Dear Diary,

Tonight, I’m searching online for last-minute gift ideas for infants and toddlers. If you are the mother of a little one who has almost everything like my little girl, you’re probably in the same present position. Last year, Santa brought Caitlynn several dolls she didn’t play with until most recently, which was the case for many gifts she grew into as the seasons changed. This year, I wondered what would put a smile on her face all year round. Then, I came up with the perfect gift–a family membership to a local attraction. Here are my top five picks.

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

When I thought about botanical gardens, I never pictured family fun. That’s until I visited Phipps Conservatory. The attraction features more than flowers. Kids dig the interactive exhibits, such as train displays and a kid sized play food produce department.

Children's Museum

Children’s Museum

At one point in time, Caitlynn and I lived at the Children’s Museum. Every weekend, we hopped in the car and headed to the play place. Caitlynn paints in the art studio, splashed in the water room, sculpts sand in the nursery and most recently climbs in a tunnel made out of tape.



Unlike her mom, my daughter is an animal lover. I like animals, don’t get me wrong. But Caitlynn can’t live without them! She even memorized more than a dozen animal sounds. When the weather was warm, we visited the zoo ten. If we get a membership, the cold weather wouldn’t keep us away. I wouldn’t mind popping in for only an hour, since the admissions would already been covered.

Art Museum

Art Museum

When Caitlynn was a baby, the art gallery installed the work of Teenie Harris–a Pittsburgh photographer famous for his black and white prints. I enjoyed the high-contrast photos, and according to experts, the black and white pictures stimulated Caitlynn eyesight and brain development. The exhibit inspired her to create our own black and white piece, with the help of my aunt. She gave me this picture for Mother’s Day!

Baby Gym

Baby Gym

When I was a stay-at-home mom, we joined a baby gym. Originally, I thought it was for Caitlynn. She could interact with other babies and develop and fine-tune her motor skills. But I later learned the outing benefited me as well! I connected with other first time moms, swapped advice and gave and received support.

Hey DFTM Fam–What memberships would you add to the list?

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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