Head to mall and restaurant playspaces first thing in the morning
We do what we must some days to keep the kids busy. Here's how Gretchen makes the most of free indoor playspaces at malls and fast food restaurants:
I rely on indoor playspaces to run off my daughter's energy when the weather outside is nasty or too hot. But a lot of other parents have the same idea, so on especially yucky days the playspaces at the local malls and fast food restaurants can get pretty crowded.
My daughter is still young and a little tentative on any playground equipment, and one good jostle sends her screaming for the door - so crowded playspaces aren't a good fit for her. But that doesn't mean she's stuck inside - we just go at times when the places are less crowded.
Today, for example, we were out running errands early in the morning and we stopped at a fast food restaurant for breakfast. (I know, I know - evil mommy. She ate one chicken nugget and 2/3 of a fruit cup, which is probably better for her than whatever I was going to find in the freezer at home.) We were pretty much the only ones in the restaurant, and the playspace was completely empty. Better yet, it had been cleaned at the end of the day yesterday, so it wasn't full of burger bits and ground in fries.
My daughter had 45 minutes to explore the space at her own speed, without worrying about having to share the equipment with older kids. It was a nice change of pace from our previous playspace routine of me having to recite "we have to share the red car with all the other kids, honey - quit crying and let him have a turn" about a million times in 15 minutes.
Next time the weather turns suffocatingly hot, I think I'll head over to the mall when it's open early for mall walkers ... I'll bet the playspace is deserted, and there's a Starbucks right next to it. Bonus!