12 Fun Things To Do in NJ Before Your Baby's First Birthday

Before you hit the cake-smash milestone, check out this baby bucket list of things to do in New Jersey with your little one. Photo by Lisa Warden
Before you hit the cake-smash milestone, check out this baby bucket list of things to do in New Jersey with your little one. Photo by Lisa Warden

Welcome to year one! You’re officially “in it”—and even though you’ll have quite a few occasions in which you’ll want time to fly by, like those first few nights your infant sleeps in a crib for the first time, this year will be over in a flash. So, on top of all the daily snuggle fests and snapshots of milestones, do your best to make the most of these first 12 months with fun activities and family outings.

We’ve rounded up some of the best things to do with your infant, from a trip to a park or playground to a visit to one of Jersey's themed eateries to practice eating those solids.

Read on for 12 things to do in New Jersey before your baby turns 1–plus one to grow on!

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1. First Stroll

For new parents, cabin fever starts well before your little one has his or her first actual fever. That’s why an adventure outdoors is almost always on the must-do list once your newborn gets cleared to be out in public. New Jersey is home to some of the most beautiful parks and playgrounds and the pathways are pristine—perfect places to break in those new wheels. Or, why not visit a nearby botanical garden such as the Morris Arboretum or Longwood Gardens? As soon as fall rolls in, Mother Nature shows her best side, and the foliage is a great sight for your little color-craving cubs. Infants can see red and green best in their first 6 months, so head out on some hikes amidst the foliage.

2. First Story Time

I lucked out because my grandma worked at our local library during my son's first year. We could knock two things off our to-do list–spending time with GG and reading–by visiting during her lunch break. Though most story times are aimed at children 2+, you can find classes for children under 1, such as Baby Bookworm Lapsit. Often the class starts with some songs and finger play interspersed with a few short books. These classes often end with some baby-free play that gives the parents a chance to chat. Your baby will be super excited to hear his or her favorite stories read aloud by someone who isn’t mommy or daddy (I’m pretty sure my son has been over my Pout-Pout Fish voice for months). You’ll love the change of scenery and maybe make a new friend.

RELATED: Top Mommy-and-Me Classes for Babies and Toddlers in New Jersey

Things to do in NJ with babies Liberty Science Center
Little ones love the light wall at Liberty Science Center. Photo by Michelle Vames

3. First Museum Visit

One of my favorite places to visit as a Jersey kid was Imagine That!!! And now that it’s newly renovated, I cannot wait to take my baby boy back there. If he’s anything like his mama, he’ll be having fun with the play cash register in no time. There are tons of baby-friendly children’s museums in NJ to check out, and your little one doesn’t need to be a connoisseur of art and culture or have an appreciation for the finer things in life to have a blast there. From interactive exhibits to soft, padded tot spots where soon-to-be toddlers and crawlers can come to play, the sensory stimulants are in no short supply. You can bring your budding engineers and future scientist sidekicks to the Liberty Science Center, and let them tinker with the life-sized Lite Bright. 

4. First Playground Visit

If you have older kids, sometimes it's difficult to find things that keep everybody entertained. An easy solution is a trip to a playground. This is a quick and fun outing that tires out the older kids. And, even before my babies could walk, they enjoyed watching the big kids show off their skills. A cherished memory for each of my babies has been their first time in a swing. Those baby smiles and giggles as I would gently push them are engrained in my memory. And once your baby is moving and shaking, check out one of these toddler-friendly playgrounds

RELATED: Baby Swimming Lessons in New Jersey: 10 Top Picks for Babies and Toddlers

Things to do in NJ with babies first beach trip
Any born-and-bred Jersey baby is going to have to learn the ways of heading down The Shore before too long. Photo by Lisa Warden

5. First Beach Trip

Babies love the beach, and the Jersey Shore has everything to make your bathing beauties wiggle and giggle. Bring all your sun and sand essentials, an umbrella, beach towels, sand toys, snacks, and swim diapers, and stake out a spot at any one of NJ’s free beaches. You can let your baby play in the sand or spend time walking the lively boardwalks at places like Point Pleasant Beach, Asbury Park, or Wildwood. Under 6 months sunscreen is not recommended, so be sure to bring a tent and keep your baby covered with clothes and a hat. If your baby is 6 months, lotion up and hit the Shore. Just remember to keep your water babies well hydrated, buoyant (life vests are a must!), and in the shade for the majority of the day.

6. First Splish Splash

The beach is great, but going down the Shore isn’t the only option in NJ. There are several independent spray parks in the state, and a sprinkling of others attached to larger local playgrounds—so babies have the option to play in and out of the water. If you do have a little guppy who is eager to try out his/her fins, there are plenty of baby swim classes in NJ. They’re all mommy/daddy-and-me format, too, so baby never has to feel like a fish out of water. 

RELATED: Best Pregnancy and Parenting Classes in New Jersey

Things to do in NJ with babies Storybook Land
Storybook Land is a perfect first amusement park for a baby and plenty of fun for big sibs. Photo by Lisa Warden

7. First Theme Park

We recently went to Storybook Land to celebrate our 4-year-old's birthday, and we were pleasantly surprised by how many of the rides our 8-month-old could enjoy with the family. She squealed going up on the Ferris wheel, was excited to ride on the train, and was delighted riding the carousel. Best of all, Storybook Land is free for kids under 2! If Storybook Land is too far a trip, check out these other preschool-aged theme parks for your baby's first trip to a theme park. And consider going to Storybook Land during the holiday season, since your baby will be sure to love the festive light display. 

8 Baby's First Photo Shoot

You've seen the newborn photos where the baby is so pliable and sleeping with adorable props? Photos like these are priceless. Still, baby photo shoots can be stressful, especially if you have other kids that you are bringing along who want in on the photos. Try to make it less stressful by timing it right after a nap and a feeding so the baby is happy, and bring extra clothes in case of a spit-up or diaper blowout. Be prepared, sometimes your baby just isn't feeling it. It can feel like a bummer to put all that effort and money into the photo shoot when your infant isn't cooperating, but we have always gotten at least one photo from every shoot that was worth framing. One of my favorite photos of all time is of my 2-year-old son holding my newborn daughter during a photo shoot while both are crying. I feel like it summed up those first early months with two young children when everyone was adjusting. 

RELATED: Fun First Birthday Party Ideas for NJ Kids

Things to do in NJ with babies petting zoo
The Garden State is full of petting zoos and other fun places to make furry friends. Photo by Lisa Warden

9. First Animal Encounter

Chances are that 75 percent of the books you’re reading to your baby right now involve a barn, zoo, farm, a forest, and a bunch of furry and feathered inhabitants. Good thing New Jersey has tons of petting zoos, farms, and aquariums to see "anima" (as my son calls them). Places like Brookhollow’s Barnyard ask guests to use play shovels to feed the farm family—so whether your little chickadee is a more independent waddler or still likes to be carried by mama or dada, it’s a super-safe and controlled experience either way. And for any parents who haven’t yet been to the Turtle Back Zoo, there are just as many opportunities for your babe to bond with animals from the sidelines: stroller-bound boos can still be entertained by all the wildlife around them, while more adventurous tikes can try out the touch tank or watch their older sibs feed giraffes and/or goats. And for a great and FREE New Jersey zoo experience, check out the Cape May Zoo (which also has great playgrounds in the park) and the Cohanzick Zoo (my personal favorite for younger kids, and there is a splash pad right next door if you want to knock two out in one day). 

10. First Play Space

Introducing your baby to other babies and helping him/her get along well with peers is a big part of year one for parents. There are plenty of ways for you and your mini to make new friends. Since my son was born, I’ve connected with quite a few new mamas on the Peanut app and scheduled meet-ups for us all to get together, share stories, and socialize with the kids. In New Jersey, there are a plethora of indoor play spaces where you can congregate.

RELATED: 12 Easy DIY Sensory Activities To Entertain Babies

Things to do in NJ Terhune Orchards in the fall
No matter the season, there are fun holiday moments to capture on camera! Photo by Lisa Warden

11. First Holiday Fun

No matter which month your baby is born in, it's never too early to start family traditions. Cider donuts and watered-down apple cider are certainly the way to start any pumpkin patch outing, followed by pumpkin carving and playing with the slimy pumpkin guts. And once their first Halloween comes around, figuring out their costume probably rivals the anxiety you experienced trying to narrow down their newborn going-home outfit. Winter opportunities are nearly endless, what with meeting Santa, shopping for decorations, and, of course, all the holiday light shows. Springtime fun includes visits with the Easter Bunny (including train rides), and the Fourth of July brings countless carnivals, fairs, feasts, fests, and fireworks displays.

12. First Haircut

There’s just something about a fresh new haircut that makes us feel all shiny and new. I’ve been to three kid-friendly salons in New Jersey in the last year alone, and each one of them has done wonders with my baby’s enviable blonde surfer's hair. What I love about these children’s haircut haunts are all the sweet vehicles that my boy can sit in while he gets cut, a movie to keep him entertained, and the special packages available to celebrate the very first haircut appointment. I couldn’t wait to show off my little guy’s certificate and commemorative lock of baby hair at his first birthday bash!

13. First Birthday Party

Never thought you’d make it here, right?! Well, congratulations!! Your first year as parents is done, and your tiny human is now 1! Whether you want to throw a small party at home or go all-out with a fete your friends and fam will never forget, you’ll make an unforgettable first impression either way! We’ve rounded up a great group of first birthday spots, so start imagining that first birthday photo shoot right now!

Originally published in 2018. Lisa Warden contributed additional reporting.

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