Now that the summer is officially in full swing, (notoriously marked in Pensacola by the weather suddenly sentencing us to thunderstorms for the foreseeable future) you have my permission to shelve last week's post on Water Play for sunnier days ahead and delve into this week's post--Free Indoor Activities. Next week, we'll tackle all the Low-Cost Activities there are to enjoy in the Pensacola area.
When I encountered my first unstructured summer at home with my kiddos four years ago (also freshly postpartum with newbie number four) my mother gave me some very wise advice about adding structure to the summer (she's pretty much the funnest mom ever having been in public education for 30 years). Summers with her were a blast, and now I know why! Her secret:
Some of the activities I have listed happen on specific days each week, so you can always plan the structure of your week around when each activity is happening. I have listed them in alphabetical order, so as to not reveal my own favorites.
Churches: Around this time, several area publications including Greater Pensacola Parents Magazine and the Pensacola News Journal will publish special directories with a list of churches hosting Vacation Bible Schools. Some churches, like St. Mark United Methodist, run several summer programs like Family Fun Evenings, playgroups, and free art camps.
Imagination Station: This little gem is located at the front of the Maritime Park/Blue Wahoos Stadium on Main Street. Hosted by WSRE, our local PBS station, the Imagination Station is full of hands-on toys and activities inspired by favorite kids PBS characters and shows--which translates to unlimited free play geared towards kiddos aged infant-5, and a great (air conditioned!) place to meet and hang out with other moms. Hours are limited--they are open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00am-12:00pm, but always double check their Facebook page before heading over there to make sure they are open.
La Leche League: The Pensacola La Leche League group has been a steadfast pillar on the calendar of events for new moms for years. All La Leche League meetings are laid-back support groups for new moms and moms of toddlers, specifically addressing breastfeeding questions and concerns. A La Leche League meeting could be the perfect first postpartum outing by yourself with baby! If you have an older child/toddler, they are welcome as well, just make sure to bring a quiet toy or snack to keep them occupied. La Leche League Pensacola meetings happen on the 1st Thursday of each month at 10:00am at the Community Educational Center at Ever'man Cooperative Grocery. They also provide an informal Breastfeeding Cafe on the 4th Thursday of each month in Pace, as well as another chapter meeting in Gulf Breeze/Navarre.
Libraries: Our weekly trips to the library were a hallmark of my childhood summers, and I have continued the tradition--Thursdays are our customary library days! Even with very small children (who make noise!) library visits are still doable. Usually there is a designated children's section with not only books, but also activities, puzzles, and reading areas, and story days where even the littlest children are welcome. Both the Molino and Tryon Branches have fantastic outdoor playgrounds if you visit early or later in the day. This summer, each library is not only hosting their summer reading program, but also fun activities throughout the week for kids, like Lego Night, where they will have building competitions. See all Escambia County Library Branches here and all Santa Rosa County Library Branches here.
Movie Theaters: A few of the Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, and Pace area host free matinee movie showings throughout the summer. Upside: this is a great (free!) way to spend a couple of air conditioned hours out of the house with little ones. Downside: these showings fill up fast, lines into them are usually long, and showings may be loud because of all the kiddos attending. Some daycares/daycamps will bring busloads of kids to these showings, so get there early. Also, the movies being shown are usually movies that are already out on DVD or streaming on Netflix, so may not be new material--but what two year old cares how many times they see Finding Dory? And it makes it that much easier to leave an hour into the showing if your two year old decides he has seen it too many times.
Naval Air Museum: My kids literally beg to go to this place, and I can see why. Especially for little kids interested in planes and control panels (what kid isn't into control panels??) it's a veritable gold mine of entertainment. Not only do they have an indoor playground, but many of the airplanes and equipment can be climbed in and on (make sure to watch out for signs that indicate whether or not something can be played on). If nothing else, it's a great place to stroll around in the air conditioning for a couple of hours. The other great thing about this place is that the displays change every so often, so even if you go once, there's usually something new the next time you go. When we go, we pack a lunch to eat at the Perdido Kids Park on the way over and usually end up spending two or three hours looking at everything. Visit their website for hours and more details.
Pensacola Mom-Baby Circle: I know, I know, I said I wouldn't reveal my favorites, but I can't help this one since Belly to Cradle is the host of this awesome mommy-group. We meet the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th Thursdays of every month at Old Thyme Remedies from 10:00-11:30 am. This is a no-pressure, drop-in play group for moms of babies and toddler to age 3. We are taking our summer sabbatical during the month of June (except for June 1, when we will be having a very special music-themed circle!) so plan to visit us in July or August. Like our Facebook page for more updates!
Story Sprouts: This class, for kids ages 3-5, meets every Tuesday at 10:00am at the Ever'man Community Educational Center. Kids participate in organic, creative, environmentally-friendly activities like arts & crafts, storytime, and snack! While the class if free, space is limited, so you do have to reserve your spot. Visit the Ever'man website for more information and to reserve a space for your child!
Visit us next week for our post on Low-Cost area activities!!
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