Helpful Hints

Getting Your Kid's Energy Out: Indoor Edition

We all know the weather in Houston is mighty unpredictable: it could be 80 degrees in January, or there could be a 2-week streak of downpours in September. Or, it’s just plain 105 degrees in August with 95% humidity and there’s no way you’re going outside. In these instances, having a few places in your back pocket where you can take kids to release pent up energy is essential. Here are some favorites that have saved us from going stir crazy!

For the toddler set, options are limited. There are plenty of places that charge a membership fee that fit the bill, but most of those places are full with birthday parties on the weekends and also really pricey. It’s also hard to find places where toddler’s don’t get stepped on by the big kids. A couple of go-to spots for us include:

  • MajestKids in Sugar Land: It may be far for many of you, but the drive is worth it. Especially because you can get a good nap in on the way there or back! Located in a small strip center, this place is perfect for kids 3 and under. There are giant foam blocks, big wooden playsets, a bounce pillow, a foam pit, and there’s even a dedicated infant area. They have healthy snacks at the snack bar too. Though it was a 30+ minute drive for us, we found ourselves going back again and again.
  • Weiss Energy Hall at HMNS: Houston Museum of Natural Science is super fantastic overall and a source of endless fun, but you don’t normally think about it to expel a toddler’s energy. The 4th floor houses Weiss Energy Hall, and despite its elevated purpose (I’m not sure I could ever begin to explain fracking or viscosity to a 2-3 year old), toddlers can have a blast here. Despite it being one of the neatest spaces in the museum, it has never been crowded when we’re there, and there are tons of cool things to push, pull, see, and do. The space is gigantic, and the lights and tech are super cool for parents and kids alike. Bonus: when your kid gets tired, leave through the dinosaur exhibit on the first floor and marvel at the larger-than life skeletons that look like art!
  • Lowe’s or Home Depot: Ok, hear us out. It sounds weird, but there are two big things this option has going for it. First, giant, long aisles to run down. Second, fascinating things to look at and explore! If your kid has extra energy, put something heavy in the cart and let them push it around. Bonus: you can get light bulbs and plan your next home renovation while your kid touches every single carpet sample and opens and closes the washing machines to their heart’s content!
These giant foam blocks at MajestKids are just one of many awesome features for kids under 4!
Lowe’s is a great rainy day locale for running wild through the aisles with a toddler!

For kids that have passed the toddler phase and have boundless energy to burn off, the choices are plentiful all over the city. We have a particularly active elementary school kid, so we’re often challenged with finding the most interesting and varied indoor activities to exhaust him when the weather’s crummy. Here are some unique ones to try:

  • Urban Air on 290: This is a place where kids from toddler age to adult can have a blast, but the sweet spot is elementary school. There are several Urban Air locations, but this one is our favorite because of the combo of a great ninja warrior course, tons of trampolines, a huge playground, and several rock walls – all of which are included in the price of admission. If your kid is older elementary, they can even do a zip line!
  • Texas Rock Gym: There’s nothing like a giant rock wall to tire out a 5 year old! The folks at Texas Rock Gym know how to work with kids – they offer day passes, memberships, and camps. Your child can try the auto-belay and go up the wall on his or her own, but the best way to play is for you to belay and your child to climb. It’s a great bonding experience, and you both get to enjoy it. You can rent a harness for each of you, and if it’s your first time, you’ll get a one-on-one training to show you exactly how it works.
  • Urban Movement: This is a new one for us, but it’s so awesome that it’s now in our regular rotation. Urban Movement is for kids and adults and focuses on the sport of parkour – aka using your body to run, jump, and climb over all sorts of things. This is a class-based program, but that’s sort of necessary so you know what to do. After an hour of instruction, there’s an hour of free play in the gym. Your kid will literally never want to leave!
The ninja warrior course at Urban Air on 290
Texas Rock Gym has a wide variety of routes ranging from beginner to expert.
Urban Movement uses parkour to teach balance, build strength, and build confidence

Lastly, sometimes you can’t go anywhere when the weather’s bad, or you just don’t want to. For those occasions, we recommend a couple of key pieces of equipment that will help you tire out your little one, no matter their age:

  • Plastic cones
  • Masking tape
  • An indoor trampoline (Little Tykes has a great one!)
  • A soft ball you can throw around inside and not break a window or the TV

With these simple tools, you can build countless obstacle courses that will challenge your kids and make being stuck inside a blast. Use your watch to time them, add in challenging things to jump on/over/around, require a few jumping jacks here and there, and they’ll be passed out on the couch in no time.

So, what did we forget? What recommendations do you have for indoor places in Houston to go for kids to get their energy out?

Arts & Culture

How to Enjoy Art with Young Kids in Houston

Street art can be found in the most unusual places!

Even though my kids aren’t really into coloring, crafts, or art of any kind that they make themselves, we have tried really hard since they were born to make sure they at least appreciate and get to see different kinds of art. Lucky for us, Houston some fantastic opportunities to see and interact with art that kids can really enjoy.

Some of the principles we try and stick with when exposing our kids to art may be helpful in planning your adventure:

  1. Infants and older babies love to look at bright colors and patterns. Modern art is perfect for helping these little ones soak in the world! Get them out of the stroller and hold them up so they can see and you can engage with them.
  2. Toddlers are learning their colors, names of items in their world (food, transportation, nature, etc), and discovering emotions – a scavenger hunt to find these things in painting and sculpture is super fun. A well-rested toddler can have a blast at a museum when engaged to look at and talk about the art. Be sure to corral them so they don’t damage anything, but let them walk around and move toward art and objects they are fascinated by.
  3. Elementary aged kids have plenty of opinions! Make sure to ask them to find their favorite piece of art and tell you why they love it. If your kid likes to draw, bring along some pencils and paper so they can capture the essence of something they love.
  4. Art doesn’t have to be in a museum, especially with the emergence of so much great street art in this city! It’s worth making an effort to seek out works by Houston’s local and extremely talented muralists like Anat Ronen, Mr. D, and Nicky Davis, not to mention sculptures from the legendary David Adickes.
  5. Ask your kids developmentally appropriate questions about art. Talk to your kids about what art is and isn’t, and get their thoughts on it. Ask them what they like and what they are inspired by. If they can’t talk yet, follow their lead as they point.
  6. Let kids of any age linger as long as they like when they find art they love. Come back again and again to enjoy it. If it’s in a place like the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, get a membership so you can make quick trips.
  7. Don’t worry about feeling like a fish out of water if art is new or unfamiliar to you. Some art is actually meant to evoke these feelings. Experiencing art with your kids will help you both learn and grow, whether you’re new at this or a seasoned gallery owner!
Our favorite, the Matisse at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston!

Here are a few ideas to get your Houston art journey started with your kids, no matter how small or big they are:

  • Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, especially in the summer when the interactive exhibits come to town. Really, it’s amazing all year round. Don’t miss the tunnel by James Turrell connecting the two main buildings that changes colors. Ride the super long escalators. Spend extra time looking at the modern and contemporary art for some great engagement and conversation. Explore the historical artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome, and trace your fingers in the carved letters of the giant stone indoor donor wall while you see if the little kids can recognize any of the alphabet. When you’re hungry, the MFA Cafe is newly redone and has delicious food for kids and grownups. When you need to stretch your legs, go run around the Cullen Sculpture Garden or walk up to the roof of the Glassell school to see Montrose from a whole new angle.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt for street art! Here’s a guide to a ton of sites, but remember – they are always changing, so try to find something new, special, and unexpected by taking a drive around town. East Downtown and Westheimer are two places to start your adventure. Take advantage of the car nap while you’re at it!
  • The Menil Collection is a perennial favorite because it’s free, really easy to do in small doses, and there’s a nice big park with oak trees outside (perfect for a picnic). If you didn’t bring food, check out Bistro Menil across the street for fancy dining or head down the road to West Alabama Ice House to get a beer along with taco or five from Tacos Tierra Caliente. Don’t miss the Surrealists, Pacific American Art, and art from Africa, all in the Menil’s permanent collection. Also remember that the Menil is a campus with several different buildings that you can visit and enjoy. Ask the person at the desk for a map and go explore!
  • The Contemporary Art Museum of Houston is small with only 2 galleries, but it’s worth a visit. Check before you go to make sure the exhibitions are kid appropriate, because sometimes they can be scary to young kids or contain adult themes. When it’s good, it’s really good! It also has the BEST museum gift shop around with lots of fun things for kids to play with and for your to purchase.
  • Other free and awesome art museums in Houston for kids include the Museum of Contemporary Craft and Lawndale Art Center, which are right next to each other and generally good for kids. Be sure to check their calendars and go when they have a kid-friendly activity, because they are really creative and happy to have kids explore. At the Museum of Contemporary Craft there are artist spaces where kids can sometimes see artists in residence at work!
  • Galleries like those at Silver Street Studios or Art League Houston are fun and unexpected opportunities to interact with the art community and see something innovative and really different.
  • In a class all its own, the Orange Show and all its wonderful tentacles like the Art Car Museum, Smither Park, and Beer Can House deserves and will get its very own post. Kids of all ages will be fascinated by all of it!
  • Annual art events that happen in Houston include Via Colori street painting festival in November and Bayou City Art Festival in April/March (Memorial Park) and October (Downtown). They are both very kid friendly and worth attending!
Via Colori street painting festival

This is not even close to scratching the surface of all the wonderful opportunities for art in Houston, but hopefully it provides some inspiration to explore something you didn’t know about and make a memory with your kids. Let us know what art in Houston inspires you and your kids!