Are the days ever longer, colder and damper than in winter? Does the time between waking up, nap time and bed time stretch ahead like a vast wasteland that you and your toddler have to cross, one painful step at a time?
Not to sound too grim, but that is how it often felt for me, back when I had one little one at home and was still figuring out how to cope. Waking up at 6:00 am or so, my daughter Laura was full of energy, and her diaper was usually full of...well you know. Once I got her cleaned up and fed it was, by golly, all of 6:45 am!
I'd distract her with toys while I gobbled down a few bites and got dressed. This would usually get us to about 7:00. If I did not have an outing or a play date or even a grocery store trip planned, I was staring down a long, dark corridor that led straight to CrazyTown.
Somehow we survived because I am here typing this and Laura is now 10. This one is for you, parents of the 2-year-old and under set and the theme is: Survival!
No matter what you may have planned for later in the day, 7:00 am is just too early for most activities except, drum roll, a trip to the store! Walmart was usually my destination of choice, not because I love it so dearly (come on, even if I did I would not admit it!), but because it is the closest big-box retailer to my home, and open 24 hours a day.
Other things we did back in the day included: lunch at Chik-fil-A combined with playtime in their tunnels; lunch at McDonald's combined with -- you got it -- playtime in their tunnels; visits to Chuck E. Cheese and (do you see a theme here?) play in their tunnels. If Laura had been able to write back then, I think she could have come up with a fairly erudite comparison of area fast food venues and their tunnels!
When we grew weary of this, we would often head to the library for story time. I highly recommend that you check out your closest library branch and attend story time as often as possible. It is free and very short, usually about 15-20 minutes which is just right for your wiggly companion.
My strategy for getting through the post-nap part of the day was to head to the gym. I could drop Laura off in the nursery while I had a quick work out or -- truth be told -- sometimes hid in the ladies' lounge and read a magazine! If you can join a gym, I highly recommend this strategy.
Somehow you will get through the remainder of the winter with your toddler. When spring comes you will be ready to unleash them on the local parks, the pool and (best of all!) Music in the Park at Hurkamp Park each Tuesday in May and June. Good times await, trust me, and oddly enough the days seem much shorter, somehow, in the spring and summer time!
The preceding only touches on the wide variety of things actually available for you and your under-2. While much of the real fun starts at age 3 (hello, preschool!), there are many other things you can do with a 2-year-old, even on cold or rainy days. Here are some more ideas, some of which are from my personal mommy bag of tricks and others are thanks to our wonderful Fredericksburg Parent bloggers!
Lake Anna State Park (even when it is cold you can see cool things). http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/lak.shtml
Westmoreland State Park (the BEST time to find fossils is the middle of winter because nobody else goes!) http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/wes.shtml
Caledon State Park (they have a great outdoor stage and kids can "perform" little plays there). http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/cal.shtml
Gary Melcher's Belmont (offers Preschool Palette classes for kids ages 2-5) http://garimelchers.umw.edu/education/preschool-palette/
Buzzy's Play Place at Spotsylvania Towne Centre. Keep an eye on them while you sip a latte from Starbucks.
Wiggle Worms at the Spotsylvania Towne Center. Pay a modest fee and shop in peace! http://www.wiggleworms.net/
Chuck E. Cheese on a weekday when it is not full of crazed party-goers (Guess what! In addition to arcade games, they have tunnels. You can enter for free and play in the tunnels until your child is old enough to start begging for tokens to play the games).
Pots and Palettes in downtown Fredericksburg for a parent/child pottery painting activity. There's nothing like baby's handprint on a plate to make a wonderful gift for the grandparents! http://potsandpalettes.com/
Nursing homes. The activities directors are always looking for things to do. You can build a relationship with one, visit every month and do a craft with the residents. A lot of the residents are lonely and seldom see their own grandkids.
Toddlin' Time http://toddlintime.com/. Bright space full of fun for little ones. Classes offered regularly, reasonable fee.
Mommy, Daddy and Me at the Massad YMCA (and possibly other branches as well). This is sort of a pre-preschool class for 2- to 3-year-olds with mom or dad in tow, twice per week. http://www.family-ymca.org/newsite/massad/youth.php
Find a Mom's Group. Google "Mom's Group" plus your locale and see all the options! Or check out FredParent's Guide to moms' clubs and support groups.
Kids in Motion offers playtime for kids ages 1-3, $5.00 per session. http://www.kidsnmotion.biz/FredOpenPlayTimes.html
Stroller Strides (have to plug one of our bloggers!). Fitness program for moms & babies; also offers a play group. http://www.meetup.com/Stroller-Strides-of-Fredericksburg/
Stafford Parks & Recreation Tot Open Gym (and classes, but in my experience the open gym was more fun and flexible until my kids were about three and better able to attend to directions) http://va-staffordcountyparksandrec.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/44