Anyone else completely stir crazy? The cold seems never-ending and makes it hard to get out of the house and burn off energy but holing up inside all day gets old fast, especially with little ones. I find that the key to surviving winter with little kids is to have a game plan. You need to have a list of winter activities for babies and toddlers that you can do to get out of the house or keep the kids entertained inside. Otherwise, you’ll go crazy trying to clean up all the messes the kids make and trouble they get into when they’re bored. As much as I hate leaving the house in the cold (I prefer to hibernate in winter), I’m a huge proponent of getting out of the house with kids every day. Even if it’s just a short excursion, kids need a change of scenery and it’ll help you too. Having a list of winter activities for babies and toddlers has helped us so that we don’t waste time debating what to do while the kids drive us crazy. (Here’s our winter bucket list with more family-friendly activities.)
Here are some fun winter activities for babies and toddlers that aren’t too hard to do with little ones and are actually fun for Mom and Dad too.
I don’t know why it took me so long to start planning these but omg I love play dates. It was hard when James was just a blog and his nap schedule was more limiting – trying to plan play date around it was always a crapshoot. Plus, he couldn’t really do much. Now that he’s constantly running around and playing, I love playdates. We can catch up with other parents, commiserate and compare notes while the kids play together. We have a lot of similarly aged kids in our building so it works out well and we don’t even have to put on coats. But I’ll also drive to the burbs to visit friends and let him nap on the way there and home while we play or meet up a play space or playground (weather permitting). It’s so much better to be with other parents than just running around after your kid alone.
Brooklyn has one of the best children’s museums in the country and it took us until mid winter to go which is sad. A 20 minute Uber and we had hours of educational entertainment in a safe baby proofed environment. Children’s museums are really great because you feel like they’re learning stuff, it’s actually cool as an adult and unlike the met, they can actually run around and do interactive stuff.
While James is a little young to fully comprehend it appreciate the aquarium, we went with his older cousins and he had a blast running around, looking at stuff and climbing around. As he gets bigger, he’ll be able to do the interactive activities and really enjoy it. Plus as an adult, you forget how cool it is to see all the fish and sharks and dolphin show.
Indoor Play Spaces
James takes gym classes during the week and as part of the tuition, you can hang out there during designated open play hours. These are great because he’s familiar with the space, can run, climb, jump, explore without getting hurt and it’s a chance for us to see him in action since I don’t get to take him during the week. There are other indoor play spaces in the city that you can pay for a day pass to use and we’ll meet friends there sometimes. I used to balk at paying $20 for what ends up being like 30 minutes before James would get tired but if we meet friends there, I can usually stretch it to an hour and honestly, it’s worth it to me to have him get out all the running climbing and tumbling without giving me a heart attack that he’ll hurt himself on our furniture or hardwood floors.
James is obsessed with music, and he’s been going to music class since he was four months old. Our nanny usually takes him, but occasionally on weekends when we have nothing to do, I’ll take him. It’s a great way to meet other moms and babies and it’s a fun way to burn some morning energy.
Fair warning: This gets MESSY. But you can buy washable paints, smock up the baby, put paper or plastic all over the place and let them go to town. James loves this although he enjoys painting himself and Dakota far more.
James loves helping me cook. I learned that letting him actually help me bake is hard — he’s quick to put everything in his mouth and dump everything all over the place. But if I let him play with pots and pans, spoons and other rando kitchen tools while I do the heavy lifting and then I supervise the stirring and mixing, it works out really well and he really enjoys it. Plus, we have something yummy to eat when it’s all over.
Playing in the Snow
Sometimes you just gotta get outside. Even if it’s just playing on our deck for a few minutes, sometimes getting outside can help with the crankiness and stir craziness. Bundling up for the festivities can be a huge pain in the you know what, but when I see the joy on James’ face while he runs around after Dakota, it’s all worth it. That and when he goes down for a nap without a huge production because he burned off all that energy. Our favorite snow activities include sledding, building a snowman, making snow angels, and just letting James try to walk through snow drifts and throw snow.
I find that in general museums can be really fun for the kids, whether they’re walking or still in a stroller. They’re too young to complain that they’re bored. Anything visual that includes a new space to explore is fun. And you can enjoy the exhibits etc. (when not chasing after the kids) and feel like you did something educational. Lucky for us, NYC is filled with amazing museums. We love the Natural History Museum because it has great exhibits for kids about animals and the planet etc., and of course, the dinosaurs, which James LOVES. But sometimes we’ll drag James along somewhere more highbrow like The Met or Guggenheim or Brooklyn Museum, and honestly, it’s still a great experience. It’s fun for him to explore and we get some culture in.
If you have to shovel your driveway, why not enlist your little buddy to help? Kids love doing grown up things, and for some reason, I have never met a toddler who doesn’t love trying to shovel snow. They feel like big helpers, they can’t really mess it up, and it’s a great way to burn a bunch of energy while getting some fresh air.