Imagination Playground at Bluebird Gap Farms

Our original post on Bluebird Gap Farms is here, and you should check it out. It's fun, it's free, and there is a really good playground. This summer they have the Imagination Playground exhibit, which is actually the exhibit we looked for at Air and Space Museum, but never found.
The playground is composed of large blue blocks that kids can use to create whatever they want. Physics and engineering concepts actually come into play with this too. R built towers and knocked hem down, but lots of other kids were making their own playgrounds or paths for balls to travel down. It's advertised for ages 3-8, but there were some younger and some older there. 

Of course we also wandered around to look at the animals and spent some time on the playground too. No trip over there is complete without it! 


Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids

Haircuts can be scary for kids! They sit in a strange chair, under a bright light, surrounded by sharp instruments and things that buzz. They get sprayed with water and have weird smelling stuff on them. If they use a hair dryer, it's hot air and noise all in one.
Let's start with what I love about this place even before going - they take appointments. This is so valuable to busy moms who have equally busy toddlers who can't sit forever waiting. Once we got there, the people were friendly and welcomed us in. R had thrown up in the car (what's with him throwing up on the way to places? Never on the way home) so we rushed in to the bathroom to clean it up. They didn't even blink an eye.

They let him pick out a chair, which was a big choice - the choice between the cars and planes, and then a show on Netflix. They let him decide if he wanted a cape, let him touch the tools before using them, and even let him spray the spray bottle. The whole experience was quick and painless. There were no tears.

After he got a balloon, we let him play on the little play set. He also insisted on getting in several of the other cars, and then he cried and kicked when it came time to leave. From what I've read from everything, kids fight going into getting their hair cut, or while it's happening, not when it's time to leave!


They do have a grown up chair where moms and dads can get a haircut while their child does, which I love. They also offer shampoos in possibly the cutest shampoo sink ever and lots of kid approved products. One was a color gel that I almost walked away with.


And... the end result, I think he looks like a grown man! 

Prices: 
Kid cut: $17.95
Kid cut and shampoo: $20.95 
Teen cut: $18.95
Bang Trim: $6.95
Braiding (per 15 min) $8.95 and up
Hairstyle (per 30 min) $18.95 and up
Baby's First Haircut Package $21.95
Mommy Cut $25.95
Daddy Cut 19.95 

A few tips! Be on the lookout for coupons, which come out regularly. Also, consider getting the 5 for $75 card for a savings of $14.75. Weekends are their busiest times, so if you can sneak in on a weekday you'll be set. You can make an appointment online, over the phone, or via the app. The app will soon give loyalty points too. Lastly, be sure to like their facebook page where they regularly have giveaways! 



World of Reptiles- VA Zoo


After a long wait, the World of Reptiles at the Virginia Zoo is finally open! The new exhibit is in the same space as the old reptile house, but it has double the exhibits. So far, there are snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles (omg the Alligator snapping turtle is a dinosaur...), spiders, cockroaches, and toads. The exhibit isn't actually finished... monkeys, alligators, seahorses, birds, and sloths are still to come!
Some of the cool points to see are the tropical frog conservation lab where the zoo helps breed amphibians, and the amphibian nursery for when the babies are born. There is also a reptile nursery. The teacher in me is seeing a lot of science SOL's being hit here! Also be sure to check out the aquatic gallery towards the end. Check out the tentacled snake, who looks super weird and apparently makes waves with its mouth to make fish change direction and swim towards it so it can eat them.

Another new feature that is kid climbed-on approved is Snavely. This is actually the region's largest snake sculpture and is a Rhinoceros Viper. 

Also redone is the Beastro, a snack shack outside of the World of Reptiles. It's got some kid friendly snacks and lunch options, including a PBJ.

Of course we couldn't leave without having a little water fun. The fountains are open all day now that school is out!

My Gym Hampton Roads

Let's scream something from the rooftops right now before I even begin... hello Sunday morning and week night classes that working moms can go to!  I did a mom rant awhile back about how there are so many awesome things in our area, but so few of them are available for working moms. So many people wrote in saying that they felt the same frustration. Well, here is My Gym Hampton Roads, with classes for us working mamas!

The goal of My Gym is to build a child's self esteem and confidence through the use of meaningful play. My Gym has been ranked the number one children's program worldwide. I chatted with a mama of a sweet little girl while we were there (who didn't know I was writing this even!) and she told me about how much her daughter has changed since they first started. She said that she is so much more confident and independent since they started these classes.

The classes rank from 6 months to 8 years:
  • The Tiny Tikes/ Waddlers, 6-22 months, leads babies (and their parents!) through stretches, songs, dances, and exercises. This includes work with balance and agility skills and introduces tumbling. Monday: 5:00 PM, Tues & Fri: 11:25, Sat: 8:45. Yes! There is a class for working moms!
  • Mymo's Mixers, 6 months-5 years, This is a class that caters to families with kids of different ages, but you don't have to be one to attend. There are pre-gymnastic skills, songs, dances, and games. Tues- 3:55 
  • Waddlers, for 14 -22 months. This is for children who are moving from crawling to running. Fine motor skills are worked on such as kicking a ball, riding a tricycle, walking up stairs, and building towers. They do choreographed dances and puppet shows and work on a variety of swings. Mon- 10:14, Wed- 9:15, Thurs - 11:15. 
  • Gymsters is for 1 year 11 months-2 1/2 years and for confident runners and jumpers. They will dance, swing, play games and with puppets, ride on rides, and work in gymnastics. Tues: 5:05, Thurs: 9:15, Fri 10:25, Sat 9:45. Another time for working mamas. 
  • Gymsters/Terrific Tots is the gymsters class, but expanded a bit to extend in another year, with a mix of Terrific Tots. Mon: 9:15. 
  • Terrific Tots: This is the first class where toddlers become bigger kids. Parental involvement gradually decreases and teachers work more with physical and social skills. Wed: 10:15, Thus: 10:15 and 6:00, Sat 10:45, Sun 8:45. 
  • Mighty Mites for 3 1/4-4 1/2 years with work on positive reinforcement, self reliance, and following directions. They work with relays, more complex games, build strength, and hand-eye coordination.  Mon: 6, Wed 11:15, Thurs 12:45, Fri 9:15, Sat 11:45. 
  • Ninja Training 4-6, build strength, stamina, and agility. Fri 3:45, Sat 9:45 
  • Whiz Kids/ Championships 4 1/2 to 8 years. Children refine all of their skills. Wed 6:26, Sun 10:45. 
We did the Gymsters/Terrific Tots class. The class is actually built up of lots of small parts to keep the small attention span of this age engaged. They really put a lot into one class! We started with circle time which worked on stretching, body part recognition, and rock backs- which R loved. They sang a song, counted, and danced while working on some fine motor skills. Then they let the kids explore before breaking into the gymnastic skills. These change, but for our class they had hanging bars and a climbing station. After a few minutes of that, they hooked swings up to the ceiling for kids to play on and started up the "water slide". 


R was super into the ball pit and the slide, where they take an old school trash can style sled and let the kids go down the ramp. Then, they did separation time. In order to help kids with separation anxiety, they give kids toys and have the parents walk into the lobby. I've never been at a class where they did this, but R was totally fine. (All he cared about was the ball pit!) They switched to organizational and problem solving skills using sorting before calling everyone back for a song/puppet and to say goodbye. The class went by in a flash because it was built up of so many small parts. The staff was great about making sure to keep an eye on all of the kids and helping them with whatever task they were doing.
 

There are a couple different ways to take advantage of My Gym. The first is to enroll in a class. This means that you attend this class regularly, but right now for the summer they are offering unlimited classes. This means that you can come to all of the classes you sign up for, not just your specific day. You can also take advantage of the practice and play times. That's the best deal. If you're not enrolled, you can still come in to check it out. The play and practice time can still be used by members who are not enrolled in a class for $7.00, or $10.00 for nonmembers. Siblings are just an additional $5.00. Another awesome thing to keep in mind is that this My Gym accepts memberships from out of town, so if you're visiting, you can still visit!  
There are also birthday party times available. Your party rents out the whole gym, and the staff will handle invitations, set up, decorations, entertainment, refreshments, and cleanup. Parents just get to sit back and relax. Hey- it's the day we brought a kid into the world too. We deserve a little celebration on that day too. Parties can be held Friday- Sunday. 
And... the ball pit. Oh man, R was a huge fan of this. I couldn't keep him out of it. Seeing how much fun he had in this was worth it alone! First class is free, so take advantage of it and try one out this summer. Honestly, for us, the hardest part was leaving when it was over!  (Being two is hard!) 



Saturday Morning in Olde Towne Portsmouth

We recently spent a very warm Saturday morning strolling through Olde Towne Portsmouth to check out their Farmer's Market. They had an assortment of handmade jewelry, soaps, jams, jellies, and sewn crafts in addition to several farm stands. The market is at the intersection of High and Court streets. It is every Saturday from 9-1. Most of the products sold are locally grown and raised chemical free. There is also a flea market within walking distance.

I really like the old charm of Olde Towne. There are several cafes with outdoor seating and the people are all friendly. There was even a police horse out who was happy to have people pet him. Although we tried to pet the "neigh-neigh," R got too scared. But hey, he was much bigger than our dogs. Within the square there are several little museums and libraries and parking is free on the weekends in the garage. 

One store that we stumbled onto was Little Shoppes on High. This shop is actually four stores in one location. They have kids' clothes and toys and even a little section for kids to play as well as items for adults. They even offered us free lemonade which was perfect for such a hot day. They are open Tuesday-Saturday 11:00-5:00. I've actually walked by here several times and only went in for the first time today. I love supporting local businesses, and with big box stores taking over, I sometimes worry that little stores like this one won't last. We grabbed a reusable coloring learning mat and a gift for Bubbie, whose birthday is coming soon. 




I want to come back and do several more things around town. There are lots of boating things to do, museums to see, and places to eat. Be on the lookout for some of the free festivals and events that they have going on too. 


Music Together of Hampton Roads

Music is a key ingredient in our home, but neither Neil nor I actually play an instrument. All children are musical though, and have the potential to be music makers. Music together class is for babies, grown ups, and everyone in between.
The Music Together program actually dates back to 1987 and was started by a theatre composer and music educator. He saw that children without early music training had developmental deficits in music, and he set out to fix it. Music Together is now in 2,000 communities in the United States and 40 countries around the world and is the first organization to offer mixed age classes. Both local instructors have masters degrees in music and have worked in the music field all their lives.
Full sessions are offered in the fall, winter, and spring, and a six week session is offered each summer. Tuition includes recordings of the music, an illustrated songbook, and parent education resources. There is even a free app! The classes start out by singing a sort of scales, but with silly noises to get the kids interested. The expectations are that children and parents are to be who they are. Everyone can jump in or sit back until they are comfortable. Some kids marched around the circle to songs while others sat inside. Movements range from small finger movements to large march movements. There are several instruments, some like the shakers, your (ahem.. my) kid might hold on to the whole time and refuse to give back. That was fine. Everyone that comes out to the kids is cleaned after every class, which every mom can appreciate.
The songs range from classic nursery rhymes to silly new songs, including one about splashing everywhere from the mud, to the bathtub, to the dog bowl that particularly stood out to me. There were some echo songs that reminded me of jazz, call and answer songs, and rhythm and tonal patterns. This class is perfect for a future rock (or piano, or jazz, or pop) star. Each song ends in a lullaby as a way to calm the kids down before they leave.

Classes start at birth and range to infants to big kids. Babies Class is for infants and parents of infants who want to learn about music development in babies. One part of this class is specifically geared to the interaction with other parents of newborns and learning how to recreate activities to do at home.

Babies Class:
Thursday 11:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church

The Babies class class is for children 8 months and younger. The families learn lots of different musical activities for babies and learn to understand which behaviors of babies are musical so that they can support their behavior. The babies class connects a lot of moms within the community too. I made friends at a class like this that I'm so thankful for!

Mixed Age Music ( Summer session)
  • Monday 10:15 RPM Dance 
  • Tuesday 10:00 Larchmont United Methodist Church; 11:00 Larchmont United Methodist Church 
  • Wednesday 10:00 Parkway Christian Center;  9:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church; 10:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church; 4:00 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church 
  • Thursday 10:00 RPM Dance; 9:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church; 10:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church 
  • 9:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church; 10:30 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church 
Mixed age classes are perfect for families with kids of different ages. (This is the one we did!)  They are also great because older kids get to be leaders, and younger kids mimic what the older kids are doing. They welcome all kinds of families and care givers to join in. There are sibling discounts too. 

There are still lots of demo classes this summer:
  • Wednesday, June 27th at 10:00 Parkway Christian, Chesapeake 
  • Monday, July 2nd at 10:00 at RPM Dance Studio, Suffolk 
  • Thursday, July 5th at 10:00 at RPM Dance Studio, Suffolk 
  • Friday, July 6th at 10:00 at Larchmont United Methodist, Norfolk 
The 6- week summer session begins on July 9th. Online registration is available HERE
For more info, you can contact Emily, (757) 971-1029 or emilyjbrennan@gmail.com

Maritime Monday, Dollar Admission to the Mariners' Museum

For the first day of Summer Break 2018 we headed over to Newport News to the Mariners' Museum. I went there once in college for a class, but other than that, I knew little about the museum. The museum is doing $1.00 admission for the summer, which you can't beat. Here are some toddler approved highlights, saving the best for last. 

  • The Noland Trail: We started our morning by strolling for a little bit on the Noland Trail. The five mile trail wraps around Lake Maury and has fourteen bridges, lots of benches, port a potties, and lots of parking. There were lots of people out walking or running on the trail. A heads up, while tree roots are clearly marked with bright orange paint, I wouldn't call it the best trail for a regular stroller. Be sure to bring a jogger, backpack, or plan to let your little ones walk. If you're like us and are not walking the whole trek, be sure to see the Lions Bridge. We saw all kinds of birds along with ducks, squirrels, and big turtles. It was kind of like a Snow White fairy tale woodsy feeling.
 
  • The Model Ships: This was R's favorite room of the museum. It's got lots of model ships (or toot-toot's in our world) and even a demonstration of them in the making. 


  • The Children's Activity Center: This is open at various and hosts tables of legos and lego duplos for kids. The lego sets are ships and pirates, so it's perfect for the museum. Sometimes there are even Jr. Mariners in here, which I think is a cool example of kids being leaders for younger kids. 


  • The Activity Ship: We spent a long time here joined by lots of other kids. You'll notice all of these photos are action photos, because R didn't stop moving once he figured out how to climb up.  The ship lets kids climb up on and go inside of a ship. There is a wheel for them to turn and buckets for them to lift. Outside of the ship there are games of checkers and dominos along with  costumes for kids to wear. 

  • Maritime Monday: Maritime Monday is actually the reason we went. This program is designed for children 18 months-8 years and is free with your admission. (The whole dollar!) The Wednesday program is in Spanish and perfect for bilingual or Spanish speaking kids. The instructor was really engaging. She reviewed vocabulary from the text and asked bigger kids text-to-self connections. She also engaged the younger kids by asking them to make sound effects while she read the story. Afterwards the kids moved over to the tables to complete a craft. 



We did wander around the rest of the museum, and while it does cater to adults, R did enjoy running around in the wide places and looking at some of the boats. We arrived on the property around 8:30 and there was enough there to entertain us until we had to head home for lunch. For a dollar a person all summer, you simply can't beat this deal. I'm officially marking this down as a repeat! 
 


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