Low-cost laughter: Entertaining a baby on a budget

By Bianca Mungalsingh

Our list of go-to places to find ideas and events for babies will help you off to a great start.

Keeping your baby happy, encouraging smiles and laughter and supporting their mental, social and physical development do not require paying for costly classes. With a little bit of research and creativity, you and your baby will be laughing the days away in no time.

Get to love your local library

In recent years local libraries have come under a lot of pressure due to government cuts to council funding. That pressure has forced libraries to become more vibrant community centres. That's why you'll find some awesome parent and baby events happening weekly, if not daily, at your local library. From story time, where they read emphatically from large, illustrated books, to rhyme time, to free play with imaginative toys, visit your local library for easy ways to support your baby's mental development. Some libraries even have modern cafes where you can grab a coffee and relax with your parent friends after half an hour of singing and acting out 'Wheels on the Bus', 'Zoom Zoom Zoom' and 'Hokey Pokey'.

Volunteer at a baby playgroup

There's always demand for free or affordable local playgroups but a shortage of people willing to run them. If you're really organised and motivated you can start one yourself and apply for funding from charities.

You can also offer to help at a local playgroup that's already running. Volunteering is an excellent way to motivate you to get out of the house regularly and to build a network of parent friends who will all have their own baby play itineraries, which they can share with and maybe accompany you.

Go splashing in your local pool

After the Olympics there has been a huge drive in the UK to encourage young people in sport, resulting in some amazing facilities being built in local councils and made available for free, or low-cost, to residents. Look up your local council gym to see if there's a free swim and gym programme. If not, it is often still under £5 to take your baby splashing once a week or to join a class.

Babies adore water, which helps develop their senses, their physical abilities and their bond with you. Make sure you sing 'if you're happy and you know it splash you hands' but watch your eyes as they are likely to get very excited.

Find baby groups at most local churches and children's centres

If you're not sure where to look for activities beyond your local library, find you local children's centre and churches in your borough and nearby boroughs. Churches are a treasure trove of mum's meet-ups with tea and cake and soft play and free play sessions. Many children's centres have an amazing list of activities including rhyming, soft play, reading, signing and singing, as well as workshops on weaning, breastfeeding support and free counselling.

Download hoop or sign up to NetMums for a list of free activities

The Hoop app and the NetMums list of events for babies and toddlers is an excellent resource for finding a wide range of new and interesting things to do with your baby including 'stay and play', mum and baby comedy, theatre and concerts for babies and workshops. Just enter your postcode and email address to get weekly emails with suggestions for activities near you so you'll never run out of ideas again.

Network at hospital classes

Networking and making friends with other mums is a great way to find out about what's on for babies. It also means you won't have to turn up at activities on your own. Make sure you attend the free hospital antenatal classes and step out, start a few conversations and exchange some numbers. Every mum is looking for something to do with their little one so sharing ideas is the best way.

Enjoy free educational fun at museums and galleries

Join the mailing list of major museums and galleries. In London, for instance, the National Gallery has free singing and storytelling workshops and the V&A Museum of Childhood has weekly arts and crafts and storytelling events, just to name two. The Southbank Centre is has a list of exciting activities for babies and children that changes with their themes and seasons. During half-term and holidays, they host storytelling workshops, sing-a-longs, jazz parties for babies, mum and baby movies and discos.

Check out your city's cultural centre for their list of activities.

Have creative fun at home

Receive baby development activity suggestions month to month by signing up to the Pathways mailing list. Check out our baby toy essentials for things you can buy to keep your 0-6 month old preoccupied. Use everyday items as toys, like pots, wooden utensils, boxes and plastic bottles filled with uncooked pasta, or make your own toys with inspiration from Pinterest.

As your baby starts sitting up, crawling and then walking, DIY busy boards will draw more of their interest, keeping them intrigued for long periods. Musical toys like rattles are hit as well as sensory materials and activities.

Top Takeaway

When you start looking, you’ll be surprised to find a bevy of parent and baby activities at local libraries, gyms, children centres, museums, galleries and churches. Chat to the other mums and exchange numbers as meeting for playdates at your home or theirs is great for when you want to be more flexible with time. What sort of activities do you think you’ll most enjoy doing with your baby?

Author bio: Bianca is a mumpreneur who is most passionate about writing and education, and uses both to share her experience, tell heartfelt stories and support people, like young mums and newlyweds, on their similar journeys.

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