The Indianapolis-area Conner Prairie museum hosts toddlers in hands-on frontier-era activities.

Activities for Toddlers in Indianapolis

by Lee Grayson

Current-day downtown Indianapolis has the same design as the original 1825 plat map, but Indy is now also home to modern museums, outdoor facilities and sports arenas. Toddlers visiting the Hoosier capital at any time during the year have a choice of activities designed specifically for the youngest members of the family. Some Circle City locations teach children about art and wildlife, while others create an environment that allows toddlers to explore and play to learn new things about cooking, history and archeology.

1. Art

Artistic toddlers have a chance to practice with paint brushes, crayons and chalk at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Formal art courses host toddlers as part of calendared activities during the year or drop-in classes available throughout the week. Regular art activities, including craft classes and hands-on art exploration guided by museum staff members, happen in the Indianapolis Start Family Studio and the African Art Activity Space during regular museum hours. The art moves outdoors in formal classes for toddlers at the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park on the museum grounds. Special classes at this facility include "Make & Take" and "Wee Wednesdays," where teachers give instruction specifically for toddlers on how to create informal art projects.

2. Play and Exercise

Toddlers need to blow off steam occasionally by running and playing, and Indy has a variety of places for physical play. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis' Health House offers Twister games and a chance to dig holes in the Dinosphere exhibit in search of play dino artifacts. ScienceWorks, a special part of the museum, has cloth tunnels for mini explorers who enjoy crawling. The revolving activities in the museum's Playscape area give toddlers a chance climb, crawl and stretch while learning about music, art, science and nature at the same time.

3. Cooking

Indianapolis' The Young Chef's Academy understands toddler interests by featuring hands-on activities with food. KinderCooks, a series of classes designed to teach tiny chefs at least 3 years old, focuses on basic kitchen safety, manners and the fundamentals of following a recipe in making a dish. The 60- to 90-minute classes move quickly to keep toddler attention and interest using shapes, colors and numbers. The monthly cooking units introduce new concepts with age-appropriate ideas and high-interest curriculum materials.

4. Wildlife

Indy has several venues where toddlers can see trained animals up close and personal. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park has special programs designed for young guests, including playing traditional pioneer games and petting the animals on display as part of the Prairie Tykes program. The daylong adventure features crafts, dancing, singing and a visit with the resident animals. The program focuses on various themes, such as patriotism, bugs, teddy bears and the experience of riding in a pioneer wagon. Toddlers who enjoy all kinds of animals can see lions and tigers, pet a shark, watch the daily dolphin shows and visit with the zoo's newest arrivals in the Zoo Baby exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo located in the city's White River State Park located a short drive from Conner Prairie.

About the Author

*I have written chapters and articles for Oxford and Harvard University Presses, ABC-CLIO, and others. Arcadia Press published two of my local history texts and I have also written for numerous "article sites," including Pagewise in 2002. My "How to become a...real estate agent" is available as an online text from a Canadian publisher. *I taught writing courses at a branch campus of Indiana University. *I held a California real estate license and have remodeled four of my own homes and advised others on financing homes, repairing credit to qualify for loans, and managing construction (including meeting local, state, and federal regulations for restoration and development grants). *I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and wrote nearly $75,000 in small education grants (under $1,000). *My travels include frequent road trips in Canada, Mexico, U.S., and Europe. I attended school at Cambridge University and used this as a base to explore the UK and Europe.

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