Since my boys were babies, I’ve faced the same question every January: What the heck are we going to do with these kids in winter?
I remember bundling them up and taking them on walks as soon as the temperature hit 40 degrees. We’d go to the bookstore, the pet store or just walk around the neighborhood. Now that Brian and Evan are 8 and almost 6 respectively, they’d be perfectly content spending their time indoors, playing video games, trying to throw each other off the couch and jumping off their bunk beds.
Trying to keep them interested and out of the emergency room becomes a challenge.
When I can’t even finish a cup of coffee without breaking up three fights, it’s time to get out and do something different. One of our favorite places to go is the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, where we’ve been members since 2011.
Usually we walk around, see all of the exhibits and spend hours trying to find shark teeth in the dig site.
But this time I wanted to do something different.
Taking an idea from Brian’s first grade teacher, I created a scavenger hunt based on the kids’ favorite things and aquarium activities we always push off until “next time.”
My hopes for this were not high since some of the things I think are fun are “lame” by little boy standards. They seemed interested, but like most kids, they can only pay attention to something for about ten minutes. I wasn’t convinced my plan would work.
I put my older son in charge of reading the list to his little brother. Some of the items were games or questions. They had to find things that would spell out F-I-S-H or find birds that could and couldn’t fly. They also had to check out a new exhibit, visit an exhibit that they were previously scared of and feed an animal of their choice.
One thing about kids: From the moment they’re born, they are full of surprises. They both really loved this new “game” and for most of the list items, we worked together.
Evan and I fed stingrays. We tried to get butterflies to land on us, until Evan gave up and made Bill take him to the birds (Brian hates the bird room). They cheered me on through the nocturnal exhibit, since I’m terrified of bats. The best part was visiting the new marmoset exhibit. Evan loves monkeys, so they made him happy and Brian loved learning new facts.
Did you know a marmoset weighs as much as a juice box? I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for my “fact-finding” challenge.
As a special treat, we got snacks in the cafeteria. The boys talked about the things they learned, which was pretty much all about marmosets.
Soon they wanted to get back to their epic games of Minecraft, Terraria, and couch wrestling, but after captivating them for over an hour, I felt my mission was a success.
Hopefully we’ll get a random warm day and we can take them on a nature walk or get them to a playground. Until then, it’s six more weeks of creative indoor ideas, a little bit of refereeing and cold coffee.
Here are some other North Fork happenings for kids:
— Peconic River Yoga in Aquebogue is hosting a four-week family-friend yoga series on Feb. 26 and March 5, 12 and 19. The series is $70 for adults and $20 for kids five and up. Visit peconicriveryoga.com to register. Peconic River Yoga is located at 740 Main Road in Aquebogue.
— Long Island Science Center in Riverhead is always great for a dreary day. This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. kids can learn all about the human skeleton. Admission is $5. The museum is located at 11 West Main Street in Riverhead. Visit Lisciencecenter.org for more info.
— The Yankee Doodle Circus comes to Greenport High School, located at 720 Front St., on Saturday, Jan. 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mike Naughton and his company will present acrobatics, stunts, clowns and more. Tickets at the door: $18; children, $6. Online discounts available at getcircustickets.com.