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  • Surprisingly Toddler-Friendly: The Getty Center and the Getty Villa

    I don’t know about your toddler, but mine is happy to have a new place to explore. That means lots of space and lots of walking. Challenging climbs? Even better. What my toddler doesn’t care about is kids’ activities – crafts and such hold his attention for about two seconds.

    So we recently headed out to the Getty Center thinking that Alex would enjoy the gardens and stairs, and we were right. Even on a Saturday afternoon, with a packed parking lot, there was plenty of room for him to explore. He enjoyed the ride up to the museum in the unmanned tram, the expansive city views from the top of the mountain, and the zig zag garden with its winding paths. He happily wore himself out going up and down different sets of stairs. He even made faces at me through the distortion lenses in the Family Room, though he breezed past the art coves where kids can create their own masterpieces.

    Since the Getty Center was such a huge hit, we headed out to the Getty Villa in Malibu (just north of where Sunset meets PCH). Again, there were plenty of stairs and a huge area to explore. Alex actually whined whenever we entered an exhibition, but was perfectly happy when we were outside. The Family Forum contains a couple of kids’ activities but none that held Alex’s interest for long (you can decorate some vases with erasable ink and put on a shadow play). I loved the herb gardens, with their edible plants and fruit trees – I even saw a gardener walk past holding two radishes he’d just plucked out of the earth. Alex’s favorite part was climbing the seats in the open-air amphitheater.

    Unlike when it opened several years ago, the Getty Center no longer requires any reservations. But you’ll have to reserve tickets ahead of time for the Getty Villa. Parking at each facility is $8. Both facilities are completely handicap accessible, which means there are ramps everywhere for strollers. However, we’ve found that it’s easier if Marc wears a backpack and I pop Tyler into a mei tai so that we can all go up and down the stairs together.

    Cross-posted at CFO Reviews.

    An Assortment of Halloween Links

    To get you ready for Halloween, here are some assorted Halloween links:

    Finally, my own little tip for baby costumes: PAJAMAS. I read this tip somewhere when Alex was a baby, but after I’d already bought him a Superman costume (which Tyler will be wearing this year). Last year, I bought Superman pajamas, and they were more comfortable and just as cute as a real costume (complete with cape), not to mention $7 cheaper. Now that Alex is old enough to prefer Spiderman to Superman, I picked up $12.99 Spiderman pajamas for him to wear this year. They have webbing at the arms, which makes them costume-like, and we won’t have to worry about a mask that he won’t want to wear anyway. Plus they’ll be comfortable and without the silly puffy chest that’s become ubiquitous in boys’ costumes.

    iPod Accessories for Parents, or How to get a full nap

    My brother-in-law generously gave us an iPod last year, and we’ve gotten great use out of it with our toddler. We’ve greatly expanded our children’s music selection in the car (no more Wiggles! – at least not a daily basis). We regularly expose our son to our kind of music (usually we strike a deal: Mommy and Daddy’s music on the way to our destination, his music on the way home). And, thanks to our latest acquisition, our son can also watch videos in the car without a DVD player now.

    What does all of this have to do with naptime?

    One of our biggest weekend challenges is to get the family out of the house for morning activities and yet make it home before our oldest falls asleep on the way (since both our children would go bonkers if we simply stayed home – they don’t care that it’s football season now). The baby is still too young to keep awake in the car (he’s still rear-facing, too), but our toddler will stay up if properly entertained. This is absolutely crucial because if he falls asleep, he will wake up when we get home and not go back to sleep, no matter how short his nap. And then we’re in for a long afternoon because he’ll be cranky but refuse to sleep, and by the time he’s willing to take a nap, it’s too close to bedtime.

    Given how imperative it is to keep our son awake on the car ride home, we are always looking for ways to make that happen. We have used snacks with great success, doling out individual pieces of pretzels or cut-up grapes on the drive back from the beach, for example. But sometimes food just doesn’t cut it, like if we’ve gone to visit a friend and eaten at her house.

    Enter the iPod. Unlike a portable DVD player, it doesn’t just sit there for our son to stare at until his eyes start droop. For one thing, it’s a novel, usually forbidden electronic device, and the thought of being able to actually hold it and touch it is incredibly exciting to a toddler. But, being a bright and clever child, holding the darn thing just isn’t enough for our son. So we’ve added a few accessories that make it child-friendly (and buy us 30 minutes for the drive home).

    • First things first: If a child is going to handle this, it definitely needs a good case. After some research, my husband settled on this case. It looks okay and protects the iPod pretty well, although the clear plastic face bears some scratches despite its claim to be “scratch-resistant.”
    • For video viewing, you’ll need a speaker. We just acquired this one, which turns the iPod into a mini-video player. We’ve loaded our iPod with free Nick Jr. downloads and other kid-friendly content. Many of the videos are short, but that actually works to our advantage because it keeps our son alert. He tells us when the video has ended and hands the iPod back for a new one.
    • For music listening, we have an adapter that works with our car’s cigarette lighter. We tried out a couple of other adapters before finding this one, which works quite well. The first adapter we got was almost twice the cost and interfered with the gear shift. The other adapter was a cassette adapter for our older car that doesn’t work well at all. One caveat regarding adapters: always unplug them or they may kill your car battery (yes, I’m speaking from personal experience).

    Not surprisingly, our son gets a kick out of pressing the buttons, and he actually seems to have more skill with the scroll wheel than I do. We should be able to use the iPod in this manner until our son outgrows his nap, which will probably be in a year or so – at which point we’ll give him a Gameboy. 🙂

    Brilliant Hack: Let baby finger-paint with his food

    Parent Hacks posted a great tip from a reader to let parents eat in peace at restaurants:

    Put a drop of baby food on a tray and let baby play with it while you eat.

    I instantly loved the idea, but we really don’t eat out anymore. It’s harder with a toddler than with a baby! But after I had fed Tyler in his high chair the other day, I realized that I could keep him content there by dropping a tiny bit of the leftover food on his tray and letting him swing his fingers through it (he did it instantly so there must be something instinctive about it!). I was able to work on dinner and clean up the kitchen a little bit before he got bored (I gave him another drop of food when he had thoroughly spread the first one out – his attention span lasted two drops, or about 20 minutes). What’s particularly wonderful about this hack is that the mess is minimal. I’m going to be using it a lot.

    Turn Common Discipline Problems into Games

    I wish I could be this creative – second best is getting the ideas from others! This Parents article has six creative ways to tackle common discipline problems:

    • Problem behavior: Not listening. Solution: Crank up the music and play “freeze.” You child will get used to stopping on command.
    • Problem behavior: Not sharing. Solution: Sit family members in a circle and practice taking turns with an undesirable item like a rolled-up sock. Everyone should hold the item more than once to emphasize “turns.”
    • Problem behavior: Ransacking cabinets and drawers. Solution: Take a tour of the house and say with exaggerated gravity “Not for Alex!” or “For Alex!” depending on whether the area is off-limits. This also works well at hotels and friends’ houses.
    • Problem behavior: Breaking delicate items. Solution: Use the “E.T.” touch (as in the alien from the movie with his one pointy finger).
    • Problem behavior: Not receiving gifts graciously. Solution: Practice ahead of time by wrapping undesirable items, opening them, and coming up with something nice to say about each one.
    • Problem behavior: Inappropriate sillies. Solution: “Pocket” the sillies before entering a serious place.

    This post is dedicated to my friend Patti, who also has a two-year-old runner – as in “runs off and doesn’t stop when called to.” I feel your pain, sweetie!