There are some amazing and unusual dance and kid’s theater companies in Maryland and Washington D.C. We have some excellent places for kids to see performing arts as well as great places for them to take classes. Below is my list of some of the dance and theater places that I am aware of:
Places for Kid’s To See Performing Arts in Maryland
Candlelight Kids – The Candlelight Concert Society of Maryland offers a series of dance and musical performances that kids of all ages will surely enjoy. This year they are at Howard County Community College.
Imagination Stage – This is an amazing venue in downtown Bethesda, Md. They have professional performances in their theaters that kids love.
Footworks – Check the Footworks schedule to see when and where they are performing in Md.
Shenyun Chinese Dance – A fixture in the Washington DC – Baltimore area. Beautiful professional Chinese dance performances.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival – This festival occurs every year in Crownsville, Maryland (Near Annapolis) from August to October. There are usually more than a few family friendly performances, as well as wandering minstrels and dancers.
We’re definitely going to need before and after care for our children this school year (2018-2019).
We’ve started looking into what the standard options are, and we’re a little worried.
As a former teacher, I have seen what before and after care can be (a waste of children’s time, with some fun mixed in) and hope to find something better.
Idea Lab After School Program
Idea Lab is located in Ellicott City/Columbia on Route 108 near Red Branch Road. It specializes in STEM programs for kids, and it is one of the few places that will pick kids up from school and transport them. They pick up a schools that are within 5 miles (elementary and middle schools).
I’d note that you may not find it easy to navigate their website to determine the pickup options, but just give them a call — they definitely do offer this service.
They have some great options for STEM classes and activities after school. They offer classes in coding, 3D printing, cooking/baking, and more.
Another possibility is a martial arts program at one of a few locations around Howard County. The deal is that for about $450 dollars/month, a member of the martial art’s schools staff picks up your child up after school (walking or typically with a van) your child may get a snack, and then they take martial arts classes and have some free time to do homework.
The local Howard County martial arts schools with after-school programs that I know of are:
The public schools in Howard County all have on-site before and after care. Some of the programs are run by Howard County Parks and Recreation, and some are primarily run by the Columbia Association. This means you won’t have a choice–it’s either one or the other.
At our local elementary for example, before and after care is run by Columbia Association. It turns out, however, that there are “special programs” that are added on by the Howard County Parks and Rec. For example, they have a 12-session before school chess club running this fall from Silver Knights Chess.
Checking out the Recreation and Parks after care page, it definitely looks as if they have some good programs, but recently, we heard some parents complaining about this program one day while my girls were taking a ballet lesson–exactly what I am afraid of, basically frequent disorganization, and more of a babysitting service than anything else. I hope that’s not what I will find.
The following elementary schools have before and after care provided by Recreation and Parks:
Bellows Spring Elem
Bollman Bridge Elem
Bushy Park Elem
Dayton Oaks Elem
Deep Run Elem
Ducketts Lane Elem
Forest Ridge Elem
Gorman Crossing Elem
Hollifield Station Elem
Laurel Woods Elem
Manor Woods Elem
Pointers Run Elem
St. John’s Lane Elem
Triadelphia Ridge Elem
West Friendship Elem
As mentioned many of the local schools have programs offered by Columbia Association. There is an application on the website. You may find that your school has a waiting list for the before and after care. You can call them on 410-715-3000 to check on the waiting list. The following elementary schools have Columbia Association before and after care:
The Columbia Association programs are convenient, but certainly aren’t what I’d call cheap-basically you’re going to pay $183/month for before care starting at 7am, and $260 for aftercare until 6pm or both for $493/month (These are 2018 prices, subject to change! Financial aid is available) for before and aftercare. (They also offer a full-day program for days when school is closed for $55/day. See my list of other options for schools out camps)
So for that kind of money, and for spending so much of your child’s time, you can only hope for well-run, worthwhile offerings. The website states that the ratio of students to staff in this program are no more than 15 to 1. Also, worth mentioning is that they provide snacks (I hope they’re healthy snacks!)
So that’s one option, easy if you don’t get waitlisted, but what are the other options?
As mentioned earlier, some of the elementary schools also have special add-on aftercare programs that are available through Howard County Parks and Recreation or Columbia Association from local businesses. (ie-Chess, music lessons, yoga, sports, Girls on the Run, scouting–see my post about after school activities in Howard County!) You have to check with your school or browse through the online catalog to see what’s available and the additional costs.
If your student is a middle schooler, there are also programs at some schools run by Howard County Parks and Recreation called Can-Teen ($299/month). Details about the program and the registration forms are here. It is available at the following schools:
The Juicespresso Juicer is an amazing device for juicing fans. If you’re considering purchasing one, read my review.
The Juicespresso cold press masticating machines are very efficient at getting the juice out of various fruits and vegetables. You’ll be pleased that it will potentially lower your produce bill when compared to your old high-speed juicer. This juicer is compact, so it doesn’t take up much counter space (you’ll want to keep it out all the time!) and it is dishwasher safe.
I was using a Jack LaLane juicer that I purchased from Costco a few years ago, and was surprised by some of the differences. The two biggest being how effective the Juicespresso was at extracting juices compared to the Jack LaLane juicer, and two, one of the Juicespresso’s biggest bragging points: It’s so quick and easy to clean, it makes juicing much more convenient and fun.
Juicespresso machines run quietly and do a solid job of “squishing” the liquids out of fruits and vegetables. You’ll have to precut any item that won’t fit through the chute, which isn’t very large. You’ll definitely find some bits of fruit and vegetables in your juice as well. I think of this more as a plus, but some may not like that.
The resulting juice can be used right away or kept in the refrigerator for up to two or three days. This means that you may be able to get away with making juice twice a week, rather that once or twice a day. This is a time saver compared to the Jack LaLane because the juice from that device seemed to start to break down very quickly, so it needed to be used immediately.
Juicespresso is constructed with BPA-free plastic and comes with a seven year warranty.
Alternatives to Juicespresso
If the price tag for the Juicespresso juicers is too steep for you, consider purchasing a refurbished Omega Juicer on Amazon (About $190). The refurbished models are typical very difficult to tell from new and they great warranties, etc. not to mention you’ll save big compared to new Omega or Juicespresso Juicers.
Many home buyers and home sellers in Maryland are asking themselves whether or not they should use Redfin (RDFN) to buy or sell their home. They are worried about whether they’ll get the same service or somehow make less money, or do more work themselves if they use Redfin.
Redfin is great. It is NOT a do-it-yourself or for sale by owner (FSBO) service by any stretch–this is a myth that seems to be very common. You get the same service from qualified real estate agents, or better from Redfin as you do from traditional agents, only cheaper and often more efficiently.
I have sold my home in Howard County Maryland and bought new homes using agents from various well-known agencies and there has been no real difference at all–at least not on the downside. On the other hand, there have been some very important enhancements that I did not get using other agencies. Read my review below to find out more about why I wholeheartedly recommend choosing Redfin.
Homes sold with Redfin for more money than with traditional agents
Homes sold faster than with traditional agents, and 15% more homes sold within the first 90 days than with traditional agents
Those are just statistics, and your mileage may vary, but that’s really just the beginning of why Redfin is superior to agencies such as Long and Foster, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and Remax.
Redfin Charges You Less To Buy or Sell a Home
If you’ve done some reading then you know that Redfin is only charging a 1% commission for selling your home in some parts of the USA, including Maryland. This is a huge savings compared to the 3% traditional agents charge. When you use Redfin to help you buy a home, they give you a rebate on part of their commission (Ours was over $2,500)–so you will save money both buying and selling with them. But really, that’s just the beginning of the benefits of using this company.
That sounds great, but it’s going to make you wonder: Why is Redfin charging less money than regular agents, and what really are the differences? They say they make the money up in volume, and I am pretty sure this is true. Honestly, the traditional agencies should be worried, and they are starting to be.
My listing agent (the agent that helps you sell your home) from Redfin, lifelong Marylander Brandon Hoffman, sold 54 houses in Howard County, MD last year. That is a high number. Most real estate agents are going to sell an average of 5-15 properties per year. Obviously some agents do sell more than 54, but Brandon said that this volume of home sales keeps an agent very busy. Redfin’s agents always work as a team, so I never felt like I couldn’t get answers when I needed them. One way our agent balanced this was by only selling homes. He didn’t ever take people out to show them properties to buy. We used a different set of agents from Redfin for that.
Redfin Has Salaried Agents
Typical real estate agents work on commission only. If you think about it, that means they don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart–and studies of how real estate agents sell their own homes have proven this, including this one by Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (A fantastic, interesting book, BTW). Here is a quick summary in a video by the authors of the book–if you read the chapter in the book, you’ll get a much more in depth analysis about the incentives of commissioned real estate agents:
I know a few agents and they are definitely good people, but even so, their incentives and motivations may not always be in what you hired them to do for you.
Having an agent that is on salary is great–both when you are trying to buy a home or sell one. They really don’t care if you buy a house or not. In fact, Redfin agents get a bonus based on customer satisfaction surveys…so they want you to be happy and have a disincentive to be pushy. They are also encouraged to be honest, and I can tell you based on my experiences with the company that they definitely did share opinions on the homes we visited that I wouldn’t have expected from a typical agent.
Redfin Is In
Redfin gives you a few bonus items you may not have included with one of the usual suspect agencies. First off, they give you $250 towards fixing up your home to sell. This could include handymen to make repairs, landscapers, etc. You give them the receipt, they give you up to $250 back. It’s not that $250 is such a large amount, but it’s that they bother to put a bit more skin in the game. We used the money to have a handyman out to make some repairs for us. We sent them a receipt for the work, they mailed us a check. It was that simple.
Like most agencies, Redfin will create a brochure for your home. Redfin did a full color double-sided brochure, it was very professional and definitely added to our home’s marketing. Redfin also provides a photographer and a 3-D tour of your home.
Most agencies will help you get a photographer. Redfin gets you two, included in their service: One to take traditional photographs, the other to make a 3-D tour and a digitally created “dollhouse” and floor plan view of your home. Both of these help your home standout.
The Machine of Redfin
The Redfin website and the Redfin mobile app for Android or iOS are very popular with home searchers–even those not using Redfin to buy or sell a home. When you do list your home with Redfin, they give you an advantage over other listings by putting your home listing above other non-redfin results. This gives your property exposure other competing homes don’t have. It really worked well for us.
The home I sold with Redfin is nothing spectacular, and was market-priced, but we had quite a bit of traffic to our home. We had about 50 tours in 4 days with 10 offers tendered. This is as much about the housing marketed in Howard County Maryland as it is about Redfin, but I am confident that being on Redfin’s website helped us make this happen. What you should know is that when you list with Redfin, they do also syndicate your home with the MLS system, so your property will wind up on Zillow, Trulia, Realestate.com, and the other common real estate websites.
After the Sale
Redfin’s agents have gone way above and beyond the call of duty for us, getting us timely information quickly and working with us late into the night (even on weekends) on the sale of our old home and purchase of our new home. They did an amazing job of taking care of us and made us feel comfortable through the entire home sale and purchasing process. Again, I must point out that since they are on salary and get bonuses based on customer satisfaction surveys, their motives were different than many agents. I never felt any pressure whatsoever to sell or buy a home from them. I am sure they’d rather not waste their time, but being on salary clearly would make a big difference for many agents.
Another perk for Redfin is that the whole process is tracked in their website’s “home dashboard” where you can login and see what’s due, and get access to upload sensitive documents and sign papers electronically.
Redfin was excellent at providing recommendations for service providers after the contracts were written. They gave a very good recommendation for a home inspector for our new home–4U Home Inspection. Like Redfin, they handled appointment setup and payments online. Redfin’s agent was with us the entire time our new home was being inspected and they were able to provide additional knowledgeable explanations for the inspectors findings.
Our Redfin agent supported us the whole way through in negotiating additional repairs with the sellers and helped us to move our settlement up to the fastest possible closing. I was reassured the entire time.
Buying a Home With Redfin
We both bought and sold a home through Redfin. As mentioned earlier, our experience in house shopping with Redfin was very positive. We really liked using the Redfin app and website to find and “favorite” homes.
When my wife and I both found a home we felt might meet our needs, we would schedule a tour with the click of a button. These tours are “on demand” and you’re able to request a tour for just one house or as many as you can fit into a day. Generally, you just need to give a few hours notice and a Redfin agent will meet you to show the home.
We had one “main” agent (Dan Borowy) who would be the preferred agent to show us a home, but in practice, we worked with about 7 different agents that were on his team as we visited various properties around Laurel, Clarksville, Elkridge, and Ellicott City. That was fine with us as we liked each one of them and each one had their own styles and insights that were helpful for us to take along with us. In the end, several of them were our “eyes” and helped us by sending us to properties they had seen recently to may have been right for us.
When we finally found a property we wanted, the agent who showed us the property worked with our primary agent to get our offer in. With such a competitive market, they knew time was of the essence. I can tell you that our agent was happy to work well into the night on a Saturday evening getting our contracts together and submitting it. We could not have been more happy with the experience.
I had a really great home sale and home purchase experience working with the Howard County, Maryland Redfin Realty team. They were professional, honest and very responsive whenever I needed them. If you live in an area where Redfin is available, don’t hesitate–use their service. I know there will be plenty of non-Redfin agents who will take offense to this post, but I think it’s mainly because Redfin is successfully changing the real estate business model and they realize their is nothing they can do–although I do expect there will be Redfin competitors, I don’t think the old model has very much chance for survival in the coming years. Redfin is just too big of an improvement.
My customer review covers the Republic Wireless Mobile Phone Service with the Moto X gen 2, Moto E gen 2 and Moto G phones. This review is about the Republic Wireless 2.0 plan which isn’t available anymore. They have now launched a their 3.0 plan, so the information below is outdated.
“Stop wasting money on high-priced yearly contract phones. Get reliable, smarter service cheaper.”
• Get 1 gig of 3G data + unlimited phone/text/ service for $25/month–and they refund you for whatever amount of data you do not use–average refund of $8/month. Since you typically use WiFi for data, there is a good chance you won’t need an entire gig. (There are other plans available for as low as $5/month – see part 2 for complete details) • 30 Day No Hassle Money Back Guarantee. • NO CONTRACT – Month to month, cancel or change your plan at any time–in fact you can even change your plan right from your Republic Wireless phone.
• The Republic Wireless Motorola Moto X (first and second generation) is a first rate Android Smartphone that delivers speed, features and reliability. (Two more phones are also available: Motorola Moto G for $99-a great price for a decent phone and the Moto E 2nd gen for just $129.)
• No Hidden Fees – There are no roaming fees, etc.
• Republic Wireless has been in business for more than a year with thousands of customers. A division of bandwidth.com, so this isn’t a scam or fly-by-night company. They were just rated #2 in PC Magazine’s reader’s choice among all of the mobile carriers in the USA.
• Republic Wireless will gives you credit on your bill for unused data from your data plan. This is a new feature that only applies to certain plans, but to be sure, this is very innovative.
Republic Wireless provides low cost mobile phone service based on the Moto G 3rd Gen and Moto E 2nd Gen Android Smartphones. Voice, Data & Texting service is provided through the Sprint network when you are on the go (roaming is included), and via WiFi when you are at home, in the office or outside of the USA/Canada.
The Motorola Moto G 3nd gen is an excellent high-end 4G LTE phone–it is very well reviewed and has a respectable list of features–this is clearly one of the best phones on the market at this time. You must purchase your phone upfront–but you will save money in the long run–and probably quite a bit. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to try Republic Wireless, keep in mind that they offer a money back guarantee for a month, so that will give you a chance to try out the phone service.
The Motorola Moto G is a mid-range phone that has great features. At $199, this is a great phone to get started saving money with Republic Wireless. The Moto G is a very good phone at the relatively unheard of off-contract price of $199, it is a steal. It has some respectable features based on Android Lollipop 5.1. It is 3G and 4G LTE ready and it comes with 8 or 16 gigs of memory but can be expanded with a 32gig SD card. It’s camera is a auto-focus and shoots up to 13 megapixels. The display is 5 inches and is available in black or white.
The Motorola Moto E 2nd gen also has some respectable features based on Android Lollipop 5.1. It is 3G and 4G LTE ready and it comes with 8 gigs of memory. Its camera is a tap-to-focus and shoots up to 5 megapixels. The display is 4.5 inches and is available in black or white.
Consider joining Republic Wireless to save. They have thousands of customers in the USA and their offering is rated very well by consumer magazines including PC Magazine who gave it a reader’s choice award.
Looking for some great educational apps for your child’s Kindle Fire Tablet (or other Android device)? Here are a few of the ones that my kids enjoy now or in the not-too-distant past. All of these are available in the Amazon App Store for Android / Kindle App Store:
Inventioneers – Filimundus-AB makes some great games that teach kids how to invent and think of creative solutions. Great physics engine. Great fun.
Word Shaker – Find as many words as possible in the jumble of letters before time is up!
Box Island – This is a great “3D” app to help teach kids to code. 99 Cents gets you 10 levels. You may have trouble if you’re using Amazon Free Time when you want to purchase the other levels.
Flight Simulators – There are many choices for flight simulators. The skills learned go beyond learning to fly.
Hill Climb Race – This is a little bit more “fluffy” but there is educational value in the way that cars work and the physics engine that’s in use in this Android app definitely is something kids can learn from.
And then there are these games…more for adults than kids, these are great educational games that pose a bit more challenge than those listed above, still some kids may find them just on the right level:
eroncohen.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Below is a list of some worthwhile educational shows for kids that I would recommend for parents looking to avoid all the terrible, worthless, and even damaging fluff that is on children’s TV these days. The kids shows in my list are selected because they are both educational and entertaining.
In the first part of this post, I will do my best to let you know which educational kids shows you can see on Netflix Streaming, Netflix DVD, HuluPlus,YouTube, Amazon Prime, or Amazon DVD.
Keep in mind that Amazon, Hulu and Netflix often stop carrying shows without much notice, so apologies if a link is broken or a show is no longer available.
In the second part, I tell you what you can find that’s worthwhile for children to watch for free on YouTube–mostly educational PBS shows that make the most sense for older kids. Certainly, there are a wide variety of YouTube kids’ shows, I am only naming the ones I am familiar with.
These educational and kid’s science TV shows have various themes, so there should be something to catch any child’s attention. I feel I must add the caveat that too much TV is too much TV, no matter what the value of the material.
I am dividing the educational kids shows up by age group, but really I think all of them are appropriate for a younger kid who is willing to watch them–in other words, my experience has been that the ideal age for these shows really depends on the children who are watching them, so a show may be meant for four year olds or seven year olds, but that doesn’t mean a ten year old or a two year old can’t enjoy it.
I note one or two exceptions to this, where the language or topics might not be appropriate for younger kids (for example “The White Rabbit Project” on Netflix isn’t really appropriate for young kids due to language and violence.)
The educational and show quality rating scale is my own. Again, alot depends on the child, where her/his interests lie, and what their capabilities are. I rate each show on a scale of 1-5 for educational value and overall quality. (I don’t bother to list anything that’s below a 3.5):
Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon Prime TV learning shows for younger toddlers:
Little Einsteins (Amazon Prime) – Introduces children to art, musical instruments and composition. Highly recommended for all kids, but kids who want to play an instrument will particularly enjoy this classic show from Disney Channel. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Super Why (Amazon Prime) – Spelling and literacy for toddlers (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Wonder Pets (Amazon Prime) – Teaches about animals and geography. Several years later my girls are still quoting this show! (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Reading Rainbow (Amazon Prime) – Old, but beloved reading series.
Sesame Street (Online, Amazon Prime / Hulu) – Alot of segments are available online on the SeseameStreet.org website. This is a great show for young kids. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Leapfrog (Amazon Instant Video) Leapfrog has several educational shows that include math, reading and getting ready for preschool. For example Math Adventure To The Moon teaches basic counting skills. Note that some of the one’s that are on DVD aren’t available on demand. If you’re looking for educational shows for kids about math, don’t miss this series! (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Peep and the Big Wide World (Amazon Prime) – Basic science lessons for younger kids. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4]
Zoo Clues (TubiTV) – Facts and information about animals for younger kids [Educational Quality Rating 3.5]
Charlie and the Numbers (Hulu) – Charlie learns numbers while he goes on adventures. [Educational Quality Rating 3.5]
Peg + Cat (Amazon Prime) – Great show for learning numbers. [Educational Quality Rating 3.5]
Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon Prime Educational TV Shows for older toddlers and five year olds:
Martha Speaks (Amazon Prime) – Martha Speaks builds toddlers’ vocabulary. About a dog who swallowed alphabet soup and started talking (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Word Girl (Amazon Prime) – Builds vocabulary for young kids (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
WordWorld (Amazon Prime/Netflix DVD/Hulu) – PBS show that helps kids learn to read. Very good and highly recommended to help kids understand how reading works. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
Dinosaur Train (Amazon Prime) – Educational, teaches scientific method and quite a bit about dinosaurs (Animation). The show is fun and well done. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
The Electric Company (Amazon Prime) A redo of the 1970s classic show. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Zaboomafoo (Amazon Prime)- Teaches kids about animals and science in general. Nicely done. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Zeek’s Animal World (Amazon Prime) – Fun show filled with animal facts. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4]
Guess With Jess (YouTube) – This show would be pretty good for younger kids, but for one problem–since the show is British, the accent makes it hard for some kids to understand. Give it a try. Jess is a cat who tries to help answer science questions. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Little Pim Language Series (Hulu) – Your kids can learn Spanish, Korean, Italian, German, and even Chinese. Great Hulu kids’ show.
Curious George (Netflix DVD/Amazon Prime) – This show is relatively well done. It isn’t entirely educational but always has some informational content and kids definitely enjoy it. The “monkey chatter” gets kind of annoying after a while for parents though. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Look Around You (Hulu) – Explore nature with this animated series. [Educational/Quality Rating 3.5]
Postcards From Buster(Amazon Prime)- This is a pretty good show for kid’s to learn about the world via Buster from the show Arthur. Some episodes are on YouTube. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Popular Mechanics For Kids (Netflix DVD/Amazon Prime/Hulu) – Very good science show that covers a wide variety of science topics in news magazine format. My four year old finds it entertaining and does learn from it. As far as educational tv shows, this is one of the best — especially in the realm of science. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego (Netflix DVD/Amazon DVD) Not my favorite show in this list, but it does offer some social studies education and is an okay show in general–kind of a classic show. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3]
Wild Kratts (Amazon Prime/Hulu) – PBS Kids show: Science, animals, Kratt brothers…what could be more fun? (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Beakman’s World (Amazon DVD) – This show is full of scientific experiments and facts, but my kids don’t like this show because it is full of weird fluff and strange characters that make it difficult to watch. You be the judge. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
Bill Nye The Science Guy (Netflix/Amazon) – Excellent, although somewhat older information about science presented in a fun, entertaining way. My five and seven year-old love this show. Also on YouTube.[Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
Myth Busters (Amazon DVD/Amazon Instant Video)- This is a fun, interesting show. It is entertaining and includes all aspects of science, engineering and math. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Modern Marvels (Amazon) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5] This is a fantastic show that teaches about how innovations are made and outlines the stories of various amazing feats of engineering.
How the States Got Their Shapes (Amazon Instant Video) This is a great lesson in American history presented in an entertaining way. Better for older kids, but my 8 year old really liked it.[Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Liberty Kids (Amazon Instant Video) – Great show for kids about the American Revolutionary War. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Biz Kid$ (Amazon Instant Video) – This is a great show from the makers of Bill Nye the science guy–I wish all kids would watch this show. It teaches about entrepreneurship. [Educational/Quality Rating 4.5]
Adina’s Deck (Amazon Instant Video) – This is aimed more towards middle schoolers, and is a great conversation starter about cyber-bullying, plagiarism and more. Unfortunately there are only a few episodes. It’s less that it’s educational and more that it’s just important for kids to see this!
Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman (Amazon Instant Video) – Great, fun tv series with science challenges…a little more fluff than I’d like to see, but my kids enjoy it for the entertainment value… and there are some very important learning aspects to the show. [Educational/Quality Rating 4.0]
Awesome Adventures (Amazon Instant Video) – The show visits cities around the world and acquaints kids with local culture.
Discover Science (Amazon Prime) – Loads of interesting science experiments. “Spectacular experiments to sharpen your sense of science”
Annedroids (Amazon Prime) – This show is mildly educational, but I do like it for it’s “niceness.”
Science Court (YouTube) This is an animated series that goes over science concepts. Pretty good quality, the Squigglevision animation is a bit annoying. [Educational Quality Rating 5]
White Rabbit Project (Netflix) -This show is probably best for kids older than 12. The opening scene of the series involves guns and there is definitely some questionable language throughout the series.
It’s a Netflix original with some of the cast from Myth Busters. They do experiments and test the boundaries of technology to prove, compare, and discuss the “top 6” of all sorts of things–from scams and robberies to g-force. Overall a fun and definitely a very informative show. [Educational Quality Rating: 4.5]
Educational Videos on YouTube for older kids (8 years old+)
Finding worthwhile shows for older elementary and middle school kids on Netflix isn’t easy. Recently, YouTube published YouTube Learn at Home, which is a fantastic list of great educational videos.
Luckily, YouTube has lots of full episodes of shows that you can’t get on the other streaming services–for instance for older kids if you Google Bill Nye The Science Guy full episodes or SciGirls Full Episodes, you’ll find quite a few very worthwhile shows.
You tube also has some other fun things like “Its Okay To Be Smart“. We watch YouTube shows while driving on our smartphone and on our television via our Roku box. Show suggestions on YouTube:
Design Squad (More episodes on Amazon Prime) -This is a great show to learn engineering and math from PBS. It is definitely a very worthwhile show for “makers” as the mindset of the show is to work out the best ways to build things including kayaks, peanut butter machines, and musical instruments. This is a mainly meant for older kids, but younger ones can still benefit from watching it.
Season 1 is included with Amazon Prime (Recommended, but look for a sale!). Season 2 is available one episode at a time or by subscribing to the show. There are more than a few episodes on YouTube.
[Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
SciGirls (Amazon Prime) – Great science shows for girls (and boys). Covers a wide range of science topics and presented in an interesting/straightforward way. My two girls really love this show, and it is full of educational material that gives them a leg-up in school. There have been many instances where my kids have background knowledge of a science topic at school because of watching this show. I highly recommend it. [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
DragonFly TV There aren’t any full episodes on YouTube that I could find at the moment, but lots of interesting short segments from the show. If you can find more of it, definitely worth watching. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
It’s Okay To Be Smart (YouTube) – Lots of great science and general knowledge facts in this YouTube show, put together in an engaging way. My girls love watching episodes of this show in the morning with breakfast. Fun. Interesting. Science-friendly. Better for older kids. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
Mr. Wizard’s World (YouTube/More episodes on Amazon Prime) – Circa 1985, Mr. Wizard is a bit old school, but still quite a bit to learn from his show. Engineering, Chemistry, Zoology, Geology and Physics are all topics covered on this show…they even do some actual math on the show! If your kids can get past the dated equipment and computers they will definitely like it. [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
More Tips for Parents on TV, Reading, and Gifts
Have a kid with Autism? You must watch Autism Channel. Excellent programming for kids and parents of kids who are living with autism.
eroncohen.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thank you for supporting my site. Please leave feedback with any comments or ideas for other shows.
Looking for worthwhile things to do with your kids in the Baltimore/DC Area? I am too. Here is a list of 27+ fun activity suggestions that I have compiled from experience with my own children. Please feel free to add to this list by leaving a comment below.
Another great place to take kids and teens is the Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. There are some great exhibits including mummies, gems and minerals, loads of animal and plant exhibits and an insect zoo where you can watch them feed a tarantula, see a live butterfly exhibit and more. One of the greatest things in the museum is also the best kept secret–Q?rius is the name of a special kids science zone in the basement of the museum.
Also, the Smithsonian maintains a website with a calendar of things to do for kids at all of its museums. Check it out here.
2) In the spring, summer and fall months you can go to Brookside Gardens and see a great butterfly exhibit called Wings of Fancy (goes from Spring until October)
3) The National Gallery of Art has free hour long story time/Looking at art classes for kids on Sundays. Get there before 11 (when the museum opens to get into the first class–usually there’s great parking spots open right near the museum).
4) In May – November, there are two great picking farms we like to go to–Larriland Farm in Lisbon, MD, Weber’s Farm in Parkville, and Butler’s Orchard in Germantown. We especially like Larriland, they grow all kinds of things you can pick and the kids really love it. Larriland uses a farming method called integrated pest management which significantly reduces pesticide use.
This is not the cheapest way to get your produce in the summer and fall, but it’s definitely one of the most fun. (If you are looking for cheap ways to get produce, see my blog post 6 cheap places to get produce in Maryland.)
5) Baltimore Harbor is always a fun place to go. The paddle boats are a little expensive, but our girls really love riding on them. Two of the most popular museums in the area are the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.
6) Visit Hard Bargain Farm. For some readers it might be a little bit far, but they have some great programs for kids there.
16) The Maryland Renaissance Festival – On weekends and holidays from late August to Mid October, this is a great place to have some fun. If you’ve never been to a Ren Faire before, expect lots of interesting spectacles — low-tech shows (Jousting, magic) and interesting food and drink.
17) The National Zoo or The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. The National Zoo is free, there is an admission charge for the Baltimore Zoo (at this writing $17.50 for adults, $12.50 for children). Both zoos are an excellent experience for all ages.
18) Visit historic Annapolis – This colonial capitol town is charming and storied. Visit the shops, museums and restaurants by the water, take a boat ride, a walking tour of the Naval Academy and more. There are quite a few things to do and see. If you get a chance, have a look at the Hammond Harwood, William Paca House and Charles Carroll house historic sites.
20) Transportation Museums – In Baltimore, visit the B&O Railroad museum – Kids love trains. This is a chance to explore the history of the railroads and see old steam engines in person. To continue the rail theme, visit the streetcar museum.
Also in Baltimore at the inner harbor are some historic ships including the USS Constellation and sometimes a submarine for you to get on board and have a look at. In College Park, there is an aviation museum. Another great museum is the Maryland Fire Museum in Lutherville. They have an amazing collection of old fire apparatus and plenty of fun things for kids.
21) For a bit of history, visit Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, Maryland. This Georgian mansion is very interesting especially if you are interested in local history and architecture.
22) Also in Laurel, is the Dinosaur Park–an interesting place to learn about Maryland’s prehistoric history. You can visit any day, but for the best experience, you want to go on Saturday’s when they have open houses (check the schedule!). It isn’t far from the Montpelier Mansion so you can plan to visit both on the same day.
22.5) If you’re in the mood for archaeology and looking for fossils, here are two more great activities: Have a go at the National Geographic Museum in Washington DC. Great stuff! Also, there are several locations near Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant that have fossils that can be found. My best suggestion here is to visit Flag Pond beach–you may find sharks, whales and alligator teeth and shells that are millions of years old.
23) Hike at Brighton Dam – Brighton Dam is a reservoir used as a water supply for homes around Montgomery County. They have walking trails and you can do some fishing there. Also, there is a spectacular azalea garden with 22,000 azalea bushes. Best viewed around early May.
25) Do your kids like climbing? There is a super-cool indoor climbing place for kids in Laurel, MD. Climbzone is unusual because it doesn’t have your typical climbing walls. Kids can climb all sorts of nets, book cases, a Mount Rushmore replica and more. Highly recommended.
26) The American Visionary Art Museum is a little different. Located in Federal Hill in Baltimore City, this place has some great stuff for kids to enjoy. Look for their annual activities such as their whimsical moving sculpture parade and their sock puppet activity.
27) Crystal Grottoes Caverns – Discovered in 1920, the Crystal Grottoes Cavern is a great place to take kids. There are plenty of interesting and amazing formations sure to fill kids of all ages with wonder.
If you are a parent in central Maryland and you’re reading this, odds are you’ll share the refrain I hear so often “The Smithsonian museums are so close to us, yet we only go if guests are in town.” It’s really sad when parents say this, because their kids are missing out on so much great stuff.
I’d like to recommend two relatively new exhibits at the Smithsonian that are truly outstanding. They are especially good because they are interactive and unusual, not to mention fun. The exhibits in question are at the National Museum of American History and at the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History.
Spark!Lab: Become an inventor at the National Museum of American History. This exhibit is great for young people to be creative while learning STEM concepts. There are several stations they have created that mostly coincide with the current theme. For example, when we visited, the theme was “things that roll”, so there were several stations dedicated to wheels, pulleys, etc. My kids had a great time inventing a skateboard that they made out of cardboard and then got to test on a miniature skateboard ramp. They also had to use pulleys and wheels to create something that would roll along a “high wire”.
There was also a station where the kids have to invent a controller for a video game. This was our favorite. The kids are shown a video game and given a controller box along with some “parts”…they can plug things into to the controller box and learn to control the characters on the screen with their invention. There was a staff member at the station to help guide them as they worked through what worked and what didn’t. We spent about 25 minutes at this station and the kids loved every minute of it.
We can’t wait to go back when they change the theme to see what else they can learn there. The museum is open every day but Christmas day (December 25), but note that the exhibit isn’t open on Tuesdays and that this exhibit’s operating hours are 10am-4pm.
Q?rius (pronounced “curious”): This exhibit found in the basement of the Natural History Museum is fantastic for kids of all ages. They have powerful microscopes and thousands of samples for visitors to explore including, birds, fish, bones, insects, sand, rocks and more. To say it’s “cool” is an understatement. They also have quite a few preset activities and the kids can sign up to get a badge and an account to track their investigations. Bring your kids and check it out for yourself. The exhibit hours vary quite a bit depending on day of the week and time of the year. You can see the hours here, but mainly note that the exhibit is closed on Mondays.
Since I have two children, I find myself at many different types of birthday parties lately–some of them original and loads of fun for the kids, and some of them…not so much. I have created this page to help parents out with some ideas, recommendations and resources.
Party Themes and Ideas
Science Birthday Party: There are so many ways to have a science party. This is a wonderful idea for any kid, but will be especially popular with nerdier children. There are plenty of kits you can order for the party or bring in a science performer like Eric Energy. Party favors might include things like this Zanny Marble Kit from Amazon.com
Who to hire:
Mad Science: I recently saw a great show put on by Damu from Mad Science. He’s a DC Public School teacher with lots of talent and the kids love him. Be sure if request him if he’s available.
Eric Energy: Eric is a popular birthday party performer in the area. He does a great job of getting the kids involved and talking up science!
Harry Potter Theme Birthday party – There is so much you can do with this. Here are a few suggestions:
Hire a magician, if you look you may find someone who is versed in Harry Potter spells. A great example is “Illusions By Vick” (443-540-9631) – He comes in character as Professor Snape and teaches kids about various spells.
Get yourself some Harry Potter posters, or you may find some to download and print. Consider putting a “platform 9 3/4” on your front door.
Serve butter beer
Create “sorting hat” gift bags from paper bags…
Create wands from chopsticks and hot glue.
Talent Show Birthday Party: Kids are always willing to show off their talents, no matter what level they’re at. Why not capitalize on this by throwing a talent show party.
Add to the fun: Create VIP Guest passes for the invitations or just send tickets along with each one. Make star shaped cupcakes. Get photos ahead of time from the parents so you can put up head shots of each kid who’s coming to the party.
Who to hire to help: Catriona’s Castle Karen brings theater to your home or party location. A memorable and extremely fun party for your child!
Painting Party: A step beyond your normal craft party. Purchase canvases and hang them on your backyard fence with nails, consider getting aprons and plastic palettes that guests can take as party favors along with their canvas. The main event of the party will be to have the kids paint a picture of their favorite animal.
Dinosaur Party: Kids will love this prehistoric party. The main event for the party will be a fossil hunt, which can be put together by the host or bring in a fossil expert. May be combined with a reptile party.
Reptile Party: This party works best if you have lots of live reptiles on hand. Don’t have lots of reptiles at home? See below for some ideas on who to hire. Make sure you get a cake that’s shaped like a lizard or snake!
Video Games Party: We know that kids love video games. So why not have a video game birthday party. You can hire Game Truck to come to your location. They bring a fancy truck with 4 gaming stations and an experienced game coach to make it all go.
Lego Party: Legos are great fun for kids. It’s easy to get lego-themed plates and napkins and perhaps even a lego cake! Start the party by having kids create balloon powered cars and maybe invite a guest who can bring in lego robotics kits for the kids to play with and learn!
Whether you’re having a birthday party at your house, or in a party, venue, you’ll need a party theme. Here are some theme ideas.
For Any Birthday Party: Hire someone to do light catering. For example, kids of all ages would love a waffle or omelette bar. Give the Omelet Guys a call. It’s relatively inexpensive, so you’ll get lots of bang for your buck. Another great option would be to bring in someone to serve snow balls.
For any birthday party: get a photo booth. These can be great fun and provide lasting memories. Choose your provider carefully. I’ve had good luck with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983.
Disclaimer: Please check the references of anyone you may hire that is suggested here. Although these aren’t paid promotions, I do not know any of them well so can’t endorse them completely. If you do use anyone’s services, you do so at your own risk.