Exploring Caves in Texas

In The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper – The Lost Treasure of Mount Methuselah, our friends explore a cave and find treasure!  The treasure you will find exploring the caves of Texas is an adventure with your family!  Texas is blessed with many interesting and beautiful caves.  Take some time this year to explore some with your children.  You won’t be disappointed.

Natural Bridges Caverns
Located 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio; tours for all ages

Cascade Caverns
Located 14 miles northwest of San Antonio; campground available

Longhorn Caverns
Located an hour northwest of Austin in beautiful Longhorn Cavern State Park

Wonder World
Located near San Marcos, this is the only earthquake formed cave in the nation

Inner Space
Located 20 miles north of Austin, this cave system was discovered in 1963 during construction of a Texas highway

Discover the underground world of caves with your family.  And read The Lost Treasure of Mount Methuselah to find out how Willy Nilly and Thumper’s adventure ends!

 

Make Family Reading Time Fun

Do you find yourself nagging your child to read? Has reading time become a war zone? Check out these ideas to make the process easier and more fun for kids and parents.

Take Notes
Give kids a pad of post-it notes and ask them to draw an exclamation point for exciting parts of the story, a question mark if they see a word they don’t know, a happy face if they love a certain paragraph.  When their book is full of Post-It notes, sit down and talk about their notes.

Add an Activity
After reading, video your kids acting out their favorite part of the book & post to social media, look online for interviews with the author, write a letter to the author giving your opinion of the book or asking questions.

Become an Official Reviewer
Children’s opinions count.  Apply to become a reviewer of children’s books.  Read the review of The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper: Stella Star by Willow (Age 7) here.

Read Aloud
Read to each other – switching at the end of each chapter. Or ask your child to read aloud to you, pausing to comment and ask questions when needed. Reading aloud doesn’t have to stop when kids are old enough to read on their own. Snuggling together on the couch with a good book is fun at any age.

Dinner and a Book
Create a dinner based on the book.  Think: a western adventure with BBQ; Madeline with French cuisine or, of course, green eggs & ham!  Prepare dinner together and read the book after dinner or ask your child to read to you while you prepare dinner.

Don’t Sweat It
Allow kids to choose their own books. Help them find books about subjects that interest them. Suggest books you loved as a child.  If a particular book doesn’t spark their interest, no rule requires them to soldier through!  Pick up a different book or skip through a section. Reading is fun – not a chore.

Model Reading 
Read yourself! Talk to your children about books you are reading – what you have learned, locations you have “visited”, characters you’ve come to love.

Help your children discover the love of reading – it will last them a lifetime

 

The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper is More Than Just a Great Book Series

Everyone remembers that special book that made a big impact on their life.  Whether it was a self-help book, a religious book or simply a great book that you read at exactly the right time  – books can be very impactful.  Sometimes a message is better absorbed when it’s cloaked in a story.

Creating impactful stories is the goal of The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper book series. Our books entertain children, of course.  But the message behind the adventure is the real story.  Each book in the series teaches lessons of kindness, charity, loyalty, friendship and trustworthiness – all wrapped up in a rousing adventure tale.  Some might say that these lessons are old fashioned, that the world today requires that we teach our children to be tough, strong and to worry about themselves first.  But at Willy Nilly Stories, we don’t see things that way.  As Willy Nilly and Thumper learn, kindness goes a long way towards softening a gruff exterior, charity makes the giver feel even better than the recipient and sometimes, the thing we are most afraid of leads us to wonders we could never have imagined.  As your child reads each adventure, they relate to the characters and learn along with them.

Read a story from The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper series to your child today.  It may just become that special book that makes a big impact on your child’s life.

July’s Backyard Adventure: Science Experiments

Science Experiment:  How to Make Fog
Willy Nilly & Thumper have seen a lot of unsettling weather while adventuring. You can create fog yourself – right in your kitchen.
You will need:

  • glass jar
  • strainer
  • hot water
  • ice cubes

Fill up the glass jar with very hot water and let set for one minute.
Pour out almost all the water – leave about one inch of water in the jar.
Put the strainer over the top of the jar.
Place a few (3-4) ice cubes in the strainer.
Watch for fog!

The cold air from the ice cubes collides with the warm, moist air in the bottle causing the water to condense and form an eerie fog.

Science Experiment: How to Make a Rainbow
Willy Nilly & Thumper’s adventures can be scary. But like the rainbow at the end of a storm, our stories always have a happy ending.
You will need:

  • glass jar or large drinking glass
  • small mirror that will fit into the jar or glass
  • flashlight
  • dark room with white walls

Fill the jar or glass with water.
Place the mirror inside the water filled jar or glass.
Tile the mirror slightly upward.
In a very dark room with white walls, shine the flashlight onto the mirror.
A rainbow will appear!  (If no rainbow appears at first, change the angle of the light from the flashlight or change the angle of the mirror.)

The mirror reflects light that passes back through the water, traveling at an angle. The water bends, or refracts, the light. As the light bends, it separates into the colors of the rainbow…red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Read the Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper series to join in more fun adventures!

Summer Book Club for Kids

Creating a Summer Book Club for your kids will help make reading fun while they are away from school.   Here are some suggestions for making it happen.

  • Invite neighbors, classmates and friends of your children to join the club.
  • Decide on how often (weekly?) and where (members’ homes?) the meetings will be held.
  • At the first meeting, choose a name for your club (Hooked on Books, The Bookworms, etc.)
  • Decide if everyone will read a selected book each week or if each member will choose a book to read and report on at the meeting
  • Set a format for the book discussion.  Member gives the title and author of the book, summarizes the plot (without giving away the ending!), tells what they liked most and least about the book and rates the book on a scale of 1-10.  Other members can ask questions or make comments.

In addition to book reports & discussions, some fun ideas for meetings:

  • Ask a local author to visit the group and talk about his/her book.  (Email us to talk about a visit from Willy Nilly & Thumper.)
  • Ask parents to discuss their favorite childhood book with the group.
  • Take a trip to the bookstore or library.
  • Ask “Community Readers” to surprise your group with a book reading. (Local newscasters, the mayor, superintendent of schools, etc.)
  • Hold a book exchange – members bring books they have already read and exchange with other members.
  • Serve snacks related to the book club selection for that week.  (Willy Nilly & Thumper dine on soup in The Hermit’s Last Hairs.)

A book club is a great way to help your kids keep in touch with friends over the summer and a fun way to keep kids reading!

Help Your Kids Understand the 4th of July

To children, the 4th of July can be all about hot dogs, fireworks and neighborhood parades. To help them understand the meaning of the holiday, here are a few suggestions for discussion.

Take a tour of your town and point out the government buildings – city hall, the courthouse, schools, the post office, the police and fire stations. Explain that the citizens of your town pool their money by paying taxes and this money is used to create and maintain buildings and services that benefit everyone.

Talk about what it means to be an American. Explain that America is a country united in the belief that people should be free to pursue their dreams, live the way they want and earn money the best way they can.

We can be good American citizens by helping those who in need, keeping informed of what is going on in our country and the world, obeying the laws and being responsible for ourselves and our actions. Citizenship also means speaking up when something is wrong and working to correct the problem.

The American Flag is a symbol of our country, our beliefs and our unity as Americans. As such, we show the flag great respect. These are kid-friendly rules regarding the American flag.

America is special. We have freedoms that the citizens of many countries do not. We are free to say what we feel, write about what we think is important and do what we wish within the confines of the law. With this liberty comes great responsibility to use these freedoms for the greater good.

Encourage your children to think about what they can contribute as an American citizen. What can I do to be a better citizen?  How can I make sure that my government representatives know what is important to me?  Do I see problems? What can I do to help solve these problems? How can I show that I believe in America and am thankful for our freedoms?

The idea of a free nation and the sacrifices that have been made to protect our freedoms may be a big concept for small children. But introducing the subject at an early age sets the groundwork for more discussion and questions later on. And what is more American that the freedom to ask and the freedom to answer?

Star Gazing with Your Kids

 

What if we introduced our kids to a huge video screen that updates constantly, is infinitely beautiful and definitely educational? What if our kids got as excited by the real world as they do by the worlds on their iPad?  Star gazing with your kids is an opportunity to bond, to learn and to enjoy some peaceful “off the grid” time as a family.

Summer is the ideal time to explore the skies. You’re probably outdoors a lot anyway and the summer night sky is often clear and bright.  No fancy equipment is needed to star gaze. A telescope is ideal but not necessary. Binoculars can be helpful. But if all you have are curious kids and a clear sky, that will do.  The darker your location, the more you can see.  If you live in the city, a short drive to the country is in order.  Bring along reclining lawn chairs or a blanket for maximum viewing comfort.

Once you get comfortable, play dot-to-dot with the stars – creating pictures of your own.  Kids can name the newfound “constellations”.  They can also pick out particularly bright stars or patterns and name them after family members, distant or departed.  Each time you view the skies, you can look for your family member’s space in the sky.  Viewing the moon through binoculars or with the naked eye is very interesting.  Noting the change in phases of the moon over time can offer a good introduction to the workings of the universe.

Make an effort this summer to introduce your children to the beauty of the night sky. Who knows? You may have a budding astronaut or astrophysicist on your hands!  Check out this site for fun family activities related to the skies and this site to fascinate your kids with fun star facts.  Don’t forget to pick up a copy of The Adventures of Willy Nilly & Thumper:  Stella Star – the exciting adventure of a star who fell to earth.

June Backyard Adventure: A Mystery Drive

Willy Nilly & Thumper’s Backyard Adventure for June: A Mystery Drive

A big part of having an adventure is not knowing the outcome.  This month, our Backyard Adventure involves a Mystery Drive and the outcome is most definitely unknown. Plan the Mystery Drive for an evening when everyone can relax and no one is in a hurry. Prepare a picnic dinner or pick up a simple meal at a local restaurant. Give each child a coin (and a blindfold if you want to make things even more interesting).  Let the Mystery Drive begin!

  • The driver heads out with no particular destination in mind.
  • At random intersections, the adults in the car call out “Flip!”
  • The children in the car take turns flipping their coin.  If the coin lands on “heads”, the driver turns right. If the coin lands on “tails” the driver turns left.
  • After twelve (12) coin flips, the driver stops.  This is your Mystery Drive Destination and your adventurous spot for dining.

Maybe you’re lucky and have ended up at a park or other green space. Maybe not so lucky and you’re parked in front of the bus station. Regardless, make the best of the situation and bring out the food. Whether you eat in the car, on a blanket in the grass or on a bus stop bench, it will be a meal long remembered.  Making memories is the best part of adventure and of family!

Willy Nilly & Thumper have a treasure chest where they store a keepsake from each of their adventures. When you get home, put one of the coins in your own adventure treasure chest and begin collecting your own family adventure memories.

 

Keep Reading Time Fun!

Whether you are reading To Kill a Mockingbird or Where the Wild Things Are, settling in with a great book is one of life’s simple pleasures.  However, children are not always ready to “settle in” when reading time arrives.  If your little one is less than cooperative, try one of these ideas to keep reading time fun.

Involve Them – Children’s attention can drift. Asking questions about the story helps keep them focused.  How many teeth do you see in Charlie the Cross-Eyed Crocodile’s mouth?  What do think Willy Nilly & Thumper are eating for dinner?

Include Activity – If your children have a hard time settling down for reading time, suggest they build Mount Methuselah with blocks or color a picture of the treasure Willy Nilly & Thumper find in the cave while listening to you read.  Kids can listen and create at the same time!

Engage Imagination – Physically acting out parts of the book will help keep children engaged. When Willy Nilly & Thumper outrun the mudslide racing down Mount Methuselah, suggest your child run across the room, pretending they are alongside the book characters.  Or ask them to paddle the canoe with all their might while escaping Charlie the Cross-Eyed Crocodile.

Add to the Story – Ask your child to make sound effects to accompany your reading – jungle animal sounds as Willy Nilly & Thumper paddle down the river, feet stomping as they run away from Charlie, the croc’s moans after he falls from the tree.  Kids can even sing a happy tune at the end of the book when everything turns out OK.

Teaching your children that reading is a fun activity and part of everyday life is important. Having fun yourself is a bonus. Connect, explore and have fun with your kids. And make reading part of the fun!

 

 

 

May Backyard Adventure – Family Camp Out

Willy Nilly & Thumper’s Backyard Adventure for May: Family Camp Out

Why it’s great: Kids of all ages love to camp out. If you’re new to camping as a family, the backyard is a great place to hold a trial run. Removing electronic distractions (TV, video games, tablets) makes room for connection and family fun.

What you’ll need: A tent and sleeping bags are ideal. But if you don’t have those, no problem. String up a few blankets or sleep under the stars. Snacks are a must – one of the best parts of camping is the food! Involve your kids in the meal or snack prep. Some great kid-friendly camping recipes are here.  Other than sleeping arrangements and munchies, a backyard camp out is all about being together and creating your own adventure.

Setting up for Family Camp Out is half the fun. Kids will love hauling blankets, pillows and teddy bears from the house to the yard. Once everything is arranged for camping, encourage your children to really explore their backyard. No matter how large or small, your backyard is interesting.

  • Look closely in the grass for bugs and worms. How are they different from one another? Where do you think they are going?
  • Notice the birds flying overhead. Do they sound different or the same? Can you make up your own names for them based on their appearance and sound?
  • Are there flowers, bushes or trees in your yard? How are the leaves different? Do animals use any of these places as homes or resting places?
  • How many grown-up steps does it take to walk across the yard? How many kid steps? How many ways can you navigate across the yard? Running, skipping, hopping?

After dark, bring out the flashlights. Play “Chase the Light” with younger kids. Introduce older kids to “Shadow Puppets”. Hide a box somewhere in the yard (S’mores fixings?) and let the kids hunt for it after dark. Sing campfire songs, tell campfire stories.  Making memories and connecting with each other is the goal – backyard camping has no rules!