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A guide to keeping kids busy over winter breaks

There are certain questions that strike fear in the hearts of parents and grandparents: “Can I get a toy?” “Can we listen to KidzBop?” “What else is for dinner?” And, of course, there’s this pearl: “What are we doing over mid-winter break?”

Mid-winter break is a far trickier proposition than spring break, which for most schools will run from the end of March into early April. A February recess means questionable weather and bitter cold. It also comes in the wake of the expensive and exhausting December and January holiday break.

However, there are options -- plentiful options, in fact. It might be too late to book spots in most camps, and space is limited for anything requiring pre-registration. Here are some ideas to get you  started, many of them focusing on the week most school districts are off this month: Feb. 19-23. Remember to check your town or city’s recreation department website, and perhaps even your school district’s calendar of events. Your kids will thank you, and perhaps avoid driving you batty for an hour or two.

Special events

“PAW Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure,” Feb. 22-25 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St.; sheas.org. Nickelodeon’s “PAW Patrol” has been a hit since its debut in 2013, and young fans should enjoy the live antics of Chase, Rocky and Rubble. Tickets: $19 to $60, VIP ticket (with meet and greet) is $120.

Rochester Amerks vs. Syracuse Crunch, 7:05 p.m. Feb. 21 at KeyBank Center, keybankcenter.com. OK, so the Sabres are offensively bad. But the Rochester Amerks are killing it in the AHL. The Sabres’ farm team returns to KeyBank Center for the seventh straight year. Tickets are $20 or less, making this an inexpensive opportunity for live sports.

Get outside

Polar Bear Days at the Buffalo Zoo, 300 Parkside Ave. During this annual event, which continues through February, admission is only $5 and parking is free. That's a deal. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. buffalozoo.org.

Canalside, downtown Buffalo. Ice skating at Canalside is a new Buffalo tradition, and special weekday hours during mid-winter break make it a neat idea for the week off. Expanded hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 19 to 22 and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24. Skating is $6 for ages 13 and older, $4 for ages 6 to 12, and free for 5 and under; with skate rentals $5 this week. canalsidebuffalo.com.

Healthy Zone Rink, 41 Riley St., East Aurora. thinkrink.org. This pavilion-style ice rink has added public skating times  including 1 to 2:20 p.m. Feb. 19, 20 and 23; 1 to 2:20 p.m. and 7 to 8:20 p.m. Feb. 21; 1 to 2:20 p.m. and 7 to 8:45 p.m. Feb. 23. Admission is $5, or free for ages younger than 4. Skate rental is $3. BlueCross BlueShield members receive $1 off admission.

Explore indoors

Explore & More Children's Museum, 300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora. This always reliable East Aurora play place is open for two extra days in February, Feb. 19 and Feb. 20. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for ages 1 and older. exploreandmore.org

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., buffalogardens.com. There's much to do in this lush greenhouse including the new special exhibit "Lumagination," which lights up the gardens in new ways. It can be enjoyed to Feb. 11 and Feb. 14 to 24. "Lumagination" is open 6 to 9 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with a special admission of $6 to $14. Just want to check out the gardens? Be sure to get there for Dollar Day  from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21 which features a scavenger hunt and $1 admission.

"Break Out" at the Buffalo History Museum, 1 Museum Court. The museum is offering a variety of kid-friendly activities from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 20 to 23. Regular admission rates apply, but activities are free. If you have a young sports fan, be sure to check out "Icons: the Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports." Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 13 to 21, $2.50 for ages 7 to 12; and free for members and ages younger than 7. buffalohistory.org.

Burn off energy

Cold February weather means the kids need need a way to get out of the house and get moving, so an indoor pick is wise.

Aaron Kmiotek and his friends play dodgeball during a birthday party at Get Air. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Trampoline parks Get Air Buffalo (3637 Union Road, Cheektowaga; getairbuffalo.com) and Sky Zone (425 Cayuga Road, Cheektowaga; skyzone.com/buffalo) have all sorts of ways for kids to use their boundless energy including trampolines, foam pits, dodge ball and areas for the smallest kids. Plus they are birthday party favorites and open year-round. Don’t forget to bring the special, venue-approved socks.

Bounce Magic has inflatable fun at two locations (4090 Maple Road, Amherst and 4255 McKinley Pkwy., Hamburg; bouncemagic.com). Sensational Fun (2881 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park; sensationalfun.org) and We Rock the Spectrum (5427 Transit Road, Williamsville; werockthespectrumbuffalonorthtowns.com) are activity centers that are ideal for kids with special needs.

BAMF is a ninja fitness facility for kids and adults (3095 Elmwood Ave., Tonawanda; bamf.fit).  Rolly Pollies is a kids gym offering open play and classes at three locations (1669 Hertel Ave.; 9630 Transit Road, East Amherst; and 4058 North Buffalo Road, Orchard Park, rpwny.com).

Free fun

Jude Winkler, 18 months, and Gabby DiStefano, 3, make crafts after free story time at Barnes & Noble at the McKinley Mall. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Reading time. If your kids love to read, head to one of the area's three Barnes and Noble locations where there is a regular weekly series of free story time readings and special events. Coming up is the annual birthday celebration in honor of Dr. Seuss at 11 a.m. Feb. 24 at all three locations (Boulevard Consumer Square, 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst; at 4401 Transit Road, Clarence; and at McKinley Mall, 3701 McKinley Pkwy., Hamburg.)

Winter Nature Play, 10:30 a.m. Feb. 23 at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve & Environmental Education Center, 93 Honorine Drive, Depew. Elementary school-age children can spend time outdoors making snow sculptures, tracking animals and more. Registration is required; call 683-5959. dec.ny.gov.

Educational activities

Children’s Book Club, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.; burchfieldpenney.org. Unlike many grown-up book clubs, the fourth-Sunday club at the Burchfield Penney is focused on the book -- a novel concept. The selected book for this month is “Suzette and the Puppy: A Story About Mary Cassatt” by Joan Sweeney. Cost is $20 per child (including the book) for members and $25 for non-members. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

Ramp Up Reading Fun and Voice Acting,  10:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 22 at Monkey See, Monkey Do, 9060 Main St., Clarence; monkeysread.com. Author Lisa Scott will visit for an event geared toward kids ages 4 and older. Cost is $20 per child.

Presidents’ Break STEM Week at the Herschell Carrousel Museum, 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda. The Carrousel Museum has STEM-heads (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) covered this week with a unique activity: making Rube Goldberg chain reaction machines. I’m already lost, but the kids should be all over it. Regular museum prices are $3.50 for kids 2 to 16, and $7 for adults. Registration is not required. carrouselmuseum.org.

At the library

The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library is one of your best resources for free family fun. How about reading with a therapy dog? That happens at various branches including 3:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Crane. Kids can join in on a craft club like the one at 4 p.m. Feb. 9 at Kenilworth; and there's too long of a list of Lego Club meetings across the area.

If the kids like movies, your neighborhood library offers plenty of free screenings. Here are a few: “Cars 3,” 6 p.m. Feb. 20 at the City of Tonawanda Public Library, 333 Main St., Tonawanda; “Despicable Me 3,” 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Lancaster Library, 5466 Broadway, Lancaster; “Kubo and the Two Strings,” 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at Hamburg Public Library, 102 Buffalo St., Hamburg; “Wonder,” 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at Elma Public Library, 1860 Bowen Road, Elma; and “The Lego Movie,” 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Clearfield Branch, 770 Hopkins Road, Williamsville; buffalolib.org.
Some specialized events:

Indoor Kids' Winter Global Games allows the science and engineering skills of ages 8 to 12 to be put to the test. Dates include 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.; 4 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Audubon Branch, 350 John J. Audubon Pkwy, Amherst; 3 p.m. at the East Delavan Branch; 1187 E. Delavan Ave.; and 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Eden Library, 2901 E. Church St., Eden). Registration is required; call 883-4418.

Hawk Creek Presents Harry Potter’s Owls, 2 p.m. Feb. 20 at Concord Public Library, 18 Capel St., Springville. One of February’s coolest muggle-friendly events is this opportunity to see and learn about three different owls. Registration is required; call 592-7742.

Engineers Week Design Challenge, noon to 4 p.m. Feb 20 to 24 at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square. Children ages 8 and older face a series of challenges from parachute design to ping-pong racket engineering. Space is limited, call 858-8900 to register.

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