11 Easy, Free, and Meaningful Activities to Do with Kids of Most Ages

As of this school year, I’ve ventured into homeschooling my two younger children. People ask me daily how it’s going, and depending on the day (or even the time of day), they’ll likely get a different answer than I previously gave.

The highs are very high, and the lows can be quite low. I can go from feeling pure joy and bliss to doubting every parenting decision I’ve ever made. However, I’ve come to realize that these feelings occur no matter what schooling decision parents make for their children. We’re so hard on ourselves and tend to let the emotion du jour lead the way.

To counter this whiplash of emotions, I try to engage in meaningful activities with my kids that will fill their cups but also fill mine. I usually find a bit of free time for myself after fully participating in one of the options below because everybody walks away fulfilled.

Most of these incorporate time in nature and/or sensory experiences, which tend to be antidotes to boredom, crankiness, frustration, sibling rivalry, and screen daze for all of us.

I hope that these ideas might allow other parents to break away from the norm and reset those flip-flopping emotions. These 11 easy, free, and meaningful activities have worked well for us. Let me know if any stand out to you!

1. Nature Hike and Journaling

We kept our nature journals really simple and just made them out of cardstock and twine. Anytime we go on an adventure, I carry crayons and pencils. The kids either draw something they see and find interesting, then we research it on my phone to add notes … OR they’ve already drawn and researched something that we then go and try to find, such as certain types of trees.

2. Act Out a Favorite Storybook

We choose a favorite or recently-read story book and act it out in real life. We create costumes, find props, and make up character voices. The kids love this activity and often want to act out the same book more than once. We’re hoping to go all out after finishing the Little House on the Prairie series and throw a themed party.

3. Lego Challenge

There are a million and one ways to create Lego challenges for kids. You can just type the words and google for a plethora of ideas. I even found some printables for head-to-head Lego challenges. What I love the most about starting one of these challenges is the fact that the kids usually want to continue playing with legos independently for hours or days on end!

4. Create a Wall of Weird

Kids love to find the weirdest things! Whether out on a hike or rummaging through a thrift store, they find something so unique, but often too odd, to want to include it with the rest of the home decor. As a compromise, my kids and I agreed upon a Wall of Weird, which was an idea borrowed from someone much more clever than myself. So, when a little one wants to collect a fallen bird’s nest, an odd-shaped stick, or a dead bug, there has to be room on the Wall of Weird for it to come home with us. (Sometimes, interesting crafts make it on to the wall as well.)

5. Guided Drawing

If you haven’t tried the Art for Kids Hub videos on You Tube yet, you’re in for a fun afternoon! These easy-to-follow guided draw videos are our favorite way to spend a rainy day… and sometimes a sunny one. Some videos are easy enough for a pre-schooler, but many are challenging even for me. This activity may not fit the bill for reducing screen time, but it’s definitely worth the extra minutes (or hours) in our house.

6. Make Shaped Crayons

Any chance you have a few broken crayons in your home? Maybe a few hundred? If so, this activity can keep your kids busy for an entire day. Not kidding. All you needs are lots of crayons and a silicon candy mold. First, have the kids find all the crayons that are too broken to use or are nubby duplicates of newer ones. Have them sort by color. Then they peel off the paper of each one. After that, place the crayon bits into the candy mold shapes. Mix colors if desired. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees until they start to harden. Voila – “new” shaped crayons for the kids to use during guided drawing! They also make great gifts. We’ve printed coloring pages and attached several fun-shaped crayons to create gifts for friends.

7. Fort-building

With older kids or young kids, indoor or outdoor, soft and cozy or challenging and maze-like, forts are always a family favorite! To change things up a bit, we sometimes set up a huge tent in the house (along with other accessories) for indoor camping.

8. Sensory Obstacle Course

When I hear “obstacle course”, my brain tends to immediately picture a ninja gym or gymnastics floor. However, an obstacle course can be set up anywhere! Sometimes, it might look like my kids shooting water guns at a target (or each other), stepping into buckets full of goo, crawling from one end of the yard to another, and ending with a little shaving cream play. Sometimes, the kids just leap over toys, roll under a table, and hop around on different surfaces. Sometimes, they do somersaults, a certain number of jumps on the trampoline, and then dig in the sand to find toys. No matter the location or the props used, obstacle courses always seem to satisfy my kids‘ sensory cravings! They also tend to be prompts for initiating independent play, which allows me a chance to sit down and catch up on a book.

9. Simple Science Experiments

Make It Rain Experiment

What kid doesn’t love science experiments?! Thankfully, there are hundreds options to copy from Pinterest or Google. The library is also a great resource to check out a book with dozens of ideas. I always look for experiments using ingredients we already have on hand and that can be done in under 15 minutes. What I‘be found is that my kids continue doing the experiment or a similar activity afterward. More independent play time for the win (and usually a bit of a mess to clean up afterward).

“Churning” Butter 🧈

11. Surprise a Neighbor

It can be any type of gift, any time year, and for any reason whatsoever… my kids love to be secret elves. We just come up with something simple, like a baked good or a funny theme or sometimes an envelope of cash for a friend in need. The kids then work hard on the gift and get to be super sneaky when they deliver it. This usually leads to an over-exaggeration of spy or ninja behavior, but they love leaving a gift somewhere on the porch or in an interesting spot in the yard without that friend seeing them. Occasionally, I will have to send a text to let our friends know to look out for something because it was hidden so well.

Thank you for reading! I would love to hear which activities work best in your home to reset your kids’ emotions. Please share in the comments! Also, if you try any of the 11 listed above, please post on Instagram and tag @DrippingWithKids.

Follow on Instagram or subscribe for more ideas…

Categories
Bucket list

Best of Fall in the Texas Hill Country, 2022

Your Fall Bucket List is Here!

Fall is here! Sometimes I think the ‘a’ in Fall should be changed to the letter ‘u’ because our calendar is so FULL… in the very best way imaginable. There’s just so much to do and so much to love about Fall in the Texas Hill Country.

We’ve already been checking off some of our Fall to-do list. I put the Halloween decorations up and pulled the orange and black T-shirts to the front of my kids’ drawers. I switched out the candles throughout the house from summery scents to pumpkin vanilla and honey apple. I’ve hung the leafy wreaths and garland throughout the house. I’ve stocked the kitchen with the best fall recipe ingredients. And last week, while running those essential errands, I tried the new Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato at Starbucks, which is a delicious mouthfull!

Now, it’s time to tackle our Fall Bucket List with all the places we want to go and things we want to do during this beautiful season of pumpkin patches, cute costumes, cooler temps, colorful leaves, and outdoor adventures. Feel free to join us!

Texas Hill Country Fall Bucket List (’22)

1. Visit a local farm and pumpkin patch.

PumpkinFest at The Pound House in Dripping Springs

At the homestead of the founding family of Dripping Springs, enjoy lawn games, a pumpkin patch, food trucks, live music, animal visits, photo opps, and beautiful picnic spots under the oaks. Also, the Founder’s Park playground is right next door. Admission prices vary. Check link above.

Sweet Eats Fruit Farm
About to enter the corn maze at the fall festival
Maze at the Sweet Eats Fruit Farm

Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to go back again to take another spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course, plus so much more.

Barton Hills Farm

You can find this farm and pumpkin patch along the scenic banks of the Colorado River in Bastrop, TX. Fall festival activities include a very complex corn maze, baseball and football toss, fall photo opps, train rides, tree fort, super slides, jumping pillow, fishing, face painting, and more. There will also be live music and a biergarten this year.

Sweet Berry Farm

The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, and horseback riding. Admission is free, but activities are charged individually.

2. Check out a local festival.

Dance in the streets at the Songwriters’ Festival in Dripping Springs

It’s a 3-day small-town music festival highlighting the best local talent on multiple stages. Enjoy music, food, friendly people, and adorable downtown shops on the weekend of Oct 14th-16th. In my opinion, the highlight of the weekend is the Gospel Brunch on Sunday morning at Hudson’s on Mercer. You can attend the showcases for FREE!

Support a local school at their Fall Festival

Enjoy Fall fair festivities, such as rock wall, cake walk, concessions, and games while supporting a local elementary school. Bring the kids to Dripping Springs Elementary School from 3 – 6 pm on Nov. 5th and/or Walnutpalooza on the same day from 12-4. Admission is free; tickets for activities and food sold on site.

Follow beautiful wings at the Monarch Celebration at Wildseed Farms

Enjoy the beautiful drive past vineyards and state parks to Fredericksburg, where you will find this fun stop with shopping, wine tasting, lunch options, wildflower trails, and butterfly gardens. Save the date for the Monarch Celebration on Oct 8th (9:30 am – 2:30 pm) during which there will be tagging demonstrations, followed by butterfly releases at 11:30 am and 2:15 pm.

Probst at Wurst Fest in New Braunfels

The food, music, dancing, carnival rides, and hours of German-inspired entertainment at the biggest festival of the year in the town of New Braunfels are all great reasons to travel south down I-35! The festival lasts for 10 days, and there are several opportunities for FREE admission. Check the link above. If you go on a Saturday, allow a little extra time in the morning for the New Braunfels farmers’ market in downtown.

Spend an afternoon at Boo Hole at Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley

This FREE family-focused event has so many fun activities on the schedule, from costume contests to wildlife exhibits to s’mores around the campfire. Make plans to spend Halloween eve in Wimberley! Schedule linked above.

3. Get creative!

Attend a free crafting class at Michael’s

In-store making is back! My kids and I love these free classes, and my daughter is especially excited for the Fall necklace project. Check out the offerings at your local store (link above).

Make Fall signs at Board and Brush

Most likely, there’s a Board and Brush near you with dozens of adorable signs to make for the Fall season. You can join an established workshop or book a private party. All signs can be personalized with name, color choices, and texture. It’s such a fun activity, especially with older kids! (Prices start at $35)

Build a kids’ project at Home Depot

Head to your local Home Depot before noon on the first Saturday of the month (and the Sat after Thanksgiving) to create unique woodworking projects for kids. You can also collect the patch, certificate, and token HD orange apron if you don’t have one yet. Upcoming projects include Scarecrow Napkin Holder on Nov 5th, Train Ornament on Nov 26th, and Santa Mailbox on Dec 3rd.

4. Peruse a farmer’s market.

Old Gruene Market Days

Find artisan crafts, beer and wine, tasty food, and nearby shops with sales on the third full weekend of the month and first weekend of December. Stick around for lunch at the Gristmill and free live music (fingers crossed!) at Gruene Hall.

Dripping Springs Farmer’s Market

Located near the historic Pound House (and DS Pumpkin Fest) in Founders’ Park, this Farmers’ Market has grown to include vendors from Dripping Springs and surrounding towns as well. It’s definitely worth stopping by on Wednesday afternoons for a thai dinner to go, locally grown produce, organic meat from sustainable farms, and live entertainment. Also, you can spend the rest of your evening at a family friendly brewery in the area.

Wimberley Market Days

Travel south on RR12 for a scenic drive and the 2nd largest flea market in Texas, held the first Saturday of every month (Mar – Dec) from 9 am to 4 pm. Grab a glass of wine, browse the shops, pop in the candy store or Scoops Frozen Yogurt for a treat for the kiddos, and then walk the trail along the creek behind downtown to skip rocks, play on the playground, or wade in the water. If it’s a particularly hot day, check out Cypress Falls Swimming Hole.

5. Go back in time!

Texas Renaissance Festival
Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston, TX

My kids beg to return to this festival every year. They love the costumes, the accents, the shows, the rides, the games, and the feeling of time travel. It’s a bit of a drive from the Hill Country, but camping sites are available next to the festival grounds. Children 12 and under are FREE on Sundays. Advanced tickets required.

Pioneer Farms

This living history farm offers guided tours and classes, such as blacksmithing and Texas swing dancing. Visit a Tonkawa Indian Encampment, a German Emigrant Farm, a Texian Farm, a Cotton Planter’s Farm and a rural village called Sprinkle Corner all in one day. You can also get tickets for their special event, Pumpkin Nights, which has the entire farmstead lit up with fantastical Halloween decorations and pumpkins everywhere.

The Dinosaur Park
The Dinosaur Park in austin, TX

Go prehistoric and make your kids’ day by walking a trail to find large dinosaurs and dino clues in the woods. Then, play on the playground, dig for fossils, take hilarious photos, and guard your wallet (from your children) in the expansive gift shop. Drive a little further south and use your dino park wristband to enjoy 10% off lunch along the Colorado River at Neighbors Kitchen and Yard.

One final attraction worthy of this list yet not quite right for the above categories is Fortlandia at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We can’t wait to see the new forts in this highly-anticipated seasonal exhibit!

There’s so much to do in a short amount of time, but hopefully we can make quite a dent in this list. Let us know which is your favorite!

Categories
Family Traditions

2022 Easter in the Texas Hill Country

Plus 9 UNIQUE At-Home Easter Egg Hunt Themes

Easter is a BIG DEAL in our family, and we have the added bonus of two kids’ birthdays the day after Easter this year. It’s gonna be a full month!

Easter brings so much joy to our family, and the promise of new life that the holiday promises puts it up there with Christmas on how we honor it. I highly encourage you to find a church service to go to on Easter Sunday. Most churches have multiple services available.

I also encourage you to take advantage of the many fun events in the area to celebrate. Check out this list of Easter and Spring celebrations offered in Dripping Springs and nearby areas…

Weekend of April 8-10:

Bluebonnet Fest in Burnet
Weekend full of events, live music, gorgeous crafts and flowers, and kids’ activities in Burnet!
Crawfish Boil at Founders Park
FREE Crawfish Dinner at Founder’s Park in Dripping Springs, provided by Foundations Church… great opportunity to get to know neighbors!
Artisan Market, Live Music, Yummy Pizza, and Great Beer at Family Business Beer Co. in Dripping Springs. Get some goodies for your kids’ Easter baskets!
Egg Hunts and Festival at Bannockburn S Austin
Super Fun Block Party and Egg Hunts at Bannockburn in South Austin – don’t be late and bring your basket!
Easter Party at Bethany Lutheran
Easter egg hunts, petting zoo, bunny face painting, train rides, carnival swing ride, empty tomb scene, food and coffee trucks and the Easter Bunny at Bethany Lutheran in Austin!

Weekend of April 15-17:

Egg Hunt at Suds Monkey
Annual egg hunt is back at Suds Monkey… enjoy pizza and their new location on 290 in Dripping Springs!
Easter Weekend at 12 Fox Beer
Always a great time at 12 Fox Beer’s Events, especially the Easter Party… Even the adults get in on the fun!
Easter at Addison Grove
Easter service, egg hunts, and family photos at a special location in Austin!
Brunch and Egg Hunt at Duchman Winery
Yummy Brunch, Egg Hunts, and Beautiful Scenery at Duchman Winery in Driftwood!
Service and Egg Hunts to follow.
Egg hunts will follow Easter Service at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church.

If all of the events listed above still don’t give you your Easter fill, below is a list of my favorite at-home egg hunt themes. You can make a whole weekend out of egg hunting with these options and keep those kiddos happy for hours on end.

1. Trick or Treat (or April Fools) Egg Hunt... Fill most of your eggs with goodies and trinkets, but reserve about 25% of them for tricks instead of treats. They can be filled with rocks, fake money, dried up flowers, or pieces of paper with chores and dares written on them. The only caveat to participate is that you have to agree to take the bad with the good.

2. Tickets and Prizes Egg Hunt… Instead of filling eggs with tiny toys and candy that you may not want your children to have, put 1-5 tickets in each egg instead. Then, once all the eggs have been found, let kids redeem their tickets for bigger gifts, prizes, and coveted snacks.

3. Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt… Wait until after dinner to stuff and hide eggs that each have a glow stick and a treat inside. (You’ll need the large plastic eggs to pull this off.)

4. Mission Impossible Egg Hunt… Section off your house or yard to hide eggs at varying levels of difficulty. Let hunters begin in an area where the eggs are easy to spot and collect, then move on to an area where they’re hidden a bit more inconspicuously, and finally move to an area where egg-collection requires climbing, crawling, digging, and uncovering.

5. Party-themed egg hunt… If you were to throw a birthday party for your child(ren) this month, what would the theme be? Superheroes? LOL dolls? Mickey Mouse? Sports? Whatever that theme would be, fill the eggs with party favors, balloons, tattoos, stickers, and treats related to it. Add a few confetti eggs to the mix as well.

6. Snack frenzy egg hunt… Buy up all of your kids favorite snacks in individual bags. Then print thumbnail size pictures of the logos of each type of snack (adding up to the total number of bags you have). When they collect eggs and open them, they can exchange their logo picture for the real thing.

7. Good deeds egg hunt… In the spirit of the season and amidst all the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can all do a bit more for our friends, family, and community. Spread joy with an egg hunt that has ideas for random acts of kindness that can be performed on the days following Easter. Fill several eggs with candy and treats and many others with ideas, like “draw a picture and send to a grandparent”, “drop off coloring pages and crayons in the mailbox of a young family in the neighborhood”, “call a friend you haven’t seen in a long time”, “paint rocks with words of encouragement and drop them along a walking trail”, “create a list of feel-good songs and mail them to a friend, along with an invitation for a virtual dance party”, “drop encouraging bits of scripture in all the neighbors’ mailboxes”, “write a thank you note to a hospital ER”, etc. You can customize a flyer created by Austin Ridge Church to drop on your neighbors’ porches, offering help.

8. Game Night Egg Hunt… Buy, borrow, or dig out of a closet a few board games, lego sets, or jigsaw puzzles. Hide pieces in plastic eggs and when all are collected and opened, have a family game night. (If you have time to plan ahead, have a puzzle made with your family picture on it.)

9. Arts and Crafts Egg Hunt… Fill eggs with kids’ favorite crafts items, such as googly eyes, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, chalk, play doh or clay, string, poms, mini-paints, beads, erasers, ribbons, stickers, etc. Then, provide empty mason jars to categorize and store all of their new crafting supplies, and let them be creative the rest of the day. This variety pack on Amazon has it all!

Finally, I’d like to add that resurrection eggs are a fantastic way to incorporate worship into your secular celebrations. There are many resources online to make them yourself or you can have them shipped pre-made along with a book. However you choose to celebrate this very special holiday, I hope it’s an Easter to remember and that it brings the promise of new life and redeeming love to your family. Happy hunting!

Categories
Bucket list

Get Your Dinosaur Fix in Austin, TX

Where to find dinosaurs with your kids!

Dinosaurs seem to capture the attention and imagination of children and adults alike. A museum visit might not even count in the mind of a child unless a dinosaur exhibit is included.

My favorite place to learn about dinosaurs as a kid was the Museum of Natural Science in Houston, TX. I loved seeing those massive skeletons and hearing about how they lived. It’s a must-see attraction in the heart of the big city’s museum district, but you don’t have to go all the way to Houston to satisfy your kid’s (or your own) dinosaur obsession.

Check out these dinosaur hot spots in Austin and its surrounding towns!

The Dinosaur Park

  • Bastrop, TX
  • Thurs – Sun, 10 am – 4 pm
  • $10-$11/person
Dino Park, Bastrop, TX

We LOVE this park. My kids really enjoy walking the trail of dinosaur replicas, exploring the gift shop, digging for fossils, and playing on the playground.

If you want to extend your visit to Bastrop , here are suggestions for enjoying a full day (or weekend) in the cute little town.

Texas Memorial Museum

  • Austin, TX – UT Campus
  • Tues – Sat, 9 am – 5 pm
  • $5-$7/person
Texas Memorial Museum, Austin

Considered Texas’s first state museum, the TMM has a history to tell itself, while also showcasing the natural history of this great state in exhibits ranging from valuable specimens in the Great Hall to the dinosaurs and other wildlife unique to Texas. If your family is excited to participate in a dino dig after checking out the skeletons at the TMM, travel a few minutes away to…

Austin’s Nature and Science Center

  • Austin, TX – Zilker Park Area
  • Mon-Sat, 9 am – 5 pm; Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm
  • FREE
Digging for Fossils, Austin Nature and Science Center

At the Nature and Science Center, the most popular attraction for my kids is the Dino Pit, where they can dig through a huge sand pit for fossils and random left-behind toys. But there is also a beautiful garden and trail, a unique hands-on museum, and live animal exhibits to explore.

Champions Park

  • Cedar Park, TX
  • Public Park , FREE
Champions Park, Austin

Another option for a dino dig is Champions Park, where the kids can also climb on stone dinosaur parts, run through the splash pad, ride bikes on the paved trails, and swing to their hearts’ content at the playground.

If you’re up for a day trip, here are a couple great dinosaur options just a bit further out of town…

Witte Museum

  • San Antonio, TX
  • Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • $10-$14/person

Located in Brackenridge Park, known for its significance in Native American history and also for exciting playgrounds and the San Antonio Zoo, is the Witte Museum, Here, you’ll find exhibits all children and adults will love, including dinosaur bones and replicas. Go for the museum; stay for the variety of attractions in the park.

Mayborn Museum

  • Waco, TX – Baylor University Campus
  • Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 1 pm – 5 pm
  • Special Exhibit, Jan 29 – May 1, 2022
  • $8-$10/person

The Mayborn Museum is one of our favorite road trip destinations, and now they’ve added a special exhibit inspired by the favorite kids’ show, Dinosaur Train. Visitors will get to hop on board to travel through the prehistoric eras, learning about their most fascinating inhabitants.

This museum is very hands-on with a variety of exhibits. Allow a lot of time for exploration. Then, squeeze in a quick visit to the Mammoth National Monument for more prehistoric discoveries.

Mammoth Site, Waco TX

Extend the Learning and Fun…

Hope you get your dinosaur fix at one or all of these attractions! To make the car ride more interesting or extend the learning, order these amazing My First Dinosaur Flash Cards, encyclopedia, or sticker books in advance.

Categories
Bucket list Hiking

Austin’s Nature and Science Center

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing our experiences often in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

❌ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground nearby

✅ Free Admission for Science Exhibits, Play Area, and Trails

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

Trail leading to Austin Nature and Science Center

In the heart of Austin, among the many Zilker Park attractions and trails, lies a unique center with multiple attractions drawing adults and children alike to explore and discover the best parts of nature and the science behind it. We’re excited to share everything we love about Austin Nature and Science Center! (2389 Stratford Drive, Austin, TX)

Unique Museum and Science Center

Austin Nature and Science Center hands-on exploration

As you walk through the doors of the Nature Center, you’ll first be pleased to discover that there’s no admission fee. It’s FREE!

But then you’ll soon be mesmerized even more by the opportunities to explore bug and animal skeletons, 3D maps, furs, fossils, and other fascinating artifacts. It might be tempting to stay inside for your whole visit, experiencing the hands-on science exhibits, but make sure you leave time to explore the great outdoors as well.

The Animals!

Exhibit at Austin Nature and Science Center

There are multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals native to Texas, including snakes, fish, amphibians, raccoons, bobcats, and birds of prey.

Dino Pit

Dig for fossils in the Dino Pit at Austin Nature and Science Center

If you’re with little ones, this hike will be very slow-moving because there are many stops for kids along the paths. The most popular attraction for my kids is the Dino Pit, where they can dig through a huge sand pit for fossils and random left-behind toys. (If you have a dinosaur lover, add a short trip to Bastrop to your itinerary.)

Beautiful Garden and Splashable Stream

Find tadpoles in the stream at Austin Nature and Science Center

While you might think the trail that goes around the stream is meant to prevent you from venturing into the water, you’d be wrong. I have seen many children with nets in the stream catching tadpoles and water bugs. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna surrounding the water, as well as the little swimmers in it.

About that Hike We Promised…

View of Lady Bird Lake on Hike and Bike Trail

After taking it slow and exploring everything the Nature and Science Center has to offer, extend your day with a stroll or a run along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. You could make the hike as short or as long as you want. There are maps everywhere, guiding you to a path that suits your individual staying power.

Boat rental on Lady Bird Lake

There is so much more to do in this lovely pocket of Austin than just what’s listed above. As you wander around, you can’t miss the many opportunities to learn a little history, rent a boat, roll down a hill, or just linger on the lawn. We definitely recommend packing a lot of snacks and a meal or two. Once you get there, you won’t want to leave!

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

Categories
Hiking

Mayfield Park in Austin

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

❌ Swimming (seasonal)

❌ Bathrooms

❌ Playground and Sports Fields

✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails

❌ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

In the heart of Austin, just down the road from the famous Mount Bonnell, lies a beautiful park with unique flora and entertaining fauna, as well as a shaded trail system. We’re excited to share everything we love about Mayfield Park, Nature Preserve, and Trails! (3505 W. 35th St., Austin, TX 78703)

The Animals!

As soon as you walk up, you’ll be greeted by an ostentation of peafowl, perched in the trees, guarding the walls, and roaming the grounds. They’re active, loud, and beautiful. Spring is the best season to visit so you can witness their mating calls and dances, but they’re full of stories and surprises anytime you go. Don’t let the peafowl distract you too much from the gorgeous koi ponds, though. Those are definitely worth checking out as well.

Beautiful Gardens

This park is the perfect spot for photo ops. With multiple gardens full of vibrant flowers and towering trees, you can’t help but get a few framers while also learning a lot about local flora.

Variety of Meandering Trails

While the trails aren’t really stroller-friendly, they are a lot of fun for ambling children and adults alike. 23 acres is a lot of space to wander through, and with multiple forks in the trail, you can get lost on purpose while discovering additional wildlife and searching for the tributary of the Colorado River bordering the park.

Unique Museum and Sculpture Garden Next Door

After entertaining yourself with the peafowl, koi, and maze of trails, seek out the Contemporary Museum and Laguna Gloria just down the road. You can explore the beautiful grounds, a sculpture park, and an historic home full of modern art. Check website for admission fees and to make reservations.

Whether you’re looking to add on a little additional fun to your trek up Mt. Bonnel or wanting a cool activity to keep your kids entertained, we highly recommend blocking off an entire morning or afternoon to get to know this unique and beautiful destination of This Week’s Hike!

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

Categories
Bucket list Hiking

Reimers Ranch Park in Dripping Springs

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

✅ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

❌ Playground and Sports Fields

❌ Free Admission for Park and Trails

(Cash ONLY for admission – $5/person 12+)

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

On the famed Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs, just a few miles from one of the most popular travel destinations in our area, lies a beautiful and diverse park that offers river access, a cave, miles of trails, and additional surprises for visitors of all ages. We’re excited to share everything we love about Milton Reimers Ranch Park!

The Beach!

Public access to the Pedernales River with opportunities to swim, float, kayak, fish (white bass), and cliff jump is one of the top reasons to visit Reimers Ranch Park. You can park at the top of the hill and get a short hike in (300 yards) before jumping in the water to cool off. The beach area extends as far as the eye can see and allows plenty of space to claim your spot. Be sure to brings chairs or picnic blankets, along with water shoes, because it’s a pebble beach, and those little rocks get hot! Also, the park (and beach area) can close due to capacity limits, so be sure to arrive early or near dinner time to ensure a spot.

Variety of Trails

There are primitive, equestrian, hike and bike, and multi-use trails, as well as paved roads for every type of transportation and level of hiking experience. The multi-use trails offer little shade so be sure to prepare by wearing sunscreen and a hat, as well as packing extra water.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Whether you’re a novice boulder-jumper or experienced rock climber, Reimers Ranch offers multiple locations to practice. Some of our favorites are just past the cave (see below) and across the river from the beach. There are also additional climbing areas marked along the main road, none of which we’ve attempted yet.

Cave Exploration

Upon entering the park, ask for directions to the canyon or cave. (You’ll get a kick out of its name!) If no one is there to guide you, travel along the main road until you reach the parking lot for the “Rock Climbing Trailhead”. There is a covered pavilion and several picnic tables, as well as bathrooms.

To find the trailhead, follow the path between the bathrooms southbound on foot. About 100 yards along the path, you’ll see a small temporary sign that guides you to a rocky stepped trail down toward the creek. Follow the trail to the right to get to the cave and additional interesting trails.

The trail to the canyon requires a bit of traversing and may be difficult for young children or elderly hikers. Along the trail to the canyon, you’ll find multiple streams for wading, as well as climbing opportunities.

Beautiful Wineries and Fun Breweries Nearby

After a full day of swimming, biking, climbing, and/or hiking, travel just a bit further to discover one of Dripping Springs’ finest vineyards: Hamilton Pool Vineyard and Farms. Also, just a 10-15 minute drive away are several breweries with more than just a cold beer to offer. Check out our favorites!

Whether you’re a Dripping Springs resident or visitor, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Hamilton Pool Preserve, and while it’s a beautiful site, you definitely don’t want to miss the equally beautiful sights at Reimers Ranch Park just down the road.

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

7 Best VBS Camps in the Austin Area: 2022

It’s only March. Spring has barely begun, but every parent knows it’s time to start summer planning. And VBS is often at the core of those plans.

Summers are what memories are made of, and that puts a lot of pressure on vacation and camp decisions. But the excessive options for summer are beyond overwhelming! There is a camp for every possible interest in the world, especially if your budget is limitless. After reading through countless camp lists and trying out a variety of them with my first two kids, I’ve definitely learned something…

VBS 1

I will always say ‘yes’ to at least one VBS each summer! I’m completely amazed by how much planning, time, and faith is put into vacation bible schools, and I am thrilled that my children get to experience that kind of joy. It moves me to tears every time I hear them singing the songs they learn in VBS, and I love it even more when I hear them relating what they learn in the summer to future Bible lessons throughout the year.

And what makes VBS even better? The price tag (well.. the lack of one)!

VBS 2

If you’re searching for a VBS to send your children to this summer, here is a list of some wonderful options in the Austin area and the Texas Hill Country that are currently or will soon be open for registration:

  • Bannockburn Dripping Springs and South Austin for age 3 through 5th grade. Theme: Make Waves. Dates: June 20-23. (Registration opens March 14th.) Morning and evening options available. Cost: $10-$15, includes T-shirt.
  • Bethany Lutheran Church has VBS for PK3(potty-trained) through 5th grade. Theme: Monumental. Dates: June 20-23, 9 am – noon. Cost: $20, includes T-shirt.
  • Dripping Springs United Methodist Church is debuting a Family VBX Camp, for children infancy through 12th grade. Theme: Make Waves. Dates: July 19-21, 5:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $25, includes dinner. (Also offering mini VBS Camps for kids on June 8th, June15th, and Aug 3rd, 9 am – 1 pm.)
  • Lake Hills Church starts at incoming kinder age. Theme: Time to Spy. Dates: June 6-9, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Cost: Unknown
  • Woodlawn Baptist Church has summer sleepaway camps scheduled. No update on VBS yet.
  • First Baptist of Dripping Springs has “High Voltage” camp for completed Kinder through 5th grade. July 5-7, 9 am – 1 pm. Cost: $10, includes T-shirt and lunch. Space is limited.
  • Austin Ridge Bee Cave has Camp Ridge Kids starting at age 3 (potty trained) – 5th grade. Theme: Summer Blast. Dates: July 11-14, 9 am – noon. Cost: Unknown, registration opening soon.

MORE INFO ON VBS OPTIONS TO COME…

If you’re looking to plan other activities for this summer, check out our past Summer Bucket Lists.

Categories
Hiking

Bee Cave Sculpture Park Trail

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

❌ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

❌ Playground and Sports Fields

✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails

❌ Stroller-friendly Trails

❌ Reservations needed

Just a few miles north of Dripping Springs and about 25 minutes west of Austin lies a hidden sculpture park and adjacent trail leading to shops and restaurants in Bee Cave, TX, which is the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Bee Cave Sculpture Park!

The Art

Sharing a parking lot with the Bee Cave Police Department located on Highway 71 is this unique sculpture park with permanent and rotating exhibits. Kids will love trying to identify the sculptures and taking funny pictures with them. The trail meandering through the exhibits is stroller and kid-friendly. There’s also a beautiful pond to picnic next to and hunt for frogs.

Easy (but rocky)Trails

Adjacent to the sculpture park is a wide rocky trail going eastward. It takes you a short distance to an open green space with another pond. This trail is not stroller-friendly, but it leads you to the Shops at the Galleria. The distance is approximately 1/2 mile. After reaching the back of the Shops, there is a trail loop that can be walked to add more distance.

Great Playgrounds

The trail leads you directly to two restaurants with great playgrounds: Mandola’s Italian Kitchen and soon-to-open Louisiana Crab Shack.

If you’re looking to enjoy unique art and then burn calories before indulging in a delicious meal and a bit of shopping, this is a great way to spend a late morning with the kids!

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

Categories
Bucket list Hiking

Guadalupe River State Park

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

✅ Swimming

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground

✅ Reservations needed

❌ Stroller-friendly Trails

❌ Free admission

Just north of San Antonio, east of Boerne, and about an hour from Dripping Springs sits one of our favorite state parks and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Guadalupe River State Park:

The River

In the summer, it’s the perfect swimming hole. In the winter, it’s fun for skipping rocks and trying to traverse temporary rock bridges without falling in. During any season, this spot on the Guadalupe River is the start of a 5-mile paddling trail for kayakers, tubers, and paddle-boarders. (Check water levels before dropping in though.)

Easy to Moderate Trails

On the south side of the River, all the trails are easy to moderate, which is perfect for a family with young children. I would not recommend strollers for these trails. We tried that once, and there was more stroller-carrying than stroller-pushing. Our younger kids could easily handle the Turkey Sink Trail, the Bald Cypress Trail, and the Scenic Overlook Trail. The trails vary in length throughout the park from .2 miles to 2.8 miles.

The Views

There are multiple cliffs and a scenic overlook to get great views of the River below and the surrounding Hill Country.

A Story Walk

Currently, there is a story walk on the Discovery Center Loop trail. Getting to the next page in the book was a great motivator for my 3-year-old to keep hiking.

The Discovery Center

Unfortunately, the Discovery Center is currently closed, but it’s definitely worth visiting when it re-opens! (Pics taken in 2019.)

More Challenging Trail Options

The Bauer Unit on the north side of the river, which requires a drive from the state park entrance to another entrance about 6 miles away, offers 8 miles of more challenging/remote trails, as well as a visit to the historic Bauer House.

Guided Tours

On Saturday mornings only, guided walks through the Honey Creek State Natural Area are available, and they start inside the park at the Rust House.

A Small Playground

Near the bathrooms by the River, there is a small playground with a couple swings, two fireman’s poles, and an old metal slide. It was enough to keep my 5-year-old from wanting to leave the park.

Clean Bathrooms and Changing Areas

The park has recently remodeled the bathrooms and changing areas in the river -access parking lot.

The Wildlife

Visit the bird blind to check out the many flying Texas species that frequent the area, including the Barred Owl. There are also equestrian trails for horse-lovers and free fishing equipment you can check out from the ranger station. On our recent trip here, an armadillo scurried right in front of us searching for his next dig site.

Great Towns Nearby

After a visit to the park, you can take the short drive into San Antonio to stroll the Riverwalk or enjoy dinner at the Pearl District. An even closer option is the cute small town of Boerne where you can do more hiking along a river or enjoy a beautiful evening on one of their local restaurant patios.

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Guadalupe River State Park the next time the sun is shining! Also, if you’re into camping, it appeared that the park has several beautiful spots to pitch your tent.

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

I Just Can’t… again.

Pandemic Parenting

“I just CAN’T do this.” I whisper this sentence in a strained, hoarse voice to my husband after a long day. A day of watching videos from our district superintendent and texting with friends about what this school year *might* look like. A day of constantly quieting two screaming preschoolers by playing whatever it is they want. A day of breaking up sibling snack spats and wrestling a remote out of kids’ hands. A day of extricating my flip flops from a new puppy’s sharp teeth.

By the end of the day, I’m not only burned out from endless mommy-ing duties, but I’ve also had my fill of volatile debates regarding back-to-school decisions and mask-wearing. I go to bed feeling lucky and blessed that my children have a safe place to lay their heads at night and a mother who is able to stay home with them, but tomorrow, when faced with more of the same changes, I fear I just CAN’T all over again.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, this awful contraction has become such a huge part of my vocabulary and self-talk for years now. Apparently, it’s amplified during a pandemic. There just seems to be so many things I can’t do…

I can’t convince my 13 year old to give up You Tube videos as her primary source of information and entertainment.

I can’t stop multiple children from desperately needing my attention all day long.

I can’t handle one more minute of divisiveness and hatred on social media, yet I can’t put my phone down.

I can’t determine whether it’s safe to go inside the grocery store.

I can’t finish a sentence or make a decision without self-doubt immediately following…………..

Yeah, I could go on for hours.

Unfortunately, “can’t” is easier said than done. Most of the time, I have no choice but to move forward and do what I feel like I can’t.

Thankfully, just as I recognized that this phrase started entering my brain regularly again, I remembered the previous blog post I wrote with the same title. I re-read my words about the impact one of my favorite books, Love Does by Bob Goff, had on my life two years ago when I was struggling during those *easy* days of pre-pandemic parenting. Bob Goff’s positive perspective was such an awesome reminder that love does even when I feel like I can’t. In a chapter titled, Hearing Aid, Goff wrote, “…[God] doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”

On my most challenging days, my love for the people placed in my life is what keeps me going, and with that little change in perspective, I’ve been able to reflect on the good during these last 5 months of forced family time.

Despite the chaos, we’ve managed to discover more ways to have fun at home together. We’ve connected with friends and family in a deeper way than ever before, even if it’s just been via phone or silly videos. We’ve learned to problem solve as a family unit, recognizing the importance of each voice in the decision. And we’ve practiced talking through the anger and the disappointments of 2020 often, following that up with intentional gratitude-sharing. We’ve leaned further into our faith and recognized the power of mindset and prayer.

The bonds built between my children, as well as with those who have walked alongside us during all of this recent uncertainty, has provided a renewed hope and motivation. In scanning through the pictures, texts, and posts from the last 5 months, I rest assured that one day, when I look back on the 2020 that was, I’ll be able to say to myself:

I just CAN.

Below is a list of simple activities and outings that have made this never-ending and challenging summer one of the most memorable yet, and these represent the good I hope my family and I will take with us.

1. Walks and bike rides to our local city park and swimming pool

2. Neighborhood scavenger hunts and backyard obstacle courses

3. Exploring trails and greenbelts close to home

4. Taking day trips to small Texas towns

5. Random science and baking experiments

6. Creative date nights in, like money dates and re-living our honeymoon through cocktails and pictures

7. Themed days, such as Pancake Day, Under the Sea, and Unexpected Christmas

8. Spontaneous family visits

9. Picnics with friends

10. Random acts of kindness between siblings and for friends in need

11. Slow mornings at home with coffee and quiet porch time

I’d love to hear how you’ve made the most of this time with your family. Please share in the comments below what you have found to be the most memorable about this period of pandemic parenting.

Categories
Family Traditions

Easy, Frugal Crafts for Kids (with a Purpose)

This morning, my floor was covered in multi-colored pom poms, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, crayons, glue sticks, googly eyes, straws, and empty plastic baggies. Our sweet preschool teachers have been sending home adorable art project ideas and random crafts items. The kids and I have a blast making frog masks, hungry caterpillars, watercolored paper chickens, and sunny scenes with stickers…. but, what am I supposed to do with all of these beloved projects when they’re done? My children are home all the time as we continue to shelter in place, and they are very aware of every single art project they’ve created and where it last hung or which window it was sitting in.