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Your Summer Guide to Santa Monica with Little Kids

Santa Monica is one of America’s most famous beach towns and as you can imagine, summer brings an influx of traveling families from far and wide.

As a local and a mom, I spend (almost) every single day here in the summer, figuring out a fun, nearby activity for my daughter. Bonus points if we can find an outdoor activity with water to cool her off a bit!

After lots of trial and error, we’ve found our top summer spots for daytime play with toddlers in Santa Monica.

*All these activities are generally for walkers, but we still did many of them when Aurora was crawling only and still had a great time!

 

Pools

The Annenberg Beach House is only open in the summer but they make the most of it with a ton of family friendly activities, many of which are free! Access to the pool itself is $10 and comes with showers and changing room facilities and access to a snack bar and game room. 

Annenberg Beach House Pool

The pool is a clean, refreshing place to cool off. There are abundant lounge chairs with umbrellas but they are often occupied. This place is popular especially during hot summer days, so planning to go during off times (before noon or after 4pm) if you want to avoid a crowded pool or full lounge chairs. Busy or not, it is still one of the best pool experiences in Santa Monica!

Another great thing to note: the Annenberg Beach House has programming throughout the summer with many free kid friendly events! The Santa Monica Public Library does an especially cute “library day at the beach” (see above) which comes with books, crafts and live storytime. Check the Annenberg events schedule here

 

Splash Pads

Annenberg Splash Pad

Annenberg Beach House Splash Pad

There are two splash pads worth checking out: the Annenberg Splash Pad and Tongva Park. The former is located down on the beach, with tables, chairs and umbrellas as well as a little lawn area which makes it easy for parents to sit and watch their littles running (and screaming) through the water. The water is very warm and the area is usually not too crowded, but I’ve never seen it empty either. Later in the day, there’s often some shade which is very nice for delicate little skin. Bring a bucket or ball for even more fun and don’t forget a towel. 

Tongva Park Splash Pad

Tongva Park Splash Pad

Tongva Park’s Splash Pad is located inside their playground area. Surrounded by rocks, this splash pad is very aesthetically pleasing but note that you (aka the parent) have to push a button to turn the water on and it turns off when you stop pushing. This makes it more environmentally friendly but a little more work. The water here is pretty chilly so make sure it is a warm day! There is usually no shade here. 

 

Santa Monica Pier

Pacific Park

The Pier is the icon of Santa Monica, and I think the Pacific Park rides are the ultimate summer experience for kids of all ages. I was curious if my 14 month old would have as much fun here as older kids, but I needn’t have worried–she had a blast! 

Inkie’s Air Lift

There are 3 rides in the Pacific Park area for little ones with an adult. We weren’t comfortable letting her go alone yet, so we stuck to those three that we could join: Inkie’s Wave Jumper, Inkie’s Air Lift and Sea Planes. Each ride is $5 for both adults and for kids — which can add up quickly — so we picked the two that looked the best to us: Sea Planes and Inkie’s Air Lift. 

Sea Planes ride at Pacific Pier

The Sea Planes ride was the most relaxed, with cute 4 seater planes slowing lifting up and down as they twirl. Inkie’s Air Lift is the same but are you in hot air balloons, facing your little one and can control the spin as you want. We skipped the Wave Jumper though it looked pretty cute, just because the bounces were a little more aggressive than we wanted for our little one but I’m sure it’s great for older kids. You can see a listing of all the rides here

 

Santa Monica Pier Carousel

This historical landmark is 105 years old–built in 1922! The beautifully restored horses really take you back in time and it was a joy to take our daughter on her first carousel experience here. It is only $1 for adults and children under 3 are free, so cost is not an issue. To me, Aurora’s smiles, waving and astonishment at the moving horse was really a worthwhile experience. 

 

Playgrounds

North Beach Playground

Playdate with Ezra at North Beach Playground

This new playground is clean, modern and covered with the soft, spongy flooring that makes it feel very safe for little ones. There are no sand or water features here, but that is okay as you do have a beach access path just across from it. I like the far side for little kids, which has a slide, a teeter-totter, infant swings and some fun swirly rides. This park can get busy, especially on the bigger kid side but overall it feels very safe and clean. The only downside is there is very limited shade. 

 

South Beach Playground

South Beach Playground with friends

How can you not love a playground that is shaped like a ship! This very large playground is set along the beach path, across from the sand and adjacent to some parks. The whole space huge with swings, sand, grass, trees and a variety of play areas. There are some tables on either end and there’s even a little shade. The only downside is you have to follow your child closely because there’s a lot of obstructions so you can lose them pretty easily. Also, I don’t love that majority of the structures are made out of concrete but still, it’s pretty great regardless. 

 

Cayton Children’s Museum

Sienna and Aurora in the ball pit

If you need a break from the sunshine, the brand new Cayton Children’s Museum is a super interesting interactive space for all ages and interestes. From a little market and diner area, to a “vet office” to a ball pit and giant water table—there’s so much to do here. There’s even a real helicopter and firetruck inside for kids to explore. 

Girls at the “diner”

I love the mix of areas that promote imagination and pretend, as well as the tactile areas like the sand and water tables. There’s a playspace that changes as well– sometimes there’s large foam shapes for building, another there’s costumes for dress up and I’ve even seen a sing-a-long music group.

For those under 2 years old, there’s a padded, protected space that is a nice, calm retreat for younger kids.

Under 2 Play Area

The only downside to the museum is it can get very busy, so just be sure to keep close to your little one as some older kids and summer camps are usually running around full speed. 

Firewoman!

 

These are just some of our summer favorites in the area. Hope they help your little one have even more fun in this family friendly beach town!

Survival Guide for SLEEP in First 3 Months: The Products That Help

Taking care of a baby is the hardest thing I have ever done. I thought the delivery was the hard part, and trust me, that was no walk in the park. But actually taking care of a baby, all day and all night, every single day is so much more than I could have ever imagined. You are worried that you aren’t doing everything right. You are worried that the baby needs something more. You are worried in general because the baby is so new to the world. You read conflicting advice on the internet. You hear completely different advice from friends and family. Basically, it’s a full on, all consuming, life altering task that there is no avoiding or delaying. And you and maybe your significant other, are going at it blind.

What you are going to worry most about during those first three months is sleep and eating. For us, eating was a bit easier but sleep was our big challenge.

Sleeping baby wubbanub

I did a lot of research during my 10 months of pregnancy (yes, it was just about 10 months!) and I have to say that some of the ways that I prepared truly saved me in those early weeks.I had absolutely no time to do research when she was born, so I’m very glad that I planned ahead!  I’ve included links on where to find all of these on my Amazon page.

Here is what absolutely helped our family, including Aurora, get some good rest. 

 

  1. DockATot

Who knew that this cute little baby bed/lounger with fun printed patterns would be an absolute life saver. Aurora didn’t know day from night, as most babies don’t right away, so she was sleeping and waking at all odd hours. The DockATot gave me a safe place to let her rest, let her play or just to put her down when I had to run to the bathroom. It is lightweight and very easy to move from the bedroom or the couch (where we slept a lot!). The covers come in a variety of patterns and can be removed and washed. I suggest buying an extra cover and the toy arch for when your baby gets a little older and needs more stimulation!

 

  1. Under the Nile Swaddles (0-2 months)

We tried every swaddle out there–Halo, Miracle Blanket, Woombie–and for us, the only thing that worked was a good, old fashioned swaddle. But not just any swaddle: we needed one with a bit of stretch so we could get a very tight wrap. Aurora could bust out of everything so the Under the Nile swaddles were a lifesaver as we could wrap them so tightly and keep them snug, her little legs and arms rarely escaped. All that changed by month 3, when nothing could keep those limbs in but by that time it was when she should stop being swaddled anyway.

 

  1. Halo Sleep Sack (1-3 months)

Finally, we realized we couldn’t keep her feet bound so we started using the Halo Sleep sack. This was great to keep one or both arms secured but allow her feet to move. She did manage to get out of it most nights, but at least it helped her fall asleep. I preferred the muslin variety as it was much less hot than the cotton or velour ones, but that is only because we live in Southern California and she was born in the summer!

 

  1. Rock-N-Play

rock n play Aurora didn’t take to this right away, but we kept trying and all of sudden, it was magic. The inclined position helped her with any reflux and it was cozy on all sides so she slept very well on it. I found that the rocking motion was not always necessary but sometimes did prolong sleep. I didn’t like music though so I always muted that. She did quickly grow out of it and it is not something that I’d recommend for long, but in the interim when you just need your baby to nap or sleep a few hours at a time, it was so worth the inexpensive price.

 

  1. Hatch Rest Nightlight & Sound Machine

This small, nondescript night light has a lot going on. There is a lovely variety of colors (you can even make your own color) as well as sounds like white noise and waves and  even songs. But the biggest win of the Hatch is that it syncs to your phone. This means that in the middle of the night when you need to turn it on or change the volume, you aren’t blindly fiddling with it in the dark. You can open the app and adjust easily. This was great for turning it on and off from different rooms too!

 

  1. Smilo Pacifiers

Smilo pacifiersWe started with the Wubbanub Animal pacifiers since they were not only cute, the animal actually helped keep the pacifier in her mouth as it gave some balance when placed on her chest. We graduated to Smilo Pacifiers which were also easy to keep in her mouth and developed by orthodontists to promote a healthy palate development. We’ve so far continued with the Smilos.

 

  1. Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor

Infant monitor optixWe decided not to get a monitor that linked to our phone as we know that phones run out of battery or have bad service. The Infant Optics has been great as it has a very clear image quality, especially in complete darkness. It also has a moveable head so you can move it from the display monitor and even zoom in. It also says the temperature of the room which we liked. The only negative is the display battery does die frequently so have that charger handy and it keep it plugged in often.

  1. Boppy

Like the DockATot, the Boppy is a place to let your baby relax, rest or even sleep (if you are watching). It is slightly inclined and has an indent to allow the baby to big snug and cozy. It was helpful when she was awake as she was a little more upright than lying flat and could see more. She grew out this after 2 months as she wanted to be more upright but it was very helpful for those first few months and very portable too. Get a cover so you can wash it when the inevitable blow out occurs!

I will be including an updated “Sleeping Survival Guide at 4 Months: How to Handle Sleep Regression!” soon! If you have any recommendations of your own, please share!

 

xoxo

Kelley

I HAD A BABY!

Sorry for the pause on activity here! I have a lot to share but these first 4 weeks with a newborn have kept me quite busy (and away from my computer).

Here is the quick rundown on what happened:

I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl on June 12th, 2018 at 1:05am.
She was 8lbs 10oz, 20.5 inches in length and completely perfect.

Her name is Aurora Blake Lee, in honor of the goddess of the dawn.

My labor was not perfect–I had to get induced at 42 weeks and this process too 4 days until she arrived by natural delivery. Let me tell you, it was very painful and very long. I don’t know how I endured it, but I give lots of credit to my husband, my amazing doula Karla and the team at UCLA Santa Monica. More on this later!

The past 4 weeks, we’ve been figuring out how to become parents! I’ve gotten to know my little girl, understand how to soothe her, bathe her, breastfeed her, change her and entertain her! It’s not been easy and I’ve slept VERY little, but my husband and I getting a little better at it every day.

Aurora is adorable. She loves to snuggle, is growing very fast for her age (in the 99th percentiles), is very alert, follows us with her eyes, holds her head up and makes me laugh all the time. She is getting better at napping, but so far that has been a challenge (for all of us).

We are also planning our first trip with Aurora at the end of August! Will be writing a lot more about that adventure as it approaches!

 

xoxo

Mama Kelley