Is it just me or is winter lasting forever? Being a stay-at-home mom to two energic toddlers means we have to burn off a lot of wiggles every day. Unfortunately, I hate snow and cold temperatures. Plus, getting a one-year-old and two-year-old fully decked out in snow pants, boots, hats, gloves, etc is often not worth the effort (or time!). I realize the importance of getting children outside even in winter but most days I prefer to find indoor activities. Below is a list of great indoor things to do with toddlers in Madison and the surrounding area.
Don’t forget to always check the Madison Mom calendar for special events going on around the Madison area, many are toddler-friendly!
You can spend a lot of time at the local children’s museums. There is so much to explore and play with that toddlers will often have a very hard time leaving (at least mine do). From water-play to crawling through tunnels and walking over suspension bridges, a children’s museum is the perfect indoor outing for toddlers. I especially love that the toddler sections are separate from the areas for bigger kids.
With so much to do on every floor, you might end up as exhausted as your little ones. It would be impossible for a child to be bored here.
Have you tried the Black Earth Children’s Museum yet? It is the perfect size for toddlers if taking them to a larger museum causes you anxiety. Plus – no parking issues!
CI Pediatric Therapy Centers
Did you know that there are CI Pediatric Therapy locations in and around Madison that offer FREE playgroups to all babies and toddlers? We’ve gone to a few different locations and my children have always enjoyed playing with the different toys and equipment. We’ve even gone to a few circle times that include stories and singing as well. Just check the schedule to see when a playgroup or circle time will be scheduled at a location near you.
What do my children need the most in winter? EXERCISE!! Open gyms abound in our community. Most gymnastics centers have open gyms during certain times of the day for very reasonable prices. Check their websites or call to see what ages are appropriate to bring. I have found some places are better for beginning walkers than others, plus there might be age restrictions. Also, many run specials depending on the day of the week (examples; $5 Mondays, double punch Thursdays, etc).
The Prairie Kids Club is worth the drive for us. There are trampolines, an inflatable jump house, slides, ride-on toys, etc. Tons of stuff for toddlers to do in a big open area where they can expend some energy.
Our new favorite find for this winter is the open gym at Spartan Day Camp. Not only are there trampolines, ride-on toys, and a large slide but the top floor has even more toys to play with. From dollhouses and play kitchens to trains and books, this open gym has it all.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center
I have not been to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center yet but another parent just told me my toddler daughters would love it. Hands-on nature exhibits sound like a great indoor day to me. Depending on the weather I may even be persuaded to go on a trail hike but I like that I have the option to entertain my kids indoors.
What is free and has great toddler programming? Your local library! My family goes to about four different libraries on a rotating basis. I’ll admit some children’s library programs are way better than others so if your closest library isn’t meeting your expectations check out some of the surrounding libraries and you might find a real winner. Our favorite library is twenty minutes away and we sometimes go up to two times a week because the storytimes and play dates are that much better.
I don’t know about your kids but my toddlers will jump on anything. I get really sick of having to replace my couch cushions every day and prefer they jump somewhere other than our furniture. Luckily, in Madison, we have numerous trampoline parks (Sky Zone and Urban Air). Check out the schedules for toddler times if you’re wary of older kids or adults accidentally hurting your children while jumping.
Pump It Up
I was hesitant to try Pump It Up because I didn’t know if there would be anything for my one-year-old to do during the Toddler Time Open Jump but another mom reassured me all toddlers were welcome. I’m so glad she said something because Pump It Up is awesome!
My two-year-old ran around like a crazy person jumping and climbing on all the inflatables while I was able to go down the slides with my one-year-old. There are also cozy coupe cars and stackable foam shapes for climbing or crawling. Both girls were asleep as soon as I buckled them in their car seats after such a fun morning. I really like the fact that parents are allowed on the inflatables, many places don’t allow this.
We’ve been meaning to get to DreamBank’s new location but we haven’t been yet. DreamBank offers a variety of family events to help keep your toddlers entertained. Many events include play dates, crafts, music, snacks, etc. Take a look at DreamBank’s calendar for scheduling.
Coffee Shops w/Play Areas
Coffee shops with play areas for small children – you will get my business. To have a place where I can chat with another adult and drink a beverage (that’s still hot!) while observing my kids playing with toys is a luxury I wish more places offered.
Let me know your favorite coffee shop with a play area in the comment section below!
What tires a toddler out more than anything? Swimming! Many local hotels often will just charge a small fee if you want to take your kids swimming in their indoor pools during the day. Also, swim centers and high school pools will usually have family swim times available you can check out. Don’t forget that the Wisconsin Dells is only a short drive away with indoor waterparks that can’t be beat.
With age requirements and physical limitations, it can be hard for parents to sometimes find indoor activities to do with toddlers. I hope my suggestions above help you keep your little ones entertained and worn out.
What indoor place(s) would you recommend for toddlers in (or around) Madison?