Local Resources for Kids and Parents

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A beautiful thing happened this week: The sun peeked out through the clouds, stayed in that position for more than five minutes, and radiated warmth.

You read correctly: Warmth—the snow-melting, puddle-creating, "all you really need is a light jacket" kind of warmth. Birds were chirping, bikes were pedaling, and children were running rampant through the streets. Maybe it wasn't complete anarchy, but screams and laughter from the helm of Big Wheels filled many a neighborhood in West Michigan. With the kids itching to stretch their legs and burn off the energy they've been storing since November, parents are asking the same question: "What the hell am I going to do with these animals?"

If we're being honest, a day trip or weekend adventure sounds less painful than another round of Chutes & Ladders or viewing of Frozen. (No offense, Queen Elsa). If you're looking for a destination that will keep the troops entertained and reward you with a nap when the fun is over, we've got a few ideas. With a variety of nature sites, fun programs, and great entertainment, there's bound to be something both you and the kids will love.

By incorporating interaction into exhibits, museums in West Michigan offer opportunities for hands-on entertainment that kids and parents can enjoy together. The Grand Rapids Art Museum hosts two different family-oriented programs—Purposeful Play + Artful Learning, which offers discovery packs that give a guided exploration of various exhibits for the added bonus of learning during a family visit, and the GRAMStudio, which is open every Saturday between 1 and 4 p.m. for families to create their own art.

Onto the obvious: The Grand Rapids Children's Museum. With activities that encourage exploring, help with creativity development and provide space for kids to touch, move, and interact (many of which they cannot do at other fun places like the grocery store or china aisle at Target), the museum is a perfect setting for a family afternoon. You can find daily events and activities, as well as location information, on the Grand Rapids Children's Museum Facebook page.

Spring Break for Kids
The Grand Rapids Ballet will host its annual Spring Break for Kids event April 7-9. This year's "Carnival for the Animals" half-hour performance includes pre-performance activities such as free trial ballet classes and costume dress-up. The $5 ticket fee also offers a chance to win prizes. Tickets are available for purchase online, with options of two different times each day.

Explore Our Spaces
With places like Lorrie's Button and the Fish Ladder, Grand Rapids has various free spaces to visit and explore. Outside of Grand Rapids, Holland has the DeGraaf Nature Center . This reserve has trails to follow that are accessible for long walks or short explorations; marshes, ponds, and woodland serve as the perfect backdrop for imagination and curiosity. The center also holds various events that can be found on its website home page and summer classes for children and teens ages five through fifteen.

Further south in Battle Creek, the Binder Park Zoo hosts "Breakfast for the Animals." Zookeepers take groups of up to ten people to certain areas of the zoo and give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at feeding animals. This way, your tykes have the chance to both watch and feed the animals—a rare opportunity channeling everything your child typically wants (and tries to do) in a regular zoo visit.

Time to Bounce...
... And by that, we mean into the air. Grand Rapids recently became home to Sky Zone, a chain that has made its way around the United States and Canada. Sky Zone's floors and walls are lined with trampolines. More daring features include Sky Slam, trampoline launch pads that make slam dunks more springy (and possible), and a Foam Zone, which launches adrenaline junkies into a foam pit. The staff does a great job at securing spaces for all ages, making sure toddlers and older kids are not bouncing in the same space.

Looking for another chance to jump around? Holland's Crazy Bounce has up to fourteen different inflatable structures and hours specifically for toddlers, making the facility a great destination for the wee ones in your life. As an added bonus, parents are offered a reduced fee and all structures have no age limit, making it easy for adults to join in on the fun (and maybe squeeze in your cardio for the day).

West Michigan offers all kinds of activities to explore. Creating opportunities to expose your children to new things through creation and imagination will help with their growth and development ... and may just bring out the kid in you, too.

Contributed by Our Spring Fever Resource Director, a member of Five Star Real Estate.


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