Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Too-big Shoes & Crafty Costumes

I like dressing up, though I don’t remember doing it much as a child. Like any kid, my imagination was big enough to include multiple wardrobes for all my role-playing adventures. However, dressing up did add a level of glamour and excitement. Most kids’ first experience with dressing up is to put on a pair of too big shoes and clip-clap around in them like their favorite adult! Read below to discover where you can dress-up in southern California and explore some crafty activities for your own home.

Maritime Museum of San Diego
This fleet of vessels includes the historic Star of India built in 1863. Families can dress up as emigrants as they explore the close living quarters.

Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena
The museum’s interactive exhibit titled Journeys: The Silk Road features a number of interactive elements including dressing as a camel handler or other traveling merchants.

Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
As I mentioned in a previous post on books, the Skirball Cultural Center had a temporary exhibition in 2010 titled Monsters & Miracles: A Journey through Jewish Picture Books. This interactive exhibition included an exhibit to create your own monster with materials that could be used in a variety of ways depending on where your imagination took you.

Creating a Monster at the Skirball

Disneyland, Anaheim
Sure there are plenty of dressed-up characters to meet, but have you ever visited the hat shop? It’s almost as much fun as riding the rides, but define buying parameters before entering so you don’t walk away with unwanted purchases or unhappy kids. All you really need is a camera to capture the transformation of your family into classic Disney characters or other animated favorites.

Comic-Con International, San Diego
Dressing up is not a requirement for this comic convention, but it provides a good excuse. It may be the largest spectacle of costumes outside of Halloween, though not all are family-appropriate. Sunday’s line-up tends to include a number of kid-friendly activities.

Try This:
1. Create your own costume or hat out of brown paper bags from the grocery store. Grab some markers, paint, colored paper, glitter, scissors and glue to create your very own fancy outfit or funky hat for your next pretend playtime adventure. This is a great way to design your own costumes for a family play or talent show. There are plenty of websites that offer directions for these silly creations. Just type in “brown paper bag hats/costumes.”

2. Mirror Mirror on the Wall…buy an inexpensive armoire mirror and hang it on a door or wall at kids’ height. Using wet or dry-erase markers (depending on how long you want the image to last), allow your child to draw a costume reflection on their mirror image. Who will you see the next time you look in the mirror – a king, witch, cowboy or pirate?

3. Design your own Barbie or doll clothes. Are you crafty enough to sew a miniature dress for a Barbie? Have your kids help by creating the design in a sketchpad and then picking out the fabric. Barbie won’t care if the seams aren’t straight!

4. After visiting a historical site where the family can dress up or at least the staff is dressed up, have your family compare and contrast past and present lifestyles. Kids can draw or write diary entries about their life in the historical time period of the cultural site you visited.

Dressing up on the Star of India


Explore Math, Photography and Observation Skills at your Local Botanic Garden

I like botanic gardens.
With assorted plant species, winding paths, infinite colors, and interesting creatures, botanic gardens can easily meet the expectations of everyone in your family. Gardens can be mysterious places to explore, quiet spaces to reflect and relax, a photographer’s playground, a laboratory for learning and much more.

Here are a few botanic gardens I have visited:

  • San Diego Botanic Garden
    In addition to 2 children’s gardens, there are 37 acres and 4 miles of trails to explore at this Encinitas attraction. For my ideas on visiting the Hamilton Children’s Garden, check out my playgrounds post.

    Balboa Park Botanical Building

  • Balboa Park Botanical Building
    This building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. Together with the Lily Pond that lies directly in front of it, this area is the most photographed in the park.
  • The Huntington
    San Marino, California
    In addition to a library, art galleries and tea room, there are more than a dozen themed gardens spanning 120 acres at The Huntington.
    For more ideas on visiting The Huntington, check out my repetition and playgrounds posts.
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
    This garden is a great place to explore on a hot day, and dogs are permitted too. Ask for a mystery scavenger hunt especially for kids.
  • Lotusland, Santa Barbara
    Exploration of this garden is by tour only, but groups are kept small and families are grouped together to provide the most enjoyable experience.

    Conservatory of Flowers

  • Conservatory of Flowers
    San Francisco
    Located in Golden Gate Park, this iconic piece of architecture is the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America.

Try This:
1. Grab a camera for macro photography practice. This is a great activity for children and adults alike. Each season offers different subjects, so visit often and compare photos throughout the year.

2. Enhance observation skills with a scavenger hunt or I Spy. How many shades of green can you find? What shapes do you see in the cacti? What is the most unusual plant name you read?

3. Pick up a garden map and have the kids plan the visit. Will you start at the desert or topiary garden? How will you get there? Introduce or reinforce the concept of cardinal directions.

4. Draw a visual representation of your visit. Use a ruler to measure from the entrance of the botanic garden to your first stop of the visit. Hint, if the path isn’t straight, try a string or piece of yarn to measure the distance against a ruler. Record, then measure the distance to the next stop of the visit. Create a scale for the map or write about your visit using these measurements.

5. Explore patterns by designing a dream garden. Create a blueprint for your garden. Instead of a tissue paper Christmas wreath, use those same materials (colored tissue paper, glue, pencil with eraser and paper plate) to create a pattern of tissue paper flowers for your garden. First, cut the tissue paper into various sized squares. Next, wrap and twist one piece of tissue paper around the eraser end of a pencil. Then, dip the flat side into the glue and tap the paper plate where you want to place the tissue paper. Finally, release the paper and remove the pencil. Repeat until the entire plate is covered.

Check out this great blog for 10 children’s books about gardening.

Art Museums that Incorporate Interactive Exhibitions

I like art museums, especially those with interactive spaces for kids. My previous post introduced 14 ways to engage kids at an art museum, but some museums take on this challenge themselves by providing art trading cards, scavenger hunts, family backpacks, children’s audio tours, or family guides. It is always worth asking museum staff about special resources and activities created specifically for families visiting the museum.

There are a number of art museums that have incorporated entire galleries of interactive experiences for kids and families. Here are interactive art museum spaces I have visited.

  • Dayton Art Institute (Ohio) – Experiencenter
  • Getty Center (Los Angeles, California) – Family Room
  • Mint Museum Uptown (Charlotte, North Carolina) – Lewis Family Gallery
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art (California) – Children’s Gallery
  • Skirball Cultural Center (Los Angeles, California) – Noah’s Ark

If visiting an art museum is not in your foreseeable future, check out one of these interactive art museum websites for kids.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”
– Pablo Picasso

Playgrounds as Tools to Teach Play

I like playgrounds, a.k.a. magical spaces for children and the young at heart. Playgrounds originated in Germany as tools to teach kids how to play. They build social skills, self-esteem and imaginations! My all time favorite playground feature is the swings, where I would belt out songs in unison to pumping my feet!

In elementary school, my friends and I started a playground tradition of pole competitions. There was a symmetrical play structure with a pole on each side of the unit. During recess, we would assign a judge to determine who gave the most creative performance sliding down the pole. The poles extended a few feet beyond the play structure, which gave us plenty of space to swing around in creative ways.

A few of my favorite playgrounds are listed below. My descriptions will not do them justice, so please Google them for photographs that will make you want to be a kid again!

  • Dennis the Menace Playground at Lake El Estero
    Monterey, California
    This playground includes a sunset bridge, hedge maze, tunnels, a locomotive to explore, and many more unique features designed by a cartoonist.
  • Kids’ World at Alameda Park
    Santa Barbara, California
    The City of Santa Barbara is home to more than 50 parks. I knew I had found the right park when I turned a street corner and saw a castle, need I say more! This 8,000 square foot playground is across the street from Alice Keck Gardens – home to koi, turtles and trumpet shaped flowers!

The next two examples are actually children’s garden playscapes, which are playgrounds that have a natural look and feel of the environment.

  • Children’s Garden at The Huntington
    Los Angeles, California
    This garden incorporates scientific principles for little ones to explore. The Huntington website is a great resource, breaking down the exhibits into the four elements of fire, water, earth and air, with descriptions and a garden map. Don’t forget to check out the adjacent conservatory with hands-on exhibits to help kids learn what makes plants unique.
  • Hamilton Children’s Garden at San Diego Botanic Garden
    San Diego, California
    The Hamilton Children’s Garden is unlike any children’s play area I have ever experienced. Within the garden there are a number of exhibits, such as Incredible Edibles, Spell & Smell Garden, Arts Garden, Garden Rhythms, Toni’s Tree House, a sundial and more. There are so many opportunities for learning, but a child would never know it! The best part is that throughout the season, the landscape may change as different plants come into bloom, thus creating a different experience each time you visit. Don’t miss the Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden on the other side of the grounds and check out the topiary figures in the Mexican Garden along the way.

Try This:
1.     Favorites Poll: Have your little learner create a poll to find out family and friends’ favorite playground activity. Is it the slide, swings, monkey bars, pole, seesaw or something else entirely? After collecting responses, create a visual representation of the results like a graph or collage.

2.     Obstacle Course: Visit your local playground and create an obstacle course. Who can be the first to swing back and forth 10 times, take giant steps to the monkey bars, swing across the monkey bars, climb the rope ladder, go down the slide and touch the pole? Phew, need a break, sit on the bench and draw an aerial view of the course in a notebook. Create a different course each time you go and add it to your notebook. You can even log course completion times and try to break your records.

3.     Named in your Honor: As the champion of playground obstacle courses, a playground is being designed and named in your honor. Create your own 3-dimensional playground. Use any materials you can think of. Here is a list to get you started.

  • Craft supplies: construction paper, pipe cleaners, yarn, felt, corrugated paper…
  • Organic material (depending on the artwork’s life expectancy): grass, twigs, sand…
  • Other: cereal box, straws, toothpicks, pieces of broken toys, corks, bottle caps…

“All the world’s a playground!”

Seeing Multiples

I like repetition
, or as the San Diego Museum of Art says, multiples. I recently visited their exhibition Young Art 2011: Making Multiples, featuring student artwork hung in the galleries among artists like Andy Warhol and Josef Albers. Student artwork, which is only on display through May 29, 2011, was created in a variety of media with subjects such as a field of sunflowers, a classroom of desks, ceramic toes, a carousel of horses, a tree of owls and a 3-headed monster.

The exhibition also featured an interactive wall display for visitors to record their thoughts on the following prompt, “To me, making multiples means…” Did you catch the alliteration, or letter ‘m’ repetition? A few of my favorite responses included: family, being a twin, and “the stars are multiples of the sun.” This display got me thinking beyond exhibitions and museum collections to the repetition/multiples surrounding us everyday – both physically and conceptually. Keep reading for crafty ideas to explore repetition.

Here is my growing list of multiples (in no particular order of thought):
•       a rose garden
•       stairs
•       stamps
•       chicken pox
•       a forest
•       boats in a harbor
•       a litter of puppies
•       a box of crayons
•       tongue teasers
•       popcorn
•       a library or bookstore
•       Portland (Oregon) bridges
•       wrapping paper
•       a bag of skittles
•       bulk food bins
•       traditions
•       laundry

What’s on your list? Beware, it is difficult to stop thinking of multiples once you start.

Try This:
1. I spy…multiples! Visit your local park, museum, or farmer’s market and try to find one multiple for each letter of the alphabet. Write the letters of the alphabet down on a piece of paper. You can complete one paper for the entire family or race to be the first to complete the entire alphabet. Or, create a multiples notebook with each letter of the alphabet on a separate page. Whenever your family finds a little spare time, illustrate your notebook with the multiples you see around you.

I Spy variation: I Spy books are full of repetition. Visit your library and check one out to explore with your family. Then, visit these blogs to learn how to create your own reusable I Spy book or placemat.

2. Tongue Teaser Alliterations: You already know “how much wood can a woodchuck chuck” and that “Sally sells seashells by the seashore.” Create silly alliterations with your family.

3. Printmaking: This is as easy as carving into the surface of Styrofoam using a toothpick, but don’t push all the way through. You will need ink and a roller from a craft store. Visit an art museum or grab an Andy Warhol picture book for some inspiration!

4. Optical Illusions are often filled with repetition. Check out the work of M. C. Escher  and then visit your local science center for some brain teasers!

Itinerary: [insert your city here]
You can look for multiples everywhere – in nature, museums, stores, harbors or even at your house. Here are a few of my favorite places to search:

Balboa Park, San Diego – Don’t miss the Rose Garden, Mingei International Museum (Beckoning Cats through January 2012), San Diego Museum of Art (Making Multiples through May 29, 2011), Palm Canyon and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center for optical illusions.

The Huntington near Pasadena, California has a little bit of everything – gardens, library and art collections. Perfect for a game of I Spy.

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh – don’t forget The Andy Warhol Museum!

A local Farmers’ Market – produce, art, rows of booths…

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