Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Super Fun "Tot Spots"

I realize that living in Florida I should never complain about the weather. I feel an exception is in order based on the craziest winter we have seen in some time. So after feeling the worst of my cabin fever, I decided to do some research, and try to come up with some fun and inexpensive places to take Chickpea.

Now I understand that my family may have the good fortune of residing in the number one destination city for most families, but I think it is fair to say that there is life and fun outside of the mainstream theme park attractions (that and I am not brave enough to endure taking a 21month old to visit "the mouse" just yet). So I have taken the time to come up with a list of some great "Tot Spots". I hope you enjoy.

First let me share a great website This website allows you to locate parks within a specified area (by entering your address, zip code, or city). What is really genius about this site is that the parks are rated on a 1-5 scale to really help narrow which parks you would like to visit. Parks I feel are great places to take your toddler. They provide great space for them to explore, take hikes, and get out some of the endless amounts of energy they seem to have. Parks also provide a great opportunity to turn a morning or afternoon of fun into a learning experience. Indulge your toddler's curiosity, by talking about what you see and come across. Some of Chickpea's favorite things to do are find the squirrels hiding in the trees, and to point out the different flowers. I have to admit there is little that compares to watching your child explore the great outdoors with such wonder.

Another great website helps to locate kid friendly museums in your area. Museums and galleries are another gem to share with toddlers. Many galleries and museums have special areas and programs that are designed for children and encourage them to touch, play and explore. We are fortunate enough to have several amazing museums here in the Orlando area. Chickpea's favorite is the Orlando Science Center. It is a great place for kids of any age (including big kids like me and hubby). The OSC has so many great things to offer like, a habit for indigenous Florida wildlife, a great Kid Zone where toddlers and young children are encouraged to get a hands on perspective, dinosaurs, and various traveling exhibits like the science of chocolate, and Mr. Potato Head. Even in tough economic times the OSC offers a great value with an annual family membership for only $125 which includes parking fees, and admission to all special events (hubby and I are huge fans of Cocktails and Cosmos).

Research shows that access to books and one-on-one reading time is an important predictor of future literacy skills. Reading to babies from infancy on exposes them to the alphabet, and to the sounds that words make. Talking to children about a story increases understanding and vocabulary. Do I need to provide any further rationale on why libraries should be a part of every child's life? Experts feel that it is never too early to fill your little one's head with a sense of wonder about reading. Chickpea is a regular at story time every Tuesday and Thursday. It is so great to see her excitement as stories are read out loud, and she interacts with other children her age. Many local library branches also offer free programs for toddlers and children of all ages. Hearing books read out loud by someone other than their parents can make your child listen even more attentively, and activities like story time help to develop social skills. Be sure to check out some books with your little one before you leave the library. Libraries are a great place to escape on a rainy day; in addition they help to establish good reading habits at a young age.

So whether you choose to venture off to the park, musuem or library my message is to get out and explore with your toddler. With a little research you can find some great spots to visit with your favorite tot. Happy and safe adventures until next time.

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