5 spots to take your endless evolving mini – $5 and under

Magical moms, dads, grandparents, and child providers this one’s for you. I’ve been in the mom game for almost two years and we’ve explored so many fun kid (or mini) spaces in that short period of time. Many located in Northern California mostly in the East Bay.

Since I do get the luxury of being a stay at home (magical) mom i am dedicated to the growth and evolution of my mini. I like I keep the day-to-day fun as local as possible. Staying in our community and supporting many toddler activities has worked out great for us. Watching Zy’s development in different environments with multiple cultures has been glorious to watch.

I am all about exposing my daughter to the diversity that our beautiful city has to offers (Oakland). We only attend groups where everyone is welcome. All races. All faiths. All people. All immigrants and refugees. All the time!  There is so much  hate and change happening daily i feel exposure to every walk of life is vital. She will grow to know the difference between diverse and gentrified. Many of the places i will mention serve children all ages, although i am spotlighting on ages 6months-3years.  I will work on creating a broader list of our favorite spots all throughout the bay but for now I’ll keep it simple, quick, affordable, and real.


Poster posted at OPL branches

1. Lotus Bloom 

Lotus Bloom is a non-profit child and family resource center. They have multiple locations throughout Oakland. Our favorite is the one located at Allendale Elementary. There is free street parking just make sure to read the signs (street sweeping). Zy and i have really shown interest in the structure of this multicultural playgroup. Being that it is located in an actual school she notices the children walking down the hall in quiet line, sitting in the lunchroom enjoying food and conversation, and running wildly at recess. And beautifully, Lotus Bloom let’s the mini’s experience all of this school etiquette while still respecting the freedom of being a toddler. The staff is another reason Lotus Bloom is always on our weekly schedule. Their energy is radiant! We sing songs in different languages embracing all cultures, enjoy lights snacks (fruit included), and get invites to many things happening throughout the community. There are even field trips, guest musicians, and science classes. We recently visited the Lawrence Hall of Science on a field trip. (Another bay area gem,  http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/ ) Overall amazing. So grateful to have received this recommendation from another magical mom i met at the library one day. This may be our favorite playgroup in Oakland, but most of them are great!

$$$ – FREE


Photo via website


2. AquaTech

I know we are in the midst of winter here in the bay but Aquatech swim school is a great place to enjoy all year round. We have only been to one out of the two locations (Alameda) over twenty times. Lol. We absolutely love it here. It is located indoors and has a heated pool. They have a large free parking lot and snack bar because we all know how famished we get after being in the water. I personally love swimming and being in and around water (Yemaya babes). And thankfully, i was blessed with a water sign child, who loves it just as much. It is a very peaceful and calm environment which i deeply appreciate. They offer swim classes for children all ages and all levels. We have not enrolled in any classes yet but have been to “AquaBaby” many times. Drop in’s allow you to get your mini comfortable in the water. They include a bunch of water toys (mostly rubber duckies and squirties), a few floating devices, and platforms for mini’s to walk and jump from. Zy gained her water confidence very quickly here and now THINKS she can swim. She loves communicating and smiling at the other babies as they splash around. This will be definitely be on our weekly schedule again come spring!

$$$ – $5/each


Photo via website


3. Bananas 

Another playgroup constantly on our calendar is Bananas bunch. Banana’s is a resource center offering, childcare assistance, parent education workshops, trainings, and playgroups in Oakland! We love their weekly playgroup at the Bananas facility . There is free residential street parking. Their playgroup is run by a warm and down to earth sister who is very involved. The activities change weekly. She introduces many skills in ways mini’s can enjoy. Like early math skills by measuring out pancake mix, adding water and assisting the mini’s with the griddle. She also has lively songs to describe the days of the week and articles of clothing the children are wearing. Snack times always fun with a variety of healthy options. Bananas is located down the street from a park. So on some sunny days we migrate to nature. Win! Win!

$$$ – FREE


Photo via author


4. Bear Cubs 

The newest entry to our calendar is Bear Cubs Gymnastics. This place is amazing. They offer gymnastic classes to all ages. This is another location that offers drop in classes for ages 1-5 years. Which we have been taking full advantage of. There is free 2 hour street parking and a much closer metered parking lot. Gymnastics helps develop great gross motor, social, and listening skills. We’ve attended another gym and it doesn’t even compare to this one! The instructors are extremely friendly and willing to assists children if needed. This spot is ideal for rainy day fun! Just make sure to wear comfy clothes and a pack a snack (although they do have a  small snack bar). The post nap that your mini will take is rewarding.

$$$ – $5/child


Photo via author


5. OPL (Oakland Public Library)

This last one basically speaks for itself. Who in the hell doesn’t love their local libraries? It seems as if my love grew deeper once I had my daughter. They provide a number things. I’ve met so many magical moms here. Shout out to all of you! Parking depends on the location of course. We’ve visited about five public libraries all through Oakland. We started out attending “baby bounce”. Baby bounce offers playtime through song and rhythm for the younger mini’s. Now we attend “Play Cafe”. A playground for parents and caregivers that offer story time, songs in english and spanish, toys, and a delicious lunch (not just a light snack).  The OPL also offer Pre-school storytime, free snacks and lunch to teens, dance classes, community events, and even lend out toys. I usually get free coloring sheet printouts to keep at home for Zy. We enter every reading challenge program suitable for her age, and have received multiple free books. And they even have a program called “Discover and Go,” which offers free or discounted passes to museums throughout the bay area! (You can thank me later.) Every librarian we’ve encountered at OPL have been nice and high energy. They have many groups for the mini’s every day throughout the week  at various locations making it easy for even the working magical moms to attend.

$$$ – FREE


Photo via Author – My mini (Zy)


Hope you and your mini gets to check out one of these amazing spots.