Winter might be over, but many of us aren’t basking in the sun just yet. For most of the country, spring means unpredictable weather that can turn crummy in a flash. But family adventure doesn’t have to suffer at the hands of the weather gods. A mix of indoor and outdoor fun will keep your family active—and ready for the dog days to come. Here’s a list of my—and my kids'—favorite ways to pass finicky spring days.
To stay active on foul-weather days, we hit the indoor climbing gym. Getting the kids psyched on climbing in a safe, controlled environment allows us to get them on real rock when the weather improves. Both our boys love seeing how high up the wall they can get (wearing a harness and attached to a rope) by climbing on plastic holds, and climbing teaches kids coordination, balance and confidence.
Swimming isn’t just for sweltering days: We like to go to indoor pools during snowstorms. Practicing swimming skills year-round means the kids will be comfortable and safe on future river, lake, and beach trips, and there’s something awesome about watching spring snow fall outside while floating in the warm water.
And recently, on a day off school, the boys and I found a gym with ninja obstacles like on the show American Ninja Warrior (yes, I joined them for an hour of playing). Time in the gym may have improved their agility and strength for summer hikes, but the main takeaway from the experience was that it was dang fun.
We head outdoors in a mix of weather, and my husband and I know that we have to do so wisely. We don’t want to force a hike so that it becomes a negative experience, but we also don’t want to raise kids who refuse to go outside unless it’s above 60 degrees and sunny.
Since it’s harder to motivate kids in fickle spring weather, we do activity-based hikes. A few years back on a trip exploring in South Dakota, we bought a geology field guide and used it on a short hike finding and identifying rocks. (And the kids barely noticed the passing snow flurries.) We recently visited Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoyed the Junior Ranger activity books, and we’ve gone out to identify flowers, birds, and other wildlife. Such goals can be a great way to engage kids in any weather, but works to keep them happy in less-than-ideal conditions.
Spring is also an ideal time to ride bikes. We prefer the cool spring temperatures to brutally hot mid-summer days. And occasional rain means the dirt at tracks like our local Valmont Bike Park stays nice and tacky instead of dusty. We stay off the trails after big rains, though, to avoid wrecking them and getting stuck in mud.
In spring, I also like taking my boys on long dog walks. Even if the weather isn’t perfect, telling them their dog needs a walk can get them outside. We take her to a local open space trail and walk around the lake, and they love playing Ninja, skipping rocks, and throwing sticks for their dog.
Walking the dog around town may not be the most adventurous outdoor activity, but it gets us all outside and spending time together. With a little creativity, spring has the potential to keep us all active and happy, no matter the weather.