Friday, January 29, 2016

{Bay Area Kids Fun}: Habitot

Today I'm back with the second review for my Bay Area Kids Fun series. I will probably do about two of these a month, but this time it just worked out that I am posting two in a row. But rest assured, I do have some other more personal posts planned in the next coming weeks. So stick with me here and some good stuff is coming :)

This was another place I had bookmarked on Yelp for quite sometime. Many of the places in this series are ones that I had intentions on going to for a year or more, but since most of them are about an hour or so away from us, a full, plan-free day is needed for a worth while visit. And that is pretty rare around here ever since Myles started school last August. It is sad that we have lived in the Bay Area for 2 1/2 years now and still have so many places we've never been. So in this new year, I have made it a point to keep one weekend day open (most weeks) for us to explore some new places with Myles. 

Going into Habitot, I had no expectations, but I had high hopes because it is located in downtown Berkley. I would consider this place a children's museum focused on sensory and imaginative play. Habitot’s mission is to help the broad community of parents and caregivers raise curious, creative and confident children. All of their exhibits are centered around children's play, but with mindful and intentional learning through caregiver's provocation. Every exhibit has a sign like this one with prompts for questions to ask, things to say, and how you can play together:
Resources like this one are what set this place apart from any other children's museum we've ever been to. They even have a parenting resource library on location and online with tons of helpful information on everyday issues like managing anger, easing into transitions, and learning to share, and also some really tough topics like loss, divorce, and incarceration. They also provide FREE parenting workshops onsite. 

I could go on and on about all the resources they have available; it is definitely worth taking the time to explore their website.
 Now on to the actual museum. I have to be honest, my initial thoughts upon entering this place were not very positive. It's very small and at the time we went (10:30a on a Saturday) super crowded. My anxiety was creeping up and I was really uncomfortable squeezing around every child and exhibit trying to keep an eye on Myles. Myles, of course, didn't bat an eye though. The first 30 minutes were rough for me, but I just tried to stay back and let him play. Eventually it cleared out significantly (it was a birthday party) and the rest of our visit was much more enjoyable. They do give times that are best to go here and they also have intentions on moving to a bigger, stand-alone facility in the future, so that will help with the crowdedness as well. Other than that, we all had a really great time and Myles had no intention on ever leaving!

 Here is their wiggle wall:
Kids climb up through this wall to get an idea of how worms navigate through their underground tunnels.

The featured exhibit at this time is the medical center. The first thing you see is the ambulance. Myles loved 'driving' this around and bringing all the babies and animals for a ride in the back.

Apparently, it was a pretty scary emergency:

The next part of the medical center is the veterinarian clinic. Myles learned how to give pets a check up and wrap up an injured dog.

My favorite part was this x-ray reader. I love to see things at children's museums that are real or mock-ups of equipment that is used in professional careers, i.e. doctor, dentist, construction, bakery, IT, etc.

 The last part of the medical center is the baby nursery area (that I didn't get any pictures of) where kids can bathe, dress, and feed 'newborns'.

In the back of the medical center is a DIY face-painting table. Myles played around with the colors a little bit, and then I made him into Ironman. I even tried the paints out on my face!

This is the sweet little set-up for their grocery store and cafe; carts/baskets to pick out food, a cash register to pay for the food, and a mini kitchen to make their favorite meals.

They also have a cute area just for the infants/younger toddlers that is fenced in. At 3, Myles is probably in the upper range of ages that should use this area, but he really wanted to pick the carrots in the garden, and well, how could I say no! There is also a small, foam jungle gym, and other soft baby toys for the littles to enjoy.

The older Myles gets the more he gets into art, which I love. Watching him be creative with his hands is such a pleasure of mine. It is so rewarding seeing his imagination manifest itself through his creations. I thought the art studio there had a lot to offer. You could tell by all they had available that art is a big focus there. That day Myles checked out the play-doh and then he made a water-color and salt painting. He is quite obsessed with painting; he chooses to do it almost everyday at school.
Here is another one of the guides they have posted at each exhibit:

Next up was WATER!
This is what the whole water works set-up looks like:

Of all the water features we've played with, this is one of the best. It has areas for all heights and ages with lots of different toys to engage all senses!

Lastly, in the back, they have a wind tunnel. This changes with the seasons and right now it is winter themed with snow to sweep up and penguin helpers.

And in the very back, they have a toy lending library. This is such an awesome idea!

The areas I didn't get pictures of were the train tables and reading tent. 

Child: $10.00 (FREE under 12 mo.)
Adult: $10.00 

Pros: The resources here are unrivaled among Bay Area children centers. 
There is definitely enough activities to keep the kids busy for a couple hours with a pretty good  variety of exhibits.
When your child cries because they don't want to leave, that is a good sign!

Cons: The small size and crowdedness at certain times. It would also be nice to have a bit of an outside area when they move.

Overall review: 8/10 Myles really enjoyed all the exhibits and the emphasis/resources provided for caregiver interaction and education is incredible. 

Bay Area Kids Fun Posts:
Children's Creativity Museum
Children's Natural History Museum
Children's Fairyland
 Lawrence Hall of Science
Sonoma County Children's Museum

Thursday, January 21, 2016

{Bay Area Kids Fun}: Children's Creativity Museum

I don't often make New Years resolutions, but I do love the word 'new'. I mean who doesn't love new?!?! A fresh start and a new beginning gives a sense of freedom with no expectations. So to bring in the new year, I am bringing something new to the blog. For a while now,  I have wanted to write reviews here, but since I don't have much local readership, it seemed to be a waste. In the process of brainstorming, I reached out to the local mother's club and their newsletter editor. I asked her about any openings or interest in reviews for local kids activities. She was on-board and I will have my first review next month's issue! But because it's just a short article (only room for a half page write up with one picture), in comes the blog! I am going to write the full review with tons of pictures and specifics here. That way anyone interested in knowing more can come over here and I can have them open to general readership as well.

Children's Creativity Museum

I have had this place bookmarked on Yelp for sometime now, but I was waiting to go until Myles was old enough to participate in more of the activities there. I'm always a little nervous about going to a new place with my 'threenager'; will he be over it in two minutes or will I have to drag him out 2 hours later? Luckily for me, in this case, it was the latter! And even better, I didn't want to leave either. This place will bring out your inner child in so many ways. The museum describes itself as an innovative art and technology experience for kids of all ages, [believing] that creative expression, innovation, and critical thinking are core to fostering the next generation. I honestly felt that the museum really held up that that mission statement. I was thoroughly impressed with their ability to engage all ages in nearly all of their exhibits.

The museum is broken up into sections based on ages: 5+, 5 and under, and all ages. Most of the exhibits on the bottom floor are for age 5 and under. The Imagination Lab has lots to keep the youngins entertained. The first thing Myles went to was this open area with the foam blocks. These are very common in kid museums in the Bay Area. What I haven't seen before though, is the little cubby-hole areas that can be used to build forts (which is always the most popular thing to make)!

I loved this little area for Magformers. How smart to make magnetic walls!

Myles spent a lot of time here at the floam (little balls stuck together that are mold-able) table. There are two tables with lots of floam for all.

The Imagination Lab also has a puppet show area and a quiet, semi-closed off room for reading and taking a break.

Outside is the Play Patio. I think in the warmer months they have water features out there, but that day it was a 'south pole' sensory table with sand. Myles spent a while out here playing with the penguins.

We didn't get a chance to go into the Animation Studio. It is a 5+ exhibit, but can be for anyone with an adult to help. Essentially you can make your own claymation with stop-motion film and clay that you mold yourself.  It's very popular so on busy days you have to sign in and they will call you back when your turn is ready. We did sign up, but by the time we were done with everything upstairs, Myles was ready to go for his nap. I was actually looking forward to this the most, so now we have an excuse to come back soon!

On the way up stairs is the Community Lab, which is also a 5+ area. This one truly is for 5+ and maybe even older. Right now the exhibit is called Brain Teasers 2. It has a set of 4 tables just like this one, with each table having four brain teasers (so 16 altogether). I would have liked to take a try at them, but it was above Myles and he wasn't going to let me take my time trying them all. 

The first thing we checked out upstairs was the Tech Lab. This is where you can code robots to perform certain tasks. It is recommended 5+; an adult could help the younger ones, but I don't think it really will mean much to them if they are under 5 years. I definitely wanted to give it a try, so hopefully we will get to try it out next time we go. 

The next area we went to was the Innovation Lab with the Mystery Box Challenge. I have to say I was totally in love with the idea behind this activity. First kids pick out a challenge card based on their age group. Then they are given a box with random craft materials. Using only the materials in the box, they must make whatever the card tells them. Myles had to make 'a house for a mouse'. I absolutely loved watching his imagination in full force here. Of course I had to help with putting it all together, but it came from his mind. This is something I definitely want to try at home with him since I have tons of random craft stuff laying around. 

The last thing we did in the museum was the Music Studio. If your little ones love to perform, this will be the place for them; they get to be the star in their own music video. First off is wardrobe (Myles picked a batman cape), then song and background selection, and finally become a rock star! The employee sets it all up and even records a version that gets sent to your email!

Before leaving, we had to take a ride on the carousal that is right outside of the museum. For some reason, Myles wanted nothing to do with the horses, so we opted to sit on the bench. With one ticket you get to ride two times in a row, so it is a good deal.

General Admission: $12
Under 2 years of age: FREE
Carousel: $4 per person (good for 2 rides)
$3 with paid museum admission

The museum has more than enough activities and exhibits to keep all ages entertained for hours (there is even a playground right outside of the museum)!
I love the variety of play; tactile/sensory, art, technology, innovative/imaginative
Every activity is educational, but tons of fun and very engaging. 
The staff was very kind and helpful through our whole visit. 

We went on a Saturday so some areas were a bit crowded and there was a waiting list for the animation studio.
 The drive through downtown to get to the museum was a little stressful for me, so I would recommend leaving early or even using public transportation. 
We could have stayed a lot longer, but the only parking I found was a 2-hour limit and I didn't feel like moving my car to be able to stay. 

Overall review:  
Putting my personal circumstantial issues aside, I loved everything about this place. If we lived in the city, I would definitely purchase an annual pass. Next time we will go early on a weekday, so that we will have more time to enjoy everything with a little less crowd. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Virtual House Tour on Snapchat

I've been slacking on blog writing through the holiday season, but I promise to be back this week as things start to settle back down to 'normal'.  But in the meantime, I am sharing a house tour on Snapchat! Add me to see the current state of our house... the good, the bad, and the ugly!

HTBWTB96 is my Snapchat name!

A couple sneak peeks :)

Can't wait to make some new Snapchat friends!