Brrr…. another wintry day mid-February. The Winter continues to freeze us at a time when Atlantans sometimes have spring-like weather. Crawling the walls myself with cabin fever, I have come up with a few very affordable “field trips” for the kids when their activity level is high, my patience is low, and we all need to get out. Here are a few:
- McDonalds or Chic-Fil-A. My favorite is actually McD’s – not for the food (sorry, MickieD’s!) but for the larger play area since my kids are on the older side of young. Chic-fil-A caters to toddlers with its smaller play area with lower-height tunnels and climbing areas. At either venue, the idea is not to fill up on fast food (for any of us) and spend $10. No, no… we pack a lunch (occasionally supplemented with chocolate milk, apple dippers, etc). I do feel obligated to spend some money since I’m using the facility, so we buy the toy at McD’s and/or hot cholocate (the occasional coffee for me – it’s not Starbucks, be warned, but it’s not complete drivel, either). Bottom line: Kids burn energy, I take a magazine, and we get out of the house for a couple of hours for $5 or less. Bonus: The Best McD’s around Woodstock/Canton (based on the perspective of a 5 and 3-year old) are:
- Roswell’s McD’s at Crabapple at Hwy 140 (#1 for it’s HUGE play area, lots of tables, and climbing area);
- Holly Springs McD’s off of Holly Springs Parkway and Ridge Rd (#2 for its Treehouse-themed climbing area – beware, parents, on very limited table space);
- Canton’s Riverstone Pkwy location (#3 for the rubber floor under the climbing area, lots of crawling and hiding spaces, 2-story wall of windows for lots of sunshine and high-climbing fun!)
- Story Time. Libraries and public bookstores all offer Free Storytimes at varying times and locations. Libraries usually offer a craft activity, as well. In my experience, storytimes are usually best for less-active children. At 2 1/2, my son had a very hard time not interrupting storytime by doing cartwheels and running around the room. However, at 2 or younger and now at nearly 4, I found storytime quite age-appropriate. A friend of mine with a well-behaved 18-mos old recently confessed that she felt her son was not ready for the quiet environment. Commiserating with my own memories of raised eyebrows from patrons and staff at local libraries, you might weigh whether your child’s typical behavior will be appropriate at the time of day the storytime is offered as many are around 11 AM (near lunch time). You also might start at a local bookstore vs a library as bookstores provide a more forgiving environment for children. Noise is acceptable and wiggling the norm at most public venues; plus, shoppers aren’t there to study or research. I highly recommend:
- Foxtale’s Booke Shoppe in Downtown Woodstock. The best storytime out there! Every Saturday at 11 AM, either Ms. Jackie (one of the owners) or a storyteller will read from a selection of age-appropriate books correlating with an upcoming holiday or based on a collective theme. After the reading, which the children are invited to participate in by turning pages or answering questions, the kids are invited to dance to music from Foxtale’s selection. Finally, after the children’s wiggles have been released, the children can select temporary tattoos. The private Children’s Room at Foxtale’s also allows for parents to shop in the store, if they like, during the 45-minute storytime. Many of the same kids also attend so mine are beginning new friendships. Parents should know that Foxtales is a wonderful bookstore specializing in independent and local authors. Consider Foxtale’s for your child’s next Birthday Party, as well. My daughter’s 4th birthday was held here and enjoyed by all! They provided goodie bags with a book, a fabulous cake; and we had run of the park area just beyond their doors.
- Red Door Playhouse. Located next to the historic mill at downtown Roswell (Hwy 120 and Roswell Rd), this will become a monthly outing on your calendar! The Playhouse offers a FREE, one-hour, storytime once per month (usually, the 3rd Sat- the next one is scheduled Feb. 20) throughout the school year. With stadium seating, a huge floor mat and stage, children (from toddlers to about 8-9 yrs) are invited to participate in music (with instruments), dance (to guitar tunes played by one of the directors), improvise onstage with a themed story (dinosaurs, magic, fairies, animals, are all examples of themes we’ve loved). A great venue for birthday parties, as well as adult improv comedy and plays!
- Toy Store Field Trip. Beware: This is only recommended as a reward for good behavior since you WILL leave with a purchase! Not only is it evil to take your children to a toy store without buying something, you will have WWIII if you don’t. Some local toy stores have toys under $5 (including books – or splurge on a $10 puzzle or craft activity) with great play areas that will engage your kids for a bit. My faves include:
- Learning Express – free craft activities some Saturdays + a great Lego train table and kitchenette
- Anklebiters – with a 2-story “treehouse” with child-size piano, bedroom, and kitchen, my children want to live here! I love this store, too, for the hard-to-find yet well-priced boutique brands. The independently owned store always carries adorable boutique clothes and accessories.
- HoneyBee Toys – boutique toy store with a train table, car table, kitchen area, and story times during the week. A convenient location next to Kroger at Hickory Flat makes this a must-visit!
- Trader Joe’s or Harry’s Farmer’s Market.
- Trader Joe’s small store features healthy, affordable nosh, samples, a “find the bear” activity with “reward”, kid-sized carts, balloons… my kids think it’s almost as good as a toy store. I like the small floor plan – if my son steps away from my side, he couldn’t have gone far. If you’ve never visited Trader Joe’s, take your young one and just go!!
- Harry’s is a bit larger but with ethnic foods, yummy bakery and gelato stand (not to mention great chai lattes & hot chocolate!), the trip can become educational as kids feel welcome to try interesting foods (produce, meat, cheeses, veggies, etc) that they might balk at when served on their plate. Also with kid-sized carts, young shoppers feel encouraged to wander but the shorter aisles and open areas make it easy to keep up with them. Check out the great all-natural, children’s toiletry section, children’s healthy snacks, etc.
- Music Stores. I don’t have great recommendations in this category yet as my 3 1/2 year old is just now reaching the level of maturity I would expect when entering a store full of really loud and sometimes delicate instruments. There are quite a few stores in my area and I plan on posting recommendations soon.
The point I’m trying to convey is get creative. Think about what is available in your area, what might be of interest to your child engaging him or her either physically and/or intellectually. The joy you’ll receive from a few minutes resting (not yelling!) and witnessing the smile on your child’s face is worth it!
If you have any recommendations not listed above, please post! I love finding new places for new adventures!