a place for modern families with young children in Madison Wi


Dreamy Space

My friend Colleen was recently inspired to bring "the outdoors in" for her daughter's bedroom closet. Using a grass Ikea rug, hand-painted clouds, fabric sewn pillows, a sheer curtain and new light, she created a little girl's dreamy space out of an un-used bedroom closet. Read more about her project at missiondecorate.com.

Travel Mom: Stay Cool & Summer Fun

Stay Cool: Madison Area Splash Pads

Temperatures in Wisconsin range from layer-shedding hot to frozen-tundra cold. In the name of staying cool on a dime, here are a few Dane County splash parks to add to your "beat the heat" summer survival plan:
Conservancy Way, De Forest
At the intersection of Innovation Drive and Yellowwood Lane, this tiny splash pad offers big time refreshment on a summer day. Off of the 90/94 exchange, if you see a billboard for ABS, corn fields, and a relatively new housing development, give your GPS a little thank you pat on the head. Small by big city standards, brace yourself for Arctic water temperatures. With a funky playground, covered picnic shelter, and modern bathrooms, and plenty of nearby spots to geocache, Conservancy Way may not be a hidden secret for much longer.
Cypress Spray Park, South Madison
On the corner of Cypress Way and Magnolia Ln, South Madison has a state-of-the-art spray park for keeping cool this summer. Open to the heat and the elements, slather on the sun screen and bring your own shade. Kids can dart back-and-forth between the water and the adjacent Genevieve Gurst-Herfurth Memorial Park Playground. Portable toilets and an an on-site lifeguard are welcome additions to the overall experience.
Lakeview Park Splash Pad, Middleton
Perhaps the most well-known and oldest splash pad around, Lakeview Park Splash Pad has been skillfully added to the deciduous splendor of the existing 80 acre facility. While the splash pad is mostly unexposed to the elements, kids can easily be diverted to the nearby playground, fishing pond, nature trail, picnic pavilion (with indoor plumbing), tennis, basketball, soccer, and volleyball arenas.
Goeres Park, Lodi
Not refreshed enough to tackle the topic of aquatic centers, beaches, swimming pools, or water parks, consider a teaser photo for the spring-fed Eden that is Goers Park pool in Lodi. Susie the Duck Day is August 13, 2012. Do you really need another reason to head north with swim trunks and beach towels at the helm?
(Photos above: Lakeview Park Splash Pad, Conservancy Way, Goeres Park)

101 Ideas for Summer Fun

This warm weather has me thinking of swimming lessons and camping weekends to plan. In no particular order or importance, here are 101 ideas for summer fun in and around Madison, WI. Many of the venues are listed on the classes, activities or fitness pages and on the Madison Loves Kids iPhone app. Have fun!
1. Watch an evening performance of the Mad City Ski Team (water ski, that is).
2. Let Rutabaga Outfitters teach your family to kayak.
3. Spend the day getting splattered at Apocalypse Paintball.
4. Complete the Sun Prairie Geocaching Challenge.
5. Letterbox at Glenwood Children’s Park.
6. Help the volunteers complete the new BMX Track in DeForest.
7. Have a picnic at the Concord Zoo (Exit 275 on I-94).
8. See The Young Shakespeare Players in their first performance of the season.
9. Find a frog at Picnic Point.
10. Splash and play at Conservancy Way (DeForest).
11. Yell “Kastup!” at the National Mustard Museum.
12. Shop for deals at the Mattel Store on the American Girl campus in Middleton.
13. Earn a free ticket to the Mallard’s Game through your local library reading program.
14. Climb Gibraltar Rock (but hang on tight to your toddlers please).
15. Ride the Merrimac Ferry (both ways).
16. Tour Sassy Cow Creamery and have an ice cream cone.
17. Take in the Highway 18 drive in.
18. Feed the cute goats at Kappell Park in Waunakee.
19. Visit Jimmy the Groundhog at Jerry’s Apples in Sun Prairie.
20. Brush up on your physics at the LR Ingersoll Physics Museum.
21. Cool off and get your sluice on at Cave of the Mounds.
22. Paint some pottery (Madison has at least two different studios).
23. Look for the fabric fairy at the Create Studio Lounge.
24. Ian’s Pizza by the slice.
25. “Billet on” at Boulder’s Climbing Gym.
26. Compare the indoor play areas at East Towne and West Towne Malls.
27. Canoe down the Wisconsin River (Wisconsin River Outfitters can help).
28. Coffee shops with kids areas (caffeine and crayons for everyone).
29. Kids eat free on Tuesdays as many local restaurants (we like Market Street Diner in Sun Prairie).
30. Visit a dream park in Deerfield, Monona, Fitchburg, Janesville, or Sun Prairie.
31. Story time at the UW Geology Museum.
32. Ride the train at Little Amerricka in Marshall.
33. Ride the train at Mid-Continent in North Freedom.
34. Make a sand castle at Maple Bluff beach.
35. Talk to a naturalist at Aldo Leopold Nature Center.
36. Paddle a swan on Lake Wingra.
37. Ride the carousel at Ella’s Deli or the Henry Vilas Zoo.
38. Open skate at Fast Forward.
39. Bowling (many places have Kids Bowl Free all summer long).
40. Hike on the stroller-friendly trails at MacKenzie Nature Center in Poynette.
41. Find a horse. Ride a trail.
42. Collect your pennies and find some fountains.
43. Olbrich Botanical Gardens (outside or in).
44. Frosting overload at Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery.
45. Discounted movies at Marcus Theaters (search for “Kids Rule”).
46. Splash, swim, and sunbathe at an aquatic center (in Madison and surrounding towns).
47. Ice cream (and bait) at at the Monona Bait and Ice Cream Shop.
48. Find the museum at Folklore Village in Dodgeville.
49. Pick berries (strawberries are ready now).
50. Migrate to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo.
51. Fly a kite or play Frisbee golf (McCarthy Park has a new course).
52. People watch at the Memorial Union.
53. Check out a free kids activity pack at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
54. Make a salad (but get the vegetables from a local farmer’s market or your own garden).
55. Learn about badgers and mining at Pendarvis.
56. Pizza and games at Rocky Rococco or Chuck E. Cheese.
57. Take a tour of the capitol building (get your rotunda on).
58. Dinner and a movie at the Stoughton Cinema Cafe.
59. Let your kids get crafty at The Glitter Workshop.
60. Community events at The Goodman Center.
61. Fondue for two at The Melting Pot.
62. Shop for shoes (and see the parrots) at The Shoebox.
63. Play mini-golf or the do the real thing at Vitense Golfland.
64. Look for superheroes at Westfield Comics.
65. Go on rides and see the animals at the Dane County Fair.
66. Cool down in the Lodi Pool and look for Suzie the Duck.
67. Take a field trip to Old World Wisconsin.
68. Take a field trip to Circus World.
69. Take a field trip to the Cranberry Discovery Center.
70. Take a field trip to Palermo’s Pizza.
71. Take a field trip to Forevertron.
72. Finally enjoy the rooftop exhibits at the Madison Children’s Museum.
73. Learn how cheese is made at Babcock Dairy Hall.
74. Fourth of July parades and fireworks.
75. Camp in your backyard, at a state park, or a private campground.
76. Press a penny at the Wisconsin Historical Museum.
77. Eat popcorn on State Street.
78. Talk about the Civil War at Camp Randall.
79. Find a 5K race and run or walk with your kids (many have 1 or 2 mile fun runs).
80. Bike the entire “Planet Trek Dane County” (from Monona Terrace to Mount Horeb).
81. Play inside at Legacy Academy.
82. Be inspired at the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center.
83. Play ball at Hitter’s Sports Complex.
84. Bounce around at Pump it Up or Bouncy Town USA.
85. Open tumble at Madtown Twisters or Gymfinity.
86. Say “uff da!” at Little Norway.
87. Open skating at the Ice Pond in Waunakee.
88. More farms and orchards (Trienen, Hinchley, Busy Barn, Elegant Farmer, Schusters, Waldvogel or Epelgaarden, to name a few)
89. Complete the Junior Ranger Program (pick up a booklet at Governor Dodge State Park).
90. Shop for survival gear at the Glacier’s Edge Council store (boy scouts rule).
91. See Sam Sanfillippo’s stuffed animal dioramas.
92. Music programs and church camps.
93. Swimming lessons at the YMCA or your local Parks & Rec.
94. Visit the animals at Animart or the Humane Society.
95. Tour the new Discovery Center in the heart of the UW-Madison campus.
96. Have lunch and watch planes land at The Jet Room.
97. Hike at Devil’s Lake.
98. Say “ommm” at Bliss Flow Yoga (kids can play while parents stretch).
99. Register for a summer sports camp at MATC.
100. See the Midget Racing at the Angell Park Speedway (bring old clothes and ear plugs).
101. Unplug and relax.

Bookshelf to Bakeshop

This DIY project is adorable. Take an old bookshelf and turn it into a bakeshop. Michelle at Mamas Gone Madison explains how.

Room & Board

Room & Board is my favorite home furnishings store. If I still lived in Minneapolis, I'd be walking through their showroom right now. Roomandboard.com has great inspiration for decorating your whole house, kids rooms included.

Pantone Colors Book

Design parents, wouldn't you love one of these for your little one? A Pantone Colors Board Book for toddlers. Start 'em young!  (Via Designmom)

Travel Mom: One Tank Vacation

Family Fun in Fond du Lac
Measured as the crow flies, downtown Fond du Lac*, Wisconsin is seventy or so miles northeast of downtown Madison. About a quarter of the population, the city of 45,000 is nestled along the southern edge of the great Lake Winnebago. 

A lovely four season vacation destination, Fond du Lac offers plenty of options for families looking to get out into nature but stay close to big-city amenities.  Visiting for the first time on a mid-February “Cabin Fever Weekend Adventure,” our family was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the area, nearby natural beauty, and how little money we spent at the end of the day. A drop in the bucket compared to a big-city/tourist destination, here’s how to have a day of fun in Fond du Lac for less than $20.
If you belong to the Madison Children’s Museum, admission to the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac is free (thanks to reciprocity affiliation associated with the nationwide Association of Children’s Museums). Non-members (anyone over the age of one) can enjoy hours of fun for $5/person (or check for a printable 2 for 1 admission coupon on the Coupon Page of the Fond du Lac Convention and Visitors Bureau website.  Scaled to fit the smaller size of the city, don’t let the Children’s Museum fool you. Packed to the gills with with ten exhibits ranging from toddler to tween, the museum is most notably colorful and clean. Families with more than one child can easily keep tabs on their kids, as the museum occupies the main floor of a building owned by the Windhover Center for the Arts. Expansion plans are on the horizon, but the museum offers up plenty of ways to keep kids entertained. Check the museum Facebook page for special events like story time and holiday parties. 

For those of us claiming elementary to teenage kids, keep the eye-rolling “boredom” to a minimum with a morning or afternoon at Do-It-All Sports Arena. Encompassing a soccer field, roller hockey arena, basket ball court, trampolines, arcade games, indoor gym/ball pit (pant, pant…just click here for a comprehensive list) into 30,000 square feet of energy-burning activities, Do-It-All has picked the correct business name.  Running from boxing rink to ball pit, with a detour in the climbing wall cave, our one hour trip to Do-It-All passed in a New York minute. Worthy of more time than we budgeted, budget $12 for two hours at the facility. OR, print the One Hour and Get the Second Hour Free coupon on the Coupon Page of the Fond du Lac Convention and Visitors Bureau website and pay $7 for the same amount of time. 

Burning off steam and creative play will eventually transpire into hungry families. For the best kids’ menu prices we found, consider a short drive south of Fond du Lac, to Confections for any Occasion by Joel. Located at 101 N. Milwaukee St in the sleepy community of Theresa, Confections for any Occasion by Joel is part candy store, part soda fountain, part restaurant. Standard kids menu faire (corn dogs, grilled cheese, chicken fingers) is cheaper than a happy meal at $2.95. Upgrade to a Sloppy Joe plate with homemade chips (mmm!) for $4.50 or order soft- or hard-shelled tacos at $1 each. Naturally, kids will want a scoop of Cedar Crest ice cream or chocolate treat as dessert (consider yourself warned).

On our trip back to the region when ice thaws and flowers bloom is Lakeside Park. Over 400 acres of open space, the park is a childhood memory waiting to happen. With a miniature train, antique carousel, whitetail deer exhibit, and playgrounds galore, the park is free year round (special exhibits, including the popular lighthouse observation tower open April 15 – a better way to spend tax day). A plethora of summertime ideas are listed here

Returning back to Madison with spring on the brain, plan a detour at the Horicon Marsh International Education Center. Free and open to the public during the week and 1PM-4PM on the weekends, the educational center helps calm active minds, centering on nature and teachable moments with your entire family. Occupying one end of the main floor, the Education Center is a gift shop, interpretive area, with giant windows for bird watching or reading books in a sun beam. Kids can make arts and crafts projects to take home as a weekend souvenir. Before you leave, watch a short movie about the history of the marsh (or, heck, grab a trail map and venture out on the nature trails in show shoes―ask a center volunteer how to borrow a pair).  

*French for “foot/bottom of the lake,” impress your friends and family with this pre-trip factoid.

So Many Events

It's hard to keep up on all the local events happening in town. There are so many great family-friendly activities that I recommend visiting my friends at these sites: HulaFrog Madison, Kid Friendly Madison, Madison with Kids, Isthmus Parents, Visit Madison.

Guest Mom Carrie: Stories of Autism

A past Speech/Language Pathologist, Carrie Anciaux specializes in custom, natural light photography for families who have children with autism or special needs.  Her recent work in the Stories of Autism project has gotten not only local coverage by NBC 15 but national coverage through the Stories of Autism organization.  The results of her on-location photography sessions are unique, artful images that truly capture the soul of the individual. Visit her blog at carrieanciaux.com continually throughout the month of April, Autism Awareness month, to see the beautiful images and hear the heartwarming stories of local children who live with autism and the families that love them.

You can find Carrie and many more listed on the Services/Photographers page. And find the Autism Society of Greater Madison on the Support Groups page.

Guest Mom Heidi: The Two Sides of Every Photo

By Heidi K Moore Photography:
Sure, you say, every photo has two sides: the side with the image on it and the back  side with all that odd-looking, dot matrix stuff. Touché. However, I'd like to discuss two different sides of every photo, and one that is neglected far too often.
Everyone knows that, to take great photos, the subject in front of the lens has to look good, interesting, pleasing, etc. True. However, what happens behind the lens is equally, and sometimes more, important. I often see well-intentioned but frustrated parents trying to photograph their kids saying something like, "Listen, I want you guys to smile. NOW. No, not like that. Your real smile. Come on. Sit still." Is it any surprise that kids react with either straight faces or fake, "cheese" smiles?
If you want to photograph natural expressions, you need to create an environment where kids feel free to naturally express themselves. And, yes, that often takes patience and willingness to follow a diversion or two. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring." If you're a parent who has tried to photograph antsy kids, you likely understand the "endure" part:)
Last summer, I was photographing two gorgeous siblings that live in Madison WI. Energetic, positive, wonderful kids. The boy, being a boy, wanted nothing but to make ugly faces at the camera. Who could blame him? I'd probably want to do that if I were a boy and his age. So I had a decision to make. I could tell him no and try to make him smile or I could acknowledge what he was feeling.
Knowing what I would get if I tried to make him "perform" for the camera, I embraced his desire to make ugly faces and told him to give me his ugliest face. I then told him it wasn't ugly enough. That I knew he could make a face uglier than that. It had to be uglier and uglier and uglier. And, I photographed a bunch of these ugly faces.
OK, we got the "make ugly faces" urge out of our system, and then we started to chat and walk around the neighborhood. And it always seems to go like this in my sessions photographing kids. After I acknowledge their feelings and respect them, they seem to "entertain" my desire to capture photos of them. We were on a random sidewalk in Madison. I spotted some good light and made a funny (I thought so anyway) comment about being the youngest sibling (which I am as well) and then I photographed him with a natural, fresh smile.
So, the next time you want to take photos of your kids (or any living subject), think about what's going on behind the camera. Will it help produce the image you're seeking? If not, take a break or do something different. Come back to photographing when you can let the expressions come naturally. As I’ve learned, it is well worth it.

Sponsor: Kids Express

Kids Express Learning Center (KELC) is committed to providing the highest quality care and early childhood learning experiences.  KELC is set on Prairie View Farm, a picturesque farmette on Madison's west side. Our ten-acre property has pastures -- home to our resident llama, sheep and goats, as well as a sports court, pond, forest and nature trails, a nature study bus, organic gardens, music studios, gyms, and beautiful, bright, well equipped classrooms.

KELC's goal is to provide quality education in a rural setting, to gently guide children in their exploration of the world while encouraging our “kids” to “express” themselves in a myriad of ways.  We do our best to foster children’s confidence in themselves and a desire for life-long learning.

KELC’s outstanding Literacy and Writing, Math, Social/Emotional Development curricula, along with our exceptional teachers and child portfolio process ensure the highest quality classroom learning experiences. Additionally, KELC makes full use of its abundant resources and learning environments to support specialist taught enrichment programs, such as Nature Studies (comprised of strong science curriculum and animal studies), Organic Gardening, Art, Music & Movement, Physical Education, as well as After School Programs for preschoolers and school-age children. Visit Preschools.

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