Hanging with the boys: Some of our favorite things to do in the winter

The Command Center


In Raleigh, the weather is pretty beautiful during the majority of the year. While Northerner’s suffer through a painfully cold winter, the oppressive heat and humidity in the summertime is our “worst” season. Our winters are brief and usually sunny.

Since it’s January, we are doing more things inside, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite things to do with a 1 and 2 year old.

  1. Go to Marbles Kids Museum. My in-laws gifted us a year long membership and that was perhaps the best gift you could give the boys. It’s more geared for David’s age, but Luke loves it too in his own way. I’m sure once Luke is mobile he’ll be following David around like a little shadow, exploring every corner of the place.
  2. Go to Storytime at Barnes and Noble or the local library. Neither boy has lasted the entire duration of storytime, but it’s nice to get out and have them interact with other kids. It’s also a great way to meet other moms!
  3. Play at the mall. The most worthless mall in our area is in Cary. The good stores are dropping like flies (See ya LOFT, bye bye GAP.) but it has the best little kids play area. It’s in a big circle so it’s easy to keep an eye on David the entire time. Luke isn’t quite mobile so he stays by me, but he can reach a few things to play with too so it’s mutually entertaining. I can’t tell you how many times I meet other moms there in the winter. The kids get to play in a safe, small-ish area, and there is even a carousel and a train if you need another activity.
  4. Invite another mom + her kids over for a play date. I realize this isn’t profound, but I usually have 1-3 play dates with friends every week. Either they’ll come to my place, or we’ll go to theirs. It’s fun for everyone! The kids get to play with different toys, and I get to catch up with a friend.
  5. Get creative in the house. We build tunnels out of couch cushions, and play chase on the first floor. David has a train table that he’s still obsessed with, so we spend a good amount of time playing with that. If I’m making something in the kitchen that David could safely help with, I ask him to help and he loves doing that. Meanwhile I’ll give Luke a basket of measuring spoons and he’ll be occupied for a long time with those. I try to make the mundane things a little bit fun, and get David involved in anything he can be involved in. He helps me push the laundry into the dryer, and will even push the Swiffer sweeper around if he sees me doing it too!

Do you have favorite activities you do in seasons where you don’t spend much time outside?

If your second likes to be worn, I wrote a post covering a few baby wearing tips


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Amber says · 01.28.16

A fort is always worth the effort.

Cynthia says · 01.28.16

We’re big into creating art. I have a huge bin filled with supplies, old Christmas cards that were sent to us, glue stick, water colours, paint brushes, stickers, pipe cleaners, just a bunch of random stuff really. My kids (7, 5 and 3) can spend hours creating.

Crayola makes non-marking art line, special clear paint and markers that only work with special paper. I let my 3 year old go crazy with their paint set. You should look into it, all the joy of creating without all the worry of markers or paint on the walls, and sofa, and floo, and cabinets, and fridge…

Avery says · 01.28.16

Hey Kate – Good news – I heard that Loft is just moving 🙂

Becky S. says · 01.28.16

I love Barnes and Noble story time and my library story time for my 2-year old. My local mall also lost Gap. 🙁

alexis says · 01.28.16

Have you been to the Museum of Life and their new Hideaway woods yet? We are dying to go and can’t wait for it to warm up a bit! I saw pics online and the hideaway woods part is a trail with a bunch of different treehouses! And I believe they have animals as well. I know it’s not a good activity for a cold day, but with some of these warmer days headed our way it might be fun! I have a 4 year old and 15 month old and I think they both will enjoy it, as well as mommy and daddy! 🙂

Megan says · 01.28.16

I was there in August before Hideaway Woods opened, and it looked awesome! I can’t wait to take my daughter back there. I think your four-year-old would love it.

alexis says · 01.28.16

I’m so looking forward to going! We are going to go in March or April before it starts getting too buggy.

Jaclyn Levy says · 01.28.16

Good ideas. I have a gym membership so I’ll take my boys with me so they can play with their friends in the child care area while I enjoy some “me” time working out. A few local churches also offer mom and me activities for free. And the cold doesn’t stop me from bundling then up and taking them outside. A little fresh air translates to deep sleep later. 🙂

Amanda says · 01.28.16

Building a den using blankets and a wooden clothes aired then filling it with cushions and playing with a flashlight making shadow puppets; my daughter loved this!

Alyssa says · 01.28.16

Oh my gosh we lost our LOFT last year and it was so sad. I can’t imagine losing the Gap too… I guess our mall is pretty weak to begin with…

Growing up I loved finger painting and crafts but I don’t know if your boys are into that kind of thing yet at this age!

Alyssa | Glitter and Grey

Gena says · 01.28.16

I think calling a safe place for you kids to play “worthless” is not very nice – I’d say that would make it a little worth – y! (I’ve been there – and I agree the stores leaving isnt great, but i do value a nice warm place for my littles to have fun!)

Christen says · 01.28.16

We’re big living room tent people. Sometimes we get super elaborate and then get sleeping bags out like we’re camping. I like doing things like that over crafts and Play doh. I’m just lacking in any creativity in that department.

Kelley Lively says · 01.28.16

We go to the pet store a lot and to Bass Pro Shops. They love aquariums!

Cynthia says · 01.28.16

Oh yes, I forgot about the pet store. We killed hours in there before my older kids were in school… It’s like the zoo, but smaller, free and indoors.

Carly O'Connor says · 01.28.16

these are great ideas 🙂 planning on getting a zoo membership and taking my daughter lots when it warms up!

Amelie says · 01.28.16

I don’t have own Kids yet, but I had several babysitter jobs in the past.

The kids loved to bake cookies and decorate them with sugar decorations (don’t know how it is called in English, because I’m german)

Make a highway for all the play cars your kids have through the whole house – lot’s of fun 🙂

And they loved to play with balloons – see them flying through the air, kick them, …

With older kids you can hide an alarm somewhere in the house and set up a time when it should ring. The kids are like detectives and have to find the alarm before it starts 🙂

Kristin S says · 01.28.16

The irony is that we used to travel from Durham to Cary to go to the mall. It was a GREAT mall 20 years ago. Now it’s so trashy. I didn’t know The Gap left but I’m not surprised.

Kate says · 01.28.16

so funny, and now Durham has the best mall!

Sara says · 01.28.16

Oh we love Marbles! It is great during the colder days. I am looking forward to a little warmer (and drier) weather to go to the Life and Sciences Museum in Durham. If you haven’t been yet you MUST check it out. http://www.lifeandscience.org/
My friend and I also take our boys to a local gym class twice a week. It gives them a place to climb, play and work on coordination. We go to My Gym in Cary (there is also one in Raleigh). They have sibling classes and age appropriate classes for kids 7 months and up which is hard to find. http://www.mygym.com/cary/
We have thought about trying Monkey Joe’s in Raleigh since they have a toddler (3 and under) area. Has anyone heard anything about it? http://www.monkeyjoes.com/
One more (sorry long list): Apex community center also has activities for young kids including a music class on Fridays (Wee Jam). We haven’t tried it yet but a Mom from our gym class said she loved it.
I love that you made this post, I was just having this conversation this week on ideas for getting my toddler up and moving (and prevent him terrorizing my house) during the winter. We will looking into story time and I hope some of the suggestions help!

Katie F says · 01.28.16

Oh no, Loft is leaving Cary Towne?! I guess I will only be taking my boys to the play area now ?. Have you taken your boys to Pullen Park? We went there prior to moving to Raleigh and they LOVED it. And the Kids Together park in Cary is fantastic.

Kate says · 01.28.16

I’ve been to both–both are great parks!

Kim says · 01.28.16

When my niece and nephew were at those ages, I bought a roll of white paper from a hobby store. It lasts forever! I would let them color and draw on it. As they got older I had them lay on it and traced their little bodies. They thought that was so cool. Then I had them decorate their bodies. I still have those: ) Another great project, was hit the dollar store for clear shower curtains. I would draw and let them help, a town that they could play cars or little dolls ( niece) with on rainy day. They are teens now and remember all the fun little art projects. They laugh at how little their traced bodies were and how they colored them.

Adriele says · 01.28.16

Um, this is BRILLIANT Kim!!!!! Love these ideas! I may steal them, if that’s ok!


Adriele says · 01.28.16

Haha, I go to Chic-Fil-A at least twice a week with friends for a playdate. It’s got food and a very clean kids area, so my friends and I can grab breakfast and hang out for a couple of hours and no one needs to cook or clean up after. It’s lovely. Have you seen the “Going to Chic-fil-a” video? It’a a riot and sooooooooo my friends and I. It’s a parody of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qISA2TD8xhk


Jess says · 01.28.16

You nailed it! We also like to go to chick fil a for lunch just to play in the play place.

Ann says · 01.29.16

I’m one of the poor “northern” (Canadian) people who endure long winters in a small town. With 3 under 5, we actually spend a lot of time in the snow. Our yard has actually been made into a skating rink. But when it’s cold, don’t ask me to convert the temp 🙂 , we love our book store, library, pool, community & church play times. Thankfully we have chinooks, these last few weeks and get a break from the coldness!

Lindsay says · 01.29.16

I love your blog but I think have only commented once. Our current life situations are somewhat similar with age and kids, except you’re WAY more stylish. 🙂 Sounds pretty similar to how we pass the rainy days in Washington! I never thought I’d say this, but at almost-30 I’ve become a morning mall walker, right along with the seniors! I have a 19 month old and 6 week old, and it just gets us out of the house without spending money – and we stop in the play area when it’s not busy.

When did you start having Luke “help” with cooking and chores? I still find that mine usually wants to get into things he shouldn’t so it becomes a hassle, but I want to get him more used to helping and being a part of daily tasks (I can’t do it all when he’s napping!).

Sydni says · 01.31.16

Have you written a recent recap of your daily schedule? It sounds like you stay pretty busy with your boys and friends, but I’m wondering how you fit time with your husband and time for your blog in your daily routine. I’d love to hear!

jennifer says · 01.31.16

My girls are growing up and in school now- 2nd & 5th grade.But I can remember when they were home,we would do fun outings to the library or to the mall.

One year,our little one played in a mall “playground” like what you are talking about & got really sick. So after that, those mall “playgrounds” did not look like fun to me.Lol! I don’t think she ever played in one again.It made it easier b/c we don’t live at a mall that has one-we happened to be on a shopping outing that day.Kids will get sick there is nothing we can do about that. I would wash their hands really good after playing in one & try and keep their hands away from their face as much as possible. Winter time those places harbor all kinds of hand foot mouth,flu,strep you name it its on those mall playground things.Sorry to be Mrs mommy downer- Lol. by all means,I’m not trying to say anything negative about your fun playdates. Just telling you what happened to us & the lesson I learned.

I love seeing your little boys- they are so adorable! Your home command center looks great.

Lin says · 02.03.16

I’m just surprised – why aren’t you outside? I come from the north (Europe) and EVERYBODY here takes their kids outside, and the weather doesn’t matter. As a baby, my parents would put me (and my siblings) outside in my baby carriage and leave me outside (on our porch) to sleep in the fresh air. In the winter. Everybody still does. I’m sure nobody particularly likes putting tons of clothes on squirming kids, but they do it anyway. Nature is healthy! And how are your kids (asking rhetorically here) going to get any sense of respect for nature when all they do is stay indoors?
Don’t mean to sound rude here, I’m just curious.

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Kerry says · 01.22.17

The indoor playground at Greystone Recreation Center is fun!! Then you can grab treats at Sola 😉

Triangle Town Center has a decent indoor play space in front of Sears.

Raleighwood, when your boys are a little older. The early lunchtime shows are for kids, so you expect kid chatter, all good. If you go during the week you may even have the whole theater to yourself! My daughter loved it bc she could order fun snacks like an ice cream sundae, and I’d bring coloring books since they have seats with tables.

If it’s not too cold, you know, like 70 in January (um, like last week) take a ride to Winterpast Farm (text Farmer Mary first) for an incredible experience — wear rain boots regardless so you can hose them off after (and load up on sanitizer/hand wipes).

Also, Historic Oak View Park is a lot of fun in milder weather.