Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Free and Low Cost Summer Movies

While it's great to get outside and play in the summertime, sometime kids (and parents) need a little down time. A great way to get out of the heat and still have fun is to see a movie. Some local theaters around the Bay Area offer free summer movies, or very low cost movies.

Regal Theaters have many locations and off free G and PG second run movies on Tuesday and Wednesdays. To see if there is a participating theater near you, you can visit their Free Family Film Festival schedule web-page. Not all Regal theaters are participating this year, including some that have participated in the past.

AMC Theaters have a similar program with movies for $1.00. For their list of participating theaters and the movies they will be showing, their Summer MovieCamp website is here.

Cinemark (Century Theaters) also have $1.00 movies for kids this summer. If you plan to attend most of the shows, they also offer a prepaid 10 week Summer Movie Clubhouse card for $5.00.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Reading Programs around the Bay Area

My kids and I have participated in Summer Reading Programs since they could toddle into the library (actually, maybe even before that). They love filling out the little forms, and collecting their prizes. Every county library in the bay area has a Summer Reading Program for kids, most of them begin today, June 14th. Some local bookstores also have reading programs, and kids can earn free books.
For more information on the library programs, here are the county library websites:

Contra Costa
San Francisco
San Mateo
Santa Clara

Half Priced books, that has several locations around the Bay Area offers a Summer reading program as well. Kids can earn a $3.00 store credit each week for reading 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You can read more, and print out the reading log at the Half Priced Books website.

Boarders Books, requires kids to read 10 books over the course of the summer, and they can earn one free book from a preselected list. To see the reward book choices and print a log form, check out the Boarders website.

We are also fortunate in the Bay Area to still have some smaller, independent bookstores. I don't know if any offer summer reading programs, but many sell used or hard-to-find books, and are just great places. Here is an independent bookstore finder, so you can see what shops are in your area.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito

We attended a group tour and class at the Marine Mammal Center recently. Now, my kids don’t need a lot of help getting excited about anything to do with animals, but every kids in our group was enthusiastic about seals and sea lions by the end of our visit. Our group ranged in age from infant to around 8 years old. Our tour guide provided a lot on hands-on activities for the group along the way. Along the tour, the kids got to use the rescue boards and poles, and a carrying cage to stage a mock rescue of a plush Harbor Seal toy, they got to try out the equipment used in tube feeding young marine mammals, and at the end, they at last got to view some animals being fed from a quite viewing platform.

The class involved watching short video clips, learning to identify the different types of marine mammals that live in the local area, pretended to examine, collect samples from, and feed another plush seal, and ouch some preserved skins and skulls. The very smallest of our group, the 3-year-olds, and smaller generally lost interest in the ‘class’ structure and were soon climbing on chairs or otherwise not paying attention, but all the other children were very focused and interested.

Our tour guide was also our class teacher, and did a great job of getting the kids involved, and never once spoke down to them. She did a nice job of making sure most kids who wanted to vouluneer for a demonstration got picked to be involved at least once.

I was impressed that for a place that relies so heavily on volunteer labor, it was an extremely clean, well run center. They can really do amazing, and sometimes very difficult work on what must be very limited funds. While our group was young, our teacher guide explained that kids can become Marine Mammal Center volunteers at 14 years of age if that’s something they’re interested in.

You don’t need to be part of a group to visit the Marine Mammal Center. They are open 10 to 5 everyday except for major holidays, and admission is free (but I’m sure a donation would be greatly appreciated). If you visit their website, you can see what species are likely to be there at various times of year, learn how to schedule a tour, and a lot of other great information about local marine mammals.

If you decided to visit the Marine Mammal Center, make sure to carefully read the driving directions. It’s located far along a narrow, windy road that made me a little nervous at times that I wasn’t going the right way. The only other recommendation I have, is that if you can, leave yourself a little extra time to visit the nearby beaches. Sausalito is truly beautiful place, and worth hanging out and relaxing in if you get the chance.