Monday, May 3, 2010

On Hiatus

I'm on hiatus while working on another project... check it out at:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making Music

My little L, one year old last week, is very into music these days. He bobs and sways to the beat of whatever is playing on the radio. Then, he looks up at me and smiles, as if to say, "Mom, isn't this song great?"

It's amazing to me how responsive young children are to rhythms. I recently learned that kids as young as three can keep a steady beat without even putting any thought into it. It's obvious that humans are innately musical.

There are great programs to get kids involved in music, such as Kindermusik. But, there are so many ways to foster this interest in music without fancy classes or equipment.

I put out kitchen bowls, pots and containers of different sizes and let L "drum" with different spoons. He's learned that wooden ones make different sounds than plastic ones. Bells and rattles are fun to shake to the beat of silly songs. You can also keep the beat for kids by clapping their hands or feet together.

There are lots of great kids CDs out there, but I prefer to play for Liam a variety of music that I enjoy. We listen to a lot of jazz and blues, but also country and even rap. His dad makes sure plenty of indie rock gets added to the mix.

Music also makes for a good intervention at just the right time. When L's tired or close to a meltdown after a long day, I sometimes just turn on the radio and hold him while we dance around the living room together.

He looks up at me and smiles.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Leftovers

I'm sure few parents have missed the irony of having their kids abandon newly unwrapped toys in order to play with the boxes and paper they came dressed up in.

I figure they'll get back to the toys at some later point. But for now, why not enjoy the Christmas leftovers? I'm talking about all the fun packaging these toys come with. The bigger the boxes the better!

My sister and I were experts at making complex forts and mazes when we were kids. It used to captivate us for hours as we added to our structures with things we found around the house. The best part of this kind of play is that it is free, creative play... something that isn't necessarily fostered in a lot of the toys that come inside these boxes.

Now 10-month-old L is not yet a skilled fort-builder, but he's having fun poking around in the boxes and wrapping. He even found one box big enough to hide in. He thought that was the best part of the holiday!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bad Weather Doesn't Stop Us

People moving to the Puget Sound-area should have to pass a quiz before they settle in: a) Have you ever suntanned in 60-degree weather? b) Do you feel relief when rain finally returns in September after a hot August? and, c) Do you eagerly participate in year-round outdoor activities in all weather conditions?

If you answered yes to these questions, congratulations! You'll be a happy resident here.

The truth is that life is indeed sweeter in the Puget Sound region if you can find ways to stay busy despite the weather forecast. And kids usually think it's cool to do their favorite summer activities in the off-season.

Here are a few ideas for fun things to do with kids no matter what the barometer says:

* Go to the beach: Beaches are great in summer, but when the weather cools that doesn't mean you have to pack away the beach bag. Dress the family in warm layers and visit one of our area's great Puget Sound beaches. We took little L for a walk at Dash Point State Park in Federal Way this month. Kids still love to play in the sand in cooler weather, and looking for sea life is a great year-round activity.

* Build a campfire: Campfires aren't just for camping. We recently made one in our backyard in an inexpensive fire pit. It's fun to bundle up and tell stories around a fire. And, of course, kids can't resist a chance to roast marshmallows.

* Take a swim: Okay, not in the lake. But indoor pools are a great cold weather activity. Even little L at eight months had fun splashing around in the warm water. Most local community pools have time set aside for family swims, which is a great rainy afternoon activity.

It's easy to find fun things to do this fall and winter... as long as you think like a local.

Washington State Parks
City of Seattle Swimming Pools
King County Pool
Build a Campfire

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ferry Along

Those of us who were raised in the Puget Sound region are accustomed to ferries as a normal mode of transportation. But listen to the oohs and ahhs of an out-of-town visitor and you realize that the greater Seattle area is pretty lucky to have such a cool system of ferries. In fact, our region is home to the biggest ferry system in the country.

Kids share an out-of-towner's enthusiasm for ferry riding. They love seeing cars loaded on and off the big green and white vessels. Kids get a kick out of standing at the front of the boat and watching the Seattle skyline disappear. It's not difficult to get caught up in the excitement of setting off on a new adventure on a ferry.

Taking a round trip ride on a Washington State ferry is a great idea for an easy day trip with kids. Some fun destinations include Vashon Island, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island or Orcas Island.

The price of riding the ferry has risen steeply in recent years. But you can make the trip more affordable by parking your car and walking on the ferry. Kids will like walking off the ferry to eat an ice cream cone or to explore a new beach before hopping back on for the return trip home.

Let your kids pick the destination and teach them how to read a ferry schedule. Then, sink into the plastic benches, enjoy the views and become a ferry enthusiast again.

Washington State Ferries

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Real Outdoors

Camping is of the best ways to expose your kids to unstructured, outdoor play. A visit to one of our region's national parks or wildlife areas gives them a chance to experience the "real" outdoors in a setting that (hopefully) has no TVs, iPhones or DVD players. Those opportunities are rare today, and camping provides a way to go backward in time to when kids spent most of their time playing in the woods and getting dirty.

We took little L on his first camping trip this past weekend to the North Cascades National Park. He's too little to run around and play in the woods, but he's not too young to enjoy being outside.

We were thrilled to see that he seemed to really love it. The fresh air is good for his lungs. So, is the exposure to new experiences, such as looking up at huge old growth trees, hearing new bird calls and feeling the early morning mist. He experienced his first night in a tent with the rain pounding on the nylon ceiling. He took his first hike and looked out at the lake from the viewpoint 600 feet above.

For three days we listened to children playing from morning to night all around the campground. Shouts of joy and discovery.

Kids enjoying the real outdoors.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Berry Pickin'

When I was a kid, I remember trying to pack in all my favorite summer activities into the final days of August before school started. And for me, one of the most fun things to do was pick berries. What better way to bide the last days of freedom than with berry-stained hands and mouth?

I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't like to pick berries. I think it's because there's something very satisfying about snacking straight from a berry bush. Even true city kids will enjoy foraging for a sweet treat.

Some of the most common berries to pick in our area are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Lesser known, but also delicious, are salmon berries, currants and gooseberries.

Picking berries with kids can be as simple as grabbing a plastic container and finding an alley with overgrown blackberry bushes. Or, you can visit one of the many "U-Pick" berry farms in our area.

It's a good idea to check to make sure the area you're picking hasn't been sprayed with pesticides. Also, avoid picking blackberries too close to a dusty road. And, of course, never pick a berry you're unfamiliar with. In fact, teaching kids which berries are edible and which are poisonous is a valuable lesson about nature.

A delicious lesson they'll enjoy beyond childhood.

Find a U-Pick Farm
Seattle's Pesticide-Free Parks