Tag Archive | children

Who Else Wants Family Fun Time Without The Noise

IMG_3323[1]Today we opted to visit the Kids Work Children’s Museum in Frankfort IL.  Not knowing where Frankfort is I was surprised to IMG_3325[1]learn it was about 30 minutes from us on the other side of Joliet.  At first glance you may miss this museum since it is located inside of a large barn like structure that is an interesting take on a “mall”.  It is a conglomerate of shops including Kernel Sweet Tooth – an ice cream and sweet shop that sells a lemon-line sorbet that my kids gobbled up. The best part – they sell it in mini cone size – the perfect before lunch treat to satisfy a tiny sweet tooth and quell the masses so we can make it to lunch. For non vegans, or those who like dairy, there were a few interesting ice cream choices.  My hubs palette landed on a homemade chocolate waffle cone with chocolate covered pretzel ice cream.  They even serve homemade designer cookies, dipped pretzel sticks, tea and coffee.

When you first enter the building you are hit with the wafting smell of popcorn from Kernel Sweet Tooth as you pass through double doors into a railway car bound for Frankfort.  On our way into the building we passed an outdoor park Pork Chop event that had the whole town buzzing on a less than sunny Sunday.  The whole feel of the town was quaint and quiet.  We parked our car in a municipal lot attached to a wonderful trail lined park.  There were dozens of families unloading bicycles for a ride.

The KidsWork Museum is not the largest children’s museum out there.  In fact it is the smallest we have been to yet.  Great things come in small packages definitely rings true for this museum.  There is a dinosaur dig exhibit whose size pales in comparison to CCM’s but the kids still have a ball digging up bones.

There are far less visitors to contend with as well which makes this kids outing spot a hidden gem for parents looking for a quieter experience.  After our day at the ever noisy Navy Pier museum I felt blessed for receiving this reprieve.

The entrance to the museum is tucked away down a hall and through a set of French doors that open right into the main floor. The main floor houses a toddler tot lot with slide and climbing place, a small fire fighting station with dress up clothes, a large playhouse the height of a child, some soft play building blocks, a larger than life version of Operation the Game, a dinosaur exhibit dig station and some other here and there areas with books and toys. There is a lot of natural light and a good amount of air flow. Everyone in our family had a good time on the first floor of the museum. My husband and I joined couldn’t resist joining our eldest son in Operation and even though he is 12 now, he still had fun with the dinosaur display.  I have been trying harder to treat him as an individual and not a preteen.  I know this sounds like a very simple idea but I have been guilty in the past of dealing with him based on perceptions of what a “pre-teen” is like “moody, sassy, irreverent” and my son just isn’t these things.  He is still a child and enjoys his innocence.  Although I can see him struggling for autonomy from the family unit I also see his desire to fit in and be a part of the group.  This was evident when I came downstairs IMG_3304[1]later to find him at the dino table.  He had sorted the dinosaurs into herbivores and carnivores but wasn’t sure of some of his choices.  I offered to look the questionable species up on my phone if he read their names to me.  It was a great experience interacting with him and an opportunity for learning on both of our parts. After I was able to convince him to come upstairs with me.

The second floor houses a Theatre/Puppet Theatre, a boating area, a grocery area, a crafting area with loom, a light and shadow area and some other here and there exhibits.  Once upstairs my son and I decided to make a mock Rube Goldberg device, he was really into setting up the pieces to make the marble go where we wanted.  It took trial and error and patience. Afterwards we danced and created shadow figures with his sister in the light scribe area.

IMG_3315[1] Then we all joined up in the boating exhibit to watch my younger son stash playfoods in the boat and run around with a child sized life vest on.  I was able to share more time with my older son as he showed me how to work a loom, a piece of equipment he is familiar with because there is one in his classroom at Joliet Montessori School.  The simple act of asking him to show me how it works opened up the opportunity to dialogue with him and he started recounting to me school events surrounding the loom in his class, different students, and his thoughts and feelings about them.  If you have a pre-adolescent in your life you know how any morsel of information makes you feel like a starving mouse clinging to a crumb, but I tried to stay relaxed and not have on my “tell me more” face that can be a pre-teen turn off.

It may seem as though my older son was the only one to enjoy the museum, but he wasn’t.  I was just surprised by how much fun he did seem to have, especially since there were only three or four other families present during our 3 hour visit. My daughter, who is 17 months old, enjoyed the crafting area where she was able to scribble and doodle with markers.  She also visited the dress up area across from the theatre that is set up like a large vanity with hats and animal masks.IMG_3273[1] The theatre itself is a large stage behind a red velvet curtain with a ticket booth on one side and a puppet stage on the other.  At the back of the stage are mirrors and a wall lined with hats and costumes, bins full of puppets and room for imaginations to run wild.

The museum has a very homey feel to it and everything is child sized and set up for optimal enjoyment by the children who visit.  Sure it isn’t the biggest museum around but sometimes less is more.  At larger children’s museums children can become overwhelmed and over stimulated easily.  For our youngest she can easily get lost in a crowd of overly rowdy big kids in mixed ages areas.  This museum does not have walls to close in exhibits which gives it a very open large feel.

Our trip to the KidsWork Children’s Museum was $15 for our family of 5 because we have an ACM reciprocal membership which gives us 50% off the admission rate. Otherwise rates are as follows:

FAMILY ……………………………………………………………….$85.00
An annual membership that includes unlimited general admission for 2 adults and their children; invitations to special member’s only events; 10% off purchases in the Museum Store; 4 guest passes.

FAMILY PLUS………………………………………………………$125.00
An annual membership that includes unlimited general admission for 2 adults and their children PLUS a guest every time you visit KIDSWORK. Invitations to special member’s only events; 10% off purchases in the Museum Store; 4 guest passes. This Reciprocal Membership offers half off discounted admission to more than 100 Association of Children’s Museum (ACM) participating museums. A complete list of ACM museums is available at the front desk.

GRANDPARENT FAMILY ………………………………………..$65.00
An annual membership that includes unlimited general admission for 2 grandparents and their grandchildren; invitations to special member’s only events; 10% off purchases in the Museum Store; 4 guest passes.

DAILY RATES ..Child $6.00    Adult $6.00    Senior $5.00

Ongoing events at the museum include Storytime Tuesdays and Special Needs Family Nights. There are also Summer Camps for the kids to attend so be sure to stop by KidsWork Children’s Museum at 11 S. WHITE STREET FRANKFORT, IL 60423 (On the main floor in the Trolley Barn) for a day of family fun.

Our Chicago Childrens Museum Trip and Family Outing GIVEAWAY CLOSED

The best investment I ever made for my family’s health was a membership to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier.  For the Family MeIMG_3243[1]mbership plus an additional $80 fee we can park at Navy Pier for FREE anytime we visit and get a validation ticket from the Children’s Museum. There is a never ending supply of fantastic cultural, educational and of course fun events and activities going on at the CCM.  From the Kraft Arts Abound studio that engages young minds through arts led by area artists and museum staff, to the Passport to the World cultural events that introduce little ones to other cultures from around the world – there is always something going on at CCM.

CCM has some of the best rotating and permanent exhibits as well.  We have been awaiting the Ready, Pet, Go! for the last month and jumped the gun a few times this past month visiting and expecting to see it.  Even though the area only opened this last week, our previous visits were tons of fun too! From the second my children pass the threshold at the Member Services desk it is a race to keep up with them.  My four year old son and one year old daughter love to suit up into small sized fire fighting gear and race around the fire truck as their 12 year old brother slides down the fire pole, and crawls on hands and knees to evacuate a simulated house fire through a window.

IMG_2270[1]Fun for the family can be had year round.  During the freezing winter months that blast into Chicago, the CCM is a great get away from possible frostbite with their Winter Wonderland set up.  Children can throw giant pom pom snowballs, construct igloos, dress up snowmen and even ice skate to kid friendly tunes. My daughter turned one in DecembeIMG_2268[1]r 2012, and my youngest son turned four in the same week.  They both had a blast at the Winter Wonderland exhibits.  My daughter found one of four snowmen that was just her size and had a ball taking its hat on and off.  The rambunctious and ruckus duo that is my four and twelve year olds built snow barriers and spent hours bunkered down plunking snow balls at each other.

When the snow melts in Chicagoland CCM puts away the snow days exhibits and replaces them with two bowling lanes, tables for large checkers and chess, and catapults.  This month ends their Superhero days.  Children could complete punch card tasks, make capes, create Super-Secret (and Super-Small) Superhero Lairs and even pledge their powers as a superhero in a very serious for little ones ceremony in the main hall.  It isn’t too late to get your little superhero in to play. CCM’s hours open daily from 10am–5pm. Budgeting? Thursday evenings 5–8pm and First Sunday of every month Free admission all day for ages 15 and under. They’re open and ready to play every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.Admission rates Children Under One FREE Children & Adults $14 Seniors $13.

TIP: Buy the Explorer Membership and gain admission for 6, Navy Pier $3 parking discount, 10% off at the CCM Gift Shop, Members-only hours, Invitations to members-only events and 50% off general admission for 6 people at almost 200 participating children’s museums through the ACM Reciprocal Program**

There is always something going on at CCM. Whether it is presentations, dance parties and crafts in the main hall upstairs, or art projects in the Kraft Arts Abound studio downstairs – kids and adults will learn, create and have fun.  We visit the CCM every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend. We are there so much that the volunteers in the Pritzker Playspace know my kids by name, and have known two of them since they were inutero!

IMG_3217[1]The Pritzker Playspace is a special environment for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers – be ready to remove shoes for the safety and cleanliness of the children’s play space.  Also note that hours are limited for this space. Izzy loves this area and asks to go upstairs as soon as she is done in the fire truck.  Her favorite part of the room is the plethora of baby dolls, the anatomically correct, real baby type. We dress and undress them in cloth diapers for hours, then stroll around in the little push car. The hands on table changes daily, sometimes hourly, depending on who is in charge of the room.  Coffee hulls, shaving cream painting, play dough and other textured experiences await little hands.

TIP: Don’t wear Sunday’s best to the Pritzker Play Space.  Wear something that can get messy and really allow your little one to explore the environment.

Do you have a little archaeologist in your midst? CCM has a dinosaur dig as a permanent exhibit. It is a re-creation of the real Saharan expedition where Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno discovered a new type of dinosaur. See a life-size skeleton of suchomimus (sue-co-MY-muss), dig for bones in the excavation pit, compare skulls, teeth, and claws with a T-Rex, and learn what it would be like to be part of Paul’s expedition team. Children will have hours of fun digging through rubber shreds to find bones.  Remember that kids learn through repetition so let go of the timetable, pull up one of the many lounger chairs and relax while your little explorer digs, digs and digs some more.

IMG_2284[1]TIP: Leave the leash at home and let the kids play. Don’t rush your child to the next exhibit, kids need repetition and to build attention span.

Kids Town has to be my four year old’s favorite exhibit.  A trip to the museum is not complete unless he has had a chance to grab some PVC piping and run into the grocery store and try to rob the till. Yes, that’s my boy you hear screaming “FBI! Give me your money!” and jumping off of the car in the car wash exhibit. Your kid will enjoy shopping in the grocery store, build plumbing, changing a tire, washing the car, and driving a CTA bus in this cityscape built just for kids. This urban neighborhood promotes role-playing, problem-solving, emerging literacy, and creative exploration. There is also a space to nurse a baby or relax with a toddler but the area is only semi-private, a little loud and way too lit.  Like other exhibits there is a specific toddler and baby area.  IMG_3207[1] Even my 12 year old has a good time running around and making transactions, delivering mail, and hiding out in the underground plumbing space.

TIP: Watch for older kids who like to jump into toddler areas even with signs that say Non-Walkers Only.  Staff does not enforce this rule and some parents are absent at times.

Treehouse Trails is another great exhibit that even my 12 year old likes to visit. Kids can camp, climb, burrow, and pretend in this enchanted forest setting. Canoe and fish in the blue river, splash and fish in a mountain waterfall, garden and cook in the log cabin. There is also an infant area with large soft play pieces.

Remember to pack extra clothes during cooler months because Waterways is always a big splash with the kids.  There is now a tiled wall for water painting but the water wheel and musical whale are no longer a part of this exhibit.

IMG_3232[1]The Big Backyard has undergone some changes as well.  There are still screens where butterflies can land on you and colorful raindrops will fall according to your shadow.  The big shoe is still available to crawl through and the bug city race is still there. The back blacklight area right now is for more superhero exhibit parts and there are no longer the hanging bell flowers to ring.

The Tinker Lab has been upgraded.  Gone is that lifeless backroom where most patrons avoided and it has been replaced by real tools and a real chance to create something – for all ages.  There is a space for the youngest to create contraptions on a peg board and where the piano once was is another great infant space with old wheels for spinning, and doodads for playing.

Whether your child likes the challenge of the Climbing Schooner, racing the clock to build in the Skyline or playing the world’s largest scale of Eye Spy, there is definitely something for everyone at the Chicago Children’s Museum.

We are a family on a budget so I understand how difficult it can be to take large families out for the day.  To help offset the cost of your next family’s outing I am sponsoring my own giveaway.

You can enter to win this Family Outing Pack:

  • Denny’s Gift Card $10
  • IHOP GiftCard $10
  • Coupon for Bob Evan’s Free Kids Meal
  • Navy Pier Coupon Book for discounts on activities, shopping and dining
  • KidsLiveWell Recipe Winner Recipes

IMG_3246[1]

Simply Click on the Rafflecopter Link and one lucky winner will be sent all of the items pictured above!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats to Jennifer M!

Childcare Workers, Parents, Teachers Creative Yoga for Children can Help get Kids Active

image Ever wondered what to do with your kids during a rainy day or, even more fitting, a snowy day? Have you ever wondered what a Montessori class experience is like or how your children would respond to teaching in a different, more integrative way?

Q. In Creative Yoga for Children you mention that part of your inspiration for writing the book came from your own teaching experience at a Montessori school. How does Montessori education complement yoga? What are the challenges in bringing yoga into non-Montessori schools?

A. I observed so many similarities between yoga and Montessori that I incorporated it into my classroom curriculum as
soon as I had finished my yoga training. Both are completely noncompetitive and concern themselves with an ever
evolving process, and not any end product. Both are personal, and are there to further the development of the person,
and not for “producing” something for someone else. Also they are both philosophies that increase self-esteem,
concentration, and self-awareness. It is easy to add yoga to a Montessori classroom, as it just becomes a piece of
material that the child can choose to do when they prefer, but adding it to the routine of a traditional classroom does not have to be difficult. Yoga can simply be a three- or four-minute activity added on to the day, practiced in between subjects, as a sort of “warm down,” or “warm up” to the next activity. Guided meditations and relaxations can be added into a class just before tests, in order to further focus the children’s minds. Teachers can use yoga as a tool throughout their daily routines.

If you were not aware, a recent study by California State University, Los Angeles found that yoga improves students’ behavior, physical health, academic performance, and attitudes toward themselves. A perfect resource for schools seeking to incorporate yoga and mindfulness programs into their curriculum, or for parents to encourage body-mind awareness at home, Creative Yoga for Children promotes physical, emotional, and social development through stress reduction, movement, and free exploration.
Montessori and registered yoga teacher Adrienne Rawlinson presents forty one-hour lessons in a fun, accessible fashion to allow children ages 4–12 to learn at their own pace and in a cross-curriculum fashion. Activities are broken down by age categories, and each includes setting an intention, physical warm-ups, breath work, specific yoga poses, meditation and gratitude exercises, and more.

This book is a cornucopia of ideas and I love the variety of lesson plans given.  I especially appreciate the objectives (intention) and educational elements sections as a teacher.  Although many of my classes are taught without these, when I teach in environments that receive federal money for education programming many of them require objectives and educational elements to be outlined.  Truly, even with my decade of experience teaching yoga I could not have written a more complete book.  Many of the lessons were similar to ones I myself already teach, but there were definitely some new ones I had not thought of and elements added in that I have not explored, such as using “cardboard letters” in a 4-6 year old lesson on words and sounds.  This book would be ideal for homeschooling families and starts with lessons for children as young as four.

Q. Your book is broken down into three age groups (4–6, 7–9, 10–12). What is the significance of starting at age 4? Is there a benefit to starting earlier or is this the earliest age for kids to become actively engaged with yoga?

A. The program offered in my book is quite structured and I have observed that children under the age of four benefit more from a yoga routine that is more playful, and they are developmentally often not ready for a structured one hour class. However, they are not too young to be introduced to the world of yoga. I have two and a half year olds in my Montessori class who love to do a few minutes of yoga every day, choosing pose cards from a basket to do on a mat by themselves or with a friend. Babies and toddlers can reap the benefits of yoga and there are many age appropriate
programs out there. Setting the stage for a lifetime of yoga benefits really starts at birth.

Rawlinson provides a wonderful backdrop for teachers and parents to create their own fun and integrative yoga practice for the children in their lives.  But what if you are afraid of the chaos that could ensue after starting this undertaking? The author provides a great bit of sound advice, so now there is no reason to fail to introduce the children in your life to yoga!

Q. How do you bring focus back when kids get distracted in class?

A. The children sometimes get very boisterous and silly when doing some of the group activities and games, so it is important that I have an effective way of bringing them back to center and calm them, so they are ready for the next part of the class. I usually introduce chimes, a Tibetan singing bowl, or a special gong of some sort at the beginning of class. I ring it to let them know that they should come back to their mats, sit in their favorite sitting pose, and get ready to listen. They are generally wonderful at responding to this.

 

About the Author:
A graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Adrienne Rawlinson is a certified Montessori teacher and registered
yoga teacher. She studied yoga under Maureen Rae in Toronto and Erich Schiffmann in Chicago. Knowing that she wanted to
offer the gift of yoga to children, she put together her program, drawing from her yoga and Montessori teaching experience, and
she began offering afterschool and weekend workshops to children in her area. She currently teaches Montessori and yoga in
Oakville, Ontario.

I received no compensation for this post, the opinions expressed are my own, some material was provided by a third party.

The Most Restrictive Vegans in the World – My Children

By all measures I am a lazy parent.  I have no idea how to set up and maintain a schedule and I honestly wouldn’t even want one.  Who in their right mind wants to be forced into a frenzy to get home in time for the kids’ noon nap? Children are always developing and forcing a ridged nap time on them is not something I ever was interested in doing.  That is not to say that my children don’t or never napped.

My oldest son would nap twice a day until he was a year old, then slowly he started once a day until a year and a half when he no longer napped. My middle child never slept at all.  This is not an exaggeration, he literally would stay up all day and night unless my husband held him and even then he barely slept.  By 1.5 he was diagnosed with epilepsy and his AEDs finally afforded him rest – they slowed his brain down enough to sleep I guess. He naps at school everyday at 2 pm for an hour or so.

My youngest daughter does nap about once a day somewhere between 11am- 1pm depending on when she woke up and how much excitement she is experiencing.  And that, dear readers, is the point to me.  If you provide your children with enough stimulation they will need to nap and will go to bed at a reasonable time, their minds and bodies need time to process all of the information they have taken in.

Now enter meal times.  We are a grazing family.  I keep cut up fruit in class containers, bananas and oranges on the counter and other healthy foods at hand. We don’t have soda in the house and have limited 100% juices.  I have a cheap wooden mug rack on the counter so even my 4 year old can grab himself a cup when he wants a sip of water. During the school year my husband and I attempt to prepare breakfasts – whole grain pancakes with agave, whole grain cereal – but sometimes the boys just aren’t hungry after waking.  Their school, Joliet Montessori, does allow them to snack when needed which is a policy I greatly appreciate.  I want my children to develop a healthy relationship with eating and learn to listen to their bodies for hunger and satiation cues.IMG_0973

I came from a family of big eaters like many of my friends from Jewish (and what I hear Italian) families.  Food is equated directly to love, comfort and caring.  The bigger the meal, the more you care.  The more you nag about eating, the more you care. You get the picture.  Needless to say I was an overweight child and teen, I did deal with eating disorders and body image issues.  My goal as a parent has been to avoid that for my children so I rarely press them to eat and I never make them “clean their plates”.

My younger son still breastfeeds, if he could he would eat this way exclusively I believe, and although I am getting a little worn down by it I truly believe that nothing comes even close to breast milk for optimum nutrition. Breast milk contains stem cells and if there is even a fraction of a chance that this golden liquid can help repair any damage seizures have caused or keep him functioning optimally then so be it, we breastfeed. I do however want to make sure that all of my children eat a diverse range of food.

In the past I have recounted how my older son went on pancake benders – times when all he would eat where pancakes.  We added vitamin and protein powders to them, and still do to this day. My younger son takes his cues from his older brother, and my daughter – she just eats anything.  This makes my goal getting the oldest to eat. He has become what we refer to as “the most restrictive vegan” in the world.  He will only eat pasta plain, with a little salt. If he eats tofu – it has to be cold with a little bit of salt.  Rice – has to be white with a little salt. He does eat wheat pasta and wheat bread but will only eat soynut butter (my husband has a peanut allergy and as a youngster my son convinced himself he had the same allergy refusing to eat other nut butters). What he does enjoy is cooking and when in a good mood (he’s a tween and a little angsty) will help me with new creations which I find he is more receptive to eating.  His favorite creations are recipes from Gino D’campo that we convert to vegan friendly.

This afternoon we all woke up very late, since school is on break our “schedule” is even looser. I decided to make brunch.

Green Brunch Noodles

  • avocado oil
  • wheat soba noodles
  • 1 package firm tofu – lightly mashed
  • 1 large Zucchini diced
  • 1 large yellow pepper diced
  • medium bunch cilantro chopped
  • 1 lb bag spinach
  • Arizona dreaming spice mix from Penzey’s

I sautéed the tofu, added the veggies and sprinkled with seasoning, once the veggies started cooking and there was some juice I added the noodles. I purchase the Annie Chung pouch noodles which are precooked and only need a few minutes to loosen up.

I also served a large mixed greens, broccoli sprout, orange pepper, radish and carrot salad and a bowl of chopped cantaloupe and pineapple.

Needless to say the older son refused to eat almost anything and claimed to feel ill after finding out the “Carrot” he thought he was eating was actually an orange pepper. That translated into the younger son refusing to eat – all of this while my daughter sat happily on my lap, sucking up soba noodles from my plate.  Children are definitely a trip. I hope we fare better at dinner tonight.