What am I going to do today to enrich my child? To expose them to social situations, build strength both physically and emotionally, engage them, introduce them to the fine arts, teach them while they are still little sponges? If you are anything like me, there are many days where hanging close to home is the reality. After we drop the big kids off at school, the munchkins and I head home to start dinner, clean up, sing songs and read books, take walks, the norm. These days at home are great, predictable, easy, comforting. But, also like me, there are days you wonder if being home is enough? How ELSE can I supplement my toddler’s early experiences? Well, if you are in or around Walnut Creek, CA, I have compiled a list of activities that have been a success for me and my little munchkins. From weekly classes to drop in events, here is my go-to list of extracurriculars that I frequent.
1. Toddler Gymnastics– http://www.libertygymtrainingcenter.com/programs.html Liberty Gymnastics in Concord, CA. This location offers both a toddler class for my almost 3 year old to do independently AT THE SAME TIME as a tot and me class where I can play with my 13-month old. SCORE! The classes are affordable, entertaining, and fit the bill for both weekly reoccurring classes and also on Thursdays from 11:00am-12:00pm they offer a drop-in play time where kids ages 18 months to 5 years old can explore the gym and play for $7 for the first kid and $3 for siblings. What a gem this is if you find yourself and your kiddos stir-crazy on a Thursday.
2. Redwood Valley Railway– http://www.redwoodvalleyrailway.com/ This minimally priced Railroad is the perfect escape from suburbia. Running out of Orinda, this miniature train offers covered and open cars for the perfect dose of nature to quell the ants in the pants of a little one. Prices are $3 per ticket and schedule is open from 11:00am-6:00pm, weather permitting, year round. Worth a trip for toddlers!
3. Library Storytime– http://www.wclibrary.org/children/ We usually go to the Walnut Creek Public Library for the weekly storytime where a volunteer reads stories, does felt board storytelling, sings songs, teaches little rhymes or riddles. Free fun for all! Then we usually grab a stack of books and hunker down in a comfy chair in the children’s section and read for the better part of an hour. Check out your local library or surrounding library to see if they are offering a storytime hour, and if not, try to encourage them to start one!
4. Civic Arts Community Center Based Classes – http://www.walnut-creek.org/cae/classes/youth/youth_art.asp With my 2 year old, we have fallen in love with an art based class called “Terrifically Terrible Two’s” which is a preschool style class that includes activities such as painting and play doh, with circle time, outdoor play and music. These classes typically run for a 10 or so week session and are very affordable. If you were to take these same type classes at an art studio they would be much more expensive. Teachers usually love being there making for a comfortable, inviting and encouraging environment. We pay $128 for a 10-week session and this includes take home projects that will last for years to come! A bargain!
5. Small Talk Family Cafe– http://smalltalkfamilycafe.com/ This cafe is more of a children’s mecca than a cafe. Yes they have a restaurant with family and kid friendly fare, but they also have various drop in play times, multiple play areas within the cafe, and also an array of kid’s classes from art and music to yoga. Prices are moderate, usually $16 for a drop in music class, discounts for siblings. Membership is another option, which I have not signed up for yet, but seems like a deal if you go more than once in a while. Typically, this is not a weekly endeavor but more of a once a month option. It is located at 1536 NEWELL AVE. in Walnut Creek, CA.
6. Lakeshore Learning Center -http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/general_content/store_locations/storeCrafts.jsp Every Saturday Lakeshore offers a free craft for kids from 11:00am-3:00pm. You can also pick up fun learning toys and great craft materials while you are there. We go to the store in Walnut Creek at 1929 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
7. – The Poison Apple Playhouse- http://academy.poisonappleproductions.com/thursday-evening-apple-seeds-dinosaurs-before-dark-kids This theater program for kids ages 3 and up is the perfect introduction for your Broadway bound star! The prices are affordable, the practices are only once a week, and the themes are interesting and fun for kids. The people are all wonderful, the shows were well done yet not too stuffy or demanding. If your child has any interest in theater, I recommend starting here! $175 for a 10 week course that ends with 4 live shows!
8. Tilden Regional Park Little Farm–http://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden This very clean and well-maintained farm is such a fun FREE outing for toddlers and older children alike. Pigs, sheep and cows are among the animal friends you will meet here. Located on the Berkeley side of Tilden Park, this is a great outing that we frequent.
I hope you enjoy these activities as much as we have, and I also hope you find the energy to venture out into our beautiful world and explore through the eyes of your child, you will not regret it!