4 Local Activities for Your Little Ones Who Are Not Yet in School

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With school starting this month, my child’s status as a stay-at-home child will come to an end. She will be starting preschool for the first time. Up until now, I have had the good fortune of being able to work from home during her early years, and have found some really fun stuff to do around Columbia. If you’re like me and need ways to mix up your child’s routine, here are some of the best local activities for littles that we have tried over the past few years.

1. Storytime at the Library

Outdoor storytime at Lexington Main Library
Outdoor story time at Lexington Main Library

We have some really awesome libraries in the Midlands. Both Richland County and Lexington County offer storytimes most days of the week. With so many time slots offered, you’re bound to be able to find one that works with your child’s nap time (or your Zoom meetings). Your child will hear stories, learn new songs, and be entertained by puppets and other props. Storytime is also a great way to get your child to practice sitting still and being quiet.

Storytime usually lasts about 30 minutes and includes several opportunities for your little to get up and wiggle. There are also different sessions for babies, toddlers, and older kids at some of the branches. While you’re there, you can check out the other programs the library offers. These are great free or low-cost ways to add a little adventure to your child’s life!

2. Gladys’ Gang at Columbia Museum of Art

Making a tree picture with Gladys' GangGladys’s Gang is a free program at the Columbia Museum of Art for kids between two and five years old. The sessions last about an hour and are offered twice a month. The participants meet in a room on the museum’s bottom floor and the subject of the month is introduced. The organizer then reads some stories about the subject and shows the children some examples of how it is portrayed in art.

The best part of the session occurs when you get to take your child through the museum to look for examples of the subject in the works of art. It’s basically a free trip to the museum for you!

The session concludes with an art project the kids can take home (another perk – creativity for your child that doesn’t make a mess in your house!). One of the sessions we went to was about trees. We read stories about trees, looked for them in the gallery, and made a tissue paper picture at the end. It really is a fun program for both the kids and the parents.

3. Little Learners at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Learning about turtle shellsLittle Learners is a program presented by Riverbanks Zoo & Garden geared toward three to five-year-old children. The programs take place in a classroom and focus on an animal or other subject. The facilitators introduce the subject to the group and will show pictures or videos to the kids. Different stations are set up in the classroom to teach the kids about the subject. These stations include matching games, puzzles, sensory exercises, arts and crafts, and other activities.

At the end of the session, the kids meet as a group again and read stories or play games to learn more about the subject. The sessions we have been to have focused on turtles, llamas, goats, and big cats. My daughter really enjoyed going to these, and it served as another great way for her to practice her listening skills. Check the website for pricing and scheduling information.

4. Tempo Music Class

Drumming at Tempo Music

Tempo Music and Arts offers music play classes for newborn to four-year-old children. The classes are taught outside (weather permitting) and are a lot of fun for parents and children. You can sign up for the classes individually or commit to a whole season.

In these classes, you and your child will sing, dance, and play with various instruments and props. If your child is like mine, he or she might stay silent in class only to get home and sing the songs of the day. You’ll also learn some fun ways to incorporate music into your play at home. Check the website for pricing and class offerings.

We have so many great things for kids to do in the Midlands! In addition to the events I mentioned about, Edventure, local playgrounds and parks, and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden are also great places to explore and practice social skills. As much as I am looking forward to my daughter’s first day of preschool, I know we’ll both miss our fun little weekday adventures. 

What activities would you add to this list? 

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Allison Linden is an Alabama native who moved to the Midlands in 2011 with her now husband, Darin. After marrying in 2015, Allison and Darin moved to Red Bank with their two dogs. In 2019, they welcomed a baby girl, Vivian. Allison has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and obtained her MBA in May 2019, while almost 8 months pregnant with Vivian. She has worked for a retail energy company since 2013 and began working from home during the pandemic. Her husband became a house spouse after the birth of Vivian to allow Allison to pursue her career goals. Balancing working at home and being a pandemic mom has been somewhat of a challenge for Allison, but she has thoroughly enjoyed watching her daughter grow up. Allison enjoys taking her daughter to Edventure, Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens (the garden is way cooler than people give it credit for), local parks, gymnastics, and dance class. When she is not working or momming, Allison enjoys exercising, binging true crime shows on Discovery+, and occasionally having dinner and drinks with friends. Likes: Vacations, concerts, stand-up comedy, nice restaurants, bacon, juicy gossip. Hates: Yard work, driving, pants without an elastic waistband (hard pants), running.

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