– By Christy Matte
Winter vacation is a tricky one. Kids are home, but it’s often too cold to send them outside for very long. On the other hand, many of us are still recovering from the cost of the holidays. What to do? Luckily, there are plenty of free and inexpensive options for winter school vacation.

Mapparium (Photo Courtesy of The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, MA)

During school vacation week programs, tours of the Mapparium® and admission to the Library are FREE for children ages 17 and under.

During non-vacation weeks, there are several “free” areas of the library. However, the library does charge admission for the Mapparium.

Admission to the Mapparium: Adults: $6
Seniors, Students with ID & youth 6-17: $4

From Tuesday, February 21 to Friday, February 24, the Mary Baker Eddy Library will be hosting a free program called Mapping My World for anyone 17 and under. Kids will be able to explore maps and map-making in a new way. The highlight of the program is the one-of-a-kind Mapparium.

(Photo Credit: National Heritage Museum)

Admission: $5/family (members), $7/family (non-members)
February 18: 10am-4:30pm, February 19: Noon to 4pm

I don’t know many kids who aren’t fascinated by trains at one point in time or another. Here’s a warm spot to spend an afternoon while you watch train after train pass by. Imagine yourself in far off (warmer) climates as you browse the model trains. The event is held in conjunction with the Northeast NTRAK Modular Railroad Club.

The Old South Meeting House (File photo by Douglas McFadd/Getty Images)

Adults: $6, Children 6-18: $1, Children Under 6: Free (Discounts AAA, WGBH & MTA Members)
Activities are 10 a.m. to Noon

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, kids can explore the life and inventions of Benjamin Franklin. Each day focuses on a different aspect of his life and includes a related craft such as kite making and printing. You can also spend time as a family learning more about the American Revolution as you browse the exhibits.

(credit: Daniel P. B. Smith/Wikimedia Commons)

Boston Public Library

Branches throughout Boston

If you’re looking for inexpensive fun, a sure bet is your local library. The Boston Public Library is a perfect example. You’ll find some wonderful free events at branches around the city. Here are some of highlights:

  • 2/21 A Bi-lingual concert with Mariana Iranzi at the Connolly Branch
  • 2/21 Creative Drama for kids 8-12 at the Parker Hill Branch
  • 2/22 Teen Super Bingo at the Central Library
  • 2/22 Nappy’s Puppets performs Father Goose’s Tales at the Honan-Allston Branch
  • 2/23 A Fascinating Rhythm (music from West Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas) with Cornell Sugarfoot Coley at the Connolly Branch
  • 2/23 Hats Off to African Tales story and craft time at the Hyde Park Branch
  • 2/24 Rosalita’s Puppets presents Goldilocks and the Three Dragons at the Hyde Park Branch

Remember that while most of the events are free, they typically require advance registration. Call ahead.

(Photo Credit: Lowell Kids Week)

Lowell Kids Week is a collection of free activities and events for kids and families during winter vacation week. Sponsored by Lowell businesses and organizations, highlights include free movie tickets, a make-your-own First Aid kit project, a family mural, a Cambodian dance workshop, and a variety of activities at the Pollard Library in Lowell. More programs will be announced as the date draws near.

(Photo Credit: Patriot Place)

February 23, 11 a.m.- Noon

Bring your skates (or rent a pair for $4) and enjoy an hour of free skating lessons on the outdoor rink. Dress for the weather and bring a helmet for anyone 6 and under, or those who are still unsteady on their feet. Pre-registration is not required, but you might want to arrive early to avoid disappointment if the program fills up.
While the temptation may be there to schedule your kids from Monday through Friday, don’t forget the simple (and free!) joys of winter… sledding down the biggest hill in the neighborhood, building a snowman, having snowball fights, and maybe even ice skating in your best friend’s yard.

(credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Children’s Museum of Boston

Sat.-Thurs.: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fri.: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
308 Congress Street, Boston, MA.
Ages 1 & Up: $12

The Boston Children’s Museum, right on the waterfront, is a kids’ favorite. There are loads of excellent permanent exhibits, including the New Balance 3-story climbing structure, where your kids can burn off their energy while you sit by and watch them. There are also a number of temporary exhibits. You can check out the entire exhibit list here.

Christy Matte is a local freelance writer and blogger, as well as co-founder of Boston Parent Bloggers. She blogs about parenting, travel, tech, and philanthropy at QuirkyFusion.com.