kith & kin

{creating themed family outings}

A friend requested some ideas on themed outings she could do with her son.  I immediately loved the idea and began doing some research!  So here are five – pretty simple – themed outings that you can do with your kids AND that can be done {almost} anywhere!

{Number One:  Nature Centers}

There are state parks EVERYWHERE.  Also, a lot of them have Nature Centers one can visit.  Within these centers there can be information about the park itself, about the wildlife within the state park, about how to help conserve, and there is usually an employee there to help answer any questions you may have.  Some centers have interactive stations or short movies or even some of the wildlife to get up close to.  They can be super fun to take advantage of and are free!  Some of the state parks may require payment upon entrance; but not all do, which makes this a cheap, or even free, family friendly outing.

I have picked three Nature Centers at random in different parts of the country.  I have also created different themed lunches and activities based on each center because they vary depending on your location.

The first center I picked is the MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach, Florida.  This center seems to have a ton to offer inside; from loggerhead sea turtle to a manatee skeleton to hearing dolphins.  There is so much to do here; but I do have a little activity for you to do with your littles before or after (or even on the way!) your tip.  There is a free PDF at the bottom of this post of cute, little baby sea turtles to be colored.  You can cut one out, and put it into “it’s egg” so it can hatch.  Pssst I just used a white Easter egg, always happy to use that holiday stuff more than once a year!

Now, to pack that themed lunch for your little to demolish within seconds, completely missing the fact that there was a rhyme or reason to every bit of it.  Totally worth it.  Right?  Well…we’ll do it anyway.

{creating themed outings} nature center 1 lunch

We’ll start with a sea turtle shaped sandwich to be friends with the center’s resident loggerhead sea turtle; it can be peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, Nutella, whatever your little one is into.  Also, don’t fret if you don’t have a turtle cookie cutter!  You can easily find a turtle silhouette online and just use that as a stencil to cut your sandwich (or just cut up an empty can of pop and form a cookie cutter!  yup…this mom has definitely done that…don’t judge me).  Next up, a banana dolphin swimming in an ocean of blueberries.  All you have to do is cut a banana in half and then cut a slit into the stem and use a sharpie to draw an eye on the peel.  Lastly, just add some gold fish to your plate, not to any of their tanks! 😉  See?  Not so hard!

The second center I picked is the Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville, Wisconsin.  This is another center that seems to be jam packed with things to do!  Tree houses, snakes, and ponds!  Oh my!  All kid friendly and begging for some little hands to explore.  Well maybe not the snakes…I don’t advise snake touching…OK well, in case you’re fact checking with our Little Monster, I don’t ALWAYS advise snake touching.  This place has so many things to keep you and your littles busy that I’m not sure you would even have the time or energy to do an extra activity!  However, if you do still want more, see the next center’s activities, they apply here as well.  

{creating themed outings} nature center 2 lunch

On to the lunch!  First, a leaf shaped sandwich, pretty simple!  Next, you can build a raft with your pretzel sticks; but I don’t recommend trying to float it down the rocky stream.  Lastly, because this nature center has a labyrinth, you can take a moment and send your spoon through a yogurt and Craisin labyrinth.  All you have to do to create your own zen lunch is put in some yogurt and then use the Craisins to build your design.

Lastly, the third center I picked is the Big Basin Redwoods Park in Boulder Creek, California.  It says there is a nature center and a museum or you could simply walk around and take in the giants.  Some fun outdoor, woodsy activities you can do are a forest scavenger hunt with the free PDF at the bottom of this post!  Or you and your littles can collect pieces of nature (sticks, flowers, leaves, rocks) and use them to spell out your names to leave “your mark” on the trail.  

{creating themed outings} nature center 3 lunch

Hungry yet?  Here’s a cute themed lunch to go with your adventure among the giants. Start with some yummy snails!  You need little pickles, tortillas, whipped cream cheese, spinach, and your little’s favorite crunchy vegetables.  Spread the cream cheese onto your tortilla, place the vegetables and spinach, roll it up, and slice.  Stand it up on the plate as the shell and place a little pickle in front as the snail itself.  You can go on a hunt for some forest mushrooms after you enjoy these cute little edible toadstools with a hard boiled egg, a tomato, and some cream cheese for the dots.  Lastly, just add some fallen tree trunks (pretzel rods), and there you have it!

{Number Two:  Super Heroes to the Park}

You can have your little don their favorite capes and take a trip to your neighborhood park!  Because what little boy or girl doesn’t want to spend a few hours being a superhero?!  I have even included a color your own mask PDF at the bottom of this post so that their anonymity remains intact.  Just print it out, have them color it, cut it out, and find some string to tie it on!  As a bonus little activity, have your superhero practice their moves wile at the park with these superhero actions:

  • Fly down the slide.
  • Climb Spiderman’s web (or rock wall).
  • Sprint like Flash.
  • Catch “bullets” like Superman. (just use a ball mom, I’m not suggesting you throw ammo at your children; but maybe Nerf Guns!)
  • Jump and stomp like the Hulk.
  • Throw your “shield” like Captain America.  (use a frisbee for this one!)
  • Then cool down and relax while doing the Hero Pose.

{creating themed outings} the park

Now that your superhero has worked up an appetite here’s a cute themed lunch to go with your adventure!  Make a star shaped sandwich to match Captain America’s shield.  Add a little paper cape and draw a mask onto a cheese stick, so your superhero can have a side-kick.  Lastly, in case they didn’t work out enough, they can test their superhuman strength by lifting these pretzel stick and grape weights to their mouths.

{Number Three:  The Zoo}

There are hundreds of zoos across the states, some are small town, not on the map zoos and some are HUGE, famous zoos.  The Smithsonian National Zoo is famous for it’s pandas and is free (minus parking) to visitors.  We have made many trips to this zoo since living near D.C., we even got to partake in their Preschool at the zoo It is a really neat program that involves animal themed activities, books, learning, and even a walk to see that week’s animal in it’s zoo habitat.  I highly recommend it to anyone in the D.C. area, our Little Monster still talks about how the zoo being her preschool.  The Aloha Safari Zoo in Fayetteville, North Carolina is a small zoo that is home to unwanted, mistreated, and injured animals.  Don’t be fooled by my saying “small” or by the fact that it’s in Fayetteville, this zoo includes a Russian Brown Bear, a Bengal Tiger, and much more.  Definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area!  My all time favorite zoo is the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.  Not only is the zoo full of animals and fish, it is located along the coast of Commencement Bay surrounded by some really beautiful nature.  It’s beautiful to walk through!  While visiting whatever zoo is nearest to you, you can just enjoy seeing the animals or you could make a game out of it to.  Make up a scavenger hunt that involves finding specific animals.  Or, if you have older kids, you could add to the difficulty and require them to find animals doing specific things, such as an eating giraffe, a walking elephant, a sleeping bear, a climbing monkey – you get the idea.  

{creating themed outings} the zoo

After all that animal viewing your little animals will likely be hungry!  Find a shady picnic table and enjoy a zoo themed lunch.  The options are pretty limitless when it comes to a zoo them, so feel free to create your own ideas; but these are some options I have come up with and I have used some in past zoo trips.  An orange tiger can easily be drawn with sharpie onto the orange’s peel.  Pack some peanuts so your littles can eat like the elephants, not to mention shelling peanuts would be great busy work to distract little ones who are getting antsy.  You can make mini zebra kabobs with sliced cheese sticks and black olives on toothpicks, or if you want a fruit option you could use bananas and blackberries.  And it wouldn’t be a trip to the zoo without some animal crackers!

{Number Four:  The Beach}

So everyone may not have a beach by them; but do some research!  There may not be an ocean beach; but there is probably a lake with a beach.  Here are some scattered around:  Silver Lake Sand Dunes on Lake Michigan, Grand Isle Beach in Louisiana, Calvert Cliffs State Park in Maryland is a beach you hike a little ways to and it is a great spot to hunt for shark teeth.  So if your littles are diligent enough, they may go home with some treasure!  Or they could just hunt for shells and cool rocks washed up by the waves.  If they need more to do than just playing in the water they could use their shell or shark teeth collection to spell out their names.  You could also draw a tic-tac-toe board and use your shells to play a round or two.  And then there’s the obvious choice, building a sand castle!  For added fun, let your little attack the castle and stomp it to smithereens.  

{creating themed outings} the beach

Now, to curb your little fishy’s appetite with a meal fit for any beach.  You can make these cute little ocean scenes with a rice cake topped with cream cheese (dyed blue), topped with a gold fish cracker and some celery leaves to look like seaweed.  Then slice some oranges for some sunshine and cut some bell peppers into little starfish.  A perfect picnic for any beach outing.

{Number Five:  Botanical Garden}

There are botanical gardens in a lot of areas.  They can be free or a suggested donation or some can be a pretty steep price.  Do your research and find one in your area that fits your budget.  Here are a few that I have found throughout the United States.  I have not been to all of these, but if you’re near any of them and plan a visit I would be happy to hear your thoughts!  One that I have been to is the United States Botanic Garden, admission is free and it’s a beautiful indoor garden.  There are outdoor areas as well; but we visited in the winter and didn’t get to enjoy them.  Mitchell Park Conservatory or The Domes is another one that I have been to, multiple times.  It is a neat place to go!  There are three ‘domes’ with different gardens in each:  the Floral Show, the Desert, and Tropical.  After some research here are a few others that I have found:  Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County, Alaska – yes you read that correctly – Alaska Botanical Garden, and the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona (I think I have been to this one while visiting my brother; but I’m not positive).  The prices of all these that I have listed vary from free to $25 per adult, so do your research and find what’s good for your family.  Activities to do while you are out with your little gardener can be things like Flower Bingo or you could make these really cute butterfly wings for them to fly around the garden in.  I have included a free PDF for the bingo game, I picked pretty generic flowers; but some of them may not work for you depending on what kind of garden you are visiting.  This is the book we got our directions for butterfly wings from.  They turned out neat and our Little Monster really enjoys them.  (We love the whole book actually!)  If you have wiggly little worms with you at the garden (if your kids are anything like mine there is no ‘if’ when it comes to wiggles) you can get them to calm down with some garden yoga!  Here are some poses that would be perfect for you to try out while at the garden:  

  • Pretend to be a tree pose.
  • Plant some seeds and practice your squat pose.
  • Bloom into flower pose.
  • Enjoy a rainbow pose.
  • Buzz like a bee while in lotus pose.
  • And pretend to be a sleeping frog in child’s pose.

{creating themed outings} botanical garden

After all that planting their hunger is growing so sit down and have a picnic!  Butterfly crackers with some flower shaped cheese and summer sausage are the perfect fit for any garden.  You can make these bell pepper tulips by cutting the top edge to look like a tulip and sticking a green pipe cleaner through the bottom as the stem.  And of course you need a butterfly!  Just cut a small piece of celery, fill with some cream cheese, and place two pretzels in as the wings.

Are you still here?!

Awesome!

Here are the free PDF’s I promised:  * sea turtles * a nature scavenger hunt * superhero mask_1 * superhero mask_2 *garden bingo *

That’s everything!

I hope you have all enjoyed this massive amount of information.  Thank you for sticking with me, I got a little excited and carried away about this post idea and I just couldn’t help myself.  If you guys have any other outing ideas that you want themes for feel free to let me know and I will see what I can come up with!

Which themed family outing will you do first?!

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