Last year, Parents rated Philadelphia as one of the 10 best cities for families to visit. If it’s in your summer plans, be sure to check out the massive new exhibit, Your Brain, that opens at The Franklin Institute tomorrow. Almost 10 years in the making, the exhibit has dozens of interactive features. When my daughter and a few friends (ages 9 to 12) visited during a sneak peek event earlier this week, they were blown away, and you know that tweens are not easily impressed. Some highlights:
The exhibit starts out with a large screen that lets you see your own skelten. Jump, bend your leg, raise your hand, and the skelton on the screen will move too.
The visuals in all the displays were bold and fun, like this one that demos what a brain scan is like.
The kids spent a half-hour on two-story climbing structure, complete with lighting and sound effects, that represents brain pathways. They would have stayed in there all day if we let them.
Many of the activities in the exhibit are geared to kids ages 8 to 13. But if younger sibs are exploring too, making a face on this magnetic board will be fun for them (and so will that climbing structure!).
Another section of the exhibit focuses on illusions. I won’t give away all the surprises, but be sure to go in the bedroom. I took this pic of the kids in an area designated for photo ops.
Bonus! A traveling exhibit, Circus Science Under the Big Top, is at the Franklin Instutute through September 1. Check out the dress-up area with amazing costumes (of all sizes), a tight rope that kids who weigh 50 pounds or more can walk on, and circus games.
Singer and songwriter Jewel has been one busy mama! She recently performed during the Academy of Country Music Awards’ Lifting Lives Moment to benefit ConAgra Foods’ Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign. She is also set to play June Carter Cash in the Lifetime Original Movie Ring of Fire, coming out this May.
Jewel opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her son, Kase, 20-months, who went on his first “road tour,” her involvement with ConAgra and the cause to end child hunger, finding a balance between being a mom and having a creative outlet, and her Mother’s Day plans.
Celebrity Baby Scoop: Tell us about your partnership with ACM Lifting Lives. How did you get involved with the organization?
Jewel: “I was the spokesperson for ConAgra Foods last year. ConAgra’s initiative is to bring awareness to end child hunger, and they did this by partnering with the ACM. They have songwriters and artists write songs in different formats, such as a country song or a pop song, which are then used in the commercials. Last year, I sang a song for the campaign and Little Big Town performed it for the ACM Lifting Lives moment. This year, another girl wrote the song and I performed at the ACM Awards.”
CBS: How did you prepare for your performance at the Academy of Country Music Awards?
J: “I performed a medley of my song Hands and this other song. I’ve prepared in all sorts of ways. I had to work on the medley, work out the keys, and practice on it to make sure I was ready to do it live.”
Children’s brains go to sleep as soon as school ends for summer vacation, and they can hibernate until after school starts again in the fall. While kids need rest and rejuvenation, structured and unstructured play, physically active and tranquil days, and homework-free evenings, the summer “brain freeze” (a.k.a. “summer meltdown” or “summer slide”) can last too long. When resting brains slip into vegetative states defined by TV, video games, Facebook, text messaging marathons, and MP3 hypnosis, it’s time for an intervention.
Fortunately, there is a cure: enrollment at Family Summer University (FSU)! At FSU, there is no tuition and no homework, but there are tests (more like friendly and funny family competitions) every night.
As Dean of FSU, it’s your job to set aside a little time each day to write the quiz questions. Tailor them to the ages and learning levels of your kids, but don’t be limited to school subjects. Instead, include a wide range of topics: celebrities, cartoon characters, favorite storybooks, sports teams, movies and TV shows, or any other topics that each family member will enjoy. Fun trivia about Justin Bieber and Jeremy Lin can help camouflage the educational lessons abouthypotenuses, homonyms, and Hamlet. Mix and match questions every night from different subject areas or dedicate different nights of the week to certain subjects.
Look to brain teaser games, flash card sets, home versions of TV quiz shows, the library, the internet, and yes, your kids’ school books, to write your questions. But don’t overdo it — set a maximum of 20 questions per child per day, 10 questions if you have more than three kids! Remember, if you’re asking your 6 year old a tough question for his age, you should also be asking your 12 year old a tough one for her age.
Once your questions are written, gather the kids on the designated FSU campus (it can be the porch, patio, or another comfortable venue that’s preferably outdoors) and let the games begin! A great time for FSU to gather is after dinner because everyone is already together. Play every night or play a few days a week. Add bonus questions, musical prompts, and picture clues to make the game more interesting. Watch as scarce minutes with your kids turn into special moments.
After the answers are given, discuss them with your kids. Gently explain the questions they missed and have them explain ones they got right. Tally the correct number of answers for each contestant each dayk. At the end of each week, give a prize to the child with the highest score, and then start scoring from scratch the next week. This way, no one falls so far behind that they have no chance of catching up. Good “prizes” can be letting the winner choose the DVD on family movie night or the theme for a special dinner night. At the end of the summer, have an FSU “graduation” ceremony with cardboard caps, bed sheet gowns, and colorful paper diplomas. Then, make sure to go for ice cream!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbartis Professor andVice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recentNo Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York TimesMotherlodeblog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Here at Parents magazine, our mission is to foster “healthy kids, happy families,” and we hope you will take time every day to spotlight the fantastic parental figures that you know (go ahead and include yourselves as well!).
To inspire you, here are some fun family activities for unforgettable celebrations!
Boy, have we got a just-in-time-for-Christmas giveaway for you! The great people over at Manhattan Toy, who partner with us on our very own Parents line of toys, have put together a prize package any kid would be thrilled to find under the tree. And the kiddos aren’t the only ones who will appreciate the 5 stellar toys that are up for grabs.
The philosophy behind the Parents collection of toys is that “when the toy does less, the child does more,” a concept any parent can feel good about. The toys in this line are specifically designed to inspire a child’s imagination—something you don’t quite see enough of these days. Through entertaining play, the toys, games, and puzzles in the line helps expand skills, boost brain power, and allow your child’s natural creativity to flourish. What’s not to love about that?! Even better, as soon as a winner is chosen and is contacted, this prize will ship overnight promising an extra-special Christmas morning!
Seeing the Berenstain Bears again—and this time in the flesh—brought about flashbacks from my own childhood. The show was taken from the books. And, just like the classic stories, the musical brought about an entertaining and informative lesson on living the good life—ursine or otherwise.
Of course, Emily’s favorite bit involved Father Bear splitting his pants because he indulged in a few too many candy bars. Pants splitting is always a win-win in early childhood comedy.
The show is a perfect introduction to the realm of musicals for your little ones. It was long enough to entertain, but not too long for jumpiness to ensure. There’s face painting if your kid wants to become a bear, and the cast poses for pictures on the way out. It was a great experience for our little Emily Bear Show, it’ll be great for your little one…even if he or she has a relatively normal nickname.
The show is extended through October, and it can be found at the MMAC Theater at 248 West 60th Street in New York City. More info about the touring show is available at http://berenstainbearslive.com/
With summer vacation just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking up fun activities to fend off the inevitable “I’m bored” whining. Enter Kids Bowl Free, a bowling program in which hundred of alleys across the US (and Canada) allow children to play two games a day—gratis—all summer long. Better still, the program is already up and running for the season in some locations. To register for a pass and find a participating bowling center near you (as well as get program dates, times, and age requirements, which vary by location), visit kidsbowlfree.com.
After a long, hard winter, today is officially the first full day of spring. A fact you may have missed if you were in NYC this morning, where we were greeted with a rain-snow mix for a short time. Oh, Mother Nature! In any case, we’re honoring the changing of the seasons and the warmer weather to come (fingers crossed) with a Parents poll. We want to know where’s the best place to spread out a blanket and open up a picnic basket with your little one for the first time. Cast your vote below.