The best part about living in Santa Barbara might be getting to spend half your life half outside. But when my daughter was a newborn, the mere idea of wrestling our jillion-pound stroller out the door exhausted me — forget about actually pushing it anywhere. Step out into the world, though, and you’ll notice that Santa Barbara is full of parents pushing strollers. They’re all just as tired as you are, and like you, they’re navigating the tough learning curve of newborn care. Kvetching with them — and getting their advice — is both a pleasure and a right. So for new moms and dads ready to step out, here are some ease-back-into-it activities you can do with your tot.
PEP: The motto at PEP (Postpartum Education for Parents), a volunteer-run support system, is “There’s no one right way to parent.” You’ll hear other new parents discussing the week’s highs and lows, confessing mistakes, and getting advice from volunteers. “We’re just trying to find our way together,” said Michele Johnson, PEP’s director of postpartum outreach. “I see [parents] bonding and smiling and really opening up.” New Parent Group meetings take place from 10 a.m.-noon at Trinity Lutheran Church (909 N. La Cumbre Rd.). (PEP is not religiously affiliated.)
Putnee’s Music Classes: Putnam Lee (aka Putnee), a singer/songwriter with a background in child development, has mastered the fine art of singing to babies. With 35 years of experience behind him, he croons classics like “The More We Get Together” and “The Wheels on the Bus” to a rapt audience of little ones. Putnee engages with each and every child, incorporating names into songs — since babies begin learning their names early — and handing out stuffed animals and puppets. “What I do is musical play,” he explained. “It’s about what’s fun for them.” Classes are Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:15 and 11 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. at Peanuts Maternity & Kids (9 E. Figueroa St.).
Mom & Baby Yoga at Yoga Soup: “I always invite moms to feel like it’s their living room,” says Kelly Heath of her yoga class, designed for mothers of pre-crawling infants. “Anything goes in here.” Heath focuses on postnatal self-care and strengthening, so routines target the pelvic floor and abdomen, as well as overworked necks, shoulders, and backs. Babies snooze on yoga blankets, and the atmosphere is usually restful and naptime-y. Heath, an experienced mother of two, is also there to help swaddle or comfort—and she’ll happily hold a squirmy baby through the whole class, if need be. Classes are Fridays at 10:45 a.m. at Yoga Soup (28 Parker Wy.).
Hops and Pops: “Bros, babes, and brews” is the motto for this group of area parents — most of them dads — who meet up once monthly at a Santa Barbara pub or brewery, babies and toddlers in tow. “It’s kind of that mentality of ‘It takes a village,’ with kids running around and all these fathers wrangling them,” says George Bradshaw, who heads up the group with his wife, Carey Bradshaw. Locations are chosen based on their noise level, cleanliness, and general kid-friendliness — play areas and sandboxes get priority. The baby-in-a-bar cliché is a source of fun: Every month, an unofficial “Worst Father Award” is granted to the dad with the youngest baby. To find out when and where, send a request to join the Hops and Pops Santa Barbara private Facebook group.
Lil’ Toot: The Lil’ Toot has been chugging back and forth between Stearns Wharf and the harbor since 2003, introducing miniature seafarers to the local waters in 12-minute rides. Sea lions, seals, and brown pelicans are often visible close-up, and Nic Tasca, the Toot’s enthusiastic deckhand, provides a stream of kid-friendly commentary. Lil’ Toot runs between Stearns Wharf and the harbor from 12:00 pm until sunset. Open days vary by time of year, so check the online schedule at celebrationsantabarbara.com.
For more activities, check out yourkidsvillage.com, a new website operated by area mom Valerie Head.