Fun Stuff to Do with Little People When It’s Nasty Out

Here’s a guest post from Rose. She didn’t get around to sending one before I went to Disney, but she sent this along when I whined earlier in the week. In fact, I was lazy and didn’t even add the links. Thanks for letting me slack off, Rose!

Most of the time, I concur with Katie’s “embrace winter” philosophy. After all, we live here. Year round. And if anybody should be able to handle the challenges of the northeast, it should be us. We are tough. One time I showed up during a snowstorm for story time and there wasn’t one. Because the schools were closed. What did I know? I have one toddler who is not in the school system. I’ve biked with my (well-bundled) toddler in 40 degree rain. I’ve heard that people in Alaska say that there is no such thing as weather that’s too cold. It’s simply a matter of dressing properly. My philosophy is that if I wait for perfect weather at this latitude I’ll go outside a couple of times a year. And that’s not cool. So to speak. But sometimes it’s too vicious outside for even me. And when cabin fever sets in, here are some options outside the house:

Colonie Center Mall. This one is probably obvious. Wide open(ish) warm spaces, a padded play area, and a food court (snacks!) But think about the other things you can do: run the kid around on the second level. Looking down a story is really neat, especially if you can keep them from climbing over the railing. Also, going up and down the escalators can be the toddler equivalent of an amusement park ride. When the play area is overcrowded (which happens a lot on nights, weekends, and really nasty days), we will often visit the train table in Barnes and Noble’s children’s section. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to watch a kid-friendly movie at the theater.

Wilton Mall in Saratoga. Depending on where you live, it might be a drive, but if you want to change it up, this mall features a soft-surface play area that’s double the size of the one at Colonie Center. That area is free. There is also a bouncy-bounce area that you have to pay for, but from my understanding it’s open year-round and can be a great way to burn off older-kid energy.

The Empire State Plaza. If you have a cooped up kid who just wants to stretch their legs, the Empire State Plaza is a great place, especially after regular business hours, when most of the people in suits are gone. Here’s what the place offers: a. Long, long corridors with the occasional bench and interesting store. b. The State Museum, where admission is a voluntary donation. They occasionally have kids programs, and they have a discovery area where little kids can just play. c. For older kids, you can always take a free tour of the capitol building. d. The carousel is open during certain hours, and did I mention?  More escalators!

The Children’s Museum at Saratoga. I haven’t been there yet. I’m saving it up for this winter. 5. Other museums. Check your local library. Many have free passes to local museums.

Libraries. Lots of local libraries have play areas with puppets, train tables, and puzzles. The East Greenbush Library has a room with a Lego table, a nice selection of wooden blocks, a couch for parents to sit on, and a whole parenting collection (including parenting magazines) to peruse. Full disclosure? I work there. And it’s awesome.  Libraries also offer lots of free programs for kids of all ages including storytimes and many sessions wrap up with playtime or a craft.

Paid places to play. This includes Tumbling Tykes in Colonie, Joyful Jumpers in Latham, The TreePaad in Malta, and places that offer gymnastics and swim lessons. I don’t go to these often, because it can really add up, but it’s nice to know they are there.

Inside the House

A really miserable day might mean you can’t leave the house at all. So here are some things to try:

Bring outdoor toys inside. We’ve hung a plastic bucket swing from the rafters in our basement, brought a small plastic slide into our dining room, and filled the kiddie pool with balls to make an indoor ball pit in our kitchen. Obviously this won’t work for all toys or all indoor spaces, but depending on what you’re working with, it could be worth a shot.

Play with your food. Depending on the age of your child, they might be able to help make a special recipe. You can also plop a toddler in the kiddie pool with measuring cups, spoons, and a bowl of dried rice or beans.

Bring out the special toys or activities. These can be toys you’ve hidden for a while (they suddenly become new), or messy projects like finger painting, home-made (or purchased) play-dough, or other usually off-limits arts supplies.

Indoor water fun. Pull out the bath and bath toys or pull up a stool and let the kiddo play in the kitchen sink. Of course, they would need to be supervised closely. But water will keep my little one fascinated for ages.

That’s what I have for now. I’d love to hear your ideas. With snow in October, this could be a long winter. Who’s ready to face it? We are!


  1. Meghan

    We went to the Saratoga Children’s museum over the summer and as cute as it was it REALLY needs a cleaning. If you have a child who still occasionally likes to check something out by mouth I would hold off until they are hands only. Lots of toys looked like they have NEVER been washed!

  2. Meghan, I’ve always felt like that museum is partly great and partly a missed opportunity. I wish some rich people would kick off a capital campaign to give it an overhaul.

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