One of my kids’ favorite storybooks is Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, about the five senses and how the beach connects with each one of them. The ocean in the book becomes an “old best friend.” It is never too early to start this friendship; babies love a good summertime outing. Keep them cool and hydrated, and they can enjoy their first trips to the zoo or the aquarium, the playground or the park. Babies love other babies, too, so why not make it a playdate? Get wet. There are lots of ways to play with water in the LA Basin, and most of them can be great ways to introduce your little Angeleno to the joys of summer. We've got a dozen ideas to get you started.
1. Beach - It's a no-brainer that an LA baby's first summer needs a trip to the beach, but bringing a baby (and all the accompanying stuff) to a hot, sandy environment far from bathrooms and other creature comforts may sound daunting. Not all beaches are created equal; try the Annenberg for its great facilities and stroller-friendly boardwalk to the shore, Orange County's gentle Baby Beach, or one of these other kid-friendly beaches.
2. Griffith Park – Many of us go months or even years at a time without indulging in the pleasures of one of the country's largest urban parks right under our noses. Happily, babies force us to slow down and enjoy the wonders of nature close to home, and that includes Griffith Park. Ride Walt Disney's favorite carousel, enjoy the ease of one of the city's largest universal access playgrounds, snap photos of your bundle of joy on a pony, and ride an itty bitty train together; or just enjoy a picnic far from the maddening crowd.
3. Baby’s First Amusement Park – Adventure City bills itself as “a little theme park that’s big on fun,” which is a perfect description of this old-fashioned amusement park, nestled between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. Babies 12 months and younger are admitted free; otherwise general admission is the same price for all ages and is under $20. The park has quite a few rides gentle enough for a baby to enjoy, accompanied by an adult, of course. The scale of everything is small; the Adventure City Express Train that circles the park is a great first ride for an under two. There is also a carousel, Thomas the Tank Engine play area, and a petting zoo. Toddlers have even more options. Big kids won't find much to thrill them, except maybe for the best caramel apple I’ve ever had. (Babies are allowed their own food and formula; no other outside food is allowed.)
4. Zimmer Children's Museum – LA has several museums that are great for children of all ages, but the Zimmer is the one that most addresses the interests of first-timers. By the time our kids reach the age of eight or so, we begin to miss the days when the Zimmer was the perfect morning's outing, which is great news for new mamas; no need to worry about big kids knocking down your little one or monopolizing the exhibits. The size of the Zimmer is perfect for whiling away a couple of air-conditioned hours on a hot day, and babies can explore miniature versions of vehicles, buildings, and other grown-up fun at their own pace. There is also a water play area, dress-up, storytime, and weekly family programs. All this, plus free admission for grandparents (in case that gives you any ideas...).
5. Story Time – No matter what neighborhood you live in, chances are there is a library nearby. Most libraries have mommy and me story times, and some bookstores do, too. All libraries have a children’s section. Put down a blanket, grab a pile of books, and start reading.
6. Baby’s First Haircut – summer is possibly the perfect time for this rite of passage. There is nothing like trimming the locks to prepare for warm weather. A Beverly Hills institution since 1971, Tipperary’s motto, hand painted on a wood board decorated with daisies, is “Through these arches pass the most beautiful children in the world.” Back in the day, the walls were covered in whimsical murals and head shots; the floor was filled with baby toys, and the pinball was free. Tipperary is now on S. Robertson, still a kids’ salon, but with a hipper, more sophisticated vibe. Nowadays, of course, there are several places that specialize in first cuts, including various locations of the Yellow Balloon.
7. Farmers Markets – Even if baby is still on a liquid diet, we all want our kids to eat healthy, and one way to get them used to a diet of fruits and vegetables is to start them young. Our local farmers markets are stimulating places to take baby. They tend to be colorful, musical, and smell delicious. Many vendors offer samples, making this a great way to get baby to try something new. Of course, there is always "the" Farmer's Market; meet me at 3rd and Fairfax.
8. A trip to the Fire House – Babies love fire engines. They are red. They are shiny. They have gleaming chrome accessories, and firemen wear really cool outfits. Fire stations always welcome young visitors; it's actually part of the department's directive to educate little ones about fire safety and help them to feel comfortable with potential rescuers. My local fire station by Clover Park in Santa Monica will deputize your baby and hand him or her a bright plastic firefighter’s hat.
9. Indoor Playground – When the weather is nice, it’s great to be outside, for sure. Sometimes, however, it’s too hot, or you just want to be somewhere easy and confined. If baby has an older sibling, it’s nice to head somewhere that suits both kids. Under the Sea is one of our family’s favorites; its multiple Southland locations offer both small scale activities for babies and bouncers for bigger kids.
10. Swimming - Start getting baby used to the water. Sign her up for inexpensive group classes or private lessons. The Beverlywood Swim School, where I learned to swim, starts them as early as 3 months old and utilizes Crystal Scarborough’s method of fins and floats. If you prefer to be with your baby, check out our list of mommy and me swim classes.
11. Beach Balls – For my daughter’s first birthday party, we filled up the back yard with beach balls and let the babies run around. This is a great summer activity; no need to wait for a birthday. Beach balls are inexpensive and come in all sizes. We had a couple of giant ones that were bigger than my four year old – who looked at our yard before the party and said with great satisfaction, “We are going to amaze the babies.”
12. Mommy Movies – Finally, don't forget to treat yourself to a movie. The window for enjoying these special screenings of grown-up movies for parents with tots in tow is briefer than you might think. All too soon, your little one will be focusing on the big screen and asking embarrassing questions about what George Clooney is doing. Make sure you get to see a good movie this summer!