Tag Archives: Kirkland

Tot Lot Park – Kirkland


I’ve heard about Tot Lot for years and finally made it there… its claim to fame is that it’s a fully fenced park, so it’s easy to sit and relax while your tots have fairly free run of the space. (Another fully fenced park is Phyllis Needy, in southern Kirkland.) It’s also flat, so there’s not the walking challenge for new walkers that some of our hilly parks pose.

The main climbing structure is pictured above, and is good for the 2 – 6 year old crowd.

There are three swings: a kids’ swing, a toddler bucket swing, and an ADA swing.


There’s also a cement turtle sculpture kids can climb on that’s surrounded by wood chips. (Many people call this “the turtle park.”)

There’s a car built of pipes you can climb in to and on to.


There’s a fun sandbox area. Families have left lots of sand toys to play with. (There’s also lots of ride-upon toys scattered freely about the grass.)


When we were there in early June, there was a GREAT old slide, but it’s slated to be replaced sometime this summer, and I’m not sure when that’s happening. (It may have already happened). It’s an old style metal slide, with three bumps. They’re big enough bumps that our 42 pound kid “catches air” going over them. He’d say “ouch, ouch, ouch” on the way down as he went over each bump, but he continued to ride the slide over and over, so I think he liked it.

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There’s a fair amount of shade at the park. There’s a couple picnic tables in the shade for snack time or for parents to sit and socialize at. There’s a trash can just outside the gate – they ask that you pack your stuff out if possible, but if not, please use the trashcan, don’t leave your trash! There is a porta-potty there.

There’s also a pea patch program at Tot Lot.

More info at: Active Rain; My Parks and Recreation.

The park is at 111 9th Ave, just north of downtown Kirkland.

For reviews of more local parks, click on the words Seattle area in the right sidebar (on desktops – or scroll to the bottom on mobile devices). Or click on toddler dates for ideas for cheap fun things to do with toddlers

Summer Concerts and Plays

Kitsap Forest Theatre, www.foresttheater.com/

Kitsap Forest Theatre, http://www.foresttheater.com/

My last post was about summer movies in the Seattle area. Today’s is about concerts, outdoor theatre and other live entertainment for summer 2016. Most of these shows are free (but please give optional donations when the pass the hat, so they can keep offering them!!)

Concerts: Red Tricycle has already assembled this great Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Concerts. It includes info about kid-friendly concerts at the Ballard Locks, the zoo (not free), Issaquah’s Spring Free trampoline, U Village, downtown Seattle, Seattle Center, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Kirkland, Issaquah, Sammamish, Everett, Kenmore, Redmond, and Tukwila.


Most of the shows on here (though not Shakepeare’s tragedies… ) are good for ages 7 or 8 and up. We have brought a toddler / preschooler, but with lots of snacks, toys and sticker books to entertain him quietly, then we take him over to the wading pool or playground before or after the show.

Wooden O is doing Hamlet and Love’s Labours Lost. In Bellevue, Edmonds, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Seattle,

Greenstage Shakespeare in the Park is performing Cymbeline and Merry Wives of Windsor this year; their smaller scale Backyard Bard performances are of Pericles and Twelfth Night. Season runs July 8 – August 13 at multiple parks in Seattle, plus Lynnwood, Maple Valley, and Fall City.

July 9 and 10 is the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival in Volunteer Park in Seattle, which features performances from Wooden O and Greenstage (see above) plus Last Leaf, Theatre Schmeater, Jet City Improv, 14/48 projects, and Young Shakespeare Workshop. Our favorite for years has been Jet City Improv’s Lost Folio, where they improve Shakespeare (yes, dialect and all) based on suggestions from the audience.

Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre is doing Beauty and the Beast. July 23 – August 21. $10 to $20. Ages 5 and under free. Can combine nicely with a day trip to Snoqualmie Falls.

Kitsap Forest Theatre (near Bremerton) is doing Little Mermaid. (They did the Music Man on the weekends from Memorial Day to Father’s Day.) July 30 – August 21. $10 – 20, 6 and under free.

Leavenworth Summer Theatre is presenting Sound of Music, Singin’ in the Rain, and Beauty and the Beast. $14 – 32.

Outdoor Trek. Each year, they perform live an episode of Star Trek The Original Series. This year will be Space Seed (where we first meet Khan). For those of you who have gone in the past, and roasted in the sun during the performance, it’s good to know that all shows start at 7 pm this year so we can sit in the shade.

Library Summer Reading Programs

Seattle Public library programs for kindergarten to grade 5 kids include Scribble Machines, stories about Anansi the Spider, writing a picture book, making candy, learning circus skills, math in the music, creature feature from Pacific Science Center, and Little Critters from the Woodland Park Zoo. Locations throughout Seattle.

King County library programs for age 3 – 12 include concerts by Nancy Stewart, the Exercise Everything Show, Bing Bang Boom show, games you can’t lose magic show, Team Tales, The Magically Ridiculous Game Show, and more. Locations throughout King County, including lots in the south part of the county.

Van Aalst Park in Kirkland


Van Aalst Park in the Norkirk area of Kirkland has just opened a brand new playground. We went there today to check it out. It has some fun, unique items I have not seen before in another playground.

Teeter Totter (Seesaw)

My favorite is this teeter totter (Note: click on any image for a larger photo)

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From the pictures, you can tell one of the cool things about it: it has a ring in the center where a child can sit and be rocked back and forth. But even cooler – this is one of the best kinesthetic seesaw experiences I’ve seen / had. On a typical seesaw, it’s just a plank, and you sit behind a handle on one end. If you have two kids on there who are completely different weights, you have to balance it by putting one on the end behind the handle, and one sits somewhere on the other side between the handle and the center, like in this picture. (photo credit: P6141315 via photopin (license))  But they pretty much have to sit still in that place. And only a few people can ride at once.


On this one, it’s big enough that 3 – 4 kids can fit on each side (plus the kid in the middle makes up to 9 kids of varying ages and weights!) If there’s only a few kids, they have a lot of room to move back and forth on their side to find the sweet spot for balance. In the first two photos, you can see a team of three boys who had it figured out… the solo kid would scoot all the way back while the other two ran in and leaned in till it tipped. Then the pair would walk toward the end until it teetered their way. There was lots of giggling and shrieking involved!

I could teeter totter with my son, who weighs 40% what I weigh, and I could also teeter totter with my husband who weighs 170% what I weigh. This sometimes involved one person perched out on the VERY end of one side leaning outward, while the other person stood in the center, leaning inward over the center piece. But you could do it!

Merry-go-Bounce. From the picture, you might think this is a merry-go-round, which spins. But, it doesn’t turn at all – it’s mounted on springs and it bounces up and down when you walk and jump on it. We saw kids playing alone on it, moms and kids, and group of five middle school girls.

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Washboard Slide. This slide has two sections in it that have little spinning rods (kind of like the conveyor belt in airport security lines where your carry-on and bins get rolled along.) It’s a fun novelty. My son said it felt a little different (more “rumbly-bumpy” than a typical slide.) I tried it out and agreed – it wasn’t crazy different, but it was interesting. When climbing up the slide, don’t put  your feet on the washboard!


Climbing ramps / belts: There were four rubber ramps on each side of the climber. The 3 – 4 year olds would scale them using their hands and feet. My five year old could walk up. The big boys would run up one side and down the other. They’re an interesting challenge, just because you have to walk a little differently on a flexible ramp that has a little “give.”


Balance Beam: The ramps lead up to a narrow beam, for balancing on, with a rope above to hold onto to steady yourself.


Mini Swings: Under the balance beam were these little mini-swings / seats – they don’t swing much, but my son liked them.

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Swings: They were installing the new swings while we were there. It took a REALLY long time. But it looks like there will be one kid swing and one toddler/bucket swing. When we left, the kid swing was hung really high – the perfect height for an adult male!

More details to help you plan a visit

Note: there is no shade over the playground, so not the best place on a hot day. You MIGHT be able to find a spot of shade away from the playground to sit for a snack. This playground is not fenced at all and has neighborhood roads on three sides. It’s built on a hill, and at the top of the hill is a basketball court, but really the basketball court and playground are the only attractions. No bathrooms.

I have been to this park three times in the past few years, all on BEAUTIFUL sunny spring days, and been the only family there. My son was disappointed each time to not have anyone to play with. Today it was busier – a couple people came to check out the new equipment. Then, since it was Wednesday early dismissal, lots of kids stopped by on their way home from the nearby elementary school – some with parents, some on their own.

The park is at 335 13th Avenue. The parks department website includes a few details including a link to a map / directions. There’s also a review on the Parks of Kirkland website (which is a great resource on local parks!!) but lots of their details are out of date with the old playground structure gone and this new one installed.

Check it out and comment to let me know what you thought!

For reviews of more local parks, click on the words Seattle area in the right sidebar (on desktops – or scroll to the bottom on mobile devices). Or click on toddler dates for ideas for cheap fun things to do with toddlers.

Preschool Choice Time


For parents of two-and-a-half year olds, ’tis the season to think about preschool. (I know, preschool won’t start till September, and it’s CRAZY that you have to research and make decisions on preschools  when you can’t begin to imagine how different your child will be 8 months from now…)

January and February are the season for preschool fairs, preschool open houses and tours. Many schools have application deadlines coming up soon and will encourage you to apply as soon as possible to ensure that there’s space for your child. It’s easy for parents to feel a lot of anxiety and pressure in this environment. It is true that the sooner you decide, the more options you’ll have. And it is true that SOME schools will fill up soon, and if you don’t apply now, you’ll miss your chance. But the honest truth is that there are a ton of great preschools that not only won’t fill up in February, they’ll still have some space available when September rolls around! So, don’t panic about making the choice now if you’re not ready.

One great way to find out about your options is to go to a preschool fair. They’re free, open to the public, and offer parents the chance to walk around, pick up flyers, read posters, and talk to representatives of many different preschools. If you’re on the Eastside of Seattle, we have two big fairs:

– The parent education department at  Lake Washington Institute of Technology offers a fair in January. Details about the 2016 event are here: http://www.woodinvilletoddlergroup.com/preschool-night-2016/

– Parent Map holds a series of preschool previews in January each year. The info about 2016 events is here: https://www.parentmap.com/article/preschool-previews

When parents ask me “what’s the best preschool?” I emphasize that there is no one right answer to that question. A preschool program can range anywhere between 2 hours a day for two days a week to 8 hours a day for five days a week. The cost can range hugely. The way students spend their time, how skills are taught, and facilities range widely. Here are the steps I recommend to help you figure out what’s the best preschool for you.

First decide: Is preschool necessary? Is it something you want for your child?

If you decide you’re looking, the first thing to think about is your concrete needs and goals for preschool.  This includes both logistics (location, schedule, cost) and also thinking about what you hope your child will learn at preschool that they can’t learn from you at home or from the other activities they do.

Then, research your options. Go to preschool fairs, do web searches, but also talk to friends, co-workers, and other parents on the playground. You’ll often learn about fabulous low-cost options by asking around.

Then visit, or attend an open house, and ask these questions to learn more.

Then make the decision that feels right for you! Don’t base it on other people’s opinions but go with your own best judgment.

Here are a few related articles and resources that might interest you:

  • Coop preschools can be the best option for parents who are looking for a few hours a week of preschool (they won’t work for any family that needs full time daycare). They offer a developmentally-appropriate, play-based experience that’s a great learning opportunity for your child and for you, at a low cost
  • Outdoor preschools are a play-based, nature focused option
  • Academic preschools – why they may not be developmentally appropriate or necessary for long-term academic success
  • Benefits of multi-age classrooms
  • Essential skills – these are skills all children need to learn by age 5, whether they learn them at preschool or at home
  • PEPS is hosting a presentation on Choosing the Right Preschool on January 21 in Bellevue and January 28 in Seattle. Learn more: http://www.peps.org/ParentResources/lectures/choosing-preschool

Note on ages: preschool is generally for children age 3 – 5. (So, for fall 2016, that means kids born between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2013.) There are programs for two year olds called “preschool” because many parents will pay more for something if it’s called preschool than if it’s called playgroup or day care… but really kids under 3 are operating at a different developmental level than a truly preschool age child, and would be better served by an age appropriate, play-based program.

Summer Outdoor Movies in King County

movieEach summer, I go through and make a list of all the options for outdoor movies… this year someone did it for me!


I loved taking my older girls to outdoor movies every summer – the kids can run around near you and play, you can relax on your picnic blanket. They’re free or cheap. Lots of fun kid-appropriate summer movies. It’s all good!!

Sadly, our boy has been an early-to-bed child so far, and in Seattle summertime it doesn’t get dark enough to start an outdoor movie until after his bedtime. (I think in July, movies start at 9ish. In August, they start at 8:30 or so)  But, if you’ve got a child who stays up later, or a child who will curl up on a picnic blanket and fall asleep, they’re great!

If you’re interested in lots more fun (and inexpensive) things to do with your kids in King County, check out my Cheap Dates with Toddlers series. If you want to learn more about fun outdoor activities, and why they’re good for kids, I write a lot about nature play.


photo credit: watching the movie via photopin (license)