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Did you know about this adorable, family friendly Teddy Bear museum in Marbletown? During a fall open house, my family and I visited the Den which is set back from the road on 209. The Den of Marbletown is simply adorable and perfect for any teddy bear fanatic! There are a ton of different bears displayed and opportunities to learn the history of the teddy bear, the Steiff Company and the museum location.

The Basten family farm house was converted to a bed and breakfast and has expanded to include a teddy bear collection museum. The original collection belongs to the owner’s mother and many of the temporary exhibits include her personal favorites.

The Steiff Company has been around since 1880 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages and stages with stuffed animals. From plush baby safe cuddle blankets to luxurious fiber collectible bears for adults.

When we arrived my girls could hardly contain their excitement. They were surrounded by thousands of stuffed loves all in need of a good hug (according to the six year olds, not the store staff). After touring the gift shop we took the self-guided tour to learn more about the history of the museum and the teddy bear. We wound our way through each room filled with displays of adorably staged stuffed animals.  And just when we thought we were at the end we found the upstairs portion of this old Farm House was also converted to hold exhibits. Each room in The Den has a theme and is filled with adorable dioramas of teddy bear hijinks.

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There is an overload of teddy bears and stuffed animals throughout the museum, but in a small converted closet in one upstairs room there are plenty of old school Barbie Dolls and Madame Alexander Dolls. Across the hall from that exhibit, there is a special room called the, “Mama Bear Lounge.” This room was designed with working moms in mind. Moms are encourage to grab a coffee and their lap top and let the little ones play. Or, meet up with other moms for play dates. There is a toy box filled with blocks and other toys and a soft carpeted area for kids to play. There is free Wi-Fi where moms can get a little work done, or take a break and scroll through Facebook. The small room behind the mama bear lounge is the “kids cub cave.” It’s a small room where the kids can climb in and out of a faux cave, or grab a game or coloring page from the shelves to play at the table.

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One unique feature we did not experience is renting a guest room to spend a night at the museum. This would be an incredible birthday experience for any kid age 6 or older to sleep that close to so many squeezable bears. There is also a café and snack area inside, as well as picnic area just outside. The website boasts a picnics to go service, local fresh baked goods and a marvelous closet filled with extra amenities.

You can tell the folks in charge really put a lot of thought into the details. This museum is perfect for your teddy bear enthusiast age six and older. There are many exhibits behind glass, or under display boxes, but still many places they can hold a stuffed animal.  More active kids will love the mama bear lounge area.

Keep an eye on the Den News section on the website to check out some of the fun events planned at the house. Some previous events include a teddy bear tea, cookie decorating, jewelry making and art workshops.  The admission price to the museum is really affordable at $2.00 per adult, and $1.00 for kids to age 17 (under 1 are free) and a family rate of just $5.00. Pack a lunch and make this an affordable fun day out learning a little history and enjoying the bears!

Photo credit: The Den of Marbletown website.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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Last week I shared the Top 5 Fun Activities my kids enjoyed in 2016. This week I am sharing with you our most favorite places to visit. We did a lot more traveling this year than what I’ve shared on the blog. I just haven’t had time to update you all on the details yet. We tend to stick to local places of interest and make a few day trips through the year. But in 2016 we took a bonafide vacation and squeezed in some amazing museums and art! Keep an eye out for those future posts.

As I was digging through my posts to share with you today, I was reminded of my life with two very energetic toddlers who had two speeds: nap and full throttle. I spent a lot of time scouting safe places we could go and let them roam. Of course it also had to be educational, fun, and help them burn off some energy.  So, I’ll start by sharing our favorite fun local places to go with little ones. We often look for free things to do, but sometimes fun comes with a price tag. With any luck it’s a small price tag. If you click on the name of the place it will take you to my original post about our experience at each location and you can find additional info links there.

LOCAL PLACES

Storm King– has to be our most favorite local place for sculptural art. Not only are the sculptures larger than life, but there is plenty of room for the kids to roam and run free. The paved walk ways make it easy to get strollers and wagons through. There are bathrooms and a café. It is very family friendly for all age groups and mobility. During the summer months they have one free admission day per month!

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Trevor Zoo– this little local zoo is the perfect size for little people to enjoy. The paved path lends plenty of space and traction for little feet, and the exhibits are interesting. There are animals beyond our usual backyard habitats. Plenty of photo ops and room to burn off some energy!

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Mohonk Visitor Center– this adorable area is perfect for moms who need a break from chasing kids. If your kids really need to stretch their legs, you can take them outside to the paved trail. Open all year and free to explore. If you want to check out other trails you can get a free one week pass offered once a year to Ulster County Residents. Or, you can sign up for the annual park membership and use any trail at any time.

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Michael’s Farm– this private little farm located in Saugerties has a nice array of animals. There are farm animals, lamas, deer, ponies, emus and chickens. There are a lot of experiences to have in just one visit. They also offer camp sessions during the summer and school breaks. It is located off the beaten path and is very family friendly. We’ve enjoyed many visits and it is always a lot of fun!

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DAY TRIPS

Animal Land– this one is our absolute favorite! The park is so clean, the animals are well taken care of and there are so many play areas for kids to enjoy. It is very stroller friendly, and is mostly covered by trees making it cooler on really sunny days. We traveled just over an hour from home, but spent half a day there playing and interacting with the animals.

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Lake George – before this summer I had only ever spent an hour or two in Lake George. I was stopping through on my way home from another trip so, I had absolutely no idea how much this area has to offer. Returning with my little family was wonderful experience! We enjoyed local beaches, games on the main strip and found a little hideaway park that is perfect for little ones to burn off some energy.

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Howe’s Caverns– this is a special place for me. I grew up visiting the caves during school trips and just for fun with friends. Before you go you have to read this guide for the inside scoop. There is a lot you should know before going down below. I was excited to see how many new activities they have besides the caves. Plenty for us to go back to experience!

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I hope this helps with planning out some fun trips in the new year, or maybe ideas for when you are feeling spontaneous. These are tried and true family favorites. We hope you enjoy them too!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of traditions. We actually mixed things up year to year. There are a few traditions I keep up with my own children, and we introduce a new one here and there. But one tradition that remains the same year after year is our tradition of charitable giving.

I began our first charitable efforts at my twins’ second birthday party. I asked friends to donate one non-perishable food item.  As we were collecting items I told the girls where our donations will go. They probably did not fully understand. But they did help me make our final donations. Charity starts at home and making it an activity during the holiday season helps lay a strong foundation of generosity for my children to build upon.

This year we continue our efforts to send Christmas cards to local kids staying in the hospital and writing letters to soldiers stationed overseas. It isn’t always money that has the greatest impact; sometimes it’s just a thoughtful act that sparks a feeling of being remembered. Every human being wants to feel like they matter.

Here are some simple ways to give back this year:

Leave cookies for your neighbors.

Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothing, books and toys.

Donate gently used household goods like dishes, linens and appliances to families in need.

Bring homemade cards and baked goods to your local fire house, or police station.

Have an ornament making party with friends and deliver to a local nursing home.

Shake hands with your mail carrier.

Greet your garbage collector with a hot cup of cocoa.

Hold the door open for an elderly shopper.

Let someone take your parking spot on a busy day.

Help your child write a personal letter to their teacher thanking them for their hard work.

We often think we need to buy gifts to show our appreciation, or show someone we care; when really it is the little things that add up to bigger moments. Someone may be having a bad day when they cut the line in front of you, or they may feel like no one appreciates their job collecting refuse. Offering kindness at Christmas and all year is the perfect gift!

If your children are older and want to help in bigger ways perhaps helping them earn money, or make a donation will fill their desire to give back. I shared this list with you last year, but I have found five more local charities to share this year!

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HUDSON VALLEY HERO PROJECT- A local non-profit providing aid and caring support to veteran’s right here in the Hudson Valley. 

CHRISTMAS WISHES ULSTER COUNTY– A local non-profit bringing gifts to families in need in Ulster County.  Accepting monetary donations through the year, and toy donations in November. 

GRANTING WISHES FOR CANCER KIDS ON CHRISTMAS – adopts families with children going through cancer treatment. Families paying health care coverage, premiums and co-pays for children with cancer often struggle at Christmas. 

ANGELS OF LIGHT HUDSON VALLEYA local non-profit whose mission is to provide Holiday Giving for Children and Families with life threatening illness in the Hudson Valley, NY.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORE– located in Ulster and Dutchess counties. The mission is to provide stable home ownership for members of our own community. You can donate $20 to purchase a board that will be used in building a Habitat home; or you can shop at one of their Restore locations. These thrift shops include appliances, furniture, home goods and décor at the fraction of retail prices. Recycling these quality goods into your gift giving saves you money and the planet, and proceeds are cycled back to your neighbors in need.

You don’t have to give big to give back. You can do small, age appropriate acts of kindness, or charitable projects with your children. If we all do one small thing for our community this Christmas it will have a big impact on our neighbors through out the year.

Share some inspiration: what family traditions do you have that make it feel more like Christmas?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

Related posts: Granting Christmas Wishes for Local Families Give a Kid The Gift of Swag Charity Starts at Home- 7 Ways to Give Back With Kids In Tow

At the end of every summer I am left with a big pile of ticket stubs, mini golf score cards, park maps and parking passes from all of our adventures. I hate to throw them away because they make a fun touchstone to all the fun we’ve had. I love to look back at them and remember the stories of each adventure or activity. So how do I preserve our summer mementos and keep things tidy? Here’s how:

PHOTO BOOKS

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At the end of each month I upload our photos to a website with photo storage such as Shutterfly or Snapfish. My photos are stored until I am ready to sit down and order prints, or organize into photo books. I try to create a photo book at the end of every season, or big event. We already have a collection of photo books from my kids’ first birthday, our first family vacation and so on. We love to make a night of looking back when the final book arrives.  If you are not someone who likes to keep your ticket stubs, or park passes you can easily take a photo of them to include in a photo book before tossing.

PHOTO DISK

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I like to feel like I have a backup system to our digital memories. I did not grow up with the instant gratification of digital pics and digital storage. We had to wait a week before we could see every blurry shot, or thumb print we captured. Even then we had a negative to hold onto in case we lost any of those printed images. If the Internet crashes tomorrow and my computer melts down, I still have all our memories in hard copy. This also works for a SANS Disk or USB drive.

PHOTO SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

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I have not yet tried this, but there are several apps available that allow you to send photos from your phone to print. For a small monthly fee, the service mails the prints to you and you can then put them into albums or other storage.  GrooveBook sends 100 bound photos in a small book and Recently sends magazine style books to you each month. Prices vary per service. Order your prints before you head home from vacation and have them waiting for you when you arrive.

MAKE A SMASH BOOK

smash book

This is one I can get behind. I absolutely love the informal and imperfect way to stash our little pieces of summer. It reminds me of the scrap book I kept through high school. I would just tape my ticket stubs, birthday cards, photos and newspaper clippings to a page. And that’s exactly how you make a smash book.

Start by selecting a notebook. It can be as fancy as you’d like, or simple.  Then when you return home from each adventure you tape all your mementos to a page. You can come back later to add photos, doodles, drawings and stories. There is no right or wrong way to do it! Every member of the family can take a turn adding in their own pieces and writing their own memories on the page.

This process is less fussy than creating an intricate scrap book page. Although I think those are super cute, I personally don’t have the time to scrapbook, or shop for supplies.  A smash book is like a journal meets photo album. So easy!

How do you store your summer memories?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Summer is the time to enjoy the beautiful Hudson Valley with our families. Unfortunately, when we’re camping, hiking, swimming or just hanging out in the backyard, we have to contend with ticks and other insects. If you’re reluctant to use commercial insect-repellent sprays with their harsh chemicals, try this healthy alternative:

  • 4 oz. distilled water
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin
  • 30 drops geranium or rose geranium essential oil
  • 10 drops tea tree essential oil

Shake vigorously and apply often.

Unlike many other essential oils, geranium oil can be applied directly to the skin (if a rash appears, stop use). Place a drop behind each ear and at the wrist pulse points for extra protection. If using on your dog, put a drop between the shoulder blades and one at the base of the tail.

Enjoy a healthy summer!

Tucked away on a tiny lot which you probably pass every time you make your way through the village of Catskill, is the Catamount. This kooky little people’s museum is fun for all ages. It is quite unique and if you pass by too quickly you will miss it. It sits just above street level and blends right into the greenery and the remains of an old brick foundation. The Catamount is completely hand built and the brain child of local artist Matt Bua. You can read Matt’s blog to see conceptual sketches, ideas and events held at the museum.

Catamount

What makes this museum truly unique is that it is a “people’s museum.” All the exhibits inside the belly of the bobcat are donated by members of the community, strangers stopping by and local historical organizations. You will find maps, water color paintings, a carved wooden cat puppet, newspaper articles and much more. Even you are welcome to leave behind a little work of art, a map, or a note. Have fun signing the guest book and looking through to see how far people travel to visit.

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The bobcat was installed in 2010 and it was only supposed to stay for one year. But this heart warming feline has grown on the city of cats and folks here have let it stay. Would you believe I drove passed this spot for a year to schlep my kids to preschool and I never noticed the 15 foot cat?!

We found out about this amazing little place through the Follow That Book program at the Catskill Public Library. Librarians Miss Jennifer and Miss Crystal put together a wonderful tour and story time. My girls even enjoyed a game of ping pong using a wooden plank for a paddle. Why not? The entire Catamount is made out of recycled and found objects. Even the eyes are made from old plates and light bulbs. At night you can see them glowing. So it is only fitting we used planks of wood we foud lying around to create our paddles.

Between ping pong and story time we enjoyed a lovely picnic inside the bobcat. Then it was time to chat with the artist himself. He was really great with helping the kids build their own sculpture from found objects. He let the kids take total control of the project and simply guided them with, “where do you feel that piece belongs?” It was educational, interesting and different than your usual story time.

Tips if you plan to visit: Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the table inside the museum, or spread out a blanket on the grass nearby.

Bring plenty of bug spray. Even though it is a small lot it is quite lush with greenery.

Be sure to stop by Coney Island just up the street (walking distance) for ice cream and fun kiddie rides. Take your picture with the tiny Statue of Liberty.

Bring a camera!

Bring a small piece of history or your own hand crafted artwork to leave behind.

If you just can’t get enough cats in your visit, be sure to find parking on Main Street and take the walking tour of painted cats. You can find a map at the Greene County Arts Council, or just walk on your own. If you stop by the arts council check out the latest exhibits!

Check out the secret gardens planted between buildings on Main St.

Cool off at the library in the kids books section and pick up your calendar for Follow That Book.

Stop for lunch at Village Pizza or the Garden Gate Deli. Both places are kid friendly, affordable and really yummy!

For a really small village there sure is a lot of free art to see and fun things to find! The girls and I truly enjoyed the day. We can’t wait to make a trip back to leave behind our own piece of history.

 painted catsPainted cat 2painted cat 3

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

Blueberries at Mead Orchard (1)

It seems the new parenting trend this summer is to give our kids a “70’s summer.” As in the 1970’s. The decade mostly known for crazy fashions, zero child safety laws and an abundance of TAB cola. Back then, parents just didn’t hover in the same way we do today. Kids were left to figure things out on their own. Things like how many rocks will fill that tree stump, or how to cover up a scratch you got after mom told you three times not to climb that fence. All really important stuff.

As I thought about all the near death experiences that taught me survival skills, I wondered how I could give my kids some of the fun experiences I had growing up. I sifted through memories of the crazy things we did while unsupervised when I remembered one of my favorite things to do was pick berries. Especially blue berries.

With that, I woke my little family up one sunny morning and announced we need to find a place to pick our own blueberries. As we made the 30-minute drive to Mead Orchard, I regaled the children with stories of growing up in the country where the kids ran as wild as the blueberries. My cousins and I would be outside in the summer sun for hours, eating more berries than our bellies could hold, and returning home with buckets full of treasure.

There was absolutely no structure to our hauling berries. So it felt odd to me to find a neat parking spot in the middle of a huge orchard, and receive instructions as to where to find the best berries. It isn’t the same as being let loose to fend for ourselves, but picking berries in any fashion is still a valid way for my kids to connect with a food source.

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At Mead’s the neatly lined berry bushes are surrounded by a netted canopy to keep the berries safe from hungry animals. My kids did not seem to be bothered by it at all, but it is completely different than my childhood berry experiences.

In my memory there are haphazard bushes lining the far back end of a field and we all race to be the first ones to get our hands on those precious orbs. Our parents were more than willing to let us go. They planted themselves in a circle with all the other parents,  summer beverages in hand as they caught up on life. No one directed us to the best berries. No one outlined the rules on where not to climb or to where watch out for bees. The older ones were coached how to watch out for the younger ones and we were off.

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At the end of our day at Mead’s we picked a total of 4 lbs. of blueberries and 2 lbs. of tart cherries (which are now out of season). Blueberries are still available until the end of August. For less than $20.00 we had fresh fruits to show for our labor, and my kids were wonderfully worn out and full of summer sun and fresh air. It wasn’t the rollicking rumpus of my childhood, but it was definitely a satisfying way to connect my kids to where the blueberries in their pancakes come from.

Mead Orchard is located in Red Hook, NY and the staff there are very knowledgeable about all their products. Not only can you pick your own fruits and berries, but you can purchase their honey and jam. Don’t worry if you buy a jar of honey with the honey comb still in it, one of the cashiers can give you a recipe or two on how to use it.

Tips: If you bring a lunch you can tail gate where you parked, or grab lunch at Papa’s Best Batch road stand on your way out. Either place provides plenty of room for little ones to play. Bring some bubbles or story books to make it entertaining. Be sure to bring cash! There are no ATM’s out in the field.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 Related: Hudson Valley Parent List of U-Pick Farms

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It’s been a crazy, busy, week-and-a-half since my kids started summer break. I just love the summer and all the things we get to do as a family from swimming, boating, BBQs with family, trips to county fairs, and of course vacation. But there’s one thing that is most definitely NOT on my summer agenda – homework.

My neighbor showed me a great big folder of worksheets her son’s teacher gave her students to do as homework this summer. I looked at her and said, “I won’t make my kids do homework this summer.” Before you go crazy on me. I’m not anti-learning over the summer. What I am is anti-homework.

Even though my kids are still in elementary school (my son just finished 1st grade and my daughter finished 3rd) they honestly work their butts off all year long. My third grader completed her state tests without a single anxiety attack, which is quite honestly a miracle. I guess my years of experience being a sensitive person are actually helping me teach my sensitive daughter that tests don’t define her. She also participated in the science fair.

I spent every week night sitting at the table with my son while he either sailed through his math worksheet or struggled and occasionally shed a few tears over his reading packet. Not only did they work so hard all day long, but they came home to more work. Frankly, so did I.

Now that it’s summer, I have no intention of sitting down with worksheets for homework time. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them to learn over the summer. Here are four activities we’ll do that are both educational and fun.

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The library is always one of our summer destinations to encourage their love of reading.

1. Go To The Library – We’ve already been to the library twice in the short time school has been out. My kids love picking out books. They’ve each read between ten and twelve books, not because I said, “Okay let’s sit down and do homework,” not because I put the timer on like I had to for Jay each week night during the school year, and not because I want them to learn anything in particular. I let them be their own guide.

My daughter devours chapter books and my son alternates between fiction and non-fiction. I want them to have the joy of reading just for pleasure and no “homework” is going to give them that same joy. Books are also portable. We can take them along on our summer adventures. Our library also offers a summer reading program with lots of fun activities and outings.

2. Play Board Games – My son LOVES board games and I think many people overlook the valuable learning tools that many of them are. Scrabble is great for practicing spelling, Life and Monopoly are awesome for learning about money management and counting, and Battleship teaches logic and deduction. So many board games involve counting, problem-solving, and strategy. Games are a great way to keep their brains sharp, while having fun.

3. Go On Field Trips – I love raising kids in the Hudson Valley with so many great places to visit from nature museums, playgrounds, to historical sites like the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park. The summer is also filled with festivals where you can teach your children about different cultures while trying new food. Summer is the perfect time for all those field trips you couldn’t take during the school year. Get out and explore your community by planning a trip with MyFamilyTripPlanner.com or check for great events on Hudson Valley Parent’s Community Calendar.

 

Hannah Experiment

Hannah experimenting with food dye to see how flowers draw water up from their stems.

4. Let Them Play I think we underestimate just how important play is to children’s learning. My daughter loves to write and draw. She and her brother love to go through and pick out experiments to do from a book I bought for $5 at Aldi that contains 101 simple science experiments for kids. I love that they are exploring the wonders of the world through play. It also gives them a chance to explore their own interests, free from curriculum.

I’m a big proponent of education, but there are so many different ways that children learn. I will probably have my son practice his addition and subtraction facts this summer using educational websites because that’s his favorite way to practice. Beyond that, I plan to be out of the house every nice day, enjoying the many wonderful things the Hudson Valley has to offer.

They only have so many summers before they graduate high school and are off to college or thrust into the real world and I want to make as many memories as I can. I want every day to be filled with dirty feet, sun blown hair, wet bathing suits on my clothes line, and little people passed out in the backseat after a long day of amazing memories they’ll cherish forever (I know I will).

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

 

 

 

Create aBack Yard Sumer Camp

The end of the school year is only a few weeks away. The subject of summer camp started floating around in mid-April. I find  that most camps run only one week. And if they run longer it can get pretty pricey, especially for two kids. Even a one week camp for $55 per kid can break our budget for summer activities.

I feel like I am some how letting my kids down by not giving them a camp experience. Then I remember I never spent one single day at summer camp as a kid. And I turned out pretty awesome. 😉 My kiddos have many years ahead of them to get involved with different activities. This summer is our last hoorah before Kindergarten. Who knows if the future will allow me to have summers off every year? This is our last summer to live it up!

This year I am starting a back yard summer camp with my kids and their friends. I am enlisting the help of my fellow parents who are willing to open their yards for different activities. We can each volunteer a day to host, lead an activity, share a snack and just play. Sharing in activities keeps the cost low, makes for less planning and saves us from hearing “we never do anything” and “I’m bored!”  Not to mention the social benefits my kids get from keeping in touch with their friends over the summer.

You don’t have to be a teacher, or have any training to make back yard summer camp fun! You just have to be a big kid at heart! Take a cue from your kids interests and create one day of fun each week in your own back yard! Then ask your friends to do the same.

Get Organized

Gather your friends and decide on a schedule. If you run arts and crafts on Monday maybe someone could offer sports, or music another day of the week.

Play to your strengths. Are you crafty? Do you mind getting messy? Can you sing, or dance, or play guitar? Sharing those gifts with friends can make for some really great summer memories.

Will the host provide a snack for everyone? Or will each family bring their own snack, or lunch? Maybe a potluck or picnic style lunch?

Will you allow the kids to be dropped off, or will you expect parents to participate too?

Decide on A Time Frame

Hosting a group every day would be exhausting. Perhaps one hour every Monday, or every other Tuesday? Decide if camp will run for one week, one month or through out the summer.

Inspiration for Activities

Or should I say, Pinsperation? Hit up Pinterest for activities and ideas. You can also find a little inspiration right here on my blog! See below for related links, and check back each week!

Get Creative

If you are not someone who is crafty, or think you don’t have a special skill to share why not volunteer a time the kids can all run through the sprinklers together? Or host a water balloon fight? Kids can share a snack or lunch after while the adults get to chat.

Take a Trip

I know the title says Back Yard Summer Camp, but it could be fun to pick one day a week to meet at a local museum, a new hiking trail, or visit a new library. It might be fun to volunteer together as a group at a local food pantry, or animal shelter. Getting out of the backyard can help mix things up and see new sights.

Even if you are a parent working a 9-5 you can create a Saturday workshop, a week night camp time, or maybe there is a week during your summer that you can get a group together to rotate back yards. The whole idea of a back yard summer camp is to make it work for you! Have fun and enjoy your time with the kids!

Related links: Create A Mud Kitchen Storm King Art Center Frozen Dino Smash Backyard Pirate Adventure

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

the story from the lens

At the beginning of every summer I try to round up a few new places to visit with the kids. Now that my kids are getting older they are outgrowing some of the play spaces  we used to visit. One thing that hasn’t changed is their desire to explore.

Last month our family signed up for a free Healthy Ulster Membership at the Mohonk Preserve. The Visitor Center Trailhead is located at 3197 State Route 55, Gardiner, NY. While we were there we were encouraged to explore the visitor center which includes an interactive children’s corner. And by corner I mean an area too small for a crowd, or big group. But it is perfect for a handful of friends to gather for play.

Here is what we found during our exploration:

Interactive Exhibits

When you enter the center you are on the upper level. There are interactive exhibits where kids can learn about the land within the Mohonk preserve, the animals they can find and the Geoexchange system running the center. Your toddler won’t understand a whole lot of this information, but they will love getting to push the buttons and using the swipe screen to get to the next slide of information while your older child interacts on their own.

There are amazing views all around so be sure to simply take a moment to enjoy looking out the large windows at the surrounding landscape.

Children’s Corner

After you make your way through the upper level take the stairs down to the children’s corner. There is something there for kids of any young age. There are books, games and puzzles about nature. There are a few live animals to see and kids can unearth animal bones. You can even borrow a nature exploration kit and wander through the Children’s Forest right outside the center.

VC-Kids-Corner

HVP kids corner

Sensory Trail

This is a paved trail that is perfect for strollers and for toddlers learning to walk. Simply follow the path and allow your little ones to explore the artwork, butterfly gardens and views along the way. The paved path leads into the Children’s Forest where there are fun things to play with. We found a tee pee style hut made with sticks and a whole lot of natural things to keep our exploration thinking caps busy. Allow your kid to be your guide and follow along at their pace. You will be amazed by the amount of questions they begin asking.

HVP childrens forest

What got my kids the MOST excited? The little animal nook tucked away under the stairs in the children’s corner. Beyond these doors is a hidden little room where kids can sit with the many stuffed creatures and use their playtime imaginations. Moms can sit quietly on a bench and feed babies, or chat with another mom.

HVP animal nook

HVP kid corner 2

The visitor center is open 9 am – 5 pm daily (except holidays) all year. It is free to explore the children’s corner and the sensory trail just outside which leads to the children’s forest. Pack a snack and invite a friend for an easy morning of play, or bring your lunch for an afternoon of pint sized fun! For more information click here.

Even though my kids are no longer toddlers we enjoyed this day out together. I wish I knew about it when my kids were little and we needed a safe place to explore. It’s a great place to wear out little ones with play time adventures before nap. Older kids (I’d say up to age 8) can enjoy the activities here as well. A great little stop for moms of kids with toddlers or mixed ages.

 

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter.

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