Habit Breakers: Three Free Fun Toddler Activities to Change up the Routine

Two year olds are terrifically in-between beings.  They are not babies snoozing all the time, but not yet pre-schoolers heading off to class in the morning or afternoon.  As the daily companion to such a betwixt and between person, you have to find things to do that stimulate the child, don’t drive you as the adult totally insane, and still get you home in time for the important routines of nap, bath time, and, if you’re a San Franciscan this October, Giants games.

In trying to find this balance, I had fallen into a bit of a rut.  Olive and I would spend both mornings and afternoons at the same playground, which, because of it’s blessed nature of being enclosed, allowed me to not have to follow her around the playground every second, but could watch her play from afar.  Which is nice… but can be a bit boring when you’re doing it every waking hour.  Plus, the park I’m speaking of is incredibly dirty, and I was having to clean both she and I off way more than I was interested in doing.

My husband and I have been trying out the idea of using a “habit breaker” whenever we find ourselves falling into a restrictive routine rather than a helpful structure.  We do something different, which usually requires risk and change, and sometimes does not work out how we intended.  However, I tried out three different habit breakers with Olive this week, and since they all went pretty well, I’m going to offer them up to you as possible points of inspiration.

#1: Visiting our local Fire Station

Did you know that Fire Stations are public buildings, and if you show up there and politely ask to be shown around, if the firefighters are not busy taking a call, they’ll be happy to oblige?  It doesn’t hurt if you have a few cute toddlers with you, telling the men and women who work there that they have the most exciting job ever.  Our local firefighters were extremely kind to the kids we brought over, totally unannounced, on Monday morning.  They gave them coloring books, hats, and even slid down the pole for them!  The kids learned that it’s “cool to be safe”, and I was saved from having to do another round of “ring on the rosy” on the playground.

Afterwards we took the kids to a cafe with an outdoor area where they could wander and color while we loaded up on lattes.

#2: Heading to the Ferry Building

If you are lucky enough to live in a town on a body of water, a morning of checking out boats coming and going could be a fabulous way to spend some time with toddlers.  My friend and I took our little ones to the Ferry Building to have a cup of delicious Blue Bottle coffee while the kids talked to the seagulls and waved to the ferries heading over to Sausalito.  We checked out the bookstore (I got Olive a new Moleskine, much to my husband’s chagrin), and the farmers market, and the kids had fun taking the train there and back.  Boom!  A perfectly novel morning trip, low-stress.

Olive on the boardwalk outside the Ferry Building, chomping an apple as she walks on by.

#3: Petting Zoo Fun

Fridays are our requisite days of adventure, as my friend Giselle picks Olive and I up in her Prius and we head out with her daughter, Ophie, to do something interesting for the kids and then have lunch somewhere yummy for us.  This week, she had the idea of driving out to Tilden Park in Berkeley to see if we could find The Little Farm, a petting zoo/wildlife preserve where kids can feed the animals and learn about nature.

Unfortunately, the hot weather we were experiencing earlier in the week had suddenly shifted to rolling fog, and we could barely see the signs for the farm as we winded our way through the Berkeley hills.  We finally made it, and despite my bare legs and Olive’s bare arms, we ran around enough to stay sufficiently warm as we said hello to all manner of farm animals.  Ophie was a little frightened of them, and Olive said, “I don’t like chickens!” but was perfectly happy feeding the goats, sheep, and cows.  I am not much of an outdoorsy person, and was annoyed at getting goose poop on my flats, but was delighted by the way the cow wrapped it’s tongue around the celery stick I offered her, and had a great time chasing Olive around in the wild.

Olive feeding sheep some yummy lettuce.

Sometimes, you just have to get out of what you’re used to in order to add that creative OOMPH to your life, especially when you’re a work-at-home-mom.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pre-schools, as we begin the search for Olive for next year, and how I want this last year she spends home just with me to be filled with interesting experiences that she won’t get once she’s entered the machine of the education system.  As another week of full-time parenting stretches out in front of me, I wonder what shenanigans we’ll get into next, and hope that spontaneity will lead us somewhere good.  What have you done lately to shake up your daily routine?



6 thoughts on “Habit Breakers: Three Free Fun Toddler Activities to Change up the Routine

  1. So lovely Rhea! I miss our summer outings. Have you braved the hill up to the Randall Museum lately?

    • We have not — I’ve been saving it for a rainy day. The rain is back today, so perhaps this week! I miss our summer outings as well. Let’s do some rad stuff over Holiday break!

    • Thanks for commenting, and yay for stay-at-home-dads! Somehow most of the moms and nannies I hang out with do not share my Giants fever, but the few dads in the mix are with me, letting me use their space phones to get score updates if the games are during the day and I’m stuck in the sandbox. Enjoy the fire station!

  2. Pingback: Free Toddler Activity Ideas

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