Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where to Take your Young Toddler in the Plano, Frisco, Dallas, TX Area

Below is a list of places I've visited with my 16.5 month old daughter, Annie. I'll keep adding to the list, and maybe one day I'll also add the pictures :)

Dallas Zoo
We went here when Annie was 12.5 months old. This zoo gets a lot of criticism due to comparisons with the Fort Worth Zoo, but honestly, I was pretty impressed. It'd been over 10 years since I last visited, because well, it was terrible back then. It was an overcast day in July (the first in a long long time that hadn't been over 100 degrees) so my hubby and I decided on a whim to go to the zoo. We didn't feel like driving all the way to Fort Worth, plus we figured, Annie's one, everything looks grander from that viewpoint! I can't remember how much it cost us, but it wasn't too terrible. We went at around 10 AM and surprisingly, Annie stayed in her stroller most of the time. I guess there was so much to see that she forgot to be an antsy toddler. We took the monorail around the zoo - the guide was really funny and entertaining - and got to see parts inaccessible by foot. We also caught a bird show and a bit of an elephant show. Annie took a nap while we ate, and we ended up leaving at around 3 PM.
The exhibits are nice and clean, especially the new gorilla area. The foliage is amazing, we really felt like we were in the tropics. There is also a good variety of animals to see. When we lived in Houston we went to the Houston zoo a few times, but I don't think Annie really enjoyed it until she was about 9 months, even more so at 12 months. Their eyes and attention just can't focus long enough to find animals that aren't directly in front of them. I would actually recommend aquariums over zoos for really young children.

Texas State Fair
We went here when Annie was 16.5 months old. This one is only for a month every fall, but we went this year. I just really wanted to try the fried butter, and dragged my hubby, daughter, sister, and sister's fiance along for the ride. I hadn't been to the fair in again, over 10 years, and the first thing that shocked me was the size. I don't remember it being that big! We have been to the Houston Rodeo in recent years, but I must say, The Texas State Fair really lives up to its name! I wouldn't say there's much to do there for young kids, but Annie did remarkably well. There are also swan boats you can rent to paddle around the lake, and a science museum and aquarium. There is also a small petting zoo area, and of course, lots of opportunities for parents to win little, or not so little, stuffed toys for their children. I think there are lots of kids who would enjoy the car shows too, since they could climb around the vehicles all they wanted. There were also characters like Bob the Builder walking around that kids could hug and take pictures with. I'm sure there are other things for children to do, but honestly Annie was sitting so nicely in her stroller that I was concentrating more on what to eat next.
We got there at about 10:30 AM and left at 4:00 PM, with a nap for her at around 1 PM. We ate and ate and ate, visited the Children's Aquarium, and did a little demo (my sister and I were thisclose to buying a potato peeler/waffle fry cutter/veggie flower combo thingy) and car browsing (where were all the minivans?). We went into the aquarium ($5) since Annie LOVES fish. It's small, but totally adequate to keep a little one occupied. I think we were in there for close to, if not slightly more, than an hour. Annie got a kick out of the touch tank and liked stroking the horseshoe crab, and kept going running around pointing at all the different sea creatures in their tanks. There's a nice covered outdoor portion in the back too where they had some big nurse sharks (?) and rays.
For most of the time, Annie sat nicely in her stroller, admiring all the sights, sounds, and smells, while she chomped down on her fruit and veggie buffet. She did, however, sneak a piece of turkey leg from her aunt....which turned into her grabbing and stuffing her face with more tasty morsels thereafter. She even tried to eat corn right off the cob. Love the pictures of her cute little face behind a huge corn or turkey leg. There aren't many things at the fair that I'd feed an infant (deep fried oreo?), so make sure you pack lots of snacks for your little one....and WATER. We saved so much money just by bringing a gallon of water with us rather than buying soft drinks or beer. The food is not cheap at .50 a coupon with most items around 12-15 coupons each- and we ate a lot, parking was $15, and tickets with the McDonald's coupon were $12, but I figured, once a year is ok! Plus, I really love fair food :). I would, however, suggest going on a weekday when crowds are much smaller. Plus, there are entrance fee specials on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Towards the end Annie wanted to get out of her stroller, but my hubby and I had to each hold a hand to block others from bumping into her. It actually got so crowded at one point that we couldn't move at all. All in all I think it was a fun trip for everyone!

Indoor Safari Park

Dallas Arboretum

Pump it Up

How to Entertain Your Young Child and Yourself without Going Broke

I keep googling, hoping to find a comprehensive list of things to do (preferably in Plano or Frisco) with my daughter. She is 16.5 months this week, so she's not quite a full blown toddler, but certainly no longer an infant. I've found it's hard to find places that are fun for children this age, since they aren't agile enough to play unattended - and by unattended I mean without a parent following 3 steps behind their every move.

Places like Gymboree and The little Gym are great, but expensive. We went once to The Little Gym and she really enjoyed it, and I was so close to signing her up, though we couldn't really afford it. That's the thing isn't it, when something is sold as "good for your child" you feel like a bad parent when you don't do it. I pondered for a few days with the decision, wondering if I'd be stunting her social and mental health if I didn't sign her up. I also realized these types of outings weren't purely for the kids. There was also the promise of a treat for moms - lunch dates after play time! Surely there had to be cheaper ways to entertain my child and myself!

I started looking up mom groups to join. Not knowing anything about mom groups or play groups, I stumbled upon Meetup. Whomever you are and whatever you like to do, there is a group on Meetup that's perfect for you! I found several mom groups in my area that included children around my daughter's age and signed up. Some groups seemed more active than others, but what a wealth of information these ladies have provided! I have found out about parks I'd never heard of, been able to pair up with other mommies who have family memberships to get in free to places like the zoo or arboretum, heard about the best playgrounds, and been invited to many other fun free activities for kids... not to mention the home play dates! Who knew there were so many great things to do with young children!