Winter here in western Oregon is a gray, damp affair with a few sparkling crisp sunny days and, if we’re lucky, one or two snowstorms. By February, the kids are losing interest in making mud sculptures and stomping in puddles and the parents are losing patience with the kids.

If your winters bring their own brand of monotony (oh joy, ANOTHER snow day), we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of low-cost activities for kids and families, as well as free or low-cost respite activities for you parents

Family Fun
We’re havin’ a heat wave . . . Crank up the heat, have everyone dress in their
favorite summer garb, whip up a batch of icy fruit smoothies (don’t forget the little
umbrellas!) and watch family videos of last summer. If you live in Antarctica and
summer left something to be desired, watch a family-friendly movie set in a
warm exotic location.

Be tourists near home. Create a list of all the nifty things outsiders like about
your area—beautiful parks, museums, miles of bike trails, art galleries—and
plan a day to go out and enjoy a few of them despite the weather. Pretend you
are tourists seeing those things for the first time and take lots of pictures.

Celebrate Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is all about wearing wild costumes, colorful
beads and fun masks. Have a party in which family and friends go nuts
decorating cheap craft store masks with feathers, sequins, glitter, etc. Do some
face painting. Dress up. Put some Cajun music on the stereo and serve
jambalaya—we’ve got a simple, not-too-spicy recipe in the February 2010 newsletter. Eat, dance, be silly.

Go primitive.
Our family has “no electricity night” once or twice during the winter. We use candles or flashlights to find our way around, heat with a fire in the woodstove, light with candles and oil lamps, and spend our time talking, playing music and playing games.

A Break for the Parents
Go shopping.
If the nearby mall has free childcare, check the kids in and then treat yourselves to coffee and grown-up talk. Note: this might be a bad idea for some kids, or might violate your agreement with your agency.

Go to church.
It’s that whole free childcare thing again.

Take the kids out for lunch at a family-friendly joint with an indoor playground and let the kids play, play, play. Take earplugs and a good book for you.

“I’ve never heard of that movie!”
Think back to the movies that made an impression on you. Chances are there
are some gems out there that will hook the kids for a couple of hours and take
you on a trip down memory lane. Some suggestions: “The African Queen,” “Back
To the Future,” “Fly Away Home,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “A League of their Own,”
“Captain Nemo and the Underwater City,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” “My
Summer Story,” “E.T.,” “The Secret of Roan Innish,” “Journey to the Center of
the Earth,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” and “The Cat from Outer Space.”

Please share your winter boredom busters with us at

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Siegle is the writer and editor for Northwest Media, Inc. of Eugene, OR. Northwest Media produces an online resource parent training center.

This article first appeared in the free newsletter, "Connections."