Curiosity is the hallmark of a happy childhood, and toddlers are curious little people with big appetites for fun. They’re no longer infants, but aren’t quite preschoolers yet. They need to continue to develop motor skills, but this is also an important time for intellectual, social and emotional growth. And, if you don't keep them moving and wear them out, they'll wear you out, guaranteed.
There are some fun places that really cater to the little ones. A huge bonus is most of them are open during the days when the older kids are at school, so the smaller ones can get all the attention. Here are five.
Explore & More Children’s Museum
300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora
Explore & More Children’s Museum has the interaction that kids thrive on. They have play zones that are specifically designed for the little ones. There is a baby garden where toddlers can play and explore, really dig in. The train section has loads of activities to keep little hands busy. The tots can learn about food, how things work, even create some amazing artwork. Here they promise to focus on fun and learning. And they deliver.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: $7; under 1 admitted free.
Buffalo Science Museum
1020 Humboldt Parkway
The Buffalo Science Museum has wonderful programs for the smallest of scientists. They hold story times several days per week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can dive into curiosity corner – the museum opens early for little ones to explore, learn about nature, and much more.
Their Explorations program is just terrific. With a light table, a water table, a space shuttle and more – your toddler will learn a great deal without even trying. Whenever we go to the Science Museum, time flies and the kids have a ball. They walk out a bit more knowledgeable, too.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: $11 adults; $8 kids 2-17; children under 2 are free.
The Buffalo Zoo
300 Parkside Ave.
The zoo also has programs geared toward those energetic little people. The Cub Club is a weekly class for kids ages 2-4 with a caregiver. They run over two semesters – 13 weeks in the fall and 18-weeks in the spring. You can sign up for however many sessions you’d like to attend. Kids will learn the alphabet and the animals beginning with the letter of the week. Again, hands-on interaction (yes, with live animals), crafts and stories make this an experience that is about learning and fun. A is for aardvark!
Hours for Cub Club: 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Cost: $8 per child, plus adult admission, $12.
There also is a program called "Strolling Around the World" for ages up to 2. It runs every week for six weeks in the spring and then again in the fall. Each week they focus on a different continent, giving the little ones an opportunity to feel things like bones, furs and skin. They even get to meet a live animal. Sessions are offered on Monday and Tuesday.
Cost: $35 for members, $108 for non members (includes admission for six weeks)
Regular zoo hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tifft Nature Preserve
1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.
Sure, you can take a hike at Tifft Nature Preserve any time, but you can have toddler time, too. Little Tykes Mini Nature Camp will have you enjoying a morning of exploration and fun. There’s story time, crafts and even outdoor investigating. Times and days can vary; pre-registration is required.
Preserve hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
One of our favorite places is our local library. Most libraries have a bevy of activities for kids, including toddlers. Most even offer a weekly story time complete with stories, songs, and games. The little sweeties have a blast and you cannot beat the price. It’s always free. Grab a book on the way out – and kids can walk away with a love of reading and a lesson on responsibility. Win-Win.
Find the information for Buffalo and Erie County libraries at buffalolib.org