Posts Tagged 'things to do'

Earth Day every day

heart earth from sticks and shells

Unaltered image. Kate Ter Haar, Flickr. CC license.

Children love to get out into nature and have fun. They also love to help and learn new skills. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to weave those together. You can celebrate with your children in your own backyard or attend one of the many local events for families listed below.

Since we need our Earth to be healthy every day (and not just once a year), I challenge you to find an activity that will have lasting meaning for you and your children and make a pledge. Perhaps even consider a service to the Earth.

Find your (or your child’s) “love” from the list below and learn what you can do. Easy activities may take a few minutes. More challenging tasks can be done in an afternoon. Commitments are ongoing. Here are some ideas to get started.

Love: Playing outside in the yard

  • Pledge: Avoid chemical pesticides in your lawn and garden.
  • Activities
    • Easy: Embrace the dandelions!
      • Make dandelion flower chains with your young children.
      • For older children, make your own pest control spray with this recipe.
    • Challenge: Plant native plants and trees. These varieties don’t need high amounts of water, fertilizer or pest control. Bonuses: They attract birds and beneficial insects to eat any pests. Children can help choose which plant species to add to the landscape and where, then use a smaller size shovel to help dig.
    • Commit:
      • Use manual and non-toxic techniques to remove weeds.  Small hands are great for pulling young weeds, but maybe leave thistle and picky plants for gloved grown up hands or shovels.
      • Learn more about green gardening.

Love: Going to the local park

  • Pledge: Keep your favorite park beautiful and toxic-free.
  • Activities
    • Easy: Bring a bag, wear gloves, and pick up litter.
    • Challenge: Inquire about the pesticide policies at your favorite park and request pesticide-free.
    • Commit: Volunteer to help maintain (e.g., pull weeds, spread mulch, etc.) a pesticide-free playground or park.

Love: Bees and butterflies

  • Pledge: Provide food sources and habitat for pollinators.
  • Activities
    • Easy: Dandelions and clover are important food sources for bees.
      • Spread clover seeds in your lawn to attract and support bees.
      • Let the dandelions flower.
    • Challenge:
      bee house

      Bee house by Ty Gwenyn. Flickr, CC license.

      • Plant milkweed seeds in your garden for monarchs.
      • Plant other native plants to attract pollinators.
      • Build native bee houses.
      • Make a bee watering dish by putting rocks and pebbles in a wide, shallow bowl and partially covering the rocks with fresh water.
    • Commit: Avoid neonicotinoid (neonics), a type of insecticide.
      • Don’t buy neonicotinoid pesticides. (Look for a warning label and a small picture of a bee.)
      • Don’t purchase plants that have had neonics applied.
      • Ask your favorite bedding plants store to avoid neonics products on shelves and on bee-friendly plants.

Love: The Earth’s climate

  • Pledge: Use less energy.
  • Activities
    • Easy: Post small reminders to turn lights off when leaving a room and to unplug unused devices and appliances. Try: “Be nice, unplug twice: once at the outlet, once at the device.”
    • Challenge: Think foot power
      • Leave the car in the garage for short trips that are close to home, like to the park, school or errands.
      • Gear up your family’s bikes. Kids can pump air into bike tires, help clean bike chains, etc.
    • Commit:
      • Set up a clothes line or rack to take advantage of free solar energy to dry clothes (even if just some of your loads) and give the second biggest consumer of electricity in your household a time out. No need to spend money and energy heating up clothes in a machine when it’s plenty hot outside!
      • Speaking of hot, remember to forego the A/C whenever possible or turn it to a lower setting.

These are just a few ideas, but we can think about the Earth in all of our favorite activities. If you love to swimming or spending time on the water, find ways to help protect rivers, the Great Lakes, and our oceans (such as avoiding microbeads in facial scrubs and sparkles in toothpaste, or helping at a beach clean up day). Gather ideas from your children as well. They may offer up some wonderful surprises!

If you’re looking for more ways to explore the bounty, the beauty, and the wonders of this planet, check out one of these local Earth Day 2017 events. Events are free unless otherwise noted.

  • GreenFest at the Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak
    Saturday, April 22, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
    Cost: Free with Admission (Bring in an old cell phone for reduced admission of $9)

Our children are passionate about the Earth. Let’s find ways to have fun and also show them that they can make a difference!

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at melissas@ecocenter.org or visit http://www.ecocenter.org/lmg

Successful solutions for the homebound spring breaker

 

As the weather vacillates from winter to, well, still winter here in Michigan, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to more exciting times. Something must be on the horizon to break up this monotony, one thinks. And indeed, something is coming. No, not the zombie apocalypse.

Spring Break!

At this point in the school year, chances are high that spring break is right around the corner.  Many families use this time to travel – vacationing or visiting family elsewhere. Others, however, remain close to home and fill their time hiding from their children doing fun local activities. You may think, “But what can we do? My town is so boring.” Fear not! There is so much out there that this article won’t be sufficient to capture all of the possibilities.

  • Museums. The Detroit metro area offers several options that are specifically geared toward kids such as the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
  • Indoor waterparks. Frankenmuth and Sandusky have a variety of fabulous ones. Live across the border? Adventure Bay Family Water Park is right in the heart of downtown Windsor.
  • Aquatic centers. Troy and Warren have indoor facilities.
  • Pottery and painting studios.
  • Zoos. Detroit and Toledo both boast excellent ones.
  • Metroparks and county parks offer hiking, bird watching, and nature centers.
  • Local farms. Lots of baby animals arrive during this time of year.
  • Libraries. Many have programs for younger kids.
  • Gyms. Even if you aren’t a member, many gyms offer day camps for kids whose parents still need to work.
  • Indoor climbing and play centers. Jungle Java and Detroit Kid City are popular choices.
  • Bowling!
  • Movies
  • Mini golf and/or the driving range

If transportation, finances or time are factors, then there is always the tried-and-true, time-honored, parent-approved activity that is sure to please all of the children: chore time! Surely there is a room that needs tidying or some dishes to wash. Many hands make light work, as Ye Olde Saying goes. And the kids sure do like those “Olde” sayings. Before they know it, they’ll be asking to go back to school.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and former teacher who used to love Spring Break.

Prepare to be “Bowl”ed over

nrg stadium

Cropped image. Urban.houstonian, Flickr. CC license.

The big game. That pinnacle of football achievement. The height of prowess. Best vs. the best. A final chance for the players to exude dominance. A final chance to admire Tom Brady’s form. (The way he throws a football, I mean. Of course that’s what I meant.)

If you’re a football fan, you tune in for the game. You watch as the offense outruns—nay, outsmarts— the defense. You observe the strategy on both sides as tempers flare and celebrations ensue. You analyze the replays with interest and deliver your own verdict on the judgments of the officials. If you’re especially savvy, you can decree with certainty if a player “completed the process of the catch.” This is a thrilling, four-hour competition that will be talked about for decades (or days). Either way it’s still thrilling!

However …

If you have less of a technical interest in the game, and are perhaps only watching because certain loved ones in your life have commandeered the remote leaving you without further recourse, then perhaps these supplemental game day elements may interest you.

Squares. You’ve probably heard of these. If you haven’t, please Google the concept because I thought about explaining it and quickly realized it would put me over my word limit for the article. Just trust me that they’re super fun (super fun! See what I did there?) and cause you to care deeply about those pesky two-point conversions.

Commercials. You’ve probably heard of these, too. Air time during the big game is highly coveted among advertisers; as such, they pay a lot of money for their 30-second slot ($5,000,000 per slot in 2016) and they work hard to make darn sure you’re paying attention to them. The commercials are usually creative masterpieces, some containing catchphrases that are sure to live on in the vernacular of our society for years. Think “Where’s the beef?

Halftime entertainment. If you only have the ability to tune in for a few minutes, try to time your viewing for halftime. Some acts are more memorable than others, but you don’t want to be that person at the watercooler on Monday who missed this year’s wardrobe malfunction display of talent.

Various furry bowls. No, not your toilets at home. I refer to the Kitten and Puppy Bowls airing on the Hallmark Channel and Animal Planet, respectively. If no one in your house is interested in seeing men slam each other into the turf, then turn your attention to the gentle carousing of the feline and canine varieties. The programs are both on earlier in the day, so they make for excellent family friendly viewing.

As that football guy Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” The big game is all about chasing perfection. And catching things. And all of the other excellent aspects of the day. So do try to tune in on February 5.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and legendary loser at Squares.

Girding for the gridiron

Girls' fantasy football league trophy

My Pigtails & Pigskins championship trophy!

My fellow ladies (oops, a little bit of an oxymoron there), perhaps you’ve noticed the changes that are afoot. Summer is drawing to a close. The school supply section at Target beckons. Myriad official forms lurk in desperate piles. Your offspring clamor for the latest and greatest in licensed-character backpacks. Faced with these hurdles, your head begins to spin. So I address you today with an important query: Are you ready for some foooootball?

Yes, it is true. It’s been a long, slow road since the regular season wrapped up in January, but now we can unleash our passion once again. We will take up our laptops, clutch our mugs of coffee, and venture forth into hours of research on espn.com. The games have started, and now must we begin that Sacred Rite of Late Summer: the Fantasy Football draft. Season starts Sept. 8!

If you’ve never played Fantasy Football, first let me gasp in horror. Now allow me to share some excellent reasons why you really must consider participating in this giant time suck fun hobby.

Live draft. This is the best part of each season (other than winning, of course). It is a ritual in which all of the members in a Fantasy league get together and make their player selections.

The order in which members can make their picks (the “draft order”) is randomly selected by computer. Those drafting, in turn, can randomly select which colleagues to snarl at throughout the draft for both real and imagined offenses. Choosing a player whom someone else was intending to draft — “He’s MINE!” — can certainly be included among such transgressions.

League members who can’t attend the draft in person can participate online via the “trash talk” aspect of the draft platform. This is an excellent feature that allows everyone to share in the joy of the cutthroat competition. Live drafts often involve food in some capacity, too, simply adding to the appeal. After all, where else can one comfortably hurl insults at friends while consuming mass quantities of homemade goodies?

Conversation piece. From September through January, you never have to worry about standing in an awkward silence when thrust into a group of people you don’t really know. As long as you have a Fantasy team, you have something to chat about. “Is Brady still suspended?” is an excellent opening, one that will undoubtedly evolve into a lively debate about the inflation parameters of footballs. Or you could bring up a general concern you have over your looming bye weeks. You may not, however, want to discuss the status of your tight end unless it’s already been established that you are talking about football.

Shopping. This is a wonderful way to satisfy that insatiable urge to acquire stuff. (You know, that need to buy that results in leaving Target with several cartfuls of items when you went in for “just one thing?” Perhaps that’s just me.)

Anyway, Fantasy Football provides that chance to get new things because you can dump players who disappoint you and pick up new ones. These new players can provide a glimmer of hope that maybe you can still be the winner of your league in spite of the way CJ Anderson continues to ruin everything (or perhaps that’s just me again).

See, players not selected during the original draft hang out on the waiver wire. If a league member decides one of her players isn’t performing up to par, she can drop that guy and pick up someone else off of this waiver wire. It’s just like shopping, but it’s free.

Being forced to watch Lions games. If you live in metro Detroit, you’ve likely been subjected to this at some point. It’s especially an issue on Thanksgiving when you’ve just enjoyed a wonderful, turkey-filled meal and then … ugh. The Lions are on. Cue the indigestion. But when you play Fantasy Football, chances are good that you have at least one player on the opposing team, and now you have something to cheer for! It’s also possible that you were stuck with Matthew Stafford as your quarterback and you think you might be able to root for him. If this is the case, I offer sincere condolences and can only pat you on the back from afar as he is creamed by the other team’s defensive line.

Bonding with children. If you have children of football-watching age, Fantasy is way for you to commiserate over your frustrations and failures together. Our family has its own league that’s just for the parents, kids and a few trusted family friends. It provides a safe environment in which youth can learn and grow in the ways of offense, defense and special teams — areas that are sadly overlooked in most school classrooms.

If your children are competitive, you may want to have extra Kleenex on hand when their quarterback throws numerous incompletions, or for when their star running back is benched for being a doofus. Brace yourself for hearing more exclamations of “WHY?” and “NO!” than usual (Then again, it’s quite possible that you won’t even notice because you will be shrieking right along with them).

You may also learn interesting things about your progeny that you never would’ve guessed, such as an irrational yet stubborn need to absolutely, positively own three kickers. It is a unique challenge, as a parent, to guide children through their team ownership. Fantasy Football offers so much in the way of teachable moments. How are you not doing this yet?

According to the internet, Fantasy Football was invented by a man named Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach in 1963. He and some friends came up with the idea of selecting (“drafting”) certain pro football players to play imaginary games against each other. Their scoring system evolved over the years into the complicated beast it is today, and math dummies like yours truly all over the world are thankful that computers can now make the calculations for us. At the click of a button, we can know which players caught how many passes, ran how many yards, scored how many touchdowns and fumbled how many times. We instantly know which of our players did a good job for our team and which ones need to be benched in the future. Instant gratification is a wonderful thing.

Thank you, Bill, for your marvelous creation. Because of you, we are definitely ready for some football.

Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and Fantasy Football enthusiast.

Holy Toledo! Run, don’t walk to the Toledo Zoo

Girl in pretend egg and boy in pretend nest

My kids loved pretending they were animals.

My brother-in-law always says that with kids, if you’re not on offense, you’re on defense. He’s right, so I put a lot of effort into keeping my kids occupied (keeping my kids occupied = maintaining my sanity).

In the spirit of parents helping parents, I recently discovered the Toledo Zoo. Many of you have probably visited already, but for those who have only thought about it, stop thinking and go. It’s fantastic!

I just took my 4.5-year-old twins. The 90-minute car ride went easily. It was the kids’ first time out of state, so when I told them they were in Ohio, they asked “What’s Ohio?” I explained it’s another state, and we live in Michigan. That’s when my daughter said, “Are we still on our planet?”

Sort of. We’re in Ohio.

Enough Ohio bashing. Back to the day trip.

The directions the zoo has posted online were spot on, so once we got off the freeway, I had no trouble finding it. Also, they participate in reciprocating zoo memberships, so if you’re a member of the Detroit Zoo, bring your card and you’ll get 50 percent off admission. For two adults and two kids, it was $35 to get in, plus $7 for parking.

People told me that you get to be closer to the animals at the Toledo Zoo, and they weren’t kidding. It’s a very hands-on place full of activities and learning experiences for the kids. There’s even a zipline over the giraffes!

A man, little girl and little boy standing close to aquarium tank

The aquarium tanks make it very easy for kids (big and little) to get close to the sea life.

It’s a big place — you park on one side of the road and walk over a pedestrian bridge to the other side of the zoo. The kids saw real elephants for the first time, touched starfish, built a nest and hatched from an egg. The highlight for me was the new aquarium. Beautifully done — and air conditioned — the aquarium has several “touch” experiences and easy-to-see tanks.

This zoo is built for kids. It’s almost a theme park/zoo. They have a splash pad, an indoor forest learning center, and two playscapes complete with rock climbing walls that even my littles scaled without a problem. There’s also a children’s area where kids can play and grown-ups can hunt Pokémon. Seriously. They were all over the place. So were Pokéstops.

Not having any faith in the quality of zoo food or the desire to spend an arm and a leg, I brought a picnic lunch, but there were plenty of eating options. One of the café areas is in the building that used to house bigger animals, like tigers. Patrons ate in the steel-bar cages that long-ago housed carnivores, as the etched stone at the top of the building proclaimed. It was a cool experience.

Be warned, we decided to get an ice cream treat in the heat of the afternoon, so we stopped at a stand. My son asked for his favorite chocolate ice cream. Do you know how excited he was when the lady handed him a full pint? Best. Mom. Ever.

And, yes, there were bathrooms everywhere.

All in all, I’d highly recommend this as a family day trip. We spent the entire day there and didn’t get to see everything. But it’s safe to say, we’ll be heading back.

– Rebecca Calappi is a Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

Letterboxing fun

Boy on his dad's shoulders in the woods

Cropped image. Ikmal H Noordin, Flickr. CC license.

It’s summertime in Michigan. The kids are out of school; the weather is warm and inviting. Many of us are looking for a way to unplug and spend some time with nature. But if your kids are anything like mine (and to be honest, like me), they might need a little more incentive to take a walk in the woods than simply “Look at the leaves on that tree.” One thing my kids can’t resist (I wonder where they get it from?) is a prize! Take a walk in the woods to find a reward?! When can we go? So we started letterboxing.

What is letterboxing?

No, this has nothing to do with the format in which you watch a movie. Letterboxing is an activity that involves following a set of clues to find a hidden box, usually in the woods but in some other surprising places as well.

All you need to start letterboxing is a team (my family is “Well Done, Dragon”), a rubber stamp, an ink pad, and a notebook. You then use a letterboxing website (I like Atlas Quest) to search for sets of clues that will lead you to hidden treasures all over the world.

How does it work?

People who letterbox hide boxes in various places and write a set of clues (some simple, some maddeningly complex) that lead you to the prize. You may have to use a compass or work together to solve riddles and puzzles.

Some clues tell a wonderful story, but they all lead you to a hiding place where the author has a box containing a notebook and a rubber stamp. When you find the box, put your team stamp in the notebook in the box, and the stamp from the box in your notebook. Be stealthy; the first rule of letterboxing is not to let other people see what you are doing.

Remember to look at the notebook you found to see what teams have found the box before you. Many of us put our hometowns and the date we made the find — it’s amazing to see how far some people will go to find their prize.

As you continue to find letterboxes, your notebook fills with images from the rubber stamps — many of which are hand carved — as you make a record of your finds. I also like to make notes in our book about which team member made the find, and other cool stuff we saw along the way (like the family of baby raccoons that followed my youngest with her bag of peanuts).

Letterboxing vs. geocaching

I know some of you are reading this and saying, “I’ve heard of this, but I thought it was called geocaching.” Geocaching is different as it involves using a GPS and coordinates to find things.

Letterboxing is tech-free beyond finding your set of clues. Instead of coordinates, you use your brain and your powers of observation to follow clues and solve puzzles. That’s what got us hooked on letterboxing — not just the pleasure of the find, but the satisfaction of solving the riddles and unraveling the clues.

Go out and letterbox

Letterboxing is something you can spend the day doing, or something you can incorporate into another activity. One of my favorite summer days ended when my family stumbled out of the woods dirty, sweaty, and beaming after spending six hours hunting down a series of boxes (we found them all). But there are also many letterboxes hidden in the wooded areas of highway rest stops. In fact, Atlas Quest has a feature where you can search by proximity to a highway route, so we like to get a list of boxes hidden along our route on road trips. There are also boxes hidden in less woodsy areas (look for team Well Done, Dragon’s stamp if you letterbox at Cedar Point or the Rochester Hills Public Library). I’ve even heard that there are letterboxes hidden on each of Disney’s cruise ships but I haven’t had the chance to check that one out. Yet.

So unplug, find some clues to a box near you, and go find your prize. And if you find Box 2 of National Treasure, can you give me a hint?

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program Volunteer

Springtime play and learning

Little girl blowing bubbles outside

While the cold, rainy days make you think you should check your calendar for when Halloween is coming, spring is really here. Soon a beautiful Michigan summer will follow. What a great opportunity to get outside and help your kids develop their motor skills under the guise of play. While kids all love their electronics, you’d be surprised how happy they are to go outside and play even the simplest of games.

Get out and play

  • Don’t sell short the importance of playing games like catch or kicking a ball; it helps build upper and lower body strength, eye-hand coordination and balance. You can mix it up too: Change the size of the ball you throw, or balance on one leg and see how long you can each stand before kicking the ball back.
  • Bubbles are great for kids and even school-age kids like them. Blowing bubbles builds oral motor and fine motor skills. The larger bubble wands are great fun for promoting running as you make bigger and bigger bubbles.
  • Kite flying is also wonderful for coordination and special time together.
  • Some more active ideas include roller skating and bike riding. Both activities are a fantastic chance to build strength, coordination, endurance and many happy memories. But don’t forget your protective gear — especially a helmet — for both you and your child.

Academics outdoors

  • If your child needs to work on more academic tasks, get out the sidewalk chalk to practice letters and math. Early learners respond well to large motor activities like drawing letters on the driveway as a way to learn letter formation.
  • Math facts can be called back and forth as you throw or kick a ball. When children have these types of sensory experiences combined with academics, they tend to have great recall and learning.
  • Speaking of sensory play, take advantage of the outdoors and enjoy messy play. Activities with shaving cream or Play-Doh (a carpet nightmare that looks so much better on your lawn) can build sensory and fine motor skills.
  • Fill a large storage tub with water and practice measuring and pouring to build coordination and math skills.

Other opportunities

As summer approaches here are some opportunities for children of varying abilities.

  • If your child struggles with handwriting skills, consider Beaumont’s eight-week summer handwriting program (for pre-writing, print or cursive). The program expands to 10 weeks during the rest of the year.
  • Have a picky eater? Try the Munchers and Crunchers group.
  • We also offer therapeutic swim programs, adapted martial arts, adapted dance, adapted yoga, and several sensory groups for children on the autistic spectrum.

Beaumont is proud to offer services in Macomb now, as well as our West Bloomfield, Royal Oak and Grosse Pointe clinics. Check out our website.

– Debbie Adsit, OTRL, is the Supervisor, Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation. She can be reached at (248) 655-5687.


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