Early winter can be a fun time for kids in Billings.
Several organizations in the community offer free activities in January and February:
1. Listen to a story.
Parmly Billings Library, 510 N. Broadway, has Story Time at the first-floor Story Time Corner for ages 3-6 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m.
Starting Jan. 16, Books and Babies Story Time begins for infants to 2-year-olds Fridays at 10:15 a.m.
The library also will kick off its Family Reading Program in January to encourage families to read together for 20 minutes each day for 20 days.
Starting Jan. 20, families can pick up journals to record reading times. Families that participate will receive one free book and a chance to win a gift certificate from a local book store.
For information, go online to ci.billings.mt.us/index.asp?/NID=274.
2. Hear a concert.
"Peter and the Wolf," the Billings Symphony's free concert for families, will be Jan. 24 at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Alberta Bair Theater, 2801 Third Ave. N.
No tickets are required. Families are seated on a first-come basis.
On Jan. 23, the symphony will take the "Peter and the Wolf" production on the road to Columbus High, where students from Columbus and several surrounding towns will see it.
Actor Tim Marrone, who is featured in "Peter and the Wolf," and Candy Holzer, symphony education director, will take a juggling workshop to fourth- and fifth-graders at St. Charles School in Pryor on Jan. 26.
On Jan. 20, 21 and 22, symphony musicians will take excerpts of "Peter and the Wolf" to several Billings schools.
3. Join a playgroup.
The Billings Community Play Group through the city's Parks and Recreation Department will start morning playgroups again on Jan. 6 and continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-11 a.m., in the Zimmerman Center on Virginia Lane.
The playgroup, for children birth to 6 years old, is not a drop-off program. Parents stay with their children to join in the fun.
Free playtime with toys and art projects starts each session. After a snack and story time, children sing, dance and participate in loosely structured activities.
Parents should bring a small snack and drink for their child.
Parents can sign up the first time they come. No preregistration is necessary.
For information, go to the program's Web site at prpl.info/recreation/yef_playgroup.html.
4. Soak up art.
Admission to the Yellowstone Art Museum is free for everyone on Feb. 14. Another free day will be May 18.
The museum, at 401 N. 27th St., also has several low-cost events.
The first Saturday of the month, including today, admission to the museum costs $1.
Children younger than 6 are admitted free all the time.
The museum also has inexpensive Docent Second Saturday classes for ages 5-12 on the second Saturday of each month, 10 a.m.-noon. Children first tour exhibits and then create their own art.
The cost is $4 for members and $5 for nonmembers. Scholarships are available. No preregistration is required, but those interested in applying for scholarships should call Danny at 256-6804, Ext. 232, in advance of the classes.
5. Cross-country ski.
Kids, 12 and younger, and senior citizens, 65 and older, ski free at the Red Lodge Nordic Center. Kids 13 and older and adults cost $5.
For snow conditions and grooming report, go online to redlodge.typepad.com/rl_nordic/.
For information go to beartoothtrails.org/Nordic.html or 425-0698.
To reach the center, go to Red Lodge and take Highway 78 west for one mile and turn left onto Fox Road. Go about one mile and turn right onto Smith Road, where the center is located.
Skiing also is free at Two Moon and Riverfront parks in Billings and on Forest Service trails south of Red Lodge, including the Silver Run Trail.
To reach Silver Run, drive to the south end of Red Lodge and turn west onto the West Fork of Rock Creek road. Drive five miles to Silver Run Area.
Maps of all trails in the area can be picked up at the Red Lodge Ranger Station, at the south end of town, just south of the West Fork Road. It is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. When the station is not open, visitors can find maps posted inside the main entry.
6. Learn to fly fish.
The Magic City Fly Fishers Expo, on Feb. 21 at the Billings Holiday Inn Convention Center, has activities for adults and kids, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
At a youth workshop, 9-11:30 a.m., kids will learn how to tie a fly and cast. Other fly-tying and casting demonstrations will be presented.
For information, go to the MCFF's Web site, mcffonline.org/.
7. Ice skate.
The Red Lodge Rink has free, open skating generally on Saturday afternoons after 1 p.m. and all day Sundays.
The rink is at Lions Park on the north side of Beartooth Market in Red Lodge.
Other skating times will be posted at the rink's Web site, redlodgeice.com/.
8. Walk with the animals.
Admission to Zoo Montana is free on Feb. 14 to anyone bringing an item on the zoo's wish list for enrichment activities that keep animals physically active and mentally sharp.
Examples of those items are:
• Old perfumes, colognes and spices. Wolves love to roll in areas sprayed with scents.
• Cardboard rolls. Zoo keepers hide food in rolls for small animals to find.
• Stuffed animals, old toddler toys, large pet balls, aquarium plants, paper bags and boxes without staples. Animals love to play with these items.
• Phone books. Tigers like to tear these apart.
The zoo, located at 2100 S. Shiloh Road, is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
9. Slide down a hill.
Pioneer Park near the intersection of Virginia Lane and Parkhill Drive remains a favorite sledding spot for many Billings kids.
Castle Rock Park at Wicks Lane and Nutter Boulevard in the Heights also is popular. The pond at the bottom of the hill has been drained so sledders don't slide out onto the ice anymore, said Parks Supervisor Dean Sjolseth.
Sacajawea Park at 20th Street West and Monad Road has a small sledding hill.
The Billings YMCA, 402 N. 32nd St., allows families three free visits to swim in the pools, play basketball in the gym, play racquetball or scale the climbing wall. Kids should be accompanied by a parent.
Parents need to have a photo ID taken and a waiver filled out, said membership director Stefani Adams.
For information, call the YMCA at 248-1685.
Contact Mary Pickett at email@example.com or 657-1262.