Toddler Friendly Mission Visit

Visiting local places of interest is one of our favorite ways of making connections to our community. Often times, these places are only organized for adult tours, so we make our own plan, a toddler-friendly plan.


Yesterday, we joined a few friends at Mission San Juan Bautista. With the mission’s long history, it’s hard to make sense of what can and should be shared with a toddler. Before we got there, I talked to Greysen about the mission and the things we could see while there, including sculptures, the cemetery, the church, and the garden.


Rather than talk about the valuable, yet distant, past and learn about the history of the mission, I decided to focus on trying to draw connections for Greysen.  Based on her current interests and knowledge, my main goal was for her to enjoy the trip and, secondarily, have a sense of familiarity with the place upon leaving.


She chose to start at the garden to look for worms and rollie pollies. We didn’t find any, but we did find a sculpture.


We walked up to the sculpture (a cross) and tried to guess what it could be made of. Greysen’s guess? Cookies.



We brought along Greysen’s park journal in case she was inspired or wanted to record anything she saw.



I related the sculptures to working with clay, and we started the hunt for the next sculpture. . .  and then another.


We touched and tapped each one to assist us in guessing what they could be made of, to feel whether they held heat or to determine whether they were smooth or textured.



She took particular note of the indentations representing whiskers on this sculpture. These were reminiscent of markings she makes with clay.


Aside from inspecting the sculptures during our self-guided tour of the mission grounds, we met kind tourists and hunted for insects. By finding one aspect of the mission which meant something to her, we made what could have been a forgettable visit something that she was genuinely interested in.  This also sparked some interest in using clay at home to try and make similar types of whiskers.


Since the Mission San Juan Bautista is only a short drive away from home, we will visit again soon. Maybe we will see the stables, or focus on some other interest of hers while there.


Where are your favorite local places of interest to visit? What have you found that engages your children in adult-oriented locales?


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