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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center In Oak Brook


Place: Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center

Location: 3609 Spring Road, Oak Brook, IL

Type of place: Nature center

Secret: The Nature Center offers free wifi! Its like a cozy lodge inside, with dim lighting and comfy chairs. So, if you feel like bringing your laptop and getting some blogging done while your little ones play... or even if you want a quiet place to chill out while someone else has your kids... this is a sweet find!

Appropriate Ages: Any

Cost: Free!

I love nature centers, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones that will appeal to the little kids. Christina from An Eclectic Odyssey blogged about Fullersburg Woods, which I had never been to even though it was very close to my house!

One day last week, I had plans to take Pufferfish somewhere completely different, but we got bad directions and couldn't find the place. With not much time left before I had to go pick up the older kids from school, I tried to think of a place to take Pufferfish that would be equally fun and special. Then I remembered Fullersburg Woods, and I headed there! (First, we drove through McDonalds, so we could have a picnic lunch!)

Pufferfish loved eating at the picnic table on the back deck of the nature center, overlooking Salt Creek. She actually took this picture on her own!

After lunch, we headed into the nature center to explore. Pufferfish noticed the big bucket of stuffed animals right away! She wanted to sort them out by families, piling all the owls together, all of the dogs, etc.

She also loved the reading corner! We read several nature-themed books together here!

They have this giant treehouse that kids can climb up to. Its supposed to look like a nest. I tried to take a picture of Pufferfish in the nest, but she was too tiny to see over the edge!

Pufferfish spent a lot of time looking out at the creek through the window, using binoculars!

There is also a woolly mammoth skeleton. I think Pufferfish was a little afraid of it, because she wouldn't let me take her picture near it. And Pufferfish liked looking at the live snake and lizard there as well!
This nature center doesn't have as much to do as Willowbrook. But it is a very nice place to spend an afternoon! I am looking forward to going back there sometime, maybe with the older kids, and exploring the trails some more!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Willowbrook Wildlife Center In Glen Ellyn

Place: Willowbrook Wildlife Center

Location: 525 S. Park Boulevard, Glen Ellyn, IL

Type Of Place: Nature Center

Secret: Although most of the animals are outside, this is also a nice rainy-day place, because there is a small play area indoors. The indoor area has puppets, puzzles, and a big hollow tree for kids to sit and read inside. Some smaller animals, birds and reptiles are also kept indoors for you to view. Look for baby squirrels and chipmunks, owls, turtles, frogs, snakes, bluejays and robins, etc. They also have some "pets"... two doves, two rats, and two rabbits... that kids are allowed to interact with. Volunteers will take these pets out for kids to play with, under close supervision!

Appropriate Ages: Nature lovers of all ages, from infants to senior citizens, will adore this place!

Cost: Free, but they do ask for donations to help cover the cost of caring for the animals!

Willowbrook Wildlife Center is one of our favorite places, and has been ever since I discovered it when Little Bear was about four years old. Its an animal refuge where wild animals who are ill or injured can be nursed back to health. The goal is always for animals to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. However, in many cases, an animal's life can be saved but it cannot be expected to survive in the wild. In those situations, the animals find permanent homes at Willowbrook.

When we first started going to Willowbrook, Pufferfish couldn't even walk yet, so I was pushing her in a stroller while towing Little Bear along by the hand. Each cage has a sign on it that tells a little bit about the species of animal inside, and also about why the animal is living at Willowbrook. (The ones outside are usually there to sta y.) Little Bear was four years old and couldn't read yet, so we'd go from cage to cage, and I'd read her the stories of the animals, like the owl who broke its wing and can no longer fly well enough to be in the wild, the owls with poor vision, and the raccoons who were kept as pets by someone until they were too tame to survive in the wild. Little Bear remembered each of these stories between visits to the nature center.

Our favorite was always the red fox with three legs. The fox was found in someone's backyard, suffering from a badly broken leg and a case of mange. He was brought to Willowbrook, where his mange was treated, but his leg was too badly broken to be repaired. It had to be amputated. Animals can adapt to having only three legs, but not well enough to be expected to live in the wild. So the fox found a new home at Willowbrook. Each time we came to Willowbrook, Little Bear would recite the story of the three-legged fox.

So when we found out about Willowbrook's new adoption program, where people can "adopt" an individual animal and have their names posted on the animal's cage, Little Bear was tall over it! She, Rafael, and Pufferfish are trying to raise $75 to "adopt" the three-legged fox. We recently made slime to sell at the playground, and we plan to sell mini rootbeer floats on the next warm day. So far we've made about $24. If anyone would like to make a donation, Little Bear and the crew will be eternally grateful! s liJust click on this link: This blog is a labor of love, but tips are welcome! It leads to my Paypal address!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="420" caption="This is the red fox that Little Bear, Rafael and Pufferfish want to adopt!"]This is the red fox that Little Bear, Rafael and Pufferfish want to adopt![/caption]

Now that Pufferfish is older, she's starting to enjoy visits to Willowbrook too! The other day we met our playgroup there for some time in the great outdoors! Check out how much fun we had!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="439" caption="Pufferfish looks at the fox in the cage. 'Pufferfish and her friends walk on stepping stones in the sensory garden, where wonderful smelling plants grow!"]Pufferfish looks at the fox in the cage. [/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="404" caption="This heav!y-duty magnetic puzzle is fun for kids to try to put together"]This heav!y-duty magnetic puzzle is fun for kids to try to put together[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="450" caption="Pufferfish loves to look in this pond in the butterfly garden, and watch the fish!"]Pufferfish loves to look in this pond in the butterfly garden, and watch the fish![/caption]

An employee introduces us to a resident raptor. His poor vision makes it impossible for him to live in the wild.
An employee introduces us to a resident raptor. His poor vision makes it impossible for him to live in the wild.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="449" caption="This duck isn't a resident at Willowbrook. She just likes to visit the pond!"]This duck isnt a resident at Willowbrook. She just likes to visit the pond![/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="403" caption="Inside, a volunteer introduced us to Freddy the rat! Contrary to popular belief, rats are sweet, intelligent, social creatures!"]Inside, a volunteer introduced us to Freddy the rat! Contrary to popular belief, rats are sweet, intelligent, social creatures![/caption]

Willowbrook is definitely an awesome place. If you're looking for a fun, free outdoor place to spend some time, you need to check this place out!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yorktown Mall In Lombard

Place: Yorktown Mall

Location: Highland Ave at Butterfield Rd, Lombard, IL

Type of Place: Mall with children’s play area.

Secret: Train rides are a dollar each, or six for five dollars. But you can also download a coupon here to get two rides for the price of one!

Appropriate ages: The play area is geared towards kids five and under, but slightly older kids will still enjoy it.

Cost: Free just to hang out!

Last week I wrote about how Pufferfish and I visited Stratford Square. This week, we headed to a mall that is closer to our new house in Lombard! Yorktown is considered a more upscale mall because it boasts places like MagiQuest, Lucky Strike Lanes, and an AMC Premium Theater as well as a regular movie theater. But none of that really matters to little kids! What they really go crazy for is the play area!

In the play area, you'll find a large treehouse, where kids can climb up the stairs and slide down a tunnel slide. There is also a little bit of space up in the treehouse to explore. A friend of mine mentioned that she likes the treehouse because her four-year-old son, who has autism, gets a lot of sensory input from running up the stairs and then going down the slide. He will do this for hours! Chances are, so will your kids, regardless of whether they have sensory issues of their own!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="444" caption="Pufferfish starts to climb into the tree house."]Pufferfish starts to climb into the tree house.[/caption]

The stairs leading up to the tree house are a lot of fun, but they can pose some danger, especially to new walkers! While we were there today, I witnessed a toddler fall face-first down the stairs! She wasn't hurt, but it was definitely startling! You might want to remind your little ones to walk on the stairs, and to refrain from pushing others out of their way!

There are also a few other things to play on and around in the play area.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="452" caption="Pufferfish plays in the little house. "]Pufferfish plays in the little house. [/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="411" caption="Pufferfish balances on a hollow log. "]Pufferfish balances on a hollow log. [/caption]

Right next to the play area, you'll find the train ride! One dollar will buy your child a seat on this train. Five dollars will buy her six train rides! The six rides come in the form of a punch card, so if you intend on returning to this mall with your children, just buy the six ride card and keep it in your wallet! You can also download a coupon, on the site, for half-off rides.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="395" caption="Pufferfish takes a train ride!Like many malls, Yorktown has a fountain. Its not quite as cool as the dancing fountain at Yorktown, but Pufferfish still loves to throw pennies into it! Pufferfish poses by the fountain at Yorktown Mall. "]Pufferfish takes a train ride![/caption]

If you live near Lombard, this is a great little mall to spend time in with your kids!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Playgroups For Parents And Kids

Hi everyone! First things first! If you live in the DuPage area, and you need a babysitter for random evenings and weekends, check out my website! When I'm not going to school or caring for Little Bear and Pufferfish, I do extra babysitting in the community to make extra money. The website has more information about me, as well as my background check, availability, and contact information!

Now, second things second. Way back when Little Bear was four years old and I was doing preschool at home with her, I wanted to find ways for her to make friends and do activities with kids her own age. I joined a playgroup through Now that Pufferfish is getting older, I've joined a couple playgroups with her as well! If you have children and are looking for a way to make friends for yourself and your kids, you can easily find a group on Meetup. Here are a few great ones to get you started:

West Suburban Playgroup: This one used to meet monthly at a local church, but the group is under new management now. Playgroups are being held in all sorts of cool places around the county! The organizer, Michelle, is hoping more people will start coming, since a lot of the people who used to come to the church one seem to have been lost in the transition!

Awesome Kids of Wheaton, Lombard And Beyond: This is the one that Pufferfish and I have been going to the most lately. We do things like picnics at the park, Cosley Zoo, the Arboretum, playdates at each others' houses, Mom's Night Out, and more.

I hope you'll come check one of these out! Maybe Pufferfish and I will see you around!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pictures From Touch-A-Truck

I don't know if any of you went to the Touch A Truck event in Glen Ellyn this past weekend, but if you did, you may have seen Little Bear, Pufferfish and I there! We had a great time sitting in all of the different trucks! If you missed this one, a similar event will be hosted by the York Park District (near Lombard) on May 22! (Let me know if you know of any other Touch A Truck events going on around DuPage!)
Check out these pics of Little Bear and Pufferfish!

Pufferfish looks tinier than usual sitting in a truck tire!

Pufferfish looks tinier than usual sitting in a truck tire!
Little Bear looks cool by this truck tire, doesn't she?"]Little Bear looks cool by this truck tire, doesnt she?[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="393" caption="Little Bear and Pufferfish drive the garbage truck!"]Little Bear and Pufferfish drive the garbage truck![/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="430" caption="Oh no! They're being scooped up by a steam shovel!"]Oh no! Theyre being scooped up by a steam shovel![/caption]

It was a great little event, the weather was gorgeous, and a wonderful time was had by all!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stratford Square Mall In Bloomingdale

Location: 152 Stratford Place, Bloomingdale, IL. (Near the corner of Army Trail and Gary Ave.)

Type of Place: Mall with children's play area.

Secret: There are two play areas, on separate sides of the mall. If you get bored of that, there is a very cool fountaip n near the food court. Water spouts up at intervals, getting taller and taller, and sometimes splashing onlookers. Kids love it!

Appropriate ages: The play area is geared towards kids five and under, but slightly older kids will still enjoy it. The mall in general is very family friendly!

Cost: Free just to hang out!

When we lived in Glendale Heights, we used to go to Stratford Square Mall all the etime. But after we moved to Lombard, Yorktown was much closer! However, today we had the chance to meet a friend and her little boy at Stratford Square for play time. Hayden didn't even remember toddling around this mall a year ago, so she was seeing it from new eyes!

The mall has two separate play areas. One is called Kids Towne, and the other is called Kar Towne. Both are "soft play" areas, meaning they're supposed to be pretty safe. The floor is carpeted, and the structures are made out of a soft sort of plastic material. Kids can clamor onto the roof of a house, jump on bugs and frogs and other creatures, sit in a fishing boat, crawl through tunnels, and slide down slides.

Pufferfish sitting on the roof!

[caption id="attachment_62" align="alignleft" width="415" caption="Pufferfish dances on a fake dock!"]Pufferfish dances on a fake dock![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_63" align="alignleft" width="383" caption="Pufferfish slides down the treehouse slide!"]Pufferfish slides down the treehouse slide![/caption]

You want to see the cutest thing ever? When Pufferfish was a baby, she would crawl around the play areas and climb on all of the structures. One day I took this adorable picture, which I still use as my avatar on playgroup message boards!...

Pufferfish doesn't remember this... but here she is two years later, revisiting the bear and the book!

Right click on image for save options.
Anyway, after Pufferfish and my friend's little boy played around in the play area, we headed over to the food court. The food court sports a dancing fountain which is named Oracle. The kids could have stayed there watching it, and throwing pennies into it, for hours! Especially on hot summer days, this is a great place to go to relax when you get tired of the play areas. I didn't take a picture of it this time, but I did find a picture of it on the Internet in case you don't believe me! (The picture dourset do it justice, though. You'll have to go see it for yourself!)
Right click on image for save options.
Another fun fact about this mall is that, one night a month, Stratford Square hosts a free Family Fun night with some sort of activity. One time it was a free karate lesson, and another time it was a craft at Painted Penguin. The next Family Fun night there is on April 16th at 6 pm.
I also just learned that Stratford now has a Glow Golf place, which I hope to review as soon as possible! They also have a pet store... although I tend to avoid those because they break my heart!
The next time its a rainy day and your kids are driving you crazy, Stratford Square is a great choice to spend some time at!
By the way, if you live in DuPage and you need an occasional babysitter, I can provide that! Check out my babysitting website, and contact me for references!
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