We’re celebrating Earth Day this week so we’ll be sharing ideas on how to get the kids involved in respecting and preserving our planet, as well as simple things we can do as families to protect our environment.
Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
Play: First and foremost, go outside and just enjoy the day. I just discovered the Go Explore Nature blog, which is a new favorite, and I love their idea and checklist for a Spring Nature Scavenger Hunt.
Another way to play and help is to purchase eco-friendly toys and support the manufacturers who are doing their part to save the environment. Some of our favorite eco-friendly toys, that we we love enough to sell at ChocolateCakeClub.com, are the Green Toys Tea Set, Green Toys Recycling Truck, and the Totem Boys and Girls Recycled Construction Sets.
We sell quite a few organic and eco-friendly toys that kids love and you’ll feel good about giving.
Plant: Head over to your local nursery and buy a perennial flower that you love. Plant it with your kids to help beautify your yard and the neighborhood. Read How to Teach Your Kids a Love of Gardening. Get your kids their very own Gardening Set so they get excited about spending time in the garden with Mom or Grandma. Teach your kids about locally grown produce with the Playful Chef’s Farmers Market Set. Here’s how to have fun with the kids on a Trip to the Farmers Market.
[Read more →]
In general, I’m more of a pool person than a beach person when it comes to summer water fun. I just can’t stand sand in my shorts! Itching. Chafing. Yuck! However, over the past few years we have made it a family tradition to celebrate the last weekend before school starts with a trip to the beach.
Now, I know that not everyone lives near the beach. But, you would be amazed how many natural or man-made beach options are available to you and your family. Check your Park District, like Naperville’s Centennial Beach, or even the indoor water parks boast a sandy shore. Chances are if you have a lake in your area, someone will figure out a way to create a beach. If not, hit the public pools.
Heck, we live in Chicago which is pretty far from either coast. However, we’ve got Lake Michigan. In Chicago, our family makes a pilgrimage to North Avenue Beach to wave goodbye to summer. There’s plenty of people watching, fairly decent public restrooms, lots of space to spread out on the sand, and a restaurant for lunch, if you don’t want to bring food yourself. You can even rent bicycles and ride along the lake which is one of my favorite summer things to do in the city. The view is fantastic!
But, back to the beach. The kids love surfing in the waves and building sand castles. (With any crowded public beach, make sure your kids wear shoes when they are walking in the sand, if they aren’t near the water. You never know what’s been dropped and could cut their feet.)
Here’s what you are going to need to bring for a day at the beach:
- Backpack or beach bag
- Suntan lotion/ chapstick
- Hats or sunglasses for the kids
- Water bottles
- Toys to play with in the sand – my daughter brought plastic horses this time and built sand stables, instead of sand castles
- Football, frisbee, or paddle ball
- Blankets or towels to lie on
- Hand sanitizer
- A change of clothes for everyone
- Camera to capture the Chocolate Cake Moments
You might want to bring a sweater, jacket or long-sleeve shirt for the kids. After the beach, we usually head on over to a local fun restaurant for dinner – RJ Grunts. After sitting in the sun and wind all day, the kids tend to be freezing when we hit the air-conditioned restaurant.
Have a sandy, splashin’ good time!
Looking for a fun, pool or beach-related gift idea? Check out our super-cute, Kids Hooded Towels, which you can personalize with a child’s name.
You might also like reading …
All 30 Summer Family Fun Ideas
Backyard Water Park
My First Concert
[Read more →]
Hot summer nights are perfect for stargazing! My husband and I are fascinated by astronomy so a few years back I bought him a telescope to enhance our view. Well, lo and behold, our kids love it too and it’s become a fun family activity. We pull the telescope out on the sidewalk on summer nights and some of the neighbors come on over to view the night sky, too. It turns into a fun, mini-gathering!
If you live in a city or busy suburb, you may have a problem with ground lights obscuring your view of the night time sky. You might want to pick a clear night and head out to a forest preserve or out in the country, where you can see the stars and planets a little better. (Don’t go breaking any after hour rules or traipsing through someone’s field. Trespassing is not a good lesson to teach kids. Really!) However, you can definitely gaze at the moon no matter where you are. Kids love the funny face of the man in the moon. Or is it cheese? I can’t make up my mind on which story I like best.
If you don’t have a telescope, no problem! Grab a pair of binoculars or just lay on a blanket and stare at the sky. Ask your neighbors if they have a telescope they’d be willing to pull out and share. See if there is a Planetarium near you and check out their summer stargazing programs. In Chicago, visit the Adler Planetarium. They have several telescopes mounted on their balcony. The helpful guides will already have the telescope trained to certain stars or the moon, so you don’t have to spend time trying to find the most important objects. Psst! The balcony of the Adler Planetarium not only provides you with access to star gazing but offers one of the best nighttime views of the city of Chicago. Take your camera, tripod, and see if you can capture a nighttime skyline shot. Check their website for times and special events when they offer night time hours or Museum Overnight Programs.
If your family really gets into stargazing, then you might want to look into an astronomy-themed vacation. Check out the Primland Resort in Virginia or this article on Top 5 Places for Stargazing Family Vacations.
Summer Stargazing Highlights
So what’s up there worth viewing? In the Northern Hemisphere, Mercury is easy to see in early summer. Jupiter, Saturn and Venus are all visible at different times in the evening during late summer and early autumn. We can actually see the rings of Saturn on our telescope on a really clear night. Totally Cool! In late summer or early autumn, if you see a Harvest Moon, run and get the telescope. There is nothing more amazing than a huge red moon sitting off on the horizon. Check one of these ideas to get a better handle on what you can see each night.
Sky & Telescope gives you a weekly update of the Sky at a Glance so you can check your area.
Definitely check out your cell phone App Store and download one of the many stargazing apps. It’s amazing how you can point your phone up to the sky and it will identify the stars and planets you are seeing. This makes life so much easier than just guessing. You want to look smart in front of your kids not “Well, it might be a UFO but I think it’s really the Degoba System.”
If your family really gets into astronomy, you can learn more at the following websites that I thought were interesting.
Have fun gazing up at the summer night sky with your family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
You might also like these Family Fun Ideas …
[Read more →]
It’s Day 18 of our Summer Family Fun Challenge. Are you having fun yet?
Today’s idea is to take a trip around the world. If you can afford to that literally, then by all means, Bon Voyage. For the rest of us, pick a day, pick a country and then spend time celebrating it’s culture. For example, if you pick Italy:
- Go online and look up some fun facts about Italy.
- Go to the library and check out some Italian music or an Italian movie.
- If you know someone from Italy, invite them over for dinner and have the kids ask them questions about what it’s like to live there.
- Get some language instruction tapes and learn some words in Italian.
- If your kids like animals, learn which animals are indigenous to that country.
- Read about an Italian family tradition that sounds interesting and try it at home.
- Grab an Italian cookbook, have each family member choose a dish they would like to try. Spend the time in the kitchen cooking and experimenting together.
If you are fortunate to have an international trip coming up, then definitely use this time to learn more about the country and get the kids excited about what they might see.
Don’t know which country to pick? Research your family ancestry. Or, have everyone in the family write down ideas on a piece of paper. Throw the paper into a jar and pick. Or, hang up a world map and let someone close their eyes and point to a country. (If you don’t have a map, use our World Map Kids Placemat or World Map Sticker Set.)
Want even more help? Try our Playful Chef French Cooking Set.
This kids cooking set includes kid-sized cooking tools, recipes for popular French food, and fun information about French history, vocabulary and geography.
Which country are you going to start with?
[Read more →]
Here’s a great family fun idea for this weekend. The National Wildlife Federation has declared today, June 26th the Great American Backyard Campout. Why? According to their website:
Create lasting memories by connecting with family and friends in the great outdoors. It’s something simple you can do to promote happier, healthier children.
Awesome! You can visit their website to get great tips on why camping is healthy for your kids, camp stories, recipes, and games & activities. If you like what you read, donate some money to their cause.
Your funds are used to establish and maintain programs to make outdoor time a priority to protect children’s health and ensure their readiness to learn.
Check their website to see if your local park district is supporting this initiative. I know the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum in Chicago is hosting a Great Backyard Campout event today from 11 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. REI representatives will be there to talk tents and the Museum will be sharing tips on games, cooking outdoors, and you’ll get to see some live animals.
I think that’s worth camping about.
[Read more →]
Sorry! We skipped a day. Too much going on. You know the drill. We are back on track though with our 30 Day Summer Fun Challenge, where we’re giving you 30 days of simple, creative & most importantly memorable ideas to make this the most fun summer EVER for your family.
What is it with boys and construction equipment? They just love to watch the big machines destroy and build. When my son was 2 he was enthralled by construction equipment and would point it out through the car window. By the time he was 3, he knew the name of all the major equipment and would correct me when I mistakenly called a “front loader” a “backhoe.” (Smart Aleck!)
Well, since I live in Chicago and we have two seasons here – Winter and Construction – I thought I would share one of the fun things we used to do with my son to give him a fix for the Big Machines.
We used to drive around our neighborhood and find a construction site or if we were lucky enough to be able to walk over to one, we’d strap my son in the stroller and head over for some “better-than-reality-TV” entertainment.
Staying out of the danger zone, of course, we would look for a spot to park the car and watch or stroll around and look on in amazement through the safety fence. Cheap. Loud. Fun. The kind of entertainment every young boy craves. Take some photos and show your toddler on the computer screen later to relive the exciting memory. Have fun!
If your child is crazy for construction, check out some of the fun Construction-themed products we sell to help them express their inner demolition expert. These are perfect gifts for toddler boys. Today only, take 25% OFF of these top-selling gifts.
Constructive Eating Plate & Silverware Don’t forget the girls – the fun kids plastic silverware is available in pink too.
Construction Kids Plastic Placemat
Construction Kids Quilted Backpack
Green Toys Recycled Dump Truck Toy Psst! It’s made entirely from recycled plastic milk jugs. How cool!
[Read more →]
At a loss for ideas this weekend to have fun with your family? Memorial Day is in two weeks but that’s just too long to wait. We want something to look forward to NOW. Why not create your own Family Holiday? We all love holidays right? Special foods, special activities, time spent with people we love (or at least like.) Maybe you don’t get to take off of work for your own invented Holiday, but any reason to celebrate ranks high on the family fun meter.
Check out the post we wrote on How to Create Your Own Family Holiday.
Some new ideas I have this year are:
Chocolate Festival – Have chocolate at every meal. Figure out how to add chocolate to every dish you eat that day. Search for recipes online for inspiration.
Our Family Gives Back Day – Spend the day helping out various charities. Call some of your local charities and ask if there is something you can do as a family to help out.
Family Adventure Day – Grab a map with a 2 hour driving radius from where you live. Have one of the kids close their eyes and stick a pin into the map. You now have a destination for your adventure. Look up the town on Google and see what interesting things or restaurants there might be in that town and head out to discover a new place.
Maybe if your family holiday idea really takes off, Hallmark will start creating greeting cards for it.
What ideas do you have for creating your own Family Holiday? They can be funny. We like funny.
[Read more →]
If you are looking for an idea for some unique Family Fun this weekend, check out the article that I wrote for HybridMom.com on Camping in the Great Indoors.
If you like the article, please leave a comment on their site letting everyone know.
[Read more →]
We’ve been speaking about Family Pizza Night and Kids Pizza Parties in the past few blog posts, so I thought it was kizmet when I got an email from the Kohl’s Children’s Museum on their new exhibit – Pizza Any Way You Slice It!.
It opens this Monday, January 18th so I haven’t seen it yet but it looks like a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t love an exhibit about pizza? The exhibit focuses on using pizza to teach math concepts like fractions and recipe measurements, so I think it will have appeal for older kids. This might be a perfect outing for either Monday or Tuesday next week when the kids are off for school for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Click here for a $2 discount off of the Admission Price for every member of the family.
Here’s the Museum exhibit description:
Learn the basics of math with an incredibly popular food…pizza! Pizza: Any Way You Slice It! encourages playful, open-ended exploration by focusing on three areas: making, delivering and eating pizza. Children are instantly drawn to this exhibit that informally teaches counting, sorting, measuring, gathering, matching, patterning, sequencing, role-playing and sharing.
If you child loved making and playing with pizza, then check out the Wooden Pizza Party Toy, over at our sister site, the Chocolate Cake Club.
Come back next week and let me and others know what you think of the exhibit.
[Read more →]
Over the Holiday Break, we took the kids to see the new Addams Family Musical. Before going, we searched everywhere online to see if the play was family friendly but we found no information. Granted it was the premiere of the play so there weren’t a lot of reviews out there, but I thought we found find something on whether it was suitable for kids or not. All we saw was a blurb on the general story – Wednesday is 18 and falls in love for the first time with a “normal” boy. The Addams Family invites the boy’s family for dinner and hilarity ensues.
So, we went for it as a family Holiday treat.
On one hand, the price of the tickets sort of excludes children. It is an expensive outing to take the whole family to see any Broadway quality play. However, as I said, we wanted to do something special during Holiday Break, our friends could get us great tickets and we could go together, my husband and I fondly remember the Addams Family from our youth, and our kids have finally reached an age where they won’t get freaked out when the theater gets loud or dark or totally embarrass us by kicking seats, demanding snacks, or pointing things out during the play. (“Look Mom, there’s a guy back there!”)
The play, it turns out, is not really suitable for children. The play focuses a lot on sex and a lot of the humor, especially in the first half, is sexual innuendo. Fortunately, it went over my kids’ heads so they focused on the singing, dancing and especially the slapstick comedy so … they LOVED it! They loved Nathan Lane’s enthusiastic portrayal of Gomez, especially his sword fighting. He was fabulously funny for adults and children. (“Mom, he’s the voice of Timon!”) Bebe Neuwirth fit the part of Morticia perfectly but the real stars of the show for the kids were Uncle Fester and Grandma, played by Kevin Chamberlin and Jackie Hoffman. They loved Uncle Fester falling in love with the moon and the way they were able to fake him flying on stage was truly magical. And, when Grandma asks to be spanked at the dinner table the adults and the kids were laughing their heads off … for different reasons … but who cares. The kids loved the monster under the bed scene and I misted up when Bebe sang the Second Banana song about Mom’s stepping back to let their children shine. The set design was incredible, as well.
Our kids weren’t the only ones in the theater that night so I was glad that we weren’t the only adventurous parents. We did have to “educate” the kids on who the Addams Family was – yet another generational gap. We went to the library and found some old tapes of the Addams Family TV show before we went so they would recognize some of the characters.
Bottomline, even though my kids loved it and we truly had a Chocolate Cake Moment together as a family, I would recommend getting a babysitter and go with some friends. You’ll enjoy the play a lot more if you aren’t cringing and wondering if the kids understood that joke.
Here are some additional reviews on the Addams Family Musical.
[Read more →]
I have found the best way to make sure you and your family have fun is to actually plan it. I don’t know about you, but for me, if it’s not on the calendar it won’t happen. What works for our family is to sit down together and list out all of the fun things we want to do for the month or season. Then we grab a calendar and pick some dates. Once we all have it on the calendar, we can generate our list of any “to-dos” to finalize our plans – making reservations, buying tickets, or inviting other people to have fun with us.
Here are some of our ideas for having more family fun this Fall. We will be adding more blog posts to give you additional creative tips on how to make these activities even more fun. If you are looking for more ideas check your local park districts, libraries, YMCAs, and Children’s Museums for fall events.
Top 10 Ideas for Fall Family Fun
1. Apple Orchard/ Making Caramel Apples
2. Fall Foliage Drive
3. Visit a Pumpkin Farm
4. Leaf Pile Forts, Mazes & Piles
5. Hiking/ Photo Scavenger Hunt in your local Forest Preserve
6. Creating & Decorating for Halloween
7. Throw a Halloween Party – for kids or adults
8. Organize a Neighborhood Trick or Treat Procession
9. Neighborhood Flag Football Party
10. Flashlight Corn Maze Adventures
I hope this list has inspired you to get out your calendar and start some planning. Check back for more ideas and tips on how to have more family fun this fall season. I’d love to hear what you love to do with your family, so please share.
[Read more →]
If you are looking for some fun ideas to keep your kids amused while they are home during the summer or for some weekend family fun, I wrote an article on Make the Most of Summer, In Your Own Backyard for Artistic Sensation’s blog. Head on over there to read it and check out some other interesting articles, like the Internet and Your Children.
We’ll be adding more ideas all summer so check back often. What do you and your family like to do for fun?
[Read more →]
Kids can have green thumbs, too!
Gardening for me is a great way to relax, de-clutter my busy mind, and reconnect with nature. I get a good workout, plenty of sunshine, a pretty yard, and plenty of basil for my summer bruchetta. But mostly I do it because we entertain a lot in the summer – neighborhood fire pit parties or BBQs – and we want the house to look smashing.
When my kids expressed an interest in gardening – or rather, when I discovered my daughter attempting to transfer a pretty yellow flower (aka dandelion) into my bed of begonias – I decided to create a designated “Kids Only” garden where they could cultivate their budding green thumbs safely away from my begonias and rose bushes. They get to pick what they want to plant, which makes it exciting for them. (Although when we went to the local nursery to get flowers, my son only seemed to want to buy the container of preying mantises. Hmm!)
If you want to share your love of gardening with your kids, teach them about how plants grow. You can find some great advice on Kids Gardening here. Or, if you simply want to get them out of the house for a few hours, here are some great gardening tools for kids – so you won’t have to hand over your own trowel and spade.
Kids Gardening Kit by Sassafras Enterprises includes a nylon gardening bag, three garden tools, two brightly-colored, plastic flower pots, a sprayer, and their very own apron and gardening gloves. This kit has everything you need to get started this summer. It was the winner of MomCentral.com’s Best Gardening Toys for Kids.
The Ladybug Garden Apron Set is super cute! Your little girl will love digging alongside you in the garden with her out gardening “outfit” and tools. It includes an embroidered ladybug apron, a pair of embroidered garden gloves, and two wooden handled, painted garden tools. See the review of this set on Droolicious!
For rainy days, or those without the yard space, there’s the Paint Your Own Flower Pot Kids Craft Kit and Paint Your Own Garden Gnome Kit. (For your kids who are more into art than gardening, this is a great way for them to contribute to the outdoor decorating.) After they’ve created their own flower pot or garden gnome, they can plant a flower or pick out a perfect spot in the garden or the patio for the gnome. I am a firm believer in the fact that every garden needs a gnome.
All of these gardening and garden-inspired craft kits are great for having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house as well.
What are your kids planting this year?
[Read more →]
It’s Spring in the Midwest and that means the Farmers Markets are open. Browsing the Farmers Market stalls on a lazy Saturday morning is one of my absolute favorite summer traditions. There is something about locally grown produce that just seems to make everything taste better – fresher, more colorful, healthier. Whether I’m looking for fresh tomatoes and basil to create a caprese salad or fresh fruit for my homemade peach cobbler, I’m sure to find the best quality ingredients at a Farmers Market. But often the best finds are the items you weren’t specifically looking for. An unusual chili, for example, might inspire me to try out a new taco recipe. Or I might come across some yummy looking artisan cheeses that would be perfect for that Mom’s Night Off party I’ve been meaning to organize. (Note to self: Get those invitations out!)
Another reason why I love Farmers Markets is that they’re a fun, relaxing way to spend some quality time with my kids. We have a great Farmers Market in our town that is kid and pet friendly. Each stall has water put out for dogs and many provide samples for the kids. They even provide music! On Saturday mornings, our family has a fun routine where we first walk to the local coffee shop, because to quote Ralph’s World – “M-O-M-M-Y Needs C-O-F-F-E-E.” Then we walk the dog to the Farmers Market where we get fresh ingredients to try out a new recipe we’ve found. We’re together, outside in the sunshine, discovering new foods, promoting local farmers, and exercising. That’s almost an overload of family goodness, but we deal.
The trip becomes an adventure since each week there is usually something new to see. A new artisan bread, homemade pasta sauce, herbs, fresh flowers, produce, and we even have a guy who sells Buffalo Steaks. My kids look forward to this adventure so much (especially my son who loves the Pickle Guy.) So, to get my kids even more involved in our fresh food shopping, we got them each their own Farmers Market Set by Playful Chef.
It was designed by a Mom to encourage children of all ages to become more involved in their food decisions, and it includes everything you need to buy, clean, prepare, and eat your Farmers Market produce with your family. The included booklet shows kids where our food comes from on a beautifully illustrated map of North America. It even shows kids how to clean fresh produce.
What the kids like the most though, is that they get their own reusable shopping bag to carry home the items that they pick out. That way my son can keep his pickle juice in his bag and not mine. Somehow they eat their vegetables a little more enthusiastically when they picked them out themselves.
Have an adventure this weekend and take your kids to the local Farmers Market. Come back and tell us what they liked the best. Happy Shopping!
[Read more →]