Herald Journal Columns
June 20, 2005, Herald Journal

Summer fun in Minnesota


Minnesota has a lot to offer for family time fun and learning.

A couple weekends ago, my family and I went to the 2005 Flint Hills International Children’s Festival presented by Ordway Center for The Performing Arts.

We did not travel inside the Ordway Center because there were so many activities to see and do outside, but inside the center, there were performances from all around the world.

Outside, there was a free world party with tents galore for many hands-on, take home art activities, the Wells Fargo World Stage with great international free entertainment, international foods to purchase, students’ artwork displayed, a butterfly tent, and MASS Ensemble’s Earth Harp, sponsored by Comcast.

The harp was an incredible, huge harp strung from Landmark Center to Landmark Plaza. Artists performed on it, and children (adults, too) were allowed to play it, as well.

My children put their hands and minds to work making “snot,” “glop,” and “slime.” They created free puppets, maracas, horns, cat and dog toys, and butterfly masks, and designed their own buttons, among other creative masterpieces.

Their faces were painted by a professional artist, who grew up participating in theatrical performances at the Ordway. It was wonderful to watch an artist at work in her realm. (The face paintings were more than just smiley faces – they were definitely art on display.)

We listened and watched various international music and dance performances, including a dance company from the Ojibwa nation in Wisconsin.

My children tried their hands at various instruments, too, including bongos, drums, bells, a violin, and a harp. My one-year-old Delaney could have played the bongo all day and would have been happy to take it home. (It is fun when adults think it’s okay if you make a lot of noise.)

There were a lot of international foods to buy and try, but, of course, my kids wanted the all-American hot dogs, snow cones, and cotton candy.

One of the highlights of the festival was the butterfly tent, which was just that – a tent filled with butterfly-attracting flowers and plants and butterflies of many types. The butterflies were fluttering everywhere and landing on people’s (including our) heads, shoulders, and backs. It was really neat to observe them and to see all the varieties, and my kids loved it – I did, too!

Another highlight was bumping into my sister-in-law (Jennifer, also) who is my husband’s brother’s wife, and their one-year-old daughter, Lesly. It was a great coincidental reunion. They live in central Wisconsin – a good six-hour trek, so we do not see them very often.

Of all the wonderful places to meet, but in a small butterfly tent – so appropriate. The coincidental meeting, alone, was well worth going to the festival, let alone all the wonderful activities, music and dancing – and all free, at that.

It was a great day, another one for the memory book. My five-year-old daughter summed it up best when walking back to the car, she said, “That sure was fun. Let’s go back next year.”

And we most likely will.

There are a lot of neat places to see and family-oriented things to do right in “our own backyards” in the beautiful state of Minnesota.

The Children’s Museum in Minneapolis is a favorite of my children.

The Science Museum of Minnesota is highlighting the Animal Grossology with some wacky wildlife science and is open this summer from June 4 to Sept. 5.

There are great parks and playgrounds everywhere, and I think “Minnesota children” really appreciate visits to the playgrounds because they can’t visit them all year-round, so it is a treat to play there in the spring and summer.

My kids and I love to “park hop.” There are a lot of great playgrounds in various communities around us.

Take a drive around, and almost every community has a fun little park with something different than the neighboring community’s, and children love variety. I will highlight some of those playgrounds throughout the summer as they are “field tested” by my own playground scientists – my kids.

New Germany has the little park behind the city hall, with one of the first “tornado” slides that I can remember. I used to play on it, myself, as a little girl, and I will admit, I’ve enjoyed it since, and it is still fun!

Plato has a relatively new park by the city hall/dance hall that is “loaded” with fun and different play equipment to jump, climb, twist, twirl, slide, swing on, and any other fun action verb you can think of. This park, too, has been “field tested” by my “professional” testers, and they give it a 10-plus.

Besides parks and playgrounds, the arboretum is a great place to go anytime. There are great plants, foliage, and flowers to see and smell, and trails to hike. They also offer many different classes and activities for adults and children.

Presently, and I am not sure how long the event is going on, there is a wild bird exhibit at the arboretum, which is well worth seeing, or so I’ve been told by a friend of mine. That will be one of the next short family trips we will go on.

Well, these are just a few of the great activities and places to experience in our own great state and area. It’s great for our children to see first- hand what a great state we live in, and that there is a bigger “world” beyond our own homes and communities that we each live in, although our own communities offer wonderful things to see and do as well, including festivals, parks, pools, lakes, etc.

There are always new places to see, new things to do and learn – and isn’t that a wonderful thing!

Make a miniature golf course

Turn your backyard into a child’s golf course. You will need pails, boxes, or any containers larger than the ball; rocks or other weights, child-size broom, hockey stick or toy golf club; ping-pong ball or other lightweight ball.

Lay out the course by laying open boxes, pails, baskets, and containers on their sides, all over the backyard. The more “holes,” the better.

Place a weight, such as a rock, inside each container to keep it stable and solid.

Provide your child the child-sized golf “club,” and explain that the object of the game is to sink the ball into each “hole.” Demonstrate how to “putt” the ball.

If other children are playing, remind the children that they have to take turns and stand out of the way when another child is swinging.

This idea is from Parents Play and Learn, by the editors of Parents Magazine with Marge Kennedy and Karen White, Roundtable Press, Inc., March, 2000.

Make your own snot

Mix one-fourth Borax laundry booster detergent (sodium borate) with one quart hot water. Stir until dissolved.

Make a mixture of one cup Elmer’s glue and one cup water. Put one tablespoon of the glue mixture in a zip-lock bag. Add one or two drops of food coloring or a pinch of powdered drink mix, then add one teaspoon of the Borax mixture.

Knead the mixture in the bag and you’ve made snot! Children love the kneading process.

Don’t eat the “snot,” and watch out because it can stain. Keep your bag sealed when the snot is not being played with.

This recipe is from one of the Science Museum’s art booths at the festival.

These questions are also from the Science Museum of Minnesota, Animal Grossology.

1.) A cow’s stomach is equal in size to how many human stomachs? (nine)

2.) Tapeworms grow inside the stomach and can grow up to how many feet long? (60)

3.) True or False: Some frogs belch their babies into the world? (True)

Have wonderful summer learning and exploring with your “wee” little ones, and big ones, too!