Any mom or dad will tell you that parenting is hard work, especially in public spaces. Keeping your child safe, happy and well behaved at the store isn’t impossible, but it isn’t easy either. Something as simple as picking up a birthday gift or going to the gym can often seem like an insurmountable goal when you’ve got little ones in tow.

As a parent myself, I’ve spent years searching for businesses that provide onsite child care for their customers so my daughter can enjoy herself while I run my errands. While not every business provides this service, I’ve found a number of places that understand the plight of the modern parent and have some type of child-friendly space available for their customers.


Giant Steps in Fairfield has a play area to keep the kids busy while their parents are shopping.

Shop till you drop

Shopping is such a tedious task for children. Everything is brightly colored and full of sugar, but kids aren’t allowed to touch anything, making it feel like they’re being tortured in every single aisle. And if you’re shopping for a toy for another kid’s birthday? Prepare for unending begging and a potential tantrum.

Thankfully, if you are shopping for toys or other children’s gifts, you can take a trip to Giant Steps in Fairfield, which has a play area for children to entertain themselves while you shop. If that isn’t enough, they even have an arts-and-crafts section where you can pay a small fee and your child can work on an art project while you browse. My daughter is usually so distracted by the playplace and the art station that she often forgets to ask if she can have a toy, which is exactly what I’m hoping for when I’m shopping.

If you need D.I.Y. invitations, art projects, picture frames, or other crafty items, consider timing your trip to Michael’s with their Saturday morning kids’ craft hour. For a small fee, your child can sit and work on a simple craft project while you shop. Michael’s has almost two dozen locations in Connecticut, so it’s easy to find a store near you.

For furniture shopping, you can’t go wrong with the Ikea in New Haven. They have a children’s play room where your kids can run around, color, watch movies, and otherwise keep themselves entertained while you pick out the perfect Kivik or Ektorp. The children’s play area at Ikea is free, but there is a strict time limit and parents are given a buzzer that will sound when it is time to pick up their kids. My husband and I occasionally take advantage of it to go to their in-house cafeteria to make a date night out of Swedish meatballs and salmon wraps.

Work it out

Children aren’t allowed at the gym, which is for the best. They could hurt themselves on the equipment and their running around and screaming would make working out unbearable for the adults. But just because kids aren’t welcome doesn’t mean parents don’t need a workout, so many gyms have taken to providing onsite child care for their members.

Burn Boot Camp in Fairfield offers complimentary child care for their members, but they also have classes for older kids and teens for an additional fee. This way everybody gets a workout at the same time!

There is also free child care for members who are working up a sweat at the YMCA. Keep in mind that there are multiple locations around the state and that each one may have different hours and offer different programs, so you might want to call ahead for specific details from your local Y.

Have some fun

Going out to do adult things is so hard when you have a child. With the skyrocketing cost of babysitting services, dinner and a movie can end up being more expensive than tickets to a Broadway show.

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville knows just how hard it can be to arrange for a babysitter, so they have an onsite child care facility called Kids Quest that will entertain even the most anxious children. For an hourly fee your kids can keep busy with a rock-climbing wall, karaoke stage, play apartment, movie facilities, video games and more.

My daughter can’t get enough of the play area at Mohegan Sun, and my husband and I can have a leisurely afternoon of slot machines, shopping and dining without worrying about our child. Best of all, their hours run late into the evening, which means we can see a show or concert while our daughter is safe and entertained right across the hall.

This article appeared in the September 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.