Going stir-crazy? Cooped up? Need to get out of the house for a day with your small children?
Even in the smallest of towns, you can find things to do and people to meet through the following places. Here are 7 fun places to go with toddlers or preschoolers. Some of these places will seem ordinary to you, so may simply serve as reminders of places you haven’t been for awhile. But look too for tips within each place in the list.
1) Libraries often have story times for preschoolers (you can take your baby, too) as well as other, more elaborate programs. The library in one tiny town we lived in (2,000 residents) brought in jugglers and even live parrots! Many town libraries are connected to larger library systems that sponsor traveling programs. If you want to check out books, but find it too stressful perusing shelves while managing small children, visit the online catalog while your kids nap. You can pick up the books at the front desk when you go in for story time.
2) Fast-food joints with play areas can get you out of the house while kids stay in an enclosed, safe environment. I did quite a bit of writing in areas like these when my kids were small! Take hand sanitizer, though, and look for clean play areas.
3) Parks and Recreation departments (city funded) often have indoor playgrounds, held in community centers for children from one to four years old. These often have inflatable or plastic play equipment, mats, balls, trikes, child-sized cars, play kitchens, etc. You can rest on the sidelines or get in on the play fun too. Your parks department may also offer parent-child classes, on topics from dance to science.
4) Local school or community theater productions offer a great way to introduce little ones to the theater.
5) Special events, amusements, or exhibits may be available in your area. Check your local Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Information Center, city newspaper, or local parenting newspapers (in print or online). Don’t forget about local amusement parks; zoos and aquariums; museums of art, flight or history; and hands-on museums for kids. You may find special events at them or discount days. Think too about factory tours (candy, automobile, cheese, etc.); craft and/or vegetable markets and U-pick fruit fields. I took my kids in my jogging stroller through blueberry fields! Yum. (No messy hands with blueberries, and no thorns.)
6) Natural wonders: Do you have any nearby lakes or interesting bike trails? My preschoolers loved to feed ducks bread crumbs at our city pond. I also took my jogging stroller through wooded trails. (It helps to have big tires–I had a Runabout, which even went on sand and could carry luggage! I almost put a bumper sticker on it saying, “My other car is a . . .”)
7) Parent groups can help you connect with other mothers. MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and MITI (Moms in Touch International) are great groups for moms. MOPS usually provides childcare during mom times, plus guest speakers and craft times. MITI is designed for moms to gather to pray for their school children, so your little ones may need supervision during that time (unless they are old enough to sit and color for an hour). But they do benefit from seeing you take time to pray for them and their siblings, and close friendships are fostered through MITI.
Where do you like to take your little ones?
Leave a comment on this post for me and other moms, telling us about where you like to take your kids when you need a change of pace! I’m sure that you can come up with more than 7 places to go with toddlers or preschoolers!
Excerpted from The Power of Parent-Child Play, Chapter 13: Time to Get Out! Or Stay In?
Copyright 2003-2011 Laurie Winslow Sargent.