Author Archives: Angelika

About Angelika

Mama, Playground Hunter, Scientist

Discovery Museums

There is so much to do around Boston that even after 5 years of trying to visit all the museums and playgrounds and beaches and forests and … there is still more to discover. We finally made it to the Discovery Museums in Acton. And LOVED it.

The Discovery Museums is comprised of two buildings on our 4-plus acre campus.   At the Children’s Discovery Museum, younger children (toddlers through early grades) learn while they play.  At the Science Discovery Museum, children and adults of all ages explore scientific concepts and hands-on creativity.

The Discovery Museums offers exciting programs for all ages.  Check our Calendar for upcoming programs and events!

We spent all day. First in the Children’s part in a smaller house – this opened early and we had a thoroughly awesome time in the various rooms. Everything is put together really carefully and with love.

After a quick lunch on a bench, we went up the hill to the Science museum and spent the entire afternoon there. So much to do for every age. Truly superb. And the best bit is that a lot of public libraries have bought into their discount admission passes. We got 50% off admission, so it is definitely worth checking out.

Pictures:

Winter Play Spaces around Boston

Here is Angelika’s first installment of her list of 1001 things to do around Boston in the Fall and Winter of 2013. This is my list of places to go: museums, public places, commercial indoor playgrounds, and some great organizations that lead events for kids outside in winter. This is along the lines of “They can’t bounce off the walls if you take the walls away”.

Actually, this installment is about Inside Educational Play, so there will be a couple of walls…

A lot of the museums offer activities for children and separate areas for even the youngest. It is possible to get heavily discounted tickets to lot of the museums from local libraries, so check there.

Inside Educational Play

Museum of Science

Huge space with something to discover for everyone. For kids under 5, head to the Discovery Center, all the way past the cafeteria and shop. And try to go before 10am, so there’s room in the attached, covered garage (hint for bad weather). I’ve written about it before here: LINK. For frequent visitors I recommend the premium membership – you get two hours free parking each time and lots of tickets to see the MoS shows.

Boston Children’s Museum

Jen and Alex at the train table in PlayspaceAnother huge space with lots of activities and rooms to get absorbed in. My recommendation is to let the kids lead the way. They’ll stay in the rooms they find fun. There is a room dedicated for the 3 and under set, with what we think is the world’s best train table.  Everything is interactive, and can get messy and wet. I recommend brining at least one complete change of clothing per child.  Parking is a bit farther away in a public garage. I’ve written about it before here: LINK

Wenham Museum

"Look Mama - trains!"Not sure if this is still a “hidden” gem, but this small museum is superb for the under 5 year old set (and anyone into trains and dolls). About half the museum is devoted to a range of model trains with lots of buttons to push for the younger set. Parking is easy, but be warned that they have an excellent gift/toy store attached ;-). I’ve written about it before here: LINK and LINK

Discovery Museums

We haven’t made it here yet, but everyone says these museums are super good. Someone send me a message before you go and maybe if we meet some people there I’ll be motivated enough to drive the half hour from Stoneham.

Einstein’s Workshop

I heard about this place in summer, when the Stoneham library announced they have passes. I (I mean my children) would love to play with lots of Lego, robots, 3D printer,…

Imagine an enormous room filled with toys: LEGOs, K’nex, Zome, magnetic blocks, wooden, stone, and cardboard blocks, electronics kits, puzzles, board games, and computer games. That’s our indoor playspace – an indoor playground where kids and adults come to build and create together.

I’ll report back when we’ve been, but it does seem like it’s aimed at kids over 5 years old. Again, leave a message here or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PlaygroundHunt) to arrange to meet us there 😉

New England Aquarium

Alex really getting into the touch tankThe New England Aquarium is really quite spectacular (and spectacularly expensive). Get a library pass to make the entrance fee less painful.  The displays are stunning, and the last time we went, we really enjoyed the new touch tank with all the sting(less)rays. The giant tank in the center is open again, too and we got to see the sea lion training. I’ve written about it before here: LINK

Harvard Museum of Natural History

I think the Harvard Museum of Natural History is amazing. Alex got freaked out by the large number of stuffed animals on display last time we went. So instead we spent a lot of time looking at the large rock collection and the fossils and arthropods. Free to Massachusetts residents every Sunday morning (year-round) from 9:00 am to noon and on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 5:00 pm (September through May), and library passes can be found. This museum is beautiful, but not tremendously hands on, so might be better for kids over 5.

MIT Museum

I have no idea why we haven’t been to this museum that is all about robots, machines, robots, kinetic sculptures, robots, machines, and all things engineering. Is my inner nerd showing?

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts is gigantic. The only time I’ve been with my children was when we went to one of the homeschool classes they put on. We got a great, but quick, tour through some of the space, and got to do craft. I can’t talk about art endlessly, especially with children, so I’m inclined to go back as part of another class, so that they will get more out of it than what I feel I can offer. I have written about our last trip at this LINK, where we learned about textile arts.

Institute of Contemporary Art

never been!

Peabody Essex Museum

also never been!!!

American Textile Museum

Ha! We went here 😀 This is superb museum, and surprisingly large. It covers all things textile from waaaaay back in history to space (really). Very educational, very hands on. And they have lots of super helpful staff on hand, who were willing to help us sort out various weaving looms.  This museum also and an exceptional “Textile Learning Center”, a very well stocked and staffed play room, where people of all ages can touch, weave, and otherwise play with textile related toys.

Outside

I want Alex and Jen to WANT to go outside. I’ve taken them to hikes with Babes in the Woods (Friends of the Fells), classes at Mass Audubon Ipswich and at Drumlin Farm. I take them for walks, kayaking, and to plenty of playgrounds. Each has been fun and mostly rewarding, but depending on the day, each activity meets with some resistance: too cold; too hot; don’t feel like walking.  But then…

AlexBoatCamp

BoatCampLogoThen I enrolled Alex and Jen in Forest Kindergarten at Boat Camp Nature School. I have never seen my children so happy and at peace with the universe. When I pick them up after 3 hours in the forest, they are happy, calm, and dirty. And full of stories of pirate ships, and chipmunks, and poison ivy, and Ducky Debbie. The other teacher, Andrew, doesn’t seem to have a camp name yet.

The Forest Kindergarten is for children 4-6 years old and the entire three hour session is spent outdoors at a property they own with a diverse scenery. You sign up for the school-year, though they (weirdly) have a couple of spots left in Forest Kindergarten.

Outdoor classrooms naturally create endless learning opportunities for our children to nurture their own curiosity, perhaps by following animal tracks and sign, making wild crafts with leaves and treasures found on the forest floor, or using fallen logs as balance beams. Adult mentors assist in the learning, rather than lead the teachings. This is different from a “nature preschool,” which infuses lessons with nature-inspired themes and balances indoor time with outdoor time, as we will be outside the ENTIRE time in all but extreme weather conditions. Proper dress and an adventurous, curious spirit is essential… and we know that’s what kids do best!

Each day we’ll embrace the weather, the forest, and our friends with songs and greetings of thanks. Then we will embark on our time together with natural hands-on learning, storytelling, and exploring the world around us. This is a great opportunity for children to spend quality kid-time enjoying freedom outside and connecting with our natural world, their own self and each other.

The rather lovely people at Boat Camp don’t know I’m writing this post. But, since they do such a great job at providing the most wonderful outdoor experience for my 4 and 5 year olds, I thought they deserved a gigantic public thanks. Also, the several hundred followers of this blog seem to be fairly outdoorsy and might want to check out the classes and summer-camps they offer. 🙂

JenBoatCamp


I won’t re-hash all the arguments for why children should spend time outside. Many people write blogs and books on the topic.  If you think your child would like to spend some super quality time outside, check out Boat Camp Nature School. And if you are keen to find out more, grab a copy of Last Child in the Woods.

 

Reading MA Recreation

We live in Stoneham, MA, which abuts Reading and it turns out Reading has a very active recreation department and a bunch of great activities and playgrounds. Woot! Stoneham doesn’t have a Rec Department (sob :’-( ), but please post in comments if your town has one and where to find their events and resources.

This from Jenna Fiorente, the Reading Recreation Program Coordinator

Dear Playground Hunt Families,

Reading Recreation is a self-supporting Division of the Department of Public Works. The mission of Reading Recreation is to provide the community with year round recreational activities. The Division believes programs should be broad based to meet the recreational needs of all segments of the population.

We have several programs, workshops, and free events throughout the year. For the little ones, we have just started Super Soccer Stars and Babies & Books. We hope to grow our toddler programs based on feedback from our parents.

We have several parks and playgrounds here in Reading as well. For information on all of our programs, events, and facilities, please check out our website at www.readingrec.com . Please also feel free to call us at 781-942-9075.

 

Reading Recreation Department Links:

 

Playground Hunt Treasure Hunt

Printable Fall Treasure Hunt

Someone requested a fall treasure hunt (after some prodding on Facebook). So here it is: my first printable treasure hunt for roughly 3 to 5 year old preschoolers for FALL STROLLS. Please let me know what you think and what other kind of treasure hunt I could make. They take a couple of hours to get pictures, resize, make look pretty, etc. So I don’t want to make them just willy-nilly.

FallTreasureHunt – links to pdf file

Enjoy! And let me know what you think – and join us on Facebook if you haven’t already – thanks!

FallTreasureHunt FallTreasureHunt – links to pdf file

Explorer Kit Give-Away

I’ve been playing with the Explorer Kit, and thought you might like to as well. Enter the raffle below and spread the word – you even get 5 entries for signing up to help on our Build Day on August 24 to rebuild A.P. Rounds Playground.

Explorer Kit

 

This is a big kit filled with a bug hotel, magnifying glass, books, ball, flying disc, playing cards, bubbles, crayons, sand shovel, glowsticks, and carrying bag.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rebuild Our Playground

Please RSVP for a couple of hours on August 24 to help during the second (and final) Community Build Day. Lots of jobs for all ages and abilities – and we need a lot more volunteers to make this community effort be as successful as the first Build Day in May.

Use our sign-up sheet at http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/4jie8nj1h0gt/ or email volunteer@playgroundhunt.com to see what needs to be done on August 24

Let’s build OUR playground!!!

This is what we will be installing:

38-76015-1A0000 copy_BE_RebuildingRound (1)August 24, 2013
Community Build Day
A.P. Rounds Playground – corner Broadway and MacArthur, Stoneham MA
RSVP:  http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/4jie8nj1h0gt/ or email volunteer@playgroundhunt.com

Camping in Maine

We (Alex, Jen, Mama Angelika, and Bella the dog) went for a 7 day camping trip to Maine. This post is a cross between telling the stories, writing down the suggestions for making it work as a resource, and memos to myself for what to do different for the next time.

Driving

Google said it would take just under 4 hours to get from our house to the campground. It took 5 1/2 with pee stop, snack stop, pee stop, ice-cream stop, pee stop. That’s a long time for two active kids to sit, so I had prepped heavily with a lap table, picture books, coloring books, treasure hunt, and audio books.

The car tables I got were the Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray – which just sits on their lap and buckles around the back of the car seat. I loaded up the pockets on either side with drink bottle, snacks, crayons, and small coloring book.

The audio books I had with me were Bad Jelly The WitchandMagic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8on CD on loan from the Library. Alex in particular was very interested by the Tree House books and listened to the whole lot over the week.

Hint: I also found lots of audio books that could be borrowed for 2 weeks through the online loan system that lets you download files to your media player.

The drive went really quite well. The trickiest part was getting everyone to agree they had everything packed. Bella the dog had the front passenger seat and tried to lie down – often pushing the gear stick from D to N. I initiated a pit-stop every time they got restless, which is a change from other travels where I tried to make it to a certain place before stopping. Here I just figured that the main goal was to keep everyone happy – even if it took us an hour longer.

Campground

Several friends had recommended Searsport Shores Ocean Campground as a child-friendly, fun place to take young children. The more I read on their website, the more excited I got – they were writing about their goats, organic gardens, resident artists, and activities on the beach.

Wobbly bridges at the playground

Wobbly bridges at the playground

And it was even better than I had hoped for. There was a huge playground they had built themselves, and which was therefore interesting. There was a really nice play room with a cozy book corner (if you can call that many shelves a corner) with good books, a fireplace, and a shop for ice-cream (and various fiber arts and camping supplies).

The bathrooms were spotless, there were free hot showers, and even a handicapped stall, which is good for wrestling kids into the shower. There are also lots of washing machines and dryers. Turns out this is very useful if your theoretically potty-trained 3 year old has an accident and pees in her sleeping bag. Sigh.

The campground also has lots of gardens full of interesting plants for eating and dyeing. There are lots of sculptures, wood carvings, and little treasures to discover in the forests. And an amazing art studio occupied by a rotating cast of artists-in-residence.

Campsite

I chose a campsite where we could also park. The campground has sites where you have to walk a couple of hundred feet from car to campsite, but this seemed like a lot of hassle with little kids. Our campsite was shaded and all round really lovely. It had several trees where we built Fairy Houses, a fire pit (wood for sale at office), and a water faucet 10 yards away. The toilets ended up being a little bit too far for us. Next time we’ll get a closer site, and with electricity so I can recharge my phone.

Good things I brought for the campsite:

  • potty – even though both Alex and Jen are totally potty trained, sometimes we still get the “I have to go potty NOOOOWWWWWW!” and then it was good to have only a couple of feet to go. I have the Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus, Blue with disposable inserts.
  • 10 different flashlights – variety is the spice of life here, apparently
  • 100 glow sticks – each kid got 4-6 glow sticks each night as a night light
  • wet wipes for when the kids refused to get washed in the shower
  • bikes – Alex tore up the campground riding back and forth and we managed to get to places (bathroom) without spending 30 minutes trying to drag dragging feet.

Arts

Turns out the Searsport Shores Ocean Campground has artists that stay there for a whole week and provide activities for the whole family in the custom Studio.

Check out the schedule for this year:

Week of: Artist in Residence Activities
June 23-29 Tom Cote Wood carving and whittling
June 30-July 6 TBA Ocean learning adventures
July 7-13 Barbara Andrus Weaving a Shorefront structure from twigs and driftwood
July 14-20 Blake Henderickson Wood Block Buffet
July 21-27 Susan Tobey White & Jeannie Painting, drawing and seeing
July 28- Aug 3 Ellen Mason Playing with Dyes and Yarn and Fabric
Aug 4-10 Steven Scheurer Chain Maille, Macramé & Caricatures
Aug 11-17 Maryly Mathewman Seaside Quilting and Color play for all ages
Aug 18-24 TBA
Aug 25-31 TBA
September 1-8 Fiber College 4 days of amazing fiber classes, demos, vendors and happiness

Pretty awesome!!!

Dyeing with EllenWe got there halfway through Ellen Mason‘s week, but she had us promptly dyeing, stitching, cutting, etc, although she also does a lot of knitting and designs patterns. She was super fun and engaging and both kids looked forward to going back to the studio – sometimes we went twice a day 🙂

Next artist-in-residence was Steven Scheurer, a.k.a. Santa. He looks like Santa, and does a lot of volunteer work and charity stuff as Santa, and as an all-round nice guy taught us how to make survival bracelets and chain mail. This was a bit above Alex and Jen, but I (and all the older kids) had a great time making bracelets and dog collars.

Beach

The campground has it’s own private beach, and they ran several activities during our time there: seining – catching little fish with a net for the kids to look at and crab hunting  (for an invasive species) were the ones we made it to. They put a lot of emphasis on conservation and the ecology of the beach and made it fun and education for all.

Tide pools

Tide pools

It’s a rocky beach with a pretty big tide difference. That meant that at low tide we could find lots of different shells, look at the rock pools, wade around looking for green crabs, and chase the occasional little fish in clear cold water. It’s not a sandy swimming beach and Alex and Jen asked for one of those a couple of times before they got used to the rocks and being interested in the animals there.

Another blog post will follow about what the camping experience meant to us personally, but meanwhile here are some pictures:

Camping Books for Kids 3-5

Here is a list of seven books to take along camping and outdoor adventures. Be prepared and make sure even the smallest campers stay happy campers…

Just Me and My Dad

A very cute book about a Dad and Child going camping – good for 2-5 year olds and as beginning reader for older kids. The father lets the child participate as much as possible, although things don’t always work out. The story introduces activities with just Dad and child and would be a great humorous intro for some parental bonding. The pictures are bright and have an extra cute sub-story of some little critters that follow along.

Curious George goes Camping

Our favorite monkey goes camping. George and the Man with the Yellow Hat set up a campsite and George learns about camp fires, interacting with other campers, fetching water, and SKUNKS. I had to field a lot of questions about the tomato sauce bath George gets at the end…

 Olivia goes Camping

Simple writing introduces Olivia’s friend who does not want to go camping. Olivia’s friend is worried that she will get dirty and not know what to do on her first camping trip, so this is a good introduction for younger preschoolers for their first camping trip.

Amelia Bedelia goes Camping

Amelia goes on her first camping trip. Amelia Bedelia has never been camping in the great outdoors before. She’s trying her best to do exactly as she’s told, but pitching a tent is not the same as throwing it into the bushes, and catching a fish with your bare hands isn’t easy. As usual, the mixed-up housekeeper makes this camping trip one hugely entertaining adventure.

101 Family Vacation Games

The book includes games to play at the beach, camping, in the car, on the plane, at picnics, at vacation homes, and at birthday parties. Some sample games: Word Tennis, Treasure Hunt, Pebble Pictures, Storytelling Starters.

Age level is 4 and up.

Kids Camp!: Activities for the Backyard or Wilderness

Lots of activities to get kids 5 and over interested and invested in the outdoors while camping and in the back yard.

Go Out and Play!: Favorite Outdoor Games from KaBOOM!

Comprehensive collection of all the outdoor games we played as kids – and have forgotten the rules to. Rediscover favorites and learn new games from around the world. A lot of the games are for 5+ year olds, but can be adapted to younger children in all sorts of settings.