I have an on-going series of easy, cheap or free activities that toddlers love. Here’s one in honor of today’s lovely sunshine…
Off-Leash Dog Areas: If you’re feeling down and lonely in the winter, when the sun comes out (even if it’s cold) head to the dog park, and you’ll find lots of people and lots of very happy dogs, which always lightens my mood! It’s great for exercise, socialization, and learning new things: Dog parks are a great place to teach your child adjectives: big dog, little dog, white dog, fluffy dog, and so on. (As they get older, you can work on memorizing dog breeds – it’s a great way to train their brain to notice distinctions between things, categorize them, and remember those categories.) FYI, you don’t need to have a dog of your own to go to the dog park. Even if you do have a dog, you might find it easier to leave him at home when you take your toddler on her first few outings.
We love Marymoor Park‘s off-leash area in Redmond, because you can go for a nice long walk. But you’re definitely in the middle of the action when you go for a walk there, and should expect close encounters with 20+ dogs of all sizes and behavior as you walk. If you’d rather view dogs with a little more distance, check out KDOG in Kirkland. The off-leash area is fenced off, and you can keep your toddler outside the fence where they have a good view of the action, but may feel safer to them. (I THINK there are picnic tables or benches to sit at too.) Another option is Robinswood in Bellevue, which is a smaller “corral” where on weekdays, I often find only 2 – 3 dogs and their owners, so it’s a little more low-key.
Note: wear boots for puddles, and wear clothes that can get wet and muddy, as you may encounter a dog shaking off, or a friendly dog who jumps with muddy paws.
A few important safety notes: even the ‘safest’ dog can bite if circumstances are right. Consider carrying your child in a front pack or back pack up and away from the dogs. If your child is walking, tell them they need to hold your hand whenever a dog is nearby. Never approach a dog without its owner’s permission, and once you have permission, have your child first hold out a closed hand for the dog to sniff before petting the dog.