Archive for May, 2012

Saturday May 26th

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Preserve is hosting a bug and butterfly walk at Picchetti Ranch, 10am-1pm. Find hike details here.

Does your kid like elephants? If so, they might enjoy elephant day at Oakland Zoo. See here for the flyer.

Visit FarmFest–an event celebrating the region’s organic agricultural industry– in Pescadero, from noon-5pm. It promises to be educational and fun for families. Find the flyer here.

All Weekend

Civil War Re-enactments at Roaring Camp Railroads, Felton. Not sure how family-friendly this event is, but it might interest some older children. Event details are here.

Memorial Day

Entry to Ardenwood Historic Park is free for the day.

Tuesday May 29th

It’s time for the pigs at Ardenwood Historic Park’s Tuesday Toddler Time, 11-11.30am.


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That was the one who stole my sandwich Mom!

This weekend we went up to the Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve for the Family Bird Festival which had been postponed from earlier in the year.  It’s always hard to know what such events will be like but this one, run jointly by the Regional Open Space Preserve and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, was quite lovely and perfectly suited for preschoolers.  I loved that it was a very low-key event with lots of ‘old-fashioned’ hands-on booths and friendly, enthusiastic volunteers who were eager to engage visitors.

The Monkey and I even learnt a little about birds.  We had great fun identifying some of the birds we’ve seen in the garden this year on the plentiful birding charts provided.  I was particularly happy to learn that it’s a Oregan Junco that my kids don’t like (apparently it has a mean looking head and likes to peck them whenever I go inside) and that the striking pair of brown, red and black woodpeckers who visit us on occasion are Northern Flickers.

Owl throw-up. Yum.

After we’d checked out the bird charts, we headed over to the dissection area where volunteers showed the boys how to take apart a barn owl pellet.  This booth had been set up with great thought.  First the kids could pull the pellets apart and discover little bones and skulls. Then they could glue the animal remains onto a chart which helped them identify the bones and hence what the owl had been eating.

Dad! The barn owl ate two moles and a rodent

There was also a crafts area where the kids made ‘water cycle’ bracelets and binoculars for bird-spotting, and a science area where the kids could look at, and touch, owl wings, feet and feathers and all different types of local bird nests.  The teen manning the area was impressive in his knowledge of bird biology and habitats and really good at talking to little ones in a way that made sense to them.  I also loved that the festival had set up a shady area with complementary drinks and healthy snacks where visitors could chat to local wildlife enthusiasts.

Checking out the wings

As well as the little exhibition area, the festival also included several docent-led bird walks in the preserve.  We didn’t sign up for any as I was concerned our children would be too disruptive, but from what I saw on the day I think it would have been fine to have taken them along and next year we’ll sign up for one.  Instead of a formal tour, however, we did our own little hike round Horseshoe Lake and the boys had great fun spotting lizards, butterflies, ducks and their perennial favourite, sturdy sticks.

The local wildlife cautiously eyeing our children

The Wing Ding Festival was a really wholesome, educational and fun event and the only thing that made me a little sad was how poorly attended it was. There were maybe ten other families there, and I counted only two other preschoolers besides our kids.  I’m really curious as to why that was.  Was the festival just poorly advertised? (I think events like this don’t receive sufficient publicity and that’s one of the reasons for this blog). Was it too far away? Did it sound unsuited for preschoolers? Or did it just sound too dull? Or is it just that weekends get busy?

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What’s on this weekend?

May 19th and 20th

US Geological Survey 10th Triennial Open House, Menlo Park, 10am -4pm. For more information, see here.

The Maker Fair! See here for this awesome event. My three year old loved this last year.

Saturday May 19th

Last spring tour of Deer Hollow Farm, Rancho San Antonio. 10am-1pm. Admission $5. See here for details.

Sunday May 20th

Wingding Family Fest, Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, 10am-3pm. Bird related fun for the whole family. See here for the flyer.

Bol Park Fete, noon-4pm.

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Bol Park is one of Palo Alto’s hidden gems. It has it all: a great playground, a large field for ball games, some woody scrubland for hide and seek, chickens, goats and donkeys to visit and a creek to play in. It’s the perfect destination for a long summer afternoon.

The Playground

The rather hot playground

This has plenty to keep very little ones and older preschoolers amused, including some slightly more adventurous climbing opportunities.  The Monkey and his chums particularly love the tyre swing. The playground backs onto a large open space which is itself edged with woods that the kids love to explore.  It’s really rather bucolic considering the park is only minutes from El Camino Real.

Space to run

The Animals

To find the chickens and the goats, just take the bike path at the edge of the playground deeper into the park.  The animals are attached to a private house on the right about 5o meters past the end of the play area.  The (super kind) owners seem very relaxed about kids petting and feeding the goats, just be careful to read the signs explaining what they can and can’t eat.

I wonder if we can catch one?

To find Barron Park’s two famous donkeys (well, one of them is THE Shrek Donkey), keep going along the bike path for a couple of hundred meters. They’re over the bridge on the right.  Again please pay attention to the posted information about feeding, or rather not feeding, them.  If you want a closer look at the donkeys, their handlers bring them into the playground area most sundays around 10am.

Barron Park’s own furry superstar

The Creek

Bol Park also has a wonderful creek which is perfect for paddling, throwing stones and making rock channels, especially in the warmer months when the water level is low.  There are also a couple of nice rope swings there for bigger kids.  To access the creek take the dirt path that runs along the opposite side of the field to the bike path.  There are some steps down to the creek midway between the donkey field and the playground.

There’s nothing more fun for toddlers than throwing stones into a pool of water.


Bol Park is also the venue for occasional special events, and it just so happens that one of our favourites is coming up this weekend.  On Sunday May 20th it’s the Bol Park Fete running from noon until 4pm. This is a lovely, low-key event perfect for little ones. In past years there’s been maypole dancing, children’s games, music, fire trucks and police cars to sit in, the donkeys and ice-cream.  It makes for a relaxed family afternoon.

The Negatives?

No toilets and not too much shade in the playarea itself.  On very hot days we head to the creek.

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Saturday May 12th

The Almost Mother’s Day Kids Concert is being held in Courthouse Square, Redwood City from 11am-1pm. See event details here.

Sunday May 13th

Mom’s Day Celebration at Hidden Villa, starting 3pm. Bring a picnic and enjoy the farm and music. Sign up here.

All Weekend

The Stanford Pow-Wow is happening this weekend on Stanford Campus.  We went a couple of years ago and it was really interesting with lots of action and colour for little ones to enjoy. Find the flyer here.

The Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District Nature Center is open weekends at Skyline Ridge. Park in the Russian Ridge Preserve Parking Area. Other details can be found here.

Tuesday May 15th

It’s time for sheep at Ardenwood Farm’s Toddler Tuesday, 11-11.30am.

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Truck Farm is running a perfect contest for the outdoors toddler this month. The challenge is simply to plant a seed in the most creative place you can think of, watch it grow, take a photo of the baby plant, and send the picture to the contest website before June 10th.  I like this contest for two reasons. The first, most preschoolers will find it a lot of fun. The Monkey, my 3.5 year old, is really interested in the changes of spring this year and loves to be silly, so planting a seed somewhere odd is a perfect activity to engage his attention.  The second, it’s a great way to teach kids about science.  By planting a seed somewhere unusual (ie not in the ground) you can talk to your kids about what seeds actually need to germinate and grow.

Contest details can be found here.

The whole Truck Farm website is also worth a peek. Ian Cheney has created a small vegetable garden in the back of a flat-bed truck and is using it to educate inner-city children about farming and healthy eating: an educational, eye-catching, and low-cost idea.

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I’m not usually into buying too much stuff, but my bug-mad kids went crazy for these roly-poly playgrounds (at REI).  They’re perfect for letting toddlers look at bugs without hurting them, and kept my kids occupied in the garden for hours.

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Last week we enjoyed a lovely morning at Elizabeth F Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto.  I never really think of this spot as a good toddler hang-out–it’s an historic building and a couple of acres of formal and demonstration gardens for the serious horticulturist–but it actually makes a great destination for little ones.  As well as the amazing flowers there are hidden pathways to explore, sundials and magic fountains to discover, insects to examine, and shrub bunnies to uncover.

I would suggest using this plan to create a treasure hunt for your kids. Afterwards, you can picnic in the Grand Oak Area which has tables and a neat natural children’s playhouse to keep little ones occupied.

The Monkey admiring the spring flowers

You can find the gardens at 1431 Waverley Street, open every day during daylight hours.  Entrance is free for all.  Just make sure to keep your kids on the marked pathways and respect the time and effort that has gone into creating the beautiful displays.

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Saturday May 5th

10am – the Palo Alto May Fete Parade and Fair.  See the city’s website here.

Rinconada Pool opens for the summer. Hooray! Find the schedule here.

A day out at Blackberry Farm for Cupertino residents.  See here for details.

All Weekend

There are many events happening this weekend connected to the San Mateo ‘Streets Alive! Parks Alive’.  Here’s the central website.  I particularly like the look of the historic events at Woodside on Sunday 6th (I think my boys might like the logging), the play area at Redwood City (Sunday 6th), and the Menlo Park activities.

Future Events

June 9th is ‘Sheep to Shawl’ day at Elkus Ranch. Advance registration is required.

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Buttermilk wouldn't melt in my mouth

Our garden was bountiful this citrus season, and we now have a freezer packed with frozen lemon juice. With all this lovely warm weather we’ve been enjoying lately I’ve been inspired to use some of it to make popsicles for the garden.  During this process I came across a recipe that sounded a little odd, was (relatively) low sugar as these things go, but that I felt was worth a try. Well, it was DELICIOUS and the kids loved it – so I’m sharing it for your outdoors use.  Enjoy.

Add 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice to 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of buttermilk. Stir thoroughly. Pour into popsicles moulds and freeze.  Easy. So easy, in fact, that it’s a perfect recipe for making with your preschooler (as long as they understand that freezing the popsicles takes several hours…)

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