Monday, January 27, 2020

Critter Lane Petting Zoo, Valles Mines, MO

St. Louis has such a wonderful - and free - zoo that it's an easy default go-to when we want to spend time with animals. If we want to mix it up, we'll head to Grant's Farm, Purina Farms, or the World Bird Sanctuary, instead. With all of those options so close, I didn't have much motivation to visit Critter Lane Petting Zoo until a friend put together a homeschool outing. While it was a bit of a drive for us, it was completely doable and well worth the time.

The animals seemed well cared for. Their enclosures were clean and they had staff milling around to ensure the animals were treated well by visitors.

What You Need to Know

Admission is very reasonable - $6pp, babies and toddlers are free. There's an extra charge for camel rides. Cups of feed are $3. Keep your cups and you'll get $2 refills. The cups were large enough for 2 children to share.

There are a few small buildings, but most of the attractions are outdoors, like a zoo. The animals are all very friendly and love being fed. There's a pen with friendly goats, a barn with lots of furry little animals to pet and hold, and a wide variety of animals to feed through the fence.

In addition to all of that, there are also animals to ride, a bouncy house, and a small playground. If you pack a lunch you can easily spend several hours here.

And you should pack a lunch - or at least some snacks. The petting zoo is rural and doesn't offer food or drinks - beyond a water fountain - so you'll want to be prepared. There are restrooms on site.

The paths aren't paved so take your baby carrier OR use one of their complimentary wagons to pull your little ones along. Wear comfy shoes and if it has recently rained you may want boots or old footwear.

Be sure to visit their website in the link above and check out their FB page, for the most up-to-date information: hours, directions, and animals currently in residence.

Additional Resources

Check out the unit study ideas over at the Gift of Curiosity.

For middle schoolers and teens, check out this unit study on George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Search your library for the below books, but if you do decide to purchase, please use my links as I'm an Amazon 'Affiliate partner and your purchases help support my blog.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Road Trip Must-Haves - Food and Drink

We love travel, period, but there's something especially exciting about a good, old-fashioned road trip. Long gone are the days of being squished together in the back of the family station wagon - road trips now can be almost as much fun as the destination itself.

Today's post is the first in a series on what we consider must-haves for a successful road trip. I'm pretty practical in nature so I try to look for things that we can also use in our everyday life.

Please note that I'm an Amazon Affiliate partner. If you purchase through the links below you're helping to support my blog! Thanks in advance.

1. Food

I can't promise all of the posts in this series will be in descending order, but I had to start with the one that's most important to our family - FOOD!

You'd think simply sitting wouldn't work up an appetite, but I've always found the opposite. Kids are HUNGRY on road trips. And thirsty, too. That's why snacks and drinks are always a priority and are kept within easy reach.

A good stainless steel water bottle is our go-to. We'll use them in the car and then on our hikes and outings, as well. Plus, we use them all of the time at home. if we're going to be out and about for more than an hour or so, everyone brings their water bottles. Staying hydrated is important!

I like a water bottle that's easy-to-clean and that can be tossed in a bag or backpack with no fear of leaking. Bonus if they can actually fit in most cupholders as these can. For adults and older kids we use:

For little ones I always preferred a sippy option.

Throughout our trip, we'll purchase gallons of water to refill all of the bottles. HINT - only buy gallon jugs with a screw on lids - not pop-tops. We learned that lesson the hard way!

As for the actual food, I like to stock up at the grocery store. We indulge in plenty of treats on vacation, but we avoid junk where possible. My go-to snacks include beef sticks, jerky, trail mix, protein bars, apples, and bananas. On the first leg of our trips I usually have random things from the fridge from home, too. We're always sure to take a small cooler with us. This may seem pretty old-school, but it's has high ratings and 4.5 star reviews for a reason. It's a workhorse and we use it all year long!

I keep everything else in a heavy shopping bag or a utility tote. Everything is easy to see and access. Something like the tote below can be used in endless ways. I have two and love them!

Throw in a roll of paper towels, a handful of utensils, a few plastic shopping bags for trash collection, and maybe a few of these collapsible cups for doling out snacks:

I think that about covers the must-haves for road trip food and drinks. Be sure to check back for the rest of the posts in this series.

Have tips of your own? Please leave a comment below.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Kanaloa Octopus Farm, Big Island

Whenever possible, I like to incorporate an animal encounter in our vacations. They enhance the experience and make for great memories. We always try to be sensitive to how the animals are treated so sometimes it can be difficult to find something that works.

After doing a bit of research, I felt good about visiting the Kanaloa Octopus Farm in the Kona area and I wasn't disappointed. This event is something few people can say they've experienced!

You'll start off the tour with a presentation on the facilities and and the rules of engaging the octopi. Our tour guide was very friendly and was happy to answer questions. After the presentation, everyone washed their hands and selected a bin. The lids were removed and we were able to feed an octopus. After feeding, we were allowed to place our hands under the water to try and tempt contact. Some were very friendly!

The tour was fun and very educational. Our guide was full of information. We didn't feel rushed at all, but neither did we feel as though the experience dragged on.

If you have time, plan on exploring nearby Wawaloi Beach Park. You can swim, wade, walk the rocks, and search for Pele's Well. There's not much in the area so plan on a picnic lunch!

What You Need to Know

Appointments are crucial. Due to concerns about the animals' welfare and the fact that this is a working laboratory, tours are limited in size and fill up quickly. Plan ahead and don't leave your visit up to chance.

It's also important to note that there are rules of engaging with the octopi, so it's important that children be able to listen and follow directions. If you have questions about age requirements, strollers, etc, please be sure to call before booking a tour.

Finally, it's often overlooked, but I always like to remind people that animals can be finicky. There's no guaranteeing that an octopus - or any animal - is going to be cooperative. This can be frustrating and disappointing for children, so it's good to talk about it beforehand and maintain a positive attitude.  One last hint; our guide informed us that the octopi are intrigued by shiny objects so wear a ring or two and you may have a better change of enticing some interaction.

Additional Resources

Lots of fun octopus-themed ideas at Child Fun.

Check out Making Contact, a 35-minute documentary about an Alaskan professor who studies and octopus in his home.

For a unit study/lapbook page, check out Homeschool Helper Online.

For more information, consider the links below. Check your local library first, but if you decide to buy please use my link as I'm an Amazon Affiliate member. Every purchase helps support my blog!