We’ve reached the time of year where outside play requires approximately 18 layers of clothing followed by the dreaded, “Mommy, I need to go potty.” Summer gives us beaches, pools, parks and playgrounds to enjoy with friends. Winter gives us freezing temperatures, wind and cold. Don’t let winter keep your family stuck at home, invite some friends along and shake off the winter blues together with these easy indoor playdates.

  1. Get Fishy

  2. Aquariums are great for kids (and adults) of all ages. They are usually stroller friendly, educational and a fun way for little ones to get some exercise walking through the exhibits. They are also far less crowded in the winter. Aquariums are often a summer tourist attraction or a school field trip destination. On a weekday in the winter, you may just have the whole place to yourself.

  3. Jump for Joy

  4. Kids love to bounce and it is a great way to burn off all of their pent-up winter energy. Bounce houses are perfect for little ones, while older kids (and Moms and Dads) love to jump at the indoor trampoline parks that are popping up all over the country. Make sure you go over safety rules with the kids ahead of time, these attractions are best enjoyed with lots of adult supervision.

  5. Take a Shopping Break

  6. Does a mall near you have a children’s play area? Some of them, like the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, are even better than outdoor playgrounds. The Nationals Play Park at the Dulles Town Center in Northern Virginia has a baseball themed toddler play area. To avoid crowds, hit the play area early. Malls are usually open to walkers for several hours before the stores open and we’ve been known to have 8 a.m. playdates there (with coffee, of course). Mall play areas sometimes have age restrictions to avoid injury to younger kids, so this is a best bet for toddlers and preschool age children.

  7. Find Your Bathing Suit

  8. Explore your local YMCA, JCC or city recreation department, such as the Montgomery County Department of Aquatics, to find an indoor pool near you. Some membership organizations like the YMCA allow non-members to pay a drop-in fee to swim without joining. It's a treat to play in the warm water and escape winter’s chill outside.

  9. Check Out Books and Play

  10. Storytime is so much more than stories; kids learn songs and watch puppet shows, do art projects and pick out books. Even without storytime, libraries with children’s areas are a great place to meet a friend and let the kids play. Most libraries have a children's department with books and toys geared to the younger crowd. Ours has a train set, a dollhouse and a puppet show set. If your local library doesn't offer a storytime, check with local bookstores for more options.

  11. Explore, Touch and Learn

  12. Children’s museums are the best for exploration and learning. Many are so large that it can take multiple visits to enjoy all of the exhibits. Some children’s museums offer reciprocal memberships, so if you join a local museum, see if you can receive discounts or free admission to others when you travel.

  13. A Little Culture

  14. There are so many kinds of museums to enjoy: art, natural history and science are a few that kids enjoy most. Read museum websites ahead of time. Some, like the National Museum of Natural History, offer an interactive learning space and kids of all ages will be fascinated by daily tarantula feedings or a stroll among live butterflies in their Butterfly Pavilion. Programs designed for younger kids can make adult-oriented museums a lot more interesting for little ones.

  15. Take the Playground Indoors

  16. Can’t play outside because of freezing temperatures? Stay warm and dry at a local play gym or indoor playground. Some offer classes for kids big and small, but the big draw is the open play areas where kids can run wild for an hour or two.

  17. Show Them How it’s Done

  18. Try going retro and take the kids to the skating rink. Ice skating and roller skating are fun ways to stay active all winter long. Learning to skate might even lead your kids to try a new sport, like ice hockey. Be sure to regale your kids with stories of your skating prowess in years gone by. Little kids love stories about “when I was a kid” and big kids love to laugh at them.

  19. Get Creative

  20. Winter is the perfect time to allow your budding artists extra time indoors to create. Local paint-your-own pottery places offer a fun way to create a lasting memory. Think about creating gifts for upcoming birthdays or the holidays. When creating gifts, it is good to get there a few weeks in advance to account for the time it takes to get your masterpieces fired in the kiln and ready for pickup.

Whether you are looking for culture, exercise or just an escape from the house, these indoor playdate ideas are sure to keep kids and parents active all winter long.

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Sara Simeral lives in Connecticut and is the mother to energetic 6-year-old twins. In between snowstorms, she enjoys inviting her friends and their kids out for playdates and coffee.