Cheap Dates for Toddlers: Indoor Playgrounds

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[Every Friday, I post a “toddler date” idea for something fun and simple to do with your toddler. My general rules are: The big picture ideas apply to any locale, but the specific examples will be for the Eastside of Seattle. But for this idea, I honestly don’t know if this is a Seattle area thing or whether parks departments across the country do it. Please comment if these exist in your area!!)

Indoor playgrounds (also called Open Gym, or Toddler Play Time, or… ) are held at almost all community centers, from September through May. They are open play sessions, where you can drop in anytime during the session, and you can leave whenever your child is tired. They’re a great opportunity for rambunctious, loud, energy-burning large-motor play on cold, wet days.

The community center staff sets out: balls, hula hoops, toy cars and other ride-upons, slides, and more big motor play options in the gym. The equipment ranges a little from site to site, as does the typical number of attendees, and the typical noise level. Our favorite site is Issaquah Community Center because they’re open Monday through Friday from 8 – noon, and I like having somewhere to go early in the day. But, on Jazzercise days, it gets really loud, as the Jazzercise class happens in another part of the gym right next to indoor play.

Attendance varies by site, but also varies a lot day by day, since these are all drop-in groups. I would say typical attendance on the Eastside is 5 – 10 families. Some weeks you’ll find yourself at a very busy playtime with 15 to twenty families running around, I’ve been to one that had only one other family, and one where my son and I were the only ones in attendance, but we had a fabulous time with the basketball, and he ran off lots of energy before we headed off to library story time.

Indoor playgrounds typically cost $2 – 4. If you’re there at the end of the session, the staff generally asks parents to help with clean up.(And sometimes the staff hasn’t set up at the beginning, and they just encourage you to pull out any toys your child wants to play with.)

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