1
Como Park Spring Edition
2
How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by David LaRochelle – Review
3
Protected: Heartfelt Coupon
4
Home Depot Kids Workshop
5
Childish Films Festival Shorts
6
I ART Families at Minnesota Museum of American Art
7
Free Family Fun Day: Natural Toys
8
Jackson Street Roundhouse
9
Sing, Play, Learn with MacPhail Center for Music at Your Local Library

Como Park Spring Edition

Como Park Spring is beautiful.

Como Park Spring - Conservatory

used by permission of creative common license

Como Zoo and Conservatory 

 Open every day of the year.
 Summer hours (April – September)
10am – 6pm
Winter hours (October – March)
10am – 4pm
 651-487-8201
1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55103
Como Zoo is a well-loved icon of St. Paul.  When the weather gets warm, the residents of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and all of the surrounding suburbs flock to Como Zoo.  When I can attest personally.  It was April 26, the sun was shining and warm for only the second day of 2013, and every Minnesotan was excited for spring.

Most of us are thinking, It’s about time!  And to celebrate, we spent the day outside enjoying the weather and the animals.

Como Park Spring Turtles
It was the first day that the tortoises have come outside since packing them inside for the winter.  They were loving it.  Frolicking around the tortoise yard just as tortoises do!  Slowly.  They soaked in the rays and enjoyed the attention.  The kids loved seeing the tortoises.  They were mesmerized by Marco and Marco’s friend (I can’t remember its name).
The tortoises were the first animals to come outside for the spring.  Other animals like the Dall Sheep, Arctic foxes, and American Bison who live outside all year long, were outside of course.  But the animals that live in warm climates who aren’t built for the harsh Minnesota winters, don’t make it outside until the temperature is 50 degrees.  For the animals who stay outside in the summer, the temperature must be above 50 degrees both during the day and the night.
Walking around Como before Memorial Day or just days after the cold has exited Minnesota may be shocking to you.  The regular summer zoo features aren’t  set up yet.
Como Park Spring
 The Sparky show doesn’t start until Memorial Day Weekend, but you may get to check out his adjustment to swimming outside again.
Como Park Spring Sparky
The two important requests by my children this time was visiting the giraffes and visiting “The Jungle” (aka. Tropical Encounters). All I could think as we were walking into the exhibit was, “Welcome to the Jungle, we’ve got fun and games……”  Guns and Roses, baby.  (let me just say right now for the record that I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I heard that song at my exercise class each week)   At 2:00 we walked past a group of children listening to the end of Story time. It had started at 1:30.  I find this time extremely interesting.  1:30 is generally nap time for many children.  They must be catering to the older preschool crowd who may or may not nap.
After we toured through “the Jungle,”  the kids wanted to to the Frog Pond (I’ll get to that in a moment).  We decided to cut through the conservatory.  On our way through, we ran into the Leonard Wilkening Children’s Gallery.  It reminded me of a mini children’s museum zoo-style.  They had a section where you fed the animals the proper meals, a wall that demonstrated the water cycle, a log to crawl through, puzzles, matching games, and the Ribbit Zibit:  a live look at many different species of frogs like the poison dart frog, Lemur Tree Frog, Red-eye Tree Frog, and Panamaian Gold Frogs.  You can also watch the beginnings of frog life as a tadpole.
Como Park Spring Como Park Spring Como Park Spring Como Park Spring

Como Park Spring Frogs

But being that it was spring, it was time to head outside again.  Where we spent the remainder of our time at the Frog Pond.

Como Park Spring

I had never heard of the Frog Pond before and was wondering what it was. Since Kyla was on a field trip, she went back to school with her classmates, and Tori, Dash, and Jack got to explore a little bit more.  We made our way out to the front of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, across the road, and down the sloping hill to discover this enchanted pond.  The grass was turning green and the water was so tempting.  Surrounded by a man-made rock barrier, the pond was the perfect place for nesting ducks to dip their feet in and go for a swim.


Como Park SpringMeanwhile, who doesn’t want to put a stick into the water and stir it.  My trio of kids found themselves perfect fishing poles and went fishing.  They could have spent hours doing this.

Como Zoo is a perfect place to enjoy during the spring if you don’t have high expectations.  To see the outside shows, ride the carousel, and play at Como Town, you need  wait for May and in some cases Memorial Day.  Instead go knowing that you get to be outside, you get to lay on the grass, you get to see animals, and you get to eat outside if you want to.

 


Como Park Spring Highlights:

  • There is more than just the zoo to enjoy at Como.  You can check out the conservatory including the new Ordway Gardens or you can just wander around the park.  Como Lake is another attraction as well as ball fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
  • It’s FREE!  The recommended donation per person is $2-$3, but you are welcome whether you can pay it or not.
  • It’s small.  Take your time, no need to rush.  You will see it all in one morning without hurrying through.  A three year old can enjoy it on his own two feet (at least for most of it!)
Como Park Spring Disadvantages:
  • If you don’t like a crowd, Como is the least busy during the winter.  During the spring, there are masses of people.
  • Springtime in MN is fickle, so a lot of outdoor things are delayed until May because we know that a freak snowstorm can cause damage if we are too hasty.

Como Park Spring Polar Bear


Como Zoo and Conservatory 

 Open every day of the year.
 Summer hours (April – September)
10am – 6pm
Winter hours (October – March)
10am – 4pm
 651-487-8201
1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55103

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by David LaRochelle – Review

How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green BeansWe got the family out to The Red Balloon Bookshop this weekend to see David LaRochelle and Mark Fearing with their new book, How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans.  This is a feat for us these days. Someone always decides the nap they didn’t want two hours ago is now necessary right when we need to leave; or we have a diaper blow out; or we are just subjected to a general break down. However, the stars aligned on Sunday and we got out and got to The Red Balloon only a little late for the start of the reading.


The Book – How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

I would highly recommend reading this book to your kids or, if you’re really lucky, having your kids read it to you.What would you do if a band of evil green beans kidnapped your parents? That’s the question Martha is faced with after she refuses to eat her green beans and they attack.  That’s about as much as I can tell you without giving away the whole book.


The Outing – The Red Balloon Bookshop

How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

Child-sized displays

We really adore The Red Balloon Bookshop. Almost everything is at child height.  They sell the type of books and toys that are fun for both parents and kids.  It’s fun to play I-spy with our favorite book characters along the top row of bookshelves.  When you need a break from the crowd the bargain book basement is cool and uncrowded.

How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

A sketch of an evil green bean by Mark Fearing

David LaRochelle is one of our favorite authors. He wrote one of my favorite books, The Best Pet of All, so this was kind of a treat for me, too. Mark Fearing did a great job of illustrating this book.  He really brings out the story with his illustrations.


The Real Parent Review – How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

The surprisingly older crowd at this reading did not really appreciate my vocal and active children.



I would recommend this outing for school age kids or one really well-behaved tot.  This recommendation probably depends on the author and the event.  In this case, David LaRochelle is from the area and there were a lot of grandparent-aged “friends of the author” at this event.  It’s amazing how many people in line knew him personally. 

Judging from the looks I got, I don’t think the other patrons found my kids as cute and precocious as I do.  The small store gets crowded during events and it is hard to reign in two at a time. Since almost everything in this store is at child height, it sometimes felt like they were tag teaming their tour of terror.

While waiting for our book to get autographed, I had to step out of line with the little ones and let my second-grader wait by herself.  When I tried to step back in so she wouldn’t have to talk to adults by herself, some knitting vigilante accused me of cutting in line (seriously, she was knitting in line and very concerned about the potential of me and two toddlers not waiting our turn).  Rather than start a rumble, I just stepped back.  Mr. LaRochelle and Mr. Fearing were not at all scary and she did just fine on her own.  So it all turned out good.

How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

The Not-Very-Scary David LaRochelle autographing our book.

Mark Fearing autographing our book. How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

The Not-Very-Scary Mark Fearing autographing our book.


When we got home, we ate meatloaf with green beans, but we all survived without incident.

How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans

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Home Depot Kids Workshop

Home Depot Kids Workshop
First Saturday of the Month
9:00 am-12:00 pmHome Depot Kids Workshop

On the bright first Saturday morning in March, Chris–the husband and daddy–packed up the girls and drove to Menards, Lowe’s, and Home Depot.  They were on a mission to buy the supplies needed to redo our bathroom.  What they ran into was the opportunity to build.  They all came home extremely excited and chitty chatty.  Meanwhile, the boys were beside themselves with envy.

The month couldn’t go by fast enough.  Finally, the first Saturday of April rolled around.  Everyone piled into the van and away we drove.

The activity in April was to build a birdcage.  Not only did they get to build it, but they got to decorate it as well.  Decorate equals paint.  And not just 4 or 5 different colors.  .  That would be too lame.  You gotta have at least 15 or more different colors to choose from.

Home Depot Kids Workshop Projects

The projects are easy for parents and children to do together.  They have many different steps with simple instructions to follow.  I promise they are fairly simple.  I have a hard time with following written directions and I was able to do it.  When we arrived at 9:15 am, the benches were packed.  I think this was an anticipated event this month because we were told that they had 15 families there before 9:00.  I noticed that for the most part, the kids were very patient.  They were excited to do their projects, so I was amazed at how well they waited for a spot to open.

I would recommend no more than two children for one adult.  Any more children per adult could get to be overwhelming.  But if you are game, go for it however you can.

Home Depot Kids Workshop

All the workshop participants felt a sense of accomplishment because they carried home a completed project.  Not only that, but they presented their handiwork to the workshop foreman and were offered a Home Depot Kids Workshop Certificate of Acheivement.  They carried home their project, their own apron, and a pin representing the completely project.

Highlights of Home Depot Kids Workshop

  • A completed project.  We were able to put our birdcages up in the backyard and each of our kids can be proud of their work. 
  • The workshop runs for 3 hours from 9:00 am-12:00 pm.  That is a nice chunk of time.

Disadvantage of Home Depot Kids Workshop

  • Plan for an hour.  Some activities may take 15 minutes, but the activity that includes painting will take much longer.  Especially those with painting.  Especially those with over 15 different colors to choose from.

Home Depots are all over the country.  And since we have them here in the Twin Cities, it’s fun to take advantage of the things that are in our own backyard.

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Childish Films Festival Shorts

In April of 2013, Childish Films introduced families to several short independent films that are both family-friendly and engaging. While Childish Films doesn’t appear to be happening at the library anymore, you can still view these festival shorts at home. These films were selected by the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, and specifically chosen for kids.

 If, like mine, your kids like to watch their favorite videos over and over and over.  You can find them here. We enjoy most of these short films enough that sometimes, we have short film nights at home.

The Tadpole (Guillaume Delaunay, France, 2 min).

Papa Cloudy: Heartfelt Stories of a Gentle Cloud (Akiko McQuerrey, USA, 5 min).  If you like this, there are several more Papa Cloudy videos on Vimeo, too.

How Shammies Guessed (Edmunds Jansons, Latvia, 2 min).

Jillian Dillon (Yvette Edery, USA, 4 min) – I’ve shared this one before, but its worth a repeat.  It’s a sweet story about loving yourself for who you are.  “Jillian Dillon” copyright Yvette Edery, Director/Producer “The Foretoken Collection” from Yvette Edery on Vimeo.

The Town Musicians of Bremen (Masataka Hiroyasu, Japan, 4 minutes) I loved this folktale when I was a kid.  Sorry, I couldn’t find this one.  We will all have to wait until Saturday.


How Shammies Teeter-Tottered (Edmunds Jansons, Latvia, 2 min) (How Shammies teeter-tottered from Atom Art on Vimeo.)

Into Spring (Udo Prinsen, Netherlands, 5 min) – We really need this film around here this week.  Here is the trailer. (Moving Han: Into Spring from Moving Han on Vimeo.)

Aston’s Presents (Uzi and Lotta Geffenblad, Sweden, 9 min) –It’s fun to watch foreign children’s films and realize you don’t need subtitles.  Children are just universal.  Here is a short excerpt (Aston’s Presents – excerpt from Zigzag Animation on Vimeo.):

 

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I ART Families at Minnesota Museum of American Art

Click Here to Find Current Twin Cities Family FunI ART Families is done. But learn more at the Minnesota Museum of American Art and its offerings in our directory.

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Free Family Fun Day: Natural Toys

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Jackson Street Roundhouse

Jackson Street Roundhouse

 

Minnesota Transportation Museum /Jackson Street Roundhouse
193 Pennsylvania Ave E
St. Paul, MN 55130
651-228-0263

 

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Sing, Play, Learn with MacPhail Center for Music at Your Local Library

What is Sing, Play, Learn
MacPhail Center for Music - Sing, Play, Learn

Chances are, if you’ve taken your kids to storytimes at libraries and bookstores around town, you’ve noticed that many spend nearly as much time engaging the children in singing and music as they do reading aloud. Music is a wonderful tool that can be used in early childhood to enhance literacy. I took advantage of MacPhail Center for Music’s free outreach program at my local Ramsey County Library branch today, bringing along my youngest daughters (ages 3 and 17 months). Titled “Sing, Play, Learn”, the class is a full 45 minutes of connecting the rhythms of music and language.

sing, play, learn macphail center for music

MacPhail brings their lineup of six themes to libraries throughout the seven-county Twin Cities Metro. During our class, we explored ways in which musical play promotes body awareness. Naming parts, moving them to the beat and playing simple start-and-stop games with them highlighted both literacy skills and impulse control. It was also just plain fun watching my toddler daughter try to imitate the instructor!

How to Sign Up for Sing, Play, Learn

The program is free and, consequently, very popular. Advance registration is required at some locations, strongly suggested at others. Make sure to call ahead. Classes across the Metro are also winding down as the school year draws to a close. Check with your local library for upcoming dates


About the Author: Anne Kingston is a co-founder of Family Fun Twin Cities.

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