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 it a childhood rite of passage. While others, like me, did not even know these camps existed until I was an adult. I have very little experience with VBS, so this list is merely a collection of churches that have submitted their 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, Golden Valley • Deep Sea Discovery • 9:30-11:30 am • Ages 3½-Kindergarten • $15/child.
6/12-6/16 • Calvary Lutheran Church, Golden Valley • 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, Golden Valley • Mighty Fortress • 9 am-11:30 am • Ages 3+ (3-year-olds require a parent to be present) • FREE.
6/19-6/22 • Living Hope Lutheran Church, Shakopee • Cave Quest • 9 am-noon • Ages 2+ (2 and 3 yr olds need a parent) • $10 donation request/child.
6/19-6/22 • Grace Church, Eden Prairie • Big Story • 9 am-12:15 pm • K-5th Grade • FREE.
July Vacation Bible School Programs
7/24-7/28 • Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Roseville• VBS Theatre Camp • 9 am-12 pm • Age 4 – 6th Grade • Musical performance Friday, July 28 @ 7pm • $35/child or $70/family before 6/25; $45/child or $90/family after 6/25.
August Vacation Bible School Programs
8/7-8/11 • Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, Plymouth • Maker Fun Factory • 9 am-12 pm • Age 4 – 6th Grade • FREE!
For more ideas on how to keep your kids busy this summer check out our 2017 Guide to Twin Cities Summer Camps.
I recently stumbled on the book, Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from a Minneapolis High School (affiliate link*). It looked interesting, so I checked it out for myself, but after reading it, I plan to share the stories with my middle schooler. With immigrants and refugees frequently in the news, these stories are a way to introduce the subject from the point of view of someone close to their own age who has experienced these issues first hand.
Each essay in this book is written by a student of Wellstone International High School and tells their personal immigration story. The stories are told in a very matter-of-fact style that makes the stories that much more compelling. There is so much we take for granted in our own lives. This book will introduce you to 20 young people, many of whom have overcome poverty and language barriers to find their place in Minnesota. Each essay is a couple of pages and an easy read. This is a really good book to pick up, put down and discuss as you have a few minutes to read and talk together.
Now we can top off our reading of the book with a visit to the exhibit. Over the summer the Green Card Voices Exhibit will travel between three Ramsey County Library branches – Roseville in June, Maplewood in July and Shoreview in August. The exhibit will include the stories and photos, but also a QR code to see the story told by the author on video.
Green Card Voices began in 2013 and is an initiative crated to record and share the stories of American immigrants – regardless of status.
*The book link is an affiliate link to FFTC’s Amazon Store. We receive a small portion of any sales.
FREE TWIN CITIES MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND EVENTS
Sticking around town this weekend? We’ve saluted a few of the larger celebrations below. In addition to the special events, we’ve got weekend suggestions sure to be memorable.