10 things to do with a baby in Belfast this week

Lockdown with a baby is making me stir crazy! I need to do things with the baby. Northern Ireland’s lockdown (bizzarrely) lifted today. For seven days. Then we’re in another, much harsher one, until December 11th. So I have to HAVE TO get out with the little one. Feeling the same? Here’s all the stuff you could do in the Belfast area.

Okay so this is partly a personal to do list and partly a list for anyone else in Belfast area looking for ways to make the most of the (brief) lifting of the lockdown.

  1. Soft play: Some soft plays are opening again! Others are not. Check out Roar and Explore in West Belfast or Funky Monkeys in Dundonald as both say they’re open this week.
  2. Crazy golf: Pirates Adventure Golf in Dundonald is open-air and open doors.
  3. The beach: Of course. Like usual. Holywood Sea Park is open and so is the play area… for now. I’m sure the council will close the playground area next Friday because this whole lockdown thing seems to be orchestrated by Puritans.
  4. Library: Return your library books, Mama Adventure! So I may have had three overdue books since March. :O I hope the libraries are opening this week because I really don’t want to still have these books when we emigrate.
  5. Belfast Zoo: The zoo will be open this week but you have to book in advance to manage the numbers.
  6. The Great Light on the Maritime Mile, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
  7. Titanic Sculpture on the Maritime Mile, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
  8. The Buoy Park on the Maritime Mile, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
  9. The Mo Mowlam play park (part of the Stormont estate), Stormont, Belfast has SO MUCH to do, for children of all abilities.
  10. CS Lewis Square, Strandtown, Belfast. A great place to take babies in their “zoo animal” phase, my little one loved the giant lion Aslan sculpture.

Further afield (driveable from Belfast):

Bangor Castle Walled Garden: A beautiful flowery garden with fountains and walls. Free entry.

Pickie Fun Park Bangor: Does what it says on the tin. Playgrounds, pedal swans, mini-railway and more!

Mount Stewart: The Natural Play Area is open! Book in advance (not always necessary during weekdays though). Entry £10 for adults. Under 5s go free.

Castle Ward: Visit Winterfell (or at least, the gardens and stables, the main building is still closed). Entry £10 each for adults. Under 5s go free.

Got any more ideas for things to do around Belfast this week before our new lockdown starts again? Let me know in the comments!

Alternatives to screen time

I don’t know what it’s like in your house right now but in mine, I’ve found myself resorting to putting the TV on a LOT lately. I’ve handed my baby my phone several times to teethe on because he likes the fact it lights up when his face gets close to it.

I am trying to work and look after the baby, and so is my husband. I cannot tell you how many times we have re-watched Ready, Steady, Wiggle or all the versions of Little Baby Bum we have found on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Jellyfish likes when the TV lights up and sings to him just as much as when his toy jellyfish night light plays “twinkle, twinkle, little star”. I suppose conceptually they’re basically the same when you’re 8 months old but as he gets more mobile and aware of the world around him, I worry that we are setting a very bad precedent.

So I’ve decided to limit the singing nursery rhyme box to 2 hours max per day. Weaning my husband off using the TV as a way to calm the baby down is going to be just as hard as weaning the baby away from staring at the black box and grizzling until someone makes it light up and play music to him.

I read a thing on a really good Montessori website about how babies under 1 need 14-17 hours of sleep. That means there’s 7-10 hours when they’re awake that needs filling with things to do. Every single day. I don’t think it’s feasible for anyone to sit shaking a rattle at a baby for 10 hours a day until the baby magically learns to play alone.

So this is a list for me to check back to (and you, of course, if you want it) of things we can do instead of putting the TV on:

  1. A tissue box full of scarves for him to pull out. I made one with instructions here.
  2. Water play. This keeps coming up but I don’t know how to facilitate it in our tiny house where there’s no room for spills with a crawling baby.
  3. A sensory play mat made out of the packets of wet wipes (if they have the clip tops) so they can lift the flaps and practice opening and closing things, then discover things under the flaps.
  4. A discovery basket he can empty and play with, that includes new things he hasn’t played with yet, such as toilet roll tubes, kitchen utensils etc.
  5. Peekaboo
  6. Make a stacking toy out of recycled yoghurt pots or similar
  7. Making a posting toy out of a recycled box or similar
  8. Spaghetti play: cook up some spaghetti, split the pot in half, add red food colouring to one half and blue to the other. Put the different colours in two different containers and give the child a third container to play with it with.
  9. Toilet roll tubes stuck to a wall with coloured tape for the baby to pull off.
  10. A cushion from the sofa put on the floor for the baby to climb on.

I also covered the TV with a very cunning disguise so the baby would stop waiting for the magical black box to light up and make noises. That worked really well, actually. I just threw a blanket over the screen and Jellyfish looked at it a few times, then decided it wasn’t the TV and started playing.

Still, without the TV to back me up, I was definitely very relieved when I put the baby to bed. I’m going to make some of the things on my list and see how long we can go without just putting the TV on. Life was so much easier when we had lots of baby classes to go to. Many of them have moved online and do livestreaming in Facebook groups but it’s just more screen time, now, isn’t it? Especially because some places are doing one livestreamed class when they used to do separate classes for babies and toddlers, and now all the activities are at toddler-level so Jellyfish just doesn’t understand or really get anything out of it. It’s probably great if you have a two-year-old or bigger.