Kids have an insatiable sense of adventure and boundless energy to back it up. As a parent, the struggle comes when trying to find ways to keep that energy from destroying the home you live in! If you’ve got a little one, you understand the need to escape the house and explore the town a bit.
So, what do you do to keep your most precious thing entertained and your sanity intact? Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve done, or plan to do soon, with my little one!
Playground Crawl - Print out a map of the local parks and playgrounds, plot your path and spend a few hours sampling each park in the area! It’s a great way to run out their energy, explore something new and, maybe, find a new favorite place. Plus, you can take a picture at each playground and make a collage out of it for memory’s sake. Pro tip: If they have a favorite playground already, go there last, or they’ll never want to leave for the next one!
Dessert Tasting - My daughter is nearly five, and we limit her sweets quite a bit. So, having a Mommy-and-Me date out to the local bakery or our favorite dessert place is always special! Take some time to research local bakeries or those with the craziest, most magical concoctions and head there to sample some smaller desserts or to split a jumbo cupcake.
Yoga Time - There are plenty of places around the region that offer some sort of Mommy-and-Me yoga time! Parks and Recreation departments and local studios feature specially designed classes to get you moving with the little one (some even have classes designed for those with babies still in strollers)! If you’re like me and don’t care to join a group outside of the comfort of your home, download a free yoga app and encourage your kiddo to follow along with you! My daughter has created her own yoga moves, and if she struggles with balance, she lays down and mimics the position on the floor.
Splash Pad - Splash pads are popping up all over the region. Most are free and a great way to get the kid out and running through some water, all without sacrificing your own hair and makeup at a pool. Plus, there are usually other kids there for them to play with!
Hike a Local Trail - I admit this one is only possible if your kiddo doesn’t mind a good walk. Mine claims she's tired after about 10 minutes, but it’s still fun to find a short trail and spend a while exploring nature. The Dunes have some great trails of varying difficulty, all lined with trees, plants and bugs. If the Dunes are a bit much, you can always head to Ogden Gardens in Valparaiso and walk their paths. It’s a shorter walk, well maintained and full of beautiful trees and flowers. The fish pond is an added bonus!
Book Store - We love reading at my house. My daughter has her own bookshelf filled with books to help reinforce the sight words we’re teaching her. To keep our libraries full, we’ll head to the bookstore and find a few new books, or attend one of the story time sessions. A lot of places have one for free earlier in the day, and it’s a great way for the kiddo to get out and enjoy some reading! If the bookstore isn’t your place, head to the library. They host a variety of programs, especially during the summer months.
Orchards - Depending on the season, there is probably an orchard, farm or pumpkin patch near you that allows you to pick your own and pay by weight. This is always a ton of fun for little ones and a great way to teach them about where fruits and vegetables come from. We head to a pumpkin patch every year, take some pictures at the mazes and giant pumpkins they set up and find our perfect pumpkins to bring home and paint. It’s something we look forward to doing every year as the weather gets cooler.
Farmer’s Market - The area has so many great markets that usually start popping up in May and continue through September or October. When we go, we make sure to grab food from a local business, explore the booths of fresh foods and handmade goods and meet people running local programs. It’s a great way to teach the kids about business and buying local. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to get out and see what people are making.
Visit a Fire Department - We’re lucky enough to have a family member on a small-town department, so we visit often. Many cities have hours or events where you can visit local departments, though, and it makes for a great time! The kids love to see the trucks, watch how the hoses roll and unroll and meet their local heroes.
Field to Vase - This is a pretty neat destination if you have a little one who loves flowers. You pay a fee and go out to pick your own bouquet of flowers in their fields. Who doesn’t enjoy having some fresh flowers around the house now and then?