If you are looking for something to do with your toddler that doesn’t involve a long drive, is free (or inexpensive—ok cheap!) and big on a wow factor for the little ones, Frying Pan Farm Park is a winner for families.
As a working parent and a member of the Park Authority Board I know that free time with your little ones is precious. Like most families, my husband and I try to make the most of our weekends with our two-year-old son. We have made Frying Pan a once a month “go-to” destination for our family since our little guy was just a few months old.
While the Park Authority has many outstanding facilities throughout Fairfax County, I think Frying Pan is one of the top destinations for families with young children. In my opinion, a visit to Frying Pan is perfect for a toddler’s schedule (as a new mom I quickly learned that the daytime window to get out is limited to the time they wake up in the morning until lunchtime which is generally followed by a nap). As such, the morning hours are perfect for a visit to the farm because the animals are very active. You on the other hand may need your cup of coffee to stay awake!
I’ve found that springtime at Frying Pan is very special and the farm is full of surprises to delight little ones. New baby animals are born nearly every month with February through May having the most deliveries. On a recent visit we were able to see and photograph lambs, piglets and a calf. Seeing these animals up close never fails to delight and interest our little boy. Not only does he get to see these very social animals up close, but he hears the sounds they make. Children learn more about the sights and (yes, smells) of the farm each time they visit. Since the animals are cared for and handled by our amazing staff and dedicated “Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park” volunteers regularly, the animals are gentle and friendly to all. Simply put, getting close to the animals brings the farm to life for the youngsters who visit.
This working farm is home to cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits, goats, a horse, ducks, turkeys and even peacocks! Your little farmer-in-training can even test out the miniature stationary tractors. The park is a year-round destination. During warmer months you can enjoy wagon rides and an old-fashioned carousel. When it’s really cold outside you can drop-in at the visitor center to learn about the history of the farm. You even have the chance for a lesson in milking a cow at 4 p.m. When it’s warm, little ones can watch the farmer milk a real cow in the barn.
If your little farmer is especially energetic after viewing the animals, take him or her to the playground down by the Country Store and carousel. There are two spaces for play, one for toddlers and another for older children. There are also benches for grownups to sit back and relax.
We enjoy our frequent visits to Frying Pan. It has become a special part of our lives and in the life of our son. I hope that you will make it a special part of your life as well!
Here are some of my Mommy DO’s and DON’Ts for visiting Frying Pan with your toddler or little one:
- DON’T stress about parking. There’s plenty of parking that’s close to the action (unless there’s a big special event). No need to stress about long walks and you don’t have to haul a diaper bag along because the car is never far away.
- DO bring rain boots for lots of puddle splashing (especially after rain or snow). Puddles are half the fun!
- DO bring an extra jacket (sometimes it gets windy on the farm and the temperatures can feel cooler).
- DO bring a change of clothes. There are lots of opportunities for kids to get dirty!
- DO take a picture of your little one on the mini tractors!
- DO take photos of the animals. These are a great teaching tool for your kids when you get home.
- DO bring a snack (there are lots of picnic tables and places to sit, have a snack, and talk about the animals with your children).
- DO bring hand-sanitizer (as if you don’t have 12 bottles stashed in your bag already!) It’s always good for cleaning up afterward. If you forget, there are hand-washing stations throughout the park.
- DO try the carousel or the wagon rides when they are operating. They are LOADS of fun!
- DO visit the country store. After seeing the chickens you can swing by and pick up some farm fresh eggs and make a tasty omelet for dinner or breakfast the next day!
For more information about Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, visit their website.
By: Kala Quintana, Fairfax County Park Authority Board Member, At-large
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