Monday, November 26, 2012

Mama Bird’s Top Ten (FREE Edition!)

Wilson Farm in Arlington- Free Children’s Farm Tour of their 33 acre farm!  An hour long, this tour is aimed at children 5-12 years old, and includes fields, greenhouses, and animal barn.  ***Tip:  Many of their “happenings” are free (like this one), but you do have to call ahead of time to register.

Boston Public Library- A popular spot for good reason, this library offers a ton of interactive and fun activities: musical sing-a-longs (most Fridays at 10 am), Candy Cane Tea Party, Family Movie Sundays (most Sundays at 2 pm), as well as seasonal crafts.  ***Tip:  With a valid library card, you can borrow passes to many places (New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, for example) and get in for free.  Register up to 60 days ahead of time.

South End Library- Can’t make the story time over at the Boston Public Library on Dartmouth?  No problem!  The BPL’s South End branch located on Tremont Street is a great go-to.  With its smaller size, it tends to be a little less chaotic, but still offers some fun freebies: toddler and preschool story time, and children’s films (both held on a weekly basis), as well as a music series, that is held outside weather permitting.  This is the perfect rainy day place to be: pick out a few books to read in a quiet corner, then attend story time.  ***Tip:  Although they have a great baby-friendly area, you may want to bring a few anti-bacterial wipes along just to give a few items a once over.

Rose Kennedy Greenway- Originally a recommendation of a professional nanny, this is my new favorite place to be!  Well, in the nicer weather, that is.  Once spring hits, make your way along the Greenway for a picnic, and enjoy some of their offerings such as story time, scavenger hunts, spray fountains, and activity carts (some great gross motor toys like large blocks, hoola hoops, etc)!  ***Tip: read Rose’s Garden with your child/ren before going.

MFA Playdates- Want to go to the Museum of Fine Arts anyway?  Twice a month on Monday from 10:30-11:15, they host a story hour with a “looking activity” aimed to please children up to four-years-old.  This is a great way to get to enjoy the museum as an adult, while having something specific set aside for your child (disclosure: MFA Playdate free with purchase of adult admission fee).  ***Tip: Break it up by hitting the story time first, heading to the courtyard to eat lunch, and then scouting out what you want to see while (hopefully) your child naps in her stroller.

Boston Common Frog Pond- Located on the Boston Common, this “pond” goes from a summer spray fountain to a family-friendly ice rink.  Hit up this favorite spot on “Frog Pond Opening Day” to participate in fun activities for little ones, or wait until the winter to skate (kids skate free), watch their tree lighting, or the “Skating Spectacular” on New Year’s Eve.  ***Tip:  If planning on attending “opening day,” double check about dates on their website.  They reschedule based on weather. 

Ringgold Park- With their now iconic central water fountain, this park has become a favorite of many.  In addition to their separately fenced in “little” (plastic toys and such) and “bigger” (climbing structure) kid playgrounds, they also host a popular Halloween party, complete with costume parade, as well as an Easter egg hunt.  ***Tip:  Remember to bring your own buckets for the fountain.

Titus Sparrow Park- This wide open park has swings, a jungle gym, and a substantial grassy area to run on.  Looking for something a little more structured?  They host the Children’s Summer Performance Series (Tuesdays at 10 am), a Halloween party with live music, as well as a Holiday Winter Party (December 16th, 2 pm) with hot chocolate, cookie decorating, and singing (not to mention Santa!).  ***Tip:  This park is great but has zero fenced-in spots.  Looking for a more corralled area?  Head to the corridor or “blue” park on the border of the South End and Back Bay (perfect for children up to 2.5 years).

Isis Parenting Drop-In Classes- If you’re an Isis Parenting member, this freebie is up your alley!  Free for all members, this drop in play time asks for no commitment ahead, and gives you a large space and clean toys for you and your tots to take advantage of.  Downside?  They can be at hours that are not the most desired.  ***Tip: If you are going with a group, get there early so you can all get in.  Though you cannot register ahead, they do “cap” it when the allotted spots are full.

Once-a-Month Playdate Host- We all do playdates, I know.  But did you ever think that if you had three other caregivers and babies over at the same time, and each of you took turns hosting weekly, that means you would only have to host once a month but get a scheduled weekly play time out of it?  Most classes are around $25 per class--this saves $1,200 a year!  ***Tip: Only put out toys that can be cleaned with hot soapy water and air dried, or those that can go in the washing machine.

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