Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly-rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week he weighs with three things to do with your kids over break.
In just a few days, your kids are going to be home on Christmas break. All day long. In your house. Eating. Fighting. Slacking off. Eating (with two growing sons, I have to say "eating" twice). Making you slightly nuts.
If you don't want those two weeks to feel like two months, and you aren't one of those parents that lets electronic babysitters do all of your work for you, than you'd better find something to do with them.
Never fear, the ol' Parent Hood is here with three cool, relatively cheap (or free) ideas to get you and your wall-climbing children out of the house.
Tempe Town Lake Mosaics
The idea for this whole post started with the video above. I really enjoy walking and chilling at Tempe Town Lake, and I often take my kids, so my lovely wife and I decided to go down and make a video to tell you all about it.
Tempe Town Lake is loaded with neat stuff, but one feature down there stands out to me, The Community Mosaics, and they're the highlight of the video. It's a perfect length walk to get over there. Perfect for exercise. Perfect for taking in all the sights on both sides of the lake. Most of all, perfect to spending some quality time with your kids.
Check out the video and you'll see what I mean. Community and art at its finest. Don't worry, if walking's not your thing, or if (gasp!) art's not your thing, Tempe Town Lake offers boating, biking, fishing, and a whole lot more.
The Phoenix Art Museum
That's right, I suggested taking your kids to an art museum. Not just any museum, the mighty Phoenix Art Museum. You say they are too little? They'll get bored? Not if you do it right. Here's how we do it:
1. Take public transportation. In Tempe, we usually walk down to College Avenue and catch the Orbit to downtown Tempe (we didn't in the video above, 'cause we had a pregnant lady with us) . From there, we get on Light Rail to the Museum in downtown Phoenix. Kids dig buses and trains. They're new and exciting.
2. Take a lot of pictures of the kids at the museum. That way, even if they aren't enthralled with all the art, they are part of the focus. Kids love to look at pictures of themselves. Better yet, they love, crave, and need the attention.
3. Engage the kids in the art. Ask them to watch for favorite types of art before you go in, and then ask them to explain afterwards. That helps you teach one of the key concepts of art appreciation: A person's opinions and feelings about it is the important thing. It also helps them feel important and it keeps them (semi) engaged.
4. Document your trip. The thing that my kids loved the most about the whole day was the video that I made to document the adventure (it's my first one, and it's a few years ago, but I wanted to provide some evidence for ya). It doesn't have to be a video -- pictures do the trick by all means. Just make sure the kids are the stars of the show (and to to check with museum big shots about photo/video rules).
Note: If you are still not convinced your kids will dig it, or you are an art-hater (what a bummer for you), then try the Arizona Science Center. Same potential for learning and quality time, different subject matter.
Phoenix Art Museum. N. Central Avenue, Phoenix. (602) 257-1222. Click here for museum information.
A Holiday Light Tour
I realize that I'm not the first one in the Valley to suggest this concept, but it's not the trip, it's what you make of it.
... and let me tell you, my wife can take the simplest little idea and make it into an event. It is this Mom-ish behavior, I found out after finally tagging along on the Wiley Family Light Tour (that's not trademarked... yet), that is the key to making it great.
You see, in the past, I've always been of the "no, you guys go ahead without me" frame of mind, but this year I went ahead and joined the tribe. I shook my head as my wife prepared five giant bags of popcorn and went shopping for hot chocolate, but I decided to stay positive and put off my teasing in favor of a request for Apple Cider.
As night set in, and we went out to start the tour, I stuck my hand in my bag of popcorn and I began to understand. I threw on our mighty Capitol Christmas Sampler (one of the finest promo CDs I've ever received) and watched the smile light up my wife's face when she heard the opening notes of Nat King Cole's "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth". By the time we got to the first house on the tour, and I started in on my hot apple cider, I was hooked.
We saw some great lights, although not as many as we'd have liked, because of the rain. We saw some head-shaking, what-does-that-have-to-do-with-Christmas stuff, like a two-story inflated Koala bear. Most of all, I saw my family's faces as they marveled at the things people will do to decorate their houses, and we spent time together.
And that's what it all about. Spending time together. It's not about the mosaics, or the art, or the light rail, or even the holiday. Soon they'll be on their own, and I'll be longing for that time. So for now, the more adventures the merrier.
So whatever you do over break, here's a big "Happy Holidays" from Wileysworld and the Parent Hood!