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Keep the Family Busy in the Winter with Local Offerings

One thing I have learned while living in Michigan is that you can’t stop enjoying things like the playground, parks, the zoo, and swimming just because it is winter. Another thing I have learned is that my daughter needs a good pair of snow pants and I need multiple layers (tights under wool pants work great). And good snow pants don’t even need to be expensive (my daughter’s are from Target).

I don’t know why it took me until my daughter was 3 and in preschool to realize this, but parks are still open in the winter and not just for sledding and other winter activities. As a matter of fact, you can still enjoy many of your favorite activities, just with a twist.

When I was looking at preschools, one of the things that surprised me was that the kids go outside everyday with rare exception (raining or below 20 degrees). They go even if there was snow on the playground. I guess having lived in areas where it was a little warmer and where snow doesn’t linger for weeks, I had grown accustomed to hibernating when it was below freezing or there was snow on everything. Before going to preschool, my daughter hated the snow. With going out in it every school day, she gradually got used to it. One day after preschool, with all of her snow gear in the car, we stopped at the township office and she wanted to go to the park there when we were done. I figured why not? She had a great time. Unfortunately, it often means there is no place for me to sit and little to do as the benches are covered in snow and it isn’t as easy to use my iPhone with gloves on.

Last spring we installed a play structure in the backyard for my daughter. My husband was hesitant because we have a park two blocks away. I love having our own play structure because I can see it from the comfort of my kitchen or family room. It is especially paying off as I stay nice and warm.

There is also a wonderful nature center nearby that has programs year round. Last March my daughter took a class there and each week I would pack up her snow gear for their outside time which often included a trek through the woods. (Although in hind sight, the school field trip that include a hike in the rain was probably not a great idea a mere one week after my daughter had her tonsils out, but no damage was done).

The zoo can also be nice in the winter. The zoo we usually go to offers half-priced admission in January and February, so that is always nice especially if you get a warm day. At 3, my daughter did a series of classes there in February. We only made 2 of the 4 since she was sick for one and we planned to be away for the last week. Our two days ended up being frigid (in the teens) and rainy (but 40). Each time we did stay at the zoo for a while focusing on the indoor buildings that we often skip over like the reptile house. On the plus side, the zoo was empty.

It is definitely too cold for swimming outdoors in much of the country, but there are still opportunities to swim inside. The indoor pool run by the city parks department has a wall of windows which is great on a sunny winter day (not that we get many sunny days). The recreation centers also offer public swim hours. Another option is a hotel pool. We have a hotel with an indoor water park that offers day passes. Otherwise, keep your eye out for a good overnight rate at a hotel with an indoor pool and you may be surprised how affordable it can be, and you get a private place to shower and dress afterwards. Plus, you can use the pool on two days.

If it gets too cold or wet, there are always indoor playgrounds, most of which offer Free WiFi now for the parents. We have four indoor playgrounds within 30 minutes of our house (and that doesn’t count fast food locations). The one that my daughter prefers has lots of comfortable leather sofas and arm chairs. Unfortunately, it is 30 minutes away instead of on our route home from school. The one that is closest offers cafe table and chairs which are not very comfortable.

We also have three inflatable bounce places within a 30 minute drive of our house. Even the national chain that specializes in parties has drop in bounce times open to the public. All of the bounce places in my area have limited hours on the weekends due to birthday parties, but they have various drop-in times during the week. Two of the bounce places even offer a parents’ night out on occasion where you can drop off your child.

Lastly, keep your eyes out on Groupon, LivingSocial, and other sites for deals on indoor activities. I have purchased deals for bounce passes, indoor play places, and water parks on these sites.

So see? It is possible to get up and get moving with the kids in the winter. You just have to be a little more inventive.

Anna Mae Trievel is a Family Activities Contributor for Prime Parents Club. She writes the blog Ann Arbor with Kids, gathering the best local events and activities for families in Ann Arbor, MI and surrounding areas. You can find her on Facebook as Ann Arbor With Kids or on Twitter as @a2withkids.