Toddler Hot Spots in Kansas City
Favorite Places to Beat the Winter Blahs in KC
The weather outside is frightful, and the snow isn’t so delightful. Memories of snowmen and sledding seem magical and nostalgic, but reality is often something quite different if you’re home with little children and it’s cold or snowy. Entertaining small children so cabin fever doesn’t set in is a challenge. Fortunately, many family-friendly venues in Kansas City offer options where you can enjoy a day of learning, exercising and beating the winter blahs!
Cultivate a Love of Learning
Young children learn best when the opportunities are hands-on and engaging.
Wonderscope Children’s Museum (5700 King St., Shawnee, KS, 913.287.8888 Wonderscope.org). Wonderscope is a hands-on museum specially designed with the youngest children in mind. Interactive exhibits include the H2Oh! room where children experiment with water, Farm to Market where kids gather eggs, feed animals and learn about crops, Healthy Kids where children learn about health and wellness, Raceways where youngsters play with gravity and motion, and many more. This is a museum where touching is not only suggested, it’s required! Watch the calendar on Wonderscope.org for special events, story times, puppet shows, concerts and more.
Science City at Union Station (30 W. Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO, 816.460.2020, UnionStation.org). Science City is Kansas City’s largest, most interactive science museum with something for visitors of all ages. Favorite exhibits include the Challenger Exhibit where you gear up as an astronaut for space flight, DinoLab where children dig for bones and watch as fossils are preserved, Echo Cave where children learn about nature firsthand, and exhibits about health, engineering, water, optical illusions and more. Top off your visit with a planetarium show for an unforgettable experience.
KidScape at the Johnson County Museum (6305 Lackman, Shawnee, KS, 913.715.2550, JoCoMuseum.org) is a FREE hands-on child-sized city. The exhibit features a hospital where children pretend to be a doctor, a city hall with cars and trucks, theater with costumes and a real stage, shops with items the children can sell, and a park with tot-sized mini golf and fishing. Kids love to play and explore the adult world through their eyes. Throughout the month, the museum hosts special events specifically designed for infants and toddlers. On alternating Wednesdays, visit for Pop ’n Play at 9:00, a drop-in program with activities designed especially for 9-month- to 3-year-old tots at $1/child.
Library Story Time. Your local library is one of the best places for young children. Offering lap time for infants and toddle time and preschool story time for older children, librarians engage kids with books, snacks, crafts and games. Check your library’s calendar for additional events, including puppet shows, children’s concerts and special holiday programs.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Whether you’re home with a baby who is too young to talk, or toddlers who are beginning to explore, many local museums offer a great outing for mother and child. Spend an hour exploring the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (4525 Oak St., Kansas City, MO, 816.751.1278, Nelson-Atkins.org) with little ones in strollers (for toddlers, bring a copy of our Nelson-Atkins Scavenger Hunt). The Nelson offers special events with little ones in mind, including Junior Jaunts on the third Friday of each month at 10:15. Parents are encouraged to bring their baby in a stroller or carrier for an adult-focused, infant-friendly mini museum tour. No reservations needed or worries about loud little ones!
Take a Walk on the Wild Side…favorite winter animal outings!
We often think of petting zoos and parks as summer outings, but many venues offer indoor animal exhibits perfect for less-crowded cold months:
The Kansas City Zoo (6800 Zoo Dr., Kansas City, MO, 816.513.5800, KansasCityZoo.org). The zoo is open year-round. In fact, winter is one of the best times to visit, as the animals are especially playful and the zoo isn't crowded. The indoor exhibits at the Polar Bear Passage, Helzberg Penguin Plaza, Tropics and Discovery Barn are great on chilly days. Bonus: Weather permitting, enjoy a ride on the carousel or train for more fun.
Animal Watching at Local Nature Centers. Kansas City is home to many wonderful nature centers, but these are some of our favorites: Burr Oak Woods (1401 NW Park Rd., Blue Springs, MO, 816.228.3766 MDC.mo.gov/regions/kansas-city/burr-oak-woods-nature-center) is one of our favorite outings on a cold afternoon. You’ll meet an animatronic Smokey Bear teaching children fire safety, see a large aquarium of Missouri's freshwater fish, snakes, turtles, toads and more. Best of all, they offer wonderful free educational programs for the family, including Babes in the Woods for infants and Little Acorns for preschoolers, with hands-on activities kids enjoy. Lakeside Nature Center (4701 E. Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, MO, 816.513.8960, LakesideNatureCenter.org) is home to some of the best animal displays in the area, with falcons, owls, eagles, toads, frogs, fish, insects and wonderful exhibits on the animals in our city and in our homes. Lastly, Prairie Park Nature Center (2730 Harper St., Lawrence, KS, 785.832.7980) features reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, as well as a hands-on center for preschoolers that features nature puppets, puzzles and activities. Looking for more? Read our article "Exploring Nature" for more.
Get the Wiggles Out!
Children need to exercise and play, but that can be tough when it’s too cold for the backyard swing set. Consider a day of swimming or indoor play!
Jump! Jump! Jump! Trampolines, toddler play areas and obstacle courses are perfect ways to burn off energy and get exercise, and Urban Air Trampoline Park (14401 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, KS, UrbanAirOP.com) is one of our favorite places to play! On Tuesday and Friday from 9:00 to noon they offer special JumpeROO sessions for ages 5 and under with access to indoor playground and trampoline attractions.
Go for a Swim! Kansas City boasts dozens of terrific indoor pools (Visit Going Places to find an indoor pool nearby), from lap pools to full indoor water parks complete with slides, lazy rivers and more. Best of all, many offer terrific toddler areas, and you don’t have to worry about big crowds if you swim while school is in session. Our three favorite inexpensive but fun-filled options are Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park (913.895.6350), Legacy Park Community Center in Lee's Summit (816.969.1550) and the View Community Center in Grandview (816.316.4888).
More Indoor Play: Inflatable play places, gyms and local churches with indoor play equipment and coffee shops for moms are popular places for play dates. Visit Going Places to find more favorite indoor play places.
Kristina Light loves winter with her girls. They are often out and about at local museums, libraries and play places.