Feeds:
Posts
Comments

A Bird In the Hand – Coyote Creek Field Station, Milpitas

Saturday, Aug. 17th, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Kids ages 7 and up and their families can visit SFBBO’s bird banding station, the Coyote Creek Field Station. Learn about SFBBO’s bird banding research and see several different species up close. We will tour mist nets, watch a bird banding demonstration, and explore a restored riparian habitat. Please join us and learn why bird banding is so important for protecting birds and their habitats. This program is in partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society’s Young Audubon Program. RSVP required, to RSVP fill out the form here.

 

Insect Afternoon at the Patagonia Store, Palo Alto

Come to the store between noon and 3pm, Saturday, Aug. 17th to meet a bunch of insects up close. Heading the line up will be the Darking Beetle, the Easter Lubber Grasshopper, the Giant Thorny Phasmid, and the Whiptail Scorpion. Fun.

This summer we spent a glorious week in west Lake Tahoe and managed a hike every day. These were our favourites:-

Eagle Rock Hike

This is a perfect short but fun hike for small children.  Park at the well-marked trail head on route 89 about half a mile north of Tahoe Pines and head west along the path. At first you’ll travel through shady forests along a flat path before the trail climbs gradually up the hill to the peak of the crag. There is some easy scrambling over stones at the top which our kids really enjoyed. The view from the summit is amazing and it only takes about twenty minutes to reach the top. Take the same trail down and back to the car. Highly recommended for reluctant hikers!

Eagle Peak

Eagle Peak

Eagle Lake Hike

This is a more challenging hike. Our four year old loved it and walked/climbed the whole thing with ease. Our intrepid two year old completed most of the hike under his own steam, although he wanted to be carried on the easier (more boring for him?) parts of the trail at the start and end. The hike isn’t too long—one mile each way from parking lot to lake—but it is rather steep and craggy in parts with large steps and boulders to be negotiated. The destination is well worth the effort as the trail leads you up to beautiful Eagle Lake. This is a perfect spot for a picnic and paddle. I strongly recommend taking water shoes, a towel and a change of clothes if your children like water as much as ours do.

Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake

To find the trail head park  in the Eagle Falls Picnic Area parking lot on route 89 about 9 miles north of South Lake Tahoe. Note that there is a parking fee so make sure to bring cash. You also need to fill in a wilderness permit before heading up the trail—find these by the map near the toilet block. Also note that parking here is limited and this is a very popular trail. We went early (arriving in the parking lot before 9.30am) which meant we could grab one of the much-coveted parking spots and enjoy the trail and the lake before the foot traffic became too heavy.

On the trail

On the trail

Cascade Falls Hike

This is another great hike for preschoolers. It’s an easy one mile each way from parking lot to the falls with only minimal (about 100 feet) elevation gain.  Although the trail starts off wide and easy, it does get more challenging with rocky outcrops and boulders to negotiate.  The drop off at the side of the cliff is quite steep and the bare rocky parts can be slippery, so you’ll want to keep little ones close by.  We hiked to the falls and then continued on a couple of hundred feet to a wonderful spot above the falls where the creek ran over granite rocks making lots of little pools where the kids could paddle. (If you do this make sure to go a safe distance upstream of the waterfall and keep a close eye on the kids). The view up there is incredible with mountains on one side and Cascade Lake on the other.

Paddling pool in the mountains

Paddling pool in the mountains

To find this trail turn into the Bay View Campsite opposite the Inspiration Point parking lot on route 89 north of South Lake Tahoe. Drive to the end of the camp ground to find the free trail head parking. There’s no need to fill out a wilderness permit if you’re only hiking to the falls. Note however that like all popular Tahoe hikes the parking is limited and you’ll struggle to find a spot if you arrive after mid-morning.

Dolder Nature Trail, Sugar Point State Park

This is another gentle walk perfect for reluctant preschool hikers. Just head into the park and leave your car in the lot near the lodge. There is a day use fee at the park. The trail is a flat 2.1 miles that winds through the forest and then along the lakeshore and past America’s highest lighthouse. Allow plenty of time in the woods for free play and take a picnic to enjoy on Sugar Point’s relatively empty beaches.

The beach below the lighthouse

The beach below the lighthouse

Lighthouse/Rubicon Trail, D L Bliss State Park

Calawee Beach

Calawee Cove Beach

 

This is a lovely, scenic short hike of a little over a mile that ends on the glorious sandy beach at Calawee Cove.  To access the trail, enter the state park and drive down to the beach parking lot. The path leaves from the furthest parking area. Take the shady light house trail up to the viewpoint and then return via the old lighthouse trail along the coast. The first part of the hike is fairly easy, but there is some scrambling along the cliff edge on the return leg – keep little ones close.  Afterwards relax with a picnic on the beach.  Note there are day use fees at D L Bliss and again there is very limited parking in the beach lot. If you arrive past 9.30am in high season you’re unlikely to find a spot.

Our two boys are completely obsessed with dinosaurs and recently created their own La Brea tar pit in the flower bed, so this July I thought I’d channel their paleontology interests into slightly cleaner activities (they were so covered in mud after the impromptu tar pit episode that no skin could be seen on their arms and legs and every one of their toy dinosaurs had ‘fallen in’ and been covered in wet mud).  Two of these activities were big hits, kept them occupied for a long time and didn’t require too much prep or clean up on my part.

1. Ice paleontology

You do need to plan this a day or so in advance, but it’s pretty simple to do. Just fill a plastic bucket with water, add some plastic dinosaurs and freeze. The next day, dump the dino filled ice cube on the lawn, give them some tools to chip away at the ice and invite them to be paleontologists. The boys had great fun excavating the dinosaurs and then experimenting with the left over chunks of ice.  One note of warning–the freezing process can make the dinosaurs a bit brittle. Ours survived the process without real damage, but I wouldn’t use any favourite dinosaur models just in case.

Dinos On Ice

Dinos On Ice

2. Make a fossil, Break a fossil

This was a two-day activity. On day one we made our plastic dinosaurs into fossils. The boys had great fun making the fossil mixture in their play kitchen in the garden. We mixed 1 cup of water, 1 cup of soil, 1/2 cup of sand and 1/3 cup of flour together in a bowl. We then added the dinosaurs and covered them in this dirt goop before fishing each one out and laying them on a (plastic film covered) tray to dry in the sun.

The mud mix

The mud mix

 

Twenty four hours later the fossils were dry and the boys were able to play paleontologists and excavate each dinosaur.  Again, the dinosaurs can get a little banged up as the kids chip the dirt away so I wouldn’t use any beloved models (we kept our “special Allosaurus” on one side to watch).

Cooked and ready to excavate

Cooked and ready to excavate

 

Enjoy.

Seal Cove

I’ve written before about how much fun our kids have on Negative Tide Day at Half Moon Bay’s Fitzgerald Marine Reserve — see here – but this year we decided to do a Negative Tide Day from the ‘other end’, from Seal Cove, and it was even better.  You can still reach the whole FMR by walking along the beach at low tide but there are several advantages of starting at Seal Cove. First, parking is much easier–you’ll find plentiful space on the streets around the cove off Cypress Avenue even on the busiest morning. Second, the tide pools at Seal Cove are a little less crowded with fewer teenagers running about manhandling the sea animals. And third, the beach at Seal Cove is far nicer. The main Fitzgerald Marine Reserve beach is small and, at this time of year, partially closed for the resident seal colony (which, incidentally, is the biggest its been in years and worth checking out).  At Seal Cove you’ll find empty golden sands, a relatively small wave swell and lots of interesting rocks and sea shells. It’s perfect for toddlers, although you should note that it’s most definitely a beach to visit at low tide, there are steep steps down to the sand, and there are no restrooms or other amenities.

The view from the top

The view from the top

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Our kids enjoyed the tide pools more than ever this year partly, I think, because they knew what to expect but partly because we’d found some perfect  laminated toddler guides to Half Moon Bay’s sea life (see here if you’re interested). The boys really got a kick out identifying the various creatures they found. It was a great way for them to engage with the tide pool creatures without touching them.

Identify and catagorize

Identify and catagorize

Leaf Barnacles

Leaf Barnacles

 

I love summer – always have: long days with nothing scheduled, nowhere to go and plenty of time to relax outside. My kids seem to feel the same. While I had been a little apprehensive that they would find all this ‘down time’ a little dull after the busy school year, they’ve really embraced the slower summer pace and are enjoying pottering around the garden inventing their own worlds and games.

That said, a day in the garden with a baby, a two-year old and a four-year old is a long time and they do sometimes look to me for entertainment.  Partly out of necessity (the Bug is currently learning to sit up and requires constant attention) and partly inspired by my educational philosophy (that preschoolers need invitations to creativity rather than organized games) I’ve been trying to find play prompts that capture their imagination, lead to long play periods, and don’t need to much adult intervention. I thought I’d share our more successful outdoors play ideas in case there are other families in need……

The Busy Town Garden Game

My older two (both boys) are interested in logistics, maps and transport. They also love the Busy Town books and have in past weeks used this books as a spring-board to ask about town organization.  To combine and extend these interests, and to keep them happily engaged outside, we invented the ‘Busy Town Garden Game’.

The Suburbs

The Suburbs

 

One afternoon I cleared the patio, took out a box of chalk and drew three boxes on the ground each a few feet apart. I labeled one the ‘school’, one the ‘shop’ and one the farm. I told the boys this was the start of their own ‘busy town’ and invited them to complete it.  They took to the idea immediately, connecting these ‘buildings’ with roads. And then the game took off and they thought about what other buildings and institutions a town needed and added them to the patio.  Over several afternoons, the map has grown ever larger with increasingly specialized businesses and vast suburbs. The boys added cars and traffic signs to the town and are asking to start building structures out of boxes tomorrow to add to their project.  I love how this has stirred their imagination. I also love how busy it has kept them.

'The Busy Town 101'

‘The Busy Town 101′

 

 

 

Tahoe for kids

This winter we took our first trip to Tahoe with three kids.  The emphasis was on having fun and introducing the kids to the snow rather than on developing their skiing skills. Yes, we do really want them to love skiing as much as we do. But with our kids you just can’t force things like that and we’ve decided to wait for them to really want to hit the slopes before pushing them into ski school.

who even needs a sled?

who even needs a sled?

Part of our master plan is to make sure they just enjoy the snow and associate it with having fun – we figure that eventually they’ll want to follow us onto skis.  Now I love Tahoe, but in previous years I’ve been frustrated by the paucity of places you can take kids to just play in the snow. For free. This year we solved that problem. We discovered the network of California SNOPARKS. I can’t believe no-one had mentioned these places to us before. They’re perfect for little kids.  The SNOPARKS are just largish areas of public land where a family can go to play –to have snowball fights, build snowmen, sled–for a small $5 fee.  When we went, admittedly on a weekday morning, the SNOPARK was pretty empty. I’m guessing they might get a little crazier on a holiday weekend in high season, but they’re worth checking out if you just want somewhere to play.

Find all the details, including a map of the SNOPARK network, here.

This spring we decided to check out Montalvo Arts Center. I confess to not having high expectations of a successful visit as I wasn’t too sure how much there was for small kids there, but I was pleasantly surprised. We happily spent a long morning wandering around the grounds, and could probably have remained the whole day had Mommy packed a lunch.

053

rather grand

Montalvo Arts Center was originally Villa Montalvo built by US Senator James Duval Phelan in 1912. It’s a beautiful house surrounded by magnificent gardens and wilderness.  We spent the entire morning exploring the art sculptures on the villa lawn, the Italianate Garden and the Phelan Cactus Garden.  These botanical gardens were large and interesting enough to keep our preschoolers happy for a good long while: they loved running around exploring all the different paths and checking out the statues. The cacti were especially appealing to the boys as they had seen them in books before our visit.  The cactus garden was also full of lizards, juvenile southern alligator lizards and western fence lizards, and they were mesmerized watching these creatures scurry about. In fact, we had so much fun in the more formal gardens that we never even made it to the trails (our original goal).  Watch this space…..

066

cactus outside the Italianate Garden

Montalvo has free parking and the gardens are open to the public all year round unless there is a big event taking place.  Next time we plan to bring a picnic and stay for the day so we have time to hike some of the back woods trails too.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.