With the crisp, autumn air among us and the colder winter months not far ahead, you’re probably wondering about things to do indoors with your small children and toddlers to keep them entertained during the school year, especially when it gets too cold outside for playgrounds.
If you’re one of the parents or grandparents scouting out things to do indoors, here’s a list of open play areas in and around Knoxville to help give your preschoolers, toddlers, and not-yet walkers something fun to do nearby:
Free open play areas
Children’s Room at Lawson McGhee Library
Lawson McGhee Library in downtown Knoxville has a children’s room that features a small open play area for the littlest of readers. Bring your toddlers and preschoolers to check out books and enjoy free play while you’re there Monday – Thursday 9am – 8pm, Friday 9am – 5:30pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, and Sunday 1pm – 5pm.
Children’s Room at Oak Ridge Public Library
If you’re up for a little bit of a drive, swing over to visit the Children’s Room at Oak Ridge Library. It houses a slightly larger open play area than some of the libraries in Knoxville and features an upstairs fort for small children. Bring your toddlers and preschoolers to check out books and enjoy free play while you’re there Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm and Sunday 2pm – 6pm.
Play Area at West Town Mall
There is a play area located in front of JCPenny at West Town Mall that is a free activity center. This open play spot in the mall offers families an appealing break while shopping. Small children can play on the mounds or with the interactive games available. It’s open Monday – Thursday 11am – 8pm, Friday and Saturday 10am – 9pm, and Sunday noon – 6pm.
Low-cost open play areas
Smart Toys and Books
This super cute and whimsical toy store is home to an open play area and indoor playground tailor-made for babies, toddlers, and elementary-aged children. Open play hours at Smart Toys and Books are as follows: Monday – Friday 10am – noon, 1pm – 3pm, and 4pm – 6pm. Saturday sessions will be announced on a weekly basis due to private parties. They are closed on Sundays.
On bad weather days, you’ll want to call ahead at (865) 394-6060 to make a reservation. Their open play sessions fill up quickly. The cost is $8 for the first child and $5 for one additional child. Children under 2 are free with a paid sibling. Socks must be worn at all times, but just in case you forget, we have socks available for purchase.
Farragut Community Center
Toddler Takeover (formerly known as Toddler Open Gym) is a parent-supervised open play room offered in the Farragut Community Center for small children (walking to five-years-old). Toddler Takeover is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 10-11am in the community center gym. The cost is $2 per child per session; adults are free. Join and let your child explore our bright, colorful, age-appropriate equipment!
After Labor Day every year, look for Open Gym at Revolution Dance to return for open play for babies and toddlers during the school year. The open playroom is perfect for infants, babies, and toddlers. Imagine a playroom with mats, trampolines, a ball pit, slides, balance beams, a mini roller coaster, and age-appropriate toys for crawlers and toddlers. Admission is $5 per child ($1 discount for siblings); cash or check only, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, 10:30am – 11:30am.
If you don’t mind making a short drive over to Clinton, consider visiting Backyard Bouncers. It’s an indoor inflatable bounce house perfect for babies and kids of all ages. The cost is $10 per kid (accompanying adults are free). They open at noon on select weekdays and 9am on weekends. Only 15 kids are allowed to jump at a time, so you’ll want to go to their website for the full schedule and to make a reservation online.
Let the kiddos run crazy at open gym time at this gymnastics studio in Knoxville. The cost is $7 per child for 1 hour and $15 for 3 hours. During the school year, open play hours are Monday 10am – 2pm, Tuesday through Thursday 10am – noon, Friday 7pm – 10pm (Parents’ Night Out), and Saturday noon – 5pm. Book online here.
Tumble Bears Gymnastics
Tumble Bear Gymnastics in Maryville hosts Preschool Open Gym every 3rd Wednesday of each month from 10am – 11am. The cost is $6 per child, ages walking – five-years-old. Spots are limited. Online registration is required.
Maryville’s Play Station
Maryville’s Play Station is the perfect indoor spot for kids inside the Foothills Mall. It’s filled with fun activities that will keep them entertained all day! Check their Facebook page for more information Open Monday-Saturday 10am-8pm, and Sunday 12pm-6pm.
Open play areas with memberships
If you’ve never been to The Muse, this children’s science museum should really be at the top of your list. For just $10 admission (or free for members and babies ages 12 months and younger), get access to hands-on exhibits, activities, and play spaces designed for kids of all ages, including sensory activities, a play kitchen, arts and crafts, jungle gym, and more. They are open Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm.
If you want to try it out for free, come on the 4th Friday of each month from 5pm – 7pm for their Free Family Night. First come, first served. (Note: No more than 3 children per adult may be admitted.)
Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge
If you’re feeling up to it, make a quick drive over to the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge. It’s a larger museum hall with themed rooms for kids of all ages (including a train exhibit, kid-sized dollhouse, play food, and water table exhibit to name a few). They are open Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm, Sunday 1pm – 4pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for kids 3 and up, and free for kids under 3. Free for members. On Tuesdays from 10am – noon, small children can come together to enjoy Toddlers’ Playtime in the Preschool Room.
As you can see, whether you’re looking for indoor things to do with your small children or grandchildren, there are so many options to choose from on any given day in and around Knoxville. And when all else fails, you can always plan a trip to an arcade such as Chuck E. Cheese, Urban Air, or Main Event!
Hopefully, this list helps you add a few new places to try for added fun for you and your little family. Just because it’s getting cold outside, doesn’t mean the fun has to stop there (or hurt your wallet).