By Belinda Lyons-Newman

This time of year presents the opportunity and challenge of finding fun creative things to do with little ones who may be home from preschool or other childcare during the holidays. What better place to be for the holidays than right here in our wonderful city? If you are looking for some fun Berkeley activities with your toddler between now and the end of the year read on for my top picks:

Lawrence Hall of Science

Bring your toddler to explore the various exhibits at LHS. The pin wall in the entrance is a fun interactive exhibit for toddlers. Throughout the museum there are buttons to push, balls to roll, crawl areas, a tunnel to walk through, blocks and shapes to stack and more. If weather permits, your toddler will love to play on the giant whale in front of the building. Tip: On weekdays bring cash for parking machines.

Lawrence Hall of Science, 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720. Tel: 642-5132. Open Daily 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Closing at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, December 24. Closed on Saturday, December 25.

Tilden Park

Every time I visit Tilden Park I reflect in wonder and appreciation at this spectacular park we Berkeleyans have right in our backyard. Toddler friendly activities in the coming week at Tilden include:

Merry-Go-Round: Tilden’s antique merry-go-round with painted wooden carousel animals to ride is open Price: Under $10 ($2 a ride or 7 rides for $10.)  Open 11:00 am – 05:00 pm. Closed December 24,25,31 and January 1. Tel#: 524-6773

Little Farm: Bring your lettuce or celery for your little one to feed the goats. This adorable farm never fails to bring joy and wonder as well as space for running around outdoors. Open daily from 8:30-4 p.m. Little Farm Tel: 544-2233

Steam Train: Toddlers never tire of riding the delightful Tilden Steam Train.

Tilden Park. Wildcat Canyon Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Berkeley, CA 94708. Tel: 544-2747 Hours:  Open weekends 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. or dusk, weather permitting. Open Christmas Eve day, day after Christmas, New Year’s Day. Closed Christmas Day. $2.00 per ride , $8.00 for 5 rides. Free: Under 2 years.

Berkeley Public Library

The Berkeley Public Library branches are holding a variety of events for kids on weekdays. Events include the weekly delightful Story Time including music and puppets on Tuesday December 28, 2010, 11 – 11:30am at for kids ages 12-36 months. The program is followed by open playtime in the same room. Libraries are closed December 24 & 25 and December 31 & January 1. Here is a calendar of all the library events.

Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704 and other Berkeley locations. Tel: 981-6100.

Habitot Children’s Museum

Visit Habitot during its regular open hours to play in the water area, art room, wiggle wall and other activities. My two year old, Ella, especially loves the rocketship exhibit now showing including a myriad of computer buttons to push and beautiful astronaut costumes. Regular hours are Monday 9:30-12:30pm Tuesday 9:30-12:30pm Wednesday 9:30-12:30pm Thursday 9:30-12:30pm Friday 9:30-4:30pm Saturday 9:30-4:30pm Sunday 9:30-4:30pm. Habitot will be closed December 24 & 25 and January 1.

In addition, for the holidays Habitot has a winter camp for kids 3-5 years old December 27-31 from 9:15 am- 1p.m for $30 per day (call ahead to confirm spaces are still available).

Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. Tel: 647-1111.

Quiet Day at Home

What better opportunity than the holidays to slow down and spend some quiet time at home with family? Work on a craft project, make cookies, or go for a walk or stroller-ride in your favorite Berkeley neighborhood.

Last, if you find that holiday stress is taking its toll, consider these tips from Berkeley-based Greater Good Science Center’s Raising Happiness blog on dealing with holiday stress (click through to the center’s website for the full advice):

– Remember that it is not about you.
– Remember it is probably all about you.
– Take steps not to be a stress ball.
– Practice forgiveness, of yourself and others.
– Make New Year’s Resolutions.

Belinda Lyons-Newman lives in the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto with her husband and 2 year old daughter, Ella. She is a nonprofit consultant and a student in the Evening and Weekend MBA program at the Haas School of Business.

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