The key to keeping a clean house, happy kids, and my own sanity alluded me until I discovered the simple secret:
Get. Out. Of the. House.
While the comforts of home can make it tempting to stay within throwing distance of it– the toddler potty, the snack pantry, the endless supply of clothing changes – a day at the house also seems to inevitably lead to a downstairs covered with toys and a kitchen covered with crumbs, despite feeling stuck in a loop of constant cleaning and demand management.
Stepping outside our cocoon takes us into a whole new world of adventures – all without needing to wipe down a single counter, sweep up yet another Goldfish, or switch a load of laundry.
(Well, unfortunately, the laundry will still be waiting for you when you’re back. But you can’t feel guilty about procrastinating a chore when you’re miles away from it, amiright?)
So let’s pack a bag of necessitates, grab a few water bottles, and soak in a last glance at home – while basking in the knowledge that everything will be exactly as you left it when you return.
Tips for a day out in North Seattle with little kids
Donuts for breakfast: We get it – the most challenging part of leaving for the day is often just getting the crew out the door. How about a little bribe… err, we mean positive reinforcement… to help encourage things along? Promise the kiddos a donut of their choosing at Kirkland Juanita Village Top Pot and they’ll put on those shoes in record time. After they enjoy a little morning treat, pick up coffee-to-go for yourself across the street at Urban Coffee Lounge.
Burn off that sugar rush: After you’re all caffeinated and sugared up, cross the street from Juanita Village to Juanita Beach Park. Renovated a few years ago, the park features an expansive sandy beach, playground, enclosed swimming area, looped boardwalk over the water, and connects to the Old Market Street Trail which runs through nearby Juanita Bay Park.
Too cold for the park? In the rainy months, drop by the indoor playground at North Kirkland Community Center (open Tuesdays and Thursdays, $3 per child). The large multipurpose space features plenty of toys like push buggies, small riding toys, and even busy boxes for the littlest ones.
Story time at Barnes and Noble: After all that action, you’ll be ready for a slower-paced activity before lunch. You might be familiar with story times at libraries, but did you know that several local bookstores also offer children programs? Pop up to the Woodinville Barnes and Noble for a free weekly story time that often includes a small craft or coloring activity. The large children’s section includes tables and benches for reading, a small stage area, and a train table for lower-key indoor fun.
Encourage a love of reading – and quieter indoor play – at Barnes and Noble story time.
Lunch at the grocery store: Just like when spending the day out in Seattle, grocery stores are hidden gems when it comes to casual lunches. Haggen Foods, a short walk from the Woodinville Barnes and Noble, provides a low-pressure option for lunch with a café and lots of options to suit even the pickiest taste buds. After lunch, take advantage of Haggen Happy Kids, an excellent playroom with specially trained staff, a preschool-inspired setup, and a free drop-off option if you could use a little downtime yourself.
Or if the kiddos need a nap on the go, hop over to Wilmot Gateway Park, which connects with the Sammamish River Trail – perfect for long stroller walks/naps.
Afternoon at the Children’s Museum: Now that everyone is rested and ready for the next adventure – and you’re already headed in that direction anyway – make time for a stop at the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett. With easy parking in an adjacent pay lot, the museum features two floors of hands-on exhibits, an art studio with rotating crafts, often special events, and an expansive rooftop playground.
From the art studio to the outdoor rooftop playground, Imagine Children’s Museum makes for both rainy- and sunny-day fun.
Snacks with a view: Even Goldfish taste better with a view of the water, and Mukilteo Lighthouse Park has some of the North end’s best vistas. Located right next to the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry, kids will love watching cars drive on board and the ships shuttling back and forth. After snack, shake out any remaining wiggles by beachcombing, climbing on the playground, and watching trains roll by on the nearby track.
Or if you prefer smaller bodies of water, head to Bothell Landing Park on the Sammamish River. Smaller children will love the pirate-themed playground, while older kids will enjoy renting kayaks or canoes through What’s Up Paddleboard’s riverside kiosk.
Dinner at a landmark: After a full afternoon of museum exploring and park playing, your crew is likely past ready for dinner. For more than 50 years, the Ranch Drive-In on Bothell Way has been serving up burgers and milkshakes through its curbside windows. Grab a couple trays and find a spot on a bench or table to enjoy your meal – and maybe snag cupcakes from nearby Pinka Bella for dessert.
Heading home: With full bellies and tired legs, it’s time to head home and enjoy the best part of a full day out: a quick and easy bedtime.
Not only did you spend the day minimizing messes (and other at-home headaches), but much more importantly, you maximized building memories. Put those kiddos to bed, turn on Netflix, and enjoy your day-out success. You did it!
Heather Hansen works in marketing and communications. She lives with her husband and 3-year-old son in Bothell.
More things to do with preschoolers around Seattle