Memphis: A Playground for 0-3

Summer time in Memphis means school is out, and it’s time to play! Long summer days are the best time to play together with your infants and toddlers.

During the first three years of life, children learn at an astonishing rate, and play is an excellent way to open doors to new areas of discovery.

The Urban Child Institute recently posted a Parent’s Guide to Kindergarten Readiness that touched on 10 experiences that every child in Memphis should enjoy before they reach kindergarten.  The good news is that there are many more than a handful of opportunities for young children to learn and play in Memphis this summer.

All of the ideas that follow are inexpensive, developmentally appropriate, local, and safe.  We bet that you can think of dozens more. We’d love to add your suggestions for additional ways to play and learn with young children. Send your ideas to Pete at:


  • Children's Museum of Memphis (901-320-3171)
    • 2525 Central Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104
    • Originally opened in 1990, millions of families venture to the Children’s Museum of Memphis for various exhibits, events, and programs. The Children’s Museum hosts many 0-3 oriented activities including story times and many arts and crafts venues. Children under 1 are free while adult admission is $10.
  • Pink Palance Museum (901-636-2362)
    • 3050 Central Avenue, Memphis, TN 38111
    • Home to countless scientific, historical, and natural exhibits, the Pink Palace offers a rich learning environment for children 0-3 years old. The Pink Palace is an ideal location for sparking curiosity in any young mind. Admission is free to everyone on Tuesdays from 1-5PM.
  • Stax Museum (901-946-2535)
    • 926 McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106
    • The fascinating music, dazzling architecture, and historical significance of the Stax Museum will provide a fun and enlightening experience for any 0-3 year old. The entertaining music may unleash the inner dancer of any child! Admission is free for all children under 9 years old with an accompanying adult. Adult tickets are $12.

Nature and the Outdoors

  • My Big Backyard at the Botanical Gardens (901-576-4100)
    • 750 Cherry Rd., Memphis, TN 38117
    • My Big Backyard is part of the Memphis Botanical Gardens. My Big Backyard is a massive garden designed to engage children in outdoor play. My Big Yard is home to a small creek, a fishing pond, and programmed rain showers every 30 minutes. Any child would have a wonderful time enjoying this safe and outdoors environment. Children under 2 are free, while adults are $8. Seniors only pay $6.50.
  • Shelby Farms (901-576-4100)
    • 500 North Pine Lake Drive, Memphis, TN 38134
    • At 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms is one of the largest parks in the United States. Shelby Farms is home to ponds, playgrounds, meadows, horse stables, and forests, making Shelby Farms an ideal location for family involvement with very young children for exploration and relaxation. Shelby Farms is absolutely free and open to the public.
  • Memphis Zoo (901-576-4100)
    • 2000 Prentiss Place, Memphis, TN 38112
    • The Memphis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the United States.  Home to pandas, elephants, monkeys, and dozens of other animals, any child will be thrilled to see real versions of animals they have always seen in their picture books. Admission is free for all Tennessee residents on Tuesday afternoons, but remember to bring your Tennessee driver’s license!

Only in Memphis

  • Visit the Peabody Ducks at the Peabody hotel in Downtown Memphis (901-529-4000)
    • 149 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
    • One of the most unique Memphis traditions is the Peabody Ducks. Every morning at 11 a.m., the Peabody Ducks use the hotel’s elevator to move from the hotel’s rooftop to the ground-level lobby fountain. At 5 p.m. everyday, the ducks return to their home on the roof of the hotel. This spectacle is completely free to experience and will definitely bring about some smiles and giggles from any small child.
  • Main Street Trolley
    • The trolley service has been temporarily suspended. Read more.
    • Experience the sights and sounds of the city from the view of a real trolley car. At only $1.50 for an adult, Memphians can take their young child on a ride around Memphis and explore their own city.
  • Mud Island River Park (901-576-7241)
    • 125 North Front Street, Memphis, TN 38103
    • The Mississippi river is an icon to Memphis. The Mud Island River Park serves as a resource to learn about this great river and all about the city of Memphis. Small children can walk along the path of the scale-Mississippi river in the Mud Island River Park. Children 4 and under are free while adults pay $10.