Take it Outside and Play Series: Planting a Play-Outside-Seed


Credit: Michele Whiteaker

This is the last guest post from the Take it Outside Series by the amazing Michele, from Fun Orange County Parks.

Thanks to Aracely for inviting me to share my ideas with you over this last month of summer. I see she’s been taking her own kids to the beach for some kite flying and family time. I hope you’ve learned it’s not hard or complicated to get outside. One of my favorite sites for getting outdoor inspiration is Green Hour by the National Wildlife Federation. They have dozens of ideas and activities. Also, watch Nature Rocks! for their FREE downloadable activity guides which come out every season.

Week 4

Plant a Seed Together. This is a great way to get outdoors, yet stay close to home. I’m working on my own container garden. I think pumpkins or sunflowers are fun starters. Our neighbors have a grand crop of corn this year. I’ve taken notes from Children’s Gardens we’ve visited and don’t have any rules about what container we use. I’ve seen old boots, wheelbarrows, sand buckets, or milk cartons. Dig through your recyclables and see if something will work. Recommend: Visit Tree of Life Nursery to find native plants to attract local wildlife.

Water Play at Home. Sprinklers? Water balloons? Cups filled with water? What containers can you come up with? Let the kids get parents wet for once! It’s so much fun. I say do it in your clothes right before shower time when the laundry is going in the wash anyways. Just keep the boys away from the hose (They don’t play fair)!

Would you rather take it day-by-day? Look at Michele’s Make Playing Outside a Habit in 30 Days.

Thanks for rounding out your summer with some outdoor fun. Hope you’ve started some routines that will stick with you through the school year. Remember:

  • Recess is not enough FREE play time!
  • The beach is still fun in the winter if you bundle up.
  • Don’t wait for summer to enjoy all this summer fun.

This video will give you all the encouragement you need to make PLAY a priority in your child’s life whether it’s summer or not:

Michele Whiteaker promotes play by sharing local places on her FunOrangeCountyParks.com Play Blog. Subscribe to her Play Trips newsletter for new ideas every week. Join her page on Facebook where she’s built a local community of play enthusiasts. Or just skip all that and go out and play!

Roar and Snore at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: An Adventure to Remember!


A view of the giraffes from our campground

This past weekend we had one of the most incredible experiences as a family. My husband, the kiddos and myself drove an hour and a half down south but were transported a world away.We spent the night at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and had the opportunity to experience the Junior Night at the  Roar and Snore Safari. This special night is designed for families with children younger than six. It is an experience like no other and as close to an African Safari as you can get, without having to travel to a different continent.

The Roar and Snore Program began in April of 1994 and is more popular than ever. The Overnight campouts run from February to November and there is a variety from different programs from Junior Night(families with young children) to Adult Adventure Challenge Nights. There is something for everyone!

The Roar & Snore Campground

The fun started from the moment we arrived at the park. We were greeted by the Roar and Snore staff, who checked us in what seemed like a minute. We were then led to a shaded area with other waiting families while the staff took our bags from our and had them delivered to our tents. While we waited we were able to have an animal meet and greet presentation . Once we all had the opportunity to touch the animal ambassadors we made our way into camp.

The kiddos peaking out of the tent.

We made our way to the campground and checked into our tents and prepared for dinner. We had a yummy dinner that was perfect for little hands. Our tasty kiddo-friendly dinner featured hamburgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese and other treats that the kiddos loved. They ate every single thing and that is a rare feat!

The view from outside our tent

After dinner, we  headed back to our tent to prepare for our behind -the-scenes mini walking tour. The kids were beyond excited to head back to the tent because it was our first time camping out as a family. They really had a blast and could have spent the evening  just hanging at the campground enjoying the most amazing views and their super fun tent. We had a Vista tent, which comfortably sleeps a family of four and has a view of the African Plains Exhibit. We brought our own sleeping bags and the tents came with sleeping pads. We headed back to meet with our group after changing into our walking shoes and just in time for a quick and easy craft that the kiddos were able to take along on our “hike”.

The kiddos were able to make their own “binoculars” for our evening “hike”.

We headed for our evening “hike” with our group and were in for quite the treat. We were able to take a behind the scenes look at the Lion House and actually had the a lion roar at us. It was incredible! We also had an animal interaction with an armadillo. My kiddos were officially in heaven between the lion roar and being able to touch a real life armadillo.

My son getting up close and personal with an armadillo

There is nothing quite like the feeling of having the park all to yourself!

Our mini walk also included a private viewing of the elephant exhibit. It was such a cool experience to be able to walk around the park without any crowds. The walk also was  just the right amount of time and length for the little ones. My kiddos loved every single minute of it! We headed back to camp for some s’more making and drum time.

Drumming away before bedtime.

Families gathered around the fire to make some s’mores and then a fun drumming session. Everyone participated and there were smiles all around. It really was an incredible experience. Bedtime is a little early at the Junior Roar and Snore to make sure and accommodate tired little feet. It was a beautiful night and an even more amazing sunrise. There is nothing quite like being awaken to the sound of lions and tigers roaring. Honestly, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life.

Our delicious breakfast spread

Wake up time is at 6:15,but we had been up for at least half an hour listening to the sounds of the animals. We packed our belongings and headed for breakfast that also included great kid friendly fare. We went on a morning walk before the park opened to the public and had the opportunity for another animal interaction before heading home. Our experience concluded right around 9:30am.

My daughter meeting one of the animal ambassadors

We had a beyond incredible time and as I shared with my husband on the ride home, we made memories that will last a lifetime. The kiddos have not stopped talking about our experience and in reality neither have we. It was such a special experience and it was so nice to be able to be around other families with young children and not have to worry about inconveniencing anyone. One of the fathers in the group  and I chatted  and discussed how nice it was to have age appropriate activities for the kiddos and also be around other parents that “get it”! It really made for a great time.

I also have to add that there were three families in our group that had experienced a safari in Kenya and shared that it was hard to pick a favorite between the Roar and Snore and an African Safari, it truly is that kind of experience.

There are different types of Roar and Snore experiences. We took part of the Junior experience, but you can also experience Family Night and Adult-Only Nights. There are also special experiences for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. You can select from one of three types of tents. Premium, Vista and Classic. The camp is home to 46 tents. There are showers and restrooms all within very close proximity of the tents. The Roar and Snore experience includes dinner, snacks and breakfast.


It truly is an experience like no other and I can’t recommend it enough. There are still dates left this year. To find out more about this incredible experience head here.

Disclosure: There was no compensation received for this post. A complimentary stay was provided for review purposes.

Disney Store Princess Designer Doll Ceremony at D23 Expo

My daughter Lauren and Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle. Photo (c) Disney


Yesterday was the opening day of the D23 Expo taking place this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. My daughter Lauren, had the opportunity to take part of a very special presentation at the D23 Expo. Five of the actresses that brought to life many of the modern-day Disney Princesses were presented a Disney Legend award and also  with a designer doll inspired by the character they voiced in the movie. Five little princess each presented the actresses with their own very special Disney Princess Designer Doll.

The honorees included:

·         Jodi Benson (Ariel from The Little Mermaid)

·         Paige O’Hara (Belle from Beauty and the Beast)

·         Lea Salonga (singing voices of Jasmine from Aladdin and Mulan from Mulan)

·         Linda Larkin (speaking voice of Jasmine from Aladdin)

·         Anika Noni Rose (Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog)

The girls with Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana from Princess and the Frog. Photo (c) Disney

Each of the ten classic dolls are dressed in a glamorous runway inspired gown  and come in their own very special case with artwork. If you will be attending the D23 Expo , you will be able to see and purchase one of these limited dolls in the Disney Living Pavilion Disney Store.  Starting Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, one new Disney Princess Designer Doll will arrive in stores each week for ten weeks in a random order not to be revealed to guests until each Monday when they go on sale.

It was such an honor to be able to participate in the special ceremony and I can’t wait to be able to purchase one of the special Cinderella, 25th anniversary, doll for the holidays! I’m a huge Cinderella fan and would love to add this to my collection.

If you plan on attending D23 this weekend, make sure to stop and take a look at the dolls.