Our Day at the Zoo: Finding New Ways to Encourage Outdoor Play

Our Day at the Zoo: Finding New Ways to Encourage Outdoor Play

Thank you CLIF Kid for sponsoring this post. Be sure to check out the new CLIF Kid Zbar Filled and encourage your kids to get outside and play!

Summer begins with a burst of motivation from kids to play outside as much as possible, but I notice that as it winds down, the usual activities become less appealing for them. After a couple of months, the park play sessions, family hikes, afternoons at the pool and splash parks, outdoor family yoga classes, soccer practices, and even good old outdoor playdates with friends that were so exciting at the beginning of the season are suddenly boring. Encouraging outdoor play is incredibly important to us, and the last thing we want is for our kids to prefer sitting around inside because they’ve lost interest in doing the same outside activities over and over. Thankfully, we’ve discovered that by finding new ways to encourage outdoor play – just by breaking from the norm and doing something different from time to time – that spark to be outside is ignited within them again.

When we want to break up the monotony of our usual outdoor activities, the main place we turn is the zoo. We love our local zoo (Brookfield, near Chicago) because in addition to being a guaranteed fun day for the kids, it’s known for its work on compassionate animal care and welfare, and its leadership in conservation efforts – things we feel are essential for our children to learn about and recognize. Our zoo also provides a huge variety of opportunities for free play for kids beyond just walking around and exploring the animal exhibits. There’s a park style playground, splash pad (it was too chilly on the day we went, but it’s normally so fun for the kids), family play zoo, petting zoo, trails to explore, hands-on statues and art, and more. Essley and Emmett both get so much exercise when they’re there, and get to participate in really organic, beneficial outdoor play while they’re learning. We get a membership every year for this very reason. And it’s always a great reminder that when kids get bored with their usual outdoor activities, there are always less ordinary ways to encourage them to be active outside – often that we can be enjoyed together as a family.

Our zoo adventures always end up taking up an entire day, so before we leave the house, I always throw a few CLIF Kid Zbars in my bag for the time between meals when my kids get hungry. Those of you who are regular readers know that we are long-time fans of these as a nutritious, super easy snack. And their new CLIF Kid Zbar Filled bars are our absolute favorites. Essley calls them “Surprise Bars” because she says “there’s a yummy surprise inside!” And she’s right – inside each soft-baked bar is a smooth, creamy nut butter filling. They’re filled with the stuff parents like for their little ones too - certified USDA organic and non-GMO ingredients that are nutritious and wholesome (like oats and nut butters). They’re also free from ingredients we’d rather do without, like high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. And while they’re particularly wonderful for our zoo days because the kids can munch on them while they’re playing and exploring without having to take a break, they’re also the perfect grab and go snack to keep your little ones nourished and satisfied during pretty much any outdoor activity. We feel good about supporting the brand too, and appreciated CLIF Kid‘s dedication to always encouraging children to get outside and feed their adventures.

Regardless of whether or not you have a zoo close by, if your kids hit the same wall as mine this time of year with outside playtime, I highly recommend spending a day in an outdoor play place (or any outdoor area that allows for active fun) that is different than the everyday. Maybe explore a new bike trail or hiking spot in an area your children haven’t been before. Visit a big outdoor water park, arboretum, or botanical garden that has lots of trails. Sign up for a family race (running or walking). Head to a local outdoor family concert – and dance! Find a big park or playground you haven’t visited before, or even do a “playground day” and visit several in your area in one day. When you sit down and brainstorm, there are countless ways to encourage outdoor play through new-to-you places or activities. And I’m telling you guys, it makes a big difference during the end-of-summer outside play burnout.

How do you encourage outdoor play with your own kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews/friends who are little ones during those times of the year when they’re beginning to get bored? Have any of you visited your local zoo or animal sanctuary this summer?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Puppy Dog Pals Inspired Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

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Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Disney Junior. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.

Long time readers and followers may recall back when Essley was a baby and I beamed with pride over the fact that her first word was “dog.” We didn’t have a dog at the time (although some of you likely remember my sweet Bubby dog, for whom this blog was named), but she was instantly drawn to every dog she saw. Emmett is the exact same way. They are convinced that my sister’s dog Laika and my best friend’s dog Harley are their dogs. They pretend they’re dogs when they’re playing, every single day. And Essley constantly asks me when we’re getting a dog for our house. (It will happen when her little brother gets out of the incredibly exhausting toddler stage, thank you very much.) So it was no surprise to me when they both fell in love with Disney Junior’s new show Puppy Dog Pals. I’m a big fan of the show myself because of the positive messages it promotes (more on that later), and there is very little cuter than watching Essley pretend she and Emmett are Bingo and Rolly, the funny, adorable Pugs that star in it. A couple of weeks ago, she very seriously informed me that Bingo and Rolly (she and Emmett) needed some dog treats. So I decided that dog boned shaped sugar cookies we could make together, inspired by Puppy Dog Pals, was a must. She had so much fun making them, and both she and her little brother absolutely adored eating them. Today I’m teaming up with our friends at Disney Junior to show you how we made them, along with the recipe so you and your little ones can make some of your own!

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

Puppy Dog Pals Inspired Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cookie icing pouches (1 chocolate and 1 vanilla)
chocolate sprinkles

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slower add the dry mixture in the bowl with the wet ingredients until well combined. Chill dough mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the surface you’ll be using with flour to prevent sticking, and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes, and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or when edges just begin to turn golden. Cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once the cookies are cool, have fun decorating! We used store-bought pouches of cookie icing (also called royal icing), but you can also make your own, along with chocolate sprinkles. Aside from eating them, the decorating was Essley’s favorite part. (Mine too.)

To really get in the spirit, we also whipped together some quick pug ears for Essley to wear. We just cut out construction paper triangles, taped them onto a headband, and folded them over. She’s been wearing them everyday since.

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

We have plans to make another batch of our Bingo and Rolly dog treat cookies on August 25th, which is when a new episode of Puppy Dog Pals premiers on the Disney Channel (at 9 AM). Disney Junior‘s FRiYAY morning shows have been such a treat for the kids this summer (you’ve already heard me rave about Sofia the First and Mickey & The Roadster Racers; Lion Guard and Elena of Avalor are other favorites), and it’s been a treat for me as well, to know that the programming they love is full of important lessons and positive messages we can apply to our own lives. In Puppy Dog Pals, Bingo and Rolly are super enthusiastic and gregarious, which often leads them to new adventures (some of which they may not be prepared for). This is Essley’s personality to a T; so watching the pups work together to solve problems and try new things is something we feel is really beneficial for her. And both the kids think the dogs are hilarious, which is fun for us too. (I mean, what’s better than watching your little one burst with laughter?)

You can find Disney Junior shows on two different television channels: Disney Junior (a dedicated channel that runs Disney Junior shows all day long), and Disney Channel (which airs Disney Junior shows during the morning block). New episodes (like Puppy Dog Pals!) usually air on the Disney Channel first. If you’re a fan like we are, also be sure to check out Disney Junior’s Facebook page and on their YouTube for even more fun.

Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies
Dog Bone Sugar Cookies

For those of you with dog-obsessed kids with mine, I’d love to hear any fun dog-themed (especially if they’re Puppy Dog Pal inspired) activities or recipes you may have!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Adopted Senior Cat Keeps Owner Safe from Blackouts

Lunar helps Ali from having blackouts

There are all sorts of theories as to why cats seem to have a special talent for getting in the way of their people. According to the Eastern Daily Press, Lunar, a gray cat in Norfolk, UK, does it to protect her owner, Ali Coles, from dangerous blackouts.

Ali Coles adopted 13-year-old Lunar from Cats Protection in October 2016. Ali shared with Eastern Daily Press that she uses a wheelchair. When Ali noticed that Lunar regularly got in her way when Ali needed to stand, the 29-year-old “thought she was just being annoying,” Ali said. However, that soon changed. Ali told reporters that “I realized she’d do it [before] every time I fainted.”

Ali described it further, saying “Whenever I’m about to suffer a blackout, Lunar will come and sit on me in such a way that I can’t stand up. Or if I’m already standing up, she will stand on my feet and refuse to move.” Lunar’s perceptive actions prepare Ali for the blackout. Ali explained, “If I’m sitting or lying down, then I’m less likely to injure myself when I black out.”

Read the complete story.

Halo Pets

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Coloring Outside the Lines

Coloring Outside the Lines // Family Boho Shoes

You guys have heard me talk before about my feelings on cultivating imagination in my kids, and how important I believe it is to allow them to express themselves creatively in their own ways. When I received Essley’s end-of-year progress report in preschool and it stated that she had a “very active imagination” that “led them on many adventures,” I simultaneously laughed (because that could mean so many things) and beamed with pride. It also said that art projects and playing with play dough were her favorite activities. Reading these things made me appreciate her teachers even more than I already did, knowing that they celebrated her imagination and creative spirit.

Because of my own love for the arts and strong opinions on encouraging kids to express their imaginations in artistic ways, it’s one of my greatest joys to watch my little ones create. Now that Emmett is reaching an age where he’s starting to enjoy coloring and art projects as well, the two of them often color together. They love crayons and coloring books, sidewalk chalk, markers and construction paper, and just about anything that involves making art. And there is truly nothing better than watching them experiment with color combinations and shapes and their own special drawings. Both Robbie and I love to join in too!

We encourage Essley and Emmett to do whatever they feel like doing when it comes to art and creative expression, and we wholeheartedly embrace the concept of coloring outside the lines. That is why I’m such a huge fan of Minnetonka‘s new collaboration with Lindsay Stewart of Free Range Mama, which features a hand painted collection of fun, colorful paint splattered moccasins that celebration young imaginations and the people who help nurture them. Throughout the month of August, a portion of the proceeds from this limited edition Minnetonka x Free Range Mama collection will help fund classroom projects in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, an absolutely wonderful organization that allows teachers from public schools in need to post classroom projects requests and receive donations.

As your kids head back to school, purchasing shoes from Minnetonka’s new limited edition collection is a great way to help give back - while also sporting the coolest shoes around, right along with your kids! These shoes are unique, fun, expressive, and on trend. Essley jumped up and down with joy when she opened her box of her hot pink Splash Fringe Boots. I admittedly also jumped up and down once or twice when I first put on my Splash Gabi Shoes, if we’re being honest here. And Essley, Emmett, and I have been wearing our matching shoes nonstop. More than anything, it’s been a really neat experience to explain to Essley how these shoes help schools in need, and to see her embrace the concept of giving back.

On Melissa: Free Range Mama Splash Gabi in Taupe  |  On Essley: Free Range Mama Splash Fringe Boot in Hot Pink  |  On Emmett: Free Range Mama Splash Fringe Boot in Taupe

You can read more about the Minnetonka x Free Range Mama collection and the inspiration behind it right here. Here’s to a season full of classroom creativity, and a lifetime of coloring outside the lines!

The post is in partnership with Minnetonka. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. 


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Wide Leggin’

8 Wide Legged Pants for Fall
1   //   2   //   3   //  4   //   5   //   6   //  7  //  8

Wide leg pants are everywhere for end-of-summer and fall. I don’t have a single pair yet, but I’m thinking that should change. The styles you see above are my current favorites. (Also – Essley saw me working on this post and said she wants a pair too, so if any of you know of some cute kids’ wide legs, please let me know!)

Who else is feeling the wide leg trend?


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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7 Tips For Making Back to School Easier

This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

In just a few weeks, Essley heads back to school. (And in just a few months, we register Emmett for preschool for next year which is mind boggling on so many levels – but we’ll save that for another post.) Last year was Essley’s first year of preschool, which makes this the first official summer break we’ve experienced. And we’ve enjoyed every minute of it, from the travels to the pool and beach days to the late night ice cream runs to the overall freedom that comes with a lack of schedule. As summer break winds down, we’re all getting excited – and admittedly a little nervous – about jumping back into the routine of a school year. While we’re certainly no experts when it comes to back-to-school, we’re learning a lot as we go. And from our own experience, as well as talking to friends who have years of back-to-school seasons under their belts, we’ve discovered some ways to make the transition easier on everyone. Today I thought I’d share some of these tips and tricks with you guys, in hopes it helps with your kids as much as it’s been helping with ours.

1. Get back to a routine early. We are admittedly a pretty unstructured family in terms of schedule (when you work from home and your husband works on the road for a band, you don’t have much of a choice!), and we thrive on the go-with-the-flow type of vibe, which has especially been our motto this summer. But with Essley heading back to school in early September, we’ve started to establish more of a routine once again. We’ve been firmer about her getting to bed on time (and have been easing into an earlier bedtime), waking up on time (because like her parents, this girl is not a morning person), and eating breakfast right away. And while Essley has been in several activities throughout the summer, we’ve been trying to create schedules on the days she doesn’t have anything going on as well. This will make the sudden change back to structure feel less harsh, for all of us.

2. Stock up on items for before-school breakfasts and school snacks/lunches in advance. We’ve already gone to Costco for our favorite school year staples, which include Betty Crocker Bisquick Pancake Mix (pancakes are Essley’s favorite breakfast), Nature Valley Oats’n Honey Crunchy Granola Bars (these are Essley’s favorite snack to bring to school), and Ziploc Variety Pack (which has every size I need for her snacks, back-up outfits, etc. to keep things organized in her backpack). This alleviates the pressure of having to rush for food/kitchen items last minute, and ensures you have enough to last you awhile.

3. Buy and organize school supplies in advance. Just as getting food supplies ahead of time takes away that last minute pressure, so does getting school supplies early. I’m in the process of getting Essley’s supplies together and organized right now, so it will be one last thing on my list when the first day of school arrives.

4. Have breakfast ready to go in the morning. While you can’t exactly make breakfast for the first day of school now, you can plan on making it the night before throughout the school year. We often make pancakes – Essley’ favorite – the night before, put them in the fridge, then warm them in the oven while we’re getting ready. It saves so much time! This is especially helpful for the beginning of the school year, when you’re trying to ease back into a structured morning routine.

5. Purchase items with Box Tops to help your school. This is such a great way to jumpstart the new year in a positive way, by getting your kids involved in something that helps raise money for (and brings really wonderful classroom benefits to) their schools. We’ve been stocking up on General Mills products with Box Tops at Costco (see #2!), where they happen to be running a really cool program and contest called the Inspire Imagination Box Top program. To enter, you just snap a photo and post to Instagram (or tweet on Twitter) about how Box Tops for Education inspires imagination in your kid (for Essley, it’s always about art and more school art supplies!), follow @BTFE on Twitter or Instagram, and share with hashtag #InspireContest. 3,000 Costco members will each win 100 Box Tops for their school. Pretty cool, right? See more on this awesome back-to-school program here (and at the end of this post*).

6. Pack snacks in your kids’ backpacks. A few friends have told me that one less obvious challenge for their little ones when they head back to school is the issue of not being able to grab a snack every time they get hungry like they get used to at home over the summer. To make this a little easier, they suggested packing an easy snack (our favorite is Nature Valley Granola Bars and an apple) that they can munch right after school. We’ll definitely be doing this for Essley this year.

7. Take a first day of school photo. This is a great way to make a big deal about the first day in a way that will get your child (maybe not so much if you have a teen, of course) excited and pumped for the year. We did this with Essley last year (and took one on the last day too, as seen above), and she’s already talking about how she can’t wait to do it again. Anything you can do to help your little one view the new year as something joyful and exciting (rather than stressful) will make the transition easier for them (and you!).

How do you make the back-to-school transition easier? Who else collects Box Tops?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. This post is in partnership with  Costco Inspiration Imagination Box Tops and Acorn.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years or older. Ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on 9/30/17. To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, and prize descriptions visit www.costcobtfe.com. Void where prohibited by law. Use of “#InspireContest” when posting entry constitutes entrant’s agreement to Official Rules. Sponsor: General Mills.

Each box top is worth 10 cents to redeeming school when clipped from box tops products and sent to the redeeming school. Only BTFE registered schools can redeem box tops. Limit $ 20,000 per school per year for box tops redeemed through the clip program. See www.boxtopsforeducation.com for program details.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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What is Dry Drowning–and Is Your Dog at Risk?

Recently we shared with you our tips for your dog’s first beach vacation. But whether it’s your dog’s first trip to the beach or, like us, a weekly getaway to a lake beach,…

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Human Health Irritations Due to Pets

Some people are unfortunate because they have allergies to dogs and will never be able to enjoy the love, devotion, and companionship a human receives from a pet dog.

The symptoms of dog allergies are very similar to the symptoms of other types of allergies or the symptoms of a cold. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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Dogs With OCD

Dogs with OCD (or Osteochondrosis) suffer a great deal of pain and mobility issues.
When a dog has OCD, fragments of bone and cartilage become detached from larger bones and end up floating around the area encompassing a dog’s joints. The result is that any movement in the joint where those fragments are located will cause a dog to suffer …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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Licky licky

This doe just walked up to have me take her photo.


She almost looks like some kind of antelope in the tall grass of Africa.

You can also see her long whiskers, which aren’t very obvious unless you’re very close up.


Natural History

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