February 26, 2010

Weekend Event: University of Michigan Museum of Art Scavenger Hunt

This weekend is supposed to be a blustery snowy mess around Ann Arbor, I personally have a ton to accomplish with two birthday parties, another party my son is attending, and Disney on Ice - However if you have the opportunity, consider a Family Scavenger Hunt!

I used to, and STILL, enjoy scavenger hunts, they are a great way to entertain even the smallest family member and often involve occupying the attention span for lengthy periods of time. This weekend at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (525 S. State Street, Ann Arbor) the Ann Arbor Art Center is sponsoring a fun family workshop and scavenger hunt that involves scouring the museum. Talk about a GREAT educational opportunity!

With a list of clues in hand, families can unearth the amazing animals and mythical creatures lurking in paintings and sculptures throughout the museum's collections. All attendees will then finish off the scavenger hunt by creating an animal mask or clay creature inspired by a favorite beast while sharing everyone’s exciting discoveries. All materials for the event are included - Fee for parent and child: $15 members and UM Students/$18 non-members. Make sure to visit the University of Michigan Museum of Art's website to register; The scavenger hunt is presented by the Ann Arbor Art Center.

If you can't attend the savager hunt, consider creating one of your own - Just think of the peace and quiet you'll enjoy with preoccupied children. At the very least they'll be out of your hair for a little while. Kids are often naturally curious and active, so take advantage of that by getting them a checklist to send them on their merry ways. Here are some great ideas for easy-to-create scavenger hunts that I found on ehow.com:


Even though it is snowy, Ann Arbor is the perfect place to get outside and take a hiking scavenger hunt. Have the kids search for animal tracks in the snow (mud or dirt), pine needles or pine cones, assorted winter berries or fallen trees. Make sure to closely supervise the children and set boundaries to make sure they don't destroy nature or get lost - You can double the hunt as a trash pickup day! I would think that the trails at Matthai Botanical Gardens, Gallup Park or even the ones at Parker Mill would provide some fun winter entertainment!


Briarwood Mall might be a perfect spot for an indoor scavenger hunt - Pick items like a napkin from Auntie Anne's Pretzels, a movie ticket stub from the dollar theatre, a piece of cash register tape from Gymboree. Again make sure the kids are supervised so that they do not make too much trouble, instruct them to ask permission before taking something, and possibly notify any associated stores of the impending activity!


The kids don't have to travel far for a scavenger hunt, instead pass out local newspapers and have a newspaper scavenger hunt! Make a list of items for kids to find in the paper to cut out. Example items to include are a picture with a swimming pool, a picture of an athlete and an ad for a church fundraiser. Be sure to tailor the items to the appropriate age level, older kids can find more advanced things like a spelling error or typo in a story, or specific words while younger children might be more limited to photos.

February 23, 2010

Upcoming Kids Building Projects

Here are several fun FREE upcoming kids building projects at the local Ann Arbor Lowes and Home Depot stores:
February 27

It’s a car, it’s a robot -It’s both! Bring your child to Lowe’s in Ann Arbor (3900 Carpenter Rd., Ypsilanti 48197) where they can build their own "Lowebot" - Just remember to sign up for the Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics online first!

March 6:

It's getting closer and closer to spring - Enjoy searching for spring seeds while your child builds the perfect rain gauge for your family garden. Kids ages 5-12 can join in the fun at Home Depot (3300 Carpenter Rd., Ypsilanti 48197) from 9:00 a.m. till noon.

March 13:

It’s March madness in and out of your home, so why not celebrate tournament time with a kids building clinic at Lowes? Bring your child into the store where they can create their very own Tabletop Basketball game.

February 21, 2010

Free Alert: Science Fair Make-It Take-It

When I was a kid I LOVED participating at any event when I would get a ribbon - The art fair, the science fair, you name it. I suppose I am the classic over-achiever in many ways. That still did not diminish my love of participating! In many ways I am passing these ideals onto my children too. I was actually disappointed to find out that my son's school doesn't really include the Kindergarten students in their science fair. I had visions of helping him create a simplified volcano (like the one created by Peter on the Brady Bunch) or prehistoric diorama - Something age appropriate and fun for him! But alas, he'll have to wait a few more years.

His not being able to participate in the science fair this year won't stop me from introducing him to fun projects, cool science experiments and the beauty of the natural phenomenons around us though. I suppose that's why we'll likely be at the local Michaels next Saturday.

On Saturday, February 27 from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. families can stop into the FREE family event at Michaels, the "Science Fair Make-It Take-it" where kids will use the periodic table to create 3D molecule models using Crayola Model Magic. How cool is that!? be sure to come early however, since the event will go on only as long as supplies last!

February 16, 2010

Free Alert: Pretzels This Saturday

Stop by the Auntie Anne's at Briarwood mall this Saturday for a FREE freshly baked hand-rolled soft pretzel - Original or Cinnamon Sugar pretzel flavor!!! Anyone can experience the one complimentary free pretzel between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. - Bring the kids, bring the spouse, bring yourself... There's nothing better than a warm chewey salty (or sweet) treat for the family!

February 15, 2010

Parenting Skills: Kids Need to Learn the Basics of Communications

I often remind myself that my young children are just begging to grasp communication basics; sometimes what I say does not make perfect sense and could possibly be taken out of context. This happens with adult conversations too – Even when speaking the same language. I hate to say it, but found myself needing to brush up on these same communication fundamentals recently.

The beauty of being an independent consultant is that I have the freedom to work when I want, where I want - The challenge though is sometimes one and the same. Mostly I complete projects from home, although I do on occasion work on-site for clients; In fact for the past few weeks I have been working on-site for a client.

Aside from finding someone to watch my children part-time, I also need someone willing to tote them back and forth to their respective schools. I found yet another challenge of working on-site upon returning to my normal “mommy-bus” schedule though; because I was not doing drop offs, I missed signing up to bring an item for my daughter’s Valentine’s Day party, and found myself stuck with bringing ice cream. I know that I could have found something much worse, however you need to imagine this scenario: Tracking though an obstacle course in the blazing desert heat while carrying a pint of ice cream across a tattered rope bridge that spans a harrowing ravine with crazed, hungry crocodiles at the bottom, all the while dodging rapid fire burning arrows that cause rather large chunks of your path to disintegrate (a.k.a. Sugar starved children and nasty winter roadways) - WITHOUT allowing the ice cream to melt. While this isn’t entirely my scenario, it is a bit difficult to get a frozen item to one school when I have to drop my son at his school first, then high-tail it over to my daughter’s preschool on the other side of town. Any ice cream would be out of the freezer for more than an hour thus creating a messy creamy soup.

I decided instead though to squeeze in a trip to the grocer after dropping my son and before taking my daughter to her school. I had noticed though, that when signing up the previous day, no one else had volunteered to bring the other half gallon, so before stopping I thought to call the teacher to ask if she needed me to get the other half gallon as well. This is how our conversation went:

“I’m going to stop for the ice cream; do you need me to get the other half gallon as well?”

“No we have lots of leftovers from the morning class and one of the other children signed up to bring the other half gallon.”

Pausing to consider our conversation and possibly a little confused, “So you don’t need ice cream then?”

“No we are good.”

I thought that was great since getting my daughter to the other side of town in time for class is always a time-challenge. When we arrived at school and stood with the other parents and children, the teacher popped her head out of the classroom and asked, “Does anyone have items they need to put in the freezer?” Of course, not having ice cream I didn’t respond, so she looked at me and asked “Where’s the ice cream.”

I must have looked blank, because she looked at me and verified that I had indeed signed up to bring ice cream. I explained that was the reason for my phone call, and after our conversation I understood that I didn’t need to bring any. Turns out she didn’t need me to get MORE ice cream, and I was thinking that she didn’t need me to GET any ice cream.

What I forgot is one of the principals of communication - I should have remembered to ask the clarification question: “Just so that I understand, do you want me to bring the half gallon I signed up for?” Which then would have likely been answered with “Yes please bring your half-gallon; we just don’t need an entire gallon of ice cream.” If this type of conversation can go awry within the adult world, what is it doing to my children?

So ask yourself this when speaking to your children or anyone else really. Does what I say make sense? Could what I say be taken out of context? What would be the ramifications if I am not clearly understood?

I lucked out this time, as the other mom actually brought both of the half-gallons of ice cream, next time though, if I am not clearly understood, I may find myself scrambling instead.

February 10, 2010

Family Fun on a Snow Day - Making Snow Cream!

With our first snow day of the year, (actually my son's first snow day EVER) my family and I crammed a lot of activities in - We went sledding, shoveled, played in the snow, hooked the dog to the sled to create a fun "dog sled" activity (the dog was NOT thrilled with that!), had snow cones AND made snow cream. What's snow cream you ask? Why snow ICE cream... It's easy, it's yummy and it's fun.

Here is a simple recipe for making snow ice cream - I also posted a fun video entry of my children making snow cream.


Basic Recipe:

1 cup of milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Large bowl of clean snow

Before beginning make sure all ingredients are available and nearby, then make sure the children wash their hands. I had gone out to scoop the clean snow, and made sure the bowl was handy by the back door too.

First, measure the sugar into a bowl and add the milk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly until the sugar is dissolved. Next add the snow and mix until it resembles ice cream - You may need to cut the snow into the mixture vs. "mixing" it.

If you would like other flavors, replace the vanilla with chocolate syrup, puree some bananas or strawberries and add them, or add any flavor you and your family will enjoy, the sky is the limit!
Eat and enjoy!!!

February 8, 2010

Whodunit This Weekend at the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum?

Have your kids ever watched any CSI-type programs and wondered how crimes were solved? Have they ever wondered how they could crack secret codes? This weekend February 13-14, 2010, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum will present Crimes, Codes & Culprits helps make crime and secret messages a fun for the entire family!

Over Valentine’s Day weekend the museum will present this fascinating exhibit as part of its monthly Sciencepalooza series. Crimes, Codes and Culprits will feature special exhibits and presentations including fingerprinting and DNA extraction as well as cryptology, the study of codes and secret communications. The special exhibit is free with regular museum admission. (Free for members and children under 2 years old and $9 for ages two and up.) For more information about the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum’s Crimes, Codes and Culprits, or its Sciencepalooza series, be sure to visit the Sciencepalooza series webpage.

Be sure to stop by, who knows there may even be a crime to solve. You never know what you may find and who whodunit!

Crimes, Codes and Culprits
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Saturday, February 13, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, February 14, noon – 4 p.m.

Fun hands-on family experiments, activities, special guests, and demonstrations during Crimes, Codes and Culprits are sponsored by Toyota.

Image by flickr user PhylB

What to do When the Snow Falls: Ann Arbor Area Sledding Hills

With the prediction of tomorrow's wintry blast in Washtenaw County, I thought to include a list of ideas - sledding areas specifically - for families to enjoy!

Luckily AnnArbor.com is a great resource. There is an article there highlighting (Guide to the Ann Arbor's best sledding hills) the top sledding hills in Ann Arbor. I personally prefer heading over to a small, but nice sledding hill in Belleville off of the South I-94 Service Drive just East of the Dunam's/Kmart Plaza - Although last time it was exceedingly crowded and bad sledding manners a-plenty! I have also heard from my neighbor that Rolling Hills has a nice sledding hill.

So where to go for great sledding and low-crowds? I'm still working on the details and planning my escape - er, sledding - plan. Where do you go for great winter sledding in Washtenaw County? I found another online resource that mentions a hill off M-52 and Waterloo Road - So com'mon readers where are the good, safe and fun hills? I need to consider younger children too...

I suppose if nothing comes up, I'll simply build my backyard hill again - The kids sure have fun with a hill built down the stairs of our deck and built off of our picnic table. Our run may be only 25-30' but they liked it well enough!

Of course I always could take them sledding on some of the awesome sledding hills in Northville, near where I grew up. Just not certain my 4-year-old would appreciate that much since she is more of a watcher. She much preferred me pulling her in a sled, walking through a local wooded area, while she was tucked warmly beneath piles of blankets - Ahh, the joys of winter!

So where do you take the children sledding? I promise not to tell TOO many people...

February 5, 2010

Mid-Winter Break Camps for Ann Arbor Schools

I thought to begin a list of area mid-winter break camps that parents might consider. Most run February 22-26, 2010 in line with break for Ann Arbor schools, however I will note that with each listing!

Ann Arbor Community Education & Recreation
Mid-winter Break Camps Feb. 22 – 26 - Join in the fun with Writing Camps (Grades K-8), “Rubber Duckies” Camp (Grades K-5), or Hoops Camp (Grades K-6).

Ann Arbor Art Center – Mid-Winter Break Creativity Camp
The perfect mix of hands- on art education and creative fun for ages 6-12 running February 22 - 26, 2010 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Worldwide Sports Center
Winter Break Soccer Camp for either full day or half day campers running February 22 – 26.

Winter Break Camp at the Leslie Science Center
Winter is wild and wonderful! You’re invited for scientific exploration, sledding, hiking, and discovering animals. So, don't hibernate over break. Winter is full of adventures.

Fun Days and Camp Programs at High Velocity Sports in Canton
Enroll your child for a single day or the entire week. Kids will play a multitude of sports including soccer, flag football, basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, kickball, and much more! HV Sports has MANY differnt days listed so be sure to check to link for more information!

If you would like additional camps listed please drop me a line at tmayrend (at) gmail.com or post a comment at the bottom of this post!