The four walls close in quickly when school’s out. The first day feels glorious: no alarm, nowhere to be, no reason to get out of the pajamas. Day two, reality sets in. How long can you color or shape playdough or watch videos or stack Legos before no one likes each other anymore? So in honor of this long road to January’s return to school, I give you my top 15 indoor activities for kids that get you out of the house.
1. Indoor Play Areas–
Most cities boast at least a few of these. Picture a giant room full of slides and pretend play areas and tumbling equipment specifically designed to wear your kids out. My Gym has sites nationwide or if you are local, Monkey’s Treehouse is a good one. Trampoline parks are always a big hit with older kids However, you will not catch me participating. Double bouncing is evil and I will not be a part of it.
They have an excellent kid crafts zone where kids get their own aprons and can make a project on the spot. Call your local store to find out the schedule.
3. The Mall-
Seriously. They have a play area, food at the ready and rentable strollers that look like cars.
4. Day trip-
We are planning to go to an aquarium about two hours from our house. It’s indoors in a new city. Trips that are under three hours usually leave your sanity intact and you can get there and back in one day, meaning no money spent on hotels and no overnight packing, which is a game-changer in our world.
This may not sound like a fun kid adventure but it is when it includes unlimited food samples, giant stuffed animals, and aisles for (supervised) running. And you can get your giant thirty-two pack of paper towels while you’re at it.
6. Science/Art/Music Center-
We have a science center in town that boasts the kind of planetarium you could cozy up in and stare vacantly at all day long. If your kids can’t sit for more than five minutes, however, it also has age appropriate activities and science demonstrations. Most of this stuff is hands-on, which we love and is wheelchair friendly. Look up what kind of “centers” might be near you: space, science, arts, music.
This one’s obvious but extra fun when it’s twenty degrees out and the neighborhood pool doesn’t open for six more months. Most local recreation centers have indoor pools. Call ahead to see if there are free swim times.
I so wish we had one of these nearby. It’s like walking in to a tiny version of the real world, but more colorful. EVERYTHING is hands on from music rooms and art rooms to castle exhibits and grocery stores and banks where you actually shop and check out. There are water tables and firetrucks and pirate ships and an infant and toddler play areas. Basically a world where kids run the show.
9. Skate Center (both ice and roller)–
I loved the roller rink as a kid. Not the actual skating part (I was terrible at it and held on to the wall), but everything else: the arcade games where you could win tickets and buy prizes, pretzels as big as your face and gummy ropes. Indoor ice skating still gives you the winter vibes (cold + steaming hot chocolate) minus the outdoor element.
10. Pottery Painting-
This one’s fun if you can comfortably watch your kids destroy their clothes and bodies with paint. Come on, it’ll be good for you. And whatever they make will last forever (or until they break it) which gives you a nice memento.
11. Cooking class–
Whole Foods offers cooking classes for kids based on age level as do many restaurants and bakeries. Google kids’ cooking classes in your area to find out what’s available. I would have loved this as a kid and even my toddlers always want to “help” me cook dinner. This gets you out of the house and keeps your kitchen clean, a win-win.
12. Library Story Time-
Almost every library offers story times for toddlers and preschool ages. A little tip: the downtown branch usually gives the biggest show: puppets, guest readers, dances and live music. I rarely remember the book that was read, but we are always entertained.
13. Train/trolley Ride–
It doesn’t have to be Thomas the Train to entertain. If you live in a city with a decent subway system, this may not be quite as enticing for you, but for those of use with fairly non-existent metro transportation, this one is a win with the kids. Find a commuter train near you or if you have a trolley system, as we do, park the car and ride a while. Any new environment is worth a ticket and hour of your time.
14. Fire Station–
I’m not joking here. I can’t speak for ALL fire stations, but when we politely drive up to our local fire station they often let us come in and tour the trucks. They usually turn on the lights for us and sometimes the siren if the kids are looking especially huggable.
15. Fast food play areas-
Yes, we do this and I know you do to. I don’t love McDonald’s but I do love their end game. They always have the biggest PlayPlace and it’s like the mall: kids get fed and energy gets released. I’ll okay some fast food chicken nuggets for the greater cause.
BONUS IDEA: Be a tourist in your own town-
You get used to a place. You forget your kids are still learning the ropes. Pretend you’re a tourist for a day. Find the best donut shop, the local battlefield, the iconic restaurant or sports arena and pop in or do a drive-by. I can guarantee the kids will be impressed even if it’s old hat to you and you get to watch someone else experience it for the first time.
What are your go-to activities in winter when the kids are out of school?