Go to the mall = FREE, aside from shopping
Some malls have indoor play areas with adult supervision so kids are able to play. I sometimes head to the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, MA when it’s raining outside or if I’m planning on doing light shopping. I would choose that mall vs. the Providence Place Mall because there is an indoor play area so he can put his energy somewhere:) There’s also the Warwick Mall near us which has a Carousel for entertainment.
Visit Chick-Fil-A or similar place – $
This fast-food chain usually has an indoor play area for kids. While small, it does the trick! You can always just get a little something to snack or a simple beverage and then your toddler can play! One thing to keep in mind is you typically cannot bring food into the play area and you may need to bring socks for your baby if they have a no shoe policy.
Work out! = FREE – $
Every week, I go to the gym at least once. At my gym there is child care in the morning from 9am-12pm and then again from 4pm-8pm on the weekdays. During the weekend, they are open from 9am-11am on Saturdays. It’s not too bad! If I want to just take an hour class, I can drop Kai off with the caregiver. He usually has fun with the other kids. this also is a great way for him to socialize with other children. It was tough for him to leave me at first, but after 2-3 times, he got used to it. I never leave him for more than 1.5 hours. One perk is there is a sauna and showers as well as tanning beds (if you tan). I haven’t gotten to take advantage of those amenities, but they sound nice huh?
Can’t afford a gym membership or don’t like to get sweaty in public? There’s always the option of doing an exercise routine at home! You can find videos online or just make up your own and get your toddler involved! Make it fun to work out. Kai loves music, especially dancing to the best. You can try to make up a routine at home and have a dance party while breaking in a sweat! Just remember to be safe and consult with a medical professional before doing anything out of the ordinary!
Go to an indoor play area – $
Such places include Chuck E. Cheese. One local place in Warwick, RI is called Kidz Kastle. There is also a place in Taunton, MA called Round 1, which is a place for the whole family. That’s pretty much an all-in-one arcade, pool hall, bowling alley, bar and kids indoor play area. In my area, in Seekonk, MA there are Fantasyland and the Seekonk Speedway.
Visit a local pet store – FREE – $
My son loves animals! Sometimes when our dog runs out of dog food or is in need of a little something special, I bring Kai with me to run errands. Meanwhile, there are usually some fun, cute and also creepy little critters on display and for sale at the local pet store.
Kai loves running up to the fish tanks on display and pointing to the different species. And he loves dinosaurs, so naturally he is drawn to the prehistoric-looking lizards and reptiles on display too!
And who doesn’t love watching little rodents run a muck in their little confined spaces? Gerbils, mice, ferrets, and more. Sometimes there’s also some rabbits. Although most of the time, they’re just sleeping.
Oh and don’t forget about the little birds flying about in their cages and mingling with their companions!
Visit your local library = FREE
The library is a great resource. The libraries in my local area have wonderful programs, such as story time, play time, or music and dance programs. It’s a great place to network with other parents, grandparents, and caretakers. It also serves as a wonderful place to get your little one interested in reading books!
Take swim lessons – $$
Since we live in RI, I was initially drawn Pods Swimming, which is a local aquatic swimming education center. They were building a brand new facility last year, and unfortunately construction was a month behind. Therefore, I enrolled my then-10-month old child in a swim class at my local YMCA. They start accepting children as early at 6 months old! We had so much fun. Although, just keep in mind these are introductory classes to get your baby familiar with the water. Safety was emphasized in these classes along with fun activities.
Play in the snow = FREE
Kai went sledding for the first time a few weeks ago. While it only lasted about a half an hour to 45 minutes, we were able to both indulge in some rich hot chocolate!
Sometimes when it snows a lot, I choose to take our dog Stanley in the backyard to do his business instead of going out for a walk with Kai’s stroller. So, I suit Kai up and we run around and explore our snow-covered backyard!
Get a Children’s Museum or Discovery Center Membership = $$
We were fortunate enough to be gifted an annual pass to the Providence Children’s Museum for Kai’s Christmas present! We opted to go with the Family Plus Membership, which was $150. It allows a total of 6 people to visit the museum. Kids who are 12 months and older have to pay full price. He loves playing with the water. It’s a great place to bring your child during the winter!
Meet up with family and friends = FREE
While I thoroughly enjoy spending time with Kai and Stanley I also like to have some time to have a conversation or two with other adults. Also, if your friends and family have kids of their own, they can play together! If you have family nearby, take advantage! If they’re anything like my parents or in-laws, they love bonding with their grandchild. I also have a few friends who love hanging with Kai. It’s a win-win. Maybe you can even cook together and plan out meals!
Get a zoo membership
Sometimes when there’s a warmer winter day, I like to take Kai to the zoo. It’s usually or crowded at all during the weekday, especially in the wintertime! I guess it also depends on where you live though. We sometimes just watch the animals for a longer period of time, and since Kai loves those pre-historic looking creatures, we watch the Komodo dragon (which is in an indoor area of the zoo).
Read – FREE
Kai asks me to read to him about five times a day! He tends to gravitate towards busy books. The peek-a-boo ones where you lift the flaps up and see something. He really likes me to read the same book several times, or go to a specific page and gets mad if we don’t read that page many times.
While I like borrowing books at the library, I also enjoy owning them because he can always go back to them whenever he wants to. I’ve discovered a local second-hand store where you can buy and sell your old baby items. It’s called Once Upon a Child in Warwick, RI. You know when you go into a Savers, a Goodwill or a Salvation Army and there’s a weird musty stench? This used store isn’t anything like that. I’ve only gone there twice, but they have a ton of toys and clothes. I have gotten three of Kai’s current favorite books there.
The other day, I celebrated my friend’s birthday by going to trivia at this bookstore and cafe called An Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA. It has a wonderful children’s section! I plan on going back one of these days for story time.
Visit a local botanical garden – $
Most of these gardens have large a large or multiple greenhouses you can visit with a wide variety of plant species! Kai enjoys exploring new areas and appreciates large open spaces so he can run around.
Join a support group = FREE or $
If you are a new mom, there are usually local support groups you can join! There are Meetup Groups, which are usually private, that you can request to join. There’s sometimes a small fee (maybe $10-$50 a year) to participate. Kai and I ended up going to a mommy Bible study at a local church. There was nursery during the session, so Kai was able to interact with other kids. It was a wonderful way to fellowship as well as grow closer to God.
Get your toddler involved in cleaning:) = FREE
Kai keeps me on my toes. He loves to see people cleaning, especially sweeping or mopping. And shoveling or raking. I guess he just has a fascination with sticks. Sometimes, when we are hanging at out home, he asks me to sweep and clean the floors because it is “dirty”. He also begs me to take the vacuum cleaner out and use it.
Enroll in a music class = $$
This year, we decided to enroll Kai in a music class. He absolutely loves it. Last year we ended up going to a free introductory music class to get a taste for what to expect if we decided to sign up this year. It was nice to see the different activities and just a a little taste of everything. At the time, Kai was still just beginning to take his first steps, so I selected swimming vs. music class. This year, we selected Lori’s Music Together. It has been such a fun few weeks already! It’s amazing to see Kai’s progress. He’s singing parts of songs and mimicking all of the dance moves at home! You just need to show him one time, and he remembers! It’s hard to believe because I sometimes think he’s not paying any attention to what the teacher is doing.
Go on a movie date at home – FREE
Since my almost-two year old cannot typically sit still for more than ten minutes or so, we haven’t yet attempted to go to a real movie theater. He usually does pretty well when he’s a little tired, but not over-tired.
On certain days, especially if he’s feeling under the weather and he needs a little more TLC, I will make some popcorn, get a juice box for him and maybe even think about giving him little lollipop treat while we watch a G or PG-rated movie together. Since he is still taking naps during the day (well mostly just one long nap now), he sometimes falls asleep watching a movie.
His current favorite movie is Moana. Michael thinks he has a crush on her.
Play at home – FREE
There are ways to make play time fun, creative and interactive! Playing with your toddler and teaching him to play pretend expands his imagination. Don’t be afraid to get messy either! You can always take a bath afterwards!
You can play with the idea of planning activities around different themes matching holidays or cultural traditions. Or, tailor play and activity time at home for your toddler to learn about the basics, such as colors or numbers.
You can invite his little friends over too! This also teaches your child or children to be more social with other kids. While this can be challenging at first, it’s good to be consistent with it. Since Kai is an only-child he doesn’t understand the concept of sharing. Well he’s getting more used to the idea, at least:)
Some of his favorite things to play with now are play-doh and instruments; play dirt and monster trucks; his train wooden tracks and train set; his CAT diggers, bulldozers, dump trucks, and front-end loaders; his Hot Wheels cars; cutting his wooden fruits and vegetables with this Melissa & Doug set; and watching PBS Kids!
Got any more ideas?
These are just some ideas! There are plenty of ways to entertain your toddler. I have honestly bonded so much with my 21 month year old. It has been such a joy to watch him learn things so quickly. I feel so lucky to be spending this time with him. If anyone has any other ideas, please share! I am totally open to trying new things to keep busy.