Bainbridge and the Kids’ Discovery Museum


Are you looking for a great car-free day trip from the Seattle area, perfect for kids age 1 – 7?

Ride the bus to the ferry terminal, then hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island, check out the Kids’ Discovery Museum, stroll into town for a snack, and catch the ferry and bus back home. (See travel tips below.) From downtown Kirkland, we can do the full trip in as little as 6 hours. Last week, we got on a bus at 11:30 am, and were back home at 7:30 pm after a great leisurely day of travel and fun.

The Kids’ Discovery Museum

The museum is a short walk from the ferry terminal. (directions below) They’re open Monday through Saturday 10 – 4, Sundays 12 -4. Admission is $8 for adults and children (babies under 1 year are free), with discounts for senior and military. The Museums for All rate is $1 per person with proof of participation in EBT, CHIP, Provider One or WIC. (Info current as of July 2018.) You could see / do everything in the museum in an hour. We relaxed and settled in and played for a long time and were there for about 2.5 hours. It is best aimed at 3 – 6 year olds, as are all Children’s Museums, but fine for toddlers and still engaging for my 7 year old.

Entry Zone

Just inside the entrance, you’ll find a small gift shop area and this climber.

Tucked behind it is a dress up zone, currently stocked with firefighter costumes and books.

This is the toddler area, with toys, story books , musical instruments, and a playhouse.

The Bank

The first room is bank themed. It included play money, an abacus, a world map, and clocks set to different world time zones.

There was a memory game where you had to find and match a picture of the front of a type of money with a picture of the back of it.

The bank also included this board for talking about what causes to donate money to,

an “ATM” – I don’t think the screen did anything, but you could pull “money” out of the slots, and re-insert it,

and this “roulette wheel”.

You start with $20, and when you spin, you may earn a few dollars (by gathering recyclables, washing cars, or caring for a cat) or spend a few dollars (buying a gift for a friend, or repairing something you’ve broken). Some of the wedges were about making a choice about whether or not  to buy an optional item, and you spun the middle spinner to decide. Our son was engaged for quite a while, and has talked about this often in the days since the trip as he makes real decisions about whether to spend his allowance or not.

The Doctor’s Office

There are posters and rugs showing the different systems of the body (skeletal, digestive, etc.), a pretend sink and fake teeth with information on the importance of hand-washing and teeth-brushing, and an exam table with a doll patient and pretend medical equipment.

There’s an eye chart, a waiting room chair with books to read, and a food pyramid where there’s play food to velcro to it, which you sort into the correct food group category.

There’s a scale, a lab coat, and an apron your child can put on where you can attach stuffed organs (liver, heart, etc.) to the right place on the apron.

Transportation Zone

This features a small electric car they can climb into and pretend to drive, and little plastic cars they can paddle around in.

Plus a pretend ferry boat to capture the island experience.

Building Zone

This featured Fort Blocks, which I hadn’t seen before. The cool thing about them is they are big, and you can build pretty big structures with them. The down side is that even for our seven year old who has experience with a lot of building tools, they were a little tricky to assemble… he could build a wall of them, but couldn’t really figure out how to get them together to form a 3D cube.

Grocery Shopping and the Mail

My son LOVED the grocery area when he was four. At age 7, he passed it by. But it’s a nice grocery area, with plenty of plastic foods and food boxes to weigh, to load in your bag or cart, and to check out at the cash register.

Outside the store was a mailbox, with pretend letters to put in and take out, and there were several residential style mailboxes on walls nearby so your child could “deliver the mail.” I can see a three year old loving this play opportunity!

Outdoors

They have a climbing wall, gravel to load into buckets and dump trucks and transport around the area, and a water table.

Upstairs

There’s a giant Lite Brite board (where you push the colored pegs into the board and they glow) which appeals to ages from toddler to adult.

At the Magnifying Madness station, you place a card under a microscope and the image is projected on the screen. We had fun bringing up a family photo on our phone and placing that under the microscope to project.

They have a small train table for free building tracks on,

and then a large track layout for playing on.

There’s a puppet theater for putting on a show, with books nearby for inspiration.

And blue foam blocks for building.

Motion Madness

The remainder of the upstairs area is Motion Madness – Fun with Physics where there are several different exhibits to explore motion with golf balls. This is our favorite part! There’s this tower, where you simply place golf balls on the track at the top, and they roll down.

There’s a gravity well, where you drop the balls in and they spin round and round before falling through the hole in the middle.

A skee-ball style ramp game.

Another ramp that has a rotating platform at the bottom, where you have to time your ball drop just perfectly in order to get the ball in the cup.

A ball maze that you can take apart and re-build. (I LOVE ball mazes – I think they are a great place for kids to explore the idea of tinkering – you build it, test it, adjust it till it works, test it more, then re-build it to be even cooler.)

And, my favorite… a tall platform you climb stairs to get to. There’s a basket on a pulley that you can load up with balls at the bottom, then use the rope to haul it up to the top.

From the top, there’s a giant ramp to send the balls down.

Treats in Town

When you finish at the museum, it’s easy to take a short walk into town (Winslow) for treats. We saw a pizza place, many lovely looking restaurants, wine-tasting venues, and a bakery. (Here’s a dining guide.) We decided on ice cream at Mora. There was a huge line outside, but they had seven people on staff, and moved us through quickly. And the ice cream was great! We had the dulce de leche and the strawberry cheesecake. Next door to Mora was a crepe place, and we were tempted to try that… maybe next time. After ice cream, we did the 0.5 mile walk back to the ferry for our trip home.

Other Activities on the Island

Next door to the Children’s Museum is the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which offers free admission. In the downtown area, there are also many art galleries and gift shops, which looked quite nice, but we’re not really a shopping family. (Although Eagle Harbor Books was a very tempting option.) If you choose to bring a car and/or stay longer, you’ll find lots of info about lodging and activities at www.bainbridgeisland.com.

Getting There

Use Transit to the Ferry Terminal

Use Metro Trip planner (or Google Maps or whatever) for directions to the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle (Colman dock). In our case, the easiest route is to take a bus to the Pioneer Square station in the bus tunnel, then walk 0.3 miles to the terminal.

The bus fare is $2.75 for adults, $1.50 for kids age 6 – 18, and free for those under 6. If you don’t often take the bus, read How to Ride Metro. Buses can be delayed off schedule, so I also find it helpful to download the One Bus Away app to my phone, which gives up-to-the minute updates on when to expect your bus to arrive.

We usually bring a couple books along in case our child gets antsy on the bus. But often he’s happy to just look out the window for the ride.

Now, obviously you could drive to downtown Seattle and park, but that would be pricey! Or you could drive to Seattle and take your car on the ferry – but then  you have to be there much longer before ferry departure time, and it’s more money and more effort, and makes this trip actually MORE complicated than just walking on the ferry and walking into town.

Taking the Ferry

You can find the ferry schedule here. The ferry runs approximately every hour, but the schedule varies greatly, so be sure to check it if you’re picky about your timing. As a walk-on passenger you only need to arrive ten-ish minutes before a ferry time. There is no need to make a reservation to walk-on, as there’s usually plenty of room for passengers. When you arrive, buy your tickets, or use your Orca card. Fares are $8.35 round trip for adults, $4.15 for kids 6 – 18. Here’s a FAQ with more info.

The ferry trip is a lovely little cruise across Puget Sound. If you want a preview of what the trip will look like, just go to YouTube and search for Seattle to Bainbridge ferry, and you’ll find lots of videos of varying quality.

If you haven’t taken a ferry before, you should! My husband and I had a conversation on this trip, and we think that if someone is visiting Seattle for a few days, the 5 most quintessentially Seattle experience you could have are: Pike Place Market, the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square, seeing the view from the top of the Space Needle, riding the monorail to MoPoP, and taking a ferry. Not that we don’t also love the zoo, and the science center, the aquarium and more, but we think those 5 are the things most unique to Seattle.

The ferry crossing is only 35 minutes. We eat lunch on the ferry (Ivar’s chowder and hot pretzels!) and you pretty much have to go straight to the restaurant as soon as you board, get your food, sit and eat, and you’ve arrived. On a nice day, you might instead opt to stand outside on the deck and enjoy the view. If it’s a rainy day, bring along a deck of cards, or you can often find a public jigsaw puzzle in process somewhere on the boat.

Getting to the Museum

When the ferry arrives, just walk off with everyone else… this puts you on a road walking straight into town. (Here’s a map to orient you.) In about 1/4 mile, you’ll come to the first real intersection. That’s Winslow Way East. Look across the street to the northwest corner of the intersection – you’ll see the art museum there.

There’s a path between the art museum and the building to the west of it. Walk down that path and you’ll come to Ki-Di-Mu.

Costs:

For our family – 2 adults and a 7 year old, it was $7 each way for the bus, ~21 for the ferry, $24 for the museum, plus the cost of lunch on the ferry and ice cream.

More Summer Fun

Looking for other ideas for fun activities with kids in the Seattle area? For another day trip to a museum, read about Mindport in Bellingham or check out KidsQuest in Bellevue. For a unique experience for kids age 5 and up, go build forts with hammers and nails at the Adventure Playground on Mercer Island. Explore parks in Kenmore or Kirkland. See an outdoor play or outdoor movie. Or check out my series on Cheap Dates with Toddlers.

For school year fun and learning (for you and your child), consider taking a parent-child class (for ages birth to 7) sponsored by the parent education program at one of our local community colleges. We offer everything from parent-baby classes to coop preschools to art and science enrichment for elementary age kids.

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Outdoor Theatre 2018

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 don’t expect them to pay full attention – bring snacks, toys, and sticker books to entertain them quietly.

Seattle Area:

July 14 and 15 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, Jet City Improv, 14/48 projects, Freehold, and Young Shakespeare Workshop. Our favorite for years has been Jet City Improv’s Lost Folio, where they improvise Shakespeare (yes, dialect and all) based on suggestions from the audience. Free, please donate to support it!

Greenstage Shakespeare in the Park is performing Henry IV, part 1 and the Three Musketeers this year in Burien, Fall City, Lynnwoood, Maple Valley, and Seattle; their smaller scale Backyard Bard performances are of Two Gentlemen of Verona and Winter’s Tale at various Seattle parks. Season runs July 13 – August 18. 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. This year they’re doing Star Wars – A New Hope.  Blanche Lavizzo park in Seattle. August 4 – 26. Free. (Donate!!) Schedule here.

Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre is doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. July 14 – August 19. $10 to $20. Ages 5 and under free. Optional dinner 5 – 18 per person. Can combine nicely with a day trip to Snoqualmie Falls.

Theater Schmeater. July 14 – August 18. Pinocchio – Seattle parks, free.

Wooden O is doing  King Lear and Merry Wives of Windsor (set in swinging 60’s London). (Learn more.) July 12 – August 12. In Bellevue, Des Moines, Edmonds, Federal Way, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Seattle. Free but please donate so they can keep doing them for another 25 years!

Day Trips or Overnights

Island Shakespeare Festival – Langley. July 14 – September 3. Thursdays – Sundays. Sense & Sensibility, Othello, Twelfth Night. Free. (Donate!)

Kitsap Forest Theatre (near Bremerton) is doing Tuck Everlasting the Musical. (They did  Peter Pan on the weekends from Memorial Day to Father’s Day.) Saturdays and Sundays 2 pm, July 28 – August 19. $10 – 20, 6 and under free.

Leavenworth Summer Theatre is presenting Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and Little Women. July 6 – August 30, Tuesdays – Sundays. $14 – 32.

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival (near La Conner, SW of Mt. Vernon). July 13 – August 18. King Lear, Titus Andronicus, the Grimm Shakespearean Tales of Uncle Dicky. $10 – 13.

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 Libraries Rock, so the shows are all music or sound related. 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 theater style shows to consider: Bing Bang Boom, Fiddler in the Forest, Magic Sound Show, Musicians of Bremen, Reading Magic Show, and Too Much Noise.

The Seattle Public Library summer reading theme this year is “Make a Splash.” Check out Thumbelina, the Vain Little Mouse, Stellaluna, and more.

Movies

I have a full post about cinema morning movies, outdoor movies in the parks, and drive-in theaters: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2018/06/08/summer-movies-2018/

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 2018

Whether you’re looking for outdoor movies to enjoy those warm summer evenings, or indoor movies 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 2018.

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 EastsideSummerMovies2018
Below, I will list all the outdoor movie series in King County, with more details and links. (For Pierce and Snohomish County options, check Red Tricycle.) If you want a printable list of all the outdoor movies on the Eastside, in calendar order, (like the image on the right) click here for the PDF..

Note: all outdoor movies start around “dusk”. In  the Pacific Northwest, that means 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.

Tuesdays

Downtown Movies in the Park at Bellevue’s Downtown Park (by the mall). July 10 – Aug 28. Free entertainment, popcorn and movies – each week has a non-profit partner, and you’re encouraged to donate to support these programs. Most movies kid friendly. https://parks.bellevuewa.gov/special-events/outdoor-movies/downtown-movies-in-the-park/ 

Wednesdays / Thursday

Movies at Marymoor in Redmond. 6/28 – 8/29. Mostly on Wednesdays, EXCEPT Thurs 6/28, 7/5 and 8/2.  Some weeks are kid movies, some are teen/adult movies – check schedule. $5 per person ($6 credit), $5 to park. Live entertainment, trivia, food trucks, vendors. www.epiceap.com/movies-at-marymoor/

Movies at the Square in Kenmore.  Free. Food trucks and pre-show entertainment at 8:00 p.m. http://www.kenmorewa.gov/MoviesattheSquare

Thursdays:

Fridays / Saturdays

Friday / Saturday

Saturdays:

Drive-Ins

Movies start at dusk… see note above. 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.driveintheater.com/drivlist.htm lists Samish in Bellingham, which was demolished in 2004, and http://www.driveinmovie.com/WA.htm lists Valley in Auburn which has been closed for several years and Puget Park in Everett, which closed in 2010. 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/

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!

Summer Movie Guide and Parental 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.

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!!

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

Weapon Play

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In our Family Inventors class one week, we had giant tinker toys for the kids to play with. A group of boys designed and built three identical “blasters”. From a tinkering / creativity perspective, I was impressed at how they had worked together to create and replicate something cool.

But once a kid builds a gun, what usually comes next? Gun play.

They were pretending to shoot them at each other, and some kids were having fun, but one child was upset about being shot at. Since weapon play only comes up about once a year in my class, I had to decide in that moment how to respond. We have two simple rules in class:

1. “Be creative, not destructive” or in simpler terms, “Make, don’t break.”

2. “It’s never OK to hurt anyone.”

They had made something creative, but they were using it in a way that was hurting someone. Rather than asking them to take apart their new inventions, I decided to

  1. Set limits – “Our friend is not having fun. It’s not OK to pretend to shoot at him if it makes him sad.”
  2. Re-direct.  I suggested target shooting. I went to draw a target on the white board, but my husband had the even better idea of drawing asteroids on the white board that the kids would “blast apart” before they could crash into the earth. He would draw, erase, re-draw and so on as they blasted asteroids to save our planet.

It was a very fun game. And it re-framed their blasters. Instead of being weapons to (pretend to) hurt other people with, they were tools used to (pretend to) destroy dangerous objects in the distance before those objects could hurt people.

I also:

3. Followed up with the parents in the class to encourage them to think about how they wanted to speak to their kids about guns and weapon play at home.

This situation encouraged me to do some more thinking and more research into the topic. Although with all research, you can find studies to support either side of a topic, it was interesting to see what had been written.

Does aggressive play and weapon play increase actual aggression?

Parents worry that if young children play aggressively or pretend to use weapons, that they will become violent adults. The research shows that just the opposite may be true.

Researchers Hart and Tannock say “If playful aggression is supported, it is highly beneficial to child development. The act of pretending to be aggressive is not equivalent to being aggressive. Role reversal, cooperation, voluntary engagement, chasing and fleeing, restrained physical contact, smiling and laughing are common characteristics of playful aggression.” (Young Children’s Play Fighting and Use of War Toys.)

In one study, researchers found that children who displayed a lot of aggressive behavior in their pretend play were less aggressive in the classroom. The pretend play allowed them to work through some ideas so they did not have to bring them in to their real interactions. Other researchers argue that: “omission of aggressive play in early childhood programmes fosters the underdevelopment of social, emotional, physical, cognitive and communicative abilities in young children.” An example of this is when kids are engaged in rough and tumble play – say wrestling. If they accidentally hurt a friend while playing, they realize the impact of their actions, and we work them through the empathy and apology, and work on healing the relationship – it gives an opportunity we might not have had if wrestling was banned.

Several researchers and authors, including Stuart Brown, Frost and Jacobs, Peter Gray, and Charlie Hoehn have noted that many violent criminals have a history of being deprived of free-play opportunities as kids. Brown’s studies of homicidal males found that being deprived of play as children was strongly associated with violent criminal activity.  (Source)

So, we know that kids need to have lots of opportunities for free play to learn a wide variety of social and emotional skills. Kids, in my experience, naturally explore weapon play and aggressive scenarios in pretend play, but it appears that doing so may reduce the likelihood they’ll be violent and aggressive for real. So, given that, how do we, as parents or teachers (who are justifiably distressed by the idea of real gun violence in our country) find an approach to weapon play that feels right to us?

Sometimes we start by understanding the kids’ perspective.

What makes gun play so fascinating? Why are kids so interested in it?

  • Guns and other weapons are perceived as powerful. Kids often feel powerless, so the idea of power is intoxicating.
  • One way that children learn about and make sense of adult experiences is to play at them. So, if they watched a cooking show, they might play at cooking. If they watch a show with guns in it, they’ll want to play with guns.
  • Guns are a way to vanquish bad guys, or monsters. (Note: some children may use magic wands or pixie dust to accomplish the same goal. In both cases, it’s about vanquishing a foe.)

Given all these motivations toward weapon play, it can be hard to successfully ban it. Often attempts to ban it make it even more appealing as the “forbidden fruit.” So, how do we work with it?

Ways to Manage Gun Play:

Ban It: This is a choice many make. I don’t ban it, but if I sense play is moving in that direction, I often provide a distraction to move play in a different direction.

Re-Direct: You can try white board target shooting like we did, or if children are shooting  actual missiles (like Nerf guns) you can set up empty cans or some other object for them to try to hit and knock over. Or think about what type of energy the guns might shoot out – Teacher Tom tells a story of children firing “love shooters” at each other.

Some parents make the rule that you can’t shoot your gun at people, only at imaginary bad guys. (I’m not a fan of this one, because I don’t like the us/them mentality that can be common in many political circles, where people who are different are assumed to be “bad guys.” But, that’s a whole other discussion….)

Talk about the power of other options Talk to children about other ways to defeat (or reform or escape) from “bad guys” or other creatures that frighten them. Absolutely at other times in my class, I talk about all sorts of other options. I just find children are much more open to hear that in other contexts than when they are hearing it as the-words-the-teacher-says-when-she-stops-us-from-playing-what-we-wanted-to-play.

Set Limits: It’s fine to limit the times and places where weapon play is allowed. Maybe it’s an outdoor only thing, or only with one particular set of friends, not at school.

If the play is making you feel uncomfortable, you can say that. “I know you guys are playing, but it made me feel sad when you said you wanted to hurt your brother. So, I want you to move to a different game.”

Ask the kids to help make the rules: In a neighborhood squirt gun battle, not everyone wanted to play. I called the kids over and asked them what they thought fair rules were. One said “Only shoot at people who are playing.” I said “How do you know if they’re playing?” “If they have a squirt gun, you can shoot them.” We all agreed that seemed fair. One child had a smart phone in his hand, and said “don’t shoot people with phones!” I had my laptop and agreed “no shooting anyone who is working with electronics, because the water would ruin them.”

That was all the rules we needed for a while, till one child blasted another in the face with a super soaker. The soaked child was upset. New rule: no shooting in the face. Then a car pulled up and kids asked if they could shoot it, and we asked the driver, who agreed. We talked about how we know cars get wet all the time and it doesn’t hurt them, so generalized our rules to say that it was fine to squirt water at any car, but FIRST they needed to make sure all the windows were rolled up so no water could get inside.

Pay attention to other’s feelings: It’s also important to teach kids to notice the impact of their play on others. How do they know if someone else wants to play the shooting game or would rather not participate? (Encourage them to use words to ask, listen to words, notice body language, etc.)

Check In: When kids are engaged in weapon play, occasionally check in and ask: “Are you all having fun? Is anyone feeling worried or scared?” If anyone feels unsafe, the game needs to change. Encourage them to self-initiate occasional check-ins with friends to be sure everyone is having fun.

Think about the toys you buy. Try  to find open ended toys that can be played with in a wide variety of ways. They will, of course, sometimes use open-ended toys to create weapons (like tinker toy blasters, or sticks as swords), but at least they are open to other types of play.

If you do buy toy weapons, you may consider choosing ones that look nothing like a real weapon. Also, do safety checks: make sure toy weapons can’t cause real harm.

Consider choosing toys that are “powerful” but don’t tie into violence: If you choose action figures of a superhero or soldier or someone who always does battle, your child is likely to play at battles with it. Think instead about how a child plays with the action figures from “Paw Patrol” who have adventures as they rescue people. Or Spider-Man who swoops in to save people by carrying them away, and webs the bad guy to the wall for the police to pick up later.

Reduce exposure to media violence. And talk about media violence with your child in ways that reinforce your family’s values. (Common Sense Media is a great resource.)

Play Fighting vs. Intent to Harm

It is important to differentiate between play fighting and serious fighting. Play fighting has no intent to harm and is enjoyed by all participants. Even when kids are truly play fighting, it’s a good idea to closely monitor it, as sometimes a child will accidentally hurt another and the harmed child may strike out in real physical anger as a response.

Serious fighting is motivated by anger and a desire to harm, and must be handled with appropriate discipline tools.

Note: If a child has a pattern of purposely hurting other children, and either seems to enjoy that, or shows no empathy or remorse, that is concerning. and you may want to consult with a professional about the situation.

Teaching Empathy and Emotional Literacy

What I have described here on how I handle weapon play is a small portion of all the things I work to teach my children and my students. This conversation takes place in a much broader context, where we work a lot on kindness, empathy, and mutual respect, and where we actively teach emotional literacy skills. These are all essential to raising children to be good, caring adults.

Talk to your children about real guns

Children do need to know about real guns. We need to talk about them. This article in Slate does a fabulous job of addressing this topic.

We also have to understand that research shows that no matter how many times we tell a child not to touch a real gun, if they see one they are likely to touch it. So, we also need to talk with other adults about how to keep real guns away from our kids. Also, check out advice from Seattle Children’s Hospital about gun safety: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/Kids-Health/Parents/First-Aid-and-Safety/Home-Sweet-Home/Gun-Safety/.

Your mileage may vary

What I have written here comes from my own experience, and I need to address the privilege of my experience. As a white parent / teacher in an upper middle class, suburban, politically liberal city, real gun violence is not present in the day to day lives of my children or my students. What I feel is appropriate to my setting may or may not be appropriate to yours.

What I write here is about play and young children. As children get older, we will talk more to them about the real harms of real weapons, and more about the impacts of their actions on others. There is much more to consider on this topic as they age.

In my own experience. I grew up in Wyoming in the 60’s and 70’s. We played with cap guns, BB guns, squirt guns, toy bow and arrows, toy swords. I loved shooting all these things at siblings and friends! Yet, as an adult, I am an extreme pacifist. I have never touched an actual gun, by conscious choice, and I advocate for strict gun control laws. My siblings and childhood friends who were raised in the same environment vary in their choices: some keep guns in the home for self-defense, some own rifles for hunting, or enjoy target shooting. Others, like me, avoid guns. But none of my family or friends are aggressors – there are no cases of gun violence or gun accidents among us.

But what’s true for my family and friends was not universally true. When I was in junior high and high school, I lost 3 or 4 classmates to guns (suicides or accidental shootings), and had a classmate at my high school who had shot and killed his abusive father.

Two of my children are now adults. When they were young, I followed the guidelines I share here about weapon play. As they got older, we talked about guns and violence. I found that having had a well-thought out, open discussion about weapon play was a first step to meaningful conversations as they got older. For me, as a parent and teacher, this works better than trying to avoid the topic by banning weapon play.

Read more on this topic:

Gift Idea: Personalized Memory Game

Alphabet Memory Game

On Shutterfly, you can make a personalized set of cards for a Memory Game. (This is the game where you lay out several cards on the table face down, and then children turn over one to show the photo, then turn over a second. If they match, the child keeps both cards. If not, they turn them back face down, and it’s the next person’s turn.)

This is actually one of my favorite games for teaching systematic problem solving! (Not only do you have to remember things well, but the best player has a system that helps with memory, such as always starting in the top left, and working your way across – which helps you remember where you last saw that photo of the dog when you flip up its match.) I think every kid should have play the game, and Shutterfly makes it possible for you to choose photos that have the most meaning for your child for less than $20… about the same it would cost to buy a commercial Matching Game.

For the holidays, I’ll be making a set for my mom (she has Alzheimers and fine motor challenges, so the game offers some physical rehab potential as well as a memory refresher about the faces and names of her loved ones). For my son, who is about to turn seven, I will make two sets with matching backs, so that he has a total of 48 cards. That way, when we start playing the memory game with him, we can start with just 4 to 6 pairs and as he gets better, we can make it more challenging by adding up to 24 pairs!

Read on for the full tutorial:

How to Make Your Set:

  1. Go to Shutterfly. (I’d love it if you use this link: bcparents.shutterflystorefront.com. If you start there, it’s the same cost for you, but Shutterfly will donate 13% of your order to the scholarship program for Bellevue College Parent Education Program, which offers over 50 classes for families with children from birth to age seven.)
  2. Under the tab “Gifts”, under the category “Gifts for Kids”, you’ll see “Memory Games.” Click on that.
  3. Now, choose the design you like best, and click on that.
  4. Choose whether you want matte or glossy, then click on “Personalize.”
  5. Click on each card to customize. You’ll upload the photo you want, then edit as you want. You will design 12 cards. They will print two copies of each for 24 total.
  6. In choosing photos of people, a headshot of a single person will work better than full body shots, or group photos, just because the final cards are just 3 x 3 inches, so the final image is fairly small, especially if you chose a design with a big border.
  7. When you’re done with the design, place your order!

Shutterfly also has other great products: One year, we made a wall calendar for both sets of grandparents featuring lots of artwork by our kids. Another year, we made an 8×8 photo book that was a personalized alphabet book. The “A” page had a picture of Uncle Alan, our friend Adam, our child holding an apple, and so on.

Looking for more holiday gift ideas? Click here for thoughts on choosing the best toys for your child.

Seattle’s ReCreative Store

In the Greenwood neighborhood of North Seattle, you’ll find a unique store called ReCreative – a Creative Reuse Store and Community Arts Center. Community members and local businesses donate clean and usable art, craft, school, and office supplies that are re-sold to the public. This diverts materials headed for landfills, and re-distributes them to people who can use them for education, art, and inspiration. They are a great resource for preschool teachers, camp counselors, aftercare programs, parents, and anyone who likes to do art or make stuff.

They offer adult art classes (painting, knitting, art journalling), kids’ art classes (paint playground for ages 1 – 5, kids studio for age 5 – 7, early release Wednesdays for grade 2 – 5, crochet critters for ages 8 – 12, and family woodworking), and camps during summer and school breaks. They also offer a creative playspace which is open to kids and parents every afternoon, and parents’ night out for 4 – 12 year olds, and children’s parties.  Learn more on their website.

Their inventory is ever-changing, but here’s what we found on 8/23/17 – click on any picture for a larger image.

Yarn, Fabric and Sewing Notions

       

Paper of all sorts

   

Miscellaneous re-useables: Corks, bottle caps, lids, straws, wood bits

   

Photo frames and albums, stencils and stickers, photos, beads and jewelry supplies

   

Paint, markers, crayons, pens and pencils

  

Rubber stamps, office supplies, leather bits
  

Shells, bottles and jars (although everything else is cheap, I think 50 cents for jars is a bit high), tile samples and laminate samples

  

There’s more… I got pictures of about 70% of what I saw.

As you can see at the top of the post, I bought a little notebook, some index cards, and LOTS of markers… my total (minus the 25 cent hair clip my son wanted) was $1.35!

To be fair – I tested the markers, and although there were no dead markers, five of them are on the verge of drying up. (That’s fine – we’ll use those for DIY liquid watercolor paints… learn how here.) But over 40 markers that work great for under a $1.00 is still a great deal.

If you’re local, check out Seattle ReCreative and let us know what you think in the comments. If you’re not local, do you have anything like this in your community? Let my other readers know!

Summer Movies 2017

Whether you’re looking for outdoor movies to enjoy those warm summer evenings, or indoor movies 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 area for summer 2017.

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

Note: all outdoor movies start around “dusk”. This being the Pacific Northwest, that usually means 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.

If you want one page that has all the movie listings all in one place, go to https://www.seattlemet.com/articles/2017/6/9/seattle-summer-outdoor-movie-guide-2017

Tuesdays

Downtown Movies in the Park at Bellevue’s Downtown Park (by the mall). Free entertainment, popcorn and movies – each week has a non-profit partner, and you’re encouraged to donate to support these valuable programs. All movies are kid friendly. https://parks.bellevuewa.gov/special-events/outdoor-movies

Wednesdays:

Movies at Marymoor in Redmond. Wednesdays, 7/5 – 8/23. Some weeks are kid movies, some are teen/adult movies – check schedule. $5 per person, $5 to park. Live entertainment, trivia, food trucks, vendors. www.epiceap.com/movies-at-marymoor/

Thursdays:

Fridays:

Saturdays:

More options: Fridays at Auburn’s Summer Sounds; Fridays at Shilshole Bay Marina; Saturday teen movies at Three Dollar Bill, Cal Anderson Park, Capital Hill.

Drive-Ins

Movies start at dusk… see note above. 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.driveintheater.com/drivlist.htm lists Samish in Bellingham, which was demolished in 2004, and http://www.driveinmovie.com/WA.htm lists Valley in Auburn which has been closed for several years and Puget Park in Everett, which closed in 2010. 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/

Summer Movie Guide and Parental Guides to Media

If you’re looking for a list of first-run movies for the summer, and advice on whether they’re kid appropriate, check out the Summer Movie Guide from Common Sense Media. Common Sense also 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 (and sometimes, at least for me, to laugh at…). For example, for the Captain Underpants movie, under violence and gore, these situations are described: “Children run around in a frenzy after a man pours sugar on their heads. Toilet paper rolls are launched and one roll hits a man… Flashbacks to pranks pulled on teachers include water fountains spraying in their faces, paint splattered on them, among others. A man falls into a dunk tank and is sprayed with water guns at a carnival. Thunder claps sound and lightning flashes when children go into school on a Saturday.”

Read more: http://www.kidsinmind.com/c/captainunderpantsthefirstepicmovie.htm#ixzz4jpOR1j1t
TERMS OF USE: Our reviews are copyrighted. Copy, save, print, email and share content, but publishing our reviews on other websites is both illegal and immoral.
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Other 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 read about hands-on STEM enrichment activities for kids age 3 – 7 at www.InventorsOfTomorrow.com.

If you have kids age birth to 7, check out info about fabulous classes for them that include parent education for you, available at all local community colleges during the school year – register now before they fill up!!