This year we've resolved to spend more time outdoors as a family—to get some exercise, explore Marin County's many parks open space areas, and learn about the natural wonders all around us. A fantastic way to get out and experience nature in Marin is to take part in one of the naturalist-led family outings offered by Marin County Parks.
The Nature for Kids outings take place at Marin's open space preserves, and feature a leisurely, kid-paced hike with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. We recently took part in the Nature for Kids program at Novato's Deer Island Open Space Preserve led by Marin County Parks naturalists David Herlocker and Shannon Burke.
We all met at the Deer Island trailhead at 10 am, where David and Shannon explained a bit about the outing and gave each of the kids a small gift in the form of a neat little folding magnifying lens, something that would become useful later on in the hike. The Nature for Kids hikes are informal and unstructured, and perfect for kids of all ages. Our group of kids and parents hiked along the Deer Island Loop Trail, stopping to look when someone noticed something interesting along the way.
It's Thanksgiving week, and since most schools give kids the entire week off, you'll probably be looking for ways to keep them occupied before and after Turkey Day. Here are our top 10 activities for families for Thanksgiving break:
If you're a southern Marin parent looking for art and music classes for your children, check out the fall offerings at the Little Art Studio in Mill Valley. The Little Art Studio offers art and music classes designed for children ages 1 1/2 and up to explore art and music in an open, safe, and nurturing environment.
Current class offerings include Toddler Art, Afterschool Art, Music & Art, and Story & Art classes. The emphasis is on the creative process rather than the product, but the children always come away with incredible works of art! Small classes offer children a comfortable, age-appropriate atmosphere, while promoting cooperation and connections.
The Little Art Studio offers morning toddler classes and afterschool drop off classes on the weekdays. The studio is also available for art themed birthday parties and events on weekends!
Fall Session II runs from now through December 13, 2013. Classes run in six week sessions and flexible online scheduling is offered. All classes are $180 per session, $30 for drop-in.
Learn more and enroll online at www.thelittleartstudio.com. Drop-ins are welcome with 24-hour advance online registration, too. You can also call the studio at (415) 637-5340.
Parents and caregivers: bring the little ones ages birth to 24 months for some play time at San Rafael's Osher Marin JCC. Jymbabies, the JCC's new drop-in play program will host an open house on Tuesday, October 1 from 9:30 to 11 am.
Popular local family entertainer Miss Kitty will be performing, so it's sure to be a lot of fun!
Every Tuesday morning, Jymbabies offers little ones a soft indoor playground for climbing, crawling, sliding, bouncing in a bounce house, building, dancing, scooting and more. The JCC's on-site cafe will offer kid-friendly food and snacks.
As a special introduction, Jymbabies is free for the month of October, so be sure you check it out.
The Osher Marin JCC is located at 200 North San Pedro Road in San Rafael. For more information, call (415) 444-8000 or visit www.marinjcc.org/jymbabies.
This fall Tiburon's Ark Row Center for Enrichment Fun offers a wide range of fun and exciting classes for kids. Ark Row Center provides a warm, cozy, and nurturing environment for little ones, and specializes in providing quality children's programming where every child is considered unique.
For moms and kids, Ark Row Center offers their Move & Groove class on Thursdays from 3 to 3:45 pm. Moms with babies from 6 months to 1 year can make music together, learn dance rhythms, sing songs with puppets, and enjoy time with other moms and babies. They also have another class at 4 pm for ages 1-2 years.
Totally Toddlers offers 18-month to two-year-olds a chance to act like big kids and attend class without a parent. Toddlers can explore, make music, frolic in the parachute, dabble in paint and even cook some simple, kid-friendly recipes. Totally Toddlers takes place Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 am to noon.
Two-year-olds are clustered together in Twos Together, a specially designed class just for their age. They have an opportunity to make new friends, while enjoying exciting activities and projects. There's always music, movement, art, cooking, and fun! (Diapers are OK, too.)
If you're looking for a fun place for drop-in play or a birthday party, make sure you check out Jack and Jill's, Marin's newest indoor play space. Located in San Rafael, Jack and Jill's offers drop-in play for children agest 8 months to 6 years and their parents or caregivers.
At Jack and Jill's kids can enjoy creative play with activity tables, a dramatic play area, play houses, an arts and crafts area, blocks, a reading room for storytelling, and a "crawler" area with soft crawl-on and pull-up structures and soft toys. Jack and Jill's also offers a space for indoor children's birthday parties and other special events.
Drop-in play is offered from Monday–Friday from 8:30 am–5:30 pm and Saturday from 8:30 am–noon. Drop-in play costs $10 per child age 1 and up; $8 for each sibling. Children under 1 year are free with a paid sibling or $5 without. Adults are admitted free, of course. There's no time limit, so hang out and play as long as you like!
Down 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.
This Saturday, April 20, put your imagination in gear and come to Oak View Nursery School first ever Touch a Truck event! At Touch a Truck, kids (and grownups, too) will get a chance to get behind the wheel of some amazing vehicles and rub elbows with their hometown heroes.
Come and explore your favorite vehicles including fire trucks, dump trucks, buses, tow trucks, race cars, and even Coast Guard drones. It will definitely be a day to remember!
Touch a Truck takes place from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. Admission is $5 per person, and kids under 1 are free. The first 100 kids to attend will get a free goodie bag. All proceeds from this event will fund special programing for Oak View Nursery School students.
Looking for something fun for the kids to do over the upcoming spring break? There are so many unique and fun camps available to choose from. Check out some of the great spring break camps here in Marin.
Art Attack!Spring Camp at Bay Area Discovery Museum
Sausalito April 8–11, 9 am–3 pm
The Art Attack camp is for ages 4–7 years and takes place April 8–11 (four days). Explore your artistic potential and express yourself through paint, sculpture, natural objects, recycled materials, messy art and more. Children will explore the artistic through our specialized open-ended child-directed process no matter how messy they may get! Cost: Supporting Members $375; general $400 per series. Location: 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito.For more info, visit www.baykidsmuseum.org.
Devil's Gulch Camp
Nicasio (pick-up/drop-off at San Rafael YMCA) April 8–12, 8 am–4:30 pm
In partnership with Devil's Gulch Educational Services, the Marin YMCA will be leading a spring break camp in Nicasio for grades 2–8. Kids will have the opportunity to learn about farming, animal care, sustainable living and outdoor skills. The actual working farm will provide an experience for campers to garden, go fishing and enjoy other outdoor activities. The campers will meet at the YMCA at 8 am. The bus will leave the Marin YMCA at 8:15 am. and return to the YMCA at 4:30. Pre- and post-camp are not available. Fee: Facility Member $400 and Program Member $430. For more info or to register, visit www.ymcasf.org/marin.