30+ Best Things to Do With Toddlers and Preschoolers Near Indy

Gone are the days of simply popping the baby in the stroller for a long walk through the park. The days when Mommy’s silly faces were the highest form of comedy and “exploring” just meant crawling across the room, rather than taking off down the block the second they’re given the chance. Life is different now that you have a toddler or a preschooler. They’re ready to engage the world in new and exciting ways, and yet many experiences still need to wait a few years or at least be modified to fit a young child’s skills and interests.

Looking for some out-of-the-box activities to try with your toddler or preschooler in the Indy area? Our list of ideas is packed full of options sure to capture their imaginations, expand their horizons, and challenge them to grow in their abilities through age-appropriate local fun. So grab the diaper bag — or don’t, if you’re lucky enough to be done with potty training! This is when the adventures really begin!

30+ Things to Do with Toddlers and Preschoolers Near Indy

Those little bodies and brains are growing by the day. By exposing your young children to new, exciting experiences, you give them the chance to grow their minds and understand the world around them more fully. Have you already conquered our list of 50 Things to Do with Baby in Indy? Get ready for a whole new world of places to play!

Sign Up for Swim Lessons

Let’s kick off the list with an option that is both fun and builds an important safety skill! Big Blue Swim School in Noblesville offers lessons for babies as young as 3 months old. By the time your child reaches their toddler or preschool years, they’ll be even more ready to splash on in and experience the joy of water and the confidence that comes with learning to swim. We love that Big Blue offers lessons for all ages, 3 months to 12 years, every day of the week, so busy families can always find a class that fits their schedules. Interested in checking it out? Sign up for a free trial lesson in Big Blue’s heated indoor pool!

Big Blue Swim School Mother and Son Swimming

Visit a Toddler-Friendly Playground

Playgrounds are the ultimate destinations for free outdoor fun and Central Indiana has some fabulous options. Some of our favorite parks and playgrounds for the youngest kids feature sections developed specifically for toddlers and preschoolers under 5 years old. One stand-out option is Lions Park in Zionsville. Skip the big slides and climbing structures near the baseball diamonds and head to the north side of the park. Here you’ll find a playground JUST for toddlers. Every single structure is pint-sized and safe for little ones, making it a perfect place to meet for a worry-free playdate.

Other honorable mentions for toddler- and preschooler-friendly playgrounds include:

  • Carey Grove Park, Carmel
  • Founders Park, Carmel
  • Simon Moon Park, Westfield
  • Fort Benjamin Harrison West Playground, Indianapolis
  • Finch Creek Park, Noblesville
  • Arbuckle Acres Tiny Tots Playground, Brownsburg

Play at a Nature Center

Does your child point out every bird and squirrel on your walks? Maybe they need to stop to ponder every rock, flower, or stick they come across outdoors. Encourage your young naturalist by taking them to a local nature center. These free community treasures offer up-close animal viewing, cool facts about Indiana flora and fauna, and even some imaginative play opportunities. Habitat Hall at Holliday Park is always popular, with its river-themed water table and crawl-through log. But every nature center in our area has something unique to offer. May we suggest you visit them all? Get started with these locations:

  • Eagle Creek Park Earth Discovery Center, Indianapolis
  • Cool Creek Park Nature Center, Carmel

Go to a Touch-a-Truck Event

For many kids, nothing beats the magnetic draw of cars, trucks, and other wheeled things. Get up close to all their favorite construction trucks and emergency vehicles at one of the area’s many touch-a-truck events. Typically held during the warmer months, touch-a-trucks give attendees a special sense of community and fun as firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and more community helpers come together to welcome young truck enthusiasts. We recommend arriving early with your little ones to beat the biggest crowds!

Listen to Classical Music at the Symphony

If you think your toddler or preschooler is too young to enjoy classical music, you may want to think again. While a 3-6 year old may not be ready to sit through an entire concert, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra regularly offers their Teddy Bear Series where you can introduce your child to the wonderful world of orchestral music. These events include an instrument “petting zoo” where kids can touch and even try out some classical instruments and a short musical performance that follows an age-appropriate story. You can typically catch these performances at local libraries, or occasionally at the Symphony’s home at the Hilbert Circle Theater.

Shoot Hoops at the Riley Sports Legends Experience

Of course, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a world-class institution packed full of exhibits sure to intrigue and entertain kids of all ages. A membership to the Children’s Museum is one of our top choices for holiday experience gifts for kids in Indianapolis. However, the museum’s outdoor activities especially stand out for toddlers and preschoolers. Where else can kids try out everything from basketball to hockey to baseball in the same location, all while using equipment designed for their size and height? While the world of school sports may still be a few years off, you can pique your child’s interest in athletics and let them test out some of their options at the Riley Sports Legends Experience.

Sports Park at The Indianapolis children's museum: Basketball courts

Introduce Them to Live Theater

If you are anxious for your child to experience the art of live theater, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is one of the best places in the city for this. The Lilly Theater in the museum’s lower level regularly hosts shows written just for preschoolers ages 3 and up. Another option for live theater with littles is Clowes Memorial Hall, where you can frequently catch a traveling show for kids. Past performances have included the likes of the Pout-Pout Fish, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and more.

Scramble and Slide at a Free Indoor Playground

If you haven’t seen our list of free indoor playgrounds near Indy, it’s high time you check it out. Perfect for too-hot, too-cold, and too-rainy days, these play places are typically found in local churches and community centers and are generously offered as a free activity for Central Indiana families. Many even have separate toddler play areas that are fenced off from the bigger play equipment, giving some peace of mind to parents with tiny ones just getting their footing.

Eat at Pizza King Station

A simple slice of pizza and a drink turns into a thrilling experience for toddlers and preschoolers when your soda, lemonade, or water is delivered by model train! Pizza King Station in Avon is a fun Westside eatery offering train-themed decor and delicious pizza. Order through the intercom at your table, which is meant to feel like a train car, and wait for your beverages to arrive on the locomotive that circles throughout the restaurant. You might actually want to plan your visit for days and times that are likely to be a bit busier — you’ll get to see more of the train!

Try New-to-You Foods at Saraga

Whether your family regularly travels the world together or just dreams about it, you’ll love exploring the massive selection of international foods at Saraga International Grocery. The store now has three locations around Indy. Each features aisle upon aisle of produce, ingredients, treats, and snacks organized by region. Encourage your child to try new food flavors and textures and open their minds to the world of international cuisine.

See a Free or Cheap Movie

There’s something special about watching a great film on the big screen, but toddlers and preschoolers may not be ready to sit through an entire movie in a theater yet. These are the years to go to outdoor movie events around Indianapolis. Midtown Plaza in Carmel is a popular destination and typically offers 2 to 3 showings of a family-friendly film one day each week throughout the warmer months. Think your child is ready for their first movie theater experience? Try a $2 summer movie with Regal Cinemas. Worst case scenario, you are only out a few dollars if your little one gets squirrelly and needs to leave before the credits roll!

Celebrate Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

Yep, it’s a real thing! Some local ice cream shops even offer special deals and freebies. Make an otherwise ordinary day something to celebrate by playing up this little-known, but delicious holiday. In fact, almost every day is national SOMETHING day. Next time you and your kids need to make an otherwise unremarkable day a little more special, do a quick search online to find something sweet, silly, or seriously awesome and make it a big deal together.

Make Mud Pies at the Fishers Agripark

While we’ve met a few who might object, most toddlers and preschoolers would be thrilled to squish around in a proper mud kitchen for a morning or afternoon. Come prepared with spare clothes and towels, then set your kiddos free to make a mess. While you’re at the Agripark, you can also visit the animals on this working farm, walk the nature trail, or pick a load of free fresh produce, when available. You’ll also find a playground and a Sensory Garden on-site!

Play at the Library

Many local libraries offer so much more than books! Find out when your branch offers storytime for your child’s age group and plan to attend regularly. When looking at the calendar, you may also discover special drop-in craft times, musical performances, parent/child yoga, and other activities for tiny library patrons. We’re also seeing a lot of area libraries investing in small play areas with dramatic play stations or STEM toys for kids to explore any day of the week. For indoor play, try the Carmel Clay Public Library or the Indianapolis Public Library Fort Ben branch to get started.

Save Money Eating Out

Now that your child is eating full meals of their own, you might notice your bills at restaurants are getting a little larger. Now is the time to take advantage of some amazing kids-eat-free deals at local restaurants! At Indy with Kids, we’re always keeping an eye out for these special offers and adding them to our Kids Eat Free guide, so you can easily save money on delicious food throughout the week. Whether you’re eating out with family and friends on the weekend or just want a break from cooking on a weeknight, we have you covered.

Go to IKEA

Kids love those cute model rooms as much as adults do! Head to the Fishers IKEA and let them sit on all the couches and open all the cabinets and closets to their heart’s content. Stop in the kids’ department to play with some of the toys the store often has out for testing – usually a train table and a kitchen set. Grab a meal in the cafe or an inexpensive treat at the snack shop on your way out. Part of the magic of the little years is finding the fun in seemingly simple excursions.

Join a Gym with Childcare

Whether you’re a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, if you’re raising a toddler or preschooler, you know that finding time to take care of yourself can be a monumental task. If you want to invest in your personal fitness, several local gyms remove a major barrier for parents by providing childcare while you work out. Some larger fitness centers offer indoor playgrounds and plenty of toys to keep your child entertained while you hit the treadmill or swim laps. Smaller gyms may have a few classes a day when a babysitter is available. Be sure to check out all the details when selecting your gym!

Sip an Ice Cream Soda at Zaharakos

Just an hour south of Indy in Columbus is the most charming historic ice cream shop. Zaharakos has been serving customers at its soda fountain since 1900. All the exquisite historic architecture, stained glass, and mahogany woodwork are still there, as well as an impressive collection of mechanical musical instruments. Bring some quarters and let your kids enjoy these fascinating machines and the music they produce before digging into a delicious lunch or ice cream treat. Don’t forget to visit kidscommons children’s museum or The Commons indoor playground, both of which are just down the street.

Explore the Virginia B Fairbanks Art and Nature Park

Across the river from Newfields is the museum’s free park, the Virginia B Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Pack a picnic and spend a day in a place that is equal parts a celebration of Indiana’s natural environments and a display of public artworks. Kids especially love Funky Bones, a giant skeleton model splayed out in one of the green spaces. You can also hunt down all the cute yellow benches around the path that circles the lake. Interested in checking out the paid portions of the museum and gardens? Newfields is surprisingly kid-friendly, with interactive opportunities throughout the galleries and gardens.

Things to Do with Toddlers and Preschoolers By Season

Every season of the year comes with new weather, new holidays, and new activities to try out with your kids.


Watch the Racecars at the Track

While you certainly CAN take your preschooler to the Indy 500 (and members of our team have done it and offer their tips and tricks), one of the best ways to experience Indiana’s most famous site with littles is to go for a practice day. Enjoy smaller crowds and much lower ticket prices. Your vehicle-obsessed child will love watching the amazingly powerful Indy Cars zoom around the track. You might even run into some racing celebrities while you’re there. Pack lots of snacks and water, bring EAR PROTECTION and sunscreen, and maybe even bring a few toy cars along.

Go to a Fairy Festival

If your child is into all things glittery and magical, you’ll want to check out Noblesville’s Welcome to Fairyville festival, typically held in April. The festival is hosted by Nickel Plate Arts and includes several days’ worth of special events, photo ops, activities, art exhibits, restaurant specials, and a community-driven trail of handmade fairy houses. Come dressed in your fairy best for the Fairy Parade, where you and your kids can join in the procession with other fairy enthusiasts.

Hunt Easter Eggs

We have an extensive guide to all the community Easter Egg Hunts in Central Indiana! Grab your baskets and head out with your little bunnies to one of these festive events. With so many parks, businesses, churches, and community centers offering egg hunts, there is sure to be one nearby that fits your schedule. Most hunts feature separate spaces or times for different age groups, so your toddler or preschooler won’t have to race the big kids for their Easter treats.


Cool Off at a Splash Pad

Of course, we have to recommend some splash pads! These are some of our favorite free community resources for fun with kids of all ages. New ones are opening every year, so be sure to follow Indy with Kids to learn about exciting developments around our community. Some of the best splash pads for toddlers and preschoolers include:

  • Mulberry Fields, Zionsville
  • Riley Park Splash Pad, Greenfield
  • Westermier Commons, Carmel

Pick Strawberries

You’ll remind them fifty million times that they’re not supposed to snack on the fruit in the field, but they’ll still end up with sticky, sweet, juice-covered smiles. Enjoy this summer tradition with your toddler or preschooler and return home with plenty of perfectly ripe produce to make into jam, shortcakes, or savor all on its own. Spencer Farm in Noblesville and Driving Wind Berry Farm in Indianapolis are favorite u-pick berry farms for strawberries in our area.

Go to Colts Camp

If your kids love cheering on the Colts on TV or at Lucas Oil Stadium, they’ll love getting some up-close views of the action as the players practice at Grand Park in Westfield. Best of all, Colts Camp is free! While there’s always something fun going on in Colts City, including exhibits, a fan shop, and autograph opportunities, you might want to plan a visit on a Kids Day. On these days, you’ll find extra kid-friendly activities like face painting, balloon artists, and bounce houses. Colts Camp is typically held in late July and early August.


Trunk or Treat

Get some extra wears out of those adorable Halloween costumes by attending an area Trunk or Treat event — or two! There are dozens to choose from, all hosted by local businesses, churches, and community organizations. While we love traditional trick-or-treating as well, trunk or treats may be even more age-appropriate for little ones. With less distance to cover between candy stops, you can get your candy haul and be home before bedtime, avoiding the overtired sugar crash that is often the aftermath of Halloween.

Hunt for Leaves at Crown Hill

A cemetery might not top your list of places to explore with your young children, but Crown Hill is an especially beautiful cemetery. It’s as much a park as a reverent final resting place for many Hoosiers, including some famous former residents. Grab a map at the entrance, or download the tree guide to your phone. Crown Hill is a nationally recognized arboretum and is home to 137 distinct tree species.

Have fun collecting colorful leaves fallen from the variety of trees and keep an eye out for interesting wildlife. Don’t forget to leave some pennies at beloved Hoosier children’s poet James Whitcomb Riley’s grave at the top of the hill. You’ll be treated to a gorgeous view of the city skyline and your spare change will support Riley Children’s Hospital.

Pick Some Apples (or Pumpkins!)

Harvest season brings several opportunities to head out to a local farm and pick your own produce with your toddler or preschooler. Apples ripen first, often beginning in late July and continuing into late October. Bring home a bunch and create some memories while making applesauce or baking pie with your child. A bit later in the season, you can catch a hayride to a pumpkin patch to hunt for cheerful orange gourds for carving.

Spend a Spooky Evening at ZooBoo

ZooBoo at the Indianapolis Zoo is one of the top Halloween events in the city for young children. Don your cutest costume and hop over for plenty of themed decor, activities, and of course, animals. Pumpkin Town is located under the Bicentennial Pavilion. Here you can visit Jack’s Barn to meet spiders, snakes, and even some black cats available for adoption. Get lost in the mirror maze or stock up on snacks before venturing out into the rest of the zoo. You’ll find cute photo ops, themed games, and a trick-or-treat trail as you explore. This event is free for zoo members.


Skate in Your Socks

Ice skating is a favorite cold-weather pastime, but if you have young children, they may not be quite ready for real ice. Until your child is a little older, you can visit a sock skating rink at a couple of locations near Indy. Conner Prairie’s Merry Prairie Holiday event runs throughout the holiday season and features a large space where kids can slide around in their socks on a not-too-slippery plastic surface. Another option is the Power Play hockey exhibit at the Children’s Museum. Don an Indy Fuel hockey jersey, then slide to the lights and sounds of a real hockey game.

Have Breakfast with Santa

Christmas is just magical when kids are in their toddler and preschool years! As they start to remember past holidays from year to year, it’s the perfect time to start some family traditions together and seek out special experiences that will become lifelong memories. For many Indianapolis families, a festive breakfast with Santa is a must for the Christmas season. There are plenty to choose from in the area, with dates, times, and price points to fit any schedule and budget. Eat breakfast or cookies with Santa at Stuckey Farm, Conner Prairie, Dull’s Tree Farm, the Indiana State Museum, and many other Central Indiana locations.

Watch Model Trains for Hours

There’s something about electric model trains that is just mesmerizing, especially for kids! As holiday festivities begin ramping up in late November, you can head to several locations around the city to see fascinating and creative train layouts that just might entertain your little ones for hours. Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg is an impressive display built from natural materials, while the trains in Garfield Park’s Conservatory Crossing chug along through a snowy village surrounded by hundreds of poinsettia plants. You can see the Sullivan’s Hardware model train layout for free or catch the ever-popular Sullivan Express for a fee. Looking for year-round train fun? Mr. Muffin’s Trains in Atlanta is open to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays.

Catch a Hockey Game

Indy Fuel hockey games are so fun and family-friendly that you don’t even have to be a huge hockey fan to have a great time. With players zipping around the rink on skates, the games easily hold kids’ attention with their fast-paced plays. They’ll also love all the excitement and fun in the stadium throughout the game, including chances to meet the Fuel’s mascot, Nitro the Dragon. Parents can plan around promotional nights, like “Kids Eat Free” days or “Do 317” Nights ($3 drinks, $1 popcorn, $7 T-shirts), or pick a game with a fun theme. Make sure you don’t miss the beginning of the game. The Fuel definitely know how to make an entrance!

At Indy with Kids, we are ALL about encouraging families to get out and PLAY around Indianapolis. This city is packed full of fun, educational, and thrilling activities for residents and visitors of all ages. But as you plan your best day(s) ever, don’t discount the deep value of the little moments you spend with your child every day.

As much as these littlest ones need physical and mental stimulation, they also need rest and quiet moments with those they love, as any parent or caregiver knows. Use the little years as your own reminder to slow down, focus on quality over quantity, and just cherish this magical time in your child’s life. Even more exciting things are ahead, but you don’t want to miss everything that is special about this moment.

Sign your child up for swim lessons and start building confidence and safety skills.

Exploring with a baby in tow? Here are 50 things to do with babies in Indy.

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