Best Museums and Parks for Kids to Play Pretend


Forget “playing” dress-up. Your sidekick sports her creative get-up anywhere and everywhere. Because for her, pretend play isn’t reserved for playtime; it’s a way of life. Celebrate her super-sized imagination at museums and parks that take it to the next level. Flip through to find spots where your kiddo can dream of being president, take to the seas pirate style, go on safari and more!

Walk the Plank with Emerald City Pirates—Seattle, Wa

Avast ye, mateys! Set sail with your little swashbuckler aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge on Seattle’s shores to play pirate for a day. Pirate passengers get pirate names and garb before they take to the high seas in search of Bonnie Bones, a hornswoggling rogue who absconded earlier with the pirates’ treasure. As you search high and low for this scallywag, you’ll be trained to walk, talk and even limbo like a pirate while taking in the sights and sounds of Lake Union. Once Bonnie’s caught, mini pirates share in the recovered bounty before heading back to their landlubber life. Ahoy!

Online: emeraldcitypirates.com

photo: Kristina Moy

Where do you take your kids for imaginary play? Share with us in a Comment below. 

—Allison Sutcliffe & Melissa Heckscher



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Fun Memory Games for Kids


Although we don’t always want them to remember everything (kids have a knack for recalling the most desperate of our negotiation tactics), brain boosting memory games are one of the best way to keep little minds busy and sharp as a tack to boot. Read on for our faves for every situation, from an old-school game night to impromptu activities to do on the go.

The Classics

Talk about memories. These old-school games are classics for a reason. Kids and adults love them, and they are perfect for a night in with the family.

Simon
Remember when this game was considered a high-tech toy? Mimicking Simon’s color, light and tone sequence may seem simple, but once you advance a few levels, get ready for a serious challenge. Get the kids inspired by watching one off these Simon-masters at work. 

Memory
Hasbro came out with the original in the 80s, and since then hundreds of variations have popped up, from Elmo to Frozen to Rescue Bots. There are plenty of DIY ideas out there, but at $5.99 for the real deal, we think it’s worth not having to draw 48 of your own picture cards.

memory trayPhoto: newkidscenter.com

The DIYs

These games can be done anywhere, anytime, as they require little more than a pen and paper (if that!). Oh, and your smarty’s razor-sharp memory, of course.

Remember the Code 
This all day game is fun to play anytime, and can turn into a little inside joke between you and your littles. Depending on their age, come up with either a fun phrase or random string of words. Write it on a slip of paper and let them look at it and try to memorize it for up to a minute. Then stick the paper in your pocket and carry it with you throughout the day. Starting just five minutes after you hide it away, turn to your kid and shout: What’s the code?! and see if they can recite it back. Do this throughout the day, and see if and when they are able to remember. Tiny treats for each time they crack the code make this even more rewarding.

What’s Missing?
Gather a number of items around the house and find a cover for the tray. You can use objects likea toothbrush, scissors, a toy, silverware, a rock, keys, etc. Place about 5 or 6 objects on the tray (make sure to use less if kids are little). Cover the tray and place on a table. Allow the kids to look at the tray for a few minutes. Cover the tray back up and take out of the room. Take one object off the tray out of kids’ view and cover back up. Take the tray back to the table and remove the cover. Ask kids which item is missing. Do this until all objects are gone and all kids have a turn of naming a missing object. You can either give points for right answers or remove a child from the game if they answer incorrectly. Go to newkidscenter.com for even more games that you can do with what you already have at home. 

kid-on-ipad

The High Tech

Animal Memory 
This is a digital version of the classic Memory game, featuring animals. We love that there are no bells and whistles, and that the sounds can be easily disabled. There are 4 levels and 4 themes. Get more info and download it here: commonsensemedia.org

Memory Train
Memory Train is an engaging, fast-moving memory game. It can be helpful for kids who have visual processing issues, as they need to decipher color and shape at a quick pace. It can also be helpful for kids who need help with their working memory, as they need to remember the color shape they saw and identify it with three different paint colors. Get more info and download it here: commonsensemedia.org

Do you have a favorite memory game to play with your kids? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

 



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Dog Cafes Are Coming and We’ve Got the Deets


photo: Pixabay

New Yorkers who don’t like leaving their pooches at home may be excited to know the city will soon see its first dog cafe, according to an article in the neighborhood news site DNAInfo

The cafe, Boris and Horton (reportedly named for the owners two dogs), is supposed to open in the Lower East Side this winter. Unlike cat cafes, which provide a roomful of cats so visitors can cuddle, pet or simply bask in their cat-ness, Boris and Horton will be a bring-your-own dog sort of setup. Because of Health Department regulations, the cafe will be split, so that the dogs will be kept on one side of a glass wall while their owners mingle, nosh and drink wine and coffee on the other side, DNAInfo said.

“It’s like basically going to someone’s nice living room with your dog, and it’s adjacent to a place where you can get all your food and coffee,” Coppy Holzman said in the article.

This isn’t the first canine cafe to try its paws out in a big city. Last year, The Dog Cafe opened in Los Angeles as an alternative to an animal shelter. The cafe, which serves as a “halfway house” for rescued dogs, also hosts events, including dog yoga classes (where poses like “Downward facing dog” take on a whole new meaning).

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because cat cafes came first. New York has at least three cat cafes — and Los Angeles has one — where people can sip coffee while simultaneously dangling a string for curious kitties.

For more information and to get updates on the opening, visit Boris and Horton online.

Do you wish there was a dog or cat cafe in your city? Tell us in the comments below. 



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10 Fun Facts About The Moon


From fairytales and storybooks to lunar modules and space exploration, our fascination with the moon begins as kids and continues well into adulthood. For National Moon Day, we’ve rounded up some scientific fun facts you can share with the kids and maybe your co-workers too! Scroll down to learn more.

Photo: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade via Flickr

1. The distance from the moon to Earth is 238,857 miles. If you drove from the moon to Earth at 65 mph it would take you 3,674 hours to get there, or 153 days if you never stopped for bathroom or snack breaks!

2. The moon was formed when a huge object hit Earth and blasted out rocks that all came together and started orbiting round Earth. They all melted together like in a big heated pot, cooled down and became the moon.

3. The moon goes round Earth every 27.3 days.

4. Our moon is the fifth largest moon in the Solar System.

buzz_on_moonPhoto: jasbond007 via Flickr

5. Neil Armstrong was the very first person to walk on the moon. He stepped out of his spacecraft, the Eagle, on 21 July 1969 and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Weird Fact: There are NO pictures of Neil Armstrong on the moon (they are all of his partner, Buzz Aldrin) except this one above, where you can just make him out in the reflection in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet.

6. Mons Huygens is the tallest mountain on the moon, it is 15,420 feet tall, just over half the height of Mt Everest (29,029 feet). But because the moon’s gravitational pull is about 83% less than on Earth, you could pretty much just float to the top. Easy!

7. The moon is very hot during the day but very cold at night. The average surface temperature is 224 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and NEGATIVE 243 degrees at night. Brrr!

Phases10-5x3w

8. The phases of the moon are: New Moon, Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, Crescent…then it’s back to New Moon.

9. A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is between the sun and the moon.

10. Earth’s tides are largely caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. You can thank the moon for boogie boarding!

Do you have any out-of-this world facts about the Moon that you can share? Tell us in the comments below! 

—Erin Feher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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70 Easy Acts of Kindness for Kids


Kid’s are naturally compassionate, so why not take a few today (and every day) to foster their kindness by joining the Random Acts of Kindness movement? From simple gestures like carrying out groceries to creating artwork for a new neighbor, we’ve found 70 ways you and the kids can pay it forward. Scroll down to shine on!

photo: Alicja via flickr

1. Compliment a stranger.

2. Collect your child’s old books that they no longer read and donate them to a children’s center, shelter or local library..

3. Pay the bridge toll of the person behind you.

4. Bring flowers to a coworker or friend.

5. Carry someone’s groceries to their car for them.

6. Send a friend a positive text.

7. Ask a stranger how they are feeling today, and actually listen to the answer.

Because You Forgot the Cookie Containersphoto: It’s Always Autumn

8. Bake cookies and deliver them to the local fire or police station.

9. Leave a big tip for a server.

10. Make sandwiches and distribute to homeless in your neighborhood.

11. Help a senior cross the street.

12. Buy an extra bottle of dishsoap or bar of soap and leave it for your neighbor.

13. Give up your seat on the bus.

14. Make someone a cup tea.

15. Deliver a meal or a potted plant to a random neighbor.

16. Walk or bike instead of driving.

happy dogs photo: Ben via flickr

17. Donate dog or cat food to the local animal shelter (call to ask them what brands they need). Many shelters want and need old blankets and towels as well. 

18. Text a compliment to a friend.

19. Make a kindness calendar with the kids or download this one and print!

20. Send a postcard to someone you love, even if they live nearby (or in the same house!).

21. Make a donation of a birthday box to a local food shelter: include items like cake mixes, frosting, candles, balloons and party hats.

22. If it’s a hot day, hand out cold bottles of water.

shared umbrella friendsphoto: Dun.can via flickr 

23. If it’s raining, share your umbrella for a few blocks.

24.Make kindness cards from drawings and paintings of kid’s art. Drop a few by the nearest senior center and ask if they can use them for anyone who needs a bit of cheer. 

25. Pick up trash off the street.

26. Call an old friend or relative and sing them a silly song.

27. Leave a note of kindness in the pocket of a coat in a clothing store, like “You look great in this!” or “You are more important than you could ever know.”

28. Host a bake sale to end child hunger.

29. Spring for coffee and donuts for your co-workers.

30. Hold the door open for someone.

31. Add extra time to your meter for the next person.

chalk art

32. Head to the park with some chalk and write sweet messages to the world.

33. Call a friend or relative and tell a joke.

34. Take fresh fruit or a small treat to your child’s daycare or send an apple to school for your child’s teacher.

35. Make a thank you card for the postal worker who delivers your mail.

36. Give thanks for the everyday things, not just big acts or gifts. “Thank you for making me laugh today,” or “Thank you for helping me figure out that math problem,” or even simply, “Thank you for loving me.”

37. Slip a note complimenting someone’s parking on the windshield of their car.

38. Share your toys.

39. Text message someone you’ve not talked to today “I love you.”

love hugs kid kindnessphoto: Kathy Neufeld via flickr

40. Distribute random hugs.

41. Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop.

42. Make a friendship bracelet and give it to a new friend.  

43. Compliment someone sitting near you.

44. Smile at 5 people.

45. Leave your change in a vending machine after you buy something.

46. Send someone a laugh.

47. Leave a positive note on a bulletin road.

48. Smile at 10 people.

49. Walk a neighbor’s dog.

50. Rake leaves, shovel snow or do a little yard work/weeding for your neighbor.

51. Buy the Sunday paper and a pastry and leave it at your neighbor’s door.

52. Empty the dishrack or do a load of laundry for someone whose not expecting it.

53. Offer to help a co-worker or schoolmate with a problem.

love you note photo: Jamie Buscemi’s pics via flickr 

54. Leave a sweet note in your spouse or partner’s wallet.

55. Put a post-it note with a positive message like, “Today will be awesome” on a random door.

56. Leave extra change at the laundry mat.

57. Offer to run an errand for someone.

58. Read a book with a child.

59. Hide a few toys or Matchbox cars in the sand at the playground.

60. Buy a spare umbrella and find someone who needs it.

61. Get some silly glasses and wear them until you make someone laugh.

little free library photo: Ali Eminov via flickr 

62. Start a Little Free Library

63. Leave a dish of fresh water out for neighborhood dogs in front of your house or business.

64. Use sidewalk chalk to write out a message of love.

65. Play with someone new on the playground today.

66. Give your child’s teacher $5 toward classroom expenses or helping to pay for a field trip.

67. Paint a picture for a neighbor you don’t know that well.

68. Write a letter to the first person that pops into your mind (and don’t forget to send it!)

69. Help another kid with his homework.

70. Take out your neighbor’s trash for them.

Want more? Check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s new Kindness Generator.

What are your acts of kindness? Share them with us in the comments below. 

—Amber Guetebier

featured photo: ponce_photography via pixabay



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12 Fun Everyday Activities To Do With Your Kids


Who wants to wait a whole year to celebrate? Not us! Party like it’s your kids’ unbirthday any old day. Here are 12 easy ideas for simple-but-special gifts and celebrations for the other 364 days.

photo: Tarah Photography 

1. Weekday Waffles! Whip up this weekend treat on a Tuesday or Wednesday to start the day with a festive air. Stick a few candles on top if you want to get really wild.

2. DIY Face Paint. Nothing says festive like going full lion-face. Use cosmetics you have at home if you haven’t yet invested in a full face-paint kit.

3. Fake Birthday, Free Cake. Tell a little fib at a restaurant that offers the whole song and dance for kiddie birthdays. Just don’t expect to go back next month for their real birthday!

4. Kid’s Choice. Present three awesome options for an excursion (museum? pool? indoor play space?) and let them make their wish.

5. Spa Day. Break out a bucket of warm water, a few clay face masks and the nail polish. A little pampering makes any day extra special.

6. Movie Date. Go catch the latest kid flick on the big screen. Smuggle in plenty of healthy treats, and even let them pick the outfit they want to walk the red carpet in.

7. Plan a Picnic. There’s nothing like dining al fresco to make a day feel unique.

8. Sleepover Surprise! Invite their bestie to spend the night.

9. Hit a County Fair or Carnival. The festival circuit is still going strong this time of year, so buy a handful of tickets and prepare to be corn dogged.

10. Road Trip! Pack up the car for a little day trip. A nearby beach, hike or even just a neighboring town will offer a special change of pace.

11. Find an Outdoor Concert. Dancing with your Littles is most definitely a festive occasion.

12. Unwrap Some “Presents.” Wrap up old toys they haven’t seen in a while, your haul from the grocery store or even new needed school supplies. The best part is unwrapping anyway.

Happiest unbirthday to you and yours!!

Do you have any ideas for fun unbirthday celebrations? Tell us in the comments below. 



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6 Ways to Turn Dollar Store Finds into Creative Activities


Let’s be honest, it’s hard (if not impossible) to resist the lure of the dollar bins. Don’t fight it. Give into the impulse buy guilt-free, because we’ve got easy ideas that transform items like shower curtains, pool noodles, and craft sticks into hours of play time for your wee one. Read on to find your excuse!

photo: Mom Inspired Life

1. Shower on the Creativity
Leave it to Danielle at Mom Inspired Life to come up with a creative way to use an on-the-cheap shower curtain to entertain your petite Picasso. Turning one into a canvas is where it’s at when it comes to outdoor artistry with your Little. Get Danielle’s tips and ideas here to make the most of your masterpiece.

photo: Hands on as We Grow

2. Let It Grow
Couple your coffee filter stash with a four pack of food coloring from the dollar bins, and set your aspiring artist off to create gorgeous blooms. Jamie at Hands On As We Grow can give you the run down on turning food coloring into liquid watercolors your mini Monet can use any time he thinks you need a colorful bouquet or a kid-made centerpiece for your dinner table. It’s that easy!

photo: Little Bins for Little Hands

3. Make Cool Discoveries
Sure those dollar store dinos work great in the sandbox. But we heart this creative twist on everyday play that adds a dash of STEM learning and countless hours to your Little’s dinosaur experience. Find out how to create your own excavation site using simple supplies you can find on the cheap from Sarah at Little Bins for Little Hands. Can you dig it?

photo: Developing the Whole Child

4. Overcome Obstacles
You’ve got pool noodles a-plenty in your summer fun time stash. And adding to your collection is so easy (and cheap!) this time of year. So we’re all about following the lead of Developing the Whole Child and using spares to create an outdoor obstacle course for your sweet tot to navigate. Find out how to set one up here.

photo: The Seasoned Mom

5. Take Aim
Summer time games on the cheap can be hard to come by (have you checked the price on water balloons lately?). But Blair at The Seasoned Mom is all about creating lasting memories without a big price tag. Check out her supply list for this simple sponge dart game before you hit the dollar store. Then send your crew out for a little front porch competition when you return.

photo: Happy Hooligans

6. Craft Stick People
Put the yarn and fabric scraps cluttering your craft room to good use making stick figures. We’re crushing on their simplicity almost as much as their cuteness factor. And your kiddo will love designing entire families of these folks. Discover the secret to creating your own adorable collection from Jackie at Happy Hooligans. 

Which dollar-store-fueled activity piques your interest? Tell us about it in a Comment.

— Allison Sutcliffe



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20 Inside Games to Play When It’s Too Hot Out


Too hot to go out and play today? That doesn’t mean you have to stick to LEGO bricks and iPad games. We’ve got 20 ways you can keep the play going even when the sun is blazing. Scroll down to get going.

photo: Jen Kossowan via Mama Papa Bubba

1. Play store. Set up shop in just in no time at all and play grocery store. Or maybe you’d rather vend faux froyo or play post office? Here are 9 pretend play scenarios you can set up and play all afternoon.

2. Ice-capades! Freeze colored water in ice cube trays and then let the kids paint with their slowly-melting water colors. Check out these other surprising ways you can have fun with ice.

3. Play a round of “Would you rather?” Would you rather have a pet monkey or a pet porcupine? Inquiring minds want to know! Ask your mini-me to answer this and other thought-provoking pairings when you play a few rounds of Would You Rather. All you need are a few good questions. The Family Dinner Project has a great list of kid-friendly ones you can pull up on your device, so you can dole out new questions as fast as your Little can answer them.

4. Teach your teeny Houdinis a trick or two.

photo: thomasland via flickr

5. Read together. Here are our favorite new-releases in the picture book world. We also love these new and forthcoming chapter books.

6. Make a rad animal mask.

7. Go small. Outfit a mouse house, dollhouse or fairy dwelling with some tiny furniture you can make yourself.

photo: CK, Carl, Carlo, Carlito via flickr

8. Laugh out loud. Stage a little comedy show in your living room. Here are 50 of our favorite kid’s jokes to get you going.

9. Write a story.

photo: Myrmi via flickr

10. Pick a card. Learn a simple card game or trick.

11. Make magic. Transform your countertop into a wizard’s apothecary with pretend potions.

12. Connect the dots. Tic Tac Toe is so yesterday. The Dot Game is clearly today. And it’s one that can easily be re-created when you’re in a lurch. All you need is a paper and a pen to make a large scale dot grid. Then, you and your mini-me take turns connecting one dot to the next, trying to complete squares. When you do, don’t forget to claim your property with a big fat initial smack dab in the middle of the box.

13. Create a mailbox and write each other letters.

14. Act like a total pig

photo: totoknitshop.com

15. Pop up! Make a batch of homemade bubbles and see who can blow the biggest one.

16. Bake some blueberry muffins.

17. Spark a thought. Let your little’s wishes come true with a simple shooting star craft.

photo: Evan Long via flickr 

18. The truth is out there. Ever feel like your kid is kinda strange? Embrace it and turn them into a space alien.

19. Handcraft your own instruments and then have a dance party.

20. Get over it! And under it, and through it when you set up an obstacle course around the house for your kiddos to complete. Use what you’ve got (hello, boxes from holiday deliveries!) to set one up. Then have your munchkin stretch a bit before she sets out to test her ninja warrior skills on the course that gives her a totally legit reason to climb around the furniture. That’s a win-win!

What are your favorite indoor boredom busters when it’s too hot to go out? 

—Amber Guetebier



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