It’s not often that I get out of the house for anything other than business or grocery store runs. My toddler gets out even less—especially in these cold, windy months. As adults, we feel pent up and restless when we don’t get out of the house, and our little ones probably share that restlessness. Same toys every day, same faces, same walls. But where do you go with a toddler who has the attention span of a goldfish and the energy of a Jack Russell Terrier?
I heard about Toddler Open Gym and decided to give it a whirl with my little one, Donnie. He had been to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, and a couple other places that are geared towards kids, but nowhere that was specifically designed for his age group without being a bit of a sensory overload. Carmel Clay Parks & Rec has struck the perfect balance with Toddler Open Gym. After the initial “cling-to-mama” phase, he was inevitably won over by the allure of new toys and bright colors (a winning combo).
There was plenty of room to run (or awkwardly walk or crawl with determination…), buckets of blocks and cars, basketballs and (Donnie’s FAVORITE) a Hopper Ball, not to mention the ride-on cars and scooters, and tunnels and tents. It was like being in a toddler’s wonderland. The gym is divided into 4 quadrants, each with their own toy/play theme. I think that is a fantastic way to keep a toddler’s attention on one kind of play for longer than a few seconds. But for me, the greatest aspect of Toddler Open Gym was the chance to let Donnie interact with other little ones his own age. Allowing kids to discover sharing and social skills on their own can be a magical thing to watch. I’m serious, too! I know for some older kids, who have already discovered the powers of “mine”, this might not be the case, but more often than not, the toddlers happily pass blocks back and forth, roll balls to one another and watch each other’s play with curiosity. Isn’t it amazing to see friendliness naturally occurring between two little strangers? I know it sounds corny, but it made my day.
After an hour of exploring and playing, 11:00 rolled around and it was time to head home. Leaving the messy gym behind (thank you SO MUCH, clean up crew!), Donnie spent the next 3 hours napping. Seriously. I’m sure if you have a little one in your care, you know what that can do for morale— and sanity.
I have taken little Don back to the MCC for Toddler Open Gym since our first trip, and, again, smiles all around. There are different toys each week, but a lot of familiar faces. Toddler Open Gym is becoming a weekly routine for little Don and I, and I am very grateful to the MCC for providing an affordable and fun play outing for us. I highly recommend trying it out with your little one(s)! There are plenty of toys and activities to go around, for kids ages 0-5. See you there!
Toddler Open Gym
Location: Gymnasium C in the West Building
Tuesdays, 10:00-11:00 AM
*Drop-in fee of $6 per child if you can only make one session!