent the answer may just be "babies are indeed boring" and we're doing about what one could expect. I also realise that all these activities sound like they fill a day, but every day of the same thing, and with many hours of them over and over again, is still really dull. So if any of you have found awesome activities that work to pass the time with your pre-walking, pre-talking, loves-to-move-around baby, I would love to hear about them.
posted by forza to Human Relations (43 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are there any Mommy-and-Me classes, meetup groups or activities in the area? Or religious studies or gyms that offer childcare while you work out? Forget entertaining the baby, he's happy as a clam; try to think about what would be entertaining for you. Socializing with other adults will probably make your days better.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2013 [15 favorites]

TPS beat met to it - get out and socialize!
posted by radioamy at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a lot easier than you think. You are doing much, much, more already than you realize. Babies will take all of the attention you give them, BUT, and this is a huge BUT, they also need a LOT of down time to process and think over things.

Believe me, your baby is already incredibly stimulated just by being in the same room with you, looking at the shadows on the wall, watching the sunshine move across the room, hearing the sounds from the street outside. A great read about babies is called, "The Scientist In The Crib." It explains from a neurological standpoint exactly what is going on in the baby brain and why dropping things over and over, for example, is so fascinating.

And, believe it or not, your baby already needs to learn how to entertain him or herself, or you will deprive him or her of learning this skill. If you are a parent who is constantly trying to entertain your baby, guess what? You will wind up with a child who needs constant entertainment. Babies need to learn that they can't always get what they want, and even at this young age, they are trying their hardest to manipulate you.

If the baby is crying, ask yourself three questions? Is she sick or scared? Is she hungry or cold? Is she tired?

If none of those three things are true -- try this: Wait. Just wait. She doesn't have to be picked up and entertained all the time. Again, you will wind up with a baby that needs constant attention all the time and both you and she will be miserable.


You sound (if you don't mind me saying so) really kind of isolated and frustrated. Having young children IS very isolating and frustrating. If it is at all possible, hook up with other parents of young children for short periods of time at least three times a week. Babies and children of all ages love looking at each other and interacting, and so much of the best stuff that they learn (new tricks, new skills, new words) is picked up from watching other children. Your baby will absolutely LOVE being around other children of any age, and you will benefit from the companionship and cameraderie.

Best, best of luck to you. It sounds like you love your baby like gangbusters.
posted by jfwlucy at 4:35 PM on January 27, 2013 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Tape on the forehead. Fun for hours. (supervised obviously, the watching is the fun part)
posted by zug at 4:36 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Can you train him to do tricks, that will entertain YOU? Convert him, at least in your own head if not on YouTube, into material for adult whimsy? (I'm pretty sure our dad amused himself in this sort of way. Since the kid is too young for dialogue, it'll have to be something more kinetic.)

Behavioral training (positive reinforcement only, please!) requires huge amounts of patience and ingenuity -- but since you obviously possess those assets, you might find it satisfying to deploy them for a medium-range project, rather than either moment-to-moment fun or long-term person-raising. Preferably a project you can imagine as fodder for the enjoyment of your fellow adults, to help keep yourself sane. Um, for certain values of 'sane'.

This is probably a terrible idea and you should consider that the source is a childless cat-owner.

posted by feral_goldfish at 4:51 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Babies are indeed incredibly boring. Luckily, they grow up to be children.

One thing I came to think of, as a mother of two, is that you should probably let him be bored and learn to entertain himself a bit more. With no. 1 I was very preoccupied with her being the perfect human being and she is. But maybe it has been a bit difficult for her to be herself and on her own. With no. 2 it's more balanced. Don't misunderstand me on this, I'm all for stimulation and education from the beginning, but every single day, I am amazed and impressed by the mature independence of no. 2 after 19 years of no. 1 calling MOMMA!!!!! every 5 minutes.

One thing I did right with no. 1 and didn't with no. 2 was stimulate her palate in every way. We heard punk, but also Mozart and Coltrane. We had mashed avocados, but also sushi and olives. We saw silly animations, but also 70's Doctor Who and live theatre. Now I can see that actually worked, which I couldn't when no. 2 was born, so I didn't repeat the effort.

For my own sake, I walked a lot, both times. You can cover the stroller with cheese-cloth to protect against the sun, and I walked a lot during very early hours. Late afternoon is just as good. Walking is good for you in so many ways, and good for the baby too.

I also attended a mothers' group, with a little physical training and a lot of cake and chat. Formally it was a course organized by a physical trainer connected to the hospital fitness centre. The babies had a great time all lumped together on a big rug, and we'd massage them under supervision 10 minutes of every 90 minutes session. There I met another mother, and we made a film club, where one of us would take the other's baby while we went to the cinema with our husbands. So good. It could be lunch instead of films, but those two hours of adult time were gold. And the babies enjoyed "playing" - they couldn't do anything apart from lying side by side and make sounds.

On preview, what jfwlucy said...
posted by mumimor at 4:52 PM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I promise not to thread-sit, but a few things:

- I've looked into mom's groups, but the only one I've found that's in a reasonable distance is on one of the days I work, which I can't move. Other suggestions for how to find other adults to socialise with are really welcome, because I'm having trouble thinking of ideas there.

- Thanks for the suggestions to let him self-entertain. Trust me, we do ignore him a fair amount, that's how I know precisely how long he can be relied on to self-entertain with various objects and walkers and such. :) Also, I'm a cognitive scientist and my area of research is precisely what is reported on in "The Scientist in the Crib" (in fact, the authors are all colleagues) so I have some sense of what is reasonable to expect from him in that vein.
posted by forza at 4:54 PM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Good for an hour: early morning or late afternoon/evening baby swings. If he doesn't sit up yet, you can stuff a bag behind him to fill out the swing. If you have a local pal, they can join you there for coffee/conversation.
posted by xo at 5:22 PM on January 27, 2013

Best answer: For mom's groups, check the pool schedule for baby classes, the library for story time, and the yoga studio for mom-baby yoga. These things are all just places for parents to meet each other.
posted by xo at 5:24 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was a stay at home dad for a pretty significant chunk of my kid's first year alive, and for various reasons I was kind of socially isolated. I mean, it sounds like you're doing everything right for the kid on that end. But yeah, it's really boring. Once they start crawling around you're occupied pretty much as long as their awake.

I tended to figure out things that would entertain my brain, while I could still kick it with the dude. I mean, especially when he's that old, he didn't care if we were listening to the radio or podcasts about roman history. Books on tape were kind of a lifesaver. I ended up listening to alot of podcasts too.

The secret win here is that my kid now motions me to rewind any episode of the Nerdist to play the theme over and over again, while dancing wildly to it.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:38 PM on January 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Go for a walk. Stroller/buggy, backpack, or whatever is suitable to your season and location and get moving, preferably talking to him while you do it. Good for you, interesting for him and you. Stops along the way to look at building sites, feed the ducks, or whatever; this isn't really about the exercise. He's young enough that he won't be taking an active part in this for a little while, but he will be drinking it all in, and I found it much less boring than many of the alternatives.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 5:48 PM on January 27, 2013

Best answer: Other indoor locations for walks--museums and art galleries! Usually cool and air conditioned and good for bored parents too!
posted by dottiechang at 6:20 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a little early now, but in a couple of months you can start teaching him baby sign language, to get a jump on the communicating before he can talk.
posted by anaelith at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2013

Best answer: Perhaps try putting him in front of a full length mirror. At that age mine would be entertained for longish periods of time (20-30 minutes) just staring at himself while on his tummy (sometimes he was supported with a boppy pillow).
posted by statsgirl at 6:48 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you're in the US, look into your school district's Parents as Teachers program. Mine had a play center to take my daughter to, and that was the best place to meet other parents at the same point I was. They also had home visits, where a parent educator came to my house every other month and gave me and the kiddo some ideas on things to play, as well as doing developmental screenings. It was nice to have some new "homework" once in a while. This was all free.
posted by eelgrassman at 7:17 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

they are trying their hardest to manipulate you

For goodness sake, it's a baby. Babies have a need for love and attention. Nurture your baby emotionally and cognitively by interacting with him in whatever ways you can think of that stimulate his five senses. It doesn't take much at that age, and it doesn't have to be constant.
posted by Dansaman at 7:42 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I rely on my iPhone. I either listen to podcasts or read books on it (or Metafilter) with whatever percentage of my attention is not occupied by the baby.

An exer-saucer was also great because it tires them out while they practice standing and playing, with minimal input needed from you.

Friends are good if you can get them. There should be classified ads for this.
posted by gentian at 8:04 PM on January 27, 2013

Best answer: I had this book or one very similar to it, that I used for my two. We didn't do all the activities, but it had a lot of fun neat things that you might find enjoyable. 3 months old is a pretty boring time for babies, but around 6 months or so it will get lots more interesting!
posted by Sweetmag at 8:55 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gosh, three kids here, 3-15, and I've never really considered it my job to entertain them. Sure, I play with them sometime, but playing with small children is really boring, as you've discovered, and I am a firm believer in the value of boredom and frustration as tools to stimulate independence.

Mainly what I've done is talk to my kids or hang out with them while doing something I want or need to do anyway. Let them lay on the floor or be in their jumper or help stir flour while I cook; let em play with socks while folding laundry; chat about what I see when walking or driving. That's really still much of our day.

And yes, meet other parents and kids. If no mom groups, how about reading time at the library or swimming lessons-both fun for baby but really a chance for you to meet other moms.

I think one struggle for those of us who feel like we are really well-educated about child development or parenting before we have children is that feeling that we have to do everything right so we don't miss a moment of feeding those little spongelike brains some valuable piece of learning or nurturing. But really, it's ok to let some moments skip by. If he's happy for five minutes by himself, let him hang for seven, then eight. If kids couldn't cope like that, then second and subsequent children would all be disasters.
posted by purenitrous at 9:24 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like your kiddo is more active than mine were - and he is still too young to burn off much energy on his own. A few thoughts:
Use the walker or jumper more - let him tire himself out a bit. You can still interact with him the way most parents do with their kids in the front-pack.
Can you suspend the toys in front of him so he can re-grab them more easily without your help?
You don't need to wait until they walk for things to get better - once he can crawl (move on his own) and sit up (freeing his hands when he has gotten to something he wants to explore) things should be easier.
posted by metahawk at 9:47 PM on January 27, 2013

Response by poster: Those of you who are suggesting we're entertaining him too much and we should let him entertain himself more -- maybe we're doing something wrong, but I don't see how realistically to get more than 10-minute stretches of self-entertainment out of a 3-month-old (which, as I stated, we already do get, multiple times a day doing many different things).

Here's how we do that: stick him in his chair, or lying down, or in his jumper or whatever, often with objects or sometimes just looking. Ignore him while we do things. After a while he will get fussy and squawk. Ignore him for a little bit longer. If it looks like it's going to turn into full-on crying, go over and rock him or change the object or interact a bit. Then go away. If this repeats several times, or turns into actual crying that won't stop relatively quickly, we change activities and engage with him.

I just don't see what value there is in getting to the point that he's really worked up and sobbing, because once he's there it's hard to calm him. He's a very placid kid who doesn't cry that often, but if he is to the point of continuous crying, he's not learning to self-entertain, he's just upset and unhappy and it's very unpleasant to everyone. Are people suggesting we actually let this happen?

If I'm misunderstanding and the suggestion is to do what we already do, again, thank you -- but we do that. Still have loads of time to fill.

I'm not trying to sound ungrateful, there are loads of great ideas here. I really appreciate it. But, honestly, it's not like I'm engaged with him every minute of the day. He still seems to require lots and lots of boring interaction. So either I'm doing something wrong, or I'm misunderstanding what people mean when they say to let him entertain himself, or you all have magical babies, because I don't see realistically how to get him to do so more than we are now doing.
posted by forza at 9:48 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And, again, I do appreciate all these suggestions, especially the ones for other things to do. I hadn't thought of several of them and will give them a try (the tape one cracked me up). Will mark best answers later, and I'm really interested if there are any other ideas out there.
posted by forza at 9:50 PM on January 27, 2013

Instead of the mall, try the library. Take a blankie to put him on and read your own book while he looks around. Also they may have baby reading hour which a great time to interact with other kids. Finally in US, barnes and Nobles has great kids sections and it functions as an impromptu playgroup
posted by zia at 10:01 PM on January 27, 2013

Best answer: stick him in his chair, or lying down, or in his jumper or whatever, often with objects or sometimes just looking.

Yeah, that's about right. What I remember from that stage (having been through it with four kids) is a lot of moving the baby from place to place. From lying on his back to bouncy seat to jumpy seat to your lap while you're working on a computer or whatever. When he starts to fuss, try just putting him in a different position rather than thinking you need to start entertaining him personally. You can get a lot more time than 10 minutes of contentedness out of a baby just by switching up his environment when he gets bored.

Maybe more important, though... I think you'll be surprised to discover that this is not true: Since realistically he's not going to be qualitatively that much different for many months. I remember feeling this way with our first child and then being shocked by how fast he changed, how short each phase actually is. Your baby will be sitting up unsupported soon, and then he'll be squirming around and then crawling and pulling up. Each new development will give him new ways to entertain himself long before he is walking and talking.
posted by torticat at 10:22 PM on January 27, 2013

they are trying their hardest to manipulate you

I'm no expert, but I don't think a 3 month old has the cognitive capacity to try "their hardest to manipulate you." Now, a three or four year old? Definitively. (Although, I'd liken it more to testing boundaries and relationship dynamics.)


Here's some info that I found helpful as a new parent.

It sounds like you are doing pretty well based on the details in your question. Perhaps more patience and less concern about being bored would help? Both are helpful qualities for you kiddo to learn from you. And they develop quickly; it won't be to terribly long before you are on to the next stage...

The fact that you are concerned enough to pose the question suggests that you are on the right track. I bet you are doing fine.
posted by fueling depth at 10:25 PM on January 27, 2013

Best answer: One of my friends read aloud to her baby from The New Yorker and her professional journals at that age. The bb was entertained by Mommy's voice, and Mommy got to keep up on her reading.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:29 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

You'll need to wait until he can hold his own head up pretty well, but the Jumperoo (is that what they're called? I just tried to search and found a million links to Fish Price stuff - the thing I mean is like a legs through seat thing, which you suspend from a hook or a door frame or whatever via a looong spring thing, and the child sits in and sproings around, safely contained) is a great thing for kids who want to move all the time. Some of mine also liked sitting in things that rocked, especially when they got big enough to move them themselves (not mechanised ones, low tech devices like the bouncinette!)

Maybe your lad could use more to stare at? Can he be propped up so he can see what's going on around the house? You can babble at him while you're doing other stuff, if he can see you, you might get more doing time. Mobiles? Cats or dogs leaping after toys? Washing on a clothes line?
posted by thylacinthine at 11:56 PM on January 27, 2013

Please please please DON'T entertain your baby.

Spend time doing things you like to do.

Do you like walks, visiting friends, going for coffee? Do you like museums or parks? Please plan days you love and take your baby along. Do you have a hobby? Do your hobby with your baby? Are you in a club or other group? Bring your baby along.

It is incredibly important to teach your kids that adults have things they like to do and are passionate about.

Do you want your baby to grow up to be an adult who spends time on things s/he in interested in and knows how to make him/herself happy. Show baby how by doing it yourself!!!
posted by jazh at 1:23 AM on January 28, 2013

Best answer: Your son sounds a lot like mine - very alert and maybe a little frustrated with his current baby limitations. Baby brambory is now 10 months and is crawling and sooo much easier. Until we reached this blessed stage, some things that helped:

1. Lots of singing/funny games
2. Getting out - Baby brambory adores socialising and loves watching other kids. We did a couple of baby groups to stay sane as well as inviting lots of mum friends around for tea. Baby brambory quite likes swimming - which took up a great deal of time by the time he's changed, fed, in the water, changed again.
3. Time. Just a few more months and he should be more self-entertaining.
4. Books on tape for me so that I had something to keep me amused as well.

(I'm not sure about all of this 'baby must entertain himself'. Most of my mum friends had babies that would entertain themselves for 15-20 minutes at this age, but baby brambory - bless him - mostly wanted to be held and walked around and would scream when put down for any significant point of time. Not all babies are the same. You know your baby - if you think he needs more stimulation, he probably does).
posted by brambory at 1:26 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do the adult versions of things where possible. Exercise in front of him (or use him as a weight) to music you like, not baby music. Start teaching him to count or to recite the alphabet while you count repetitions of exercises. Listen to recorded stories (for you) while you lie around together. Read aloud to him (but read stuff for you). Walk (big umbrella + sunscreen) to places you want to go. Look at pictures you like (but describe them to him and explain to him why you like them). Play (learn) instruments (both of you) while you tell him what's going on. Row a boat (with proper flotation devices and sub protection) to give him a relaxing rocking motion while you get out and get lots of exercise.

And document everything (growth, physical skills, new words, etc.) as if he were a science project. Parents and scientists both have to endure tedious repetition.
posted by pracowity at 1:26 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I know it's hard. When your baby is in its first few months, days and weeks seem to last forever and they never seem to change. And then you blink and they're turning five and can wipe their own butt and are learning to read and you know that college is just around the corner.

Three months can be a hard age. I hate to say it, but there are other hard ages ahead. And so you learn to get through the tough phases, always bearing in mind that this too shall pass. Parenthood isn't always fun. But it's always changing--especially in the first year. Your kid is developing at an exceptional rate. Look for the changes and use them as a reminder that it will get better.

And not everyone loves babies. Don't feel bad about that. They don't stay babies forever and that's a very good thing.
posted by wallaby at 1:40 AM on January 28, 2013

No kidlets myself, but I've seen slings / baby backpacks used to great success in cases like this - parent gets to move around, do things they need / want to do, and kidlet gets to see the world around them while still staying close to their parent.
posted by skittlekicks at 6:14 AM on January 28, 2013

Best answer: My kiddo is only 9 months, but I think 3 months was one of the harder ones. Too young to sit; old enough to want to do things. .. my husband and I were just saying this weekend how we both were...bored sometimes...and our little dude is standing (look ma no hands!), babbling like a champion, and smiling almost all the time.

Ideas: Do you have one of those flexible baby safe mirrors that come with his play gym? My baby liked to play with/chew on that a lot. We gave ours a tambourine to play with from his baby chair (mainly kick it). You have to supervise, but he loved it. Similar if you can find other noise makers. I took my kiddo to a baby music class starting at 6 months because I mentally needed the ideas, even though he's probably just now old enough to appreciate most of the activities.

ps. Don't be too hard on yourself. If you've super-exposed to baby/infant wellness data it can add extra worry. (I'm basically editing material about babies all day.)
posted by ejaned8 at 6:57 AM on January 28, 2013

Best answer: Since you asked for suggestions on finding a playgroup: my pediatrician's office offered some classes; I signed up for an infant massage class. We met weekly at the office with our babies. After the course was over, all the moms decided to keep meeting. We took turns hosting at our homes or when the weather was nice would meet at parks. Maybe your pediatrician's office offers similar opportunities? There may also be a bulletin board there where you could post an ad for any local moms wanting to join up. Also, have you checked Craigslist?

I would strongly suggest finding a playgroup; it was the single most valuable thing I did for both myself and my daughter in her first year!
posted by yawper at 6:57 AM on January 28, 2013

Here's how we do that: stick him in his chair, or lying down, or in his jumper or whatever, often with objects or sometimes just looking. Ignore him while we do things. After a while he will get fussy and squawk. Ignore him for a little bit longer. If it looks like it's going to turn into full-on crying, go over and rock him or change the object or interact a bit. Then go away. If this repeats several times, or turns into actual crying that won't stop relatively quickly, we change activities and engage with him.

I think the problem is that you are not fully focusing on him. No, I don't mean that babies need to be constantly entertained. But he's a 3 month old baby -- if you are trying to do "adult" things while caring for a baby, you're going to go mad, because those little intervals of quiet will never last longer than 10-15 mins (and even that is a lot). If you don't fully give in to the fact that babies require constant care, you're going to be perpetually irritated at getting interrupted. Believe it or not, it is actually LESS boring if you just commit to taking care of the baby.

This doesn't mean you need to be constantly shaking toys in his face, or even paying attention to him. At three months, I pretty much just tried to do whatever it took to get through the day without the baby screaming. Long walks were essential, and I spent a ton of time breastfeeding in front of the TV. (This is one of the little-discussed benefits of breastfeeding - zoning out for long periods of time!)

So, you need to get outside more, every day. I know it's hot, but just stick him in the stroller with a sunshade, or in a baby carrier with a hat. The sunlight and vitamin D will do him good. If you go out in the evenings and mornings, it should be doable without getting heatstroke or burned. I also found babywearing inside the house to be great. Stick baby in Moby and tidy up the kitchen or chop some vegetables or whatever.

But take heart -- your baby is going to get a lot more interesting very soon! Our guy is six months old, and he's like a real little person now, and so much fun.
posted by yarly at 7:39 AM on January 28, 2013

I recommend getting familiar with playgrounds around you. Baby is still too young to romp himself, but you can put him into the bucket swing (with a sweatshirt behind him) and swing for a long time -- you can probably even read a book while you do it. Cold is fine, just bundle him up. Not only is the swinging itself good for a remarkable stretch of time (an hour? two?), but baby can watch other kids play, stare at shadows, and so forth. *And* you will get to know some other parents from your area, so that even if there aren't formal "play groups," you can still have somebody to have adult coversation with, even if it's just coffee or lunch with strollers alongside. (Which then also helpfully starts your kid on the path to being a good behaver in restaurants. When he can sit up at 6 months, he can learn about highchairs and toys that stick to the surface of the table, and all sorts of other portable fun.)

Good luck! Babies are just pretty boring at this age -- the evolution from potted plant to underwhelming pet to fun pet to interesting little person is a very slow one, but you'll survive! (I'll admit that TV helped with the first couple of months, but once ours could turn her head to look, that went off, and I was in your seat too.)
posted by acm at 7:52 AM on January 28, 2013

Best answer: Ipod + podcasts + headphone in one ear saved me when ours was that age. The nice thing about the simple games babies like is that they don't require every iota of your concentration, so why not take the remainder of it and devote it to something fun for you? Comedy and frivolous stuff works better than serious or educational podcasts, because it's easier to drop in and drop out as needed.
posted by Bardolph at 10:47 AM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, thanks again. I marked as "best answers" those that gave me ideas I hadn't tried, or that suggested things I had tried that happened not to work with our kid but were good answers that might help someone else.

I especially appreciate the people who read the question carefully and did not offer solutions that I already explained we tried but did not work for various reasons. And I most appreciate everyone who refrained from lecturing me about how my son should be self-entertaining, even after I asked how precisely to get him to do that more than we are.
posted by forza at 1:15 PM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: I also would like to thank those that offered sympathy - even if I didn't mark your comment as best answer, if you offered me any kind words or encouragement that this age will get better, I appreciated reading it.
posted by forza at 1:22 PM on January 28, 2013

He loves loves loves to be made to stand. Probably about 40% of his waking hours are spent standing, propped up by us. He can hold himself up by only holding onto one of our thumbs with one of his fists at this point. This is, as you can imagine, kind of tedious for us.

Do you meditate, or do you have any interest in learning to meditate? Because if so this sounds like a golden opportunity.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:04 PM on January 28, 2013

My daughter was pretty similar when she was that age, though she wasn't as active as yours, she still seemed to require constant attention. Luckily for us, the carrier worked well, which does not sound like a great option for you at all (though if you haven't tried a front pack, it might at least work for a little bit?).

One thing she did really like when it came to books was books that rhymed, moreso than just any book. For example, a favorite was Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox. It is very rhythmic and has the rhymes, which was sort of like music for her (I think). I know you said your son likes being read to and likes music, so I thought I would suggest putting those together into books like that.

In retrospect, I feel like the isolation of being a parent of a very young baby was also a huge problem. I know it has been suggested by multiple people, but do whatever you can to get out and meet more parents of small babies!
posted by freezer cake at 11:56 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you go to playgroups, swim classes, music classes, story time at the library, the grocery store, etc, be on the hunt for potential friends. Or friendly acquaintances. Or people you think you could have a cup of coffee with and not murder. Standards are low for friendship at this stage.

I have business cards with my name, phone, e-mail, and Mr Corpse and the little Corpses' names -- it's clearly a family card, not a professional one. When I was looking for new friends after we moved I handed them out all over the place. I made one friend in line at Costco, because we figured out our babies had the same birthday; I gave her my card in the parking lot (running after her -- I have no shame when it comes to this) and we set up a playdate.

We can get free business cards in the US -- maybe this is the Australian equivalent? -- or you can get them cheap at a copy shop, or even print lousy ones at home.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:06 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, I remember that feeling of boredom when I took care of my infant grandson a couple of days a week. These are some things his parents and I did, or played with, along with the baby.

Mylar helium balloons on strings that are not too long. Let them float above the baby then grab them and yank them back down. We looped the balloons around his wrists and taught him to move his arms to yank the balloons down himself. He really loved lying on his back and wrestling and kicking a balloon. All this under close supervision, of course!

Baby liked a couple homemade toys such as a shake toy made of a plastic water bottle with a few rocks or whatever in it. A pop-up toy in which I put a plush Angry Birds pencil topper onto a long chopstick which poked through a hole in a plastic beverage cup. Lower the toy to hide it and push it up so the baby can see it. Sound effects required! Or hide a toy behind a pillow and have it poke up so baby can see it. We have a glove where the fingers are little puppet animals –duck, pig, frog, etc. I poked that up for him to see and made the animal noises that fit. Also, I would act out nursery rhymes with various toys playing the parts.

Baby also enjoyed playing with a baton. This one had a blue ball on one end and an orange ball on the other. He would be holding the blue ball and stare at the orange ball trying to figure out how to get it.

Working on the baby’s visual tracking ability - I would make his toy fish ”fly” through the air around him. His eyes would follow the fish from extreme side to side and from the front to above his head. All with a narrative.

I played some pat-a-cake type or hand-clapping games, or sang jump rope songs while doing the pat-a-cake thing. Whatever you might remember from your childhood. Even though he could not clap, I clapped and patted him along. We have a set of maracas so I put one in baby’s hand and following his actions I would shake mine when he shook his.

Also this song. While singing, move the baby’s body for him - Clap, clap, clap your little hands. Stomp, stomp, stomp your little feet. Pat, pat pat your little tummy…vary with other actions and body parts as you wish.

We frequently gave him “tours” of the house talking about everything we saw. Also, we spent time visiting the fish in the aquarium.

My grandson loved to be stood up and walked around the house, too. When he was a little more able I would help him stand up while he held on to his gym. I would put a toy up on the top and he delighted in swatting it down. I made the toy climb back up the bars to the top and baby would swat it down again.

Lots of little activities helped the day go by!
posted by goodsearch at 12:16 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

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