Will this winter ever end?!
I don't know why I'm surprised at how long this winter has lasted. I've lived in Michigan for over 25 years now. You think I'd be used to it. This is just the time of year I go a little stir crazy!
I do get the opportunity to visit other warmer parts of the US when I travel for business during the winter. It's like a little glimpse of spring to keep me motivated for what's to come. My wife and young kids on the other hand, do not get that luxury. The cold winter months can be especially harsh for those of us with young ones.
To keep our sanity in these cold winter months, my wife and I have become quite inventive when it comes to our planning our weekends. Outside of the occasional kid classmate birthday party and the visit to Grandma's house, we still have 10 hours of entertainment to come up with! And at the same time, we don't want to shell out a ton of money every weekend.
Here are 21 inexpensive or free winter activities for kids:
1. Go Sledding (Free)
We have a nice sledding hill just a few blocks from our house. When the snow falls and its slightly warmer, the hill gets slick and it's great for barreling down the hill with a couple of crazy kids who've been stuck inside too long.
2. Go to the Library (Free)
Our local library has tons of books, movies and video games to rent. They also host a series of free activities like story hours, science demonstrations or even fun food classes.
If you haven't gone to your local library lately, check it out and ask what programs they have for kids. It's your tax dollars at work!
3. Visit a Community Center
In most cities you can find a local community center that has indoor play equipment, gymnasiums and even indoor swimming pools. If you find the right one, it might set you back $10 per kid max but it gets your little ones running around and exercising. It's much better than them hanging onto your leg at home.
4. Play a Board Game
If you're bored, break out the board! Here are some board games that have been huge hits around the Hill House lately:
This is a kid version of bingo that is actually pretty entertaining. We've probably played it at least 60 times.
This one is great for building basic math skills and it has also helped my daughter learn a bit of honesty. How many cherries did you REALLY take out sweetheart?
Yep. This game actually slams a pie in your kid's face. Temper tantrum solved!
5. Experience Virtual Reality
Google Cardboard is a fun way for you to experience virtual reality on the cheap. I bought one of these and paired it with my iPhone so my kid's can swim in the ocean with whales or meet with magical aliens visiting planet earth for the first time. Within is a well-designed free app to try that allows you to explore and have a VR experience with the kiddos.
6. Create a Card for a Loved One (Free)
Kids love to do art projects. Your family loves to receive cute cards from your kids. Put the two together and WHAM – entertained kid and a happy family member.
7. Build a Snowman (Free)
If the snow is good for packing, bundle the kids up and head outside to create Olaf. While you're at it, have an epic snowball fight inside your very own snow fort. If the temperature is right and the snow packs well, your day of snow fun could last a while.
8. Karaoke on YouTube (Free)
You don't need an expensive speaker system with a catalog of songs to enjoy karaoke at home. YouTube has thousands of songs with lyrics included for your family to have a serious karaoke jam. Type in virtually any song into YouTube along with the word “karaoke” and you'll be jammin' in no time.
9. Make a YouTube Video (Free)
The Hill Family has developed cooking shows, magic trick demonstrations and Play-Doh masterpiece showcases with our little kids. All of these were developed with our iPhones, YouTube and a little bit of free time. Have some fun and let your kids try out there acting and hosting skills and share the video with friends and family.
10. Educational Shows
Some of our kid's favorite shows like Team Umizoomi and Bubble Guppies come free when you get a subscription to Amazon Prime. If you are already a member, take advantage of these fun educational shows and watch them with your kids. If you're not a member of Prime yet, you can try it free for 30-days with this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
11. Teach the Kids a Card Game (Free)
I taught Zoey how to play “War” and “In Between” this fall and she loved it. These are simple cards games that even 4-year-old can grasp.
12. Make a Meal Together (Free)
Set your kid up as your favorite sous chef and make lunch, dessert or a even healthy smoothie with them. It is a great way to teach them the process of making food so that SOMEDAY they will finally be able to do it themselves.
13. Put Some Excitement into Chores (Free)
Chores can be boring for kids if you send them off to do it by themselves. If you make it a fun activity, they will get more engaged and interested. I like to play the “see how many toys you can put away” game or the “I'll count how long it'll take you to put away your clothes” game. They work ever time!
14. Do a Science Experiment
Getting your kids interested in science can be fun for kids and for Mom and Dad. We've developed our own bubbles, learned about static electricity and even learned about chemical reactions all at home … And we haven't even blown up the house yet!
15. Build a Pillow Fort (Free)
Grab some extra-large blankets and create a house of adventure and fun for your kids. Go ahead Mom and Dad … you can have enjoy it too.
16. Go to the Dollar Store with the Kid's Allowance
When your kids are old enough to start doing chores around the house, they can earn money for their hard work. Take them to the dollar store on a cold day so they can enjoy the fruits of the labor.
17. Go to a Children's Museum
There are excellent children's museums all around our country. I know Indianapolis is famous for theirs as it's the “World's Largest”! Get the kids out of the house and learn about science, health and nature at one of these gems.
18. Exercise with Your Kids (Free)
You know those workout videos you've been using at home? Get the kids involved! Zoey now loves doing P90x3 with me. She's a fan of MMX (boxing and martial arts-type exercise) and Yoga. If you don't have the workout DVDs, chase your kids around the kitchen or do a ‘jumping jack' challenge. Let's get that cold winter blood pumpin!
19. Patti Shukla on YouTube
If you want your kids to get some exercise, but can't leave the house because of the bitter cold, Patti Shukla is an excellent outlet. She has a variety of YouTube videos that get your kiddos jumping, singing, and playing.
20. Find a Play Place
When all else fails, go to a place where your kids can run around and burn some kid calories. We love the Little Gym and they are a global franchise so you might be able to find one of these entertainment factories near you. Gymnastics, sports and party music!
21. Play a New Sport
With a little more free time, you can teach your son or daughter how to play a new sport. Calvin is getting ready to play soccer in the Spring so we've been testing his goalie and kicking skills in the house lately. PROUD PAPA ALERT: He's a very athletic 2-year old if I do say so myself.
Final Thoughts on Winter Activities for Kids
Soon enough, we'll be able to fire up the barbeque grill and enjoy all that spring and summer have to offer. For now, let's embrace this time (to the best of our ability) and make some memories with our little ones.
In what seems like no time at all, they won't want to spend so much time with us and we'll wish that we took more advantage of our time together. (At least, I'll keep telling myself that!)
What are you doing to keep your kids entertained this winter?
Please let me know in the comments below.