Insider's Guide

How to Survive a Winter Birthday Party in Nelson BC

January 14, 2019

If you’re anything like me, the prospect of organizing a birthday party in the winter can send your brain into lockdown mode. Visions of dozens of sugar-buzzed children dance in my head. I will do almost anything to avoid that particular scenario. But with one child born in November and one in February, the birthday parties I’ve planned have all been in the cold season.

Surprisingly, when I posted a message to my Facebook friends asking for suggestions for winter birthday parties, dozens of ideas poured in. Here is a sampling of possibilities for Nelson-area parents to fit any budget.

For the little ones

In my experience, toddlers can only handle so much time in the snow. Their short legs make walking in the snow challenging and they haven’t quite learned the joys of playing in the snow. Sometimes, for one- or two- or three-year-olds, indoor activities are more manageable.

The good thing about little ones is that they can find joy in the simplest things. They don’t need elaborate games or over-the-top activities to feel special. And if an activity is good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!

Indoor Jungle Gym

One year, we signed out a couple of big toys from the toy library in the Child Care Resource and Referral office. We looked for toys that would use up their energy — a pop-up play tunnel, a parachute, and a small play tent. We set them up in our living room. Add some party music, decorations, and balloons to bat around, and the toddlers were fully entertained until cake time.

Bouncy Castles

The bouncy castles and ball pits at Kidtastic Play Zone in Hart Hall are also excellent for getting out toddler energy. Bouncy castles appeal to older kids as well, up to about six or seven years old. This is an excellent option for parents who don’t have a lot of time to plan. You just have to show up with snacks and cakes!

Snow Painting

Fill some old squirt bottles or spray bottles with water and a bit of food colouring and let kids paint in the snow. The possibilities are endless: kids can make snow angels and colour them in, make snowmen and decorate them, draw hopscotch, or just spray their own designs.

A Teddy Bear’s (Indoor) Picnic or Afternoon Tea Party

Set the table, organize some treats, and bring out the tea! These can be as fancy or as simple, as casual or as formal, as you and your child want.

Take it outside

If you don’t mind bundling up and braving the elements, outdoor parties can be loads of fun, even for children as young as three or four. If your child has a lot of energy, going outside can diffuse and channel that energy.


We’ve had great success with toboggan parties, which have the added virtue of being free. Good sledding spots are the Granite Pointe golf course in Rosemont, the playground of South Nelson Elementary School, Balfour golf course, Morning Mountain ski hill in Blewett and Queen Elizabeth baseball park in Fairview.

You can bring a couple of hand warmers and thermoses of hot chocolate or mint tea to warm up chilly tobogganers (but not too much! No toilets!) and blankets to sit on if you want to serve snacks or cake. One year we set up a BBQ and roasted hot dogs.

Treasure Hunt

One year, we had a puppy-themed party. We put puppy ears on headbands (cloth works best, but paper ears are fine too), pinned on tails and painted puppy faces. Then our puppy pack ran down to the park and searched for “bones.” One adult can run down to the park ahead of time and hide treats or small prizes in waterproof packaging.

Maker Parties!

Parties that include an element of cooking or crafting can tap into your child’s natural curiosity and desire to “make it myself!”

Decorate Your Own Cupcake

Something as simple as letting kids decorate their own cupcakes can take up an absorbing half hour or so. I baked the cupcakes and mixed the icing ahead of time. Though some people are brave and can keep their cool with giving a crowd of kids baking lessons, I laid out a few options for decorations and let the kids decorate their own cupcake. We used leftover Halloween candy for the decorations.

Cabane à Sucre or Pull Taffy

If your kids are old enough to listen to instructions and understand the danger of a hot pot, then making maple syrup candy or old-fashioned pull taffy is a lot of fun. If you have a snowy backyard, you can boil up the syrup inside, then (carefully!) carry it outside to pour on the snow. Or if you have a propane burner and a flat patch of ground, you can boil the syrup up outside. If you’d rather bring the snow inside, then you can load up a few cake tins or cookie sheets with snow and keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

Pizza Party

For this, prep all the fixings for individual pizzas ahead of time and kids can create their own. Older kids (and patient parents) can even make the dough from scratch.

Nelson-area facilities that host birthday parties

If you’d prefer to go indoors, there are a number of businesses and facilities in Nelson that offer space and activities for birthday parties (in any weather). Some suggestions are:

The Cinema Room in Reo’s Videos

Seats up to 10 and a selection of 17,000 movies!

The Cube Climbing Centre

For children 3 years old and up.

Glacier Gymnastics Club    

A coach will guide kids while you set up your treats in the viewing room. Lots of fun!

Kootenay Lazer Tag

On Highway 6 just outside Nelson. See their website for details on prices and how to book.

Kootenay Martial Arts

Flat rate for instructor and rental of facility.

Nelson and District Community Complex

For swim or skating parties. When you book one of the NDCC’s multi-purpose rooms, you will get 1.5 hours in the room, 10 wrist bands, for $51.05 plus tax. For children under six, an adult is needed for every three children in the pool. For $10.00 extra, you can rent their Wii Dance Party game and four controllers. 250-354-4386, ext 5106

Nelson and District Youth Centre

You can rent the facility for two hours on Saturdays for art making, indoor skating, basketball, or the music room.

Further afield

The Castle Bowl bowling alley in Castlegar can be worth the drive.

Kids Birthdays in Winter Nelson Can Be Fun

My own philosophy around birthday parties is to keep it short and keep it simple. For some children, especially younger ones, the excitement and anticipation around birthdays is both energizing and draining. If parents are preoccupied with getting all the details of party plans just right, then everyone ends up feeling a little frazzled. I can’t count how many birthday children I’ve seen crying at their own parties! Maybe they are simply overwhelmed?

I think a lot of children don’t need over-the-top, Hollywood-style extravaganzas to be happy. And isn’t that simplicity something to nurture and cherish? The chance to spend a couple of hours with their friends is excitement enough. Anything that makes your child feel special, that tells them that you are happy they’re here in your life, is enough to build good memories.

Antonia Banyard lives and writes in Nelson. You might see her, her fly-fishing husband and her half-feral children in a campground somewhere around the West Kootenays. Learn more about Antonia and her writing at her website.

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