728 x 90 unit

Expensive Summer Camps

Posted on: January 30th, 2011 by Coleen Bennett No Comments

What are your kids doing this summer? You want them to do something productive with their time, rather than just watching tv and surfing the internet all day. And if you have to work, it’s probably a good idea to have some kind of supervision for them. There are tons of summer camps available, but what about the price tag? You may find your whole paycheck wiped out, especially if you have more than one child attending camps.

There are some types of camps that seem to come with the heftiest costs, and we have plenty of those right here in Southern California. It’s not uncommon for a week of horse camp to cost $350 to $400. That’s Monday through Friday 9 am to 3 pm or even 10 am to 2 pm. This isn’t enough time to you to work a full day. Also, horse camps are only offered in areas where there’s plenty of room, so chances are good that you’ll have a fair bit of driving to do to get your kids to and from camp each day. The expenses of keeping and caring for the horses is what drives the high cost of these camps.

Surfing and junior lifeguard programs carry similar price tags. They also tend to have hours that are shorter than your eight hour work day. And if you don’t live by the beach, you’re going to have a commute – twice a day. The beach location is part of the reason for the cost. Space is limited and these camps have to pay to lease their locations. The ration of adults to kids needs to be pretty high, just because of the inherent dangers of the ocean. Likewise, they need responsible CPR trained adults. Most of these camps maintain equipment, like surfboards, kayaks, and paddle boards.

Specialty camps such as acting, science or a sport can set you back quite a bit. Acting camps are often run at a local community theater. A science camp might meet at a science museum. Some sports camps like swimming or golf require a special location. The other reason for the cost is the type of instructors. These aren’t usually college kids who just need to keep kids safe and entertained. These are specialized coaches and teachers helping your child learn more about something they’re interested in.

There is a much less expensive option. There are many summer camps that offer child care, usually for a long enough time each day for you to drop your kids off, go to work for eight hours and then pick them up. Since no specialized location is required, you’re likely to find these types of camps and the local school or city recreation department. Even field trip camps, where the kids go to the movies, theme parks and other fun places every week, are surprisingly affordable.

So are these pricey summer camps for kids worth it? It depends. If your child is interested in exploring a particular activity, summer is a time when they can devote hours at a stretch to it. Fortunately there’s an easy way to compromise. Many summer camps offer sessions that last one to three weeks. You could sign your child up for one or two sessions of the camp of their dreams, and let them spend the rest of the summer at a more relaxing camp where they just hang out with their friends. Here are listings of summer camps in Orange County and summer camps in San Diego to get you started.

Hole In The Wall Auditions

Posted on: January 11th, 2011 by Coleen Bennett 9 Comments

Have you heard of Hole in the Wall? It’s a new game show on Cartoon Network. Remember those old cartoons where Daffy Duck crashes through a wall, leaving a Daffy shaped hole in his wake? Well, in this game, a wall with a crazy-shaped hole approaches the contestants, who must position themselves to pass through the hole.

Different rounds require one, two or three team members to pass through the wall. Now add unwieldy costumes, positions that are hard to hold and whatever other challenges they can come up with.

Oh, and one more thing. If you don’t successfully pass through the wall, it will push you into the pool. Sounds like fun, right?

There’s a casting call at Boomers in Irvine on Saturday, January 15th from noon to 3pm. Teams of three must have at least one adult (18 or older) and one child (17 or under).

So how do you get picked to be on the television show? They’re looking for teams with lots of energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to have a good time. The team members must know each other. Cartoon Network wants people to watch their show, right? People watch because it’s fun and exciting. If your team is interesting, let’s say a coach and two players, a kid and their grandparents, best friends, a teacher and their students or any other attention grabbing combination, they’re looking for you. When you go to the audition, show off your outgoing personalities.

If your team gets selected, you’ll get to go to Burbank for a one day shoot. If you can’t make it on Saturday, don’t worry. Email Apply@HoleInTheWallCasting.com with a photo of your team and tell them why you’d be great for their show. If they agree, they’ll schedule an interview for you in Burbank. You can read all of the requirements and watch a video of the show at Hole In The Wall. Good luck!

Great Halloween Costumes for Teens & Tweens

Posted on: October 2nd, 2010 by Coleen Bennett No Comments

It’s October already, and than means Halloween costumes. You can get costumes at one of the many seasonal costume stores in Orange County. They have all the hot costumes, from Alice in Wonderland to Michael Jackson, as well as the classic ghoul and princess costumes. But if you have a teenager, like I do, originality is the name of the game. They want the one costume that no one else even thought of.

There is a wonderful second-hand clothing store in Dana Point where you can get vintage clothing. This isn’t like other second-hand stores and thrift stores that you may have seen. Junqie’s finds the best vintage clothing and combines it with a few new things for a very nice selection at very reasonable prices.

Junquie’s used to be located in Dana Point, right across from Harbor House Cafe, but they lost their lease a few months ago. Fortunately, they have moved into their new location at 24662 Del Prado in Dana Point just in time for Halloween shopping. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

How To Host a Slumber Party

Posted on: September 11th, 2010 by Coleen Bennett 1 Comment

Slumber parties are an exciting and thrilling event for the young children participating in them. Entertaining and corralling a bunch of kids for a whole night can be somewhat trying for the host or hostess’s parents though. If your son or daughter is itching to have a slumber party soon, have some childens activities planned ahead of time.

Having some kind of activities and time wasters planned will definitely make the night go smoother for you. A house full of bored children is about the worst thing you could have. Don’t over schedule the too much since an over regimented slumber party is likely to backfire on you.

The DVD player can buy you a couple of hours of relative quiet. You can rent the latest release if you know what they want to watch. Or you could have the party goers choose the flick. While you are renting the tape, have the slumber party guests get their movie watching snacks and drinks ready (with adult supervision, of course).

Board games can be a big hit. Don’t just get out all of your board games, though. With too many to choose from, they’ll never agree. Pick out a few appropriate games ahead of time. Games with fairly simple rules and that don’t take too long to play usually work best, especially if the slumber party guests are under eleven or so. Young children don’t have a long enough attention span to play Monopoly. A deck of cards is always a safe bet too.

You could also supply the kids with a few art supplies and let them create their own board game. In the hands of small children, card board, markers, glue, and colored pencils can easily be transformed into a homemade game. What a creative and productive way to spend a few hours! After they’ve finished, borrow a few dice and pieces from other games and play with them on their new board.

Let the children pick out an item from one of your cookbooks and help them bake it. Cakes, brownies and cookies are pretty easy for kids to make. Ice cream sundaes or pizzas are other options. Whatever they make, kids will love to eat their own creations afterwards. Let the kids do the basic mixing and gathering of ingredients but handle any knife and oven usage yourself.

Supply the kids with some extra blankets, quilts, and pillows and let them build a fort in your living room. To make the structure more stable, push your couches and other chairs together and drape some of the blankets over them. Adding pillows and stuffed animals will make the interior quite posh. No doubt the kids will want to move their sleeping bags in so they can sleep inside the tent.

When that most wonderful (to parents) time, bedtime, has arrived, have the kids gather in their fort. If the kids are old enough, turn out the house lights, give them flashlights and let them tell spooky stories. Or you could read them a scary story. If the kids are too young for scary stories, read to them from a favorite book or let them take turns reading. Then, after every one has brushed their teeth and washed their faces, put the slumber party guests to bed and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Enter Your Masterpiece in the Orange County Fair!

Posted on: April 21st, 2010 by Coleen Bennett 1 Comment

It’s time for creative kids in Orange County to show off their skills! Do you make the best brownies anyone has ever tasted? Have you taken an award-worthy photograph? Have you designed a jewelry masterpiece?

It has long been a tradition for artisans to enter their creations in the county fair competitions, but did you know that kids can get in on the act? Most of the competitions that adults enter also have a kids division for ages 3 to 8, a juniors division for ages 9 to 12, and a young adults division for ages 13 to 18.

The competitions that kids can enter are

  • Crafts
  • Photo Contest
  • Writing
  • Community Service
  • Painting & Drawing
  • Single-Day Contests
  • Farm & Garden
  • Floral
  • Collections
  • Culinary
  • Table Setting
  • Fiber Arts & Quilts
  • Hand Crafts & Hobbies
  • FFA
  • Jewelry
  • Fine Art
  • Fine Art Photography

There are subcategories for many of these competitions. You can see the whole list of categories and rules at 2010 Orange County Fair Competitions .

All entries will be displayed during the Orange County Fair in July and August. Imagine your masterpiece being part of the fair! Of course if you enter, your parents will have to take you to the fair to ride rides and eat junk food!

You have to live in Orange County to submit your work. The deadline for entering is May 26th. If you’re having trouble with the application, you can stop by the fairgrounds May 17-20 (Monday–Thursday), 1pm to 7pm or May 24-25 (Monday–Tuesday), 1pm to 7pm for help.

Who knows? You might even win a blue ribbon!

Time for Water Fun

Posted on: April 18th, 2010 by Coleen Bennett 1 Comment

Summer time in Orange County is almost here, and you know what that means – warm sunny days and no school. Kids look forward to summer all year, and with good reason. There are so many fun things to do in Orange County. So where do you start?

A lot of summertime activities center around water, whether it’s the pool, the beach, or a water park. The first order of business is to make sure that your kids are water safe. I use that term loosely. It’s not possible for a very young child – say under the age of five – to be water safe. Parents must be within arm’s reach. Still, children should start learning to swim early. They’ll get comfortable in the water and learn swimming skills that will eventually make them strong, safe swimmers.

Get your child enrolled in swim lessons as early in the season as you can. Here’s a listing of swimming lessons in Orange County. They’ll start off the summer with the right habits and incorporate some of what they’ve learned into their water play. To keep in practice, you could have them swim one lap, or whatever is appropriate for their age, before playing every time you go to the pool.

A lot of community pools aren’t heated this early in the season. Fortunately there are a lot of private swim schools with heated pools. If your child is sensitive to chlorine, you can even find salt water pools to learn in. Still, most pools are kept clean with chlorine – a lot of it. A lot of kids wear goggles in the pool, just because the chlorine is so strong.

If your kids are old enough to remember how to swim from one year to the next, they’re not going to want to take swim lessons with the little kids. If you are less certain about their skills than they are, there are other options to reinforce their swimming skills. You can sign them up for a swim team, an introductory water polo class, or a junior lifeguard program. Scouts often incorporate a swimming test into achievement requirements.

The beach is another place that you’ll be spending a lot of time this summer. The ocean can keep kids busy and happy for hours. There’s something endlessly fascinating about the waves. Even the smallest kids love to play chicken with the waves. There are a few things that are different, safety-wise, about the ocean. First, the water doesn’t hold still. Kids need to get familiar with the fact that they might be up to their knees one minute and up to their chest the next. Teach them how to behave when they wipe out. If they know what’s coming, they won’t panic. When they’re old enough, they need to learn about rip currents. Junior Lifeguard programs and surfing classes provide this kind of instruction.

The other big difference about the ocean is that it’s harder for you to see them, because the water’s not clear and they’re so far away if you’re on the beach. Always go to a beach with a lifeguard. Go into the water with them when they’re little. When they’re old enough to go into the surf on their own, set limits about how far out they can go, and have them stay with a buddy. Have them wear something that makes it easier for you to see them. Rashguards are a good idea anyway, and them come in very light materials. Have them come out of the water for a rest when they get tired. This is your opportunity to take your eyes off the water for a little while!

Most of all, let them play and wear themselves out. Kids and water are a perfect combination, and we’re lucky to have so many great places to play in the sun.

An Old Fashioned Remedy for ADHD

Posted on: January 16th, 2010 by Coleen Bennett 2 Comments

I read a great article in this month’s Parenting magazine about Nature Deficit Disorder. In it the author mentioned a study published by the American Journal of Public Health that found that exposure to nature reduced ADHD symptoms in children.

In this study they had children do typical weekend or after-school activities in three settings, indoors, outdoors in a built setting (like a blacktop area without much greenery), and outdoors in a mostly green setting. Then their parents rated their abilities on things like following directions in comparison with what was normal for that child. The results of the outdoor built setting were better than indoors. The results of the outdoor green setting were even better. It appears that the results were measured in the first hour after the activity. I would love to see further study on how long the results last.

Even without further study, though, this information could be useful to parents. Getting outdoors is inexpensive and good for all kids whether or not they have adhd. In fact, there’s a lot of discussion about what adhd is and even whether it’s real. For a ‘treatment’ like this, it doesn’t matter. If your child has trouble concentrating or completing tasks, is easily distracted or can’t sit still, try getting them more green outdoor time. There are no harmful side effects. If it helps even a little, you’re ahead.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Maybe your children can come up with more.

  • Have kids walk or ride their bike to school, preferably through an area where they can see trees, grass, rocks and other cool stuff.
  • Set up a fun spot in your back yard where you child can go to read, play or maybe even do homework.
  • Hang a hummingbird feeder outside your child’s bedroom window.
  • Open the windows so your child will see the great outdoors sometimes even when they’re inside.
  • Put houseplants in the house, maybe even in your child’s room.
  • When you’re looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon, head to one of the many wilderness areas in Orange County.
  • Sign your child up for one of the many children’s educational programs offered by these nature centers or sanctuaries. Don’t forget to allow some extra non-structured play time before or after class.
  • Join a club that does a lot of outdoor activities, like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or Indian Guides.
  • Don’t let poor weather stop your child from playing outdoors. Get rain boots and jackets, or just accept the fact that they’re going to get wet and muddy. They can clean up when they’re done.

Prepare Projects for Indoor Days

Posted on: December 3rd, 2009 by Coleen Bennett 1 Comment

Ever have one of those days when the kids are house-bound and have nothing to do? Maybe they’re home sick, but they’re feeling well enough to be bored. Or maybe you’re trying to get some work done and you don’t have time to take them out somewhere. Those kinds of days sneak up on you when you don’t expect them. You need to have some indoor activities for kids at your fingertips.

Now is the time to get ready. Prepare a few projects that will keep the kids entertained. Get the materials and hide them. If the kids see it, they’ll want to do the project now. You need it to be a surprise for the kids just when they (and you) need it most. Peruse the craft store ads for art projects that your kids might like and pick them up when they’re on sale. Think about your child’s special interests. Maybe there’s a project related to them? Remember things you made when you were a kid. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Get something made from unfinished wood at your local craft store. It can be small, like a bird house or a shelf, or larger, like a stepstool or a small wooden bench. The craft stores usually keep them in the back of the store. Next you need something that the kids can use to decorate them – crayons, paints, whatever. Last, you need clear spray-on paint to seal it. When the time is right, get out the newspaper and the supplies and let the kids decorate their own brand-new whatever. You seal it with the clear paint later and it’s a great addition to their room.

You could do something similar with ceramics. There are a lot of shops where kids can decorate a bowl or knick knack. If you’re prepared with all the materials, you can do the same thing at home.

Make a scavenger hunt. This will take some time on your part, but imagine how much fun the kids will have when you send them on a long scavenger hunt.  You can create one from scratch if you like. If you’re short on time or creative energy, there’s a great product called Riddle Me that you can download for $20. It lists many items that are commonly found in homes. You just check the ones that you want to use and it prints out the clues. You have to go through the house hiding clues for the kids to find, but they make it pretty easy by telling you where each clue should be hidden.

Oriental Trading Company has a craft division. You can order little craft kids that have everything you need. The only problem is that you usually have to order 12 kits at a time. You could also look at their website to find ideas and put the kits together yourself.

This isn’t really a craft, but it’s a great idea. Get a building toy, like K’nex, Marble Run or Erector. Keep it hidden away and bring it out only on those ‘special’ days. That way it won’t get boring.

If you get a few of these things ready, you’ll be able to pull something new and great out at that moment when the kids are bored out of their minds and you’re going crazy.

Free Audio Books Online

Posted on: November 19th, 2009 by Coleen Bennett No Comments

A while back I wrote about audio books available – for free – from the Orange County Public Library. At the time there were many books, including popular titles, that could be downloaded to your computer. Stephanie Meyers popular Twilight series, The Cat in the Hat and Eragon were among them. There were fewer books that you could download to your iPod or burn to a CD.

Well, it seems that the list of iPod accessible downloads is growing. The library now carries Stephanie Meyers’ new book The Host, James Patterson’s The Quickie, and The Jury by Fern Michaels, in a format that you can download to your iPod.  All for free. If well known authors are making some of their books available in this format, maybe more authors and publishers will follow suit.

You can also get many, many classic books in a format that you can download to your iPod or burn to a cd.

Should you switch to audio books? Well, maybe not entirely. Everyone should learn how to read the written word. But there are a lot of times when an audio book would be a good idea, or maybe just a change of pace. What about the high school student who is an auditory learner, dragging himself through Moby Dick? What about an older reader who has trouble with small print size? What about something different for the kids for a long car ride?

If you live in Orange County, California you can get free audio books online at the library’s website. If you already have a library card, you don’t even need to go to the library. Here’s a summary of how to set it up. If you live in another county, check with your local library. Many are offering similar services. If your library doesn’t offer free audio books online, try LibriVox.

Happy Listening!

Great Kids Party Game

Posted on: November 17th, 2009 by Coleen Bennett No Comments

Got a large group of kids? Looking for something fun but inexpensive to do? Try this great party game.

Gather at a large place with lots of people. A mall is ideal. Kids are divided into two or more teams. If the kids are young, each team needs to have a couple of parents to supervise. Each team has a list of parents to find.

The challenge: the parents will be in disguise. Use your imagination to blend in with the crowd. You need to look like a real person – just not yourself.

As teams find disguised parents, they collect their signatures. At the end of the allotted time, the team with the most signatures wins.

This game is great for kids of any age. In fact, you could have teenagers disguise themselves to fool the participants. If the searchers don’t know the hiders well, you could provide photos of how they normally look. Use your imagination and have fun!

Mom? Is that you?

Mom? Is that you?

That's My Dad!

That's My Dad!