The fall has come where I find myself finally down to one kid at home during the day. My preschooler and I are now able to see her three older sibs off at the bus stop each morning and then stroll home to spend all that quality one-on-one time she’s been waiting her whole short life for. We’re also planning to tackle the list (below) of kid-centric activities around town that I’ve kept in my back pocket since my oldest could toddle. Let me share some of my favorite places to take preschoolers — and I’ll mention where it’s absolutely appropriate to bring older siblings as well. Please note that all of the following activities take place on weekdays. For more inspiration on where to take the entire family on the weekend, visit our Family Fun Calendar.
Where: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Visitor Center
1225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN 55103
Time: Thursdays through April 30, 2015 • 10am – noon
Cost: Free; donations appreciated
Details: Designed for preschoolers, the program explores a new animal or plant theme each week through games, manipulatives, art projects, and a storytime. No registration required, just drop in and go at your own pace. Read about our outing to Como Lil Explorer Thursdays here.
Where: Mall of America Rotunda
Time: Ongoing Tuesdays • 10am – noon
Details: Live entertainment and activities guaranteed to excite the stroller set. You can view upcoming event details here. Make a day of it with a special Nickelodeon Universe 5-hour ride wristband ($11.95 plus tax) and a stop at the free play tables at the LEGO Store.
Where: Science Museum of Minnesota
120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102
Time: Ongoing Tuesdays • 9:30am – noon
Cost: Purchase a regular price adult admission ticket ($13) and receive a child’s (ages 5 & under) admission ticket free ($10 value). Children under 4 are always free. Minnesota Children’s Museum members also receive free admission during Preschool Playdates.
Details: This is a wonderful time for kids of any age to visit the Science Museum — the galleries are quiet, there are special shows and activity stations set up just for wee ones, and visitors are welcome to stay and explore as long as they like as long as admission is purchased before noon.
Where: The Works Museum
9740 Grand Ave., Bloomington, MN 55420
Time: 9am – 12pm select Mondays through May 2, 2016. Check here for the complete calendar.
Cost: $4 per child over 2 years of age (half-price), $8 per adult.
Details: Preschoolers who love to build and tinker will enjoy the various hands-on exhibits at The Works. This is also a great place to bring school-aged children — my own brood loves to build and race K’NEX vehicles, play in the new Sensor Zone gallery, and engineer all kinds of contraptions in the Design Lab.
Where: Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, MN 55407
Time: Ongoing Wednesdays • 10:30am – 1pm
Cost: Free; park in the adjacent Midtown Exchange Ramp up to 1.5 hrs. free with validation from any purchase at MGM.
Details: In the past, MGM has offered dance troupes, cooking lessons, and live animals to entertain kids. Stay for lunch — there are many tasty ethnic vendors to choose from, and several offer specials on Wednesdays. Read about our take on Wee Wednesdays here.
Where: Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Time: The second & fourth Tuesday of each month • 11am – 1pm
Cost: Adults are admitted for $14, youth under 18 are always free at the Walker.
Details: Themed art projects, short films, and gallery activities aimed for ages 3 – 5 (accompanied by their caregivers, of course!).
Where: Gleason’s Gymastic School – 2 locations
2050 Silver Bell Rd. Suite 180, Eagan, MN 55122
Time: Wednesdays & Fridays • 9:30 – 11:30am, Fridays only 12 – 2pm
Cost: $8/child or $10/family
9775 85th Ave. N. Suite 500, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Time: Wednesdays & Fridays • 9:30 – 11:30am, Thursdays only 1 – 3pm
Cost: $8/child or $10/family
Details: A trip to Gleason’s open gym with your preschooler (particularly in the middle of winter) is an instant mood-lifter. The kids will love the opportunity to bounce on trampolines, scoot through obstacle courses, and play on the gym equipment to their hearts’ content. For older sibs, Gleason’s also hosts open gym for kids in first grade through age 13 ($12 non-member). See the schedule link for times and read about our visit to Gleason’s here.
Where: Three Rivers Park District – various sites
Time: Check the Young Children’s Program schedule for a complete listing of My Preschooler & Me classes.
Cost: $4-$6/per person, both child & adult pay.
Details: Participating Three Rivers Parks sites include Gale Woods Farm, Lowry Nature Center, Carl Kroening Interpretive Center, Eastman Nature Center, Richardson Nature Center, The Landing, and Cleary Lake Regional Park. Classes are appropriate for children ages 2 – 5 and explore the natural world through outdoor play, art, and other hands-on activities. Registration is required and can be usually be made online and always by phone (763.559.6700).
The following are just a sampling of what’s out there for you and your preschooler every day of the week. For more ideas, check out our selection of Two Weeks Worth of Preschool Storytimes in the Twin Cities. Guaranteed you’ll find a new story spot!
Red Balloon Bookshop
Where: 891 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105
Time: Ongoing Wednesdays & Thursdays • 10:30-11am.
Details: Support your local independent bookstore!
Wild Rumpus Books
Where: 2720 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis, MN 55410
Time: Ongoing Mondays • 10:30am
Details: True to its name, the bookstore can get a little wild during “Tail Time”. Come early if you’d like to get a seat – and make sure to stick around afterward to browse the books and hunt down all the resident critters!
Local library storytimes
Don’t forget about the wonderful preschool (and toddler, and baby, and bilingual for that matter) storytimes hosted by your local libraries! Below you’ll find the most up-to-date links I could find for the following locations:
I’ll be the first to admit that it sounds cliche, but the preschool years really are over before you know it. I hope this list gave you a few new ideas on how to spend some quality time during the week with your preschooler – and, as always, if you have any favorite activities to share, please feel welcome to.