T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest month, but clearly he never home-schooled kids during a pandemic. The cruelest month is definitely January.
The excitement of the holidays are over. School, however that looks for you, is back in session. It’s often too cold to play outside for more than 10 minutes. It still gets dark at around 4:30 p.m.
One bright spot, though, is the creativity of our local organizations and entrepreneurs. There’s so much in-person and virtual programming that probably never would have happened if not for a pandemic. In that spirit, here are a few worthwhile family diversions for those of us staring down the bleak barrel of January.
First, a shout out to Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston (www.towerhillbg.org). Their kids’ programming is creative and nature-based, despite the chill: guided yeti hunts at sundown, watercolor painting classes, plant care for mini-botanists, and slime-making using snow. There are also opportunities for frazzled adults, including forest bathing (wouldn’t you like to run into the woods and hide for a while?) and yoga.
Parents desperately in need of alone time should ring the Nature Nanny, also known as Suzanna Sullivan (www.thebostonnaturenanny.com). This pandemic Mary Poppins will whisk your tot on an outdoor adventure to places like the Arnold Arboretum, doing things you might not have time for: building binoculars out of paper towel rings, goat-spotting, bird-watching. Each class starts with a nature-based book. A strong believer that everyone should have access to outdoor education regardless of budget, Sullivan will work with you on cost. She also plans group classes for spring.
In Acton, the Discovery Museum (www.discoveryacton.org) is open following strict COVID-19 protocols. They even have an outdoor sock skating rink, so wear furry footwear. Then visit their al fresco Leonardo Da Vinci structures, with engineering exhibits like a climb-on lever; a rope-free bridge; and a six-foot tall Vitruvian Man statue that teaches kids about ratios and proportions. There are also monthly virtual music and movement classes and a roster of at-home projects, with tutorials on how to dress your pet and activities for National Backwards Day (which is technically Jan. 31, even though it feels like every day).
Wouldn’t you like to be cocooned in a soft, silk hammock for a while? In Hudson, Earth & Aerial Yoga (www.earthandaerialyoga.com) offers kids the chance to stretch, suspended in midair using hammocks and rope. Kids learn a combination of traditional and aerial yoga, as well as breath and mindfulness exercises. In February, look for new classes for teens and tweens, including aerial yoga dance and tricks with flips.
Meanwhile, the Boston Children’s Museum (www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org) continues virtual programming until they can safely reopen. Each week, they send ideas for at-home kids activities, so if you’ve run out of ideas, sign up. Learn how to make snow dough, turn crayons into candles, and turn your tots into mini Marie Kondos by creating their your very own cozy space at home.
Finally, if you have a toddler who’s currently sitting out in-person preschool or daycare, consider Northampton-based Tinkergarten (www.tinkergarten.com), which has been a life-saver for my 4-year-old. This virtual weekly preschool focuses on outdoor experiences, even in winter, with classes based around STEM concepts, problem-solving, and wellness using objects you’ll easily find around the house. There’s circle time, songs, and low-maintenance supplemental materials for parents each week encouraging outdoor play — a nice way to preserve some sense of structure during these languid winter days.