Let's face it: It can be hard finding fun activities to do outside of the house for the baby/toddler age range no matter where you live...Let alone free or cheap ones. When I say the "baby/toddler age range", I'm referring to children between ages birth and 2 1/2 years of age, 3 at the very most. (Am I the only one who's noticed the age cutoff for "toddlers" seems to have increased lately? When did 3 and 4 year olds become toddlers? I've seen a lot of "activities for toddlers" posts lately that are definitely not age appropriate for what I consider toddlers. Anyways...) It is my hope that other parents in my shoes (and by "my shoes" I mean not terribly familiar with the area and what all businesses are around) will come across this post while searching the Interwebs one day and save them a bunch of time and hassle. Enjoy!
1) Garland County Library-Kids Library
For H.S. not being all that big of a town, their library offers a wonderful array of programs for kids. Namely, their Baby Steps and Toddler Time programs are what I want to talk about. We've not been to Toddler Time as it is for children ages 18 months to 3 years old, but one of the librarians shares a story, then there is singing and dancing, a snack, and an age appropriate craft. Pretty cool, huh? This program is on Tuesdays from 10-11am.
Baby Steps is fairly similar. We start off with singing nursery rhymes, are given a book to read along with the librarian (usually some type of book that has fun sensory things for baby to touch and feel), and end by playing with toys. (Yes, the toys are sanitized before and after. ;) ) The woman who does the Baby Steps program (Ms. Jill) has been doing it for 7 years! This program is for children birth through 18 months and is held on Wednesdays from 9:30-10:15am.
I love that these programs are held in a special meeting room in the children's section so that kids aren't as easily distracted or bothering other people in the rest of the kids library. The rest of the children's section of the library is, of course, also full of books, audio books, toys, and more. They have added LOTS of board books in the past 6 months or so, so I like to let Myka pick out a few board books each week and play with the train set and doll house after Baby Steps is over.
*Please note that both programs run for several weeks consecutively, but do take one or two weeks off in between, so be sure to check their current schedule. Also, you are supposed to register for both programs, but every time I have been to Baby Steps there has always been room for us or others who hadn't registered. If for some reason they cancel, though, they will call and let you know if you're registered.
2) Younger Years
Younger Years, Explore & Discover is an absolutely fabulous place! Myka and I just visited there for the first time last week and I was really impressed. But, more importantly, she had a lot of fun!
Younger Years is in the same building as Hot Springs Gymnastics and Play by Play. Essentially, it is a young children's play gym, but it is so much more than that at the same time! They have plenty of photos on their website (click the link above) and their Facebook page HERE that you can get a good idea of what they have to offer without me rambling on too much about it. ;)
They also have plenty of theme rooms adjacent to their main play area to keep young children entertained if they're in the mood for a quieter activity for the moment. Some themes that these include are dress-up, outer space, train/race cars, and even a special room just for infants and/or children still learning to walk!
This is a great place to let your little ones burn off some energy and/or work on gross motor skills. The best part? It's only $4/day! You may be thinking, "Why is that so great?" I'll put it this way: I am a self proclaimed tight wad and the $4 is MORE than fair and worth it!
3) Garvan Woodland Gardens
Everyone is always shocked when I tell them we've lived here for 4 years now and still haven't been here. Sadly, the main thing holding us back is the price. Admission for non-members is $10 for adults. (Children under 5 are free.)
They have all kinds of programs that sound interesting (if you're a nature lover like me, anyways), like Health Walks, Garden Fitness Hikes, and a Garden Stroller Strut that I just found out about a few days ago! They also have special programs for kids at least once a month, if not more often. Some you have to pay extra, some you don't.
Getting a membership would be a wise choice if you plan on going multiple times over the course of the year. You can get a Single membership for $55 and it includes all children/grandchildren under the age of 18 as well. Or, you can get a Family membership for $75 for two adults and children/grandchildren under 18.
Perks: 2 separate play areas: One for younger kids and one for older ones, paved walking paths, fishing, on the outskirts of town, so good area.
Drawback: No swings in either play area!
Perks: Play area for younger kids (Yes, there are swings here!) separated from the one for older ones, fishing, basketball, and a lot more.
Drawback: It's not a terribly big park, so it can be really crowded some days, especially if someone is having a birthday party there.
Do you guys have any suggestions? I'd love to hear from you!