Friday, March 25, 2016

Toddler Open Gym

Following up from my post about things that have been going on, the city I live in is lacking in opportunities in the winter for toddlers to burn off energy.

The city I live in, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 4,690 people. That does not count the other cities near by that are in our school district. In our city, there is a lack of day care options. I think there might be one "center", but all other day care options are in-home providers. From what I've heard/read, trying to find day care is horrible as all of the in-home providers are full and have no vacancy. This definitely has an economic impact on our city, according to articles in the newspaper, considering that unless you live outside city limits, parents are responsible for transportation to/from school. So, assuming a dual-income home, if day care has been found, there are no issues. If day care cannot be found, because no one has vacancies, then one or both parents have to hope work schedules can be adjusted for drop-off and pick-up at school.

What's happened in our city is that for those families who have not found day care, at least one parent (mostly moms) works part-time to accommodate the drop-off and pick-up times. The other option that families do is that, usually, mom stays home. So, there is a large number of SAHM's in our city. There is a weekly playgroup that one mom organized many years ago. When the weather is nice, you can almost guarantee that playgroup will be at one of the parks or in someone's backyard. This is fine, great and wonderful, except for the months of October through March, when the weather is cold and snowy/rainy.

Those parents who have older kids (3 and above) will usually have playgroup at the library, bakery or coffee shop, but these are not good places for kids under 3, so I usually end up not attending those weeks. That really sucks. There are no places in town for kids to burn energy and run around during the cold months, and it sucks! There were literally weeks on end where Lucy and I wouldn't leave the house other than for school pick-up/drop-off, story time at the library (which isn't toddler-friendly other than story time) or grocery shopping. It was a LONG winter.

About one year ago I brought up the idea of a toddler open gym to the Recreation Director at City Hall. She said that in the past, she was going to bring the idea up to the Parks Board, but it never happened. She said that she would bring it up an hope to have something set up by October. I don't think she ever brought it up. More recently, within the last 2 months, a FB discussion happened wherein many people said they would attend a toddler open gym, that would be open only in the winter months, but no one wanted to step forward and try to make it happen. So, one day while Lucy and I were out on a walk we stopped in City Hall and talked to the new City Administrator.

I shared with him that there are no toddler-friendly places for parents to bring their kids in the cold months. At this point, we don't necessarily need support from the city, other than a space to hold the gym once or twice a week for a couple hours. Parents can bring their own toys to share. We just need an indoor space to hold the open gym. If the city is worried about liability, then a simple waiver could be drafted, as one already exists for the city weight room. If the city does want to be more involved and have a financial component, then have a pass or punch card, sold at City Hall, that parent volunteers could confirm/punch at each open gym so that the parent volunteers don't have to deal with money. I addressed each concern the Recreation Director had when I first brought up the idea.

The City Administrator told me that he was on the Wellness Board, which was having discussions about building a new Rec Center, and an open gym would fit in well there in the multi-purpose room. But, how soon the Rec Center would be built in up in the air. I reiterated that with spring approaching, I was looking at hopefully having SOMETHING set up by October, so I'm hoping that a space can be found. I think it was about 2-3 weeks since I talked to the City Administrator, and I haven't heard anything, so I think it's time I send an email to see if anything has moved forward.

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