Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter with a Toddler and No Car

Being a carfree parent in the wintertime makes me want a minivan and easy access to a McDonalds PlayPlace. Dorea posted last month about the difficulties of being a carfree pregnant parent and those difficulties are exacerbated by the winter.

In the summertime, we can walk to several parks and to the pool, or just enjoy playing at the end of our alley, but in the wintertime the park tends to be cold and empty, the pool is closed, and the alley just doesn't seem that exciting anymore (which doesn't stop H from wanting to play in it, but it does stop me from wanting to watch her play). As Dorea noted in her post, when you factor in snowfall and a toddler's limited walking range, winter can get damn challenging. So we decided to brainstorm about good winter activities.

What can we do in the winter without a car?

  • The library. The library isn't a great place for active, physical play, but many of us in cities have branch libraries within walking distance (ours is the O'Neil branch just a half-mile away). There you can read books together, draw and sometimes play with a few toys, and enjoy library programming for kids such as story hour. It might even be worth a bus trip to get to a main library which will likely have a large children's section
  • The subway and commuter rail. A few weeks ago H's grandma took her on a subway ride down to South Station where they looked a toy train set up for the holidays and then had a snack while they watched the commuter rail and Amtrak come and go. It was a great outing that we'll be repeating this winter. South Station even has concerts! Commuter rail outings are also a possibility -- hop on, travel for a bit, hop off to have lunch, and hop back on again. We can go from Porter Square to West Concord, or for an even shorter trip, just down to North Station. The train trip itself is the attraction.
  • Museums. Many of these are convenient to public transportation. Getting a membership means that you can visit whenever you like. We have a membership to the Science Museum (which H calls the "baby chicks museum" because of, you guessed it, the baby chicks on display on the second floor). We plan to get library passes for the Children's Museum. Dorea is a Harvard postdoc and so we can get into the Harvard Museums for free.
  • Going outside. Of course, we can still get outside, even when it is cold and snowy. Snow is a fun activity in and of itself, and just yesterday H spent a long time riding her tricycle around the neighborhood. We can still do all of our favorite park activities, only we're all cold and there aren't any friends to play with. We have to keep a close eye on H as she tends to have a big meltdown when she gets too cold, so sometimes it's nice to have a short trip to the park followed by a trip to Verna's or Good Food Cafe. Walking is also a good outdoor activity.
  • Videos. We sometimes get videos from the library for H to watch, but a more fun excursion is to walk to someplace like Good Food Cafe that has free wireless and look Google images of animals and watch videos on Youtube. You don't feel like such a couch potato at a cafe.
  • Indoor gyms and playspaces. There are a number of these in the Boston area but none is particularly convenient to us unfortunately.
  • Playgroups. The Center for Families in Cambridge and the Somerville Family Network both have a variety of playgroups for infants through preschoolers. These give you friends to play with, new and exciting toys, some run-around time, and possibly even a snack or a circle time. You can find similar playgroups in other towns as well.
  • Friends and playdates. We do more playdates in the winter than in the summer because in the summertime we have the park, which is like one big playdate. In the winter we are forced to be more strategic. If you need to find potential playmates, try a play group or a parenting listserv.
That's it -- I'm all out of ideas. But we still have four months of winter to go, so please please please give us some more ideas in the comments.


SpeedyIma said...

We already kinda talked about this, but...

I second the museum passes. We have one to the aquarium, and in addition to being a good destination/outing, it alleviates the pressure of having to stay long enough to "get one's money worth". (i.e. "Ok, now we're all cranky. Was that worth it?")

Outdoor vigils are *not* a fabulous winter activity with a toddler, as we found out last night. But worthwhile, if only to hear them say, "Tell them they should stop fighting and be friends."

Cooking at home is a good winter family activity. It heats up the house, saves money of a trip to the cafe, and hey, pancakes! (Check out a copy of Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle for maximal teachable moments about food systems.)

Angela V-C said...

From Speedy's lips to G-d's ears, as the saying goes.

Cooking is a great one, and I just requested the Eric Carle out of the library. Today, Dorea sewed with H, which kept Dorea happy and since we aren't getting ANY NAPS AT ALL these days, keeping Mama and Ima happy is very important.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend getting a copy of the Bread Baker's Apprentice. It has easy to understand recipes. Speedy really enjoys making the recipes. The English muffins and pizza dough are really easy for kids to help with. The other bonus is you save a ton of money on bread products

Cycledad said...

Ditto with the cooking! Michael and i made our very first cake a couple of days back! Well it was probably Michaels 100th cake as his mum cooks with him all the time..

To be honest though, indoor racing and hide and seek keep mike and i amused for hours :-)

NO NAPS! i dread the day! It will be soon....