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We love us some light play activities at home and at our early childhood center!
We have been having light baths ever since our eldest was a teeny babe. Someone had given her a small sphere shape bath light from Avon, and we have of course added glow sticks to baths.
SAFETY TIP: DO NOT CUT GLOW STICKS OPEN!
I once saw a #fail post when this became a trending pin on Pinterest thanks to the gorgeous photos from Growing a Jeweled Rose. Someone didn't read her instructions, cut open some glow sticks and poured the content's into their kids' bath. Glow sticks contain a GLASS TUBE with a separate liquid, which is why that cracking sound happens when you snap it - the two liquids combine to activate. You DO NOT want that inside your child's bath water!!
So when we had an freezing rain storm causing all school boards to shut down for the day yesterday, having a fun bath activity was added to our day's list of fun things to do. The kids chose the bath light, lavender bath bomb, and mermaid dolls for some magical play.
My daughter was missing her original bath light she received from a friend who ordered it from an Avon catalog YEARS ago. It finally died... but Santa came to the rescue when he left one under the tree this past Christmas. (He knows his stuff doesn't he? Wink, wink.)
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The following post contains affiliate links for some of our favorite things. You can find out more about that here.
If your kids are anything like ours they love making forts: Pillows, couch cushions, blankets... anything they can get their hands on. I love to watch their creativity as they find materials, and methods of making it all stay put so they can crawl inside. So this product has been on my daughter's wish list for a while now.
I had read many reviews and heard from friends and fellow educators that the Crazy Fort rods bend easily, so I was interested to see how well the Discovery version would hold up as the inside is reinforced, as you can see in the photo below:
I don't know what I was expecting the pieces to be made of, but it definitely wasn't this: the connectors are made from a hard foam like plastic that is sort of malleable to an extent. (Please correct me if you know the actual name of this material in the comments below!)
I was having a bit of difficulty inserting the rods into the connectors sometimes, but once I got them into place, they stuck and it didn't come apart.
I wonder if it will be easier as we use it more and more as the connectors are malleable...
I grabbed some old Queen sized sheets to cover the structure, which I would recommend to make sure you cover the whole thing. We used a fitted sheet around the roundest part the igloo structure we created and that made it even easier to keep it in place.
Once built, our 3 year old loved bringing his toys in and out, but also putting them on the sheet to make it collapse on his sister as she relaxed with a pillow and blanket inside.
The result: we love when we find family activity products that can get all ages involved, so this one definitely fits the bill!
Do you have a favorite structure / building set? Let me know what else we can try out by leaving us a comment,
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If your family lives in Canada like mine, you know how it can get in the winter time: you feel cooped up inside, and if you do go out, your eyelashes start to freeze. Plus there is only so much energy your toddler can get out in his puffy snowsuit... You start to miss those days at the park when the kids would just run and climb for hours.
Like the playground, indoor play places have lots of benefits for a child's development: gross motor of course, but self-confidence, autonomy, social and cognitive skills as well. As an early childhood educator, and in the past a family activities animator at a resort, play places have always been one of my favorite field trips for my groups.
But... these places come with concern for some parents, which is why I wanted to share some pros and cons I've collected from experience and word of mouth, so that you can decide for yourself if going to one is right for your family.
The number one subject that comes up when I speak to other parents about play places is cleanliness. If I had a nickel for the number of times that a parents has said that they wouldn't take their kids to a play place because they are worried about germs and cleanliness... I have to admit, this isn't an unfounded concern. Since I work in an early childhood center, with my kids attending since they were a year old, and I figured they are going to get cold and flu germs at any public venue - especially the airborne ones. Before eating or drinking anything while at an indoor play place, it's hand washing time right away for us.
Most indoor play place companies have a regular scheduled day where they are closed to clean the facilities completely, including ball pits and tunnels. You can find this schedule on the company's website, but if not, don't be afraid to inquire via phone or email. If you really are worried about this, plan to go right after a cleaning day.
Are you a parent of a little toddler just starting to move around more? Some play places have a smaller zone sectioned off with smaller equipment meant for their youngest clients, so you don't have to worry about older kids running around and rough housing.
Once, while we were on a little road trip, we stopped at a play place to blow off some steam. We happened to just swing by so I had not done my usual research of reading reviews or looking at pictures online. As I was going through one of the tunnels with my daughter, I noticed a screw pointing out of a piece of plastic of the tunnel. I notified the person working behind the counter, and then we high tailed it out of there. The point of my story is to do your research of where you visit like I should have: in addition to making sure there is a cleaning schedule (see above), inquire how often the equipment is inspected. If you walk in, and the equipment or facilities aren't up to your standards, ask to speak to a manager and tell them what you think needs work, ask for your money back and leave.
Tip: Indoor climbing play places do not allow shoes inside, and socks are mandatory. I always pick out a pair for my kids that have the little rubber treads on the sole so they don't slip on the hard surfaces of the tunnels, mats and flooring.
I'm sure I am not the only parent that gets overwhelmed with the size of the play place and where you're kids happen to be. We only frequent locations that have a scanning system. Our favorite has bracelets with bar codes for each family member. To leave the premises, the children bracelets have to match those of the adult. Once scanned, they will buzz you through the gate.
Tip: These locations can be huge. As my kids got a bit older and were able to go off and play on their own, I usually spend my time walking around structures and observing my children - remembering what color shirt they were wearing so I can spot them faster as they move at the speed of light through the tunnels and slides.
We have been to many of birthday parties at indoor play places (see below for more about that), so we know just how crowded these places can get on the weekend!
When we had year admission passes at our local place, I always planned to arrive when it opened, what ever day of the week it was. Often we had the place to ourselves for a good hour or so. If it started to become to overwhelming, we would leave.
Tip: If you are planning on going on a week day, call the location ahead of time and inquire if there are any schools or daycares attending that day, and plan accordingly.
Most locations (especially here in the Montreal area) charge for parents as well as children, but usually at a smaller price. This may seem unfair to some who plan to watch their children from the sidelines as they play, and the more parent supervision, the less need there is for them to pay employees to do it. However, I've witnessed lots of families using the games with their children, and even climbing on the structures.
There are ways to save depending on the company. Look for deals on their websites as some have special days where parents or grandparents have free admission, or cheaper admissions for all on ped days and holidays. I have also seen some great prices on yearly passes, that work out to paying off after your third visit; which means you attend for free the rest of the year
When you end up paying for the entire family, I recommend making it a day trip. Which brings me to my next point...
All play places are different in the food area. A lot have restaurants and do not allow food brought in, while we have been to a couple that have a peanut free picnic zone.
A lot of the restaurants can be focused on kid friendly junk food, so it's not the healthiest option. But if you consider the amount of exercise your family is getting, you might not mind it as a treat.
I always preferred the ones that have a picnic area - I'd pack mostly healthy food, and then buy a big bag of chips from the counter to go with our sandwiches for a treat that was more cost effective.
A glance at an indoor play place price list for parties can come at a shock for some, especially for those with their first born, just starting to plan those "friends" parties as children get older. It'll all come down to personal preference on the amount of money, time and effort you want to put towards a birthday party. There are options that include everything from meals, snacks, the cake, a private room... even favors or loot bags! If you want all of that taken care of for you, it may be worth it to you to pay that little bit extra.
Out of the 10 kids birthday parties I have thrown, my favorite by far was the one I threw at our favorite play place for my daughter when she was three. It was easy to plan and came out to just about the same price compared to if I had planned entertainment and decorations at home. The best part was that the kids were entertained the entire time; and I didn't have to worry about my own house (and anxiety level) as they ran around and screamed and climbed. Since we just showed up, set up a treat table, and then left, we came home to a clean house, and had time for a nice long nap!
Did I leave anything out? Do you have some advice or experience to share about frequenting play places? Let me know in the comments below!
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So when my daughter made me aware that she misses my undivided attention, I thought that I must make some quality time for all of us, especially for me and the hubby.
When I found out that we would have the opportunity to do a paranormal investigation with a real team of investigators, I knew that was our next date night!
Whenever we are on a road trip I always pick up brochures at hotels and stops, and scan the highway for those blue or brown signs that announce attractions and landmarks to visit in that area. If you're following along to our family's journey, I'm constantly on the lookout for fun new things to do. Not everything I find for our family to do is online.
Only by driving by the Lost Villages Museum near Cornwall, Ontario, and freaking out over their sign that said "Ghost Hunt", did I find out about Bytown Paranormal.
My husband and I are fans of ghost hunting shows. In the past, we have visited many sites that we have seen investigated on shows like Ghosthunters like the Cornwall Jail and Fort Henry. But this...THIS was even better. Bytown Paranormal allows you to join in on their investigation!
We got there in the evening and while meeting some of the guests and members, and listening to them talk about their experiences... I got the impression that everyone (including myself) was here because they experienced something in their past that they can't explain. I believe in the power of energy, but can the dead be a part of the energy around us? For this activity, it's not about believing or not believing in ghosts, it's about investigating things to see if they can be explained scientifically, which Bytown Paranormal taught very well.
If you're wondering if this is an activity for your FAMILY: I'd really recommend it for older kids. I don't think ours would have been able to stay awake past the time it started at, let alone stay still during the 4 hour investigation. There was a family that attended with us and the children were older, really well behaved and asked really great questions. Ghost hunters seem to love when children participate in investigations because of that belief that children have that "6th sense", and hope that they'd be able to capture more data when they are around.
The Lost Villages
A little background of the Lost Villages: they are a series of villages that disappeared with the growth of the Saint-Lawrence-Seaway. Business buildings and homes were able to be salvaged from this area, and moved to the site of the Lost Village Museum:
That night, the attendees were split into two groups and we took turns going into three buildings that were moved to the Lost Villages Museum site, with an investigator from the team: the Sandtown Church with Sandra, the Stuart house which had a Freemason lodge in the upstairs with Eric, and the McLeod log cabin with Cindy.
Some of the rooms in the buildings we investigated.
The entire team that was there that night were so nice and very professional. When they conducted the investigations, they encouraged everyone to ask questions themselves. They allowed everyone to hold their equipment to experience it themselves too which was really interesting.
I brought my camera along, more hoping to get some cool, eerie shots than expecting to capture a ghost, and they were open to that as well.
I wish I could say that we "saw something" that night, but we didn't. I heard that the other group had more happenings, but the only thing that happened in our three investigations happened in the church when a piece of equipment that another attendee brought went off a few times - one of those times was a split second after I snapped a photo with my flash on!
It was however very interesting to learn more about the history of the buildings and the stories of the people who lived there.
After the three sessions, they played some videos in the school house and displayed a very large collection of ghost hunting tools and gadgets.
An activity for the parents without little ones? CHECK!
Spending quality time together doing something new and fun? CHECK!
Crossing off an item off that proverbial bucket list? CHECK!
If you want to try this out for yourselves, be sure to follow Bytown Paranormal on Facebook and Instagram to find out about their public events.
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.