Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kids Off The Couch's 10 Tips for a Successful Staycation

Instead of muttering about the E-word (it's the economy, silly), we are striking the pose that staycations are in vogue. A few unscheduled days at home can be as restorative as a week on the road, as long as you change up the routine and the scenery.

1. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
What's the most obvious tourist attraction in your town? Have your kids explored it? Spending a day experiencing your town's biggest draw is a campy, but fun, diversion. Our Washington DC editor notes that it's worth joining the hordes around the tidal basin to appreciate the
Cherry Blossoms. Our Houston editor says that the local water park Schlitterbahn Galveston Island is back in business and perfect as a beach substitute. If you're in SFO, have you checked out the new California Academy of Sciences?

2. Conduct a Taste Test
We are going to spend an afternoon touring our city's best burger joints and let the kids compare: which tastes the best? which is the most affordable? which has the best fries alongside? Having done this in the past with hot chocolate, pizza and cupcakes, we know each kid doesn't need to order a burger at every joint! A few bites is enough for a tasting, and should ward off a stomach ache. Log onto a food blog (like
Chowhound) to find out what's cooking in your town.

3. Plant an Edible Garden
Michelle Obama has made healthy eating a national priority by planting a garden on the South Lawn of the White House. Is it time for all of us to cultivate a kitchen garden at home? Our kids relish a trip to the nursery to choose the seedlings or plants and everybody loves digging holes and filling them with something green.
Click here to see what's in the Obamas' garden, and hear the story of the folks who helped make this happen. April is National Garden Month, so click here for ideas about planting with grandparents, starting a vegetable garden and keeping your garden green.

4. Do It Yourself
Home projects like gardening and knitting always gain popularity in tough economic times. Teach the kids to cook a favorite recipe, drop in on a clay shop or sew a skirt. Here is our chapter about
learning to play jacks and knit. Hours magically disappear into this type of project, building skills kids will use their whole lives.

5. Tease your Brain
Love Crossword puzzles or
Sudoku? Well, take out your pencils and prepare to scratch your head a few times as your logic and math skills get a workout. Click here to watch Will Shortz on YouTube explaining the game and then click here to play KENKEN.

6. Three Cups of Tea
The President has said that the problems in Afghanistan are as complicated as the problems with the economy. Families can introduce these issues gently by reading
Listen to the Wind, a children's book that tells the remarkable story of Greg Mortenson's work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Parents, if you haven't yet read Three Cups of Tea, we highly recommend this for you, too. Click here for more on Mortenson and both books.

7. She Can Dunk
If you want to counterprogram March Madness,
check out Brittney Griner, a 6'8" high school senior who can dunk - and who is headed to Baylor next year. Tune into the woman's NCAA championships, which take place during the same time period as the men's games - Sweet Sixteen rounds start this Thursday, March 26. Click here for the schedules.

8. Is 3D The Future?
Studios are betting big dollars on 3D movies, hoping that new projection technology (as well as better specs) will get audiences to pay a premium at the multiplex. The first test of the spiffy new technology, an old-fashioned monster movie starring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogan and Hugh Lurie, opens on March 27.
Check out Monsters and Aliens, and decide for yourselves. Our other movie pics? Tween girls have been flocking to Coraline, and parents have great choices for date night with Slumdog Millionaire, Duplicity or Sunshine Cleaning.

9. Brush up on the Classics
There's nothing like snuggling up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and introducing kids to a classic film. Spring is the perfect time to watch Singing in the Rain, or for young romantics to watch Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn parry in Roman Holiday. Twitchy action lovers should check out the early Sean Connery Bond films, which aren't that violent at all, or brave Hitchcock for the first time -- The Man Who Knew Too Much always delights. Finally, why not remember Natasha Richardson at her most lovely and maternal in The Parent Trap.

10. And, don't forget to
check out the KOTC Archives for all our Popcorn Adventures.

Happy Relaxing!
Diane and Sarah

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Diary of A Wimpy Kid + Visiting Your Local Library = Kids Off The Couch

Move over wizards and vampires, there's a wimpy kid sitting on top of the bestseller list. Part comic book, part graphic novel, the Diary of a Wimpy Kidseries by Jeff Kinney has wrangled reluctant readers and been found, dog-eared, on the nightstands of girls and boys alike. Why? It's just so darned funny! Kinney's main character Greg Heffley faces his very ordinary days at middle school with an attitude that kids find reassuring, but by telling the story through stick figures in his diary, this hapless nerdball wins our hearts. Got an annoying little brother? So does Greg. Think what your parents say is pretty ridiculous? Greg is right there with you, except that he knows how to spin it into a joke. We love any book that gets kids reading, so whether yours have locked onto a favorite character or are searching for the next good yarn, it's always helpful to drop in on a Public Library. Ours love to bring stacks home at a time, and the reluctant spender in us loves that borrowing costs only pennies -- except for those pesky late fees! So whether your kids go wimpy or find another character that speaks to them, here's hoping they get lost between the pages. Click here for more on author Jeff Kinney, who still works as a web-designer even though he's one of the country's bestselling authors.