You know that mom who spends hours pouring over websites, reading reviews, and searching for feedback from other parents to identify local resources for a baby who isn’t even walking yet? Yeah, that’s me. Sometimes being a stay home mom can feel like detective work, digging through resources, trying to discover the next best activity for when baby wakes from his nap ready to take on the day. At least that is what I tell myself, “you are a detective, no different than Sherlock Holmes, smart, witty, living dangerously with possible poop bombs around every corner…” I find myself wondering why there isn’t already a resource from parents who have done the digging, mapped out a plan, and paved a path down easy street for the rest of us lost souls. I guess it’s because I haven’t written it yet.
We moved here in August 2015, and after six months and many hours of research, I started to feel as though I had some tools in my tool belt. In February 2016, I wrote my first post about finding your parent tribe in Howard County Maryland (HoCo). Yes, six months of research and all I had to show for it list of resources. A good start, sure, but far from useful. Just enough information to allow a parent to pick a direction and try something new, but not enough information to know what to expect. After three months of constantly trying something new, I am finally starting to develop a good solid list of go to places. So here they are, tried and true places, and I’ll also make mention of some tried and not so true for those brave souls who want more of a risk.
- Howard County Library: My baby and I have been going to Play Partners at the libraries since he was about four months old (now 11 months). The class combines song, story, lap bounces, and free play in a way that is engaging without becoming overwhelming. Our favorite library is Central library because the location is within walking distance to Wilde lake/Whole Foods/The Mall in Columbia and it has spacious, open rooms. Savage library is also very nice with a playground within walking distance and Historic Savage Mills and walking trails a short drive away.
E. Columbia Play Partners
- Robinson Nature Center: This is honestly one of our favorite places to go! On rainy days we enjoy spending time in the children’s discovery room playing with blocks, puzzles, play farm, dinosaurs, etc. and watching the fish and turtles swim around their tanks. The interactive museum is perfect for all ages to learn about Maryland’s development, wildlife, and human impact. Outside there is a great natural playground to chase your kids around as they climb and discover and many walking trails and streams to enjoy on sunny days. Admission is $5 adults and $3 for children 3-17 years, and free on Wednesdays until March 1, 2017!
- The Yoga Center Of Columbia: A lot of friends have asked me about recommendations for classes since I have tried many local options (Kindermusik, My Gym, Olenka, CA Parent Child Class and others). My advice is always the same – do a trial class before signing your child up for a full session! Every child is different and will have different interests and comfort levels. My child seems to thrive with the calm yoga environment that allows him to play and learn at his own pace and comfort, while some older children may become bored and struggle to follow direction. This might mean that they are ready to move up to a class for an older age group or that yoga is just not for them. Similarly, where one child may respond with excitement and enthusiasm for a gymnastics class, my child became overwhelmed, fussy, and clingy. By paying attention to his cues I am able to create opportunities that promote his interests, skills, and social relationships in a setting where he can feel comfortable and safe.
- BSO Music Box Series: This concert for babies is offered about once per month by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore and Silver Springs, MD. Although this event is not offered as frequently and does have a higher cost associated, it definitely makes my list of top things to do with baby. Prior to the concerts the children are able to get their wiggles out from the car ride by playing with toys and instruments in the lobby. Each concert promotes different instruments through concepts such as ocean life, cars/trucks/trains, and wintertime. After some of the concerts, such as the one shown below, the children have been able to see the musicians play their instruments up close and even try out the drum set! This has been so much fun for my baby and the husband and I have enjoyed singing and dancing along as well.
- Storyville: Storyville is an interactive learning environment in Woodlawn, MD. Again, this is a bit of a drive from HoCo. There is a baby area with some toys, books, and sturdy flowers to practice pulling up on. For those who live local, I believe Storyville is a fantastic resource for all ages; however, there is significantly more to do once a child begins walking and therefore I believe this is better for the walking age group. Storyville is free to the public.
- The Swellness Center: This is essentially a big, safe play place for young children. The Swellness Center has various toys that the children can play with (think ride on cars, musical instruments, building blocks, and lots of small toys). I have found this resource most useful when meeting friends as it provides a safe area for the babies to play together while parents chat without worry. However, there is a $10 cost and they discourage babies from mouthing the toys so I do not feel it would be as worth it to go alone.
- Family Fun Day at the Mall in Columbia: This is an event that can be enjoyable for infants through preschoolers. The event gets pretty crowded (as you can see below) and includes music that is engaging and fun for children who can follow directions (i.e. touch your toes, dance, sing lalala, etc.) and stories (such as Pete the Cat). This is a weekly event, held every Thursday, that is open and free to the public. A nice way to sneak in some shopping too!
These are some of the best indoor baby activities in and near Howard County, MD, that I have found for the pre-walking/ learning to walk crowd thus far. Is there somewhere I am missing? Please add your favorites in the comments section below!
As summer gets underway, I anticipate that my list of top playgrounds, parks, and walking trails will continue to grow as well. I look forward to my baby’s next stage of development, mastering walking, where we will begin to explore some of the more active attractions such as Sky Zone, Pump It Up, Kiddie Crusoe, The Science Museum, etc… stay tuned!