When the mercury drops below freezing, every parent is clamoring for answers to that age-old problem: things to do with kids in winter. From toddlers who can’t stay still indoors to older kids who get antsy after too much time on the tablets or in front of the TV, you need ideas.
And it’s not just inspiration for things to do out of the house. You may get stuck indoors with a heavy snowfall or nasty freezing rain outside. We have a few indoor ideas that will keep the whole family happy, not just occupied.
My wife and I have kept our boys (ages 2 and 4) occupied with the impromptu science experiment or two during rainy days. And we have spent some time exploring the Long Island Children’s Museum, which allows a ton of hands-on fun. So we can vouch for these. But some of them are on our checklist for 2016, such as snow tubing at a local mountain or visiting Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in Times Square.
Fun Things To Do With Kids in Winter
Expending All That Pent-Up Energy
What’s more fun than bouncing and flipping on a trampoline? How about an indoor warehouse with a dozen trampolines, basketball hoops and foam pits? When the kids are bouncing off the walls at home it makes more sense to send them to a place like Bounce, with locations on Long Island or north of the city.
Chuck E. Cheese is always a great option for the little ones, while Dave & Buster’s might be the choice for the slightly older kids. So, instead of having your kids staring at tablets on the couch all day, let them run around the indoor playground and try their hand at all the games of skill that these places have to offer. Plus, you can get back to your roots and rack up your own tickets on Skee-Ball. Winning those tickets can be addictive. Just leave some for the actual kids.
Even though it is freezing outside, you can throw some bathing suits on the kids and hit a few water slides. Not at Splish Splash, of course, but there are a few indoor water parks sprinkled throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Great Wolf Lodge has a ton of water slides and attractions packed into its confines in the Poconos.
Indoor Things To Do With Kids in Winter
At-Home Science Experiments
Learning about science doesn’t have to be memorizing the periodic table or dissecting yucky frogs. You can do all sorts of experiments at home with the youngsters, from messy fun with cornstarch and water to a bit more involved and more colorful projects. There are kits to buy that have 11 or 15 or 45 science experiments all laid out for you, but sometimes it is just more fun to design projects with stuff laying around the house. Just remember to be super-safe.
Build a Fort
What was some of the most fun you had as a kid? If you answered building a fort of cushions and blankets, you were a proper Gen Xer. Nothing better than messing up mom and dad’s living room to conjure up a massive conglomerate of couch cushions, soft blankets, sheets, dining room chairs and ingenuity into an awesome fort. Pass this tradition down to your kids. Just go easy on them when you come home to even more elaborate ones involving your 1,000-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets in a few years.
With Netflix, gluing yourself and the family to the couch for a bingy movie marathon is easier than ever. Of course, the selection on Netflix or Amazon may not be to your liking, so you can supplement with DVDs from the library or a video store (if you can still find one).
Outdoor Things To Do With Kids in Winter
If you are in the mood for a day trip, heading over to Camelback Mountain in Pennsylvania and hitting the slopes could be the solution to an empty winter weekend. Not skiing. Snow tubing. Pretty much no learning curve is required so the whole family can participate (within reason; you might want to leave the 6-month-old home with Grandma).
A Good Old Fashioned Sledding Session
The cheaper and more DIY outdoor winter activity for you and your kids is finding a hill near your house and slapping the sleds down. You will need to trudge up and down the hill a few dozen times, possibly with a toddler or two in tow, but you have to actually earn that afternoon’s hot chocolate and marshmallows, right?
Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
The all-time classic. Hopefully you have a old winter hat lying around, along with BBQ charcoal and whole carrots, so this can be a totally free winter activity, but be sure to study up on the optimal temperature, consistency and technique needed to build your own Olaf or Frosty in the front yard.
Cultural Things To Do With Kids in Winter
Hit the Tracks
The train can be a magical place for kids, especially if it just snowed. Just the act of jumping on the Long Island Rail Road or a Metro-North train and watching the scenery go by can be an awesome experience for children of appropriate ages. Your tweens might not be the most thrilled with boarding a train just for the sake of a trip. Even better, if it has not snowed and the air is chilly but crisp and fresh, a walk through Central Park after the train trip can be the perfect winter capper.
If you are looking to get out of the city, grab a Metro North train heading up to the Hudson River and stop off at Tarrytown, Dobbs Ferry or Sleepy Hollow. Explore the Hudson Valley in winter and all the beautiful riverside parks it has to offer.
Give Them A Dose of History
You thought the educational portion was over with those science experiments above, huh? Not so fast. Get you and your kids some culture with a museum visit on one of these sub-freezing days. You can go highbrow at the Guggenheim in NYC, hands-on at the Long Island Children’s Museum or super-silly at Ripley’s Believe or Not in Times Square. All have AAA discounts on tickets.
Check Out the 92nd Street Y
While lectures with literary luminaries may loom large in your mind when you think of the 92nd St Y, there is a whole constellation of activities and programs in the Upper Manhattan institution. There are family concerts appropriate for all ages, classes aimed at kids and Sunday Science Spectaculars, to name a few. And if you really want to see one of the high-profile lectures, your AAA membership can come in handy.
Free Things To Do With Kids in Winter
Hit the Local Library
Even if your kids are more obsessed with tablets than paperbacks, there is almost always something cool to do at the library. Many have programs for kids of all ages on the weekends and are a great place to meet friends for a totally free play date. And, yes, there are computers there for the kids who can’t get enough screen time.
The New York Public Library is a wonderful spot, if you happen to be in the city. Introduce your kids to the wonders of reading in the possibly-most reverent book repository in the world.
Impromptu Beach Trip
No, really. The beach can be a real quiet peaceful place to hang out, even with the wind whipping off the shore. Bundle up the kids and bring a ball to throw around. Anything to keep them occupied.
Make sure you have a nice hot chocolate spot, like Dunkin Donuts, to take them to on the way home to warm-up.
Take a tour through your pantry and freezer to see what ingredients are on-hand. Then go online and explore what recipes you can make with kids. Baking is always a stellar option. Throwing flour around and making cookies could be like heaven for your kids. The mess you have to clean up might not be your favorite, but it also gives you a chance to acclimate your kids to perhaps the most helpful winter activity we can offer: chores.
What are your favorite things to do with kids in winter? Tell us in the comments!