7 Places to Take a Toddler When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Banish cabin fever with these spots perfect for cold and rainy days.

As the parent of a young child, the threat of a long and dreary winter seems particularly nightmarish -- being stuck in the house with a toddler can be exhausting for anyone. But just because there's a little snow on the ground doesn't mean you can't get out and about with your little one. Here are seven places you can take your toddler when the weather isn't cooperating. 

Boutique Toy Stores

Credit: Cultura RM/Robyn Breen Shinn

Local toy stores looking to compete with big box stores will often curate events perfect for toddlers and young children. In addition, these stores typically have areas set up where toddlers can sample the goods, and parents can get a bit of a break. The only downside is that mom and dad may end up buying something in order to get out of the store without a toddler tantrum.

Indoor Play Spaces

Indoor play spaces geared specifically to the toddler and preschool set seem to be popping up in cities all over the U.S. These spaces typically provide age-appropriate fun with toys, climbing structures, indoor playground equipment, dress up costumes and more. Some even offer a café space or couches where mom and dad can relax while their little one plays. 

But if your community doesn't have an indoor play space specifically for toddlers, find out if any indoor recreation facilities cater to younger children. Local recreation departments, bounce house businesses and multi-sport complexes will sometimes provide parents with young children access to age-appropriate equipment on certain days and during certain times. Other businesses offer a sectioned-off area where toddlers can play away from older, more rambunctious kids. 

Gymnastics Studios and Open Gyms

In an effort to attract more parents (and ultimately clients), gymnastics studios will often provide open hours for toddlers. These typically happen during slower periods during the day, such as Monday through Friday in the morning – making them a perfect outing for a stay-at-home parent on a rainy or cold day. Plus, the play areas are covered with mats and soft surfaces, meaning your accident-prone toddler will be safe while he runs and plays.

Fitness Centers

Most fitness-oriented centers – like the YMCA, park districts and even big-box gyms – offer free or relatively low-cost babysitting services in a daycare-like setting for parents who are using the facilities. Some of these organizations may offer toddler programming as well as open swim times for kids and parents. And, if it’s a slow time of day, don’t be shy about asking if you can take your toddler into a gym or empty fitness room in order to burn off some energy.

Nature Organizations

When the weather outside is frightful, flowers, trees and other nature-oriented activities are likely the last thing that comes to mind. But many community organizations that promote nature – like arboretums, conservatories, botanical gardens, forest preserves and even the zoo – have a main building where they host activities, and some (or maybe a lot) of that programming is for young children. 

Art Museums

Don’t be afraid to think outside the children’s museum box. Art museums may seem like a crazy choice if you have a toddler who's all about destruction, but more and more museums are catering to young families. Art museums often offer spacious hallways and rooms, perfect for navigating a stroller, as well as a cafeteria with toddler-friend food items. Many have special family-oriented exhibits and programming and activities for kids of all ages. If you’re unsure and the website doesn’t provide specifics, call and ask if their museum accommodates young children.

Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

If you're going to get your toddler bundled up and out of the house in cold or dreary weather, why not head to a spot where you can spread some cheer to others? Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer volunteer opportunities for families with young children -- bringing together the very young and the older for planned activities and visits. Check your area assisted living facilities to see if a program exists, or talk to them about starting one. 

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