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Archive for February 15th, 2014

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School holiday’s is where we try to have fun together as a family, often for free or without spending much money. I thought it would be useful to list some ways to have fun with your kids without spending a lot of money:

  1. Have a reading marathon.
  2. Write stories together.
  3. Play soccer.
  4. Paint or draw together.
  5. Create a fort in your living room out of blankets or cardboard boxes.
  6. Go on a hike.
  7. Have a sunset picnic at a park or beach.
  8. Play board games.
  9. Play kickball.
  10. Get up early, pack breakfast, and have a sunrise breakfast.
  11. Go to a museum.
  12. Go to a playground.
  13. Play hide-and-seek.
  14. Have a pillow fight.
  15. Ride bikes.
  16. Build sandcastles.
  17. Rent a dvd and make popcorn.
  18. Tell stories.
  19. Have a scavenger hunt.
  20. Make mazes or puzzles for each other to solve.
  21. Play card games.
  22. Garden together.
  23. Bake cookies (let the kids help).
  24. Go to the zoo.
  25. Go to the library.
  26. Shop at a thrift shop.
  27. Create a blog together.
  28. Create a scrapbook.
  29. Make a movie using a camcorder and computer.
  30. Learn to play music.
  31. Fingerpaint.
  32. Make play dough from scratch.
  33. Make homemade mini pizzas.
  34. Buy popsicles.
  35. Make hand-painted T-shirts.
  36. Set up a hammock, make lemonade, relax.
  37. Go to a pool.
  38. Go to a public place, people watch, and make up imaginary stories about people.
  39. Visit family.
  40. Write letters to family.
  41. Paint or decorate the kids’ room.
  42. Make milkshakes.
  43. Play freeze tag.
  44. Create a treasure hunt for them (leaving clues around the house or yard).
  45. Decorate a pair of jeans.
  46. Do a science experiment.
  47. Play games online.
  48. Teach them to play chess.
  49. Learn magic tricks.
  50. Create a family book, with information and pictures about each family member.
  51. Fly kites.
  52. Go snorkeling.
  53. Barbecue.
  54. Volunteer.
  55. Donate stuff to charity.
  56. Compete in a three-legged or other race.
  57. Create an obstacle course.
  58. Pitch a tent and sleep outside with marshmallows.
  59. Roast marshmallows.
  60. Play loud music and dance crazy.
  61. Write and produce a play (to perform before other family members).
  62. Paint each other’s faces.
  63. Have a water balloon fight.
  64. Have a gun-fight with those foam dart guns.
  65. Explore your yard and look for insects.
  66. Go for a walk and explore the neighborhood.
  67. Go jogging.
  68. Take pictures of nature.
  69. Play a trivia game.
  70. Make up trivia questions about each other.
  71. Make hot cocoa.
  72. Play house.
  73. Decorate the house with decorations you make.
  74. Make popsicles.
  75. Play school.
  76. Do shadow puppets.
  77. Make a comic book.
  78. Play in the rain.
  79. Make mud pies.
  80. Blow bubbles.
  81. Take turns saying tongue twisters.
  82. Sing songs.
  83. Tell ghost stories in the dark with a flashlight.
  84. Build stuff with Legos.
  85. Give them a bubble bath.
  86. Play with squirt guns.
  87. Play video games together.
  88. Play wiffleball.
  89. Play nerf football.
  90. Build a rocket from a kit.
  91. Bake a cake and decorate it.
  92. Play dress-up.
  93. Thumb-wrestle, play mercy, or have a tickle fight.
  94. Make a gingerbread house, or decorate gingerbread men.
  95. Learn and tell each other jokes.
  96. Play basketball.
  97. Learn to juggle.
  98. Walk barefoot in the grass and pick flowers.
  99. Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.
  100. Prank call their grandparents, using disguised, humorous voices.

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It’s Summertime! That means that parents have extra time to spend with their children and what better way to engage in classic fun with family and friends than to visit an amusement park. We asked Travel Channel fans to tell us their favorite water, amusement and theme park picks. Take a look at your these fun picks — perfect summer trip ideas to fit every budget.
1
Cedar Point

 

Cedar Point

Sandusky, Ohio

Touting itself as the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point’s 17 coasters will ensure you’re riding all day. Enthusiastic reader Alicia Goettemoeller describes the park as an “adrenaline junkie’s paradise,” while reader Nick Schuyler says it is “built for grown-up kids.”

2
Knoebels

 

Knoebels

Elysburg, Pennsylvania

This old-fashioned amusement park is a must for nostalgic types as well as the budget conscious – admittance and parking are free of charge. Reader Tracy Ginsburg Maier says “a family of 4 can eat, swim and ride all day for $100” at Knoebels.

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Lake Buena Vista, Florida

No list of amusement parks would be complete without the happiest place on earth, Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Transport yourself back to your childhood with a trip to Space Mountain, or say hello to one of your favorite Disney characters.

4
Schlitterbahn Water Park

 

Schlitterbahn Water Park

New Braunfels, Texas

Spread across 65 acres, Schlitterbahn has held theAmusement Today title for best water park for the past 13 years. It features an uphill water coaster ride, beaches, surfing, and more.

5
Universal's Island of Adventure

 

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Orlando, Florida

Although most people associate Universal’s Islands of Adventure with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the park also has a number of roller coasters, 3-D rides and nearby restaurants and nightlife. Don’t forget to try the wizarding non-alcoholic beverage, butterbeer!

6
Six Flags Magic Mountain

 

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Valencia, California

This park kicked Cedar Point out of its top spot ranking as the amusement park with the most roller coasters. Six Flags Magic Mountain has 18 coasters, including the Green Lantern. Located near Los Angeles, the park also has plenty of Hollywood flair for those who prefer to stay on the ground.

7
King's Island

 

King’s Island

Mason, Ohio

King’s Island is one of the most visited theme parks in the US, with more than 3 million visitors per year. The park is especially known for its family-friendly attractions, such as Snoopy Island. Tickets to the main park also include admission to the nearby water park, Boomerang Bay.

8
Wisconsin Dells

 

Dells Water Parks

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells is a water park aficionado’s dream, with dozens of indoor and outdoor water parks to splash around in. One of them, Noah’s Ark, is the largest outdoor water park in the US. Many are open year-round.

9
Hersheypark

 

Hersheypark

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Originally created as a recreation area for employees of the Hershey Chocolate factory, today Hershey Park boasts plenty of chocolate paraphernalia, as well as roller coasters and a water park. Tickets include admission to the nearby ZOOAMERICA.

10
Knott's Berry Farm

 

Knott’s Berry Farm

Buena Park, California

Originally owned by the Knott’s jam producers, Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park is one of the older parks in the US, Knott’s Berry Farm is a classic for those looking for thrill rides, water rides and family fun.

The Top 10 Theme Parks in the UK

 
Blackpool Pleasure Beach remains the best-attended amusement park in the UK.

Theme Park Tourist’s guide to the top 10 theme parks in the UK – which should be top of your list to visit?

After last week’s article, in which I compared Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, two of my personal favourite UK theme parks, this week I’m running the rule over the whole of the top 10.

Unlike the previous duel, this list will be primarily based on attendance – the most popular amongst the general public. However, these figures are often a little shaky; some parks elect not to publish full attendance figures, and many parks are free to enter, but operate a pay-per-ride scheme – so I’ll factor some common sense in too.

10. Lightwater Valley

The Ultimate is Lightwater Valley’s leading attraction.
Image © Lightwater Valley

This last spot on the list was hard to pick; there are a number of theme parks in the UK which host some very good rides and attractions, such as Fantasy Island in Skegness, but I felt the Yorkshire’s Lightwater Valley deserved it most. The park has struggled just to remain open in the past decade but it must be credited for its resilience and determination to continue to add new rides. The most famous, of course, is The Ultimate, a bizarre steel hybrid coaster that stretches across the park on a 7 minute, 7,442-feet-long trip (it is the second longest coaster on the planet) through forests and over hills. More recently the park has focused on some stunning theming; the aging Rat Ride was rethemed to Raptor Attack in 2010, and has been met with rave reviews, and a new pirate area was installed in 2011.

9. Paultons Park

Cobra was the first step in a series of investments at Paultons Park.
Image © Michael Miller

Paultons Park is punching well above its historic weight in this list, but there is no doubt it deserves a place based on recent performance. Until 2006 the park was unheard of apart from those living nearby, but Paultons took the brave decision to invest in a major ride as it constructed Cobra, the UK’s first Gerstlauer Bobsled roller coaster. Rides of this type have been received very well over the world – they are not thrill rides by any means, but pack some pretty impressive speeds and forces into their small layouts. Cobra is no different and set a marker for the park.

The next step came when Peppa Pig World was installed in 2011, featuring seven small rides and a number of other attractions based on the children’s television show. Attendance has sky-rocketed during the past year and has let Paultons Park establish itself on a national basis.

8. Oakwood Theme Park

Oakwood’s natural beauty is only just eclipsed by the quality of its rides.
Image © MGBS4

Many people won’t have heard of Oakwood simply because of its location: it’s hidden away in the south west corner of Wales. This, unfortunatelym means that it garners only a fraction of the customers it should, and as a result the park has struggled at times. All the more the reason to visit!

The incredible wooden roller coaster Megafobia is the fundamental key to the park’s success, being by far the most “airtime”-laden ride in the UK. Nearby, the huge Gerstlauer Eurofighter roller coaster Speed is one the biggest rides of its type in the world. Similarly, Drenched (formerly Hydro) stands out amongst all water rides considering its colossal 120 feet, near-vertical drop. Unlike many other parks in this list, Oakwood is a very pleasant place to be; the Welsh countryside is beautiful and the lack of marauding youths is always a plus.

7. Drayton Manor

Apocalypse is one of the best drop towers in the world. Image © Matthew Wells

Drayton Manor has the misfortune of being in the shadow of the nearby Alton Towers, athough this possibly helps rather than hinders its visitor numbers. In terms of roller coasters it should have a big advantage over Alton Towers in that there is no height limit imposed on it. However Shockwave, the stand up coaster, is rough and short, and G-Force, the high tech X-Car, is possibly the worst ride I have ever been on. But the bad points end there!

Drayton Manor uses the height advantage fantastically with Apocalypse, the 180-feet-tall drop tower, which is no doubt one of the finest in the world. Maelstrom, a Frisbee style ride is also full of thrills, as is Storm Force 10, an incredibly well themed water ride with three powerful drops. However, the recent rise in popularity has not been down to the addition thrill rides, but as with Paultons Park, due to the addition of major children’s attractions. Thomas Land (Thomas the Tank Engine, that is) was received very well in 2008 and last year Ben 10: Ultimate Mission was added too. It’s one area in which it can realistically surpass Alton Towers, and so far it’s doing it very well indeed.

6. Chessington World of Adventures

The Vampire roller coaster interacts with impressive theming.
Image © Kevin Geraghty-Shewen

Chessington World of Adventures was once one of the biggest and most up-to-date theme parks in the country, but has since been eclipsed by the expansions of its sister parks, Thorpe Park and Alton Towers. However it remains a top quality theme park and recent additions show that it is really pushing to become a well-rounded attraction.

The park aims to please families and younger children, and therefore doesn’t have a great number of big thrill rides, but this is perfectly justified. Dragon’s Fury, a fantastic Maurer spinner and Vampire, a classic Arrow suspended coaster still provide surprising thrills for their small statures. Chessington puts a big accent on nature; there is a fantastic zoo, the recently opened Wild Asia area of the park also holds a bird sanctuary, and plans have been revealed for a Rhino Rally style safari ride for 2013.

5. Flamingo Land

The beautiful namesake animals make up a part of the stunning Flamingoland Zoo. Image © Nick Fletcher

Like certain other parks on this list, Flamingo Land is a late bloomer. In the nineties it was more of a large funfair, akin to Margate’s Dreamland or Blackpool Pleasure Beach, but of course without the coastal element. The rides were decent, but many of them only temporary. In 2002 a massive expansion began with the construction of Cliffhanger, the S&S combo drop tower. Since then five roller coasters have been added, including a pair of Vekomas ; Velocity, a booster bike, and Kumali, a suspended looping coaster, and Mumbo Jumbo, an S&S El Loco which briefly held the world record of steepest drop at an impressive 112 degrees. If recent rumours of a wooden roller coaster prove to be true we could certainly see an even greater rise for this Yorkshire park.

4. Thorpe Park

The monstrous Swarm makes its debut this March at Thorpe Park.
Image © Neil Zone

Thorpe Park is on the rise. The level of commitment to investment from owner Merlin, has been unbelievable and unprecedented in the UK. It is now firmly established as one of the top 5 UK theme parks and has the potential to be even further up the list. With LEGOLAND Windsor and Chessington nearby, Merlin have focused the park solely on the teen and young adult market. This means the large-scale additions always hit the news and create a lot of interest. The latest installation, The Swarm, is set to open next month, and will become the UK’s first Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Rider coaster. The Surrey theme park has regularly been condemned for its lack of attention to detail when it comes to theming, but if the plans and construction are anything to go by then The Swarm will certainly right this.

3. LEGOLAND Windsor

A wonderful scene of London in LEGOLAND Windsor’s Miniland. Image © Ashworth_Rich

LEGOLAND is an often-overlooked park, mainly because it doesn’t attempt to cater to the adrenaline-junkies amongst us. Despite its very specific target market, the pre-teens, it still boasts visitor numbers heading towards 2 million. The LEGO brand continues to be a major draw, and rightly so. One of the most incredible parts of the park is the famous Miniland, a recreation of the most famous sights around the world made from nearly 40 million bricks. LEGOLAND Windsor also doesn’t shy away from investment; you may not often hear of the additions it installs, but almost every year there will be a new attraction of some sort. The sheer number of shows, rides and attractions, as well as the recently built hotel, make LEGOLAND Windsor stand out.

2. Alton Towers

There’s no doubt that the coasters are the biggest draw at Alton Towers. Image © Phonnita Nakasint

Alton Towers is a one-of-a-kind sort of place, and many would claim it deserves an even loftier finish on this list. The stats don’t lie, however, but still the Staffordshire resort pulls in a hefty 2.5 million visitors a year. The main reason for its continuing popularity is simply the fact that it caters to everyone. It boasts the best collection of thrill coasters in the UK, as well as a variety of fun family rides and a plethora of smaller shows and attractions for the little ones.

The primary reasons that Alton Towers doesn’t quite top this list are its out-of-the-way location and relatively high entry price. Personally, I believe the range of attractions justifies this, but you can see why many people would go elsewhere when you have to dish out up to £42 per person just to get in through the gates (unless you’re usingTheme Park Tourist’s Special Offer Watch, of course).

1. Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Classic coasters such as Grand National add to the Pleasure Beach’s nostalgia. Image © Matthew Wells

Surprised? This historic amusement park has really dropped off the radar in recent years (or decades?) and been overshadowed by its Merlin-owned rivals. However, clearly it remains hugely popular with the British public due to its long history and being part of the entertainment and holiday district that is the Blackpool coast (charging only £5 for entry doesn’t hurt, either). It certainly needs a lick of paint here and there, and aside from the relocated Infusion, a Vekoma suspended looping coaster, there have been few additions of note in the past 12 years.

However, Blackpool Pleasure Beach still has one of the largest collections of coasters in the world, including a record 5 wooden coasters, and many cannot resist that nostalgic funfair, seaside atmosphere. The centrepiece attraction is The Big One, a colossal 213-feet-tall Arrow hypercoaster, which remains the UK’s tallest ride 18 years after its debut. Many criticise the Pleasure Beach, and even more hope for a serious revival, but there’s no doubt it’ll be at near the top of the pile for years to come.

Which is your favourite  theme park? Let us know in the comments 

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make_world_safe

Fear is in the air again. It happens every time a new report of a child abduction reaches our eyes or ears. Parents in all corners of the world are wondering– what can I do to keep my children safe at a time in history where child abduction seems like a regular occurrence?

What do I say to my child? How can I make him recognize danger? What words will get through to her? What exactly do I say when I sit him down for this important conversation?

Yes, what you say to your children about this important issue is critical. What you talk to your children about and how you talk to them are essential steps in preparing them to stay firmly on the path of safety. Below you will find valuable suggestions for how and when to communicate with your children to ensure you meet your most important parenting responsibility–keeping your children safe.

1. Do not view the role of helping your child learn about the dangers of being lost, taken, or abused as a one-time occurrence. A thorough initial discussion is just that–an initial discussion. This topic will need to be revisited by you and your children many times. Look for opportunities to examine this topic from different perspectives.

2. Make sure your children know that if they are lost or taken you will look for them forever and search until they are found. Reassure them frequently of your love and of your desire to have them in your life. Let them know that you love them no matter what they say or do and that you will always be there for them and work to keep them safe and healthy.

3. Remind your children that the world is a place where most people love children and helpers are everywhere. When you are at the mall or grocery store, point out the people who are likely to help: a woman at the door, a grandmother, a person at the information center. Statistics indicate that women are more likely to take a child who needs help to the appropriate person. A man will often point the child in the right direction but let them navigate the route on their own.

4. Do not use the “never talk to strangers” slogan. If your child is lost at an amusement park or mall, everyone around them could be a stranger. If they can’t talk to strangers, who do they turn to? Instead, teach your children how to recognize the people who are most likely to help. That person just might be a stranger.

5. When you see a situation that is potentially unsafe, point it out to your children. Talk about what is unsafe about it and what could be done to make it safe. Tell them why you parked under the light in the parking lot as night approached. Explain why you moved away from the curb as you walked along the sidewalk on a busy or icy street. Talk about why it is not safe to help someone find their lost dog or cat.

6. Do not teach your child that please is the magic word. “Say the magic word and I’ll give you more ice cream” some parents tell their children. Guess what? Child abductors use the magic word, too. They can be extremely polite until they achieve their prime objective.

7. Teach your child the danger signal of people bearing gifts. Ice cream, candy and video games are good bribes. Help your child see them as warning signs.

8. Let your children know that there is a time to be polite to an adult and a time not to be polite. Talk about how to fight back by kicking, scratching and biting. Teach them to make themselves big by holding onto something else if someone tries to take them. Tell them that it is okay to scream, “This is not my daddy! Help!” when an adult grabs them. Practice this strategy by role-playing it with your children.

9. Teach your children to give it the “tummy test.” If it feels unsafe or scary in their tummy, teach them to run. Logic is not important here. Intuition and inner knowing is. Help your children develop that wise part within. Teach them to trust it.

10. Teach your child to be assertive. If an adult is invading their space or saying something that is bringing up uncomfortable feelings, teach your children to speak up. Give them the words to use. “Leave me alone” or “Stay away from me” work well in these situations.

11. Create a code word to be used anytime you have asked someone other than immediate family to pick up or transport your children. There may be times when you cannot get to school, baseball practice, or the church function. If the person who tells your child he or she is there to pick them up doesn’t know the code word, teach your child to immediately tell another adult whom they trust.

12. Use your words to paint a picture of hope rather than fear. We want our children to see that safety exists all around them. When children see the world as safe instead of scary, they are better able to sense an unsafe situation when one arises. If everything is seen as scary, rotten, or hurtful, then the next scary incident that comes along is just like all the others and seems normal.

Your number-one job as a parent is to keep your children safe and healthy. That involves teaching them to protect themselves from the potential dangers that exist in our world. Use the suggestions above to arm your children with strategies that can help them take care of themselves.

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR KIDS  SAFE

WHAT DO YOU THINK SEND A COMMENT ?

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Cable tidy examples

I created this tutorial for the Buzz Feed website. I loved creating it as it was a bit of a challenge to do something I wouldn’t usually do and be given a little brief for a craft make – it got the cogs whirring!

You can see the tutorial on the Buzz Feed website, but all the instructions are below too!

You will need: two wooden clothes pegs, all purpose glue, washi tape in colours or patterns of your choice, and your headphones.

Step 1

Get your pegs right: First you need to check the pegs are the right size for your headphones. Open one of the pegs and clamp around the wire just below the jack plug of your headphones. If the jack plug doesn’t fall through the end, you’re onto a winner. If it does, you’ll need to get some slightly smaller pegs.

Step 2

Get taping: Bare wooden pegs are OK but you’ll want to add a bit of colour and fun to your cable tidy. To do this add some washi tape down one side of each of the pegs. Pick your favourite colours or patterns, I went for some black and white dots, but you could try neons, or pastels which would look great against the light wood.

Step 3

Glue it together: Once you’re all washi taped up, use the all purpose glue to sandwich the non-decorated sides together. The pegs will need to top-and-tail each other as shown, so you can wind your headphones round it properly.

step 4

It’s a wrap: Woo hoo! You’re pretty much there, you just need to add your headphones – et voila! Start by putting the jack plug into the end of one of the pegs, then wrapping the cable round and round your new creation. Once you run out of cable, open the other peg and secure around the wire under the earbuds.

Step 5

Ready to go: So there you have your super-simple cute cable tidy.

Finished cable tidy

I made a few more and played with some colour combos, for one of them I also decided to offset my pegs slightly to add a little something extra to the design.

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