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Summer Exploring: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

2018 July 22
by Becky

Last summer, Finn and I journeyed over to this hidden spot along the Anacostia river, just inside the DC boarder. I’d learned about the spot from my tried and true all-things-DC-for-kids resource Kid Friendly DC, and boy was she right about this place…it’s incredible. So, since it was on the top of this year’s summer bucket list, we headed over to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last week—this time with Ethan in tow.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Ponds

The gardens are made up of large manmade ponds with wide paths for walking between and around them, making this place totally stroller friendly. Amongst the reeds and cattails are framed views of blooms and sneak peeks of swampy creatures like giant bull frogs, tiny fish, and plenty of turtles. The boys made quite a tally of animal sightings.

This turtle was so tiny, hard to capture his miniature size on camera. Just swimming under and around the lily pads. If I was a turtle, this is where I’d want to live.

Turns out, we timed things perfectly because the lotus and water lilies were in peek bloom. We thought about waiting and going over the weekend for their annual festival, but since the forecast said “rain, rain, rain”, we opted for the Friday before. It was the most perfect day to be outside surrounded by nature.

Overall we’ve been so lucky with weather this summer. There was one week of real heat, during which we were gone (ha!), but otherwise it’s been delightful, barely hot enough to head to the pool (though we’ve been going anyway). I feel like we’re on a mission to spend as much time in all these fabulous outdoor spaces as humanly possible before the real summer weather hits.

Anyway, my personal favorite part of these ponds is the underbelly of the operation. Where the creatures hide, where tiny, perfect leaves float in clusters among the lily pads. It’s shady and kind of magical under there.


Due to the peek blooms, crowds were bigger this time than our visit last year, but still very manageable. Navigating the ponds was easy and the kids had plenty of opportunities to run around. Finn found a treasure—a seed pod from the middle of a lotus—which he carried through the whole visit.

We spent about an 2 hours looking around, people watching, and taking pictures. Our last stop was at the back of the gardens, for a walk along the boardwalk that takes visitors out to the marsh. As if this place wasn’t lovely enough, it opens up to a huge river marsh area full of birds, butterflies, and more creatures.

There is plenty of seating to do some serious bird watching, but my boys aren’t quite that patient (like not even close) so we did more of a walk-by viewing of the area. We were there at low tide so it was very muddy, but the water is up two feet at other times of the day.

I’d say this is a top choice for where to spend a lovely morning in DC, and it’s different for every season so worth making a few trips. I’d love to see the marsh in Fall color, I’ve heard it’s spectacular. Now if only it had a children’s garden with some sheep statues it would fill the gap made by leaving our beloved Botanical Gardens behind in St. Louis! I’ll be sure to make the suggestion next time I’m there.

Summer “I’m Bored” Busters

2018 July 17
by Becky

summer boredom busters

I know some of you will be sending kids back to school very soon, but to us, summer has just begun. We didn’t end until June 20th, then had almost three weeks of being out of town visiting family and friends, so really we’re in week two of keeping the kids entertained without the help of school. I’ve had some great success with some of the fun things above, so I thought I’d share!

But first, “Why not send them to camp?” one might say. Well, while we are feeling very at home here in Northern Virginia, I’m not super up on what camps are worth the insanely high prices parents in this area has become accustomed to. In St. Louis, we waded through mountains of amazing and affordable options for full-day camp fun, not to mention we always had the option to send the kids to their awesome school camp. Full of nerves about what to do, I decided to at least get my two work days covered and I hired a part time nanny. She’s a second grade teacher and comes twice a week to entertain the boys while I head to the little cafe where I’ve settled into my chef role quite nicely. So other than signing Ethan up for a couple half day camps—one is an art class at the Torpedo Factory and one is Minecraft Modding through the rec center—I’m mostly on my own this summer.

We hit the gym early, then spend mornings at museums or splash pads or parks, and afternoons crafting or at the pool we joined. We’ve hit a few items on our bucket list, including Yards Park, National Building Museum, many library trips, a hike at Great Falls Park, and we saw The Incredibles 2 (it was…incredible). Crossing Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens off our list later this week. Getting out of the house is the key to my sanity.

I’m probably royally screwing this up, but I’m giving it my best shot. I’m not one of those super patient and playful mommies, so I’m not going to lie and say it’s been all rainbows and butterflies—there have been time-outs and fights and lots of “Just give me a minute!!” Plus, I have zero time away from the kids, except for when I’m working in a sweltering kitchen (not complaining, I love it), but I’m hoping to alleviate that with a few extra hours here and there with our nanny.

No doubt I’ll crack in the next week or so. Stu would probably say that ship has sailed, especially since he was gone the entire first week I had the kids home. Words were said.

So as referenced above, I’ve accumulated an assortment of “Boredom Busters” in an old Amazon delivery box that’s been dubbed the Craft Bin, the kids always referring to it as this mysterious and magical thing. I’ve been gathering materials for months and hiding them away, knowing the boys would have the whole thing torn apart in about an hour if I let them near it. I have to say, while there’s many requests to “watch a show” or “a little ipad time”, we’re doing pretty good keeping the screen time to a minimum and staying busy, all thanks to the Craft Bin.

Here are a few things that have worked really well. Some take more parent involvement than others, some involve messes (not a fan, I’m a neat freak, but I’m doing my best to let them happen sometimes), and some are a little challenging.

summer boredom busters

  1. Rocket Copters – These have been in our family for a while and are always a hit at the park. We keep a few sets in the stroller and on trips to the park always have a few kids join in after watching Finn shoot these things up in the air. They go high, make a little noise, and even light up! They make a great gift too.
  2. Finger Weaving Loops – I got a set of these at Micheal’s on sale, in kit form (and probably overpriced) thinking they may be something fun to do with Ethan. Come to find out, both boys think finger weaving is the bomb. Finn needs help, his fingers are so little, but Ethan was unstoppable. They’ve made quite a few very long “snakes” out of a simple weaving pattern we found on Youtube. There are countless ways to use these things! Can’t wait to try more.
  3. Paint By Sticker – This jumped out as an easy project for Ethan. No mess but it still takes a little time and a gentle touch with a lovely result. Finn likes it too but doesn’t really know his double digits yet so it takes some assistance.
  4. Architek Set – These were a birthday gift to Ethan that I’d hid away for future use. Makes the presents last longer! Both boys went nuts over the little screws and nuts, Finn again needing help but Ethan really getting the hang of it. Like Legos but harder. They’d like to try out another set soon.
  5. Fluffy Cloud Dough – I pinned this with dreams of a less messy, less sticky slime recipe. Slime is such the rage right now with Ethan’s age! Sure enough, this soft, spongey dough is way easier for my ODC complex to handle. Plus it’s two ingredients, can’t get easier. The corn starch is initially messy so do this in the kitchen and help stir.
  6. Tinker/Kiwi Crate Membership – Ethan begged for the Tinker Crate after hearing another friend rave about it so I thought we’d give it a try. The first project was a spin art machine! To Ethan’s delight, he wired it and everything, then got to make artwork. Really fun and we can’t wait for the next one. Finn would be ready for the Kiwi version but I’m holding off since he hasn’t asked. :)
  7. Model Magic – You know this stuff. Just set it out and let the kids go to town. Mine love it and only get it every now and then, so it’s still special. We try to keep it in a ziplock to make it last longer, but someone (Finn) tends to leave the bags open every time he touches them. (Got mine cheaper at Michael’s.)
  8. Cardboard Weaving – All it took was some yarn and a piece of cardboard and we had Ethan off and running with this project. He’s set it down for a bit, but I plan to get him going again and introduce the skill to Finn too, I think he’ll get it quick. Love the fun yarns this blogger used!
  9. Pearler Beads – I caved and bought a ton of these things, we will officially never run out. I got the plates that will fit larger creations and fun accessories like key chains and necklaces to showcase the results. I printed off some Minecraft patterns for Ethan to follow, which he loved. They did these with our nanny for the first time and OMG was it a mess when I got home. They couldn’t find the broom and the vacuum was no use. Since then things have stayed neater, thank goodness. I put them out for a few days then put them away. Keeping it interesting.

What are your favorite boredom busters for summer? We need to keep replenishing, there’s still over a month left of summer! Or do we go back later than the rest of the entire country? Because it feels super late. 

Left in high priority on our bucket list: Climb Zone, Burning Man Exhibit , Frying Pan Park, Georgetown Waterfront Fountain, Beauvoir School Playground, Charlottesville, VA, Reston Zoo (now called Roer’s Zoofari), DC Duck Boat Tour.

What’s top on your bucket list? Did you do them all?