I think Social Media is keeping track of my interests, life events, and social activities!
I'm joking, of course. This is exactly what Social Media does. It is what we signed up for. I only mention it, to mention this:
Social media knows that I'm a new parent. As a result, I find my feeds bombarded with articles listing 'Child-Friendly' activities in 'My Town.' Generally, these are from phony, click-bait pages pretending to be local, such as "Hey, I'm From Denver Too," or "You Know You're From Denver When."
As a response, I would like to share my own list.
Feel free to print this list and take it with you to any city or town throughout the land. It is written to be generic, er. universal. No matter where you find yourself, there are scores of child-friendly activities. Sometimes we just need a little nudge in the right direction.
Here is a quick example for you:
Today my son and I spent 30 minutes playing with his Diaper Genie. Don't worry. We weren't playing with the bag of dirty diapers. I had just changed the bag and we were playing with the foot pedal and the release button on the side. He loves to do this and he does it every time I change the Genie.
Toddlers want to have fun and learn about the world around them. They are curious. They are fascinated by everything. You just need to let them explore, give them a bit of guidance and provide the occasional change of scenery.
That being said, here is my list of 7 absolutely FREE toddler-friendly activities.
7. Visit the Library
image credit: Bweav
(Almost) every town has a library. I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania. So small, in fact, that it is registered as a 'village.' The population was about 400 people. We had no stoplights and no restaurants, but you know what we had? A library.
Sure it was one tiny room with about 100 books (that may be a slight exaggeration), but it was a library!
Libraries have books...for reading. They also have books for children, heck some even have entire sections dedicated to children's books. Go there. Read to your child. Let your child read to themself. Or let them run around, grabbing books off the shelf, while you follow them and replace said books. A fun way to bond while you both get some much-needed exercise.
Before we move on, I want to mention that the library is there for you regardless of the weather, as is our next activity!
6. Go To the Mall
I want to let you in on a secret about the Mall. You can 'shop' there for hours and you don't need to buy a darned thing!
Senior Citizens have known about this for years. Get there around opening time and you'll see them, in droves, just walking. They're walking, because they know exercise is important and they know that the weather, inside the mall, will always be perfect.
On our last outing, to the mall, my son spent about 25 minutes running down a ramp and climbing up it's accompanying stairs. We spent the remaining few hours playing with mini-basketballs at the sporting goods store, 'testing' various goods at the toy store and making friends throughout the food court.
On a personal note, my entire life I've never really liked going to the Mall (even as a teenager), but when I'm with my toddler, it's an absolute joy!
5. Run Around the Park
Remember that tiny village where I grew up? It had a park. Nothing official, just about a half-acre, next to the garment factory, with some grass and a bunch of trees.
Every town and every city has at least the equivalent of this. Most cities have dozens of parks all with one thing in common. Your toddler can run there for hours! They can also tumble and play with sticks and look at trees.
Even if your neighborhood's park is only a half a block long, it will seem like New York's Central Park to a tiny child!
4. Play at the Playground
image credit: Bweav
Many of the aforementioned parks, in addition to having 'miles' of grass and trees, will also have some version of a playground. It may be as simple as a few swings and one slide, but it's a playground nonetheless.
Playgrounds are built with one goal in mind; for children to have fun! Heck, they've got the word 'play' right in there.
This may go without saying, but I want to mention it anyway. In order for your child to get the most enjoyment out of any of these activities, you (the parent) need to be participating. Play with your child. Be fully present and involved, no matter where you are. You may find yourself having even more fun than your child!
3. Explore Your Kitchen
This may not be your idea of a proper play area, but I want to include it as the most conveniently located rainy day option.
We're all, of course, familiar with the 'pots and pans as a drum kit' playtime activity. You loved it when you were a child and your child will love it too. Once your child is introduced to this activity he/she will play those drums as long as your ears will allow.
Aside from the drum kit, what other activities can we do in the kitchen? Well, I'm glad you asked. How about:
- Empty a cabinet (preferably on the base level!) and let your child crawl in for some 'peek-a-boo' fun.
- Guide them in a pretend baking session or better yet, really bake something and let them help! (My wife and son do this twice a week!)
- Use some conveniently placed sheets/blankets to make a fort out of the kitchen table.
- Crayons and paper, on the kitchen floor, are always a great option.
2. Walk Around the Block
-For this activity, I will assume your neighborhood has sidewalks or some equivalent option other than walking on a busy street.
Just take a walk with your child. Anyone who has walked with a toddler will tell you that a 'short' walk around the block could kill hours out of your day!
Children love to explore. All you need to do is let them. Every few feet there will be a new insect to meet, a new sidewalk crack to investigate or a newly fallen leaf to collect.
Let their enthusiasm guide them and inspire you. Try to count all of the things you've never really noticed about your block.
1. Stomp in a Puddle
image credit: Bweav
Find a puddle and let them jump into it. That's it. That's the activity.
My son will do this as long as we let him and I'm pretty sure your child will do the same!
Jump in the puddle with them! Clothes can be cleaned. Shoes dry.
There you have it. 7 absolutely FREE toddler-friendly activities in (insert your city here)!
I had a little fun with this list, but I hope it helps.
Your toddler will make their own fun. You just need to give them options and be ready to jump on board with whatever fun activity they create.