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Filtering by Tag: travel

Imagination Station Toledo

Andrea Sanchez

A couple weeks ago we planned a short day trip to Toledo. And you know me, ever the sucker for a visit to a children's museum. What we found was a gem of a museum tucked into a city where many of my friends asked, "Why Toledo?"

I was really intrigued by the fact that this museum, Imagination Station, was specifically a children's science and math museum. I personally find it difficult to consistently implement engaging, hands-on science and math activities in my classroom (I teach half-day kinder!) and with D (he's all about the gross motor play these days), so I'm always up for the opportunity to learn more about possibilities in these areas. 

When we got there, I was really impressed by the size and updated look of the building. Located on the Maumee River, Imagination Station has two levels of hands-on science, math, and engineering activities for kids of all ages. Once our tickets were paid for and we entered the main exhibit area, the stand out was the balance bike you could ride across a tightrope! I have no idea how this works, but obviously it does and is safe (this was for older kids. I believe there was an age and height limit). 

A large portion of the main floor was dedicated to Little KIDSPACE, a space specifically for children ages 5 and under. Here D played on a slide and climber built to look like a tree. This tree included animal puppets, dress up clothes, and signs prompting parents to discuss certain aspects of animal habitats with their children. There were quite a few different engineering centers set up with various types of building blocks and equipment. As always, D headed straight to the water tables. These were equipped with tubes and connectors to make any variety of water spout. There was also a baby water table where little ones could sit and play, secured to the table. The Little KIDSPACE water area was partitioned off from the regular water play area which included a whirlpool and other, more in depth activities for older children (tornado maker, and something about weather).

It should also be noted that Little KIDSPACE has a nursing room for moms complete with rocking chair, footstool, changing table, and some supplies! I was really pleased by this because we all know how difficult it can be to find a little private space when you have a newborn. This nursing room was next to the play area for littles under the age of 2.

After our water play we headed downstairs to catch a science show. The (female! yay!) scientist popped balloons filled with various gasses and blew up a pumpkin! I tried volunteering to have my hand lit on fire, but thought D might freak out. The show was about 25 minutes long but managed to keep D's attention for most of that!

We had our lunch outside, purchasing semi-healthy faire from the museum restaurant (as usual, it was a bit on the pricey side). While they offered healthy choices like fruit, milk, and veggies, there were still plenty of candy, chips, and soda displays. While sitting outside, we had the great enjoyment of watching the bridge on the Maumee rise up to let a ship pass through (headed to where? I'm not sure. But it was huge.). That's high excitement for a toddler. 

There were still a number of exhibits that we had left to explore but many were for older children.  A Mythbusters exhibit, the Mind Zone (how our minds can be tricked), and the Science Studio (making all kinds of cool goop and spooky stuff - it is October after all) would be great for children with a bit more patience than D. Either way, we'd been there already for over 3 hours and it was time to head off to the football game that we'd driven to Toledo to attend.

As we were leaving we happened upon an amazing musical machine that was powered by levers, pulleys, and pool balls! 

If you are in the area, Imagination Station also has a great variety of early childhood programs available! I'd love to attend a science story time! 

Considering the amount of time one could spend there, the quality and variety of the exhibits, this place was an amazing deal. Children 3-12 are $9, 13-64 are $11, and there are discounts for teachers, military, seniors, and littles 2 and under are free. You can't beat that!

This is going on my highly recommended list if ever you're in the Toledo area and looking for something to do with the family. If you ever make the visit I hope you'll stop back here and tell me which you enjoyed the most!

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Rhinebeck with a Little

Andrea Sanchez

Today we have guest blogger Whitney joining us on the blog to share just how much fun a little one can have at probably the most famous sheep and wool festival in America - The New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck! 


First, to introduce myself: Hi! I’m Whitney, and I’ve got an almost-4 year old little one who (lucky for me!) shares my love of all things knitting.

The New York Sheep and Wool Festival is known to knitters everywhere as “Rhinebeck”, and people travel from all around to go there each fall.  I’ve been going to  Rhinebeck every year since 2009, only missing 2011 because I was then 8-months pregnant with my daughter.  So, as you clever folks can figure out, that means I’ve been bringing the little one with me for the past 4 years!

Our First Rhinebeck with the Little One!

Our First Rhinebeck with the Little One!

While most of the knitters I know leave their families behind and travel to Rhinebeck with friends, it actually is a family festival, and what I want to focus on in this post are the wonderful opportunities for sharing your love of yarn, wool, sheep, and fiber arts in general with your kiddos if you bring them with you.  I’ll be honest, though: it’s not necessarily easy to have the “classic” Rhinebeck experience (read: lots of shopping and yarn petting!) if you’ve got a wee one in tow, particularly if said wee one is too big to be worn, but still using a stroller.  As you might imagine, the crowded barns (especially on Saturday) are not exactly easily navigable with a stroller, so if you can wear your little one in a carrier of some kind, it’s MUCH easier to get around!  

Wearing my daughter in 2012

Wearing my daughter in 2012

This was the first year I did not wear my daughter for the majority of the day - at nearly 4, she’s a good 40 pounds, and that’s more of a workout than I can manage.  So we used the stroller the whole day (it made a good “stuff-holder” when she wanted to run around).  This meant that if I wanted to actually shop, I needed to leave my daughter outside the barns with my husband, and she wasn’t always very happy about that (to put it mildly!).  But that’s ok, because at least for me, Rhinebeck isn’t primarily about the shopping - it’s about the experience.

One of our favorite things to do as a family at Rhinebeck is visit the sheep, alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, and other fiber-animals.  These barns are generally more “open” and less crowded than the vender-related barns, and give a great opportunity to introduce little ones to real live animals.  My daughter was quite shocked the first time she heard a sheep say “baa” in real life - it was much louder than she’d expected!  

Sheep in a Jacket!

Sheep in a Jacket!

You can also watch sheep shearing - if your kiddo is curious about where yarn comes from, this is a really wonderful part of the process for them to see.

Shearing Time!

Shearing Time!

But the fiber-producing animals aren’t the only ones at the festival - there’s also the “Two by Two Zoo”, which brings pairs of various animals (monkeys, kangaroos, pot-bellied pigs, and more) for kids to watch and learn about:

Enjoying the kangaroos - 2 real ones, and 1 statue

Enjoying the kangaroos - 2 real ones, and 1 statue

And if your kiddo enjoys dogs, they can watch sheep dog trials and also see demonstrations of frisbee-catching dogs.  I didn’t get a photo, but my daughter was particularly enamored of a “micro” dog named Hashtag who was catching frisbees shortly after we arrived at the festival.

A helpful sign for those of us with little ones

A helpful sign for those of us with little ones

In addition to the animals, there are also more typical “fairground” activities for kids to enjoy, including classic games like the ring toss.  This year, my daughter was delighted by the hay-bale maze that was set up with the kid’s activities!

Little kid, big maze.

Little kid, big maze.

She was also thrilled with the balloon-artists, and spent quite awhile just watching them until she got brave enough to make a request.

Captivated by balloon-art

Captivated by balloon-art

She loved her alien!

In love with her alien.

In love with her alien.

But I can’t talk about kids at Rhinebeck without mentioning the pan flute band.  If you’ve been to Rhinebeck, you’ll know what I mean - there is a band there every year playing pan-flute music by one of the restrooms, and my daughter, along with basically every other child I’ve seen at the festival, is OBSESSED with them.  It’s amazing and hilarious to watch the little kids start spontaneously dancing to the music as they get closer to it - always the same sort of knee-bends and shoulder-dips.  This year my daughter tried to “teach” me how to dance to the music when we were taking photographs of our “Rhinebeck sweaters” (a matching mama-daughter cardigan set that I plan to self-publish in the near future - I don’t think I’ll trade designing for dancing any time soon!).

Rocking out to the pan flutes in our matching sweaters

Rocking out to the pan flutes in our matching sweaters

In addition to giving kids a place to work on their dance moves, they also sell inexpensive instruments at their booth - last year, we got our daughter a bird whistle:

It was loud. She loved it.

It was loud. She loved it.

And this year, she got the grand prize: a pan flute of her very own!

Maybe next year she can join the band?

Maybe next year she can join the band?

The setting at Rhinebeck is absolutely gorgeous - I can’t think of a place much prettier than the Hudson River Valley in mid-October.  The fall colors make an excellent backdrop for family pictures, if you can get someone to take them for you, and if your kid is like mine, and obsessed with picking up pretty leaves, they’ll have hit the jackpot at the festival!

So many leaves!

So many leaves!

That pretty much wraps up my family’s experience at the festival itself - and like us, if you’ve got your kids with you, you probably won’t be spending two full days at the festival either.  So, what do you do with the rest of your time in the area?

Our family has stayed in a hotel in Fishkill, NY these past few years, which gives us about a 25 minute drive up highway 9 to get to the festival, but has the benefit of a hotel pool (which my daughter LOVES), and nearby chain restaurants.  As much as I’d love to explore the independent restaurants and diners in Rhinebeck and the surrounding area, we have a supremely picky eater (despite our best efforts!), so having a Panera and a Red Robin nearby is useful on that front.  (The other “benefit” to staying further out of town: they still had a room open when we finalized our travel plans in mid-summer, which wasn’t true for anyplace else!)

If your family enjoys hiking, there are a number of great parks and trails in the Hudson River Valley region that you could explore. In nearby Hyde Park, you can visit historic sites for both Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, which may be a fun activity for slightly older kids.

We’ve become particularly fond of visiting the Walkway Over the Hudson on our way out of town.  You can access the Walkway from either side of the river, though we’ve always found it easiest to use the parking lot on the Poughkeepsie side.  The views are INCREDIBLE, and the railings are nice and solid, which is great if your kiddo is curious and you’re a nervous mama like I am!

Toddler’s view from the Walkway, 2013

Toddler’s view from the Walkway, 2013

It’s also a nice long walk, great for letting your little one burn off some energy before a long car ride!

Running the Walkway, 2014

Running the Walkway, 2014

Be warned, though, that the Walkway is probably best done in the evening on Saturday than in the morning on Sunday, because there are frequently charity-walks taking place on Sunday morning.  So check the Walkway’s website ahead of time to see if you’ll be competing with crowds, but if you can get there during a less busy time, it is SO worth it!

Farewell, beautiful Hudson River Valley!

Farewell, beautiful Hudson River Valley!

Did you bring your little one(s) to Rhinebeck with you this year?  What was their favorite part of the festival?  Did I miss any great activities in this post?  If so, please share!

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Providence Children's Museum

Andrea Sanchez

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to scope out some new (to us) kid friendly spots. Because D wasn't loving our beach trip (more specifically the actual ocean), he still needed a lot of other opportunities to blow off his toddler steam. We found within driving distance the Providence Children's Museum

After checking out their website I found that they have a special Friday where they are open late and admission is free after 5pm (FYI: This looks to be every Friday through August then one Friday a month thereafter. Check their calendar). So on Friday we headed out on the 25 mile drive from Narragansett which, unfortunately due to CRAZY traffic, took us over an hour! Ugh! However, this children's museum was totally worth the drive.

The building is two floors with several different play environments on each floor. The main floor consists of a water play room and engineering type activities (building with various materials). We started by exploring the engineering activities but as this was right near the entrance there was a lot of traffic.

Upstairs are even more play environments. One area focuses on transportation with cars, tools, roads to build with, dress up clothes and more. There is a tunnel to walk through that explores the history of Rhode Island with little rooms set up like scenes. For example, when talking about the first settlers, there is a log cabin room with play food that these people would have eaten (clams!), tools they would have had, dress up clothes, etc. D didn't want to explore the entire tunnel so I didn't get to finish checking it out.

There are more block areas (with my favorites, the big wooden blocks!) and a place called Little Woods for children under 4. This was really special as it had smaller climbing toys, a slide, push toys, books, and even a baby area. I loved seeing D fill up his cart with the pretend rocks (they were squishy) and cart them around the room only to transfer them to another basket, carry them around the room and then start over (I heart the load and tote phase of toddlerhood). 

After some time in Little Woods we headed back downstairs to the water tables. This room was huge with 3 long water tables and a fourth regular table an employee kept loaded with crushed ice for building. D was very intent on putting balls and toys into the whirlpool. We probably spent a good half hour exploring this last area. 

Despite arriving late (I wanted to be there at 5 and our drive got us there at almost 6) and having to leave at a little after 7 (we still hadn't eaten dinner!) we had a fabulous time there. The Providence Children's Museum puts a huge emphasis on the importance of play for children. This is something I LOVE. As an educator of (technically) elementary aged children this is something I see so lacking in our kindergartens these days and it just breaks my heart. Play has a huge role in young children's development. It helps them learn to develop language, self-regulate, interact with peers, and develop critical thinking skills. Play is also a huge stress reliever for kids (imagine how you feel when you haven't had a lot of knitting time!). This museum used signs throughout the building to provide information to parents on how to interact with their children during their time there. They also had handouts on supported play, book lists for further reading, and a ton of additional info on their website

If you are ever in Rhode Island, I highly recommend a trip tot he Providence Children's Museum. Even though we went on a special night, it is definitely worth the price of admission. I am sure we will make a visit back there the next time we are in Rhode Island. 

Have you been to this children's museum? I'd love to hear about your favorite museums for kids!

Toddler Travel Tips

Andrea Sanchez

Traveling with a toddler isn't always a super fun experience. They have their normal toddler rage about regular things only now you aren't in your home and it's hard to stay cool when a plane full of eyes are on you. For the last two weeks I've been out of state with D. My parents live in the Sacramento area of California so we travel west a few times a year. It's safe to say D has flown already about a half dozen times since he was born. As he approached 2 I did briefly consider not flying with him again until he was about 8. He's always been a pretty easy going traveler but the idea of being trapped in a plane (sometimes 2) with a toddler for hours on end and no where to go in the event of a meltdown terrifies me. 

Children's play area at SFO.

Children's play area at SFO.

However, with family out of state this is just not an option for us. So I've learned a few things in the past few years to make our lives a little easier on long trips. I generally do this for long car trips as well (10 hours to Rhode Island with a 22 month old? Sure! Why not?) and figured I'd share   some tips for you to try as well. 

#1: Snacks!

Bring more snacks than you think you could ever possibly need. Like, ever. If you skimp on the snacks there will be a moment around hour 7 of an 8 hour trip when your child hasn't slept and is running on crackers and applesauce alone. That moment will be when you run out. Don't let this be you! I back a big ziplock as full of crackers, fruit pouches, and whatever else I can. I've never had a problem getting the fruit pouches through security although I did notice today they are 3.2 ounces. 

A good travel helper pushes the stroller. 

A good travel helper pushes the stroller. 

#2: Novelty is key

Toddlers are all about novelty. This will be your golden ticket when sitting has started becoming uncomfortable. I love a good theme so I purchase a couple new books about plaines and airports (or whatever makes sense with where we are traveling) and don't pull them out until mid-flight. Some of our favorites are Amazing Airplanes, Little Airport Sticker Activity Book, Airport,  The Noisy Airplane Ride, and Planes (affiliate links). Around the holidays I even wrapped the books and would pull them out like I just found them under the seat. That just bought you 20 minutes per book!  

#3: Plan for sleep

There is a fair chance at some point your child will fall asleep. You want them to stay asleep as looooong as possible so make sure they are dressed comfortably. When we fly at night I bring jammies and D's special elephant. We read books, sing songs, just like normal. Then I cover him with a little blanket and pretend I'm going to sleep as well. Sometimes that works. Sometimes I knit! Normally I'm so exhausted I actually sleep too. 

#4: Plan for no sleep

Sometimes the above does not work. And your kid is awake for a 5 hour flight that left Cleveland at 7pm. In that case, make sure you packed all the snacks (that was the moment I ran out) and have a backup. I downloaded Frozen just in case and it served as a fair distraction for the last hour of our trip. Real life, people. Real life. 

In the winter some airports have reindeer!  @CLE

In the winter some airports have reindeer!  @CLE

At the end of your trip you may be pleasantly surprised. D traveled EXTREMELY well this last trip (and if was our first flight just us two and no daddy). But we've also had the so-exhausted-I-can't-sleep-so-I'll-scream-instead moments (in all fairness he was only about 14 months then). This time as we walked through the airport to our connecting flight I let him walk as much as I could, found an empty gate nearby to wait in, and dished out the snacks. Some airports are amazing and have kid play areas (San Fransisco and Las Vegas are two for sure) others you just ride the people mover for half an hour.

Is your toddler a frequent traveler? Share what things have worked for you! I'm dying to know. And wish me luck today and we travel home!

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