Want to explore the world with your kids? Looking for fun, safe games online that actually teach something to your child? Here is a great new multicultural app for kids that everyone will love!
This post is sponsored by Hearts for Hearts Girls; however, all opinions are my own.
Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market
Those of us with daughters often commiserate about the type of games that are targeted towards girls – all frills and rainbows without much substance. That is why I was so excited to learn about Hearts for Hearts Girls, whose mission is “to empower girls to become agents of change in their communities, their countries, and around the world. We want to change the world one heart at a time, and you can be a part of that dream!”
Kids can choose among 4 different characters who live in communities around the globe – India, Mexico, USA, and Ethiopia. In each community, you choose missions (games) – such as making music, playing soccer, or catching raindrops – that help build bring each neighborhood to life. Along the way, your child will learn about the culture of the place and the story of the character that lives there.
My kids’ favorite games so far as herding ducks (India) and the bakery (Mexico), but I can tell we’ve just scratched the surface. There are an incredible 100+ missions for more than 40 hours of exploring and playing!
And if your kids love fashion, they will enjoy dressing up the girls in more than 25 mix and match fashions, plus fabrics and templates to create their own.
I also have to comment about how much I loved the music. Usually when my kids are playing online I have to turn the volume down, because the music is so annoying, but with this multicultural app for kids, we actually turned the volume up, so we could listen to the wonderful global music!
But as a mom, what I really loved is that Heart Street Market is play with purpose – the 100+ missions available are all aimed towards helping 4 characters from around the world make a difference in their local communities. In fact, Hearts for Hearts Girls is partnered with World Vision® for programs that support gender equality, education, infrastructure, and humanitarian aid. So while you are having fun playing Heart Street Market, you are actually making a difference in the real world!
I should also add that though the app seems targeted more towards girls, my sons loved it. My 8 year old said it was “super fun,” while my 5 year old just said “mm-hmm” and kept on playing!
I highly recommend Heart Street Market for global learning fun and play with purpose (though your kids will just think of it as fun!) Find it on Google Play and iTunes and follow them on Facebook!
As parents, life can get so busy that often we have to stop and catch our breath and wonder, where did the time go? I always look forward to spending time with my kids, but practically speaking I actually spend most of my time running errands and doing household chores. Someone is always tugging on my leg asking to play freeze tag or build a fort in the living room, but I usually put them off because there is always a diaper to change, or a meal to cook, or laundry to fold. Trust me, I would much rather build a pillow fort! If you also find yourself struggling to find time to enjoy your family, here are three simple ways to reconnect with your kids – even when you are really busy!
Disclosure: I received complimentary samples of Mighty Kong Muffins for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids – Even When You Are Really Busy!
1. Take Play Breaks
My four year old could play freeze tag all day long. From the moment he wakes up until time to brush his teeth at night, anytime there is a pause in activity (and usually when there isn’t), he asks to play freeze tag. Somehow it always seems like he asks just as I need to change a diaper or when I’m in the middle of cooking. Rather than put him off completely, I try to take short play breaks with him. Be realistic about how much time you have, then set a timer and give your child your focused attention – no checking Facebook, no picking up toys off the floor, or straightening the furniture – just playing with him.
For me, this is usually 10 or 15 minutes at a time on a weekday. (I make sure to do non-timed, longer play times together on the weekends, but these are usually not practical during the week). This seems like a really short amount of time, but it always seems surprisingly long, considering I am really focusing on him and not multi-tasking like I usually do.
It doesn’t stop him from asking to play again 5 minutes later, but he is more understanding when I have to say no, and I feel less guilty about getting my work done.
2. Play a Game after Dinner
Our kids get screen time in the evenings, yet we noticed that this often resulted in a race to leave the dinner table and get back to electronics. So now we have instituted the rule that we play a game (or do a puzzle, etc) after dinner before we all retire to our corners to relax before bedtime. The kids love it, especially since Daddy is home to join in as well, so no one is watching the clock and rushing to leave the table. As much as I love game nights, this abbreviated version works for us during the week, so we can still get in play time together as a family and make sure we really reconnect with our kids in the evenings.
3. Do Read Alouds
We all know how important it is to read together, and most of us tend to do this at bedtime, which is such a snuggly, cozy time to share a good story. Yet I noticed that we tend to do this with our kids individually (as they all go to bed at slightly different times), plus the stories tend to be shorter because of the late hour.
I loved that old-fashioned idea of a family sitting around reading a great book together, so I started doing family read alouds during the day. It is wonderful bonding time, plus it is a great way to engage kids with slightly more challenging material or to read stories they might not have considered. For example, a younger child might be more inclined to stick with an easy chapter book because of the excitement of reading with older siblings, and another might be surprised to find that they like a story outside of the genre they tend to favor. (For great reading ideas, see my book reviews!)
I have found that the easiest way to keep everyone’s attention, despite the range of ages and interests, is to involve food. Give the kids something to eat at the table, and they are more likely to be sitting quietly and listening as you read. As homeschoolers, we can often do our read alouds over lunch, but it’s also a great way to relax together over an after school snack. This is especially true if you have a child that doesn’t like to sit and talk when they first come home – here is a great way to reconnect with your kids without forcing conversations they aren’t ready for.
Finding a Great Snack to Share
We have recently discovered a new favorite snack, which is perfect to share during our family read aloud. While we do have the occasional treat, I am rather picky about making sure my kids have healthy snacks. So I was excited to find out about Mighty Kong Muffins, a family-run and locally-owned Sacramento business that makes the most delicious gourmet bran muffins in a staggering 22 varieties. (See their interview on a local news show).
I know what you’re thinking: Gourmet bran muffins? Yes, it’s true! The ingredients are all high-quality and non-GMO, with fresh fruits and nuts and high grade dark chocolate. You won’t find any flour in these muffins – or any preservatives or artificial ingredients, for that matter. These mini-muffins are a great snack you can feel good about sharing with your kids.
We received a variety pack of the Mighty Kong Muffins and so had fun sampling four different flavors: Ape Dates (date walnut), Naner Naner (banana walnut), Wapple Apple (apple raisin), and the seasonal Rumplepumpskin (cranberry pumpkin). (Note: all flavors are available without nuts). My younger son loved the Wapple Apple, which my older son couldn’t decide between the Ape Dates and the Naner Naner. Personally, I loved the Rumplepumpskin. In other words, every single one was a hit!
Looking for some ideas for easy indoor winter fun? As much as we love to get outside, where we live in Northern California it is often cold and rainy this time of year, so we are stuck inside much of the time. So instead I came up this simple snowman craft – and the boys invented a fun indoor winter game! Plus you don’t want to miss our review and giveaway of a wonderful new winter books that is sure to become a family favorite! GIVEAWAY EXTENDED UNTIL MIDNIGHT on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Easy Snowman Craft and Indoor Winter Fun
This snowman craft is great for a range of ages – little ones will love just playing with the cotton balls, while older children can do more elaborate creations. And the materials are ones you probably already have on hand!
That’s it! Just glue the cotton balls together and add decorations to make your snowman! This can also be an engineering challenge for kids as they figure out the best way to put the cotton balls together to make the creation they want – or perhaps to make it stand up! We found that it was easiest to put the toothpick arms in between the cotton balls rather than trying to stick them into the cotton balls.
Buttons are great for the snowman’s buttons of course, but all the eyes or even hats!
When you’ve finished your snowmen, you can also do what my kids did – have an impromptu “snowball” fight with the leftover cotton balls! (I wasn’t able to get a good picture of that, too many snowballs flying everywhere!)
They’re back! The adorable owl siblings we came to love in Hoot and Peep (read my full review) are back in a new book that celebrates the wonder of a child’s first winter! A Song for Snow is another gorgeous book from famed author Lita Judge. Little sister Peep can’t wait for her first snow, but her big brother Hoot can’t answer all her many questions – he was young last winter and can’t quite remember all about it, especially what its “song” would be like! Children will identify with Peep’s excited impatience, as she flies around the beautiful Paris landscape waiting for snow. But they soon learn, along with Hoot, the wisdom of waiting. Wonderful book to celebrate winter with children. It also serves as a gentle reminder of the importance of mindfulness and learning to appreciate the pace of the natural world.
And now you can win your own copy! Just comment below with your child’s favorite winter activity! (Or if your child is young, let us know what you are looking forward to doing with your child this winter).
Winner will be selected by random drawing. US shipping only. Giveaway EXTENDED! Ends Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at midnight PT.
My toddler is just starting to learn about the ABCs, so I thought it would be fun to do a very simple toddler letter craft to teach her that G is for go! I made it more complicated for my preschooler, so he could work on his fine motor skills (and not get bored!) We also had fun with a car-themed activity afterwards, and I’ve included some great books with a transportation theme for a full tot-themed unit.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Go Is for Go! Toddler Letter Craft and Activity
Simple Letter Craft
The great thing about this toddler letter craft is it is super easy to prep, easy for little hands to do, and fun for them to play with afterwards! All you have to do is cut out the form of the letter G and some “wheels” for your little one to attach to it – because G is for go!
For my preschooler, I gave him a bit more of a challenge by having him cut out the letter and wheels himself. I thought he would protest because it can be a lot of cutting, but he was proud of himself for doing it on his own! If they are interested, you could even see if they would like to draw the letter to cut out.
My toddler is just discovering the glue stick, so she had a ball with this! They can also color it and decorate with stickers if they want. (Check out these adorable transportation stickers!) Pro tip – always use washable markers like these Crayola Washable Markers, especially if your child likes to draw on themselves (and the table, etc) like mine does!
G Is for Go Activity
Afterwards I drew a couple of large G’s on cardboard and made them into roads!
Even my 7 year old set down his book to come over and play with it. Zoom zoom!
Extend the learning by reading these fun books about things that go! What are your favorite transportation themed books?
Little Blue Truck board book is now a staple of most children’s bookshelves. Everything comes together – the rhyming text, the fun illustrations, and the moral about the value of taking the time to help others. And now, just in time for Halloween, there is also Little Blue Truck’s Halloween!
Since most toddlers love cars and dinosaurs, what better than a book that brings them together? Dinosaur Zoom! has realistic drawings of dinosaurs (or at least as realistic as a drawing of an allosaurus driving a car can be!) and cars, with very simple text and storyline. My preschooler still loves this one!
Blue Boat is another great easy to read story that teaches an important lesson. The little blue boat is a hero, facing touch conditions to rescue a family at sea! A favorite in our house. Read my full review.
Fans of Guardians of the Galaxy will be excited to know that a new Marvel Universe Live! show is coming to Sacramento in September! This exciting new show, which will be at the new Golden 1 Center from September 14-17, 2017, will feature Guardians of the Galaxy and more than 20 favorite Marvel super heroes and villains!
We are big fans of Marvel Universe Live and can’t wait to see a new show at the Golden 1 Center! And best of all, you can win a family pack of 4 tickets to opening night just be commenting on this post and telling us your kid’s favorite Marvel super hero (or villain)!
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to this show for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Don’t miss the action-packed adventure of Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes. Spider-Man and The Avengers will be joined by the Guardians of the Galaxy, including Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket and Drax. Witness a legendary battle to defend the universe from evil, in this newest production from Feld Entertainment, the world’s leading producer of live touring family entertainment.
What: Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes, featuring Guardians of the Galaxy When: September 14-17, 2017: Thursday, Sept 14, 7:00 PM; Friday, Sept 15, 7:00 PM; Saturday, Sept 16, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM; Sunday, Sept 17, 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM Where: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento, CA 95814 Tickets: Tickets start at $20 each! Discount Opening Night tickets available for only $15 each on select seating (not valid for premium/VIP levels)
This September, take your kids out for a show with non-stop action, movie-style thrills and amazing stunts! Immersive video projection and cutting-edge special effects will captivate and transport audiences across the universe from the fantastical Savage Land to New York City and beyond. Spider-Man and Wasp’s dynamic aerial stunts along with Captain America’s daring motorcycle skills will be on display in the ultimate race against time to save mankind.
Tickets now available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the venue Box Office.
*Ticket prices subject to change; tickets may be subject to service charges, facility and handling fees.
Marvel Universe LIVE! Age of Heroes will travel throughout North America on a multiyear tour, including stops in Denver, Las Vegas, Bay Area, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and New York. After North America, the show will embark on an international tour starting in 2019. For a complete list of North American tour dates, locations and to purchase tickets, please visit MarvelUniverseLIVE.com.
Enter for a chance to win a family pack of 4 tickets to opening night on September 14: Comment below and tell us your child’s favorite Marvel super hero or villain! Winner chosen at random. Contest ends September 6, 2017, at midnight PT.
Cooking with kids always seems like such a great idea – until you actually do it. If you can see past the messes and inefficiency, however, you will be rewarded with a sweet experience that neither of you will ever forget! Cooking together builds confidence, teaches life skills, and encourages healthy eating habits. In addition, it can bring some of your most treasured bonding moments – that is, if you can manage to relax and enjoy yourself instead of worrying about the state of your kitchen. Here are my top tips for enjoying cooking with kids. Share yours in the comments!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun
If You Invite Them to Help, Make Sure Your Mean It
If you are going to cook with your child, make sure you are really in the mood for it. If you are already feeling anxious or irritable to begin with, take a rain check and do it another time. Cooking with kids requires all of your patience and attention, so don’t start off at a deficit.
Organize Your Space
Before beginning, make sure their work space is clear, accessible, and safe. You don’t want to have them get started only to notice that the kitchen knives are within reach of your toddler or that there isn’t really enough room for them to roll out their dough. Take a few extra minutes to clear off the counter space and bring all of the ingredients into easy reach, so you aren’t leaving a small child unattended while you go to pull items out of the pantry.
Know What You’re Doing
If it is a new or less familiar recipe, be sure to read it over carefully ahead of time. Remember that once you begin you will be distracted by your kids.
Make sure that anything dangerous is out of reach before you even begin and keep a sharp eye on what your child is doing. They seem to have a knack for discovering dangers you never would have dreamed of! Remember that you will be distracted, so as you cook, triple check that turn off the burners and put away equipment.
Allow Extra Time – But Know Your Limits
Be sure to allow plenty of extra time, not just because you’ll be cleaning up spills or teaching them how to crack eggs. Children are also much more process oriented than adults, so they will likely enjoy stirring together the ingredients or cutting out the shapes longer than is strictly necessary. Bite your tongue and let it go on for as long as you can, because often this is the part they most enjoy. Mine tend to linger at the mixing stage then lose interest and wander out of the kitchen. But do know your limits. If you feel your frustration building, gently move them along after a reasonable period.
And reliably, your child will have a messy diaper or need to go potty at a key point in the recipe, so try to make dishes that can sit on the counter while you take necessary breaks!
Embrace the Mess
Cooking with kids is messy and slow – and fun! But you have to accept the first two in order to really enjoy the latter.
I never realized how uptight I was about messes until I had kids. Now I really try to relax and enjoy the moment. After all, there is often little you can do to contain the mess! Your child, covered in flour from head to foot, is bound to take off for the living room, bouncing off all the furniture, just as you have your hands full with hot cookie sheets from the oven and can’t possibly chase him down. Or he will decide to “help” you crack the eggs on the counter when you have your back turned for just a second. No matter what, there will be a mess to clean up, so you might as well make it worth it!
Set Your Priorities And Lower Your Expectations Accordingly
If you expect to bake perfect dishes in no time flat with little mess, than you have no business bringing your child into the action. You will only become frustrated with your little one, who has very different ideas about what is going to happen.
But if you have asked your child to join you, it is probably because you want to have a special, fun experience with him, rather than a perfect product. Just keep reminding yourself of this, when you start to switch back into a default mode of “I must get these in the oven right now!” and “Don’t pull apart the cookies! They were so pretty!”
Try to Work with “Child Efficiency” Rather Than “Adult Efficiency”
If you are working alone, you will probably complete the steps a certain way in order to be efficient, but that may not be the most efficient way to do things when you have a little helper. For example, when making cookies, normally I would roll out all the dough, then cut out all the shapes, then move them all to the cookie sheet. When I did that with my toddler helping me, however, dough disappeared into his sweet little mouth before I could cut out all the shapes, and what shapes I could do were often broken or “transformed” into something entirely different by the time I could put them onto the cookie sheet.
So instead, I rolled out a bit of dough, cut a few stars, and moved those to the cookie sheet before rolling out a bit more dough. Much more “child efficient.”
A Final Note
Some cookies will burn. Some cakes will be lumpy. And key ingredients will probably be forgotten. But chances are everyone will love it anyway, especially if they know your little one helped!
And just remember: When you are cooking with kids, you always have a great excuse if your dishes don’t turn out perfectly!
Marigold Bakes a Cake
A really fun book you and your child will both enjoy is Marigold Bakes a Cake. Poor Marigold is a perfectionist, especially when it comes to baking. That is why he does it alone – until the birds show up. First one, then more fly into his kitchen and mess up the perfect cake he is baking, until Marigold finally loses his temper. After Marigold calms down a bit, he leaves to go on a walk and regain his composure. Meanwhile, the birds decide they will fix the situation by making Marigold the perfect cake he had dreamed of – except they end up making even more of a mess! Yet Marigold recognizes their love of cooking (and affection for him) and decides to teach them how to cook.
For me, this book is about learning to live with imperfection in our cooking and in ourselves. Marigold tries to be patient but fails, yet he realizes he needs to take a break to calm down. And the birds never do learn how to cook, but they have so much fun the reader can’t help but be swept up in their enthusiasm. Marigold Bakes a Cake is a fun way to remind kids (and parents!) to enjoy the process rather than getting caught up in having perfect results.
June 27, 2017activities, familyComments Off on Favorite Family Games and Activities
I always looked forward to family game night as a kid. It was a break our everyday interactions, where we were often caught up in chores and homework. Instead, we could really all sit down and play together. Family games are a fun screen-free way to spend time together on rainy afternoons or to unwind after a busy day. Here are some of our favorite family games and activities, especially for those with young children.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by AK Media; however, all love of family games is my own! I received complimentary copies of some of the products below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Fun Family Activities
One of the things I love about charades is that you can do it anywhere, with no preparation, so it is great for those times when you find yourself in need of an activity to entertain the kids for a while. It can also be adapted for different ages, so that even very young children can play. I would often use this as a reward at the end of our Spanish lesson as a way to practice vocabulary!
In this activity, someone starts a story then the next person continues it, and so on until the last person brings it to an end. You could have a ball or other object that you pass as you take turns telling the story, or each storyteller chooses the next person to continue the story. You can also have the person act it out as they tell their part of the story!
I’m not sure I ever would have thought about doing a collective drawing except that my son (now 4) got us started on this several years ago. Both of my boys now love to draw with us, often with rather elaborate stories that they invent as we go. They prefer doing battles (where you each pick sides and “battle” each other in the drawing), but it can also be a great way to create inventions, design houses, and tell stories together.
You can also pick a coloring book to work in together. I love the gorgeous A Touch of Asia Coloring Book: Serenely Elegant Designs from the East from Tuttle Publishing. It is an adult coloring book, so I often enjoy working in it by myself, but I’ve also found that it can be fun to do with my kids. At an age when they are usually focused on cartoons and action figures, they are still naturally drawn to beauty, a quality that is often not nurtured in boys especially. But mine love helping me with “my” coloring book and filling in some of the simpler designs, while I save the more intricate ones for solo work.
Creating together is also high on our list of family activities, and what kid doesn’t love paper airplanes? Making paper airplanes is a classic skill that is often passed down from parent to child, so why not up your game with these fantastic looking, high-performance versions that are actually easy to make? Talk about being a hero for your kids!
The High-Performance Paper Airplanes Kit comes with pre-cut models that are easy to put together. The kit also comes with a Catapult Launcher. Need I say more?? And if origami is your thing, try Michael LaFosse’s Origami Airplanes. It includes a DVD and instructions for 28 origami paper airplane projects. (Note: does not include the origami paper).The planes are so realistic looking and really do fly well! I also love having the DVD tutorials to follow.
But my personal favorite is the Flying Dragons Paper Airplane Kit. They are just so cool looking! There are 12 original designs, like the Flame Dragon and the Flying Shark, plus 48 folding sheets, an instruction book, and YouTube tutorials.
We also love building sets like this Plants vs. Zombies Wild West Skirmish Set from K’nex. A must-have if you have a Plants vs. Zombies fan in your house! The characters actually look just like the ones in the game. And best of all, once you’ve had the fun of building it together, you still have unlimited play time left with the assembled scene. Really great for doing pretend play together!
Favorite Family Games
One of my favorite childhood memories was getting together with my cousins during the holidays. I vividly remember all of us kids in the back room of my grandparents’ house, playing favorite family games like Deluxe Pit together and laughing our heads off. Pit is a fun, loud, rowdy game that everyone will enjoy. It is something like Go Fish, in that you have to try to get all the cards of one kind, but everyone is yelling and trading cards at the same time in the race to be the first to make a set. My kids love ringing the bell when they finish!
Guillotine is the game that my 7 year old always shows people when they visit us. Believe it or not, it is a game all about the French Revolution and – yes – people getting their heads chopped off. Sound macabre? Perhaps a little, but it’s so silly and fun (and sneakily educational) that you will soon forget! The premise is that you are a bunch of guillotine operators competing with each other to see who can execute the most valuable nobles. Each noble card is ranked by point value, with, for example, the King being 5 points and a minor functionary being worth only 1. Just don’t accidentally execute a hero of the people, worth -1 point!
I love cooperative games like those from Peaceable Kingdom. If your kids are anything like mine, most games can bring out a competitive streak that can sometimes lead to arguments and hurt feelings. Cooperative games like Feed the Woozle are not only fun, they also encourage teamwork and skill building. In Feed the Woozle, for example, players take turns trying to carry food tokens across the room on a spoon – but they might have to spin or march or bunny hop while doing it!
Everyone works as a team to take 12 tokens to the Woozle before they run out. It is great for both fine motor and gross motor skills, as well as counting. Even my toddler likes to get in on the fun!
Stack Up! is another great team-building game from Peaceable Kingdom, in which players try to stack blocks as high as they can, while doing challenges like matching colors or singing songs as they stack. Hoot Owl Hoot is a simple strategy game that even young children can play, as players work together to help the owls reach the nest before the sun comes up.
Of course, you can’t forget the classics! Hasbro Connect 4 Game is another one of the family games that I grew up on, so it’s especially fun to play it now with my kids! And if there is a younger sibling that doesn’t quite get the game yet, it is also just a fun board to use to make designs and patterns. We even used it to make our own coding game.
This is one that my 4 year old adores, and now you can get the Candy Land 65th Anniversary Game. It is designed for pre-readers and doesn’t require any strategy, so it’s a great first game for children to play.
If your family likes to do online gaming together, I’ve got some great websites for you to check out! Our family loves puzzles, and it seems like we never have enough. That’s why JSPuzzles is so fun! They have so many puzzles to try, with gameplay and other fun features that are great for group or individual play.
Do you love Sudoku? Then you won’t want to miss LiveSudoku, where you can do free online Sudoku puzzles – including multiplayer mode! A fun way to introduce your kids to Sudoku.
Solitaire is a classic card games that never gets old! And even though this may seem like a strange choice for a list of family games, when kids first learn to play it really is more of a group activity. It is a fun way to teach them the basics and have fun together. Solitaire Bliss has many different versions to try, so you’ll be sure to find something for everyone!
What are your favorite family games and activities?
This post was sponsored by SwimWays as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
As the weather gets warm, we always start to think of swimming! I must admit, though, packing up all the essentials for family swim time at the pool or the lake can be a daunting task, especially with young children. Here are my tips for you really need to pack next time you go swimming with kids.
Swimming with Kids: What to Pack
Do you love swimming with your kids but dread having to pack up all that gear? Or, on the flip side, have you ever gotten to the pool just to realize you forgot something essential, like sunscreen? Here are our top tips for what you really need to have in your bag next time you go swimming with kids:
Sunscreen and sun hats: So important to protect your little ones from the sun! For very young children and babies, go one step further and keep them covered up and in the shade as much as possible. (See below for a great way to keep babies protected).
Water: Make sure to keep everyone hydrated, especially as children may be less aware of how thirsty they are getting when splashing around in the water.
Snacks: All that playing around will get them hungry, so be sure to pack some power snacks, especially if you think your child may fall asleep in the car on the drive home. Fruits like watermelon are a great choice because they can help them keep up their fluid intake and are so refreshing!
Towels: One for everyone, and usually one extra, because one towel always gets spilled on or stepped on, and then someone is left shivering!
Swim Diapers: These are incredibly convenient, plus they are required at most pools. Just make sure you have regular diapers to change your child into later, as swim diapers really don’t hold things in well outside the water.
Change of Clothes: If your child is potty trained, don’t forget to pack a pair of underwear along with their dry clothes!
Anti-bacterial gel: If you’ve ever used the bathroom at a public pool, you will appreciate how levels of hygiene (and hand soap) can vary, so better to be prepared and have some anti-bacterial gel in your bag when you go swimming with kids!
Floats: Older children can use arm floaties for a little extra support, and plus there is an incredible float just for babies! I love the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy, which is designed for very young children (9 to 24 months), who are just getting used to the water. As Step 1 of 3 Swim Training stages, this adorable float is a safe, fun way for little ones to get comfortable in the water so they can eventually learn to swim.
I remember when we first put my oldest in the pool – he was terrified! That’s why I’m so glad that today we have the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy for my one year old daughter. It is durable and very stable in the water, with a patented inner spring around the outer edge for extra security. Plus it has a wonderful shade that you can adjust in two different positions or remove altogether with easy snaps. The shade also has UPF 50+ so I know she will be well protected from the sun.
I love how soft the mesh seat is and that there is a mesh play area so she can play and splash around. The SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy is the perfect combination of comfort and security. I can relax knowing that she is safe and supported, and she feels great and can have a blast!
And despite the fact that it is so wide when it is open (part of why it is so stable and balanced), the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy actually folds up easily into three flat, compact circles that fit into an included bag for easy carrying and packing. So important when you are carrying around other gear as well!
Don’t miss out on this great float for babies, available at Target (in-store and online)!
National Learn to Swim Day
Did you know that May 20th, 2017 is National Learn to Swim Day? SwimWays is a leader in promoting water safety and helping children learn to swim. That’s why they started National Learn to Swim Day in 2012. It is always the 3rd Saturday in May, so that as pools open across the US parents are aware of the importance of swim safety and teaching children how to swim. Learn more on the Teach Me to Swim website!
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It’s that time of year! The weather is finally warming up, and there are more and more beautiful days to get outside and enjoy with our kids. We love going to the playground, but I also love to take the kids hiking, where they can breathe in the fresh air and really reconnect with the natural world. Even if your children are very young, you don’t have to miss out on this fun activity, as many parks and recreational areas have paths that are easy for strollers and little legs. Here are our favorite kid-friendly hikes in Northern California.
Before You Go
Have a plan. Exploring can be so much fun, especially in the great outdoors, but if you have little ones in tow, don’t waste all their energy wandering around looking for the trailhead. Most parks have detailed information and maps of kid-friendly hikes available on their websites, or you can talk to a ranger once you arrive.
Use good shoes. Bring home good memories, not sore feet! Make sure everyone has well-fitting, supportive shoes to wear. Remember that ordinary sneakers often don’t have good grip for outdoor trails, so use hiking shoes when possible.
Wear layers. The weather may be cool when you start, but you will quickly warm up as you walk, so be prepared by dressing in layers. This will also help if you are going to be hiking on a densely forested trail, where it may be significantly cooler than in sunnier areas.
Pack high-energy snacks. Nuts or trail mix are great snacks to keep you and your kiddos going on kid-friendly hikes.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when you are active outdoors! My relatives are always surprised at how much my kids love to drink water, but it’s a habit that we have instilled in them from a very young age. My boys love to run and play, so it’s important to make sure they stay hydrated. And now it’s even easier, with the new 35 pack of Nestlé® Pure Life® water now available at Walmart. It’s such a great value, because it’s the same price as the old 32 pack – that’s 3 extra bottles for free! Find out more about this great offer at the end of this post.
10 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Northern California
Muir Woods National Monument: Muir Woods is simply a classic spot to visit in Northern California, a lush forest of old growth redwood trees that has been federally protected for more than a century. It also boosts easy trail loops that are accessible for strollers and wheelchairs. There are also moderate to strenuous hikes if your children are older, but even if you stay on the easy trails, don’t worry that you are missing out – the views are still spectacular! Be aware that it is usually quite chilly inside the forest, even on warm days, so bring layers.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen is another area that has been protected for more than 100 years and today is enjoyed by nearly half a million visitors a year. And frankly it is one of the most unusual spots we have visited in California: an active volcano, a gigantic steam vent, a cold boiling lake, and bubbling mud that smells like rotten eggs – it’s a kid’s dream! The most accessible site is the Sulphur Works, and the Devastated Area (its actual name!) has a half-mile hard surface trail with wonderful views. Please be extra cautious not to let your children wander off the trails, especially in the hydrothermal areas, as it could be dangerous.
Mount Shasta area: Mount Shasta is the second highest peak in the Cascade Range (which also include Lassen, see above). The mountain itself is awe-inspiring, and while most of its trails are more rugged, its Panther Meadows trail is relatively short and easy (approx 1 mile). But don’t neglect area at the base of the mountain, which has many beautiful areas for families to enjoy nature. The walk to Hedge Creek Falls in Dunsmuir, for example, is just over half a mile from the picnic area, and is accessible even during the winter, when many trails on the mountain are closed. McCloud River and Falls also has kid-friendly hikes, and you can enjoy a walk around Siskiyou Lake using the new Wagon Trail.
Point Reyes National Seashore: Often when we think of Point Reyes we think of the beaches – picnicking or flying kites among the dunes, or climbing the steep steps to the lighthouse – yet the park is actually much more extensive than just the coastline. There are plenty of paved or well-packed dirt trails that are relatively flat and easy for little legs. Earthquake Trail in particular is paved and just over half a mile. And if the beach is what you are looking for, North and South Beach also have short paved paths in the dunes that offer beautiful views of the ocean.
Lake Tahoe: The famously clear waters of Lake Tahoe – the second deepest lake in the United States – and the rugged Sierra Mountains that surround it attract visitors from all over the world. It is actually a cluster of state parks and recreational areas, such as Emerald Bay State Park. Some of the trails around Lake Tahoe are quite strenuous, but it is easy to find ones to match your family’s abilities. For example, the Rubicon Trail is a flat, easy trail that goes right along the shoreline. Don’t miss the historic Vikingsholm Mansion!
Russian River: The Russian River is one of those areas in Northern California that I feel are underappreciated. It is a gorgeous area with beaches and wilderness areas for families to explore and has miles of trails for a range of abilities. The best known area for kid-friendly hikes is Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. Just north of Santa Rosa, this is an old-growth redwood forest with an easy self-guided trail through the grove.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center: This beautiful area near Sacramento encompasses 100 acres of woodland to explore along the American River. All of the nature trails are easy and include interpretive signs. You are sure to see wildlife during your walk, and there is always something to explore at the Nature Center. I love the natural playground and butterfly garden!
Cosumnes River Preserve: This preserve – more than 50,000 acres – is a wonderful place in the Sacramento area to explore nature with your kids. There are two easy trails to choose from, one dirt and one paved. It is a quiet, pristine area, great for spotting wildlife along the trail. Even the shorter, paved trail offers close up views of marshes and wetland plants.
American River Parkway: This 23 mile parkway is accessible at various points along Highway 50. There are a number of parks inside the parkway, including Effie Yeaw (see above). The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is popular with bicyclists and pedestrians alike. It is paved and can be accessed from most of the parks within the American River Parkway.
UC Davis Arboretum: I am quite partial to the UC Davis Arboretum, as I used to study there when I was a grad student, and my husband and I would go for walks along its trails when we were newly married (eons ago!). Located on the campus of UC Davis, the Arboretum is open to the public 24 hours a day, with no fee for admission. The main path is a 3.5 mile paved loop. There are also plenty of open areas along the way where you can relax with a picnic or play catch. As you walk, you can enjoy plants from around the world, such as the Australia Collection or the East Asia Collection.
A New Reason to Enjoy Great-Tasting Water
As with any type of outdoor activity, it is essential to keep you and your little ones well hydrated when you are headed out on kid-friendly hikes. That is why I was excited to find out that Nestle Pure Life is now available in a 35 pack at Walmart – at the same price as the old 32 pack! The packaging for Pure Life is also new, so look for it in the water aisle or in a special display.
I want only the best for my kids, which is why I choose Nestle Pure Life, since it is filtered through a 12 step quality process and enhanced with a unique blend of minerals. You can tell the difference because of its great taste!
I keep a pack in the trunk of my car so we are ready any time we want to go for a hike or just head to the playground! Even just running errands on a warm day can make you dehydrated, so I make sure that the kids and I drink plenty of water. This new 35 pack makes it even easier to keep everyone healthy on those special days and everyday!
Please note: Only the 24 pack is available online, so if the 35 pack of Nestle Pure Life is not available in your local Walmart, please ask a store manager about getting the product in your area.
The Festival of Ridván begins next week, and because it commemorates Bahá’u’lláh’s stay in a garden full of roses, I love to do rose crafts and activities with my children to celebrate (like make these rose cookies). Inspired by the roses that were piled in Bahá’u’lláh’s tent each day (so many that His guests could not see each other over them!) I have gathered together a huge list of rose crafts, play and learning activities, and recipes for you. Enjoy!