Thursday, March 28, 2013

Post 100 - Feedback request

Hello all.
This is my 100th post on this blog.


I decided last August to give this blog the attention it deserves, and post on a more regular schedule. I have been rewarded by increasing pages views and readers. However, I don't get very many comments, or rather, the vast majority of the comments this blog receives are spam. So in this post I want to ask any real readers out there to share their thoughts with me about what they like, or what they might like to see more of here that I'm not doing yet.

Because I'm only one Mama, and can't visit new places all week long to write review, I introduced the Tuesday feature of Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere, that families should be able to do at home, or close to home almost anywhere. I also introduced a monthly children's book review. (And if you are an author who would like to have your book reviewed here, contact me at catherine dot leigh at rocketmail dot com - with @ and .s in the right places there). Then I add in as many location reviews as I can.

So what do you think?

I am considering adding more learning resources, specifically some fun math games and activities. I don't want to get too far from the theme of the blog - Families having fun together, but since I think reading and math can totally be fun, I feel this could work. Plus, everything is more fun if you do it together, right?

Please leave me your feedback in the comments. I would really appreciate hearing what your think.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Try Out a New Playground – Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Try Out a New Playground – Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

With the weather turning toward a very beautiful springtime, we have been spending more and more time outdoors. While we have our favorite parks and playgrounds we visit over and over again, we have also enjoyed finding new ones where we were out running errands, and maybe a little further from home. It is always fun.

Try pulling up Google maps, or whatever mapping program you like and checking out some other parks nearby that you've never been to. Or better yet, if you need to be out for another reason, look up a park near where you're headed to include some playtime in your busy errand running day.

Some parks and playgrounds I've written about here on the blog:
Antioch City Park

Matteo's Dream in Concord

Hap McGee in Danville

Children's Wonderland in Vallejo

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Carmel Mission: San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo – Outside the Bay

Carmel Mission: San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo – Outside the Bay

In our continued exploration of California History for 4th grade, we recently visited Mission San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo, also known as Mission Carmel near Monterrey.

The mission is currently undergoing restoration, so some parts were unavailable for us to view. Still, our 4th grader really liked looking at one of the places she has been reading so much about. I was disappointed by how many beautiful and interesting looking artifacts were completely unlabeled or marked in any way to explain what we were seeing. It's possible that this might also be partially due to the restoration going on, if things have been moved around, but I'm just speculating.

One area that had good signage and better descriptions was a series of reproductions of small rooms that various people would have lived in during the early days of the mission.

We happened to visit on a day when they were not charging admission. While we all enjoyed ourselves, and are happy we went, I think I would have not been happy spending the usual admission price for the short time we spent looking around. Still, we made a purchase from the gift shop to support the restoration efforts, and if you find yourself in the area, and are interested in California history, it is easy to get to, and pretty to view.

Our kiddo is working on building her own model mission. She chose to build Mission San Rafael Archangel and we hope to take her to visit that mission as well. If you would like to find a historical California Mission closer to you to visit, you can find a list of California Missions here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Start a Garden – Fun Stuff to do Anywhere

Start a Garden – Fun Stuff to do Anywhere

If you started some seeds indoor earlier in the year, they are probably ready to move outside either into the ground, or into larger pots.

We have never lived in a house with a yard big enough for a garden in the ground. So I have become a good container gardener over the years. So if all you have is a small apartment patio or balcony, you can still create a little garden to grow stuff with your kids.

We have grown tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, peas, herbs, flowers, zucchini, cantaloupe, strawberries, and blueberries in pots over the years. The bigger plants may need pretty large containers to grow well in, but it can be done. Pick a few of your favorite fruits or veggies, and start growing! For tomatoes, or vine-y or sprawling plants like cantaloupe or zucchini, I find that cages help the plant to grow without sprawling out of the pot and breaking the stems.

It isn't too late in the year if you want to start from seed. You can start indoors, or right outside if you want. If you'd rather get more of a running start at your garden, lots of plant centers have good sales this time of year on seedlings.

Each plant will have it's own slightly different requirements about how much sun and water and spacing they like, so just follow the instructions that come with your plant or seed packet, and watch your garden grow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Play a Card Game – Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Play a Card Game – Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Playing a card game with your kids can have multiple benefits. You get some good fun together time, and hopefully some conversation too, but additionally, many card games are great for math practice.

Simple card games like 'Go Fish' or 'War' are good to play with younger children. Then games like 'Twenty-one' or 'Cribbage' can introduce some simple strategy and mental addition. There are literally hundreds of card games out there.

There are great books full of games, or has rules for a slew of games too.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bob Books – a Book Review

Bob Books – a Book Review

If you have young children, then you have likely already heard of Bob Books. They are very early readers for children who know their letter sounds, or most of them at least, and are ready to start reading very simple words.

With my first born, I actually refused to let her use Bob Books when I realized she wasn’t actually reading, but making educated guesses from the beginning letters and the pictures. That’s what eventually lead me to the Alpha Phonics reading program. I caught on when she read ‘blanket’ when the word was ‘rag’. After I was sure she had her basics down, we tried the Bob books again, but she didn’t find them all that interesting.

My new little reader at the moment, however, is in love with Bob Books. I still have to watch her, or she’ll start guessing at words instead of reading them, but she is easier to catch. She gets a huge grin when she finishes reading a book to us. I believe she is exactly the type of kid these books were designed for. They give her a sense of accomplishment, and pride as her reading skills progress. Even though she is working on set 4 now, which are slightly more difficult than the earlier sets, she still like to go back and read set 1 books from time to time.

From talking with other moms, Bob books seem like something they either love or hate. I think, like most things, they are something that will either work well for a child, or won’t, and maybe that’s where this divide comes from. Fortunately, almost every library has Bob book available. They may be popular, and not on the shelf much. I’ve had to place a hold on them when I wanted them at our library since they are never actually in the branch. But checking them out at your library is a great way to decide if they are a good fit for your new reading kid or not.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Put Together a Jigsaw Puzzle – Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Put Together a Jigsaw Puzzle – Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

I remember putting puzzles together with my mother when I was small, but for some reason I never thought about doing it with my own kids until recently. They did simple 25 piece, then 50 piece puzzles as preschoolers on their own and loved them. Often they would put the same puzzle together over and over again. But when they moved on to 100 piece, they did one or two and stopped. I thought they had outgrown puzzles, but now I think it was something else.

I think they hit a point where the puzzles were more challenging and they became intimidated. We did a 500 piece puzzle together, and in the beginning they acted discouraged before we’d even really begun. Once the boarder was put together, and some other small parts had been assembled enough to be recognizable, their enthusiasm for the project grew. Every piece placed was a tiny celebration.

We didn’t try to put it together all in one sitting, or even all in one day. I think that would have been more than they could take. But we ended up having a lot of fun, and I look forward to another group jigsaw puzzle again soon, although some puzzles at the store have gotten pricey in my opinion, but sales and thrift stores, and garage sales are great places to pick a puzzle up if you want totry one out without spending much to start.