I don’t know about you, but I am not a super hands on mom. There, I said it. I love my kids more than life itself, I would do anything for them. I lie down next to them until they fall asleep, I feed them, dress them, watch TV with them, hold them when they are crying and kiss their boo-boos. I teach them how to read and write and ride a bike, how to be polite and be a good friend and appreciate everything life has to offer.
I DO NOT like to play pretend, hide and seek, or watch them do the same trick a gazillion times. I don’t have paint hour, I don’t make slime, I don’t like tea parties, I don’t crawl around the floor making animal noises and I do not like elaborate art projects.
You want to go outside in a snow storm or in the rain? here’s a coat, and party on. I will be watching you from the warm kitchen, in front of a heater, sipping a cup of coffee. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to be silly and have a good time, but there’s something about being “Kid silly” that just feels really fake and unnatural. I know I’m not alone out there.
My daughter who’s 5 now, is in Kindergarten, so during the week I have to find fun places to take my son, who’s 2. Places that will engage him in different art projects, where he can get messy, dance, read books, play with toys and slide down slides.
He may not be really into it, all of the time, he does things at his own pace, as I’m sure many kids do. I have taken him to different playgroups at different places, like gymnastics studios which he loves, but when they have a designated “playgroup hour”, the kids have to stay in a designated area and not touch any of the other equipment, what kid has the self restraint for that??? I now only take them to open gym.
There are also different classes that kids can take at various indoor gyms and activity centers but I have always had trouble at places like that due to the strict progression every class has. I understand that there is a schedule to every activity but let’s face it, I have no control over my kids and while I wish they listened to me more, sometimes you just have to ride the wave, and the last thing I want to do is take to someplace fun and then have to parent them “not to touch that” or “you can’t go there”, “you have to sit and listen to all the songs the instructor wants you to participate in before you go play with the toys which are literally in front of your face”. That’s not fun, for me or for them.
Turns out not all places are like that. A few months ago I went to a birthday party at a place called Amy’s Active Learning in Clinton, CT. Clinton is only about 20 minutes from where I live, which may sound far to some people but I live pretty much in the black hole of Connecticut, where 20 minutes is actually pretty close. Living my whole life in cities, this took some getting used to.
Both of my kiddos immediately fell in love with the place. I was especially surprised at how much Max, (who was almost 2 at the time) loved it. He was always very attached but somehow felt immediately comfortable there. l signed up for a monthly membership almost immediately and was really impressed at the variety of activities offered.
I take Max to Amy’s twice a week for the mommy/daddy & me classes which are about 45 minutes and start off with a few interactive welcome songs with cute little duckies and frogs that the kiddos can play with. From there you can either play on the indoor playground that has pretty much every thing a toddler could want… slides, a play castle, giant caterpillar, a train table, tumbling mats, a reading nook etc. or you can make a little project (unique to each class) or play with slime or play dough. There’s even a bin on the floor filled with something grainy the kids can use as a sandbox, like bird seed or rice krispies.
The best part – you can go where ever you want, whenever you want. All the activities are there for the kids to enjoy but they don’t HAVE TO participate in any activity if they don’t want to. Max Usually runs around the playground even during the welcome songs (until Amy brings out the frogs or the fishies) and I don’t have to restrain him and force him to sit there while there’s so much to play with. There is a total free flowing flow to these classes that suits us perfectly. Since I have no control over my kids haha.
Sometimes he participates in projects, and sometimes he just wants to play with the dinosaur house (yes, you heard that right). After the mommy/ daddy & me class, the place opens up for Open Gym for an hour and a half, and Amy even blows up and good size bouncy house.
She also has a full pot of coffee ready in the mornings and a few couches to chill on at any time, especially for a snack break between class and open gym. My little guy decided to have a snack break during class, and you know what, no body cared, it’s a completely open space to move around at your leisure.
There’s also a toddler drop off that we just started taking advantage of, now that I know he loves the place, I feel more comfortable about leaving him there. And my usually attached mama’s boy was totally cool with it, for two whole hours!!! (insert shocked face here) and I was actually able to go to the grocery store during the day like a normal human being instead of at 9 o’clock at night after the kids are asleep.
Amy also offers birthday parties in any theme the kids can come up with. Totally unique every time, with any activities they want. I’ve never heard of a place doing that.
So the other day, my daughter Everleigh got a snow day off from school, but the snow wasn’t supposed to start till like 11am and we go to Amy’s at 9:30, so I just took her with me and Amy happily welcomed her to join us (And she wasn’t the only older sibling there). I always have this hidden anxiety that I’m going to show up somewhere at the wrong time or the wrong day or when the place is closed… haha… I’m weird I know. Thank god for Facebook… I just went to Amy’s Active Learning Facebook page and she had already posted that Mommy / daddy class is still on, and I was able to get the kids out for an hour before the snow started.
Unlike Max, Everleigh loves projects and had a blast gluing gems to her Owl and then they both played with yummy strawberry play dough and slime. They had the best time.