PLAYguide: Just for Dads

Orlando’s Best Places to PLAY with Baby


B.Y.O.Baby: You might think this play business is just for the older kids. Not so. Orlando has a plenty of great places geared for baby play.


FREE PLAY
Love playgrounds but worry the older kids will trample your baby? There are plenty of fun indoor playgrounds geared toward babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Let them explore with safe and clean toys that promote learning through play. These places also have scheduled activities and special events for guided and engaging programs.

GET SMART
Yes, you can sign up your baby for engaging classes. From music to language, these places offer fun and educational opportunities to bond with your child.
  • Kindermusik with Grow & Sing Studios:
    Parent/baby music and art classes and workshops at several locations in Central Florida
    growandsing.com
  • All Kids Spanish:
    Parent/baby Spanish language and culture class in Winter Park
    allkidspanish.com
  • Shayna’s Village:
    Parent/baby enrichment classes at the Jewish Community Center in Maitland
    orlandojcc.org/preschool/shaynas-village

 


GET FIT
Movement and play is important for baby’s brain to grow and develop. Plus, it’s a fun way for parents to socialize, exercise and pick up some new parenting tricks!
  • Smart Start at A Kids Gym
    parent/child movement and brain development classes in Oviedo starting at 4 months old, akidsgym.com
  • My Gym
    Fitness classes for kids starting at 6 weeks old; locations in Lake Mary, Maitland, Waterford, Orlando and Winter Garden.
    mygym.com
  • Gymboree Play & Music
    Play, music and art classes that are just right for your child’s development.
    gymboreeclasses.com
  • Mama & Baby Yoga
    Mothers bring their (not yet crawling) babies to this fun class, offered at Full Circle Yoga in Winter Park and Harmony Yoga Studio in Maitland
  • Baby Boot Camp
    A stroller workout program designed to balance the fitness needs of moms while caring for their children.
    babybootcamp.com

 


STORYTIME
Here are our favorite storytime spots.
  • Orange County Public Libraries, check the website for locations and times of all the free programs that focus on early learning for your baby: Storybook Fun, Bubble Playtime and more, ocls.info/earlylearning
  • Orlando Science Center, daily storytime at 11:30 a.m. in Harriett’s KidsTown Theater inside the new KidsTown exhibit (infant to age 7), osc.org
  • Leu Gardens Storytime, free indoor event on the first Monday of each month. 10-10:15 a.m. is Infant Time (up to 18 months); 10:20-10:35 a.m. is Toddler Time (18 months to age 2); 10:40 -11 a.m. is Preschool Time (ages 3 to 5), leugardens.org
  • Pottery Barn Kids Storytime, enjoy a book reading and activity every Tuesday at 11 a.m., Mall at Millenia
  • Storytime at the Zoo, enjoy animal stories and special visits at the Rainforest Pavilion on select Wednesdays from 10-10:30 a.m. Zoo admission is not required to attend this free program, centralfloridazoo.org
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Hipster Father’s Day Card

Download this free printable Hipster Father’s Day Card compliments of PLAYGROUND.

CLICK HERE to download a PDF to print.

Hipster vintage trendy look quotes: Beards over everything

 

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Hipster Father's Day Card

Download this free printable Hipster Father’s Day Card compliments of PLAYGROUND.

CLICK HERE to download a PDF to print.

Hipster vintage trendy look quotes: Beards over everything

 

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The 10 Best Family Cars for 2013

2013 List Features a Vehicle for Every Budget, Including Crossovers, SUVs and Hybrid

Parents Magazine and Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for car shopping, today revealed their list of 2013’s 10 Best Family Cars. For the sixth consecutive year, car experts from both organizations examined hundreds of vehicles to offer a list of best-in-class vehicles.

“With summer road trips on the horizon, we are thrilled to present this comprehensive list,” said Parents magazine Editor-in-Chief Dana Points. “Given the amount of time that American families spend in their car, we feel it’s important to highlight the safest, most affordable and family-friendliest that the industry has to offer.”

In 2013, the panel of judges focused on safety; each car on the list excels in crash tests and comes equipped with at least six airbags, as well as electronic stability control. The judges also considered updated fuel-efficiency technology, in addition to next-generation dashboards that allow consumers to customize infotainment options on the go. In addition, The 10 Best Family Cars for 2013 includes several stylish rides that young parents will be proud to show off.

“As a father who loves to drive, I can appreciate all the variables that parents take into account when shopping for a new car,” said Edmunds.com Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham. “This list shows off some of the year’s best choices for the everyday carpool and the family road trip.”

According to Parents and Edmunds.com, the 10 Best Family Cars of 2013 (including starting prices) are:

HYBRID

Toyota Prius C ($19,080)
PriusC

BUDGET
Subaru Impreza ($17,895)

SubaruImpreza
Honda Civic ($18,165)

HondaCivic

SEDANS

Ford Fusion ($21,900)

Third

Honda Accord ($21,680)

Fifth

CROSSOVERS

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport ($24,700)

HondaSanteFeSport
Honda CR-V ($22,795)

HondaCRV

SUVs

Chevrolet Traverse ($30,510)

Eighth
Nissan Pathfinder ($28,650)

Nineth
MINIVAN

Toyota Sienna ($26,585)

tenth

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Boys Trip

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Father-Son Bonding in Montreal

Written by Brant Muekeley

The birth of my baby girl left me contemplating just how much our family dynamic had changed. I spent more than a few sleep-deprived hours thinking about our new normal — for what was previously a family of three was forever changed as we became a family of four. My 6-year-old son, Kai, soon realized that he would have to compete for mom’s and dad’s attention. Our dance parties and Lego builds, and his comedy routines would now be interrupted by “little sissy’s” diaper changes and feedings.

I wanted to do something special for my little man, who had just gone from being numero uno to the older brother. It’s tough on those older siblings, as they can quickly begin to feel as obsolete as a VHS tape at the Blockbuster store. A boys trip could provide us the chance to explore together and enjoy each other’s company, but where to go? We needed a destination that would be fun, safe and new to both of us.

Timing couldn’t have been better when I was invited on a kid-centric media tour to the French-speaking metropolis of Montreal by the Ministère du Tourisme Quebec. A boys trip out of the country would be a great adventure. Mom gave us her blessing, and we were off to an exciting foreign land. This was just the opportunity to place my son in the captain’s chair and have him decide on our excursion options.

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While I’d be happiest in a downtown hostel, I was well aware that Mom’s taste for the finer things in life had taken root within my young son. So, he was very happy with our modern accommodations at the Delta Montréal hotel. It was obvious that our hosts were showing us the best they had to offer. Delta Montréal is located in the downtown entertainment district. That was a definite plus, as we explored the surrounding streets several times during our stay and found surprises on each trek.

Summer in Montreal means festivals. Our trip coincided with the Juste pour Rire (or Just for Laughs) annual comedy festival. A walk through the Quartier des Spectacles placed us in the middle of the interactive laugh-out-loud comedy acts. Most of the street performances needed no interpretation because despite the fact that they spoke French, the slapstick humor was international. Did I mention it was free? Trying to explain this festival would be like trying to tell you about a dream. There was everything from art projected onto buildings and trapeze acrobatics to a live band walking through the festival dressed in alien costumes. It was a unique experience.

The next day, we took the Montréal Métro (subway) north and explored the Biodôme de Montréal (four separate ecosystems and the flora and fauna all under one roof) and the Montréal Insectarium. We marveled at the Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 summer Olympics, and walked through residential neighborhoods and Chinatown. We admired the fantastic graffiti art throughout the city. I was impressed by the amount of art everywhere. From large landscape paintings that scaled entire apartment buildings to video wall art installations in the underground city, Montreal has successfully fused art into daily life.

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A highlight of the trip came on the third day when we rented a bicycle-built-for-two to tour the St. Lawrence Riverside. The bicycle ride inspired my son to lose those training wheels as soon as we got home. We finished the day with a visit to La Ronde, a Six Flags-style amusement park located along the waterfront and close to downtown.
Since our daily activities were unplanned and proceeded based on my son’s interests, I must admit that I was surprised by some of his choices. He declined to visit the riverfront at night to watch the annual international fireworks competition and instead wanted to stay in the hotel and lounge in the cushiony bed, exhausted from the day’s events. Also surprising to me was that he opted to swim in the hotel pool instead of shooting the rapids of the St. Lawrence on a jet boat.

This trip created memories that I will keep with me forever. Yes, we missed Mom and baby, but it was worth it.

SNAP SHOT ITINERARY:

Day 1: Arrive at the Delta Montréal hotel. Dinner in the Quartier des Spectacles and after-dinner laughs at the Juste pour Rire festival.
Day 2: Subway ride to the Olympic Stadium. Tour the Biodôme. Tour the Insectarium. Fancy French lunch at Le Valois near the Joliette station. Walking tour of residential and downtown neighborhoods. Souvenir shopping.
Day 3: Bike rental and tour of the St. Lawrence Riverside. Lunch on Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Montréal. Hotel pool time. Rides and games at La Ronde amusement park.
Day 4: Graffiti art walk. Travel home.

MONTREAL FUN FACTS
Because what kind of boys trip would it be without getting to learn some fun little facts?

• Montreal is the world’s second-largest French-speaking city, after Paris. Bonjour!
• Montreal is built around Mount Royal (hence its name) and is located on an island in the St. Lawrence River.
• The French word for “states,” as in the United States, is “etats,” or the word “state” backward.
• Montreal is the capital of the Quebec province and home to approximately 1.6 million people.

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Strange Brew: Parenting by Way of Brewing

Hey, don’t be a hoser; what dad doesn’t love beer? We don’t even need to do an intro here because we’ve already referenced the classic Americana film and refer to beer in the title. We know you’re hooked. So read on; we’ll show you the zen between home brewing and raising your pint-sized kids. Written by Brant Muekeley

beerChoices/Styles
Having beer choices makes us happy. You can brew many different ways. Once you pick the style you want, you have to do it right — or else your beer is going to taste like crap. Same goes for parenting. No, you can’t pick your kids. Nice try. But you can pick how you’re going to raise them. Visualizing your little nose-picking toddler as a literary savant leads us to the path that paves our mentorship and guidance style as dads.

Four Main Ingredients
In brewing, no matter what style you make, there are only four main ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast. To keep it pure in parenting, we can keep it simple with four ingredients of our own: confident parent(s), love, patience and consistent discipline.

Brewing
The “cooking” stage is where all of your hard efforts stew. Here, the artistry comes into the flavor of your brew. Of course, parenting is really more an art form than a science too, so this analogy is an easy stretch. The everyday guidance you give, the consistency of the day-to-day — this is where you brew your child’s outlook on life.

Patience
Ha. I bet you think we’re going to tell you the secret to being patient. No one knows that. We can tell you, if you want your beer to turn out great, you have to wait several days for the yeast to work its magic. As for parenting, we lay the groundwork. Then we have to sit back and watch kids make their own choices (and mistakes) as they grow into adulthood.

Enjoy Responsibly
We know we gotta “know when to say when.” With kids you gotta give them the space to be their own person, but know when to step in to guide and center them.

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Central Florida Camping With Kids

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Getting down and dirty with Mother Nature requires a little bit of guts and a lot of gusto, resulting in pure glory for those granola munchers in your back seat. Whether you’re a grizzly bear or a teddy bear when it comes to the great outdoors, Central Florida has just the right fit for your wilderness excursions.

Written by Jenny Fauser
Photography by Abby Liga
Modeled by Justin, Angela, Jake and Gracie of Orlando
Shot on location at Wekiva Island

TEDDY BEAR

You prefer to traverse the jungle via the beaten path. Making friends with the forest is a priority to you, but you’re not quite ready to take Pocahontas and her little sidekick paddling over any waterfalls. Take camping up a notch. Put away the preschool pop-up tent in her room and grab the inflatable air mattress; it’s time to welcome her to the woods.

CAMPING Well, more like “glamping” (glamour + camping)
If you’re nervous about those lions and tigers and bears, Disney’s Fort Wilderness provides quality time with Mother Nature without getting the mother of all meltdowns from your kids. Boat rides, bike paths, an outdoor movie, Chip ‘n’ Dale, sing-alongs, fireworks from the boat dock, campfires, a fabulous kiddie pool, playgrounds galore, ponies to peer at and, oh yes, great campsites (with clean restrooms always nearby) make this place a five-star destination. Forget grilling your meals; hit the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue for dinner and a good ol’-fashioned jamboree instead. Even in the woods, the Disney magic works!

HIKING
Nestled along State Road 535 near Windermere, the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve is the place to take your novice nature lovers. Pine needle-covered paths, a bridge over a swamp and a lush forest surround you as you hike with your tots (or older kids). Afterward, visit the hands-on nature center to learn about the plants and animals you’ve discovered. Plan to peruse the preserve any day of the week except Monday and Tuesday, when it’s closed for maintenance. 8777 S.R. 535, Shore of Lake Tibet-Butler, Orlando 407-876-6696

CANOEING/KAYAKING
Sing with me, “Just a boy and a girl in a little canoe …” The Wekiwa Springs State Park canoe trip is easy breezy for your tiny Indian braves. You’ve got your choice of tooling around the open area (likened to a lake-filled swimming pool) near the marina or voyaging further down the waterway to catch a peek at the wildlife. Keep in mind, this is an up and back trip. Be sure to account for that as you sing your way down the river.
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka 407-884-4311

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BLACK BEAR

You want your kids to love the outdoors and realize the practicality of having a portable potty and your minivan within walking distance. Short trips, helpful gear and new challenges are just what your tree huggers need. Grab the sunscreen and battery-powered Coleman lantern, and let’s explore our environment.

CAMPING
Surveys show that Trimble Park has the best and prettiest campgrounds. With natural amenities and wildlife viewing, and not too far away in Mount Dora, this is the place to take the family. 5802 Trimble Park Rd., Mt. Dora 352-383-1993

HIKING
Come on, now, is anyone surprised that Disney is the sponsor of The Nature Conservancy in Florida? Check this out; take your hikers on a 2.5-mile looped adventure in hopes of spying bald eagles, bobcats, deer and, well, perhaps our favorite lizard friend — the gator. Spur off the beaten path out to Lake Russell, one of Florida’s few untouched pristine lakes. Be sure to wear lots of sunscreen and a hat; the path can get warm without a lot of shade to cool you off. 2700 Scrub Jay Trail, Kissimmee, 407-935-0002

CANOEING/KAYAKING
The all new Wekiva Island was conceived as an environmentally responsible oasis, a gathering spot, a place that through its natural splendor brings people together. Rent a canoe or launch your own for a quick run to Wekiwa Springs State Park. Or, make a day of it and take the river route to Rock Springs, and enjoy the sparkling scenery and wildlife as you paddle down the river. When you’re bored with the oars, rent a river-bana and chill a while as you sip grown-up drinks from the on-site bar, The Tooting Otter. Seriously, Tooting Otter. Wekiva Island has officially made canoeing posh.
1014 Miami Springs Rd., Longwood, 407-862-1500

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GRIZZLY BEAR

You think the term “car camping” is ridiculous. Your summer project with the tykes was carving your own canoe out of the tree in your neighbor’s backyard, and last Christmas Santa brought everyone hiking boots and a compass. Watch out, wilderness, hear you rrroooarRRR!

CAMPING
Warning: Your Ocala National Forest trip will be hard-core. The challenge will bond you and your troopers. You’ve got to hike into the forest, bring your own supplies and use leaves as toilet paper. Okay, maybe not that extreme; you can bring your own roll of Charmin. Also, bring your camera, as bald eagles are particularly common around Lake George. Hopkins Prairie is reputed to be good for observing scrub jays and sandhill cranes. There are many black bears in the forest as well. From Ocala, take Florida Highway 40 east to the visitor center. 352-625-2520 www.myfwc.com

HIKING
You’ll feel a million miles away from it all on the Barr Street trailhead segment of the Florida Trail, located outside of downtown Oviedo. You’ll enjoy following orange trail blazes through shady trails and riverfront views as you hike along the Econ River discovering animal footprints and native birds. Escape to this special retreat as you slowly wind back and forth throughout the Little Big Econ State Forest. The kids will love the bridge over the Econlockhatchee River. It’s a 4.9-mile hike until you hit the Snow Hill Road trailhead. Be sure to pack a snack and your camera — you’ll want to see what’s around the next curve on this not-to-miss trail. Don’t forget to bring your mosquito repellent; you will be using it often. www.floridatrail.org

CANOEING/KAYAKING
The Little Big Econ State Forest canoe run is an eight-mile BYOC (canoe) event. Alligators, river otters, migratory waterfowl, wood storks, limpkins and herons will be your mates for this voyage. The site is located in Seminole County, 3.3 miles east of Oviedo. We recommend launching at the intersection of County Road 419 and Willingham Road. A small paved lot is available for parking where there’s a sign indicating canoe/kayak launch. The river runs north from County Road 419 and enters the Little Big Econ State Forest turning east. The take-out spot is at Snow Hill Road. Ideally, if you’re ready to brave a canoe adventure of this caliber, you should have two cars. Drop one off at the Snow Hill Road lot, and take the other one with the boats up to the 419 put-in. 407-971-3500 www.canoe-suwannee.com/Econ.htm

TIPS FOR CANOEING WITH KIDS

Planning
• Plan your location and route.
• Create meal menus and only purchase food items you need.
• Check equipment to make sure it’s in good condition with all parts intact.

Packing & PLAYing
• Freeze all the food and liquid possible so perishables last longer.
• Flip-flops are a necessity. Middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks are much easier when you can just slip on shoes quickly.
• Don’t forget s’mores, a fun and tasty treat the whole family can enjoy (especially for the reluctant campers).
• Essentials: trash bags to keep your campsite clean and the critters away.
• Leave behind the daily toys. Instead, bring a ball, kites, his bike and perhaps a deck of cards.

Precaution
• Establish boundaries as soon as you arrive. Fire pits are off-limits to kids. Create an imaginary perimeter around the fire pits.
• Know where the nearest ranger station is in relation to your campsite.
• Bring a first aid kit.

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Date Night: Dad's Turn To Drive

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Guys, this night is for YOU. You’ve done your duty and seen every chick flick out there. It’s time you put your big boy pants back on and take control. Skip the couples pedicure (btw, you totally got your man card revoked for that one) and do something you really want to do.

[Men Dig Pigskin]
Have you been mourning the conclusion of Monday Night Football? Imagine the thrill of watching that incredible pass make it from the quarterback to the open receiver as he runs into the end zone for the touchdown, all in comfortable chairs and AC. Pure heaven. You can have that thrill again. Take your darling to an Orlando Predators arena football game this summer, now through the end of July.
www.orlandopredators.com

[Gamblin’ Man]
Need to get away from your adult responsibilities for a while? The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa is the perfect place to go and relive those carefree, kid-free days. Consider this the perfect playground for a play date with your wife. With everything from comedy shows and casinos to amazing food, there’s something to do every night of the week. You can leave the minivan at home and hop aboard the Hard Rock bus instead to get you there.
www.seminolehardrocktampa.com

[Hmmm … Beer]
When’s the last time you and your significant other went to happy hour? Find a sitter and enjoy a cold brew after work together at the Orlando Brewing taproom. It’s got a free behind-the-scenes guided tour (Monday through Saturday at 6 p.m.) that will give you a new appreciation for one of nature’s best nectars. Afterward, watch a local band while enjoying one (or a few) of the dozens of different drinks the brewery has on tap. This local brewery is one of only five certified fully organic breweries in the nation. Let your dollars do the walkin’ with $2 pints on the 30th of every month. www.orlandobrewing.com

[Indoor War]
If you’re into games, this fast-paced, high-action venue is Orlando’s best video gaming spot. At Hard Knocks’ huge urban-themed laser tag combat area and intense simulation arenas, you’ll be able to show off your tough guy skills to your sweetie. Remember, though, shooting her does not score you any points in the bedroom. So, take it easy, Rambo. www.hardknocksorlando.com

[Rockin’ Party]
Show your main squeeze how a cocktail party should be done at Orlando’s only rock ‘n’ roll cocktail party. A ticket to Velvet Sessions at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando includes themed cocktails, finger foods and a killer concert from groups such as Joan Jett, The Fixx, and The Psychedelic Furs. Velvet Sessions are held the last Thursday of the month. www.velvetsessions.com

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