Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

atlas-obscura-kids

Wow! This one looks great! (Available in the fall)

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Disney Parks

Check out this great Disney mash-up made by Lindsay McCutcheon!

We have a family vacation to Disney World coming up soon and I wanted to blog about some the helpful hints for planning for trips like this:

  • During Disney World’s slow season they offer special incentives to attract people to the parks. For example, with the package that we bought, we have 7-Day “Park Hopper” tickets, our hotel room, and FREE “Quick Service” Dining Plans to use the week that we are there. G-Man is turning 10 a few days before we go and qualifies for the adult meal plan which will work out great. His tastes have moved beyond the “hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and pizza” that seems to fill most of the kid’s menu options at the majority of the restaurants.
  • We had a lot of success booking with a travel agent rather than through Disney Park itself. Once those annual free dining plans vacations are available,  travel agencies buy a large number of rooms during that season. Trying to book directly through Disney didn’t work for us but going through Small World Vacations worked great!
  • Finding your way around Disneyland in California or Paris is relatively easy. These parks are a reasonable size to get a grip on. However, Disney World in Florida is massive and you really need to do some homework before you go. It feels sort of counter-intuitive to have so much research to do before a relaxing family vacation but, if you are like us, being prepared and feeling like you are making educated decisions really helps with our family’s economy and enjoyment.
  • Disney’s website is a good start for reading about attractions, special occasions, hotels, and dining. It is also where you will make all of your reservations for Fast Passes (basically a reservation for major rides), dining, and buying any of the other extra bells and whistles you want. Example – Disney has a photo service, they deliver special presents to your room or dining table, etc.
  • There are many excellent resources to help you wrap your head around Fast Passes, dining plans, restaurants, whether to stay on-site or not, which hotel to chose, how early you need to make all of the all-important reservations. My favourites are Touring Plans, Disney Food Blog, and Mouse Savers. Touring Plans publishes guidebooks of course but one of their major assets is their planning software on their website that helps you to create itineraries that minimize your wait times. If you are thinking about taking a trip to Disney World, try planning at least a 6 months (or more) in advance so that you can pick the best time period for you. Restaurant reservations begin 180 days before your date and they fill up VERY QUICKLY. There are different levels of dining plans. If you chose the “Quick Service” option like us there is only ONE “table service” restaurant that you can make a reservation at – “Be Our Guest” it takes a dedicated plan of attack to score those seats.
  • We chose to take advantage of the sale on dining plans but we are also super excited to go during Disney’s Halloween season so that we can go to the “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.” This is the only time that you can enter the park in costume. Plus, Halloween is awesome. And trick-or-treating at Disney sounds super awesome!

What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets?

I just read an interesting paper in the journal Psychological Science that shows a parent’s view of failure is more important to a child’s growth than the parent’s views on intelligence.  Specifically, the paper concludes that, “Overall, parents who see failure as debilitating focus on their children’s performance and ability rather than on their children’s learning, and their children, in turn, tend to believe that intelligence is fixed rather than malleable.”

In other words, it’s important that parents don’t let kids think that their minds are fixed (i.e., they can’t do better simply because of who they are), but rather can always grow and overcome their failures if they keep trying.

If you’re visual, like me, you should click on the following image from Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  It does a great job showing the difference between the two mind sets.

From Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Which one are you?

Scratch – How to Make Your Own Video Games

JBot and I have played the long game on this one, and this week – success!

G-Man has had a burning passion for video games for almost five years now. We have done our best to help educate him while making it fun. JBot has gone above and beyond to teach him about the history of video games, by introducing him to older styles, playing with him, and even adapting modern games to his younger sensibilities.

I was visiting the bigger downtown library last week, looking for ideas and extra reading material to have around the house for March Break and found two new books about Scratch. Added them to the pile, didn’t think too much of it. I have brought other books home before, but they were sort of dense and, well, boring. Like a “For Dummies” kind of reading experience.

Coding for Beginners

Coding for Beginners Using Scratch” by Rosie Dickens, Jonathan Melmoth & Lousie Stowell

How to Code

Super Skills: How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons” by Sean McManus

These two new books really grabbed G-Man’s attention. He read them voraciously in one night. He woke up absolutely vibrating with excitement to try programming out for himself two days in a row. I mean, hey, if you would rather wake up at 6 a.m. on your holidays to make cool stuff, go for it!

You can use this site run by MIT to try out the Scratch software.

G-Man had a lot of fun. Great stuff!

Niagara in the Springtime

We got hit by the last blast of winter last night, I hope! There was enough ice that the school board declared it a “snow day.” Only the second one of the season, not bad!

We did enjoy enough Spring-like days so far this winter that a lot of our family talk has drifted to our plans for the Spring and Summer.

I found a great CSA via Tiffany Mayer and her blog Eating Niagara. Tiffany has a great book about the Niagara region and, my personal favourite topic, food! Check it out!

We also followed a suggestion from one of her St. Catharines Standard articles and tried a local restaurant – Don Wong Mexican Asian Food Mart. They make really fantastic dim sum and burritos. Really fantastic stuff. And you can stock up on Pocky!

We debated a lot about summer camps and threw around some ideas for family vacations… Man, things sure have changed since we were kids. Summer camps seem a lot like resorts now, right? G-Man isn’t really all that interested in water sports or mountain biking so we decided to go with the Brock University Summer Camps. They have great day camps that are more like an “enrichment” idea. Find one that jives with your child’s interests, be it the arts, engineering, robotics, gaming, etc.

We are also planning on building an epic fort in our backyard this summer as well. This fantastic book by David Stiles has a lot of inspiring ideas. We think we may be able to build something like this.

We are a wee bit past the 6 month mark of living in the Niagara region. I think I can safely say that everyone really likes it. The school has been a great match for the kids which, really, was the only thing that really mattered. We have found a few restaurants that we love so far, like Diner House 29 and Rise Above. The new Preforming Arts Centre just started a Film House, which is very exciting, and Mindbomb Records is well stocked, save what I bring home for my own collection!

The Strong: the National Museum of Play

We had a fantastic time at the National Museum of Play! We took advantage of a Canadian school holiday to cross the border and travel to Rochester, New York.

This is a fantastic place for families with lots of wonderful places for playing all day. When we visited, there was a special exhibit on the history of Nintendo!  There are lots of arcade, pinball, and other retro video games as part of the main collection as well. Over the weekend there was a Star Wars theme! There were many different themed sections that happily occupied our young and older children. The effort made to address themes and controversies (violence, gender) got a kudos from JBot and myself. Seeing some of our favourite toys from when we were kids (Jem!!!) in the collection was pretty amazing.

strong_museum_of_play_1

 

Kids These Days…

It’s amazing how often we hear sayings like, “Kids these days…” or “When I was young…”.   I can hardly go a few days without someone from my generation or later bemoaning our kids’ generation, calling them lazy for not doing all of their chores with a smile, whining that they aren’t as smart as them since they need calculators, and so forth.  But is that true?  Is every new generation getting progressively worse?

No, absolutely not.  The below comic from XKCD shows how, for two hundred years, we’ve been complaining that some new technology or invention is destroying our ability to interact with others.

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