f you’re looking to plan some super-fun activities for your kids this summer and prevent the dreaded summer slide, look no further than your TV. Yes, you read that right — your arch nemesis can be your best friend.
Just pay close attention to which shows your children particularly love, and then use that as a launching pad for figuring out what excites them and keeps them engaged. You’ll end up getting them away from the screen, tapping into their passions and even sneaking in all sorts of learning along the way. To get started, check out these seven perfect Jersey pairings.
The Show: Dinosaur Train
The Spot: Field Station: Dinosaurs
Where: 40 Fort Lee Road, Leonia
At this Jurassic Park–style “zoo,” your pint-sized paleontologists will find 32 animatronic dinosaurs and a whole new world to explore “9 minutes from Manhattan, 90 million years back in time.” In addition to the main attractions, check out the Paleontologists’ Laboratory, where kids dig for (and take home) actual Mesozoic-era fossils, and a host of interactive events — including a dinosaur dance party, a musical puppet show and a dino-themed Olympics-style competition. Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and crew would be jealous!
More info: www.fieldstationdinosaurs.com
The Show: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Spot: Liberty Science Center
Where: 222 Jersey City Boulevard, Jersey City
Cowabunga, dude! Yes, the concept of Ninja Turtles is as silly today as it was back in the ’80s, but kids love the crime-fighting quartet more than ever thanks to the new Nickelodeon series. And parents will flip over this awesome exhibit at the Liberty Science Center, which is open through September 5th. Kids will be challenged to navigate their way through a rope maze without setting off alarms, test their ninja-turtle trivia in an interactive game, solve puzzles and work their core muscles on balance-board skateboards.
More info: lsc.org
The Show: Jake and the Neverland Pirates
The Spot: Pirate’s Cove at The Land of Make Believe
Where: 354 Great Meadows Road, Hope
Yo-ho, let’s go…to Pirate’s Cove, the waterpark section of the otherwise quaint Land of Make Believe. Little ones can splash around on pirate forts with dumping buckets, a river ride, and Pirate’s Peak, a 40-foot-high, 400-foot-long waterslide complex. Older kids can test their bravery on serious waterslides like the Black Hole and the Sidewinder. The only problem? Your kids will be talking like pirates for the next week. Arrr!
More info: www.lomb.com
The Show: Thomas the Train
The Spot: The Delaware River Railroad Excursions
Where: 100 Elizabeth Street, Phillipsburg
If you’ve got a kid who loves trains, this is the adventure for you. Take a ride on an original, old-fashioned steam train down the Delaware River to check out the gorgeous scenery, learn some New Jersey history and pan for gemstones at the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine. The company also features themed trips, including The Polar Express, King Arthur’s Knight Train and, yes, Thomas the Train (which returns next summer). Excursions run on weekends throughout the year. All aboard!
More info: www.877trainride.com
The Show: The Octonauts
The Spot: Adventure Aquarium
Where: 1 Riverside Drive, Camden
What’s on today’s creature report? Approximately 8,500 aquatic species — and your underwater explorers will be on a mission to see as many of them as possible. In the hands-on KidZone area, children will squeal with delight when they touch a slimy sting ray or prickly sea star. And the hands-off stuff is equally cool. For example: the aquarium’s resident hippos, little blue penguins (the smallest penguins in the world!), and the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast. One of the newest attractions is Shark Bridge, a V-shaped rope-suspension bridge that lets you walk just inches above sand tiger, sandbar and nurse sharks. Try it if you dare!
More info: www.adventureaquarium.com
The Show: Miles from Tomorrowland
The Spot: Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium
Where: 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a kid who isn’t fascinated by space: the final frontier. But Miles fans will particularly love exploring the universe at RVCC — even if it’s without a superstellar blastboard — and seeing the laser and star shows. The latter are 40-minute, kid-friendly productions, which include “Magic Tree House: Space Mission,” based on the best-selling books of the same name, and “Perfect Little Planet,” in which a family from another star system is looking for a place in our galaxy to vacation.
More info: www.raritanval.edu
The Show: Wild Kratts
The Spot: Popcorn Park Zoo
Where: 1 Humane Way, Forked River
While the Kratt Brothers may be going places you never get to see, you can see the animals from those places at Popcorn Park Zoo and learn about conservation. That’s because Popcorn Park isn’t actually a zoo; it’s a refuge for sick, elderly, abused and injured animals. There’s a hodgepodge of rehabilitated exotic animals — including Bengal tigers, camels, wallabies and emus — as well as farm animals and wildlife. And yes, in case you were wondering, you can actually feed popcorn to some of the them! It’s a perfect way to see some very cool creatures while also teaching your kids about respecting nature and all that’s in it.
More info: www.ahscares.org
About the author: Dawn Yanek is a pop-culture and parenting expert, and the founder of Momsanity.com. She has worked as an on-air spokesperson for Life & Style Weekly and Match.com, a contributor for ESPN2’s Cold Pizza and a relationships columnist for Stuff magazine. Her writing on parenting has also been featured on Scary Mommy, What the Flicka? and BonBon Break. She is the proud mother of two adorable kids and one crazy Pomapoo, all of whom share her obsessive love of ’80s music.
Hero (Top) Feature Image: Facebook/FieldStationDinosaurs
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy: