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!

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Watermelon Magic Movie

Today we saw a sweet IMAX movie called Watermelon Magic. If you have a young child, and you like gardening or the outdoors or the forest kindergarten movement or like seeing five-year-old children who are empowered and supported in independent play and in pursuing a long-term project, you will like this movie.

Click on the trailer at the top of the post to get a sense of what the movie is like. Our son fell in love with this trailer when he was three years old, and it finally came to Seattle! (It’s at Pacific Science Center IMAX theater now: www.pacificsciencecenter.org/IMAX/watermelon-magic)

Audience: This is a movie aimed at the under 7 crowd. My son is four, and loved it. I talked to the mom of a two year old who enjoyed it though his mom said he was squirmy. The other 5 people in the theater were grandparents and an aunt… It was not high entertainment for the adults, but not annoying like some kid movies. It was an easy, relaxing, gentle and sweet movie.

Plot: It is a very simple story. The brief plot is: 5 year old Sylvia plants watermelon seeds, tends the garden, and sells them at a farmer’s market. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the big picture.There’s also very little dialogue – it’s show… not tell.

The parts I liked best were: Sylvia has a magic wand at the beginning and uses it to play some harmless tricks – it’s a fun little bit of fantasy at the start of the movie. Later, after the watermelon have begun to grow, her little brother keeps accidentally tromping on them, so she has the idea to build a fence. She gets the saw out, saws the bamboo, sets the bamboo posts, and ties the cross-beams on. By herself. Remember, this a 5-year-old who is doing the work. (Yes, I’m sure she had supervision, and had help when the camera wasn’t filming, but there’s no reason to think a 5-year-old couldn’t be taught to handle this project safely.)  She staffs her own stand at the farmer’s market and collects the money herself.

Mood: it’s sweet, gentle and slow-paced. Kind of like spending time outdoors in a garden.

Film: This is shot in time-lapse photography style. There’s lots of very cool scenes of plants growing, including close-ups of sprouts pushing up out of the soil. There’s some fun sunrise and sunset time-lapses and rainstorms. These are all pretty fabulous. But… my only complaint about the movie is that the whole thing is time-lapsed, and frankly it gets a little tiring to see the “stuttering” quality of that throughout the whole movie. There were times when Sylvia was talking with her mom where they slowed down the frame speed and would hold the image of each of them for longer… I liked that better. And although the time-lapse helped the movie feel “magical”, I wished some portions had just been done as video.

Possible activities you could do with your child before or after this movie, to extend the learning:

  • watch other time-lapse videos. there’s LOTS on YouTube
  • make a time-lapse video. We may try doing this… I don’t have the patience to do it with a growing plant, so I’m thinking it would be something that changes more quickly… maybe water beads going from their dried up form to fully grown, or the “Magic Grow Capsules” – those capsules where you put them in water, and the foam inside grows into a dinosaur or whatever. These changes happen over 8 – 20 hours, so my son is familiar with that process, and if we time-lapsed it and then played the video in 20 seconds, he’d get a better grasp of time-lapse, and then we could talk more about how the plants didn’t really grow as fast in reality as they did in the movie
  • you could plant watermelon seeds and tend them till you have watermelon (I say “you” because I know I’m not likely to do that… I’m not a gardener)
  • the next time we eat watermelon, we’ll talk about this movie
  • If you live somewhere watermelon grows, you may be able to find a you-pick watermelon farm
  • help your child come up with a big long-term project they would like to try

If you see the movie, let me know what you think!

Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Nature’s Playgrounds

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Peter Kirk Park, Kirkland, WA. Click to enlarge photos

Sometimes, parks have to take out trees – they’re old, they’re damaged by insects or lightning or whatever. That’s always sad. But, when you’re really lucky, the park does this! At Peter Kirk Park in downtown Kirkland, when they took out a tree (or cluster of trees?) recently, they left the stumps behind, in a perfect toddler and kid playground adventure!

My three year old loves playing on these, but so do kids of all ages. Unlike modern playgrounds, they’re not standardized sizes and shapes, with the exact measured distance between objects and a scientifically designed surface beneath. They’re just four stumps, of different heights that you can climb up, perch on, jump off. Fabulous!

If you live in the area, come check them out (but be sure to park on the street or at the library – the shopping center says they’ll tow park users). If you’re not local look for similar lucky finds in your neighborhood!

We also found a great set of stumps at Bridle Trails Park in Bellevue, next to the arena.

Bridle Trails State Park, Bellevue, WA

Bridle Trails State Park, Bellevue, WA

To learn more about kids and nature, just click on ‘nature activities’ in the right hand side bar.

 

Cheap Dates: Explore New Parks

St. Edward's State Park - Kenmore, WA. Click on photo to enlarge

St. Edward’s State Park – Kenmore, WA. Click on photo to enlarge

Summer is a great time to try something you haven’t tried before! Is there a park near you that you’ve heard people talk about, but never actually gone to? Have you ever driven down a road that has a sign saying that there’s a park that-a-way, but never followed the arrow to check it out? Have you looked on a map, and said “there’s a park in that neighborhood? I never knew!” Now is your chance to check them out!

To find out more about your local parks, search online on the websites for your city, your county, your state, and national parks websites. (Or look on an old-fashioned paper map!) Most will have directories of camps, with listings of what amenities are available at each park. You can also check Yelp and other online review sites for reviews of local options.

There are also lots more playgrounds that aren’t listed on maps and directories: playgrounds at your public elementary school, playgrounds in new neighborhood developments (some of those may be officially limited to neighbor kids only, but really, who’s going to check?)

For my readers in the Seattle area, here are some of our new discoveries:

St. Edward’s State Park

For YEARS, I have heard about the playground here. (See pictures above and this article) It was built in 2003, just when my daughter’s were growing out of playground age. It was a community project – kids from 7 elementary schools and some scout troops dreamed up ideas, and adults worked together to design it and make it happen. They built it with all volunteer hours and donated funds from individuals and companies. I’ve heard for years about how great it was, and we finally went.

My son LOVED it. He ran through every square inch of the playground, played on the slides, explored the sandbox, played on the marimba, and so on. Very big, diverse, interesting playground, well worth going back to.

Only strike? It’s big, and there’s lots of places in it where it’s hard to see your child. If you had multiple children, there’s no one place you could sit and keep an eye on them everywhere. So, this is definitely a play-with-your-kid or follow-your-kid playground, not an “I’ll just sit here and read Facebook while you play” playground.

There are also hiking trails and waterfront here… we’ll have to check those out the next time we go.

St. Edward’s is a state park. It’s $10 to park your car there, unless you have a Discovery Pass ($30 per year – we use it here, at Bridle Trails State Park, Lake Sammamish State park, so get our money’s worth from that, but the other day I looked up Washington State parks in King County and it turns out there’s LOTS of them. They’re next on our list to check out!)

O.O. Denny Park, Kirkland. Photo: http://www.lakewaparks.com/2011/06/o-o-denny-park/

O.O. Denny Park, Kirkland. Photo: http://www.lakewaparks.com/2011/06/o-o-denny-park/

O.O. Denny Park

On our way out of St. Edward’s park, I noticed again the signs I have noticed for years for “Denny Park.” We decided that the next time we wanted to go to a park to check it out. When we returned, we went on the hiking trails which was a nice and slightly challenging hike – the three year old wasn’t with us, but I think he would have struggled a bit with a couple of the hills. After the hike, we walked along the water. This is a Kirkland beach park with shade by the water (!) and without crowds. It’s nice to know there’s this option for the hot sunny days when you know Juanita Beach and Marina Park will be mobbed.

If you read reviews (like on Yelp), they’ll say there’s no playground and that the second parking lot is a potholed dirt lot. Neither of these is true now. There is a new playground there, which is pretty good (not as good as St. Edward’s…) and the back lot is now paved.

Note: O.O. Denny Park was willed to the City of Seattle in the early 1900’s. It appears to now be operated by City of Kirkland and/or the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance.

Big Finn Hill Park, Kirkland / Juanita. source: http://finnhillalliance.org/2013/10/a-walk-in-the-park/

Big Finn Hill Park, Kirkland / Juanita. source: http://finnhillalliance.org/2013/10/a-walk-in-the-park/

Big Finn Hill Park

Then on the way home from Denny, we saw the signs for Big Finn Hill (a King County park), which again, we’ve seen the signs for years and never gone. So, this was next on our list. We planned a hike in the woods on a hot day. We didn’t realize there was a playground till we got there, but of course our son had to try it out before (and after) the hike. We followed the trail maps and it was a great opportunity to practice Left and Right skills with our son, asking him “we need to turn left, which way is left” Nice trail, very manageable for a 3 year old. Nice range of plant life, lots of animal dens, and one baby bunny spotted.

Big Finn Hill playground Kirkland / Juanita

Big Finn Hill playground Kirkland / Juanita

Toddlers and preschool age kids are happy to return to the same park over and over again, but for me as an adult, it’s nice to discover something new…   So, check out some new parks in your neighborhood!

Here’s links to posts I’ve written about other local parks: farm parks – Farrell McWhirter in Redmond and Kelsey Creek in Bellevue, dog parks at Marymoor, Robinswood and KDOG; turtle watching at Juanita Bay Park, stumps to climb on at Peter Kirk and Bridle Trails, Woodland Park in Seattle, and wading at Everest Park in Kirkland.

To get more ideas for “cheap dates with toddlers” (most have specific details for Seattle area folks, but hopefully there’s useful ideas there for non-locals too) just click on “toddler dates” in the right hand sidebar of the page.

Aside

Cheap Dates with Toddlers series

I write a regular series called “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” about fun, cheap activities that kids age one to five will enjoy (and learn from!) Most of them are fun for moms and dads too, but I can’t promise they all are (see “Counting Cars” for one my child loved, but I am so glad he’s outgrown!)

Many include recommendations that are specific to Seattle/the Eastside, but hopefully most of the core ideas apply to all parents everywhere….

If you’re also looking for advice on more serious topics like: Early Literacy, Brain Development, Discipline, Potty Training, and more, check out the “Categories” section in the right hand sidebar (if you’re viewing this on a mobile device, try going to “full site” and scrolling to the bottom of the page to see categories.)

Cheap Dates: Swimming!

Peter Kirk, Bellevue, Renton pools

Peter Kirk, Bellevue, Renton pools

It’s summer time! (Well, some days it is – yesterday during my son’s swim lesson it was 55 degrees and pouring rain… but better weather is coming, right?) So it’s time to check out your local swimming pool!

Here are some great games to play in the water with your child and some recommended local pools (for those of my readers who live on the Eastside of Seattle).

Some games to play in the water:

Motor boat: In a shallow pool, you can have your child sit on the bottom of the pool and kick their legs. In a deeper pool, you can hold your child, or have her put her back to the wall and hang on with her hands, then kick her legs. As she kicks, chant:”Motor boat, motor boat, go so slow. Motor boat, motor boat, go so fast. Motor boat, motor boat, run out of gas.”

Bubble, bubble, pop. Sing “All the fish are swimming in the water” (click here for video and lyrics)  When you’re singing about fish swimming, move your child around in the water, when you sing about ducks paddling, paddle your hands, then frogs jump and children splash. When you get to the part about “bubble, bubble splash”, raise your child in the air as you sing bubble… then splash down on the word splash.

Trot, Trot: Sing Trot Trot to Boston, bouncing your child on the trotting part, and splashing down on “watch out baby or you might fall IN.”

Practice blowing bubbles in the water. Bring something that floats (rubber duck, ball, etc.), throw it, chase it, catch it floating in the water and throw it again. Bring a plastic cup or watering can in the pool with you, scoop and pour.

Why swim?

Well, first and foremost, water safety is an essential skill to teach your child! We can’t count on swim lessons to “drown proof” a child, but certainly the more familiar they are with water, the better!

Second, research shows the following benefits for swimming for kids: swimmers outperform non-swimmers in balance, movement, grasping skills, higher IQ’s, strengthened all their muscles, were more self-confident, etc.

Finally, its fun. Most kids love playing in the water! It’s also fun and engaging for the parent – at a playground I may sit on the sidelines and check out Facebook on my phone, but at the pool, I have to be fully aware of and involved with my child – it’s good for me to give him my full focus. And, my kids always sleep better at naptimes and at night on days when they were in the pool.

Some great local pools:

Peter Kirk Pool – in downtown Kirkland. Outdoor pool, open only in the summertime. Check their schedule here. They’ve got a big pool, of course, but I love them for the wading pool – it’s shallow enough for my short 3 year old to walk in, but nice and big so plenty of kids can play. $4 per person.

Bellevue Aquatic Center. It’s indoors, so not as much fun in the summer. BUT it’s the best pool for babies and young toddlers, because they have the Warm Springs pool, which is kept at 91 degrees – not quite the temperature of a warm bath, but almost! The ramp and stairs into the pool are great shallow places for toddlers to explore (just make sure you stay out of the way of people coming in!), there’s a shallow end of the pool and a 5′ deep end of the pool. It’s used as a therapy pool so there are usually elderly people and people who are in rehab for a physical injury there as well as parents and babies. Check the schedule here. Fee is around $6.75 per person.

Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton. We’re planning to try this one soon! It’s a little more Theme Park like, with big slides and a lazy river. They say it has a toddler play area. Costs are $4 for Renton kids 1-4, $8 for non-resident toddlers; adults are $8 resident, $14 non-resident.

Do you have a favorite local pool? Or favorite game to play in the pool with little ones?

[Note: this post is part of a series called “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” about fun, cheap activities that kids age one to five (and their parents) can enjoy. Many include recommendations that are specific to Seattle/the Eastside, but hopefully most of the core ideas apply to all parents everywhere….]

Cheap Dates with Toddlers – Wildlife Viewing

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Spring is a great time to explore wetlands parks* and see what kind of wildlife you can spot. Ducklings are a pretty likely bet at most wetlands! Often wetlands parks have boardwalks, where you’ll have to hike out a ways to see the wildlife.

Hikes are great activities with toddlers, because they burn off energy but in a lot lower-key, non-overstimulating way compared to a trip to a McDonald’s playground! (Now, I’m not knocking McDonald’s playgrounds here – they’re absolutely a place we head on a cold, rainy day when we’ve got to get out a little energy before story time at the library.)

You can sing songs or do nursery rhymes as you walk. You can talk about the things around you – the plants, the people, the animals…

Today, we went to Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, WA. I’d never been there before – it looks small from the road, but then you get in and it’s a huge park with lots of trails and board walks. We saw a mama duck with 7 ducklings, lots of other ducks, red-wing blackbirds, and lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs. And we checked out some ant hills on our way back to the parking lot.

One of the challenges of nature hikes is that sometimes the thing you want to see is a long ways away, or camouflaged. I think this offers great practice for toddlers in observation skills. When they look out at this sea of lily pads, can they spot the mama duck? How about the babies? It’s also good for listening to directional information: like when I was pointing out a squirrel, and said “look way over there, in the tree with the white blossoms on it. Do you see the tree? There are two branches on the right side – the squirrel is on the top branch”, there’s a lot of vocabulary and concepts that go into understanding those directions.

For more ideas for nature activities with your child, click here.

 

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* If you’re thinking there are no wetlands near you, I’ll tell you that today I looked at a map on a sign at the park, and it showed wetlands in every single state – I grew up in Wyoming, and the map showed wetlands in the northeast quadrant – now I’m curious where they are!