Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Tips for a full day out of the house with little kids in Seattle

Do a little research, grab a backpack and get going. It just may give you a new lease on life.


I’d washed the last bottle, unloaded the colorful mess of kid cutlery from the dishwasher and swept the last Cheerio. (Well, when you have a 2- and a 3-year-old there’s never a last Cheerio. One sneaky bugger is always lurking, waiting to crush beneath an unsuspecting foot.) Finally – finally! – my kids were sleeping.


Time for my tired head to hit the pillow … oh! Is that really kid pee on my pillow?! Nearly midnight, and I’m Googling house cleaners I can’t afford while waiting for the washer to finish spinning.


Sound familiar? No? I’m the only one with pillow pee?


We’ve all had those days when the endless mess of parenthood sends us over the edge. So in this new year, let’s resolve to save our sanity by spending less time cleaning messes and more time out of the house.


Evie scatters all her toys down the hallway, proving there’s no such thing as a clean house with toddlers. (Jennifer Mortensen photo)


With a toddler and a preschooler, it’ll be a challenge. Being away from the comforts of the snack drawer, the changing table and the TV remote sounds daunting. But I just can’t handle another day of 24-hour housekeeping. And coming home at the end of the day to a clean house sounds blissful, doesn’t it?


Let’s do this. To prepare, I’ve created a list of easy, inexpensive and fun things to do with kids around Seattle, from dawn till dusk, most any day of the week. Who’s with me?


Where to spend a whole day out of the house with little kids in Seattle


Breakfast at the supermarket. Sounds boring, but hear me out. There are no crowds in the morning, and cashiers are super-friendly early in their shift. Go to a store that has a coffee shop inside, so you can grab a latte and a danish for yourself and a steamed milk and croissant for your kids. Don’t forget to raid the free fruit bin just for little shoppers – many grocers have one in the produce aisle. While you’re here, pick up lunch, snacks and a new toy (crayons, books, bubbles) for the day’s outing.


Morning workout at the gym. The toddler gym, that is. You are way too tired to get on a treadmill. Try the Ballard Community Center Play Gym (Mon., Wed., Fri., 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) for their supply of tricycles and the Imagination Playground. Find a toddler gym close to your neighborhood.


Story time at the library. Seattle’s awesome libraries have story times and kid activities every day of the week. There’s usually something fun going on mid-morning. The Douglass Truth Branch Library has a nice, big community space, and the children’s librarian brings toys and music to get little ones socializing. Here’s what’s happening at a library near you.


Picnic lunch at the playgroundGas Works Park has a newly renovated playground to explore. While the kiddos play, you can recharge for a few minutes while taking in one of the best views of Seattle. Raining? Kids will love it! As they say, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” So don’t forget to bring rain gear. If you’d rather eat inside, here are some kid-approved lunch spots near playgrounds.


Naptime. Let the kids rest in the car or stroller while you take a scenic cruise around Lake Washington Boulevard or Discovery Park. I know naptime is sacred, so you won’t lose any points if you decide to head home. Just make sure you have your afternoon planned so you’re not tempted to stay there.


Coffee shop snack. My family likes Cupcake Royale in Madrona for their mini-cupcakes and reading nook, but there are plenty of kid-friendly coffee shops around town. This is also a good time to break out that new coloring book you bought this morning.


Explore a park. Time to burn off more energy. Seward Park has both forests and beaches to explore. And the Audubon Center there has afternoon programs for kids.


Creative play at a museum.  Seattle Art Museum and Olympic Sculpture Park have several family spaces that are great for little kids to play, explore, create and learn. Check out the Chase Open Studio at SAM, where they provide self-guided art-making activities. Or visit the Family Play Area at the sculpture park, where kids can relax in a beanbag chair, do a puzzle, or create a masterpiece. Both spaces are free and open to the public.


Food truck dinner. Cuisine of all kinds comes on four wheels in this foodie city. There’s usually a good food truck outside Chuck’s Hop Shop in the Central District. You can snag a table inside and enjoy a beer with your tacos while the kids keep busy with Chuck’s trove of board games. Here’s a list of kid-friendly breweries in Seattle that have food trucks nearby or a restaurant on site.


Backyard play. Time to head home, but don’t go inside yet! Let your little ones ride bikes in the driveway or kick a ball in the yard. Or go for a quick stroll with a neighborhood friend. You want everyone too tired to feel like digging into the toy chest when they walk through the front door.


Now, straight to bed, tired kiddos! Hopefully bedtime will be a breeze. At least there'll be less cleaning and more time for binge-watching. Grab the wine and the remote, head for the couch and … crrrunch! Ah, there’s that missing Cheerio.


Tips: Do a little research before your outing to make sure libraries and community centers have programming on days/times that work for you. Seattle’s Child Family Fun Calendar is a great place to start. And make sure you prep the proper supplies. Grab a backpack and toss in extra clothes, rain gear, water bottles, and diapers — any of your daily necessities. 


Jennifer Mortensen is a work-at-home mom of two and the calendar editor for Seattle’s Child. When she’s not stepping on stray Cheerios or searching for lost shoes, she’s plotting new ways to wear out her energetic preschoolers and dreaming of a live-in housekeeper.

See also: Short film about playground bullying: watch, weep and be grateful for Seattle’s inclusive play spaces