Pondering — or perhaps fretting just a tad — about what to do with the kids over winter school break? There are indoor and outdoor options across the Island.
Polly Hill Arboretum offers a downloadable self-guided Gnome Hunt (available at bit.ly/phabreak). The gnomes have returned to Polly Hill for the winter, and are hiding throughout the arboretum. To discover them, you follow the trail map and read such clues as “Keep an eye out near the stone wall; you just might spot a friend that is very small.” You’re encouraged to take pictures of yourself with a gnome and tag them on social media.
Another outdoor adventure for 5- to 10-year-olds, although this time with other kids, is Felix Neck’s “Winter Vacation Program: Nature Heroes.” From 10 am to 2 pm, the youngsters will get a chance to search for tracks and signs of Vineyard creatures, and learn how different animals survive the winter season. Registration is required, and there are scholarships available (see bit.ly/winterfelixneck).
Moving indoors, the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard is running a Vacation Camp, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 4 pm, from Feb. 28 to March 4. Activities will include swimming, ice skating, outdoor play, arts and crafts, games, and more. Morning and afternoon snacks will be provided. Families can email email@example.com to enroll a child.
The Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena, which is part of the Y, has public skating from 12 to 1 pm on March 2. You can join your children on the ice for a fun and healthy activity that you can do as a family or with friends. If you have a preschooler, there is also a Stroller Skate on Monday, Feb. 28, from 10:30 to 11:30 am.
Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is organizing a scavenger hunt to engage families with small children who are staying on on the Vineyard over school vacation week, Feb. 28 to March 4, from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Families will be guided to five Sheriff’s Meadow properties by decoding short poems such as:
Look for a neck
On your next trek
It might not be
Where you expect.
Once at the property, they will be given another clue to find something on the trail. Children who participate will receive a Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation activity book. Check out some of the Sheriff’s Meadow programs at sheriffsmeadow.org/programs/school-program.
Island libraries are offering an assortment of opportunities. Beginning Friday, Feb. 18, through March 11 from the Chilmark library, you can pick up a special February Vacation Bingo sheet, which has been updated with various types of books on it, and different activities. For instance, kids can check off if they read a book while they brush their teeth, read a book at breakfast, read a fantasy book, read a historical fiction book, and more. When they get bingo, they get a small prize — and if they complete the entire bingo sheet, they get a larger prize. For every bingo line completed, your child will win a book plate to attach to one of their own books. If they fill up the entire bingo sheet, they win the opportunity to suggest a book to be donated to the Chilmark library collection, with a handwritten donation note inside with their name on it. (There is no fee to have the book donated.) To receive prizes, your child may present a filled-in bingo card in person, or via email as an attached image file, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an added enticement, children can fill out a raffle card describing a book they read off their bingo sheet. Each raffle card equals one book. The winner will get a $25 gift certificate to Bunch of Grapes. Likewise, you can drop by any time without an appointment during February break to check out a board game or Legos that can be played in the library or at home.
At the Edgartown library, there is Wiggle with Words, a toddler movement-based story time on Thursday at 10:30 am, an all-ages Lego Club on Wednesday at 3 pm, and in March it will also offer a weekly craft on the theme of women’s history.
The West Tisbury library offers drop-in family crafts each day of the vacation from 10:30 am to 3 pm, for both children and young adults. Likewise, kids and families should be sure to stop by and check out their “Library of Things,” which includes musical instruments, puzzles, games, microscopes, Ozobots, spheres, and even Nintendo Switches. All of these can be checked out of the library and enjoyed at home. The children’s room also has Adventure Backpacks that can be checked out for kids and families to have their own adventure, such as birding, reading the night sky, tracking, and more.
At the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, it’s 50 percent off all admissions during the week of Feb. 28 to March 4. There are some new special exhibits that are sure to spark your curiosity, and there’s always the do-touch Hands-on History space for learning while having fun. You can also go on a scavenger hunt in the galleries to find everyday objects on display, then take your activity sheet home to construct your own “exhibit” of matching modern items.
And just in case you’re looking to extend the fun shortly after the break, the museum has an “ARTifact Class” for kids on Saturday, March 12, from 10 to 11:30 am, in which they will explore the galleries on a hunt for Vineyard animal life, then return to the classroom to make their own portrait collage of their favorite species in its Island habitat. (Preregistration is required, as space is limited.) And finally, there’s also Heath Hen Day! on Saturday, March 12, from 12 to 4 pm. The beloved Island bird, Booming Ben, was last seen on March 11, 1932, marking the end of the heath hen’s living existence on Martha’s Vineyard and Planet Earth. Commemorate the 90th anniversary of the heath hen’s extinction with hands-on activities celebrating this unusual bird, and learn how you can help protect other endangered species from meeting the same fate. The Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary will be joining the group with a special display.