The Best National Parks for Family Trips

Dear Mr. Dad: My family hasn’t had a vacation in years—we haven’t been able to afford it. But we really need some time off. We’re thinking of doing a driving trip over the 2-week winter break. Can you suggest some affordable family-friendly places to visit?

A: Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you won’t have to leave the state to find a super-low-cost, amazing vacation spot. I’m talking about our national parks, most of which offer a range of activities, from just plain fun to educational to knock-your-socks-off gorgeous hikes in nature. Whether you’re planning to spend your whole vacation in one place or want to explore several locations, the National Park Foundation (http://www.nationalparks.org/) and the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/) can help you find a park that suits your needs. But here are a few favorites, some of which were sent in by readers.
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My Dad, the Neighborhood, and Sports: The Value of a Good Game

My family grew up in Pepperell, Massachusetts and what made it so amazing was that my father was one of ten brothers (yes, 10!). Because of family history there was a 99% chance that you would become a carpenter (or did some kind of activity in construction).

Everyone in the family held these type of professions which created a really unique upbringing because my family and extended family essentially built the neighborhoods all around where we lived. Everyone knew one another and all us kids were always roaming the streets going from house to house.

One of the most popular activities we kids would play (often joined by our dads) was street hockey since so many of us were still pretty bad at ice skating at that time.

In Mass you’ve basically got your football and you’ve got your hockey.

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Getting Kids to Listen–without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling

Guest: Amy McCready, author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…
Topic:
The revolutionary program that gets your kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling.
Issues: Why it’s so difficult to get kids to listen; how giving your child more power, not less can end power struggles; effective ways to correct misbehavior and bring out the best in your children.

Overcoming Ignoring + Stop Saying “Yes” for the Wrong Reasons + Negotiation Generation

Guest: Amy McCready, author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…
Topic:
The revolutionary program that gets your kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling.
Issues: Why it’s so difficult to get kids to listen; how giving your child more power, not less can end power struggles; effective ways to correct misbehavior and bring out the best in your children.


Adrianne Ahern, author of Snap out of It Now!
Topic: Four steps to inner joy.
Issues: Learning to understand—and overcome–the reasons people say yes to the wrong relationships, let anger lead them down the wrong path, fail at diets, and believe they aren’t good enough; making a quantum leap to a life of purpose, joy, and excellence.


Lynn Reeves Griffin, author of Negotiation Generation.
Topic: Taking back your parental authority without punishment.
Issues: How to influence your child’s behavior—without controlling it; predicting and preventing challenging behavior; letting go of time outs, grounding, spankings, and other punishments; teaching by example.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Have you noticed lately that a lot of your favorite toys from the 80s are making a comeback? Some, of course, never completely left—they just moved to less-prominent shelves and were overshadowed by the latest and greatest. But others seem to have suddenly resurfaced, like zombies returning from the grave (except they don’t bite and we’re generally glad to see them). Either way, despite those promises you made to your parents that you’d never be like them, you may find yourself giving your own children the very same toys you played with back in the day.

Care BearCare Bears (Hasbro)
Bringing toys out of retirement can be a risky business. In many cases, the new ones are similar, but they sometimes look as though they’ve been run through a funhouse mirror: legs too long, eyes too wide, head too small, etc. Not so with Care Bears. New-generation ultra-plush Bears look very much like the old ones. And their mission hasn’t changed at all: teach kids about responsibility, caring, sharing, empathy, and being a good friend. That’s a pretty big job for a little bear, so it’s a good thing they still have those magic “belly badges,” just in case they need a little help from Care-a-lot. Care Bears come in a variety of sizes and retail for $3 to $25 at places like Target and Amazon.com

Doodle BearDoodle Bear (Fisher-Price)
Doodle Bears are sweet, cuddly bears that you can create your own artwork on. When you need a new look, just toss Doodle in the wash (in a pillowcase or “delicates” bag), hang him out to dry, and you’ve got a brand new canvas. The original Doodle Bear comes in three colors, or you can get the Glow Doodle Bear, where kids do their doodling with light. Each one comes with special, Doodle-Bear-Only markers (Glow comes with a magic light pen and stamps). Available for $20 and up at your favorite retailer.

k'nexK’nex (K’nex)
K’nex have been around for ages, and are one of America’s top building sets. They have unique shapes and snapping pieces, bricks, struts, and big, flat swatches to hold the pieces together. The old sets were pretty free-form: dump the pieces out on the living room carpet and build whatever you want. Today there are all sorts of targeted sets that are based on old classics like Nitendo’s Mario and today’s sensations like Plants vs. Zombies (in this case, it’s a zombie-fied football helmet). But just as it was when you were a kid, your imagination is your only limit. Most sets work with each other, so the more you collect, the more you can connect. You may even be able to combine your old ones with your child’s new ones and take the building-bonding experience to a whole new level. Prices vary greatly, depending on the size of the kit. Available at retailers everywhere or at http://www.knex.com/

movie viewerMovie Viewer (Fisher Price)
While not exactly an 80′s toy—the first Movie Viewers were introduced in 1973—the new versions look just like the ones we played with as kids. And despite being very low-tech, they’re just as much fun. Movie Viewers work exactly the way they did when you had yours: slide a cartridge into a slot, and turn a hand crank to play the “movie.” You can go forwards, backwards, fast, or slow.  Comes with two cartridges (one for learning letters, the other for numbers). If you still have your old Snoopy cartridges, they should work too. No batteries required. Available for about $30 at https://www.fatbraintoys.com or http://www.fisher-price.com/