Beijing_riding_the_double_deckerWhere can you go in a city like Beijing where you’re apparently supposed to hibernate your kids all winter if you’re not a billionaire? Not much is free, but when the winter blues overtake, here are a few suggestions that won’t break the bank:

  1. Shopping malls. I don’t mean just any shopping mall, but there are plenty with pay play-places for kids. We go to the Jinyuan Plaza in Haidian and pay $2+ per kid per visit. The toy stores can also be a fun free distraction, if you can resist the pull to buy.
  2. Subway rides. You can’t beat 2 kuai (roughly 30 cents) to ride around the massive city as long as you want. There are also light rail lines, for slightly more, if you want a view of the wintery outdoors. Buses, especially double deckers, can also be some good cheap fun.
  3. Parks. Yes, even going outdoors can be fun. A few parks are free, but those that aren’t aren’t expensive. Within the parks, you can choose to pay for the play areas, or just enjoy walking and seeing nature and water…
  4. Take them to a (warm) hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Most kids love going out and something like noodles are fast for the impatient ones, and not to mention, cheap. Plus, that’s one less meal to cook.
  5. This one’s for the moms. Take advantage of living somewhere you can afford a nanny to leave the kid(s) and go out for a coffee with your favorite book. They get someone else to entertain them, and so do you.

And one more suggestion that works whether in Boston or Beijing …Wii or something similar…The one-time investment might be big, but the dividends are also huge. Sports, dance and education – without leaving the living room.