It gets dark by 4:30pm nowadays, so we have to find ways to kill the time inside with the kids. I’ve been teaching Frugal Boy how to play chess. So far we are just going over the basics such as the names of pieces, how they move, how they attack, and when the game ends. Also, grit. Chess takes a lot of grit because you lose a lot. Next year he can participate in the school chess program if he desires.
The game can be made more interesting for the instructor by handicapping your own starting pieces. Try playing without a queen or any rooks or just king and pawns for a real head scratcher.
As part of a larger road trip over Memorial Day weekend, we stopped in Saint Louis to visit the regularly hyped City Museum. This destination has been on our bucket list for a while and we finally visited it!
The 600,000 square foot museum occupies a former shoe factory. The ferris wheel on the roof along with the giant praying mantis sculpture are dead give aways that you are about to have a great time!
Frugal Boy, sporting an “Old MacDonalds” happy meal box on his head, was unabashedly enthusiastic.
We parked in a nearby $5 surface lot and walked the block to the entrance. There is a closer parking lot for twice the price. Do you like the school bus hanging off the corner of the building? You can go into that and look down!
The museum has a bit of a cult following, and can roughly be summarized as a “love it, or hate it” division. If you love climbing around jungle gyms and crawling through tiny labyrinth tunnels, start planning your trip. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, or you don’t want to keep up with your child, then go somewhere else.
Headlamps are advisable for many areas of the building. We spent three hours there and covered maybe 70% of the grounds. A 1:1 adult to child ratio would be recommended.
Right off the main lobby on the first floor there are already plenty of “crawling holes” as Frugal Boy calls them. Some simply loop around while others will inexplicably go off to a different level of the museum. You really have to follow your ward into each hole because you don’t know where they’ll end up otherwise.
Sometimes they dead end.
And other times they connect to a larger passage.
Frugal Boy, age 4.5, was just about the right age for the museum. He had a complete blast and was usually yanking our arms to go explore another section. Frugal Girl, age 14 months, was delighted to do as much as she could, but her little feet were too small for some of the ironwork sections.
I really liked this part of the museum were you could crawl John McClane style through ‘vents’.
The only thing missing was a lighter and cut up bare feet!
Frugal Boy was kind enough to stop and take this picture of me squeezing through a particularly tight bend.
One of the points of reference that we developed to help navigate the place was this aquarium on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
It was right by the exit of the 10 story curly slide. Yes, you read that right. I was so sweaty that it wasn’t much of a slide down. Squeaaaaaaakk.
Outside is more metal work, wire mesh, and rebar. All of our tetanus shots are up-to-date.
There are two planes that are suspended in the air that you can climb to.
It pays not to be scared of heights!
Up on the roof you can climb up the inside of the rotunda. We didn’t have time to do it on this trip, but there is always next time!
The “Caves” were probably the favorite sections for our family and age mixture.
After a while you start to get a feel for how the craziness is laid out. I was able to get this video showing Frugal Boy and Shae emerging from one spelunking area.
Are you wanting to go to the City Museum but aren’t sure if it is right for you? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it. We had a great time and cannot wait to go back!
Summer reading programs are about to start across the country. If you cannot make it to your normal library, you may have something smaller and closer that you can utilize.
Little Free Library
These tiny sharing kiosks are great. The premise is pretty simple. A landowner who loves books builds a little library. Then anyone can come and take a book, leave a book, or just browse. Check out the map here to see if there are any near you (not all libraries are shown on the map, so don’t be discouraged)!
You never know what you will find and depending on how active the area is, the stock is always changing!
They come in all different shapes and sizes too! Frugal Boy has gotten very adept at spotting them.
Some owners put a lot of work into their libraries. I really liked this one that mimics the house design.
Did I mention how fun it is to chat with the owners? In my experience, the owners have been retired and are happy to spend some time chatting with you about their libraries and life experiences. Now that is a great resource!
Shae and I strive to impart a love for reading in our children. As such, books are one of the primary activity areas in our house (the other is a Lego table).
Unfortunately, kids are pretty awful at picking up and neatly shelving books when they are finished.
I’ve watched both Frugal Boy and Frugal Girl grab the bottom most book and yank it out causing everything on top to come avalanching out. We have neatly arranged the books standing upright with the spines facing out and less than 24 hours later it looks like the above picture again.
The problem was simple. There were too many books and they were not visible enough. A little kid wants to see the front cover of a book. That is how they judge it! The title and author on the spine mean very little to them.
So I started looking around the internet for ideas on how to corral the bookalanche and make it a better experience for everyone. I really liked Simple Families method.
It is simple, practical, and easy! What’s not to love?!
First I looked at clear plastic folder holders like this, but they are $8-12 each and only hold one or two books at most without stacking them two or more deep (which utterly defeats the purpose).
There are some smaller, cheaper options like this sling rack. It measures 24″ x 24″.
I couldn’t help but think that I could build something myself. Thankfully, Ana White already did the heavy lifting by publishing some plans for a book or magazine ladder shelf (link here). I’ve used her plans before when I built a changing table.
For about $35 worth of materials, I was able to build a custom sized piece to exactly fit the intended space. 48″x48″.
I assembled it in the garage.
You may be able to scrounge up the materials from leftovers of other projects.
I brought it inside to test it out with the kids. They seemed to respond very well to it.
It is important to note that the unit leans against the wall and ultimately has to be fastened to the wall to keep it from tipping over. I used a 10° angle on the feet per the original instructions. Ana recommended in a note afterwards that 5° might be more appropriate. However, I have some networking equipment that I wanted to hide behind it, so I stuck with the original 10°.
Frugal Boy is tall enough to reach the top shelf with ease. We can put one or two of his jigsaw puzzles up there and no longer have to worry about lil sis dumping them out all over.
I finished the project up with two coats of paint that I had.
I didn’t see the need to plaster the bookshelf with bright colored alphabet letters. Maybe it is just me being a miserly old man, but I don’t think every surface in a child’s line of view needs to be a shade of neon bright.
SO MUCH STIMULI
Besides, the emphasis should be placed on the books themselves. I think it really comes back to the Simple Families blog post about teaching children some reverence for books. These are treasures that should be cared for, not dumped into a heap.
So far Frugal Boy has adapted very well to the new system.
How do you manage books in your household? Do traditional bookshelves work or have you tried something else?