Pacific Northwest parents of small children: how do you survive the long rainy winters with your sanity intact?
March 18, 2011 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Pacific Northwest parents of small children: how do you survive the long rainy winters with your sanity intact?

There's only so much you can do indoors with toddlers, especially on the weekends when every museum/playground/etc is an utter zoo. Skiing has to wait a few more years, and even then it's pricey and conditions aren't often that great.

What do you do for fun, especially if you're outdoorsy-oriented? Just make peace with hiking in the drizzle? Drive an hour to go sledding or snowshoeing? Long damp walks on the beach?
posted by gottabefunky to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is a particularly timely issue for me this weekend as I wonder when spring will arrive.

Yes, we drive up to Mt. Hood (Government Camp, really) and go sledding; we take advantage of the non-rain days when they come; we talk about being rugged Oregonians and go for walks in the drizzle; we go to the coast even when it is rainy.

But we have also cultivated fun indoor stuff. Do you know of indoor playground-type places?
There's a great place in inner NE PDX called the Playground Gym that is perfect for toddlers (just make peace with paying for admission). I'm sure there are other places in town that might be closer to you. Yes, sometimes they are a zoo.

OMSI family memberships are good because you can pop over for just an hour or two without feeling like you are wasting a ton of money.

Portland Parks and Rec is great: you can go swimming in an indoor-heated pool. For toddlers, they also have indoor parks or somesuch.

There's an indoor soccer place up in Vancouver, and they have soccer classes by age group, so I bet they have something for wee ones.

You also make peace with the crowds because that's what it means to be indoors in Portland in the winter. I don't know of any magic bullets.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2011

Oh, two other thoughts: start making plans NOW for summer. Even planning summer outings helps. I'm also thinking that, once we can afford it, a once-a-winter trip, even over a weekend, to someplace sunny will be a huge help.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:40 PM on March 18, 2011

When I was little and it rained a LOT (thought not Seattle levels) we just went out in the rain. Getting geared up in rain outfits is half the fun, and being allowed to get wet and muddy was pretty cool.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:45 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it's warm enough when it rains... We were occasionally let outside in bathing suits with rainboots and umbrellas, and it was the best thing ever. My mother is convinced the neighbors thought she was insane for allowing it, but who cares? Then warm baths and a snack when you come in? Best thing ever. If it's always quite cold when it rains, which I think it might be in Portland, this plan might not be as fun, though.
posted by brainmouse at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was a little kid in Portland, we went to an indoor playground a lot. Not sure if it's the same one bluedaisy linked too (I was too young to remember specifics), but I remember liking it a lot and my mom got to hang out and talk with other moms while she was there. Win-win. We also loved going to OMSI, but that was a lot less frequent.

That said, we don't even have kids and we've been going crazy during winter here, so we're just moving away to somewhere warmer and drier....
posted by sharding at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2011

Make the investment in comfortable, excellent rain gear and a way to organize it right by the door. This is how we worked having a young toddler on the Olympic Peninsula. There was something about having your Boggs and the warm rain pants all neatly sentinel by the door that said "hey, get out there!"
posted by rumposinc at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Make peace with hiking in the drizzle.

I'm in the snowy-then-rainy midwest, but same problem. Just about every day there wasn't snow too deep to walk in or lightning, out my toddler went to, you know, toddle. Sometimes we had to be content with walks around the neighborhood because the hiking trails were too icy (they thaw last under the trees), but a pair of rain boots and some layers for warmth and you're good to go.

My local park district also has a thrice-weekly "toddler open gym" (balls, mats, scooters, chaos) for $2 a visit, and we make good use of a local-kid-events mailing list that keeps us informed about storytimes, other open-gym-type activities, events at the zoo, etc. (We subscribe to our local Macaroni Kid ... I imagine the newsletter quality varies based on the local editor; I find ours very useful. I see plenty of cities in the Pacific Northwest listed, including PDX.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:05 PM on March 18, 2011

Good suggestions above. I would also add "lessons" - dance, gymnastics, martial arts, all have toddlers versions available in my community.

Since you specifically mentioned being outdoorsy, I'll add that we are known to drop everything and go for a quick walk any time there is a blue hole. Desperation!
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:07 PM on March 18, 2011

I had four kids in the Pacific Northwest once upon a time and I found that a toy box full of toys, coloring books, and games and (here's the important part) their own room to play in was the best thing for rainy spring/fall/winter in the PW. Kids are pretty good at keeping themselves occupied, at least mine were. Without parental interference, their imaginations ran wild and they were hardly ever bored. My kids' playroom was off the living room and near the dining room so they were within sight and hearing all of the time and it allowed me to get things done while they played.

Just my two cents worth.
posted by patheral at 6:14 PM on March 18, 2011

When my daughter was one and to some extent when she was two, we went outside every day no matter what. She never minded getting a bit wet and we enjoyed the playground and walks to the library just fine whether it was raining or not. A raincoat and boots, helps, of course, but knowing that you can get home quickly and easily for dry pants and a mug of hot cocoa is great, for the few days that are so wet you need that. And yes, we did go to the beach in the rain. Now that she's four, she's less interested in being outside at all times. We still go on puddle walks in the rain sometimes, but many days she's happy making art, reading books, watching movies, making food, and playing games. (And seconding the Toddler Play gym -- Seattle has so many of them, they aren't usually too bad for crowds.)

Also, remember, it often looks like it will rain and most days it will, but a lot of the time it's not raining yet. You can try to dash outside every time it's not raining, too.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:06 AM on March 19, 2011

Juneau here. You just have to buy good rain gear so you and your kids are comfortable and go out in the wet. Also, look for open gym times for tykes when they set out stuff for them to play with for a small fee. Story time at the library. And, uh, an occasional visit to McDonald's playland, where they can run off some steam on the indoor jungle gym, can be worth the mental anguish over feeding your kids a burger and fries.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:15 PM on March 19, 2011

Swimming in an indoor pool
Playing in the garage (chalk, paint, tricycles, pogo sticks, skate board, scooters...)
Good rain gear for everybody
A playroom with (at various ages) a trampoline, a Sit and Spin, a bouncy ball or two, a Rody, and a Bongo Board
Co-op preschool
Outdoor preschool
Gymnastics classes
Ballet classes
Playgrounds even though it's wet
Driving to less-crowded playgrounds
We have a longish driveway and park the car across the end of it so the kids can run up and down its length, decorate it with sidewalk chalk, ride all their various wheeled things, etc
Long damp walks looking for airsoft pellets in the park
A jogging stroller with a rain cover so I can get exercise
The library
The grocery store
Up to one hour of screen time a day
Hyper Dash
Shovels for them to dig a mud hole in the yard
Lots of bath toys (e.g kitchen utensils) to lure them into taking long baths
More playdates
Babysitting at the Y
Dance parties in the kitchen
Beer for Mama when they finally go to sleep
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2011

If it's warm enough when it rains...

Warm and rain don't happen together in Portland. If it's raining, it's cold or at least cool. If it's warm, it's dry. Very different from the east coast and perhaps the midwest.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:09 PM on March 20, 2011

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