You know the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” This is true to an extent, but we also know there are times when it’s too cold to be outside with little ones.

With much of the U.S. experiencing extremely cold temperatures these last few weeks, how do you know if it’s too cold to go outdoors? And, what are some alternative indoor activities to keep you moving and squash cabin fever? Here are some guidelines and ideas.

How Cold is Too Cold?

1. Consider the region in which you live. While 20 degrees is not very cold for people who live in the north, 20 degrees is pretty darn cold for someone who lives in Florida!

2. Do you own the right type of gear and clothing? Most families who live in southern regions may not have a need to buy their kids all the appropriate winter layers if they only experience a few really cold days of the year. If you’re hosting a hike or inviting friends out, it is not reasonable to expect all families to be prepared with appropriate clothing and gear.

3. Consider the age and temperament of your children. While some may not hesitate to take their 5-year old out in 3 degrees, many would hesitate to take their 5-month-old out under the same conditions.

4. Wind chill can definitely make or break an outing. You can mitigate this some by using a rain cover on a frame carrier, or a rain cover on a stroller to block some of the wind. But, at some point that cold wind can make everyone miserable.

Tip: If you’re unsure if it is too cold, do a trial run. Try for 15 minutes close to home and see how your children do.

And, no matter how long you’re outside, tune in to how they’re doing in the cold. Warning signs they’re too cold include: cold hands and feet, cool or cold torso, fussy for no apparent reason, and easily fatigued or lethargic (source).

Indoor Play Ideas When It’s Too Cold to Hike

At Hike it Baby, we want to encourage families to get outside as much as possible, but we understand there are times when this is just not safe. So, what are ideas when it is truly too cold to hike? We have compiled a list of indoor ideas to get wiggles out and help connect to the natural world.

Conservatories / Botanical gardens
Bask in the warmth of the tropical plants, feel the humidity drip from the ceiling, and enjoy breaking a sweat while you stroll around indoors. If you don’t have a designated conservatory or botanical garden near you, some nurseries are open year-round. Walk through the greenhouses and dream of warmer days.

What to do when it's too cold outside by Katy Severe for Hike it BabyPhoto credit: Amy Diebold

Nature centers 
Many nature centers have a mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits. Some even have hands-on activities or events especially for kids!

Adventure centers 
While most adventure centers are only open during school break times, you might be lucky and have one nearby that stays open year-round.

Mall walks
Most malls open their doors 3-4 hours before the stores actually open, making it the perfect location for kids to run around and/or play in the play area.

What to do when it's too cold by Katy Severe for Hike it BabyPhoto credit: Kendra Reeder

Bounce & trampoline gyms
Places like Pump it Up, Jump City, and Get Air will often have designated toddler jump/play times. Be aware that you may need to purchase special socks at some locations, and if you’re bringing a group we recommend calling before hand.

Museums
Natural History Museums, Science Museums, Cultural Museums … the list goes on and on. Call to see if your local museum has a kid-friendly area.

Aquariums
What’s not to love about seeing tropical fish up close and personal? Pack a lunch and make a day out of your visit to get your money’s worth.

What to do when it's too cold by Katy Severe for Hike it BabyPhoto credit: Kristin Hinnant

Zoos
Many zoos have both outdoor and indoor exhibits. While the outdoor exhibits may be off-limits in the extreme cold, you can have fun exploring the indoor exhibits!

Play cafes
If you’re lucky enough to have a play cafe in your town, take advantage of it! What better way to spend your morning than drinking coffee with friends while your little ones play together in a designated play area?

Ice skating / Roller skating 
Some ice skating rinks have certain times of the day that are set aside for toddlers and kids. Some roller skating rinks even offer a “bring your own ride” time where toddlers and young kids can bring anything with wheels and ride around the rink!

Gymnastics gyms
Many gyms have a designated toddler and parent time “open gym” several days a week.

Indoor soccer fields or community centers
Check to see if your community center or indoor soccer fields offer any open hours. If the fields are full, many have an indoor track for walking around the perimeter. Some community centers have indoor toddler or preschool play times as well.

Library play groups
Library story and play groups are always a hit! If you have more than one library in your town, you can attend more than one play group during the week… win-win!

Science centers
Spend the day running around your city’s science center. Many have interactive exhibits designed for littler children.

Read more

When it truly is too cold (or unsafe) to be outside, what are your go-to indoor activities? Comment below!

COMMENT ON ARTICLE

More in

3 Beautiful Hikes in Washington State for Young Children

Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the […]

Snowshoeing 101 for the entire family

Winter is in full swing across the majority of North America, which means the potential for snow … lots and […]