Easy winter fun with kids: 25 inside activities and close-to-home excursions
Not that kids mind the cold and wet weather - in fact, it can be a struggle to get them to wear a jacket - but when most days are cold or rainy or both, it's good to have plenty of ideas for inside fun, so we've put together more than 25 "fun-things-to-do-inside," from simple science and games at home to inexpensive (or free) outings around the Puget Sound region.
Between naps, exhausting school schedules and traffic, sometimes you just want to find good times at home. Here are some entertaining and easy experiments, games and quiet activities when you need some fresh ideas for fun.
Easy Science Experiments
Cloudy Ways - Make a cloud in a jar with a few simple items from around the house. Playdough to Plato offers an in-depth tutorial on cloud making. Simply put, you’ll need a glass jar with a lid, matches, hot water and ice to make some clouds.
Catapult! - Make a marshmallow catapult using the tutorial from It’s Always Autumn This experiment is easy enough for kids as young as four-years-old to do but entertaining enough to keep the older ones engaged. This is another project that shouldn’t require a trip to the store. You’ll need marshmallows (or another light, soft object), a thin rubber band, plastic spoon, bamboo skewers and masking tape. Once you’ve built the catapult using It’s Always Autumn’s instructions, teach your kids about gravity and how objects are projected through the air. Ask them to watch how the marshmallow always falls to the ground and explain how gravity is the force the keeps us grounded to the earth and not floating in space. When kids use the catapult, it shows them how a projectile responds to gravity.
Magic Plant Absorption - Learn how plants absorb water with food coloring and cabbage leaves. This simple experiment is super fun! Take four jars of water and add a few drops of food coloring. Next take four cabbage leaves or flowers and put them in the water stem first. The colored water will quickly travel up the leaves for an exciting color transformation. This experiment shows how plants absorb water throughout their entire system from the roots, stems and eventually leaves. As the food colored water creeps through the plant, as your child how they think water absorption works. Share with them how root systems pull water and nutrients from the soil and deliver them all the way through the plants to help them grow.
Inside Active Games
Hallway Maze - Use crepe paper, yarn or painter’s tape to create a maze in your hallway. Have the kids help string the crepe paper before encouraging a game of ninja spy or Mission Impossible! This is an easy activity that might well keep your kids entertained for hours.
Ring Toss - Use simple paper plates and a leftover paper towel roll to create a fun ring toss. Cut out the center from paper plates and have your kids paint them with bright colors, stickers and other fun decorations. Take another plate and glue or tape the inner paper towel roll to the center. Set up the ring toss and see who can get the most rings on the tube.
DIY Light Tunnel - Dig out those Christmas tree lights for this fun treat (if you've managed to put them away since the holidays!) Grab a large cardboard box and poke holes in one side or both sides of the box while opening the ends up to create a tunnel. You can choose to do a random pattern or be more deliberate in your work. Once you have all the holes poked, push the lights into each one. Your kids might have to fight off the adults in the house for time in this magical tunnel!
Epic Art Session - Roll out some butcher paper on the floor and have the kids go to town. Give them crayons, pencils and markers and watch their artistic sensibilities open up with a giant canvas.
Snowflakes - Coffee filters or tissue paper make great snowflakes. Fold the filter in half and in half again until you have a thin sliver of paper. Then start cutting the design.
Sensory Treasure Hunt - Sensory bins can be a great quiet activity. Fill a bin with small toys from around the house. Then cover them with dried beans, rice or oatmeal. Kids love hunting for items and this activity will provide hours of quiet play.
Inexpensive & Off-the-Beaten-Path Outings
When the kids are bouncing off the walls and you do decide to venture out, here are a few outings that offer a new view, a new challenge, a new lesson, and maybe all three.
Field Trip Fun
Ride the (Light) Rails - Take the Light Rail from one its many stations in Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport. The kids will be thrilled by the ride while you enjoy sipping a coffee. Once at the airport, take some time to enjoy the art that's visible before security before jumping back on the Light Rail for a ride back to the city.
Explore Uwajimaya - Head over to Uwajimaya in the International District for a fun shopping trip. The flagship store has everything from interesting fruits and vegetables to delicacies from Asian countries and great seafood options. Browse among the aisles to check out unique snacks, manga and Hello Kitty! products. Head over to Papa Beard for cream puffs or to snag a bubble tea. See Field Tripping with the Fam at Asian Megastore
From Rain into Drinking Water - Nestled above Rattlesnake Lake, the Cedar River Watershed Education Center in North Bend is not only located in a beautiful setting but has interactive exhibits about how rain becomes our drinking water. The family-friendly programs and tours are available regularly. Story times are focused a different wild animal or nature theme and are offered most weekends throughout the winter.
Interactive Environmental Education at Lewis Creek Park. Explore the for interactive environmental educational displays and games at Lewis Creek Park Visitor Center in Lakewood. There are movies, scavenger hunts and information on hiking rails at the center along with dress-up gear, nature books, animal pelts and species identification cards.
There Be Gold! - Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Pioneer Square to learn all about Seattle’s role in this historical time. This small park is entirely indoors with two floors of exhibits and offers the opportunity to earn a Junior Ranger Badge!
Story Time and STEM Learning
Science Fun Classes - Kids Science Labs in the Green Lake neighborhood offers science enrichment for kids ages 2-12. The 75-or 60-minute classes entertain and educate at the same time. Free trial classes are available for sign-up online.
Reuse Art - Seattle ReCreative in Greenwood focuses on reusing materials for crafty endeavors. This community art center has drop-in Paint Playground sessions most mornings, as well as other classes such as crafts and jewelry making.
Kaleidoscope Fun - With locations around the city, Kaleidoscope Play & Learn is a program run by Child Care Resources that offers FREE organized play sessions for children ages birth to 5 along with their caretakers to engage in play activities that encourage children’s early learning.
Library Storytime - Both King County Libraries and Seattle Public Libraries offer great free programs for kids with music, stories and more. They even offer fun programs for older kids who may no longer be interested in story time, from knitting clubs to multiplayer Minecraft sessions and homework help. Check out your local branch or take a special trip to the Central Library in downtown Seattle: The Children’s area is perfect for story times and the view from the top is spectacular. For a complete, regularly updated schedule, check out our Seattle's Child calendar.
U Village Play Dates - University Village Playdays happen every Tuesday at 10 a.m. with free story time and other activities. Spend more time in the covered play space afterward to burn off more energy.
Circus Arts - The School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts (SANCA) offers one-time classes for those who "wanna join the circus, but [are] afraid of committment." Offered on Sunday afternoons, "The Intro to Circus" class costs $25. Make sure to reserve a space: Classes with low enrollment 48 hours prior may be cancelled.
Climbing Fun - The Stone Garden Climbing Gym in Seattle and Bellevue offers day passes for low-height bouldering and classes for kids ages 5 and up. An orientation plus rock climbing shoes are required but both are easily obtained at the gyms. Kids under age 14 must be supervised by an adult who has completed the orientation. Note that youth requirements differ between the Bellevue and Seattle gyms so call in advance for clarification. The Seattle Bouldering Project (SBP) in south Seattle allows one to climb without ropes up to 10 feet high over a foam floor. Kids ages 4 and up can take classes while kids ages 9 to 18 can even join a bouldering team. Kids at Seattle Bouldering under the age of 13 must be directly supervised by an adult.
Gymnastics Playtime - Head over to one of the three Seattle Gymnastics Academy Open Gym locations in Ballard, Lake City and Columbia City for some major energy-burning fun. For kids 5 and under, the Seattle Gymnastics Academy offers indoor play time in their massive gyms. The tumble track, foam pit and other props are guaranteed to wear them out.
Get on the Ice - Embrace the cold and put on some ice skates! The Lynnwood Ice Center offers public skating seven days a week along with skate aids for toddlers. Head on out on Wednesday night for “Cheap Skate Night”. Kids under five are free. Sno-King Ice Arenas in Kirkland and Renton have public ice skating, seven days a week along with some great “learn to skate” classes.
Get the Roller Wheels Rolling - Remember how much fun roller skating was as a kid? Introduce your kids to skating on wheels. Seattle is amazingly well-covered in roller skating rinks. The Bitter Lake Community Center offers Friday Family Skate Night with lessons offered for kids before at 5:30 p.m. Or head on over to West Seattle’s Southgate Roller Rink for family skate or Lynnwood Bowl & Skate which also offers special skate discounts.
Gutter Ball Bowling - Bowling is a great family activity and Lynnwood Bowl & Skate offers that