Yesterday, we had a lot of fun with the National Wildlife Federation and Kolcraft fans at our Twitter Party for Hike & Seek. We learned all sorts of information about outdoor play and great activities to get us outside as families. We love NWF’s website because they have so many great activities. We wanted to share one of them with you that we have tried out and have had fun doing it! We love this activity because not only does it get your outside with your toddler to explore nature, but it’s educational too!
Sort, Stack, and Shape
Ages: Up to 3 years
What You Need:
- a backyard, park, or any safe outdoor place to explore
- twigs, grass, flowers, nuts, and other natural objects
What You Do:
Put aside the plastic toys aimed at teaching toddlers shapes and sorting skills. It’s a lot more exciting—and every bit as educational—to use items found outside. Nature offers all sorts of free teaching materials: sticks, stones, blades of grass, fallen leaves, and more.
Use natural objects to introduce textures (bumpy, smooth, prickly, soft, etc).
- Sort a handful of stones by size.
- Break twigs into different lengths and help your child sort them – shortest to longest.
- See how high you can stack a pile of small rocks.
- Find a comfy spot to sit down and make shapes on the ground: twig triangles, rock rectangles, seed squares, and so on.
Learning about nature and animals doesn’t only happen in the classroom. Your kids can learn while having fun with your family. Since it’s Fun Friday, we wanted to share with you our fun & educational experience at the Chicago Shedd Aquarium that we think your children will love – the pet a penguin experience. That’s right we got to pet a real penguin for only $25.00! Most behind the scenes experiences at zoos and aquariums tend to hover over $100.00 per person which can blow a family’s budget. For only $25.00 per person, we were able to meet our little penguin in a private room. The group was limited to 10 people so we really had one-on-one time with Mr. Penguin. We learned so many fun facts about the penguin as he walked around our little circle. We all had the opportunity to pet him and have a photo opp with him!
A couple of hints to get the most out of a behind the scenes tour:
- Your tour price is in addition to your admittance fee. Many places have reduced rates if you are a city resident. Be sure to ask!
- Check at your library to see if they have free passes to your city’s zoos, aquariums, etc. It takes some planning since there is usually a wait list, but you really save on admittance prices!
- Check the website for “free days” because at least once a month many places have free admittance days.
- Plan your tour at a time that will allow you to be at the main tanks or exhibits when it’s feeding time. Most places have the trainer hooked up to a mic while explaining what they are doing. The Shedd Aquarium hooks up the trainer in the main fish tank and you can ask him questions while he feeds the fish!
- Have your child pick a particular animal that he has special interest in and do some research beforehand on the animal. It will build excitement over “meeting” that animal. If you prefer to wait until you are at the zoo, nature center or aquarium and then have your child pick an animal to be her special friend, you can research it when you return home.
- If you don’t have the opportunity to go to your local zoo or aquarium, you can go there via a Ranger Rick, Wild Animal Baby or Your Big Backyard magazine subscription. Discover all sorts of fun facts on animals and nature through the colorful pages of these magazines. Join our Twitter Party on September 30th from 11-12 CST and win a subscription!!! Use hash tag #hikeandseek. See you there!
Tell us what your favorite ways to have fun while your child learns.
We all want to be healthy and fit. What better way to do it then by having fun with your kids? To help get the ball rolling on fitness for your family, Kolcraft, Jeep and the National Wildlife Federation are inviting you to a very special Hike & Seek!
This family-friendly activity is a cross between a nature hike and a scavenger hunt, bringing children and adults together in the great outdoors for some fresh fall air and fun. This date with Mother Nature combines a one mile hike with “Stop and Study” interactive nature stations along the way, providing an entertaining learning experience. The stations, manned by NWF naturalists and wildlife experts, provide activities to stimulate all the senses using Mother Nature’s world as inspiration. Every participant is given a map and Mission Guidebook to direct their path and will receive a junior naturalist badge at the end of the hike. Once Hike and Seekers return to base camp they will be greeted by exhibits, prizes, more activities and maybe even some friendly wildlife! Rumor has it that NWF’s Ranger Rick will make a live appearance. (Editor’s note – I will definitely be getting my picture taken with my idol Ranger Rick!)
Participants will be given staggered start times beginning at 9am. On-site registration starts at 8am. Once you are on the trail you can go as fast or slow as you like. Don’t hurry, take time to enjoy and connect with the nature around you. Generally, the adventure takes approximately two hours to complete. All children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Hike & Seek is part of NWF’s Be Out There campaign to get kids outdoors where they can connect with nature, run and play, and just be kids. While contemporary parents spent their free time as kids exploring and playing in nature, their children spend far more time indoors plugged into electronic media. The result is that American kids are prone to higher incidences of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and ADHD because they’re missing something essential to their health and development–unstructured time playing outdoors.
Hike & Seek will take place in the following cities:
- Chicago on October 2, 2010
- Seattle on October 16, 2010
- Washington DC on October 2, 2010
To kick off Hike & Seek, we will be hosting a Twitter Party on September 30, 2010 from 11-12 CST. During this time, everyone will have the opportunity to tweet with experts from NWF and win all sorts of Jeep products that will help you and your family get outdoors. Products will include baby strollers (even Jeep Joggers!), baby carriers, pet carriers, pet toys, subscriptions to Ranger Rick magazine and more! You can follow the event on Twitter using #HikeandSeek tag. More info coming next week!
Can’t wait to Hike & Seek with you!
Labor day marks the unofficial end of summer so we wanted to give some family-friendly activities that you can enjoy over this holiday weekend.
Beach picnic – Fill your beach bag with beach toys, sunscreen and towels and head over to the beach for one last summer splash.
BBQ – Fire up the grill and enjoy family favorites like barbecued chicken, hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob and macaroni salad.
End of Summer Scenic Drive - Take advantage of the last days of green scenery before the leaves start to fall and check out some of your local towns or hot spots.
Ice-cream party - While ice-cream can definitely be an all year long treat. It has special significance for summer. “Toast” summer with some fun shakes or an ice-cream bar where your kids can create their own sundaes. Don’t forget to have some fruit as ice-cream toppings.
One of our favorite ice-cream creations
What you will need:
- vanilla ice cream
- whipped cream
- food coloring
- ice cubes
- seedless red cherries with stems
- Put two scoops of ice cream and about 2 cups of milk into blender. Bend for about 30 seconds.
- Add a couple ice cubes and a few drops of food coloring and blend for another 30 seconds. Add a little more coloring if you need to.
- Pour into tall clear glass.
- Add whipped cream to the top of the shake.
- Add some festive sprinkles and top off with a cherry
*We like to use frozen yogurt instead of ice-cream and fruit instead of food coloring. It does the trick and is healthier.
What fun things are you doing as a family this Labor Day Holiday?
It’s back to school time and your older children may already be getting back into the rhythm of the classroom. But what about younger children who are left behind? They can feel lonely, left out, sad and anxious because their siblings have “left them behind.” This time alone with your youngest can actually be a time where you get special one on one time with him. This can make him feel special instead of “left behind.”
One way to make your youngest feel engaged while the others are at school is to plan a special activity for her. If you have an hour or so put aside for your special time, she will look forward to that special time she has with you.
A few ideas:
- Set up your own classroom and play school teaching simple lessons about the weather. You can make a cloud, sun, snowflakes, raindrops, etc out of felt or foam from your local craft store or the Teacher Store. Once made, your new student can start each day picking out which object corresponds with the day’s weather. If it’s a rainbow weather day, you can make our fruit rainbow cake.
- Have a color “sponsor” your day. Let your child pick the color and you can dress in that color, eat food that is that color, find flowers that are that color and learn about an animal that is that color.
- Create your own coloring adventure by printing out free coloring pages. Color a page a day and at the end of the week make up a story that goes along with the pictures.
What ideas do you have to help your youngest child adjust to his siblings going back to school?
Corn on the cob, pig races, Ferris wheels and homemade pies – just a few of the things to love about State Fairs! We stumbled across this helpful list of the top 10 State Fairs that you can enjoy with your kids. It’s a fun family day that has something for everyone. And for us city dwellers, it’s a nice way to enjoy the country.
Check it out. What State Fair would you like to attend?
As summer winds down you may be at the end of your budget, but still wanting to have some fun experiences for your children – especially so you don’t have to hear, “Mom I’m bored!” for the 100th time. Your child’s stuffed animals can be the key to a Safari Adventure in your own backyard!
What you need:
- A few stuffed animals that would belong in a jungle. You can use a monkey, elephant, tiger, etc. You can also “fix” up an animal with a paper tail or ears to look like a jungle animal.
- A few places outside where you can “stage” the animal. You can put a monkey or tiger in a tree, put an elephant near an “oasis” like a pool or bird bath or a bowl of water you put outside, etc. Let your imagination run wild as you look at your backyard as a landscape for a Safari.
- Food that can mimic what that animal would eat. i.e. have a little salad or shredded carrots for when the kids find the giraffe, some rolled up deli meat for when they find the tiger or lion, etc.
- A piece of paper where you can map out the safari.
- Go online & grab some fun facts on each animal
- Prepare food for each safari station. Put it in little containers that you can give to your kids as they discover each animal.
- Stage the animals outside in different spots that mimic the animals environment. (i.e. monkey in a tree, etc)
- Make an easy guide to the safari by drawing a little map or a hint as to where the animals are “hiding.”
- Walk through the guide with your children. When they come upon a safari station, read a few fun facts about that animal and give them the food of that animal.
- For a fun food twist, get Pillsbury crescent rolls and shape them into little animal shapes that correspond to the Safari stations. You can also cut out deli meats or cheese with animal cookie cutters.
- Be sure to make a little map/guide to the Safari stations for each child so each feels like they are on the Safari adventure.
- Feel free to dress your part as the Safari guide by putting on a Safari-looking hat or binoculars.
- You can change the theme to a barnyard, forest/woods, etc. depending on what sort of stuffed animals your children have.
Your kids will not only learn fun facts about different animals who live in the jungle, but they will be excited to find their stuffed animals playing a “Safari role”.
Enjoy the squeals of delight and be sure to bring your camera to capture the moment!
August 12th and 13th will give your family a star show that is better than any blockbuster summer movie. The Perseids begin to rise in early August and meteor showers have their peak activity between August 12 and August 13, 2010. About 80 meteors per hour are expected!
It’s best to go somewhere where there aren’t a lot of city lights. National parks, beaches or campgrounds are a great place to get a good view. If that isn’t possible, just grab a blanket and head out into your back yard – you may not have the darkest conditions for a perfect view but you should be able to see something.
A few tips for watching meteor showers:
- Before the event check online for meteor info so you can answer your children’s questions
- Bring a blanket or comfortable chairs that allow you to easily look up and watch the meteor show
- Make sure you have bug spray to keep away pesty critters
- If you plan on being out for awhile, bring a few snacks
- It most likely will get cooler, so bring a few lightweight jackets just in case family members start to get cold
- Check with your local planetarium to see if they will have any special meteor-viewing events.
Will you and your family be sitting under the stars to watch Mother Nature’s light show?
The dog days of summer can prove too hot for kids to play outside, but you may need to get them out of the house to release pent-up energy. We think a great way to do this is through the Kids Bowl Free program that is taking place across the US & Canada.
The program is designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure and fun way for kids to spend their time this summer. Children whose age does not exceed a limit set by a participating bowling center, are eligible to register for 2 free games a day, all summer long, courtesy of the participating bowling centers along with the schools and organizations! There is even a reduced rate family pass!
For more info check out the Kids Bowl Free site.
What ways have you been keeping your kids cool and energized this summer without causing your bank account to dwindle?
Some days it is hard to get dinner on the table, but eating out with a family won’t work with your monthly budget either. Did you know that many restaurants have special “kids eat free” days? That’s right – there may be some dinner relief in sight at an affordable price!
Specials vary from restaurant to restaurant and are subject to change at any time, but we are listing some of the “kids eat free” deals we have found. (It’s best to call beforehand to make sure the restaurant honors these specials.)
Applebee’s - Mondays, get one free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée.
Captain D’s -Thursdays, get two free kid’s meals with any adult entree purchase, dine in only.
Chevys – Tuesdays, get one free kid’s meal with one adult entrée, dine-in only.
Denny’s - Up to two kids 10 and younger eat free with each adult purchase of $2.50 or more, from 4pm to 10pm on select nights.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit -Sundays, one child eats free with the purchase of an adult entrée.
Lone Star Steak House -Tuesdays, up to two kids eat free with the purchase of one adult entrée.
Luby’s – Kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entrée, typically on a weekday evening after 4:30pm.
Marie Callender’s -Tuesdays and Saturdays you get one free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée.
Perkins – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4pm to 10pm, get one free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée.
Steak ‘n Shake – Saturdays and Sundays, get one free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée of $9 or more. Dine-in only.
We also like website My Kids Eat Free to find local deals.