Fun Stuff for Kids

Storytime at Eidem Homestead: A Mini Photo Essay

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Another new favorite place for children. Storytime at Eidem Homestead Historical Farm in Brooklyn Park, MN.

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Smallest Theater In Minneapolis? Maybe…But Also One of the Best!

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www.openeyetheatre.org

I love taking my child to the theatre and I’m pretty sure she likes it to. However, the major children’s theater in Minneapolis/St. Paul, despite its amazing performances, can be pretty pricey. Tonight I discovered a new, community-based theatre that I fell in love with. The theater is the Open Eye Figure Theater and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

The show we saw was Milly and Tillie, and it truly was silly.

I paid full price for our tickets and I believe the total was around $15.00 for both of us. So, given the price and the extras you’ll soon find out about, I was awestruck at the quality of the performance and how the whole experience was truly tailored to children, while keeping adults engaged as well.

 

THE THEATRE
The whole theatre seats 90 people. It is so cute and warm and inviting! Notice the benches in the front. They are about six feet from the stage so the little ones can really get in on the action.

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TICKETS
Tickets are available on-line or in person on the night of the show.  They also had a “pay what you can” option that you could select on-line. Furthermore, they have a “no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay” so just show up for the show you want to see and pay what you can. They are bound to have empty seats.

LOCATION
The theatre is just east of 35W between Franklin and Lake Streets. It looks like a renovated warehouse. From the outside you wouldn’t even know there was a theatre if it weren’t for the chalk drawings on the sidewalk outside. The inside is so warm and cozy and quaint…Just a great feel to it.

PERFORMANCE
This particular performance used both stage actresses, puppets and silhouettes or shadow puppets. The pace was good and the energy amazing. Child and adults alike were entertained for the duration.

The theater was only about a two-thirds full and there was plenty of seating available upfront on the low couch-like pews that are meant for the younger set. If you’re interested in showing up for a performance at the last minute, I would say go for it! Otherwise you can pre-order your tickets on line and just give them your name when you arrive. They have a printed out list of names. Nothing fancy. No frills.

EXTRAS!
The best two things about the Open Eye Figure Theatre (besides the price and the quality) are the sidewalk chalk that children can use before and after the performances and the free ice cream cones that they handed out in the lobby following the show. The show was only 45 minutes long so no intermission was needed. We had a choice of butter brickle or strawberry ice cream in a cake cone. Many patrons hung outside after the show, chatting and socializing.

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COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
While we were waiting for the performance to start a little six year old Latina girl came in and plopped herself down in the front row. One of the three staff came over and checked in with her to see if she was by herself. When she said yes, the staff person said, “That’s okay. That’s cool. Just checking.” I introduced my daughter to her and they became fast friends, getting water together, sitting next to each other on the bench, holding hands while getting ice cream. The little girl said she lived in the neighborhood, which is economically and socially challenged. It was so nice to see that she had a place to go on a Saturday night that was safe and free. During the course of the show I learned that she had seen the performance before. She consoled my four year old during the thunderstorm scene and when Tillie was dressed like a shark she told my daughter that the shark wasn’t real, that is was actually one of the sisters.

I would say this is truly an under-explored community gem…a great place for families, kids and friends, and a community service. Bringing art and drama to low income families. If you have a chance, take your family to see a performance at the Open Eye Theatre. You won’t regret it and your wallet and your spirit won’t either.

Tamarack Nature Center: A True Childhood Learning Experience

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This is a view overlooking the large, multifaceted play area (aka Discovery Hollow) of the Tamarack Nature Center located in White Bear Township, Minnesota. Tamarack Nature Center is run by one of our local counties and is a 20 minute drive north from the downtown area. It consists of three main areas: the Waterway area, the Log Play area and a huge vegetable and herb garden. (There is also a large “Garden Kitchen” which I assume they use during the camps and summer programs.)

Here is a sign marking the water way areas. There are two sources of water that feed into the sand beds. One is up higher and the other down lower.

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The best part of Tamarack Nature Center is the Waterways. They have a huge sand bar that is fed with water by human operated systems. When the water goes off, one touch and you can turn it back on. It goes for about a minute and so you get to keep turning it back on as the children desire. (My four year old learned how to turn it on so that made things easy.) The water was also REALLY cold which was nice for such a hot day. As you can see, the children were enjoying the water and sand play both viscerally and intellectually, depending on their age and desired play activity.

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Here are a few shots of a Dad and his son making a dam in the water area.

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In addition to the water and sand area there was a more shaded area with logs and branches that the children could move around to create forts or whatever their imagination desired. I saw a father instructing his young child on the physics of paddling a canoe while sitting on a log with a stick-for-a-paddle in hand!

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In general, the park was also just plain beautiful. It sits on a very large piece of undeveloped land. Here’s a shot looking out over the field just adjacent to the play area.

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This was another little area. I assume they use it for presentations or for preschool activities and the like.

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Not far from the play area the rocks and flowers were a source of attraction as well.

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I love the windwill and this view of the park.

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Inside the Nature Center itself there was also a large room with live animals (turtles, salamanders, bees). It had a beautiful high ceiling and lots of windows looking out over the meadows and the bird feeders. There was a kids’ corner with books and nature puzzles.

I believe there are also paths to walk and more nature sights to see. I look forward to our next foray into the Tamarack Nature Center! Perhaps in the winter?

Tamarack Nature Center
Tamarack Nature Center provides two classic (no skating) trails, one 4K more difficult loop, and a 3K easier loop. There is also a 1K practice loop. Ski through beautiful prairie, woodland and marsh with abundant wildlife. A visitor center with restroom facilities and ski rental is available during open hours, Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Access is from the Nature Center parking lot off Otter Lake Road. (Ski lessons available at Tamarack Nature Center)

https://parks.co.ramsey.mn.us/tamarack/Pages/tamarack.aspx

Heartfelt Crafts: Fabric Flower Prints

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There was an open house at a “natural” craft store for kids this week and it was GREAT!  http://www.heartfeltonline.com/

The first project we did was to create flower prints on muslin (available at any fabric store).

Here are the instructions to make your flower/fabric print.

1. Place a piece of scrap paper on a piece of wood.

2. Put the flower on top of the paper.

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3. Cover the flower with a piece of muslin and start hammering gently.

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As you hammer, the color from the flower bleeds through.

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To set the color in the fabric, iron it between two pieces of fabric.

Get creative and use different sizes of fabrics and different color flowers. The sky is the limit.

Frame and hang. It’s as simple as that and is really beautiful!

Skills: Appreciation of nature, manual dexterity, fine and gross motor coordination, recognition of colors, physical properties of flowers, art.

Multi-Media Art Project

We had fun today with a multi-media art project.

 

Supplies included:
Painting Canvas (I had bought them on Amazon)
Pom-poms (ebay)
Glitter Glue (Dollar Store)
White glue (Dollar Store)
Extra photos
Scissors
Silk hearts (ebay)
Markers

Basically I put the canvas down and brought out the glue, pom poms and silk hearts. She had wanted to glue the hearts on a piece of paper that she had drawn on and I thought “why not extend that to the canvas.” First she scribbled on it and the she glued on her hearts and pom-poms. Then I stole the idea to put photos on it from her childcare center (Willow & Sprout).

She was occupied for a good hour with this and was having a lot of concentrated fun.

Working hard.

Second project half way through.

Painting Rocks: Another Way to Get Creative with Your Kids

 

   

Lake Superior is one of the largest fresh body lakes in the U.S. and a favorite vacation place for most people who live in Minnesota. My daughter, a friend and I visited this area for a few days ago and had a lovely time. There is always a cool breeze rolling off the lake even when the sun is out.

While walking on the beach we decided to gather some rocks, polished by the wind, water and rain, to take home and paint for the garden. Here we are collecting rocks.

At home we pulled out the acrylic paints and brushes. I used a highchair tray as the palette.

     

A pinecone also turned out to be fun item to paint.

 

The fruits of our labor were put into the back garden for all to enjoy and as a reminder of our creative endeavors.

 

So get out and get creative! See what you can come up with.

Multi-Media Painting for Toddlers and Children Alike!

It was time to cook dinner and I needed an activity for my three year old and an adult friend I had over. Fingerpaints, I thought! It was something I’d been wanting to do but hadn’t had the time to explore fully. I pulled out the easel paper, a thin waterproof drop cloth that I keep on hand for messy occasions (I think I picked it up at the dollar store or a local drugstore. It was cheap but seemed like it might come in handy some day), and the paints.

In addition to the paints, I decided to add in some multi-media materials to make it interesting.

I brought out the following:

A set of paint brushes
A bag of cotton balls
Q-tips
Colored pom-poms
Marshmallows (an Inspiration Laboraties idea, I believe)
Leaves and evergreen branches from outside

Off we went! I’m not sure if I even got to dinner given that the painting project was so much fun, but I’m guessing I did. My daughter LOVED this activity and was engaged and happy for a good 30 minutes, as I recall. We stopped when the paper was pretty much lacking in space.

I used the lid to the paint box as a palette.

She had a fun time stamping with the marshmallows and then sticking them in the paint. The marshmallows, the cotton balls and the pom-poms all served as both something to paint with as well as part of the finished product.

It was an awesome project and the full painting is hanging on the dining room wall for all to see. Since that day, “Momma, I wanna paint!” has been heard pretty frequently as well.

Full picture hanging on the cork board.

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Oatmeal Playdough

Edible Play Dough – Oatmeal Flavor!

Everytime my little girl puts store bought playdough into her mouth, chews it up and swallows, I cringe. Icky!

So I decided to try an edible playdough recipe that I found on Inspiration Laboratories:

Oatmeal Play Dough:

  • 1 cup of oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of flour

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Knead with your hands and enjoy. If the dough is a little too dry, add a touch more water.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.

Here’s what happened when WE gave it a whirl!

1. First we added the flour into the bowl. She liked to shift her fingers through the flour.

2. Then  I added the water. She wasn’t a fan of the sticky feel of this so grandma helped out.

3. Next came the oatmeal. I didn’t have plain oatmeal so I used packets of Apple Cinnamon and Peaches and Cream. The dough smelled great!

4. For a little bit of fun I brought out the food coloring.

5. This was her favorite part. It was a great hit! She really liked taking the different colors and putting them into the dough.

Her hands reflect the great pleasure derived from the food coloring:

We made birds and squirrels and bird baths and had a whole imaginary garden going on. It was great fun; I would definitely do it again.