Our favorite summer traditions

Our family’s favorite summer tradition is a trip to Red Oaks Waterpark in Madison Heights. It has a wave pool, three water slides, a lazy river, and a kid-friendly play area. (Bonus: Oakland County residents get discounted admission.) Our favorite time to go is during the Twilight hours from 4 – 7 p.m. Twilight admission is only $8 for Oakland County residents. We bring a picnic dinner and have lots of fun. I do recommend wearing water shoes as the bottom of the wave pool can be prickly on sensitive feet. Red Oaks also has a River Walk for adults on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, where you can walk against the current in the lazy river from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. for $8. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m hoping to go this summer. – Emily Swan

Summer traditions … They’re the best and so many to choose from! My kids love traditions, big and small. Some of ours include a trip to northern Michigan with my parents, two sisters and their families. There are 16 of us total: eight adults and eight kids. The cousins just love to be together, playing in the water, running wild, and eating lots of ice cream. It is chaotic and wonderful. There is something special that happens when you get that vacation time away with family. I love planning meals, cooking and eating together, and my favorite is getting the early-morning and after-nap snuggles from my nieces and nephews (sweet bed head, the smell of fresh lakeside air and sunscreen). My immediate family of four also does a weekend in South Haven every summer. My husband and I met at WMU, so the west side of the state is special to us and we love sharing it with the kids. And lastly, before school starts back each year, we do a day at Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti with our neighbors; the moms even do the slides! So fun! – Kelly Ryan

When our kids were little, one of our favorite summer traditions included exploring the many amazing cities and lakes right here in Michigan. Whether we ventured north, south, east or west, it was all about discovering new and exciting sights that our beautiful state has to offer. Favorite activities involved swimming, biking, mini golf, volleyball and playing cards. Lazy days seemed to center around big scoops of ice cream, while a nighttime favorite included campfire gatherings and eating s’mores. The tradition continues once more! Last summer, we had a blast introducing our grandchildren to the beautiful beaches in the thumb area. – Deanna Robb

Our summer tradition when our kids were little was to visit Kelleys Island in Ohio. My husband’s great grandfather bought a cottage there around the turn of the century and it remains one of the oldest buildings on the island. Our kids loved it because the only rule was “no rules!” – Lori Polakowski

Summertime traditions with our family evolved over the years as the kids got older. But one tradition is we always seem to celebrate is the 4th of July together in our hometown. The big, all-day celebration starts with a parade, then a family fair and craft show, along with hot dog eating contests, and all-star baseball games at the city park. Then of course the big fireworks display tops off the night. It’s always great to have family and friends come over for the day. We have yard games going and the pool is open all day. There’s always lots of great food for grilling as everyone brings a dish. It’s a great tradition that we still enjoy as a family even as the kids have grown into adults! – Lucy Hill

No matter the summer vacation plans, we always make time for a visit to an amusement park! Each summer we visit Michigan’s Adventure or Cedar Point, and to be honest, most summers it’s both! Both are about a 3-hour drive for us, which is totally worth all the fun we have. Michigan’s Adventure has a fantastic water park, which is included with the price of admission and perfect for a midday cool down. Cedar Point has the absolute best roller coasters in the world, my favorite is Steel Vengeance. If you like to plan ahead, both parks offer deep discounts on admission throughout the year. I like to grab their Black Friday Deals! – Nichole Enerson

As my kids have gotten older and busier, it’s gotten harder to get everyone together. But one thing we still do every summer is take a trip to Cedar Point. We are amusement park junkies; we will go anywhere within driving distance to ride the latest coaster, but Cedar Point is our home turf. Everyone has their favorite ride that we make sure to hit. Because we have season passes and visit often, we never wait in long lines since we know we can ride another time. My youngest and I always look forward to the new stage show (Cedar Point has the best in-park entertainment outside of Disney!), and the rest of the family humors us and goes with us as well. Every trip to Cedar Point includes french fries at the back of the park at the Happy Friar. Don’t forget that you can get free courtesy water at every concession stand, which is especially important on hot days. Finally, the trip home will always include a stop at the Dairy Depot on Route 2. After all, it’s not a summer tradition if there’s not ice cream involved! – Nicole Capozello

I am not a tent camper but a few summers ago, my family discovered yurts at a county park. Since then, we’ve gone every year. My son takes his fishing gear and could spend hours at the dock trying to catch something. There are kayaks to rent, arts and crafts, hiking trails, and entertainment. We take our bikes and some board games, too. We love making a campfire, cooking foil dinners and having s’mores. There’s a tractor/wagon ride that goes all through the camp and we look to see which critters we’ll see on the ride. Another highlight is when we see the mounted Oakland County sheriff deputies. It’s a relaxing weekend away for sure! – Becky Bibbs

Two of our favorite summer traditions are family reunions and camping trips. We typically combine the two for a “family hoedown” every year in July and camp for a long weekend to spend time with family from across the United States. The weekend typically includes a fishing tournament on the property’s lake, bingo, treasure hunt, swimming, campfires, and a float down the river. It is such a fun time! – Stephanie Babcock

Fun ideas to help your child unplug this summer

Summer is the perfect time for kids to get outside and play. However, many children turn to computers, televisions and tablets for entertainment rather than their imagination or creativity. While apps, games and shows can be entertaining and keep the kids occupied, it’s important to continue to foster development of other skills without digital assistance.

Here are a few suggestions to keep your child unplugged for the summer:

  • Books
    • Reading helps expand vocabulary, problem solving, inferencing and comprehension abilities. It also aids development of creativity and imagination when children envision the story taking place.
    • Encourage leisure reading with a sticker reward chart. Have your child work towards a special reward like going out to eat at their favorite restaurant, having a movie night, camping in the backyard, making a special dessert or snack, or even earning time with their desired electronic.
    • Set aside time to read with your child. Pick a more advanced chapter book and spend 30 minutes each day reading a chapter together.
    • Plan quiet reading time outside in a hammock, on a blanket or in a tent/fort.
  • Activity books
    • Help kids use logic, reasoning and imagination in a fun way through activity books!
    • Examples include mazes, hidden picture books, sticker books, dot-to-dots, paint by numbers, student workbooks (Kumon or Brainquest), and coloring books.
  • Art
    • Pick a different art activity each day or week to stimulate creativity. Use different types of paper (e.g., construction, tissue, foam, felt, etc.) and different art mediums (e.g., markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, glue, Play-Doh, etc.) to keep the activities interesting and fun.
  • Games
    • Single-person games are a great way to promote use of logic and reasoning.
    • Examples: jigsaw puzzles, Perplexus, IQ Fit, Gravity Maze, Suspend Game, solitaire, Rush Hour, Scrabble Flash, Mighty Mind, Rory’s Story Cubes, Logic Links, Laser Maze, Circuit Maze, Katamino, Swish, Pathwords, Find It.
  • Sports/Games
    • Introduce your child to new and different outdoor sports and games. These are great for fine and gross motor development.
    • Examples: soccer, basketball, baseball/T-ball, tennis, ladder golf, croquet, Washers, corn hole, hopscotch, bowling.
  • Toys
    • Toys are a great way for kids to learn to entertain themselves and use their imaginations through pretend play.
    • In order to keep toys interesting, set aside specific times during the day to play with these special items. You could also set up a toy swap with a neighbor if your child loses interest in the toys you currently own.
    • Examples: stuffed animals, dolls, race cars, marble tower/track, Silly Putty, wood pattern blocks, puzzles, sensory bins.

Samantha Bailey-Crow, MA, CCC-SLP, is supervisor of Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Center for Exceptional Families, Beaumont Health

Did someone say ice cream?

July 1 marked the beginning of National Ice Cream month. In metro Detroit, we’re lucky to have a vast number of places to get ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato and frozen custard. To help you celebrate all month long, here are our staff’s favorite ice cream shops.

  • Birmingham area: The Dairy Mat on Woodward is like a small hometown DQ.  My kids always liked sprinkles! – Lori Polakowski
  • Birmingham area: Who says you need to wait until it’s warm out for ice cream?  Dairy Deluxe is always the first place to open up for the season, usually February 1! The menu is huge and they have options you can’t get anywhere else. I love the “Crazy for Cookies” sundae (vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and three homemade chocolate chip cookies) and my son likes the cherry Pop Tarts flurry. They have a good Sanders bumpy cake sundae, too. – Becky Bibbs
  • Clarkston area: We love going to Cook’s Farm Dairy in Ortonville! My husband grew up next to the farm and their ice cream is the absolute best! It’s also fun to wander around seeing the farm animals, especially the new calves! – Nichole Enerson
  • Grosse Pointe area: Alinosi’s ice cream, originally located in the neighborhood where I grew up in Detroit, and the place to get it is at the Chocolate Bar Café on Mack Avenue. Alinosi’s ice cream is sooo rich and the hot fudge is to die for. The place is decorated with pictures from the old store, which are like a scrapbook of my childhood. As a kid, I loved the clown and circus sundaes (that one had animal crackers marching around the edge), and in my adolescence, it was strawberry ice cream with strawberry sauce.  Now, I love an old-fashioned hot fudge sundae. My mom used to ask my dad to bring her a double scoop cone (in the middle of the winter because in the summer we walked there): pineapple orange on the bottom and chocolate on the top.  She said it had to be in that order so the chocolate dripped down onto the other flavor.  When my youngest didn’t remember the name “Alinosi’s,” she said, “Ali-what-now?” That’s been its name ever since. – Nicole Capozello
  • Marine City area: Our favorite place is The Sweet Tooth of Marine City. It’s an entire candy store featuring a 30 lb. gummy bear, old fashioned candy, bulk candy where you can buy by the pound, hand-dipped chocolate items (like chocolate covered pretzels), chocolate covered popcorn, chocolate chips, etc. They also have Michigan-flavored ice creams such as “Michigan Pothole” and more. We like to get ice cream and then walk the streets downtown or sit by the pier and watch the ferry go by! – Stephanie Babcock
  • Novi area: Guernsey Farms Dairy is a family dairy; the incredible ice cream is made on-site and is incredible. In addition to the scoop shop, you can buy their milk and chocolate products, and there is a full-service family restaurant there. There are so many delicious flavors, but our family favorites are: Crème de Novi (their take on mint chocolate chip), Fudge Whip (French vanilla ice cream with the famous Guernsey milk chocolate fudge topping swirled throughout), and Black Cherry (my husband says it’s the best he has ever had!). Outside, there are a few benches and rocks to sit on, a huge oak tree for shade, and a “famous” big rock which is the go-to for pictures for all the families who love it there! – Kelly Ryan
  • Royal Oak area: My favorite ice cream place to go is Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store. Usually on a Sunday after washing and cleaning my convertible, I enjoy a cruise down Woodward and stopping in at Oberweis for a hot fudge sundae (always vanilla, no nuts, but love the whip cream and cherry on top). I’m always with my husband or son and we hang outside and watch the cars cruising down Woodward and enjoy our ice cream. It’s the best! – Lucy Hill
  • Royal Oak area: You can’t list good ice cream places and not mention Ray’s Ice Cream, a classic ice cream shop that’s been around since 1958! They make their ice cream right on-site, employ local high school kids, and you know they have good eats because there’s always a huge line when it’s a beautiful day. My favorite flavor is the Black Raspberry Chip, but they rotate flavors seasonally, so I look forward to when Peach is back on the menu. If you’re super hungry or willing to share with a friend, try the banana split; it’s enormous! – Becky Bibbs
  • Around the United States: It’s part of a chain, but Culver’s is my favorite place for a frozen treat. Their custard is rich and delicious. I like to get vanilla custard with salted caramel and cookie dough. Bonus: A kid’s meal comes with a free scoop of frozen custard. They have a daily special flavor if you’re feeling adventurous. – Emily Swan

Improving your child’s motor skills in a winter wonderland

smiling girl making snow angel

Photo credit: Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) at Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan winters are cold and snowy. When the family has cabin fever, an outside snowy day is the perfect place to play. Not only is it a fun change, did you know it’s also a perfect way to improve fine and gross motor skills?

Getting ready for snow fun can be both challenging and rewarding. Putting on snow pants then adjusting the straps, pulling on the boots, zipping up a coat, placing on a hat, and finding just the right spot for your thumb in the mittens are all fine motor and body awareness skills children can achieve when given the time and the incentive. The youngest ones will still need a little help.

Once out the door all bundled up, a whole snow-filled playground awaits in the yard! Running with boots on is hard work! Check out the snow; is it soft, crunchy, wet, flaky, good for packing, or powdery? Make a footprint path in the snow for your friends and parents to follow. Take big steps, small steps, and jump with two feet. Making a snow angel is exercise; now try to get up without squashing the angel! Does it look like you?

Ready to build a snowman? Pack a snowball tight, now roll and roll. Keep pushing it, using all of your arm, core and leg strength. Make two more each smaller than the last. Kids can ask mom or dad to help stack the snowballs on top of each other to make the snowman.

Time to go sledding! Younger children enjoy being pulled on a sled while the older kids seek the hills. Sledding down and climbing back up over and over builds great strength and endurance. No hills in your yard? Children can pull each other on sleds or pack some snow and make their own hill – let their imaginations take over. Building a fort, shoveling a path and looking for animal tracks are all ways to enjoy being outside.

Are you ready for one more adventure? Go ice skating! Many rinks have open skate with rental skates available; some rinks offer plastic PVC walkers for children to help with balance. Bring your own helmet (bike or hockey) with you. Ice skating is fun and challenging. It incorporates balance, coordination, and strength. Children about 3 years old can really start to enjoy skating; they don’t have far to fall and they enjoy the quick progress they make.

Well that was fun! The kids will climb out of the layers of clothing, pile up the boots, and are ready for a snack. Soup or hot chocolate are just perfect to warm up all over. This was an exhausting day, so expect the kids to go to bed early tonight.

– Amanda Froling, PT, C/NDT, CKTP, is a physical therapist within the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation in West Bloomfield.
– Carol Julien-Buell, PT, MPT, C/NDT, PCS is a board-certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist. She is physical therapist at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation in Beaumont Health & Wellness Center, Royal Oak.

Fun indoor activities to keep kids moving all winter

young kids doing Zumba

Altered image. Lori Yerdon, USAG Humphreys Public Affairs, Flickr. CC license.

Much like adults, children need regular physical activity, an hour a day, to reap numerous health benefits including improved cardiovascular health, strong bones and muscles, positive self-image, decreased stress levels, and improved sleep. Achieving an hour of exercise in the winter time can be a challenge due to the cold weather and shorter days. Here are some ideas and tips to keep kids moving all winter long.

Use what you have and what your child enjoys

Board games, puzzles, balls, arts and crafts all can be used as motivation to perform exercises. A familiar position we use as therapist is tall kneel and one-half kneel. These are great positions because they strengthen the hips and core muscles while working on balance, coordination and endurance. Once the child is in either position, he or she can play a board game, draw a picture, or play catch with a sibling, friend or family member.

tall kneel, one-half kneel

Yoga

Yoga is for everyone and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home. Simply do an internet search for “storytime yoga” to locate kid friendly stories and themed yoga poses to go along with the stories. There are YouTube videos to follow along with or once you get the hang of it you can make up your own yoga poses to go along with some of your child’s favorite books. Ask your child to make up yoga poses as well. It’s great opportunity to be creative and silly. There are also kid friendly yoga pose cards that you can purchase or make your own from Pinterest. Take turns picking cards and performing the selected pose. Mix them up and create a yoga flow.

Play tag in a small space to improve agility

Do you have an area in your house that is pretty open, maybe a basement or play room? Create a “Tag Court” by sectioning off a small space, approximately 10′x10′ (smaller or larger if you choose), with use of masking tape. Play with two players at time and players cannot go outside the taped lines. Use stickers or football flags, if they are handy, to create a game of tag and keep track. This game is great fun and works on speed and agility. You will be surprised how quick this game gets your heart rate up. Variations of this game can also be used such as jump tag, playing tag while jumping, playing tag while crab walking, bear crawl tag and so on.

Have a dance party!

Time to be creative with your moves and get your heart rate up. Pick songs that your child enjoys, clear a space and have fun. You can keep it simple or decorate by putting up streamers, having balloons, different colored lights, flash lights, and microphones for singing. Invite friends over to work on dance routines and have a recital or just have fun. Want to change it up? Try a “freeze dance,” where dancers must freeze the music stops playing. This is a great activity to improve agility and direction following. You may want a theme dance: dance like your favorite underwater creature, favorite animal, cartoon character, etc. Try a dance in the dark with flashlights or incorporate instruments.

Turn screen time into activity time

Have you heard of Go Noodle? It’s an interactive website designed to get kids moving. Many classrooms are using this site and children are responding positively with improved attention and test scores. Sign up for the home version for free at gonoodle.com. There are limitless fun and catchy songs that incorporate academic content. There is also a section of mindfulness with calming activities.

I hope this gives you some more ideas on how to have fun and sneak in some exercise when stuck indoors over the winter. Imaginative play is limitless. Keep moving to stay healthy and stay warm!

– Christina Paniccia, pediatric physical therapist and pediatric supervisor at the Beaumont Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe, Mich.

Building Halloween excitement before the big day

house decorated for Halloween

With so many things to love about fall, it is definitely my favorite season. Football, cooler temperatures, changing leaves, apple orchards, cider, donuts, sweaters, boots, and of course … Halloween. Halloween is such a fun and exciting holiday, especially for kids. As soon as the calendar flips to October at our house, the spooky Halloween buzz begins. While I wouldn’t say we go Halloween “crazy,” over the years I’ve enjoyed doing simple little things here and there to make the month fun, and to build the excitement and anticipation of the day.

Halloween décor

Adding indoor and outdoor decorations always makes things seem more festive. You don’t have to go “all out” all at once. I’ve collected things over the years, often on clearance after the holiday. We always add one new decoration each year, and the kids love getting them out and helping me decide where things should go.

jack-o-lantern clementinesFun food

Pinterest is full of silly Halloween snack and food ideas. I usually keep it simple and the kids still love it. I always try to pick up a box of Halloween cereal to surprise them with, and you can make an adorable pumpkin for the lunchbox with just a clementine and a Sharpie.

Visit a Halloween supply store

Whether you already have the costumes set or not, visiting a Halloween store is lots of fun. There’s so much to look at, masks to try on, and even some spooky animatronics that might make you jump. Keep toddlers close by as many of these are motion activated. Older kids may enjoy this activity more than the little ones.

Local free events

Many cities host trick-or-treating at the local businesses before Halloween, and many schools have trunk-or treat events where you decorate your car and kids go car-to-car collecting treats. It’s nice to get some additional opportunities to wear those costumes!

Enjoy Halloween books and movies

Now is a perfect time to dim the lights, pop some popcorn and watch a Halloween movie or read your favorite spooky books together. Lighting some candles or giving the kids small flashlights, always helps to set the scene and make it even more special. There are many age-appropriate choices; here are a few of our family favorites:

Send out Halloween greeting cards

Receiving unexpected fun mail is the best! There are so many adorable Halloween cards in the stores or you can make your own. Pick a few friends and family and send them a Halloween greeting. I promise they will be surprised! People often expect a birthday card, but when was the last time you got a Halloween card? We have a family friend that sends one to my kids every year and they always look forward to it. You can also throw in some spooky stickers to make it even more exciting.

Happy Halloween!

– Kelly Ryan, LMSW, Beaumont Parenting Program Director. She is also mom to Cassie and Connor, and coordinator of Halloween shenanigans at the House of Ryan.

Having fun with baby’s first summer

big brother holding little brother on bench

Gray and Finley on Finn’s first road trip

There is a country song with a line that goes, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I always love that line because the first time you do something is so underrated in my eyes. I feel like the last time you do something is always remembered but what about the first? Sure big firsts are remembered such as first words, first day of school, first kiss, and so on, but what about other firsts? Things like the first silly word (my 5-year-old boy calls salad dressing “salad sauce” and it will forever remain salad sauce in our house), your first challenge at school, your first bad kiss, etc.?

little boy playing with sandFirsts are a big deal! As a mom, I try to teach my kids that the firsts are just as important as the lasts. I have two boys (ages 5 years and 16 months). For my little guy’s “first summer” last year I made sure to document and photograph all of his firsts that the summer energy brings. Here are a few of my favorites along with a few notes:

  • First fourth of July (Note: Finley did not care for fireworks)
  • First time experiencing a glow stick
    • Mommy was quick to know Finn wanted to use it as a chew toy
  • First haircut
    • Bribed with snacks to try and stay still.
  • First road trip
    • Colorado at 6 months old.
  • First time feeling sand
  • First time strawberry picking.
    • No help picking the fruit but a big help in eating it.
  • First time camping.
    • Camping “up north” as a rite of passage
  • First time hiking.
    • Sure, he was carried on everyone’s back but still a first nonetheless.
  • First time in a bounce house (How fun is this first?)
  • First time swimming
    • Finley was naked in a bucket but we’re still counting it as first swimming.
  • First time playing at a park
    • Favorite park feature: swings
  • First time at the zoo
    • Loved seeing the polar bears
  • First time at the splash pad
  • First time having a picnic in the backyard
  • First time giving “kisses” to mommy, daddy and brother
  • First time eating peas
  • First time playing on slip and slide

trio of little boy "first" photos

Everyone says that the days go by slow but the years go by fast with children. Ain’t that the truth? I know someday I will look back and think about the last time my kids played on the slip and slide, or went up north, but for now I’m focusing on these first moments.

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