It's another below zero day in Baraboo WI and my toddler twins and I have reached the crabby limit. The if we do not get out of the house now I might not make it to bed time, but it is cold or snowy or raining.
Have you been there? I think every parent has.
The trouble is a lot of indoor spaces (which are often limited to start with) aren't super baby or toddler friendly. That bouncy house for instance that my 5 year olds adore, while get your baby trampled.
You can sign your baby up for mommy and me swim lessons and music lessons, and I recommend both, but you cannot endlessly spend money on lessons for your 1 year old and sometimes you need an escape when something isn't scheduled.
So where can you go?
Below are the 10 places we went the most when I was home with my twins those first 3 years from tiny babies to confident two year olds.
I think sometimes we forget about libraries when we're thinking of things to do with kids. Libraries are an awesome places for a lot of reasons any day of the year (we still go once a week just like we started doing when my twins were 6 months old) but they are always a nice place to escape a super cold or rainy day.
What to do: Read books together. Attend lap sit story time. Grab a few board books to bring home for something different to read on repeat for the next week.
Just need to get out of the house and move a little? Malls are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
What to do: Push your baby in the stroller and get in some steps (anyone else Fitbit obsessed?!) Take your older infant or toddler to the play space. I know germs are somewhat of a fear, but bring a few wipes to make yourself feel a little better and go early before it gets crowded with too many runny noses.
These are admittedly fewer in number than I wish they were, but we've had one in most of the places we have lived. These are just restaurants, like Panera, or coffee shops that have a little play space in the back. More than anything they just offer you both a change of scenery for little money.
What to do: Go early before it's too crowded. Order a cup of coffee (or a chai latte - because again, I'm obsessed) and set your little one down to play while you sip.
This one is more for the toddler folk, although an older baby would also find this amusing. You can do this at a mall, office building, apartment. This is most entertaining if the elevator has windows to watch people and the world while you ride.
What to do: Get on the elevator, let your child push a button or just push the top floor, ride to the top and repeat. I don't really know why, but my twins found this endlessly amusing.
Botanical Gardens often have an indoor part that is super warm which is perfect for a cold day outside. They are also lovely to walk around in for a couple hours.
What to do: Push your baby around in the stroller while they sleep or just enjoy a different view. Let your toddler out to roam and wander. Follow their lead and I promise this adventure will take a long time and burn some of their seemingly endless energy. Point out different things or label the things they notice to work in a little vocabulary growth while you're at it.
A car wash is a great way to kill a little time. A word of caution - some kids will find this a little scary so know your kid. I recommend prepping them beforehand so they know what's going to happen so the lights and sounds and brushes aren't as alarming. (This book is a good one to read before you go) That being said, my kids love the car wash.
What to do: Drive your car through the carwash with your toddler in tow or get out and let your child watch from inside if that's an option. We even went into a car wash to pass some time once and didn't even bring the car - my kids just thought it was fascinating to watch all those colors and machines.
This was hands down our favorite get out of the house escape when my twins were toddlers. We got an annual family membership when our kids started crawling. They started off crawling around the baby section, then the under 5 section and soon it seemed like they were running all over the museum. Typically we went at least once a month so we definitely got our money's worth.
What to do: Start in the section that interests your child the most (or the one for their age level) and follow their lead.
We have lived in four different states and all but one of them has had a zoo wtih a decently sized indoor space, although the most extensive was the one at the Minnesota Zoo.
What to do: Push your baby around in the stroller or let your toddler get out and wander. Little kids usually love animals so help them spot animals, label them, make animal sounds together and explore whatever else they find interesting.
Target might have saved my life when I was a new mom of twins. A little starbucks, my double stroller, and endless aisles to wander. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house for a while and move.
What to do: Bring some stroller toys for your baby or toddler to play with and wander until they start to get unhappy. If you make sure they are fed and changed first, you might even get a nice nap and quiet shopping out of the deal. The secret is to leave before the meltdown. Once they start getting antsy and unhappy, address their need (feed, change, etc) or get out while you still have that smile on your face.
Do you have a children's bookstore near you? Major score if you do. Fun books and often a whimsical space to explore for a little while. Even bigger, non-child specific, bookstores also have children's books and space. The bathrooms usually have changing tables and they are warm and clean. The Barnes and Noble near us in Mississippi even had some trains to play with in the children's section.
What to do: Read books together. Wander after your toddler if they are in that newly walking just want to move phase. Play if there is space provided.
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