How to fill your days with toddlers and pre-schoolers

By Marci Lutsky

The days are long but the years are short.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard this when my twins were very young.  I always wanted to respond that the days are not long with twins, but endless!  In the early years before children start school, it can be a challenge to fill those days and keep them occupied.  I moved to South Jersey when my twins were 13 months old and I was always on the lookout for new and exciting activities.  The cold months will be here before you know it so if you have little ones, it’s good to start planning with these ideas.

Take a music class..  Before I even moved to this area I was already signed up for a Music Together class.  I still remember that first class because another mom with a son the same age as my kids walked up and asked if I wanted to get together for a playdate.  Fast forward six years and we are still friends.  Not only was the class so worthwhile for teaching my kids about socialization and music, it was just as valuable for me to know that I had a scheduled activity each week which provided me with the opportunity to socialize with other moms.

Find a good storytime at a local library.  I probably went to every storytime in this area and quickly found my favorites.  Storytime is great for so many reasons.  You are exposing children to books and reading while at the same time socializing  them with other children.  My two favorites were at the Margate Library and Ocean City Library.  The Margate Library children’s room is enclosed which is ideal if you have mobile children or more than one to keep an eye on.  The librarian who ran storytime was so engaging and fun.  The Ocean City Library also holds storytime in an enclosed room.  The librarian there does a great job of engaging with the children and many times would put on a puppet show that I found as entertaining as my children did.  The Ocean City Library is part of the Community Center which also has a pool and small café.

Take swim lessons.  Water safety should be taken seriously and teaching kids to swim is so important, especially living at the beach.  It’s never too early to start swim lessons.  We started before our kids could even walk, getting them comfortable in the water.  Now they can swim the length of the pool, tread water and dive into the deep end.  There are many options for places to take swim lessons.  Ask around to find a place near you that will fit into your schedule.  My kids had a great experience at the Ocean City Aquatic Center.

Find a new playground.  It’s easy to get comfortable going to the same playgrounds in your neighborhood but sometimes it’s fun to drive a bit further to change things up a bit.  Have you been to Shark Park in Brigantine?  It’s a fabulous playground that is great for kids of all ages.  This is an ideal playground for climbers, which my kids are.  Imagination Station in Galloway is another good one.  They have nice covered picnic tables, perfect if you want to pack lunch.  Sandcastle Park on 34th Street in Ocean City is also a fun playground that keeps my kids occupied for hours.

Visit the Brigantine Community Center Playroom.  This is a good one to keep in  mind for rainy days which most people don’t know about.  The room is always clean and has a cute little carousel as well as plenty of toys.  This is ideal for young children.  They have little picnic tables so I would often meet friends there and pack a lunch.  

Take a yoga class.  Many places offer mommy and me yoga classes in addition to kids yoga classes.  Happy Heart Corner in Northfield is a favorite of my kids as well as Grow Yoga in Galloway.  There’s really not much cuter than a room full of kids chanting Om.

There you have it, a comprehensive list of ways to keep your toddlers and pre-schoolers occupied.  Now that my kids are in 1stgrade and in school full-time, I miss those days of looking for new and exciting activities for them.  We made a lot of great friends along the way between music class and storytime.  The more you go to an activity regularly, the more you will get to know people.  I would love to hear about what kinds of activities you like to do with your little ones!

Marci Lutsky is a local mom of six year-old twins and can be reached at veggingattheshore@gmail.com.