Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pretend City! Children's Museum

What an amazing place Pretend City is. Upon arrival we were given a map to the city where each child can choose to visit, work and play. There was a doctor's office, Post office, Fire Station, Police Station, Gas Station, a cafe, a working farm, a theater, and many many more pint size buildings/offices inside this museum. It is definitley not your typical "look but don't touch" museum that we are all used to.

This imagination emporium stimulates creativity through pretend play using props right down to the pedal cars, street lights and stop signs.

My daughter gassed up her car, which was a pink cadillac, on the way to her pretend jobs at the cafe and the doctor's office. At the cafe, she took my order, made me an amazing pizza and served it right to my table. At the doctor's office she reviewed x-rays and tended to patients, giving them their shots and taking their vital signs. There was even a volunteer doctor on hand to help along with this pretend office.

After she worked at each job site she clocked out with her time card given to us upon our arrival. She was then able to take her time card to the ATM and received her pretend cash where she indulged herself shopping at the pretend Ralph's grocery store buying pretend eggs, milk and produce.

She was then ready for a little playtime at the beach equipped with sand, toys to build sand castles, beach chairs and umbrellas. After her exciting day at work and playing at the beach, she drove home along pretend streets stopping for pedestrians and all. Once she arrived to the pretend house fully equipped with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom she played house for quite some time.

Each station is set up with a telephone that can be used to call the other stations. My daughter called the cafe from the doctor's office to let them know that she would see them tomorrow when she returned to work.

There was a theater stage with lights and music. The backstage area was full of costumes ranging from butterfly wings to wedding dresses where your child can be the star they always wanted to be.

Pretend City is such a great experience because there are so many stations that appeal to different interest and age levels. We saw infants on up to older school aged children that were stimulated by what this place has to offer each child on their own learning and absorbtion level.

We will definitley be returning to this museum many times in the future. The regular admission price is $10 for adults and children. If you visit after 4pm the price is only $5 per person but that only allows an hour of play time which from my experience is not enough. They do have memberships ranging in price from $90 and up.

For more information about Pretend City click here.

Can't wait for our next trip to Pretend City!

Happy Pretending!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center

It is remarkable how many free or low cost activities their are available for children in Orange County. Today I was pleasantly surprised at the interactive and educational fun we had at The Peter and Mary Muth's Interpretive Center in Newport Beach.

The center is located in the Back Bay and parking is free. Their is a great little trail that lead right up to the center's building that is tucked away and cannot be seen from the road. Not having been to this amazing center, I was curious as to what we would find when we arrived after our short 2 minute hike. The views along the way were absolutely spectacular so bring your camera for bright sky days like today.

Once we arrive inside we made our way to the children's activity room where we found Ranger Sue reading a book about bats, which was the theme of today's "Wild Tales" program they hold every week on Friday from 10:30-11:15am for ages 2-8 years old. She explained all of the places bats like to call their home and their eating and sleeping habits. She prepared all the little ones for possibly spotting a bat in the night and gave tips on where they like to sleep locally (under the Jamboree bridge).

After the story, the kids were kept interactively entertained with a craft that was all focused on bats, which they all enjoyed. Then we were led on a nature hike on the trail that connects the center to the back bay guided by Ranger Sue, a real park ranger. She was very knowledgeable and pointed out all the wildlife around us such as the lizards, dragonflies, any species of birds that flew overhead and our favorite, the flying fish in the channel. Our destination on this hike was to the bat boxes the nature scouts made for the center where the bats are able to hide in the day. It was really amazing and even the mommies and daddies learned so much.

After the hike, the kids were able to play at the center with all of the toys that feature a wild life theme. Among their assortment of toys were stuffed bats, coyotes, raccoons, possums, and many more local wildlife animals. They had a display of live snakes common among the area (in their aquariums of course) and they had all sorts of information on each species.

The cost for this great morning full of fun and learning was only $5 including the craft. Now that's a bargain! For more information on this program or the many others at The Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center click here to visit their website directly.

Happy Bat Hunting!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Centennial Farms

Today we visited Centennial Farms in Costa Mesa at the OC Fairgrounds. The kids of course loved the farm animals and within the last 2 months there were several piglets born as well as a La Mancha so this was a special treat to see these little animals. This was another one of those great FREE activities that can be so much fun.

Walking onto the grounds of the farm it felt like we were transformed out of suburban Orange County and into the country. The barns, farmhouse and silo were scattered among the livestock and rows of crops on display. Centennial Farms is a 4 acre working farm and hosts educational programs for elementary age children to show the important role agriculture not only played in Orange County's history but also in their every day lives today.

The crops were amazing. There was so much information to absorb. They have such a variety of crops ranging from tomatoes, peppers, gourds, beans, and many more as well as papaya trees, pineapple trees as well as of course orange trees. They had the harvest times and information on each crop and what method they used to plant. When we left I wanted to go home and start a garden of my own. Very inspirational!

I would recommend either before or after your visit that you go on to their website (you can click here to visit their site) and they have educational print outs and games that kids can play that directly relate to what they will see at the farm.
Happy Farming!

Environmental Nature Center

Yesterday we had the great opportunity of exploring the Environmental Nature Center. What a gem of a facility. The center's building is the first LEED Green Building in Orange County built using recycled materials and solar panels and includes a natural ventilation system which eliminates the need for air conditioning. They really are showing the community a great example of how these changes can really benefit the environment.

Inside the ENC there are so many hands on displays to keep kids engaged and my kids had so much fun playing the games on display which were common among the native indigenous people so long ago. There are stations which show the wildlife such as coyotes, foxes, live snakes (the snakes were not my favorite particularly but the kids loved them), and different species of toads and insects. There are examples of the different plant species that are native of California.

As you head outside for the trails, which are host to the several different ecological areas native to California such as Desert, Wetlands, Woodlands, Forest, Valley Grassland, and Channel Island Flores, along with many more, you will find the Butterfly House which is a greenhouse that contains native species of butterflies at their various stages of life and the plant life they live from.

The staff at the ENC were the most friendly volunteer bunch I have met. They were so informative and genuinely involved in a cause they truly believe in. This just makes their passion for teaching so much easier to absorb and love as well. The best part of this center is that admission is FREE! They have several programs and events throughout the year which include Nature Walks, a Fall Faire and Pumpkin Patch and Family Wilderness Survival Classes. You can find out more about this center by clicking here.
Happy Nature Trails!