I have a secret to confess. I really, really, dislike playing with trains. I also dislike playing with cars, trucks, planes, bulldozers, flatbed trucks and dump trucks. Please, don’t tell Henry. He would likely think he was assigned the wrong momma and ask for a new one.
So, as a mom who has a son who wants to do nothing but drive various vehicles around the playroom all day, you can imagine my crabbiness. In the summer this is easily solved by spending all of our free time outside. And btw, taking cars and trains to the park and shooting them down the slide is an acceptable alternative to both Henry and I. Unfortunately, we are still in the throes of another long, albeit weird, Michigan winter. Over the past few years, I have found a few “musts” for getting out of the house and away from the trains. Some cost a few bucks, and some are free!
If you haven’t been here, you are truly missing out on a Lansing gem. I’ve been going to I5 since I was a kid and it just keeps getting better. They have awesome exhibits, and the First Impression Room is the bomb. The First Impression Room is for kiddos 0-4. It is a free play environment, with all kinds of awesome activities, including a huge water table and indoor jungle gym.
They also have a huge range of special events and classes for the kiddos starting as young as one year old. AND, on certain days, the Capital Area Railway Society has their trains open in the basement. Two birds, one stone!
Cost is $5 per person, or you can get an annual membership for $75. AND, if you are thrifty like me, you can get your annual membership each year at the Impression 5 birthday party. They charge however many years they are old. Last year I snagged our annual membership for something like $38 bucks!
Play is a eco-friendly, indoor play space full of activities for infants, toddlers, & children up to six years old. Basically, it is a huge playroom with all the awesome toys you always see at the specialty toy stores. They also have these awesome huge foam type blocks that the kids can build all kinds of interesting things with. The whole place is super cool AND they have free coffee and a cozy seating area for parents who want to take a load off for a few minutes. And back to my two birds dilemma, they have a train table.
Cost is $8 per kid, but you can also get a punch card for 10 visits for $60.
Jumpin Jax is a huge warehouse full of bouncy houses. It is a kid’s dream. They can run, bounce, and act like maniacs with no one telling them not too. If you are trying to induce an afternoon nap, this is the place to go.
One word of caution. Big kids will trample little kids. It will not be their fault and there is nothing you can do to stop it. If you are concerned about this, this is not the place for you. Unless you go during the week when the big kids are in school. Then the little ones will just get trampled by kids their own size.
Cost $8 per kid. Again, they have punch cards that make it cheaper. I think the last one we got ended up being 10 visits for $50.
Tot Time via Lansing Parks and Rec
Tot Time is essentially an open gym time for kids 5 and under. The community center opens the gym, gets out all the bikes, balls, scooters and games, and then lets the kids run. They hold it various times throughout the week at Lett’s, Foster, Gier and Southside Community Centers. Cost is $1 per kid, which in my mind is free. Even if I don’t have a buck in my wallet, I can likely find $1 in change in my car. Or Henry’s piggy bank. 😉
This is our favorite way to spend time outdoors when the winter weather is warm, but the ground is wet or muddy. They have lots of paved trails for walking through the woods. You can also go into the Nature Center and poke around the different exhibits and read a few books.
I do recommend becoming a member of Fenner if you find yourself using the facility on a regular basis. Cost is only $30 for a family, and in addition to supporting the center, you get discounts on programs and gift shop purchases.
Potter Park is free during the winter months. Again, this is a great way to enjoy a warm spell, but stay out of the muddy playgrounds. Most of the animals are still on display in the winter, and you can warm up in the reptile house and big cat house during the walk.
For the summer months, I highly recommend a membership. It is only $60. That gets you free admission, discounts at the store and concessions and discounts on birthday parties.
So, there you are. Six great, affordable ways to get out of playing trains all day!