Thursday, August 12, 2010

Exploring The World Around You

In the early days, taking twins out on your own can seem
overwhelming. But I promise, it does get easier!
For me, one of the hardest things to adapt to after having our children, was getting comfortable getting out and about with the two of them. In large part, this has to do with my issues about being prepared for every scenario when not within the safety zone of my own house (you may have read about this neurosis of mine in my earlier post On The Road Again...). Additionally, as they got more mobile, the logistics became more complex as our son would move in one direction and our daughter another; they never seemed to want to do the same thing at the same time! The last part of this puzzle was that I could only stand going to the same old park so many times before I wanted to throw myself under a bus. 

Thus, out of necessity, I developed a game plan that made all of this easier for me. I thought that today I would share with you my lists of places to go that are fairly easy with twins (of different ages), some websites that have excellent advice and suggestions on where to go and what to do around LA (and the surrounding areas), and a few tips on making the whole process easier. I rated each place based on how simple it is to handle twins on your own (in my opinion).

Parks, playgrounds and other fun places:
  • West Hollywood Park. Gated, shaded and there's a new parking lot being built so it will soon also be easy to park at! The play area for the larger kids is completely separated from the little kids' gated area. One Parent Rating: Very easy when you have little ones up to, maybe, age 3. After that, they may want to be in the larger play area and some of the climbing structures are quite high.
  • California Science Center. Newly renovated and chock full of amazing things for the kids to see, touch and explore. Free (donation requested) except for $8 parking. When your kids are very young, head up to the Discovery Rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors as well as the new one in the renovated wing. These rooms are for children up to age 8, but are generally only filled with kids 5 and younger. Within the Discovery Rooms are smaller, fenced off areas that are for children 2 and under with lots of great plush toys, books, puzzles etc. One Parent Rating: Very Easy. My kids adore the science center and generally go once week, sometimes more. As they've gotten older they now go all over the museum and it's pretty easy to handle the two of them on their own. The Science Center tends to get quite crowded on weekends and in the mornings when school trips are at their peak, after 1:30pm during the week is the easiest time to visit if you've got the kids on your own. 
  • The Zimmer Museum. I've been taking my kids to The Zimmer since well before they could walk. This little "town" setting is a perfect place to keep track of two kids on your own. There's a padded room that's always a hit and only for the under-two set; my kids love everything there: the restaurant, the life-sized ambulance, the jet plane cock pit, the dress up theater etc. etc. Additionally, they offer story time, arts and crafts and cooking classes at no extra charge (non-members pay a nominal fee for cooking). Bonus: open on Sunday afternoons! One Parent Rating: Easy - just because it can occasionally get a bit crowded and that always stresses me out when I'm own with the kids. 
  • Beverly Hills Music Together. There are lots of music classes in this town; but in my opinion, no one does a better job than Siree Franks. She has a sweet, little space just off La Cienega and Wilshire and handles the Music Together program in such a creative, joyful and interactive way. Plus, she has a beautiful voice and really loves children. My kids LOVED this class from 7 months old until they went off to preschool at 2 1/2. There's a discount for your second child. One Parent Rating: Very Easy. Even if you have one kid who throws a tantrum and you need to leave the space, you just step to the other side of a small child gate and can calm your cranky baby while watching the other have a blast.
  • Under The Sea. This indoor playground can get very crowded on a rainy day or a school holiday (and I once, stupidly, went on rainy holiday and thought I would die), but in general it's a great place to go on your own. When your kids are very young they have a small area for babies, but it's best when your kids are walking. There's lots to climb on, slide on, ride on and best of all, a big bouncy house. The play area is all enclosed and you can see everything so there's no chance of losing sight of your kids. You can bring lunch (or dinner) and stay for as long as you want. The location in Culver City is nicer than the one by The Beverly Center: bigger, more toys, bathrooms are closer and easier to access. The one by The Beverly Center has a diaper changing station inside the play area as opposed to the other which has it in the bathrooms that you have to leave the play area to get to. One Parent Rating: Very Easy. 
  • Naya's Garden. If you're on the East side you'll appreciate this small, indoor play space in Los Feliz. They have a bouncy house, a great ball pit, lots of toys and picnic tables to have lunch or snack at. The last time I was there they had begun to bring in performers to do things like free music classes which was a great addition. One Parent Rating: Very Easy. 
  • KidSpace Museum. It took me a long to time to try this place out since it's "all the way" in Pasadena but I wish I had done it sooner. This place is GREAT for kids and quite easy when you are on your own. They have a room just for little ones that is completely enclosed and you can't lose sight of anyone. In there they have soft climbing blocks, a small sliding structure, books, puzzles, small toys etc. Throughout the day they do story time and art in that room as well. For slightly older kids there is fantastic water play during warm weather (bring their swim suits and water shoes), a construction zone, great indoor climbing structures, an archeological dig with dinosaur bones, a "gross" insect diner and more! They also have free music classes and arts and crafts at different times. Bonus: There are two playgrounds outside of KidSpace if you arrive before it opens or just need something else to do and, best of all, KidSpace is open on the weekends! Always check their website as they are closed when there are games/events at the Rose Bowl (I learned that the hard way)! One Parent Rating: Easy. I found it very easy when the kids were really young and only wanted to be in the baby room. As they got older, it was still quite simple to navigate on my own with the two but until they were old enough to listen to me when I said we had to stay together I didn't feel can get crowded and it would be hard to keep your eye on one running off while the other wants to stay put.
  • The Huntington Gardens Children's Garden. These beautiful gardens are in San Marino (right near Pasadena) and it can get quite hot in the Summer but when the weather is right and the kids are old enough to walk and listen to you a bit about not taking off in two opposite directions, this was one of my favorite places to take the two of them when I was alone. I always bring our stroller (even now that they're too old to want it normally) because the gardens are very spread out and you don't want to have cranky children who don't want to walk when it's time to go! The Children's Garden is tucked off to the side and it is so charming. Bring their swim clothes/water shoes or at least a change of clothes because there are some really sweet water fountains they will love to play with. There is a delightful little "fairy house" covered in vines with floral window boxes and a table and chairs inside, a moss covered hill with a tunnel under it to crawl through and stairs on top to climb over, a greenhouse with temperate zones and more. The hours there can be a bit of a pain with nap schedules but we would always try to bring lunch or eat at their cafe to make the shlep worth while. As the kids got older we have now explored the rest of the gardens and they have a great time even though there isn't anything "to do" there. I love getting them out into nature so I'm glad they still have fun here. One Parent Rating: Not Bad (easier as they get older).
These are just some of my favorites for when I was on my own. When I had another pair of hands I would go anywhere: down to Long Beach to The Aquarium, Venice Beach to make giant sandcastles, any park etc. Now that the kids are old enough to really be interested in things for more than 3 minutes and are able to listen (most of the time) about staying together, I do a lot of things with them on my own. I still prefer having another adult with me because, let's face it, it just makes it easier; plus, it allows me to have a few minutes here and there of alone time with each child, and you know how I like that! 

Here are some ideas of places we love going with our twins as well as some websites that constantly update you on what's going on in here in L.A. (many of these sites have local versions too, so if you're not in L.A. don't lose heart)! Be sure to find out about memberships and "frequent visitor" discounts. Sometimes you are charged for every adult and every child so buying a membership will actually save you money if you go more than once a year to some of these places.
  1. Noah's Ark at The Skirball Cultural Center
  2. Go City Kids
  3. L.A. With Kids
  4. Red Tricycle (There are locations all around the U.S. if you don't happen to be in Los Angeles)
  5. The Coop Studio City, CA
  6. Pretend City Irvine, CA
  7. The Culture Vulture
  8. Theatricum Botanicum Family Fun Days Topanga, CA
  9. The Santa Barbara Zoo
  10. Baby's Day Out in Southern California: Fun Places to Go With Babies and Toddlers, Book
  11. Electric Lodge Theater Venice, CA (presents some wonderful plays and musicals for children ages 3 and up)
  12. Underwood Family Farms Moorpark, CA
  13. Aiden's Place Westwood, CA
  14. Joslyn Park Santa Monica, CA (fully gated)
  15. There's a great list of activities on Fat Envelope Publishing.
  16. A friend of mine put together an amazing list of just about every activity there is to do in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas (thank you Andrea Weiss). The list includes some of what I have already written about, but it is so extensive it is worth checking out. Click here for the full list. 
I know how hard it may seem to get out with two, tiny babies and their massive amount of gear; I hope you see this post as a gentle nudge to make the effort. As much as I dislike traveling (by air) with our kids, I do love getting them out and about. Besides keeping me from getting bored, I think it has given our kids a love of trying new things, an ability to meet and make friends with anyone, and a curiosity about the world around them; none of which is a bad thing! 

Get out and explore the world....there is so much to discover! Let me know if there's anywhere special you love taking your kids, I'm always looking for something new to do!

Update: I recently wrote an article for on overcoming my fear of going out with the twins on my own. If you'd like to read it, click here.
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2 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Samantha said...

Thanks for this great list! Our favorite place to go is The Gentle Barn
The kids get to hug cows, feed carrots to horses, and pet pigs, goats, lamas, even a peacock just to name a few! All of the animals are rescued and it is just beautiful there! They also have nice picnic benches for lunch.

The Twin Coach said...

I've been dying to go there actually! Thank you so much for letting me know it's worth the drive!

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