Maryland is chock full of tourist attractions and historical monuments you can drag your toddler to any day of the week. There’s Fort McHenry where the Star Spangled Banner was written, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, old war ships like the U.S. Constellation, railroad and trolley museums and the Thunder Mountain train ride. Whether the day is perfect, rainy, cold or oppressively hot, indoor public activities provide a controlled, temperature-regulated environment where your toddler can learn, play and, most importantly, expend energy.
1. Public Libraries
Maryland’s counties and Baltimore city operate public library systems that provide free activities for children. Your toddler can read, learn and have fun while you meet other parents and compare horror stories and proud moments. Programs like those offered by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City’s library system, are designed to engage toddlers in reading without requiring them to be perfectly still. Pratt offers Mother Goose Baby Steps, Toddler Jumps and Preschool Leaps. Find links for Maryland’s public library systems on the SAILOR website (directory.sailor.lib.md.us/pub_use/county_map.cfm) and find the library nearest to your home.
2. Crystal Grottoes Caverns
Take your older toddler to see the spooky and fantastic calcium carbonate formations at the Crystal Grottoes Caverns (crystalgrottoescaverns.com/index.php). The Crystal Grottoes Caverns, located in Boonsboro, Maryland, offers guided tours through the caves where the temperature is always 54 degrees Fahrenheit. The strange shapes and darkened caves might frighten a young toddler, and even you might have nightmares, but the caverns might be a great adventure for the older toddler who is fearless and curious. He won’t care that some of the formations are called stalactites and stalagmites or that they took thousands of years to form, but he will be amazed at the shapes, the natural light and the fact that he is crawling around in caves and touching dirt.
3. Pump It Up
The indoor inflatable kiddy world is a must-do indoor activity for toddlers. Places like Pump It Up--where children run, crawl, slide, climb, jump, bounce and eat--are perfect venues for children to lose their minds having bouncy fun. After all, Pump It Up (pumpitupparty.com/our-programs.aspx) recommends dropping in to one of its locations, nine in Maryland, for Pop-In Playtime if “your kids feel the itch to jump around like crazy.” Parents like places like Pump It Up because they are soft and safe, and there’s food and toilets. If you prefer your toddler’s bouncing to have purpose, Pump It Up offers Pump Start Structured Play, weekly activities where toddlers can bounce, eat and work on social and physical development, and Jump-N-Art, a camp where toddlers can bounce, eat and create art.
4. Be With Me, The Children’s Playseum
The folks at Be With Me, The Children’s Playseum (playseum.com/index.html) want to engage you and your toddler in shared activities that encourage creation, imagination, play, laughter and fun. The Playseum describes itself as a used book store for children designed like a “kid-size city, with hands-on fun.” Located in Bethesda, Maryland, the Playseum has everything the discerning, socially-conscious parent needs in toddler activities. Programs focus on reading and art, and also promote eco-friendly ideals. If that’s not enough, your fees help families in other countries. Your toddler will enjoy CityShops where she can pretend to shop, make food and pet animals before heading off for the daily Story Time. Parents and children are free to read any of the many books without buying them.