Soon enough, those of us with little ones will be struggling to think of fun things to do with kids over winter break. Even though it feels like the Christmas/New Year’s vacation just ended, the children are about to be let out of school again, and that week is right around the corner.
This list presupposes that you’re not headed out of town for a Disney vacation or an amazing Universal experience.
School breaks can be long and arduous, depending on the weather, the stir-craziness of your kids and the jealousy of watching your friends jet off to Orlando for a week. You need all the ideas you can get.
So if you’re stuck at home for school winter break, check out our list of fun things to do with the kids.
Fun things to do with kids out of the house
Go stargazing (during the day and indoors!)
There’s nothing better on a long vacation home with the kids than to go to a planetarium and be reminded of the infinite cosmos and your tiny place in it. It can bring some much-needed perspective if the kids are getting a little stir-crazy. And you can even pat yourself on the back for finding a real educational experience on a non-school day.
Check out the planetarium shows at these museums:
- Museum of Natural History & Planetarium (Rhode Island)
- Charles Hayden Planetarium in the Museum of Science (Boston)
- Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History (NYC)
- Vanderbilt Mansion, Museum and Planetarium (Long Island)
Go to another town’s library
Even if you head just one town over, the books, toys and programs could be vastly different. Especially if it’s late in the winter and you’ve already played with every toy in your neighborhood library. Be nice to the librarians and be honest that you are an out-of-towner. Friendliness can go a long way.
Check out a children’s workshop at a hardware store
If you want the kids to get their hands dirty and learn the fine art of making stuff, check out your local big-box hardware store on the Saturday of your winter break. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s have free workshops on Saturday mornings for kids. For that matter, ask if they offer anything during the week. You might get lucky.
Climb in an appropriate setting
Those with boys probably know this feeling better than most. When your kids are almost literally climbing the walls, why not bring them to a place where it’s actually appropriate to do so? Check out indoor rock climbing locations in Rhode Island, Boston, Manhattan and Long Island.
Things to do with kids at home
Build up arts & crafts skills
Get creative. The beauty of art projects with toddlers is that skills aren’t required. Who cares if you can even draw a stick figure or not? The point is just to have fun and let your young ones explore their artistic abilities.
Don’t throw out those cardboard boxes
No one can find more uses for an empty cardboard box like a 4-year-old bored with his or her toys. It can be a spaceship, a log cabin, a boat, a transmogrifier (for those Calvin & Hobbes devotees) or anything else you and your kids can dream up. Plus, you can use some of your newfound art skills to gussy up the box.
Rotate your toys
On the topic of kids bored by an abundance of colorful plastic, have you ever noticed that the youngsters can get awfully overwhelmed by too many toy choices? Heck, by now, my two boys can barely remember what they got for Christmas.
Take the opportunity to pack up a few storage bins of older toys and games and stick them in the basement or a closet. Wait a few months, break them out again, and your kids will be amazed with their forgotten playthings.
Drop things through a paper towel holder
No, seriously, hear me out. My wife found this activity during one extended week home with the kids and it bought her a precious few hours of peace. Take an old cardboard paper towel holder, tape it to a doorjamb, and put a piece of plastic tupperware underneath. Gather up all sorts of little plastic doodads and game pieces (like the Legos that make you want to scream when you step on them barefoot in the middle of the night) and have the kids drop them through in the container underneath. Obviously, the younger the kids, the more likely this will fascinate them for a while, but it is worth a shot with most ages.
And if that’s too lame for you, check out this Pinterest page on paper towel roll ideas and go nuts.
Can’t stand the idea of being stuck in the house all week? Book a trip with AAA Travel.
This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.