Things in the Boulder area to keep kids engaged this winter break

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which means the winter school break is here. Rather than have it become a time where “mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again” take your kiddos on some fun local adventures to help them use some of their boundless energy while broadening their minds while you stay sane and relaxed.

Denver’s Nature and Science Museum is one of the best places to take your children for entertainment, play time, and many “that’s so cool!” moments together when everyone begins to go holiday stir crazy! Kids can learn the science behind all their favorite PIXAR movies, see a sensory friendly screening of The Polar Express, and explore the human body and its ability to persevere over ice, snow, water, and rock. You and your children can even try out their American Ninja skills with a course developed by its creators (wear good athletic shoes), take a virtual leap off a cliff like the wingsuited cliff jumpers, and much more!

Denver’s Nature and Science Museum is the bomb, but CU’s Museum of Natural History isn’t too shabby either! The whole family can explore a number of exhibits that go in depth on the animals, plants and ecosystems right here in Colorado, but also around the world. The Season of Light show shares the many traditions of light that have been celebrated for centuries and continue today. 

The Fiske Planetarium is in the holiday spirit!  The planetarium located on CU’s Campus has a multitude of events to get you and the family in the holiday spirit as well as Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum has an interactive maze where kids can learn all about the history of NASA and even get a little peek into where NASA is going in the future. Likewise, the whole family can check out a real flight simulator. The museum is located in Denver and open 7 days a week, so you might even want to go twice!

CreatorSpace in Loveland is a super cool place to check out this winter break. The organization provides access to tools, machinery, and classes to inspire creative engineering. A key part of their mission is to provide Northern Colorado’s youth with mentors who are skilled and knowledgeable in a number of areas including music, art, programming and manufacturing. Check out this studio and get your child’s imagination soaring.

For some creative relaxation, check out the Wildfire Arts Center if you haven’t already. They have a multitude of classes including dance and visual arts that will inspire and relax you and your children over the break. The U-Create Studio time is open on December 21st from 10:00-2:00 to get you all out of the house. And mom’s and dad’s, check out their yoga classes; an hour long relaxing stretch is just what you need to get through the holiday break! 

You don’t have to go any further than the local library to experience some serious relaxation with your children over the break! The Longmont Public Library has a winter reading program to inspire your children to get their reading on, and nothing says calm for mom and dad than seeing your kids engaged in a great book.  The Longmont Public Library has a lot more to offer than books! There is a cookie decorating party on December 16, Winter Break Daily Reading Bingo for Kids and Teens December 28-January 3. A Nintendo Switch Launch Party, Drop-in Craft Time on December 30 and Lego Time on the 31st.

May this holiday season be a time of peace and joy, not to mention, a time to enjoy learning and growing together and where you wish that school would never start again! Happy Holidays.

STEAM Gift Giving for Your Colorado Kids

The holidays are upon us and because time appears to be moving faster than normal these days, it’s important to get your shopping started early (as in last month). With that said, it can also be difficult choosing gifts that seem worthy of your hard-earned dollar and that provide your child with a little “more” than the average Frozen 2 dollhouse and the Fortnite Jumbo Loot Llama provide! Fortunately, we have a great little gift guide to help you with the purchasing decisions for your child that will not only provide loads of fun but help them develop other skills as well (and you are supporting local commerce)!

For Building:

Sure, you could buy your child another lego set, but how about this year go for something a little more unique. At Traxart Toys, you can buy Kinazium which is the premier course builder for robotic and rc toys.  Building is both technical and creative, and when your child finishes building they can have hours of fun navigating their robots and remote-controlled toys around their creation. Check it out!

Does your child love to create models, dioramas and/or posterboards?  Do they like to teach others how things work? Do they have interest in programming electronics with computer software? If so, 1010 Technologies has the perfect product for them.  To find out more visit Youtube to see how your child can turn another “volcano how to” into a dynamic demonstration.

At Sphero, a Boulder company, they seek to inspire the creators of tomorrow, and clearly, recent collaboration with big names like Disney and Star Wars, it’s no doubt that the app-enable spherical robots they have designed are all that and a bag of chips. Get your budding inventor into robotics, programming, coding, and other STEAM principles with these unique and futuristic robots and all the accessories, not to mention, a number of other products that will feed your child’s imagination.

For Crafting:

There is nothing more therapeutic not to mention warm than knitting a scarf. The Longmont Yarn Shop has gifts for your child and you. They have everything you could need to get your child started on a lifelong hobby that will bring them hours of relaxation and an opportunity to create some functional or just plain beautiful art. Your child and three of her friends can even arrange for a small group lesson from one of their experts or you can sign your child up for one of the many classes they offer including crocheting, knitting, rug hooking, weaving, and even spinning classes. Pretty cool! 

Arts Parts Creative Reuse Center in Boulder has an awesome mission worthy of your contributions, “to inspire and promote creativity, resource conservation, and community engagement through reuse.” They accept donated, reusable industry surplus, and other arts and craft resources from businesses and individuals to provide you low cost materials for your budding creative geniuses. Best of all, you can host your child’s next birthday party at their space and your kids can create artwork and have their cake, too. They also promote local, environmentally conscious artists and their work.

For Everyone:

And finally, for the parent who just can’t imagine buying another toy that sits in the toy room unused or worse, cluttering up the living room. Or, for the parent who just wants to give their child a memory that they will love, there is STEAMfest!  Order tickets for your child to attend the 2020 Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest March 7-8. Your child will have opportunities to participate in “hands-on, interactive hacking, building, tinkering, and imagining!” The event is a celebration of all things creative, imaginative, and exploratory. “STEAM Fest is an awe-filled, jaw-dropping chance to tinker, hack, build, crumble, fly, drive, taste, DO, dabble—PLAY!”  There will be exhibitors with the latest and greatest gadgets, activities, entertainment and of course: arts and crafts, robotics and electronics, building, Legos, marble tracks, science in action, and of course, food for the whole family! You can get your tickets for the family or individual tickets at MakerBolder.com.  Likewise, if giving back is something of a tradition at your home, you can purchase a scholarship to STEAM Fest for students who wouldn’t be able to afford to attend STEAM Fest on their own.  

Now that your shopping is done, you can sit back and actually enjoy a cup of cocoa, the lights on the tree, and a good (oxymoron? Well at least a sweet heartfelt) Hallmark holiday movie.

Geocaching: Tips for helping your child become the next Indiana Jones

Almost everyone wants to be like Indiana Jones at some point in their lives (either that or they have had a big crush on him)!  Either way, it is pretty hard to imagine anyone (especially kids) who haven’t been lured into daydreams of hunting for treasure.  Now kids and adults alike can have their very own Doctor Jones adventures without the worry of being shot with poisonous darts or being chased down by machete-yielding bad guys!  

It’s a big deal

Geocaching is a hobby where other outdoor adventure enthusiasts hide and search for camouflaged containers (say a small Rubbermaid tub or other clever vessels) filled with tiny treasure (a.k.a. silly knickknacks).  

According to Geocaching.com, there are over 4 million active geocachers and 3 million active geocaches located in more than 190 countries and on seven different continents (Antarctica included-I think I will skip those). And, there are over 36,000 geocaching events and 200 organizations centered around this modern-day treasure hunt.  

Geocaching.com explains that the term ‘geocaching’ comes from combining the prefix ‘geo’ meaning Earth and ‘cache’ a term meaning a hiding place for objects.  The term ‘memory cache’ more recently has been used to describe a computer’s ability to pull up information. Therefore, the term geocaching is the perfect word for using technology, specifically a “global positioning system,” to look around the earth for hidden treasures.  

Getting Started

There are a number of websites and books to help you out if you find that this is a hobby you and your child want to sink your teeth in.  But, here are the basics to get you started looking for “the lost ark” and “the temple of doom.” 

Here are the materials and equipment you will need:

  • Smartphone with Geocache App – The app will give you the location 
  • Pencil/Pen
  • Small treasures (action figures, figurines, a keyring, stickers, baubles of any kind) 
  • Patience to look for good hiding places
  • (Some people recommend street maps as well as your Google Maps)

Once you have your equipment and materials you can begin!  You need to register with a geocaching website (like Geocaching.com) or purchase an app. After entering your zip code, you will see the coordinates for geocaches that are nearby.  Sounds fun, right?

Many of the sites and apps (Geocaching.com being the most popular), will give you a rating of how difficult the terrain is and how difficult the treasure is to find along with any other helpful information, including pictures, that will guide you and your child on your quest for hidden bootie.  

When you have found a cache, you can trade some of the items in the box for things that you brought along.  You will also sign the login book that comes with the treasure and record of your findings on the website or the app. Then, you return the cache to the spot you found it. Sometimes the caches get found by non-geocachers, and go missing.  Report your findings either way, so that other searchers don’t go on an endless search as well. 

Becoming a treasure burier can be just as much fun for you and your children too!  When you travel to new and beautiful places or even around your city, take a few caches and leave a little treasure of your own for others to find.  Occasionally, you can check and see who has found your stash and signed your log book.

What’s new in geocaching for the seasoned veterans

The good news, too,is that geocaching is evolving.  While I have shared the traditional geocaching experience, according to hobbyhelp.com, there are a number of other spins on these fun adventures.  There is an option to complete puzzles before you are allowed access to the coordinates of a cache.  In addition, there are caches that are connected. You have to find three or four caches in sequence by solving a puzzle at each hiding spot in order to go on to the next cache.  And if that isn’t enough, there are geocaching events around the world where you and your children can meet others who are obsessed with this fun activity.

So, if it isn’t obvious why you and your child should try out this fun and almost free opportunity for adventure, I will lay it out:

  • You and your children get to spend time together.
  • It gets you and your children outdoors.
  • You can see beautiful and interesting places that you have never explored before (many geocachers hide their treasure in beautiful locations).
  • It spurs your child’s sense of adventure and imagination.
  • Some searches can build problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • It helps children build navigation skills (put them in charge of a real PAPER map).
  • Bottom line:  It’s FUN!

Here are some fun links to find geocaching opportunities in Colorado!

Colorado Geocaching Trails and Trail Maps

6 Awesome Colorado Geocaching Destinations

The 10 Best Places in Colorado to Geocache

Get out there  Dr. Jones wannabes!  Awaken the inner-child or inner pirate in yourself and foster your child’s sense of adventure by joining the millions who are already geocaching!

Volunteering with your kids: why you should sign-up today!

While it may be debated that humans are innately compassionate and generous, we choose to believe it to be true. At the same time, we are living in a time when it appears that empathy and kindness are the exception instead of the rule. To help counter the current culture along with the self-centered, egocentric developmental phases that are focused on “me, me, me,” volunteering can be a great tool in helping kids to focus on others. Volunteering will not only help them to build compassion, but it will help them build self-esteem as well as show them that they can make an important impact on the world around them even in small simple ways.

It’s also good for kids to volunteer in a multitude of ways because they learn different things from different opportunities.  Sometimes they learn the value of their time, sometimes it is empathy for those who are different from themselves, and sometimes it is about raising and providing funds that people and organizations need more than they need time. 

Simple ways kids can volunteer and make a difference:

  • Going to a local nursing home is a great way for kids to make a difference in a lonely person’s life. Kids who are shy or who don’t know how to make conversation can simply ask if someone wants to be read to or if they would like to play a game of cards.
  • Host a bake sale for a cause that is local and near to your child’s heart (be sure to check with your Chamber of Commerce to avoid any hassles with tax laws, etc…)
  • Write letters to soldiers who are away from home serving the U.S. Military through Operation Gratitude or Soldiers Angels.
  • If your child is into animals, then by all means find ways for them to get the shelters the many supplies they need. There are many cool ideas out there for making items that animals need out of unwanted used items.
  • Do a drive to collect things that many families might need this time of year including coats, gloves, warm boots, and drop them off at a local homeless shelter.
  • If you can find opportunities for kids to interact with the homeless or the poor, you will teach them to be compassionate and to understand that we are all connected and human–each of us needing love and generosity.
  • Convince your children to give away good quality toys that they no longer play with. 
  • Encourage your kids to volunteer every day at school without anyone knowing. Ask them to go play with someone at recess who always stands alone on the playground. Advise them to find a student who struggles in a subject they are good at and go help that person. Tell them to compliment a teacher. All of these things are simple, easy, and frankly, life-changing for both parties!

If you want to go even further, here are some organizations in Colorado that provide more formal and structured opportunities for kids to volunteer are:

Rocky Mountain STEAMFest – 11+. STEAM Fest is just around the corner (trust us, it’ll be here before you know it!). To pull off these daring feats of magic, creativity and imagination, we need over 150 awesome volunteers – and that could include you! You can help us hang posters, spread the word, recruit exhibitors – and so much more. Jobs include working from home with flexible hours – whatever you can do – from 4 hours to 40 – we’ve got the perfect fit for you.

Children’s Hospital – for ages 13-18 – This is a pretty intense volunteer program that is intended for kids who might be interested in the medical field.  They are required to turn in an application, be interviewed, and pass a health screening.

Volunteers of America – for ages 11-17 – According to the site, “Youth volunteers can work with children in Head Start schools, help the homeless, assist homebound seniors, and much more. Youth volunteers can work with children in Head Start schools, help the homeless, assist homebound seniors, and much more.”

Spark the Change Colorado – for all ages but steered towards elementary age children – The organization’s vision is to help kids develop an understanding of the importance of volunteerism and community engagement. At their sponsored events, there is a theme like Veterans, and then together, families, children, and the organization, develop and plan for “hands-on service learning projects that benefit local non-profit organizations.” Not only do kids help the community, but they get to problem-solve and ideate as well as develop leadership skills.

Also check out, Parent Magazine’s resource of nationwide organizations focused on helping families find opportunities to volunteer.  It is hard to find the time to volunteer and get your kids out to help others, but what you teach them will be priceless—JOY in serving others! 

Maker Bolder and Her Turf Documentary Team Up To Empower Girls

Documentary Short Film Featuring Three Female Football Referees Partners with MakerBolder for a Community Screening at the Dairy Arts Center to Empower Girls

Award-winning documentary, Her Turf the Untold Story about Three Female Football Referees, is partnering with MakerBolder a non-profit in Boulder, CO, that connects tinkerers, hackers, geeks and artists with a hands-on experiences through STEAM Fest, Girls Explore and more, for a community screening on Sunday, October 20th, at starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, CO. 

During this immersive and interactive community screening and event, Colorado documentarian Shantel Hansen will share her experiences making the documentary film “Her Turf” and attendees will get to view the film. Participants will get to ask questions and share their opinions and feedback about the documentary with filmmaker, Shantel Hansen. Following the discussion, participants will be introduced to storyboarding and create their own storyboards during a break-out session. 

In addition, A Maker Lab hosted by The Hopper, Talk to the Camera, and The Spark Performing and Creative Arts will precede the film and break-out activities.  Parents are encouraged to explore this exciting topic with their young film enthusiast.   

“Girls and their parents can come to this immersive film screening and see the inspiring stories of these female sports pioneers as well as learning from Shantel Hansen, a devoted storyteller and filmmaker,” says Martha Lanaghen, Maker Bolder Executive Director. “This Girls Explore event will be truly unique way for girls to explore their own storytelling passions, and tap in to their own voice.”

Hansen is a first time director and producer. She filmed in seven different locations from 2015-2018. Her Turf has been selected in sixteen different film festivals across the nation since April and won four awards including SeriesFest Best Unscripted. “We are excited to launch our community screening series focusing a grassroots efforts with an interactive tool for every voice to be heard while empowering youth of all ages,” comments Shantel Hansen. “Part of the proceeds from this screening will go towards the Gwendolyn Smith Fund that supports women referees and officials with childcare scholarships to attend training camps and clinics,” states Hansen. 

Purchase Tickets here:  http://tickets.thedairy.org/online/MakerBolder

DIY: Backyard Movie Night

The lazy summer days are over, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to enjoy the beautiful warm weather that is in front of you.  One of the best ways to connect with your kids, take in the warm weather and decompress after a hard week of school and work is an outdoor movie.  Setting up an outdoor movie screen doesn’t have to be a huge project and sure, you could hook up a television outside, but that just doesn’t have the same feel. You can put together a screen in no time, and it will probably be a great investment of time and money.  In fact, your kids will likely enjoy their movie under the stars so much that they will be begging to do it for many weeks to come. 

Materials

You will need a sheet.  Many people think that a white sheet is the way to go, but in reality, a white sheet lets in light that may conflict with the movie on the screen.  By using a dark, opaque sheet, the movie will be much easier to view. 

Frame

You can build the frame out of a number of materials, wood, PVC, your fence.  Create a structure to support all four corners of the sheet. (You can even enlist your kids to help you to engineer your own version of a movie screen.)  There are a number of inspirational sites that can get the creative juices flowing:

Of course, once your kids get this movie night idea in their head, they may be a little impatient for a building project.  No fear, there are inflatable screens for as low as $99.00 that only need an extension cord and some power. SHAZAM, your movie screen is ready!  (And, worst case scenario? Tie or staple a sheet to your existing privacy fence!)  

Projectors

As with any electronic device, there are a plethora of choices based on price, function, quality.  When looking for a projector, you want to consider a number of factors. Of course, you can just buy the $50 one at your local Walmart, but these outdoor movie nights will likely become a regular thing, and if so, you will want a projector that will stand the test of time and provide a good experience.

You will want to consider the following characteristics:

  • Lamp, Laser, or LED – Lamp bulbs will need replaced more often while LED are more expensive but will last longer. 
  • Light Output & Brightness – You will want a projector with a high light output.  A low light output will lead to a fuzzy and unclear image even in a very dark room.  The  Lumens rating will help you determine the just right projector with the right amount of light output.
  • Contrast Ratio – You will need to look at projectors that have a ratio of 1,500:1 minimally and 2,000:1 or higher for good contrast between black and whites in your movie image.
  • Pixel Density – If possible, get a projector with a pixel density of approximately 1920×1080.  You can get by with one that is 1024×768, but the higher you go the better the quality. 
  • Sound quality – This varies by user, but check out the speakers before you buy, or see if it has Bluetooth, and you can connect to your portable speaker.  Also check out the sound of the fan for your projector. Some of the models have loud fans that will compete with movie audio, so do your homework.
  • Type of screen – Share the type of screen (sheet) you have with your sales representative and ask them which projector will work the best.

According to a Tech Guru on Offers.com, the best choice is Vankyo mini project that meets the requirements and costs a whopping $89.99.  Check out his other projector reviews

Input

The projector takes the image from your dvd player, computer, etc… and projects it onto the screen; therefore, you need to determine the compatibility between the projector and your computer, a dvd player, Roku or AppleTV, and/or any other device you plan to use to play the movie.  You may need an additional HDMI cord or something else to connect and project.

Other materials:

Extension cords

Power strip

Flashlight

At last, you have your screen, your projector, your computer, your kids, and now you are ready for family outdoor movie night. Oh wait, don’t forget the popcorn, candy, a big drink, and one more thing, grab those pillows and sleeping bags, and enjoy! You are all in for a fun and memorable experience!

 

Tie Dye Ta-Da – using fruits and veggies

The Saturday morning farmer’s markets are in full gear.  The sweet summer air, the rambunctious rainstorms and warm toasty sun have nurtured a bounty of lovely vegetables and fruits for human consumption.  But guess what, they can be used for a number of other things besides filling your belly, one of them being a dye for clothing.  

There will be some decisions you need to make because there are a number of designs and of course, vegetables and fruits to choose from.  But first off, gather the materials you will need to do this cool functional project. Of course, in order to tie-dye a t-shirt you will need a shirt (duh, I know, but can’t forget the basics). It is recommended that you wash the t-shirt before dying to remove any chemicals that it was treated with to prevent stains.

Then gather: 

  • heavy duty rubber bands
  • circular objects (balls, marbles, rocks) 
  • fruits and veggies like beets, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, cabbage, onion skins, the spice turmeric, and even herbs like mint or parsley (organic foods make great dyes and are good for the environment too)
  • salt
  • last but not least, vinegar

Here is a list of the fruits and veggies to help you decide which fruits and vegetables you will need.

  • Beets- fuchsia
  • Beet greens – green
  • Raspberries / strawberries – red/pink
  • Blueberries – blue
  • Green cabbage – light green
  • Red cabbage – purplish pink
  • Onion skins – yellowish brown
  • Spinach – green
  • Turmeric – yellow/orange

You will want to decide on your pattern next.  Here are a few ideas, but frankly, don’t be afraid to create your own one-of-a-kind original work of functional art!  The directions for the following designs might just get those creative juices flowing. 

Starburst

To make the circular pattern you often see in tie dye, you will put a round object in the center of your shirt.  It can be a tennis ball, a rock, or even a marble. Wrap the t-shirt around the object and tightly put a rubber band around the t-shirt.  Then like the one before, add rubber bands every one to two inches all the way down to the end of the t-shirt. 

Stripes

If circles aren’t your thing, then you can make a more linear pattern by putting rubber bands in a line all the way down the shirt.  Don’t forget the sleeves. You can also achieve big stripes by tying knots all the way down the shirt. These lines will be much less uniform than if you used the rubber bands.  

Circles

To make a shirt with a number of circles you will put a round object in the center of part your shirt.  It can be a tennis ball, a rock, or even a marble. Wrap the t-shirt around the object and tightly put a rubber band around the t-shirt.  Then add more round objects all around the shirt, securing each one with a wide, heavy duty rubber band.  

Choosing your fruits and vegetables may be a tough decision.  If cost is an issue, then red cabbage and beets are a great choice.  If you have ever cut open a beet, you know that its juices are a beautiful bright fuchsia and boy does it do its job to stain things that color.  If you want a lush green instead, use spinach.

The standard formula for the special sauce that will change your bland white Hanes t-shirt into a work of art is 1/2 -1 cup chopped fruit/vegetable (depending on the intensity of color you want) for every 2 cups of water.  For a large child-sized shirt you will need approximately 8 cups of water. Then add two cups of vinegar and ½ cup of salt. These ingredients help to set the color so it doesn’t bleed and fade.

Boil your water and fruits/vegetables for approximately 1 – 2 hours to get the natural dye out of the fruit.  The longer you simmer your fruits/veggies, the more intense the color will become. Strain the water to remove the food.

It’s time to DYE! Place your fabric into containers with the dye, or add your dye to squirt bottles and squirt the dye onto the fabric directly. 

Rinse in the sink, and then run it through the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

Ta-da, your own very organic, amazing, totally terrific, most beet-ific original masterpiece that you can wear on the first day of school! 

Cooling-Down during a heatwave: STEAM APPS that kids and parents will both love

Remember Miss Frizzle’s amazing field trips on The Magic Schoolbus?  Where taking chances, getting outside (and sometimes inside someone’s intestines or other odd places) are the orders of the day?  It’s summertime, what better opportunity is there to go on adventures, “make mistakes” and “get messy.” But, summertime also means scorching temperatures and when a heatwave rolls in sometimes there is no choice but some downtime indoors.  Time indoors and time on their technological devices doesn’t have to be a total loss for tweens and teens. Here are some amazing STEAM-inspired apps allow your kids to cool off, have some fun, and best of all—learn and grow, when going outdoors and getting messy aren’t an option.

  1. Starry Night Interactive – If your kids love Van Gogh’s Starry Night, they will love this interactive app where they can manipulate a masterpiece and relax to some enjoyable music at the same.
  2. Robot School Programming for Kids – A multileveled game where kids help R-obbie the Robot who has crashed his spaceship. Kids learn how to “learn procedures, loops and conditional instructions” to help him get home.
  3. Math Versus Zombies – Kids are part of a team of scientists who are helping to save the planet from zombies by using their super-human math skills.
  4. NASA Visualizer – This is a great app for kids excited about space by presenting the latest research in an “engaging and exciting format.”  Users can see images of Earth that have never been seen. 
  5. Frog Dissection – This is an iPad app for tweens and teens to learn about organs and organ systems in an eco-friendly way.  
  6. The Everything Machine – This app will blow your kids’ and maybe your mind!  “Create something as simple as a light switch or as complex as a kaleidoscope, a voice disguiser, a stop-motion camera, or a cookie thief catcher!”  But watch out, your kids can use their inventions to play a joke on you.
  7. Swift Playgrounds – A great coding tool for novices.  Users solve puzzles to learn Swift, a coding program used by expert coders to build many of “today’s most popular apps.”
  8. Thinkrolls & Thinkrolls 2 – This puzzle slash physics app with 26 fairytalish characters is “100% irresistible for kids 3-8.  Get it now and let your little geniuses amaze you with their reasoning and problem solving skills!” 
  9. Busy Water – This is another critical thinking leveled puzzle game that uses paddle wheels, water, blocks etc… to help Archie get back into his tank.  Logic and reasoning are developed as users work their way through the levels.
  10. Simple Rockets – What kid doesn’t get excited about becoming a scientist who designs his/her own rocket ships and helps them blast off into space?
  11. Noticing Tools – This is a “ground-breaking suite of iPad apps that make learning math and science irresistible through play, creative design projects, and collaboration.”
  12. World of Goo – Another puzzle game, this one requires users to move the goo.  They must find ways (by building bridges, towers, etc…) to get the goo to a pipe that will suck it up. 
  13. Odd Bot Out – This robot is the odd one out.  Tossed into the garbage for not “being good enough,” Odd the robot has to escape over a 100 unique rooms to find his way out.  
  14. Inventioneers – This app teaches “realtime physics and the science behind different features like air, fire, magnetism and (of course) jumping bunnies.”
  15. Attributes – Users play around with attributes and patterns to solve puzzles and complete various levels.  

Also try:  Move the Turtle; DragonBox; The Land of Venn

As parents, we will always encourage our children to get out and explore the outdoors, and to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” But, there are times when being indoors and having some downtime on our devices is necessary and doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.  So, when the heat index is 115 degrees, and you have to get that project done without interruption, allow your children to play one of these great STEAM apps. And, while it isn’t as good as time with you or trying out the latest science experiment, at least you know they will be learning and doing something that is a win/win.  

DIY: Your Own Crossword Puzzle

Need something fun and engaging for your children during those hot days of summer?  Have them create an “all about me” crossword! Not only will you be able to catch up on work, but you can have fun trying to complete their puzzles. You might even learn something new about them.  Who knows, when you get your big work project completed, your beach towels washed, and the mowing caught up, you might want to create one yourself.  

There are a number of cool sites where your children can go to create their puzzles electronically:

Crossword Hobbiest
Puzzle-Maker.com
Tools for Educators
Crossword Maker

If you want it to be a more authentic (and time-consuming process) and more of a puzzle to create a puzzle, you can print out a free crossword template, and then give your kids these directions:

  1. Make a list of clues/hints
  2. Create the list of answers
  3. Using the answers, start placing them in pencil on the crossword grid and give them a number (don’t forget to number the clue as well) interlocking them with previous words if you can. Try to make a somewhat even number of across and down.
  4. Outline the words with a dark box.
  5. Now create a carbon copy on an empty template, and of course, don’t write in the words. 
  6. Optional: Shade in any boxes that are unused.
  7. Make copies so everyone in the family can solve your puzzle.

Here is a list of possible clues that you and your children can use to get started.  They are sure to get your creative juices flowing.  

  • Nickname
  • Favorite food
  • Favorite holiday
  • Last book read
  • Favorite invention
  • Movie favorite
  • Famous idol
  • Game I most like to play
  • Where I want to go most
  • Favorite beach activity
  • What I love most about summer
  • My least favorite chore
  • Best friend
  • Worst enemy
  • Favorite subject
  • Hardest subject
  • Dream job
  • Job I would hate
  • Favorite soda
  • Favorite pizza topping
  • Favorite candy
  • Favorite ice cream
  • What makes me cry
  • What makes me laugh
  • Fave mode of transportation
  • Fave musician
  • Fave sci-fi movie

Enjoy this ‘stay at home’ activity, and if you get a crossword craze going on in your household, they can have a go at some of the fun science crosswords at whenwecrosswords.com!

Nine Must See Colorado Museums

Museums are an amazing opportunity to have family time, to learn and to have a blast all at the same time. You know about the big well-knowns like the Denver Museum of Nature and History and the Denver Art Museum, but have you tried some of the other amazing museums around Colorado?

Museum of Boulder at Tebo Center offers a lot of hands on exhibits that are just perfect for the curious child.  It has a lot of everything for the inventor, scientist, naturalist and artist! They have an extensive display of old equipment, machinery, Olympic sports gear, x-ray machines, etc… where kids can see and experience the evolution of innovation.  Not to mention, there is an artsy side for budding painters and sculptors. And, if your child wants to participate in some fun summer camps like Comic Book Camp, this museum has those in spades, too. They are open every day except Tuesday, and a day full of fun and adventure is just $10 for adults and $8 for children.  

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Arts is another local treasure.  Children can get their creative and imaginative juices flowing when they see and discuss the interesting and unique exhibits available.  A great discussion of what is art and how it is interpreted in many different ways can blossom when you visit this museum. Best part? It’s only $2 for adults and seniors and free for your youngsters that aren’t yet teens!  And, if your youngsters are feeling compelled to make some art, the museum has a “Young Artists at Work Summer Camp” as well.

Wings over the Rockies is a fantastically cool air and space museum located in Denver, Colorado.  This science, history, and technology filled museum is fun for all ages and was named one of the 20 best aviation museums around the world.  It has a Harrison Ford Theater where kids and adults alike can experience fighter pilots in training; how cool! It is open seven days a week for you to check out some of the coolest aviation technology ever created.  So, all you Amelia Earhart’s and Wright Brother wannabes, head on out! *STEAM FEST VENDOR*

After you’ve had your fill of aviation, take your next museum adventure at the Center for Colorado Women’s History, also known as the Byers-Evans House.  This museum is more geared towards an older crowd, so plan to take your teens to learn the history of women in Colorado and how those women’s stories connect to the history of women worldwide.  The museum is open five days a week.

If you have already made your rounds to these museums, there is the oldie but goodie Denver Children’s Museum with activities galore for your younger children or try something new with the Wow! World of Wonder Children’s Museum in Lafayette, Colorado.  The Forest of Light exhibit will have you and your children in sensory euphoria, and when you are done, your children can discover the properties of wind and air, create art projects from recycled materials, surround yourselves in a giant bubble, examine the physics of pulleys, and even dance and do yoga. *STEAM FEST VENDOR*

I have a soft spot for the mining industry (the best company I ever worked for was in the mining and metals industry) and I love the Western Museum of Mining & Industry in Colorado Springs. During your visit, see and learn about fully operational steam engines that powered the mining industry during the late 1800s, including a working hoist, “widow maker” pneumatic drill, and a 37 ton Corliss engine. Try your hand at panning for REAL gold with “Keep What you Find Gold Panning”, enjoy interactive hands-on displays, view exquisite and rare mineral samples and venture through a mock mine drift built exclusively for WMMI by Colorado School of Mines. They also have a STEAM Summer Camp in June (I think it’s next week).

If you get the chance, also try out the Colorado Railroad Museum and for sure, make time this summer for the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery with its 40,000 square foot space filled with interactive exhibits that allow visitors to explore the history of science. Oh, and the Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Greeley is completely amazing too – SciFi Day with Star Wars character meet and greets is in July.