Fun with Toddlers – Spring Theme

Are you looking for fun, easy, toddler-friendly activities for a preschool, story-time or fun at home with your own child? Here’s a collection of songs, crafts, and books on a spring time theme, featuring bugs, rain, and flowers.

Crafts

Paint with flowers. Use a carnation as a paint brush.

Flower Printing - Painting activities for kids and toddlers

Coffee Filter butterflies. Put out small containers of liquid watercolor, q-tips, and coffee filters. The children decorate the coffee filters. You clip them into a clothespin and add googly eyes and piper cleaner antennas if desired.

Coffee Filter Clothespin Butterflies

Plate or cup flowers: The children paint the inside of a paper cup, or paint a paper plate. Then you can cut it to make a flower shape. You could add seeds to the center.

 Spring crafts for toddlers - paper plate sunflower 

Painted flowers: Let your child paint on paper with a brush or finger paint, or dot markers, or do a spin art painting, or drip liquid watercolors on a coffee filter, or any other method of decorating paper, and then cut it into a flower shape.

easy flower craft for preschoolers  Sweet finger painting flower craft for toddlers

Cupcake paper flowers. Let kids decorate cupcake papers with any medium. Also let them decorate a big piece of paper. Then, cut a vase shape out of the paper, and assemble a collage like this.

Umbrella. Draw an umbrella shape. Give the child raindrop shaped stickers. (Or you could cut out paper raindrops to stick to contact paper…)

Printed Flowers. Cut the stalks off a bunch of celery and print with the base, or use a plastic bottle and print with the base.

celery prints, celery flowers  Flower Prints from Soda Bottles

Ladybugs. You can just start with red paper circles, or you can start with a paper plate and have the child paint it red. Then offer circle shaped stickers for the child to make ladybug spots with. Or give them a sponge paint dauber that makes circles of paint.

  

Activities

Sticky Butterfly. Cut a big butterfly shape out of Con-Tact paper. Tape it to wall with the sticky side facing out – peel off adhesive backing. Kids stick pompoms, or squares of tissue paper, or squares of construction paper to the butterfly.

Garden Sensory Bin. Fill a bin with something to represent dirt: could be potting soil, or black beans, or coconut coir fiber, or cocoa cloud dough. Give the child fake flowers to plant, trowels, and rakes.

Bug Sensory Bin. Just take out the flowers, and add in plastic bugs!

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Catching Bugs. Put out pompoms and tongs. Tell the children the pompoms are bugs, and the tongs are their bird beaks and they’re trying to catch bugs. You could also add lengths of thick cord to be “worms.”

Bop the Bug. Decorate balloons to look like bugs. Give children a fly swatter to swat the bug with.

Colander. Get real or fake flowers with sturdy slender stems. Child “plants” them in a colander.

fine motor

Play-dough garden. Put out play flowers and play-do. The child plants the flowers in the dough.

Large motor skills game. Think of a collection of spring-themed movements: “stretch tall like a sunflower”, “wriggle like a worm”, “crawl like a spider”, “spread your flower petals.” Either make a set of dice they can roll with these activities on them, or write them on cards and put the cards inside plastic eggs, or write them on paper flowers.

Spring Movement Game for preschool

Hopping Game. Make paper lily pads, or puddles, or flowers. Kids jump from one to the next.

Spring-time Songs

The Garden Song (Inch by Inch) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3FkaN0HQgs
Inch by Inch, Row by Row. Gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by Inch, Roy by Row. Someone bless these seeds I sow.
Someone warm them from below till the rain comes tumbling down.

A Little Drop of Rain Hits the Ground (Tune: If you’re happy and you know it)
First a little drop of rain hits the ground. (Tap one finger on your palm.)
Then another drop of rain hits the ground. (Tap two fingers on your palm.
Then another and another and another and another. (Tap more fingers till whole hand clapping quietly.)
And pretty soon you hear a different sound. Splash! (Clapping loudly, ending with one big dramatic clap.)

I’ll plant a little seed in the ground (Tune: I’m a little teapot)
I’ll plant a little seed in the dark, dark ground. (bend down and plant a seed on the floor)
Out comes the yellow sun, big and round. (raise your arms to make a big circle over your head)
Down comes the cool rain, soft and slow. (raise your fingers up and down to make rain)
Up comes the little seed, grow, grow, grow! (squat on the floor and rise up slowly)

Storytime Rhymes about Spring and Bugs

This is a nest for a Bluebird cup both hands
This is a hive for a Bee    fists together
This is a hole for a bunny   All Fingers touching
And this is a house for me   Finger tips together for a roof peak

 Here is a beehive. hold up fist
But, where are the bees? Hidden away, where nobody sees.
Soon, they come creeping out of the hive… lift up fingers one by one
 1,2,3,4,5 — buzzzzzzz! Buzz the bees to tickle

5 little bees, up in the trees. Busy, buzzing, bumblebees.  (wiggle 5 fingers over head)
First, they go to a flower. (open left hand flower; wiggle right fingers to it)
Then, they go to the hive.  (left fist hive; wiggle right hand fingers)
Then they make some honey.  (pat tummy)
What a busy family of 5 !   (wiggle fingers all around)

A Bee is On My Toe (Tune: Farmer in the Dell)
A bee is on my toe. A bee is on my toe.
Heigh-ho just watch me blow.
A bee is on my toe. (blow gently on toe)
repeat with on my nose, on my head, on my ear…

Round and round the garden, hops the little bunny. (hop your fingers on child’s hand)
One hop, two hops, (hopping up arm). Tickle you on the tummy. (tickle)

Springtime Books to Read

Here is a free printable handout of Spring Theme Toddler Activities you can share.

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Fun with Toddlers: Zoo or Jungle Theme

Toddlers enjoy learning about all sorts of animals, including those that can be found at a zoo, or in a jungle. Here are some fun activities about wild animals.

Songs to Sing

We’re Going to the Zoo by Raffi – YouTube

To the tune of Wheels on the Bus: “The lions at the zoo say roar roar roar, roar roar roar, roar roar roar. The lions at the zoo say roar roar roar all day long.” Repeat with any animal sound you want.

Rhymes to Say

Five Little Monkeys jumping on a bed (video of motions)
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said:
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed”.
Four little… three…

Five little monkeys (in a tree) – video
Five little monkeys sitting in a tree,
Teasing Mr. Crocodile: “You can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Crocodile
As quiet as can be and…SNAP!
Four little monkeys sitting in a tree… three… two…. one
… Along comes Mr. Crocodile
As quiet as can be and SNAP! One little monkey says “Ha Ha! Missed Me!

The Funky Spunky Monkey (tune Itsy Bitsy)
The funky spunky monkey climbed up the coconut tree.
Down came a coconut and bopped him on the knee.
Out came a lion a shaking his mighty mane.
And the funky spunky monkey climbed up the tree again.  OR
The funky spunky monkey climbed up the coconut tree.
Down came a coconut and bopped him on the knee.
Along came his mama who hugged away the pain.
And the funky spunky monkey climbed up the tree again.

Alligator, Alligator
Alligator, alligator, long and green (hold out arm: 4 fingers, thumb below)
Alligator, alligator, teeth so mean (open and close fingers and thumb)
Snapping at a fly, snapping at a bee,(snap with fingers and thumb)
Snapping at a frog, but you can’t catch me! (arms slap together, then shake head)

Building Projects

Build a Zoo: Take out blocks or Duplos and toy animals. Build a zoo with your child.

Outdoor Play: Build a habitat for plastic animals with rocks, sticks, and plants.

Games / Activities

Pretend to be an Animal: Make cards or dice that have pictures of animals, or put plastic animals in a bag. The child rolls (or draws a toy from the bag). Then you both pretend to be that animal – moving like it or making the sound.

Habitat Sorting: Put out plastic animals or pictures of animals, plus pictures of habitats. Talk with them about which animals live on farms, which live in jungles, in the ocean, or in the desert.

Art Activities

Bead Snakes: Thread beads on pipe cleaners. Fold ends over. Optional: Add googly eyes.

Hoof and Paw Prints: If you have toy animals, check out their feet. Find ones who’ll make different shapes of tracks. Set out paint, paper, and animals, and make tracks. (You could also make tracks in play-dough.)

Paper Plate Snake: Decorate a plate, then cut it into a spiral snake. (see photo at top) Add eyes. 

Books to Read

Dear Zoo by Campbell. Fabulous lift the flap. “I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet…” See what they send!

Good Night, Gorillaby Rathmann. A charming wordless book about a gorilla escaping its cage.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? or Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Carle. Great repeating rhyme and rhythm. Children love to predict what will be on the next page.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Andreae. A sweet story about everyone finding their special dance.

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

Here’s a handout version of these Jungle / Zoo themed toddler activities. For more theme-based activities, check out the Fun with Toddlers series.

Consignment Shops and Second Hand Items

photo of clothing purchased at consignment shop

Second hand sales are a fabulous resource for parents. They offer clothes, kid equipment (like strollers and baby carriers), and toys that are lightly used for a fraction of their original cost. Over 25 years of parenting, almost all my kids’ clothes have come from consignment shops. I like them not just for the cost savings, but because it’s better for the environment, more efficient for me, and helps me be a more relaxed parent. Are you ready to learn more?

(Note: this post focuses on clothes, because I just don’t buy a lot of toys or other kid equipment,  and we get our books at the library, but everything I say can hold true for these items as well.)

Why buy used?

Save Money

The photo at the top of this post is what I bought yesterday at a local consignment shop. (Small Threads in Issaquah, WA.) I got 6 shirts, and four pairs of pants, all the new clothes my kid needs for back to school, for $36.23. They’re all used, of course, but in fine shape. Brands I saw at the shop included: Gap, Old Navy, Gymboree, Oshkosh, Carter’s, Eddie Bauer, Janie & Jack, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein. At my local consignment shops, the prices are typically $1.99 – 6.00 per item for children’s pants and shirts. Cost savings is similar on coats, shoes, toys, and more. (At thrift stores, the cost might range $1 – 4.)

Pre-Vetted for Durability

I find that children’s clothes range a great deal in quality. Some will last through many children and countless washes, and others look awful after their first time through the laundry – they get “pills” all over them, or their colors run, or they have knees that tear out at the first tumble, or  collars or cuffs that get all squashed up never to go flat again. At a consignment store, everything is still in good shape after being used, so I know my kid can’t do much worse to them.

Better for the Environment

Most kids’ clothes are made from cotton. Cotton is terrible for the environment – it takes about 2500 liters of water – 660 gallons – to produce enough cotton for one shirt! Cotton is just 2.4% of the world’s crops, but of the pesticides used on the planet each year, 16% are used in the production of cotton. Let’s get as much use as we can out of every cotton shirt!

More Efficient Shopping Experience

I don’t enjoy shopping. I especially don’t enjoy shopping when I have to take a small child with me to the store! As a working mom, I also have limited time, and there’s other things I’d far rather do with it. If I walk into a kids’ clothing store, they have one rack that has a couple styles of shirt, then I walk to another rack with a couple more and another rack with a couple more. If I walk all around the store, they might have a dozen different shirt styles. And they might not all be available in a size 6. If I want more options, I have to walk through the mall till the next viable store.

At the  consignment shop I was at yesterday, I walked to the size 6 boys rack, and flipped through about 50 different shirts and 30 pairs of pants. I was able to pick out 6 shirts and 4 pants in much less time than it would have taken at the mall. And most consignment shops have some consignment toys stationed around the clothing racks so kids can play while their parent shops.

Makes me a Better Parent

I still remember 20 some years ago, when I bought my kids two really special matching outfits from Gymboree for a portrait session that were pretty pricey for my budget at the time. Even after the photos were taken, I was protective of those clothes… my preschooler and toddler really wanted to wear them but when they did, I’d spend the day saying “no, you can’t play with that, it’s too messy” and “no, you can’t eat / drink that – I don’t want to take the chance that you’ll spill it on your clothes.” I didn’t like being that fretful parent. When my kids wear cheap consignment clothes, I’m a relaxed parent. I let them finger-paint, play in the mud, eat nachos, and more. I don’t worry about stains and just let them be kids.

  • Stain tip: There’s a lot of good stain removers out there – I personally find Shout works great for us. But here’s the key with stains… never ever put stained clothes in a dryer. The heat will set the stain forever!! So, I spray a stain – wash it. If the stain didn’t come out, I spray it again and wash it again the next time I do laundry. It doesn’t go in the dryer till the stain is gone. It’s very rare when I end up with a permanent stain.

The Sell them Back option

I donate my kids’ clothes when we’re done with them. Many parents I know get their kids’ clothes from the consignment shop, wear them till the kid outgrows them, and then brings them back to re-sell to someone else. Instead of taking cash for the clothes, they can get a larger payment with store credit that they then roll into the next season’s clothes. Here’s tips on how to make money selling consignment, and more tips.

What about Teenagers?

My oldest child wasn’t that picky about clothes and was happy to wear whatever appeared in the drawer. But my second child was very picky about her clothes. By the time she was about 12, she was doing all her own shopping. I would give her a budget at the start of the school year, and she could decide how to spend it. One year, she decided she really wanted the designer pants. So she blew her whole budget on one pair of pants and a pair of shoes, and otherwise had to wear all the clothes she already owned, whether or not they fit her current style. In all the future years, she’d go to Plato’s Closet and other consignment shops, and buy 6 – 8 new items – mostly by the designers she’d want to wear – but for a fraction of what they would have cost new.

What is a second hand seller?

There are multiple types of second-hand sellers that sell used items. They include:

  • Consignment stores / pawn shops.
    • In a consignment shop, people have asked the shop to sell their stuff for them – if it sells, the store gets part of the money and gives the other part to the seller. If it doesn’t sell in a set amount of time, they ask the seller to pick it up. Most towns have a consignment shop – search online. Some are huge with lots of stock, some are small and you’re less likely to find what you need.
    • In a pawn shop model, the seller brings items to the store – the store buys what they want – if they think they can re-sell an item for $10, they’ll give the seller $5. Half Price Books and Plato’s Closet follow a pawn shop model. (Learn the difference between these models from the seller’s point of view.)
    • Everything in a consignment shop had to meet the shop’s standards for quality, so in general, it’s all in quite good shape and fashionable. (I’ve watched at Plato’s Closet, and they reject half to two thirds of the items sellers bring in, taking only the very best.)
  • Garage sales / yard sales / swap meets / flea markets / consignment sales – where people sell their own stuff or other folks’ stuff for a couple days in the yard or at a swap meet. (Just Between Friends is a nationwide group that does huge consignment events full of kids’ clothes. They can be a bit of a zoo, but people get lots of good stuff there.) You can get really good deals on stuff and you can find treasures – wacky delights you didn’t even know you were looking for till you found them. On the other hand, you can find a lot of junk you have no desire to own. Personally, the only time I did these was when it was a lovely sunny day in spring and I wasn’t quite ready to go home but didn’t have any ideas for what to do with my kids. We’d see a garage sale and go off on a quest to see what we’d find. Never anything substantial, but a fun little diversion.
  • Craig’s List / ebay / Vinted / classifieds – people list specific items that you can search for. Helpful if you know exactly what you’re looking for. My son outgrew his favorite pair of shoes, and the company no longer made them, but we found a new pair in a larger size on ebay.
  • Thrift shops – where all the goods they sell were donated to them. Anything that’s deemed “acceptable” is out on the shelves, so that means there’s a wide range of quality. There might be a barely worn Gap sweater from this year’s line next to an almost worn-out t-shirt from an event that happened a decade ago. If you’re willing to sort through a lot of junk, you can get some good deals. Note: some thrift shops donate all their proceeds to a charity, some (like our local Value Village) are for-profit businesses.
  • Buy Nothing Groups: The Buy Nothing Project has created a huge network of Facebook-based local groups where folks who have things to give away post them to the group and where others ask for what they need. On my Buy Nothing group at this moment, people are giving away: an unused case for an iPhone 6, a bicycle seat, a glass-topped end table, a bag of size 3T boys’ clothes, company for evening walks on a local trail for other women who don’t feel comfortable walking alone, size 9 heels from 9 West, wood toddler toys, and so on. And there’s someone who’s due in a month who is asking for a crib, crib sheets, and a stroller. It’s pretty hit or miss what’s posted, but you may luck out. And if you have stuff to give away, it’s nice to give directly to a neighbor rather than donating to a thrift shop.

Tips for all second hand shopping

  • The nicer the neighborhood – the better the used goods. At a garage sale in some parts of town, you’ll find things from Target and Walmart that the sellers are trying to eke as much money out of selling as they can. In another part of town, you’ll find items from Pottery Barn and Williams and Sonoma that they’re willing to sell for any amount you feel like offering.
  • Inspect items thoroughly before buying, especially at thrift shops. Look for the subtle holes or small stains that a quick inspection wouldn’t have picked up.
  • Be careful of recalls and hazards. In a used goods sale, you might find items that have hazards such as lead paint, or safety recalls.
  • Don’t buy stuff just because it’s cheap. A lot of people get really excited about “look at this doo-hickey that sells for $50 in a store and I got it for $5!!” And in that excitement they don’t stop to think about whether they really need a doo-hickey and are now stuck with it. (Note: lots of parents find that they have so many toys that it’s overwhelming for them – and we know kids don’t learn well in environments that are too cluttered – read here for tips on How Much is Enough – How Much is Too Much.)

If you’re looking for money saving ideas for parents, you may also be interested in my series Cheap Dates with Toddlers which offers lots of free and cheap ideas for what to do with little ones.

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.

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!!

 

Fun with Toddlers: Sensory Play

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A sensory bin is a simple toddler play activity: take a plastic tub, fill it with rice (or another filler), add scoops and containers to pour into (or other tools) and a few of your child’s small toys, and let your child play. The benefits for your child are: learning to use tools, using fine motor skills, and sensory exploration. The benefits for you are that your child will play independently for quite some time while you get other things done! (Expect some clean-up time when you’re done!)

Learn all about sensory play in: The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Play.

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!!