Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Audiobooks – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Audiobooks – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

We've been listening to audiobooks with our kids since the oldest was a toddler. Then we listened to things like "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum and "Catwings" by Ursula K. LeGuin. We spend more time driving around in the car than I care to think about, and listening to audiobooks makes all that time feel somewhat more productive.

Not every audiobook we've tried has been a winner. Sometimes the stories just don't capture the kids, sometimes the narrator is difficult to understand, or the kids just have other things on their minds and are daydreaming out the window instead of listening. That's why we now take breaks between books, and don't listen every single time we get in the car. Sometimes we need music, or just some quiet time for our own thoughts, but before long, we are all ready again for a new story.

Since we are all at the same place in the story, it is easy for us to talk about it together too.

Long road trips can be a great time to try out a family audiobook. Because they can be pricey, we usually borrow cds from the library. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – Book Review

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – Book Review

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate with Illustrations by Patricia Castelao was a surprising hit recently with our book club. From our youngest member, at 6 years old, to the elementary kids, the young teen, and even the parents all were enthusiastic and excited for our discussion. It was one of the most positive responses we’ve had to any of our titles so far.

I believe it works so well for so many different ages and people because it has subtle layers. The story is told from the point of view of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in a roadside mall arcade attraction. He doesn’t like to remember things, and so he doesn’t dwell too deeply on any of the issues or events that come up, but for all the simplicity of how events are told, there is still an emotional power to them.

For our youngest member, it was a straightforward story of Ivan and his quest to keep a promise. For the older members of our group, we could see beyond the simpler story to the bigger internal struggles that many of the characters fought with as Ivan describes their actions.

Another aspect that gave the book an additional level of interest is that Ivan was a real gorilla. He did in fact live at a roadside animal attraction, was originally captured with his twin sister, and spark the community to work for his release to a better home. Although I believe, the rest of the actual events of the story are fictional. The real Ivan eventually was moved to the Atlanta Zoo where he lived out the rest of his life. The zoo website has a nice page about his life: http://www.zooatlanta.org/ivan

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stay Cool Indoors with Building Blocks – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Stay Cool Indoors with Building Blocks – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

I was going to write another post today about building with Legos with your kids. We are big fans of Legos in our house. Yet as I thought about what I wanted to write, I realized that any sort of building block would work.

When the heat is keeping you stuck playing indoors, building blocks can be a ton of fun. Especially if the whole family gets into it together. Especially if you aim for a creation on as grand a scale as your building materials allow.

My girls once used every type of building block they had, along with most of their little plastic animal toys, to build a zoo that took up their whole room. I think the Ikea wooden train even got involved (mimicking the train ride at the Oakland Zoo, I’m sure.) On another occasion, they recreated Ponyville from their beloved TV show and Comic series ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’.

What your family chooses to create is entirely up to you and the things you love, but make it big! If the kids (and the parents) aren’t ready to let it go when it is time for clean up, try taking a few snapshots of it to remember it. Or, if you can still make it to the beds and the bathroom, consider leaving it up another day. It’s something your family created all together – just be proud of it and have fun!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy 4th of July everyone!
I hope you will have a great day having fun with your families.

If you are looking for some last minute ideas of things to do today, I can suggest my Sunday post about 4th of July events going on around the Bay Area today:

Or, if you want fun stuff to do at home, you can check out my most recent "Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere" posts for some ideas:

The regular Book Review will be here next week instead. Have fun!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Backyard Wading Pools – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Backyard Wading Pools – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

My kids are of an age that I would have thought that little backyard wading pools would no longer hold an interest for them. I was wrong. Both their grandparents have small inflatable pools, the kind that don’t really hold much more than a foot of water or so, and the girls can happily spend the whole day out there, sitting in the shallow water with some bath toys, or splashing around.

We still have to be careful on these 100+ degree days, to not let them spend too much time in the sun; an umbrella for shade can be great help. Also, it is easy to let the shallowness of the water lull the grownups into a sense of complacency – so we must remember that drowning can happen even in a very small amount of water and there is no substitute for adult supervision.

Still, these pools can be found very inexpensively. If the prices seem high to you right now, watch for clearance sales at the end of the season, and you’ll be able to pick one up for next summer for almost nothing. We have no real yard space to speak of, it’s twelve feet square at best and completely paved in concrete, so it is not a yard that screams ‘summer fun’, yet a little pool out there makes even my tween as happy as a clam for a few hours on the hot days.

Well worth the investment in my opinion.