Category Archives: Play and Fun Activities

McAuliffe Park – Kirkland

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After 30 years on the Eastside, and 6 in Kirkland, I had never been to McAuliffe park. I’d driven by on 116th countless times, but from the road, it didn’t look like much, so I never stopped in. But then on the Kirkland Rocks Facebook page, people would often post that they’d hidden beautiful painted rocks at McAuliffe for kids to find. So, finally we went. And this park is a unique gem!

It’s at 10824 NE 116th Street; halfway between Totem Lake and Juanita Village.

It’s 11.6 acres, with lots and lots of wide open lawn, shady orchard trees to throw out a picnic blanket below, a playground, picnic tables, nature trails, a community pea patch with 35 plots, an antique barn, 2 windmills, and lots of ancient rusted farm equipment and old gas station memorabilia to explore.

The community learning garden features permaculture principles, annual vegetables grown with organic practices, a new rain garden, and water and resource conservation. The Tilth Alliance offer classes at the park.

The property was homesteaded in 1877, and only two families owned it between that time and when the Kirkland Parks department acquired it in a series of purchases from the 1990’s through 2017. Read more (and see more pictures) on Active Rain, and in the Master Plan report. (Note: the master plan from 2005 had grand visions for the site, but it does not appear most of them were implemented.

We visited in the midst of coronavirus season, and there were maybe 30 people we saw there, spread out over 12 acres, so easy to socially distance! The playground was closed when we were there, due to quarantine, but people were hard at work in their plots in the community garden, and a few families were relaxing in the shade. It struck me as a great place to take 3 – 8 year old children where the parent(s) could sit and relax and the kids could run quite a ways, and play while still being safely in the parents’ sight. There’s even some nice low climbing trees.

It’s a park well worth visiting when you’re in the mood for a little wandering around and exploring or a little sitting under a tree reading a good book.

 

 

Low Contact Parks on the Eastside

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Update on 5/28:

Current state guidelines on outdoor activities do allow for outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running or biking, but only if appropriate social distancing practices are used. They also recommend that 1) people with flu-like symptoms not participate, 2) recreate locally – do not travel farther than necessary, 3) limit your recreation partners to those who live in your household unit. 4) use face masks in any situation where social distancing is not possible, 5) bring your own food and supplies.

King County says: “Visitors are asked to “Keep it Moving!” – meaning to use our parks and trails for walking, running, riding, and rolling. No congregating in parking lots or trailheads and no team sports or pick-up games on ballfields.”

I would add – don’t count on restrooms being available – be sure to “go” before you go. And please, Please, PLEASE respect the guidelines!!! If lots of people violate them, the parks will be closed down again. 😦

Choosing a Less Traveled Path

When planning an outing, the first parks that come to mind are the most popular ones – Green Lake, Alki Beach, Marymoor, Rattlesnake Ridge. But these can get crowded. But in King County, we are blessed with so many fabulous public spaces outdoors. Here are some less well known gems to consider for your walks during this time. (Some of these are bike-friendly, some are not: check bike maps for bike trails.)

If a park has a playground you would have to pass by to get to the trails, I’ll make a note, because I know it could be super hard for some little ones to see a playground and be told they couldn’t play there. Below, I’ll link to websites for city parks departments. Here’s the current status of King County parks, and Washington state parks.

Bellevue

Bellevue Parks has over 2700 acres of parks and open space and over 90 miles of trails! There’s a map of Bellevue Parks here. Some options to consider:

Lake to Lake Trail System is ten miles of trails. You could park at many spots along the way and just do a portion of the walk. The Lake Hills Greenbelt is from Phantom Lake to Larsen Lake. Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm has plenty of room for wandering up and down the rows.

Coal Creek Natural Trail is near the Cougar Mountain trails, but has fewer hikers.

Lakemont Park is 16 acres with 3 miles of trails. (The playground is right next to the parking lot, but if you’d rather avoid that part of the park, you could park at the nearby shopping center and there’s a footbridge into the park.)

Lewis Creek has a 2.3 mile walk that takes you through wetlands and meadows. (Playground at one end, but easy to avoid.)

Mercer Slough is 320 acres. It’s got multiple trails to hike to view wetlands and meadow.

There are three parks I know of that you might never know had a mile or more of hiking hidden in them.  Robinswood Park – near Bellevue College. Here’s a trail map, with one of our favorite trails through the woods marked out on it. Ardmore Park – near Microsoft.  Zumdieck is just north of downtown, and has a nice little loop through the woods. These are all great hikes for younger kids – I’ve done them with many three year olds, also good for elders who aren’t looking for an endurance hike. All three have playgrounds.

If you want a more challenging, straight up the hill in the woods hike, try the Weowna Park Trail up hill from Lake Sammamish.

If you’re just looking for a place to sit and read or have non-social play, there’s also tons more parks, both big and small. Some have playgrounds, some don’t. There are also lots of “mini-parks” and “corner parks” that aren’t much more than some grass, some trees and a picnic table. (We ate at one of those the other day, but we threw a blanket out on the lawn rather than sitting at the table, where virus concentrations might be higher.) Check on the Bellevue Parks website to learn more. And more Bellevue trails are listed here. Click here for: covid-19 restrictions.

Crowded Parks – may want to avoid

Avoid Downtown Bellevue Park – it’s often crowded on sunny days – leave this to the folks who live downtown and may not have cars. Same thing for Crossroads Park, which can be crowded and is in another neighborhood where lots of folks don’t have cars to take them to other options. I would leave Bridle Trails for the horse folks to get the outings that they and their animals need. I would avoid the barn area at Kelsey Creek park which may be more crowded, but there is a nice .9 mile walking trail there, which should be fine.

Kirkland

Here’s the Kirkland Parks map. (Covid-19 info here.) Some parks to try:

OO Denny – north of Juanita, near the Kenmore border. Nice beach area. (There’s a playground there.) What many people don’t notice is that on the other side of the road, up the hill, there’s a few miles of fabulous wooded trails (here’s a trail map with points of interest). It’s a pretty challenging steep climb, but beautiful. When we went on a beautiful day in late April, we hiked two hours, and passed maybe 20 people.

Big Finn Hill is also on the border of Kirkland and Kenmore. It’s got 9.5 miles of trails back behind the playground.

Carillon Woods – near Northwest College. Some trails into the woods, pretty hilly. I wrote a post about it, though it mostly covers the playgrounds, which are closed now.

Edith Moulton – between Totem Lake and Juanita. Here’s the schematic for when it was re-designed, which includes detailed maps. It’s got a nice easy walking loop.

Juanita Bay (around the corner from Juanita Beach) has a nice path to look over the lake. You may see turtles. The boardwalk there has looked a little crowded when we’ve driven by near dinner times.

There’s also some parks I know nothing about, like “Cotton Hill Park – undeveloped.” Looks like it at least has a trail? Juanita Heights, Kingsgate and Norway Hill also have trails.

Places to sit and read/work outside: Everest Park – I like parking at their north parking lot and sitting by the stream. (The playground is out of sight from there.) Peter Kirk in downtown Kirkland, Terrace Park in Houghton – both of those have playgrounds.

Parks to Avoid

Here are some parks I normally love… but they’re basically small parks with big playgrounds, that are closed, so if that would make your small child sad, avoid Tot Lot, Phyllis Needy, Reservoir, Van Aalst. On the other hand, they’re a fine place for older kids or adults to spread out a blanket and read, or play frisbee with household members and so on.

Juanita Beach, Marina Park, and Houghton Beach can get crowded on sunny days. Whenever we’ve gone to Marina Park on a sunny day this spring, it has felt a little crowded for my comfort. I mask when I’m walking through, but take my mask off if we’re sitting at a distance from others.

Kenmore

Rhododendron Park has a short trail – a nice amble for a young child or an elder.

Wallace Swamp Creek has trails, but I haven’t had the chance to check it out. (Note, this is NOT an off leash dog park, but some people are under the impression it is, so there may be loose dogs there.)

Burke-Gilman Trail. This is a 20 mile long trail, but portions of it go through Kenmore. It’s paved, so great for bikes, roller blades, strollers. It is quite busy on sunny weekends, but probably a decent option for a cloudy, gray weekday. We have found the Kenmore stretches to be less busy than the Seattle zones.

St. Edward’s State Park. Lots of great trails. Definitely too busy on a sunny weekend, but would be a good outing on a rainy weekday. Large playground – it’s possible to park a ways away and walk away from it, and they might not notice. It’s a state park, so you need a Discover Pass, or it’s $10 to park there.

Here are more Kenmore parks, Covid-19 info here.

Redmond

There are 59 miles of public trails in the City of Redmond!

The City of Redmond website doesn’t provide a lot of detailed information on the trails; however, you can find more info about them on the All Trails website or app, on the Washington Trails Association website or TrailLink.

Trail names to look up:

Or, there’s the 1.5 mile Viewpoint trail in the Tam O’Shanter neighborhood on the border of Redmond and Bellevue.

Parks to Avoid

I would avoid the dog walk at Marymoor unless you have a dog who absolutely requires that much space for running in, just because there’s probably many humans there. The rest of Marymoor has plenty of open space for walking in or sitting outside in while distancing. (Note: Marymoor is in Redmond, but is a county park.)

Current covid-19 info for Redmond.

Snoqualmie / North Bend

If you don’t live there, don’t go there.

I say that because I have a friend in North Bend who says the locals can’t get out to any nearby parks because they’re all over-flowing with day hikers. If you really can’t resist the area, instead of going to Mount Si, at least check out this article on 7 Trails to Try for Better Social Distancing.

Other Areas

Check out this Parent Map article on State Parks near Seattle. It covers Dash Point in Federal Way, Flaming Geyser in Auburn, Bay View in Mt. Vernon, Camano Island, and Salt Water in Des Moines. And this article on Secret Urban Hikes in Seattle area.

Learn about Nature while you’re out

I’ve written a guide to learning about Northwest Native plants, which includes all the major plants you’ll find on a hike outdoors, and also has a couple of scavenger hunts – one for preschool age kids, one for older kids (or adults), and a dichotomous key. Here’s another great Native Plant Field Guide that was developed by someone as her senior year project.

The City of Bellevue has a scavenger hunt for Lewis Creek that could also be used elsewhere. I found that some of the things on it were harder for kids, so I made my own version of the nature scavenger hunt using theirs as a base.

Walking in Your Neighborhood

Or, if you want to stay super close to home, but need to get outdoors (there are LOTS of physical and mental health benefits of time spent outdoors), you can get outdoors with proper social distancing, in ANY neighborhood. If you’re an adult walking alone, try listening to some great podcasts as you walk, or use this time to call and connect with a friend or family member. If you’re walking with kids, and doing the same path over and over, there are lots of ways to liven it up: one day do a search for all the letters in the alphabet (on license plates, street signs, and so on), another day, do a search for all the numbers, another day, play I spy where you take turns spotting things. Some folks are trying to start some coronavirus-time connections, like placing a teddy bear in their window for kids to spot when they’re out walking – keep an eye out in your neighborhood to see if you can find any signs that this is catching on!

When to Go Out

Obviously, if it’s rainy or cool, there will be fewer people out than if it’s gorgeous weather. So, grab a raincoat or an umbrella and head out in any weather.

You may also choose to access the parks at less crowded times – I would suspect that the most crowded times will be lunchtime, maybe a 4 or 5 pm end of the day time, and weekends, since many people are still working regular hours, whether at home or a work place, or attempting to school their kids during “school hours.”

Before you go out

First, let’s be cautious to take as few germs out into the world with us as possible. Things to consider: If you haven’t changed clothes in a few days (no judgment if that’s the case!), do so before going out. Bring a cloth face cover, in case it’s hard to keep enough distance between you and others. Take your temperature to make sure you don’t have a fever. (This is not a perfect precaution, because you can be contagious before symptoms, but still a good step because if you do have a fever, you should definitely stay home.) Go to the bathroom before you leave the house, so you’re less likely to need to do it when you’re out. (And because many parks facilities and bathrooms may be closed.) And wash your hands before going out!

If you have children, explain to them before you leave that this is a “no touch” outing. (Toddlers may not be capable of resisting all the time, but we can do our best.) I would not bring snacks along if I had a little one, since their hands would be in and out of their mouths over and over, maybe transporting germs in and out.

Note: Rails to Trails also offers a helpful article on the latest expert guidance on outdoor activity and covid-19.

When You Get Home

Leave your outdoor things (coats, shoes, purse) by the door. Don’t carry them through the house. Wash your hands! If you were using your phone, you could clean that too.

More Ideas?

If you have more ideas or any feedback, please add it in the comments!

Elsewhere on this blog, I have tips on Suddenly Homeschooling – I share the system that’s working for us and easy ideas for Toddler Activities in the Time of Coronavirus. Plus the blog is just generally full of tips about parenting kids from birth to age 9.

Outdoor Theatre 2019

Kitsap Forest Theatre, www.foresttheater.com/

Kitsap Forest Theatre, http://www.foresttheater.com/

Outdoor productions of Shakespeare and other plays are a fun way to experience the arts in the summer time. Bring a picnic, spread a blanket out on the grass, and enjoy! (If you prefer sitting in a chair to on the ground, be sure it’s a low profile chair so you don’t block anyone’s view.)

Although you can see Shakespearean tragedies outdoors, I personally prefer big, rollicking shows outdoors – the comedy and music play better in situations where there are Frisbee players in the far distance, dogs sniffing by, and airplanes flying overhead.

Outdoor theater is a good venue for kids because it gives more leeway for squirming and wiggling than an indoor performance with theater rules. However, you should still endeavor to keep kids quiet and well-behaved. Most of the shows listed here are good for ages 7 or 8 and up, but I would save King Lear and Henry IV for teens and up. We have brought preschoolers to shows, but we don’t expect them to pay full attention – bring snacks, toys, and sticker books to entertain them quietly.

Seattle Area:

July 13 and 14 is the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival in Volunteer Park in Seattle, which features performances from Wooden O and Greenstage (see above) plus Last Leaf, Theatre Schmeater, Shakespeare NW, 14/48 projects, Versatile Arts, Dacha, Freehold, and Young Shakespeare Workshop. This year, they have several performances labeled “Kids Show!” Free, please donate to support it!

Greenstage Shakespeare in the Park is performing Henry IV, part 2 and Taming of the Shrew this year in Burien, Fall City, Lynnwoood, Maple Valley, and Seattle; their smaller scale Backyard Bard performances are of Merry Wives of Windsor and Measure for Measure at various Seattle parks. Season runs July 12 – August 17. Free, please donate!

Outdoor Trek becomes Outdoor Star Wars… For the past several years, Hello Earth has performed live an episode of Star Trek The Original Series. Simple props like hula hoop and streamer transporters are surprisingly effective and always entertaining. Last year they did Star Wars – A New Hope (R2-D2 on roller skates!), so of course this year is Empire Strikes Back.   Blanche Lavizzo park in Seattle. August 3 – 25. Free. (Donate!!) Schedule here.

Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre sadly is not doing a production this year.

Theater Schmeater. 5 performances, July 13 – August 15. Fabulous Fable Factory – The delightful story of an inquisitive youngster who discovers an old factory operated by Mr. Aesop. Seattle parks, free.

Wooden O is doing  Romeo & Juliet (featuring a female and non-binary cast) and Twelfth Night (all male cast). Thurs – Suns: July 11 – August 11. In Bellevue, Des Moines, Edmonds, Federal Way, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Sea-Tac, Seattle, Tacoma. Free but please donate!

Day Trips or Overnights

Island Shakespeare Festival – Langley. July 5 – September 1. Thursdays – Sundays. Midsummer Night’s Dream, Winter’s Tale, and Inferno (info TBA). Free. (Donate!)

Kitsap Forest Theatre (near Bremerton) is doing Mamma Mia. (They did  Newsies on the weekends from Memorial Day to Father’s Day.) Saturdays and Sundays 2 pm, July 27 – August 18. $34 adults, $18 youth, 6 and under free.

Leavenworth Summer Theatre is presenting Sound of Music, Pirates of Penzance and Hello Dolly. July 6 – August 30, Tuesdays – Saturdays. $14 – 35.

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival (near La Conner, SW of Mt. Vernon). They’ve not yet announced a 2019 season.

Other Summer Arts Opportunities

Library Summer Reading Programs

Library programs for ages 3 – 12 happen all summer long, and include story time and much more.

King County library:  This year’s theme is space themed so the shows are about space, the stars, and science. Go to this page https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events/search/index, and you can filter for events that work for you, or type the name of a show you want to see into the search bar at the top of the page. Some shows to consider: the Story of the Stars puppet show, Space Dog, and Jammin on Jupiter.

The Seattle Public Library summer reading theme this year is “Explore Your World.”

Movies

I have a full post about cinema morning movies, outdoor movies in the parks, and drive-in theaters: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2019/06/23/summer-movies-2019/

Concerts:

Red Tricycle has already assembled this great Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Concerts. It includes info about kid-friendly concerts – some free, some pricey. At the Ballard Locks, the zoo, Issaquah’s Spring Free trampoline, U Village, downtown Seattle, Seattle Center, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Kirkland, Issaquah, Sammamish, Everett, Kenmore, Redmond, and Tukwila. Also check out ParentMap’s listings: www.parentmap.com/article/outdoor-summer-entertainment-for-families-seattle-eastside-north-sound

Other Activities for Kids in the Seattle area:

If you’re looking for other fun ideas for the summer, check out my series on “Cheap Dates with Toddlers and Young Kids”,  or reviews of Eastside Parks or find hands-on STEM enrichment activities for kids age 3 – 7 at www.InventorsOfTomorrow.com.

For school year activities, if you have kids age birth to 7, check out info about info about fabulous classes at local community colleges that are great for kids AND include parent education for you,- register now before they fill up!!

 

Summer Movies 2019

Whether you’re looking for outdoor movies to enjoy those warm summer evenings, or indoor movie clubs for those hot summer mornings when you really just need some A/C, or a drive-in movie, here are some options in the Seattle / King County area for summer 2019.

Kids’ Summer Movie Clubs

As you may remember from your own childhood, these are probably the cheapest, easiest way to entertain your kids for two hours on a summer morning…

Outdoor Movies

Below, I list all the outdoor movie series in King County. All information is current as of 6/23/19 – but check individual websites for updates or changes! Most movies are PG rated. I tried to note where they are PG-13 or R.

Note: all outdoor movies start around “dusk”. In  the Pacific Northwest, that means starting around 9 – 9:30 pm in July and 8:30 – 9 in August, so outdoor movies aren’t compatible with early bedtimes.

Get some handy tips / etiquette advice for outdoor movies here and here. Top tips are: go early for good seating location, bring a sweatshirt and blankets, as the weather cools quickly after dark, and if you bring a chair, make sure it’s a low profile chair so you don’t block anyone’s view. It doesn’t hurt to have a flashlight to find your way to the bathroom or port-a-potty – just be sure to shine it only at the ground in front of you.

By Day of Week

Tuesdays

  • Downtown Movies in the Park at Bellevue’s Downtown Park.  Pre-movie activities at 7:30. FREE entertainment, popcorn and movies – each week has a non-profit partner, and you’re encouraged to donate to support these programs. 7/9 Hotel Transylvania 3, 7/16 Dog’s Way Home, 7/23 Smallfoot, 7/30 How to Train… 8/6 Lego Movie 2, 8/12 Ferdinand, 8/20 Wonder Park, 8/27 Back to the Future.

Wednesdays:

  • Movies at Marymoor Park in Redmond. 7/10 – 8/28. Mostly on Wednesdays, EXCEPT Tues 8/13, and Thurs 8/22.  Some weeks are kid movies, some are teen/adult movies – check schedule. $5 per person ($6 credit), $5 to park. Seating opens 6:30. Live entertainment, trivia, food trucks, vendors. 7/10 Ferris Bueller (PG-13), 7/17 Bohemian Rhap (PG-13), 7/24 Spider-verse, 7/31 Top Gun, 8/7 Incredibles 2, 8/13 Sandlot, 8/22 Grease (PG-13), 8/28 Princess Bride
  • Movies at the Square in Kenmore.  FREE. Food trucks and pre-show entertainment at 8:00 p.m. 7/10 A Dog’s Way Home; 7/24 How to Train… 8/7 Mary Poppins Returns, 8/21 Capt. Marvel.

Thursdays:

  • Movies in the ParkSnohomish County. 7/22 Goonies Darrington, 7/18 Ralph Breaks… Darrington, 7/25 Incredibles 2 – Snohomish, 8/1 How to Train 3 – Snohomish, 8/8 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (PG-13) Lake Stevens, 8/15 Mary Poppins Returns – Lake Stevens.
  • Crossroads Movies in the Park, Bellevue. August 1 – 22. FREE entertainment, popcorn, movie. Entertainment starts at 7:30. 8/1 Christopher Robin, 8/8 Ralph Breaks the Internet, 8/15 Incredibles 2, 8/22 Mary Poppins Returns
  • Peddler Brewing in Ballard / Seattle. May 30 – Aug 29 (13 movies!). FREE. A few PG, but more PG-13 or R-rated fare.
  • Summer Movies in Green Lake ParkSeattle. 7/25 Black Panther, 8/8 Incredibles 2

Thursdays / Fridays

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle moviesWoodinville. $12 adult, $8 kids. Food trucks and wine for purchase. Movies at 8 pm. Thur 6/27 Goonies, Fri 7/5 Jurassic Park, Thur 7/11 Princess Bride, Fri 8/2 10 Things I Hate, Fri 9/27 Office Space – movie at 7:30.

Fridays

  •  Auburn’s Summer Sounds. Free. Food trucks, inflatable rides, art activities, and live music. Fri 7/26 – Lea Hill Park – Incredibles 2, 8/2 – Sunset Park – Ralph Breaks…, 8/9 – Les Gove Park, E.T.
  • Everett Cinema Under the Stars. Entertainment, movie begins between 8:30 and 9:30. FREE. 7/19 Incredibles 2, 7/26 Ralph Breaks… 8/2 Lego Movie 2, 8/9 Spider-verse (rated PG-13), 8/16 How to Train…
  • Sail-In CinemaEverett. Watch from your boat or the shore! 7/19: Battleship, 7/26: Transformers; 8/2 Remember the Titans, 8/9 Pirates of the Caribbean, 8/16 The Proposal, 8/23 Moana.
  • Movies in the Park, Pierce County. FREE, 7/12 Bolt Puyallup, 7/26 Lego Movie 2 Puyallup, 8/16 Little Mermaid (not the Disney version), Tacoma, 8/23 Dumbo 2019 Puyallup.
  • Yesler Outdoor Summer Movies, Seattle. FREE. 7/12 Sandlot, 7/19 Ferris Bueller, 7/26 Ghostbusters; 8/2 Goonies, 8/9 Hidden Figures, 8/16 Black Panther.
  • Skyway Outdoor CinemaSkyway. FREE. 8/2 Incredibles 2, 8/9 Princess Bride, 8/16 Aquaman (PG-13), 8/23 Spiderverse.
  • Movies in the Park, Tacoma. FREE. 7/19 – Incredibles 2 – Kandle Park; 7/27 Ralph Breaks… Wright Park, 8/9 Mary Poppins Returns – Center at Norpoint; 8/16 How to Train 3 – Stewart Heights, 8/23 Spiderverse – STAR Center
  • Edmonds Outdoor Movie Nites. Frances Anderson Fields. 7/26 Trolls, 8/2 A Wrinkle in Time
  • Movies Under the MoonMonroe, Lake Tye Park.  FREE. 8/2 Incredibles 2, 8/9 Ralph Breaks… 8/16 Mary Poppins Returns, 8/23 Black Panther.
  • Outdoor Maritime Movies, Center for Wooden Boats, SLU Seattle. Free, suggested donation $5. June 28 Wind, July 26th The Life Aquatic (R), Aug 23 Captain Ron. (PG-13)

Fridays/Saturdays

  • Center City Outdoor Cinema. Seattle. At Cascade Playground – CP, Westlake Park – WP, Hing Hay Park – HH, and Freeway Park – FP. Fri 7/12 Spiderverse – CP, Aquaman (PG-13) – WP. Fri 7/19 Up – CP, Christopher Robin – WP. Fri 7/26 Shrek – CP. Fri 8/2 – Spiderverse – FP, Willy Wonka (original) – WP.  Sat 8/3 – Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13) – HH. Fri 8/9 – Best in Show (PG-13) -FP, Jurassic Park (PG-13) – WP. Sat 8/10 Iron Monkey (Cantonese – PG-13) – HH. Fri 8/16 Won’t You Be my Neighbor – FP, Capt Marvel (PG-13) – WP. Sat 8/17 Mirai – HH. Fri 8/23 – Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13) – FP, Incredibles 2 – WP. Sat 8/24 Up – HH. Fri 8/30 Labyrinth – FP,

Saturdays:

  • Renton Outdoor Movies. 7/20 Aquaman (PG-13) at Piazza Park – FREE; 8/9 How to Train at Henry Moses Aquatic- $5. 8/16 Incredibles 2 at Tiffany Park – FREE.  8/23 – Spiderverse at Highlands Park – FREE
  • Carillon Point, Kirkland. $5 donation benefits Hopelink. 7/6 Mean Girls (PG-13), 7/20 – Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13), 8/17 Solo (PG-13),
  • Movies at the Mural at Seattle Center. FREE. 7/27 Princess Bride, 8/3 Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13),  8/10 Bohemian Rhapsody (PG-13), 8/17 Dirty Dancing (PG-13),  8/24 Black Panther (PG-13)
  • Seattle Outdoor Cinema (formerly Fremont Outdoor Cinema) at the South Lake Union Discovery Center. Suggested donation of $5 – goes to local charities. Grown-up Movies, age 21+. June 22 – The Matrix, July 20 – Bill and Ted’s… August 17th or 24th(?) Life Aquatic.
  • Cinema Under the StarsColumbia City / Seattle. 7/20 – Spiderverse, 8/17 – Lego Movie 2. Food bank donations accepted.
  • Popcorn in the ParkMarysville. FREE. 7/13 A Dog’s Way, 7/20 Ralph Breaks… 7/27 Bumblebee, 8/3 Incredibles 2, 8/10 Karate Kid
  • Drive in Movies at America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, parking starts at 4:30, movies at dusk. Free. 7/6 Ferris Bueller (PG-13), 7/27 The Goonies, 8/10 How to Train 3, 8/24 Capt. Marvel (PG-13).

Other lists of outdoor movies 2019: The Stranger, Seattle Times, Seattle Met. I’ve made sure my list included all the King County ones, and most Sno / Pierce County, but they have some Skagit and Kitsap options too.

Outdoor Movies by Region

Seattle: Thursdays Peddler Brewing, Fridays Center for Wooden Boats, Fri/Sat Center City, Saturdays Movies at the Mural, Seattle Outdoor Cinema, Cinema Under the Stars

Eastside: Tuesdays downtown Bellevue, Wednesdays Marymoor, Thursdays Crossroads, Saturdays Carillon Point

Snohomish County / North King: Wednesdays in Kenmore, Thursdays Sno Co, Thursday/Fridays at Chateau Ste. M, Fridays in Edmonds, Monroe, Everett Cinema under the Stars, and Sail-In Everett, Saturdays in Marysville

Pierce Country / South King: Fridays in Auburn, Skyway, Puyallup and Tacoma (x2), Saturdays in Renton and Tacoma.

Obsolete

West Seattle movies (Facebook) will not be holding outdoor movies in 2019. Some series that happened in 2018 but have not announced 2019 as of 7/3: Movies at the Marina – Shilshole. https://threedollarbillcinema.org/outdoorcinema

Movie series which others may tell you about, but which seem to no longer happen: Thursdays at Magnuson Park. Redhook Brewery Moonlight Cinema.

Drive-In Movies

There aren’t many classic drive-ins left… and when you search for them online, you’re likely to find out of date listings. For example, http://www.driveinmovie.com/WA.htm has recently been updated, but http://www.driveintheater.com/drivlist.htm lists Samish in Bellingham, which was demolished in 2004. Here’s what’s still open within a two hour drive from Seattle:

The only other one in the state is Auto-vue Drive-in – Colville, WA. 6 hours from Seattle. www.facebook.com/Auto-Vue-Drive-In-Theatre-120740527937813/

Movies start at dusk… see note above. If you go to a drive-in, PLEASE spend lots of money at concessions!!! That’s what will keep these classic theaters open in future summers!!

Parent Guides to Media

If you’re looking for advice on whether a particular movie is kid appropriate, check out Common Sense Media which provides reviews of movies, books, TV shows, games, apps and websites. In their movie reviews, they look at educational value, positive role models, positive messages, violence and scariness level, sexy stuff, language, consumerism and substances, providing information so parents can make their own informed decisions about what’s right for their child.

Kids in Mind also offers film reviews which rate, on a scale of 1 – 10, the level of sex/nudity, violence/gore, profanity and substance use in a movie. They also give detailed descriptions of each incident they counted, for parents to consider.

I also wrote a post on “When to Introduce Your Child To ______” which talks about things to consider when deciding whether your child is ready yet for favorite series like the MCU, Star Wars, and more.

Other Kid Activities:

If you’re looking for other fun ideas for the summer, check out my series on “Cheap Dates with Toddlers and Young Kids”,  or reviews of Eastside Parks or find hands-on STEM enrichment activities for kids age 3 – 7 on my other blog at www.InventorsOfTomorrow.com.

For school year activities, if you have kids age birth to 7, check out info about fabulous parent education classes at local community colleges that are great for kids AND include parent education for you – register now for fall, before they fill up!!

Note: If I missed any outdoor movie series in King County, let me know!!

When Should You Introduce Your Child To [your favorite media]?

small child with light saber and Ben Kenobi costume

The TL;DR summary:

Don’t rush to introduce your child to your favorite book or movie. Why?

  • There may be mature content the child is not ready for that might frighten or concern them.
  • You’ll all enjoy something more if you wait till they’re old enough to actually get it and enjoy it!
  • There’s plenty of fabulous media aimed at young kids. It’s OK to stay in the kiddie pool for a while… I promise, there will be time later on to introduce all the great stories!

My Rationale for Waiting:

As a parent, I’ve had lots of time to reflect on this. As a parent educator, my students ask me about these topics from time to time, but I’d never taken the opportunity to write up my thoughts till now…

Recently, a friend on Facebook asked for recommendations on which novels to read next to her 5 and 6 year old. Some folks recommended Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, the Percy Jackson books.

And I said no! Wait! Not yet!

Today, on the /Filmcast, a host (Jeff) was talking about when he would first show Star Wars to his kids, saying “I’ve got years before I can show it to them and really have it land… and be meaningful”. He said “even three is probably way too young… 4 or 5 is probably the right age?”

And I thought: No! Wait! 4 or 5 is way too young!

Whatever your favorite movie / book / play / music is, you may be anxiously awaiting the day you can introduce your child to it. But if you really want to “have it land” and be meaningful for your child, it is better to wait till they’re really ready. It’s hard to be patient, but I think it’s more rewarding in the long run. Here’s why:

Mature Themes

An obvious challenge of introducing too early is mature themes. Sometimes there are scenes that might frighten them (For example, although many first graders are plenty literate to read Harry Potter, I think it’s too scary for a 7 year old.) There’s also language, substances, “bad attitudes” and so on. Some of your favorite media may have more of this mature content than your child is ready for… and you may not remember till it’s too late. (I’ve made this mistake plenty of times. For example, watching Footloose with my tweens… I’d remembered all the dancing… I’d forgotten about the underage drinking… and the playing chicken with tractors… and the boyfriend hitting the girlfriend… the dad hitting the daughter… We pressed pause several times during that movie! This ended up being a good opportunity to start some challenging conversations. But it would have been better if I’d done it with a clearer plan!) I have now learned to refresh my memory first by reading the reviews on Common Sense Media, which does a nice job of clearly detailing all the potential issues so you can decide which feel OK to you and which feel problematic. For example, I’m not really troubled by bad language, or by fantasy combat, but I am really uncomfortable with realistic gun violence. Your concerns may be different.

I’m not saying that you should never take in media with your child that tackles challenging issues. I actually recommend that parents read books or watch movies where characters face a variety of challenges, make difficult decisions, and cope with grief (read my posts on how to talk to your child about death, scary topics, sexuality, and more). Reading sad books or watching sad movies with your child and then discussing them helps to build emotional literacy and build decision-making and problem-solving skills (as they watch characters manage situations that they have not yet had to face.) But, do this intentionally, not by accident. And do it with media that is developmentally appropriate for your child.

Will It Land?

My reason to wait isn’t just about avoiding mature themes. It’s also waiting till they’re ready to grok the material. Really ready to engage, enjoy, and get meaning out of it.

When I was a kid, I hung out in the public library and the church library by myself a lot. (Mom must have been in the building somewhere? I don’t really remember… I remember having full access to any book I wanted to read.) I read the Hobbit and LotR, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Wrinkle in Time all around the same time. Probably 8 or 9? Now, my reading skills were totally up to deciphering all the words (and to looking up tesseract in the dictionary).  I probably understood all of the Hobbit, and much of Narnia. But there was so much I missed. (Yeah, like that Narnia had any relation to Christianity.) And the thing was, once I’d read them, I didn’t want to go back and re-visit them when I was a little older, because I’d been-there-done-that. I didn’t go back to them till my own kids read them. So, my experience was fine, but it could have been better.

With my kids, we’ve mostly waited… With my youngest, we waited till he was 8 to show him Star Wars. Before that time, he’d read Star Wars themed beginning readers, he’d played Lego Star Wars video games with his dad, and he’d dressed up as Obi Wan. He’d even watched parts of the movies at family parties at his uncle’s house. But when we finally sat down to watch the original trilogy, he was ready to follow it, enjoy it, and understand it much better than he would have been at a younger age.

Spoilers

Spoilers float around in popular culture and discussions, so some parents worry that their child will be spoiled about key plot twists. And they will be. My kid knew who Luke’s father was long before he watched Star Wars! So, no, I didn’t have the opportunity to film his reaction to that revelation. (Yeah, that’s its own genre of YouTube videos.) But instead, I got to see his glee at finally learning the whole story related to that fact, and understanding why it is such a famous plot twist.

Although I had seen all the MCU movies, my son had not. I saw Avengers Endgame on opening night. Then I went on a binge of watching every YouTube video and listening to every podcast about the movie and all the Easter eggs. And my son rides in the car with me, and hangs out in the room while I do my morning workout. So, guess what – he knows ALL the spoilers even though he hasn’t see the movie. Over the past month, we’ve started to introduce him to all the movies (starting with Spider Man Homecoming and Ant Man movies, because those felt like the most kid-appealing choices). At 8.5, he’s actually in a really good sweet spot for these movies. Well… for watching them at home! Where we can talk during the movie when needed to explain something to him, we can answer his questions, and we can pause for a break to process if needed. We’re not going to take him to an MCU movie in a theatre this year or maybe next. Being in a dark room with the sound all the way up and having to be quiet and not able to pause can make a movie feel way more intense to young kids. (And if he asks questions he would disturb others.) We’ve also started pulling old Marvel comics out of the stash in the garage to entertain him till then.

We as adults may dislike spoilers, and like the moments of surprise. I find that children often go the other way. They like knowing information ahead of time because it makes them feel smart and powerful, and they may actually get more excited by the story that leads them to a known destination than they do by watching something when they have no idea where it’s going.

Stay in the World of Children for a little while

Another reason to wait on more “grown up” stories is that if we rush to that, we could miss out on the pure and sweet delight of children’s media.

When my oldest was in kindergarten, he came home from a playdate at a friend’s house singing ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears. And telling me about all the music videos he’d watched. Some people might have been offended by the child’s mother letting the kids watch mature content… I didn’t really care about that. But I was sad at all the things that child might have been missing out on.

At that time, my son was listening to kids’ music – and there is SO MUCH great kids’ music out there! His favorite singers at that point were: Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton, Priscilla Herdman, and Anna Moo. So many delightful songs to sing! We decided ‘Oops I did it again’ could wait.

If I’m showing Star Wars to my four or five year old, we’re not making time for Kipper, Toy Story, Lion King, Iron Giant, Ponyo, and Sid the Science Kid. In rushing toward Harry Potter, let’s not skip over Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, Henry & Mudge, Frog and Toad. Take the time to do kid stuff while they’re kids. You can always watch everything else later on, but it’s hard to talk your teenager into going back to all this great kid content.

Context Matters

As I’ve hinted above, there’s a difference between watching a loud movie in a dark theater full of strangers vs. at home. What your child might be up to in one context might be too much in another context. We love live theatre, but we start with kid focused shows where we practice our “theatre rules”, then we try outdoor theatre where if the kids move or make noise, it’s no more disruptive than the airplane flying overhead. Then we go to school or amateur productions indoors. We wait on those expensive tickets to the Nutcracker or to Lion King’s national tour till we know they’re ready to get the most out of it!

So, if you can’t wait to introduce a particular story, think about what context it is best to introduce it in. For example, if you’re worried about a movie being too scary, you can read the book together in advance (or tell them the story from a plot synopsis), and show them still pictures from the movie ahead of time so they know more about what to expect? (Yes, it’s spoilers, but remember that’s OK for kids.) Would it work better for you to “serialize” a movie and watch it in lots of short 20 minute segments with time to discuss along the way? Could you just skip scenes or fast forward through some for now? Do what you think is best.

For books, often once a child learns to read independently, the parent stops reading to the child as much, and eventually even bedtime stories fall by the wayside. There are all sorts of benefits to continuing to read to an older child (including building their skills at interpreting what they read, increased empathy, and an entryway into those challenging conversations.) When my older kids were tweens and teens, we would listen to audiobooks in the car and then have common ground for a discussion of something we were all engaged in. So, reading to your child or listening to audio books can be a great way to introduce some of your favorite tales.

It’s In the Water

Some things we don’t wait on. Some things are just part of the water that our families swim in. When I was growing up as the youngest of four kids with a dad who loved science fiction, Star Trek was on the screen in the living room every week when I was a toddler, and then reruns were watched for the rest of my childhood. So, the vision of a future of scientific exploration was just a part of my life. Seeing people of all ethnicities working together, seeing a black female officer – was all normal to me. Not the radical experience that Star Trek TOS may have been to some. And I absorbed lots of other science fiction and fantasy from the rest of the family – I think my sister told me shortened versions of some of her favorite fantasy tales. And I think all our kids absorbed the ethos of “with great power comes great responsibility” long before watching Spider Man. My older kids grew up hanging out in the room while I played roleplaying games with friends, and they joined in as they got old enough. My youngest is just starting to join my oldest and his friends in playing Magic the Gathering. So your favorite stories and characters can’t help but be an on-going part of your family’s life.

But, if you’re asking “When do I let my kid read…” or “When should I show my kid….”, or “is it to early to expose my child…” here are my completely personal biased recommendations for when the right time is for some properties (mostly from the geek universe cuz that’s the way I roll.)

Recommended Ages

(For more details on the kid appropriateness of ALL of these properties, use Common Sense Media to learn more.)

  • Chronicles of Narnia – Read to kids (or audiobook) at 8 – 10. Independent read at 10+. The 2005 movie of Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is mostly good for ages 6 and up, but there are some scenes that could be frightening for kids under age 10. The 1988 BBC Chronicles of Narnia may work for younger kids, but is very long, so break it up into pieces.
  • DC Movies: Shazam should have been a GREAT kids’ movie. And 90% of it is. But the beginning drags, is confusing and scary, and the intense scenes are really INTENSE. I’d say 12+. Wonder Woman is great for 12+ but I wouldn’t go younger – the World War 1 scenes are scenes of warfare. Aquaman is probably fine for 10 and up, though parts of it would hold no interest for them. (Note: I would not show Man of Steel or BvS to anyone under 15, and I opted out of Suicide Squad myself.)
  • Dungeons and Dragons (and other table-top roleplaying systems): My older kids could play as the kids in a group of patient supportive adults (with an adult DM) starting at about 9 or 10. I’m guessing groups of kids could play at around 12? We’re trying to start a group of 7 – 9 year olds on a simplified D&D now with an adult DM, and thought it was going well, until today’s character design led to a series of meltdowns – one child due to a lost character sheet, one because they were having a hard time understanding the spell options, and one because his character is not as strong as the others. (Being told that he was smarter and had higher dexterity than the others did not resolve the meltdown.)
  • Harry Potter. The series starts on the scary side, and gets much darker as you go along. And for most kids, the movies are scarier than the books.
    • My oldest read the first few books when he was 10, then read the last three as they came out, when he was 10, 12, and 14. He recommends this as the appropriate timing. He says movies starting at age 12 or so.
    • Another approach: Kids read the book when they’re the same age as Harry is in the book – so book 1 when the child is 11, book 2 when the child is 12… When it’s almost time to read book 2, you could watch movie 1 for a reminder of the general plot of book 1. (Tip: never read the book then IMMEDIATELY watch the movie… I did this for Goblet of Fire, and I was painfully aware of every minor variance from book to movie.)
    • Common Sense Media has a helpful Harry Potter Age-by-Age Guide which addresses which books to read and which movies to watch by age, and includes the new properties like the Fantastic Beasts movies.
    • In reality though, I know it might be hard to keep these books away from my youngest for that long, as he’s got lots of friends who have read them. He’s already played Lego Harry Potter and put together Harry Potter Legos, and seen the attractions at Universal Studios, so he is familiar with the characters and the broad story lines. I suspect we will start by listening together to all the books on audio – the audio versions are narrated by Jim Dale and are absolutely stellar! Then he can read the books if he wants, then we’ll watch the movies.
  • The Hobbit – read to a child at 7 – 9. Child reads independently at 9 or 10. But wait on the rest of the Lord of the Rings books till 12 or so. I’d watch the animated version of the Hobbit from 1977 with a 6 – 8 year old, but I’d wait on the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies till age 10 – 12, and wait on the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings till 12 or higher. (Partially due to the violence but also I don’t think younger kids would follow the plot well.)
  • Magic the Gathering – My oldest is introducing a simplified version to the 8 year old now, and that’s going well.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d say start at age 8 with careful forethought and the ability to pause and explain. Older for in-theater. And maybe 10 and up if the child is likely to imitate combat behavior. But also pick and choose – some are more appropriate than others for younger kids. (That’s why we started with Spider Man Homecoming and Ant Man / Ant Man and the Wasp, not Iron Man 1 which starts out with some real-world violence.) In other Marvel: X-men movies for tweens. Deadpool – yeah, it’s R rated for a reason – the violence was uncomfortable for me!
  • Percy Jackson. I’d say 10 and up for the books. The characters are teens, who tweens could identify with well. I saw the first movie, and I’d go 13 and up on that one – read why.
  • Princess Bride. The movie is actually less intense than the book – although the ROUS and the torture scene might be distressing to kids. I would generally say 8 and up, though we took our son to outdoor movies in the park when he was 6 and 7. Scary moments don’t feel too scary when you’re sprawled on a picnic blanket on the grass. The book is probably for 10 and up as independent readers, but the audio book would be great for a 9 – 13 year old on a road trip.
  • Star Trek – If you tell your 6 year old “I have a show you’re going to love!” and  you turn on Star Trek, they may not think it’s for them. But, if the adults are watching Star Trek and the kids are watching along, they’ll probably like (and role play) many aspects while missing other concepts. All the TV series are probably fine to have playing around younger kids, some of the recent movies might be better around older kids. Of the series, TOS and TNG are more accessible to younger audiences and better to start with. They also have a really nice culture of optimism about the future. DS9 and Enterprise skew older; Discovery has some interesting conundrums for teenagers about when do you obey authority and when do you question it.
  • Star Wars
    • For this post, 19 dads were asked when to introduce Star Wars. “Conclusion: Fathers answers ranged from “in the womb” to “never”, with an average suggested age of somewhere between 5 and 6. Fathers also cited innumerable variables to take into consideration which were not consistent from child to child, or from family to family. There was consensus among the sampled fathers that exposure should be determined on a child-by-child basis, taking into account that child’s emotional, intellectual and social development, and always under parental supervision.”
    • My husband and I lean toward waiting till 7 or 8 because we think they’ll appreciate it more then. (If you’re wondering what order to watch movies in, read Machete Order – Explained.)
    • Release dates of new movies may skew your decisions… Someone told me she would have waited till age 8 or 9 to start these movies, but her mom took her to the opening of New Hope when she was 4, and when it turned out Force Awakens was going to come out when her child was 4, she decided to take her. But, they sat in the back row and had a stuffed animal and the iPad so if the child wanted to “opt out” of watching the movie, she could.
  • Studio Ghibli Films – I agree with these recommendations: My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo for age 5 – 7. Cat Returns and Kiki for age 8 – 10. Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle for tweens. (More recommendations here and here.)
  • The Martian – for ages 11 – 15. I have a whole post on the Martian… which was also inspired by a Jeff Cannata comment on the /Filmcast…
  • Willie Wonka – read the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at 6+. Watch the 1971 movie at 7 or so. (There are a few frightening moments of “children in peril.”) I think you can skip the Johnny Depp version.
  • Wizard of Oz – read the book to ages 6 and up. Independent read a little older than that – some archaic words. When I was 4 – 6 and watched the movie, I was terrified of the witch and the flying monkeys and hid behind the couch. But my kids all watched around age 6 – 8 and handled it OK – I had prepped them for the fact that it might feel scary and warned them when those parts were coming up.
  • Wrinkle in Time – Yeah, I read it at 8 or 9. I’d recommended 10 – 12 to get more out of the book. (Although again, you could read it to them younger than that.) The 2018 movie is appropriate for 10+, but it’s not as good as I wanted it to be.

Note: if you have multiple children, this all gets more complicated. Our older two were 3.5 years apart, so if I say something is good for ten year olds, that probably means we ended up watching it when the older one was 12, and the younger one was not quite 9. It worked for us because the older one was OK with “kiddie things” for longer, and the younger one wanted to be as “mature” as possible and had more tolerance for scary content.

What if they hate it?

And what if you’ve waited and waited for something, and then you show it to them, and they hate it?? Or what if they say “meh – it’s OK but not really that great?” Well, it’s a good lesson that our children are different people than we are, and we can all have different opinions. And maybe someday they’ll like it more… and maybe not.

I LOVE the movie Creator, a truly obscure 1985 romantic comedy with Peter O’Toole. It just makes me happier than almost any other movie I’ve seen. I waited till my older kids were in their late teens… it’s an R rated movie with some shower almost-sex and similar mature content. And I showed it to them, and they said “meh… I mean, I’m sorry Mom, I don’t want to make you feel bad, but maybe it’s just not for me?” And you know what? It was disappointing, but it’s OK. I still love the movie.

I had a dad tell me recently that there’s so many GREAT books he wants to share with his 12 year old daughter, but she’s only interested in YA romances and isn’t interested in any of them. I suggested to him that they listen to audiobooks together and that they take turns. She picks out one of her favorites, and he listens and gives it a fair chance and asks her what it is she loves about it. He may well end up liking it and even if he doesn’t, he gains new insights into her. And if he gave her book a fair chance, then hopefully she’ll give his book a fair chance.

Stephen Thompson, of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, has shared stories about how he’s been trying for years to sell his kids on all the things he thinks are great, and now as teenagers, his daughter is into horror movies, which have never been his thing, but she’s sold him on a few of her favorites, and his son has convinced him that some video games are actually enjoyable to play – even if he’s very bad at them. For both parties in these exchanges, it’s a chance to be exposed to new things, to learn to appreciate each other’s perspectives, and to connect over a shared experience. And that’s the real value in sharing our favorite stories.

Please add comments – agreeing or disagreeing with me… and what properties (books, movies, plays… ) have I forgotten that you have strong opinions on?