Keeping Kids Interested When the Game’s Over in the 1st Inning

***Stop #7 on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Cedar Rapids (IA) Kernels***

The Cedar Rapids Kernels needed a win to secure a playoff berth – and, boy, did they respond!

Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, IA

After a 9-run bottom of the first inning, there was no doubt that September baseball in the Midwest League would be visiting Veterans Memorial Stadium in Eastern Iowa.

And, as much as I loved cheering on the Kernels as they batted around (and around and around), I secretly had two guilty, parental thoughts:

(1) Oh no, this game is going to take forever!, and,

(2) How will I keep my kids interested enough to stay until the end?

The good news for me, though, was that the tickets were cheap and the ballpark offered plenty of FREE, non-baseball activities to hold my kids’ inadequate attention spans.

Activity #1: Face Painting

There is almost nothing with more magnetism to children than some cheek artwork – no matter how far down the left field concourse the line extends.

I was impressed the diversity of the face-painter’s repertoire.  There were several painted tiger faces, whimsy butterflies and even a few flaming baseballs.

The painting and waiting extended our game stay by, at least, two innings.  

Activity #2: Balloon Modelling

“A sword!”  yelled a young fan at the artist as he inflated yet another brown and grey balloon.

Hardly glancing up at the long line that had formed, the balloon sculptor simply replied, “Coming right up, sir.”

Next, a dainty 8 year-old girl requested a “princess crown.”

Again, he smiled and said, “Coming right up, sweetheart.”  

The rest of the kids in line stood still, transfixed by the balloon masterpiece being crafted before their eyes.  All the while, parents (like me) were able to keep track of the developing blow out on the field.

The beaming smile of the boy with his balloon sword, or the radiance of the newly crowned balloon princess were an ample reward for the twenty-five minute wait in line.

Activity #3: Take the trinkets from the tables

When all else failed to keep my kids’ backsides in their seats, a walk on the main concourse overlooking Perfect Game Field was akin to a treasure hunt.

There were three folding tables set up for various community philanthropic organizations.  But, my children didn’t care about the trumpeted cause, they wanted the trinkets set on the tables designed to lure a passerby in.

My kids walked away from a short concourse stroll with a bag full of bubbles, $10 off coupons to a local store and about six 2017 Kernels schedules – none of which made it home with us.

In spite of our impressive afternoon riches, we did only manage to make it through eight innings of the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ 16-3 victory.

But, we put our new toys to use – wrestling the bubbles from my 1 year-old while leaving the park as we dodged two tiger-faced balloon sword fighters enjoying the fruits of their own Vets Stadium harvest.

A day with kids in Cedar Rapids, IA

There is no doubt that Cedar Rapids has been reborn after historic flooding in 2008.

New and old-made-new entertainment venues are everywhere and accessible to anyone – the downtown Doubletree Convention Complex and adjacent US Cellular Center, the McGrath Amphitheater and the NewBo City Market are a few favorites.

For little ones, the Cedar Rapids Public Library offers both traditional and interactive exhibits that kept my kids’ attention for well over an hour.  The library looks over the re-invented Greene Square – a green space equipped with plenty of grass for running and water fountains for cooling down.

The view from the rooftop of the Cedar Rapids Public Library toward Green Square and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art stands across from Greene Square, making this area the center for community enrichment and active play.

Cedar Rapids has the luxury of artistic exhibits located outside of a museum.  Grant Wood famously resided in the community in the late 1920’s and his quaint, downtown studio is open to the public for free.

More than 200 pieces of his artwork are on display in the small studio that produced his famed, “American Gothic” painting.

There are many hidden gems for kids in Cedar Rapids, IA – and more being added daily.  With all that is new and all that will be done, everyone should “Go Cedar Rapids“.

***The next stop on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Iowa Cubs***

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