know that during the summer, when the kids get antsy, I send them out to run under the sprinklers, take them to the beach, go to the park, visit a friend with a pool, and the list goes on. There are often free or low-cost summer programs for kids. If you live in the northern 3/4ths of the United States, though, the same can’t be said for finding fun things to do in the winter months that don’t cost money. Having grown up in Connecticut, I remember spending the dark days of winter cooped up when there was no school… and I also know what it’s like to be on the “mom” end of that equation, with two rambunctious children in a house that feels much too small on cold, snowy days.
It takes some imagination to think of free or very low-cost things to do when the temperatures dip below freezing and the roads are icy. Here are a few ideas:
*Call your local library. Many have children’s programs during the week. These may be geared toward preschoolers, of course, and if you have bigger kids driving you bonkers during the winter break, they might not be much help. Ask the children’s librarian, though; sometimes if you call, they’ll schedule something, particularly if you’re not the only one in your group of friends with an interest. We also found some indoor nature centers with fish tanks and a few activities for the kids. We tried to go to the park on one of the coldest days and only made it five minutes standing outside. Luckily there was a nature center which also offered story time. We spent a couple of hours there and everyone had a good time!
*Be a kid for a day. What did you used to do on snowy days when you were a child? Right! Sledding, ice skating, snowman-building. Take the kids out for some cold-weather outside activity. Get on a sled! If it’s been a few years (or decades!), you don’t know what you’re missing! Don’t forget helmets if the run is steep, icy, or if there are trees or rocks in the vicinity.
*Snip snowflakes. My kids spend hours doing this every year, even when the temperatures hover around 75 degrees (we do live in Florida, after all). You remember how, right? Trace a circle on a sheet of copy paper, then fold it into twelfths: fold in half, then thirds, then half again. Use scissors to snip curves and triangles from each of the sides, then unfold. This makes the most intricate designs, but if your kids are small, then just fold into sixths: fold in half, then in thirds. Tape the completed snowflakes to a sunny window.
*Consider activities that most people avoid in the winter. For example, is there a zoo in your area? You might pay steeply reduced admission during the winter months. Even if you only visit the indoor attractions, it will fill at least half a day, and you’ll save money besides. Or, visit the beach. You won’t be able to go swimming, but it’s still pretty, and your little ones can make sand castles without fear that someone will kick them over; you’ll probably have the place to yourselves, after all!
With a little imagination and effort, you can make the short winter days fun for everyone! What are your favorite wintertime freebies?