As the cold weather strengthens its hold on the city and summertime fun becomes a warm, distant memory, many parents may find themselves looking for fun and cheap ways to entertain the kids.

As the cold weather strengthens its hold on the city and summertime fun becomes a warm, distant memory, many parents may find themselves looking for fun and cheap ways to entertain the kids.

At Home
These easy-to-do home activities are the cure for cabin fever:

"Put on plays and talent shows," Andrea Norwood suggested. Her children love to put on their own plays. "They put up fliers around the house, everything. It keeps them busy all day," she said.

"Stringing popcorn is a great activity for fine motor control and hand strength," Amanda Halpin, mother of two and a Montessori preschool and kindergarten teacher said. "For this activity, you simply need a dull-tip needle and some string. When you are finished you can string it outside to feed the birds."

Cook up some fun with the kids. "Homemade treats like muffins and applesauce are great," Halpin said.

"We've filled up spray bottles with colored water and gone out to 'paint' the snow," Dawn Friedman, mother of two children ages 3 and 11 said.

"For more snow fun, put a piece of black construction paper in the freezer for 15 minutes, take it outside and catch snowflakes as they fall," Halpin said. "Then give your child a magnifying glass and have them observe the different shapes of the snowflakes. This opens up a great discussion about how no two snowflakes are alike."

Crafty Idea
Provide the children with washable markers and let them decorate the windows, Friedman suggested.

Friedman also suggested that kids make tablecloths for dinner. Tape paper all over the table and then let the kids have at it with crayons or markers.

Stocking up on craft kits will provide great, anytime fun. The Snowflake Dream Catcher comes with everything to make six great dream catchers for just under $8.

Children can make funny faces for their Winter Friends Photo Magnet Kit for under $7.

Make a cozy blanket with the "Fleece Winter Tied Throw Kit." For $11.95 the family can create a warm fleece blanket.

Out About Town
Hit the mall. Several malls in central Ohio have play areas especially designed for kids. Eastland Mall has an Ohio State University-themed play area and Tuttle Mall has a space-themed play area.

"My kids love to go to the play area at Polaris mall," said Nicole Lipscomb, mother of a 5 year-old and 2-year-old twins. "The play area is inspired by Jack Hanna and includes tree house slides and zoo animals that the children can crawl on. The safety feature I enjoy is that there is only one entrance to the play area and with twins they always run two different directions so it helps me keep them from running out!"

Go extreme at COSI for just $7.50 per person. The John Glenn Extreme Screen Movie Theater is 83 feet wide and seven stories high and provides educational, amazingly detailed, fun flicks.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium isn't just for fair weather fun. For $10 or less per person, families can still see their favorite animals and stay warm in any of the zoo's many indoor animal exhibits.

The Columbus Children's Theatre offers a variety of plays, and on Thrifty Thursdays all seats are $9 or $10 each.

The Ohio Railway Museum is one of the oldest railway museums in America. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children 4 -12, and includes unlimited trolley car rides.

Go skating on wood or ice. Columbus has several locations to test the kids' balance, while going easy on the wallet. Admissions are all under $7. On special days, prices are even lower.

Columbus Museum of Art. Children 12 and under are free; admission is $4 for students and $6 for adults.
Take a winter walk, hike or tour in one of Columbus' Metroparks.

Head to the closest hill and sled away those winter blues.

Snuggle up against the cold. "One of my favorites is curling up with one of our favorite winter books, a warm cozy blanket, and a snack; in our case popcorn and hot chocolate," Halpin said. "As a teacher I truly believe that one of the most important things that you can do with your children is to read to them."

Terreece M. Clarke has been a published freelance writer since 1999 for a variety of Web sites, magazines and newspapers. Along with syndicated column work, Terreece has also produced hard news, feature and humor articles and is an accomplished photojournalist. Terreece lives in Columbus with her husband David, 2-year-old daughter Olivia and fish Zippy.