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Activity centers provide hours of fun for your little one, but let’s be honest, they also give you a much needed break. Your babe might even be entertained long enough for you to finish that cup of coffee before it goes cold! So which type of activity center is right for your kiddo? Some grow with your baby and convert to toddler tables; others will have your baby jumping for joy (actually, applause). Or perhaps you need one that you can take on the go. We’ve rounded up seven activity centers, all offering something a little different, to help you choose. 1. Oribel PortaPlay Convertible Activity Center. If you’re looking for an activity center that grows with your child, look no further. The PortaPlay Convertible Activity Center from Oribel, which is the first of its kind, is a convertible activity table that, once your baby graduates from his bouncer days, transforms into a play table that's suitable for kids up to 5 years old. There are even matching stools and an art paper roll dispenser that clips on the table for endless hours of coloring in the future. In the meantime, the bouncy seat swivels for baby to play with all the fun animated characters. Plus, the table, which is modern in design and compact, folds flat for storage! $129, buy here and use the promo code SEASON15 to get 15% off of any orders that are $100 or more. 2. Skip Hop Explore & More Jumpscape Foldaway Jumper. The latest activity center to hit the market is the Skip Hop Explore & More Jumpscape Foldaway Jumper. So what sets this jumper apart from the rest? For starters, this jumper folds flat, which makes it perfect for small space living. But what makes this jumper truly unique is the light-up cloud that tracks baby’s jumps! It even applauds when your little one reaches 100 jumps, how cute is that? $130, buy here. 3. Evenflo ExerSaucer. The tried and true Evenflo ExerSaucer is such a classic and budget-friendly activity center. It comes equipped with a slew of colorful, stimulating toys, a 360-degree swivel chair and a three-position height adjustment. $49, buy here. 4. Fisher Price 3-in-1 Sit-to-Stand. The 3-in-1 Sit-to-Stand Activity Center is designed to be used from birth to 24 months. Talk about getting your money’s worth! From a tummy-time mat to an activity table for toddlers and bouncy seat for in between, this center has something for every stage of your child’s development. $79.99, on sale here! 5. Three Pears Bobbin Triple Play Centre. If a wooden activity center is more your style, this high-end one is sure to satisfy. The Bobbin Triple Play Centre is tres chic and eco-friendly. It converts from a baby play center to a toddler activity table and even comes with a chalk board insert, so unique! $492, buy here. 6. Summer Infant Pop N' Jump Portable Activity Center. For those times when you want to both entertain and contain your baby on the go, there’s the Summer Infant Pop N’ Jump Activity Center. Portable and lightweight, you can bring this activity center on playdates, holidays and even the backyard for some outdoor play. It even comes with a UV canopy to protect your little one from harmful rays. $49, buy here. 7. Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center. This gorgeous wooden tree activity center from Manhattan Toy will provide your kiddo with countless hours of entertainment. Beads, gliders and gears oh my, this center is sure to peak your child’s interest and curiosity $72.85, buy here.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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