What to do during a winter at home with an infant under quarantine
September 28, 2020 5:36 AM   Subscribe

I had a baby 3 months ago and we're staring down the barrel of a long covid winter. Help me come up with some ideas of things to do so that doesn't seem like a nightmare.

When I was planning my year's mat leave I was looking forward to stuff like mom and baby swimming lessons, making some parent friends, etc, but it looks like all of that is going the way of the prenatal massage that got cancelled under my city's first lockdown.

My husband is WFH, and we're in a covid bubble with my parents, so I can get some adult interaction, but the kiddo still needs to be entertained. Right now between naps I go on at least one daily walk (which is a hit for all involved), run the occasional necessary errand (which if not exactly fun at least occupies us), and try to get some cooking or housework done in the 5 min periods I can leave her in a safe spot with a toy before she complains. (I've tried getting stuff done while babywearing and haven't had a lot of success but I think that will work better once she's able to support herself better and see more.)

I'm making sure to get the appropriate gear to still go on walks, but I already find keeping the baby occupied all day exhausting and I need some other ideas to put on my calendar so I have something to look forward to.

In case this question sounds particularly bleak, and because this is metafilter and I know it will come up, yes I've been screened for PPD.
posted by quaking fajita to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Seasonal crafts and decorating?

It might seem silly or frivolous but time has lost its meaning this year. It feels like March was yesterday and a decade ago all at once. Turns out there’s a reason for that - when we stay in the same environment and talk to the same people all the time and never travel people legitimately have trouble registering the passage of time. People whose living conditions echoed this in the past did many things to help with this that we can echo today.

Make autumn decorations, do harvest-aligned food things like canning and pickling. Celebrate as many holidays as you can. Wintertime doesn’t have to be about the Santa holiday, it can also be about solstice. Make gifts for people you miss, light candles to change the feeling of your rooms, sing songs and play music to fill the long nights. Find out the seasonal produce and proteins in your area and make meals with them - where I am, special wild salmon is available for a short time in the fall, and beautiful persimmons are sweet in November, and fiddleheads pop up in early spring. Change your linens to match the season, swap out your clothes to winter ones not just for storage space but also to mark the difference. Take each week and try to apply something special about it, like maybe it’s a holiday that week, or maybe the leaves have really begun to turn, or maybe it’s time to make homemade applesauce and jar it, or maybe you’ve gone stargazing and there’s a new constellation that’s clear in the sky. Share all the different sensory experiences with your kid; let her touch and smell and lick and watch as much of it as she safely can.
posted by Mizu at 6:06 AM on September 28, 2020 [17 favorites]

We are buying a used hot tub to have some serenity and peace through the cold winter.

There's world of cooperative board games, video games, and hobbies that are fun to do at home together. Puzzles!

Great time to renovate something.

In my opinion, you do need to get out periodically - find something outdoors to do. Picking up trash or picking up carry out food.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:16 AM on September 28, 2020

Best answer: What a tough time to have a baby, in a lot of ways. The good news is with a lot of things going remote, it may help you.

1. If you do screen time for you with the baby present (I recommend this in limited doses despite the whole 'it's bad!!!' thing; I didn't have a screen on in my first child's presence for his first two years and honestly, he had a much more stressed out mother which wasn't good) look for some online events in whatever area interests you that you tune into. If you like literature stuff, the International Festival of Authors is going online & is free this year.

2. Try something you can do with your baby at home like baby yoga, or baby-and-me music. (There's this app; disclaimer - I used to work there but I don't now.) It doesn't have to be super-fancy but it can help give you a few structured minutes a day.

3. I hear you on the baby wearing...it does help. The Ergo was the magic carrier for us, but baby has to agree. I just wanted to add encouragement there.

4. Try Next Door or Facebook (ugh, I know) for mums in the same boat. My two mums' groups are having virtual wine/whine and cheese once a month and it really helps. I believe there's a Metafilter parenting Facebook as well but I'm not sure how to locate it.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:24 AM on September 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I had my baby a couple of years before pandemic times, but to be honest, we didn't do much more at that age! I had maybe one or two visitors to the house and no scheduled baby activities (like swimming) until well after 6 months. We had a particularly harsh winter with lots of ice and I could barely safely go for walks. I had a few activities I liked to do, like yoga while baby laid on the mat, but the days would go quickly between naps and normal life stuff.

I had always been a big planner / person who likes to have things (big trips, activities) to look forward to. But I benefitted a lot from the perspective change that having a baby brought - that what I am doing just by being present is important and worthwhile. For example, just laying on the floor looking into baby's eyes would have seemed like "doing nothing" or a "waste of time" to the old me, but I learned to relax into that and my entire life has gotten much better.

I would definitely see if you can find other local new parents to go for a walk with you! Hang in there, spring will be better.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:28 AM on September 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My son is 4.5 months now, and just in the past few weeks it got easier to do housework and food prep with him in the carrier again now that he's holding his head up good without getting tired. There was a transitional period where he wanted to be outward facing to see, but couldn't hold his head up for very long. We used our Moby a lot in the first few months, and now we use the Beco (like an Ergo) a lot. Very recently, as in the last two days, he has been content on his blanket with toys around for about 20 minutes at a time while I do things in the kitchen or laundry room within sight. Video chatting with the grandmas is popular for all involved (both sets of grandparents live out of state/ out of country). I put the device on the floor next to his playmat so they are on his level. If he's in the mood, he will pay rapt attention for 1-2 picture books, so I try to read to him every day, too.

Walks are definitely a highlight of our day, too! We both love being outside and hopefully we can keep that up as it gets colder here, too.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 6:58 AM on September 28, 2020

I've been there, hard enough without a pandemic. Meet up groups are almost all virtual now. You could look for a Momma and Me one or start your own. From there, maybe try small socially distanced get togethers with a couple people you trust to be keeping reasonable precautions. Your baby will be reaching several milestones during winter...toddling, walking, maybe running, verbal stuff. That will be fun and will increase your fun. Get some gym mats and soft supplies. I remember mine wanting to get up on everything. Take baby out in a stroller to see the world or for drives.
posted by DixieBaby at 7:02 AM on September 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At three months, it still felt like I was both busy all of the time and never got anything done. My husband started his leave at four months, and he was able to build a computer from scratch, play video games, cook dinner, etc because naps got much more predictable and baby got happier to play on a mat or sit in a bouncy chair, watching the 'action,' such as eating lunch. From one month to another, the experience just changed entirely.

For me, I did more and more walks, and I started trying some excursions like driving to a new park or neighborhood (and walking around). Or meeting a friend (and walking around). Some of those may still be possible in pandemic times. I'd try to time them around naps, since mine napped well in the stroller and the baby carrier. Maybe you can pick some local sights and plan a weekly excursion?

Babies do need tons of attention, but we also tried to encourage her to occupy herself more by a) leaving her alone when she seemed happy and b) not feeling guilty when we weren't interacting. Don't get me wrong, we did a lot of interacting, but as she got older, we were able to do slightly less entertaining.
posted by oryelle at 9:15 AM on September 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think social activity is honestly more for you than for the baby when they are under 1 - they don't really need a social scene until they are older. Nthing the advice to get outdoors as much as you can - bundle that kid up and go! And make space for you to have some independent time, so that you can see friends (at a distance) and recharge by yourself.

Year 1 is exhausting no matter what is going on. You're doing all the stuff I did with my kid at that age, and honestly I was so pleased to go back to work part time just for the break. A baby is just one thing after another, and you learn to enjoy what you can and endure the rest.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

Join a Facebook mom group on in your area, use it to find a few moms with an equal level of boredom, and set up zoom dates. Three or four people is ideal.

Have everyone watch the same episode of a new show, read the same article, or listen to the same podcast, then discuss it for an hour or so.

Or play a board game- Scattergories is super easy and fun over Zoom (there's an online version, so you just screenshare it. It feels very much like actually hanging out!) and works well with about 3-7 people.

Cook & eat lunch or dinner with an existing friend or a new mom friend, while the babies are strapped to your bodies. Go for walks together.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:32 AM on September 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you feel like indoors is safe as long as there are few people around, museums and galleries are usually open during the day, nearly empty, and are easy to visit with a baby in a carrier or stroller.

If you don't have snow on the paths, you can go farther afield by using nap 1 to drive to a place, take a walk/stroll, and then nap 2 to drive home. I gave myself a little mission of checking out every single park and playground (including behind schools and churches) in the area and it came in handy later, because I always knew what fun stuff was nearby.

Mom friends are hard in the first year anyway, because no one's baby is on the exact same schedule. Better if you can find a friend to walk with who doesn't have kids or whose kids are not napping anymore. Or listen to a podcast while walking. Or do a photo project while walking - you could take a photo of the same tree every day and then later make it into a book about seasons for the baby.

I think the hardest thing about being home with a baby that age is that it is very busy with lots of tasks that get interrupted, but also very boring. The mind gets very frustrated to be dealing with the tedium and inefficiency. I felt better when I used naps to read books and non-fluff magazine articles so that I would have things to think about and to talk about.

Libraries have baby story time and songs that are broadcast online, you could tune in with the baby on your lap just like in person. I'd try for local ones just so you can start to become familiar to the librarians. It's still very boring but it creates a schedule in the midst of the monotony.
posted by xo at 10:35 AM on September 28, 2020

Are there any stroller exercise classes in your area? It would be a way for you to meet other new moms, while being safer (outside) and structured.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:05 AM on September 28, 2020

Best answer: Not during a pandemic but during my first year with a newborn I bought the Baby Sparks app. It suggests like 5-7 age appropriate activities to do with your baby with very little tools or prep and gives you some good info on their milestones.

And do you have a baby gym? They are so unsightly but my god, my baby loved hers starting at about this age. Not the chic Montessori style ones and not one with music and lights (too much for me) but just one of the bright ones with dangly stuffed animals and rattles. She was easily amused 15 mins at a time under there.
posted by like_neon at 12:08 PM on September 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh and one of these donut play nest things was handy when she could sort of sit up but not crawl. Just throw some soft books or toys in there with her to buy yourself another ten mins.
posted by like_neon at 12:12 PM on September 28, 2020

Best answer: You probably need entertaining more than your baby does. An infant doesn’t need much outside stimulation and will generally get a lot out of basic activities inside your home (music, tummy time, simple toys and household objects) along with your daily walk, but it’s a tough stretch of time for a new mom for sure.

Couple things I can suggest:
1) make sure your husband takes charge of the baby for certain stretches of time. It’s good for you and good for him and good for the baby. It’s really important that the father does some real parenting.

2) music is a good way to entertain you and the baby. Maybe try a music project where you listen to a different song each day? You can sing to her or you can discover new music. It doesn’t have to be baby music. I found songs with my child’s name in them or grownup songs with kid stuff like days of the week (eg Friday I’m in Love), or just investigated stuff that interested me.

3) I did a bunch of duolingo during maternity leave. It felt stimulating to me and I felt like it was a way to keep talking to my baby.

4) a few of the child development books/websites have age appropriate activity suggestions by week or month. It’s just nice to have a set of ideas at the ready and they remind you of simple sensory or motor skills activities you can do.

Good luck!
posted by vunder at 12:24 PM on September 28, 2020

Best answer: Hi - for you and anyone else commenting / reading along, we have a Metafilter-originated FB group for parents. Lots of support and ideas and commiseration and warmth. Memail me to join.
posted by sestaaak at 3:52 PM on September 28, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My daughter came home during a non-pandemic year but was medically complex, on oxygen and with a feeding tube, as well as immunocompromised, so we spent her first two winters in the same kind of strict isolation everyone experienced at the start of this pandemic. It can be mind-numbingly boring for the grown-up. I caught up on a lot of TV in the background (which, yeah, but frankly I wasn't that concerned about screen time with a two month old in the room). We did tummy time and her PT and OT work, watched Baby Signing Time (both my kids signed well before they could talk) and I did a lot of housewife-type work that I hated (but the house was super clean). Neither of my kids liked to be worn, despite high hopes and lots of attempts on my part.

The excersaucer was a great thing for both of my babies as they got a bit older. They could entertain themselves for 15 minutes or so at a time. But aside from that, I'd encourage you to not view your responsibility as entertaining or occupying your baby. The world is new to her, she can experience it alongside you as you sew or clean or make jelly or do whatever thing interests you. You can narrate what you're doing which is great language exposure. You can let her fuss a bit and learn to solve her own boredom. You can let her see you reading an actual paper book from time to time.

I mean, it's still boring, but it helps to not feel like you have to be the social vice president of entertainment at the same time. (And yes! Join the Facebook group. Best place on the internet.) Do you have outlets for connection and conversation for yourself? Being a new mom is hard.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:47 PM on September 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

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