Our toddler is active. We can run him around all day long at the park and at the end of the day, he still wants to “play soccers,” or jump on furniture playing superheroes, or even just “ruuuuuun!” On nice days, it’s an easy fix: take him to the park. Let him run around outside on the grass. Take him for a long walk around the neighborhood. Basically, enjoy some fresh air and get moving.

On snowy days pre-children, my husband and I were happy to hunker down inside and watch movies. With kids, that’s pretty much off the table now, so what do we do with an active toddler and baby who get cabin fever when we live in a small condo? I posted about some of our favorite fall/winter activities in DC, but here are some great ways to get the kids out of the house that can really be done anywhere and are (mostly) focused on staying indoors.

Play outside if it’s not too cold. Just days before Panda made his appearance, DC got hit by a massive blizzard that buried us. The federal government didn’t reopen until four days after the blizzard hit (which was also the day that I went into active labor with Panda) and many schools were closed the entire week. The first day, while snow was falling, we stayed inside (as I was 35 weeks pregnant and trying to calm down the five-minute-apart contractions I was having since there was pretty much no way to get to a hospital). Lion, who was 18 months, watched snow fall onto our balcony and exclaimed “Whoa! Snow! White! Cold!” The next day, once the snow finally stopped falling it was sunny and relatively warm so we ventured out. Lion had a blast throwing hunks of snow into the air and watching older kids sled. Of course, it’s not always warm enough to take the kids out, especially for an extended period of time, but Lion definitely appreciates any time spent outdoors.

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Lion was amazed by the snow and eager to play in it.

Take them to a museum. We are very fortunate to live in Washington, DC where the Smithsonian museums are all free. We’ve taken the kids to the Air and Space Museum, the National Postal Museum,  and the Museum of Natural History, all of which have been big hits. At the Museum of Natural History, Lion ran around pointing at every exhibit saying, “Animal! Animal!”


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Driving a truck at the National Postal Museum.

Head to the library or bookstore. Lion has always been a big book fan, so the library is always a good bet. The downside to the library is that the one closest to us is very small, still enforces quiet zones in the kids’ section and is closed on Sundays. However, there is a one-room children’s library not far from us. On days where we don’t go to the library, we often head to the bookstore. Barnes and Noble is very close to where we live and they have Saturday morning story time, occasionally joined by characters (fun anecdote: I worked at Barnes and Noble as the Lead Bookseller for the Children’s Department throughout high school and college and actually dressed up as Clifford, Papa Berenstain Bear and Maisy for a few storytimes). Some Barnes and Nobles have lego tables and others have Thomas the Train tables.

Go to Target. Okay, this is embarrassing, but sometimes we take the kids to Target and roam the aisles. It’s a space that’s not home, but still indoors and there’s actually a lot to do for a toddler. Lion likes to go to the DVD section and point out characters he knows like Elmo or animals on the cover of DVDs like monkeys or tigers. He also likes to pull the DVDs off the shelves and stack them in a pile. (Don’t worry, we clean them up and never let him pull off too many at a time). He goes into the book aisle and points at books that he knows. We go up the escalator. Then down the escalator. Then up the escalator. Actually, forget the rest of Target, I think he could kill a good hour just riding up and down the escalators.

Go grocery shopping. This is actually a weekly activity, but I don’t always go with the kids. Sometimes, I like to go on Fridays and zip through as fast as I can. When Lion comes with me, though, we find ways to actually make it fun for him. First, our grocery store has carts that he can “drive” which he enjoys. He likes to help in the produce section and I will open up a produce bag and hand him limes or apples to drop in. We will sometimes grab a mylar helium inflated balloon from the greeting card racks and clip it onto the cart and he’ll be content pulling on the balloon string and watching it dance while I pick up other items, then we return the balloon back before we check out. The grocery store we go to is two levels and has a glass elevator, so he always wants to take a trip in the elevator. I sit him on the check stand as we check out and he enjoys hearing the cash register beep or will press the buttons on the credit card machine. Now that he’s older and much more verbal, we also talk about what we’re going to cook for dinner, what snacks we should buy, etc. and it kills at least an hour.

Make use of indoor play spaces. We are fortunate that our local mall has a great indoor play space for small children. Lion loves to climb on the bugs, crawl through a tunnel and generally run around. Panda has gotten great use out of it already, too, crawling from item to item, or spinning the plastic bats on the wall. Tip: first thing in the morning is a great time to go before it becomes too crowded.

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Panda playing with the bats while Lion ran around like crazy.

Go to a pet store. Confession: on days when the weather is bad we love to head to the pet store. Our pet store is in a strip mall near a children’s hair salon, a Buy Buy Baby, restaurants, and other stores that we can make use of. The pet store is by far Lion’s favorite place to visit, though. He enjoys watching the fish in the aquariums, watching hamsters run on their wheels, seeing cats sleep and pointing at the dogs getting groomed. We usually have to pull him out of the store and it is so easy to kill a ton of time in what amounts to an indoor zoo for toddlers.

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What do you with your kids on snow days?