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Keeping kids busy (and parents sane) during winter break

It's that time of year when most schools across the country close for a week. Here in the Northeast, we call it "winter break." For working parents, this means you either take an expensive vacation knowing that this is airline blackout time, or you have to find care for your kids. A lot of organizations do mini-camps which offer trips and other fun activities so you can still go to work and know your kids are occupied and having fun all day.But if you're a stay-at-home parent or plan to take some time off, here are some fun ideas to beat the winter blues and keep the little ones entertained and exhausted so they go to bed at night! Indoor playspace: Ah, this mecca for kids will keep them jumping, climbing, running and completely worn out by the car ride home. Normally these places have loads of padded climbing structures, ball pits, slides, ladders and more. They charge a rate for all day play, ranging from $5-$15 depending on where you live. No matter the cost, it's cheaper than a sitter and well worth the chance for the kids to get exercise and not frostbite. One of my favorites is Bounce U.

Cooking classes: Another great craze is cooking classes for the little ones. Most of these allow you to drop your child off for a couple of hours (giving you time to run to the grocery store, do laundry, or maybe even go to the gym or get your nails done!) while they make a fun, healthy meal. Not only do the kids learn about nutrition and food preparation, they get to try things they might not normally be exposed to. Check out Young Chef's Academy for class schedules.

Get some culture: Museums are getting more and more kid-friendly, and not just children's museums. Even the art, science and natural history museums do kid-specific tours, have sections just for tots and even offer classes. It's a great weather-proof way to ensure you get out of the house and all that walking is sure to lead to, you guessed it, exhaustion. (See the trend here?) But seriously, it's something you can do together and taking a kid to a museum is like seeing everything for the first time. My son had a very candid reaction to the broken anatomy of the Greek and Roman statues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Let's just say, many people got a good chuckle out of him that day.

Those are just a few ideas that have proven worth their while for me. What are your plans to occupy the little ones during school break?

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