winter with a toddler: your “survival” kit

February 12th, 2013

When we dropped Noah’s nap back in August, I didn’t quite notice the change to my day-to-day at first. He has school every afternoon, and even the weekends were easy enough to fill – as long as we’re outside Noah is a happy camper.

But once the weather turned, things got a bit more…challenging.

Especially weekends.

Double especially during our recent 11-day winter break.

I had forgotten how LOOOOONG the day can be with a young – and active – toddler. And Noah is not the type of kid who is content to color, paint or do any type of crafts (my indoor “go-to” when Chelsea and Conor were little). Yes he loves his trucks and cars, and we can often engage him with play dough, books or his beloved Magna Tiles. But inevitably our time will run out  – and the requests for “screens” will begin.

So we have to strategically plan our weekend activities to include getting out of the house at some point each day. I resurrected some of my “trieds” and “trues” from the first time around, and have taken full advantage of the internet and my smart phone (how did I ever parent without these????).

Here is my “survival kit” to see us through these long cold months – and have lots of fun too:

Gather  local resources. My favorite on-line sources for local kids’ activities is definitely Time Out New York Kids. I get a weekly e-mail filled with an exhaustive list of kid-friendly activities in the area. It is well-organized, easy to navigate, and has a healthy dose of free stuff too. TONY was indispensable during my “Thursdays with Noah” last year, and I especially enjoyed exploring many of the parks on their “Top 25” list. Now that the weather’s not so park-friendly, we’ve used the guide to discover a perfect first circus (located in a charming building I had never seen before), as well as a sweet little Thomas the Train show at the Botanical Garden. We’ve also learned about free programs for families at amazing locations like the New Museum (remember this trip?).

noah

I also love a site that caters to more local goings on. A new to me blog – WeeWestchester – is just such a resource. Founded by three local moms, WeeWestchester covers pretty much anything and everything going on in my neck of the woods (or just a short drive away).

Keep it short. When I was a new mom,  taking my kids out for the day meant literally taking them out for the day. In my mind an outing wasn’t a success unless we left soon after breakfast and returned home no earlier than 4 o’clock. Right. I now know that a shorter trip – planned for the middle of the day – tends to be way more manageable (and enjoyable). If we’re out somewhere and Noah’s having an especially great time, we can always stay longer. But if I’ve managed my expectations appropriately I’m usually prepared if he’s just not “feeling it” that day.

Join up! Take a look at the cost of a family membership at your favorite zoo or children’s museum. We’ve done the math, and a membership often pays for itself in just two or three visits. We tend to make a greater effort to visit those places more frequently, and have found that we’re often privy to special events and discounts. We also don’t feel the pressure of spending the entire day there – a few hours is just fine.

It’s about the journey. Make “getting there” half the fun. Noah is an enthusiastic travel buddy, and loves any “alternate” means of transportation. Whether it’s a Metro North ride into the city, a subway trip around Manhattan, or a ferry ride to Brooklyn, I need to remind myself that these “trips” are as much (and sometimes more) a part of the day as the places we are traveling to.

noah, metro north

Keep it simple. It can be a challenge to consistently plan amazing, kid-centric outings. Often Noah will have just as much fun at a “grown up” museum exhibit (you can read more about this in my post on how to visit a museum with a toddler) as he will with a run around the mall (hey, a girl’s gotta shop occasionally….). He is still young enough to think that pretty much any place we go is an adventure, making a train ride to Grand Central and back – with some walking around and a snack in between –  a perfectly fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the dregs of February. And speaking of snacks,

It’s winter. Indulge a little.

noah, doughnut plant

Dress warmly. I’ve taken a cue from nursery school, where they take those kids out every day unless it is below freezing. They’re on to something, those teachers. There is no reason to avoid an outdoor activity just because it’s cold (and isn’t it amazing how kids seem to have absolutely no sensitivity to cold weather?). So – after fighting it for years – I’ve given in and purchased a REALLY (ugly) warm coat and REALLY (ugly) warm boots. If I’m dressed appropriately and feeling comfortable it is way easier to let Noah have a long run in the playground after school – which avoids that “witching hour” melt down and tires him out for a good night’s sleep.

noah, snow

Expect the unexpected. At a recent morning doing an awesome art project at the New Museum, Noah noticed – and was entranced by – the unusual wooden stools at the cafe. He spent quite some time examining, feeling and climbing on them. And I had to stop and remind myself that looking at the world through his eyes is always time well spent. For he’ll often discover things that would have slipped right by me.

noah

And finally – an occasional “pajama day” – spent with more than the usual TV, snacks and general lazing about – is perfectly acceptable too.

What about you? I am really interested in hearing how you get through the “dog days” of winter with your littles – will you share your tips here?

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