Tag Archives: toddler

Packing Light

30 May
Untitled by melissajonas
Untitled, a photo by melissajonas on Flickr.

I’m not generally a competitive parent, but I’ll admit I’m pretty darn proud of my ability to carry a small bag with great toys.

I’ve always been highly motivated to bring as little as possible when traveling. Now that I have a kid, traveling can mean a plane ride cross country or a light rail hop downtown. Either way, I bring as little as possible while still trying to make sure we have what we truly need. (Most of the same principals apply for flying with a kid–but that’s another post.)

The basics for all ages:

  • parent essentials: wallet, keys, phone. I wear these in a small string bag that never leaves my body.
  • diapers (and/or undies) & wipes–enough for at least 2 changes
  • change of clothes and a bag to carry wet things home
  • snacks (for parent and/or kid)
  • weather gear–sunscreen, extra hat, etc. to ensure that you can comfortably play outside
  • toys/books (for parent and/or kid)

If you haven’t spent much time around kids, you might not realize that the toys & books are probably the most important thing on this list. Pull out toys when you’re on the train, waiting for your order, or waiting for the check. I rely heavily on environmental distractions (dogs in the lobby, bus out the window, etc) but good purse toys are key. You need something portable and fun, but not precious enough that if it gets lost or dropped on a public bathroom floor the kid will freak out.

Some of our favorites have been: finger puppets, plastic eggs with surprises inside, a mini slinky, stickers, small cars, small dolls, etc. She loves the tiny clay I packed, but I’m reluctant to pull it out unless we’re going to be somewhere for a long time. It can be messy and it’s oil based, so we need to at least wipe hands if we’re going to eat. Sometimes I bring a couple of crayons, often I just let her scribble with the pen I keep in my purse. I sometimes carry small board books. This Richard Scarry is one of our mutual favorites–it’s a great size and has a lot going on. I try to avoid relying on gadgets, but a few good apps on your phone can keep an older toddler or preschooler happy. We like simple puzzles and have found some good coloring and bubble apps.

Snacks are also key to keeping your monkey happy. Pack portable, interesting snacks like: cucumbers with salt (vinegar if you really trust your container), carrot sticks, hummus, raisins, apple slices, olives, cheese & turkey cubes, etc. I found some great reusable cloth bags that help cut down our plastic consumption a lot. We’ve never been big on sippy cups, but I shared my travel mug with the kid until we finally lost it.  I generally only bring her water bottle when we’re using the stroller or driving–it’s heavy and we’d both be sad when it got lost. Try to pack things your kid will eat this trip. No one wants week old raisins or the same stale pretzels. If you pack food you (the parent) will eat, it won’t go bad.

Pack as little as you need in the smallest bag you can find. Bonus points if you bring a string bag inside your regular bag for shopping trips, etc. Not only is this environmentally responsible, it means you’re less likely to leave purchases somewhere–you’ll notice that string bag on the playground, but you might walk away from a plastic bag.

Remember to check your bag when you get home from an outing. Toss or launder anything you used and replace as needed. If you haven’t used any clothes lately, make sure they still fit and are the correct season.

Don’t be afraid to borrow or buy something you forgot. If you live in a city, you’re probably never far from somewhere that will sell you wipes or snacks. When out with friends, pay it forward by offering a diaper–you’ll need one someday. You can also improvise–paper towels doused in the sink work well if you forgot wipes, for example. When all else fails, head home.

I pack light so I can chase my toddler without abandoning my stuff. I like to be able to take the escalator or stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. Mostly, I prefer to know where everything is at all times–including the kid. If I’m rummaging through 3 pairs of pants to find the raisins I’m positive I threw in the diaper bag, I may not notice when my daughter hides under the table at the library.


Free Fun

1 Aug

Seattle Public Library

Reading groups, toddler time, Begin With Books and more! The Central (aka downtown) Branch is a great place to nurse and/or change a diaper.

Seattle Parks Department Community Centers

Many community centers offer indoor play times, perfect for both rainy days and those (rare) times when we need to seek air conditioning in Seattle. Also ideal for families with multiple kids–toddlers can burn off steam while the baby sleeps. Summer schedule here.

Seattle Center

Getting there can be half the fun–who doesn’t love the Monorail? Be sure to carry cash–no cards accepted for Monorail rides. Lots of places for indoor & outdoor play, including the International Fountain and a great fountain/pool near McCaw Hall. Changing tables in multiple bathrooms.


A Year Of Seattle Parks chronicles one mom’s experiences exploring our awesome outdoors. Wherever you live in Seattle, you’re not more than a mile away from a park. Explore!

Where do you go to have fun with your little one without breaking the bank?

Day Trip: Bremerton

1 Aug

I’ve hopped impulsively on several ferries over the years, and have to admit that the ride is usually more fun than the destination. That’s okay, but it’s hard to get excited about “just” a ferry ride after you’ve done it a few times. Bainbridge and Vashon Island both have fantastic reputations as fun, groovy places to explore–but you really need a car to get you anywhere worth going. (Please feel free to correct me in the comments–I’d love to be wrong.)

Bremerton doesn’t have the same cachet as the islands, but we recently discovered that it’s an awesome day drip with a toddler. Cheap, easy, and exactly the right amount of time away from home.

We were impressed with how pedestrian-friendly and welcoming the area around the ferry terminal is. Full of public spaces and a nice mix of business, the waterfront area feels like it was designed to encourage people to stick around and enjoy–not just pass through.

Logistics: Get an ORCA card and load it up to save time–you won’t have to stand in line to buy a ticket. Add an E-Purse to your existing pass to cover the difference between your usual fare & ferry fares. Light Rail to University Station ($2.00 from Beacon Hill), walk a few blocks to ferry terminal, walk on ferry ($7.10). All eastbound ferry rides are free, so we paid a total of $11.10 per person (free for kids under 5) for transportation.

Ferries depart promptly, so plan plenty of time to get to the terminal–it’s a fun place to run around if you get there a little early and you don’t want to miss your boat. The crossing takes about an hour. Our door-to-door adventure was about 6 hours total: 40 minutes round trip on the train, 2 hours RT on the ferry, 3 hours play time in Bremerton & a little wait at both terminals.

Plenty of stroller access, though we still bring a carrier (currently the Ergo) for napping/fussing. Current schedules & other information here:

What to do when you arrive:

Kitsap Library, Downtown Bremerton

This gorgeous Art Deco building is only a few blocks from the ferry terminal. It’s worth the walk just to admire the building. We enjoyed playing with some puzzles, reading a couple of books, and cooling off in the air conditioning. Libraries are my go-to free, family-friendly pit stops.

Bremerton Bar & Grill

This place has great service and lots of good choices at reasonable prices. You set the pace: rushing for a ferry? Relaxing after you just got off? One beer or a pitcher? Incredibly family friendly–a great way to start (or finish) your visit to Bremerton.

Other food/drink choices: chains (Starbucks, SubWay) and local delis, coffee shops and restaurants. I didn’t see a grocery/market, so be sure to pack well. We brought a swim diaper, a couple of disposable diapers, sunscreen, water, and light snacks. You can always get snacks & refill water bottles on the ferry, as well.

Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum

Free, donations accepted. Stop by to admire the latest exhibit, enjoy the play area, and maybe pick up a puppet in the gift area. We were excited to see a Jabberwocky puppet and the baby really liked banging on the xylophone.

Harborside Fountain Park 

This spray park is just steps from the ferry terminal and was full of local families. The facilities are clean, modern, and welcoming. The art is simple and attractive. Kids of all ages will go nuts for the water features. Pack a lunch (and lots of water) and enjoy.






Go explore Bremerton & let me know what you think!