Free Indoor Kid Activities in Dallas

This last week we headed down south of the border, the Oklahoma border that is, to Dallas again. But this time we just tagged along as part of Daddy’s work trip. He travels fairly often these days, but we can only go if it’s within driving distance since last minute airplane tickets can get pretty pricey.

We were going to be in Dallas for about three days, but I didn’t have too many activities planned because getting around with a young child and baby without Daddy can be exhausting. The weather was the typical hot and muggy Texas summer heat, except for the last day we were there, so we tried to stay indoors as much as possible.

The first day we headed to the Galleria to kill some time before we could check into the hotel. There is one of those carpeted play areas with the plastic structures on the third floor by Nordstrom. My little ones had quite a time crawling, climbing, and basically just running amok through the jungle-themed kids area. I was happy to let them explore and get some energy out by crawling through the tunnels, climbing up the steps, pretending to drive the jeep, riding in a canoe and jumping off the tops of various jungle creatures.

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Another highlight for my older daughter was the American Girl store by the Galleria. It’s not actually connected inside the mall, but we just walked from Nordstrom a few steps outside to get there. We didn’t go to the second level, which appeared to just be the salon and bistro. The first level were all the displays of dolls and accessories that she could touch and play with. Her favorite area was the Wellie Wishers section that had a playhouse, some interactive nature activities, and of course little baby dolls, strollers, high chairs and cribs.

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We also paid a visit to IKEA while we were in Dallas to pick up a few things (namely a cheap high chair without fabric to clean). I was more than willing and excited to drop off my older child in their supervised play area (which looked super fun through the windows – let me know if they are if your kids have been), but she refused to be left there and wanted to shop with me. She really enjoyed just playing in the upstairs kids furniture area, trying out the little beds, sitting in the kid-sized chairs and just touching and looking at all the things. We even ended the IKEA trip with a one dollar soft serve ice cream cone.

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On the last day, we again had a few hours to spend waiting for Daddy to get off work and set off to the local Barnes and NobleWe love books and bookstores, and B&N has a pretty neat kids area complete with a stage, mini tables and benches, and even a Thomas train set. In addition to a decent selection of books, there are also toys, games, stuffed animals and vintage Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie dolls. We read some books, looked at the toys and games, played with all the My Little Ponies stuffed plushes, and left the store with a few books from the 75% off clearance shelves.

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We were able to beat the summer heat indoors, while keeping the kids entertained and occupied. Some moments of our trip were super challenging with little ones, but these little field trips can present teachable moments. 

I had the opportunity to talk about jungles and what ancient ruins are at the mall play area, teach my daughter about doing laundry and ironing at the American Girl store, mention information about Sweden and Swedish food at IKEA, and read books about different characters and topics at Barnes & Noble. 

Stay tuned for the next post about the garden and aquarium we also visited on this Dallas trip. 

Five Reasons to Send Your Kids to VBS

Summer is just starting, and hopefully you haven’t already been hit with the “I’m bored, what can I do” chorus. If you are looking for meaningful and fun summer activities, my best recommendation is to sign your kids up for Vacation Bible School (aka VBS).

Almost every single church has one, so you could potentially take your kids to ones all over your local community throughout the summer months, if you were so inclined. I have such fond memories of my childhood summers going to VBS and want my children to experience the same thing.

My church just finished its week of VBS, and my daughter had an absolute blast learning new songs and memorizing a Bible verse. She also attended another local church’s VBS last week and will be going to her final one this summer in a couple weeks.

Here are my top 5 reasons to take your kids to VBS.

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1> They will have fun.
I have been around VBS practically my whole life and have helped at my church for the past few years, and I am still amazed at how those VBS organizers bring the Bible to life for these kids in such a fun and engaging way. With elaborate decorations, themed crafts and activities, and exciting games and songs, almost every moment of a VBS day is filled with purposeful entertainment. Your child will not likely be bored.

2 > They will learn God’s word.
Of course, this is the most important aspect of VBS. Most churches will have a key Bible verse that the children will memorize for the week, so you can rest assured that they are being exposed to Biblical truth. Children are the most responsive to the gospel message during the preschool and elementary school years. Use these early years in their lives to reinforce what you’ve been teaching them and draw them closer to Christ.

3 > It’s an easy witnessing opportunity.
VBS is a very non-threatening way to invite families to church. You can ask your children to invite a few of their friends, which will also make the week more fun for them too. Your invitation may also prompt questions from the parents that lead to spiritual discussions.

4 > It’s FREE!
Churches and VBS volunteers and donors recognize the value and importance of the ministry and are willing to offer basically a week of summer camp to their communities for free. We parents know that summer camps, child care and practically all kid activities are expensive, so free opportunities like these are amazing.

5 > You get a few hours to yourself.
If nothing else, VBS gives you a few hours during the day to run errands, do grocery shopping, grab coffee or meet with friends BY YOURSELF! In this stage of my life, my littlest one is too young to attend VBS. But for those of you with kids all VBS-age, live it up (for those three hours or so) before you have to pick those kids up.

So, there you have it…my top five reasons to take your kids to VBS. Find out when your church or other local churches are offering theirs and sign up your kids!

Our field trip in Fort Worth

If you’ve been following along with us, then you may know that we recently made a trip to Dallas last weekend with our friends and six children under the age of six. So what did we do with all our kids?

We actually trekked over to Fort Worth, about 45 minutes away from where we stayed, to visit the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History. Yes, we used our local Science Museum Oklahoma membership and got in free as part of the ASTC Travel Passport Program. However, parking in the lot for the science museum did cost us $7.

My husband and I had visited years ago pre-baby and maybe even pre-marriage for a special Star Wars exhibit (the hubs loves everything Star Wars) and another time for their special body exhibit with the plasticized human bodies. This time we visited with kids, and it was like a whole new museum to us.

They have several different traveling or special exhibits that change throughout the year, so it’s never the same each time you visit. I had checked online to see what was featured when we would be visiting, and Clifford the Big Red Dog and Dora & Diego were two of the special temporary exhibits. This is the main reason we wanted to come here with all our little ones. Curious George is coming this fall, so that may be another good time to visit with little kids.

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As soon as you enter the building (after you get through the whole ticketing area), you are greeted by a huge dinosaur skeleton and a view of the outdoor fountain display. You can head upstairs on the left to their special Dora & Diego exhibit, planetarium (which is included in general admission), cattle raisers museum and special 75-year anniversary exhibit, or make a right and explore the Clifford room, the children’s museum (with a whole outdoor water part), gift shop, and dinosaur display.

As expected, Dora & Diego and Clifford were huge hits with the littles. There were such neat and interesting hands-on activities in each of those exhibits. My oldest daughter had the most fun playing at the Animal Rescue Center and Rocket Ship in Dora & Diego, and she loved dressing up as Clifford and playing with the giant dog bones at the Clifford exhibit. There are also little padded and gated areas for the babies to play in a few of the exhibits. The kids could have easily played much longer, but we only stayed about four hours before we adults had reached our limit.

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We had also planned to visit the Stockyards that afternoon to see the cattle drive and didn’t want to miss it. Every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., real-life cowboys and actual Texas Longhorns make their way down Exchange Avenue for this touristy spectacle lasting only a few minutes. We snagged some fairly decent patio seating at Trailboss Burgers just moments before the cattle drive began and got to see it from there. It was also perfect for our entire crew of crazy kids because they could run around outside and be noisy without really disrupting anyone.

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After dinner, we checked out a few of the shops around the restaurant, tasted a few samples, let the kids ride a tiny carousel machine and then headed back to the hotel pool for the dive-in movie. We had a fabulous time in Fort Worth and could have spent so much more time exploring but will come back another time to take in more sights.

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Fort Worth Museum of Science & History Fast Facts

Address > 1600 Gendy St. | Fort Worth, TX 76107
Phone > 817.255.9300
Hours > Monday – Saturday > 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Sunday > Noon – 5p
Websitewww.fwmuseum.org
Tickets > Adult $15 | Junior (2-18) $12 | Senior (65+) $14

Omni Dallas at Park West Hotel Review

This past weekend, we traveled south down I-35 to the Lonestar State to meet up with some wonderful friends of ours. One family came from San Antonio and the other from the Oklahoma City area also. In total, there were six kids ages five and under. With that in mind, I had the task of trying to find a kid-friendly and budget-friendly hotel to accommodate our needs.

I searched several deal sites and review sites and was lured by the gleaming reviews, the fantastic value and convenient location of the Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West. I had never stayed at an Omni Hotel before, so I heavily researched if it would be a good fit for our little reunion.

They currently have a special promotion where you can save up to 25% off based on the number of nights you stay. Or, if you sign up for their free Select Guest® loyalty program, they will email you a coupon for 20% off your next stay (which I didn’t see until I had already booked our stay). You also get free Wi-Fi if you sign up, which was a major thing for us, because we don’t like to stay at places that make us pay extra for Wi-Fi or parking (which is also complimentary if you don’t valet and covered in a garage). So for around $100 a night, we were able to stay at this really nice hotel.

The main feature that attracted me was that Omni seemed to cater to families and kids. They have a program called Omni Kids Crew, where your little ones will get a fun backpack with activities and crayons and also get milk and cookies delivered on the first night. We didn’t get the milk and cookie delivery to our room, but we all already had our fill of cookies from the lobby and family lounge (more on that later).

Also, in the summer months, they have Dive-In Movies at the pool on Fridays and Saturdays. The website lists the time as 9 p.m., but the movies actually started at 8 p.m., which is much better with little kids. You can grab an info flyer at check-in for exact details of activities during your stay or watch the info channel on the TV. It was pouring down rain when we arrived on Friday, so we didn’t get to go to the pool, but we did go on Saturday night since the weather was perfect then. My kids absolutely loved swimming in the pool, and the baby could stand on the ledge on one side of the pool. The website said that there would be poolside snow cones, popsicles and smores on Saturdays and Sundays, but we must have missed it. They did have free popcorn, lemonade and water though. Which brings me to one thing I loved about the Omni Hotel…the snacks and drinks!

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When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with delicious star-shaped, iced gingerbread cookies (and fruit for the baby) in the lobby, along with bottled water, lemonade and cucumber water. In the mornings, they had coffee and delicious pastries/cakes in the lobby, and on Saturday, they put out yummy chocolate chip cookies. Do not miss the refreshment cart if you stay here; it’s just to the right of the main entrance to the elevators, in front of the wine bar.

Since it was storming and raining like crazy when we arrived on Friday, we didn’t know what we were going to do with all our kids that evening. This is where I was completely sold on Omni. They had a family lounge set up in one of their rooms, complete with board games, video games, movies, coloring pages, books, adorable little chairs and beanbags, a cookie decorating station, popcorn, lemonade and water. We pretty much had that entire space all to ourselves that evening and let our kids run free and play. It was the perfect space for us and our whole crew and almost felt like we were just hanging out at someone’s home.

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And finally, the most important part…the rooms. We all slept like rocks during our stay. Even though we were right by the elevator, we didn’t hear a sound and appreciated how quiet it was. We also really enjoyed looking out the huge, picturesque windows (although our views were of the highway and top of the parking garage). The mini refrigerator and robes were also much appreciated. The only thing that would have made the room even better is if there were a microwave, especially for families with kids and babies.

We absolutely loved our stay with Omni Hotels and highly recommend staying at this hotel if you’re ever in the Dallas area. Thank you, Omni for allowing our family to make fun memories. We hope to stay at other Omni Hotels in the future and write more positive reviews. I read that there is a new one coming this summer to Frisco!

(Disclaimer: Field Trip Family was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are our own. However, this post does contain affiliate links, where you will be helping support this site (at no additional cost to you) if you book through some of our links. I also evidently didn’t take very many photos of the hotel, so the image of the hotel and lobby are from the Omni Hotel website. You’ll have to check out our upcoming video tour for more of our own images.)

Our visit to the Exploration Place in Wichita

You may have never thought about taking a trip to Wichita, Kansas, but we recently visited the Exploration Place there and were quite pleasantly surprised. We were wanting to take a quick day trip somewhere within a couple-hour drive (because our littlest one isn’t the best car rider) and wanted to find something kid-friendly.

Since we have a science museum membership at Science Museum Oklahoma, we like to try and visit participating museums of the ASTC Travel Passport Program for free. We have loved this benefit and have taken advantage of it several times when traveling.

With our membership pass in tow and lunches packed, we headed up I-35 to the land of plains and toll roads apparently. Be prepared for stops at the toll booths when you’re traveling through Kansas. From the Oklahoma City area, the tolls will cost you about $2.50 one way. You’ll also want to pack lunches if you’re going to the Exploration Place around lunchtime because the food options are slim to depressing (envision hot dogs on rollers). However, the views from the eating area are quite enjoyable.

The Exploration Place is housed in a beautiful piece of architecture pretty much on top of the Arkansas River. With large floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, you can enjoy several different views of the river and the nearby Keeper of the Plains statue. Our baby also really liked watching the ducks swimming in the water.

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Although this museum is not very large compared to others we’ve visited, it has many interactive features and has several engaging exhibits that my daughter loved so much she didn’t want to leave. Her favorite was probably the three-story castle with activities centered around medieval life. There were horses to ride, a play kitchen to cook in, a blacksmith room, dress up clothes and lots of little nooks and crannies with interesting hands-on elements.

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From now until January 1, 2018, there is a special traveling exhibit on display called the Hall of Heroes. If you have a superhero or comic book fan in your family, it would be a great place to take him. There is a Batmobile replica, movie memorabilia, several superhero statues and different science-based activities. One thing that I did notice was that it was really loud in that area, so it was kind of difficult to listen to some of the displays with video or sound.

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Also included in the admission is mini golf, which I thought was a pretty good deal. The 18-hole course is set right along the river, so you can enjoy the views outside as well (but don’t putt with too much enthusiasm because your ball will roll into the bushes and possibly into the river – not that I would know or anything *cough, cough*). There is also apparently an Exploration Park portion of the museum outside, but we ran out of time and never got to it or saw it.

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We spent about five hours at the museum and probably could have stayed a little longer, since our daughter seriously wanted to play there all day long. But we all got “hangry” (especially Dad) and hot from playing miniature golf outside and the museum closes at 5 p.m., so we headed to a Braum’s down the street for ice cream (no trip is complete without ice cream) and dinner and called it a day.

If you are looking for a quick day trip or just something fun for your family, I would definitely recommend the Exploration Place. Check out their website to see what special exhibits may be going on when you plan to visit.

Watch a video of our visit here. 

Exploration Place Fast Facts

Address > 300 N. McLean Blvd. | Wichita, KS 67203
Phone > 316.660.0600
Hours > Monday – Saturday > 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | Sunday > Noon – 5 p.m.
Website > http://exploration.org/

General Museum Admission
Exhibits* Dome Do it All
Members Free
Adult (12 – 64) $9.50 $5.00 $12.50
Senior (65+) $8.00 $4.00 $10.00
Youth (3 – 11) $6.00 $3.00 $7.00
2 and Under Free Free Free

Prepare your preschooler for summer travel

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The summer travel season is almost upon us, which means fun, adventure and more time together as a family! However, if you’re traveling with little ones, the idea of summer vacation may seem more like work instead.

With a little bit of preparation and time spent talking with your children about your upcoming trip, hopefully, they will be excited and better equipped to handle the change in routine.

Here are a few ideas to help you prepare your little ones for traveling:

  • Show your children pictures of where you’re going and what you plan on doing and seeing once you’re there.
  • Find and print out a map of the route you’re going to take so you can show them beforehand and along the way exactly where they are.
  • Pray with them a few weeks or days in advance about their upcoming trip and also during the trip for their safety and protection.
  • Read them books about traveling and about the destination. If you’re traveling internationally, you can introduce a different language or culture.
  • Let your children help make a packing list by drawing pictures, writing and talking about what they think they’ll need to bring. Then, let them gather some of the things and put them in their suitcase or bag.
  • If you plan on flying, take a field trip to an airport before your trip and watch the airplanes take off and the people and kids going through security and getting boarding passes. If you can’t make it to the airport beforehand, you can take a virtual field trip with KidVision VPK and complete the airport take home activity.
  • Watch videos of other kids traveling. In particular, watch the “Tiger’s Family Trip” one-hour Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episode. The special is available for free on pbskids.org and the PBS KIDS Video App. There is also the “Tiger Family Trip” book and “Going to see Granpere” book available that tie into the video.
  • Play pretend travel with them and line up chairs to act like you’re in a car, train or airplane going on your vacation.

Will you be taking your little ones on any trips this summer? If so, what are some things you do to prepare your kids?

(Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, and we will be compensated at no additional cost to you when you make a purchase by clicking on our links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

Five visually stunning animal books

To round out our posts on animals and zoos this week, we have compiled a list of five animal books that not only provide educational enrichment for you and your children but can also facilitate a discussion on artistic styles. The illustrations and images in these books are visually stunning and engaging and can be enjoyed by all ages. We have not personally read all of these books, but we are solely recommending these books based on looks. Yes, we’re judging a book by its cover.

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Animalium:Welcome to the Museum > The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom > Creaturepedia: Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth > Atlas of Animal Adventures: A collection of nature’s most unmissable events, epic migrations and extraordinary behaviours > The Big Book of Beasts

Field Trip Family is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

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