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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Daily Painting

For most of my life I could neither paint, nor draw.  It didn't bother me much until I started homeschooling my kids following Waldorf curriculum and my artistic ignorance started to get in the way of good education.  Oh for sure, I have stood in the Louvre in front of Mona Lisa and looked at Titian’s Bacchus in London’s National Gallery.  I studied Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and admired sunflowers in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.  I liked art; I just couldn’t will my fingers to produce anything that could even remotely be called a painting or a drawing, and I was finding it hard to instruct and inspire my kids through our art curriculum.  I finally took some art classes and learned that ability to paint was a learnable skill.  Not everybody can paint masterpieces, but everybody can learn how to paint the basics.  Ever since my discovery I’m on the lookout for good how-to art books. 

When I saw Daily Painting  by Carol Marine I knew that I had to read it and I’m glad I did.  At the center of the book is the idea that painting on a regular basis, using small canvas, will help you grow as an artist.  Painting small pictures has many benefits: you are less worried about screwing up, more inspired to experiment, it fits easier into your schedule, and you enjoy the process more.  It doesn’t have to be daily, but “paint daily” is catchier than “paint often.”

For me (a recovering Perfectionist) the most important lesson from this book (and it applies to all areas of my life) was the realization that instead of concentrating on making something perfect it's better to give myself a deadline, do the best I can within that time frame and then move on to the next thing.  There is almost always opportunity to make something a little bit better.  I would be so concerned with improving things that I would get stuck with just one thing.  Now I tell myself I have two hours, I give it my best and move on.  It certainly made me more productive, happier and actually more creative.  

This book is great for beginners (like me, but not absolute beginners) and for more seasoned artists.  The writing style is conversational and Carol Marine writes with humor.  The book is 182 pages long and is filled with beautiful full-color paintings by the author and by many other daily painters.  The book is broken into 11 chapters and I will briefly summarize each.

Chapter 1 How Daily Painting Changed My Life (and can change yours too)

Carol Marine shares her personal story of how painting daily turned her career around.  She lists the benefits of painting small and often, shares her daily routine, talks about how she finds her inspiration and subjects to draw, gives advice on how to establish reasonable expectations and includes five stories about other daily painters. 

Chapter 2 My Materials
Some of the topics covered in this chapter are lighting, shadowbox, paint, medium, and even flying with paint.  Just as the author I often forget to wash the brushes at the end of the day and no matter what I tried (dishwasher liquid, mayo, rubbing alcohol) they were never the same and I had to throw them away.  I must have thrown away thirty brushes this way.  Carol Marine shares her secret ingredient.  Murphy’s Oil Soap.  I happened to have it and could try the trick right away.  And it worked!

Chapter 3 Subject Matters
Still Lifes/Flowers, Landscapes (including sea- and skyscapes), Animals, People (including figurative subjects, portraits, children and sports), Cars and Buildings (including interiors and cityscapes), and Abstracts are six subject matters covered in the book.  She talks about each category in detail, gives ideas on how to get started, offers useful and fun exercises that could help explore the category deeper and includes stories about other daily painters.  

Chapter 4 Value
Carol Marine considers value the most important element of creating sellable and interesting images, no matter what medium and what subject.  She gives great advice on how to get values right, how to be in full control of value composition, and offers a Value Study exercise (which I completed and enjoyed). 

Chapter 5 Color Mixing
This is my favorite chapter in the book.  I think color is one of the most interesting subjects in the world.  Color can change mood, cause action and reaction, raise and lower blood pressure, increase or decrease appetite, and even put you to sleep.  There is even a Medical branch called Color Psychology.  The topics covered here are saturation (the relative intensity of color), the role of gray in color mixing, how each color leans toward other colors (for example ultramarine blue is blue with a little red in it), and how to change what you think you see.  This last one was the most useful for me.  Just to give you an example, you would normally think of a red apple as being red and a beginner might paint it red with a second color to make a shadow, but a more advanced painter would make their own red from a mix of red, blue, yellow, and white to create a more realistic apple.  Exercises in this chapter are fantastic.

Chapter 6 Drawing and Proportion
One of the most important skills to master for any painter and the only way to get better is to practice.  But practice how and where do you begin?  Not to worry, this chapter gives you great instructions on how to mark the boundaries, compare the location of each mark, get big shapes down, and work the way down toward the details.  I appreciated the tips on how to ignore the brain (i.e. paint what you see and not what you think you see; use viewfinder to get angles right).    And I loved the instruction on how to draw ellipses correctly and how to understand the perspective. 

Chapter 7 Composition
Trust your instinct, mix up the intervals in your composition, use a variety of colors and degree of saturation, change direction/size of brush strokes, incorporate soft/hard edges, use both warm and cool colors, remember the rule of thirds, avoid rows of objects and awkward “kissing,” break the myth of odds,… these are just some of the things you will learn in this chapter to create a dynamic image.

Chapter 8 Staying Fresh and Loose with Oil
This chapter gives detailed instruction on how to go about drawing your composition with a specific focus on what to draw first (start with areas that are harder to paint – I always did the opposite) and what to keep in mind while painting.  I really like the seven-step tutorial on how to paint tomatoes and discussion of top six mistakes students make. 

Chapter 9 Fighting Artist’s Block
Everybody gets it.  Highs and lows are a natural part of life.  Just roll with it and try some amazing suggestions in this chapter.

Chapter 10 How to Photograph and Edit Small Paintings
Point your art away from the light, get square to the painting and many more tricks to take good photographs of your art.  Editing tips are useful even if you don’t have art, but simply like taking photographs.  

Chapter 11 Tips for Better Online Sales
Set up a beautiful blog, generate web traffic, use social media, send out press releases, advertise, etc are some of the topics covered in this chapter.   

 In conclusion, Daily Painting is a book that is a pleasure to read and it left me inspired.  I recommend this book.   

You can learn about the author here and check out her beautiful website here.  And you can buy this book on Amazon
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Better Banana Bread

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My kids love banana bread.   Instead of fighting it, I decided to make my banana bread healthier.  I added chia seeds (quality protein, manganese, magnesium...) and hemp hearts (plant-based protein, omegas, iron, phosphorus..).  I replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat (I would be happy to make it 100% whole wheat, but my kids didn't take to that version).  I also switched from plain white sugar to coconut palm sugar, which is considered healthier due to lower glycemic index and it has high mineral content (iron, potassium, zinc), and it is also high in vitamins K, P, B1, B2, B3, B6....  You can further improve this recipe by adding a cup of nuts and/or raisins.  Unfortunately, my kids don't like them.  Overall, I have never seen a banana bread recipe that was healthier than this one.  It produces healthy, moist, sweet enough banana bread that you can feel good about eating.  And the best part is that you don't need to get your mixer dirty.  All you need is two bowls, a fork, and a spoon.

3 large bananas (or 4 smaller ones)
6 Tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 cup coconut palm sugar (2/3 cup work for us)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
1 Tablespoons hemp hearts

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.
2.  Butter a loaf pan and sprinkle with flour.
3.  Mash bananas with a fork in a large bowl.

4.  Melt butter in a small microwavable bowl.

5.  Add melted butter to bananas and safe the bowl for the next step.

6.  Break two eggs into your small bowl and use a fork to beat them up with 1 teaspoon salt. They should become foamy.

7.  Mix melted butter, bananas, beaten eggs and sugar.

8.  Sprinkle soda on top and mix it in.
9.  Add the remaining ingredients (all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, chia seeds, and hemp hearts) and stir together.

Note:  Are you familiar with a Wish Raisin?  Probably not!  I made it up recently.  It wouldn't work if you are planning to add raisins to your banana bread or maybe you could use a piece of walnut and make it a Wish Walnut.  Since we don't use raisins, I stick one lonely raisin into a pan before putting it in an oven.  Whoever gets a piece with a raisin can make a wish and it will be sure to come true!  It never fails to make someone really happy.  

11. Bake for 55 minutes.


Do you like banana bread?  What do you like to do with leftover bananas? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Homemade Sunscreen

I find it ironic that while sunscreen sales are growing and reaching $1 billion a year, skin cancer is on the rise.  Shouldn’t this be an inverse relationship? According to CNN report, 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year. In fact, in the past three decades more people had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.  When it comes to cancer it’s more than one factor that might play a role, but can it perhaps have something to do with a fact that after reviewing 2,000 sunscreens in 2014 The Environmental Working Group found that 75% contained toxic chemicals?   The interesting part about those toxic chemicals is that they create free radicals when exposed to sunlight.  And free radicals damage cause cell mutation that leads to cancer.  Yes, you read it right, some ingredients in sunscreen you buy at the store increase risk of cancer.

I have been label- reader ever since I remember (mostly because if I see words I have to read them), but I grew tired of always researching ingredients and always finding something I didn’t like.  Even the most organic, Whole Foods-approved brands had something I disliked about them. Preservatives! Companies have to add ingredients to increase shelf life of their products from a few weeks (no preserves) to a few years (typical sunscreen).  So, I wondered if it was possible to make homemade sunscreen that is effective. 

To my surprise I found that sunscreens can be made from a few safe, healthy, easy available ingredients.  They were effective as in that they protected skin from the sun.  Were there any contraindications for making homemade sunscreen?  The only arguments I found were: (1) you don’t know what number SPF you are getting (I would rather have lower SPF that I love to re-apply every few hours, than have 50 SPF sitting unused in my purse), (2) mixing chemicals is dangerous (that’s why it’s always advisable to start with a thorough research), (3) there is a reason they do it in a science lab (yes there is, it’s called common sense: a Big Sunscreen Company just cannot come to your house and do it in your kitchen).  

There are five ingredients in my homemade sunscreen and I looked at each individually.

Carrot Seed Oil

A study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine reported that carrot seed oil provides a sun protection factor 38-40.  It has been widely disputed (mostly by sunscreen manufacturers) and in my opinion, even if if the study is a bit off, it's a lot of natural SPF with no harmful side effects.  I will take it.

If you are worried about not getting enough SPF read this article from Environmental Working Group.  

Coconut Oil

You have probably heard it by now but for thousands of years coconut oil have been widely used across many diverse cultures.  Would it surprise you to hear that besides its other benefits Coconut oil has a natural sun protection in it?  SPF factor ranges depending on the quality of oil and is about 8 SPF. 

Olive Oil (extra virgin)

Kobe University School of Medicine exposed hairless mice to three sun tanning sessions per day. The group that was treated with extra virgin olive oil was skin tumor free after 18 weeks, while the control and other oils group grew skin tumors. (Poor mice!)  According to this research article olive oil has a natural SPF of about 8.  


Beeswax is a natural wax from a honeycomb of honey bees.  It has wonderful barrier properties, has a natural SPF 15 and it makes the whole mix waterproof.  All beeswax is not created equal.  Look for quality product.  

Zinc Oxide (non-nano)

Zinc Oxide is a mineral that sits on the skin protecting it from harmful sun rays.  (The same ingredient is used in diaper rash creams).  Non-nano means it doesn't soak into your bloodstream.  It works by scattering the radiation before it reaches your skin.  There are some useful guidelines in handling zinc oxide.  SPF depends on how much you use.  Basically, percentage of zinc oxide to total weight of solution determines SPF of your potion that comes from zinc oxide.    

Other Good things about Homemade Sunscreen

I have tried a couple of recipes and finally arrived at this 5-ingredient concoction that makes everyone in my family happy.  And "happy" means we use it regularly.  It is odorless, doesn't stain clothes, and can be used on babies (just google "is zinc oxide safe for babies," if you don't believe me).

Apart from the harmful chemicals, another thing I always hated about sunscreens is how yukky, sticky it feels on a skin.  Once I put it on, all I wanted to do was to take a shower and scrub it off my skin.  Our homemade sunscreen feels nice.  You actually want to apply it.  

I prefer my sunscreen to be odorless, but there is no harm in adding a couple of drops of essential oil in the mix, if you wish.

How To Make Homemade Sunscreen

  1. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/4 cup organic coconut oil
  3. 1 stick organic beeswax (=1/4 cup, 1oz)
  4. 1 teaspoons organic carrot seed oil
  5. 2 Tablespoons zinc oxide powder (non-nano, uncoated)

1.  Put the first four ingredients in a mason jar (a pint or larger).  Do not add zinc oxide yet. 

2. Fill a pot with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.  Place mason jar in the pan.  Warm the ingredients stirring occasionally.

3. When all ingredients are melted to the same consistency (about 15 minutes) take it out and add 2 Tablespoons zinc oxide (Note: you can wear gloves and face mask for protection or just use steady slow movements and don't inhale the powder directly).  Stir, stir, stir!  You want to really incorporate zinc oxide into the mix.

4. Store in the mason jar it was made in or reuse some old face cream jars.  Label your jar and you are done.

If you buy sunscreen at the store, I found this list helpful in determining which ingredients to avoid. And when we did buy sunscreen my favorite brand virtually the only brand I trusted was Badger.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

The top 10 Audiobooks for Little Kids

I have learned that there is an alternative to the "Are we there yet" soundtrack playing in the backseat of my car.  It's called books on tapes.  Not only they prevent "Mom!  He is breathing my air!" squabbles, but also my kids are exposed to books that are well above their reading level, learn new vocabulary, and we all have something new to talk about.  The good thing about books on tapes is that I can share my childhood favorites with my kids without getting hoarse reading them cover to cover outloud.

The books I pick for my kids are all my dear childhood friends.  I must have read Mary Poppins ten times.  Alice in Wonderland?  Easily 20.  I once had an ambitious desire to learn the whole Alice in Wonderland by heart.  Why?  Well, I had to memorize the whole chapters of War and Peace by heart for my Literature class back in grade school and I didn't even like War and Peace.  At least Alice in Wonderland was funny.

 Not everything I pick is an instant success.  Peter Pan was rejected.  Little House on a Prairie was deemed "too boring."  Chronicles of Narnia didn't take either.  But I'm not giving up.  I might try again in a year.  From everything we listened to in this last year (my oldest kids were 6 and 4) we put together The Best 10 list.  Whether you have a  long car trip or simply driving a few miles to a soccer practice give these audiobooks a try, they have proved to be a great bonding experience for my family.

1. Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers.

2. Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren

3. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White

4. The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

5. Rabbit Ears Treasure of Storybook Classics

6. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank L Baum

8. Kenny and the Dragon, Tonny DiTerlizzi

9. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

10.  The Magic Tree House, Mary Pop Osborne.  We listed to all of them.  Over 50 books!  Some of them such as Night on the Titanic and Vacation under the Volcano are so popular that kids listened to them hundreds of times and literally know them by heart. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Homemade Hard Candy - Петушки на Палочке

When my kids ask me to buy candy I have the hardest time saying “yes.”  Not only there is nothing nutritionally valuable in candy, it is also often filled with additives, preservatives, and weird colorings with names that remind me of aircraft fuel.  So my solution to this problem is to make homemade candy.   We can use ingredients readily available in our kitchen, avoid the really bad stuff and learn some chemistry along the way. 

Some of the things you can learn making homemade candy:
  • Measurements, volumes, and weights
  • How heat works and the process of evaporation
  • How to use thermometer
  • Why sugar solidifies into crystals

When the kids are older we can talk about sugar molecule and about carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.  For now I just mentioned it in passing.  I always look for an opportunity to throw in some confusing words just to see what will stick.

If you think you are switching to homemade candy for good, I highly recommend buying a good candy thermometer.  The most important aspect for me is that it’s dishwasher safe.  Cleaning the sticky stuff off manually is a hard labor. Another important aspect is a good clip.  I just hate when my thermometer comes off when you least expect it and sprays sugary water all over the stove top.

For my Russian friends I want to mention that this candy comes out tasting exactly like our childhood treat Петушки на палочке.  I don’t have a rooster-shaped form, but it doesn’t matter. It still tastes the same.

What you need
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet and perhaps cookie cutters

What to do
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pan. 
  2. Slowly heat the mixture to low boil while stirring. 
  3. Keep the mixture at a low boil and place a candy thermometer in the container. 
  4. Keep the mixture at slow boil until the temperature reaches 350F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer what do you do?  There is a trick to it.  From time to time scoop some syrup with a spoon and let it drop into a cup of cold water.  If the drop hardens, then the candy is ready.  Also, pay attention to the color.  You want a beautiful, rich, dark golden glow. 
  5. While the mixture is cooking, prepare cookie sheet and/or cookie cutters. I like to cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.  You can also spray it with cooking oil to make sure nothing sticks.  And generously spray cookie cutter with oil. 
  6. Once the mixture reaches the desired temperature, pour it into the cookie pan and/or fill the cookie cutters.  You can add food colorings and flavors, but I think it's delicious as is.  
  7. If you are using cookie cutters and you want your candy to look like lollipops, insert sticks a few minutes after your filled the cookie cutter.  It’s that magic window of opportunity when mixture is hard enough not to flow freely from under the cookie cutter but still soft enough to allow the stick to penetrate.  

I like to break off a small piece and suck on it until it disappears.  It goes a long way to tame a sweet tooth! 

Some of the things you can mention along the way:
  • The white stuff you know as sugar is sucrose.
  • Sucrose consists of two simpler sugars stuck together - fructose and glucose.
  • Acid - like cream of tartar used in my recipe - breaks down sucrose into its components fructose and glucose
  • When you add sugar to water sugar crystals dissolve
  • As water begins to boil it starts to evaporate leaving the remaining solution saturated with sugar
  • Adding non-sucrose sugar like corn syrup prevents crystallization of sucrose in candy
Happy Candy Making!  Let me know what you think. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Nature Trails

Nature Trails behind the Nature Museum is one of our most favorite places in Chicago.  It's an amazing and often overlooked treasure right in the heart of the city.  Perfectly situated between the Lincoln Park zoo, Fullerton Beach and Conservatory, it is also in close proximity to Wednesday’s Farmer’s Market. 

The native plants garden around the museum is filled with squirrels, birds, and even rabbits.

The beautiful pond is filled with wild birds: herons, ducks, and geese.

According to Nature Museum blog, if you look carefully you can also see blue-winged, yellow warblers, red- winged blackbirds, redstarts, gold finches, blue gray gnatcatchers, veery, wood thrush, kingfisher, catbird… Did you even know that there are so many different birds right in the heart of Chicago? 

The Sunshine playground is halfway down the trail.  It offers such a gorgeous view that there were two movies and two commercials shot there by a movie crew (just to our knowledge). 

Sunshine Playlot has old fashioned wooden equipment that my kids find fascinating.  The giant sandbox is always filled with tracks, buckets, and shovels for everybody to use.  We also love the shade and picnic tables. 

To the north of Sunshine playground is immense (by city standards) green running area, which is also perfect for playing frisbee and for soccer. 

Here is a location of our favorite picnic spot in Chicago, a steep hill that my kids call “The top of the world,” and not because they haven’t seen real mountains as we did spend our last vacation in the Austrian Alps.

We enjoy Nature Walk year round, but it is especially rewarding right now when migratory birds are coming back.  Our regular walks allow us to study seasons and native plants and animals.  These regular walks also have a profound effect on my kids writing and artwork.  Just look in their portfolios on the days we get back from Nature Trails and instead of boats, robots and trains, you will see snakes, birds and butterflies.  

I hope you visit the Nature Trails and love it as much as we do.

2430 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614

Friday, May 22, 2015

Nature Museum - Why you should buy a membership

What can I say about The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum that hasn't already been said about breathing?  You need it.  Children today just don’t get enough opportunity to learn about the natural world.   In 2014 American children aged 2-11 spent 5 hours each day watching TV, and only 14 minutes outdoors.  If we don’t have much direct contact with outdoors, we are not going to learn much about it.  We tend to avoid things we don’t understand. They confuse us.  According to 2013 poll of 2,000 parents children today would rather do homework and even chores than play outside.

The top ten things children would rather do than play outside (source):
  1. Watch TV
  2. Play computer games
  3. Play games
  4. Play with toys
  5. Read books
  6. Go on the internet
  7. Listen to music
  8. Read magazines
  9. Do their homework
  10. Do chores

Nature Museum is doing an important job of connecting children to nature.  Not only does every room have hands on exhibits, it also hosts amazing drop-in family fun activities with crafts and live animals.  Thanks to Nature Museum my kids got to hold snakes and turtles, were tickled by butterflies, participated in animal feedings, bird watch walks, built nests, learned about what animals eat, where they hide and what they like.

Yes, ideally you want your children to spend five hours outside every day chasing butterflies and fireflies, collecting spiders and kissing frogs, but is it really possible in a big city?  And where to find five hours?   Nature museum sparks interest in topics we might have overlooked otherwise.  After watching butterfly release, we started growing our own butterflies from caterpillars (Butterfly Garden).  What a way to learn about metamorphosis.  After seeing scientists taking care of frogs (in Look In Lab) kids wanted to grow their own frogs (Grow a frog kit).  Ladybug class led to purchase of larvae (Ladybug land).  It was amazing to watch them form cocoons and emerge as ladybugs (letting them go was heart-breaking).  And the most exciting of all was LED illuminated Ant House.  I would rather buy these education resources, than video games and toys with buttons that make loud and annoying sounds.

Today I’m not going to be talking about museum’s outdoor space called Nature Trails (I write about it HERE).  In this post I will take you on a quick tour of our favorite museum exhibits to encourage you to check it out.  


This is an interactive exhibit that teaches children how to build a dam, how to turn river into lake, and how to control a water turbine.  Bring a change of clothes.  Some kids get really wet.

Mysteries of the Marsh

Did you know that one of the most famous former marshes in the world is … Chicago?  This photo below is Chicago today just 20 minutes southeast of downtown.  

Photo Credit: Big Marsh Chicago

It’s an important topic to learn about.  Did you know that two thirds of the endangered species in Illinois are found in wet lands?  Spotted turtles, short eared owl, gray bat, golden mouse, piping clover, and Hine’s Emerald dragonfly are all on the Illinois Endangered species list.
Piping Clover.  Photo Credit: USFWS, Vince Cavelieri

In this exhibit you can learn more about marsh, push some buttons and get close and personal with some life specimens (check ahead for schedule of the day).

In this room you will also find the Look In Lab, where you can see scientists taking care of the animals.

Hands-On Habitat

One of the great things about the Nature Museum is that it allows balancing intellectual with active.  In this room kids can get some essential physical release.  Here you will find slide, boat, tree house and two caves.  As neuroscientists investigate how children learn they often find that movement or physical activity is an essential element of intellectual growth. 

Nature's Lunch Box

Even the lunch room in the Nature Museum is interactive and educational.  In a little museum shop they sell healthy snacks and sandwiches, so it's nice not to have to worry about lunch when we come here. 

The Judy Istock Butterfly Haven

Now we are moving to the second floor to the world-renown Butterfly Garden.  It's a 2,700 square foot green house filled with one thousand freely moving butterflies.  On multiple occasions butterflies landed on us.

Wilderness Walk

This beautiful re-creation of environments found in Chicago – prairie, savanna, and dune – leave children excited and full of questions.  You might need to head straight to the local library and get some books to answer their eager questions.

Next to this section is a taxidermy table.  If you are lucky you can see scientists working on animal skins (i.e. skunks and coyotes).

Birds of Chicago

"Chicago is a great place to see beautiful and rare birds."  We never had any interest in birds until we started learning about them in the Nature Museum.  My kids get very excited by the idea that every bird in this exhibit can be potentially seen on our walks.  They like to listen to their songs (show me kids who don't like to push buttons). 

Rainforest Adventure

This temporary exhibit created by Stepping Stones Museum for Children offers hands on introduction to rainforests around the world.

Nature museum is an ideal play and learning environment.  Give it a try.

Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive.
Chicago, IL 60614

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