Sunday, September 20, 2009

October 2009 events for Bay Area Families

October 3rd -
Lambtown USA From 9 am to 7 pm at the Dixon Fairgrounds in Dixon California. We have attended this event many times in the past, and always had a great time. If you're into knitting or crochet, you'll love it that much more. Some of our favorite things to do at the Lambstown festival include: watching the sheep to shawl competition (teams compete to sheer, spin, and weave a shall), the sheepdog trials, petting sheep, llamas, rabbits, and other fiber producing animals, and browsing through the vendor building. We've never taken any of the classes they offer there, but they look like fun. Maybe someday. . . In the past, it has been free to attend. This year one page on the Lambtown USA website says it's still free, but a $1.00 donation is recommended, another page says admission will cost $1.00 for adults, and it will be free for kids under 12 years old. I guess, take a buck with you, just in case.

September Things to Do

September 26th and 27th

- Kidsfair at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. We've attended this annual event several times and always have a great time. There are lots of shows and entertainment, craft booths, costumed characters, and all that great stuff. It runs both days from 10 am to 5 pm. Cost is $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for kids from 2 to 12, and you can also print out a coupon for $1.00 off kid's admission from the kidsfair website: . They have schedules of shows and other useful info there too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August Events for Bay Area Families

In addition to my reviews of museums, parks, and other fun places for kids and families, I want to start adding a calender of family friendly events around the Bay area.

Some of the funnest stuff we do are one or two day events. I've wanted to include these types of events in this blog for awhile now, but didn't see a good way to do it. After all, if I write a review to an event we've attended, by the time I'm home to post that review, it's over - and does you guys no good at all. So, the downside to this is that I won't be able to personally endorse any of these events. If it's an annual event, and we've attended in the past, I'll be sure to share my experiences, but a lot of these event listings will be for things I've never been to before. I'll try to provide as much information as I can.

These posts will be updated as I learn of more events too, so check back often. This will not be a complete list ever, and could have new events posted daily if I find new ones that often.

So, for the month of August 2009, here's some neat stuff I've learned about so far:

Regal Theaters Free Family Film Festival
This has been going on all summer. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Regal theaters offer 2 free family movies. One G rated movie, and one PG. They are older, second run movies, but they're free! They play at 10 am. The week of Aug 11th, 12, and 13th are the last showings for the summer. Click the link above to find out what movies your local regal theater offers, because they aren't all the same.

Aug. 8th
Campfire sing-a-long at the El Sobrante Library 2:00 pm.

JFK Library in Vallejo
Puppet Art Theater: The Tale of the Dragon's Tail at 2:00 pm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is such a wonderful place; it's really hard to say anything negative about it. However, on our first visit there since the museum re-opened, we all agreed that it wasn't what we'd been expecting.

We expected a lot of extinct animal bones and dioramas. There were a few of these around, but only a very few. Live animals have replaced most of the bones. I see now why they no longer call it the Museum of Natural History. The focus is much more on current events, and less on history. There is a large section devoted to global warming, for example. Although maybe calling it the California Academy of Biological Sciences, or Natural Sciences would be more accurate. Biology, Zoology, Evolution, and other such sciences are well represented, but not so much Physics or other sciences.

It was a little too much information for our kids, since they're so small, but they were also free to get in, so that's fair. In a few years, they could really get a lot out of a visit. As it was, they really loved the aquarium especially, and we had trouble dragging them away from a few tanks.

We spent a little bit of time in the "Explorer Cove" that is a special area just for kids under 6 years old. There are some puzzles, but there isn't much 'exploring' to be done there. It's really just a dedicated play area. The kids loved it in there, playing with stuffed animals, and climbing around, but I may have skipped it for other exhibits if I'd know there weren't any kid displays inside. Or at least saved it for when we needed a break. We made the mistake of heading there first.

We almost skipped a visit into the Rainforest because the line looked intimidating. I'm glad we decided to go anyway. It looked like a long wait, but the staff does a great job of keeping the line moving quickly. Traveling through the rainforest layers, while butterflies flutter past your head is well worth the trouble to get inside.

I was not quite prepared for the crowds. We visited on a Sunday, and the place was packed. Wall to wall. If you aren't a fan of crowds, you may want to try visit on a weekday, although I hear that it gets crowded then too, but I imagine it must be better, right?

One other mistake we made, was waiting until we'd browsed around awhile before asking about the planetarium show. By then all the tickets for the day were gone. So be warned: if you want to see the show, go early, and ask for tickets as soon as you're in the door. If anyone reading this has seen the show, let me know what you thought of it in the comment section, okay?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

CPSIA - The Comsumer Product Safety Improvement Act

This post may be slightly off topic for this blog, but it's an issue that affects all children, and therefore all parents in the US, and I don't feel it has gotten the media attention it deserves.

In response to all the toy recalls for lead paint in 2007, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (aka, the CPSIA). It requires all children’s products (defined as any product designed, marketed toward, or appealing to those 12 and under) be tested by a 3rd party lab for lead and phalates (that bad stuff that softens plastics.) It all sounds well and good. None of us want harmful substances in our kids toys. But there are problems with this law. Big problems that have gotten surprisingly little press so far.

There are some really good blogs about the problems from those in the children’s toys and apparel industry, but I’m going to share a couple links to a more impartial source, They do an excellent job of explaining how a good idea went so wrong:

While the CPSIA is a direct reaction to recalled imported toys (that were breaking already existing lead paint laws I might add), it does not only regulate imported toys. It regulates ALL children’s products. Clothes, books, science kits, toys, art supplies, bibs, quilts, hand-knitted booties, etc., etc. Many smaller manufactures cannot afford the testing costs of hundreds to thousands of dollars per item. Even if the items are made from supplies that have already been tested and certified lead-free, this law requires that the finished product be retested again at additional expense. You can bet that those manufactures that can afford to comply at all will be raising prices to cover these redundant testing expenses.

The scope of the CPSIA even covers libraries and thrift shops. Children’s books may be disappearing from the library. We may soon not be able to donate or buy used kid clothes and toys to Goodwill. If you think I’m overreacting, visit the American Library Association website. The country’s librarians are not happy:

I urge everyone to read the Forbes articles to better understand these issues. Then please write to your representatives and ask for common sense changes that will allow our children to be safe without destroying American companies that have always been consciencence about their products.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Explorit Science Center in Davis California

Davis may be pushing the boundaries of what can technically be called the "Bay Area", but the Explorit Science Center is such a neat little place, I just have to include it here. Also, biased on the tiny crowd the day we visited, it may also be a well-kept secret. More people need to know about this little treasure.

While much smaller than other science Museums like San Francisco's Exploritorium, or even the Laurence Hall of Science in Berkley, the Explorit Science Center is still well worth a visit. Everything there is very hands-on and kid friendly.

Some are quickie experiments, and others require more thoughtfulness and you may want to take your time to really get the most of them. For example, there was a fun station that included a large fan and a variety of items to put above the fan to see how each item behaved as it was blown up into the air. You can imagine how much fun kids have with that! Then another station that we spent quite a long time at was a bridge building experiment. All kids of building materials are provided: blocks, K'nex, and many more. Children (and grown-ups) use these to build small bridges that they can then test out with different weights provided. There are really too many exhibits to mention, and they also rotate through different themes. The "Move It" exhibit was going on when we visited, which was about exploring motion. You can visit the Explorit Science Center website to get the most current program information.

Another great thing about Explorit is that they offer free admission every 4th Sunday of the month. We went on one such free day, and even with free admission, there was plenty of space for us to take out time at each station. I'd expected bigger crowds. Now that we've been once, I know it would be well worth the small $4.00 admission charge to go back on another day. (Children 3 and under are always free.)

Explorit Science Center also offers group and school programs, and you can find information about these on their website. The main Explorit museum is located at 2801 2nd Street, Davis, California.