Stay sane during this Minnesota winter

Minnesota winters, in general, aren’t easy! The meteorologist seems to mock you, relishing buzzwords such as polar vortex, La Niña and — shudder — thunder snow. 

As you’ve perhaps realized by now, a Minnesota winter with a toddler is an even nastier beast, with temperatures too dangerous for adult human exposure, let alone your child’s delicate skin. 

Not that this will stop her persistent demands from going outside and building a snowman “just like Olaf.” 

Yeah — good luck with that!

So, let’s cut to the chase. Where do Twin Cities toddler parents in the know go when it’s too cold to go outside and too late to take back the cocoa with extra marshmallows you OK’d at breakfast? Wall bouncing turns to wall climbing and whining pretty quickly with the right sugar-to-cabin-fever ratio. 

Here are my top picks for beating the January blues:

Sovereign Grounds, Minneapolis 

If you haven’t yet heard of this coffee shop, you’re basically going to name your next child (ahem) after me. Imagine a cozy place that smells like freshly roasted coffee beans, is stocked with yummy baked goods and healthy snacks AND has a clean, toddler-friendly playroom. It exists. Your peers go there. Sit with them on the couches and make new friends while your tot explores;

Edinborough Park, Edina 

Affectionately known by my kids as “the tree house place,” this is an indoor park that actually sort of feels like an outdoor park. Yes, big kids go there, too. Yes, that will and should freak you out. But don’t let it stop you. 

There’s an area just for toddlers and you can always go when the school-aged kids are in — well — school. Be prepared: You yourself will go up into that tree house at some point. You’ll enjoy it (and nearly break your back squeezing through some of the passageways, pictured above);

The Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley

Thinking of the zoo as a summertime-only hangout would be a crying shame. There’s a whole lot of activity here on semi-mild winter days. It’s a short-ish walk to Russia’s Grizzly Coast, a popular outdoor exhibit. My big shout-out, however, goes to the indoor Tropics Trail — well worth the price of admission or even a membership — because it’s so warm and lush you might forget, if only for a little while, that your skin won’t see the light of day ’til May;

Toddler Tuesdays, Mall of America

This is basically a party — just for your toddler — EVERY Tuesday. Big-name characters and performers stop by — Grover, Clifford, The Fresh Beat Band, The Backyardigans, as well as favorite authors. Activities might include sports, crafts or songs and dance. On top of the official Toddler Tuesday activities in the rotunda, Nickelodeon Universe offers discounted five-hour unlimited wristbands for the little kid rides (there are plenty) and most of the eating establishments let kids 5 and younger eat FREE. Grab a latté, return that sweater and let your kiddo blow off steam! Win, win, win;

Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul

Like the Minnesota Zoo, this is a worth-it membership (always a super suggestion for birthday and holiday gifts when grandparents need ideas). There are rotating exhibits and toddler-friendly fun galore, plus a tot-specific room for days when there are just too many big kids. Easy parking and skyway access make this a ideal getaway on those wind-chill advisory days;

For those on the younger end of the toddler spectrum, walking is a new challenge, never mind walking on ice! And, yet, little legs need to MOVE. Fortunately, the Twin Cities — and Minnesota cities beyond the metro — make the long winter a lot easier by offering abundant indoor play opportunities, including open gyms, water parks and more. My little list is a starting point, encouraging you to get out and explore. Sanity is a must, Toddler Parent, so make it happen!