Houston Public Library’s Camp STREAM… A FREE day camp in August

Robinson Westchase Houston Public Library Bench
Camp STREAM is the Houston Public Library’s FREE week-long summer program that teaches STREAM topics (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) each day of the week.

Topics include:

  • Renewable Energy
  • Creative Writing
  • LEGO Robotics
  • Video Making
  • Computer Programming
  • Video Game Design
  • Theatre Play

For Summer 2015, there are 4 locations, for K-12:

Henington-Alief Regional Library: August 3 – August 7
Collier Regional Library: August 3 – August 7
Scenic Woods Regional Library: August 10 – August 14
Park Place Regional Library: August 17 – August 21

To learn more and to register, go HERE.



An Amazing Family Vacation… Just 30 Minutes Away. Tips for Visiting The Woodlands Resort!

The Woodlands Resort Buildings BigKidSmallCity
I think family vacations are hard… coordinating schedules, buying tickets, booking hotels, planning out itineraries and packing every kid thing we might need is overwhelming and probably why we rarely take big family vacations. Besides visiting grandparents, we generally stick to day trips.

The trick with this is, we never really take a break from our daily routine and rarely just enjoy free time as a family.

I thought it had to be hard work and a big trip to enjoy a summer vacation, but I just returned from a weekend at The Woodlands Resort and had my mind changed.

The Woodlands Resort Lake and Decks BigKidSmallCity
The Woodlands Resort invited me out for a week and completely changed my attitude towards family vacations. We had 3 days and 2 nights at the pools, bike trails, spa and restaurants… and felt like we had real deal, hard-to-plan vacation… but all we did was book a room, drive 30 minutes and enjoy.

The Woodlands Resort Waterfall at Slides BigKidSmallCity
I had been to this resort for business conferences, but never for a vacation.  I have to say that rooms are nice, the pools are great and the customer service was amazing.

From letting us check in early (as soon as our room was available), to taking in our bags, to finding us bikes to borrow, to carting us around on golf carts to unlocking our room safe when a certain blanket was mysteriously trapped inside to making crafts by the pool, the staff insisted on helping.

The Woodlands Resort Lazy River Tube BigKidSmallCity
The staff did a good job making sure we could just focus on enjoying the resort.  And this is what we did!

The pools include a lazy river, shallow baby pool, splashpad, giant waterfall pool and the big pool with beach entry, palm tree island and water slides.  All around the pools are lounge chairs and poolside food and drink service… but we never stopped to get a chair… we were too busy!

The Woodlands Resort Lazy River Beach Entry Start BigKidSmallCity
The lazy river was probably our favorite pool. The current is slow at the start and you can float down the river. Half way through you find more beach chairs and a water slide. This “secret” slide generally had no line and was a much faster slide than the ones at the main pool. And by faster, I mean that it shot the kids down like rockets.

The Woodlands Resort Lazy River Fast Slide BigKidSmallCity
The second half of the lazy river had a small wave machine that made the water choppy and more fun to float through. At the end, if you don’t walk towards the beach entry, you get pulled back along the river… which my kids just “accidentally” swam directly into each time around. So around and around we went. Floating, swimming, walking through the river, shooting down the slide, bouncing in the waves… and doing it again and again.

The Woodlands Resort Splashpad and Small Pool BigKidSmallCity
In the middle of the pools was the little kid area, with shallow kids pool, splashpad and craft and activity station.  This was a nice break for me, to watch from the edge while the kids floated and splashed.  Also, during the weekend, the staff had constant crafts and activities planned… so between splashes, the kids make octopus puppets, played mini golf and participated in dive contests.

The Woodlands Resort Pool Crafts BigKidSmallCity
Just steps away was the big beach entry pool and horse shoe shaped waterfall pool.

The Woodlands Resort Slides and Waterfall BigKidSmallCity
At night time, the bonfire pit opened up for smores and the pool became a dive in movie theater.

The Woodlands Resort Smores by the Pool
One night we watched the movie, the next we took a nightime walk around the pools and the lake (and found lots of toads).

The Woodlands Resort Dive In Movie BigKidSmallCity
The nights are so busy at the resort that the mornings are pretty quiet. The pools have just a few families swimming and grounds seem empty. The resort has kid and adult bikes to lend guests to ride the many trails in The Woodlands. This seems to be pretty popular, because the bikes were mostly gone when we arrived each morning.

The Woodlands Resort Bike Rentals
We had brought bikes for the kids and just needed the adult bikes to borrow. Instead of venturing out across busy roads (to the trails), we rode around the quiet resort until we were all ready for the pool.

The Woodlands Resort Waterfall BigKidSmallCity
In addition to the poolside food service, the resort has a a family dining room. When we visited, kids ate free during dinner time (kids 12 and under eat FREE 5-7pm with purchase of adult entrée and kids under 5 are always free). We liked it best when there was a Saturday night buffet, because it had good food and was fast (so we could get back to the fun!).

The Woodlands Resort Dining Room Avocados
Maybe my favorite part of the resort was that our room was right next to the pools. We did not have a pool-facing room, but we were just steps away from the water. We could run in, grab some water, reapply sunscreen and be back out in minutes.

The Woodlands Resort Splashing Out of Slide BigKidSmallCity
If you plan to visit the resort, here are some quick tips to help you plan your trip:

  • There are no lifeguards on duty.  The staff is great with helping you enjoy your trip, but you must plan to watch your kids in the water.
  • Floaties and toys are allowed.  Feel free to bring noodles and small water toys.
  • Tubes are provided for the lazy river, but just in the big size.  My kids slipped through (often on purpose)… but if yours truly want to float down the river, bring a small innertube.
  • Bring your life vests if you need them… but if you forget, ask the staff.  We left ours in the car on our first trip to the pool and when we asked the woman at the towel station, she found some vests behind the bar for us to borrow.
  • Wear sandals!  The sidewalks are super hot in the middle of the day.  Bring some cheap flip flops that you don’t mind (potentially) losing.  It makes walking between pools much nicer, and you can kick them off before you jump in.
  • To use the slides, kids need to be 42″… My 3 year old was just shy of this at the front pool… but at the back “secret” lazy river slide, he was just over the mark.  He was certain he had grown between the front and back of the resort.  You might want to check out the back slide if you have the same issue at the front slide.
  • No outside food is allowed by the pools… but we brought our own groceries for snacks and a light lunch to eat in the room.  We stored them in the mini-fridge and this saved us some money (because my kids are eating-machines).  We also brought in gallons of water to be sure we stayed hydrated.
  • Bring lots of sunscreen and run back to your (very close) room every hour to reapply, get a drink and eat a snack.
  • The bike rentals were popular.  If you are not flexible on time or bike size, bring your own bikes.  (Bike rentals are included in the Resort Fee from Memorial Day – Labor Day.  Other times it’s $5 per bike for up to 4 hours.)
  • Mornings were very quiet at the resort.  When we visited, you could have the pool (almost) to yourself at 8:00am.
  • If you are planning a trip for this summer (before 9/3/15), you can use code Summerfun2 to get 20% off your 2 night stay Sunday through Thursday, of use code Summerfun3 for 30% off your 3 night stay Sunday through Thursday.

If you go, tell us about it!  If you are looking for more easy roadtrip ideas, go HERE!

The Woodlands Resort Lazy River BigKidSmallCity
 

The Woodlands Resort Lazy River Slide BigKidSmallCity
 

The Woodlands Resort Pool Ping Pong Table BigKidSmallCity
 

Address: 2301 North Millbend Drive, The Woodlands, Texas 77380



Nottingham Park & Splashpad – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time

Nottingham Park Playground
Address: 14205 Kimberley Ln, Houston, TX 77079

This week’s park was so popular with my kids, we visited on one day and just had to return the next.  It’s Nottingham Park!

This is a really big park with playground, kid fit playground, splashpad, restroom, running path and more.  There is a large parking lot and lots of free street parking.

Nottingham Park Tunnels Houston
The play area is completely fenced with two super deluxe play structures, a splashpad and shaded seating area.  There is a toddler area with small tunnels, toad stools and clubhouse.  The big area has lots of twists and turns and tunnels and monkey bars and ladders and much more.

Nottingham Park Monkey Bars Houston
My 8 year old’s favorite parts were the monkey bars and zip line.  There were wheel monkey bars that turned and also regular bars.  He got blisters on day one and returned on day two with gloves.

Wheel Monkey Bars Nottingham Park Houston
The playground and splashpad is in full sun, so it does get hot on the equipment.  Also, be sure you bring your sunscreen and hats.

Nottingham Park Toddler Playground
The restrooms here were clean but the toilets are what I suspect you find in a jail cell.  So use them if you need to… but you’ve been warned!

Kid Fit Park Nottingham Park Houston
As we were leaving the playground area, we saw fitness equipment.  My kids were begging to visit it, but I thought it was probably for adults.  I told my son he could run over quick… but to hurry.  When I caught up, I was delighted to see it was a Kid Fit Fitness Park!

Kid Fit Park Monkey Bars Nottingham Park Houston
The kids climbed the rock wall, did push ups and swung on the monkey bars, while yelling that they were America Ninja Warriors.

Rock Wall at Kid Fit Park Nottingham Park Houston
We had such a good time that the next day, the kids insisted on returning.  So we did it all again!

Nottingham Park Shade
This park was recommended by a Houston mom and we through it was great.  One thing I should mention are the Yelp reviews… some reviews say it’s in a bad neighborhood.  I didn’t see these reviews until after my visit, and was quite surprised.

Nottingham Park Splashpad Houston
To get there, we drove by really nice family ranch style houses and then apartments directly across from the park.  The houses were nicer than mine and I don’t think apartments automatically make a neighborhood bad. We appreciated the diverse and friendly crowd.  I had no safety concerns for my family.

I do plan to take my Ninja Warriors back!



Half Day in Houston: Waterparks, Wetlands and a Battleship!

Pirates Bay Water Park in Baytown
Photo Credit: Fun2Go Misters!
Having fun with the family and exploring Houston can be easy!  If you have a few hours, we have ideas on how to spend them with the kids.

In this Half Day in Houston series, find a place to park, play, explore and eat… all in one spot.  Pick what you like or combine with another Half Day post!

In this adventure, make the trip to Baytown… and make it worth your drive!  Visit Pirates Bay Water Park, Calypso Cove, The Wetlands Center… and then the San Jacinto Monument!

 

Park:

For this adventure, you’ll need to drive to each spot… but there are big parking lots… and once you drive to Baytown from Houston, you might as well visit lots of places!

 

Explore:

Pirates Bay Water Park Baytown Slides
Photo Credit: Fun2Go Misters!

1. Pirates Bay Water Park – 5300 East Road, Baytown, TX 77521 – M-T: 11:00-7:00pm, F-S: 10:00-7:00pm, $5-20/person

Cool off this summer by visiting Baytown’s little waterpark.  Just arrive near opening time because this park often reaches capacity.

For Summer 2015, check the calendar for the Itty Bitty Beach Parties.  The event is for kids 5 and under (and their siblings) and is a discounted $5/person over 2.  The front beach area of Pirates Bay is open for a couple hours, just for the little kids.

 

 

The Wetlands Center Bunny
2.  The Wetlands Center – 1724 Market Street, Baytown, TX 77520 – M-F: 8:00-4:00pm, S: 10:00-4:00pm – Free

Just a short drive away from Pirates Bay is the The Wetlands Center!  Here you can find juvenile alligators, a demonstration honeybee hive, native Texas snakes and much more.

Check the calendar for the latest storytimes and hands-on events.  For summer 2015, you can attend the Itty Bitty Beach Party and catch a storytime (and maybe touch a snake or alligator!) right afterward!

The Wetlands Center Snake
 

3.  Calypso Cove – 2428 West Main, Baytown, Texas 77520 – Daily: 10:00-7:00pm – $5/person

If you haven’t had enough water fun yet, head to Calypso Cove.  Here you will find a beach entry pool, lots of spray features, water crossing chalenge, slides, lap pool and picnic spots.  Coolers are allowed in, so eat your lunch by the water!

 

View from top of Battleship Texas
4.  San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site – 3523 Independence Parkway, La Porte, TX 77571 – $12/person 13+, Free for 12 and under

If you still have time and energy, loop around to the San Jacinto Monument on your way back to Houston.

Explore Battleship Texas, docked in the Houston Ship Channel.  Families can actually board the ship and see what Navy life was like in both World Wars.

 

Eat:

Pirates Bay Playground
For this trip, bring a picnic!  You can eat it at the playground outside Pirates Bay, at Calypso Cove or on the grounds of the San Jacinto Battleground.

 



Join Us for the BigKidSmallCity Storytime at Brazos Bookstore! Saturday, July 18, 2015

Brazos Bookstore Storytime
Meet me at Brazos Bookstore on Saturday, July 18 at 10:30am!

BigKidSmallCity will be at Brazos Bookstore, reading 2 of our favorite books: Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Press Here by by Herve Tullet. After the story, there will be an activity and treats from Dixie’s Dessert Delivery.

So you too can beep “hello” to the animals, like the LITTLE BLUE TRUCK, we’re giving 1 family, 4 tickets to the Houston Zoo!  Just sign up to attend the event below, and you will be entered to win!

AND, so I do not have to do all the work with PRESS HERE, I’ll be looking for volunteers to help me.  Bring your own PRESS HERE, buy a copy at the store, or help me with my book!

The event is free… and all you need to do is reserve a spot below. Be one of the first 50 to get a spot… and we’ll see you there!  (Brazos Bookstore is at 2421 Bissonnet Street, Houston, Texas 77005)

If you want to join us on Saturday, July 18, 2015, you must:
1. Fill out the form below.
2. Be one of the first 50 to respond. The form will be turned off once it is full.
3. If you sign up, bring your kids to Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet Street, Houston, Texas 77005) on Saturday, July 18 at 10:30am. The event is free.
4. Parking will be TIGHT. If you get a spot in the small lot… that’s great. If not, go around the block for free street parking. Just follow the signs for any parking restrictions.
5. Make every effort to attend. Spaces are limited and we want as many kids to get a chance as possible. If you need to cancel, email me at Jill @ BigKidSmallCity.com.

Zoo Ticket Giveaway closes on July 17, 2015 at 9:59am.  Zoo Tickets Expire 3/31/16.

Official Rules: http://wp.me/P2efXF-6RY



Play with your Art at Shadow Monsters, Museum of Fine Arts Houston!

Shadow Monsters at Museum of Fine Arts Houston 61
Again this summer, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston has a great interactive installation… It’s Shadow Monsters!

Kids (and adults!) create their own shadows with this high-tech version of shadow-puppets. The art uses vision-recognition software to augment your gestures with sound and animation.

This exhibit is free with admission… and is included in the free admission day every Thursday.

Be sure to check this out before September 20, 2015… and share your pictures with #ShadowMonsters!

Shadow Monsters at Museum of Fine Arts Houston 6



Where’s Waldo? Find him in 23 local shops in July!

Impromptu
During the month of July, you can find Waldo at 23 local Houston stores!  No purchase in necessary… just visit any of the participating stores, grab a passport, and get to searching for Waldo!

Collect at least 10 different store stamps and bring them to Brazos Bookstore to claim a “I Found Waldo” button and $1 off coupon.

Find Waldo at all 23 local businesses and and be entered to win a 6-volume deluxe set of Waldo books and fantastic prizes from our Find Waldo Local partners.  (Many shops are next door to each other, so you won’t be driving all over town!)

Prizes will be given at the Brazos Bookstore party on Saturday, August 1 at 1:00pm.

Buffalo Exchange
We participated in this scavenger hunt the last two summers and had a GREAT time.  It is easy, air conditioned and fun.  In some stores, it’s easy to find Waldo.  In others, it is a huge challenge!

You do not need to purchase anything at the 23 stores, but it is fun to see them.  Last year I found some very unique gifts while searching for the little Waldo figure.

The participating stores are:

Visit any of these stores to get your passport and get started finding Waldo!  Go here for more information!

 



Menard Park in Galveston – Visiting Houston Area Parks, One Week at a Time

Menard Park Splashpad Galveston
Address:  2222 28th Street, Galveston, TX 77553

This week’s park is across from the Seawall and Pleasure Pier in Galveston… it’s Menard Park!  When you are on the beach, you may not notice it because there is a rec center building on the street.  Just behind this there is a splashpad, skate park, dog park and playground.

Teeter Totter Menard Park in Galveston
The equipment is mostly new with lots of unique features.  On is this stand up teeter-tooter that we spent a lot of time bouncing on.  Another was the “wheel” monkey bars.  And the twisting and turning ladders and stairs.  And…

Wheel Monkey Bars at Menard Park Galveston
The equipment is in good condition… except for some wear on the exercise station and a little damage on the small play structure.  Still, there is plenty to do for big and little kids.

Menard Park Galveston Playground Ladder
My favorite part is the splashpad… especially after a trip to the sandy beach.  It can be turned on with a button and was nice and clean.

Fitness Center at Menard Park Galveston
The one thing that I should mention is this… the park was mostly empty when we visited on a weekday morning.  I noticed that in the evening it was really crowded… and we avoided it.

The two odd things about the park are these…  you can see the Pleasure Pier and Fish Tales Restaurant and Country Inn and Suites from the park, but there were no tourists.  It’s behind a rec center, so maybe no one knows it is there. Also, when we visited, there were lots of maybe 5th-8th graders, but no adults.  No one was misbehaving too badly… but some boys-trying-to-impress-girls was going on.

Playing Trucks at Menard Park Galveston
Still, next time we’re back in Galveston, near the Pleasure Pier, we plan to go back.  As long as it’s not too crowded, we’ll be happy to cool off in the splashpad!



Half Day in Houston: Downtown Picnic, Playground, Spalshpad & Secret Listening Vessels!

Having fun with the family and exploring Houston can be easy!  If you have a few hours, we have ideas on how to spend them with the kids.

In this Half Day in Houston series, find a place to park, play, explore and eat… all in one spot.  Pick what you like or combine with another Half Day post!

In this adventure, grab supplies at Phoenicia, have a picnic at Discovery Green, play at the playground, splash in the splashpad and find the secret listening vessels!

 

MetroRail Train in Mid Main
Park or Ride:

For this urban Downtown adventure, take the METRORail or park on the street at Discovery Green.  If you take the train, you can park anywhere along the line… the museum district can be congested but has several $5 lots along Binz.  Jump off at Main Street Square and walk the 5 blocks east(ish) to Discovery Green.  (See the map below.)

If you don’t have time or energy for the METRORail, just drive and park at Discovery Green.  Street parking is metered (about $2/hour) and is free after 6:00pm and on Sundays.  Paid lots are also available, including one under the park, with an entrance on the George R. Brown side (and it’s about $12).

 

Explore:

Phoenicia Specialty Foods Store
1.  Phoenicia Specialty Foods – 1001 Austin Street, Houston, TX 77010

Right across from the Discovery Green playground is the One Park Place Apartment Tower.  If you walk around to the opposite side of the tower, you’ll find Phoenicia Specialty Foods and MKT BAR!  You know we like the restaurant, MKT BAR… but we also love the grocery store.  Grab a sandwich, pizza, salad, hummus, fresh pitas and much more… plus a drink and utensils… and head to Discovery Green!

 

Mist Tree at Discovery Green
2.  Discovery Green – 1500 McKinney Street, Houston, TX 77010

Usually these half day posts take you to several spots… but Discovery Green has plenty of fun to keep you busy for a few hours!

Discovery Green Playground
First you can play at the John P. McGovern Playground.  This is slightly below street level, so kids don’t dark into traffic.  The play structure has ropes, bridges and slides.  Once the kids are hot, go next door to the splashpad!

Discovery Green Splashpad
The Splashpad is on a timer that starts the fountains out small… and gets bigger and bigger.  Let the kids cool off while you relax and watch from the deck.

James in Listening Vessel at Discovery Green
After hitting these popular spots, find a garden that most don’t know is a part of the park.  Over by the Hilton, you will find these amazing Listening Vessels!  These 2 limestone sculptures have concave interiors that focus sound waves. You can sit in 1 vessel and be heard in the 2nd vessel that is 70 feet away.  Read more about them HERE.

Whenever you get hungry, stop to eat your Phoenicia picnic at a table or on the grass!

 

phoenicia
Eat:

By the end of your trip, if you haven’t had enough to each on your picnic, you can grab a casual lunch at the Lakehouse Cafe, back at MKT BAR (at Phoenicia) or Pappasitos (in the Hilton across the street from the Listening Vessels)!

 

METRORail Map:

Walking Map:



Is Local Food Important to You? Don’t just shop “Texas Grown”, shop “HOUSTON Grown” with Plant It Forward Farm Shares!

Farmer Sarment with Plant it Forward Houston
According to Plant It Forward, 8 out of 10 Houstonians say locally grown food is important to them… but it’s actually not very easy to get.  Apparently, even the best stores are labeling produce from El Paso (750 miles away!) as local.

How would you like to get local farm fresh produce from… Houston?!  Plant It Forward has this for you… they support refugee farmers, support the local economy, support the development of more local farms AND bring you food that is truly locally grown. See the Plant It Forward story HERE and stay up to date with their Facebook page HERE.

Plant It Forward approached me about these Farm Shares, and I am very very happy to do so.

Their produce is free of chemical pesticides and GMOs, grown with organic practices, and is available at Farm Stands, the Eastside Farmers Market, Imperial Farmers Market … and Farm Shares can be delivered to your neighborhood!

Sign up for Farm Shares to get your share of the in-season produce, delivered to your neighborhood!  From my experience, this is the best way to ensure you eat fresh, healthy and local all year… and you are encouraged to try new produce that you may not have purchased on your own.  (Like roselle.  I would never have purchased roselle at the farmers market!)

The catch is, this is the LAST WEEK to sign up for Farm Shares.  The Plant It Forward Farm Share Program is the best way to keep local produce coming into your diet and the best way to insure a living wage for refugee farmers in Houston.  You get 6-8 different varieties of seasonal vegetables each week, enough for a family of 3-5.  Go HERE to sign up.

If you have any questions, you can also contact Kassy, the Farm Share Program Manager, directly!

Kassy Rodriguez, Farm Share Program Manager
Plant It Forward Farms
713-599-8445
kassy@plant-it-forward.org

Cost:
10-week season, July 2015-Sep 2015: $265
25-week season, July 2015-Jan 2016: $625
50-week season, July 2015-June 2015: $1200
(3% discount for paying in full, additional fee applies if paying by credit card, additional delivery fee applies at some locations)

Current pick up locations:

  • Greenway/Upper Kirby: Urban Harvest Eastside Farmer’s Market
  • Greater Fondren Southwest: Plant It Forward Farm
  • Sunset Heights: Dr. Allison Blazek’s Office
  • Montrose: Plant It Forward Farm on the University of St. Thomas Campus
  • Westbury: Westbury Community Garden
  • Southwest Houston: Plant It Forward Warehouse
  • Pearland, Pearland Elite Training
  • Meyerland, Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center Main Lobby
  • Meyerland, ERJCC Bertha Alyce School
  • South Main, St. Catherine’s Montessori
  • Sharpstown, Plant It Forward Farm at St. Paul Presbyterian Church
  • West University, Local Foods Rice Village
  • Sugarland, Farmers Market At Imperial
  • Bridgeway Office, Employees Only
  • Katy, TX
  • East End Street Market
  • Farmers Market On Grand Parkway
  • Westchase District Farmers Market

So, be sure to check out Plant It Forward, what they are doing in Houston and for Houstonians, and feed your family farm fresh and truly local produce!