Winter fun with your baby

It’s no secret that winters in Minnesota are long and cold. If you have a new baby, dragging yourself and your tiny little bundle of joy out into the subzero tundra might seem like an insurmountable task. 

Getting out of the house can be crucial during these dark months, if only to help preserve your sanity. Plus, if you have an older child in the mix, you’ll likely hear the siren call to leave the house even louder. This month I talked to several local parents to learn about their favorite kid-friendly winter haunts.

Exercise for you (and your baby, too)

If you have a baby and you’re into yoga, you are in luck. The Twin Cities has many “baby and me” yoga opportunities. Although many probably skew toward the “mom and baby” crowd, most are open to dads, grandparents, and other caregivers, too. In general, these classes are geared toward babies who are at least six weeks old, up to crawling—but check the details with individual instructors and studios.

“The classes are a great way to bond with your baby, get back into your yoga practice—or begin one—and connect with other parents in the neighborhood,” says Melissa Gutierrez Nelson, a baby and me yoga instructor at Fitness Crossroad in northeast Minneapolis. See the “more info” section for a few of the options around town.

Kid-friendly coffee shops & restaurants

Sometimes in the winter you just want to meet up with a friend for some coffee or a quick meal, children in tow. However, taking a baby or small child out on the town is different from the single days, and you need to choose your destinations wisely (e.g., don’t take your colicky newborn to the tomb-quiet coffee shop that caters to glowering young freelancers and grad students).

Just about everyone I speak with brings up Sovereign Grounds coffee shop in south Minneapolis. Parents love this place because they have an entire room set aside as a play area (which is evidently being renovated, but should be complete in early 2014). The Riverview Café is also recommended for its on-site play area. The Midtown Global Market has a great play area in the southwest corner of the building, tons of tasty food options, and some popular family programming (Wee Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and Family Fun Fridays with live music from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.)

I’d also like to put in a word for Gandhi Mahal, an Indian restaurant in south Minneapolis with a lovely little play area. We’ve gone there for an early and delicious dinner when the place was quiet and secured the table right next to kids’ space. Your little one can play nearby while you snack on a samosa and have a glass of wine.

Indoor playgrounds

When your baby gets mobile and needs to burn energy, winters can be agonizing when you’re stuck in your cozy little house, watching her run wildly from the kitchen to the living room, over and over.

Jenny in northeast Minneapolis takes her baby and toddler to the weekly “open gym” at her neighborhood park during the winter months. She straps the baby into a carrier, lets her son run wild, and enjoys some conversation with other neighborhood parents. There are too many options to list here, but visit your local park building or web search your nearby options. Many parks have active toddler programs that are usually low-cost and sometimes free.

My friend Julie swears by Good Times Park in Eagan (and she lives in Minneapolis, so if it’s worth the drive to her it must be good). It’s a huge indoor playground, appropriate for the newly mobile all the way to older kids (e.g., basketball court, inflatable jumper). One-day passes are available, but if you go often enough, the monthly memberships are a pretty good deal ($15 for one child, two for $28, etc.). No charge for kids under one year or “responsible adults” (that means you). I’m definitely going to be checking this out when I’m home this winter with my new baby and my antsy toddler.

Something just for you

If you have one of those easygoing, I-can-eat-and-sleep-anywhere kind of newborn, I highly recommend that you take advantage of this situation and do something that appeals to you. I met another mother who took her daughter to several movies (yes, in the theater) while she was a tiny newborn (she’d nurse discreetly if the need arose). Feel like visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for the first time since seventh grade? Put the baby in a sling and head on in. If this works for you—do it. Believe me, there’s a limited window, so enjoy it now!

Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband, 
Nick, and daughter, Lydia. Send questions or comments