Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Summer Family Fun in Greenville

Whether you are local or visiting for a few days, there are many fun activities going on in the Greenville area this summer...and some are year-round. And much of it is FREE or very inexpensive!

If you're headed for beautiful downtown Greenville, your family can hunt out the nine unique mice sculptures hidden in surprising places along Main Street. The Mice on Main website gives clues for finding the cute bronze mice.

The fountain at Riverplace off S. Main under the bridge is a great place for kids to beat the heat running through spraying water.

There are many wonderful parks and playgrounds in Greenville, including the Children's Garden at Linky Stone Park (under the bridge at Academy St). This magical garden is full of life-size storybook characters!

We found a couple of new reading programs this year. Check out the Barnes & Noble reading program to earn a free book. Read 8 books, complete printable Reading Journal, and take into your local B&N store by Sept 4, 2012.
The Woodruff Rd B&N store offers children's storytime on Tuesdays at 10. The Haywood Rd location has story time Saturday at 11 am. Also, Barnes & Noble offers an online story time each month with a different author.

The local library offers great summer activities and exciting guest performers. Get signed up here for the summer reading programs which reward readers of all ages!

TD Bank will deposit $10 in a bank account for any child who reads 10 books and brings the completed form printed from their site into their local branch by Sept 29, 2012.

Fiction Addiction bookstore on Woodruff Road across from Costco has Children's Storytime Thursdays at 10:30.

Introduce your child to Shakespeare in a lively and engaging setting with Summer Shakespeare. This year's show is As You Like it...set in the 70s. It's an hour-long performance and young children who are able to sit that long are invited to attend. Tickets are only $5 and it is always a colorful, fun, and witty performance!

Get a couple of families together and set up a group tour at Great Harvest Bread (1467 Woodruff Road). Enjoy a sample of their delicious breads or bakery treats.

Beat the heat with a super cheap daytime movie. Regal Summer Movie Express has $1 kid movies on Tues/Wed mornings at 10! Greenville locations are Cherrydale or Hollywood on Woodruff. Check out all the details here for cheap summer movies when it is too hot or rainy to play outside! This deal applies to many areas outside Greenville, also.
Great Escape Theater in Simpsonville has free kids movies starting at 9:30 am Tues/Wed/Thur mornings. Download more info here.

Shakespeare in the park! This summer's performace is Henry V, opening July 12. If you haven't been downtown to see a free play at the Falls Park on the Reedy, then check this out.

If you are looking for a FREE family night idea, bring a picnic supper and enjoy the Furman Lakeside concert. Check out the schedule (Thursdays at 7:30) here!

The Shops at Greenridge will be showing FREE Drive-in movies Friday nights in August! Schedule is here.

If you live in Greer, be sure to check out the listings for FREE outdoor Moonlight movies on Thursday nights at Greer City Park.

And if you live in Simpsonville, head over to Heritage Park for some great movies this summer. The gates open at 7:30 and movies start around 9pm on the lawn.

Plan a family outing at Paris Mountain State Park. It is inexpensive and a great family place to play. Pack a picnic or food to grill, and enjoy a summer day of hiking, paddle-boats, swimming, and frisbee! And they have camping sites if you're up for an entire weekend in the great outdoors! Here is the main site.

George the Train is a historic mini-train that runs at the Pavilion. Rides are offered April thru October on Tues/Fri/Sat/Sun. Check here for more info.

Another local miniature train runs at Heritage Park in Simpsonville. You can climb aboard Sat/Sun. Contact info here.

Please leave a comment if you've found any other inexpensive kid-friendly entertainment in the area!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creativity Corner: Make Mini Books!

Last week my daughter was playing with a craft book.  She discovered a wonderful cut-out page that created small books using only a few simple pages that we cut and stapled together. We loved them so much that I thought we should create our own from scratch! 
The idea behind this is so simple, but sometimes kids enjoy making something that is entirely their own.  There are many levels of learning and many directions you could go with this basic concept--the sky's the limit!  To begin, I took one piece of cardstock and cut it into 3 equal rectangular pieces.  If you want to let your child practice cutting, let her do this part; it doesn't have to be perfect!
Next, I folded each rectangle in half and asked Maddy to tell me a story.  I thought she might need time to brainstorm but she had her basic story down and was drawing within a minute.  For some reason my daughter was obsessed with "diamonds" on this particular day, so her story was all about diamonds.  She drew a picture on her cover, then began a story on the inside.  I was nearby to help, but for the most part she came up with each drawing (illustration :) and sentence on her own.
Once she had finished her drawings, I helped connect the book by stapling the center pages together.  If you wanted to create a more attractive work of art or a gift, you could easily use a hole punch and ribbon or something more refined than metal staples.  You could also create a thicker cover using cardboard (cereal box) and glue, etc.  We will continue experimenting with this!
When we had the book in one piece I helped her fill in the words.  To do this I wrote out the sentences, then she copied them onto her book pages.  An older child should be encouraged to write entirely on his/her own.  This simple project turned into a great learning activity as we wrote colors and words and learned about the basic layout of books, as well as reading from left to right.  I think the fact that the pages are small kept her attention and helped keep her from feeling overwhelmed by a huge blank page!
For some reason my kids love tiny things, and I'm sure I will find this treasure buried away in a pink purse for many months to come.  Maddy was very proud of the story and book she created almost entirely by herself and we will definitely be making many more of these in the future, most likely using different themes and more pages.  What story will your child tell?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Munchies: Simple Snacking Surprises.

So, occasionally I'll see something like this:
 or this:
....and I start feeling pretty crummy about the lame Wheat Thins or Goldfish I threw in a baggy at my kid just before heading into the van.

And while it is awe inspiring and really nice for a party or special occasion to spend an hour creating a snack masterpiece that will be devoured in approximately 5 minutes, I've discovered that just a little twist on an old (and inexpensive) favorite can result in a big smile and an unspoken understanding of love between me and my kids.

So, break out the Pretzel sticks.

Sometimes (especially for family movie night) I give my kids pretzel sticks for a snack.  After Easter we had lots of egg candy lying around.  When I dumped a few pretzels into the bowl and it looked like a nest, I put a few Robin Eggs chocolates inside and voilĂ ! An exciting bird's nest snacktime was born.

Since our first bird's nest snack, I have tried a few different twists with things we have on hand. Marshmallows also make a fun surprise in your nest.  And sometimes I arrange the pretzels to look like a little bonfire with a few marshmallows stuck to the ends like we are going to roast them on the fire. The kids LOVE this! 
While I hope to keep aspiring to a level of superior child snacking such as this:

My kids are pretty happy with our little pretzel nests and pretzel bonfires.  What are some simple snacking favorites in your family?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Mercies Anew!

Every morning that breaks
There are mercies anew
Every breath that I take
Is your faithfulness proved
And at the end of each day
When my labors are through
I will sing of Your mercies anew!

The sun came up fiercely today--it broke through the curtains and I was reminded just how much I have to be thankful for.

This morning we drove to school without music or distracted chatter about Legos and the Backyardigans.  We had real conversations about baby calves that we passed in the field and the gorgeous Queen Anne's Lace that grows wild by the road.  We laughed and when Griffin gave his brother a big kiss before he headed out the van door, I couldn't help praising God in my heart for mornings like this. For mercies anew.

This week I'm thankful for so many things. 
~For more blessings in our lives in the form of new babies born into our family.
~For cool mornings and soggy dew.
~For a bountiful garden in the backyard.
~For an amazing husband and daddy who cares for us.
~For a 2 year-old who hysterically gains independence each day.
~For my big kids who are helpful and seeking and growing.

But most of all for this.  A reminder that even when it is foggy and rainy and the sun isn't shining, God and his mercy is constant!

And Your mercies, they will never end
For ten thousand years they’ll remain
And when this world’s beauty has passed away
Your mercies will be unchanged

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother's Day: One-Memory-a-Day Journal

My children are growing fast...way too fast. And they do cute and funny little things every day, which I am already forgetting. 

So I gave myself an early little Mother's Day gift this year: a One-Memory-a-Day Journal.

Confession: I am a wanna-be journaler. Truth be told, I am actually a wanna-be Memory-Keeper in several areas. Don't ask me how far my children's Baby books have progressed (one is unopened!) or how my scrapbooks are going (the photos are all there in Photoshop...not printed, not laid out digitally for a Photobook...just waiting...) And even my great intent to keep separate journals for the kids of all their funny antics is basically still a pile of notes on calendars that I need to get around to copying over to actual journals...

But this one is different. It's not intimidating at all. The goal is to write at least one sentence from the day. It keeps track of all the sweet little happenings that may not be Big Firsts or hilarious stories to share at future family get-togethers...just happy memories our family will cherish reading when the kids are grown.

I grabbed a little journal at Staples and started it May 1. So far, I'm still on track!

If you have young children or need a gift idea for a new or young Mom for Mother's Day, give her a cute journal with the instructions to jot One little Memory a day.  She will love it forever!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kid Creativity: Bounce Back Game Time.

Sometimes a new game will spring up when we least expect it. I love it when my kids come up with something entirely on their own; I'm always happy to help point them down the pioneering path.

Since it was blazing hot by 9 a.m. on Saturday, our only outdoor option was to pull out the tiny inflatable baby pool and splash around.  After a while my 6-year-old got bored with the little pool and started looking for another outdoor option.  

We have two boys in our house, so we are constantly bouncing with bouncy balls. There are balls in every shape and size, from the least bouncy to the bounciest.  I don't mind a bouncy ball one bit.  I will take 10 totes full of bouncy balls over 1 harmonica or drum any day.

My boys have been on a ball kick lately and it is something that they enjoy playing together--even with their four year age gap, so that's nice.  Since we have an endless supply of bouncing balls around the house, I let them bring a few outside and bounce them around. Eventually the bouncing balls found their way into the baby pool--large target. Then we started hunting for smaller and smaller targets: buckets, totes, cans.  I finally remembered my awesome stash of yogurt containers that I had in the pantry.  I have been saving them because they are just too great to throw away (*cough hoarder *cough) and yesterday we finally put them to use.
Once we set the yogurt containers around the baby pool, we circled them with chalk and put various numbers to represent points at each spot, depending on how difficult we thought each shot would be.  Next, we drew a line for him to stand behind while throwing the bouncy balls and he drew a scoreboard for each player.  
Once the game was all set up (which was really the fun part anyway) it was time to play.  Griffin had fun bouncing the ball and attempting to steer the bounciness into the small yogurt containers.  It was a challenging game and he was very excited even if the ball simply touched the container.  Of course he also had to keep moving farther back.

Games are everywhere.  If you encourage your kids to run with their own creativity, you'll be surprised how far they go with it.  The yogurt/pool/bouncy game might not make it onto the shelves of Toys-R-Us anytime soon, but I had a great time creating something from nothing with my boys.  What is a fun game that your family created or modified lately?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thankful Thursday: A Trip to the Home Beauty Salon.

This morning was low-key.  I managed to sleep in until the glorious hour of 7 a.m. Shockingly rare.  I enjoyed my coffee and some reading time.  The kids have played nicely and we managed to get a few things organized before we head over to school for lunch duty with Griffin.

I was sitting on the floor watching my daughter accessorize a stuffed elephant when my little guy came over and asked if he could brush my hair.  Sure, why not. 
He started out gently and carefully brushing the back of my hair and gradually became more emboldened until I'm pretty sure he brushed away part of my left ear.  Instead of screaming I started laughing which only caused him to brush harder and crazier.  

He always keeps us on our toes--full of joy and finding adventure in every task and every moment.  His moment of hair-brushing glory ended shortly after encountering this tangle on Maddy's head.  He needs a little more practice in the art of gentleness.

As these simple moments pass, I am reminded that I am fortunate to be home with my sweet babies to cherish these casual mornings.  I am blessed to see the joy in little faces, the discovery of new adventures, and even the tiny disappointments and daily failures.
I love these kids.  I'm thankful for these mornings and know that they are fleeting.  And as the calendar fills and Summer draws near, I'm reminded to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. 
Not just sometimes. Always. What a challenge!

**top photos by Maddy, age 5**