Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


A Trip to the Marine Life Center

Marine Life Center Marine Life Center

If eelgrass isn’t actually seaweed, what is it? What’s the difference between kelp crab and Dungeness crab? How do sea stars move around? The answers to these questions, and other interesting facts about local sea life, can be found at the Marine Life Center at the Harbor Center on Roeder Avenue. This aquatic exhibit near Bellingham Bay has lots of creatures for kids to see and touch. And you can’t beat the price.

Eelgrass Meadow Bubble Pop inside the Bubble.

The Marine Life Center opened in 1986 and became an enclosed structure in 1995. All of the marine animals you’ll find at the Center come from the North Puget Sound, the San Juan region, and near Lummi Island. There’s a large open viewing pool, a touch pool, two large tanks, and a new Eelgrass Meadow Aquarium with a bubble inside that explorers can pop their head inside to see just what it’s like under the sea. The touch pool and the Eelgrass Meadow are definitely the two most popular features at the Marine Life Center for children, but they also have the chance to learn about salmon life cycles and various underwater ecosystems.

Thanks to support from the Port of Bellingham, the Northwest Discovery Project, admission sales, and private donations, the Marine Life Center is constantly working to improve and advance their facilities. They got a brand new roof this past November, and have plans to add more interpretive signs and replace two of the older tanks.

Under the Sea Kids can get up close and personal with some sea creatures.

The Marine Life Center had to say goodbye to Omar, a giant Pacific octopus that outgrew their space, in November 2007. He was moved to the Seattle Aquarium, but employees hope to bring another octopus to the facility for marine lovers of all ages to view and study.

When asked why she thinks the Marine Life Center is a great place to bring kids, employee Tristen Biando couldn’t find just one answer. “It’s only $1 for adults and fifty cents for kids, so it a pretty good deal.” She also noted that the Marine Life Center is open every day of the year, including holidays, so it’s always an option if you’re looking for an afternoon activity. “Plus, we’re right across the way from Zuanich Point Park, so a lot of families will stop by during a day at the park.”

Helmet Crab One crustaceous resident of the Marine Life Center.

Classes, parties, and other groups can also schedule field trips to the Marine Life Center at no extra cost besides general admission. For these small groups, Marine Life Center staff and volunteers will take some of the marine life out of their tanks and put them in clear, plastic buckets of water for closer inspection. “We also provide some basic information about the animals, but the lessons we teach vary depending on the group. We have preschoolers come in, but we also have groups of adults,” Tristen explained.

The Marine Life Center is located at 1801 Roeder Avenue. It is open every day of the year, from 11 AM to 5 PM during the winter and 10 AM to 5 PM in the summer. For more information about the Marine Life Center or to schedule a group presentation, call (360) 671-2431.

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12 Ways to Get Your Kid to Eat Vegetables

12 Ways to Get Your Kid to Eat Vegetables

Written By: Evelyn Turner

When scientists map our DNA, they’ll probably discover an “I hate vegetables” gene most children have inherited.  Despite your valiant attempts to get your kids to eat vegetables, sometimes it can feel like a losing battle.  Here are twelve easy tips that might help the pickiest of eaters get excited about vegetables or, really, any new food.

  1. Let them run wild in the produce department.  Do pomegranates or Brussels sprouts pique their curiosity?  Indulge and take some home.  You don’t have to buy servings for everyone, just a little so they can try a bite or two.
  2. Talk out loud when you are grocery shopping, comparing cereals for sugar content or selecting frozen vegetables (a medley versus carrots, for example).  They’ll start learning more about the food that magically appears on their plate.
  3. Have them help with meal preparation.  Studies show that the more the kids help in the kitchen, the more likely they are to eat the food.  They can rinse veggies, stir batters, and set the table. Kids are capable of helping with a variety of tasks.  Just make sure the tasks are age-appropriate.
  4. Watch the clock.  No juices or snacks for at least one hour before meals.  Hungry kids may be more motivated to eat what you serve at dinnertime.  If they can’t last that long, provide some veggies and dip as an appetizer to tide them over.
  5. Talk about the physical properties of the food – color, texture, shape, and aroma of the food.  Leave “tastes good” out of it.
  6. Does your child insist that ketchup makes everything taste better?  Let them dip their veggies in it.  At least the vegetables are being eaten at all.
  7. Dessert should not be used as a reward for eating veggies or new foods.  The message it sends to your child is, “Veggies must be really bad if Mom bribes me with ice cream!”
  8. Serve new foods with well-liked foods so their senses are not overwhelmed.
  9. Give them a choice.  “Greens beans or corn?”
  10. If your child refuses to try something new, use the “No thank you” bite approach. Teach them that it is polite to eat at least one bite of everything on their plate, whether they are at home or anywhere else. This will encourage them to try new things, and it teaches them good manners too.
  11. It takes 10 – 15 offerings before they accept a new food, which translates to 2 – 3 months. Again, use the “No thank you” bite method as a way of continuing to introduce a new food without pushing too hard.
  12. Be a good role model.  Eat your veggies.
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Memories and Traditions

When you hear the word “tradition,” you probably think of somber rituals where things of great importance are remembered and revered. Images of Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof” belting out “Tradition!” on a country road might come to mind. Tradition is a word that I always think about during the holidays. My family’s holiday traditions are definitely of the insignificant variety, but they’re also some of the memories that resonate the most strongly of my childhood.

Finding a Christmas Tree I'm not related to these people.

My family was never big on hanging outdoor Christmas lights, although we would usually drive around to see the elaborate displays of lights around town. And we definitely weren't the kind of family to go out and cut down a tree every year. In fact, we kept our artificial tree with built-in lights stored fully assembled in the garage year round.  I never realized that this was considered sacrilege by others until I came to college and my roommates insisted that we not only get a real Christmas tree, but that we drive out to Deming to cut it down as well.

Even with our fake tree, my family fully embraced decorating the interior of our house each Christmas, especially with homemade decorations. As soon as the first snow fell, we’d start making paper snowflakes to decorate the windows. It was always a surprise to see what design would unfold. My mom would also make ornaments for the tree using school photos of my sister and me on either side. When I was younger, I would reorient all the ornaments to make sure my photo was visible for all to see. As I grew older, in typical teenage fashion, I became much less excited about seeing my face on the tree every year.

Holiday Artwork  Get creative when decorating the house.

Since my mom worked for the school district, she had winter break with me and my sister. I remember spending a great deal of time in the kitchen, baking in anticipation of Christmas. We made sugar cookies every year because 1) frosting was always a great project to fill an afternoon with two housebound kids and 2) Santa would be expecting them. We also made candy, like Peanut Brittle and Divinity. I get a toothache just thinking about the various sweets that we created and consumed during Christmas.  

On Christmas Eve, my family eats a feast of appetizers. This is a great meal when you’re a kid; everything is just your size, and you get to eat with your hands and toothpicks. My mother always prepared a customary tray of veggies, but the main attraction was always fondue. Most fondues use a cheese mix, but we always boiled oil to make fried bread and steak. Every year, my dad and I would challenge one another to see who could withstand the most horseradish on their steak without tearing up. Pigs in a Blanket is another holiday staple at Carpine family Christmas Eve dinner.

As we digested our feast, we’d gather in the living room, lit with candles and the lights from the Christmas tree. My mother would take three presents out from under the tree: one for my sister, one for me, and one present for the family. My sister and I would tear open our presents at the same time because they were always the same thing: holiday pajamas. There is nothing quite like the bliss of brand- new, fleece pajamas on Christmas Eve. While other kids might balk at the practicality of such a gift (kids always need pajamas), I always thought it was a great way to kick-off the next twenty-four hours of gift opening. After my sister and I returned to the living room in our new duds, we’d both unwrap the family present, a new board game, which was promptly opened and played, despite my father’s verbal reluctance every year. Hearing my dad complain about having to play board games became a welcome and necessary part of our family’s Christmas tradition.

Christmas Movies Getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve.

With our bellies full but our appetites for presents just tempted, we’d set out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa and our parents would whisk us off to bed so visions of sugar plums could dance in our heads. Okay, so we’d really spend a couple hours watching “A Christmas Story” before bed, but I was trying to end on cultured note. But even if it was in front of the television, it was still time for my family to be together and that’s what matter most around the holidays.

Happy holidays from the family to yours!

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