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6 Best Outings to Keep Toddlers Busy in Columbus, Ohio

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When your baby becomes a toddler life becomes busy! Toddlers are full of energy and lots of fun! It’s also a lot of work keeping them entertained! Luckily for us, there are a ton of fun and affordable things to do with a toddler in Columbus!

indoor play area, columbus ohio

6 Fun Things to do with Toddlers in Columbus, Ohio:

1. Play Cafes for Toddlers in Columbus

Play Cafes are all the rage with the 5 and under crowd! Seriously, though, they’re a safe place to play and moms and dads can grab a coffee or a snack while their kids play. Firefly Play Cafe has been a favorite of ours for the wide variety of things to do for kids and a good seating area for adults.

things to do with toddlers in columbus, boy playing at Hoot Studio

Friends rave about Tree of Life Play Cafe and they have during toddler time with Get Air right next door! You may also want to check out HOOT Studio for the simple fact that for a slight upcharge, they will watch your kid for you while you get work done or have a coffee date in the adjoining cafe! Awesome!

If you’re looking for the best deal in town, I highly recommend a COSI membership! Yes, even for a toddler! The little kidspace inside COSI contains water play, an art studio, and a huge area for kids to engage in imaginative play: including a large play house, vegetable stand, doctor’s office, fire truck and so much more!

things to do with toddlers, play area at fun in the jungle

Looking for a free option? Don’t worry, there are tons of places for your toddlers to play inside for free in Columbus! From mall play areas to rec centers, check out Over 20 Free Indoor Play Areas in Columbus for more ideas!

Some of the indoor play areas for older kids (think Magic Mountain, Fun in the Jungle, etc.) also have smaller, separate areas for toddlers to play! You can see more ideas in 6 Free or Cheap Indoor Places for Kids to Run Wild in Columbus.

2. Story Times for Toddlers in Columbus

Story times are great things to do with toddlers in Columbus! Libraries were the first place I started taking my son when he was just a baby. We were big fans of the baby lap time at Grandview Library and the play area there is perfect for toddlers!

Baby lap times happen at almost of all of the libraries in town and can be a great way to get out of the house with a little one!

things to do with toddlers in Columbus, ohio, two boys at Ohio Wildlife Center

Beyond libraries, many local bookstores have regular story times, and story times are even popping up at Columbus restaurants like Duck Donuts and Chick-fil-A on Sawmill!

The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks is another great resource for story times for toddlers! We love the story time at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center (at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park) because afterwards you can play in their free indoor play area or go outside to play in the sandbox!

3. Music and Sensory Times for Toddlers in Columbus

Toddlers love music! There are several ways to introduce your toddler to music in Columbus! We Joy Sing does drop in classes at Coffee Connections of Hilliard, taking advantage of their great indoor play area for kids! Coffee Connections is definitely one of the most kid-friendly coffee shops in Columbus!

Miss Marlene Dance and Sing is a special song and dance time for toddlers that takes place at Abbey Theatre in Dublin! There’s usually a special visitor! When we were there, we were joined by Clifford the Big Red Dog!

things to do with toddlers, dublin ohio recreation center

The PBJ & Jazz concerts are kid-friendly ways to introduce your kids to music and toddlers are free to get up and dance around! During the winter, the concerts take place in the Lincoln Theater Complex and include a PB&J sandwich, juice and a cookie for $5/person. During the summer, the concerts are free and they happen in Topiary Park outside the Main Library and include a craft and story time!

4. Open Gyms for Toddlers in Columbus

What do toddlers really want? They want to run around in circles forever, really. Sometimes that’s all a kid needs! And if it turns into an extra long nap afterwards, than that’s a bonus!

A great way for toddlers in Columbus to get out all of that excess energy is at open gyms! 

What is an open gym? It’s exactly as it sounds. The gym is open and toddlers can run around and play until they fall over! Check out the Westerville Rec Center for their Pee Wee Play Gym, Dublin Community Recreation Center for their Preschool Open Gym and Prairie Township Rec Center and your local Columbus Recreation Center for specific open gym times!

We’ve attended a few of these and they usually include balls, ride on toys and other free play activities for toddlers!

5. Animal Adventures for Toddlers in Columbus

Animals seem to be another love that toddlers all have in common! We’ve found some really great ways to get up close to animals without having to bring one home and take it out to pee in the middle of the night! 😉

One place we’ve gone again and again is Aquarium Adventure! We loved the Sawmill location and recently visited the new location in Hilliard and it’s just as great! There is always something new to see and there is also a small pond area where kids can reach in and touch!

things to do with toddlers at Aquarium Adventure

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers a really fun activity for toddlers in Columbus called Little Explorers Base Camp. This takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year and features sensory activities set up at different stations. Kids can learn all about animals through hands on activities! My kids have LOVED this, even up to age 7!

two kids at little explorers base camp, columbus, zoo

Ohio Wildlife Center and Stratford Ecological Center are two great destinations for toddlers! Both locations offer regular story times and the option to explore the grounds, visiting the animals on site!  

Don’t discount a trip to the local pet store for a fun outing as well! My kids still love visiting the nearest pet store to view fish, gerbils, snakes, birds and to pet the cats and see dogs getting groomed!

More info:

6. Parks and Playgrounds for Toddlers in Columbus, Ohio

Last but certainly not least, how could we forget parks and playgrounds? From the time they can walk, toddlers need large areas to run and explore and nothing beats a great park for getting out all of that excess energy! 

However, as a parent, you soon find that not all parks are equal. Just because a toddler can walk does not mean they navigate most play structures!

playground for toddlers in columbus, ohio

Our favorite park when my kids were toddlers was one in our former neighborhood. It definitely helped that we lived two blocks from Funk-ee Town in Harrison West Park, but it is an exceptionally great area for little kids! 

I put together this list of 6 Columbus Area Parks for Toddlers to share parks that have particularly toddler-friendly play areas! No more heart attacks for mama when you find your 1 year old suddenly standing over a 10 foot drop of or about to go down an incredibly high twisty slide! 


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More Fun Things to do with Toddlers in Columbus, Ohio

Need more ideas to keep your toddler or preschooler busy in Columbus? Check out one of theses links for more!
2 Great Metro Park Nature Centers for Columbus Kids

2 Great Metro Park Nature Centers for Columbus Kids

Metro Park Nature Centers are great places for toddlers! Here are two of our favorites!

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2 MORE Great Metro Park Nature Centers for Columbus Kids

2 MORE Great Metro Park Nature Centers for Columbus Kids

Metro Park Nature Centers are great places for toddlers! Here are two more of our favorites!

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Two Fun Libraries for Columbus Kids

Two Fun Libraries for Columbus Kids

These libraries have great play areas for kids in Columbus, Ohio!

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Two MORE Fun Libraries for Columbus Kids

Two MORE Fun Libraries for Columbus Kids

Here are two more libraries with great play areas for kids in Columbus, Ohio!

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North, South, East and West: Great Libraries for Reading AND Playing!  Part 1

North, South, East and West: Great Libraries for Reading AND Playing! Part 1

Great libraries for kids in the Columbus Metropolitan Library system!

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North, South, East and West: Great Libraries for Reading AND Playing!  Part 2

North, South, East and West: Great Libraries for Reading AND Playing! Part 2

Great libraries for kids in the Columbus Metropolitan Library system!

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Five Go-To Places You Need to Know About if You're a New (or New-to-Columbus) Parent

Five Go-To Places You Need to Know About if You're a New (or New-to-Columbus) Parent

Are you a new parent or new to Columbus? Read this first!

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playground, 6 best outings for toddlers in columbus, ohio


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Story Times For Kids in Columbus Ohio

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These story times in Columbus, Ohio will keep your kids entertained with stories, crafts, treats and other fun activities! 

There are so many fun story times for kids around Columbus! I especially love the addition of story times at restaurants! Books + Food = a perfect combination! But whether or not you want a snack, a walk on the farm or a themed craft, there’s something on this list for everyone! Make sure to double check with each location’s calendar to make sure the story time is still on!

Story Times for Kids in Columbus Ohio:

LL Bean

  • 4222 Easton Loop W., Columbus, OH 43219

Tent Tales for Tykes – Storytime at L.L.Bean takes place on Tuesdays at 10:30. Each week features a different nature or outdoor theme, and related activities, games or crafts. Recommended for children ages 3-6. Register online.

Duck Donuts (Dublin)

  • 7717 Sawmill Rd., Dublin, OH 43016

Takes place every other Monday morning from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM. Includes story, coloring and a demonstration of how donuts are made! Recommended for ages 3-6. Double check their Facebook page for updates.

Chick fil A on Sawmill

woman reading a story at chick fil a on sawmill

  • 6051 Sawmill Rd., Dublin, OH 43017

Takes place on the First and Third Mondays of the month at 10:00 AM. The theme varies each time! (Plus CFA Sawmill serves breakfast until 11:00 AM!) Double check their Facebook page for updates.

Cheryl’s Cookies

  • 646 McCorkle Blvd, Westerville, OH 43082

Story time takes place every Wednesday from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM. Story time includes reading 2 stories, a craft and a snack size cookie for all participants. (Take advantage of their daily value on Wednesdays: 5 cookies for $5). Call 614-901-0046 with questions.

Stratford Ecological Center

Stratford Ecological Center

  • 3083 Liberty Rd., Delaware, OH 43015

Story Time takes place the second Tuesday of the month from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM and is $5/family. The theme is seasonal based on what is going on on the farm at the time! Double check their events page for updates.

Ohio Wildlife Center

story time at Ohio Wildlife Center

  • 6131 Cook Rd. Powell, OH 43065

 Wild Story Time takes place on the first Wednesday of each month and includes stories, a craft, a tour of the grounds and a visit from an animal resident! Double check their events page for updates.

Grange Insurance Audubon Center

Story time at Scioto Audubon Columbus, Ohio

  • 505 W. Whittier St. Columbus, OH 43215

Takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:00 AM and features nature themed stories. Inside the Center is also an indoor play area for young kids! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

Lifeway

  • Multiple Locations

Story Time at Lifeway takes place at 10:00 AM on Saturdays with several stories! Kids of all ages are welcome. Click the link for store locations.

Franklin Park Conservatory

story time at Franklin Park Conservatory Columbus Ohio

  • 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203

Nature Storytime takes place on Thursdays at 10:30 AM. This is appropriate for kids ages 3-5 and features stories that celebrate gardens, plants and nature. During the spring and summer, the story time takes place in the Children’s Garden. Storytime is included with admission or membership. Check their calendar to stay current on the location.

Cover to Cover Bookstore 

  • 2116 Arlington Ave., Columbus, OH 43221

Story times take place on Saturdays at 10:30 AM and Sundays (including kids yoga) at 9:00 AM. Double check the calendar for times and stories. There are also frequent author visits and other events!

Barnes and Noble

  • Multiple locations

Most Barnes and Noble locations have story times on at 11:00 AM on Saturdays. Each week there is a new book and theme. More info.

Dublin Toy Emporium

  • 28 N. High St., Dublin, OH 43017

Story times take place monthly along with other kid-friendly classes. Check the website for events

Prairie Township Fire Department

Reading with a Fire Fighter Columbus Ohio

  • 123 Inah Ave., Columbus, OH 43228

Reading with a Firefighter takes place weekly in July and August and includes stories read by Firefighters, snacks and climbing on the fire trucks afterward! Double check their Facebook page for exact dates.

Fundamentals

Fundamentals Toys and Books, Delaware, Ohio

  • 25 W. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015

Takes place once a month! Story time includes picture books, and a craft or music activity around a common theme. Story Time will last for 30 minutes, and is appropriate for children 2+. Double check their Facebook page for dates. 

Pottery Barn Kids at Polaris Fashion Place

Pottery Barn Kids Play area, Columbus, Ohio

  • 1500 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH 43240

Takes place every Tuesday at 11:00 AM and includes stories, activities and more. Check the website for more info.

lilylimes

indoor play area at the shops at worthington place

Locations with Occasional Story Times for Kids in Columbus:

Cub Shrub

  • 1257 Grandview Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43212

Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Prologue Bookshop

  • 841 N High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215 

Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Gramercy Books

gramercy books bexley, ohio

  • 2424 E. Main Street, Bexley, OH 43209

Check the events on their website for current information.

IKEA

  • 1900 Ikea Way, Columbus, OH 43240

Check in on the restaurant level for information on story times for kids!

Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

So many of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks offer story times or special programs for kids of all ages. Start by searching their Event Listing by choosing “All Parks” and Preschool as an age group!

Library Story Times in Columbus:

Of course there are tons of story times happening at our local libraries! Too many to list! But here are the websites for each of the local libraries where you can check for their most recent and updated story times!

Columbus Metropolitan Library

Southwest Public Libraries

Bexley Public Library

Worthington Libraries

Westerville Public Library

Delaware County District Library

Grandview Heights Public Library

Upper Arlington Public Library

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*Please be aware,  information is gathered from multiple community sources.  Times, dates and locations are subject to change. There may be a fee to participate in a featured activity.  Please call ahead or check links to confirm activities.  Enjoy what you do today!*

20 free indoor play areas in columbus ohio

ICYMI: Over 20 Free Indoor Play Areas in Columbus


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Columbus Zoo: Little Explorers Base Camp

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Last week we were meeting a friend at the Zoo and she texted me saying, “We’re at Little Explorers by the pond.” I texted back, “What is that?” And before I got a reply, we stumbled right into this fun set up by the lake, right near the entrance! I have Little Explorers Base Camp on my Tuesday page as an idea of something to do, but we had never experienced it ourselves! There are only a few weeks left in the season, but I got a lot of questions about it on social media, so I thought I’d put together a post with the details.

Exploring pond life!

Little Explorers Base Camp is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 AM until 12:00 PM throughout the school year. Each theme runs for two weeks and is held at a different location at the Zoo. Last week the theme was Around the Pond and all of the activities featured something related to pond life.

Fishing!

No registration is required for this activity – you just show up, play for as long as you like and move on when you’re ready. The stations were set up around the area and were really easy to navigate.

Learning about nests and birds!

Feeding worms to baby birds!

There were several staff members there who were really good with the kids, asking them questions about what colors they saw, what things felt like, etc. My kids were really engaged! If we didn’t prod them on to see the polar bears, they probably would have stayed forever!

Building a beaver dam!

You still have the opportunity to do this activity during the rest of May! The theme will be Pollinators and will take place at My House (the house you can walk through in the North American exhibit before you get to the petting zoo!) Little Explorer’s Base Camp will take place on these dates: May 16, 18, 23, and 25 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

And just in case you haven’t heard, there are baby polar bears at the Zoo! Aurora has twins and Anana has one cub. Their names were just announced over the weekend! Anana’s cub is Amelia Gray, chosen by public vote, and Aurora’s twins are Nuniq and Neva, chosen by The Zoo and The Wilds staff.

When we visited last week the twins were nursing, so of course that meant they went right down for a nap and we only saw a head pop up once or twice! These pictures are from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to include them just for the cuteness factor! The twins and the cub alternate days of being out and can be out and about as long as they desire! The schedule is not as tight as it was for baby Nora so you have a good chance of seeing them without as long of a line! 🙂

Edited 1/4/2018:

Upcoming Dates for 2018:

Rockin’ Reptiles:  March 6, 8, 13, 15 at Reptile House
Tons O’ Fun:  March 20, 22, 27, 29 at Pachyderm Building
Barnyard Bonanza: April 3, 5, 10, 12 at My Barn
Celebrate the Sea: April 17, 19, 24, 26 at Manatee Coast
Outback Adventures: May 1, 3, 8, 10 at Australia Roadhouse
Backyard Explorers: May 15, 17, 22, 24 at North American Aviary

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ICYMI: 12 Parks to Try This Summer


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