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Middlebury Tot Time 

click to enlarge Middlebury Municipal Gym, 94 Main Street
  • Middlebury Municipal Gym, 94 Main Street

When the cold, wet weather arrived last month, I felt a creeping sense of dread. How would my toddler daughter and I get through the days without spending long stretches romping around outside?

Then we discovered the municipal gym. Every Wednesday and Thursday, October through early June, Middlebury's recreation department hosts Tot Time there from 10 a.m. to noon. Many Vermont towns offer these kinds of unstructured drop-in sessions.

There's nothing fancy about the venue; it's a dingy old building attached to the town offices (a $6.5 million replacement is currently under construction down the street). But the first time we went, 18-month-old Joni and I both felt like we'd hit the jackpot.

She took off to explore the toys — tricycles, dump trucks, rocking horses, a plastic mini-slide, tumbling mats, a train set and a fleet of police cruiser Cozy Coupes. I sat on the floor with a friend and finished the coffee I'd bought at nearby Carol's Hungry Mind Café.

We lingered for an hour and a half before packing up to head home for lunch. I stuffed the $2 drop-in fee into a tub while Joni enjoyed a last hurrah climbing the bleachers near the door. It wasn't the great outdoors, but it sure was fun. 

Pluses

  • Plenty of room to run and wheel around
  • Toys, balls and kid-powered vehicles provided
  • Basketball hoops so parents can perfect their dunk while kids play
  • Walking distance to cafés and sandwich shops for coffee and/or lunch

Minuses

  • $2 entry fee: It's a totally reasonable charge for a wonderful public service, but sometimes it's enough to tip the scales in favor of hanging at the library instead.
  • When local daycare centers bring large groups of children, the place can get pretty rowdy; little kids might feel overwhelmed.

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