NEWPORT—When the weather is dark and dreary parents are left wondering how to entertain the tiny balls of energy (A.K.A. their children) that are trapped in the proverbial same “four walls” of their home for days on end.

The first thoughts of indoor water parks, trampoline parks, aquariums and indoor arcades are all good times, but many are expensive and for those in rural areas the travel can be too treacherous in the winter months.

So what’s a parent to do?

The answers are local and the cost is free or under $5.

Let’s start with the energy busting basketball courts located in our local community center and recreational department.

The spacious courts offer plenty of room for a good game of ball or to exercise and run those little legs.

The Newport Community Center also has a heated indoor pool, ping-pong tables and a few arcade games.

Children ages 17 and under are a $1 and both the community center and recreation department encourage calling ahead to see if the pool and basketball courts are available.

Libraries Offer More than Books

Another good “get out of the house” option is the local libraries. Stokely Memorial in Newport and Parrottsville Community Library each have a host of programs and activities to captivate winter weary minds.

At Stokely, story time is a weekly Thursday event starting at 10:30 a.m. and includes a toddler/preschool story time, finger plays and sometimes a craft.

Library Director Elizabeth Hall said that Lego Time is a popular event.

“Even teenagers like to do the legos,” Hall laughed.

The Lego Time is geared to entertain children but also encourages parents and guardians to build and construct along with the child.

The Newport library also has a game day afternoon every Tuesday at 4 p.m. and games played include Candy Land, Hungry, Hungry Hippo, Monopoly and Pictureka.

The staff allows people to bring games from home as well.

Parrottsville library offers a similar story time known as Craft and Reading Day, along with a small snack afterward.

The children’s book area of the library also has various toys including a kitchen set and cars.

Real Ideas from Real Moms

When little ones are climbing the walls, it forces parents to get their creative juices flowing.

Home school mom Chesney Crawford encourages her girls, 4-year-old Ella Grace and 2-year-old Eden, to read as often as they can.

One way Crawford helps make reading fun for her girls is to frequent the Friends Animal Shelter to have them read to the cats and dogs.

Friends Animal Shelter Director Elisha Henry said the animals soak up the interaction and playtime.

“Some kids come after school to just read to the animals and cuddle. It’s good for both the animals and the kids,” Henry said.

Volunteering at local non-profits or soup kitchens can not only cut cabin fever, but can be a rewarding experience as children learn the gift of outreach and mission work.

Other free, fun adventures can be taken at local fire stations, police and rescue facilities and businesses.

No Way Out, Stuck Indoors

Adverse weather conditions can make leaving the house nearly impossible making it time to hunker down and make the fun on your own.

Besides the obvious movie nights, cookie bakes and indoor fort castles, a few ideas from around the county branched off into crafts and letters.

“Making homemade cards and delivering to local nursing homes or elderly shut-ins are great ideas and the residents love receiving cards from kids,” said Newport resident Jan Brooks.

Deliveries could be something to look forward to doing when the weather clears.

Local grocery stores will sometimes donate old flowers from their florist department and these can become a home project for little hands that can be delivered to friends, family, or nursing home residents.

So don’t let dropping temperatures dash your hope of fun. One can find plenty of free or cheap activites close to home, and as a winter weary parent, isn’t that what we all need?

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