Category Archives: Toddler Date

Cheap Dates: Swimming!

Peter Kirk, Bellevue, Renton pools

Peter Kirk, Bellevue, Renton pools

It’s summer time! (Well, some days it is – yesterday during my son’s swim lesson it was 55 degrees and pouring rain… but better weather is coming, right?) So it’s time to check out your local swimming pool!

Here are some great games to play in the water with your child and some recommended local pools (for those of my readers who live on the Eastside of Seattle).

Some games to play in the water:

Motor boat: In a shallow pool, you can have your child sit on the bottom of the pool and kick their legs. In a deeper pool, you can hold your child, or have her put her back to the wall and hang on with her hands, then kick her legs. As she kicks, chant:”Motor boat, motor boat, go so slow. Motor boat, motor boat, go so fast. Motor boat, motor boat, run out of gas.”

Bubble, bubble, pop. Sing “All the fish are swimming in the water” (click here for video and lyrics)  When you’re singing about fish swimming, move your child around in the water, when you sing about ducks paddling, paddle your hands, then frogs jump and children splash. When you get to the part about “bubble, bubble splash”, raise your child in the air as you sing bubble… then splash down on the word splash.

Trot, Trot: Sing Trot Trot to Boston, bouncing your child on the trotting part, and splashing down on “watch out baby or you might fall IN.”

Practice blowing bubbles in the water. Bring something that floats (rubber duck, ball, etc.), throw it, chase it, catch it floating in the water and throw it again. Bring a plastic cup or watering can in the pool with you, scoop and pour.

Why swim?

Well, first and foremost, water safety is an essential skill to teach your child! We can’t count on swim lessons to “drown proof” a child, but certainly the more familiar they are with water, the better!

Second, research shows the following benefits for swimming for kids: swimmers outperform non-swimmers in balance, movement, grasping skills, higher IQ’s, strengthened all their muscles, were more self-confident, etc.

Finally, its fun. Most kids love playing in the water! It’s also fun and engaging for the parent – at a playground I may sit on the sidelines and check out Facebook on my phone, but at the pool, I have to be fully aware of and involved with my child – it’s good for me to give him my full focus. And, my kids always sleep better at naptimes and at night on days when they were in the pool.

Some great local pools:

Peter Kirk Pool – in downtown Kirkland. Outdoor pool, open only in the summertime. Check their schedule here. They’ve got a big pool, of course, but I love them for the wading pool – it’s shallow enough for my short 3 year old to walk in, but nice and big so plenty of kids can play. $4 per person.

Bellevue Aquatic Center. It’s indoors, so not as much fun in the summer. BUT it’s the best pool for babies and young toddlers, because they have the Warm Springs pool, which is kept at 91 degrees – not quite the temperature of a warm bath, but almost! The ramp and stairs into the pool are great shallow places for toddlers to explore (just make sure you stay out of the way of people coming in!), there’s a shallow end of the pool and a 5′ deep end of the pool. It’s used as a therapy pool so there are usually elderly people and people who are in rehab for a physical injury there as well as parents and babies. Check the schedule here. Fee is around $6.75 per person.

Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton. We’re planning to try this one soon! It’s a little more Theme Park like, with big slides and a lazy river. They say it has a toddler play area. Costs are $4 for Renton kids 1-4, $8 for non-resident toddlers; adults are $8 resident, $14 non-resident.

Do you have a favorite local pool? Or favorite game to play in the pool with little ones?

[Note: this post is part of a series called “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” about fun, cheap activities that kids age one to five (and their parents) can enjoy. Many include recommendations that are specific to Seattle/the Eastside, but hopefully most of the core ideas apply to all parents everywhere….]

Cheap Dates with Toddlers – Wildlife Viewing


Spring is a great time to explore wetlands parks* and see what kind of wildlife you can spot. Ducklings are a pretty likely bet at most wetlands! Often wetlands parks have boardwalks, where you’ll have to hike out a ways to see the wildlife.

Hikes are great activities with toddlers, because they burn off energy but in a lot lower-key, non-overstimulating way compared to a trip to a McDonald’s playground! (Now, I’m not knocking McDonald’s playgrounds here – they’re absolutely a place we head on a cold, rainy day when we’ve got to get out a little energy before story time at the library.)

You can sing songs or do nursery rhymes as you walk. You can talk about the things around you – the plants, the people, the animals…

Today, we went to Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, WA. I’d never been there before – it looks small from the road, but then you get in and it’s a huge park with lots of trails and board walks. We saw a mama duck with 7 ducklings, lots of other ducks, red-wing blackbirds, and lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs. And we checked out some ant hills on our way back to the parking lot.

One of the challenges of nature hikes is that sometimes the thing you want to see is a long ways away, or camouflaged. I think this offers great practice for toddlers in observation skills. When they look out at this sea of lily pads, can they spot the mama duck? How about the babies? It’s also good for listening to directional information: like when I was pointing out a squirrel, and said “look way over there, in the tree with the white blossoms on it. Do you see the tree? There are two branches on the right side – the squirrel is on the top branch”, there’s a lot of vocabulary and concepts that go into understanding those directions.

For more ideas for nature activities with your child, click here.




* If you’re thinking there are no wetlands near you, I’ll tell you that today I looked at a map on a sign at the park, and it showed wetlands in every single state – I grew up in Wyoming, and the map showed wetlands in the northeast quadrant – now I’m curious where they are!


20 Outdoor Games for Children

For my “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” series: I encourage you to head outdoors to the park of your choice, and try out any of these fabulous outdoor games!  [I don’t re-blog often, but this is a great post!]

Our Little House in the Country

outdoor games

Hi there, today I am sharing our top 20 outdoor games.  Some of these games can be played indoors but most are more suitable for getting active outside in the fresh air now that Spring is here!  In case you need instructions on how to play these games I have linked them to other great sites and blogs about games for children. I’ve also included some photos of my children having fun outdoors!

Doodles and OOdles having fun with pretend cafe play outside Doodles and OOdles having fun with pretend cafe play outside

  1. Skipping games
  2. Treasure hunts
  3. Parachute games
  4. Duck duck goose
  5. Hopscotch
  6. Hide and seek
  7. Tag
  8. Clapping games
  9. Obstacle courses
  10. What time is it Mr Wolf
  11. Simon Says
  12. Stuck in the mud
  13. Musical Statues
  14. Red light, Green Light
  15. Horse/Donkey basketball
  16. Scavenger hunt (we use picture clues)
  17. Hot/Cold (searching for objects, the closer you get the hotter you are)

    Oodles and Doodles playing parachute games with daddy and a friend Oodles and Doodles playing parachute games with daddy and a friend

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Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Farmers Markets

marketI love taking my kids on outings to farmer’s markets – the toddler and the teenagers! It’s a chance to be outdoors, walking, surrounded by people of all ages from your community. Every time we go we run into someone we haven’t seen in ages, and it’s a nice chance to say a quick hello.

The market stalls offer a visual feast… I’m not really a visual person – I may not even notice if there’s art on the wall if I eat a long dinner in a restaurant – but at a farmers’ market, I love the colors and textures: the glossy green zucchini, the bright red bell peppers, the lumpy brown potatoes, the yellow sunflowers, and more.

Shopping at the market is also a great chance to be aware of food and where it comes from. summer we might go home with lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes for fresh summer salads. In late season, it’s parsnips, sweet potatoes, and squash for autumn vegetable soups. You can talk with your kids about those seasons and talk about celebrating each one.

All season long, there’s fresh-baked bread, homemade jams and other goodies, and fresh cut bouquets of flowers. Many markets also sell arts and crafts.

Several locations have food trucks in if you’d like to grab a pizza dinner or an ice cream cone while you shop. Several locations also offer live music – usually of the folk or bluegrass variety, and can be a nice opportunity for a family picnic while the kids dance around.

Bring re-useable bags along when you come, and bring cash. (Some markets have ways to buy market money with a credit card, I think, but I’ve always just found it easier to bring cash. It also helps me set the budget for what I’m buying that day. When I run out of the cash I brought, we’re done… no matter how tempting that toffee is….)

Here’s the 2019 summer schedule for markets on the Eastside of Seattle

Tuesdays: Bellevue – Crossroads.12 – 6:00 (6/4 – 9/24).

Wednesdays: Kirkland – Marina Park. 2 – 7 (beginning June 5)

Thursdays: Bellevue – north of downtown. 3 – 7 pm. 1717 Bellevue Way NE. May 16 to October 10.

Fridays: Kirkland/Juanita. 3 – 7 pm. (June 7 – Sept 27) 

Saturdays: Issaquah 9 – 2. (May 4 – Sept 28) Pickering Barn (across from Costco) 1730 10th Ave N.W.

Saturdays: Redmond 9 – 3. (May 4 – Oct 26) at Redmond Town Center.

For lots more ideas on fun, cheap activities to do with your toddler, click on “toddler date” in the categories list to the right.

photo credit: NatalieMaynor via photopin cc

Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Garage Sales


Any Friday or Saturday, drive around a residential neighborhood, and you’ll see the signs.

In winter, after my kids finish their scheduled activity, whether it’s dance class or coop preschool, I usually just want to go home when we’re done, back to a warm dry house. But in the spring time when the weather is beautiful, sometimes I just want to be out for a little while longer. Garage sales offer an easy opportunity.

I will pick a sign to follow, and see where we end up. We then walk around and look at things. Sometimes you have a total dud of a garage sale, when there’s nothing that appeals to anyone in the family. But, much more often, you’ll find something that you child thinks is a treasure. Once my daughter found a great tie-dyed jumper – it was a little big on her then, but it ended up becoming her favorite sun-dress not just that summer but for two or three summers to come, for $1.00 or so. My other daughter found a Japanese tea set she fell in love with. We found some great stuffed animals, some DVD’s, some books, a bike…

Now, I’m not a big fan of a lot of clutter in my life, so I’m always very clear that each child can pick out a MAXIMUM of one item. And sometimes we don’t find anything to bring home. Our approach was always that it’s more about the process than the product. It’s just interesting to see what things people are casting out of their lives. As my girls got older, it was interesting to pontificate on the family’s story. We would guess how old their kids were now based on what types of kid stuff they decided they’d outgrown. We found it sad when there was an older woman selling lots of men’s clothes and items, and wondered if her husband had recently passed. Sometimes we walked away wondering: why did they ever buy those items in the first place???

A garage sale is usually a quick outing – 15 minute or so, but often just a fun moment of serendipity in a day.

photo credit: Nomadic Lass via photopin cc