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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
HomeBlogMommy DazeThe best big box stores for toddler fun — Mommy Daze

The best big box stores for toddler fun — Mommy Daze

StoresForTots02WIt’s one of those days. I’m unable to roust an ounce of motivation or creativity to keep my boys busy. The thought of watching another second of Caillou makes me feel sick. We’re all getting on each other’s nerves, and even the dog has retreated to another room of the house for some peace and quiet.

So I pack the munchkins in the van and head to one of my three sanity-saving stores to keep them occupied for an hour or two. As long as you don’t have an agenda, shopping list or time frame, I guarantee a trip to one of these stores will help you get through the day. A cup of coffee to go will probably help too.

Pet stores

We prefer the large chain pet stores like PetSmart or Petco since there’s plenty of room to roam, but any pet store will do. Who needs the zoo when there’s an entire indoor gallery of your child’s favorite animals on display for free?

Our first stop is usually the fish tanks (sorry to the employees who have to clean fingerprints off all the glass tanks). I always beg to skip the reptile aisle since snakes and spiders creep me out, but I have boys so it’s always a must. The small mammals are a big hit. Recently our little guy Luke even dragged over a step stool so he could climb up and gleefully watch the mice running in their wheel. James loves the guinea pigs and coos “awwwww how cuuuuute” over and over.

We wander over to mimic the birdcalls and make a stop at the ferret tank even though they’re always sleeping. Sometimes there are cats or dogs up for adoption, or a training class to watch. Customers often walk their pets on leashes. Luckily both my boys are trained not to go right up to a strange dog, but it’s great practice for them.

We have fun looking at all the castles and treasure chests for fish tanks, tubes and tunnels for hamsters and the plethora of dog and cat toys. We always snag a bag of biscuits for our basset hound mix at home before heading out.

Home improvement storesStoresForTots01W

These are usually one of my husband’s favorite places to take the kids, but I’ve had the pleasure of tagging along on occasion. The larger the store the better, so it’s usually Home Depot or Lowes. Many stores have double-occupant carts that are shaped like cars with steering wheels or, often, I just let the kids run.

The usual stops for our kiddos includes the tools aisle — testing out all the drills, electric screwdrivers and anything else with a button to push and fun buzzing sound. If it’s got a laser, even better. They try on safety goggles, work gloves and hard hats. They watch keys get made, paint cans shook up and wood pieces sawed.

Amazingly, they could actually spend an hour in the door section — open, close, open, close. Luke on one side knocking, James opens it, they laugh like hyenas, repeat. Even the doorknob aisle is a hit where they open and close all the display models.

Then it’s off to the lawn and garden section, where every single lawn tractor on display has to be sat on. We test out every lawn chair, swing and ottoman. We peruse the plants, smelling each one.

Every time we go there’s something new and exciting to see — like PVC pipes/swords for slaying dragons or dryer vent hose robot arms. The possibilities are endless. Super bonus if it’s a Saturday morning with one of their free kid activities going on (though usually you have to preregister for those online, but they’re so worth it!)

Wholesale stores

You can’t get much bigger than these places! We have a membership to Sam’s Club, but I know Costco and BJ’s would probably be equally entertaining. James has nicknamed this place the “castle store” because he apparently thinks that the warehouse shelves stacked to the ceiling with boxes look like castle walls. Who knew? But we always have a blast at the “castle store.”

Though I usually do some shopping while here, it’s fun to take our time and just be silly. We pull out the display mattresses and try each one for snooze-worthiness. We linger in the electronics section if one of their favorite movies happens to be on the gigantic televisions. We play house in the display shed, or read some kids books, before heading into the food section.

The free samples make great snacks, and if something is served in a tiny plastic cup with a tiny plastic spoon, that makes it better. James is fascinated by the gigantic rotisserie chicken ovens, and Luke likes watching the forklift machines cruise around in the back section. At the end of our journey, we usually make a pit stop at the cafe for a piece of pizza and oversized yet inexpensive cup of soft-serve ice cream.

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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.

Toddlers entertained and worn out? Check. My sanity saved for yet one more day? Check. Score!

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