A Parents Survival Guide to Cabin Fever!
Single degree mornings. Wind chill factors. Too cold to play outside. Yes, Old Man Winter is here and children are typically one of two extremes; bouncing off the walls or bored to tears. It’s amazing how many free, low-priced, and moderately priced indoor activities there are in our area for children of all ages to explore during the work week and on weekends. What’s especially nice is that many of the places are on a drop-in, drop-off, or day pass basis. As for the places with full program offerings, many of the winter sessions are short, lasting only 4 to 6 weeks.
Top on the list of places to go in all of the Candlewood Lake towns are the local libraries. There’s something about the word “free” that many parents love and appreciate. For instance, both the Sherman and New Fairfield libraries are known for their toddler and preschool story time sessions. The Sherman Library offers free afterschool Wicked Wednesdays and Fantastic Fridays programs for Kindergarten through Grade 5 students. Both libraries are open on Saturdays and the New Fairfield Library has seasonal Sunday hours so families can play together in the children’s area, check out movies, or find good magazines and books to read.
For reasonable fees, all the Candlewood Lake towns offer plenty to do through their Parks & Recreation Departments. For instance, Sherman offers a thriving basketball program for children on Saturdays and the young players are mentored by high school basketball athletes. New Fairfield offers a successful afterschool Lego Robotics class on Fridays and a Robotics class on Saturdays. They also offer special one-day workshops this winter, too, like Mindstorms and Wizard’s School of Magic. Don’t forget about staying on top of free or low-cost afterschool and weekend activities that are either school sponsored or PTO sponsored in both towns.
Another extra special place that’s nearby is Robbyn’s Nest in Sherman. This center, owned by Robbyn German, offers unique enrichment programs for children of all ages during the work week and on Sundays. Some of Ms. German’s sessions include lessons in chess, science, yoga, the performing arts, and fine arts. She also offers Mommy and Me classes. The prices are reasonable and a free class is frequently offered.
For the creative, the Home Depot in Danbury and New Milford, and all other store locations, offers a free Kids Workshop the first Saturday morning in most months. The hands-on project for February is an adorable wood Valentine’s Day mailbox. Village Center for the Arts in New Milford, moderately priced, is a great place for families to spend the day together painting ceramics or making sculptures out of recycled materials. Michaels in Brookfield, and all other store locations, offers a low-cost KIDS CLUB craft on most Saturday mornings.
For the inquisitive, Robotics and Beyond in New Milford is perfect for science-minded children and they offer tons of afterschool programs and one-day workshops for students, ages 5 to 17. Wind-up Vehicles and Minecraft Basic & Advanced Skills are the upcoming one-day weekend workshops. In early February, the Society of Women Engineers Connecticut is teaming up with Robotics and Beyond to offer a special one-day Saturday workshop called How to Build a Rollercoaster.
For active children that need to play for hours on end, both the Children’s Movement Center in New Milford and the Fun Factor in Brookfield offer bouncy houses and activity centers. The Children’s Movement Center kicks it up a notch and has a climbing wall, zip line, trampoline, and wave machine for older children. Both centers offer designated toddler / preschool areas.
New Milford Sports Club (NMSC) offers Family Swim on Sunday afternoons. Although it’s only open to members and their guests for a nominal fee per child (adults are free) a parent can buy a day pass then go with their children. The therapy pool is ideal for little ones and the regular lap pool is ideal for stronger swimmers and adults. NMSC also offers swim lessons. Wings Over Water in Brewster offers open family swim on weekends along with swim lessons, too. Check out the YMCA and Dive Shop in Brookfield for children’s aquatic programs as well.
Connecticut Sports Arena has many sports and fitness options for children. They also offer afterschool theater, music, and acting lessons, and the program is called 32 Below. Fineline Theater Arts is another hot spot. Both performing arts studios are located in New Milford.
The Danbury Ice Arena, Brewster Ice Arena, Canterbury Ice Rink at the Canterbury School in New Milford, and the Admiral James and Sybil Stickdale Arena at the South Kent School are really nice for ice skating. All of the rinks offer regular public sessions / open skate times. Some rinks also run ice skating, figure skating, and ice hockey how-to classes and programs.
There are plenty of gymnastics centers in the area. Two of the closest gymnasiums are Elite Gymnastics in New Milford and Epic Studios in Brewster. Elite offers diverse programs starting at the preschool level. Epic offers a tumbling class that starts children as young as 18-months-old, and they have open gym times in the evenings five days a week.
Without having to look far for a karate school, there are four places nearby. In New Fairfield, there’s World Champion Taekwondo, one of multiple locations. In New Milford, Double Dragon Dojo teaches the martial arts system called Shuri-ryu Karate-Do, Northern Star Karate teaches the traditional Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do, and The Zen Do School of Ju-Jitsu teaches the Japanese martial art of Ju-Jitsu.
There are quite a few bowling places to choose from as well. Danbury Duckpin Bowling, Brookfield Bowling, and Dolr Bilz Bowling in New Milford turn back the clock and make bowling a favorite family pastime again.
The Danbury Railway Museum building and its exhibits are open during the wintertime and this is something exciting for little ones to explore. Traveling a little farther out, there’s Monster Mini Golf in Danbury, Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Bethel, and On Track Karting in Brookfield that are worth a visit.
There’s nothing like seeing a good movie. Both Bank Street Theater in New Milford and the quirky Empire Southeast Towne Center Theater inside the Value Village store in Brewster feature the nostalgic, old-fashioned theater experience. AMC Loew’s in Danbury is much larger by comparison.
Before you go… Check out the place’s website to see if there are any special program offers and discounts and sign up for email alerts. Some places use Groupon or post other deals online. Always inquire about buying multiple day or season passes to get a better rate and ask if they expire before making a purchase. If a session has started already then ask a manager if the class can be prorated. Whenever possible, bring healthy lunches with plenty of snacks and drinks to make the outing last longer. Many of the town and school programs require pre-registration. Call ahead for hours and some places extend their hours to accommodate school closings and holidays.
The first day of spring is March 20th. Until then, there are certainly plenty of indoor activities in the area to choose from to keep children busy and to chase away the winter blues!
Story and photos by Alicia Sakal. The original version appeared in the Citizen News, a traditional local newspaper that serves New Fairfield and Sherman, Connecticut.