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Learning to ride a bike is a developmental milestone in the life of a child. The bicycle, a child’s first vehicle, is a source of pride and a symbol of independence and freedom. Yet all too often children are seriously injured, or even killed, when they fail to follow basic bicycle safety rules. The following is a list of common bicycle safety myths, coupled with the correct information you need to teach your children about safe bike riding. These facts will help you and your children make every bike ride safe.

Myth: My child doesn’t need to wear a helmet on short rides around the neighborhood.

Fact: Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many accidents happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. In fact, the majority of bike crashes happen near home. A helmet protects your child from serious injury, and should always be worn. And remember, wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.

Myth: A football helmet will work just as well as a bicycle helmet.

Fact: Only a bicycle helmet is made specifically to protect the head from any fall that may occur while biking. Other helmets or hard hats are made to protect the head from other types of injury. Never allow your child to wear another type of helmet when riding a bike.

Myth: I need to buy a bicycle for my child to grow into.

Fact: Oversized bikes are especially dangerous. Your child does not have the skills and coordination needed to handle a bigger bike and may lose control. Your child should be able to sit on the seat, with hands on the handlebars, and place the balls of both feet on the ground. Your child’s first bike should also be equipped with footbrakes, since your children’s hand muscles and coordination are not mature enough to control hand brakes.

Myth: It’s safer for my child to ride facing traffic.

Fact: Your child should always ride on the right, with traffic. Riding against traffic confuses or surprises drivers. Almost one fourth of bicycle-car collisions result from bicyclists riding against traffic.

Myth: Children shouldn’t use hand signals, because signaling may cause them to lose control of their bikes.

Fact: Hand signals are an important part of the rules of the road and should be taught to all children before they begin to ride in the street. They are an important communication link between cyclists and motorists. Any child who does not have the skills necessary to use hand signals without falling or swerving shouldn’t be riding in the street to begin with. Many accidents involving older children occur when they fail to signal motorists as to their intended actions.

Myth: Bike reflectors and a reflective vest will make it safe for my child to ride at night.

Fact: It’s never safe for your child to ride a bike at night. Night riding requires special skills and special equipment. Few youngsters are equipped with either. Never allow your child to ride at dusk or after dark.

Myth: I don’t need to teach my child all of this bicycle safety stuff. I was never injured as a child. Biking is just meant to be fun.

Fact: Riding a bike is fun – if it’s done safely. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize hundreds of thousands of children are seriously injured each year in bicycle falls. Worse still, more than 600 children die from them each year. While you may have been lucky enough to survive childhood without a serious bicycle-related injury, you shouldn’t count on luck to protect your child.

Teach your child these basic safety rules:

  1. Wear a helmet.
  2. Ride on the right side, with traffic.
  3. Use appropriate hand signals.
  4. Respect traffic signals.

Basic safety measures like these can keep bicycle riding enjoyable and safe for your child. 

 

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sant

Christmas is not just for kids!

Is Christmas just for kids? I say-no way! Christmas is a time of joy for us all. I view it as an all-American holiday that has religious meaning for some but can also be enjoyed for the many other things it represents. No, Christmas is not just for kids! Adult pleasures abound and may be even more wonderful than the magical feeling children have while awaiting Santa Claus.

Here are a few of my favorite reasons to embrace the holidays in a grown up way.

The arrival of the winter solstice:

In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, we celebrate the solstice, because this date just before Christmas opens the way to longer days. My husband and I always enjoy hosting a gathering for friends around this time of year. We ask everyone to bring their favorite foods and wines to share, and friends who are willing to play for the group entertain us around the piano. We all wrap up the evening feeling warm, with a smile on our faces.

Time to enjoy wonderful foods:

I love to cook, and Christmas Eve dinner is one of my favorite meals to plan and prepare. It’s become a tradition to make a rich potato dish that’s really just sliced potatoes covered in rich cream and baked-I prepare this dish only once a year and savor every decadent bite! Sometimes we have lamb, and other years it’s prime rib. This Christmas we’ll enjoy a pork roast with the potatoes and lots of other treats, including a decadent dessert. I’ve also been busy baking cookies and surprising friends and neighbors with a plate of treats still warm from the oven.

Time to express gratitude to friends:

The holiday season is a wonderful time to slow down and enjoy getting together with our favorite people for a meal, a drink, or dessert. It’s a time to express appreciation for services done and for friendships, both of which we tend to take for granted during the rest of the year. I got great pleasure from watching our two pet sitters open their cards to find extra holiday cash and seeing the face of my next-door neighbor when I arrived with a plate of treats.

The music is amazing:

I simply adore holiday music. My favorites are Andrea Bocelli and the Three Tenors, and these two CD’s are getting worn from being played over and over. There’s something quite magical about having a lit tree that smells of the forest as a backdrop for Christmas songs sung in Italian.

So, while the Christmas season can be stressful for many, for so many reasons, it doesn’t have to be. Take the steps you need to take to have a relaxing, bright, and warm holiday season!!

WHAT DO YOU THINK

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time_for_a_crafty_harvest-1

INTRODUCTION

The cornucopia can be a bit of an attention hog: proudly spilling its bounty across the dining room in a way that borders on needy. As harvest-time icons go, we much prefer the simple beauty of corn-husk dolls: They’re understated, easy to make even for children, and truly ingenious — requiring not much more than some husks, twine, glue, and felt.

Resources: Square-cut corn husks — the ones used for tamales are sold at international grocers and surfasonline.com.

  • kids-036-mld109174.jpg
  • materials-078-mld109174.jpg

MATERIALS

  • Square-cut dried corn husks
  • Wool felt, in assorted colors
  • Yarn or raffia
  • Paper towel
  • Buttons
  • Scissors
  • Glue

STEPS

  1. STEP 1

    corn-husk-dolls-1.jpg

    Start by soaking the husks in water for 10 minutes, and then blot excess water with a paper towel.

  2. STEP 2

    Lay 4 or 6 husks (always an even number) in a stack.

  3. STEP 3

    corn-husk-dolls-2.jpg

    Using thin twine, tie husks together, about 1 inch from top.

  4. STEP 4

    corn-husk-dolls-3.jpg

    Separate husks into equal portions (2 and 2, or 3 and 3), and fold halves down, covering twine.

  5. STEP 5

    corn-husk-dolls-4.jpg

    Using thin twine, tie husks about 1 inch down, creating head.

  6. STEP 6

    corn-husk-dolls-5.jpg

    Roll a single husk and tie at ends to make arms.

  7. STEP 7

    corn-husk-dolls-6.jpg

    Position arms below knot at neck, between equal portions of husks.

  8. STEP 8

    corn-husk-dolls-7.jpg

    Tie waist. For female doll, trim husks to an even length.

  9. STEP 9

    corn-husk-dolls-8.jpg

    For male doll, separate legs into equal portions. Tie at knees and ankles. Trim evenly.

  10. STEP 10

    To make hair, glue yarn or raffia to the heads. Fashion clothes from pieces of felt: Cut rectangles, and snip slits or X’s in the center; then slide over doll’s head, and secure around the waist with a strip of felt or yarn. (Glue on buttons, and use scissors to make fringe as desired.) Create hats and bonnets by cutting felt to fit, and then gluing in place.

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fit

 
Keep Fit at Home

Need a workout? Sometimes gyms aren’t the best places to go for a work out, especially when time is limited and money is tight. However, there are tons of ways to keep fit in the comfort of your own home! 

Instructions

    • 1

      Take some time every day and do a few easy exercises, such as crunches or push ups. These take little effort and can reward you in the long run. Add a couple more each day and soon you’ll be feeling less of a burn and more of a reward.

    • 2

      Climb stairs. Climbing stairs is a great way to get the heart pumping. Up the speed or climb at a steady pace. You set your own limits!

    • 3

      Follow work out videos. Work out videos allow you to move at your own pace and try out new activities that you can easy learn on TV.

    • 4

      Work out your arm muscles by lifting a heavy trash bag or laundry basket over and over again. Be careful not to strain your back!

    • 5

      Keep active even in the comfort of your own home. Don’t become a couch potato once you get home. Keep your body active and moving!

    • 6

      Take walks around the neighborhood or bike rides. Though they may not be in yourhome, they still give you the benefits of exercise in your own comfort zone.

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garden

 
Hot temperatures in the summer are notorious for producing strong thunderstorms. These thunderstorms can contain torrential downpours, high winds, and even hail.

All of these ingredients can wreck a vegetable garden in minutes by causing plant damage, soil erosion, plant diseases, and flooding. It can be difficult, maybe even impossible to protect precious vegetables from the wrath of Mother Nature, but here are a few tips for what to do after a heavy thunderstorm.

Corn After Heavy Rain and Hail

    1. Survey any plant damage. Take a survey of any leaf or stem damage that may have occurred. If there is minimal damage to leaves, you may be able to just remove them. Keep an eye on plants that have received moderate or heavy damage over the next couple days , the plant might be able to recuperate. Try to stake up plants that are now leaning. If the main stem of a plant has snapped then more than likely it is a loss. You can try grafting the stem back together. There is no guarantee the plant will survive, but you can try to salvage it.

 

    1. Try to avoid walking right next to the plants while the soil is saturated. During this time plants, and root systems, are very vulnerable to damage from stepping on them. Walking near plants can also cause soil impaction, which can limit root growth. This is not a big concern if you have a well designed raised bed garden where you can reach each plant without stepping near them.

 

    1. Check for any exposed roots due to soil erosion. If you find exposed roots, cover them with soil or compost as soon as possible. Do not let the roots dry out – this could be catastrophic to the plant.
  • After a very heavy rain you may need to replenish nutrients. Having heavy water runoff can carry nutrients from the soil. Make sure to replenish these nutrients with fish emulsion or an organic all-purpose fertilizer.

 

  • During the storm (or soon after) look for areas that may be draining poorly. You do not want areas of long standing water in the vegetable garden. This can be very bad for plants, and could lead to root rot. If you find areas that drain poorly, create ways to get the water to drain away from the vegetable garden. You could implement dry creek beds (rock beds) or use plastic water drains to redirect water from the vegetable garden.

 

  • Eliminate possible slug or snail hiding places. Slugs and snails love damp places that have hiding areas. Remove any boards, stones, or other items that are laying around in or around the garden.

 

  • Keep an eye on emerging weeds. Weeds love to pop up soon after a storm. The sudden charge of moisture to the soil will encourage weeds to spring up almost overnight. Put down some type of mulch to prevent weeds and to help ease soil erosion.

 

  • Empty any containers that have collected water. Overturn any buckets, wheelbarrows,  or pot saucers that contain rainwater. These are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. If you have a rain barrel, you could dump the rainwater in there.

 

  • Keep an eye out for fungal or bacterial diseases. Damp, humid conditions are perfect for fungal and bacterial disease development. Diseases, such as powdery mildew, will spread very quickly in these conditions. Treat these diseases as soon as they are noticed. Waiting too long to act can mean serious trouble for your vegetable plants.

If you have more tips on taking care of your vegetable garden after a strong storm, please share them with us

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Make Rag Dolls

 
  

Rag dolls are often a child’s favorite and they’re super easy to make from spare pieces of fabric or unwanted older fabric that would otherwise be turned into rags. In putting a rag doll together, a unique personality forms every single time.

 
  1. 1

    Choose how you want your doll to look. Start with the fabric color. Any plain fabric will do, but you might want to choose something approximately skin-colored, such as cream, brown, tan, white, or pink.

     

     

    • Traditionally, rag dolls were made from scraps of fabric (rags), so see if you can find enough fabric to recycle from a pillow case, an old shirt or clothes that don’t fit.
  2. 2

    Draw the outline for your doll on a cloth. Add some extra width (half an inch to 5/8″) all around the outside of your outline for a seam allowance.

     

    • Make the doll shape a little larger than you want the finished doll. When you stuff it, it will puff up and the sides will come in a little bit.
    • You can practice the outline on paper until you get it about right.
    • Make the head fairly large and round or oval.its ugly man
  3. 3

    Place a second layer of fabric underneath with the right sides of the fabric together. Cut out both on the outermost line.

     
     
     
     
     
  4. 4

    Pin the fabric and stitch around the outline, leaving an opening for the stuffing.

     
     
     
     
     
  5. 5

    Relieve the seams around curves and corners by cutting triangular notches in the seam allowance.

     
     
     
     
     
  6. 6

    Turn the doll right side out, working the fabric through the opening.

     
     
     
     
     
  7. 7

    Stuff the doll with any fiber stuffing you choose.

     
     
     
     
     
  8. 8

    Turn the edges of the opening under, towards the inside, and stitch it closed by hand or machine.

     
     
     
     
     
  9. 9

    If desired, stitch across the legs and arms to form joints.

     
     
     
     
    A slightly different pattern

     
     
     
     
     
  10. 10

    Decorate the doll. Embroider a face or sew on buttons for the eyes and nose. Hair can be made from yarn; braid it for special effect if the hair is long.

     
     
     
     
     
  11. 11

    Sew doll clothes for it (another great use of found, leftover, or recycled materials), or make no-sew doll clothes.

  • This doll is your own, so have fun with it. If you want crazy colors or crazy hair, make your doll that way.
  • One way to get your doll the same shape on both sides is to trace the outline on paper, fold this pattern in half down the middle, and cut it while it is folded in half.
  • You don’t have to make fancy clothes. A simple no sew pinafore looks just as nice as a beautiful sewed masterpiece!
  • Use tailor’s chalk or washable pencil to mark the fabric if you don’t want leftover marks showing through.
  • Make the doll a bit bigger, if the fabric permits. It will be that much easier to work with and stuff.

Warnings

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Young children love water and it can be fun for everybody, as well as great exercise. But it’s vital that you or another grown-up always watches your child when in, on or around any water, because drowning can happen quickly and quietly.

Toddler playing in pool with her mother

 

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

About 7% of child drownings happen in the bath. Stay with your child, even if she’s only splashing in a couple of centimetres of water in an inflatable pool or in the bathtub.

 

Drowning: what you need to know

Drowning is the number one cause of death for children under five.

Babies and toddlers are top-heavy, which makes them susceptible to drowning. If a baby falls into even shallow water, she cannot always lift herself out. Drowning can occur quickly and quietly, without any warning noises.

In Australia, children under five drown in:

  • swimming pools (16 children drowned in pools in 2009-10)
  • baths (five children drowned in the bath in 2009-10)
  • rivers, creeks and oceans (nine children drowned in a river or in the ocean in 2009-10)
  • dams and lakes (four children drowned in dams in 2009-10).

Children also drown in less obvious locations, such as nappy buckets, water tanks, water features and fish ponds – even pets’ water bowls. Four children drowned in these locations during 2009-10.

For every drowning, approximately three other children are hospitalised from a near-drowning incident, some of which result in severe brain damage.

Prevention and 100% supervision are the keys to keeping your child safe around water.

Water safety basics

It’s important to always stay with your child and watch him whenever he is near water – even when he can swim.

Supervision means constant visual contact with your child and keeping her within arm’s reach at all times. You should be in a position to respond quickly, whether you’re at the beach or the swimming pool, near dams, rivers and lakes, or at home when the bath or spa is full. Hold your child’s hand when you are near waves or paddling in rivers.

Supervision is not an occasional glance while you nap, read or do household chores. It is not watching your kids playing outside while you’re inside. It is always best for an adult, not an older child, to supervise.

You can also teach your child about water safety and how to swim. Many children can learn to swim by the time they are four or five.

First aid is an essential skill for the entire family to learn. Learning CPR and what to do in an emergency could save your child’s life.

Other practical tips for water safety

Around the house

The majority of drowning deaths in Australia result from a child falling or wandering into the water, particularly into a backyard pool. But a young child can drown in as little as 5 cm of water. Here are some tips to improve water safety around your house:

  • Remove any containers with water in them from around the house and make sure your child can’t get to any bodies of water, including the bath, on her own.
  • Use a nappy bucket with a tight-fitting lid and keep the bucket closed, off the floor and out of your child’s reach.
  • Always empty the baby bath as soon as you’re finished with it so older siblings can’t climb in.
  • Drain sinks, tubs, buckets, baths and paddling pools when you’re finished with them.
  • Secure covers to ponds and birdbaths and other water features with wire mesh or empty them until your child is at least five years of age.
  • Keep aquariums and fishbowls out of reach of small children. If you have an inflatable pool that is more than 300 mm in height, pool fencing laws apply. Outdoor spas also have to be fenced.

Outside the house – dams, ponds and tanks 

Children don’t always understand, apply or remember rules, especially when they’re distracted by play. So a securely fenced, safe play area can be an effective barrier between small children and water hazards.

A secure play area  can prevent your child from wandering near dams, creeks or other bodies of water, and gaining access to hazards such as farm machinery, horses and farm vehicles. FarmSafe Australia recommends a ‘safe play’ area, supported by family rules and supervison, as the most effective way to prevent serious injury and death to small children on rural properties.

  • Fence off the area between the house and any bodies of water.
  • Teach your child not to go near the dam, creek or water tank without you.
  • Secure a toddler-proof lid over any water tanks.
  • Fence off, drain or seal ponds while your child or visiting children are less than five years of age.
  • Make sure there are no trellises, ladders, windows or trees that your child could climb to gain access to the water tank.

Beaches, lakes and rivers 

  • Always stay with your child when he is playing in or near the sea, lakes or rivers. Hold your toddler’s hand near waves and when paddling in rivers.
  • Take your child only to patrolled beaches where surf lifesavers are present, and swim only between the flags.
  • Teach your school-age child what to do if she needs help: stay calm, float and raise an arm to signal to a lifeguard or lifesaver.

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kiddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

 

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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Gardener next to robin

There’s plenty of jobs to be done in the garden before Christmas Day 

As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens” is a saying endorsed by many winters. In January, our gardens may well be frosted and frozen, but in these often beautiful and milder days that run up to Christmas, there are many windows of opportunity. Here is my Christmas gardening “Advent calendar” of 24 jobs that can make a real difference to your enjoyment of the garden next year.

December 1st Poppies will be having a field day in 2014, with the First World War centenary. Results will be far better if they’re sown before Christmas. Order quickly, as many councils are also buying vast quantities of Papaver rhoeas (field poppy, corn poppy, Flanders poppy). Try Emorsgate Seeds (Wildseed).

2nd Bulb suppliers offer big discounts now. Many bulbs are fine planted up to and even beyond Christmas. Tulips are brilliant stocking fillers (seeGee Tee). I have ordered 1,000 violet-blue Triteleia ‘Queen Fabiola’ for £25 to form strips of colour along my yew hedge base. The quickest way to plant large quantities of bulbs is to lift a flap of close-mown turf, plant seven or more per pit and push the flap back down. Protect crocus bulbs from squirrels with chicken wire on top (removed as they start to show).

3rd Planting my wallflowers. This gets later every year, but at least if you grow your own (sown in plugs in May/June and then transplanted into some spare ground and pinched out) you will be lifting big, bushy plants with mini root balls, so they cope well with a late move.

4th I’m still collecting seed, especially from my cleomes. Putting them in the fridge in a plastic bag for a couple of weeks helps germinating, then pop them into trays with a thin covering of vermiculite on the kitchen window sill.

5th A last-minute dash to clean up the greenhouse. The quickest way to remove pests and fungal spores is to use a sulphur candle (available from many garden centres), but you must take out any plants and leave it shut up for 12 hours.

6th Get all tender plants moved to snug places – porches, windowsills, garages. Invest in a roll of fleece and lots of mulch. Slightly iffy plants left outside such as agapanthus, dahlias, tulbaghias and Canna iridiflora will benefit from a big, thick duvet of mulch.

7th Move lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) inside. Add fresh leaves and honey to a green tea. It de-stresses, aids digestion and eases colic. A potted plant would be the ideal present.

8th Get bare-root hedges, trees and shrubs in before Christmas if possible or at least order them.

9th Put spiral plastic tree guards on all young, newly planted trees to protect against rabbit damage.

10th Check that all new plants are labelled. The Touch Labelling Co (01572 574910) labels last more than 20 years.

11th Zap any lingering bindweed or ground elder with glyphosate. It will still be effective now (though slower to work) and will make life easier next spring.

12th Keep on picking and storing apples and pears.

13th Leave some apples, chopped in half, for birds; they are great for fieldfares, redwings and thrushes. Build an apple tower on a cane and watch them enjoy!

14th Put water out for birds too; add a ping-pong ball, which helps slow the freezing.

15th Make a fat ball for them too, but don’t use turkey fat as it does not set hard, and so gets smeared on beaks and, worse still, feathers.

16th Leaf sweeping using the mower set high is quick, and speeds breakdown. Avoid if frost is on its way.

17th You may not get around to cleaning your tools, but do get the mower blades sharpened and, ideally, keep a spare pair.

18th Climbing roses need pruning and tying back to stop them waving around.

19th Mulching roses helps them earn their keep; it also keeps down the spread of black spot, especially if you remove all infected leaves too.

20th Bring in the furniture if necessary, let it dry and give a good clean down with a stiff brush to remove any dirt. Then apply liberal coats of teak oil before brushing off excess after the oil has had a chance to soak in.

21st Pot up any promising-looking cuttings or young plants, as presents. Even small-rooted pelargonium cuttings are extremely welcome to gardening friends.

22nd Remove mummified fruit from fruit trees, to stop disease spreading.

23rd Start winding down. Get out a great seed catalogue, such as that from heirloomtoms.org. Order dark purple-black ‘Indigo Rose’ tomatoes (very high in anthocyanins and tasty), some ‘Dragon’s Egg’ cucumbers – which taste like melons but are far easier to grow – and/or some ‘Red Hmong’ cucumbers just 5-6in long in a dusky orange but with a bewitching and exquisite flavour. Try Rainbow Beet from Thompson and Morgan, a mix of scarlet, gold, candy-striped and white beetroot, which I found easy, delicious and attractive.

24th Set out some home-made chilli vodka and a mince pie for your favourite Father Christmas, and if you both get done in time you can knock it back together!

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grandparentsxxxxxxxxx

Working together on a craft project can be a real bonding experience for you and your grandchild. It will allow you to teach them values without being “preachy” and will create memories your grandchildren will remember all of their life.
Try to match the craft activity to one that the child is interested in. As a grandmother, I have used holidays and important family dates to participate in a craft with my granddaughters. I always help them make a Christmas gift and a Mother’s Day/Father’s Day gift for Mom and Dad. And birthdays are never forgotten. Not only do we enjoy spending the time together, but also they are so excited to be able to give a gift that they have actually created. We have great fun putting together “beautiful” cards with construction paper, glitter, buttons, feathers, ribbon, etc. Sometimes we find pictures on the Internet that can be used. Sometimes the girls know more about how to find them than Mimi does. One of the most fun crafts we did was for Mother’s Day this year. Their mother’s favorite craft is cross-stitch. Now one of her most treasured keepsakes is the plastic grid that her six year old worked on for several weeks in order to create a “beautiful” cross-stitch butterfly. It is important to keep the craft age appropriate and not to expect that the end result be perfect. The kit we used was one that is inexpensive and can be bought anywhere sewing crafts are sold. The four year old was also excited to give her Mom a “sewing” project. I used colored craft foam and cut out a large heart. Holes were punched along the edge and my granddaughter used a plastic needle to lace plastic “thread” through the holes. It is now also one of her Mom’s most valuable treasures.

One of the important concepts communicated to the child when I help them with a gift for their parents, is that I value their parents. Two of my granddaughters are now six and four years old, and they are aware that their father is my son. I use this as an opportunity to speak to them about families and how they love and care for each other. When we make a gift for their mother I make sure they know that I also value and appreciate her and consider her to be a good mother.
My husband also uses crafts and games to bond with the girls. One of the most fun activities was the time he helped them to make wooden boats with sails and then both families (along with their eighty three year old great grandmother) went down to the neighborhood pond and floated the boats. It was a great bonding experience for the whole family and the girls still talk about the memory that was created. A little different spin on the craft idea for my husband is his cache of child friendly toys. He is always finding something unusual, a lot of times something that was more popular in a bygone era. An example is a set of pick-up sticks. It was a big hit and something the children have enjoyed doing with “Pa”. He keeps the collection in a special place and when he gets it out, they are always eager to re-visit the items they’ve seen before and see what new treasures Pa has added.

I believe that even at such young ages, children know and value time spent with them over material gifts. Crafts (and games) are a wonderful way for grandparents to fill up that time with activities that will create memories that last a lifetime.

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