Cold winter weather and rainy spring days are a recipe for stir-crazy kids (and moms). Next time you need to get out of the house, try visiting one of these fun and (mostly) free indoor places to take kids when the weather is bad.
Winter is coming. It’s been raining and hailing here today, which means we’ll be going on fewer hikes and bike rides in the coming months. But my boys still have just as much energy as ever, and we all get a bit stir-crazy (and sometimes ornery) if we don’t get out of the house regularly.
Soo, I thought I’d share some of our favorite indoor places to go when we NEED to get out of the house, but the weather didn’t get the memo.
Obviously, there are tons of indoor attractions that appeal to kids…bowling, arcades, museums, movie theaters…but these places get pricey when you’re taking a whole family. The last time all six of us went bowling, it cost over $40 for one hour! Yikes! While I’m all for doing those things on occasion, we can’t do them every day. If we did even two activities like that a week, that’s over $300 a month!
So we’ve gotten creative and found a lot of fun destinations around town that get us out of the house and entertain the kids for an hour without breaking the bank. Here they are!
Fun and (mostly) free indoor places to take kids on a rainy day
A visit to the pet store is almost like a mini-zoo visit for my kids. They LOVE to watch the birds, guinea pigs and fish. They dream about getting their very own pet when they grow up–because we have made it abundantly clear that we are not getting a pet for our family…ever.
Caution: Make sure you set clear expectations with your kids that you are just going to look at and enjoy the animals, but you are NOT bringing one home. My boys have always been fine with this. Whenever they say, “I wish we could have a pet” and look at me with their big pleading eyes, I just turn it to a positive discussion of “When you’re a grown up, what kind of pet will you choose?”
We go to the library almost weekly to pick out new books. Additionally, several of the libraries near us have fabulous children’s sections with blocks, puppet theaters, magnet walls, and other fun toys for kids to explore.
Our library has fabulous programming, too. Story times for all ages–including yoga story time, puppet shows, after school STEM clubs, as well as seasonal family activities (like a summer reading kick-off, or the “when I grow up” job fair for kids…so clever!). Look on your local library’s website and see what they offer. Get to know the librarians, and find out what’s coming up!
In addition to libraries, we also enjoy going to visit book stores. Many have carefully curated children’s sections with comfy chairs to snuggle up for your own little story time. It can be a great way to explore the latest and greatest in kid lit (books that are usually in high-demand and hard to find at libraries unless you put them on hold) and get a change of scenery.
Here’s what I love about thrift stores…all the toys are used, so I don’t feel bad about letting my kids play with them in the store. It’s like a giant toy box where everything is up for grabs.
We do have a strict “one toy off the shelf at a time” rule. This helps my kids be respectful of other shoppers and not make a complete mess of the toy aisle. Sometimes, but not always, I’ll tell my boys they can each pick one toy or book that is a dollar or two to buy and bring home with us. The whole outing costs us less than five dollars!
Malls with indoor playgrounds
Many malls these days have indoor play areas for kids. Most are free of charge, and they are one of the few indoor places that give cooped-up kids a safe place to really get some quality exercise.
Yesterday I took my two youngest boys to an awesome dinosaur-themed play ground near our house. As I watched my four-year-old run around gleefully and jump from place to place, I thought to myself, “His body needs this.” It was almost like I could actually see all the pent up energy release itself from his muscles and his body relaxed more and more over the course of the next hour as we played games of hide-and-seek and tag around the play equipment.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much our kids’ little bodies need to move and stretch, but they really do thrive in environments where they can test their limits and push their bodies to do new and hard things.
Fast food play place
Again, the key to visits like this is to set expectations before you go. Rather than taking the whole family and buying all the kids happy meals, consider going in the middle of the afternoon…or even after dinner instead.
Pitch it to the kids this way…”Hey, now that we’ve just finished lunch, who would like to go get a special little treat at McDonalds (or wherever you want to go) and play at the play place?” Many restaurants offer kiddie cones or other small treats that are super inexpensive. You spend a couple of bucks and they get a fun treat and the chance to RUN like crazy and get their energy out.
Now it’s your turn…where do YOU like to go with the kids on a rainy day? Tell me in the comments below!
Want more idea for stir-crazy kids? Try these: