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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Seven Ways to Help Your Children Develop a Positive Relationship with Food

three children eating ice cream

Candy is junk food. It’s not good for you.  

You need to eat your broccoli. It’s so healthy! 

You can have dessert after you finish your dinner 

Do any of these statements sound familiar? I’ve heard them throughout my life, so I have always labeled foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy and nutritious or junkWe are all trained to believe that foods can only be one or the other 

I never thought about the effects of labeling food until I became a mom. When my son started eating solid foods, I furiously searched for articles by nutrition experts who could tell me exactly what I needed to do to ensure he developed a healthy relationship with food. My own food insecurities took over my brain, and all I could think was, Will my sweet tooth be passed down to him so he’ll gorge himself on cupcakes all day? That wouldn’t happen on my watch! My goal was to raise a vegetable-loving, fresh-foodeating son.  

Did I achieve this goal? Well, no. Is my fridge filled with dinosaur nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Maybe. Have I given up? No. I’m proud to say that my son loves carrots.  

Is that the only vegetable he eats right now? Yes.  

I’m only human, and I’ve made some mistakes on my journey toward helping my son cultivate a healthy relationship with food. I’d like to share some of the insightful tips that have helped me reevaluate harmful attitudes toward food that I’ve learned. 

Do Not Label Foods as Good or BadThe first and most important step is to make a conscious decision to stop calling foods goodbadhealthy or unhealthywhich is something discussed in a previous article about how to handle sweets at home. Pediatric nutritionist Jill Castle recommends using the words nourishing or fun 

In an article on her website, Castle shares a real-life example of the harm that labeling foods may cause. She discusses a client who was frustrated that her daughter didn’t make healthier choices. The client would ask her daughter, Are you sure you want that?” and “Couldn’t you choose something healthier?” Her daughter did try to make good choices, but she felt deep shame about enjoying her “bad” choices, too. 

“Ultimately, [the daughter] became conflicted about food, which started to eat away at her self-esteem. She didn’t feel good about herself (or the foods she enjoyed eating) and knew she wasn’t meeting her mom’s food expectations,” Castle said. 

 To avoid unintentional harm, I like to use registered dietitian Jennifer Anderson’s method for discussing foods without labeling them. Read the text in her Instagram post to learn how to tailor your conversations to the ages of your children.  

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Do Not Pressure, Force or Bribe Children to EatPressuring children to eat can include pleading with them to take another bite, spoonfeeding them as they resist or bribing them with dessert. 

Young children are experts at understanding their bodies’ cues about food. They know when they’re hungry and when they’re fullIf we plead, force or bribe children to eat, we’re teaching them to ignore those cues. Using dessert as a bribe can lead over- or undereating as children focus on getting to the sweets. 

Alisha Grogan, a pediatric occupational therapist, says,“[] in the long run we’re accidentally reinforcing that the food that’s on their dinner plate really isn’t as good as the dessert. It sends the message that the food during the meal is something that just has to be endured to get the real prize.”  

Do Not Restrict FoodsSweet treats, fried foods and sugary drinks are everywhere. At some point, most children will develop a taste for themIf you don’t allow these foods in the house, it could cause a greater desire for them. This can lead to secret eating, binge eating and overeating 

Like adults, kids want what they can’t or don’t have. It’s human nature,” says Castle. 

Take away the candy, and kids can’t stop thinking about it. However, unlike adults, kids have less control over their biological drive to eat. 

 Maintain an eating schedule, and don’t stray from it. My son was a grazer, so we gave him snacks with milk or diluted juice throughout the day. Then, we were flummoxed when he wouldn’t eat during our main meals. Well, why would he? He ate all day. Once we set specific times for meals and snacks, we fell into a stressless feeding routine.  

Remember the Division of Responsibility. Renowned therapist, author and lecturer Ellyn Satter developed the Division of Responsibility to help make feeding your children less stressful. Basically, parents are responsible for what, when and where they serve their children food, and children are responsible for how much and whether to eat. Once I started to practice this method, mealtimes became much less stressful. I didn’t feel any need to pressure my son to eat, which meant he could listen to his own body and his hunger cues. I highly recommend reading through all of the resources from the Ellyn Satter Institute. 

Serve dessert with dinner. Wait, what? By serving a small portion of dessert with dinner, you’ve removed the feelings of restriction that can lead to cravings while making fun foods less of a novelty or soughtafter reward. When children know they get to have dessert and no foods are off limits, it can lessen their feelings of deprivation and guilt. They learn what a moderate portion is and how to incorporate fun foods into a balanced diet 

You don’t need to serve dessert every night or provide a fun food free-for-all. You can still set boundaries with your children, but your goal is to teach them balance. Jill Castle has some great tips for how to get started setting food boundaries. 

Repeatedly introduce new foods. Let your children get used to seeing new foods. My son’s reaction to them is usually “EWWW!” and that’s fine. Let your children know that they don’t have to eat the new food if they don’t want to, so there’s no pressure to eat – and no battles about eating! It can take children anywhere from 12 to 30 exposures to a new food before they’re willing to try it. 

Here are some other great ideas: 

  • Plant a garden together; 
  • Take your children grocery shopping and let them find fruits and vegetables they want to try; 
  • Prepare meals together; 
  • Try serving family-style meals. 

 Even if your children refuse to eat a rainbow of foods, it’s okay! It takes time, and your children’s limited eating habits don’t make you a bad parent. Give yourself a break, and please don’t compare your family’s dietary habits to anyone else’s. Even though my son isn’t interested in expanding his vegetable palate right now, we have gotten to a point where he will try a few new things – even if it’s a quick lick and a grimace. That’s a win in my book!  

Five Simple Tricks to Make Bedtime a Breeze

preschool child sleeping

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We often talk about how important bedtime is for little ones, especially as they return to school or begin a summer program. It has been made more difficult by the stayathome routines many of us have adapted to in recent months. Hopefully, you have been able to keep to some routine. If you have relaxed yours lately, now might be a good time to get back into the swing of things by giving your child some structure and taking some time for yourself. 

Making the transition should start with your child’s participation. Explain that we need to get our bedtime organized so we all get plenty of sleep. Ask your child how we can do that. You might be surprised by the answers. Being involved in the solution will help your child buy into the changes more easily. For younger children, give them a couple of choices such as “Which should we do first – brush our teeth and then get into our PJs or get into our PJs first?”   

Here are five more tips to help you along the way: 

  1. Have an actual lightsout time and stick to it. 
  1. Try to eat an earlier dinner not too close to bedtime. 
  1. Keep afterdinner activities to a minimum, slowing the pace as you get closer to bedtime. Watch a favorite show together, play a simple board game or work a puzzle.  
  1. Set up a routine chart for older children who can check off each activity as they go. 
  1. Make time for a calming moment – reading a story, talking about the day, planning for tomorrow or doing a few fun yoga poses together before jumping under the covers. 

Research has shown that when children don’t get enough sleep it has a negative effect on their attention span, behavior and emotions. Routines play an important role in helping your child get the sleep he or she needs. We hope you can get some rest as well.  

 

Dealing with the Ups and Downs of a Preschooler

mom holding preschool daughter

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

How to Help Your Child Transition Back to School after Covid

Child sitting at desk writting

By Lee Scott and Helen Hadani, Contributing Writers and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Members

We have been asked by many parents how they can help their children transition with the changes at school this summer or fall. What happens when it will be a move to a new classroom or teacher? Things will feel strange enough after being away for so long. We suggest a few steps that may help you prepare. 

Get started by planning for returning to schoolSet up your schoolday routines – set a time for waking up in the morning, create relaxing bedtime rituals, select clothing at night, etc. Start these a few weeks before returning to school. Connect with the school before returning. Ask which classroom your child will be in and who will be his or her new teachers. You can also ask whether some of your child’s friends from the previous classroom will be returning. Share the details with your child.   

Practice and roleplay. Walk your child through security or safety protocols such as handwashing, taking temperatures and wearing a mask. Explain what your child will do when he or she gets to school. Roleplay the sequence at home. What will you do? What about the teachers and your child? The Goddard School has a short video you can watch with your childTalk about the routines with your child. 

Make sure you connect with what your child is feeling and support helpful behavior. Research shows that when parents encourage children to talk about mental states including emotions, they are more likely to adjust to change and be helpful to others. Look for opportunities in your daily activities such as reading a book or watching a movie to highlight how characters are feeling (e.g., “How do you think that character was feeling?” or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”). This may help children talk about how they are feeling when they get back to school and hopefully lead to them helping their peers who may be struggling more with the transition.  

Help your child adjust to the changes by managing expectations. One way to help your child adjust is to create a play plan. Tools of the Mind is an early childhood curriculum for preschool and kindergarten designed to promote executivefunction skills through playful learning activities. For example, children start their school day by drawing or writing activities they envision for their day. Those plans help children to think and act purposefullyEncourage your child to create a play plan before he or she goes back to school to get in the habit of thinking about the day. It could help ease fears about what to expect and build excitement around doing favorite activities at school. When you are sharing a play plan, you can also talk about your child’s new classroom and teacher. Ask your child what he or she might expect from the new classroom or new routine. 

Reconnect with friends a few at a time. For some little ones, seeing peers in large groups might be a bit overwhelming since they have spent the past several months with their families and maybe only seeing one or two friends at a time. Set up a time to get together with a friend. Plan a simple activity, such as a ball game outside or a board game or puzzle. Your child might not know what to talk about, so thinking of a few things to share could be helpful. Parents can ask their child to think of three things that the child has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) about staying at home (e.g., having more family movie nights, not being able to visit grandparents). 

Following these steps and building expectations will help your child make a smooth transition. Try not to worry and remember that many others are having the same experience.    

The Best Summer Activities for Kids in Every Single State

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School is on hiatus ‘til fall, which means you’ve got approximately 10 weeks to keep the youngest members of your household happily entertained. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with this epic list of the coolest activities for kids of all ages in every single state.

Alligator Alley

Alabama: Alligator Alley

Um, this might be the only place in the U.S. where your kids can safely hold an alligator. (There are 450 on site at this alligator rescue farm in Summerdale and guided and self-guided tours are available.)

Plan Your Visit

Alabama: Gulf State Park

Your kids will love having ample opportunities to unplug as they bike, swim, fish and camp in this gorgeous park on the Gulf of Mexico, complete with two miles of pristine beach. (Just be sure you make campground or cabin reservations in advance.)

Plan Your Visit

Alabama: U.S. Space and Rocket Center

This museum in Huntsville has the largest collection of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere in the world. It also has super-cool simulators like the space shot (kids can rocket 140 feet straight up in less than 2.5 seconds) and the G-force accelerator (so kids can experience three times the force of gravity).

Plan Your Visit

The Reindeer Farm

Alaska: The Reindeer Farm

Sure, it’s not Christmas yet, but just picture the joy on your kids’ faces when they get to pet, feed and ask hard-hitting Santa questions of actual reindeer at this farm, located about 45 minutes northwest of Anchorage. (There are also picnic tables so you can pack a lunch and hang out all day.)

Plan Your Visit

Alaska: Byron Glacier

Come on, where else in the U.S. can your kids get up close and personal with an actual glacier? OK, so it’s a mile-long hike, but once you arrive at this spot on the Prince Island Sound, it’s quite breathtaking. (And thanks to global warming might not be there that much longer, so go now!)

Plan Your Visit

Alaska: Thunderbird Falls

This stroller-accessible hike in Anchorage is just one mile in length and—barring a few steep spots—is very family-friendly. Plus, the pay-off is huge: At the end of the trail is a dramatic, 200-foot waterfall that will leave your kids in complete awe of a different mom: Mother Nature.

Plan Your Visit

We Who Roam

Arizona: Salt River Tubing

For kids ages eight and up, the Tonto National Forest (dubbed a “mini Grand Canyon”) is a sight to be seen, especially from the water. Pack a lunch and relax as you float down the refreshing mountain water stream.

Plan Your Visit

Arizona: Museum of Natural History

In addition to an indoor, three-story Dinosaur mountain with a simulated flash flood, there’s air conditioning at this Mesa museum—a win-win for the dino-lover in your fam.

Plan Your Visit

Arizona: Wet ‘n Wild Phoenix

Did we mention Arizona is hot during the summertime? Wet ‘n Wild is the ultimate cool-off zone, complete with epic water slides, a lazy river and more.

Plan Your Visit

MILB

Arkansas: Arvest Ballpark

Home to minor league baseball team the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, this Springdale ballpark brings over 70 home games—not to mention festivals, fairs and family fun days—for kids to enjoy all season long.

Plan Your Visit

Arkansas: Blanchard Springs Caverns

Some parts of these caves, located in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, took shape over 350 million years ago. Your kids will love peeping the rock formations (and tiny cave creatures like salamanders) as they tour the area. Bonus: The underground temp stays at a cool 58 degrees, perfect for summer.

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Arkansas: Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

This 450+ acre park in Eureka Springs is home to over 100 abused, neglected and abandoned big cats—bobcats, ligers, cougars and leopards included.

Plan Your Visit

Disneyland

California: Disneyland

Steep entry fee aside, you really can’t go wrong planning a day (or week) long trip to the OG home of Mickey Mouse. (PSA: Don’t forget you’ve got California Adventure across the way.)

Plan Your Visit

California: Safari Park

This 1,800-acre wildlife refuge operates next to and in partnership with the San Diego Zoo (another places worth visiting if you have time), but it’s the only spot where you can see animals ranging from cheetahs to lions to zebras roam free, from a safari tour.

Plan Your Visit

California: Yosemite National Park

A national landmark since 1864, there’s no end to the kid adventures—including getting sworn in as junior rangers—that can be had within the park’s 1,200 square miles of valleys, meadows, wilderness and more. Just be sure to plan your visit (and book a campsite) in advance.

Plan Your Visit

Garden of the Gods

Colorado: Garden of the Gods

This popular park in Colorado Springs features breathtaking geological formations, plus rock climbing and nature trails. Just keep in mind that for summer, there’s not a ton of shade.

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Colorado: Santa’s Workshop

Visiting Santa in July feels like a misnomer, but it’s actually the perfect time of year for a Christmas-centric theme park filled with a range of outdoor rides. And, hey, if you happen to get a pic with Santa at this Cascade hotspot (located 20 minutes from Colorado Springs), you can nail down your holiday card four months in advance.

Plan Your Visit

Colorado: Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

Located in Estes Park, this campground—named after cartoon character Yogi Bear—is right in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. And while your kids can get their fill of nature, there’s also lots of other activities on site including a heated pool, mini golf, a game room and more.

Plan Your Visit

Mystic Aquarium

Connecticut: Mystic Aquarium

In addition to beluga whales, African penguins and sharks, a special exhibit on dinosaurs—featuring 12 animatronic creatures—just recently opened.

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Connecticut: Lake Compounce Theme Park

It’s a summer throwback—take your kids to the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States. (Complete with its own kiddie coaster and antique carousel.)

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Connecticut: Southington Drive-In Movie Theater

Speaking of throwbacks, your kids will love the thrill of seeing a movie outdoors from the comfort of your car. The summer lineup was just released with films ranging from The Sandlot to The Princess Bride.

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Air Mobility Compound Museum

Delaware: Air Mobility Compound Museum

This free museum at Dover Air Force Base showcases some of the U.S. Air Force’s largest (and no-longer-in-use) aircrafts. Watch your kids lose their minds as they get to the know the ins and outs of aerodynamics while walking all around these massive planes.

Plan Your Visit

Delaware: Gardens at Winterthur

This museum/library/garden is home to one of the biggest collections of Americana in the U.S. It also features 1,000 kid-friendly acres of outdoor space including an area called the “Enchanted Woods,” which gives kids an opportunity to explore the world of fairies with attractions like the Troll’s Bridge.

Plan Your Visit

Delaware: Rehoboth Beach

Known as one of the top beaches in the country, this shoreline features more than just sun and sand. Along the boardwalk, there’s bumper boats, a water slide, lazy river and more.

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Disney World

Florida: Disney World

Ten bucks says your kids will be more thrilled by the Monorail than the actual rides.

Plan Your Visit

Florida: Captiva Island

You’ll love the pristine beaches, but your kids will love the one-of-a-kind beachcombing. (This island off the coast near Fort Myers is ranked one of the best for in the country for finding pretty shells.)

Plan Your Visit

Florida: The Kennedy Space Center

It’s the launch center of human spaceflight. And, if you’re kids are lucky, they might be able to catch an actual rocket lift off. (There’s currently one scheduled for July, FYI.)

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Lanier Islands Water Park

Georgia: Lanier Islands Water Park

This Paradise Beach theme park puts water activities at the forefront. But it’s not just for the older kids: The Family Fun Zone includes a wave pool with “wiggle waves” and mini water slides.

Plan Your Visit

Georgia: Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Located on Jekyll Island, this education center is focused on the rehabilitation of sea turtles in the wild. Oh, and there are also alligators.

Plan Your Visit

Georgia: The Georgia Aquarium

It’s the world’s largest aquarium (located in Atlanta) with over ten million gallons of water and one hundred thousand animals on site—whales, jellyfish and puffins galore.

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Honolulu Zoo

Hawaii: Honolulu Zoo

This 42-acre zoo features tons of species indigenous to Hawaii, like the short-eared owl and the Hawaiian goose. It also features twilight tours (perfect for older kids).

Plan Your Visit

Hawaii: Dole Pineapple Plantation

Come to this Honolulu homage to the pineapple for the Dole Whip (a part of every tour) but stay to get lost in the botanical pineapple maze. (Seriously, it’s huge!)

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Hawaii: Lydgate Beach Park

This Kauai-based beach in the city of Kapaa is a local favorite and features two enclosed swimming areas, both protected by boulders, so it’s easy for your kids to safely splash about. It’s also right across the street from the Kamalani Playground, should they need to blow off a little steam.

Plan Your Visit

Silverwood Theme Park

Idaho: Silverwood Theme Park

This amusement park in Athol is home to the first-ever inverting roller coaster (FYI, kids need to be 48 inches tall to ride), but it’s also got a lazy river, carousel and ferris wheel.

Plan Your Visit

Idaho: Bruneau Dunes State Park

As long as the temps aren’t too hot, let your kids run—and surf—the sand dunes at this state park and campground, located just 45 minutes outside of Boise.

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Idaho: Discovery Center of Idaho

For an afternoon where you need A/C, head to this STEM-focused hands-on science center in Boise, complete with a summer exhibition that’s all about H2O. (Kids may or may not leave soaking wet.)

Plan Your Visit

MLB

Illinois: Wrigley Field

It’s home to the 2018 World Series-winning Chicago Cubs. What better time than summer to take your kiddos to a game?

Plan Your Visit

Illinois: Super Museum

Fun fact: Superman’s hometown is Metropolis, Illinois. That’s why your comic book-loving little one will relish a visit to this museum featuring over 20,000 items tied to the Man of Steel’s history and fictional life.

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Illinois: The Museum of Science and Industry

It’s one of the largest science museums in the world. Even though school is out for summer, take your kid to this Chicago institution where they can learn all about Planet Earth, robots and more.

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Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Indiana: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

It’s the world’s largest kids’ museum and it also has a pretty cool selection of summer exhibits on display, from the Fireworks of Glass to a look at American Pop.

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Indiana: Conner Prairie

This interactive history park in Fishers (about 30 minutes north of Indianapolis) is all about exploring science, history and nature in a hands-on way.

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Indiana: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park

With over 100 acres of outdoor sculptures built around nature, this Indianapolis park features art you can climb on. (How could your kids resist?)

Plan Your Visit

Iowa State Fair/Facebook

Iowa: State Fair

Not only is this one of the world’s largest livestock shows and food fairs, there’s also a cow sculpted entirely of butter—something your kids will have to see to believe. (FYI, it takes place for 11 days in August in Des Moines.)

Plan Your Visit

Iowa: Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor

This throwback parlor is an activity all in itself thanks to the rooms stocked to the brim with memorabilia. Also, your kids haven’t lived until they’ve tried a classic ice cream soda.

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Iowa: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

This museum-meets aquarium-meets science center in Dubuque is a place where your kids can learn and touch. There’s also a 4D theater with plenty of child-friendly special effects (think: wind, mist and seat movement).

Plan Your Visit

Oz Museum

Kansas: Oz Museum

Introduce your kids to the movie, then plan a day trip to the museum—located about 45 minutes east of Topeka—which features artifacts, history, folk art and collectibles.

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Kansas: Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead

Teach your kids where their food comes from with a tour around this farm in Overland Park, complete with lesons in growing veggies, bottle-feeding baby goats and milking cows.

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Kansas: Underground Salt Museum

Your kids will love the chance to tunnel 650 feet below the Earth’s surface and touch actual remnants of the inland ocean. Then, when they’re done, they can ride the Salt Mine Express underground railroad at this Hutchinson spot, just outside of Topeka.

Plan Your Visit

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Kentucky: Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

The official spot where MLB bats get made, this museum also boasts a 120-foot to-scale replica of the actual bat swung by Babe Ruth. Oh, and there’s a tribute to the 25th anniversary of The Sandlot currently on display.

Plan Your Visit

Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park

It’s the world’s longest known cave system with over 400 miles waiting for kids to explore. Beyond touring the complex labyrinths, you can go for a family canoe ride, picnic, horseback ride and more.

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Kentucky: The Great American Dollhouse Museum

A fascinating place for kids (and weird grown-ups), this Danville-based museum features over 200 dollhouses, all depicting different parts of American social history. (There’s also air conditioning.)

Plan Your Visit

Shreveport-Bossier/Flickr

Louisiana: Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo

Not only can kids hold and feed gators at this Greenwood zoo, located 20 minutes from Shreveport, they can zip line over many of the residents—camels, kangaroos and miniature horses.

Plan Your Visit

Louisiana: Blain Kern’s Mardi Gras World

They may be too young to really laissez les bons temps rouler, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get in on the action. At this enormous NOLA warehouse, kids can tour the masks, floats and other Mardi Gras ephemera, and even play dress-up in the big costume closet.

Plan Your Visit

Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail

Help your kids tackle some next-level beachcombing as they traverse this trail in Lake Charles, filled with driftwood pieces, moon snails and sea beans, all kosher for bringing home. (It’s also adjacent to 26 miles of beach paradise where they can pick up actual shells.)

Plan Your Visit

MILB

Maine: Portland Sea Dogs Game

It’s hard to beat a minor league baseball game in the heart of Portland. Take your kids to a double-header (and make sure they get a pic with the mascot Slugger).

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Maine: Acadia National Park

Sign your kids up for the summer-only Junior Ranger Program, where they earn a badges for scouting things like seals, porpoises and birds.

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Maine: Sugarloaf Mountain

Sure, during winter, this place is ski central, but during summer your kids can participate in guided moose tours, go mountain biking, zip lining and more.

Plan Your Visit

Chesapeake Pirates/Instagram

Maryland: Pirate Adventure on the Chesapeake

Ahoy! On this Annapolis-based ship, aspiring mateys paint their faces, don their pirate garb and set sail for a 75 minute treasure-finding adventure. (Hint: they always find the treasure.)

Plan Your Visit

Maryland: Larriland Farm

One of the best spots in the state (it’s located in Woodbine) to pick your own cherries or blueberries—an easy summertime kid activity, plus a built-in snack.

Plan Your Visit

Maryland: Billy Goat Trail

Perfect for littles that like the outdoors, this rocky hike goes along the cliffs of the Potomac Gorge. (Just be sure your kids are old enough to have their footing.)

Plan Your Visit

MLB

Massachusetts: Fenway Park

It’s not summer in New England without taking in a Red Sox game. Plan ahead and schedule a 50-minute tour of the ballpark—a historic landmark—before the first pitch is thrown.

Plan Your Visit

Massachusetts: Edgartown

This sandy Martha’s Vineyard destination is accessible by ferry and makes for a great family beach day thanks to the variety of shorelines to choose from, the lack of crowds and the proximity to restrooms—a must for kids. (Plus, fun fact: It’s also the main shooting location for Jaws.)

Plan Your Visit

Massachusetts: The Frog Pond

In the winter, it’s an ice rink, but come summer, this man-made “pond” in the middle of Boston Common becomes a popular wading pool for tots looking to cool off.

Plan Your Visit

Henry Ford Museum/Facebook

Michigan: The Henry Ford Museum

It’s been over 100 years since the Ford Motor Company introduced the Model T. Take your kids to the Dearborn museum where they can learn all about the innovation and spirit of it’s creator, Henry Ford—oh, and actually ride in a restored car.

Plan Your Visit

Michigan: Air Zoo

Experience the science of flight at this aviation museum in Portage (near Kalamazoo) that combines rare aircraft with flight simulators and bi-planes (what the Wright Brothers flew) which your kids can actually steer.

Plan Your Visit

Michigan: National Cherry Festival

It takes place every July in Traverse City. Sign your kids up for the cherry pie eating contest, then stay for the evening fireworks display.

Plan Your Visit

National Eagle Center

Minnesota: National Eagle Center

Give your kids the chance to catch a rare sighting of an American Bald Eagle up close, but also in the wild at this nonprofit located in Wabasha.

Plan Your Visit

Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Canoe between the cliffs, crags and canyons of this epic route, located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest.

Plan Your Visit

Minnesota: Mall of America

Forget about shopping — this indoor amusement park at America’s largest mall (in Bloomington) features games, water rides, an aquarium, and an adventure course.

Plan Your Visit

Tupelo Automobile Museum/Facebook

Mississippi: Tupelo Automobile Museum

Enough with Lightening McQueen. Take your little guy to see over 100 antique automobiles, all displayed and laid out to illustrate the history of car design and engineering.

Plan Your Visit

Mississippi: The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Dolphin encounters abound at this research institution in Gulfport near Mississippi City, the perfect spot for your kids to learn about the humane animal treatment and conservation efforts of this aquatic creature.

Plan Your Visit

Mississippi: Infinity Science Center

Your kids will relish the chance to see first-hand what an international space station set-up looks like at this Pearlington-based site. The motion and cockpit simulators are another crowd pleaser. And for older ones, so is the bus tour of a NASA rocket-testing facility.

Plan Your Visit

Legoland Discovery Center North America/Instagram

Missouri: Legoland Discovery Center

The Lego-lover in your household will go nuts at this Lego “experience” in Kansas City, complete with a Lego master builder academy and Lego ideas studio.

Plan Your Visit

Missouri: Big Surf Waterpark

This water park in Linn Creek is the place to cool off come summer with food, rides and slides—not to mention a lazy river for younger kids who just want to float and chill.

Plan Your Visit

Missouri: Johnson Shut-Ins State Park

Pitch a tent or rent a cabin at this park in Middle Brook (90 minutes south of St. Louis), which is filled with natural swimming areas, hiking trails and spots to roast s’mores, away from it all.

Plan Your Visit

Visit Montana

Montana: Flathead Lake

It’s the largest natural freshwater lake in the U.S. (with an entry point in Lakeside), which means there’s plenty of room for tubing, canoeing and swimming.

Plan Your Visit

Montana: Big Dipper

Prepare your kids ahead of time: There will almost definitely be a line wrapping around the block just to get a scoop (or two) of ice cream at this Missoula spot, famous for their homemade flavors like cardamom and huckleberry.

Plan Your Visit

Montana: Museum of the Rockies

Home to the largest collection of dinosaur fossils, this museum in Bozeman will pique your kid’s curiosity in the prehistoric creatures and give them a chance to play paleontologist for the day.

Plan Your Visit

Mark Reinstein/Getty Images

Nebraska: Hutchinson Buffalo Ranch

Make your kids turn off their tech and travel back in time at this ranch just a few hours west of Omaha in Rose—a “last frontier” of sorts where you can see actual bison as you tour the area on conestoga wagons. (Canoeing, tubing, sailing and paddleboats are also available to guests who stay on site.)

Plan Your Visit

Nebraska: Fossil Freeway

Over 30 million years ago, a river actually flowed through this area in the Panhandle now filled with remnants in the form of bulky sandstone blocks. Send your kids on a scavenger hunt for imprints left behind by now-extinct animals including saber-toothed cats and rhinos.

Plan Your Visit

Nebraska: Get Tanked Tubing

Pack lunch for the family and float down the scenic Cedar River in an apparatus designed for water-lovers: An eight-foot plastic stock tank with a picnic table built in.

Plan Your Visit

Valley of Fire/Facebook

Nevada: Valley of Fire

Quite seriously, this state park in Overton might be one of the coolest campgrounds your kids have ever seen. It features over 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec Sandstone, perfect for daytime hikes.

Plan Your Visit

Nevada: Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada

There’s a rotating climbing wall, train simulation and airplane teeter totter, all at this popular museum in Carson City.

Plan Your Visit

Nevada: Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat

You don’t have to stay at the Mirage hotel to book tickets to this unique Vegas experience: A chance for kids to come face-to-face with dolphins, white tigers, white lions and leopards.

Plan Your Visit

Wildcat Mountain

New Hampshire: Wildcat Mountain

As long as your little ones don’t mind heights, take them on a scenic gondola ride where they can check out sweeping views—or simply plan a nature hike instead. (Thompson Falls is just a 45-minute climb.)

Plan Your Visit

New Hampshire: Clark’s Trading Post

Come summer, this Lincoln theme park’s main focus is family fun—take your kids to the black bear show (with actual bears), ride a steam train or cool off on the water blaster boats.

Plan Your Visit

New Hampshire: Hampton Beach

Even if all you do is grab an ice cream cone at Stillwell’s Surfside Scoop and walk the boardwalk, your kids will be happily entertained.

Plan Your Visit

Jersey Shore Pirates

New Jersey: Jersey Shore Pirates

Get this: At this North Jersey spot, Your kids get to dress up as pirates and learn pirate lingo before setting sail on an action-packed, hour and 15-minute adventure that has them following a treasure map to their booty.

Plan Your Visit

New Jersey: Cape May Point Historic Park

Go for the beachcombing, stay for the mini golf. Located on the southern tip of New Jersey, it’s a go-to spot for families looking to escape the heat without the Jersey shore riff-raff.

Plan Your Visit

New Jersey: Fosterfields Living Historical Farm

Expose your kids to farming as it was done 100 years ago and enlist them to help with daily tasks like collecting eggs, grinding corn, feeding chickens and cleaning a horse’s harness at this working farm in Morristown.

Plan Your Visit

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Sign up for a slew of activities including ranger-guided stargazing and a bat flight program. (Basically, a guided narration of bats’ nocturnal activities.)

Plan Your Visit

New Mexico: Four Corners Monument

A chance for your kids to stand in four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado) all at once. (They’ll think it’s the coolest…or the lamest, but who cares as long as you have a photo.)

Plan Your Visit

New Mexico: Roswell UFO Festival

Every July, this festival draws kids and adults from all over the country for live entertainment, a costume contest, parade—and *fingers crossed* an alien sighting.

Plan Your Visit

American Museum of Natural History

New York: American Museum of Natural History

Get ready for a massive collection of dinosaur fossils, to-scale whales and a hall of American mammals (all stuffed) at this famed Manhattan museum. Just don’t forget a stop at the planetarium before you depart.

Plan Your Visit

New York: Fire Island National Seashore

The fact that no cars are allowed on this island makes it an incredibly kid-friendly place where you can bike to the beach, dinner or for a post-dinner ice cream cone. (Just take a ferry to get there.)

Plan Your Visit

New York: State Fair

This 13-day showcase—featuring food, music, carnival rides and oh-so-many butter sculptures—takes place in Syracuse between August 22 and September 3. Hello, summer send-off.

Plan Your Visit

The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

North Carolina: The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

The planetarium here in Chapel Hill was once used to train real live NASA astronauts, a fact worth dropping on your kids right as a show like the Solar System Odyssey (a crowd favorite) is about to begin.

Plan Your Visit

North Carolina: Lazy Five Ranch

Home to over 750 animals from six different continents, this “farm” in Mooresville showcases everything from wild mustangs to antelope.

Plan Your Visit

North Carolina: Pirate Invasion

Save the date for this annual Beaufort event—held this year on August 10 and 11—where people come from all over to reenact the pirate heritage of the area. Your kids will love the treasure hunting, sword fighting and cannon firing, all a spectacle worth seeing.

Plan Your Visit

Enchanted Highway

North Dakota: Enchanted Highway

Instead of playing the alphabet game, pile the kids into the car and drive this 32-mile stretch of roadway enlisting them to help spot the fancy (and whimsical) metal sculptures dotting the landscape.

Plan Your Visit

North Dakota: Graham’s Island State Park

Fishing is a beloved pastime for anyone here. Introduce your kids to it where they’re certain to catch something—at Devil’s Lake, the largest natural water body in the state.

Plan Your Visit

North Dakota: Pitchfork Steak Fondue

A summertime tradition, this outdoor cowboy cookout combines all the thrills of the wild west. After dinner, stay for the Medora Musical, a western-style variety show set against the backdrop of the Dakota Badlands.

Plan Your Visit

Columbus Zoo

Ohio: Columbus Zoo

In addition to the usual suspects—lions, tigers and bears—your kids will get to see the likes of the American bison and African Gray parrot while on a Congo expedition (aka a super-cool guided tour).

Plan Your Visit

Ohio: Mid Ohio Sports Car Course

The ideal spot to take the car-lover in your fam, this race track offers plenty of spectator experiences (in addition to actual races) featuring vintage automobiles, rugged trucks, motorcyles and more.

Plan Your Visit

Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Teens will love combing through this Cleveland museum for relics of a distant past. (You know…one where people played guitars.)

Plan Your Visit

Beavers Bend State Park/Facebook

Oklahoma: Beavers Bend State Park

One of the best places in McCurtain County to hike, bike, swim and fish. (Speaking of which, there are two well-stocked catch and release trout streams, the perfect place for your kids to learn the sport.)

Plan Your Visit

Oklahoma: Orr Family Farm

In addition to riding the vintage carousel and replica transcontinental locomotive, kids can zipline across this farm in Oklahoma City to take in the views from above.

Plan Your Visit

Oklahoma: Tiger Safari

Your kids will never forget the summer they got to hold (and feed) baby tigers at this “zoo” in Tuttle, complete with actual safari tours.

Plan Your Visit

Lincoln City Summer Kite Festival/Facebook

Oregon: Lincoln City Kite Festival

This annual kite festival held every June is not to be missed—but if you pop by the beaches in the area on, say, a random Tuesday, the chances are still good that you’ll see plenty of families testing the wind with their own kite, bought at local favorite Catch the Wind Kite Shop.

Plan Your Visit

Oregon: Oregon Zoo

This 64-acre zoo in Portland will entertain your kids all afternoon. Then, if you can swing it, stick around for the evening concert series—a summer-only event.

Plan Your Visit

Oregon: Silver Falls State Park

Depending on how ambitious your family is feeling, there’s an eight-mile hike that allows you to see 10 waterfalls in a single day. (There’s also a much shorter loop you can take with younger kids.)

Plan Your Visit

Sesame Place

Pennsylvania: Sesame Place

Bring on the Elmo freaks: This theme park an hour outside of Philadelphia includes rides, water attractions and live entertainment and is a great bet for littler guys who might get overwhelmed by bigger amusement parks.

Plan Your Visit

Pennsylvania: Crayola Experience

Kids see first-hand how crayons get made at this Easton warehouse, just an hour and a half north of Philly. Then, when they’re done, they can take home a souvenir set named after themselves.

Plan Your Visit

Pennsylvania: Hershey Park

There are 14 roller coasters and a zoo at this epic amusement park that also offers ample opportunities to taste-test chocolate.

Plan Your Visit

Sky Zone

Rhode Island: Sky Zone

Summer is the best time to nab a good deal at this indoor trampoline park located in East Providence.

Plan Your Visit

Rhode Island: Pawtucket Red Socks

Another minor league team worth checking out. Keep in mind, if you go on a Saturday night, there will be be post-game fireworks, win or lose.

Plan Your Visit

Rhode Island: Roger Williams Park Zoo

This time of year, Food Truck Fridays are all the rage at this popular 40-acre zoo in Providence, one of the oldest in the country.

Plan Your Visit

Frankie’s Fun Park

South Carolina: Frankie’s Fun Park

There are locations all over the state for this amusement park, known for its arcade games, rides and—soon to be your kid’s favorite—a go-kart race track.

Plan Your Visit

South Carolina: Alligator Adventure

Located in North Myrtle Beach, it’s one of the largest facilities for reptile life in the U.S. After watching a live feeding, your kids can pose alligator-related questions to the staff veterinarian, aptly nicknamed “the croc doc”.

Plan Your Visit

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach

Let’s just say there are over 50 miniature golf courses to choose from in the area. (And Myrtle Waves Water Park is just a stone’s throw from the beach.)

Plan Your Visit

1880 Train

South Dakota: 1880 Train

This working vintage steam train in Hill City will captivate your child—and you—as you take it on a historic route through the state’s most famed gold-panning spots.

Plan Your Visit

South Dakota: Custer State Park

Your kids will love keeping their eyes peeled for cool animals—think deer, sheep, elk, even burros—as you take a scenic drive through the park. (Bring a picnic lunch for a pit stop.)

Plan Your Visit

South Dakota: Mammoth Site & Museum

Get this: An actual sink hole in Hot Springs uncovered a treasure trove of fossils—including woolly mammoths—from the ice age. Your kids will go berserk.

Plan Your Visit

Discovery Park of America

Tennessee: Discovery Park of America

Impress your kids with this 50-acre complex in Union City, complete with a 20,000-gallon aquarium, an actual earthquake simulator and train station.

Plan Your Visit

Tennessee: Tennessee Aquarium

There’s a shark touch pool at this Chattanooga spot, not to mention three living forests, a 3D IMAX theater and more.

Plan Your Visit

Tennessee: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

This “moving” museum in Chattanooga offers experiences (most under an hour in length) that will give your kids the chance to understand railroad travel as it was in the past.

Plan Your Visit

Enchanted Springs Ranch

Texas: Enchanted Springs Ranch

A throwback to the old west, your kids can enjoy horseback rides, eat out of a chuckwagon and learn all about cowboy culture when they visit this theme park in Boerne.

Plan Your Visit

Texas: Dallas World Aquarium

This Dallas-based aquarium has a rainforest vibe, but also plenty of endangered species like Orinoco crocodiles. There’s even an underwater tunnel where sharks swim over your head.

Plan Your Visit

Texas: Dinosaur Valley State Park

Arm your kids with the tools they need (binoculars, a magnifying glass, an animal tracking key—all available on site), then embark on a family mission to locate prehistoric dino tracks, at this state park in Glen Rose.

Plan Your Visit

Utah Olympic Park/Facebook

Utah: Olympic Park

The former site of the 2002 Winter Games, this Park City spot has tons of summer-themed activities, like zip lining, extreme tubing and water polo.

Plan Your Visit

Utah: Arches National Park

With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, this national park located just north of Moab is great for your natural-born climber.

Plan Your Visit

Utah: George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park

There are over 100 life-like dinosaur sculptures at this eight-acre outdoor park in Ogden—go on a scheduled tour or roam free (like the dinos did).

Plan Your Visit

Ben& Jerry’s

Vermont: Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour

This Waterbury spot is where the famous pints (Cherry Garcia, anyone?) get made. Take your kids on a 30-minute tour and treat them to a scoop—or two—at the end.

Plan Your Visit

Vermont: Shelburne Farms

The best place to help your kids learn about a more sustainable future, this farm in Shelburne (a suburb of Burlington) offers hands-on educational experiences like brushing sheep and milking goats.

Plan Your Visit

Vermont: Smuggler’s Notch

Plan ahead for lunch at Smugglers’ Notch Picnic Area (located in a narrow pass through the Green Mountains) then stroll along the wetlands boardwalk all afternoon.

Plan Your Visit

Natural Bridge Caverns

Virginia: Natural Bridge Caverns

A tour at these caverns, located west of Richmond, takes just 45 minutes, but on it, you and your family can descend more than 34 stories deep within the earth.

Plan Your Visit

Virginia: Go Ape Freedom Park

Kids have to be 10 or older, but once they are, they’ll absolutely love traversing this treetop obstacle course in Williamsburg that offers Tarzan swings and a ropes course.

Plan Your Visit

Virginia: TwinCreeks Llamas

Hiking is cool and all, but what if you could bring a llama along for company and to carry your gear? Your kids will get a kick out of spending a day with the creature, domesticated 6,000 years ago at this animal reserve outside of Washington D.C. in Bentonville. (Reservations required.)

Plan Your Visit

Washington: Bryant Blueberries

It’s pick your own blueberries at this well-known farm in New Salisbury, which also has a petting zoo and playground.

Plan Your Visit

Wolf Haven International

Washington: Wolf Haven International

Home to about 250 displaced wolves, this spot in Tenino, just south of Olympia, is designed with kids in mind: There’s a 50-minute tour designed to remove the storybook stigma and a chance to glimpse these beautiful creatures up close.

Plan Your Visit

Washington: Museum of Flight

It’s the largest air and space museum in the world (located in Seattle)—and also your kid’s chance to hop in a flight simulator and play pilot for the day.

Plan Your Visit

MILB

West Virginia: West Virginia Black Bears

It’s not summer without a trip to the ballpark—this minor league team (which plays its games in Granville) is all kinds of nostalgic.

Plan Your Visit

West Virginia: Mystery Hole

Give your kids the chance to question the laws of gravity with a visit to this roadside attraction (it’s found in Ansted, which is 15 minutes north of Fayetteville) where the gravitational pull seems to be a bit off. (No one can explain it!)

Plan Your Visit

West Virginia: River Riders

The ultimate way to cool off in the summer is a guided (and family-friendly) white water rafting tour, which takes off from Harper’s Ferry.

Plan Your Visit

Bookworm Gardens

Wisconsin: Bookworm Gardens

This Sheboygan botanic garden (located midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay) is inspired by your kid’s favorite children’s books and uses imaginative landscaping skills to bring classics like Harold and the Purple Crayon and Goldilocks and the Three Bears to life.

Plan Your Visit

Wisconsin: Cranberry Discovery Center

Total day trip material, this experiential center in Warrens (outside of Madison) will teach your kids everything they need to know about the cranberry industry…and the history of the state fruit.

Plan Your Visit

Wisconsin: Madison Children’s Museum

While there’s no limit to the range of activities your kids can enjoy at this museum, we’re partial to the inventive city of Possible-opolis which is filled with interactive puzzles, games and a giant gerbil wheel.

Plan Your Visit

7D Ranch

Wyoming: 7D Ranch

This Cody-based ranch is the perfect place for your kids to experience cowboy life and learn all about the Yellowstone ecosystem. The kids program (aimed at children six and older) even offers the chance to saddle up.

Plan Your Visit

Wyoming: Continental Divide Dogsled Adventures

It’s one of the largest dog sled kennels in North America (and located in Dubois). Sign up the family for a one hour tour.

Plan Your Visit

Wyoming: Hot Springs State Park

Plan to BYO lunch and picnic by the all-natural mineral hot springs while actual bison roam nearby. There’s even a free bath house if your kids want to dip their toe in the water.

Plan Your Visit

International Spy Museum

Washington, D.C.: International Spy Museum

As soon as you enter, each family member will be given a secret identity and your kids will have to work hard to assume their undercover persona. (Not kidding, there’s a test at the end.)

Plan Your Visit

Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Your kids will flip walking around this working facility on the National Mall where actual U.S. dollars get printed. There’s a film and gallery tour, but you can also head straight to the production floor for a clear view of all the cash.

Plan Your Visit

Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian National Zoo

There are more than 2,000 animals to spot at this free zoo, but after your little ones are done keeping a distance from the gorillas and lions and bears, they’ll love visiting the kid’s farm for a chance to meet and greet cows, alpacas and donkeys.

Plan Your Visit

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Five Ways to Help Your Child Develop Pre-Reading Skills Early

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by Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I remember a child in the third grade looking up at me and saying, “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything.” She was an adorable redhead, eager to learn and very curious about everything.   

We often think of learning to read in the early years as learning the alphabetrecognizing the letters, understanding the sounds the letters make and putting sounds together to make words. The most critical element in learning to read, however, is comprehension. It is the ability to understand and analyze what is being read. It is the joy within reading.  

Students with poor reading comprehension skills struggle not just in reading but also in every other subject and in reallife situations. Fortunately, young children can begin to develop comprehension skills even before they learn to read. When your infant is babbling while holding a book, those noises have meaning as the child looks at the familiar images. Early scribbling is a child’s way of telling a story on paper. All of these early skills and experiences lay the foundation for all later learning. 

Whave gathered five ideas for how to help your children develop those pre-reading skills early. 

  • Attend local plays, story hour at the library or puppet shows. 
  • While reading the story, ask thoughtprovoking questions. “Why do you think Goldilocks went into the bears house?” “What could she have done instead?” Talking about the story while reading it helps make a stronger connection to the story for your children.  
  • Before you open a book, look at the cover. Ask your children what the story might be about based on the picture on the front of the book. 
  • Make simple stick puppets related to a favorite book or fairy tale. Help your children roleplay the story. Point out that the story has a beginning, middle and end.  
  • Read nonfiction books that relate to your child’s interests. Children especially love books about animals, the outdoors and people. 

You can also get out crayons and paper and each draw pictures of the characters in the story. Find a few minutes each day for reading, and not only will it help your children’s development but it will also create special moments for your family.   

Get Your Kids to Spring Clean With You

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It’s springtime, and many of us will be taking on spring cleaning tasks like washing the windows or deep cleaning our kitchen appliances. Many spring cleaning tasks involve heavy lifting and require stronger cleaning solutions than we use for our day-to-day chores, making them less than ideal for kids to help with. But there are some tasks that are suited to doing with your children, should you want to get them involved in your spring cleaning routine.

We take spring cleaning very seriously at Lifehacker. Far be it from us to let an opportunity to refresh, reorganize, and declutter our homes lives pass us by. We’re also pretty psyched to hit the reset button on our tech usage, take a close look at our finances, and give the heave-ho to the day-to-day habits that have gotten a little musty. Welcome to Spring Cleaning Week, wherein we clear the cobwebs of winter and set the stage for sunny days ahead. Let’s clean things up, shall we?

A few general tips to consider: First, take the time to clearly explain and/or demonstrate the task ahead. Sure, it will add a little time to the process, but it will also help them learn, and save you from having to do their work over. Speaking of doing the work over: Try to avoid that if you can so you don’t inadvertently send a message that their best wasn’t good enough. It’s also a great idea to get them dressed for the job at hand—have them wear old or sturdy clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty. And, of course, you’ll want to take into account the age and skill level of your child, as well as any other concerns like allergies or respiratory problems that may make it less than ideal for them to participate in a given task.

Washing the Car

It’s my personal opinion that washing a car is one of the most fun chores around and when the weather turns, it’s a great job to get the kids involved in.

Start with the interior and have them help sort through any trash and recycling that are cluttering up the car, take out any stuff like toys or a stray sneaker or books that need to be returned to their rightful home. Then, have the kids use a handheld vacuum to vacuum the seats and floors.

Once the interior is clean, the real fun can begin! Washing a car’s exterior isn’t rocket science, but there are a few best practices to know: Work from the top down; wash and dry the car in sections so that soap and water residue doesn’t dry onto the car as you work, leaving sudsy residue and water spots; use car wash soap instead of dish soap, which can dull the car’s clear coat.

Dusting Baseboards

The great thing about turning kids loose on the baseboards is that they’re already low to the ground anyway! Plus, dusting baseboards requires nothing more than microfiber, like this dusting cloth from Casabella, which makes it perfect for kids—no harsh chemical products, no sloshing buckets of cleaning solution, just a rag and some crawling action are all that’s required.

Vacuuming Furniture

You can add a little extra fun to this chore by letting your kid keep any change they find hidden in the cushions. The job is easy and can/should certainly involve making a pillow fort out of couch and chair cushions, decorative pillows and throw blankets as you take them off the frame of the furniture. Then, put the upholstery or crevice attachment on the vacuum for your kids and have them do the honors, starting with vacuuming the frame, then giving the cushions and pillows a good THWAMPING to redistribute stuffing and knock out dust. Then, replace the cushions and vacuum them as well. Finally, launder blankets and throw pillows if needed.

Doorknobs and Lightswitch Plates

This is an easy little task that only a rag or paper towels and a small amount of a gentle all-purpose cleaner: Have kids wipe off doorknobs and light switch plates—which, by dint of being touched all the time, get quite grimey and germy—going room by room. You can divvy it up by room or give one kid doorknob duty and another light switch duty and have them count to see which one you have more of in your home, to make it a little bit more game-like.

Cleaning and Organizing a Bookshelf

Bookshelves, like baseboards, get quite dusty but deep cleaning really only requires a good microfiber cloth, making it a good task for kids to help with. Remove all the books and knick-knacks from shelves and work from the top down, since dust will travel south as you clean. Smaller kids can be tasked with wiping books off while taller kids can work on the bookcase itself. Then, have the kids pitch in with putting everything away by having them organize books by color, or alphabetically by author.

Washing Trash Cans

Trash cans and recycling bins get super dirty, even if you’re diligent about always using liners. While you don’t need to clean them regularly, it’s not a bad idea to wash them out once or twice a year, and it’s a great job to do outside on a nice day. Much like washing a car, it can be a lot of fun for kids to splash around with a bucket of sudsy water and/or a hose. A large car washing sponge, dish soap, water and a rag for drying are really all that’s needed for the job, and you can have the kids start by finding all the trash cans and recycling bins in the house, emptying them if they’re full, then bringing them all outside to be washed. Once they’re clean, dry them using a rag (an old bath towel would be perfect here) and have the kids bring them back inside to be put away.

 

This article was written by shared by Jolie Kerr to Lifehacker and Jolie Kerr on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

10 fun winter activities for kids

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Wondering how on earth you’re going to entertain the kids all winter now the nights are drawing in and the clocks have gone back?

Then read on!

I don’t know about you but it seems infinitely easier to entertain the kids in summer, when you can throw open the back door and go to the park with the sun on your faces, than it does in winter when you’ve got to wrap them up and really think about where you’re going and for how long for.

It might be tempting to draw the curtains and switch on the telly, but with a bit of lateral thinking it’s actually easier than you think to make the most of the great outdoors in winter.

This year we’re partnering with Simplyhealth and their #MyEveryStep campaign, which is all about the little steps we can take to lead healthier lives, and as autumn turns to winter we’ve come up with 10 fun winter activities for kids to help keep them (and you) entertained as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer.

10 fun winter activities for kids

1. Make a bird feeder. It doesn’t have to be super complicated – all you need are three things: a cardboard toilet roll tube, peanut butter and bird seed. Spread the peanut butter over the toilet roll tube, roll it in the bird seed several times so it sticks all over, then thread the tube over a branch outside. Birds and wildlife will come flocking and the looks on the faces of your own little birds is priceless.

2. Go puddle jumping. Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you need to stay indoors. Put their wellies on, zip their raincoats up and let them jump in puddles until their heart’s content. Trust me, it will keep them entertained for waaay longer than you think.


winter activities for kids

3. Play conker maths. Collect as many conkers as you can – which is huge fun in itself – then charge them with the task of counting them and sorting them into groups from smallest to biggest. If you’ve got a pair of scales even better – they’ll be at it for hours.

4. Go toadstool hunting. Toadstools start popping up in forests all over the UK as soon as the nights start drawing in, and they really are a sight to behold – whatever your age. We recently went looking for some while taking part in BBC Children in Need’s #HatsOn campaign (see 5 easy ways to raise money for BBC Children in Need) which is all about making the most of the great outdoors and the kids walked much further than they would normally do (without complaining!) in search of the much-coveted red ones.


winter activities for kids

5. Clear up leaves. If you’ve got a garden the chances are you’ve got leaves that need clearing away at this time of year. Turn a chore into an activity the whole family can enjoy by collecting the leaves and jumping in them – this is the stuff memories are made of! It’s a brilliant sensory experience for little ones too.

6. Make a bonfire. Autumn is the perfect time of year to gather your garden waste (don’t forget the leaves!) build a bonfire and watch it snapple and crack. They’ll have as much fun building the fire as they will watching it burn – just make sure there’s a responsible adult on hand at all times (ideally one with eyes in the back of their head).


winter activities for kids

7. Have a winter picnic. Who says picnics are just for summer? If you’ve got a bonfire going, make the most of it by taking hot dogs and flasks of hot chocolate into the garden while you watch it burn. Then when the flames have died down toast marshmallows in the embers (don’t forget to make sure the responsible adult is on hand).

8. Sign up to a beach litter pick. We all know plastic is a huge problem in our seas, and it’s easier than you think to help make a difference. Beach cleaning events, where members of the public volunteer to help pick up litter on beaches, happen all over the UK and are a great chance to breathe in some sea air as well as being lots of fun too. Use the Marine Conservation Society’s postcode finder to find a beach clean nearest to you.


winter activities for kids

9. Go ice skating. The ultimate winter sport, the chances are there’ll be an ice rink in your town or city in time for the festive season. Most offer hold-on penguins or animals for little ones (I find them rather handy too!) and it’s great exercise, focusing on lower body movement and leg muscles.

10. Go stargazing. The good thing about the nights drawing in is that the stars come out earlier. Brush up on your constellations, wrap them up warm and take them outside to point out the different formations. If you’ve got a pair of binoculars even better.


winter activities for kids

Do you have any fun winter activities your kids love at this time of year? I’d love to know what they are!

This post was written in collaboration with Simplyhealth. I’m proud to be supporting their #MyEveryStep campaign, shining a light on the little steps we can all take to leading a healthy life every day. As always all opinions are my own and based on my own honest experience. To find out more about Simplyhealth’s #MyEveryStep campaign follow @SimplyhealthUK on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article was written by crummymummy1 from Confessions of a Crummy Mummy and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Why You Should Be Planning Your Summer Now

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By Jennifer Jipson, PH.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Many of us escape grey winter skies by dreaming about summertime adventures. As parents, we may imagine our children spending summer playfully exploring the world around them, laughing as they interact with other children and gaining confidence in themselves as they develop new skills and learn about fascinating new topics.  Although it might seem early, the start of the new year is an ideal time to turn those dreams into plans. Whether or not your summertime schedule requires childcare, enrolling your children in high-quality summer programs ensures that their natural curiosity about the world is supported in environments brimming with resources that inspire and motivate playful learning.  

To evaluate whether a summer program is likely to be time well spent for your child, you should go beyond basic questions about schedules and cost and dive deeper into the program philosophy. Ask the people running the program questions that will reveal their view on how their program supports children’s learning and development. 

  • How much time do children spend engaged in structured activities?  
  • How much time is dedicated to free play?   
  • What are the benefits of each type of activity?  
  • How do these activities complement one another? 

These questions are important because research in child development shows that children flourish when they are engaged in both structured and unstructured experiences. Structured activities provide children with opportunities to stretch their skills under the strategic guidance of well-trained adults who spark interest, add challenges and encourage creative problemsolving. Providing ample time for free play provides essential additional benefits: in free play, children take the initiative to pursue their own interests and immerse themselves in activities of their own choosing. As they play, children gain new understandings about the world, about themselves and about how to interact with others. Skilled teachers know that these parts of the daily schedule are related. When teachers observe children’s free play and document their interests and skills, they gain valuable information to inform their plans for more structured activities related to the program theme. The result is a balanced summer program in which children explore exciting topics, such as bugs, space and art, in ways that support their developing understandings, interests and skills. Even a greater effect can be had when educators invite families to participate in the delight of discovery. Look for summer programs that involve parents as partners by showcasing daily projects, offering suggestions for related home activities like outings and books and listening attentively to parents’ reports of their children’s interests and experiences. Planning now for the summer won’t turn the grey skies blue, but it will ensure that your child experiences a memorable summer full of learning and fun. 

Don’t Have Time to Exercise? Do it With Your Kids

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As a working mom with a to-do list longer than the refrigerator, trying to find time to workout and raise happy, healthy children is nearly impossible. But who says you have to compartmentalize exercising and parenting? By exercising as a family, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Staying Fit as a Family

Unless you’re a professional athlete or trainer who works out for a living, exercise shouldn’t be something you separate from the rest of your life. Between work and other responsibilities, you’re already away from your children enough. By bringing them into your workout routine, you can spend quality time with them and stay fit.

There are numerous advantages associated with working out with kids. One of the biggest benefits is that it helps your kids see exercise as normal and healthy, as opposed to something that’s strange and unsatisfactory.

“Not only is including your kid in your workouts an effective way for him or her to have positive associations with exercise, it’s a great way for you to remember that working out shouldn’t always be a chore. So many adults are focused on sets and reps, when they could really benefit from playing,” trainer Naomi Nazario writes in Men’s Health..

The question is, how do you exercise with your kids in a manner that’s safe, effective, and challenging for all ages? The following suggestions may help:

Go For Walks Before or After Dinner

One of the easiest ways to get exercise is to take a nightly walk, either before or after dinner. While this isn’t rigorous exercise, it’s enough to get your blood flowing. Even more importantly, it provides an outlet for having conversations and seeing how your kids are doing on a heart level.

Play Games on the Trampoline

Older kids may enjoy neighborhood walks, but younger kids will get bored pretty quickly. Switch things up to keep each of your children fully engaged.

One idea is to play around on the trampoline – which is an extremely good platform for exercise. It engages your muscles and builds core strength. If you have a trampoline in your backyard, jump together. Don’t have a trampoline? Visit a local trampoline park and play games like H-O-R-S-E or dodgeball. This probably isn’t something you’ll do every day, but it’s a good weekly activity to mix things up.

Play Sports in the Backyard

If you have athletic kids who play sports – or even kids who like the idea of sports – you can get some really good exercise in by playing various games in the backyard or driveway.

For example, you and your kids can have a lot of fun playing basketball, kickball, or even four square. Over time, these may even become family traditions.

Create Fitness Competitions

Kids love competition. If you’re able to make fitness into a game, you’re much more likely to get your children involved on a regular basis. One idea is to have a weekly competition. Something as simple as the loser of a round of a game having to do certain exercises can result in a great workout.

Watch YouTube Workout Videos

As your kids get older and become more interested in organized workout routines, you may think about doing YouTube workout videos together. YouTube has a huge collection of workout videos from both amateurs and professional trainers. They’re free and can be accessed on demand in your own living room.

Finding Balance in Your Life

If you spend too much time working out on your own, you won’t have much of a relationship with your children. If you don’t workout enough, you’ll be unhealthy. Life is all about balance, and you need to look for ways to balance parenting and fitness. As this article shows, a little tweaking makes it possible to do both.

 

This article was written by Emily Green from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.