How to Keep Your Cool When The Weather Gets Cold
Winter can be a challenging time to entertain kids, especially in NYC. The days are at their shortest, with the sun coming up around 8 AM and basically down by 4 PM, but the hours go by in slow motion. We all go stir-crazy with too much time at home. Our apartment walls feel like they can start to close in on us. The mess of toys looks like a war zone. My girls repeatedly fight over the same Barbie. If I hear, “MOMMY IT’S NOT FAIR! I had it FIRST!” one more time, I’m honestly going to lose it. Every weekend, I try to come up with an outing to give the kids an adventure, and more importantly, so I can maintain some level of sanity. Here is a list of activities we have recently tried with my 3-year-old and 5-year-old daughters and my rating for each experience. May the force be with you, mamas!
1. Ice Skating:
This activity requires a one-to-one parent-child ration, so do not attempt it unless you have that. I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and each had an entirely different experience. My five-year-old got the hang of it quickly, but she is very sensitive and was very hard on herself when she fell. However, I think it was a good character building exercise for her to try something completely new and struggle. My three-year-old on the other hand, couldn't stand for more than two seconds at a time, but thought it was hilarious. My husband and I alternated standing by the wall with her. All-in-all it was a good time.
The downsides were waiting in a long line for the skates and the fact the actual skating couldn’t entertain them for more than an hour because of their young ages. We still had a lot of time to kill before dinner. I’m not rushing back to the rink. Next time, I think we’ll just go straight for the hot chocolate.
Children’s Museums are great for killing time for the kids, but I love activities that my husband and I can find interesting as well. I thought it would be fun to check out the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. My girls loved watching the butterflies flutter around and one even decided to take up residence on my coat! Because everyone was in such good spirits, we roamed around the rest of the museum for a while before ending up at the planetarium for a 30 minute show.
This was perfect, because my 3-year-old was starting to get cranky, and she took a power nap. My 5-year-old literally thought we were on a spaceship and was completely fascinated by the experience. She has now decided she wants to be an astronaut. I loved that this activity was educational, stimulating, and killed a substantial amount of time.
For my husband’s birthday I bought our family tickets to the Sunday matinee of Aladdin on Broadway. I was nervous, because the tickets were expensive, and I hoped it wouldn’t be a complete disaster. My husband teased me that if someone would have told him 10 years ago that he’d be spending his birthday with two whiny daughters in pink fur coats at a Disney musical, he would have jumped off a building! My goal was to give our family a magical, unforgettable day, and I think it was successful. The girls were both in complete awe of the theatre and the live singing...until intermission.
The second half was a struggle to get through, because my older daughter suddenly decided to become the most inquisitive human on the planet and she isn’t quiet “Why’s Jafar a bad guy, mommy? Is he gonna die?” and my younger daughter had reached the breaking point of her attention span. Two and a half hours is a long time to ask toddlers to sit. If I went to another show, I’d either choose a shorter one, or save some surprise snacks or lollipops for the second half to keep them occupied.
This is an obvious choice for a winter activity, but it can be a lifesaver! Movies may not be as magical as Broadway shows, but they are much less expensive, and also the perfect amount of time for restless little ones. We went to see Coco in a theatre with reclining seats. I must admit, I fell asleep, and throughly enjoyed my $20 nap. I generally find it hard to find movies that are pleasing to both parent and child, but Coco was good--the part I stayed awake for, at least.
The downside was, I didn’t feel like we really had a bonding family experience and we all left feeling groggy and cranky and bloated from too much popcorn. I would save this option for days of desperation.
5. Cake Decorating/Ice Cream Making:
I have a love/hate relationship with activities that revolve around sweets. In the moment they are amazing, but you can pay a *heavy* price. My girls recently decorated mini cakes at Flour Shop, a fab little bakery that just opened up in NYC. The photo opportunities are phenomenal, as it is basically like a Lisa Frank sticker book came to life there--rainbows and glitter everywhere! I was waiting for a unicorn to walk out from behind the counter.
The kids iced their cakes and poured mountains and mountains of sprinkles on top. This kept them busy for a pretty long time. The problem? They consumed countless sprinkles by the fistful, leading to insanity followed by the lowest crash of all time. However, they tell me constantly how it was the best day they've ever had, so I am glad they only remember the good. Because they loved it so much, I’m considering doing this activity at home, but regulating the amount of sugar provided and consumed.
We also recently went to Cool Mess, a fun ice cream shop in NYC, where kids can make their own ice cream with a machine.
This was another huge hit, but I hate fighting to portion control their sweets on a fun day out. Of course, we ended up with sugar highs followed by belly aches once again. I don’t think I’ll ever learn! I did enjoy eating the few tiny delicious bites they allowed for me. My advice would be to do these activities as early in the day as possible!