So I've mentioned before that Cade is not the biggest fan of organized activities. We had to eat $100 on a failed Music Class session when I had to peel him (screaming) off the glass window of the door week after week. He liked Gymboree for awhile, but as soon as he could walk, started heading for the door repeatedly during each session, causing us to drop that too. Ditto with story hour - talked so loudly about wanting to go home that the children's librarian invited us to please do so. Our latest attempt: soccer.
I use the term "organized" loosely here. Basically there is a nice kid friendly man with a lovely soccer resume that hosts Soccer for Toddlers all over the city. The idea is that he brings the soccer stuff and the enthusiasm and all the moms have to do is pay for the lessons, tshirts, shin guards, soccer shoes, and snacks and kick back on the sidelines. Bonus: it is held on Saturday mornings so Dad can come too and do all the heavy lifting on the field in terms of making sure the boys stay with the program. Since I am all about gabbing with my friends and also running the poop out of my children so they will nap well, I foolishly thought this would be a good activity.
So we thought we'd give it a shot this morning. Cade started campaigning to leave about 5 minutes after we arrived and kept running back to the kudzu that separates the field from the nearby train tracks to see "what is on the other side of this plant". Drew gamely kicked the ball around for a few minutes, but was more concerned about scoping out the snack situation in my bag. Needless to say, soccer was a bust - we left halfway into it with a pep talk from the coach to "keep trying - keep bringing them and encouraging them and eventually they will want to participate". He makes it sound so easy - keep coming, keep encouraging, kick back and wait for Beckham-like results.
Since we've been through the gamut of activities AND since several friends have told me that they're actually READING this blog, I thought I'd share lessons learned from each, well...lesson. And some of our favorite activity places for good measure. Hopefully other moms behind me will learn from my mistakes.
Pros: Air conditioned, very well babyproofed, great for first time moms b/c the baby classes include ideas for things to do with your baby and Mommy discussion time. We are still in touch with our friends from Cade's Gymboree days.
Cons: Not cheap. Difficult once you have a second child because it is twice as not cheap and little sibling are neither welcome nor encouraged in a big sibling's class (classes are divided by age/ability).
Pros: Air conditioned, songs on CD are only marginally annoying, second child can come for free up to like 4 months old or something.
Cons: "Ba, ba bup bup bup bup baaaaa" rhythm song will NEVER leave your head.
Library Story Hour
Pros: FREE! Air conditioned. Fosters love of reading.
Cons: Libraries, by nature, require a certain level of decorum that my children are not capable of.
Pros: Opportunity to practice stunts in safe environment. In the air conditioning. Can you tell it is hot in Atlanta in the summer?
Pros: No mess at my house.
Cons: My children seem to bypass the paints, crafts, metal sculpturing and other cool stuff and head directly for the markers, which we have at home. $10 an hour per kid buys a lot of markers.
Pros: Toddlers don't care whether the rides "go" or not - $5 worth of tokens will last hours. They also don't care that the pizza tastes like cheese covered cardboard - there is a salad bar for moms. They stamp your kids' hands at the door to prevent kidnappers from leaving with someone else's kids.
Cons: A little ADD - hard to supervise multiple kids depending on the layout, what with all the moving rides, loud noises, and blinking lights. Also, no hand stamp checking to get into the bathrooms, so it's not an entirely molester-free zone - I always have this fear that the hand stamps cause predators to target ChuckECheese for a challenge. Irrational, I know. But that's part of my charm. : )
Kangazoom/Monkey Joe's/Jumping Places
Pros: An air-conditioned way to wear them out for an affordable price.
Cons: Can get a little rough when school-aged kids are around - take toddlers in the mornings while big kids are in school.
Pros: You get to leave them there! Without you! Plus they learn stuff.
Cons: They close for the summer.
Pros: They are everywhere. You could hit a different one each week for forever. I never,ever thought I would spend so much time touring playgrounds.
Cons: It's too freaking hot for this in the summer!
Pros: Nice cool place to hang out in the summer and you can bring your lunch and camp out for the whole day.
Cons: Not so great for crawlers or early walkers - I found it exhausting to try to keep my kids from killing themselves on cement at this age. Also, I am not hot about teenaged lifeguards who seem to spend most of their time twirling their whistles and inspecting their own tan lines. I feel justified in saying this because I was a teenaged lifeguard at one time so I know how they think. Do NOT plan to go to the pool and leisurely read magazines while lifeguards "watch" your kids. Keep a vigilant eye on the wee ones at all times. No one is watching them but you.
Pros: Air conditioned. Free for kids under 2, I think. Worth buying an annual family pass once they turn 2 if they like it.
Cons: The Atlanta one has kind of an open format, making it difficult to supervise multiple children at once by yourself.
Pros: Atlanta zoo is nice sized - not too big, not too small.
Cons: HOT. Do not attempt this activity in the summer. Also I personally think the food is a little gross so we always bring our own lunch. Individual admissions are expensive, so buy the annual family pass once your kids are old enough that you have to pay for them.
Pros: World class aquarium! Right here in Atlanta! We saw the Monterey Bay aquarium this summer and Atlanta's holds it's own against this one.
Cons: Expensive. Get an annual pass if you think you will go a lot. Also, they check your bags for food so don't plan on bringing your own lunch.
Pros: Awesome children's garden with a fountain.
Cons: The rest of the gardens are cool too but it is impossible to enjoy them with my kids in tow. Perhaps parents of more mellow children have better luck.
Burger King/McDonald's/ChicFilA (indoor playground variety only)
Pros: Air conditioned, economical, one stop shop. Food, activity, chair for mom, what could be better?
Cons: Why do my kids always get lost in those stupid indoor playground tunnels?