What to do with kids on cold days (part one)

I know many things about child-rearing.  I know that tired three-year-olds should not be allowed near blocks and telephone handsets in the middle of temper-tantrums.  I know that one-year-olds are not meant to be spotted, and should they happen to break out in spots, someone with an M.D. ought to be consulted in short order.  I know that four-year-olds… well, to tell the truth, I don’t know much about managing four-year-olds, but I do know that they turn into five-year-olds, which isn’t a whole hell of a lot better.

What I don’t know is what to do with three children when it is too cold to play outside, day after day.  You must understand – my standards for “too cold” are pretty stringent.  If it is above freezing, it is warm enough to get outside for at least twenty minutes.  When we lived in Philadelphia with one toddler, most winter days had a window of opportunity before lunch that allowed Zachary to let off some steam outdoors.  When we lived in London with one preschooler and one toddler, we could usually hit the playground after nap.  It was pitch-dark, but the playground was near some streetlights and it was warm enough to play, provided we wore proper rain-gear.  When we lived in Los Angeles with one pre-kindergartener, one preschooler, and one toddler, it was light enough and warm enough to play outside, and since we went almost an entire year without seeing rain, the kids got some sort of gross-motor activity almost every day.

Here?  It is bright and sunny and lovely and very, very cold.  Day after day, it is just too damned cold to even attempt a playground, what with water on the slides and ice on the climbing equipment.  When it snows, we can suit the kids up and take them out to help me shovel.  The boys are actually quite helpful, which is surprising, given that their father is totally useless in a snowstorm.  Five minutes into shoveling, he’ll start whining that he is too cold.  This works out just fine for me, as the person outside doesn’t have to deal with putting mittens and snowpants on the kids, then taking them off fifteen minutes later when they get sent inside because they were tired of snow removal and started using their shovels as Weapons of Minor Destruction.

There are some indoor play areas, but I just cannot stomach bringing them to McDonald’s to play.  The thought of teaching them that Mickey D’s is a wonderful, hospitable place fills me with dread for adulthoods nourished by Supersized Fries and Triple Cheeseburgers.    And I think I have made my stand on Chuck E. Cheese’s quite clear.

We have gotten a membership at a tiny children’s museum that is about fifteen minutes away.  It is a slightly dingy but quite educational little establishment.  The boys can turn handles to create electricity and Lilah can pop her head in and out of the Van Gogh curtain, laughing with abandon.  It may not provide the same cardiovascular experience that an hour of bike riding provides, but at least they are getting out of the house.

15 responses to “What to do with kids on cold days (part one)

  1. Oh, I so hear you! We’re in Atlanta, and most of the day it’s been below freezing. Sunday, we were outside cardboard sledding down a grassy hill for over an hour, despite the fact that with the wind chill, it was barely 20.

    And the rest of the week is more of the same…

  2. Yes, frozen and expecting more snow today. It is even too cold for the 6-yr-old. I’m going a little crazy — there is no reason to dress or bathe, leads to some bad things. 😉

  3. I wish we had something like that close to home. Sadly, there is really nothing close to my home. Other than trees. And cows.

  4. currently 5 degrees here, over a foot of snow on the ground and the high for thursday is something like -1!!!! one of my favorite things to do is get their hop balls out and let them go to town hopping through the house….its quiet, wears them out and they come in a variety of sizes –course they are kind of a pain to store.


  5. For indoor play, I have acquired (over the years) three tent or tube-like structures- in the range of 20-30. Good for toddlers and kindergarteners.

    For when they need to go out, I can hop on public transportation and get to four or five museums pretty easily. The Children’s Museum is great, and the Science Museum has a section that’s appropriate for their age group. And then there’s always the library, either the main branch with a large children’s section or the neighborhood branch. We don’t go to the latter that often- too small, and my people are loud- but I’m hopeful that by next year they can be trusted. Technically, we could swim at the community center next door, but I’m never satisfied with the heat during winter.

    As long as their boots and jackets are warm enough, they’re usually fine for a walk through our historic downtown and parks. I have friends who will go on nature walks nearby, even in the dead of February, but they’re better than I am.

    Finally, my kids love to cook with me, even if they don’t always like to eat what we’ve made.

  6. Summer is sort of our winter here in terms of need to stay indoors, though we also have days that are too cold to reasonably be out. (Though my standards are less than yours!) Here is what I have done… group yoga inside, rolled out big reams of paper and done stamps on the paper on the floor, gone to indoor playground, walked to coffee shop/store/etc., and back with treat incentive, cooking (though I actually don’t like this… too much stress on me), Simon says, painting the bathtub/shower (with big paint brushes and buckets of water), museums with worksheets (find XYZ, draw picture of your favorite painting).

    Caveat is that the kids are in school (currently ages 6 and 3) while I juggle my jobs, so I only have to make these sorts of plans on long breaks and weekends. If I had to do this daily, I’d be in trouble.

    Good luck! I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  7. We were in Maine for four years with little guys. It helped we lived on a campus so we could run around a gym indoors. A few other things helped us as well.
    1. The indoor space with a climbing structure was KEY. (I won’t do McD or CC either.) We drove a couple of towns over for one but well worth the few dollar investment per visit. You might see what’s in your area– maybe one of those bouncy places.
    2. We got a hand-me-down toddler trampoline, good quality with a hold-on bar like one may see in a preschool. We would crank music and each boy would get turns of 20 jumps (or another agreed-upon number) and we would all count up (or count down, sometimes in Spanish, or with silly accents, etc). This eliminated (most) fighting about who’s turn/fairness/etc. They truly could get tired out from jumping if they had enough turns.
    3. Afternoon bath play– like Holly suggested her son likes ‘painting’ the shower with water. We would spend lots of times with measuring cups, bath crayons, etc. in the middle of the afternoon, not worrying about getting clean– just playing!

  8. Our local rec centres have ‘jungle gym time’ or something similar, where they roll out lots of big play equipment and let the kids run wild. It’s pretty affordable, and does not have the fast food and free toy vibe that McDonald’s does. And some friends of mine love the indoor pool in any weather, although I am far too intimidated at the prospect, myself.

    Good luck! I hope that you find something suitable, soon. Or that it is an early spring.

  9. That’s funny about the McDonald’s thing, since just today we got together with our (one) friend and her little girl there and they got all sweaty playing for hours, and I told the mother how I never would have imagined myself going for that kind of entertainment before, but she had a great time and some exercise, and so the chicken nuggets were acceptable. 🙂

  10. I have been mothering in New England for many years now (nearly 11), three boys, all of whom have a relatively low tolerance for being damp, cold or blown upon (they get it from me), especially Henry with the SPD.
    We have sunk so low as to McD’s from time to time – full disclosure for you there – but what you really need is a Jump Zone. Google it. There are other businesses of similar ilk. It is a warehouse with free wifi and multiple indoor jumpy houses and slides.
    Other favorites: a few places around here that sell playscapes let kids play on them inside for a small fee (Creative Playthings), also some local Parks and Recreation Offices offer very reasonably priced tumble classes, etc. Our local YMCA does not require full membership (out of our budget) but we can get reasonably priced day passes. One year my MIL gave everyone swim lessons for Christmas. It was the very best gift we ever got. Wish we’d gotten again!! Local Ys also have pay-per-class and little tykes soccer can be a boon! Some hotels with indoor pools are sometimes willing to let you swim for a small fee if you just want to get everyone wet & tired!
    We have found a winter vacation to be more vital than a summer one. We are very lucky in that my inlaws have a Florida timeshare in February and we have taken to packing the van and driving down for a week. It is even more precious to us than our one week in the mountains in July. It is just the thing to get us through…and the main reason why New England schools have a February vacation!

    All I can say is, I’m in it with ya, sister. Boys are 10, 5 and 3 & have been having trouble settling down to sleep because they haven’t gotten enough energy out. We are officially in Florida countdown mode here.

  11. It is cold here too! We go to the library or the bookstore for story time, we play at indoor play areas, and play with friends at our house or theirs.

    I like “weapons of minor destruction!”

  12. Cheeky Monkey

    No advice at all. Just a hearty agreement that winter can really suck.

  13. Not a Princess

    Bowling. It’s not outside but even a one year old can do it. I’ve been twice this week. My arm is killing me and I was soundly beaten by my four year old last night.

  14. We have a fab rec center in town with a gym, a track, and an indoor pool. Membership was dirt cheap cause property taxes sure aren’t. 30 minutes away in the closest city there is a children’s museum with a climbing structure and a place calledMake a Mess with a HUGE obstacle course climbing thing and an inflatable obstacle course, fooseball, air hockey, ping pong tables and strangely enough kareoke.

  15. This is why dance classes are such a great idea. Oh wait, you have boys 🙂