Archives for September 2013

Risky Places We Love: Treetop Adventure Park

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville

Benjamin was at camp a this past summer at Tap Root Farm. (He had a blast.) This left Thomas and I both with a day off toget, so I told him that he could plan our day (had I planned it, he would have been in a kayak). He picked ziplining. I had been wanting to try out a new zipline in our town, so off we went. You have to be seven to participate so having Benjamin in camp worked perfectly.

It was a hot day with a chance of thunderstorms but we decided to risk it. We got lucky and had a nice breeze and no rain.

There are three courses available at Treetop Adventure Park – an adult course (ages 12+), a junior course (ages 9-11 with an adult), and a children’s course (ages 7-11, kids only).  We tried the juniors course. It is really more of a ropes course with ziplines in between each adventure challenge.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville

We got to wear a harness and sign a waiver, so I was ok with the lack of hardcore ziplines.

The cool part was that once we climbed up the first ladder, we were basically in the treetops for the rest of the time.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville. Juniors Course

We had fun! There were a ton of wooden bridges that we had to cross, each with it’s own challenge.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville. Juniors Course

I felt like Indiana Jones.

Treetop Adventure Park, Nashville. Zipline

The short ziplines in between the adventure bridges.

At the end were two really long ziplines. We almost missed them, so don’t forget to ask about these.

This tour is not for those who are afraid of heights. Even Thomas didn’t like crawling through the suspended barrels.  There are age, height and weight restrictions so be sure to check the website before you book your tour at Treetop Adventure Park.  If you’re good with all of that, then Treetop Adventures is a great way to bond with your older risky kids!

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Lessons From Getting Lost: Tweens, Tech, and Outdoor Play

Penny Skateboard

If you have any questions or need inspiration as to how to get your young children outdoors, you needn’t look any further than Pinterest or the multitude of blogs available to us to find something that suits you.  I love that kind of stuff and use it frequently.  What nobody ever told me, though, was that it would get harder as the kids got older.

With younger children it seems the main things that keep them inside are the weather and motivation on the part of the parents.  There’s not a lot that will compete for their attention, and just about any excuse to spend some time with Mom or Dad will get them out the door.

My dilemma?  How to get my tween outside more.  For her, nature must compete with television, texts, and the lure of her iPod.  And even when those things are removed from the picture, there are other things she’d rather do than go outside.  Playgrounds are getting too boring.  She’s not into sports.  And all those adorable activities I’ve pinned?  Too babyish.  And so I find myself in new territory here … how do you encourage outdoor play to tweens and teens who feel they’re getting too old to simply “play?”

What does interest her these days is combining outside time with the feeling of being independent – riding her bike to a friend’s house or walking to Taco Bell.  For the last month or so, she’s been asking for a Penny Skateboard.  I’ll be honest, I had my doubts.  They aren’t cheap, and I was worried she wouldn’t actually use it.  She doesn’t really ride her bike just for the sake of riding her bike, and I didn’t think the skateboard would be any different. But she persisted and saved her money, and so I told her I would pay for half.  It arrived a few days ago and you would’ve thought Christmas came early.

Suddenly all she wants to do is be outside, riding her skateboard.  She rides it around the neighborhood, but want she really wants to do is ride it places … by herself.  The other day she wanted to ride it to the local ice cream shop, which is about a mile and a half away.

There’s a straightforward way to get there, and then there are a few shortcuts through neighborhoods that you can take.  She decided to take a shortcut on the way home, and instead found herself lost.

I got a text from her, saying she was lost and giving me the nearest address.

I sent her a text back, with a screenshot of Google Maps, showing her where she was in relationship to our home.

She texted me back, saying she figured it out and knew where she was now.

Suddenly it hit me that instead of viewing these tween years and all of its distractions as a doomed cliff to the end of outdoor play, it can be a fun challenge.  It can also be a way to mesh technology, the outdoors and the need for independence in some really creative ways that will serve her well throughout life.

Had she not been connected to her various social networks, such as Instagram, she would’ve never known about the Penny skateboard.  It’s certainly not anything I would’ve ever thought of myself.  Even if I did know about it, based on what I thought I knew about my daughter, I wouldn’t have purchased it for her.

Had she not had access to technology that allowed her to text, she would’ve gotten lost and not been able to reach me so quickly.  What had started out as a positive experience could’ve quickly turned into something that left her feeling scared and panicked.  She might be wary of venturing out again.  It could’ve squelched that spirit of adventure that she has, leaving her afraid to try new paths or wander just for the sake of it.

Had she not been given baby steps from an early age to venture out on her own, she would’ve never been able to attempt a trip to the ice cream shop by herself.  This didn’t happen overnight.  It started small … first our front yard, then a neighbor’s house, then down the street, then the playground a few blocks over.  Baby step after baby step of proving she’s responsible and proving to myself that we can slowly let go.  Had she not been shown that she can do these kinds of things on her own, this experience would’ve been a monumental disaster.

It really inspired me to keep pushing forward as she heads into her teen years.  It forced me to rethink how social networking and technology will influence her desires, and how these “distractions” (which are a fact of life now), can be used to encourage playfulness and stimulate growth just as easily as they can inhibit it.  I just have to think outside the box a little more than I did when she was a preschooler.  It made me resolve to pay more attention and ask more questions about what drives her, and what she enjoys doing, and then to encourage those passions that take her offline.

Quite simply, it made me realize that we’re not headed off a cliff … we’re springboarding onto something bigger and more exciting.

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When History is Cutting Edge: Conner Prairie Interactive History Park

I just wrote about one of my favorite local treasures, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, a few days ago. Now I’m about to talk up another local gem, Conner Prairie. I realize that The Risky Kids isn’t a hyperlocal blog, but they’re doing things at Conner Prairie that I can’t NOT talk about! So bear with me … and if you’re not from around here? You should really consider a visit!

Allow me to give you a little background on Conner Prairie, a place I’ve been visiting since I was a child. The museum is situated on land that belonged to William Conner in the early 1800s. A wealthy business and statesman, Conner built a beautiful home overlooking the White River. In the 1930s, another wealthy businessman, Eli Lilly (of Lilly Pharmaceutical fame), discovered Conner’s rundown home. A passionate believer in the importance of history, Lilly purchased the home and the land surrounding it and used it for historical reenactments. In the 1970s Conner Prairie was opened to the public as a living history museum. It consisted of “Prairietown,” a village permanently set in 1836. Visitors could walk through the village and meet its inhabitants, where staff dressed, spoke and interacted with visitors as if you’d traveled back in time.

Today, Prairietown is still the cornerstone of Conner Prairie. But what impresses me so much about this particular museum is how it’s constantly evolving and changing to meet the needs of today. In the 7 years since I’ve relocated back to Indianapolis with my family, I’ve seen a different Conner Prairie than the one I grew up with. And what excites me so much about this museum is the effort it makes to bring the past and the future together to get kids excited about history, math, science, and creating.

A couple of weekends ago Conner Prairie hosted a “Curiosity Fair.” The Fair was born out of the museum’s passion for figuring out what kids are curious about and helping them explore the unknown. They asked kids what they wanted to know more about, and then gave them a weekend full of hands-on activities to quench that curiosity. I took Eli and he couldn’t get enough!

He explored how an engine works with the people behind Mechanics Camp. Believing that youth today are missing out on the joy of taking things apart and learning how they work, they are developing programs to get kids dismantling, building, and discovering.

Mechanics Camp

We watched a craft stick bomb set up by 11-year-old Guinness Book of World Record Holder Andre Jefferson.

Craft Stick Bomb

He tried circus tricks.

Conner Prairie Curiosity Fair

He tinkered in the Deconstruction Zone, a tent filled with discarded toys and electronics and every tool you need to take them apart … just to see what’s inside.

Kid deconstructing an appliance

He built an egg protector and then tested it in the Egg-a-Pult to see if his egg could survive.

Egg-a-pult Conner Prairie

He saw how hot air balloons work up close and personal.

Hot Air Balloon Conner Prairie

This was just one weekend, but year round Conner Prairie finds ways to encourage kids’ curiosity. We spend hours in the winter exploring Create.Connect. To keep things fresh, the museum meshes favorite exhibits with new activities based on monthly themes. This month’s theme is Adapting, something our kids will have to do as they face new challenges with less time to devote to play and tinkering. Conner Prairie recognizes this, and does its best to incorporate these vital parts of development into its programming. I appreciate this so much, and know how lucky we are to have an “old-fashioned” museum that is on the cutting edge of arts and science programming for kids.

Much as the pioneers of 1836 embraced an unknown landscape full of possibility with a spirit of adventure, eagerness and ingenuity, Conner Prairie applies that same spirit to inspire kids of today to do the same. I hope if you find yourselves nearby you’ll make time for a visit to Conner Prairie. And I hope as word of the amazing things Conner Prairie is doing spreads, many more museums and institutions will follow in their footsteps.

This post is not sponsored by Conner Prairie in any way.  I am simply a museum member and supporter who loves the work they’re doing.

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Take a Child Outside Week {September 24-30, 2013}

Take a Child Outside Week 2013

This week is Take a Child Outside Week.  Why do we need a week to remind ourselves to play outside?  Well, I realize I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but getting outside in nature has benefits to which no video game or nature program on television can compare.  And while I have a feeling most of you know how important it is to get kids outside, and make it a priority in your lives, we must all do our best to encourage other families to do the same.  And that’s the reasoning behind Take a Child Outside Week – to break down the obstacles that keep families inside and to share our enthusiasm and appreciation of the great outdoors with others.

Sometimes you have to be the first ones in your neighborhood to get outside before other families will join you … so start a movement this week and go outside!  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Kids Climbing Trees

Climb a tree!  Besides being just plain fun, climbing trees teaches kids a myriad of different skills.  If you don’t have a good climbing tree near your home, go on a “find a good climbing tree” expedition!

Speaking of trees, fall is a great time to learn about the trees where you live.  The falling leaves and gorgeous colors offer so many possibilities for  hands-on learning.  This being our first fall in our  new home with lots of trees in our backyard, we’ll be starting a leaf identification project.  We want to know exactly what kind of trees we have in our yard!  Rake your leaves and jump in the piles.  Use the textures and colors as inspiration for an art project.  Learn how to whistle through an acorn cap.

Teach kids to build a fire

Test your caveman skills and build a fire, then celebrate your success by roasting s’mores.  I built a fire all by myself last week and was so proud of myself.  Imagine how good the kids will feel when they learn this valuable outdoor skill!

Play Outside on Rainy Days

Sometimes fall means dreary weather.  If the sunshine isn’t cooperating, how about taking advantage of the rain?  Jump in puddles, look for worms, or experiment with chalk and puddles (or as Eli calls it, “making a colorful river”).

KidVentures ebook by Jen Murray

And last but not least, my friend Jen from 4tunate has a wonderful ebook, KidVentures: 50 Outdoor Experiences of Wonder, Discovery, & Childhood Memories, that’s full of all kind of ideas to get you outside year-round.

What will you do outside with your kids this week?

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The New Playscape at The Children’s Museum {Ticket Giveaway!}

This giveaway is now closed.  Congrats to our winner, Kelly!

The Children’s Museum has long been an Indianapolis treasure, both to its residents and the many visitors that come through its doors year after year. I’ve been going to the Museum since I was a child, and I’ve watched it grow and change over the years, from a small museum to the top-rated institution it is today. It’s consistently rated as one of the top 10 children’s museums in the United States.

One of the things The Children’s Museum does so very well is cater to all different age groups. Whether you’re visiting with toddlers or teens, you’ll find exhibits that make everyone happy. For years my own family’s visits have always included a trip to Playscape.

This special gallery is designed for the youngest of visitors (ages 5 and under), and sometimes we spent nearly our entire visit just in Playscape! We weren’t the only ones, and the Playscape gallery got A LOT of love, so much so that it was in need of renovation.

Well, the wait is finally over and just last month the new Playscape gallery was unveiled! Eli and I had a chance to preview the Playscape just before it opened, and to say that I was blown away would be the understatement of the year.

Pond Climber in the brand new Playscape at The Children's Museum. Such a beautiful space!

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Playscape is that it is full of beautiful, natural light. Gone is the dark, small space I remember. The new Playscape gallery design was inspired by the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, which considers the environment to be the third teacher (along with home and school). The floor to ceiling windows, along with the natural colors and environmental design theme, make it feel as if you’re playing in the trees.

Several elements that are integral to children’s play are present in the new Playscape. The favorites from the old Playscape are here, but redone beautifully.

There’s sand play, with typical sand features along with a zen-like rotating turntable. I want one of these in my home – it was so soothing!

Embedly Powered

There’s water play in “The Creek”, complete with a waterfall you can walk under.

Water play. Playscape at the Children's Museum

But my favorite is the addition of the Lilypad Climber. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s just challenging enough for little arms and legs.

Lilypad Climber. Children's Museum Indianapolis

Other areas include an Art Studio, a Music Studio, and a special enclosed area for babies and toddlers.

Art Studio. Playscape, Children's Museum

Eli loved it all, but he was especially enamored with the Reaction Contraption, a Rube Goldberg inspired feature. With so many variations and ways to manipulate the balls, tracks and ramps, he could’ve easily spent the whole evening in this one spot alone.

Reaction Contraption in Playscape. Children's Museum Indianapolis

I’m a little wistful that my children are above the age range for the Playscape gallery, but I’m thrilled for the new generation of children that will get to experience it themselves. I have so many wonderful memories spent learning and playing together with my children in the Playscape as toddlers and preschoolers.

Thanks to the generosity of The Children’s Museum, I have 2 tickets to give away so that you can begin making your own precious memories with your little ones! The tickets are for Children’s Museum Admission (valued at $18.50 each), which not allows access to the Playscape Gallery as well as all the other wonderful exhibits in the museum.  You can earn up to four entries by following these instructions:

  • Leave a comment telling me which Children’s Museum exhibit you’re most looking forward to sharing with your family.
  • Tweet and/or share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.  Leave separate comments for each telling me that you did so for them to count as entries.
  • Let me know if you like The Risky Kids on Facebook.  Leave a comment letting me know you like us!
Giveaway will end Thursday, September 26th at 11:59 pm EST.  Winner will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.   Good luck!

 

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The Idle Parent: We Fill the House with Music & Merriment

This is the seventeenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We Fill the House with Music and Merriment

iPad Music Station for Families

I grew up in a very quiet house – you could literally hear a pin drop in my childhood home. My mother didn’t like noise, so we never had music playing or the TV on for background noise. That all changed when I got my own house.

I asked Roger for a CD player for the kitchen. Thank God  he’s technologically savvy. He put together this set up with YouTube and Pandora so we can play any song we want. And do we! We crank the tunes. I’ve found it makes cooking and cleaning better. It also drowns out crying and tantrums – the more you complain, the louder the volume. It works great around here. Music makes everything better, I’ve found. We dance, we sing, we fight over who gets to pick the songs … but everyone smiles.

Making meals fun with kids

We’ve got Music covered, but how about Merriment? I don’t know about your house, but at my house mealtimes can be a real drag, the very opposite of merry. No one sits still, milk gets spilled and suddenly everyone’s a food critic. I have a few tips to combat this problem.

1. Read Aloud

This makes eating hard, but the kids will sit still if I read them a story. A few of our favorites have been Charlotte’s Web, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and How to Eat Fried Worms.

2. Play Games

We have Rock, Paper, Scissors Dice, tops, a hangman book and Legos on the table. It gets messy and rowdy but I’ve found the kids complain less about the food if their mind is focused on something else.

3. Draw

We’ve been known to cover the kitchen table in butcher paper and give out crayons so that the kids can draw while they eat. It’s disgusting after about 2 meals and has been known to cause paper cuts, but the kids love it.

Settlers of Catan

I bought this coffee table off the internet. It really belongs in a fraternity house, but every now and then I go function over form. It has four chairs that fit under it and it’s perfect for board games. We try to leave a game or puzzle out on the coffee table at all times. Our current favorite is The Settlers of CatanGoodbye Candyland and Chutes and Ladders! Catan is fun for the entire family and won’t drive you to drink.

One of the points the Idle Parent author makes is to warn those of us with small kids not to be perfectionists when it comes to your home interior.  Save your sanity and money. He suggests you “give up on creating the ideal home and instead embrace the idle home.”

If you fill you house with fun things to do, kids will flock to it. Sometimes it gets loud and messy. We’ve skateboarded in the kitchen, we’ve spent hours throwing Webkins at each other and we’ve even ridden tricycles down the hallway. My walls have handprints on them and my floors are scratched but I consider these battle-scars. The day will come when these kids leave.  I will hire a contractor and erase the damage – but never the memories.

 

 

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Risky Reads: Indian Summer Edition

Hay Bale Jumping

What a strange weather week we just had.  At the beginning of the week we had record highs. We were sweltering in the mid to upper 90s, and with all the pools officially closed for the summer we had no respite from the heat. Then a glorious cold front came through bringing temps in the mid-70s. Fall is my favorite season in Indiana – crisp, gorgeous, days with the windows wide open. Lucky for us, we had some well-timed visits to an apple orchard and some family farms.

At one of the farms we visited, we had to drag the kids away from these hay bales when it was time to go to dinner (a hog roast at a neighboring farm – lucky us!). One of the teens that lives on the farm said they never understood why other kids had boring playsets in their yards … didn’t everyone want hay bales instead? It’s all she and her siblings ever played on. I think Eli knows exactly what they mean!

In between apple picking and hayrides, I found a few things around the web that I thought you might enjoy.

I have to admit, I’m not the most enthusiastic parent when it comes to my kids wanting to experiment with concoctions. But I know how much they enjoy it, and how these open-ended sessions can spark so much learning and curiosity. Rachelle from Tinker Lab has a great post on how to set up a Magic Potion Lab in your kitchen that seems totally doable … even for me!

Have you heard about the Tiny Door Project? We have a tiny door hiding within a nearby park. I can’t wait to find it!

When did play become more about specific toys and less about open-ended activities? A fascinating read about how old-fashioned play builds serious skills.

I saw this on The Maker Mom’s Facebook page: A DIY digital camera that you build yourself and then use with infinite creative possibilities … and the price is amazing! What a fantastic gift idea for tweens and teens (and even adults)!

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

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Kids in the Kitchen: When You’re Ready But They’re Not Willing

Kids and cooking

I am facing a dilemma here in The Risky Kids kitchen: my kids are not adept in the kitchen.

My husband and I both have strong memories of cooking for ourselves at a fairly young age. By the time we in middle school we were both latch key kids. I made a lot of Bisquick muffins and quesadillas. He made box after box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

My kids, however, live in a different world. I am always home after school and we eat dinners that I prepare myself almost every evening. I love to cook, they have little interest, and they almost always spend the hours between school and dinner occupied with play and/or homework. They’ve shown fleeting interest (mostly when the possibility exists that there will be batter to lick), but for the most part they prefer to do other things.  The end result is that they’re almost never in the kitchen with me. And as happy as we all are with the dynamic, I know that it needs to change.

You might think all this fuss we make about risky play boils down to fun (for them) and laziness (for us). That is partly true – allowing kids to play and explore freely is fun and does make life a little easier for us. When we’re not hovering, we’re able to pursue our own interests. However, there is a method to this madness, and that’s the end goal. We want our kids to grow up to be independent, thoughtful, and confident adults. Sometimes they learn the intangibles, like confidence and independence, through free play. And sometimes it takes shared activities to learn skills that we all should master by the time we leave home. Cooking would be one such skill.

There isn’t any question in my mind that even as preschoolers, children are capable of learning and executing basic kitchen skills. Pretend Soup and Salad People , Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks for children, are excellent resources for teaching young children basic knife and cooking skills. Snack prep was part of daily life in my kids’ Montessori classroom, and Montessori catalogs sell real tools for preschooler to use – including knives, vegetable peelers, and graters. I’m more than game to teach my kids how to use these tools and set them free. (Although for some reason my husband has an irrational fear of letting the kids use our Pampered Chef cheese slicer. He’s convinced they’ll slice a finger off along with the cheddar.)

Tweens in the kitchen

I know that kids Elena’s age (11) are more than capable of being self-sufficient in the kitchen. Elena is slowly coming around, but she lacks the confidence and intuition that makes all the difference in cooking success vs. failure. She is a slave to the timer, and doesn’t trust herself to know when something is done. She loves Bagel Bites, and (especially in the summer) makes them for herself once or twice a week. She’s been doing this for a year now, and it still never fails that I’ll get this question at least once during the process:

“Mom! Are my Bagel Bites done?”

We go through a list of questions you can ask yourself: How long have they been in the oven? Are they bubbling? Are they turning golden brown? If you quickly touch the tops, are they warm or hot? We do this EVERY time.

I know issues like these, as well as getting both of them comfortable with basic kitchen skills (knife use, stove and oven safety, following a recipe, etc.), will simply take time, experience and repetition. The dilemma I have is that my kids just aren’t interested in learning any of this stuff! Most parents struggle with the fear – my kid will cut his finger off or my daughter will burn down the house. Nope, not me. I’m in the kitchen offering knives and flames, but no one’s coming.

So what do I do? Do I wait for the interest to eventually show up, and capitalize on it then? Or do I pull them away from play and make dinner prep a family activity?

I’d love to know how you’ve incorporated your kids into the kitchen. Did you let them cook and use kitchen tools from an early age? Are you scared to let them chop and simmer? Did someone teach you these skills from an early age, or did you figure it out on your own? Or are you just as lost in the kitchen as my kids are?

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Risky Places We Love: City Museum – St. Louis

City Museum, St. Louis: suspended airplane

Is it wrong to plan an entire trip around one museum?  If it is, I don’t want to be right.

I can’t remember where or when I first heard about  City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, but from the first mention I knew it was a place The Risky Family had to visit.  City Museum is a one-of-a-kind place, an ever-changing tribute to the endless possibilities of urban play.

City Museum, St. Louis: praying mantis slide

City Museum was created in 1997 by sculptor and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly.  Housed in a former shoe warehouse in downtown St. Louis, the museum features floor after floor of repurposed castoffs.  Bridges, tile, vehicles, rebar, stones, ramps, sculptures, airplanes, even a ferris wheel … anything is candidate to be turned into a playground for adults and kids alike.

We spent a good part of a day there and didn’t explore half of it.  But the nooks and crannies we did explore were amazing, exhilirating, and yes, a little bit scary.

Teetering high above the St. Louis skyline on the rooftop ferris wheel …

City Museum, St. Louis: rooftop ferris wheel

Climbing at seemingly impossible angles …

City Museum, St. Louis

City Museum, St. Louis: praying mantis climber

Trying not to fall in the water …

City Museum, St. Louis: stepping stones

Exploring dark places …

City Museum, St. Louis: maze

If we lived in St. Louis we would be here ALL THE TIME.  That being said, I can see how this museum might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  At ages 6 and 11, and arriving at the museum early enough to where it wasn’t overly crowded, I felt comfortable letting the kids roam on their own a bit.  This isn’t a place where you can keep the kids in sight at all times, not unless you follow them everywhere.  And by following everywhere you are committing yourself to some very high and sometimes very small spaces!  With that in mind, I can see how coming here with younger children could be overwhelming.  (If any of you visit the museum with young ones and have some tips to share for other readers, please do so!)  For older kids, though, I think this is exactly what the creators intended – a place to play with calculated risk, plenty of opportunities for independence, and loads of fun!

City Museum, St. Louis: skate ramp

You can view more photos from our visit on my flickr page.  City Museum is located at 701 North 15th Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63103.  Please check the website for hours and admission information.

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Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience {September 21-22, 2013}

Last week I was working my other job as a cheerful salesperson at a store which sells containers for very organized people, when I came across a charming older couple who had just moved to Indiana from Kansas. The gentleman was cracking me up … while they’d come to the store for supplies for their new home, he was obviously prepared to use every opportunity to glean information about his new town from anyone he met.

Let me ask you this …” he said.

I was prepared for a question about organizing kitchen drawers or a good container for pet food, but instead he peppered me with questions about where can one get good, local milk, who’s the best vet in town, what’s my favorite pizza place? He whipped out a notebook and began furiously taking notes. We had a nice chat and I wished them well as they settled into their new home. As they began to walk away he turned around and asked one last question.

“You know, I love the outdoors – hunting, fishing, camping, hiking. What’s the best way for me to find out where I can do those things in Indiana?”

“Sir, you are IN luck!  Let me tell you about the Hoosier Outdoor Experience.”

The Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience is a free, 2-day event presented by the Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation. Held on the grounds of Ft. Harrison State Park September 21 & 22, the goal of the weekend is to expose Hoosier families to more than 50 outdoor activities. And by expose I mean hands-on, try-it-you’ll-like-it! experiences.

We attended as a family last year and had a blast. We went off-roading in a Jeep,  had a family skeet shooting competition (Elena won), tried our hand at cross-bows, mined for gold, went canoeing, fished … and those were just a few of the highlights.

Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience Crossbow Shooting 101

Much like our camping experience a few weeks ago, this is an excellent program for families who like the idea of trying some new outdoor activities but just aren’t sure where to start. Nearly every activity gives you the chance to try it in some form.  If you enjoy it, there are friendly experts just waiting to answer each and every question you might have.

The event is free, and you do not need tickets to enter, but they are kindly asking that you register to attend.  It helps them both in planning as well as evaluating the event to make it bigger and better each year.

As I told my inquisitive customer all about the upcoming Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience, his grownup eyes lit up like Christmas morning. People, if it makes a grown man that excited, imagine what it will do for your kids!  If you’re one of my Hoosier readers, don’t miss the wonderful event.  See you there!

Have you attended the Hoosier Outdoor Experience in the past?  What was your favorite activity?  What activity are you most looking forward to trying this year?

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