Family fun

45 posts

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with Kids!

The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is perfect for young families. Today I am going to share our top three favorite activities to do during the Festival.

Flower and Garden Festival with Kids

This post contains affiliate links.

About Flower and Garden Festival

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. It began on February 28th, 2018 and ends on May 28th, 2018. Each Spring Epcot is filled with beautifully cultivated topiaries, gardens and pop-up venues to try fresh and unique menu options. There is so much to see and do at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, you might want to plan a few days during your visit so that you can see it all.  Since the Festival is held at the Epcot park, you will need to purchase a park ticket.

Shop before you go!

Imagination Play Garden

The imagination play garden is located on the walkway to the world showcase near the Figment ride. This play area is perfect for children of all ages and with plenty of chairs in the shade, you won’t want to skip it. The garden is only open until dusk, so don’t wait until the end of the day, because it will be closed.

Inside the Imagination Play Garden, you will find several xylophones, and materials to create music. You will also find chairs under the shade, this is a great spot to take a break!

Road to Florida 500

If you have a Disney / Pixar Cars fan in your life, you will not want to miss this little play area. Just outside this section, you will find Topiaries for Lightning Mcqueen, Mater and Cruz Ramirez. Cruz Ramirez was introduced to us during the Cars 3 movie. You will have to go watch the movie to find out all about her story.

This play area is much smaller than the imagination garden, but there are plenty of nice shaded seats for parents to watch their children play.  My girls enjoyed racing around the track, and playing in the tires!

StorybookErin - Flower and Garden Festival

The Goodness Garden Butterfly House

Our third favorite must-see activity for kids during the Flower and Garden Festival is the butterfly house presented by Gogo Squeeze.   Located on the other side of Starbucks this little house is both beautiful and educational. Your family will have the opportunity to see hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the house. There are many educational posters to learn about the lifecycle of a butterfly.

This is a walk-through experience and no seating is available. You are permitted to take your stroller inside.  However, I found it to be a little cumbersome to navigate through the exhibit. I ended up taking the youngest to have a snack while my husband and our older girls continued to observe the butterflies.

As mentioned before, there are so many things to do in the Flower and Garden Festival, so be sure to allow plenty of time to explore the park during your visit.

Looking for the most frugal way to get to Orlando? Check out this post from my friend Keri over at Flip Flop Weekend.

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StorybookErin - Flower and Garden Festival

 

Toddler Activities Featuring Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is one of my favorite stories. I first discovered it when I was doing my student teaching internship, and fell in love! There are so many activities to do with this book and can be modified to encourage learning at any age. I’ve been using this book for the last couple of months, and today I wanted to share some of the fun activities we have been doing.

About Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, and is a number one best seller on Amazon.com This simple story helps children identify all 26 letters of the alphabet in a fun and rhythmic way. The beginning starts with a challenge from the Letter A to the Letter B, claiming that they will beat them to the top of the coconut tree, as you can imagine, the dare trickles down the alphabet and to find out what happens, you’ll have to read the story.

Here are a couple of my favorite ways to use this story to encourage higher learning with my toddlers and preschooler.

Music: Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom

Did you know this book has also been translated into a song? This adorable song has helped my 2 and 1-year-old learn their alphabet. It is absolutely adorable to hear the voice of my sweet little 1 year old try to sing her alphabet to the tune of the song.

You can find the song by searching Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on Youtube or purchase it from Amazon Music*.

 

Art: Draw the Coconut Tree

An activity for all ages is to actually draw the coconut tree. I purchased some large drawing paper and crayons from my local Dollar Tree.

Reading: Letter Recognition

Since the entire story is about the alphabet, this story is great for helping children identify their letters. To help me understand exactly what my girls are understanding and how much they know about the letters, I developed a quick little Letter Quiz.

The front cover of our book as the enter alphabet, both upper and lower case letters. Before reading the story to my girls we would open the book and I’d point to a letter and quiz the girls on them. This is especially important because it’s easy to memorize the letters and what comes next, but are they really understanding the shapes of the letters? When you quiz them in this fun and casual environment, you can really see what they are understanding!

Reading: Book Knowlege

Perhaps it is the teacher in me or the fact that my husband is a librarian – who knows. But, we always take our time to go over the parts of the book with our girls before reading. This simple task will increase your child’s vocabulary, and assist in school readiness.

Build Vocabulary with your Children

Math: Counting

Confession time, Math is not my strongest skill. I’m actually a little terrified for when my kids start school because I’m pretty sure their math homework is going to intimidate me a bit. Even though I am terrible at Math, I try very hard to incorporate math into daily routines, even with simple things like reading a story.

Ways to encourage Math with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

  • How many pages?
  • Count the Letters of the Alphabet.
  • Can you count the letters on the coconut tree?

As you can see, this book can be used in so many ways to encourage learning with your toddler and preschooler.

The question of the Day: What is your favorite children’s book? 

 

Storybook Erin is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

 

Why every Toddler Needs Kinetic Sand!

I was first introduced to Kinetic Sand while studying for my undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. I remember a professor talking about how she’d used in a classroom with students to have them practice their letters in a way that children who are more tactile or hands-on learners – now that I have three toddlers of my own, I have a new appreciation for just how incredible this product is and why I think every mom needs to have some of this stuff in their closet of toddler friendly activities!

Before I get into my favorite benefits of Kinetic Sand, let me answer the question you are all asking.

What is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic Sand is a product that can be molded without easily losing its shape. It has the texture of wet sand but is not messy and is non-toxic.  Since it is non-toxic it is great for children, but adult supervision is strongly recommended.

What’s so AMAZING about Kinetic Sand? 

Relaxing Texture 

Imagine you are playing with a sand-filled stress ball. This same sense of calm you receive while playing with the stress ball applies when playing with kinetic sand. This semi-mess-free activity will give your toddlers hours of quiet playtime. Just be sure to supervise your children while playing in the sand, because it definitely can get messy if you are not actively playing with your children.

Imaginative Play

Due to its moldability, Kinetic Sand is the perfect product for multiple role-playing experiences.

Does your child love trucks? Create a big sand pit for him or her to drive the trucks through.

Does your child love water? Check out this floating kinetic sand, it’s perfect for the water-loving toddler in your life.

Learning Letters? Practice writing your name in the sand.

Truly the possibilities are endless!

Fine Motor Skill Development

One of the things I love about Kinetic Sand is that your children will be learning and also strengthen skills without even knowing it. As your children mold and shape the sand they will be developing hand strength. You can also have your children create shapes, or practice scooping and pouring the sand, all these activities help them develop!

What are you waiting for? Go get some Kinetic Sand!

 

The Florida Everglades for Kids!

The Florida Everglades for Kids

As a family with three young children, we are always looking to create meaningful experiences for our children. That’s why in May of 2017 we decided to purchase an annual pass to the Florida Everglades National Parks. We have been having such a great time exploring the Everglades with our kids.

Today I am going to share two perfect trails to take your family on while you are out exploring the Florida Everglades if you want to explore more than two trails here are some additional recommendations that are perfect for families of all ages. 

The Ernest F. Coe visitor center is located all the way down in Florida City and can be accessed by taking the Florida Turnpike south until it merges with US 1. Once it merges with US 1 turn right onto Palm Drive (344th street) and follow the signs to the park.

Address:
40001 State Road 9336, Homestead FL, 33034 
Contact Number: 305-242-7700 

Park Website. 

Pinelands Trail 

Located roughly 7-miles from the visitor center, this trail was our first stop during our most recent visit to the Everglades. The trail is a little less than one mile long and will loop you through a path of pine trees, palmetto trees, and lovely wildflowers.

In 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, it left a large impact on the Pinelands. Many trees were bent and snapped, but many remained, this is because of their ability to bend.

Our girls enjoyed exploring this trail, and I appreciated the fact that it was short enough that our girls could easily navigate through it. I think if you really wanted too, you could take a stroller through this trail, but we opted to use the baby carrier

Mahogany Hammock Trail 

At roughly 20 miles into the park from the visitor center, this trail is quite the trek but certainly one you won’t want to miss.

This trail was so beautiful and the location of the largest living Mahogany tree in the United States, so be on the lookout.  At about a half of a mile, this trail is ideal for all ages and since it has a nice boardwalk, it is very stroller-friendly. We opted to take the baby carriers for this trail, but it is possible to use a stroller.

We also noticed several beautiful birds and plenty of photographers capturing stunning images.
It is important to note that there were no restrooms available at these two trails, so be sure to use the restroom either at the Gumbo Limbo trail or the visitor center.
We also like to pack plenty of water and snacks as food isn’t available for purchase in the park and hiking and exploring can build an appetite, especially in the littlest of explorers. – Looking for ideas on what to pack? Check out my lunch box essentials 
The Florida Everglades covers 1.5 million acres of land across three counties and there is so much to explore, I highly recommend a trip to the Florida Everglades with your family, you won’t regret it!

 

 

Looking for more things to do in Homestead, Florida?

 Here are three recommendations! 

  1. BEST MILKSHAKES EVER, at Robert is Here! 
  2. Visit an Animal Rescue Facility
  3. Just North of Homestead, you can visit the Everglades Exhibit inside Zoo Miami! 

Now go have an Adventure! 

 

*this post contains affiliate links*

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Matheson Hammock Park, Coral Gables Florida

This post contains affiliate links. 

 

I have lived in Florida all of my life, and even though I enjoy a day at the beach I hardly ever go – especially now that I have three beautiful toddlers in my life. For the past two years one of the awesome Mom’s in my tribe has been telling us to take the kids to Matheson Hammock Park to play in the ocean, and since my sister was going to be in town I finally said YES, and we had the BEST time!

Matheson Hammock Park
 is absolutely perfect for young families!  

About Matheson Hammock Park: 

“In 1930, William J. Matheson and his son Hugh donated approximately 85 acres of tropical hardwood hammock forest off Old Cutler Road to Dade County, to be used and maintained as a botanical garden. Referred as “Matheson Botanical Hammock”, it was the original extent of Matheson Hammock Park, which was also the first public park to be established in Dade County. 

In 1934-35, Dade County purchased an additional 420 acres of lands adjacent to Matheson Hammock Park, increasing its size to over 500 acres. Matheson Hammock opened in 1930 by the county’s first director of public parks, A. D. Barnes, and designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillip; today it is owned and managed by Miami-Dade County.” – directly from this website  

 

Address 
9610 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, FL 33156

What to Expect:

Located in beautiful Coral Gables Florida, Matheson Hammocks Park has a fully functional marina, kite-boarding, and sailing assessability and what makes it so perfect for young families or new swimmers is the man-made atoll pool. This style of pool is filled naturally by Biscayne Bay and is very shallow, warm and the best part – no waves to knock little ones down.

There was a lifeguard on duty while we were there, which made this momma of three feel a little extra safe while swimming. At one time there was a nice restaurant but after some hurricane damage the restaurant is currently closed, that being said you will need to bring plenty of food and water.  

With stunning views of the Miami Beach skyline, you and your family will love having a picnic under the palm trees. Get ideas on what to pack in your lunchbox here.  

Be sure to bring $5.00 cash with you if you are coming on a weekday of $7.00 if visiting on a holiday or during the weekend, and have an AMAZING day soaking up some vitamin D.

Tips for a perfect day at the beach! 

  • Bring a Wagon to carry all your belongings, we have this collapsible one that is perfect for the beach and will fit into most vehicles with no problem!
  • Bring a water bottle that squirts water to wash off your hands before eating.
  • Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen, we LOVE Babyganics mineral-based sunscreen.

 

 

If the Ocean is calling you, but the large crowds of south beach are not, 

 

 you will definitely want to check out Matheson Hammock Park. 
 
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Visiting the Everglades Outpost Rescue Center in Homestead Florida

This post contains affiliate links. 
 
For Christmas this year we asked that people limit the number of toys given to our children, and try to find ways to create memories with them, we even opted not to give our children a Christmas gift, but to allow them to buy a gift for each other.  It was such a fun Christmas, and we are still going through some of the experiences we were gifted.

One of them was a Groupon for The Everglades Outpost in Homestead Florida.

About The Everglades Outpost
 
In 1991 Bob Freer and his wife Barbara opened their home as a rescue for wild animals. This non-profit rescue center is available for Florida-native and non-native animals.  The outpost believes in the dignity of every animal, and that is why they work hard to support and care for the animals.

If possible, the animals are released back into the wild, but if not they are loved and cared for at The Outpost. – Read more Here.

Address
35601 SW 192 Ave
Homestead, FL 33034
305-247-8000

The Outpost is open from 10AM – 6 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Appointments can be scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday. 


Membership Pricing
One-Day: $15.00 for adults; $10;00 for children and 5 years and younger are FREE

Check Groupon for tickets, at one time there were some available for 38% off

 

What to Expect at the Everglades Outpost
You can expect to meet friendly volunteers eager to share their love for the animals with all the visitors. You can expect to see a whole bunch of Alligators, some wolves, tigers and a cute little zebra.

This attraction is not a zoo, as the animals have mostly been rescued or have been found injured. Around 12:00 p.m. on weekends, there is an informational session and show with the Alligators.

There are also a few picnic tables around the facilities and guests are allowed to bring snacks – just remember, please do not to feed the animals.  

After our visit to the Everglades Outpost, we went across the street to Robert is Here for a Milkshake!

If you are looking for more things to do in the area, I suggest you check out Robert is Here for the most delicious milkshake you’ve ever tasted and perhaps some hiking on the trails in the Everglades National Park – here are some of our favorite trails to explore!  

Now go live an Adventurous Story! 

Our Pinkalicious Birthday Party on a Budget!

PINK, PINK, PINK!

I’m not going to lie when my daughter told me she wanted a Pinkalicious party I was ecstatic! I fell in love with the story Pinkalicious when I was in college, and actually hosted a pink-themed tea party! This year we decided that instead of a BIG party with all her friends, we would have a simple celebration at the zoo with our friends, and then have a special Disney day with her cousin.

Thanks to some bargain shopping at our local Walmart, and an unused tablecloth from her  Tangled party we put together the decorations for the party for less than $10.00!

To add to the theme, we included some of the stories around the food table.

Our daughter picked a menu of hot dogs, fries,  macaroni and cheese and of course
PINK CUPCAKES!
FRUGAL TIP: Bake your own cupcakes! 

 If you can’t get enough Pinkalicious, be sure to check out the 
PBS Kids App for the new TV Series that 
just released and our girls LOVE it!

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Is Robert is Here really the Disney World of Fruit Stands?

After your visit to the Everglades National Park in Homestead, you are not going to want to miss Robert is Here.  Located not too far from the entrance to the park you will find a pretty hoppin’ fruit stand.

Yes, you read that right. A “hoppin’ fruit stand”. The Palm Beach Post refers to this fruit stand as “The Disney World of fruit stands” and after spending a few hours there with my family, I have to say I completely agree!

A Brief History of Robert is Here
Robert is Here is a family-owned fruit stand that has been around for over 50 years. In the early days, it was a young man with a desire to sell a few fruits and vegetables that has grown into a premier destination in South Florida.

A destination perfect for families, couples, or friends. You can read more about the history of Robert and his family in his biography, it is certainly going on my list of books to read!

Location and Operating Hours 

8:00a – 7:00p
Closed: Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Easter Sunday 1p-7p

19200 SW 344 Street
Homestead, FL 33034

So what makes this place so MAGICAL and why should I take a trip to Homestead to check it out?


I visited Robert is here with my family on a Saturday evening, about 5 o’clock, and here are some things I experienced, and memories made… 
There were cars parked everywhere.
Live Music blasting. 
Families laughing.
Children playing. 
Robert serving guests, answering questions. 
An entire fruit stand of strangers singing happy birthday, because Robert asked us too. 
There were smiles and giggles, and memories being made all around me. 
Photos lined the walls of the fruit stand. 
The best and most unique milkshakes I’d ever tasted being served. 
Fresh Fruit.
Fresh Vegetables. 
A Splash Pad.
Play area.
Picnic Tables. 
Petting Zoo. 
There were people collecting Memories, 
not things and it was beautiful. 
The Palm Beach post got it right when they compared this place to the Happiest Place on Earth. The next time you visit South Florida, take a trip down to Homestead and have a milkshake with Robert and his family, you won’t be sorry. 
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What to do in the Everglades with Children

Well, we survived our first Camping trip with the girls

After a cup of coffee and some lunch at a nearby Burger King, we headed home. 
We’d been home for roughly 5-minutes before my husband announces that 
we are going to the Everglades! 
So, we packed a lunch box, grabbed some water and headed over to the Everglades National Park. Back in May, when we visited Shark Valley, we became pass holders for the Everglades National Park, but due to Hurricane Irma, we hadn’t had an opportunity to go visit. 
The Ernest F. Coe visitor center is located all the way down in Florida City, and can be accessed by taking the Florida Turnpike south until it merges with US 1. Once it merges with US 1 turn right onto Palm Drive (344th street) and follow the signs to the park.  
Address:40001 State Road 9336, Homestead FL, 33034 
Contact Number: 305-242-7700 
Once you arrive at the Visitor Center, be sure to take your time walking through the exhibits as there are special collections that rotate and other educational opportunities! You will also want to get your Visitor Center Stamp and talk to the Park Ranger about becoming a Jr. Ranger
We asked the Park Ranger to recommend a couple of trails for our family to explore, and then headed out for an adventure! 
Since we were arriving at the park in the late afternoon, the park ranger recommended two trails for our family to explore, both trails were paved and had plenty of animals for the girls to see. 
The first trail we explore was the Gumbo Limbo  Trail. This trail was a little less than a mile and completely paved, perfect for even the smallest of travelers. We didn’t see very many animals on this trail, but it was full of beautiful trees, and the girls really enjoyed it! 
What is a Gumbo Limbo? 
A tree! 
Native to South Florida, this tree is known as the “tourist” tree because of its red bark that can appear to look like peeled sun-burned skin. 
The second trail we explored was the Anhinga Trail.  Located right next to the Gumbo Limbo Trail, this short trail was a combination of both boardwalk and pavement. While exploring this trail, we got face-to-face with an Alligator and even got the chance to see some baby gators. 
Another fun thing to do is the FREE trolley ride, every weekend until April 29 in 2018 you can ride a trolley. The city of Homestead has created a program to offer free public transportation to Everglades and Biscayne national parks with its “Gateway to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks”.  This is the first of it’s kind, and a great way to see National parks in one day! 
For More Information Call: (305)224-4457
Food is limited in the Everglades National Park, and guests are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, and if your kids are anything like mine, they are going to build up a pretty big appetite so you might want to pack some extra snacks.  😉  
Add caption
The Florida Everglades covers over 1.5 million acres of land and stretches over 3 counties. These parks are certainly ones you will want to explore again and again! 

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Camping with Toddlers, Mistakes made and Lessons Learned!

“Let’s take the girls camping!”
I announced one evening in mid-December, my husband looked a little stunned and said: 
“Okay, where should we go?” 

We decided to take the girls camping for only one night, at a semi-local campground. That way, if anything went wrong, we would be able to get home pretty easily.
Location, Location, Location! 

At Larry and Penny Thompson Park, you can camp for only 16.95 per night, and the campground is located very close to playgrounds, the Zoo, and a Grocery Store. 
Hours of Operation
Sunrise to Sunset

Office Hours

9 a.m. – 5 p.m., daily
Park Office
305-232-1049  

Since we wanted to camp on the Friday before New Year’s Eve, I called the office a week prior and tried to make a reservation. I was told that there was no need to make a reservation for tent camping and that we would have no problem. 
Mistake: I had additional questions and concerns about it being a busy season, but I didn’t voice them. 
So, when we arrived at the campground there were no sites available and our only option was to try and find another campground or wait until 4:00 p.m. to see if anyone who had paid the deposit didn’t show. 
Lesson Learned: Always ask questions, it turns out that I could have driven to the campground and given a small deposit to secure our campsite. Additionally, I could have driven down to the campground at 11:00 a.m. to claim the site, and then gone back when my husband got out of work at 2:00 p.m. 
We hung around the campground office and I called every single campground in South Florida looking for a way to take our girls camping that night. 
At 4:00 p.m., we were able to secure a campsite at Larry and Penny, but it was a stressful hour waiting to see if we would get to camp or not. 
The campsites at Larry and Penny are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, instead of there being assigned lots for each tent, it was an open field. Guests were able to put their tent anywhere they wanted, as long as they didn’t block a road.  This was pretty neat, we were able to pick a spot close to a tree and a picnic table! 
Tent Camping Area
So, as soon as we arrived. I started to get to work on Dinner while Chris and the girls set up the tent. 
Cooking Hot Dogs & Beans 
My Sus Chef! 

Mistake:  Know how to use your camping equipment. This may seem obvious to most people, and It should have been obvious to me, but I didn’t realize we’d need a flame of some sort to start our little Coleman grill.

Thankfully, there was another family right near us so we asked to borrow a lighter to get dinner going.  So awkward…
Lesson Learned:    Ask your husband what we need to cook the food. 😉

Love Bug helping Dad with the tent!

After dinner, we put some bug repellent on the girls and have some playtime before the sun went down. I bought lots of bubbles with us, but I should have brought a couple of soccer balls for the girls to play with. There was a lot of room to run and play, and a soccer ball would have been perfect! – Just another Lesson Learned.

The campground was dark by around 6:30 p.m. and the girls were ready to go to sleep. Unfortunately, one of my girls started to feel homesick and couldn’t relax and the baby was exhausted and trying to sleep. So, I took the big girls for a walk around the campground while my husband tried to get the youngest down for the night. 

While on our walk we discovered a laundry facility and a large community bathroom.

Bathroom Selfie! 
Coin Laundry
 Eventually, all the girls fell asleep and my husband and I stayed up laughing at the crazy adventure we’d already had while enjoyed “raw s’mores”.  
The girls slept great, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that we literally took their pillows and bedding off their bed and brought it with us. A little piece of home can go a long way. 
As per usual, the girls got up at first sunlight, and couldn’t wait to go outside and play. We had a lovely breakfast of marshmallows, and granola bars before beginning to pack everything up to head to the playground. 

Additional Thoughts and Information

Larry and Penny is a great location to go test the waters of camping with your young family, especially if you live in the Miami-Dade area. With a cost of less than 20.00 per night, it also makes a very frugal friendly camping option.

It took me some time to find the water to wash our dishes, but I did eventually find it. We brought water with us for cooking and drinking, but there was a source of water in the tent camping area.

This park also has beach access, a swimming pool, and water slide. We did not visit any of these amenities because of the cool weather, but for a small fee, they are available for guests.
See current pricing here. 

Overall we had a terrific time camping with our girls, and would like to try it again and perhaps stay for a couple of nights!

Camping with toddlers can seem very overwhelming, but I encourage you to do it! Build the memories with your family, our girls were so excited about their big camping trip, and have been playing “camping” ever since!

Happy Camping Friends!


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