Oh, winter. The only purpose you serve is making sure we don’t take the other three, superior seasons for granted.
Last winter our kid was a tiny bundle that stayed put where we left him. This winter he’s a curious, fast-walking, babbling human being and we’ve had to adjust the daily schedule to keep up. In the warmer months it’s not too hard to fill the days—long walks, playing in parks, outdoor concerts, perhaps a nice dip if you have a membership or live near a public pool. But in winter, things get more complicated. I certainly don’t have the constitution of, say, the Scandinavians, whose children are required to play outside no matter the thermometer, which means Lou becomes a bit more of an indoor kid this time of year.
Below are some suggestions for things to bring into your home to alleviate bad weather blues, as well as three activities to consider when you can’t take being stuck in your house for another second. Obviously, attractions like the Science Center, Port Discovery, and AVAM are always great options, as are classes at your local Enoch Pratt Free Library branch, the Walters Art Museum, and the BMA. But the list below considers your interests, if your interests include being afforded the opportunity to sip coffee or fit in a workout or meet other parents.
This play kitchen was Lou’s Christmas present. It took a good two hours and as many glasses of wine per parent to set up, but this thing is solid. We filled it with cute wooden food and little kitchen utensils and pots and pans and he conducts his own live cooking show each day. He chats to himself and presents plates of food and holds out his spoon for us to taste his concoctions. I hide cheddar bunnies in various containers and let his own curiosity (and ability to sniff out food like a hungry dog) handle snack time.
If you have four feet of free space in your home and a desire to sit quietly, alone, for ten damn minutes, I highly recommend this purchase.
This ball pit has been the work horse of Lou’s toys since he was able to sit up. It’s grown from a crazy new environment in which to rest—buoyed by 250 plastic balls—to its current iteration as a place to hide things like tiny Apple TV remote controls and unopened cans of cat food. Lou assigns tasks to himself like working spastically and doggedly to remove the balls, one at a time, placing them in another nearby location like his kitchen’s sink or along the sofa cushions.
He burrows down into the balls and covers his eyes with them and patiently waits for the adults in the room to wonder aloud where he could possibly be. He tries with absolutely no luck to coax our cats into the ball pit, and though he has failed to get them to physically join him, his consolation prize is the unbelievable amount of cat hair that floats in and static-clings to the balls. (I should mention that if you live in a home with no animals, or hairless ones, don’t fret-—your child will still find joy in this activity even without swimming in a sea of dander.) This toy is versatile and fun and will grow with him for the next few years. I hope.
We discovered Play Café one morning at 7:30 when we’d already been up for an hour and a half, and we were hungry, bored, and needed to get out of the house. I think I Googled something like “activities in Baltimore for babies before noon and also I’m hungry and we could use more friends with kids” and up popped Play Café.
The space in Hampden is low key and set up with a little café with a simple menu on one side and a play area on the other. We ate bagels and eggs and fed bites to Lou while he played. We ran into a friend and sipped coffee in the sunny room without worrying about the balance of keeping Lou occupied and being overly polite to the diners around us. It’s a really, really great place to go with children when you have cabin fever but aren’t in the head space to commit to a larger activity.
On Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m., the back room of Amuse Toys is open for play. The toy set-up is fantastic—there are six or seven stations with things like trains and blocks, and it’s served as a good way for us to see what kinds of things Lou likes (or is ready) to play with. Now that he’s getting older and we’ve switched from survival mode to needing to actually nurture his brain, it’s getting way more expensive to keep this kid occupied. It’s been nice to let him loose in the play area and audition different types of toys before making the investment. Plus, much like Play Café, it’s pretty great to grab a coffee and interact with other grown-ups while your kid wanders around a room full of toys.
I joined this group in the brief interim between being healed enough from my C-section to do burpees and going back to work. In the summer, these fitness classes meet outside in Patterson Park and on Federal Hill, but in the winter they move indoors. I attended workouts in the Science Center and It. Was. Awesome. We ran through the exhibits, jumped up and down on the benches, and raced the stairs near the dinosaur area. Lou was too young to appreciate what was going on, but if your kid is 1 to 3 years, I bet they’d love it. The workouts are intense and include the kids where appropriate, and it was really nice to be around other moms while I was adjusting to my new role. The classes are not really scheduled for moms that work full time, so if you’re a fortunate lady who gets lots of time with your progeny and wants to fit in a workout, this class is for you.