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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!

Baby Solids: Baby Led Weaning vs Purées

This is a follow up to my previous post where I share what we did for solids from 4-6 months.

 

At 6 months, I really noticed a change in Aurora and a much greater interest in food. Now it was much harder to eat in front of her as she was very interested in what was on my plate. At around 6 months, Aurora also started to crawl, and her being more mobile made it even harder to keep food away from her! I really welcomed her interest in food though, as I know that could only help her become a better eater.

There are two schools of thought: Baby Led Weaning and Purées only. I saw the merits in each and decided to do a modified form that included both styles.

Baby Led Weaning

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is giving your child whole pieces of food, cut into manageable yet larger pieces/chunks so that they can grasp and feed themselves.

Pros

  • Baby practices dexterity, pincer grasp and handling food
  • Baby chooses what they want to eat
  • Baby practices “chewing” by gnawing on the foods
  • This approach is more exploratory
  • Parent doesn’t have to give every spoonful (though watching and helping is necessary)
  • Parent saves time if making purées
    • However, I still spent time preparing the BLW foods

Cons

  • Choking!
  • Baby might not get a lot of food successfully from fingers to mouth
  • Baby might get frustrated that they can’t get food into mouth

Purées

Pros

  • More success in actually getting nutrition into your baby’s mouth
  • Parent can direct more of the exposure to tastes
  • Pouches are useful on the go

Cons

  • Time consuming to prepare (if making own)
  • Can be expensive if buying jars/pouches
  • Can be taxing to figure out good combinations & vary meals
  • Baby can get bored or not use hands as much

Our Conclusion

  • I found that a combination of BLW and Purées was the best approach for Aurora.
  • I wanted to make sure that she had good exposure to tastes and I wanted to get nutrition and calories into her little body, so purées were a staple of every meal.
  • I enjoy making food for her, so when I had time, I liked to prepare purees with my Béaba, and experiment with new combinations.
  • Aurora was very into BLW as she loves to feed herself. She got very good at the pincer grasp and at handling food quickly–she realized that there was a reward to learning how to do it well!
  • I found that combination for each meal worked well as while she was picking something up, I’d get a spoon loaded and waiting. After she swallowed the bite that she fed herself, I’d offer the spoon.
  • I felt good knowing that I guaranteed that she good nutrition with purees but she had the fun, exploratory aspect of feeding herself with the BLW foods.
  • I also watched many Youtube videos on Infant CPR and walked through it with my babygroup leader. I do suggest doing an Infant CPR course. I used to be a lifeguard so feel pretty confident but have signed up for one just in case as I feel it is valuable to know.