Winter in Northern California can be a mix of rain, cold, sunshine and socked-in fog. Our winters have become unpredictable because of the changing climates. Some years we have had 28 out of 28 days of rainfall in February. Other years (especially the past few), we get none. But no matter whether it dumps or doesn’t, there are still ample outdoor and indoor activities for you to do with your littles to get them out of the house, energy expended, and let’s face it, to keep us all a little more sane.
The Top 5 Outdoor Winter Activities to Do with Kids
1. Explore your local museums and libraries
On cold and rainy days, local museums and libraries are a great place to venture to. There are often classes, tours and interactive activities that these places host for families just like you and me. And what better way to spend time than with fun and engaging learning that your kiddos will enjoy (often for free)? Check your library and museums’ websites to make sure you arrive during one of their many scheduled activities.
2. Make a trip to the farmer’s market
I love farmer’s markets almost as much as I love the farmers who work so hard to provide us with organic, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and cheese. I love the live music, the friendly faces mosing around with their recycled grocery bags. And the local artisan foods and baked goods are enough to make this girl’s mouth water. Well, this is a great (and free) outing to take your kids to. What better way to teach them how imperfectly perfect a vine-ripened tomato actually looks and tastes like. Or what fruits and vegetables are naturally—and locally—in season during certain times of year. And the best part (at least in our area) is that there are several farmer’s markets throughout the week, all within a 20- to 30-minute drive.
3. Renew your zoo membership
I don’t know about your kiddos, but mine love animals! They love seeing animals, petting animals and learning about animals they have never seen before. And come rain or shine, a zoo is a great place for a little winter outing. You can bring a picnic lunch, ride the zoo train (if they have one) and make a day feeling like you are in a different place on earth, a place full of lions and tigers and bears, oh my! So renew your zoo membership or look into purchasing one. And the beauty is that often, your local zoo membership also gives you access to zoos or museums in other locations.
4. Use your apps for your benefit
Did you know there are incredible hiking apps that list trails all over the country and world? I didn’t, until a few years ago. But once I discovered it, the world around me was opened to so many places my feet had yet to trample on. There are several great hiking apps, but my favorite is AllTrails. It lists all the trails in your location of choice, and rates them by degree of difficulty, scenery, and length. My kids love exploring the world around them, especially if it means minimal time in the car to get there. So throw in their galoshes in case it is muddy and go for a little outdoor excursion.
5. Take a day trip to a new place
This one requires a little more driving time (something kids don’t love), but as I often tell them, “Some things are worth the wait!” That is often true with day tripping. This past December, my husband and I took our twins to San Francisco for the first time. What the what?! These girls are eight years old and we live less than an hour from this beautiful city, and yet they had never been there. So on a dark and dreary day, cheer them up by taking them to a new destination, a different type of place from where you live, and perhaps a unique cultural experience. There is so much more to life than what’s within a five-mile radius from our own homes.
The Top 5 Indoor Winter Activities to Do with Kids
1. Have a PJ day
Let’s face it, when it’s too cold, too dreary and too wet, sometimes the best way to spend the day is indoors. My kids and I will have a pajama day, where we literally stay in our PJs all day. We may (or may not) brush our teeth. We make popcorn and watch movies in the middle of the day; we have a picnic in our living room, and we keep the fire on almost all day. Although there may be some residual energy from having the kiddos indoors all day, sometimes this is just what the family doctor ordered. And for us crazy busy mamas, it’s often exactly what we need.
2. Make it a Betty Crocker day
Cooking with kids can be a daunting task, I admit. But there is nothing like seeing the pride and joy on a youngster’s face after their handmade bread, homemade cookies, or fresh-from-the-oven brownies are complete. And if you want to bring math facts to life, then get your kids cooking with you. Have them measure, pour, mix and prep. If you want to increase your littles’ confidence, then make them your sous-chefs for the day.
3. It’s game time!
My kids love games! At the moment, there are three favorites in my home: Rummikub, Chess and Bingo. My little guy (almost 5) loves to spin the Bingo balls around in their respective ball holders. One of my twins is obsessed with the colored tiles and complex strategies of Rummikub. And dang, my other twin has become quite the Chess shark. She is ruthless on that checkerboard! Family games are such a great way to spend quality time together, while also sneaking in a little education lesson just for kicks. So bring out a few games and watch your kiddos flourish.
4. Make-believe it or not
My kiddos love playing dress up and make believe. Now this activity is a win-win in my house, because if I need to sit in my office and get a little work done, a suggestion of playing make believe is usually the first to roll off my tongue. My girls still love to put on their favorite Disney princess dresses, but nowadays, they have expanded their costume selection to include ninjas, explorers and babysitters (not quite sure how you play dress up for a babysitter) and not far behind them is my little guy, who will dress up in just about anything they provide. I’ve seen him in dresses, blacked-out in a Ninja costume, and even seen him on all fours with a (loose) leash around his neck, mimicking our family dog. Playing make believe keeps kids using their imagination. It keeps them role playing, problem solving and making the most out of their resources. And for this mama, it sometimes provides a few extra much-needed minutes to finish a few work or household items.
5. Rearrange and reorganize
You may or may not believe it, but kids actually like to organize. Whenever I tell my kiddos that it is playroom cleaning day or that it’s time to straighten up their room, I usually get a few “hmm’s” and “ha’s,” and often a few reluctant participants. But it’s amazing to watch as they get into the sorting and cleaning, that they often find it rewarding. For starters, when they clean and organize their clothes drawers (this is for youngsters who are a little older, say seven or eight), they find clothes they forgot they had. When they go through their toy stash, they discover the lost puppet or the missing cat stuffy that they couldn’t locate for months. And when they know where all of their favorite trinkets and treasures are, they open up their world to a whole new opportunity for fun, games, and playing together. So expect the complaining at first, but I assure you the outcome will not only be positive, it will create a home environment that is organized. And in my experience, an organized house is a peaceful house.
This winter season is full of untapped experiences and a world of possibilities. So grab your galoshes or throw on your PJs and get ready to beat the winter blues with some lifelong memory making with your littlest loves.