Anyone who's ever taken their toddler to the playground when older children are there knows it can be stressful for the grown-ups, frustrating for the big kids, and downright dangerous for the littles. But bringing the under-5 set to a playground designed just for them (i.e. a tot lot or a toddler playground) allows for a safe, fun, and (mostly) stress-free day of play for everyone. Here are 12 tot lots and toddler playgrounds near DC that are perfect for new walkers and younger kids.
Most of these toddler playgrounds and tot lots near DC are part of larger parks that also have great play structures for older kids. So, if you've got children of different ages, everyone will have a fun and safe place to play.
For more playground fun, check out our lists of destination playgrounds near DC and DC-area playgrounds that received upgrades in the past two years.
Best Tot Lots and Toddler Playgrounds in Washington, DC
Toddlers can enjoy a whopping four play structures just for them at this playground in DC's upper northwest. The low-to-the-ground structures are fully enclosed by a fence and sit on a rubber surface to prevent boo-boos. Little ones will also love cooling off at the splash pad on hot days. The bathroom inside the rec center even has a changing table for easy diaper changes.
This playground has lots of cool stuff for older kids, like a cool observatory tower, net climbers, and more. But there is plenty for toddlers and younger kids to explore as well, including a playhouse in the center of a sandpit, low-to-the-ground balance beams, and a gently sloping roller-pin slide. There is plenty of wide-open space for little ones to toddle around, but the playground is contained enough that parents won't have to worry about losing anyone.
This fully accessible, bee-themed playground inside the Smithsonian National Zoo is perfect for toddlers to explore. They can slide down a beehive, climb honeycomb steps, crawl inside hollow trees, and more. A real pollinator garden lines the playground, where families can learn about pollination and learn how to protect bees. Bathrooms are conveniently located right next to the playground. When your little ones are done playing, head to the adjacent Kids' Farm to meet cows, goats, alpacas, and other barnyard friends.
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The mini golf course at South Germantown takes the fun beyond the playground. Photo courtesy of visitmontgomery.com
Best Tot Lots and Toddler Playgrounds in Maryland
The appropriately-named Adventure Playground at South Germantown Recreational Park lets kids play out their fantasies of knights, dragons, pirates, and princesses. The seven-acre playground boasts five themed areas. The large Royal Castle playground structure has castle turrets to climb and giant slides. There’s even a sea dragon in the “moat” around the castle. Beyond the castle, there’s a pirate ship playground for younger kids and toddlers with tunnels, smaller slides, and swings. There’s also an incredible splash park, an 18-hole mini golf course, and a jumping pillow.
Follow the yellow brick road (or I-95) to this magical Wizard of Oz-themed playground at Watkins Regional Park. Kids can slide down a giant pair of ruby slippers, climb on towers that look like the Emerald City, and play in Auntie Em’s playhouse. Munchkin Land is the perfect area for toddlers and younger kids to explore. Watkins Regional Park also has a carousel, a miniature train, a mini golf course, and a nature center. The Old Maryland Farm located in the park allows kids to interact with farm animals and learn about farm life in Maryland.
At Wheaton Regional Park's Adventure Playground (renovated in 2020), toddlers can enjoy a dedicated area filled with concrete animals and a sandbox, perfect for exploration. For older siblings, there are slides of all sizes, climbing nets, a climbing wall, plenty of swings, monkey bars, and tunnels. After your kids tire themselves out, be sure to check out the miniature train and classic carousel, both of which operate from May through August.
Kids ages 2-5 have their own Chesapeake-themed playground at this 25-acre park that opened in 2016. It features the Cap'n Crabby fishing boat, a push-and-play "Sounds of the Chesapeake" board, and fish-shaped spring riders. The rubber surface protects wobbly walkers from injuries and has a gentle slope to resemble a beach. When your little ones are done playing, pop them into the stroller and walk the 2/3-mile paved trail around the park to learn about the journey of a raindrop.
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Playgrounds and trains tantalize toddlers at Cabin John Regional Park. Photo courtesy of Montgomery Parks
The playground in this massive park has several play areas with toddler-friendly features, like a mini maze, tunnels to crawl through, small slides, and bucket swings surrounded by trees that provide plenty of shade. Toddlers will also love riding the miniature train around the park. The ground is covered in wood chips that can get into open-toe shoes, so it's best to wear sturdy sneakers.
Best Tot Lots and Toddler Playgrounds in Northern Virginia
This four-acre park has two large playground areas for toddlers and older kids. The toddler area has lots of wavy wooden bridges and tunnels on a soft rubber surface, along with small slides and swings. There is also a large sand pit for digging and exploring. Older siblings will love the large slides and climbing structures, balance beams, zip line, and track at the big-kid play area. The entire playground is fenced in, and there are lots of benches and areas to sit in the shade. Note that the park's public restrooms are a bit of a walk from the playground.
This fully accessible playground allows kids who use wheelchairs, walkers, or braces; as well as those with sensory or developmental disabilities; to have a parallel playground experience full of fun and exploration. The play structures have wider openings, the monkey bars are lower to the ground, and the swings have high backs—features that are also great for toddlers who are still finding their footing. There is also a maze and a variety of climb-on toys, including cars, buses, planes, and animals. In the summer, families can ride the carousel and the trackless train. The rubber ground surface is stroller-friendly, and there are plenty of shaded areas to sit.
Potomac Yard Park offers inclusive playground spaces for toddlers and big kids, separated by a large interactive fountain that kids can splash and play in during the summer. The toddler play area includes small slides, swings, balance beams, drums, and a maze with lots of interactive, sensory features. The big-kid area has a zip line. Train tracks run right behind the playground and airplanes frequently fly over, providing additional entertainment for kids. The rest of the park includes an outdoor stage, lots of green space, fields and sports courts, and trails.
This fully accessible playground, named after the Chesapeake Bay’s sea-monster cousin to the Loch Ness monster, is part of the Lee District Family Recreation Area. Chessie’s BIG Backyard has a padded rubber surface and lots of features to climb, crawl, slide on, and explore. It includes the Nautical Cove, a smaller play area just for kids ages 2-5 with a pirate-ship play structure. Be sure to walk the 2,160-foot Chessie’s Trail, which features a sound garden, spinning rocks, animal sculptures, and lots more to explore. Ride the carousel from April through October, and in the summer, cool off at the toddler-friendly Our Special Harbor sprayground