Innovative Camps For Kids

This post is sponsored by Galileo Camps but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

The kids are just back to school, after a week off for spring break, and I’m already thinking about summer. Each year I try to pick one or two experiences that I think will benefit my kids and let them try something they might not normally gravitate to. Last year, my sports loving kiddo took a short break from running around in his cleats to participate in a coding summer camp where he discovered how exciting STEAM activities could be.

This year, I’ve already looked at a number of camps that look promising and I’m loving the Galileo Camps‘ model. Drawing from the innovation process inspired by the Stanford d. School, Galileo’s curriculum packs serious substance and sparks kids’ imaginations from pre-K through 8th grade. Their goal is to develop innovators who envision and create a better world and they do this by teaching campers a framework called the Galileo Innovation Approach or the GIA. With this framework, campers learn the steps needed to bring their ideas to life.

The camps shape a new generation of innovators by teaching kids to explore, make mistakes (and learn from them!), and create without fear. I think that “making mistakes” part is so important, especially in this day and age of social media where everyone else seems perfect and kids are afraid to fail for the whole world to see. Kids need to know that it’s okay to take (safe) risks and that it is not only fine, but vital, that they fail because that is how they will learn. The folks at Galileo believe that kids who learn to explore and fail with courage—the essence of innovation—are happier, more creative and more confident when faced with life’s challenges.

To show my boys what Galileo camp life would be like we did some group activities from the Zoom, Fly, Bolt, Blast Steam Handbook that was written by Galileo curriculum developer Lance Akiyama (who also authored Rubber Band Engineer and Duct Tape Engineer which we have) and was made in cooperation with Galileo Learning. This book gives parents and kids ages 6 to 10 a selection of 18 engaging projects to build together. And when they’re finished, they’ll have personalized creations that fly, race, and blast off!

We were limited on what we could make since we don’t have a lot of materials on hand (which will change soon with a DIY kit I’m putting together!) so we chose a couple projects with simple material lists. We made a “grabber” and a lung lift (because who doesn’t want to say they are able to lift a chair by just breathing?!) It was nice to see the kids step away from their video games to create something together. I loved how they worked together, determined to meet a shared goal, and took turns trying each other’s ideas and building off of each other’s failed attempts until they succeeded. Check out the lung lift they made in action!

If you are looking for an innovative summer camp you’ll want to check out fun & enriching Galileo Camps. If you live in the Bay Area, Southern Cali, or Chicagoland, learn more about Galileo, find a location near you, and register your children to experience the fun for themselves this summer by going here. Save $30 on your camp purchase with code SUMMER30. (Discount valid at any Camp Galileo or Galileo Summer Quest location for the 2019 season, where space is available. Combinable only with Multi Session and Refer A Friend discounts.)

What are your kids doing this summer? Chat with me on social! Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

 

15 Family Friendly Things To Do In Chicago And The Suburbs This Summer

Disclosure: While this is not a sponsored post, I have partnered with most of these attractions over the years or have ongoing relationships with them. Thanks to all of the Chicago and suburban attractions that support this blog and provide my family with amazing experiences! Regardless of relationship though, all thoughts are my own honest opinions.

Visiting Chicago soon? I’ve put together a list of family-friendly things to do in the city and the nearby suburbs during the warm summer months. Many of these are even fun to do during the other seasons as well if you are visiting Chicago at another time of the year.

1. Enjoy a White Sox baseball game on one of their Family Sundays.

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge baseball fan (football is my true love) but there is just something special about sitting at a baseball game with my family and a crowd of people cheering for the same team that makes for a fun afternoon. We enjoy going to Chicago White Sox baseball games, especially on their kid-friendly Family Sundays where they have many special kid-focused activities and the opportunity to run the bases after games. Some games they even have special autograph sessions the kids can go to if they arrive early enough! Learn more about Chicago White Sox Family Sundays here.

2. Spend a day of hands-on learning fun at the Museum of Science & Industry.

Chicago is home to many amazing museums but the Museum of Science and Industry is one of our family’s favorites. I really like that it provides so many hands-on learning activities and I feel like it’s one of those places you can go every few months and there are always new things to discover. This summer there is a new exhibit we are looking forward to checking out called The Science Behind Pixar (at MSI until 1/6/19).  This 13,000-square foot, interactive exhibit showcases how Pixar artists and computer scientists use science, technology, engineering, and math to bring Pixar’s award-winning films to life.

3. Enjoy a sunny day at the beach.

Chicago might not be near the ocean but it’s off of Lake Michigan which means there are plenty of sandy beaches along the lakefront…26 free beaches to be exact! If you are headed to Adler Planetarium or the Shedd Aquarium you might want to add 12th Street Beach onto your agenda as well since it’s right there. It’s not a huge beach but we enjoyed going and dipping our toes in the water a bit.

4. Check out one of the many fairs and festivals going on.

There is no shortage of fairs and festivals in the city. From music to art to literature there are typically at least a couple fairs or festivals going on each weekend. Here’s a guide to some of the best festivals and fairs happening in Chicago this summer.

5. See Chicago from all different viewpoints. 

Chicago is typically explored by foot but there are so many other ways to see the city and I share 7 unique ways to see Chicago here. You can view Chicago from above by taking an elevator up to the top of the Sears (Willis) Tower, you can go on a carriage ride or take a trolley around the city, and you can take a boat ride along the river or out on the lake.

6. Go bowling at King’s Dining and Entertainment Center.

Spend a rainy afternoon at King’s Dining and Entertainment Center (or go on a nice day and take advantage of their “sunny day” special passes). They have bowling of course but there are other fun games to do as well like billiards, shuffleboards, foosball, and air hockey. And make sure to eat while you are there. I was extremely impressed with all the food offerings they have. All their food is made in-house and whenever possible they source hormone-free, GMO-free, fresh, local ingredients. They also offer a number of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-friendly items. My favorite appetizers were the Southwestern Spring Rolls and Buffalo Chicken Wontons but they offer dinner options along with dessert (trust me, you don’t want to skip dessert).

7. Enjoy all the fun that Millenium Park has to offer.

You can’t visit the city of Chicago without a visit to Millennium Park (and Maggie Daley Park which is connected to it). During the summer you’ll find kids splashing around Crown Fountain or playing at the 3-acre play garden at Maggie Daley Park. There is plenty of architecture to check out (including “the bean” which is a tourist photo spot) and a garden full of beauty to admire. On summer evenings you’ll even find live music and movies at Jay Pritzker Pavillion’s open-air venue.

8. Visit Navy Pier, Chicago’s #1 tourist destination.

Many know this 3,300-foot-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan as home to the Chicago Children’s Museum and the iconic giant ferris wheel but there is so much more to do there. Visitors can catch a show at the AMC Navy Pier IMAX Theatre, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater or just outside Navy Pier on the Polk Bros Performance Lawns. Those who love art would be interested in the art exhibits that Navy Pier hosts and those who prefer water to land will want to experience one of the cruises that departs Navy Pier. Cap off the day with dinner at one of the restaurants at Navy Pier and an evening display of fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

9. Eat your way through the city.

Chicago is known for their deep dish pizza but did you know about all the other Chicago staples? Make sure to also taste all of my Chicago’s favorites like Portillo’s hot dogs, Garrett’s popcorn, Fannie May’s chocolates, and Shake Shack’s burgers. Choose Chicago offers 20 iconic eats here if you want even more ideas of restaurants to eat at.

10. Explore life underwater at the Shedd Aquarium or check out one of their new outdoor aquatic experiences.

Two of my favorite activities to do at the Shedd Aquarium are to pet the stingrays and watch the dolphin show. There is a new exhibit called Underwater Beauty that explores the unique beauty that can be found underwater and features over a thousand animals representing 100 species from across the globe, including eels that ribbon, shrimp that can break glass, sea jellies that pulse and fish that swim backwards. In addition to everything at the Shedd, this summer they are offering new outdoor aquatic experiences. designed to spark curiosity for local waters and wildlife by bringing people closer to them. From a traveling aquarium exhibiting animals in some of Chicago’s neighborhood streets and parks, to a new floating island conservation program for Chicago River kayakers, to hands-on science experiences in a boat on Lake Michigan I saw a special about this on our local news and I hope to be able to experience Chicago’s waters in this unique way this summer! Find all the details about these new outdoor aquatic experiences here.

Living just outside of the city I know how much fun can be found in some of Chicago’s nearby suburbs so, if you are up for a visit to the suburbs, check out these fun activities….

11. Take your LEGO loving children for a trip to LEGOLAND.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center is the ultimate indoor LEGO playground with 2 rides, 10 LEGO build & play zones, a 4D cinema & much more! Kids will love seeing everything that the master builders built, including a mini Chicago (built from over 1.5 million bricks!) and some of their favorite characters and scenes from Star Wars. There is also a Pirates Adventure Island playground inside which seems to draw my boys in each time! There are always fun events going on at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago, too. Last time we went there was a “kids vs. grownups” challenge (which the kids pretty much won…surprise. surprise…) and coming soon they will have lots of additional fun for their 10th Anniversary Celebration. I also love that they host sensory-friendly “Play Well Days”the first Saturday of each month for those with Autism, SPD, and other special needs, so if you are looking for something sensory-friendly put that on your calendar :)

12. Take the train to Naperville, a local suburb that has a great downtown area that is accessible right off the Metra tracks.

Naperville is by far my favorite Chicago suburb. There is so much to do there and it’s all easy to get to from the train station. I love just walking around the Downtown area and along the riverwalk while my boys play Pokemon Go and try to catch the many Pokemon available. There’s DuPage Children’s Museum, a popular place for children to play and explore, which my boys loved to play at when they were little. On hot days you’ll want to spend time at Centennial Beach, the “swimming hole” created in an old abandoned quarry. There’s also a Paddleboat Quarry where you can rent paddleboats and kayaks. We loved spending time on the water in our little paddleboat! Make sure to check to see if there are any special events going on as well. Ribfest is early in July so it’s over for this summer but I recommend it if you are out in the area during that time!

13. Have a splashtastic time at Raging Waves in Yorkville.

Raging Waves, the largest waterpark in Illinois, is full of summer fun for all ages. Adults and kids will both love the wave pool, body slides, and tube slides. There’s also a 1/4 mile long lazy river for relaxing as you float along. Young kids will have a blast playing at Kangaroo Falls which has slides, water cannons, rope bridges, water hoses and a dumping bucket. There’s also Koala Kove, a zero depth entry pool with four slides for the littlest of waterpark visitors. Learn more and get tickets here.

14. Spend the afternoon at Brookfield Zoo.

Brookfield Zoo has been the zoo I’ve visited since I was a young girl and I love taking my kids there now. This 216 acre zoo is home to around 450 species of animals so there are lots of animals to see. Kids will especially love the Hamill Family Play Zoo and Hamill Family Wild Encounters where they can get up close and interact with the animals. If your kids love playing in water make sure to bring a change of clothes because there is a splash pad they will want to play at along with two playgrounds. My favorite thing to do at the zoo in the summer though is enjoy live music at their Summer Nights on Fridays and Saturdays (through August 18th this summer).

15. Have a thrilling time at Great America.

If you have thrill-seekers in your family you’ll want to add Six Flags Great America, located in Gurnee, to your summer bucket list. With over 100 attractions and rides along with an attached waterpark, Great America is a place your whole family will enjoy. My boys love the roller coasters, including American Eagle, the world’s tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster, which Jacob braved as soon as he was tall enough to ride. My favorite on a hot day is Logger’s Run because it’s a great way to cool off when it’s hot out. Young kids will love that there are 3 areas in the park that are just for them!

For even more ideas check out my Chicago Bucket List and this list of free things to do in Chicago! Also, if you are heading to Chicago with someone who has sensory sensitivities, this Sensory-Friendly Chicago list (that I’m in the process of compiling) may help your family have a successful visit to Chicago.

What do you love to do in Chicago with your family? I’d love to hear about it! Comments on the blog are closed because I’d rather chat with you on social media! :) 

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50 Summer Boredom Busters Tweens Can Do At Home

Now that the novelty of summer has worn off I’m sure you’ve probably heard the words “I’m bored” come out of your tween’s mouth (or you will soon enough). I know Lucas has already said it a few times! I decided to put together a list of 50 things tweens can do at home when they say they are bored this summer!

1. Clean. (Okay, not a fun one….)

2. Write a letter to a friend or family member.

3. Paint some artwork for your room.

4. Learn a new hobby.

5. Make a no bake dessert. (These haystacks are my favorite to make year-round!)

6. Make a game and teach a family member the rules before you play it.

7. Have a dance-off.

8. Have open-ended craft time and see what you can create with various craft supplies.

9. Make a nature journal and go outside to enjoy and observe nature.

10. Plan next week’s menu plan with your favorite foods.

11. Set up a fort in the living room.

12. Go outside in the backyard and practice a sport you enjoy.

13. Redecorate your room (with a parent’s permission of course).

14. Try a new hairstyle.

15. Set your goals for the school year ahead and make a dream board.

16. Learn about a new culture and share with your family what you learned through a craft, food, or game.

17. Setup an obstacle course for family or friends to go through.

18. Go through your closet to see what clothes fit and which don’t before you head shopping for back-to-school season.

19. Plan a short roadtrip for your family to go on. Don’t forget the packing list, activities to do along the way, and must-see spots once you arrive at your destination.

20. Make some decorations for an upcoming event or holiday.

21. Find a comfortable spot and read a book.

22. Send someone a thank you card and tell them why you appreciate them.

23. Create a scavenger hunt. (My kids loved this flashlight hidden message hunt that ended with s’mores.)

24. Have a lemonade stand.

25. Start a daily journal or blog.

26. Learn to code.

27. Put together a care package to give someone in a nursing home or the military.

28. Pop some popcorn and have a movie night.

29. Write a story.

30. Have a water balloon fight or play water balloon baseball.

31. Make homemade pizza.

32. Put a puzzle together.

33. Make an awesome STEAM inspired LEGO creation like a solar powered LEGO vehicle or code a LEGO maze

34. Use tie dye or puffy paint to decorate a shirt.

35. Camp in the backyard.

36. Do a random act of kindness for each family member.

37. Make a bird feeder.

38. Play a board game.

39. Make a toy for your pet or a friend’s pet (like this easy cat wand toy).

40. Write a script for a play or lyrics for a song and perform the play or song for your family.

41. Have a picnic in the backyard.

42. Ask an elderly neighbor how you can help them.

43. Learn a new language.

44. Run through a sprinkler on a hot day.

45. Upcycle household garbage by making one of these recycled crafts.

46. Organize your room.

47. Make your own music video.

48. Make friendship bracelets.

49. Paint rocks.

50. Be bored! It will be back-to-school time before you know it so enjoy the time off!

What ideas do you have to keep tweens busy this summer?

It Is Okay If This Summer Is Not The Best Summer Ever

I’m sure you have all seen the meme that has been going around Facebook reminding us that we only have 18 summers with our kids. It reminds us of how fleeting our time is and how our children will only be little for a short period of time so we should make this summer count. With my oldest being 10, and already over halfway to adulthood, I appreciate the author’s message now more than ever. At the same time though, that meme made me feel guilty and like a failure.

See, in past years I made summer bucket lists with the goal of trying to cram as much fun into our summers as I could and make every second of summer perfect for my boys. I even wrote a post with tips on how to maximize the summer months together where I declared our summer starting May 1st one year so we had more time for summer fun. We would go on monthly trips, head to all these fun places, and do all sorts of exciting things I thought would make the kids remember their childhood for years to come.

This summer is unlike all the rest though. This summer I feel like I have been failing. I don’t have a bucket list written down nor exciting vacations planned. In fact, up until now, I wouldn’t even say we’ve done any typical summer activity other than going to the pool a couple times. Being pregnant, and in my first trimester, means I’ve spent more time with my head over a toilet and napping on the couch than I’ve spent doing anything even remotely exciting with my boys. To add to that, the month started with excessive cleaning as we prepared to host a few dozen people for a party in our home and ended with me having a horrendous toothache (complete with root canal) and basically hibernating for a whole weekend (per my doctor’s orders) due to an extreme heatwave aggravating my asthma.

Now that it’s July, and I’m feeling a little better, I hope to finally start our summer but it won’t be as exciting and eventful as years past. Nothing about it will be extraordinary that they can look back on with fond memories. I’m learning to accept that though because I have to keep this in perspective. This is one summer of my children’s lives. 3 months. And I don’t just have 18 summers with my kids, I have 18 whole years with them at home. Plus, when they get older I’ll still see them as much as I can so it’s not as limited a time frame as it seems.

In the meantime, I’m hoping they will remember the sweet times we’ve had together during this slow season of life before things get hectic with school, the holidays, and the arrival of baby #3. They will remember the time spent cuddling on the couch, the times I stood standing over the stove making grilled cheese sandwiches even when I was feeling nauseous, and the one-on-one time we had together.

Maybe you are pregnant like me and finding fatigue has overwhelmed your body. Maybe you are struggling with post-partum depression and struggling to just get through each day. Maybe you are taking care of a sick child. Maybe you are mourning the death of a parent. Maybe your chronic illness keeps you from doing everything you wish you could. Whatever the reason, I encourage you to find joy in the little moments with your children and to remember that if this summer is not one for the memory books it’s okay because there are plenty more seasons left that you can enjoy with your kids.

Burger Bar Party Ideas

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeYourSummer #MADEFORDOERS #CollectiveBias

One of the best things about summer is all the grilled food, from burgers to kabobs to corn on the cob. I love celebrating special events with barbeques so I thought it would be fun to put together a burger bar with all my family’s favorite burger toppings. It was a great way to spend a summer evening!

Putting the burger bar together was easy. I headed to Kroger and got pre-shaped burger patties from the meat department, buns, and all the burger toppings that I needed and we didn’t already have. I also bought New Kleenex® Wet Wipes Gentle Clean and VIVA® Vantage® Big Roll Paper Towels for all the messes that were sure to happen (because can anyone eat a burger with all the fixings and NOT have everything fall out the bottom of their bun and drip all over their hand?!)


Burger Bar Toppings

The fixings I included were:

  • Cheeses (Cheddar, Provolone, and Colby jack)
  • Bacon
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Lettuce
  • Pickles
  • Pineapple
  • Coleslaw
  • Creamy Mushroom Sauce
  • Guacamole
  • Dressing (I used Caesar but Blue Cheese & Ranch Dressings would be perfect as well)
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Steak Sauce
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise

Other toppings you could add include onion straws, chipotle mayo, hot sauce, fried green tomatoes, hummus, and more. Maybe even take a poll to see what your guests love on their burgers. That way you can have all their favorites out.

Personally, one of my favorite things is creamy mushroom sauce that a restaurant near me serves on their burgers. It is SO GOOD! I tried to recreate it for my burger bar and, while it’s not exactly the same as the restaurant’s, I thought it was pretty delicious! I love sauteed mushrooms on my steaks and burgers but this sauce is much creamier and more flavorful.

To make the creamy mushroom sauce you need the following:

  • 1/4 cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon of Garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Butter
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of Mushrooms

To make:

  • Heat butter and garlic on medium heat until garlic is translucent
  • Add mushrooms, Worcestershire and cream (in a pinch, if you don’t have cream because SOMEBODY forgot to buy it at the store {wink-wink}, you can use milk with a little flour to thicken it)
  • Stir everything together and cover for about five minutes, stirring occasionally

This creamy mushroom sauce is best served warm which is why it’s the last thing I added to the table before everyone ate.

And remember when I suggested you buy wet wipes from the store? This is why. I always end up with this deliciousness smothered all over my hand after I’ve eaten (and picked up the stray pieces of mushrooms that fell from my burger!)

Thankfully I had grabbed everything I needed at Kroger. I found the Kleenex Wet Wipes in the facial tissues aisle next to boxes of Kleenex tissues and the VIVA® Vantage Paper Towels on the top shelf in the paper towel aisle.

Setting up the burger bar is almost as fun as watching everyone try to eat the messy burgers lol. The Kleenex Wet Wipes are perfect for the messy hands and faces of adults. I like that they don’t contain any harsh chemicals and they come in small packs so I can easily keep them in my kitchen drawer and purse.

I love burger bars because they are a pretty easy party idea that requires minimal fuss once the party has started so you can enjoy more time with family and friends. Plus, clean up is a breeze when you have the right tools!

Once I picked everything up from the table I just used the VIVA® paper towels to wipe up the drips and spills from the cute checkered picnic tablecloth I had used. One swipe was all it took for the paper towel to pick up drips of sauce, salsa and more! BBQ messes are no match for VIVA®.

Do you love to have barbeques in the summer? If so, have you ever put together a burger bar?

Burger Bar Party IdeasVisit the Social Hub for more unique grilling inspiration and also to enter the #MakeYourSummer Sweepstakes for a chance to win a Kroger gift card or a NASCAR experience!

No Purchase Necessary. The #MakeYourSummer #Sweepstakes begins on June 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 AM ET and ends on July 23, 2018 at 11:59:59 PM ET. There are multiple Entry Periods during the Sweepstakes. Legal residents of the 50 US/DC only, 18+. Void where prohibited. By participating, you agree to the Official Rules at https://makeyoursummerrules.pgtb.me/MRsDsl. All shared entries should include: #MakeYourSummer #Sweepstakes. Ends 7/23/18. See rules at https://makeyoursummerrules.pgtb.me/MRsDsl.

Summer Tech Camps For Tweens And Teens

Thanks to iD Tech for sponsoring this post.

Looking for a unique summer camp option for your tweens or teens? Make screen time learning time at iD Tech Camps! Students ages 7-17 learn to code, design video games, mod Minecraft, create with Roblox, engineer robots, print 3D characters, work with AI, build laptops, design Fortnite-inspired games, learn about cybersecurity, and more! Read about iD Tech Camps below and make sure to grab the exclusive discount code at the end of this post!

iD Tech is the #1 tech camp and they’ve been around for over 20 years, paving the way in STEM education, with over 350,000 alumni passing through their programs. There are 150+ locations nationwide at prestigious colleges and universities including Northwestern, Loyola University, Lake Forest, Stanford, MIT, and others.

With world-class instructors, customized learning, and partnerships with the biggest names in tech (like Adobe, Android, and Microsoft!) their programs provide tools that empower students to create and innovate like the pros and instill in-demand skills that embolden students to shape the future. They are a passion driven company encouraging all kids to pursue STEM activities and they are helping bridge the digital divide by reserving 10% of camp spots for underpriveledged studens and they created a special all-girls program that is now the country’s largest tech camp for girls. Awesome, right?!

Students can choose from 50 cutting-edge summer courses from RoboCoder: LEGO Robotics and Visual Programming (for ages 7-9) to Build, Invent, and Code Your Take-Home Laptop (for ages 10-12) to Coding and Development 101 (for ages 13-17). I think my boys would be most interested in the video game creation classes. There’s even one for all those teens obsessed with Fortnight!

Have a social savvy teen? They’d probably love to take social media classes like Photo Booth: Pro Photography for Instagram (for ages 10-15) and Video Production and Special Effects for YouTube (for ages 13-17). I wish I would have been able to take social media classes before social media became part of my full-time job!

Not only will your child master new tech skills but they will also have FUN! Camps include things like dress-up days, raffles, outdoor activities, gaming tournaments, music video parodies, pie-your-instructor Fridays, and more. The fun camp culture takes the pressure off so students can build a lifelong passion for tech alongside new friends.

I am pleased to be able to offer Making Time For Mommy readers an exclusive discount code to recieve $75 off when you register your child with code CHIMOMS18 before 5/31/18! Courses sell-out quickly, so get started today at www.idtech.com or call (888) 709-8324 for personalized course recommendations. I’d love to hear which camp your child would enjoy and feel free to tweet with me (@aliciamarie112) to tell me all about your child’s experience this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about the fun and learning!

Fun Soccer Camp For Kids

Thanks to British Soccer Camps for sponsoring this post.

I sent Jacob off to school in shorts today so I guess it’s time to start thinking about our summer plans. Normally I am so on top of things but this year, not so much. One thing I know for sure though is that soccer camp is on the list because it’s already blocked out on the calendar. Jacob plays league soccer every winter and spring and, for the past few summers, has also participated in a week long soccer camp called British Soccer Camp. This camp week is always one of his favorite weeks of the summer and something he is looking forward to participating in again this year. He has enjoyed making new friends and playing this sport that he loves while I’ve noticed his skills develop a lot these last three years and I attribute much of that growth to these week long, half-day intensive camps.

British Soccer Camps are the most popular soccer camp in the US. With an innovative curriculum that develops skills, speed and confidence in players ages 3-18, The British Soccer Camp provide boys and girls with the rare opportunity to receive high-level soccer coaching from a team of international expert’s right in the heart of their own community. In addition to teaching new skills and improving game performance, each British Soccer Camp provides lessons in character development, cultural education and is the most fun your child can have learning the sport they love!

REGISTER FOR CAMP & GET A JERSEY, BALL, T SHIRT & NEW SKILLS APP AND 20 FREE VIDEOS!

British Soccer Camps have programs for all ages and abilities and feature an innovative curriculum full of skills, drills, and thrills! Register now and you will not only get your free British Soccer game jersey (value $34.95) shipped to you for free immediately, but you will also get their brand new skill development App and 20 videos to help your child practice at home. Your soccer ball, T-shirt & poster will be given out at camp. USE CODE BSC18 at check out to get free shipping.

To Enroll: https://www.challengersports.com/british-soccer/

Has your child participated in a sports camp before? If so, what was their favorite part?

Waterpark Fun To End The Summer

Thanks to Raging Waves Waterpark for sponsoring this post.

School starts in a couple weeks here so we are trying to squeeze the last bit of fun out of it as we can. One thing we did this past weekend was head to the waterpark. Surprisingly, it was the first time we’d made it to a waterpark all summer but it’s one of our favorite seasonal activities.

The boys enjoyed the day with their cousins at Raging Waves, the largest waterpark in Illinois. Sitting on 45 acres in Yorkville, the park hosts a huge wave pool, lazy river, 20 waterslides, a kiddie play structure, zero-depth pool, and a sandy beach area.

Their favorite activity of the day was going on the various waterslides. I was proud of all four of them because they were brave and went on everything they could, from PJ’s Plummet (the 72 foot high body slide) to the Cyclone (a super fast raft ride).

Jacob and Camden’s favorite ride was the Wonambi -the newest ride at the park that sends guests into near-vertical, zero gravity moments.

Lucas and Maddie loved the Boomerang, a raft ride which starts off in a chute before dropping you quickly into a funnel, the most.

All the kids also enjoyed going around in the lazy river, though there was nothing “lazy” about this experience. The kids liked running around the river instead of relaxing on it!

For those with younger kids, they’ll enjoy the Kangaroo Falls play area. This four-story water fort is full of super-soaking fun. Kids can splash down the slides, race across the bridges, and play in the squirting fountains.

Overall, we had a great day and look forward to going back there before they close on Labor Day.

If you haven’t had a day of splashtastic fun at the waterpark, what are you waiting for!?

Summer Boredom Busters

Disclosure: Items were received for inclusion but all thoughts are my own.

It’s nearly August which means if you haven’t heard “I’m bored” from your children yet, it’s coming…. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite summer boredom busters to keep your kids occupied at home as you all enjoy the rest of the summer season.

Enjoy water fun in the backyard

The best way to cool off on a hot day? Playing in water. We are loving the H2OGo! Slide-n-Splash Bowling. This isn’t just any slip n’ slide- your kids will become human bowling balls as they slide and try to knock down all the inflatable pins before they land in a shallow pool of water.

Another awesome thing kids will love is the new H20Go! Fun Blobz which is a cool, cushioned surface for kids to slide across and jump on. They’ll enjoy an afternoon of squishy, slippery fun in the backyard!

Craft with recycled materials

No need to go out and buy materials for these crafts because all 100 ideas use materials you probably already have around your house. Find the craft list here.

Learn to code with a fun project

MakeCrate offers carefully curated and tested electronics kits that include all the parts older kids need (along with step-by-step instructions and video tutorials) to build fun projects.

Build papercraft scenes

Have a Star Wars fan? They’ll love the Build-A-Scene Star Wars kit that provides everything they need to make iconic papercraft scenese from the Star Wars universe. Kids and teens can recreate the drama of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader’s duel on Mustafar from Revenge of the Sith; the nail-biting trench battle on the Death Star from A New Hope, and the Kylo Ren and Rey lightsaber fight in the snowy forest of the Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens.

Make your own obstacle course

Have your children work together to create an obstacle course using cones, hula hoops, chalk or whatever else you may have sitting in the garage. I encourage my boys to plan it on paper first and then set it up using the blueprint they made. They can take turns going through it and you can even challenge them to make a fun obstacle course for you to go through as well!

Get some hands-on science fun with a Geology experiment

Science during the summer? YES! Kids will enjoy doing the experiments in Geology Lab For Kids. The book features 52 simple, inexpensive, and fun experiments that explore the Earth’s surface, structure, and processes.

 

Go on a flashlight hidden message letter hunt

Looking to keep kids busy in the evening? Send them on a flashlight hidden message letter hunt. Hide rocks with letters on them in the backyard and then send them out with flashlights to find them all. Kids then use the rocks to figure out your secret message. When we did this we hid chocolate in our house and then the boys had to figure out the secret message that would lead them to where exactly the chocolate was hidden in our home. After they found the chocolate “in the kitchen where the food is kept cold” we used the chocolate to make s’mores and ended the night together around the firepit.

Learn to draw animals

Do you have an artistic child? They will love Stick Sketch School: Animal Safari Artventure, a book that helps children learn to draw stick figure animals in 3 easy steps. I love that this book offers creative prompts throughout and encourages kids to pretend that they are on an animal safari, documenting all that they see.

Make mud creations

Summer is the perfect time for kids to be messy because kids can keep most of the mess outdoors. Mud pies and other muddy creations are fun to make and setting up a mud pie kitchen is a great way to let children be creative.

Build your own pinball machine

Both budding scientists and game lovers will enjoy this fun book and kit. Pinball Science is a hands-on opportunity for children to build their very own pinball machine and then learn about basic science from its workings. This cool handbook is packed with engaging graphics helps young scientists come to grips with fundamental concepts like gravity, force, and acceleration.

Play a new video game

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Surprise kids with a new video game like the brand new CARS 3 game! Cars 3: Driven to Win picks up after the final race in Disney-Pixar’s Cars 3 film, bringing together players of all ages and skill levels to battle it out on the racetrack. The competition heats up with 20 customizable characters like Jackson Storm and Cruz Ramirez, along with the beloved Lightning McQueen, putting pedal to the metal on 20 tracks set in iconic locations from the film. (Cars 3: Driven to Win is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Wii U.)

Learn a new interesting fact every day and share it with your family

Did you know that NASA is developing a 3-D printer designed to make hot, edible pizza for astronauts to enjoy in space? Or that a flying dragon lizard can glide through the air for 30 feet? Your child can learn all sorts of interesting facts like this in the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018. The book is packed with more than 300 pages of news, facts, features, photos, games and learning fun!

Create a nature journal

Follow these easy instructions to make a nature journal and then explore your backyard and neighborhood while your kids journal what they see around them. Nature walks are a great way to get some fresh air while kids learn about the world around them.

Build and learn with LEGOs

Kids love building with LEGO bricks but did you know there’s plenty of ways to learn with them? I’ve rounded up 30 of my favorite learning activities that cover everything from math to science to reading & writing here. Whether they make a magnet maze or a wind turbine, they will have so much fun they won’t even realize they are learning!

How are your kids keeping busy this summer?

Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Family’s Summer

This is the first summer that my boys are not going to be in summer camp and I’m not going to be tied to my computer working so I’m excited to have a little freedom in our schedule now. Today I wanted to share tips about how we get the most out of our summer and how your family can as well. Whether you have the whole day free or your schedule is a bit busier, I think these tips can benefit all families!

My first tip? Extend your summer! Who says your “summer” needs to start in June and end in August or whenever the kids go back to school? I declared May 1st as the start of our summer one year and we are going to enjoy fun times as long as the weather will let us (which will hopefully be into September!)

Write down all of the fun things you want to do. I love creating bucket lists for every season and summer is no exception. When writing our summer bucket list I think of all the fun things I’ve enjoyed in the past, either as a child or with my own kids. I also make sure to add in a variety of ideas so we have ones for rainy days, places we can visit when we have a couple days of freedom, and a list of skills we have to practice or master over summer (like riding a bike). Keep your summer bucket list on your phone or in a notebook kept in your purse so that you can refer to it easily. I like having mine with me so, for example, if bad weather cancels Jake’s baseball game I can come up with an indoor activity to do instead of just going home and sitting on the couch in front of the television.

I also think it’s important to make sure to plan the fun occasionally. While I long for lazy summer days, that’s not always our reality between sports practices, therapy appointments, summer school and everything else we have to do. We’ve had many Saturdays that were filled with errands and, before we knew it, we’d wasted a gorgeous day with things that could have been done in little chunks of time elsewhere throughout the week. Schedule the fun in to ensure it happens!

I’ve also found it beneficial to put community events (like open gyms, library story times, farmer’s markets and anything else that has set hours) in my calendar so I don’t forget about them. If you are on a budget there are so many free and cheap activities available at stores (like lego building at Toys “R” Us and building projects at hardware stores), museums & aquariums (check for free days), and bowling alleys (we love the Kids Bowl Free program).

Enjoy some days of doing nothing. The school year will be back again before you know it so take some time to just sit around the house or the backyard and relax together. Dive into that book you’ve been meaning to read, stay in your pajamas all day or just go kick around a ball in the backyard. 

Lastly, don’t forget to record it! Take lots of pictures of your family’s summer fun (and mom, make sure to get in those pictures). Another thing we are doing this summer is having the kids write in journals daily. They’ll practice their writing skills but also record all the fun times they had which will be great to look back on.

How do you make the most of your family’s summer? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Find more ideas in my ultimate summer guide as well!

 

30 Ideas For Outdoor Summer Fun At Home

Summer is in full swing now and if your kids are anything like mine you’ve either heard “I’m bored” at least a couple times already or they’ve spent a bit too much time on electronics. Either way, with the long weekend coming up, I wanted to share a bunch of tech-free ideas for things kids can do outside at home to enjoy the summer days and nights. Thanks to Bestway for sending us some of their outdoor water toys and inspiring this post!

Here are 30 ideas for outdoor summer fun at home:

1) Have a water gun fight

2) Play hopscotch

3) Have a tea party

4) Play tag

5) Run through the sprinkler

6) Make light sabers out of pool noodles

7) Have a race

8) Make a mud pie

9) Plant flowers or tend to a garden

10) Ride a bike

11) Kick a soccer ball

12) Play hide and seek

13) Draw with chalk

14) Build a fort

15) Have a water balloon fight

16) Go on a scavenger hunt

17) Have a lemonade stand (with help)

18) Make smores (with help of course)

19) Camp out in the backyard

20) Read a book in the shade

21) Have a picnic

22) Play cars on the sidewalk

23) Create an obstacle course

24) Paint with water

25) Catch fireflys

26) Play in the sandbox

27) Blow bubbles

28) Play “ghost in the graveyard”

29) Jump in a pool

30) Go on a slip n’ slide or play tether ball splash

Looking for some new things to ramp up the fun in your backyard? You’ll want to check out the line of H2OGO! outdoor water toys that Bestway came out with this summer!

H2OGO! Tether Ball Splash

H2OGO! Tether Ball Splash takes the classic fun of tetherball and infuses it with a new level of wet and wild excitement. Kids are able to battle each other in a heated game of schoolyard tetherball while staying cool as they swing and splash the spinning spray ball all the way to victory. Easy to assemble in minutes, the inflatable 6.5 foot Tether Ball Splash attaches to a garden hose and has a built-in water chamber at the base to keep the fun upright all summer long.

H2OGO! Color Wave Pool

The pool is not just for fun during the day. Kids can splash around all night long in a rainbow of colors as the H2OGO! Color Wave Pool’s built-in LED lights illuminate the walls of the pool in an array of five different neon colors. The pool is constructed with sturdy I-beam construction, extra-wide sidewalls, holds 147 gallons of water and is designed for easy assembly and take-down.

H2OGO! Doodle Glow Pool

Pushing the bounds of creativity, The H2OGO! Doodle Glow Pool takes the artwork off of the refrigerator and puts it on the bottom of the pool. Utilizing innovative technology, the Doodle Glow’s fluorescent floor doubles as a blank canvas for kids to create an underwater, glow-in-the dark art show. Using two patent-pending LED underwater flashlights and a stencil set, kids can let their imagination splash wildly as they create an underwater world of glow art.

H2OGO! Backyard Water slides

H2OGO! single, double and triple backyard waterslides are back after sweeping across the nation in a tidal wave of fun last summer. The H2OGO! water slide’s inflatable launch pad at the start of every slide reduces the impact of the landing. Without the ‘ouch’ of a belly-flop, riders are smoothly propelled down the 18-foot slide into the drench pool. Kids can either take turns sliding down the single slide or race each other on the double and triple slides.

What’s your child’s favorite thing to do outside in the summer?

Summer Day Date Idea: Recreate Memories On A Local Road Trip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareTheLyrics #CollectiveBias

Back before we had kids, Sinisa and I went on a lot of dates. A lack of money kept us from doing anything too expensive so we’d do things like walk around downtown, go star gazing, go to festivals and enjoy picnics at the park. Here we are at a local festival on one of our first dates back in 2007:

Looking back on our relationship, one of our favorite dates was a road trip to a campsite where we intended to camp for the evening. It turned out to be an even more memorable trip when we woke up to find ourselves, and everything inside our tent, soaked from rain and we ended up sleeping in Sinisa’s small sports car that night. We have learned that it’s not what we are doing, but who we are doing it with that matters. Sometimes the simplest things bring the best memories so I set out to recreate some of our favorite dates- road trips-  as we hopped in the car for a short road trip to a lake area in another town.

Want to plan your own day date full of memories? Here are some of my tips for planning a road trip day date:

1) Think back to your most memorable times as a couple and what you two enjoy the most and plan those into your road trip, whether it’s the spot of your first kiss or an activity you two love doing together. Some of my favorite dates have been sitting by the water just talking so that’s why I chose a park with a beautiful lake so we could sit and relax like the “good ‘ol days”.

2) Pack a picnic lunch and keep the menu simple. We love finger foods like cheese, crackers and salami along with some fresh fruit. It’s filling, doesn’t require silverware, and is easy to eat.

3) Make a road trip playlist. There is nothing worse than having to flip through radio stations while you are in the car so I like to have a playlist ready to go. Sinisa and I have different tastes in music (he likes country and old school rock and I like r&b and pop) so we find a mix of genres is best. You can even make a list of romantic songs that you both enjoy and make a playlist out of those. If you need some song inspiration for your road trip playlist, you can find it on the new Share a Coke and a Song Coca-Cola campaign cans because Coca-Cola has lyrics to popular songs right on the cans.

4) Bring a cooler full of drinks to enjoy as you travel and to drink once you arrive at your picnic spot. I bought a 28 pack of the Share a Coke cans at Sam’s Club and, not only did we drink them, but I incorporated the cans into our date by telling Sinisa how I feel about him using the lyrics on the cans. It would also be a fun idea to have each person pick out a can for their significant other and explain why they chose it and what the lyrics mean to them or pick out cans that tell your love story. Below is the story I told him as I handed him the corresponding cans. It was kind of sappy and corny but thankfully he likes things like that :)

You can find Share a Coke cans at your local Sam’s Club. We found ours on pallets near the kitchen products. You’ll want to look for ones that have the special Share a Coke and a Song Coca-Cola campaign packaging so you make sure to get the cans with the lyrics on them.

What tips do you have for planning a memorable day date?

 

18 Summer STEM Activities Suggested By K-12 Teachers

My boys have only been out of school since Thursday and I already feel like it’s going to be a long summer. I’m so excited to share 15 STEM activities that were suggested by a handful of K-12 teachers. These fun activities will keep kids busy this summer and keep kids learning at the same time.

1. Take a field trip to your local wastewater plant and/or water treatment facility. Tours are usually free but need to be scheduled beforehand. This is a great way for kids (and parents) to learn about water management processes and what we can do to help conserve water and properly care for our water resources. Water management systems involve many fields, including, but not limited to, biology, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and environmental engineering.

2. With so many products now being manufactured, many students do not get much experience with hand tools. One great summer project is to design and build a small structure with your kids, such as a dog house or a tree house. There are many design plans online that you can study before creating and building your own design!

3. Want a fun and educational adventure for the whole family? Visit a glass blowing studio to see demonstrations and/or take classes. This is a great way to experience the beauty of combining STEM with art through a creative manufacturing process!

4. Girls: Watch the TED Talk about Debbie Sterling (inventor and CEO of GoldieBLOX) about her journey as a female engineer and her quest to inspire young girls to pursue engineering.

5. Do science experiments with pill bugs! Here’s a great blog with wonderful science experiments to do over the summer using the Pill Bug.

6. Create with cardboard boxes. There are so many fun things you can create with cardboard boxes to inspire the inner engineer in your child! Here are some ideas:

  • Design and build a car out of cardboard. Families could park their cars in the living room and enjoy a family night watching a movie in their own drive-in!
  • Design an arcade game! Get some inspiration from a 9-year-old boy named Caine who created his very own cardboard arcade. http://cainesarcade.com
  • Create a miniature golf course. Q-Tips and paper towel and toilet paper rolls work great!
7. Put together an inventors box! By having a “Tinker” Box at a child’s disposal it will encourage them to use their imagination and natural curiosity to design and build, not to mention it can also store all their items for building. I have a couple of rules for my kiddos at home: if it’s in the box, they can use it how they see fit in their designs. However, if there is something they want to use that is not in the box, they must ask for permission.

Items to include in the box: small boxes, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, yarn, egg cartons, empty butter tubs, broken toys, old toy parts, tape of all kinds, empty cereal boxes, white glue, glue sticks, paper clips, string, left over craft materials, construction paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cotton balls, and any recycled materials around the house. The list could really go on and on. Make sure all materials are safe for children to use.

One fun idea for your child’s tinker box is to design a boat that can hold 10 to 20 pennies and then try to float it in the sink, bathtub, or small pool.

8. Read a book that introduces students to STEM and their inner inventor. Here are some ones to check out (affiliate links):

9. The Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest is an Internet-based competition that provides middle school and high school students with a realistic, engaging introduction to engineering. While the contest for 2016 has ended, you can still download the free software and try your hand at bridge design to get a leg up on next year’s competition!

10. Robot Virtual Worlds – Expedition Atlantis! Download this fun activity to learn how to code, incorporate math skills, and expand on your proportional reasoning skills!

11. Many colleges and universities offer STEM summer programs. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), offers a “RoboCamp” that is great for students. They actually have a week long robotics camp, as well as weekend programs. Look up a university or college program like it close to you. What kid wouldn’t like to go away for the weekend or the week and delve into the world of robotics?

12. Attend a local “Rocket Launch”! See rockets large and small take to the skies on a monthly basis at a local rocket club’s launch site. The Syracuse rocket club hosts a monthly launch and invites the public to come and watch, and even build one and launch it with them! Do a google search to see if there are any rocket clubs or launches near you.

13. Visit a local science museum or STEM-based museum to keep students’ interest piqued all summer long. Most have daily activities and lots of hands-on displays as well as an I-MAX theater.

14. Try your hand at the various tutorials on the MIT App Inventor website. Basic tutorials are great to start, and once you have a basic understanding, try the QuizMe tutorial to help students understand the concept of List and how to use indexes to iterate through them.

15.  STRETCH your body. Use stretching techniques to become more flexible. Then research the changes in your ligaments and muscles that have to happen for you to become more flexible. Record your observations.

16. Design your own toothbrush. What do you wish could be better about your current toothbrush? What issues do you see with it? Design a better version and test it. Record the steps you took to identify the problem, design a new toothbrush, and your final observations in a notebook.

18.  Collect water samples from different areas in your house and backyard. Look at small drops with a high magnification magnifying glass. Do you see anything moving? Then research the various things contained in water.

Thanks to Project Lead the Way (PLTW) for sharing these ideas! PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S., in more than 8,000 schools nationwide. Special thanks to the following teachers for providing the ideas:
  • April Moon (@aprilsunshine77), Robert and Patricia Kern National Teacher of the Year – Waxahachie, TX, PLTW Engineering Master Teacher (Ideas 1-4)
  • Kelly Wheeler (@kwheeler_kelly), PLTW Launch Teacher of the Year – Menifee, CA (Ideas 5-8)
  • Beth Fox (@bfox01), PLTW Gateway Teacher of the Year – Lenoir, NC (Ideas 9-10)
  • Chris Hurd (@CazHSTechLabs), PLTW Engineering Teacher of the Year – Cazenovia, NY (Ideas 11-13)
  • Darwin Shorters (@MrShorters), PLTW Computer Science Teacher of the Year – Charleston, SC (Idea 14)
  • Dr. Julye Adams (@DrJulyeAdams), PLTW Biomedical Science Teacher of the Year – Georgetown, KY (Ideas 15-18)

 

The Ultimate Summer Guide For Families

Summer is my favorite time of year and I’ve written a lot of posts about how to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of the season. I figured I’d gather them all up in one place, and then continue to add to the list all year long, for the ultimate Summer guide that will give you hundreds of ideas to keep busy this Summer. You’ll find Summer bucket lists, craft ideas, Summer activity ideas, learning activities to avoid the Summer slide, Summer camps and swim lesson schools I’ve written about and things to do in Chicago during the Summer months.

Summer Crafts and Activities

Summer Learning Activities

Summer Camps & Swim Lessons

Summer Fun In Chicago

Robots-4-U Summer Camps Now Enrolling

Have you made your summer plans yet? If you want to put your child in camp this summer the time to register is now. I know it seems crazy since it’s only April but many camps start to fill up this early so you don’t want to delay! Thanks to Robots-4-U for sponsoring this post about their fun summer camp.

If you are looking for a camp that focuses on S.T.E.A.M. education for your child aged 7-14 you will want to look into ROBOTS-4-U Summer Camps. They cover science, technology, engineering, art and math with hands on learning. Children will learn all about Robotics and Science, in an independent and exciting way, whether they are beginners or experts! Each camper individually uses a ROBOTICS or DYNAMIC ART Kit. Robot kits do not go home with campers but are available for purchase!

Visit www.ROBOTS-4-U.com to see dates and locations for these day camps. Robot Camps and Dynamic Art Camps are offered during June, July and August. Each camp is one week long, Monday to Friday from 9:00-11:30a.m. and 12:30-3:00 p.m.

To receive 55% off Robotics Science Summer Camps use code: USF1550r

Discover it Miles® Card: Summer Travel

Thank you Discover for sponsoring this post! Click here to learn more about the amazing rewards and benefits of the Discover it Miles® credit card.

Summer is a time for leisure and a worry free life.  As a family we love traveling in the warmer months, exploring quaint little towns and large cities alike. We go on quite a bit of road trips to towns within a few hours of Chicago and also have enjoyed traveling to the Caribbean.

No matter where you go or what you do with your family the goal is to have fun. In today’s world, traveling brings worries of losing your credit cards and being stranded in unfamiliar locations. Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than being broke.

One card that helps people avoid this hassle is the new Discover it Miles® Card. Besides giving you rewards for travel, Discover has a great 24/7 protection plan and awesome benefits. The Discover it Miles® card features include a no annual fee and miles that never expire. Fly any airline, any time. Just buy a ticket and use miles to credit your statement. My wife loves to plan ahead so having reward miles is great for anyone who loves to plan a perfect vacation.

So take time to travel, see the great sites and tourist attractions. As an introductory offer, Discover it Miles card members will now receive double the amount of miles they’ve earned at the end of their first year – with no spending cap. That gives travelers using the Discover it Miles card the opportunity to determine for themselves the amount of bonus miles they receive in that first year. And even better, Discover It Miles card members can redeem miles at any amount for cash, or as a statement credit toward their travel purchases, including commercial airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, commuter transportation and taxicabs. As a Father that loves to spoil his kids during travel I like the ability to cash in the rewards and get them prizes.

Discover is ranked “highest in customer satisfaction with credit card companies” by J.D. Power. With all the benefits and protection it is clear to see why. There are no fees on foreign transactions which is a big deal and gives members the opportunity to discover little towns or big cities anywhere.

Discover can be used anywhere, and even visits to smaller places, like water parks and zoos, can earn you rewards. Buying gas to travel will not seems so expensive while using Discover either. Summer activities will be fun and you will feel confident when using your Discover card.

It is 80 degrees out today. Take a 10 minute ice cream break with the family or take an overnight getaway. Enjoy the fun the summer brings. Keep up with our family and discover what adventures we find.


 
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

List Of Free Things To Do In Chicago This Summer

Traveling to Chicago this summer? It’s possible to make the trip on a budget! Here is a list of FREE things to do in the city and the suburbs.

1) Walk around Navy Pier. Don’t miss the stained glass display!

2) Take a picture in front of “The Bean”

3) Enjoy the weekly fireworks display (every Wednesday and Saturday evening in summer)

4) Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see animals

5) Spend a day at one of the beaches and swim in the lake

6) Enjoy a free movie or concert in the park

7) Walk along the lakefront

8) Window shop on Michigan Avenue

9) Walk around the city and look at the amazing architecture

10) Take the kids to Bear Garden Park in Glenview to play on the playground, build sandcastles and splash around

11) Go to a museum on a free day.

12) Go to a playground (try Maggie Daley in Millennium Park)

13) Walk around a Farmer’s Market

14) Splash around in Crown Fountain

15) Check out the Skokie North Shore Sculpture Park

16) Watch the water display at Buckingham Fountain

17) Go to story time at a library in the city or suburbs

18) Enjoy the beauty at the Chicago Botanic Garden

19) Check out the Children’s Garden at Garfield Park Conservatory

20) Attend a Vacation Bible School

21) Learn to dance at the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park

22) Explore nature at Emily Oaks Nature Center

23) Visit a farm (like Wagner Farm in Glenview)

24) Phillip’s Park Zoo and Playground (Aurora)

25) Build with legos at the Lego Store in Water Tower Plaza

26) Visit Chinatown

27) Go to a parade

28) Enjoy the sights and sounds at Taste of Chicago

29) Go bowling (check out the Kid’s Bowl Free program)

30) Walk around Downtown Naperville

 

 

25 Fun Summer Writing Activities For Kids

In planning our summer, one thing that I’m making sure to do is building in time for math, reading and writing exercises for my kids amongst our travel, summer camp and family activities. Since summer is all about having fun I wanted to find things my kids could do that wouldn’t seem like schoolwork but would fit into their days and they’d enjoy doing

I’ve shared our summer bucket list and a list of free summer reading programs already so today I wanted to share a list of 25 activities that get kids to practice writing throughout the summer. There are no worksheets here, just fun!

1) Create a summer journal.

Buy a spiral notebook and have the kids write about their day every evening. You can add in pictures or glue in other flat items to create a special memory book. My boys got summer memory journals from day camp the past few years and they love looking back on the summer memories. Now that they are writing and at a different camp where the counselors aren’t going to do this for them, it’s up to them to make there own.

2) Write a pen-pal.

I remember having a pen-pal when I was little. I wasn’t sure who my kids could do this with so I put a call for pen-pals on my personal Facebook page and had a number of responses in just a few hours from people I felt comfortable giving our home address to. I paired Jacob up with other kids who can write and Lucas with a few younger children who don’t write as much and might rely on drawn pictures to communicate. My boys are going to be sending letters a few times a week to other kids. This is a great way for them to make new friends, learn how to communicate better (especially for my youngest with Autism who has a hard time realizing that his interests aren’t always what other people want to talk about), and learn about new places.

3) Write a letter to a family member who doesn’t live nearby.

This is a great way for kids to connect to family they might not see very often.

4) Create a summer bucket list.

To be sure to squeeze every second they can out of summer, kids can make their own summer bucket list of all the fun things they want to do over the summer. See how many your family can cross off the list!

5) Write out a script for a play or puppet show.

This may be the perfect way for older kids to keep busy. Have them create their own play! They pick the theme and create a story around characters they create. Younger children may have an easier time writing a short script for a puppet show. Invite family and friends over for the show and make sure to pop some popcorn to enjoy while you watch their creativity unfold before your eyes!

6) Plan a family fun day.

Have children write out the itinerary for a family fun day. They can include what your family will be eating and where you will go. My kids would probably include a trip to the library, an afternoon playing at the playground and end the day with ice cream sundaes!

7) Write invitations for a party or playdate.

If kids want to have a party or playdate this summer they can make their own invitations to pass out.

8) Make a packing list.

Make your (older) children responsible for packing their own suitcases for vacation or a short family trip to the beach or zoo. Have them create a list of items they need so they don’t forget anything important. Younger kids can help create packing lists as well but will probably need more help with them.

9) Create a shopping list and party plan for a bbq in the backyard.

Have children help plan a bbq and make the shopping list for all the groceries, decor and items you will need to host a fabulous barbecue for family and friends. Don’t forget to make a quick list of things that need to be done as well- kids are more likely to pitch in with cleaning or other chores if they are helping plan the party ;)

10) Write a book.

This is something I loved doing in school and I used to do with my pre-k classroom so it can be modified for kids as young as 4 who are just starting to learn to write. Blank books can be found at craft stores, teaching stores and occasionally I have seen them in Target’s dollar section. Here are my tips for this activity (which will span a few weeks): have children plan out the book first. They should think about the theme of their story and the characters that will be in it and then write it out on paper. A parent or adult can help edit or you may choose to let the child do it on their own and let the spelling/grammar be (I prefer to do it the second way). The next step is to figure out how to break the story up into pages so they might need an adult to help them do that. This is not such an issue for shorter stories but if they have a longer story this is important so they don’t run out of pages before the story is over. Make sure to leave space for pictures as well! The last step is creating the final book. Do the cover in pencil and then go over it with cover, make the title page and then the children can transfer the story from paper to the book. This is a long process but the final product is something the kids will want to hang on to for years to come!

11) Make a card for a loved one or friend.

Instead of buying a card for an upcoming birthday or holiday, like Father’s Day, have your child create their own. It’s always nice to receive handmade things and they are a lot cheaper, too.

12) Make a list of movies to see or books to read.

My kids always tell me what movies they want to see or books they want to read next. Have them create a list so next time you are going to the movies or library you pick one they have been wanting to see or read.

13) Create a recipe.

Have a little one who loves to help you in the kitchen? Have them create a recipe of their own! They can make one for their favorite summer treat or create a brand new dish. Make sure they write the ingredients and directions and then you can make it together for the family to enjoy.

14) Make a treasure map.

Have your child hide something in your home or backyard and have them draw a treasure map for family members to find it. Instead of just pictures, they can label the items on their treasure map.

15) Write to get published.

There is nothing more exciting for a young writer than seeing their name in print. Here’s a list of places for kids (as young as Kindergarten) to submit stories and poems to.

16) Create your own board game.

Board games are perfect for rainy days so what would be more fun than creating a game of their own? Children can label things on the game board and also write out instructions so others can play their game.

17) Do a Mad Libs book or create a Mad Libs story.

Remember Mad Libs? If not, here is a reminder- http://www.madlibs.com/. These books were so fun! Someone asked you for random words and they read the story back to you with the words you chose in the spaces. They have lots of themed books nowadays but if you have an older child they may want to create one of their own mad libs stories.

18) Make a daily schedule.

I’ve found that things normally run smoother when we have a schedule. Develop a daily schedule with your children and have them write it down. Things to include: snack, outdoor time, reading time, pool time, quiet time, meals, story time and other bedtime routines.

19) Write thank you notes.

Kids can write thank you notes for gifts they have received, a thank you to a friend for helping with something or to a community worker.

20) Play a name game.

Have children write their full names on paper and then see how many words they can make out of it. They can do this for everyone’s name in their family, the titles of their favorite books, or really any set of words they want. To make it more fun they can play against someone to see who can create the most words.

21) Write a letter to save the lions.

Have a little environmentalist? Your child can write a letter about how important lions are. This writing prompt is from National Geographic Kids and some letters will be published and featured by them. More details can be found here.

22) Build a town for barbies or cars.

Children can use boxes, paper or chalk outside to build a town for their cars or barbies and then can have their toys “visit” the places. They can practice writing when making the road signs and labeling the places. This led to hours of fun when I was a little girl playing with barbies and my boys had fun doing this with their cars a few weeks ago. Their “town” included a car wash, bank, movie theater and jail.

23) Enter a writing contest.

Kids can write stories to enter into writing contests for a chance to win prizes or have their work featured. Here’s one for funny stories that ends at the end of June 2015 (though seems like this site updates with new contests regularly).

24) Make signs for a lemonade stand or garage sale.

If your family is having a garage sale this summer have your child make the signs to advertise it and help price items. Another option is that kid’s can host a lemonade stand and make signs for that.

25) Write a goodbye letter to friends.

The end of summer camp is a hard time for my kids. They miss all the friends they’ve made over the summer so what better way to keep those friendships going than to have kids write letters to their camp friends saying they’d love to keep in touch. They can include a phone number so their friends can contact them for a playdate. If your kids aren’t in camp they could do this for VBS, summer school or a sport that’s ending.

What other ideas do you have? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

 

Bath-Time Fun On A Budget

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Save-A-Lot. This could include Save-A-Lot providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

It is nearly summer here and all my boys have been talking about lately has been going outside to play. Playing outside for boys means all kinds of sports and games and fun on the playground. Most of all though, it translates into the boys getting dirty as they slide down the field, jump into sand and get covered in grass. After a long day of fun and play my boys need a good bath and a scrub down. Bath-time is after all just another way to have fun and the kids love drawn out baths with lots of bubbles. The only thing that is not fun is spending too much on bath products. Luckily Save-A-Lot and Suave have teamed up to help create bath-time fun on a budget.

For my kids baths mean another chance to get rowdy and splash and throw bubbles everywhere. Usually the kids try to dump extra of whatever they can to make more bubbles. The key to their ongoing happiness is to use tear free products so when the bath water splashes into their eyes it doesn’t sting. Suave has a great line that includes a tear free 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner along with a body wash.

Spending less, means more bottles and more bubbles and happiness (Prices may vary on location). For my kids that just means more fun before bed.

Kids get silly and splash and they are happy. The only thing that makes them crabby after a bath is their unruly hair. Luckily Save-A-Lot and  Suave have a detangler made just for kids and the aroma of apple makes it very friendly to little noses.

Suave has a lot of kid friendly products but I’ve discovered that there are twice as many products for moms and dads. Save-A-Lot has savings for everyone in the family on Suave.

So as the summer comes and the weather gets hotter let the kids play. Let them enjoy playing outside and getting dirty and let Save-A-Lot and Suave be there at the end of the day to clean and refresh the whole family. To make the summer even more fun, Save-A-Lot is also having an exciting opportunity through their Facebook community, giving customers a chance to win a $25 Save-A-Lot gift card each week. For the chance to win a $25 Save-A-Lot gift card, check out the Smart Shopper Sweepstakes on the Save-A-Lot Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SaveALot.

Be sure to find & follow Save-A-Lot on:

Keep up with me and my family and see what adventures we find and let us know some of yours, too.

Worry Free Outdoor Fun

This is a product-sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound & Skin Cleanser. The opinions and text are all mine.

Today the temperature outside reached 64 in our Chicago suburb. This is very exciting for everyone, especially for active families that will be thrilled to go hiking and biking and play sports outside in the fresh air. For my family this means it is time for baseball, soccer and the playground. This also means it will be a time full of scrapes, cuts and bug bites. As a parent I know this is unavoidable and I hate to see my boys suffer.

To be truly prepared we always have a bag of a few essentials in our vehicles that can help in an emergency. Some of the best things to have in an emergency kit are an instant ice compress, bandages and band aids, extra mouth guards (for football), snacks and Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™

To keep your team from getting sidelined new Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound and Skin Cleanser, the easy first step in first aid that gently and effectively cleans and hydrates minor wounds, wants you to enter the Play to Win with #TeamPuracynPlus Giveaway for the chance to win a  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Emergency Kit, including a $50 gift card to a sporting goods store of your choice and  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ product. One winner announced each Friday on March 13, 20, and 27. #TeamPuarcynPlus (3 winners total).  It will be the best way to kick start the outdoors activities season.

My kids both play soccer and baseball during which they both get scrapes and usually the scrapes are messy from the field. The easy to use, hands free spray application of  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ thoroughly cleans minor cuts and wounds, eliminating the need for running water in the critical first moments of cleaning a wound.

I also like Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ because it is doctor tested and recommended for quick wound treatments and is free of alcohol and steroids. It is so safe that it will not bother them even if it accidentally gets in their eyes or ears. A 4oz bottle can be purchased at Rite Aid and Walgreens for $14.00. It is convenient to carry in your car kit so you will always have  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ in stock for when you really need it.

To learn more about the brand visit www.puracynplus.com and follow the brand on facebook (facebook.com/puracyn) and Pinterest. Another product they have is the Puracyn Plus Foot Wash and Skin Cleanser, a highly effective cleansing solution for healthier feet and wound care. If you or a loved one have diabetes Puracyn Plus Foot wash is essential to help make foot care part of your daily health routine and self care.

We are ready for the warm weather and the outdoors and especially the fun that comes with it. Thanks to Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™  we will be ready for anything that comes our way. So join in the fun and discover fearless life with Puracyn.

To learn more about the Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ , LIKE the brand on Facebook and follow the brand on Pinterest.

This is a product-sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound & Skin Cleanser. The opinions and text are all mine.


Our First Month Of Summer {In Pictures}

Summer break has been fantastic so far! I know I don’t share as many pictures as I used to so I wanted to share some of my favorites from the past month. These are all taken in the evenings and weekends since the boys are in camp during the day. I can’t wait to see all those pictures at the end of the summer! They’ve been to the zoo, horseback riding, golf, the movies and lots more fun places with the camp :)

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Join Me In Taking The “Let’s Play” Pledge

(Disclosure: I am currently serving as a “Play Ambassador” for Let’s Play. This is a sponsored post, however, the opinions expressed are my own.)

I’m excited to share that I’ve recently been chosen to be a Play Ambassador for Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group to get kids and families active by providing the tools, places and inspiration to make play a daily priority. I first realized the importance of play when I taught pre-k years ago. I saw first-hand how children learned through play more so than they did through any other way.

As a mom, I continue to believe in the importance of play but it is not so easy to integrate into life outside of the classroom. After a long day of work and driving the boys to their activities, I often just want to head home to eat dinner and relax. We have a backyard but the boys would rather sit inside and play legos or watch TV. I don’t want them to grow up and be couch potatoes so it’s my responsibility, as their mom, to get them outside playing.

With summer just around the corner I’m looking forward to warmer weather and more time outside. I decided that as tired as I am at the end of the day, it doesn’t take much more energy to sit at the park while they play on the playground than it does to sit on my couch. I figured we could spend 30 minutes to an hour at least a few times a week at the park. I recently heard about the “Let’s Play” pledge and signed it, pledging to engage my children in 120 hours of active play each week.

Along with playing on the playground, here are 5 other fun active ideas for kids this summer:

  • Go on a nature walk and make a nature collage with items they find
  • Have a toy wash. Grab a bucket of soapy water and a sponge and kids can have fun while they are cleaning their toys
  • Pull out the sprinkler and the slip n’ slide and cool off on a hot day
  • Play ball! Baseball, soccer, football, and other sports are great activities
  • Ride tricycles or scooters on the sidewalk

Want to join me and make active play a daily priority in the lives of your kids? You can sign the pledge here. Follow along on Social Media, too! Find Let’s Play on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Summer Printables From Snapfish

Quench your thirst for fun with sweet summer printables. From lemonade stand banner and signs, to travel tags, activity sheets, and ice cream cone wrappers, Snapfish’s citrus-themed printables feature bright color delightful designs, and everything you need to create a fun-in-the-sun summer.

(Image from snapfish.com)

Head on over to the Snapfish website and check out the adorable collection of free printables they have!

(Disclosure: This is not a compensated post. Just wanted to share!)

 

Vera Bradley Beach Giveaway

(Disclosure: I received a beach set from Vera Bradley but all thoughts are my own.)

I had never heard of Vera Bradley until a few years ago when I went on a mom’s retreat weekend. The other moms were so excited to go check out this store that had a large selection of Vera Bradley products so I tagged along.

What I discovered were brightly colored bags, scarfs, and other items in fun patterns. I didn’t buy anything that day but I remembered wishing that I could. I ended up buying a used Vera Bradley bag from a friend and using it is a diaper bag. That started my Vera Bradley collection.

When I was approached about offering a Vera Bradley beach themed giveaway to my readers I was so excited because that meant I could introduce all of you to this great brand. Along with having bright, beautiful patterns, the products are all high quality and made to last.

Right now the summer patterns are all on sale since the Fall patterns come out next week. It’s a great time to get a cute beach bag, pair of flip flops, or a beach towel.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a Vera Bradley Beach towel, sarong and mesh beach tote.

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me where you’d rather use these items at, the beach or the pool?

2) Tell me what your favorite pattern is

3) Share this giveaway on a social network

4) Comment on another one of my posts

5) Follow me on Twitter

6) Follow Vera Bradley on Twitter

Giveaway ends July 28, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Entrants must be a US resident, 18 years or older. 

Summer Is Here!

First day of Summer School & Camp 2013

After a busy Spring it’s an even busier Summer here. The boys are in our school’s extended school year program and in summer camp in the afternoons which all just started yesterday. It was so weird to sit in silence for my entire workday. I missed the giggles of my boys and even their whiny “mommy he did….” moments but I know they are going to have a ton of fun. They would have spent much of the day inside while I worked and this way they can be at the pool, playing with friends at the playground, and going on field trips to exciting places. They are also playing some sports this Summer like they did during Spring.

I have committed to spending weekends completely with them and not working or blogging during that time. As a work at home mom it’s hard for me to pull away since my work is always sitting there and in the online world there is always more I could be doing but my kids come first. They need me and I want to spend this time with them while they still want to spend it with me.

To prepare for summer I made a list of all the free places we can go (including those we have memberships to), put fun community events in my calendar, and made a list of everything the boys and I thought would be fun to do together or places we want to visit. This way I can look at the list and decide what we want to do in the evenings and on the weekends. We also picked up the backyard and pulled out the summer items so we have the slip-n-slide, kiddie pool, sandbox, and sports gear all ready to go for lazy afternoons outside.

What are your plans for the summer? How will you be spending time with your kids? If you need some ideas I have a fun list from last summer of 100 things you can do to enjoy the time with your family :) Find the list here.

My Experience At Ribfest {With Ty Pennington & Sears}

I posted back in June about the Sears “Grilling Is Happiness” live event and how I was so excited because Ty Pennington was going to be there. I wanted to follow up and update you all about my experience and share lots of pictures, too!

Friday night I went to a media/blogger event at a beautiful hotel. There were about 10 bloggers, people from Sears, and then the cooking and lifestyle experts. The experts that attended the event were Ty Pennington {best known for Extreme Makeover Home Edition}, Robyn Lindars of Grill Grrrl, Perry Perkins of Burnin’ Love BBQ, and George Hirsch {a cooking and lifestyle expert}. We ate delicious food while chatting about grilling and blogging. It was also a great chance to get some pictures taken:

Ty & I

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Robyn & I

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Some of the Collective Bias Social Fabric bloggers at the event: myself, Laura, Kelly, and Michelle

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The dessert- yum!

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Saturday I attended the Ribfest in Naperville, IL. This is an annual event with many barbeque restaurants participating. This year Sears participated and hosted a “Grilling Is Happiness” event with live grilling demonstrations, pictures opportunities, and a chance to enter their sweepstakes to win some great prizes. Here are some pictures I took at the Ribfest:

George Hirsch showing off the Kenmore Grill he is using

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Shrimp that George Hirsch made with the help of Ty Pennington {I tasted it and it was delicious! He paired it with asian style noodles.}

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Ty being interviewed by ABC News

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Trying to stay cool on a hot day

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Perry showing what he uses to grill

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I learned a lot watching the experts grill and think it’s great that Sears included a woman in their panel of experts. I don’t know a lot about grilling but seeing that a girl could grill just as well as the men could made me want to go outside and figure out how to use the grill I just bought last month. I also loved how she made a variety of things on the grill that I’d never think to make. She even makes dessert on the grill! {Check out her grilled pound cake recipe}

I had so much fun at the event and took over 60 pictures! You can view the rest of my pictures in my Google+ photo album. I also took two videos at the Ribfest. The first is of Robyn giving a couple of her grilling tips and the second is of Ty sharing a grilling story with the crowd.

If you are in the Chicago area I encourage you to attend the Naperville Ribfest next year! You will not be disappointed. The food is amazing, they have live bands playing throughout the fest, and they even have a fun family area with lots of things to keep the kids busy.

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Connect with Sears:

Sears on Facebook, Sears on Twitter, Shop Your Way on Twitter, Sears Local Ad

Connect with Ribfest:

Ribfest on Facebook, Ribfest on Twitter

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears. #CBias #SocialFabric #GrillingIsHappiness All thoughts are my own.)

Summer Grilling {And A Giveaway!}

When it comes to cooking during the summer I don’t think there is any better way to cook than to grill out. Grilled food just tastes better and has the added bonus of helping keep the kitchen clean because we don’t have to use any pots and pans. Our landlord left his grill and so we have had a grill sitting on our patio for the past two summers but it has never worked so I was really happy when I had the chance to go shopping for a new grill and some grilling accessories to make grilling easier.

I looked online at Sears.com because I knew they had a great selection of grills. I was also searching for a few other pieces to make my backyard feel more relaxing and less like a children’s play zone.

The Simply Outdoors catalog on the Sears.com website had some amazing outdoor setups that I would love to have.

A table to gather around to eat, a nice conversation area by the pool, a relaxing lounge chair to sit and sun myself… oh wait…. only in my dreams! I knew I would have to be more realistic in the items that I chose. After looking at all of the outdoor setups it was time to search for what I had really got online to find- a grill!

I looked on the website and was excited to find a side by side comparison of grills. There is also a grill finder on the website to help you find your perfect grill. I also checked out the local deals online and then headed to Sears.

I didn’t even have to walk into the store to find the grills. They were right outside the door.

I quickly found the grill that I had decided upon online. At $80 it was perfect for our small budget. I liked that the corresponding grill covers were with the grill so I could easily find the one that I needed. Next us I looked at grill accessories.

I didn’t realize that there were so many grilling accessories available on the market! I knew for sure that I needed the basic items like tongs, a spatula, and a brush to clean the grill but other than that I wasn’t sure what else to get.

After about 30 minutes I managed to fill my cart up with a grilling tools set, a wok for cooking veggies, a kabob basket, and a fish grilling basket. I also considered purchasing a fajita skillet but figured I probably had enough grilling accessories already. I headed to the checkout and told the employee which grill I wanted and was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had one already assembled that I could put together. When I asked about cost I was told that it was free! I told him I’d love one that was put together because I was short on time and saving even an hour of time on a busy day was a huge help. I paid for my items {and got my Shop Your Way rewards points} and pulled my car around to the loading area of the store. My grill was loaded into my car and then I headed home. {You can find even MORE pictures of my shopping trip on Google+}

Once home we rolled the grill to the backyard and hooked up the propane tank. A couple hours later we were already grilling on it since we had a family party to celebrate Jake and Luke’s birthdays.

We made cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Of course I was so busy running around during the party that I neglected to take pictures of the food we enjoyed, other than the dessert table.

We have used our grill multiple times since the party. We’ve made shish-kabobs, steak, and brats.

When it comes to grilling, I don’t know a whole lot so I turned to my dad to get some of his best grilling tips. Some people just make amazing food and he is one of those people. He used to own his own restaurant and I haven’t ever had anything he made that wasn’t fantastic so I knew he’d have some great tips to share. Here are four of his top tips to help you this grilling season:

1) Start with a clean grill. To do so, start the grill and lay aluminum foil on the grates. The particles will turn to ash.

2) Most meats should be seared before cooking to hold in the juices. To do so, turn the grill on high. Spray the meat with cooking spray and then put it on the grill. Turn the meat over so both sides are seared and then continue cooking on medium heat.

3) When cooking for yourself and your family, get to know how long it takes to get your food just how you like it. Once you have figured out the timing your food will always come out perfectly if you always cook it for the same amount of time. Also, having a timer will help keep you from burning your food if you get preoccupied with another task.

4) Cook your entire meal on the grill. An easy side dish can be made by throwing some sliced potatoes, peppers, onions, salt & pepper, and olive oil together in a foil packet and sticking it right on the grill.

Live in the Chicago area? Join me at the Naperville Ribfest! I am so excited to be joining Ty Pennington and some other bloggers in the Sears tent! On June 30th, from noon to 6 p.m., those at the Ribfest can experience demonstrations by Sears grilling experts, take a picture with Ty Pennington, and even enter to win a grill and other wonderful prizes. Joining us at the Sears “Grilling is Happiness” tent are television host and author George Hirsch, “Grill Grrrl” Robyn Lindars, and “Burnin’ Love BBQ” chef Perry Perkins. You can join us online during the event by following the #GrillingIsHappiness hashtag on Twitter. Hope to see some of my local friends and readers at the live event!

GIVEAWAY:

One lucky winner will receive the Grillfinity Gourmet 3-Piece Grilling Tool Set pictured above {$50+ value}

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me what your favorite food to grill is

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow me on Pinterest

4) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

5) Like Sears on Facebook

6) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

7) Follow @Sears on Twitter

Giveaway ends June 30, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US only. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.

Want to buy your own grill or items to make your backyard fabulous? Check out these deals:

  • Great grill bundles at Sears ~ valid online & in-store 6/10-6/17. http://bit.ly/LdTcFm
  • 1 day only 6/10 ~ Online Only at Sears~ 10% off Outdoor Living
  • 6/10 Only get 30% off Patio + Extra 10% using YARD10 coupon code at Sears online

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ #CBias #SocialFabric #GrillingIsHappiness )

Best of Summer

Now that Summer is almost over I wanted to reflect on my favorites of the season.

  1. BlogHer– {Yes, I am STILL talking about it!} BlogHer was so much fun and it was great meeting other bloggers.
  2. Splash Pad- For $4 our family was able to have a couple of hours of fun in the sun and some great summer memories.
  3. Ice Cream with the Kids- Watching ice cream melt down their chins and their smiles as they ate the ice cream brought happiness to me {even if it was short-lived as I realized I was the one who would be cleaning up the chocolaty mess}.
  4. Family walks- Pulling the boys in the wagon was a great workout and gave Sinisa and I a chance to talk while the boys were busy looking in wonderment at the world around them {which mainly consisted of the ducks in the stream, the airplanes in the sky, and the dogs in the windows of houses we’d pass by}.
  5. Eating food from the grill- Burgers, chicken, corn… all foods made even better when cooked on the grill.
  6. Kids playing outside- The boys loved playing in the kiddie pool and exploring nature while playing with rocks, sticks, dirt, and grass.
  7. Iced mochas- Starbucks and McDonalds both made my favorite summer treat. You know those commercials about having “me” time with the McCafe drinks? I totally get it… They made even my most hectic days better :)
  8. Air conditioning- I love the warm weather but once it hit the 90’s I was ready for some relief.
  9. Trips to the Farmer’s Market- Our Farmer’s Market was small but I enjoyed walking around with the boys. We would buy fresh fruits and veggies and sit at the library’s outdoor storytime. It was a great way to spend our Friday mornings.
  10. Celebrating birthdays- Jacob and Lucas both celebrated birthdays at the beginning of Summer. I now have two toddlers!

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What were your favorites of Summer?

Fun In The Sun (And A Giveaway)

Jacob and Lucas recently had a playdate with their cousins, Camden and Maddie. They spent most of the time outside in the sun.

Jacob and Camden in their matching swim trunks

Jacob and Lucas eating lunch

Lucas playing in the water

Jacob and Camden eating cupcakes

Jacob playing football

Cousin Maddie

As you can see, all four children are very fair skinned. It’s really important for them to wear sunscreen when they are in the sun like that. Usually we just use a child lotion sunscreen and my boys fight with me to put it on and wiggle around so I end up missing spots or they walk around looking like ghosts because I don’t rub it in all the way. That won’t be a problem anymore with this new sunscreen we received.

KINeSYS sent me some sunscreen to review. I used it the other day and love it. The sunscreen that they make is easy to apply because it can be sprayed on. It comes either unscented or scented (the one I tried was mango scented- yummy).

Here’s a little bit more about the sunscreen from the flyer that came with it:

  • UVA/UVB protection with Parsol 1789
  • Oil-free/ Alcohol-free/PABA-free
  • Preservative-free
  • Very water-resistant and sweat-resistant
  • Hypoallergenic/ Non-comedogenic
  • Over 700 sprays per bottle

Sunscreen for kids

WIN IT!

One winner will receive a bottle of KINeSYS Kids SPF 30 sunscreen.

HOW?

Leave a comment telling me your favorite outside activity. That’s it! (Of course if you want to subscribe to this blog that would be great, too, but not required.)

This giveaway ends July 7, 2010 at 11:59pm. Good luck! :)

(Disclosure: I was provided two bottles of sunscreen in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.)