It's All About Bears at the SF Zoo's Teddy Bear Festival

July 9, 2013

Teddy Bear FestivalGet ready for a "beary" fun weekend when the San Francisco Zoo's annual Teddy Bear Festival returns this Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14! Children of all ages are invited to enjoy live music by the Raytones, special book readings of I Am NOT a Bear, create take-home crafts, and have a special meet-and-greet with the Pete the Polar Bear and Baxter the Brown Bear.

Kids ages 4–14 who bring their own teddy bear will get $2 of the price of admission. As an added bonus, you can watch the zoo's grizzly bears and polar bears as they receive special enrichment treats from their keepers. All activities are free with zoo admission.

Family favorite band the Raytones—with Ray the dancing rhinoceros—perform sets at 11 am, 12:30 pm, and 2 pm.

Readings of I am NOT a Bear, the story of a koala who's determined to let others know she's a marsupial, not a bear, take place at 11:45 am and 1:15 pm. Author Lisa Chong will do a special reading and sign books.

Make a Summer Journal to Record Vacation Memories

July 6, 2013

Summer journalWith summer vacation in full swing now, it’s really hard to think about going back to school in the fall and answering the age old question: “What did you do on your summer vacation?”

Make that time-honored topic easy to address for your kids by creating fun and colorful summer journals. My kids have already started working on theirs, and over the next few weeks, they’ll write about all the experiences they had over the summer, and fill their journals with photos, postcards, drawings, and other reminders of vacation fun.

There are no hard and fast rules for creating a summer journal with your kids. We use simple three-ring binders, but you might like to use an acid-free sketchbook or a spiral-bound notebook. We like using the binders because you can put all kinds of different things in them. Get out the three-hole punch and you can put drawings, brochures, and other souvenirs from your summer in them. Clear plastic sheet protectors can be used to hold things like postcards, brochures, and pressed flowers.

We also get the kind of binders with the clear plastic sleeves on the cover, so the kids can personalize their journals by sliding a drawing onto the front. Of course if you have a plain binder or other type of notebook you can customize it in other colorful ways, with stickers, paint, glitter, or anything else that your imagination can dream up.

Marin Theatre Company Kicks Off Its New Children's Series with The Cat in the Hat

July 1, 2013

Doyle Ott as the Cat in the HatWhen Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley presented Bay Area Children's Theatre's production of Ivy + Bean, the response was overwhelming and tickets quickly sold out. This summer MTC and BATC team up again to begin a new theater series for young audiences, starting with The Cat in the Hat from August 10–18.

On a cold, cold day too wet to play, Sally and her brother had nothing to do, but sit sit sit. And they did not like it, not one bit. But then with a BUMP, that made them both jump, appeared the Cat in a Hat! And just like that, Sally and her brother had games to play and a lot of good tricks to pass the day. Their mother won't mind at all, and the mess will be small... Or should they listen to the wish of their responsible pet fish and send this mischievous cat away?

Experience this beloved Dr. Seuss classic live on stage! This production, directed by Erin Merritt and starring Doyle Ott as the Cat, runs 45 minutes with no intermission. Shows take place on Saturday, August 10 and 17, and Sunday, August 11 and 18 at 10:30 am and 12: 30 pm.

Tickets are $15 for children under 14, $20 for adults, and $17 for seniors 64+. Individual tickets go on sale Tuesday, July 2. Order online at, by phone at  (415) 388-5208, or in person at the MTC box office, 397 Miller Avenue in Mill Valley (Tuesday–Saturday, noon–5 pm). Discounted group tickets for groups of 15 or more can be reserved at the box office.

Benefits of Infant Massage

June 25, 2013

babyMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin certified pediatric massage therapist Tracy Vatcher on the benefits of infant massage.

As parents, most of us are familiar with the lack of sleep associated with caring for an infant. Jack’s family came to me for help because, at two months of age, Jack wasn’t sleeping well and took hours to fall asleep which provided only a short respite before awakening again, often for the rest of the night. Without proper sleep, he was having trouble gaining weight, was crying a lot of the time and his parents were exhausted. Nothing they tried worked.

Then they decided to try infant massage, learned the fundamentals, and started using them at home. His parents noticed that just a few minutes of massage around dinner time calmed him, reduced his crying, and at night helped him to fall asleep more easily. Infant massage is now part of their daily routine and they use it to calm Jack when he is stressed, to provide relief for him when he gets gassy or constipated, and to help him sleep.

Hands-on Creative Fun at Berkeley's Adventure Playground

June 24, 2013

Berkeley Adventure PlaygroundDown at the Berkeley Marina you'll find one of the Bay Area's all-time classic kids' attractions: the Adventure Playground. This unique place at the foot of University Avenue is no ordinary playground, however. At first glance, it actually looks more like a junkyard than a playground, but it's actually an amazing outdoor wonderland where kids can let their imaginations and creative energy run wild and build with hammers, saws, nails, paint, and recycled materials.

Don't worry—it's not a Lord of the Flies-style free for all. Plenty of helpful young people from the playground's staff are on hand to help, encourage, and make sure everyone has a great safe time. The Adventure Playground is like a big vacant lot full of wood, tires, old boats, and more. Kids can work on their own projects or cooperate to work on larger ventures like adding on to one of the playground's forts.

It's the kind of environment that many kids these days don't really have a chance to experience, and it's been delighting Bay Area children for almost 35 years. In addition to opportunities to build and create, playground-goers can ride a zip line, slide, and swings, and play on a huge rope climbing structure or on one of the playground's many boats and wooden constructions.

A Family That Eats Together: Mexican Pizza

June 23, 2013

Mexican pizzaMarin Mommies presents this week's guest recipe from Nicole Cibellis, Marin mom and author of the blog A Family that Eats Together, where she shares meal plans and recipes that will please foodies and children alike. Here's Nicole's meal plan for this week.

There are lots of Mexican pizza recipes out there that call for a more traditional pizza crust, but I love a good short cut and why use those when there are tortillas? Thin-crust is all the rage and what is thinner than a tortilla? The base of this recipe is simple beans, salsa and cheese but you can make these in even more ways than I can imagine, just use your family’s favorite Mexican toppings.

Servings: 6–8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10–15 minutes


  • Flour tortillas
  • 1 can refried beans, warmed
  • your favorite salsa, or use my salsa recipe
  • 2 cups jack cheese
  • Left-over chicken or use my grilled Mexican chicken recipe below
  • your favorite guacamole or use my guacamole recipe

The BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Seat Makes Summer Travel Easier

June 19, 2013

BubbleBum inflatable booster seatCalifornia law mandates that all kids under 8 must use a booster seat when riding in a car. While it's easy to make sure your kids use a booster seat when you're driving them around, it's harder to make sure they're safe when they're carpooling to school, riding in a friend's or grandparent's car.

This being summer travel season, you also need a booster in rental cars and even taxis, and who wants to haul one of those around? Regular booster seats, with their armrests and cup holders, take up a lot of room, too, as anyone who's had to ride in the back seat with two kids' booster seats will attest to.

Enter the BubbleBum! Before BubbleBum gave me a sample to try out, I had no idea that an inflatable booster seat existed, and in fact the BubbleBum is the first one on the market. Upon unpacking, the BubbleBum doesn't look like much, but free it from its restraining zip ties and unroll it and it begins to take form.

To use it, just unscrew the valve, inflate (it doesn't take all that much air), and thread a seat belt through one of the belt positioning clips on the side. That's it!

The BubbleBum is made using the same advanced inflatable technology used in life jackets and air bags, and uses memory foam for structural integrity. It also meets all US safety testing standards, of course.

Surprise Dad with a Custom BBQ Apron

June 15, 2013

Father's Day BBQ ApronFor Father's Day, sometimes the best gifts for Dad are those that the kids make and personalize themselves. If Dad's the grilling type, you can have the kids can make him this cute custom BBQ apron. It's easy to put together and Dad will love it!

You'll need:

  • A plain cotton apron
  • A pencil
  • Fabric paints

 All of the supplies needed for this apron can be found at a craft store like Michael's. Plan out a design and wording for your apron. I had the kids decorate this one with their handprints first, to remind Dad of how old they were when they made this for him.

The Ultimate Summer KidsBash at Ghirardelli Square

June 11, 2013

Kidsbash at Ghirardelli SquareThis summer San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square transforms itself into the Bay Area's largest playground for kids and families for its fourth annual KidsBash, taking place on Saturday, June 15 from 11 am to 3 pm. Hosted by Ghirardelli Square and presented by Plum Organics, KidsBash will present activities for all ages, with events expanding onto Beach Street adjacent to the Square and Aquatic Park, guaranteeing even more fun by the Bay!

KidsBash proceeds supports Plum Organics' social impact program The Full Effect, which donates organic baby food meals to children in need across the US, so you and your family can have a blast and know you're making a difference, too.

At this street festival for kids, families are invited to explore historic Ghirardelli Square, discover unique boutiques and restaurants, and enjoy family-friendly activities that are sure to bring out the kid in everyone. KidsBash attractions and activities include a pirate ship ride, a climbing wall, face painting, bounce house, games with prizes, a Flax art booth, science experiments, temporary and henna tattoos, a special visit from the San Francisco Fire Department and much more, including a few new surprises for 2013. KidsBash is geared for children 10 years old and younger.

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