Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fireworks Displays Around the Bay Area 2013

Fireworks Displays Around the Bay Area 2013

So many communities have discontinued their fireworks displays over the past several years, it can be hard to know where to go anymore to see a nice July 4th display. Below are the best links I could find that list various 4th of July events, including fireworks displays. The list also include carnivals, parades, and other events, so make sure, if you are just looking for a place to watch fireworks, that the location you pick actually includes a fireworks display as well on their list of activities.

In Alameda County:

In Contra Costa County:

Marin County:

San Francisco County:

Solano County:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton

Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton

We are not able to attend the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton this year, so I can’t give a personal review, but my friends that have visited recently, all reported positive experiences. The Alameda Fair has a nice long run, compared to many other county fairs, and will go through July 7th, although they are closed on Mondays.

If you have been to the Alameda County Fair this year, leave a comment on your thoughts, and any must see attractions there!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Make a Scale Model Solar System - Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Make a Scale Model Solar System - Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Back when my oldest wanted to learn about the solar system for the first time, I obviously thought we should make a little model. Once I actually got a closer look at all those kits they sell in craft stores and elsewhere, I was disappointed. There was never any sort of consistent scale. For example, in most kits Jupiter is bigger than Earth, but sometimes, not by much. In some kits the sun was even smaller than Jupiter.

Now, I know making a scale model solar system is hard, but I felt so many of these kits would be misleading to young kids who don't realize how different these packaged solar system kits are from reality. They just don't do justice to the vastness and the amazing sizes they way they should. They certainly don't do much to inspire awe and wonder of the natural universe.

Thanks to Google, I was able to find this wonderful website for making your own scale model solar system:

You can plug in a size (the diameter) for the Sun you want to make, then it will tell you what the diameter each of the planets should be, and their orbital distance from the Sun. Your sun will need to be big if you don't want tiny dots for planets. We were going to use a hula hoop, but ended up just making a big circle with a piece of cord so we could have bigger planets. That way, our Jupiter came out to be about the size of a Frisbee, and we then measured and cut the other planets out of paper. Then we taped the planets to sticks so they would stick up out of the ground as we placed them in their orbits.

This is one caveat of the scale model solar system - Keeping the size of the planets in scale isn't too hard, nor is keeping the orbital distance, but doing both at the same time can be very tough. For example - in our model where the Sun had a diameter of 46 inches, and our Earth's diameter came out just under a half inch, if we kept the orbital distances consistent with that scale, Pluto would have to be over 16,000 feet away from our Sun. So we ended up with two scales, one for planet size, and another for orbits. The kids looked at the numbers with me, so they sort of knew that we were changing things from what they really should be.

Still, we found the biggest park we could, and laid out our circle for the Sun, then measured off the distances to stick our planets in the right places. Even though we had to plug in different numbers until we had Pluto no more than 50 or so feet away, the final model was very impressive, and illustrated much better the amount of 'space' in the Solar System.

It was a very fun and educational afternoon for us all. I am actually looking forward to doing it all over again in a year or so for the younger kiddo. She helped the first time, but she was so little, I don't think she could appreciate it yet. It really isn't as much work as it sounds like, with the help of the calculator at the Exploratorium website linked above. It is a very worthwhile activity.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sutter’s Fort – Outside the Bay

Sutter’s Fort – Outside the Bay

Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento was a hit with our girls. It isn’t large, and you could probably zip through it quickly, but we took our time, and tried to read as much of the signage as we could, and so spent maybe just over an hour there.

They have done a lot to try, through the restoration, to give a feel of what life was like living at the fort. We let the kids take charge of the map, and they enjoyed taking our family from one room to then next and announcing what each room was for.

There was a video presentation that appeared to run on a loop. We had previously visited other Gold Rush Era historical sites, and so it didn’t provide us with much new information, and they kids lost interest in it quickly. However, the parts I watched would have been very informative if we had come in without all our prior knowledge.

The gift shop was tiny, but surprisingly reasonably priced compared to gift shops in general. Parking was also not a problem for us the weekend day we visited. I’m not sure how much this varies from day to day.
Outside the Fort itself is a short path around a small pond. It felt like the kids wanted to spend almost as much time at the pond watching ducklings and turtles as they did in the fort itself.

Next door, there is a Native American museum. I regret that we did not have time to visit it as well while we were there. There is a reduced price for admission if you choose to visit both the museum and the fort on the same day. As great as our day was, I think combining these two attractions would have been even better.

You can get the most up to date hours and prices at the Sutter’s Fort website

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Color – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Color – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Coloring is often viewed as a preschooler activity. However, it can be a surprisingly fun activity for older kids too. There are even some coloring books that are designed for adults. Younger kids love for their parent to color with them. Sure, sitting a filling in a coloring page may not feel terribly productive, but it can be bonding time with your kids, and can be relaxing.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer Reading Programs 2013

Summer Reading Programs 2013

It is time once again for Summer Reading programs to begin. As always, I think you should sign up for summer reading at your local library. They usually have other fun events to go along with their summer reading programs, and my kids think they also offer the best prizes. For more information about library programs, I have links to some county library systems programs below:

These bookstores are running their usual summer reading programs as well:

At Barnes and Noble, kids can earn a free book (from a pre-selected list) for reading 8 books over the summer.

Half-Priced Books is offering kids a $5.oo gift certificate to kids who read for 300 minutes for the months of June and July. Kids who read their 300 minutes each month can also enter to win a bigger gift certificate. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wash the Car – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Wash the Car – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Washing the car may sound more like a chore than a fun thing to do, but it’s one of the easiest chores to turn into a good time if you try. First, swimsuits are required. When you have fun washing the car – you get very wet. Some of the washing and rinsing time should be dedicated to squirting each other with the water hose. Water guns can get involved too if there are more kids than can comfortably take turns with the hose. A big bucket of soapy water and a couple of big sponges are tons of fun as long as you aren’t trying to stay dry or clean.

Expect that washing the car in the fun and wet way will take much longer than washing it in the efficient, tidy way. The key to the fun is taking the time to let some water play happen. When the car is fully washed and rinsed, then there can be a short period of more serious time to possibly dry or wipe windows. But my kids even like that part.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

One Dollar Crafts at Beverly’s Fabric and Craft Stores

One Dollar Crafts at Beverly’s Fabric and Craft Stores

June 3rd thru the 20th at Beverly’s Fabric Stores they are offering “Once Upon a Time” crafting session for kids ages 6 through 12 from 1pm – 2pm Mondays, Tues, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The cost for supplies, etc. is $1.oo.

There are several Beverly’s stores around the Bay Area. If you go to the Beverly’s Website Store Locator Page, you will be able to see if there is a store near you, and if they are participating in the kids crafting times.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Make Ice Cream – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Make Ice Cream – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Even without an ice cream maker there are ways to make ice cream easily at home (Plus, you can control the ingredients!)

We have used the ice-cream-in-a-bag technique and it really is as easy as it sounds:

You can also add some flavoring like cocoa, strawberries, etc. The bag technique for ice cream making is only good for a small serving (each kid can make their own), but if you want to make a big batch – I was surprised to find out how affordable the bigger ice cream makers can be.