Posts Tagged 'things to do'

Finding the Holy Grail of parenting: Date night

date ideas written on popsicle sticks

Cropped image. Personal Creations, Flickr. CC license.

There are some couples who are just good at it, and some who need a boost. I’m talking about date nights and nights out with grown-ups. No. Kids.

I have a friend who is really good at it. He and his wife schedule date nights once a month in advance. They usually try a new restaurant without their four kids and then run a few errands. My husband and I are horrible at it. I love the idea, but the mythical unicorn of “date night” hardly visits our marriage. I’m not sure if that unicorn even knows where we live.

When the opportunity does come our way, I’m all in though. To get myself motivated to plan a night out, I did some brainstorming about fun things to do without your shortys in tow.

Check out entertainment calendars. Try the Freep or MLive. They list special events at museums, concerts/music festivals, cultural events and more.

Try something different. The last time we went on a date, we tried mini golf. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. We were horrible! But it was a blast and totally out of the norm for us. Also consider indoor rock climbing (before adult beverages, please), a comedy show, go to the drive-in theater or a play, or attend one of the after-hours events at the zoo, Cranbrook Institute of Science or the Michigan Science Center.

If the scheduling gods are smiling on you and you actually make plans with other adults, first take a photo. It’s a rare event. Second, come up with something to do quickly so you don’t just end up camped out at the house of whoever sent their kids off to grandma’s house.

Consider:

  • Feather bowling
  • Normal bowling
  • A sporting event
  • Wine tasting/whiskey tasting
  • Casino
  • Museums
  • Visit Belle Isle and rent a paddle boat, kayak or bike
  • Preservation Detroit has excellent walking tours
  • Try an escape room
  • Trampoline park

Are you ready to plan a night out? Me, too. Where are you going?

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Our summer bucket list

boy and his little brother in a stroller

Hitting our local splash pad was one of our summer bucket list items.

Summer is my favorite season and for good reason: There’s warm weather and extra sunlight, which brings outdoor activities and longer hours in the day to do them. Plus, my child behaves so differently in the summer because he can run, climb, swim, jump and play to his heart’s desire.

My family loves a good summer and this year we decided to make a summer bucket list. To me, summer feels like a fleeting moment that I’m desperately trying to extend. The anticipation of summer seems to last forever whereas the actual moments of sunshine tend to fly by. Our summer to-do list highlights all the major activities we have been anxiously awaiting. It’s also a great launching point when my child complains of being bored; I can point to our list and ask which one of the activities he wants to do. Mondays aren’t so bad when you decide to cover the sidewalk in chalk or pull out the slip and slide!

To create our summer bucket list, we pulled out white paper and my son’s crayons then started brainstorming. No idea was too silly or small. See a movie outdoors? Sure. Eat something from our home garden? You bet. Have a camp out in the backyard? My son had so much fun! We tried to create a comprehensive list of all the things we wanted to do. The end game was not to simply “check off” items on our list, but instead just to put on paper the fun ideas we each had and then do things as a family.

Incorporating my 4-year-old taught me that his idea of a fun summer is different than mine. While I was focused on including big-ticket items such as family vacations, camping trips and get togethers, my child had amazingly simple ideas to include items like “have a staring contest” and “catch fireflies” on our list. What is better than catching fireflies on a summer night to a 4-year-old? The Babcock Summer Bucket List has been a huge success and I will definitely continue this tradition in the future!

boys with bucket list

My boys with the official bucket list.

Here are the items that got included our 2017 summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming at Nana and Papa’s pool
  • Play on the slip and slide
  • Take a trip up north to the cabin
  • Lay on a hammock
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Get our faces painted
  • Go visit our local splash pad
  • Catch a frog
  • Camp in the backyard in the tent
  • Have a staring contest
  • Go horseback riding
  • Cover the sidewalk in chalk art
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Have a bonfire and s’mores
  • Catch fireflies
  • Climb a tree
  • See fireworks
  • Have a sleepover with the cousins
  • See an outdoor movie (at the drive-in or at the park)
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit Michigan Adventure waterpark
  • Go fishing
  • Get covered in temporary tattoos
  • Have a hot dog
  • Eat something from our home garden
  • Go fruit picking
  • Visit Belle Isle Aquarium

Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two boys.

More summer fun in metro Detroit

boy at splash pad

Cropped image. Matt Molinari, Flickr. CC license.

Earlier this week I shared some fun activities to do with your family, offering tips for families with kids who have special needs. That post featured new-to-the area ideas as well as some suggestions for a “Day in the D.”

Today, I’m focusing on other great options for a memorable summer in the metro Detroit area.

Quick reminder: If you have someone in your family with special needs, I suggest calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

U-Pick farms

What’s the best way to get a kid to eat his fruit or veggies? Probably by picking them. Next time you’re at a strawberry field, look around, and most likely a number of the pint-size pickers will have berry stains on their hands and faces.

U-pick schedules in southeastern Michigan are generally as follows:

  • Strawberries: Mid-June to mid-July
  • Blueberries: Mid-July to mid-September
  • Cherries: Mid-June to mid-August
  • Raspberries: July and September
  • Apples: Mid-August to October

Read here for a list of local u-pick farms.

Take me out to the ballgame

  • Nothing says summer like a night at the baseball park. Creating memories at Comerica Park has to include an obligatory photo in front of the giant tiger statue in front of the stadium and a ride on the carousel and Ferris wheel. But the Detroit Tigers aren’t the only game in town.
  • If a Major League Baseball stadium is too overwhelming, there are other smaller and equally exciting baseball venues. Last year marked the inaugural season for the United Shore Professional Baseball League at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica. Each of the four teams is composed of top-level college athletes from around the country. Ticket prices start at $6 for lawn seats and go as high as $35 for front-row club seats.
  • Located a stone’s throw from the Michigan Capitol Building sits Cooley Law School Stadium, home to the Lansing Lugnuts. The stadium seats over 10,000 fans and is considered one of the most handicapped accessible stadiums in the country. The Lugnuts, a Class-A minor league team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, have their own team song “Go Nuts” and a team mascot, Big Lug. Ticket prices start at $8 for lawn seats and go as high as $35.
  • Of course we can’t forget about the Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league team affiliated with the Tigers. Tickets prices start at $15.

Beat the heat

Tired of visiting the same splash pads each summer? If you’re willing to drive a little, there is no shortage of places to get wet.

  • KLR Splashpad
    • 2795 Seymour Lake Rd., Oxford Township
    • Non-resident fee $4
    • This is an inclusive park for kids of all abilities. Aqua wheelchairs are available.

Festivals

Festivals and summer are synonymous. Michigan weekends are packed with events centered around art, food, music and outdoor activities. Here is a comprehensive listing.

What are some of your favorite summertime activities?

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Summer fun in metro Detroit: Helping kids with special needs enjoy summer outings

boy in kayak simulator

Summertime in Michigan quite possibly makes the rest of the year in the mitten state that much more tolerable. The only downside to June, July and August is the fact that there aren’t enough days to experience all the local fairs, festivals and outdoor activities.

Venues such as Greenfield Village, the Detroit Zoo, and the area’s many parks and pools, are tried-and-true destinations but there are so many more ways to make the most out of what will hopefully be another glorious Michigan summer.

Since I happen to be the parent of a child with autism, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to accommodate my son while enjoying the next 11 weeks of vacation. Because this time of year can be particularly challenging for a child with a disability, included are some options and suggestions for kids like mine.

Today we’re focusing on activities that are new this area, as well as a fun “Day in the D.” Then, check back on Thursday this week for some other creative options!

New to do

  • Last year we saw the opening of several great family friendly venues, including the LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Great Lakes Crossing. The Detroit Zoo debuted the eagerly awaited Polk Penguin Conservation Center, and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center brought a taste of the great outdoors to an indoor facility downtown.
  • This year, after more than a decade of planning, the much-anticipated QLine streetcar system along Woodward Avenue is finally open! Kids under 44 inches can ride free with an adult. A single-ride pass, good for three hours, costs $1.50 and an all-day pass is $3. Riders have easy access to the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Michigan Science Center, Comerica Park and Campus Martius Park.
  • What else is new? How about free movies at Emagine theatres? On select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m., participating locations will screen popular kids films such as “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Trolls” and “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” Admission is free for kids 11 and under and $2 for moviegoers 12 and up.
  • Need a sensory friendly film option? AMC Theatres offer the perfect venue on the second and fourth Saturday of each month with a family friendly movie. Tuesday evening movies offer options for more mature audiences. Participating Emagine theatres also have a lineup of sensory-friendly films for the summer.
  • Also relatively new, and unlike any place around, is Play-Place for Autistic Children. This 25,000 square-foot facility, located in Sterling Heights, houses a computer café, art studio, carousel, LEGO castle, laser light chalk room, calming rooms and so much more.

A Day in the D

In addition to a ride on the QLine, there is so much to do in Detroit. See why the rest of the nation is calling Detroit the comeback city.

  • The Detroit RiverWalk stretches several miles along the Detroit River. In additional to great views, there are plenty of places to explore. Highlights for the little ones include a splash pad, play park and river-themed carousel at Rivard Plaza. There, visitors will find a granite map of the Detroit River, a glass sculptured map of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the RiverWalk café, and Wheelhouse Detroit. This bike shop offers tours as well as bike rentals in a wide variety of bikes, including large tricycles (great for those who need an adaptive set of wheels) and kids bikes.
  • Also located at the Plaza is Diamond Jack’s River Tours, a company offering public tours and private charters along the Detroit River.
  • Elliott Park, located on the East Riverfront, features a Great Lakes themed play area with water cascades, cannons, wind chimes and other kid-friendly, interactive features. The newly renovated park was designed to be accessible to users of all ages and abilities.
  • When’s the last time you visited Belle Isle? There is so much to do on this 987-acre island. Here are seven things your family can enjoy during your visit.
  1. See the James Scott Memorial Fountain
  2. Visit the Dossin Great Lakes Museum
  3. Go to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
  4. Check out the oldest aquarium in the United States
  5. Swim at the Belle Isle Beach
  6. Ride the giant slide
  7. Enjoy the small, but free, nature zoo

A few general tips to an enjoyable summer include calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.

Location

First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.

Boots

Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.

Equipment

Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.

Food

  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.

Clothing

  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at lnt.org. It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer.

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.


Topics

Enter your email address and you'll receive notifications of new posts in your in-box.

Join 2,808 other followers

Free Developmental Screening

Confidential online developmental screening for children up to age 5

Awards