Winter Activities for All Budgets (And Tired Moms)

Since recently going from a full-time working mommy in the southern California desert to a stay at home mom in central Ohio, I’ve gotten a crash course in cabin fever. As much as I love my child, picking up blocks for the 47th time in an hour gets old fast. Kayla’s post really struck home with me, as it feels impossible to find fun and cheap activities to get us out of the house without getting frost bite and the weather varies so widely from week to week I never know what to plan for. Seriously, the temps here have ranged from -20 degrees to over 50 in just the last two weeks alone.  Being stuck in a tiny, dark apartment with a very active two-year old and a very bored 70 lb dog has me feeling pretty stir crazy. (Being almost 9 months pregnant doesn’t do much for our situation either.) Due to our change in living situation we’re on a tight budget for the time being and being cooped up isn’t doing any of us favors, so I’ve had to get creative when it comes to getting out of the house or just getting a few minutes to ourselves and out of each other’s faces without creating more work for me.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a list for those who want to create Pinterest perfect crafts, this is a list for moms who are tired of cleaning up glue and glitter and are looking for quick and easy ideas to give themselves a break.

Winter Activities for All Budgets

Free (Mostly)

Mall play area – Sure, the mall can be crowded and germ infested and just plain frustrating, but when you are trapped in the house for weeks on end suddenly the padded play area and opportunity for Starbucks can seem like heaven.

Library Story Time – The library seems daunting to most people with kids, as kids and quiet don’t mix, but most libraries offer story times for toddlers and pre-school age children that are less strict on the normal library rules. Also, if your library has a children’s section, it’s likely there is a small play area there for them as well.

Playdates – While it may seem counterproductive to invite more people into a space you’re already feeling too confined in, I’ve found that just spending a couple of hours having tea and talking to an adult while the kids play together is really refreshing for me.

Play Groups – Thanks to Facebook I have been able to find many local mom groups and establishments who host play dates and open play pretty frequently in the winter. Most of these are geared towards younger age groups.



Play Cafes – These are relatively new but popping up all over. Most offer free play for a very low rate ranging from around $4 – $10.

Community Recreation Center – Although yearly passes can be costly, I am putting this in the budget category because chances are they have a free indoor play area you can utilize and daily rates usually start around $5 per person.



YMCA – Rates are usually based on income, so contact your local branch for rates. Honestly, where I am the Y is a pretty pricey option, but I know they do great discounts for military.

Museum – Most museums have discounted rates during specific times and a lot of times children under a certain age are free. Look for one with interactive or kid friendly exhibits going on.

Science Center – We are lucky to live close to COSI, an interactive, hands on science center. I have to admit we haven’t utilized it yet, as it is definitely the biggest splurge on this list for us with admission ranging from $11-$25 per person.

Aquarium – Our family has a zoo membership this year that includes the aquarium as well. It’s definitely a place I need to utilize more this winter. Admission usually ranges between $15-$25 and children under certain ages free.


At home

Snow “painting” – Got any extra spray bottles lying around? Fill them up with water and food coloring for a cheap and easy outdoor activity without leaving your yard.

Bathtub painting – This is hands down my favorite “mommy needs a break” activity. I like to use a cheap watercolor pallet, but there are a lot of other options ranging from store-bought items to homemade. Shaving cream and food coloring works pretty well, too. My daughter is old enough to bathe on her own, but even if they need supervision they are usually pretty amused and it gives mom time to read a book or just zone out for a bit. Clean up is as easy as wiping the tub down with a damp cloth before you let the water out.


My list isn’t exhaustive by any means. There are tons of things offered in my current city that I could never have dreamed of in the tiny town I used to live in, but hopefully there are at least a few ideas in here than work for everyone. What does your family do to beat the winter blues?


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