Nature Playgrounds are a growing trend for good reason; scientists keep finding connections between nature to child development and well-being.
It used to be, according to my children, that in order for a park to be authentic, it needed at least a slide and a set of swings. I was less enthusiastic about taking them to places like state parks simply because I felt I’d have to go the extra mile to “prove” that playing and exploring in a natural environment could be just as fun as clambering around a commercially manufactured jungle gym. Don’t get me wrong – the local playgrounds can be a lot of fun, too. And some are really inventive! But I have to say that I get a deeper satisfaction from watching them play in a more natural setting: digging, figuring out how to climb that tree, following paths, building forts. They become immersed in tossing rocks into the water, scouting frogs, collecting wildflowers. They also gradually forget that “playing at the park” requires a plastic treehouse.
So here’s what I find really cool: incorporating natural elements into new playground designs seems to be the trend. More places are popping up where kids get the opportunity to interact with the landscape and, perhaps, develop a greater appreciation for it. Here are
seven places I’ve discovered that have those goals in mind:
Whether you are looking to mini golf outside in the beautiful summer weather or inside to escape the heat and humidity, we’ve rounded up all the mini-golf courses in and around the Twin Cities. Choose between classic courses and inventive courses, beautifully artistic courses and techno courses, challenging putting courses for dad and pirate’s lair for son.
Our Ultimate Summer Guide is sponsored by Wheel Fun Rentals
As the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesotans take pride in our summer water sports. We’ve collected water ski shows, boat rentals, kayaks and canoes, sailing experiences and other water fun. Most are located in the metro while some of them are just a short drive away.
Happy wakes to you.
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TWIN CITIES JUNE FAMILY FESTIVAL IDEAS
Get your fill of June family festival outings with this handy list of local celebrations around the Twin Cites. Most are free. If there is admission, it is listed. Family-friendly highlights are listed for each:
Tired of heading out to the same old swimming spot? We’ve combed the Metro in search of new places to try with our own families and came up with ten we think are worth checking out for their beaches, playground, and other recreational opps nearby:
A couple years ago, I did some research on the reality of the income-based achievement gap and how parents can Increase their Child’s Chances in School with a few Simple, Budget-Friendly Habits. Summer reading is another place where the achievement gap grows. However, the fix is offering your kids easy access to a lot of books and empowering them to select their own reading materials.This is where summer reading programs can come in handy.
Where do your kids fall in the summer reading spectrum? Whether they love to read or hate it or are somewhere in between, there is probably a program out there for them. If they are ambitious, they can participate in several. There is no rule that kids can’t use the same books for several programs.
The following are few programs we found plus our own:
Vacation Bible School seems to be a little like scouts or sleep-away camps in that some parents did it when they were kids and consider a childhood rite of passage. I am not one of those parents. I don’t even know if Catholic VBS programs existed when I was a kid. I have very little experience with VBS, so this list is merely a collection of churches that have submitted VBS programs to us. I can’t personally endorse any.
Faith formation of our children is such a personal matter, that I recommend visiting the websites of these churches and possibly attending a service to decide for yourself if the program is a good fit for your family. Follow the links to explore and register for programs.
June Vacation Bible School Programs
6/5-6/9 • Calvary Lutheran Church Session • Deep Sea Discovery • 9:30-11:30 am • Ages 3½-Kindergarten • $15/child.
6/12-6/16 • Calvary Lutheran Church Session • Deep Sea Discovery • 9:15 am-12:15 pm • Ages 4½-completed grade 5 • $15/child.
6/12-6/15 • King of Grace Lutheran Church • Mighty Fortress • 9 am-11:30 am • Ages 3+ (3-year-olds require a parent to be present) • FREE.
August Vacation Bible School Programs
8/7-8/11 • Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church • Maker Fun Factory • 9 am-12 pm • Age 4 – 6th Grade • FREE!
Summer movies are a classic choice to enjoy together — especially outside in the parks where they are free! And for an indoor option to beat the summer heat, movie theaters with free or bargained price summer programs are also scattered around the Twin Cities. Read More
Looking for an astronomy fix? During the summer months, we don’t have the Friday night Public Viewings at the UofM’s Institute for Astrophysics, instead there is the Universe in the Park program on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the summer. These events are held in various parks — some close, some not so close. The program starts with a 20-30 minute presentation at 8:30 p.m. and then, weather permitting, an opportunity to view the sky through telescopes until 10 or 11 p.m. Participants can learn how to use a star map and go home with a free one. This program is free, but a vehicle permit may be required ($25 annual/$5 daily). Don’t forget to dress appropriately for Minnesota summer evenings (You know the drill — layers and insect repellent.) Since it IS a park, and you are paying for a days worth of parking, you might as well arrive early with a picnic and have some playtime.
Participating parks are listed below: