Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Houston Family Fun for July 4th Weekend

WOW! There is so much going on this holiday weekend. Just don't overbook yourself trying to see it all. Here's a run down of fun family activities for July 4th weekend in greater Houston. Enjoy!

Friday, June 30 - August
Take your family to the production of 1776 on Galveston Island. It's been a tradition in our family to watch this video, but this year, we'll see it upclose. My father-in-law is actually acting in it. Go, Steve! This is a cool way to teach your family WHY we celebrate July 4th and this production is humorous. Matinee performances make it easier for youngsters to attend but there are also evening productions for those who enjoy a good show to cap off the evening. Tickets are $20 for students & senior citizens, and $25 for adults.

Friday, June 30 at 9:30 pm
Friday Night Fireworks happens every Friday night in June and July at the Kemah Boardwalk. It's hard for little ones to stay up that late, but if you have older kids and want something fun to do, this is great. Enjoy a nice dinner on the boardwalk and stay for the show. The same show will also happen on July 4th.

Now through Tuesday, July 4
The Children's Museum of Houston features various activities to teach kiddos all about Independence Day. Create pretend fireworks with paper, glitter & glue. Discover the science between rockets, aerodynamics and chemical reactions. And enjoy the museum's annual Butterfly Count, where you learn to identify various butterflies and create your own butterfly to take home. Starting at 9 am, kids can decorate a box as their special holiday parade float. Then, at 1 pm, children kick off the museum's July 4th parade and celebrate by marching with their floats throughout the museum.

Monday, July 3 at 7 pm.
Astros vs. Chicago Cubs
Well, it's the national pastime after all. Who can turn down baseball and a hot dog over our Independence Day weekend? Besides the game of two rivals, we loved the fireworks display after the game. Everyone just sits back in their chairs and RELAXES. The post-game traffic is a little lighter, too. This is a great way to spend a holiday night. The first 15,000 fans will receive a Minute Maid Fireworks Blinking Pins FREE. Game tickets start at $7 each.

Tuesday, July 4 starting at 10 am
Galveston celebrates July 4th, starting with a parade at 10 am at the Railroad Museum (25th and Strand). From there, the parade will wind its way through historic downtown Galveston from Strand to 21st; south on 21st to Postoffice; west on Postoffice to 24th, and finally south on 24th to Sealy. Next, a celebration will be held at the Sealy Pavilion, located across from the Rosenberg library. The celebration will include patriotic music and speeches, as well as refreshments. There will also be musical entertainment from Island etc’s show “1776”, and the Galveston Island Musicals’ production of “America the Beautiful”. Joe Huff of Galveston College, and Jim Guidry, of Guidry News Service will be hosting the event. (NOTE: My father-in-law Steve is acting in 1776 so we're really excited about this!) The fireworks will begin at 9:15 pm and will last about 25 minutes. The setting is at 37th and Seawall but the fireworks can be seen as far west as 81st and Seawall, and as far east as 14th and Seawall.

Tuesday, July 4 from noon - 11 pm
Pearland's Celebration of Freedom is an all-out family festival with craft booths and carnival rides. Admission is FREE but bring your wallet for all the food, music and rides.

Tuesday, July 4 at 1 pm
Astros vs. Chicago Cubs
If you missed the game on July 3, here's another chance. Plus, the first 10,000 fans will receive mini American Flags sponsored by Arne's Texas Size Party Store. Plus, take advantage of $1 hot dogs sponsored by Earl Campbell Sausage Company. Game tickets start at $7 each.

Tuesday, July 4, 4-10 pm
Chevy’s Freedom over Texas with Fireworks is presented by Shell at Eleanor Tinsley Park along Buffalo Bayou. This features a concert with rock ’n’ roll Grammy winners Los Lonely Boys. The Village People will prime concert-goers with such disco classics as “YMCA” and “Mach Man!” The concerts will be followed by a huge fireworks show in the nation, produced by the world-renowned fireworks artists, Pyro Spectaculars, presented by Souza. Plenty of children's activities will also be available. This is the biggest fireworks display in greater Houston. Tickets are $6 at the gate for adults: Kids 10 and under are FREE.

Tuesday, July 4 from 5-10 pm
Rosenberg’s signature July 4th event includes The Triumphs in concert, an inflatable carnival, KidZone, horseshoes and washer tournaments, food and refreshment vendors, hayrides through Seabourne Creek Park, and a great fireworks show. The Independence Day celebration will be held at the City’s Seabourne Creek Park located at 3831 Highway 36 South. Guests are asked to bring their lawn chairs, their family and all their friends, but to please leave the pets and alcoholic refreshments at home. Admission is free. General event parking will be available immediately south of the event site. Event Partner parking and handicapped parking will be available at the Rosenberg Civic & Convention Center at 3825 Highway 36 South. For general event information, contact the event coordinator, Rebecca Covell, at 832-595-3520 or go to

Tuesday, July 4 from 5-10 pm
The 21st annual Red, White and Bluefest will be held in Sugar Land at Oyster Creek and Lost Creek parks. If you stay for the fireworks, it's a long evening but a fun one. The holiday activities include:
5 - 9 p.m.: Children's Activities, Jugglers and Magicians
5:15 p.m.: Faces of America Parade
5:45 p.m.: Patriotic Pet Parade
6:30 p.m.: Two Tons of Steel (Rockabilly Music)
8:00 p.m.: Mayor David Wallace Welcoming Remarks
8:30 p.m.: Trent Willmon (Country Music)
9:30 p.m.: Fireworks Display
10:00 p.m.: Trent Willmon (Country Music) Avoid traffic by shuttling from Mercer Stadium, 16403 Lexington Blvd., to Oyster Creek Park from 4:30-11 p.m.

Tuesday, July 4 at 6 pm
Houston Symphony's Star Spangled Salute
Enjoy beautiful American tunes synchronized to the annual celebration at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park in the museum district. Thousands flock to this event site and it remains a great family outing. Bring a large blanket to lie on the hill so your family can lean back, relaxing to the sights and sounds. Music plays until dark when the music is then accompanied by wonderful fireworks.

Tuesday, July 4 from 6-10 pm
9th Annual Red, Hot and Blue Festival and Fireworks Extravaganza
The 23-minute fireworks show, shot over The Woodlands Town Center, is the second largest in the Greater Houston region, second only to downtown Houston. The soundtrack for The Red, Hot & Blue Festival Fireworks is simulcast on Houston’s Sunny 99.1 radio station. Admission: FREE. Concessions will be sold at the event.

Tuesday, July 4 at dusk
Fireworks Spectacular at Splashtown
Cool off in the pool and catch a thrill speeding down a water slide. Kick summer into high gear. Celebrate America's Independence Day with contests and entertainment for the entire family including fireworks at Six Flags' Splashtown. Park will be open 10am-10pm. Visit for details. General Admission: $32.99; Child under 48": $24.99; Kids 2 & Under: FREE

Tuesday, July 4 at 9:30 pm.
Kemah Fireworks
Again, if you have older kids, this is a fun outing. Stroll through the shops on the Kemah Boardwalk, enjoy a tasty dinner overlooking the water and then watch the fireworks show. This is the same show seen each Friday & Saturday throughout June & July.

Have a safe & happy holiday! Until the next nap time...

Unstructured Play Needed for Kids' Development

An interesting topic was explored on NPR: we just don't give children enough time to play on their own in an unstructured climate. In an effort to give our kids the chance to do more and do better, many families are filling childrens' lives with scheduled activities. The drawback? A loss of creativity and imagination, which are critical for math and science lessons... not to mention a happy child.

My father retells stories of playing cops & robbers in the street before dark as a child. My daughter is now growing up in the same neighborhood as her grandfather did and while too young to play on her own outside, I encourage her to play freely. At the ripe age of one, I don't always understand the game at hand, but she quickly begins jabbering to let me know what's up. I giggle and try to play on, mostly watching her for tips.

Here are some startling statistics from the NPR interview:
  • The number of children suffering these (emotional, behavioral and developmental) problems is now over 20 percent of the child population.
  • Moreover, the surgeon general also suggests that some two-thirds of children in this country suffer one or another health problem.
  • 13 percent of our children are obese.
  • More than 2 million children are on Ritalin and other ADHD medications.

In a Washington Post-Gazette article, Alan Simpson, the spokesperson for the National Assocation for the Education of Young Children, said: "Part of the response [to that research] has been, 'OK, let's devote all this time in the early years to learning. but that's an oversimplification. For young children particularly, play is a crucial part of how they learn."

So before you lovingly sign your child for another camp or class, consider some unstructured, old-fashioned fun. When you're considering elementary schools for your youngster, look into how much structured learning they offer vs. unstructured play time. A good combination is healthy for our children.

Don't take my word for it. Expert David Elkind explores this topic in depth in the article "After School, Kids' Workloads Grow Heavier" at Elkind is the author of The Power of Play, which will be published by Da Capo Lifelong Books in January 2007.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic by emailing me at Until the next nap time...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Houston Kids Love Oil Ranch

Oil Ranch is a fun trip out of the city with so much to do for the entire family. Plan on spending a good part of your day here to allow for the drive and all the activities. With lifeguards provided, the swimming pool is open during the summer through September, so bring your swimsuits. Other activities include pony rides, playing among Indian teepees, touring the lake by train, visiting the petting zoo and much more. We were intrigued by hand-milking a cow. Operating hours depend on the time of year, so call ahead. Bring water because it's hot outside. Food is available for purchase but it's limited to concession stand fare.

Recommended age: 1+ years
Admission: $9 per person; Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. You often receive a coupon when you visit so it encourages you to visit again.
Time: 10 am – 6 pm
Physical location: #1 Oil Ranch Road in Hockley.
From Houston, head northwest on 610. Take Highway 290 West. Exit Hegar Rd. (Hegar Rd. is approx. 16 miles west of 1960/Hwy. 6 on 290 and 29 miles from the 610 loop). Turn right on Hegar Rd. Go approximately 5 miles and follow the signs to the Oil Ranch. 281-859-1616

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cheap Fun for Houston Kids in the Rain & Heat

It's tough to find kids activities when it's raining in Houston... and it's been raining a lot. First, my daughter & I drove to downtown. Free parking was available near Milam and Prairie. Yeah! We then walked down Milam to the JP Morgan Chase Bank Building, where my little one fell in love with the colorful statue. It shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. Next, we entered the building and rode the escalator down to the underground tunnel system. Now this is cool for kids old enough to realize that it's like a city below the streets. However, my one year old preferred the escalator ride. Sounds good to me. Free entertainment in the air conditioning where it's dry!

Later, we returned to the downtown streets and headed to Main Street, where the Metro Rail runs. The Metro Rail has gotten some flack but we loved our ride. I bought two all-day passes for $2.50 from the ticket machines at the Metro stop. I didn't even need to buy that much but as a first-timer, I wasn't sure. We met lots of Houstonians riding the Metro Rail and enjoyed our tour of downtown Houston. We decided to end our stop at Hermann Park but since it was pouring down rain, we headed back north on the Metro Rail for our second stop. It was easy and cheap fun for my daughter. I highly recommend it. Tips: wear shorts & walking shoes. Use a backpack so you can best help your child cross the busy streets while holding his/her hand.

Until the next nap time...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rainy Day Activities for Houston Kids

It's been a rainy day in Houston and Tuesday may be the same. Instead of heading out into the flooded streets, here are a few ideas of things you can do. Special thanks to Momsense magazine's May/June 2006 issue.

Friendship Bracelets:
Preschoolers enjoy giving and receiving simple gifts from loved ones. Help them celebrate friendship by making colorful Friendship Bracelets for their buddies. Thread an assortment of colored cereal (such as Froot Loops or Apple Jacks) onto the middle third of a pipe cleaner or strong of licorice. Wrap around a child's wrist & twist to secure. These bracelets are fun to make & eat.

Water Drawings:
Cut white coffee filters into fun shapes, such as flowers or butterflies. Let your child color the shapes with markers and then, with a paper towel under the filter, spray with a mist of water. The colors will blend together to create a work of art.

To make a bouquet, punch a hole through one or two of the flower shapes. Insert one end of a green pipe cleaner through the hold and bend tip over. Ta-Da!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Free Train Rides for Houston Kids

On the third Saturday of each month, March through November, the members of Houston Area Live Steamers offer FREE train rides to the public. They have two club diesel engines that normally run the passenger trains but many times you will find a steam engine also running. They also have specially designed cars for the young and the young at heart, who enjoy hearing the clickety-clack of the rails.

Recommended age: All
Admission: FREE
Time: 10 am-4 pm
Physical location: 17802 Roberts Rd. in Hockley (Take 290 north to Roberts Rd. from central Houston.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Houston Kids Volunteer

Many Houston parents have asked me how to get their kids (especially preteens & teens) involved in volunteer activities. I'm listening. Here are some great starters.

Are you a good role model by volunteering yourself? Even when it's as simple as baking cookies for your church or synagogue or helping a neighbor, you are your child's first example of the importance in voluntering. I've found that kids as young as 3 years old can help in community outreach, although some volunteer activities actually require older children.

If you want more structured volunteer opportunities, here are some that your older children (and you) can check out this summer in Houston.

AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc.
Contact: Marc Cohen

Memorial Hermann Hospital
Must be age 15 or older

American Diabetes Association
Contact: Ralston Creswell
713-977-7706 x6083

Museum of Fine Arts
Contact: Lou Palermo

BEAR...Be A Resource for CPS Kids
Contact: Charlotte Pennye
Must be age 16 or older; I love reading to kids
& really enjoyed this volunteer opportunity.

Reach Out & Read, Texas
Contact: Diane Latson

The Children's Museum of Houston
Contact: Renee Gonzalez

DePelchin Children's Center
Contact: Wendy Wood

Sheltering Arms Senior Services
Contact: Joan Arnold

Dress for Success
Contact: Chandra Brooks

Contact: Julie Knapp
713-869-7722 x129

Holocaust Museum Houston
Contact: Suzanne Sutherland
713-942-8000 x102

The Houston Food Bank

Star of Hope
Contact: Elizabeth Hatler
713-748-0700 x222
Must be age 16 or older

Houston Museum of Natural Science
Contact: David Temple

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas
Contact: Maggi Suttles

Teen Health Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine
Contact: Peggy B. Smith
High school seniors only

Texas Children's Hospital
Contact: Pat Dolan

Special thanks to the Junior League of Houston for identifying these great volunteer activities for Houston kids.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Free Fun for Houston Kids

Looking for restaurants that are kid-friendly and tasty? Check out the article "Margaritas and S'mores" in the Houston Chronicle at Don't be fooled by the article title. It has great suggestions on where to eat with your youngsters.

The Houston Symphony is kicking off its Sounds Like Fun! series this summer as a fun activity for Houston kids. These FREE one-hour performances by the symphony are scheduled throughout Houston, giving local families something new to do with the kids. Performances are kept to only an hour since little ones often have a hard time sitting longer than that. Below is the list of dates and locations for the series in June. Check out a performance near you and let the Kids Activity Queen know what you think of it by emailing

Tuesday, June 13 at 10:30 AM Pasadena Convention Center 7902 Fairmont Parkway, Pasadena
Tuesday, June 13 at 7:30 PM Greater St. Matthew Church 14919 South Main, Houston
Tuesday, June 20 at 11:00 AM Miller Outdoor TheatreHermann Park, Houston
Wednesday, June 28 at 10:30 AM Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church 8300 Katy Freeway, Houston
Wednesday, June 28 at 7:30 PM Cypress-Ridge High School 7900 North Eldridge Parkway, Houston
Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 PMMorton Ranch High School 21000 Franz Road, Katy
Thursday, July 6 at 7:30 PM Second Baptist Church 22770 Highway 59 North, Kingwood

For more information for Sounds Like Fun!, call (713) 238-1449 or (713) 238-1447.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pei Wei Restaurant Gets Gold Star

Lunch time today found my daughter and me at Pei Wei restaurant, an Asian food eatery, on Waugh Drive near Dallas Street. While I love the food there, I wasn't sure how kid-friendly it would be. What a wonderful surprise! The kids menu has a few options for children age 12 and younger for only $3.95, including a drink and fortune cookies. The kids menu is small but tasty indeed. A plastic cup & straw made it easy sipping for my daughter.

I chose the spicy chicken salad and a drink, again for under $4, and found it lip-smacking good. I also appreciated the fact that, while most people were dressed in business attire, my exercise gear didn't seem to bother anyone... My daughter waiving at everyone could have had a positive effect on them though.

Extra cool things for kids: Pei Wei also has "fun sticks" for kids, which are pint-sized chop sticks to help kids give Asian eating a real effort. The staff was very accommodating, which always makes parents breathe easier. The restaurant had both high chairs and infant carrier slings, which is important for the Houston families with little babies. The hard surfaces inside Pei Wei like the uncarpeted floor and wipeable tables gets a thumbs up. These contribute to a restaurant with lively conversation that's not overbearing but works with a talkative youngster. Plus, the manager was on site to greet my daughter and wave her good-bye. This is a new favorite restaurant. Check it out with your youngster and let me know your thoughts.

Until the next nap time...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kids Activities Despite the Rainy Weather in Houston

Looking for something to do with the kids this dreary Thursday? Join me at the Barnes & Noble in Copperfield from 10:30-11:30 am for story time and crafts. I'll be reading three books for storytime:

Bye-Bye Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer (a little critter book)
Swim, Little Wombat, Swim by Charles Fuge
In the Nest by Anna Milbourne and Laurence Cleyet-Merle

Plus, the kids will be chatting about what they want to do this summer & I'll share great ideas on fun activities for Houston kids. Hope to see you there.

For directions to this Barnes & Noble or more details, please visit: