Too big for long naps and too small for summer camp, toddlers can be a handful this time of year. Their boundless energy and endless curiosity coupled with the lingering need for infant-type care like diaper changes, regular feedings and naps can be challenging.
Fear not, we’ve got you covered. Whether you find yourself smack in the summer doldrums, face to face with a little person desperate for stimulation or you’re a super planner looking to shake up your routine, check out our week of activities — both at home and afar.
Spend all weekend in the car going from grocery store to home improvement store to a wedding or graduation? Thank goodness for Monday — a day to relax! Too bad the little ones don’t feel you pain. No worries. Stick close to home today but try these activities to keep them busy.
Grab a box of biscuit mix or your favorite pancake recipe and whip up a batch of batter. Instead of pouring perfect circles, try creating abstract blobs or drizzles in the skillet. Flip, cook through and serve. Talk with your child(ren) about what the silly shape looks like. A bunny? A hat? A grocery bag? Serve with cut, fresh fruit for a healthy kick-start to the day. Up the silly-factor and invite the kids to drink out of twisty straws (as they are able).
Can o’ Fun
Give them hours (or at least a few minutes) of sensory fun for around $1. Squirt good, old-fashioned shaving cream (the foamy stuff, not the gel) onto a rimmed baking sheet and head outside. Kids can squish the shaving cream between their fingers or smooth it out and use their index fingers to “draw” or design a picture.
When they’re done, simply rinse off the sheet pan and the youngsters. Do watch to make sure the kids don’t eat the shaving cream. Wash the sheet pan with soap and water before using in the preparation of food.
Bigs and littles can get in on this outdoor summertime refresher. Fill a bucket or two with water and soak a couple of kitchen sponges in the buckets. Choose someone to be “it.” That person then tries to tag the other players by tossing or touching the other players with a wet sponge.
You can alternate who is “it” however you’d like. By the end of it all, everyone may be chasing everyone else around with a wet sponge. But that’s OK. It’s hot out there.
Too much time and home and the kids start climbing the walls. Time to get out! But not too far out. Spend the cool of the morning at the Albany Pine Bush, then have a picnic and take in an afternoon movie to beat the afternoon heat.
Albany Pine Bush
With lots to explore inside and out, bring the wee ones to the Albany Pine Bush to learn about all things nature. From things that grow to things that fly and hop, the Discovery Center will spark the imagination.
Pack your water bottles and sunscreen and hit the trails on the preserve. Take your little ones by the hand and get as far as their little legs will carry them, or put them in a stoller or wagon and get more exercise for yourself while they enjoy the passing scenery.
For more information, visit albanypinebush.org or call 518-456-0655.
Picnic in the Park
Pack the cooler with picnic favorites from the pantry or take a slight detour and stop by the Gade Farm (2479 Western Ave., Guilderland) and pick up fresh, healthy produce or locally-made jams for a sandwich treat.
Then head to Central Park in Schenectady where the kids can run and play after a lunch on the grass or more properly at a table.
Folks line up to see a matinee at Scotia Cinema in December 2013. (Daily Gazette file photo)
After lunch, head across the Mohawk to the Scotia Cinema. Reasonable ticket and snack prices make this theater a cool, economical way to spend an afternoon. Check the website for movie listings and times.
Halfway through the week! Celebrate with a trip to the library, a splash in the fountains and a sweet, homemade treat that comes together while you play.
Books, books, books
Local libraries are a perfect place to spend a morning. The Treehouse Room at the Saratoga Springs Library is stocked with board books, perfect for tiny toddlers, and magazines for mom (or dad). Read a story or two, then let the kids get the wiggles out while they play in and on colorful, fun equipment. For more information, visit sspl.org.
Swing by Uncommon Grounds and grab a treat for yourself before heading to the fountains.
Tyler Johnston, 6, of Schuylerville, enjoys the water spouters at East Side Recreation Park in Saratoga Springs in August 2015. (Marc Schultz)
Fountains of Fun
Head to the East Side Recreation Park in Saratoga Springs for a splashing good time. The interactive fountains shoot streams of water into the air. East Side Rec is one of three locations in Saratoga Springs that sports a fountain. The others can be found at West Side Recreation Park and Veterans Memorial Park.
No matter which park you choose, the kiddos can run over, under and through the multi-nozzled water feature. See who can get from one side to the other without getting wet (good luck), or just sit and splash.
Play with your food
After a much needed nap — for your toddler, too, gather the equipment and ingredients you need to make coffee can ice cream. There are two ways to fix up this frosty treat, but first the basics: liquid ingredients (minus the eggs; this is a no-cook recipe) get sealed up in a container and nested in another container filled with ice and rock salt and sealed. The package gets played with, rolled on the ground causing the liquid to cool and eventually freeze.
The first and least expensive method is the coffee can method — if you have different sizes of metal coffee cans available. Google “coffee can ice cream” then search for the recipe that suits you best.
Short on coffee cans? Head to L.L. Bean or amazon.com and order Yaylabs soft-shell ice cream ball in either pint or quart size. Once you’ve mixed the cream and flavorings and loaded the ice and rock salt, simply roll and toss the ball for a few minutes to chill and freeze the mix. Then, pop open and enjoy.
How many rivers?
Five. Five Rivers Nature Trails in Delmar offer options for a flexible morning hike. Trails are between ¼ and 2 miles long and most include shortcut options. Take the stroller or wagon and let the kids ride a bit and stretch their legs a bit on the paved Nature’s Accessible Backyard Trail. See if you can spot one of the 225 species of birds in the reserve or catch a glimpse of turtles, frogs or geese.
Toddlers can have energy to spare. If after a stroll through mother nature, they’re still ready to go, head home, grab a bucket of water and a paint brush, then hit the driveway for some water painting. Dip the paintbrush (or paint roller, sponge, or other absorbent material) in the plain water, then “paint” on the driveway. Practice painting shapes or letters. Try to paint a picture of your house or family before the water dries and your masterpiece disappears!
Treat yo’ self
You deserve a treat. Head to Curry Freeze for an afternoon treat. This Rotterdam institution has been scooping up frozen goodness for 50 years. A kiddie-sized soft serve will set you back just a couple of bucks. No one likes muddy sneakers in their house, but in a waffle cone? Yes, please. Curry Freeze’s Muddy Sneakers ice cream is white chocolate flavored ice cream with chocolate peanut candies, milk chocolate flakes and caramel swirls. Heaven awaits at 1057 Curry Road in Schenectady.
Wanna get away? Head out of town for a change of scenery. Head north for nature or east for literature. Local day trips are a great way to expose the kids to other experiences. Here are some places to go when you just have to get out of town.
Brown bear, brown bear
The Eric Carle museum in Amherst, Massachusetts is about two hours from the Capital Region. Once on site, take in original artwork by Carle himself and other children’s book illustrators. Finish a gallery seek and find and get a prize, or read a book then see the original painting. Even the smallest kiddos can create their own works of art in the museum’s art studio.
Bonus: If you’re a Schenectady County Library card holder, stop by the central library (99 Clinton Street, Schenectady) and pick up a Library Pass which will get two adults and two littles free admission to the museum. Check out the other participating venues for savings on admission to attractions around the Northeast.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is located at 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Massachusetts. For more information, visit their website.
Hello, hello, hello, hello
If you have more time on your hands, take a trip three hours north to Burlington, Vermont to ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. Watch fish, reptiles and amphibians glide and splash in aquariums or take in the current exhibit, Butterflies Live, and learn about the colorful insect and their importance to our ecosystem.
YOU MADE IT
Summertime can be hard, especially with toddlers. But there’s plenty to do around the area to beat the heat and banish the boredom.