4 Easy Ways To Keep Your Kid’s Brains Active This Summer

I don’t know about your kids, but mine aren’t the biggest fans of doing much educational stuff during the summer. I get it and if I asked my mom she would probably say it wouldn’t have been my favorite thing either. But, the summer slide is a real thing! I came across a great article from NWEA, the Northwest Evaluation Association – a not-for-profit organization that has been operating for over 40 years! In this article they discovered that kids moving from 3rd to 4th grade can lose up to 20% of their learning from the previous school year. This is especially true in subjects like math and reading! Other statistics say that by the time child reaches high school 2/3 of the reading achievement gap can be attributed to the summer slide. Forcing kids to do endless amounts of work isn’t the best way to combat this. While all kid’s go through periods of time where school isn’t their favorite, making a positive connection with learning, to me anyway, is important.

So, how do we make learning fun during the summer?

  1. Incorporate learning into everyday activities: This is an easy one! Baking keeps the brain working with reading, math and figuring out how to use the recipe. Plus, it also incorporates stuff like working together and ends with a fun dessert usually! Other ways we do it is countdowns to vacations, how many more days left to this activity or that activity. Using car time to do multiplication facts or reading license plates is also fun.
  2. READ READ READ: I can’t stress this enough! The saying that “Reading is fundamental” is probably the most true statement I’ve ever heard. It is the basis of of EVERYTHING! My oldest isn’t a huge reader, like my daughter or myself, that just means we spend a little more time looking for books he likes. My kids still have a quiet time, even my almost 13 year old. During that time they can take a cat nap, draw, read, build Legos or something like that. Its good for their brains and gets them calm. Reading for at least 20 minutes is a great place to start! Reading endurance is a huge part of learning and something your kids are probably hearing about in school as well.
  3. Simple workbooks – I love the Summer Bridge books because they help the kids work towards a goal, gets them ready school the next year AND are only one page (front and back a day). Its an achievable goal that doesn’t force the kids to do pages and pages of one subject, which might not be their favorite. Plus, my kids like it because it mixes things up, it isn’t just a bunch of one subject every day. We have been doing these bridge books since my oldest was in Kindergarten. They are $10 and you can get them in my Amazon store. They are a perfect price point!
  4. Visit your local library – If your kiddos don’t have a library card the summertime is a perfect time to get one! Libraries usually have more activities during the summer time as well as a summer reading program with prizes!! Visiting the library during the summer is easier for us, and my kids are at the age now where they love to sit and read at the library! Learning to use the library catalog to find books that interest them and then going on the hunt for them all by themselves. More learning!!!

While summertime is for having fun, vacations and being outside, keeping your brain working and active is important for starting school off on the right food come summer’s end.

What ways do you incorporate learning into your summer activities?!

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Visit Houston – The Renzi, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit the Renzi on my trip to Houston. The Renzi is a part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston collection and is a house museum in the River Oaks neighborhood. The home was donated by Houston philanthropists Carroll and Harris Masterson and full of amazing 17th-19th art, furniture and dishes. It is an absolutely incredible home with incredible grounds as well. The home is kept very much as it was when the Masterson’s lived there, incorporating many items belonging to the Mastersons, with some items brought in that fit with the time periods. The entire house is just gorgeous and interesting, but some of my favorite parts were the library and the ballroom – yeah, you read that right…a ballroom. Complete with family crest inlaid into the floor. No big deal! The Mastersons also spent some time producing Broadway plays, because when you have a lot of money and time why not right?!

Visiting the Renzi is different than your typical museum. Due to the nature of the collection, it is done by reservation and docent-led tours only. There are six tours available Wednesday through Saturday, and four slots on Sundays. The gardens, however, are open for self-guided tours every day, and those are free. Renzi also provides a military discount and kids 12 and under are free! This puts it at a very affordable option in the Houston area.

But for locals, would really recommend looking for one of Renzi’s special events. There are several options throughout the year including Twilight Tours in May, Family Days, Opera and Symphony performances, sketching and art times and focused tours. After you check out the Renzi, make sure to look for the other house museum in Houston, Bayou Bend, which focuses on American Art.

 

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Great Myrtle Beach Condo Giveaway! {Enter Today}

When we moved to the East Coast we quickly learned that Myrtle Beach, and the surrounding area, was a favorite vacation destination for many of our friends here – and the greater Washington, DC area. Surprisingly we have STILL never managed to make it there. Between military life, visiting family, a busy life with three kids it’s just hard. I know we aren’t alone, that’s why I’m so excited to bring to you the great Myrtle Beach Condo giveaway!!!

Win an Oceanfront Condo and Change Your Life!

Vacation Myrtle Beach, one of the largest providers of family vacation accommodations in Myrtle Beach, SC, is pleased to announce the launch of The Great Myrtle Beach Condo Giveaway contest, which features the grand prize of a furnished oceanfront condo at The Caravelle Resort located in Myrtle Beach, SC, valued at nearly $100,000 (or $50,000 CASH, winner’s choice)!!! Other lucky winners will receive a 7-night stay or a 3-night stay at one of Vacation Myrtle Beach’s oceanfront properties.

The newly renovated, oceanfront efficiency condo offers room for up to four guests and includes a fully-equipped kitchen. In addition to its prime Myrtle Beach location, the resort provides convenient access to all of the area’s major attractions, restaurants, and things to do. Families and couples enjoy a wide variety of on-site amenities including an indoor pool, a block-long poolscape complete with a large pool, whirlpool, lazy river, kiddie lazy river, kids’ pool, poolside bar, and plenty of relaxing deck options. In addition to everything you need for fun in the sun, the resort offers an array of dining options as well as an opportunity for rejuvenation and relaxation at its on-site spa.

The Great Myrtle Beach Condo Giveaway sweepstakes is now open for entries. To enter and get official rules, as well as more information about Vacation Myrtle Beach properties,  click here –> Enter here!

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Visit Houston with CityPass

There is so much to do and see in Houston. I’ve been twice and made quite a dent in all the attractions, but you should see my “Houston Bucket List” because it’s still quite long. I know, it’s crazy, right? I mean, its Houston. You might not think of Houston has some major tourist attraction, especially when you think of Texas. Austin has the music and the nightlife and San Antonio has the Alamo and the River Walk. But don’t count Houston out. As the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth in the US, Houston boasts a robust art scene, dining and more. Not to mention that the skyline is one of the most beautiful in my opinion. While planning your trip you might be overwhelmed with what to choose from the long list of attractions and sites. What you do when you visit depends on whether or not you are visiting with kids or family, but a great way to go is to purchase a CityPass. You get access to five of Space City’s Must-See Attractions AND you save a little bit of money along the way. The only problem you’ll have is when it comes to the dreaded “Or” categories where you have to choose between two!

What is CityPass?

CityPass is a booklet of admission tickets to a city’s top locations at a discounted rate! You get all the admission tickets in one place and you don’t have to wait in admission lines, which when its super crowded can save you a lot of time. For most CityPass booklets you have 9 days to use your pass, including the first day you redeem something. CityPass is available in 12 locations including San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California and they just released CityPass in Orlando! CityPass can be purchased at many of the attractions themselves or you can purchase by visiting their website. Adult passes are $62 and child passes are $52. If you were to visit each of the attractions without CityPass you are looking at over $100 for adults! Even if you don’t make it to all the attractions in your visit you may still be saving some money. If you are military check with your local MWR ticket sales location because they may sell CityPass at an even more discounted rate!

CityPass in Houston

In Houston, you can choose between seven attractions, with a total of five attractions that you can see. Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium and the Houston Museum of Natural Science are your attractions available to you. Then you have to choose between the Zoo or the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kemah Boardwalk (All Day Ride Pass) or the Children’s Museum of Houston.

Space Center Houston

Visiting Space Center Houston was at the TOP of my list of things to see this time. It is a bit of a drive out of the center of the city, and while it’s well worth it if you’ve never been, it wasn’t something I could fit into my plans last time. Living in Washinton DC I am spoiled when it comes to museums. We have TWO space museums, one of which houses the Space Shuttle Discovery, which we saw land at the airport here. But being able to visit NASA is a whole other level of cool. Not only do you get the opportunity to go inside a space shuttle, as well as the plane that carried it (you don’t get that here), you get to go on Johnson Space Center property and see Mission Control. Expect to spend a good chunk of your day here, especially if you had kids. They have amazing docents that offer talks and presentations throughout the day. The movies are also really awesome and shouldn’t be missed. Parents: do beware of all the rides and simulations that are, of course, stationed right inside the entrance doors. But, as a perfect distraction, the Space Center has put together an amazing children’s area based on the Angry Birds in Space! Its a really neat, hands-on, learning experience for kids.

Active and Retired Military receive a $5 discount

Downtown Aquarium

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited the Aquarium. Again, having been to Monterey many times as a child and living near the ginormous National Aquarium Baltimore, I realize that I’m spoiled. This attraction is geared towards kids, and it isn’t very big. There are rides and a really cool restaurant on-site. They have a white tiger and a sting-ray feeding and petting area which is really cool. The Houston Aquarium devotes a lot of their exhibit to presenting conservation in a way kids can understand. I was very impressed with their presentation and the actions they take as an Aquarium to contribute to ocean protection and conservation. The Aquarium also provides extensive programs for schools for field trips and offers some of these programs to families that visit throughout the year. Be a marine biologist or zoologist for the day, meet some of the Aquariums animals or have an aquarium sleepover!

If you are visiting Houston without a CityPass and have a military id, the Aquarium offers a $2 discount on all-day passes and a 10% discount in the shop and restaurant.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Come see a giant moon, dinosaurs and Houston’s own Cabinet of Curiosities at the Museum of Natural Science. One of the coolest exhibits was a room full of animals made from gemstones. I had never seen anything like this and it was incredible. The Museum also showcased the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit with amazing photographs from all over the world. That was honestly probably my favorite part of the museum. The museum also has several special exhibits which require additional tickets (that are not included in your CityPass). One of those is Death By Natural Causes, which showcases wildlife and vegetation that pose a danger to we humans – think crazy snakes and spiders! I was kind of bummed that an exhibit like this requires an extra ticket purchase. One of the main attractions is the giant room of Dinosaurs, which the kids in your party will love! You will also find the Burker Baker Planetarium here, which has a whole host of movies and special presentations. One of the coolest things you can check out is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Listen to one of Pink Floyd’s most well-known albums and be immersed in a light and sound experience. Check out the Burke Baker Planetarium website for a list of their movies and presentations.

There is no offered military discount, however on Thursdays from 6-9 the museum is open to everyone for FREE! All permanent exhibits are open, and you can even purchase tickets for their special exhibits (like the Death by Natural Causes) for a discounted rate!

Houston Zoo

Aside from the Space Center and the Art Museum, which I knew would be amazing, the Zoo was probably my favorite thing I saw and the attraction I was the most impressed with. The layout of the zoo is really easy to traverse, and a majority of the paths are in the shade, which in Texas summers is a blessing. You can’t escape the humidity, but shade helps. They also have an exhibit that just opened features Texas wildlife, including a Bald Eagle. There are over 15 areas within the zoo to explore, including a great play and adventure area for kids, giraffe feeding, a water/splash pad area and a sea lion exhibit. They have three longhorns as well, which I had never seen before in real life. They are huge! There are plenty of places to grab a snack and sit in the cool air conditioning, bathrooms and places to sit. The addition of the water park and play areas really make it a great place for the whole family and place to keep little ones excited and engaged.

Houston Zoo does not offer a military discount, but during the summer months if you visit after 4pm you can get $4 off your ticket price!

Museum of Fine Arts

When the Museum of Fine Arts announced that they would be hosting a special VanGogh exhibit I pushed my trip planning into high gear. I knew that I was going to be planning another trip anyway, but this really made me all the more excited. VanGogh is one of my favorite artists. If you’ve never seen the VanGogh Doctor Who episode, watch that… it’s all you need to know. You can read more about my visit and see pictures by visiting my post dedicated to the Museum.  You Must “VanGogh” to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Kemah Boardwalk

Take a drive out to Kemah Boardwalk, a cute little coastal area not far from the Space Center Houston. Kemah is a collection of restaurants, retail shops, event spaces, and an amusement park. It is on the smaller size, with only a few larger rides. While it can be fun for older kids and adults, I would say that it is geared more towards younger kids. Be prepared for the wooden rollercoaster, which was my favorite ride of the day. It was pretty awesome and reminded me so much of my childhood and visiting Santa Cruz Boardwalk. I did, however, walk away with some bruises! It lives up to the wooden rollercoaster name for sure!

For military you can get $2 off and 10% off Boardwalk retail shops.

 

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8 Last Minute Super Cool Father’s Day Gifts

Father’s Day is fast approaching, and while some people have probably already narrowed down their gifts for the dads in their life, some of us are still searching. Gift giving is one of my top love languages. If you are a person in my life you have probably received a random gift, card, coffee or even your favorite soda. The challenge of finding a gift that is perfect for the person and succeeding is a driver, but also just seeing that person smile makes me so happy! My favorite thing to do is the anonymous gift, but that is a different post for a different time. Today, the topic at hand is dads! Aside from the standard Tie, sometimes buying for a guy can prove difficult, especially if they don’t have a specific hobby that is easy to buy for. The other issue I often face is that if my husband or dad want something they usually get it for themselves. My husband, in particular, doesn’t really like a lot of “Stuff” so it can pose a problem. So I decided to put together a list of useful, cool and unique items for the Father in your life.

  1. A Super Cool Activity! – Maybe getting an actual thing doesn’t work for you this year. He’s maxed out on ties, doesn’t want a book and you have absolutely no idea what else to get him. Think about a unique and fun activity in your city. Whiskey or beer tasting for those that like to imbibe. Take the kids, or family, out for a nice lunch and then grab a babysitter to surprise him with an activity. Is there a City scavenger hunt, ghost tour or museum that they like. Here in DC many of the museums have really cool activities, check those out and maybe one of those might fit the bill. If they like music, look for a concert. Think outside the box and take a pass on adding something else to your home that might end up collecting dust and get out and do something instead!
  2. City Maps Gifts from WellTold – these are my newest obsession! I love things that tell a story of your life, whether that be wall art, my new favorite Candles from Homesick or these amazing city map bar and beer glasses. They are such a unique and interesting gift that becomes a conversation starter in your home or a reminder of a special event or time in your life.  They have cities to choose from and state flasks as well.
  3. Rite in the Rain – I’ve included these on a gift list before, and I’m including them again because not only are they practical but they are pretty cool. If you have a spouse that works in the military, police, construction or even a spouse that loves the outdoors these are a must-have! From notebooks, paper pads to pocket calendars you can find something that your Dad or Husband will love! Mine has been using these products for at least fifteen years and swears by them.
  4. Sword & Plough – I’ve been lucky enough in my life to meet some pretty awesome people, and the ladies behind Sword & Plough are high up there on the list. Founding a company that reuses military products to make something new is pretty awesome. Giving back to Veterans and military families makes it even better. Founded by sisters, one of which is a Veteran herself, Sword & Plough offers all sorts of gifts for just about anyone! So keep this link for Mother’s Day, birthdays and Christmas! Awesome gifts for dudes include military cufflinks, toiletries bag, messenger and backpacks, card holders, mini wallets and belts. This is a purchase they will not only hopefully love, but you can also love the fact that you are purchasing something that will then help S&P (a certified B Corp) give back to those that serve our country. How can you not love that!
  5. DIFF Sunglasses – Speaking of giving back, I’m including DIFF on this list not necessarily because giving sunglasses is that unique, but because DIFF is a really amazing company that gives back to the community! Any way to combine gift giving with making a difference is high on my list. I love the DIFF company, what they stand for and their sunglasses and blue-light blocking glasses as well. Knowing that their gift is also giving back is just another gift for the person receiving them.
  6. Fisher Space Pen – This has been a go-to gift for many of the men in my life. This is the perfect gift because there are so many options in colors, styles, and you can even get them engraved. One of the gifts I gave my husband for a military accomplishment was a multi-purpose pen that had blue and red ink, a pencil and a laser pointer. I engraved it with his name and the accomplishment. If you have never heard of the Space Pen the basic gist of it is that it can work in the freezing cold, upside down and even in space! I love using mine to do my crosswords in bed like a real nerd!
  7. Fancy Shaving Stuff – Fancy shaving items are definitely a thing. Curated collections of beard oils and balms, as well as throwback shaving kits with brushes and one-blade razors. Some of my favorites include Beard Oil or Balm from Sugar + Spruce and shaving kit from Manready Mercantile in Houston, Texas. Manready also has a HUGE assortment of unique men’s gifts like whiskey flavored toothpicks and handmade leather products. The Art of Shaving has different scents and kits for not just shaving, but skin care as well. Just because they are men doesn’t mean they shouldn’t spend some time taking care of that skin.
  8. A Subscription Box – Subscriptions boxes are just for girls, although I will say I’m a sucker for a good subscription box. Having items delivered right to my door makes me so happy! There are several subscription box ideas for dads including Bump Box: The Dad Box, Stitch Fix, and Trunk Club. Boxes like Sprezza, deliver men’s accessories like tie tacks, watches, handkerchiefs, and socks – curated especially for them – delivered each month. For more ideas check out this list on Esquire!

Do you have a unique gift idea for the man in your life?

Leave a comment or join in the conversation on social media

 

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