1. Take a hike
Discover – or rediscover – one of Michigan’s many state parks, county parks and Huron-Clinton Metroparks. One favorite, Kensington (in Milford), includes miles of trails, scenery and even a nature center and farm. Park admission is just $7 per vehicle.
2. Swap it
Don’t wait for spring to start clearing out your closets. Help your kids go through old clothes, books and toys to figure out what they no longer need – or like. Ask a group of friends to do the same; then, set up a swap meet in your basement. Let the kids trade their old duds for a recycled treasure.
3. Ride the People Mover
You don’t have to be going into town for a Detroit Pistons or a show at the Fox Theatre to enjoy The Detroit People Mover. The above ground train will delight your kids as you pass by the RiverWalk area, Bricktown, the Ren Cen and more. It’s just 50 cents a ride! Stop in Greektown to enjoy the sites – and smells. Don’t forget Astoria Pastry Shop; the chocolate cannoli are worth every calorie!
4. Book some fun
Why not let someone else do the reading? Check the MetroParent.com calendar for library and book store storytimes in metro Detroit and beyond. It’s a great chance to escape and mingle.
5. Plant some springtime
Find an old flowerpot at home – or buy a cheap one. Fill it three-quarters with potting soil. Sprinkle wheat berries on top and gently push them in, just slightly. Within a week, you’ll have a pot full of grass – which your child can cut every few days. Or, grow plants from dried beans you may already have.
6. See the stars
Too cold to watch the night sky outside? Head to the Wayne State University Planetarium in Detroit. The program, held every Friday night, is free (a nominal charge sometimes applies). It’s best for kids who are a bit older and won’t get scared in the dark, domed amphitheater.
7. Create your own drive-in
Have an outdoor movie experience. Your car may already have a DVD system installed, or bring along your laptop. Find a spot near the park to snuggle up in the backseat together under a blanket and enjoy the latest animated feature – or introduce your kids to a classic, like Star Wars. Don’t forget the popcorn.
8. Chalk it
Create your own art gallery using the concrete sidewalk outside as a canvas for your kids’ masterpieces. You can find thick, inexpensive chalk at any grocery store. Double the fun by having your children invite their friends over, too.
9. Battle, chef-style
Try your own mom versus dad Iron Chef based on the popular Food Network show. Let your kids act as sous chefs – or judges. Pick a simple theme ingredient like pasta or chicken and see who can come up with the tastiest dishes. Remember, you only have one hour before judging!
10. Model tool time
11. Play at the mall
Several southeast Michigan malls now have play places where you can sit and relax as your youngster climbs large plastic animals and trees. Try the small spot at Westland Center, or Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor boasts coin-operated kiddy rides. Bundle up for outdoor fun at the play park at The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township. And don’t forget about IKEA in Canton. You can check in potty-trained kids for up to an hour (depending on how busy the store is).
12. Find a new haunt
Hunt down a new local family favorite in your area. What tasty restaurant is waiting to be discovered in your nearby strip mall? Find out with your brood.
13. Dust off the museum pass
14. Make your own museum
Give your kids readily available supplies like paper, crayons and tape to assemble their own works of art – and let them know you’re excited to take a tour once they’re finished. It’s great activity if you’re snowed in or the kids complain that they’re bored.
15. Build a simple bird feeder
Using a plastic cup, poke a small hole on two opposite sides and run heavy twine through them (for hanging). Cover the outside of the cup with Elmer’s Glue and then let your child gently sprinkle birdseed over it. Once that’s dry, fill the cup with birdseed and hang it on a branch near a window. Encourage your kids to draw pictures of the birds that visit. (Warning: This birdfeeder won’t last long!)
16. Flower power
Make a colorful bouquet to remind you and your crew that spring is just around the corner. Color several paper muffin liners. Gently press a hole in the center of one, so that a straw can go through. Fold and roll another paper cup so that you can place the rolled end into the straw’s opening at the top.
17. Help furry friends
Area shelters are always looking for supplies you might have lying around your house, like towels, baby food, blankets and dish detergent. Collect items from your home or pick up some supplies at the store to drop off in person. For instance, check out the Michigan Humane Society Wish List.
18. Adopt a grandparent
Help your kids give back to the community by visiting a local nursing home. Call ahead to find out times when visitors are welcome. Prepare a fun song, like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” that your child can sing for seniors – or bring along a favorite book, like Goodnight Moon, to share.
19. Mock Olympics
Channel the sporting spirit by coming up with your own events – anyone for a pillow obstacle course or a cotton ball toss? Let your children brainstorm events and then compete as individuals or divide up into teams (check out our home field day games for other ideas). Invite friends and family to join you.
20. Get in some spring training
Get your Tigers enthusiasts active by coming up with baseball-like games to play indoors. For example, instead of a bat and ball, use your hand as a bat and stuffed animals as balls to practice “hitting.” You can even add bases (think: pillows) and run through an inning or two.
This article was originally published in 2011 and is updated annually