Now that Zoe is back in school (part-time, so only 2-3 days a week), Elsie and I are in the throes of finding our rhythm again. Elsie is by far my extroverted, social butterfly who is happiest when Big Sis is around. On the days that Zoe is in school, she is a little bit lost without her – more clingy, more demanding and much harder to entertain. Last year, in order to keep both Elsie and I sane, I ended up scoping out some local kid-friendly places that I kept in constant rotation for the days that Zoe was at school. (The added bonus is that they are ALL FREE!) For those of you who are wondering how to keep your preschooler entertained while their sibling is off at school, it may be worth checking out some of these places:
- Creekside Playground. This is the place to go when you have kids who need to burn energy when the weather is icky or too cold to go out. They have a full-sized play structure (think McDonald’s play place, but better!) for the bigger kids, ride on toys and exersaucers for the younger kids, blocks, play kitchens, dollhouses, a train table, and much more! There are tables for parents to sit at and watch their kids play, while drinking a coffee (which is only $0.50 at the snack booth!). It’s hard to believe that a place like this could be free, but it is! During holiday seasons, the volunteers at Creekside Playground also run special programs for the older kids. (I’ve done a Christmas program there. But they also have Princess Parties, Gingerbread House Making and more. Some of these programs come at a small price, but they’re usually quite inexpensive.) The only recommendation that I have is, arrive early! The playground opens at 9:30 (closes at 11:30) and the tables quickly fill up with groups of parents. If you come a bit too late, you may be stuck sitting on a bench in the back, or not get a table at all.
- Kids’ Hop at the Kitchener Market. This event happens every other Tuesday at 11 am at the Kitchener Market. Erick Traplin, a local children’s musician, preforms his popular kids’ songs. Basically it’s a huge toddler/pre-schooler dance party for a good hour or so (complete with costumes and a bubble machine). This event is also FREE, however, you may have to pay for parking depending where you park downtown. When I’ve gone, I usually stay after the program and order lunch at one of the market vendors. (This is a really special treat for the girls!)
- The Early Years Centre: Our Place. I didn’t start coming here until after we had Elsie and I was desperate to get out of the house. However, I wish that I had discovered it sooner! You do have to register as a family, and you will be issued a membership card, but the membership is completely FREE. There are a few Early Years Centres in our area, however, I usually go to the one closest to me at the former St. Francis Elementary School. They offer a myriad of programs for kids of all ages, ranging from music to sensory play. They also have a number of drop-in rooms that encourage free play. There’s a library, a gym, and a kitchen to have your lunch. They offer many programs for new parents focusing on preparing for a new baby, breastfeeding, or infant massage etc… But they also offer programs for older kids, such as ones to prepare your child for kindergarten. All in all, this is definitely one of our weekly haunts!
- The Kitchener Public Library. I have been a die-hard library program fan since Zoe was born. They also offer programs for kids of all ages. I’ve attended Baby Time, One is Fun, Little Sprouts and countless other special events. (They even hosted a kid-friendly New Years Eve party this past year where the kids could make party hats and noise makers and ring in the New Year at 10 a.m.) I’ve gone to a bunch of different KPL locations and have tried classes with a number of different teachers. I will admit that hands down, Miss Karen at the Country Hills location is by far the most energetic, passionate, and enthusiastic children’s director I’ve ever met! And once again, all events at the library are FREE, however, you may need to register for some of the programs, since they do fill up quickly. It’s best to go on their website and be sure of the registration date.
- Community Christian Reformed Church’s Coffee Break. This is a shameless plug for the Coffee Break ministry that I’m involved with at our church. Currently we are gearing up for a new ministry season, beginning next week Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Each week, a group (ranging from anywhere between 30-50 women) of women meet for a time of socializing and Bible study while our kids get babysat in one of our three nurseries. The older kids (ages 3-5 years old) can go to one of two classes for crafts, Bible stories and songs. Meanwhile, the moms get to drink (hot!) coffee, enjoy tasty treats and dive into different Bible studies. Usually we provide studies encompassing a range of interests – a parenting study, a topical, self-help study, and a more in-depth book of the Bible study. There are no registration fees or nursery costs to our ministry. The only cost incurred would be linked to the curriculum necessary for the particular study signed up for. Personally, I have found the Coffee Break ministry to be refreshing for my spirit, providing me with insight and encouragement with other women while simultaneously supplying a much needed break from my kids (even for just a couple of hours!).
Hopefully this provides you with an arsenal of places to go in the KW region when you just need to get out of the house! I know that each one of these places has benefited not only me (and my sanity!) but also my girls. And who knows? Maybe I’ll see you around town!