It’s amazing how quickly babies go from being sleepy newborns to curious toddlers whose wondering minds are growing at a rate faster than all the other body parts combined. At 13 months old, our days of sleeping in the newborn swing for hours and hours are gone. My son is now an on-the-move, block-builder, book-reader, train-pusher, food-throwing kid. I have never regretted my decision to leave my full time job and become a stay at home mom. But recently I was beginning to feel that by mid-week, I had exhausted all my creative energy and was running out of things to keep him stimulated. I was eager to find budget-friendly ways to get him out of the house and socialize with other children, while allowing myself to still be a part of his day. Here is what I came up with:
1. Baby Storytime at the Charleston County Public Library: I could write a novel about my love for our librarians. Each week they provide group singing and movement, reading in unison to your baby, and free play time at the end. We have been coming to storytime since Liam was 4 months old and have made such great friendships here.2. Hike It Baby: This organization’s goal is to provide community hikes in order to show children and their caregivers to love the outdoors. The Charleston chapter has hikes almost every day of the week with locations throughout the low country including county parks and the Ravenel Bridge. You can try it out for free and then after 90 days they ask for a $10 yearly contribution.
3. Fit Mommy Charleston: I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that these group fitness workouts are more for mommy than for baby. But luckily, Liam enjoys hanging out in his stroller, pointing to airplanes, watching cars drive by, and eating his cheerio’s while I get my fitness on. At $35 a month, this is cheaper than most gym memberships and you don’t have to find child care. Win-win!
4. Toddler Time: Twice a week, the James Island Recreation Center converts their gym into a “play ground” filled with hula-hoops, balls, beanbags, scooters, train sets, and a bouncy house. The cost is just $2 for two hours. There is no instruction and no agenda. It’s basically just a free-for-all for those exhausted days when part of you wants to leave the house, but the other part needs to zone out in your yoga pants while your toddler tears up the place. You know those days. I like to call them “Mondays.”
5. Charleston Area Model Railroad Club: Just when you thought Target was the only thing bringing you to the Citadel Mall. Inside the mall (next to Dillard’s) is the Charleston Area Railroad Club’s headquarters which boasts multiple impressive railroad sets that keeps my one year old pointing and “choo-choo”ing for hours on end. It’s free to explore the train sets, but make sure you check the hours before you go. They are only open Tuesday/Thursday from 5-9 and Saturday/Sunday from 1-5.
6. Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry: I know, I know, the museum is an obvious choice. But did you know they have a newly renovated infant and toddler playspace? This area is for children ages birth to 3 years old. There is also a program on Wednesdays and Fridays called “Early Connections” that is designed to strengthen connections between the child and parents. This program is free with admission. And (insider tip) once a month is Free Family Friday, so you can save big these days.7. South Carolina Aquarium: I know the aquarium is old news and not the cheapest option ($25 for adults, yikes!) But seriously how cute does Liam look hanging out with his buddy in front of the fish tank?! Insider tip: You know how grandma is always asking what to get baby for Christmas or birthdays? A membership to the aquarium would win some major grandma points. Also if you are a teacher, there is free admission with your SC teachers card.That’s all folks. For those of you who need more ideas and don’t mind spending a little money, check out Kindermusic of Charleston, Loblolly Adventures, Little Gym, and Songs for Seeds. I haven’t tried any of these myself, but I have heard excellent things from my mommy squad.
Until next time, may your coffee be strong and your toddler’s nap be even longer.