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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about the Boogie Babes at Union Market.

This extra cold winter has made for some desperate times in many toddler households. It’s too cold to go to the park, you’ve been to the library and museums umpteen times, and you’ve walked all the corridors of the area malls. We recently visited the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex and ran, bounced, and slid to our hearts’ content. On our visit, we only sampled the gymnastics center, though there is also a pool with waterslides and other children’s activities (in addition to scores of adult activities).

The gymnastics center was enchanting even for the adults. The floor was padded, and large areas were all trampoline. There were trapezes, rings, balance beams, and rope swings that all dropped into a large foam pit. Other areas had gymnastics competition equipment, rope climbing nets, and a foam block obstacle course. After the hour-long open play time, we had lunch at the cafe in the complex.

What: Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex – gymnastics open playtime
Where: 8001 Sheriff Road Landover, Maryland 20785
When: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11:30-12:30; Fridays 4:30-5:30; Saturdays 1:30-2:30.
Cost: $6

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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about the Playseum.

Every Wednesday, the toddler set takes over Union Market with fun music and dancing. When we checked it out, we saw Mr. Skip, a singer and guitar player. Other regular performers include children’s artists such as Baba Ras D (also of BloomBars Harambe!), Mr. Gabe, Uno Dos Tres con Andres, and Ukelele Phil and the Hula Kids. Mr. Skip played fun songs including “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and Elvis’s “Hound Dog”. Kids in attendance ranged in age from newborn to age 4. Some kids preferred to sit with their caregivers, while those who wanted were invited to come forward to dance. Seating was provided for the adults, but it seemed to run out, and people were scattered along the perimeter. The show wrapped up just as the market vendors were opening for lunch—perfect timing for us to grab a bite and clear out before our nap time and the lunch rush.

Where: Union Market, 1309 5th St NE. Walk from NoMA-Gallaudet Metro, or park on the street.
When: Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. (visit the Boogie Babes site for information on Thursday and Friday shows at Eastern Market and the ATLAS Performing Arts Center).
Cost: $5 per child, siblings under 6 months free.
More info: here

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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about DC’s spray parks.

The Be With Me Playseum, with locations in Bethesda and Eastern Market, is a great destination for rainy days or days when the Zoo or Smithsonian Museums are not an option (hopefully this will not be the case again for a long time).

The space is set up with a series of “City Shops”—small rooms, each with a different theme.  Inside are a variety of related toys and activities.  We spent our time in the mini-sized grocery store, pet store (with real animals!), art area, and fire and construction zone.  Other areas include a mini pizzeria, kitchen (with real appliances so kids can help make a treat to take home), and a tiny doctor’s office.  The activities available included books, puzzles and games, toys, dress-up gear, and in some cases, regular adult equipment that a kid could check out up close, like a phone, typewriter, or cash register.

Staff facilitate a daily story time and are available for assisting with activities.  Some activities were available at an additional cost, such as the kiddie spa services (nail painting and lip gloss), advanced art projects like painting a birdhouse, or baking cookies or cupcakes.  There was more than enough among the basic activities to keep us busy and entertained for the duration of our visit, however.

Our only disappointment was that my daughter wanted to play with dolls.  I promised her there would be dolls…aren’t there always?  Well, no, there are not always dolls.  We didn’t find dolls in any of the activity areas, but there was enough other interesting stuff that it was ok.

I had heard among the parent network that the Playseum was dirty and unsanitary.  I didn’t find this to be the case.  To be sure, there is that little kid patina that you might find at a preschool or daycare, but not to an unpleasant level.  There is bound to be wear and tear on items that get such heavy use.  I found no problem, and will be back to visit again.

Where: Bethesda: 7000 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20815; DC: 545 8th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
When: Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 1pm-6pm.
Cost: $7 for everyone over 11 months.”

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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about Brunch at Jake’s American Grill.

If there had been such thing as a spray park—a small, neighborhood cooling play spot—when I was a kid, I would have died and gone to heaven. But parks were a dry-land affair, and pools were pools, ne’er the twain shall meet.

Luckily for today’s kids in DC, they have some great spray park options. The spray parks typically cater to kids 10 and under; ones who would otherwise be playing on the jungle gym. Depending on the facility, though, older kids might not be all that interested. On a hot day, however, even the parents and caregivers will be in the water.

If you’re looking for a way to wear out some little ones on a hot day, check out your closest spray park. We checked out quite a few in the area and summed up the pros and cons below. (more…)

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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about BloomBars Harambe!

City Kids: Brunch at Jake’s American Grill

My affinity for brunch did not decrease when I had kids. But the feasibility of waiting in a long line to have that brunch definitely did. Luckily, I heard through the grapevine recently about the weekend kids’ brunch at Jake’s American Grill.

Jake’s is welcoming families with young kids with open arms. The lower level was fully outfitted with games, crafts, and activities. The TVs were tuned to Sesame Street and other kid favorites (and staff were willing to take requests when Sponge Bob was a bit too much for our toddlers). The crowning jewel, however, was the dedicated childcare provider who was available to play games, color, or just keep an eye on them while the grownups enjoy a mimosa.

The staff of Jake’s was eager to see us and spread the word about their kids’ brunch. We arrived early due to our nap schedule, and we had the place to ourselves. Later, other families and groups arrived and the place filled up.

The brunch menu offered a number of typical offerings, as well as some snazzier egg dishes.

What: Kids’ brunch at Jake’s American Grill
Where: 5018 Connecticut Avenue, NW
When: Saturdays and Sundays 11am-3pmCity Kids: Brunch at Jake’s American Grill

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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about the Arboretum.

City Kids: BloomBars Harambe!

With squishy mat floors and a selection of musical instruments to sample, Harambe is every little kid’s dream!

To answer the first question of those not familiar with BloomBars, no, it’s not a bar. BloomBars describes itself:

BloomBars is not something you can easily describe. Some have called it an artist and non-profit incubator, performance space, art gallery, theater, dance studio, screening room, youth academy, and center for health, wellness, and community engagement-They were all correct.

On Monday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, BloomBars welcomes little ones from six months to six years to sing, dance, and explore musical instruments. Baba Ras D, a musician, educator, and activist, leads the way. He invites the kids to express themselves however they wish, whether it’s singing into the microphone, dancing on stage, or playing along from the audience or a caregiver’s lap.

We sang some of the ubiquitous favorites, including “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” classics like Bob Marley’s “One Love”, and some fun international call-and-response songs.

Little ones who are timid or sensitive to sensory overload might get maxed out easily. When mine started feeling that way, we were able to retreat to the back of the space and continue to participate and play with a little more elbow room.

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What: Harambe!
Where: BloomBars, 3222 11th Street NW
When: Mondays at 9:30 am, Thursdays at 10:00 am, Saturdays at 9:30 and 10:30 am.
Cost: $7 suggested donation.

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City Kids is written by Takoma, DC resident Caroline. Caroline previously wrote about The Building Museum and the Rock Creek Park Nature Center.

Tucked between the Anacostia River and the Maryland border is the U.S. National Arboretum. It has several hundred acres of land that may be well known for the early spring azalea display, but it has a wealth of activities year-round.

For our recent trip, we visited the Washington Youth Garden and the Outdoor Classroom. The garden was just in its earliest stage for the season, but little ones were still interested in the winding pathways.

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The Outdoor Classroom had many interesting things to explore. A cluster of wood stumps made up the “classroom”, such as it was, but were also interesting for climbing, standing on, and jumping off. Another area had enclosed garden bed boxes for “messy materials” like sand. Perhaps the highlight was the large wood and metal xylophones. Both kids and adults had fun finding the perfect stick to bang out a few notes.

Beyond these two areas, there are miles of road and trail for hiking, biking, jogging, or walking. There are wide expanses of prairie and meadow, and also manicured bonsai gardens and koi ponds. The picnic groves are big enough that you will never have someone in your way. There are self-guided and pre-recorded docent tours, in addition to a wide array of events and programs.

United States National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue, NE (alternate entrance on R Street NE)
Open 8am-5pm every day except Christmas.
Free.