Kids are preschoolers for such a short time, aren’t they? Before you know it, they are heading off to school and then middle school and then conquering the world. Take advantage of this short time at home with these fun preschool outings that get you out of the house and introduce all sorts of age-appropriate learning.
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 preschool outings 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 preschool outings take place on weekdays. For more inspiration on where to take the entire family on the weekend, visit our Family Fun Calendar.
Summer Note: Many of these programs take a break during the summer, but the Toddler Tuesday programs, Tots & Trains, Kids at the Castle, Arboretum Peapods and MPRB Nature Nuts go year round.
MONDAY PRESCHOOL OUTINGS
Where: The Works Museum, 9740 Grand Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55420
Time: Mondays 10am-1pm.
Cost: $13.00/pp ages 2+. Under 2 Free.
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. Read about a trip to Pre-K Mornings here.
TUESDAY PRESCHOOL OUTINGS
Where: Mall of America Rotunda, 60 E Broadway, Bloomington 55425
Time: Weekly discounts every Tuesday and Preschool-friendly entertainment on 2nd Tuesday of every month, 10am – noon
Details: Live monthly entertainment and activities guaranteed to excite the stroller set. You can view upcoming event details here. Any Tuesday, make a day of it with kids eat free specials at participating restaurants and a stop at the free play tables at the LEGO Store. Nickelodeon Universe is again offering special deals on wristbands for Toddler Tuesday.
Extra: We have more ideas for MOA fun on Toddler Tuesdays: Mall of America Toddler Tuesdays: Fun & Freebies.
Where: Springbrook Nature Center, 100 85th Ave NW, Fridley, MN 55432
Time: Fall 2023: September 26th, October 31st, November 28th, December 19th.
Details: A weekly parent-child outdoor class. Attend one or all. Registration is encouraged. Drop-Ins allowed as space provides.
Where: Color Me Mine, 3324 Promenade Ave, Eagan MN 55121 & 9140 Hudson Rd. E511 Woodbury, MN 55125
Time: 2nd Tuesday of each month. See Monthly Calendar.
Cost: No studio fee. Purchase an item to paint.
Details: The 2nd Tuesday of each month is set aside for preschoolers (5 and under) to paint with a parent. Drop In. No registration or reservations required
Where: Color Me Mine, 12155 Elm Creek Boulevard North, Maple Grove MN 55369
Time: Check their calendar for once-a-month date.
Cost: $1/studio fee. Purchase an item to paint.
Details: Paint a kid-friendly item of the month. For kids ages 2-5 with an adult. Drop in to paint.
WEDNESDAY PRESCHOOL OUTINGS
Where: Gleason’s Gymastic School, 2015 Silver Bell Rd. Suite 180, Eagan, MN 55122
Time: Wednesdays & Fridays, 9:30 – 11:30am (September through April)
Cost: Pre-register to Save: $10/child or $15/family; Door: $13/child or $20 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: Carl Kroening Interpretive Center at North Mississippi Regional Park, 4900 Mississippi Court, Minneapolis, MN 55430
Time: Wednesdays, 9:30am-10:30am
Cost: $2 session. Pre-register on MPRB website. Search Keyword “Nature Nuts”
Details: Come with your little one to play and have fun in nature with other children and parents/guardians. Each day will be different, but will have nature themes involving plants, animals, and seasons. For kids up to age 5 with an adult.
Note: Other Minneapolis Parks offer Nature Nuts on other days of the week. MPRB’s offerings change each season.
Where: Jackson Street Roundhouse, 193 Pennsylvania Ave E, St Paul, MN 55130
Time: First & Third Wednesdays, 10am-12pm
Cost: $35/family or $13/adult; $11 kids 3-15; $10 for kids 2-4.
Discounts: If this is going to be your regular thing, a membership can help you save on admission. $50/year includes admission for 2 (parent & tot?) all year; $125/year includes admission for the whole family.
Details: Includes museum admission, where kids can play with the train tables and explore the real train cars, participate in a make and take craft and listen to a train-themed story. Coffee and treats available to purchase.
Where: Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lake Shore Drive, Richfield MN 55423
Time: Select Wednesdays
Cost: $10/child (Pre-registration required, Search Keyword: “Nature Adventurers”)
Details: For kids ages 3-5, accompanied by an adult. Explore different nature topics together each visit, includes circle time, stories, songs, puppets, crafts, activities and hikes in nature. Please dress for the weather. Search Keyword: Nature Adventurers
THURSDAY PRESCHOOL OUTINGS
Where: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Visitor Center, 1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul 55103
Time: Ongoing Thursdays, 10am-12pm.
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. The program is offered indoors in the winter and outside in the summer. No registration for the program is required, just drop in and go at your own pace.
Read about our outing to Como Lil’ Explorer Thursdays and find an up-to-date weekly topic list here.
FRIDAY PRESCHOOL OUTINGS
Where: IGM Gymnastics, 12117 Riverwood Drive, Burnsville, MN 55337
Time: Fri 9:30-11:30am
Cost: Cost $10/child, $15 for family of 2 or more
Details: Free-play style with certified coaches ensuring safety. Parents must stay.
Where: American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Time: Ongoing, third Friday & Saturdays of the month, 9-10am
Cost: $15/family (Needs-based discounts available)
Details: Before the museum opens, join ASI for visual play, storytelling, music, and movement inspired by ASI’s exhibits that will encourage creative young minds. Suggested for ages 2-5, but there’s lots for older kids to appreciate inside the castle as well. For kids younger than aged 2, try Babies at the Castle.
MORE WEEKDAY PRESCHOOL OUTINGS
Where: Three Rivers Park District – various sites
Time: Find these programs on our calendar or check the programs & events calendar for a complete listing of My Preschooler & Me classes.
Cost: $4-$6/per person, both child & adult pay.
Details: Participating Three Rivers Parks sites vary, but often include Gale Woods Farm, Lowry Nature Center, Eastman Nature Center, Richardson Nature Center, The Landing, and Cleary Lake Regional Park. Registration is required and can be usually be made online (search keyword “preschooler”) and always by phone (763.559.6700).
Silverwood Park also offers a My Preschooler & Me Series, but families pay by the series rather than by the class. Classes are appropriate for children ages 2 – 5 and explore the natural world through outdoor play, art, and other hands-on activities.
Tinkergarten programs are outdoor classes for families with young kids led by certified, local leaders. Classes meet at parks around the Twin Cities.
If you don’t have a favorite story time spot, check out our selection of Two Weeks Worth of Preschool Storytimes in the Twin Cities. Guaranteed you’ll find a new story spot!
Family music classes are created for parents to take with their preschoolers, toddlers and babies. We have gathered a list of these fun classes here.
Fun Idea: A musician friend of mine would choose less busy times (weekday mornings or afternoons) to visit the drum rooms at Best Buy or Guitar Center and let her preschooler try them out. These stores often sell inexpensive instruments like shake eggs and kazoos, too. So you can start to build your own collection.
Most of the myriad indoor playgrounds around the Twin Cities offer soft play spaces dedicated to toddlers, and many are appropriate for pre-walkers as well. It was very common for me to use these spaces, with their cushy surfaces and quieter foot traffic, to entertain my babies while big siblings played safely, closely but completely separately, nearby. Favorite indoor playgrounds included EAGLES NEST INDOOR PLAYGROUND (New Brighton), MAPLE MAZE INDOOR PLAYGROUND (Maple Grove) and LOOKOUT RIDGE INDOOR PLAYGROUND (Woodbury). Bonus is, babies under a year of age (and often up to 18 months) play for FREE almost without exception.
The Twin Cities metro area has 101 Libraries, which offer story times, free classes, special events and Play & Learn spaces that encourage literacy through the incorporation the six domains of Minnesota’s Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (reading, playing, singing, writing and talking). Find our list of library Play & Learn spaces.
Tot Times Still Work for Preschool Kids
Don’t forget to check out our tot times list. Although these are great for toddlers, most of them are open to kids up through age 5 or 6 and make great preschool outings, too.
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 preschool outings to share, please feel welcome to leave a comment.
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