It happened again, didn’t it?
Five days went by in a flash and now the weekend is back. Little eyes stare up at you saying “Mooooom! We’re BORED!”
Don’t worry, we got you.
Thanks to our friends at Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers, we are bringing you “Ford Fun Days” — single-day itineraries with themes that you can use all year long.
Follow us on Instagram (or check back here!) for each month’s video itinerary, created and vetted by mom and daughter duo, Lauren and Roxanne. The activities are short and manageable enough to tackle in an afternoon but still jampacked with fun — and sometimes even a sneaky lesson or two.
In the Driver's Seat
1. Visit the biggest, baddest truck in town 🚒
Did you know anyone can tour a fire truck up close and personal? You can! Call up your local fire station and ask when a good time to come by is. You’ll find that, generally, they are very excited to show the kids around. We visited the Rochester Hills Fire Department and got a surprise visit from Sparky the firehouse dog mascot!
2. Fill up at Ford’s Garage ⛽
Finish your engine-powered day with some fuel at Ford’s Garage restaurant (@fordsgaragedearborn). They have Model T’s parked out front and Ford memorabilia covering the walls – even the bathroom is car-themed! Your little one’s motor-mind will be melted and their belly full.
1. Choose the food category for your Chowdown Showdown
2. Pick your players
3. Put the taste to the test
Give Me Some Space!
1. Do some mission planning at a local planetarium
Get inspired to explore the cosmos by visiting a planetarium. We went to Acheson Planetarium at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, but you can find more space domes in southeast Michigan here. Check showtimes and plan the rest of your day accordingly.
2. Gather materials to build your own your space craft
A proper rocket must have all the hoodads and thingamabobs. Before you go to one of the big box craft stores though, dig through your recycling bin, your old craft box or consider checking out Arts and Scraps like Roxanne and her crew. Arts and Scraps collects and sells donated bits and bobs that would otherwise be tossed. Hunting through their aisles is an adventure all on its own!
3. Build a rocket that will make #NASA proud
All it takes is a big cardboard box and some imagination! Clear a space in your home and let the kids go wild. Don’t forget to set the mood with some tunes from out of this world. Here is a playlist of space jams to get you started.
Science and a Scoop
1. Gear up for a day at your favorite children’s science museum. 🧪
We got in the mad science mood by exploring the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. The H2Oh! exhibit and the Preschool Gallery were big hits for our crew, but with three floors, there is something to excite any kid (or adult for that matter). The tornado simulating fog machine was extra spooky. BONUS: To celebrate their 40th anniversary, admission is only $3 the weekend of Oct. 8-9 only! @ann_arbor_hands_on
2. Reward yourselves with science you can eat from Milkster Nitrogen Creamery. 🍨
All forms of cooking are just science experiments you can eat. But, Milkster takes the concept to a whole new level by freezing your ice cream in front of your very eyes using ultra-cold liquid nitrogen. Use one of their recipes or bring your own creation to life. @milksternorthville
Good Deeds Day
1. Brighten someone’s day
Give someone a compliment, let someone go in front of you in line, smile at a stranger. There are lots of ways to brighten someone’s day. We chose to spend time with some of the elders in our neighborhood at Beaumont Commons – a senior living community. We played with bubbles, drew pictures together and had puzzle time.
2. Deliver a gift
Giving can feel just as good as getting – an important lesson to teach in a world of quick-click consumerism. Whether you pay for the person behind you in line, drop off little gift bags to friends or give some much-needed essentials to a local organization, get your little one involved in the process. We decided to gather some goods for Common Ground, a local mental health agency with a really cool mission. Read more about them below.
3. Donate items you don’t use anymore
Round out your day of good deeds by gathering up some tossed-aside toys or outgrown clothes and dropping them off at a donation center near you. Need some help convincing kids to let go? Check out our article on how to get rid of old toys without upsetting the kiddos.
Behind the Scenes
Common Ground is a 24-hour crisis services agency dedicated to helping youths, adults and families in crisis. Their center provides crisis intervention and stabilization services to individuals, including children, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also provide Behavioral Health Urgent Care – think of it like Urgent Care but for your mental health issues. They also operate a free and safe 24-hour shelter for at-risk youth ages 10 to 17. You can donate money to their organization through their website or call to get a list of items to purchase and drop off. They don’t accept used items.
Be Ye Sailor or Scallywag?
1. Set sail at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on @belleislestatepark
Play “Captain” at one of Detroit’s truly underrated destinations and find the ship that suits you best. Try paddling the 18th century canoe of early settlers and then racing a speed boat down the river at full throttle! You can even take the helm of the real S.S. William Clay Ford, a Great Lakes freighter, whose salvaged pilot house now overlooks the river from the museum.
2. When the call of the water gets too strong, head down the road to The Gilbert Family Schooner Splash Pad.
This sunken schooner splash park, located at Mt. Elliott Park will turn any sailor to scallywag! With cascades, water cannons, wind chimes and a ton of other interactive features, your kids will be seadogs before you know it. If you’d rather stick closer to home, check out our list of local splash pads.
Behind the Scenes
When planning this video, I was a little skeptical about going to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. I thought it would make a pretty video, but wasn’t too sure how much actual fun it would be for Roxanne.
Man, I have never been more wrong in my life – Roxanne had a BLAST! The Dossin is now number one on my “best kept secret” list. There were so many things to touch, push, pull, steer and move! It was nearly impossible to tear her away from the race boat steering wheel (she’s very into driving at the moment). If your kid is into bits and bobs, you can NOT deny them the pleasure of visiting the REAL S.S. William Clay Ford. The museum preserved the actual pilot house from the Great Lakes freighter including every button, knob and lever. It’s tactile heaven – Plus the view of the river is unmatched. (SIDE NOTE: If you can’t make it to the museum, check out their live webcam of the river!)
When you tire of the indoors, there is a lovely little beach area that’s much more low-key than the Belle Isle beach. Or, leave the island, put on pirate hats and head over to the The Gilbert Family Schooner Splash Pad, like we did. As far as splash parks go, this one is top notch. It’s huge, looks awesome and has water cannons – what more do you need?! At 2 years old, Roxanne was a little overwhelmed by the big ship and the crowd (we didn’t expect a Tuesday afternoon to be so crowded), but she found her happy place in a smaller toddler area. A bonus? They had nice, clean bathrooms and snacks available at the concession stand.
Support Plant Parenthood
1. Visit an aspirational botanical garden, conservatory or greenhouse
Get your little one stoked about mother nature by taking them to see the best she has to offer. Matthaei Botanical Gardens’ soaring two story conservatory is packed with plants from around the world. Explore 3 different climate zones and make sure to point out the pothos, monstera or snake plants you have at home when you spot them!
2. Head to a local nursery to pick out a new plant buddy.
Having something of their own to nurture at home helps promote responsibility, empathy, and confidence. Let the kiddos take part in the process by choosing their own plant and pot. Read the water and light requirements to make sure it’s a good fit.
3. Bring your new friend home!
Let your kids get their hands dirty by repotting their new plant themselves. Pick out the perfect place to keep it – somewhere it will get the light it needs but low enough that your child will be able to keep an eye on it and water it when necessary. If you give it a name, you might even be able to hold off on getting that puppy for another year or two…
Behind the Scenes
You guys, Matthaei Botanical Gardens DELIVERED! It’s in Ann Arbor, which I know for some people is a little too far and if that is the case there are TONS of other gardens you can visit to get geeked about plants: Cranbrook House and Gardens, the Ford House Grounds, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle to name a few. But if you live nearby or decide to make the trek – it is SO worth it! The conservatory is beautiful with a pond to welcome you in, a two-story waterfall and a Koi pond with enormous fish.
Admittedly, the kids worked their way through the 3 climate zones pretty quickly. Outside there are more gardens and trails and — the big winner of the day — the Children’s Garden! Touch all the plants! Climb all the things! Play in the giant sand pit and the mud kitchen! They had a blast and we were bummed that we hadn’t given ourselves more time to play.
The drawbacks though? It was crazy busy this Saturday afternoon and we had to park in the overflow lot. Walking two toddlers from their far back field was a challenge. If crowds and long walks are intimidating to you, we suggest avoiding the peak hours.
After we were good and inspired, we went to pick out our very own take-home plants. Since we were already in Ann Arbor, we chose the Downtown Home and Garden which has a great selection and super cute accessories. It was tough to stay on task and we may have wandered a bit into the more “home” sections – but, toddlers + breakables was not a good combo so we wandered right back over to gardens. Another bonus? It’s located right by a bunch of restaurant options. We opted for Frita Batidos.
Once home, we got wet and dirty getting our new plants in their pots and practicing watering. We love nurturing nature and teaching a little responsibility along the way.
Bring a Book to Life
1. Head to your local library
With a computer in every pocket, it can be easy to forget one of our greatest resources – Libraries! Explore the architecturally dreamy Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library or refamiliarize yourself with your local library and everything it has to offer – books, sure, but also computer games, board games, movies, programs, classes and so much more!
2. Choose a book
Pick out a book that you would like to “bring alive” in the next step. Roxanne loves trains, so we chose the classic American folktale John Henry: An American Legend by Ezra Jack Keats. You can follow our lead or create your own book/activity combo. Here is a list of classic books for every age to get you started.
3. Choose an adventure!
Take reading to the next level by exploring a theme from the book in real life. We visited David Shepard Park in Oak Park to climb on the giant play-train that could have ridden the rails that John Henry himself built. Not into trains? See below for a list of book/activity combo ideas. Pro tip: While at the library, check out a Michigan Activity Pass for deals on admission to hundreds of institutions throughout the state.
Behind the Scenes
Nerd alert: We love libraries. We used this project as an excuse to explore the Detroit Public Library Main Branch. And while the architecture is stunning, Roxanne was more interested in testing out every different kind of chair she saw than the soaring ceilings and stately columns. The kids area had plenty of space to spread out and no one seemed to mind our not-so-inside voices. Obviously they have tons of books, but also games, computers and a take-home craft. Older kids can hang out in the very cool HYPE Teen Center which even has a 3D printer! Don’t forget you need a library card to check anything out, but even non-Detroit residents can get one.
Confession: When planning this video, we had a really hard time settling on just one book/activity to explore. We chose John Henry and the train at David Shepard Park because Roxanne loves trains, but we don’t want our other ideas to go to waste. If you have an older kid or just aren’t that into trains, try one of these:
READ: Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss | DO: Visit the Catfe Lounge in Ferndale
READ: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle | DO: Look for butterflies at the Cranbrook House and Gardens
READ: Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel | DO: Fly a kite
READ: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll | DO: Have a tea party at the Mad Hatter Bistro in BIrmingham
READ: Little House on Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder | DO: Visit Greenfield Village
READ: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo | DO: Borrow a dog for the day with Dogventures from Friends of DACC
READ: Book Thief by Markus Zusak | DO: Browse John K. Kings Books
READ: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank | DO: Visit the Zekelman Holocaust Museum
READ: Call of the Wild by Jack London | DO: Check out the Wolf enclosure at the Detroit Zoo
READ: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain | DO: Rent a Kayak on the Huron River
Not your Mother’s Self Care
1. Call up your best mom friend(s) and leave the kiddos behind for the afternoon
Moms tend to give everything they have to their family. But sometimes, in order to be your best mom-self, you need to invest in your self-self — not only for your own mental health, but to model being a whole human to your littles as well.
2. Visit Aura Aura in southwest Detroit to get a snapshot of your energy
Your aura is the personal atmosphere of energy that surrounds you. Using “legacy analog biofeedback technology and professional instant peel-apart film” Eileen Lee of Aura Aura will capture your vibe on film, then help you decipher the meaning of your mystical glow.
3. Head over to Sfumato in Midtown to discover your new signature scent
While that VS Love Spell body splash may have served you well in the ‘00s, this is not that. At Sfumato, their unisex scents are engineered through the science of scent using only natural ingredients. Fragrances ranging from woodsy-dark to citrusy-clean will have you walking around feeling like your very own personal aromatherapist.
Behind the Scenes
This moms-only day was exactly what we needed. No kids meant no big surprises and no little tricks or subterfuge necessary to get through the tasks at hand. As usual though, some tips to help you navigate your day:
Aura Aura sessions are by appointment only and upcoming available dates are released a month at a time. It’s best to follow Aura Aura on Facebook to be the first to know when new dates are released. If you have a specific date in mind for a party or a girls trip, you can request a private or group session.
When you arrive, the address will take you to Vernor Highway, but the door is located on Scotten – I definitely had to call for help. The actual photo session is pretty quick, about 10 seconds and because it’s real film, you only get one shot. The photo develops like a Polaroid and once you see your aura in all its glory, Eileen will give you a reading to help decipher the colors and meanings. We had three people in our group and ended up with three very distinct #humanatmospheres.
Onward to Sfumato! This store is located at the garden level of a charming Victorian building and everything about it feels intentional. It’s small inside, in a cozy way, with stone walls and beautiful repurposed cabinetry. If the owner is there, I highly encourage you to chat with him. He is a fountain of information and more than happy to share.
Spritz and sniff to your heart’s content. If you can’t decide on a single fragrance, Sfumato sells flights of one-ounce bottles so you can test them out at home before committing. After a week with my flight, I ended up going back to buy a full size for myself and a different one for my partner. Pro-tip: no one wants to be over-perfumed-guy, so for just the right amount of scent, follow the advice of JVN: “spray, delay and walk away.”
Farm to Table (Literally)
1. Visit a Petting Farm
Yeah sure, the Detroit Zoo is world-class, but sometimes, you don’t need to go big. On this Farm to Table adventure, check out a local petting farm and actually TOUCH the animals! Be sure to slip in a little farm education with all the fun too — kids tend to eat better when they know where their food comes from.
2. Hit up the farmers market
Southeast Michigan is lucky to have so many to pick from. We visited the Royal Oak Farmers Market and found all different colors of eggs. Explain that the chickens you saw at the farm lay the eggs that we eat. We added freshly baked bread to our basket as well. An extra bonus? Balloon animals and smoothies!
3. Make breakfast for dinner.
Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? We brought the farm to the table by turning the eggs and bread into French toast — a huge hit with Roxanne!
Behind the Scenes
For this trip, we took Roxanne and her friends Leo and Ari to the Heritage Park Petting Farm in Taylor. It’s a beautiful park and features a farm that is open year round.
This particular farm isn’t the kind where you go into the animal pens and feed them, which honestly worked out for us. Our kiddos are on the young side (2-5 years old) and were still pretty intimidated by the animals. After some coaxing, they did pet some of the animals through the gate and they loved touching the rabbits and the duck.
Some tips though? Expect the kids to be a little shy with the animals. Let them lead the way with how comfortable they are. Encourage them, but don’t force them to interact if they don’t want to. Even if they just admire from afar, it will be a worthwhile trip. Definitely have the kids wear rain boots if possible. There was mud and goose poo, aplenty. Also, pack extra hand sanitizer for snack time.
The farmer’s market was also a huge hit with the kids. Royal Oak Farmers Market was a little better suited for the smaller kids than Eastern Market. They have live music, a balloon artist, and lots of room to run in the wide aisles — that is, if you get there early enough to beat the crowd.
1. Take your crew to a local thrift store and pick out some fun/fancy/crazy outfits.
Let your kids pick your clothes or try the TikTok challenge and make a game of it as you walk down the aisle with your hand skimming the top of the racks. When they say “stop,” that’s what you grab.
2. Get dressed in your new outfits and visit a selfie museum.
We took over the Good Day Selfie Museum in Ferndale, but there is a fast-growing list of immersive photo experiences to explore – Find one near you!
3. Let the hilarity ensue!
With a different themed room around every corner — each loaded with props — the kids will go wild. You’ll have pics to share for weeks to come and memories for a lifetime.
Behind the Scenes
This was our first trip to a Selfie Museum, with or without kids and man, did it deliver. I feel like we found some sort of secret parenting cheat code. Because there are SO many things to look at and play with, the kids were wildly entertained. When they got tired of the Hollywood Glamour room, the DJ dance party room was only one turn away. There was a CD hallway, a cash room, pay phones and even a ball pit! It was so much better than we expected.
Some caveats though: Because these places aren’t built for kids, you have to stay on your toes. Make sure you clean up after yourself as you run from room to room. We also recommend booking during non-peak times. Another thing? You’re probably not going to get picture-perfect selfies. Our kids we’re so excited by all the stuff they didn’t have time to pose pretty. So just relax, go with the flow and laugh at the outtakes later.
Winter with a Twist
1. Visit Blakes Orchard and Cider Mill for
Apple Picking Ice Skating!
Normally you would head to Blakes in the Fall to pick apples, but on our day of twisty adventures, you’re going here to ICE SKATE! (Closes for the season March 6).
2. Visit The Home Bakery for a
A mix between a croissant and a donut, this hybrid pastry is sure to get your tastebuds twisted. Other ideas to twist and shout about? Treat Dreams in Ferndale offers cheesecake served like scoops of ice cream. Or if sugar turns your darling into a devil – who doesn’t love a classic German pretzel?
3. Head home for a movie with a twist ending!
Younger kids: Frozen – Meet the Robinsons – Zootopia
Older Kids: – The Sixth Sense – Planet of the Apes – Arrival
Behind the Scenes
Our Winter with a Twist outing had a few twists and turns itself. We learned that the “ice” at Blakes isn’t actually frozen water – it’s a synthetic skating rink made of plastic. While it took some getting used to, it wasn’t all bad. The synthetic ice doesn’t let you glide as well, which slows down the fun, but also keeps the kiddos from slipping and falling as much.
We also planned our skating adventure for a Sunday, not realizing that The Home Bakery is closed that day. Lucky for us, Blakes had a lovely bakery inside full of donuts and sweets to satisfy us day-of. We used some movie magic to put together the video (aka we went back another day for the Cro-nut), but don’t be like us. Check the hours of your places ahead of time, so your themed-outings run without a hitch.