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When Is Your Baby Ready To... Play Outdoors?

  • ...Wear Sunscreen?
    Now! For years we've heard babies younger than 6 months shouldn't wear sunscreen: they should just be kept out of the sun. Which is, of course, unrealistic. The AAP recently changed that stance and now recommends sunscreen for tots of all ages as there hasn't been any evidence of negative long-term effects on infants younger than 6 months using it. Look for a baby formulation that has the words "broad spectrum" on the label, meaning it protects from UVA and UVB rays. And remember that sunscreen isn't a license to keep your baby on the beach for hours on end. Put a sunhat on her, seek shade, and use common sense.
  • ...Be Out in the Cold?
    Taking babies out in freezing weather isn't anybody's idea of a good time -- unless you're going stir-crazy indoors and yours seems eager to check out snowflakes.

    What you need to know Let your common sense guide you: If you're feeling cold, chances are your baby is, too -- and he can't warm himself by walking around the way you can. So dress him appropriately (with one more layer than you, plus a well-insulated snowsuit, a hat, and mittens) and feel free to let him play a bit with you in the snow. Once you start feeling cold and wet, though, head in and get him out of his damp clothes.

  • ...Hit the Playground?
    When can she slide and swing?
    What you need to know: The size of the equipment is important, as are your baby's motor skills. Once she's able to sit on her own -- usually by 6 months -- she'll probably enjoy a gentle ride in a bucket swing. And if she's a pretty good climber and walker, she'll probably be able to go down a small slide by herself by the time she's 18 months.
  • ...Play in the Sandbox?
    Since a baby's first instinct is to put things in his mouth, digging around in the sand can seem like a risky way to have fun.

    What you need to know Dr. Roche, a mom of three girls, ages 5, 4, and 2, takes a relaxed approach. "Try not to let him swallow whole mouthfuls of the stuff or rub his eyes, and wash his hands afterward." If yours does ingest some sand, offer him some water -- and hope that he remembers how yucky it was next time he's tempted. (And don't be surprised by a sandy poop.)