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Have you ever thought, “Man, things would be so much easier if parenting came with a handbook!”? (I have!) While it’s true that there’s no one handbook for all things parenting, there are lots of resources out there for parents. The problem is it takes a lot of time and energy to not only find them but to figure out which ones might be helpful. Our goal is to make your life a little easier by offering a “field guide” of what to do with kids in Austin, parenting resources, a one-stop-shop for finding what you need to help w/ parenting skills, stress relief, connecting and engaging with other parents, fun places and activities, and maybe a little humor because, hey, parenting is hard yall!
Most of us are plugged in to the online world in one or several ways, so while you’re there, here are some ways to connect and get advice from fellow parents as well as experts:
- Full of pregnancy, baby, and parenting tips and information
- Join their message boards to connect with other parents that have similarities to you
- (trying to conceive, moms of newborns, parents of multiples, etc.)
- This is probably one of my favorite, online parenting resources.
- The website contains information and advice in the form of articles from a clinical psychologist and fellow mom, Dr. Laura Markham, for every stage from pregnancy through the teenage years.
- Follow the Aha!Parenting Blog for extra articles and advice.
- Search for FB groups that meet your needs: moms, dads, grandparents, foster parents, moms of girls, parents of kids with food allergies, etc…..if you can think it up, there’s probably a FB group for it where you can connect with others for advice, community, and support.
- Join Austin Moms’ Network – this group is FULL of local momos, activities, opportunities, and information
- Follow Austin Moms Blog for articles, funny videos and memes, information, and events geared toward moms and families in the Austin area
- Join Hike it Baby Austin – this group does both parent and child led hikes and playdates around various parts of Austin
- This website lists upcoming activities for kids and families around the Austin area.
Are you a reader….or a listener like me (Audible for the win!)? Here’s a short list of must-read books for parents:
- ANYTHING by Dr. Dan Siegel; seriously, he’s the best! If you need a good starting place, read The Whole Brain Child. The information about child development is paired with strategies for nurturing your child’s mind and their bond with you as well as tackling difficult behaviors. Have a teen? Check out Brainstorm. It’s a bit more of a challenging read, but the information and insights about how the teenage brain works are well worth your time and efforts.
- The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine – If you have (or are planning to) foster and/or adopt a child, this book is for you! This is also a great read for any parent of a child with special behavioral or emotional needs.
- Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Mate – The focus of this book is attachment and why it’s crucial for your relationship with your child. The updated edition even includes a section on screens and social media.
- The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron – Dr. Aron discusses the trait of “high sensitivity,” the benefits and challenges that go along with being highly sensitive, and the keys to successfully parenting an HSC and helping them thrive in the world.
- The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Kranowitz – If your child is affected by any type or level of sensory processing issue, this book will be immensely helpful for you in making sense of your child’s behaviors as well as in providing you with approaches in managing them.
How about those times when your kid’s behavior is so out of control or overwhelming for you that you’re just not sure what to do next? We thought it would be nice to give you a short list of ideas for those hard to handle moments when you feel stuck.
- First, make sure YOU’RE breathing. I’m talking about the slow, deep breaths that calm our bodies down and engage the parts of our brain that we need for problem solving. The other benefit of keeping calm is that when we regulate our nervous systems, we can influence our child’s nervous system to follow along.
- Go back to the basics and HALT. Check in with your child or think about your schedule for the day. Is it possible that your child is:
*H – Hungry or thirsty? Sometimes a quick snack or drink of water can make a world of difference.
*A – Angry or experiencing an intense emotion? Try reflecting what you think your child is feeling or experiencing, This often provides good insight about what to do next.
*L – Lonely? Maybe your kiddo needs some nurturing. Offer an opportunity for connection with you – a hug or snuggle, reading together, sing a song together, play a quick game of 20 questions, tag, or something that your child chooses.
*T – Tired or overstimulated? They might just need a nap or a break. Try removing them from the activity or environment for a few minutes to give them a chance to wind down.
Things To Do: Austin has sooooo many indoor and outdoor activities available, and we know it’s hard to keep track of them all. Here are some ideas:
- Toybrary Austin – check out toys, attend an event, go play.
- Local libraries – check out a book, play in the children’s area, attend storytime or craft time, check their calendars for events.
- Austin Nature and Science Center
- Parks, Pools, and splashpads – use the City of Austin website to find them all.
- YMCA – there are many locations and each one has activities for adults and kids.
- Catch Air – Shoot soft colorful balls throughout the air while competing with others or just because it is that much fun. Included in the arena is a ball fountain that is fun for the family.
- Mt. Playmore – Your kids won’t ever want to leave once they see the largest indoor playground in Central Texas. Food, Games, Parties and prizes round out the fun!
- The Thinkery – An evolution of the Austin Children’s Museum, Thinkery is Austin’s home for “why” and “how.” It’s a place where science and families play side by side.
- Austin Aquarium – Come experience the most astonishing underwater view with hundreds of species!
- Epic Fun – Bumper cars, Laser Tag, ropes course, rock climbing, and so much more.
- Little Land Play Gym – Little Land Play Gym & Pediatric Therapy. One of a kind indoor playground developed by a pediatric therapist to help kids grow and develop while having fun!
- Austin Park and Pizza – Attractions include go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, batting cages & a rock-climbing wall.
- Chuck E. Cheese
- Austin Ninjas – Kids go through an obstacle course with training and classes.
- Little Gym – they offer parent/child classes – The Little Gym is a children’s gym offering activities for kids including parent/child classes, kids dance, gymnastics, sports skills and karate.
- Coffee shops and restaurants with kids play areas: Maudie’s (in the Triangle), The Hive, The COOP, Hat Creek Burgers, Phil’s Ice House, Cosmic Coffee + Bar, Home Slice (new location on North Loop), Salt Lick (in Round Rock), Almost Grown Play Cafe, Cuba 512, Central Market (North Lamar), Brentwood Social House, Cherrywood Coffee House (they have kids’ bands play outside on Sunday mornings), Whole Foods (downtown location has a playground on the roof with a picnic area & the north location has a small play area with picnic tables and a stage).
- Winnie app – use it to find nearby places to take your kids and family (parks, restaurants, activities, child care, etc).
- Free Forest School – find a local chapter and attend their events to engage your child in free nature play groups.
- Tinkergarten – find a group/class local to you and join in for outdoor classes geared toward building cognitive, social, and physical skills through play-based learning.
What about when you need a break from parenting? It’s so important to take time for yourself and your relationships, both the romantic ones and friendships. Self-care and “me time” can range from anything to taking time to read a book, going to the gym, getting a massage, engaging in a hobby, joining a yoga class, going on dates, going on outings with friends, or really anything that reminds you that you’re not only a parent. (It’s easy to forget this about ourselves). You could even check out UT Informal Classes to learn about a topic or skill that interests you (for fun or to enhance your career goals). The classes vary from semester to semester and are reasonably priced. Here are some ideas for child care so that you can get some much-needed adult time:
- Check to see if your church offers parents’ night out or other childcare options
- Many preschools also do parents’ night out
- Ask around to find a high school or college age kid in your neighborhood that you could get to know as a reliable resource for watching your kiddo
- Toybrary Austin – drop off childcare
- Nanny-share! Child care is expensive, but finding another family to share a sitter or nanny with helps lower the costs and gets your kids playdates with their friends.
- Care.com – This service connects you with child care providers in your area.
- Are you in a neighborhood that uses the Nextdoor.com app or website? That can sometimes be a good place to connect with someone close by that is looking to babysit.
- Find a drop-in child care facility. Here are a few: Ashley’s Playhouse, Kid Spa Austin, Clubhouse for Kids, Tree Tops Learning Center
- Talk with your friends about taking turns watching each other’s kids for a date night or agree to a group playdate with several friends and split the cost for a sitter
Hopefully some of the ideas and suggestions in this post will save you some time and energy (since parents often have little to spare)! Our hope is that you will be able to spend less time looking for resources you need and more time engaging in meaningful activities and interactions. Good luck and enjoy! If you like this article, you might also like “How to Boost Self Esteem in Kids“, “In Defense of Relentless Problem-Solving“, and “Stop Back-to-School Stress Before It Starts with 4 Simple Tips.”