My Secret Weapon for Burning off that COVID Energy

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Every family has different comfort levels with COVID exposure in public places. For our family, we’ve been pretty cautious. We haven’t eaten inside a restaurant for the past eleven months, nor have we been to friends’ houses without our masks. We canceled family gatherings over the holidays, and we’ve been taking a lot of walks outside. A LOT.

These past few weeks have been getting more difficult, though. It snowed. And snowed. And snowed some more. Our outside walks resulted in soggy feet (how does a child possibly stay bundled up from head to toe, yet comes inside with wet socks?)

We’ve been looking for an indoor location where my three-year-old can burn off energy, stay far away from others, and be himself for a little bit (i.e. yell loudly about absolutely nothing). While that sounds like the impossible task, we finally found our secret spot:

The mall…wait for it…before it opens to the public.

The calm before the storm.

The mall, at its peak shopping time, is a bit too crowded for us. But before it actually opens? It’s heaven. A quiet, well-lit, calm heaven. A great spot to burn off that energy.

You’ll see a few moms power walking in small groups, special event vendors setting up tables, and custodial staff preparing for a busy day ahead. But overall, the mall has incredibly low capacity. It is easy to social distance, and I even felt comfortable letting my child walk without holding my hand— at least, until he started running at full speed towards the escalator.

A few tips to make your pre-mall excursion a success:

Figure out Opening Time

To accommodate employees, malls actually open their main doors anywhere from 60-90 minutes before the stores open. If you’re not sure, call the Guest Services Desk and ask.

Find the Correct Door

As a security precaution, not every entrance is unlocked prior. Look for larger mall entrances, as opposed to small side entrances or store-front doors. You’re better off trying the food court entrance at Polaris than the small door beside California Pizza Kitchen or the direct entrance to Macy’s. In addition to Polaris, the Worthington Mall may be a great place to burn off energy as well.

Get Ready to Ride the Escalator. A Lot.

No crowds at the mall= full access to the escalator. To my three-year-old’s delight, he had the escalator all to himself. So we rode it. Up and down. Approximately 20 times. Though I quickly became tired of seeing the same JC Penney sign at the top, I was able to take the opportunity to teach him how to safely step on/step off the escalator. We took our time practicing, and now he’s a pro.

Go ahead, ride the escalator 20 times. The world is your kiddo’s oyster!

Take Snacks and Water

Because the stores aren’t technically open yet, most food court stations won’t be, either. Stuff a snack in your pocket, so your kiddo doesn’t decide he needs Cinnabon RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

Leave the Coat in the Car

It can get warm walking around for 40 minutes, so leave your kiddo’s coat in the car. Nothing is worse than a child complaining because he’s too hot, only for you to have to carry his coat around the entire time. If you’re worried about it being too cold from the parking lot to the entrance, remember: the mall isn’t open yet. You will get the closest parking spot you’ve ever gotten. Trust me.

Which mall will you try first? Any other tips? Leave a comment below!

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Martha is a graduate of The Ohio State University and serves as a marketing director for an educational publishing company. A former high school ELA teacher, Martha loves to read—YA fiction, cookbooks, magazines, anything she can get her hands on! She has a two-year-old son who taught her about unlimited patience, unconditional love, and Floorios (Cheerios found on the floor, yet are somehow deemed perfectly fine to eat). Married to Lucas, Martha is in awe of her husband’s selflessness and commitment to be a true partner in all facets of their life together. Martha is great at making lists and cleaning out her inbox; she is terrible at taking breaks and baking cookies. You can find Martha and her family at COSI, Franklin Park Conservatory, or the nearest playground. Other hobbies include cooking and strategy board games.