Social Distancing Outdoors: Baby and Toddler-Friendly Attractions in Houston
Moms of babies and toddlers can find it difficult to think up something to do outdoors. Their little ones are often too young for many playgrounds and interactive experiences—and with social distancing, many of these are not available. What can a mom tied to a stroller do?
Stroller walks with babies and toddlers are a great low-key way to pass the time and enjoy the outdoors. Here are a few Houston outdoor attraction ideas to get you started:
- Neighborhood Walks—You probably do a lot of these already, but as your child gets older, you can make it more interesting for the both of you. If your baby is sitting up, stop and pick up unique leaves, flowers, rocks, and sticks to show them. Be careful not to actually hand it to them—infants love to put everything in their mouths! Point out wildlife, other people, STOP signs, trees, and homes. As they start to interact with the world, read house numbers out loud and play “I Spy”. “I spy a red car! Do you see a red car?” For little ones, the neighborhood can be an endless source of fascination and feel safely familiar at the same time.
- Houston Zoo – A trip to the zoo is a wonderful way to spend an entire morning or afternoon outdoors. It is extremely stroller-friendly so you can bring a baby and stroll around for hours. It’s nice to be able to let your toddler walk without fear of them running into traffic. There are tables and chairs available in the outdoor café areas, and benches throughout the zoo. Little kids love the open space for exploring. The mostly shady paths are clearly marked so you can pick and choose what exhibits you want to see. Check with the zoo for updates on what high-touch exhibits might still be closed due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, the Children’s Zoo area with the playground has been off-limits. Note that right now, reservations are required to enter the zoo so that social-distancing can be maintained. Check their website to select an entry time slot for your next visit.
- Evelyn’s Park— Located in the city of Bellaire inside the loop, this somewhat new little park is still growing out its shady trees so be sure to bring hats and use those stroller shades. There is a big open lawn in the middle perfect for setting up a picnic and letting little ones sit and play on a blanket. Small “trails” lead you around the perimeter of the lawn (these are just short paved walking paths around the park) that toddlers will find manageable. Enjoy the various gardens along the path growing different kinds of flowers. If you end up getting hungry, Betsy’s, a neighborhood eatery on the premises, is open with outdoor seating. The biggest attraction at Evelyn’s Park, though, is the famous Alice in Wonderland statues. In the southeast corner of the park you will find a ten-foot table with eight-foot bronze characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic book sitting around it. The table will seat six to eight additional guests so feel free to set up for a snack with the Mad Hatter himself! Tip: Some areas are stroller-friendly but a jogging stroller or one with good wheels would be best at this park since many of the walking areas are covered in crushed gravel.
- The McGovern Centennial Gardens in Houston’s Museum District also has a big open grassy area for play and lovely flowering gardens surrounding it. The focal point of the garden is a circular walk up to The Mount, a grass-covered hill with a waterfall feature built in. This part is not stroller-friendly since you have to share the pathway with those making their way up and back down. You will want to leave the stroller at the bottom and hold your walking child’s hand as you trek to the top. From the top you’ll have a great view of the entire park! The McGovern Centennial Gardens also boasts the Family Garden, an edible, interactive area showcasing the different vegetables and fruit growing in their vegetable boxes. There are pathways that will lead you to many areas including a Friendship Pavilion shipped from Taiwan, through a covered pergola walk, and by the rose garden. Tip: This is also a park for good stroller wheels since most paths are made of crushed gravel.
Before you choose an outdoor Houston attraction to visit, make sure you’re prepared. Here’s what to pack:
Water—always remember to the sippy cup and a drink for yourself! Pack some extra bottles of water for warmer days. You would be surprised how thirsty you can get after a little walk.
Snacks— Pack some easy snacks like bananas and cereal puffs for the littlest ones. A granola bar for yourself might come in handy too.
Wipes and Sanitizer— Wipes are not only for diaper changing but are a life-saver when it comes to cleaning up dirty faces and hands.
Sunscreen/Hat and Repellant— Don’t forget to put on sunscreen. Just a little bit of time outdoors in full Houston sun can be hard on sensitive baby skin. Use baby-safe sunscreen and a hat if possible. If you are walking near dusk or in areas where there might be standing water, bring some bug repellant just in case.
Blanket— During hot months the blanket can be used to shade a child or in cooler weather to cover them if they fall asleep in the stroller.
Soap and a Towel— For those venturing farther from home, some ultra-prepared moms keep bottled water, soap and a hand towel in the car trunk just in case they feel the need to wash everyone’s hands. (Sometimes public facilities will have faucets but no soap or paper towels.)
Now that you’re prepped, hit the road (or sidewalk) for some fresh air!