The winter blahs seem to be upon many of us. Despite spring still being several weeks away, there is plenty to do in these colder months. And with school breaks starting to approach, it dawned on me that there are many fun activities to do as a family while waiting for the warmer temps and trees to bloom.
And while I may not be an official mom, I’m an aunt to five amazing kids who I love like my own and an ‘adopted’ aunt to many friends’ kids. So I have a bit of experience with children. I’ve also had the excellent fortune to get familiar with many cultural attractions, local community events and other activities. And truth is, the activities mentioned below are really open to most ages and certainly welcome people whether you have a child or not (well, except Story Time at the library. Probably weird if you show up without a kid.).
I bet it’s been a long time since you’ve visited the Detroit Historical Museum, if you’ve ever gone. Am I right? Well now there’s no excuse because admission is free! Yep, free. The Detroit Historical Museum, located on Woodward, closed for most of 2012 to undergo significant renovations. It has five new permanent exhibits, including the Kid Rock Music Lab, joining updated exhibits and new special programs. It really is a great place to explore the history of this area. And with no charge, you can easily take others with you.
Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills is offering a great program called ‘Save the Cannon & More‘ on Feb. 18-22 from 1-4pm
that lets the public help clean a 200-year-old cannon found two years ago in the Detroit River by the Detroit Police Dive Team. It’s believed to have been dumped in the river when the British exited in 1796. Guests can use small brushes to help gently scrub away 200 years’ worth of grime, dirt and ick. A perfect way to actively learn about history!
This is in conjunction with the Institute’s current exhibit, Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss, which explores the mysteries, shipwrecks and life found in the Great Lakes and oceans. Visitors can see the control room of a deep-diving research vessel, see models of the shipwrecks, Titanic and Bismarck, and have fun with many hands-on activities. The special exhibit is free with museum admission and open through May 26, 2013. And don’t forget the Institute is free after 5pm on the first Friday of every month (through June 2013).
While at Cranbrook, you must check out the Bat Zone, home to the Organization for Bat Conservation’s 150+ nocturnal animals. More than 100 fruit bats live at the Bat Zone, along with big brown bats, vampire bats, two-toed sloth and several owls. It’s very cool to see these animals up close and learn many things you didn’t know – vampire bats don’t suck human blood; they feed on cow blood. A sloth only comes down from trees once per week to go to the bathroom. And bats don’t like to nest in human hair. And most bats eat 2.5 times their weight in food. And bats can eat an average 1,500-2,000 mosquitoes in one night! Live animals shows give a great educational overview of these nocturnal mammals. Shows run Saturdays and Sundays.
Also in Bloomfield Hills is the Winter Fest hosted by the Charles L. Bowers School Farm. The event runs Feb. 16 from 12-4pm and is a fun opportunity for visitors to learn about living on a farm in the winter months. Visitors can take a wagon ride, visit stations around the farm, sit by a fire, and enjoy hot chocolate while viewing a ‘Snowman Train’ in the main building.
As I write this, the sun is pouring in the windows and I keep daydreaming of hiking the trails at my favorite local parks. But there’s more to do than hike at these awesome community gems. The Huron-Clinton Metroparks, comprising 13 parks located throughout metro Detroit, hosts many family-friendly events and activities all year. I checked out their lineup of events for the next few weeks and you won’t be bored! Many of these activities have low or no fees.
If it gets too chilly to be outdoors, consider hosting a game night at home! My family played games all the time during my childhood, from Monopoly to Scrabble to Life. I love games! Maybe set up a Wii bowling challenge or play Wii Family Feud. Even better, step away from technology and play board or card games. My family loves Catch Phrase, Phase 10 and Balderdash (LOTS of laughs with this). We also play Candy Land and Memory with the younger kids.
I’m obsessed with reading books so I love to share that obsession with my nieces and nephew by reading books to them whenever possible (kudos to my sisters and brother-in-law for instilling the reading bug in them too). I also love that local libraries offer Story Time for kids. Perfect for piquing their interest in books! Many libraries offer several sessions for different ages, as well as other fun programs. These programs are usually free of charge and age-appropriate. Most libraries have an e-newsletter that you can sign up for so you are always in the loop on upcoming events and activities.
Well I realize I could go on with more ideas but hopefully these will get you started and enjoying time with the children in your life. What are some of your favorite activities to do with kids?