The poem may say, "April is the cruellest month", but I will argue for February and March. The days are cold and short, and the kids seem to bounce off the walls in eager anticipation of spring. If we had some snow, I might be inclined to throw them outside more often, but, as it is, there is nothing but hard frozen brown ground outside our doors.
It is on days like these that I am glad to live so close to many indoor play spots. Just a few hours of exploring, running and playing, and we are all in a better mood.
In the interest of time, I will review just one place right now. I will follow up with more on occasional Saturdays until the weather warms up; then I'll switch gears to talk about outdoor playgrounds we frequent.
Recently, we visited the Children's Museum in Easton which is located in an old firehouse in Easton, Massachusetts. The cost per person is a reasonable $6 each (kids under 1 are free); I also overheard someone getting a AAA discount at the front desk. The Museum is open daily but closed on most Mondays (it is open on some Monday holidays, so call ahead to check).
Parking is a big open-air lot behind the fire house. As you walk to the front door, you will pass a new outdoor play area called The Wild Place. This is a completely fenced-in learning space next to the Museum.
When you enter the Museum, you are on the second floor. As you pay your admission, you children will have run to explore this big room. They can climb a real fire pole, strut on a stage in dress-up clothes, hide in a canvas tent, explore the train table and 'real' train, or drop balls down a long chute. My girls immediately head to the face painting table. My son climbs onto the wooden ship and pretends to catch plastic crabs. A quick glance around the room is all you need to do to spot your children.
Upstairs, on the third floor, there is much more to do: drive a fire truck, play in the kitchen, climb the tree house, play postman or make a craft. There is a doctor's office complete with baby dolls, a wheelchair and working x-ray machine. There is a separate workshop with hammers, nails and wood (best for older kids supervised by adults, for obvious reasons). We visited on Valentine's Day and the craft area had all the supplies needed to make a special Valentine card. Volunteers were even on hand to assist the kids, giving me the chance to sit down and observe it all.
Food is not allowed on either the 2nd or 3rd floor, but you may bring a lunch to eat on the first floor. Be warned, though, that this floor also includes the FETCH!Lab and has lots of distractions for the kids (I couldn't have torn my 3 year old away to eat if I had brought lollipops and Cheetos for lunch). There are a few tables set up in the lunch room and, again, you can sit and eat while still keeping an eye on your kids who will be playing nearby. On Valentine's Day, the kids also could make chocolate lollipops or Valentine 'cell phones' down here.
Spacious, clean bathrooms are located on the first and third floors. As you would expect, they include changing areas, stools to help kids reach the sink and even potty seats for the little guys.
If you have a phobia about crowds, note that mornings are usually busy with little kids. After lunch, and before school lets out, the museum usually clears out quite a bit. I have also seen bus trips at the Museum, so you should call ahead if you want to check how busy it is. I should point out that the crowds have never had an effect on my kids; it is I who get itchy from the cacophony of screeches and drum pounding.