Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Draw Your Own Comic - Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Draw Your Own Comic - Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

I recently printed out some blank comic strip templates, and had the kids make up their own stories with them. I thought it might be a little more fun than a normal writing or drawing lesson, but I was happily surprised by their enthusiasiam. Every frame they drew, they would rush to me to show it off.
I used the printable comic templates at http://donnayoung.org/art/comics.htm

I had some difficulty getting them to print well. My printer wanted to cut one edge off no matter how I adjusted my settings, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

When my oldest was really struggling with her writing, we also used http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/ to make writing a little more fun. We printed out one of the comics that had characters, but no words. Then my daughter had to look at it, and imagine what might be going on, then add the dialog. She enjoyed it enough that it completely overcame her dislike of physical writing. It looks like the updated site will let you type instead now, but I bed you could still print out a strip without words if you wanted to try it the way we did.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Discounted Activities Around the Bay Area

Discounted Activities Around the Bay Area

I keep getting emails for some really fun sounding deals that we can't take advantage of due to our schedule. I haven't mentioned these places to find good discounts yet here on the blog, so I thought it was about time. I can't vouch for the places in  the individual deals, but I have purchased other discounted offers from each of these places and always gotten exactly what was advertised. It has let our family afford more outings together than we would have otherwise.

Amazon Local 

The deals change over time, so it can be good to check back every so often, or sign up for their emails for your own area to get the newest deals.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Benicia Community Park - aka Big Slide Park in Benicia

Back when we lived closer by, this was one of our very favorite parks. When we found ourselves in the Benicia area recently, we just had to go visit again. 

Things I like about this park as a mom
- there is plenty of easy parking, 
- there are public restrooms within sight of the playground, although not right next to it,
- shaded picnic tables
- toddler sized play structure as well as a bigger one for bigger kids
-the BIG slide!

What's funny to me is that if we go more than a month without playing here, the kids seem to forget how much they love the big slide. They act terrified of it all over again. After a lot of coaxing to get them to try it out (or going with them the first time usually does the trick) they will sometimes never play on any of the other playground equipment. Instead they just go down the slide over and over again. There are a lot of stairs to climb to tackle this slide, so they get some good exercise even if all they do is slide. Despite its size, it isn't a super fast slide, and even small kids can do well on it. Adults seem to love it too.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Make Flowers Change Colors - Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Make Flowers Change Colors - Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

While studying plants recently, we decided to try the age-old flower dying experiment. Although we didn't have as much success as we have had in the past (when my oldest did this same experiment), we are still starting to see some color change, and the kiddo had fun with it.

All you do is add some food coloring to a vase of water, then add your flowers. White flowers tend to work the best - make sure to give then a fresh cut stem before putting them into the colored water. Although, kids will often use a celery stalk as well. I think it's better if there are some leaves still on the celery as opposed to the pre-cut ones.

This experiment shows how plants pull water up through their stems into their petals
 and leaves.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free Comic Book Day - May 4th 2013

We attended Free Comic Book Day last year and the kids loved it, so we will probably try to go again this year. Last year, we chose to wait to go until later in the afternoon, after the huge name comic book celebrity signings were done (there were still other signings later in the day), and we still had probably a half hour or longer wait to get in. The line moved steady though, and there were quite a few costumed comics characters outside that the kids liked seeing. Plus, the shop we went to brought some comics out to the folks in line, so that gave us something to look at to pass the time too.

Free Comic Book Day is exactly what it sounds like. You show up, stand in line, and get free comic books. I'm sure each shop has their own systems in place, and their own rules for how it all works for them, but our local shop let us pick out - if my memory can be trusted - three comic books each. More than I had expected. They had lots of kid titles too.

We also made a purchase, because - we all want to support our great local comic books shops, right?

While you are there, check out any other upcoming events that your shop has posted. For example, we just learned that the artist who draws the My Little Pony comic books will be signing near us shortly after Free Comic Book Day, and our girls are super excited to go back again and meet her.

If you visit the Free Comic Book Day Website there is a spot to put in your zip code to find participating shops near you. I plugged in a few and found these shops on the list:

Flying Color Comics in Concord
Dark Carnival and The Escapist Comic Bookstore in Berkeley
Comic Ink in Dublin
Dr. Comics & Mr. Games in Oakland
Comic Cards, Etc. in Pinole
Collector's Haven in Oakland
Alameda Sportscards and Comics in Alameda
Stand up Comics in El Cerrito
Hijinx Comics and SpaceCat in San Jose
Heroes in Campbell
Illusive Comics and Games in Santa Clara

I am sure there are may more around the Bay Area that I'm missing - so visit the link above and put in your zip code.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Free Summer Bowling for Kids

Free Summer Bowling for Kids

Many bowling alleys around the Bay Area offer free bowling for kids over the summer. To find out if there is a bowling alley near you, visit https://www.kidsbowlfree.com/all_centers.php .

We have personally not tried this program yet, but our closest bowling alley starts their free summer games for kids in May, so we will be signing up and trying it out. I’ll report how it goes for us.

In the past, we tried signing our kids up for a local bowling alley’s discounted summer kids program, but found it wasn’t a good fit for our kids. They had advertised bowling instruction would be included, but that wasn’t really the case. Most of the other kids there really knew their stuff, and our kids felt overwhelmed and confused.

However, I was in a summer bowling league as child in my pre-teen years and it was a lot of fun for me and I learned a bunch. So every alley and every program is going to be slightly different. If there are no free summer games offered for kids at a bowling alley near you, check with your local place and see what other summer or discounted programs they may offer. Most will have something going on for kids over the summer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love Each Other - Stuff to Do Anywhere

Even though we live on the other side of the country from the recent tragedies that have filled the news lately, many of us still find them deeply upsetting. While I try to focus on the fun things in this blog, the very best thing about family is the support through the bad times.

So instead of trying something new this week, I suggest you do something with your family that you all enjoy doing together. Pick an old favorite activity. Something that bring you together and brings you joy. Just be together, and appreciate one another.

My thoughts are with all those families affected by the Boston Marathon bombings, and those that rushed in so quickly to help where they could.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Write a Story Together - Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Write a Story Together - Fun Stuff To Do Anywhere

Now, I'm not talking about a serious literary attempt here. This is about writing a silly, possibly completely non-nonsensical story. You can do it with just you and your child, or a while group. It can be great for a long car trip. Still, it can be fun if one participant is willing to write the story down as it is created, so it can be enjoyed in it's goofy completeness later on.

Someone begins the story, but only says the first line. Another person makes up the next line - and so on. There should be no discussion ahead of time about plot or what sort of story you think you're going to tell. The first person will have one idea of what the story is that they are telling, but the others will have different ideas, and take the story in different fun and nutty directions. Every takes several turns until the group as a whole agrees the story is done. Usually someone will have to make an effort to bring it to a close.

To go just one more silly step further, limit each person to three words each.

We have also done a group story where each person wrote out their contribution, and we didn't limit the space they had, but everyone only got one turn. It didn't go as off course and silly as keeping each turn shorter, but it was still very fun, and we had a neat souvenir of our family get together at the end.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Favorite Parenting Books

I used to think I was a calm and patient person - that was until I had children.

Instead of a single book review today, I want to share a short list of books that have helped me regain the calm me that was there before I spent my days with little people who are perfect masters of pushing my buttons. I certainly still let my emotions get the best of me still - and more often than I'd like, but remembering things I learned in these books always helps bring my family back together much better than I would have done on my own without their lessons:

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk

This book is a short, easy read. There are even cartoons! They model example conversations between parent and child. Some have worked well for one of my children, and not much for the other, and vice versa, but there are many techniques included, so you can see what will work for your family. 
I remember being in the park one day, and irritated at my child for constantly asking for things - toys, ice cream, etc. I used a line from this book that I had thought sort of silly, and was shocked when she reacted almost exactly as the book said she would. I didn't think it so silly then. I went back and re-read it!

This is actually not dissimilar to the above book in some ways, but focuses more on my parental actions than my words (but words are still important to). It teaches the value of natural consequences, and the importance of letting children fail - in safe, and semi-controlled ways when they are small to help avoid bigger more dangerous mistakes when they are older. Before this book, I was a mom who was prone to step in and 'help' whenever a saw frustration on the little faces. Now I see more mistakes, more small failures, but also a lot more pride when they try again and succeed. 

Repeating myself drives me nuts, and I have also learned to say things once, but mean what I say. Now my kids  know I mean it too.

I actually still in the process of reading this one, and only halfway thought, but I love it so much so far, I already want to recommend it. 

We live in a tiny house, and 'stuff' becomes overwhelming very quickly. This book has helped empower me to declutter all the toys and other things that feel so wonderful, but are also suffocating us at the same time. I don't think we are all the way to 'simplicity' yet, but we are moving the right direction, and feeling the benefit of it already. I am looking forward to learning about simplifying our schedule and other areas of our life as I read onward.

Do you have a favorite parenting book? I'd love to hear about in in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cook Together - Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Cook Together - Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

I've had other topics about cooking specific foods together with your kids, but this one is more general. This is to encourage you to have your kids help make dinner. Small kids especially want to 'help' with cooking. The problem is that there may not be a lot they can safely do in the kitchen if they aren't ready or old enough to handle knives or bee near the hot stove.

There is still a lot they can do to help, but you need to think ahead because the non-cutting, non-hot stuff parts of cooking may be things we do without thinking about it in preparation to do the real cooking. For example, my 5 year old loves to break apart the broccoli to get it ready for steaming. Washing vegetables is a great job for small kids. maybe measuring something, even if they need to hand it to you to actually put it into the pot (and you can take a quick peek to double check. Stirring batter is usually safe as well.

Older kids who can be trusted with more dangerous kitchen jobs could be put in charge of a side dish.

I tend to be tired and somewhat cranky at the end of the day when it is dinner cooking time, but when I ask my kids to help out, even though it makes the kitchen crowded, it is always surprisingly fun to cook together.