Free Monthly Activities

Did you know that you could fill all of your Saturdays every month with FREE activities for kids? There are lots of ways to keep busy and have fun all without paying one penny!

Here are some ideas:

1st Saturday of the Month — “Books 2 Movies,” Park City Library

On the first Saturday of every month, the Park City Library (1255 Park Avenue, near Main Street) shows free screenings of kids movies that have been adapted from books. We went to see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (a Roald Dahl book) a couple months ago.

2nd Saturday of the Month — “Family Art Saturdays,” Utah Museum of Contemporary Art or UMOCA

The UMOCA downtown (previously known to me as the Salt Lake Art Center, where I used to volunteer in high school) has Family Art Saturdays on every 2nd Saturday of the month from 2-4pm. We went last month and did a stamping/sticker-making project and toured the exhibitions.

Theo placing a wish on Yoko Ono’s WISH TREE.
Placing stickers all over the museum, as part of Family Art Saturday.

3rd Saturday of the month — “Third Saturdays,” Utah Museum of Fine Art

I’ve written about the UMFA on here a couple times before but wanted to mention again that every 3rd Saturday of the month from 1-4pm they have free admission and kids crafts, that coincide with a current exhibition.

Ongoing Saturdays of the month

I’ve previously written on here about the¬†kids cooking classes¬†available at Williams-Sonoma, which run weekly on Saturday mornings.

Also check the Utah Film Center’s schedule for their year-round Tumbleweeds screenings around the state which are always free.

Sweet Treats

We could smell the (pumped in?) scent of chocolate from here.

The Natural History Museum of Utah is a favorite and we have been charter members since they first opened a few years ago. We were very excited to see a new exhibit at the museum, which will be here until June 1, 2014.

For a $1 fee, you can learn about the development of chocolate from cacao to candy bar.

The exhibition originated at the Field Museum in Chicago, which is the natural history museum I grew up going to, so I felt a sense of nostalgia sharing something with Theo from my own youth, as tenuous of a connection as it may seem. We learned all about how the chocolate we eat first comes from the cacao plant seeds and the history of cultivation and trade around the world. Chocolate was first served spicy before sugar was introduced and it became a sweet treat!

Theo and his friend pose in front of the giant chocolate box backdrop.

The exhibition does not have an extra charge on top of regular museum admission prices, but there is a special chocolate sampling presentation for $1 per person with timed entry. We thought it was worth it for the little taste of chocolate at the end after you have been thinking and smelling and craving chocolate throughout the exhibit.

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One of the co-sponsors of the exhibition is the Sweet Candy Company, which is a local company based here in Salt Lake City. They used to offer public tours of their factory but recently suspended them and are developing a new visitor’s center. We went on a tour in 2011 and had a great time, and look forward to learning about what they will be offering soon.

Theo, age 2, with his post-tour treat.
Moms and Toddlers ready for the tour with their mandatory hairnets.

Night at the Museum

One of my favorite childhood books ever is From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I’ve actually read it several times as an adult and it still holds the same magic for me. It just seems so charming to live among the treasures in a beautiful museum, no?

I never watched the Ben Stiller (he’s hit-or-miss for me) movies, Night at the Museum, but I imagine in real life, spending the night at a museum is nothing like either the book or the movies. Now we’ll get a chance to see!

The Utah Museum of Natural History — a local favorite of mine, and I was spoiled growing up in Chicago going to the world-famous Field Museum — is hosting a Family Sleepover event. All of the information can be found on their website here. I love the idea of being able to see a place after-hours and have fun in a different way than usual.

UMFA, F Yeah! Part 2

I have previously posted about my love for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), but I just went again yesterday and found another secret gem: the gift shop!

Now, I know art museum gift shops are a “thing,” and I do love them, but I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse and child-oriented the store at the UMFA was. The products available were curated with such care and I found books and toys there that I had never seen before. I wanted to buy almost everything.

Love the Asian-American children’s books available.

I spoke to the store clerk and learned that the Store Supervisor, Carol Bigelow, recently started buying for the store and is the mother of four sons herself. Thus, the particular attention to children’s items. Of course, the other offerings there are lovely as well, but I now have another store to add to my list of go-to shops for kids (hmm, idea for another blog post percolating…).

And, if you are a member of the UMFA you get 10% off everything in the store. Check it out!

Thank you, Smithsonian!

We had a blast going to Washington, D.C. with Theo and introducing him to all of the FREE* Smithsonian activities. We went to the National Zoo where we got to watch a panda snacking on bamboo and Theo made inter-species contact with a gorilla.

On the National Mall, we visited the Air & Space Museum (where we had to sidestep all of the military warplane exhibitions and graphic pictures of air battles) and Theo especially liked climbing into the cockpits and living quarters in the space shuttles.

We also went to the Natural History Museum where Theo watched a video with rapt attention about the evolution of humans.

On our last day, as we were heading out, we stopped by the American Indian Museum because I had heard that their cafeteria was the best one on the Mall. It did not disappoint! The building was beautiful as well.

Ever since our trip, Theo has been asking for “Washington D.C. songs” as lullabies before he goes to sleep. My repertoire includes: You’re a Grand Old Flag, America the Beautiful, Star Spangled Banner, This Land is My Land, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. So patriotic.

*Is it really free in a theoretical sense? We’ve been paying for these ever since we started paying taxes. Getting our money’s worth.

UMFA, F Yeah!

I have taken Theo to a lot of different types of outings, but shied away from art galleries and museums — too many tempting, expensive, and fragile items to touch and disturb. My friend Aimee told me about these fun backpacks at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and we are hooked!

On our first trip, we tried out the Choose Your Own Adventure and Europe gallery backpacks with a friend. The kids had a lot of fun doing the activities and I got to immerse myself in the calm atmosphere of an art museum.

Theo always asks to go back to do the rest of the backpacks. We took advantage today during Third Saturday where admission is free for everyone and they have a fun craft for kids. Theo chose the Egypt bag this time and got to take home his own scarab. I became a member so we can go whenever we want (kids are free until age 6).

Additional bonus: the cafe in the lobby of the museum is available to anyone anytime without paying admission and has become one of my favorite places to “coffee shop work.” Their quinoa salad with chicken is delicious.

Theo’s 5th Birthday Party

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Theo’s 5th birthday party was a cooking/science theme. It was held at The Leonardo museum in downtown Salt Lake City, which is a multidisciplinary museum of art, science, engineering, etc. The birthday party package was based around two activities: making ice cream and making gummy bears. The kids would do the hands-on “cooking” and get to eat their treats!

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For his birthday cake, I went with a local baker who was known for her fanciful and unique designs. I explained what the party theme was and she gave us some ideas. I ran those ideas past Theo and he was adamant that the cake incorporate a giant gummy bear. So thus, we ended up with the completely edible, rice crispy treat based huge red gummy bear, wearing a chef’s apron. Adorable!

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The kids worked really hard to make their ice cream and gummies. The ice cream involved shaking a bag of ice with salt around the ingredients for the ice cream. Most of the kids were getting tired/bored/hands got too cold so there was a lot of grown-up involvement.

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The party favors for this party is one of my all-time favorites. It was functional, personalized, and thematic. I bought child-sized white aprons online and my good friend embroidered each of them with her fancy embroidery machine. She was a saint and even did a last-minute apron the day before the party when we learned about a last-minute guest. It takes a village to throw a great birthday party!

Treehouse Museum

Distance notwithstanding, the Treehouse Museum in Ogden is the best. The best. We have a routine down for our visits there which include:
— Monday mornings: discounted admission ($3 for kids age 1-5, $1 for adults)
— Taking the pristine Frontrunner train from SLC to Ogden
— Post-museum take-out from Costa Vida on the way back to the train
— Eating lunch on the train on the return trip
— Exhausted (calm) kids after a long day
Mission accomplished: tired kids.
Vintage Theo on the Frontrunner, age 2.
This is the kind of outing that fills your whole day when you have a day that needs to be filled. We don’t go there that often b/c it is such a huge time commitment but we’d probably go monthly if it was closer. Don’t let the distance intimidate you; it’s worth it!

Theo’s 4th Birthday Party

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After the huge effort and work it took to host Theo’s 3rd birthday at our home, I decided that we were going offsite this year. The newly-built Natural History Museum of Utah was close by and we took advantage of this new facility. The dinosaur-themed party included fun activities for the kids like excavations and a tour of the new museum.

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Costco sheet cake to the rescue once again! I also made a custom t-shirt using a design from my graphic designer friend for “Theosaurus” to wear.

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It was much easier to have party hosts run the party and to not have to clean up and set up beforehand. Offsite parties are definitely the way to go!

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I was also happy to support a local museum and have the party be somewhat educational.

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I really love these personalized cups that I found on Etsy. The museum provided favor goodies but I loved being able to package them with a special touch.

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