It’s winter break, and your kids are home from school for at least two weeks. What to do? Here’s a list of four things you can do with your elementary- and middle-school-age children when the weather turns cold and the schoolbooks close:
It’s winter break, and your kids are home from school for at least two weeks. What to do? A bevy of local attractions or mini road trips awaits you.
Whether it be free events at your town’s library, or a family vacation to an indoor water park, the choice (and the cost) is yours. Here’s a list of four things you can do with your elementary- and middle-school-age children when the weather turns cold and the schoolbooks close:
Chop your own tree
While it might be cutting it close to the Christian-celebrated holiday, many families make it an annual tradition to chop down their own Christmas trees — and we’re not talking about the Griswolds.
Sean Smith, who lives near Chicago, has carried on his family’s yearly outing to his own wife and kids for the past 12 years. It started with his parents, Leroy and Donna Smith, in 1970 at Idea Tree Farm in Downers Grove, Ill.
“The day is always the same. The day after Thanksgiving, no exceptions, the entire family goes,” Sean Smith said.
The Smiths enjoy a fresh tree for the smell and ambiance, and the children love helping out, too. Sean Smith’s son, James, went on his first trip when he was only 1 month old.
“We take the kids to pick the tree each year regardless of age,” Sean said. “This is a tradition that I hope gets passed on by my children, as well.”
Swing by a kid-friendly ski lodge
To do something different with the kids this winter, why not take them to a few family ski lessons?
As long as you live in a four-season climate, you won’t have to travel far to find small ski hills to practice on. Or, you can venture out for some free children’s programs, such as the ones at Cascade Mountain in Portage, Wis.
At Cascade, kids 12 and younger ski free if accompanied by a paid adult. There’s a large beginner area with a “Magic Carpet lift,” said Cascade spokesman Randy Axelson, which is “like a conveyer belt on the snow,” plus three easy chairlifts.
“We offer lessons to kids 4 and older with our Cascade Kids Program, which is a three-hour lesson that will teach the kids how to ski or snowboard while having fun,” Axelson said.
More snowy activities — such as snow tubing — across several states can be found at www.snowplaces.com.
Don’t forget the free stuff
No matter where you live, there’s always something to do at your local library. It’s not just about the books.
Many libraries have programs where children can read to pets, but they’ve also got arts and crafts projects that won’t dirty up your walls or kitchen tables, free family movie nights (often with snacks included) and other opportunities to learn while having fun.
In that vein, historical societies and museums offer a wealth of information for kids — and Mom and Dad, too.
Some zoos and other outdoor parks have free days when the weather gets colder and the lines get shorter.
Check with your local governments, libraries, businesses and schools for more ideas.
It’s cold outside — but hot in here
Need to get away from the dreary and chilly outdoors? A trip to an indoor water park might just cure your family’s winter blues.
Indoor water parks are seemingly as popular as outdoor ones in some U.S. locations, such as Wisconsin Dells and Gurnee, Ill., near Six Flags Great America.
At the Dells, there’s Great Wolf Lodge, for instance, which has a four-story interactive treehouse in the center of its 84-degree indoor water park. Wave pools, lazy rivers and a “Howlin’ Tornado,” a six-story funnel that swirls and swishes its tube riders, helps remind visitors of warmer days.
Of course, if you happen to live in a city that stays in the upper temperatures all year long, braving an outdoor water park might be more your thing.