In the toddler world, play isn't just play -- it's how they learn, develop, grow and have fun.

Activities for Toddlers in Merced, California

by Jennifer Zimmerman

Toddlers need activities so they don't get bored, restless -- or worse, whiny, or hyper. They don't necessarily have to be structured activities but, nonetheless, toddlers need to get out and about. Merced, the county seat of Merced County, nestled in California's San Joaquin Valley, has structured and unstructured activities that toddlers and their parents can enjoy.

1. Applegate Park Zoo

The Applegate Park Zoo (cityofmercerd.org) is home to about 75 native Californian animals that can't be released back into the wild. Admission is free for children under 5, so it's an affordable toddler activity, as well as being an educational one. Children can see capuchin monkeys, mule deer, tortoises and a rare albino scrub jay. The zoo is fairly small, so it's easy to see everything before your toddler gets tired and cranky.

2. Tumble Time Gymnastics

This gym (tumbletimemerced.com) holds pre-gymnastics classes for toddlers from 16 months to 3 years. Mom or dad participates while toddlers jump, bounce and go through obstacle courses. Kids can also sing, stretch and play with bubbles. Classes are held on several different weeknights for 45 minutes each. Definitely, a great way to get your toddler tuckered out (and yawning) before bedtime.

3. Merced County Public Library

If your toddler isn't ready for gymnastics class just yet, you can try the Merced County Public Library's (sjvls.org) programs. Story time for toddlers and preschoolers, includes stories, songs, and creative movement, happens twice a week. Parents or caregivers must attend with their toddlers. There are also free introductory music classes held throughout the year. If your toddler enjoys the music class, you can sign up for more classes at the Merced Mulitcultural Center.

4. Musikgarten

In addition to giving free classes at the library, Miss Noelle (missnoellesmusik.org) teaches weekly classes at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center (artsmerced.org) mentioned above. Classes focus on parents and children enjoying and making music together. There are age-appropriate songs and instruments. There are even CDs that toddlers can listen to at home or in the car, if that works for you.

5. Merced Parks

When all else fails, taking your toddler to the park, (even for a few minutes on a cold day) is a wonderful activity. Toddlers can work on gross motor skills like climbing and swinging plus they can explore the nature around them. They might even get to socialize with other kids. Merced has several parks (visitmerced.travel/Attractions/parks_recreation.php) that toddlers will enjoy. Ada Givens Park, McNamara Park and Rahilly Park all have playgrounds and outdoor pools for summer fun. Other parks with playgrounds include Bob Carpenter Park, Joe Herb Park and Stephen Leonard Park.

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