I probably take my kids on adventures about 2-3 times each week, especially during these long Minnesota winters. Makes me sounds like I’m Super Mom, right?! But here’s my secret…
Yep. No shame in my parenting game! If we stay home, three things always explode:
- and in turn, my sanity.
So technically four things. Toys come pouring out of places I never knew existed, turning the house into a minefield nearly impossible to walk through without stepping on something painful. Meals and snacks leave enough leftovers on the floor for another full meal or snack, if you prefer partially sucked on Cheerios and squished blueberries. And the emotions, oh for love of my fragile sanity, the emotions! Three year olds remind me of being pregnant–crying over nothing, being ridiculously sensitive, crying over everything, hungry, but not wanting to eat, tired, but won’t nap. If we don’t get out, this volcano of mommy frustration/cabin fever is going to blow it’s top, which looks like yelling at the kids, then crying to my husband the second he walks in the door, followed by a tidal wave of mom-guilt for said explosion, and a splash of mom-doubt (Can I really do this? Am I cut out for this? Am I horrible mom?).
Yeahhhh, let’s avoid all that, shall we?
So because I’m too lazy to deal with the toys, crumbs, and emotions, we go on adventures. Our favorites are the MN Zoo, Good Times Park, open gym at the community center, library, and Mall of America (MOA).
That last one might surprise you a bit. You’re thinking, “Well, it’s kid-friendly if I want to spend a bunch of money on rides or if we go to Toddler Tuesdays.” Here’s another secret: we’ve actually never done Toddler Tuesdays (yet!) and I only spend $3 on one ride if we even do them. But MOA is still a big hit for our 3.5 year old and 1.5 year old! What are my secrets to making MOA a great (and cheap!) destination for young kids?
- If you’re packing a stroller, park on the GREEN level with an alligator. It’s the only skyway without stairs. No waiting for elevators, or hauling the stroller and child up and down stairs. Just glide right on in. We like to park by the Sears entrance and use their elevator, because, again, no lines. But if you arrive early, this entrance will be locked and you’ll have a very short walk to a mall entrance.
- Legoland. Of course, you already knew about this. But did you know the mall opens before the stores open for people wanting to walk? Guess how many people are playing in the Lego play area at that time? NONE. So sit back and sip that Starbucks or Caribou (both also open early!) while your kids build a Duplo tower. (We also made a barricade with our strollers so the little ones wouldn’t escape!)
- Check out the second floor below the new food court on the North side. There’s a series of silly mirrors where you can try on some facial hair. Your kids will love it and you’ll get a laugh too.
- And while you’re there, watch some airplanes take off! Or if you prefer watching them outdoors go here.
- One of MY favorite reasons to go to MOA is so I can walk and get some exercise during the long, cold winter months. Plus, walking wears my daughter out too so she’s ready for a rare nap! One of the ways we make this work is by playing iSpy. She’s having fun, staying focused, and burning energy…and so am I! From our experience, I was inspired to make something that everyone could enjoy. It’s a FREE printable Mall of America Scavenger Hunt for kids. And it’s kind of amazing! My two old college roomies were in town so their kids (a total of seven between us!) helped test it out for the first time. The scavenger hunt kept the kids busy, giving us a chance to talk and catch up as we walked the mall. We spent almost four hours being mallrats, all without spending a dime (if you pack your own lunch). Plus, the kids wanted to stay even longer!
So if you’re looking for a kid-friendly activity that’s FREE and FUN, print off our scavenger hunt and have at it! Use #TCMBHunt to see all the fun! Also, check out these hidden gems at MOA while you’re there. Enjoy!