Think (Inside) the Box |

Think (Inside) the Box

Avon Recreation Center has both a lap pool and an extensive kids' pool area.

Do the kids want a break from all of that beautiful skiing? For an outdoors-oriented community, the Vail Valley has a lot of indoor options

 »by Heather Hower

Despite the 10,000 skiable acres in Eagle County, sometimes a kid needs a break from all that powdery terrain. Instead of fighting with the little shredder, make plans to hit Vail Valley’s indoor activities.

Hit the Gym … and Swim

An indoor facility can be a lifesaver on a cold, windy, wintery day. Vail Recreation District (VRD) has a state-of-the-art facility that’s known for gymnastics, but with a slew of other activities including martial arts, trampoline — even fencing. Singing, dancing and bouncing, jousting — getting sweaty on a cold winter day.

Down valley, WECMRD (Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District) has all things indoor for kids of all ages: rock climbing, martial arts, gymnastics, swimming and even learning aerials on the anti-gravity trampoline. WECMRD also offers a kids’ night out on Fridays so kids can burn off energy while parents relax.

The Gypsum Recreation Center, part of WECMRD, and the Avon Recreation Center both have swimming — slides, laps, sprayers, lazy rivers and noodles. The zero-entry pools make it easy to swim with the tots as the teens have their own freedom too.              

Art in the Rockies

We may not have MOMA or the Mona Lisa, but there’s plenty for budding young artists. Alpine Arts offers a multitude of classes for kids of all ages (yes, that means teens, too!). Lauren Merrell, the creative owner, has classes with a focus, such as Art Story Time or Handmade for the Holidays, as well as the option for  artists to create their program. “My favorite indoor activities that span the winter with kids are pottery wheel lessons: everyone loves doing this,” she enthuses.

Dewey Dabbles in Eagle is a bright space that calls for creativity. Jennifer Kennedy, the owner, created the studio that’s as much fun for adults as for kids. There’s painted pottery as well as fused glass, canvas painting and clay… and she can have it all hit the road, too, as a mobile studio. The VRD also has pottery painting.           

Ice Skating

Sharpen your edges to get skating in Eagle County. Dobson Ice Arena in Vail has a huge sheet of ice for public skating — not to mention hockey, lessons and figure skating. WECMRD’s Eagle Pool and Ice Rink hosts tournaments, open skate, lessons and clinics all winter long. Skate rentals available at both facilities.

Cooking Kids         

Winter personifies the well-known saying that the days are long but the years are short. Break out the cooking supplies because the kitchen can be a great play zone.

Kids love to help with cooking — washing dishes, measuring, cracking eggs, picking out dinner’s pasta shape. Be prepared: of course there will be a mess!

Baking is a fun way to while away the afternoon with a delicious end result. Cupcakes are perfect — the kids can put the liners in the trays while you whip up the batter. Let them crack the eggs, turn the beaters on and off and lick the spoon. They’ll slowly take on more tasks and before you know it, you might come home to a freshly baked cake (in a year or five).

If you’re not up for the measuring and the mess, check out Vail Recreation District’s “Kids in the Kitchen” Saturdays all winter. “Kids in the Kitchen is a chance for children to come and cook, with us taking care of ingredients and leading the activity and leading the clean up,” says Chad Young, director of community programming and youth services.

Sneak in some learning: Kids measure and work with fractions, all while baking something delicious. Learning to bake and cook provides a lifelong skill. (All this just to stay out of the cold!) “I think there is a healthy aspect knowing what ingredients are in your food,” Young adds.

Beyond the edibles, there’s other ways to entertain in the kitchen. Make stretchy, gooey gak (recipe below). It sounds like it’s a disaster, but it’s easy, kids love to make it and play with it for hours. It’s a sensory symphony with measuring, smooth tactile sensations and food coloring color explosion. Homemade play dough is another treat. Sure, it might be easier to buy the canisters but that takes no time. Stirring, measuring and making your own could take a good couple of hours…. And isn’t that what indoor winter fun is all about?

Another super easy, super cheap activity involves baking soda, vinegar and an eyedropper. Give the kiddo a cup of vinegar and let them eyedrop vinegar onto the baking-soda-covered cookie tray. The sizzling sound never fails to entertain.

Books and Beyond

Instill a love of reading in your kids by reading to them. Take advantage of the many story times. Librarians understand that kids can sit for a short time, so they make story times fun, engaging and interactive — dancing, singing, reading, crafting, all in the cozy library space. It’s easy to make a full morning outing at the library.

Not ready to head home? Stop in at VRD’s Imagination Station after the library. Kids don’t have any idea they’re learning while playing. The space was designed to encourage imaginative, experimental play. And, adds Young, it’s a great place to call home base if one child wants to ski and the other doesn’t… or to let grandma hang here with the kids.

By the time you complete this list, the kids should be ready to get back out and hit the powder.


4 oz. white glue

½ cup water + ¼ cup hot water

½ teaspoon borax 

food coloring (optional – but why not?!)

» Pour glue into a bowl with ½ cup water and mix with a spoon.

» Add in food coloring and mix.

» Dissolve ½ teaspoon of borax in the ¼ cup warm water.

» Make sure the borax is completely dissolved.

» Pour borax water into the glue mixture.

» It may look like it’s not working, but fear not. Keep stirring until the gak is more solid.

» Play with it.

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