Sept 2017

5 delightful family activities you need to do right now

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I am not great at sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the playroom floor with my daughter. I am the unruly guest who keeps bringing her laundry to the My Little Pony wedding of Big Mac and Cheerily. I never seem to be able to guess the flavor of "tea" at the Disney Princess tea parties. (It's ALWAYS banana flavor by the way). I am so bad at imaginary play that my daughter does not even send me invitations to those events anymore!

I may not be the most gracious observer of a pink guitar serenade, but I do have a special talent for planning family activities where everyone can enjoy a delightful day out of the house.

Here are my go-to places and brainstormed activities to keep the whole family interested and involved, even the older kids:

1 - BOTANICAL GARDEN

If you are lucky enough to have a botanical garden near you, make this your must see activity this weekend. They are usually enclosed and offer some of the most beautiful plant life and gardens you will ever see.

• "Midwest Grey" - is a color of sky that Midwesterners see from December to March. It is the color of boredom and stir crazy. I love to visit a botanical garden in the dead of winter because they are warm inside and the color of the plants reminds that yes, Spring will eventually come again.
• Scavenger Hunts - some gardens will have a scavenger hunt. We try to participate in the "Gnome Search" in the garden near us every year. It's a fun way to engage children and adults to look around and see things they might normally miss.
• Photography - these gardens are so beautiful it will be hard for your teenagers not to want to snap and share on Instagram. We bring our point-and-shoot camera and have been teaching our 5 year old some basic photography tips. It helps her notice plants around her and keeps her entertained.
• Art Exhibits - some gardens will feature artists' works scattered in and throughout the plants. So beautiful to see God's creativity mixed together seamlessly with man's creativity. In Chicago, we were fortunate enough to attend the botanical garden with a Dale Chihuly glass exhibit. It was breathtaking!
• Blooming times, waterfalls, coy ponds - check the garden websites for bloom times (irises, speciality plants, etc.), walk under a waterfall in the middle of January and observe the fish in a coy pond.
 

2 - DAY TRIPS

A day trip to me would be a destination that is 1-2 hours away from home. Day trips do not require an overnight stay at a hotel. They feel like vacations, but you get to sleep in your own bed!

• Outside parks - great way to get everyone outside and exercising and breath in nature.
• Activities - give each child a choice of 1 must see place or item while you are out exploring. A store, restaurant, playground, etc. We always hit up the "Gem Dig" activities.
• Photography - great excuse to get kids involved with photography and making them aware of their environment.
• Outside their world - day trips are a great way to explore your state. They help your children see that the world is bigger than their own town or city. Day trips help them observe different states of the human condition and will build gratitude and empathy.
 

3 - ZOO

I LOVE to visit zoos. I love to support them in their effort for wildlife conservation and education. Plus the animals are so amazing to study and observe.

• Special shows - feed a giraffe, a dolphin show, sea lion feeding. These are a great way for you to get up close and personal to a wild gorgeous animal and to learn more about them.
• Touch a shark/stingray - I use these as an opportunity to teach my daughter how we as humans need to be respectful to God's creatures.
• Walking - I love to sneak in exercise for my family anywhere I can.
• Train/Log Rides - after all that walking, it is nice to just get on a train or even a log ride and rest while still observing and learning about the animals.

4 - CHILDREN'S MUSEUM

We are lucky to have the World's Largest Children's Museum 15 minutes away from us in Indianapolis and we utilize it all the time. Anytime we travel near or far, we add the local Children's Museum to our must visit list. It is a great way for your kids to feel like they have an activity that is just for them.

• Must See Exhibit - give your children choices of what exhibit is their "must see." Make sure to visit these exhibits first while everyone still has energy. That way no one can have a meltdown that they did not get to do what they wanted to do.
• Burn off travel energy - every parent knows the feeling of getting out of the car after a long ride and witnessing kids who have plenty of energy to burn. Museums are a great way to let them climb, run, walk, explore and participate in events that burn off some of that travel energy.
• Holidays - check museum websites for special holiday events they feature. Halloween "lights on" haunted houses. themed run/walks, or Breakfast with Santa type of events. Always memorable for your kids. My husband likes to go down the 2 story slide that our museum features during the winter even more than my daughter!

TIP: Purchase a Membership - consider a membership to your children museum when your kids are young. Mom's morning out and they wear themselves out in time for a nap. Memberships save you the frustration of paying $20-$60 dollars to visit only to have a kid vomit 10 minutes in and then you have to leave. Save the money and frustration. Get the membership.

5 - YELP RESTAURANT

My family loves to go out to eat. Our daughter is extremely well behaved in restaurants so we are able to go out quite often. I know this one might be tricky for some families, but give it a try at least once.

• Take turns - empower your kids to have the opportunity to pick a new restaurant for family dinner. One dinner of junk food or strange eats will not kill them.
• New cultures - great way to introduce your family to new cultures and cultural flavors. My daughter loves Japanese, Mexican and Indian restaurants. Each month try a new culture's most popular dishes. Pick a theme or festival to visit and sample the local street food.
• Picky eaters - my daughter hates jelly on a peanut butter sandwich, but she asks for Miso soup when she is sick. Find a new restaurant and let your picky eaters explore new foods.
• Explore - wander around your town, city and neighboring areas. This helps your family get out of your comfort zone and ditch your go-to spots. Explore and try new things.

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I am not good at sitting at home playing dress up, but I can brainstorm fun activities that get my family up and moving, learning and creating life long memories.

ACTION ITEM: Schedule one of these items to explore this weekend with your family. Create a scavenger hunt or download one from Pinterest. Let your youngest child choose your lunch spot. Have your teenager show you her favorite picture from your adventure. Play on a jungle gym with your husband and kids at a new park. Stand under a waterfall and breathe in the peaceful water sounds. Feed a giraffe a piece of lettuce.

Do some exploring this weekend!

 

How to plan a memorable family adventure - tips & resources

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Going on adventures feeds my soul and brings me so much joy! I love to be out in the world. I want to participate in life. I want to see and learn as much as I can. Shoot, sometimes, I just need a change of scenery.

"Discover, Adventure & Explore" are my family's mantras. These are important to us and vital to my mental well being. Therefore, I have turned myself into an expert on planning simple, yet memorable family adventures.

Adventures do not need to be expensive. We have walked around the North Carolina University campus exploring the arena where Michael Jordan played basketball. Other adventures have been crazy expensive, but once and a lifetime moments. One example would be when we stumbled into the Peabody Hotel in Memphis during their annual Christmas Tree lighting party and we watched their world famous ducks march through the lobby and hop into the fountain! My daughter loved it. Room service in a swanky hotel and sleeping between luxurious sheets is sometimes a necessity.

Here are my top resources and tips for planning a memorable family adventure:

MUST SEE LISTS

I google "Top must see..." lists all the time. Things to do with kids. Things to do in Indianapolis. Things to do in the Midwest. Things to do throughout the year. Things to do on the moon. Things to do in Tulsa (or whatever town we are headed to). Then I print those lists out, narrow down what works for my family and start crossing items off.

Must see lists are must see for a reason. We have discovered some beautiful and memorable places from these lists. Anything from a Nascar hauler parade, food truck circles, strawberry picking, gorgeous natural parks, antique stores, new areas to play at, like the City Museum in St Louis that we crawled over, under and through. These lists will help you try something new!

TIP: I have a Word document containing a must see list of places I would like to explore locally, their hours of operations and contact information. I have a print out of this list in my car. This is the best cure for "I'm bored" when it comes wafting forward from the backseat. Find some free time. Pull out the list. Visit and cross it off!

WEBSITES

Local, County, City and State websites are a great place to discover new adventures. I use my county and my state's capitol websites the most. They list new art exhibits, local art and beer festivals, featured restaurants and events you would never dream exist. I am currently researching local horse back riding for a day date with my husband. These websites help you discover local historical markers, walking tours and what might be hidden down that gravel back road off to the right.

YELP

This is one of my go-to apps on my phone. I use this app to choose healthy meal locations when we travel. Just type in where you are and let the app work its magic. This app is especially helpful when trying to feed kids. Our daughter is picky and we usually search 2-3 restaurants and their menus before we find one she may actually eat at. App can be checked while driving or walking.

TIP: I ONLY go to restaurants based on their reviews and customer feedback. If I am in a different area, I need about 100-200+ good reviews before I will try a restaurant. When I am adventuring, I want every last detail of that trip to be amazing, including the food, dining experience and wait staff.

TIP: I have also used Yelp to find yoga studios when I am in a different city or state. It is not just for restaurants!

INSTAGRAM - *MY NUMBER 1 RESOURCE*

This is my number 1 resource when it comes to choosing new adventures and destinations.

TIP: Follow local people, your city, your capitol, a big city near you, local restaurants, organizations, local photographers, etc. They are ALWAYS taking pictures of the next best place to visit. I follow both natural wildlife accounts and urban/suburban accounts. About 99% of the trips or events we explore I have found on Instagram.

Instagram is especially wonderful when you spin down the rabbit hole and discover a new "something" that happens to only be 15 minutes away from the city you will soon be exploring. A great example of this would be when we headed to Fort Wayne for the Johnny Appleseed Festival and from an Instagram picture I saw and Google Maps we wound up a couple miles north at the cutest farm and home decor store named The Shed.

GOOGLE MAPS

Need I say more? Enter your location and get driving. Google Maps will pretty much direct your anywhere you need to go. We have driven through many states on Google Maps alone.

TIP: I print out all directions just in case you enter a "dead zone" with no connection. (Hello, like all of Connecticut for me) You don't want to be on a back woods road at night with no signal, a tired child whining in the backseat and get lost. From one friend to another...just trust me on this one.

NEWSPAPERS

My city has a local newspaper that is delivered weekly to our mailbox. I always check out activities listed in our area. Some weekends, you may not have the money, energy or patience to drive very far. Your own community is key to low maintenance adventures. My daughter was able to participate in a helicopter Easter Egg drop due to our local paper. It was so cool!

LIBRARY

Do not forget about your local library, especially if you have younger children. Libraries offer so many free learning programs. My daughter and I have attended many library events and have all looked at all types of animals up close, participated in kids yoga and witnessed cool science experiments through library programs.

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BONUS - MY CALENDAR

I am a pitbull when it comes to my calendar. Something really has to EARN its way on. We are a typical family and booked with all the regular work, church, kid after school activities that every one else participates in. But I block my weekends. That means family events only.

BONUS TIP: I have a "Special Events" tab in my digital calendar. At the beginning of every year and/or season, I look up all the festivals that I would like to attend and I block them on my calendar. Sometimes I plan months or even a year in advance. This way those special "Play" events are already holding space on my calendar.

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BONUS - WHEN YOU GET THERE

BONUS TIP: Hop on a riding tour. After a day of exploring, the kids are hot and grumpy, you and your spouse have reached your limit with each other, someone may not make it home alive, hop on a tour. We have explored Savannah, Memphis, Indianapolis and even smaller towns like Nashville and French Lick this way. Give your feet a break. Meet some local people. Learn some history. Hop on a riding tour!

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Planning a family adventure does not need to be complicated. Brainstorm things you all might be interested in. Give each child a subject they would like to learn more about. Declare family night once a month at a new restaurant you learned about on Yelp. Walk down the street to the local library sponsored event. Attend your high school's local homecoming parade. Just get out there and explore!