Get Out: 7 Indoor Activities to Do With Preschoolers This Winter

At this time of year, it can be very hard to keep the kids happy and busy when they just can’t run outside whenever they please. Especially after last week’s snowstorm, school closings, and the long, slo-o-o-o-w dig-out, everyone in my house has been getting on each other’s nerves. There are only so many movies and board games we can handle.

Sawyer and his dad build with foam bricks at a hands-on exhibit at the National Building Museum.

Just when I started to run out of ideas, I reached out to the best resource around: other parents. Last week, many SSDS families planned spontaneous meet-ups and play dates with each other, and email chains were sent around with ideas for a variety of affordable activities nearby to keep both parents and kids positively connected all winter long.

Because you know there will be more snow days or just days when you’re ready for something new, here are some of my family’s favorite indoor activities within a 40-minute drive.

Caleb, 12 and Sawyer, 4, jump off trampolines into a block pile at Sky Zone.

Sky Zone. This trampoline park has a variety of jumping-related activities and divides kids by age groups, so the little ones don’t get trampled when the bigger ones are shooting baskets or playing dodge ball. There is a specific toddler time on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the Columbia location for $5 per jumper, but on a couple of snow days I just reserved a time online during open jump ($12 for 30 minutes, $16 for 60 minutes) and showed up. Also located in Gaithersburg.

Westfield Wheaton. Don’t overlook the obvious—when the young ones are restless, a good romp through the free play space on the first floor of this mall may be all you need. Westfield Wheaton also has a small inflatables play zone near the free play space for little ones, starting at $6 for a 30-minute session. And there are plenty of lights and sounds as the mall train spins around the area.

Caleb glides with his shadow at the Building Museum.

Be With Me, the Children’s Playseum. This what I like to call the grab-bag option. When you’re not really sure what to do, check out this place, tucked away in a shopping center in downtown Bethesda. It has rooms for different activities and different ages—there’s a popular pint-sized fire truck for climbing in, a grocery store for practicing the weekly shopping, lots of dress-up options, small animals in aquariums, a pretend beauty parlor, and various arts and crafts for an extra fee. Also, there are a ton of books and tables and chairs where you can sit and eat a lunch, if you were smart enough to pack one. $9 per person.

Monster Mini Golf. This one is just like it sounds. It’s got 18 holes of indoor mini golf under black lights with lots of large (but not too scary) monsters strewn around the course, plus video games galore. This is a good spot if you have kids of wildly different ages, like me, or you’re with a group.

Silver Stars Gymnastics. This friendly, colorful gym full of mats, beams, bars and a trampoline usually has open gym weekdays from 12 to 1 p.m., where little ones can try out the equipment (with parental supervision) and bounce on an inflatable train. Silver Stars runs camps and special events during snow days, school holidays and the summer. $8 per kid, or $6 if you buy a 10-pack pass.

Sawyer loves to play on the floor at Silver Stars.

National Building Museum. Off the beaten path of the Washington Mall, there are a handful of smaller museums worth seeking out. The Building Museum, dedicated to the country’s architecture and design, has a wide-open lobby where cooped-up kids can do a little running. In addition to various rotating exhibits geared mainly towards adults and older children, there are two ongoing, hands-on building zones for the smaller set. Admission is $10 for adults, $3-$7 for kids, depending on age. This is another good one for families or groups of kids with various interests and ages. And, it’s Metro accessible.

Jump Start With the Arts’ Family Fun Night Out, in collaboration with SSDS and El Golfo restaurant in Silver Spring, brings live, local kid-friendly music and Mexican food together on the first Thursday of the month during the school year. It’s a great chance to get the family out for dinner and meet up with SSDS friends and others in a lively space. Kids are free. For adults, $5. And did I mention the margaritas?

— April Fulton, mom to Sawyer Katz (Ms. Lesley’s 4s) and Caleb Katz (12)