It’s raining. Or cold. And you’ve been inside your home with your kids for way too long. What do you do?
Our son, ZJ, is two and exerts more energy in one hour than I do in a week. He is a runner and I am usually exhausted by the end of the day. But it’s so important that we give him time and space to run and play.
This winter has been cold and rainy, which has severely limited his outside time. Spring is almost here but that promises more rain.
So, we’ve been forced to be creative.
Our criteria for a rainy-day activity is that it be relatively inexpensive and not too far away from our home. Our son needs a large space to explore, and ideally we want him to be exposed to new things.
Here are few of the places we took our toddler this year so far, which we highly recommend:
1. Pet store.
Take your kid to look at the fish and birds and reptiles at your local pet store. The pet stores near us don’t sell dogs, but many have pet adoption days. On one hand, it’s great because your kid gets to directly interact with the dogs who are up for adoption. On the other, if you are not careful, you may walk out with a new dog in tow!
2. Local hotels and convention centers.
We have found a hotel that is perfect for our two-year old. We recently went to the Washington Gaylord Hotel, which has water fountains, tons of tall staircases and beautiful views of the harbor nearby. We even ran into the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders! You need to be choosy which hotel you take your kid to, but they generally have plenty of space for roaming, especially if it’s also a convention center.
3. Bookstores and libraries.
Take advantage of bookstores and libraries, which often have book readings for young kids. Or, kid-size tables to explore new books. Our local Barnes and Noble has occasional book readings on Saturday mornings. Our library has readings too, but usually during the week when we work. It’s pretty easy to find these schedules online. The bonus part: If we are at the library, we always come home with new books!
We are lucky to live near Washington, DC, where all the Smithsonian museums are free. This winter we’ve gone to the Museum of Natural History (to see the larger than life mammals on display) and the Air and Space Museum. We arrive right when it opens and he is tired after an hour of exploring. Aquariums are also great places for young kids.
If you don’t live near free museums, many throughout the country have a free admission day sometime during the month, or you can find various discounts through your library or city. Most areas have children’s museums but look further to see what other museums your kid may enjoy.
Warning, not all airports are suitable as a rainy-day alternative. Our nearest airport is clean, near by and has a lot of space before the security check-in. He can wander around (as it’s usually not overwhelmingly crowded in certain areas) or stand by the windows where he can see dozens of airplanes coming and going. Yes, this usually requires a parking fee, but it has been worth it.
6. Your local in-door playground.
I can’t cover them all here as every community is different, but a quick search will show you what indoor gyms are in your area.
- Local toddler gyms. There are tons of them out there. They often get crowded on rainy days but are loads of fun.
- Community Centers: Every Friday our local center has a soft-block room available for kids for $1. Check out your local community center to see what it offers.
- McDonalds or Chick Fil-A Playgrounds: Especially good for roadtrips.
We are always on the hunt for good indoor, rainy-day activities. Please leave a comment if you have any to add!