Kindermusik at Pied Piper Studios!

logo_1200dpiDid you know that one of the top rated Kindermusik programs in the world is located right here in Des Moines?  Yes! Jenn Horak-Hult (Miss Jenn) opened Pied Piper Studios in 2008 and Kindermusik has been a huge part of many local families’ lives since.

School is starting up again, so while that makes now a great time to think about enrolling your kids, they have ongoing enrollment so you can join at any time!

You might remember our post about them last year, and in that time a lot has happened with the Locations~~element49program!  They’ve moved to a new and fabulous location (3892 N.W. Urbandale Drive, Urbandale 50322) and have added lots of class options like art classes, yoga and drama!

I’ll include my experience sitting in on a class so you can get an idea of how a class goes, but we encourage you to try out a Kindermusik class for free!  Just visit their website to sign up!

I got to sit in a “laugh and learn” pre-school class and I was thoroughly impressed.  This isn’t your traditional music class.  Kids are encouraged to be themselves and you can tell that they love being there.  Administrative Assistant Staci explains that “there is no right or wrong way to participate in Kindermusik”.  Some kids happily comply with every recommendation of the teacher during class.  Some kids just do their own thing and absorb.  Some pre-school kids prefer parents to attend the class with them and Staci says “It’s all ok”.   In the short half hour I was there, Miss Jenn went through activities from dancing and singing to stories and instruments and bringing out a special bear visitor.  If a child wasn’t into one activity, it was ok, because the class kept evolving from one lesson to the next and there was something for everyone.

The kids adore Miss Jenn (and all of the instructors)! I think they all would have chosen to sit on her lap if there was enough space.  One little girl couldn’t wait to show Miss Jenn her ponytail and there was excitement in their eyes as they leaned in to hear what Miss Jenn was going to teach them next.  The most amazing part was the silence that filled the room as Miss Jenn would sing to transition from one activity to another.  She has a voice you could listen to all day and the kids definitely agree.

I had a chance to talk to some parents and I think the Kindermusik community extends far beyond what is taught in the classroom. Every single parent told me that one of things they love most about kindermusik, is the personal connections they have made.  One Kindermusik mom said, “These teachers and the other parents genuinely care about our kids and it kind of starts to feel like family.” Miss Jenn hand-picks and trains each Kindermusik instructor herself and they are all fabulous.  Miss Rebecca, Miss Anne and Miss Karin all love what they do and are so great with the kiddos.

The Kindermusik curriculum includes classes for newborns up to age 7. They also offers voice and SIMPLY MUSIC piano lessons for older kids. Your child can even have a Kindermusik birthday party!  How fun!

And give them a “like on Facebook for updates and invited to fun (free and open to the public) events like pop-up playdates!

Flynn Tea at Living History Farms

get-attachment-3.aspxget-attachment-1.aspxMy friend Staci and I decided to try something new and check out a Victorian afternoon tea at Living History Farms.  We’ve been to a Historic dinner and really enjoyed it, so we thought this would be fun to try.  You can read about our experience at the 1900’s dinner here:



The afternoon tea started out with introductions in the parlor and then a three course meal in the dining room.  After enjoying our soup and sandwich course, bread course and dessert course (along with tea of course) we were free to tour the mansion and ask questions of our knowledgeable host.



You can start making reservations for the $30 experience in August and teas last about 2 hours.

There is one more scheduled for the 2014 season on February 22nd and there were still some seats available last time I checked.


We had a really nice time!  Super fun to do with friends or to take your (older child) little tea-party lover to for a special occasion.

You can find more info about the teas here:



We were lucky enough to go on a day the Iowa Steampunk Group also attended.  You can see them in the above photo with us.  They were decked out for the event and looked great!

For the Love of Money-Kid Style

1723088_10152236217159993_1168469330_n 1615223_600158342871_1896579071_nGearing up for the annual Kidsfest at The Iowa State Fairgrounds (click to read more about the event) on February 28th to March 2nd, hosted by Veridian Credit Union gets us thinking about teaching kids about money.  My first thought was to ask my friends, many of whom are faced with this challenge right now with young and school-aged kids.  My friend Brandy said that “there are basically two schools of thought: 1. tie it (earning money) to work done (chores ect) since as adults we have to “earn” our pay, or 2. give it to them because chores and whatnot should be considered “part of being in the family”. However, both usually end with the same goals of teaching kids “save” “spend” and “donate” with each dollar earned. So really, this is a blog post about parenting AND money!”  My friend Margaret said “Teaching children about money isn’t just about math. It is about values.”  So true.

get-attachment-4.aspxI think that we have to keep in mind that whatever mathmatical methods we use to teach our kids, how we teach our children to think about money has quite the impact on how they grow up to view money and their overall values.  Dave Ramsey has many articles on this topic, like this one:

So to give us a little more insight on this as well as some actual strategies to help us reach these goals with our kids, I enlisted the help of my friend Dan, the owner and center director of Mathnasium – The Math Learning Center, located in West Des Moines (read our review here.

Dan says that “Kids of all ages can use math, learn to set goals and develop a responsible fiscal sense by using money. Showing your kids how to work with currency is probably the most straightforward way to demonstrate to them how math figures into our daily lives.

Kids (as young as preschool) can start by learning the value of each of our coins and bills. Counting piggy banks 1504148_10152236217124993_286625097_nfull of coins is an excellent way to get children accustomed to using money. (It’s also a great way to teach kids the benefits of saving money!) Then they can practice adding and subtracting when buying items and making change while playing “store.”

Here are some sample questions:

If you want to buy something that costs a dollar, and all you have is 78 cents, how much more do you need?

If you buy something that costs $12.89, how much change will you get from a 20-dollar bill?


Giving kids of all ages an allowance each week is a great math and savings lesson. Ask them how much that would amount to per day (division). Ask the reverse by stating they will be earning “X” amount of money a day. What would be the total in a week or a month? (multiplication)

Next, they can create a goal for themselves by deciding what they would like to purchase


and finding out its cost, and then work to earn the money. Have them count the money earned daily (addition) and then subtract the total from the cost of the item (subtraction). Ask older kids who have part-time jobs to average the amount of money they earn a week and to estimate how long it will take them to earn the money they need. Finally, have your children calculate and save 10 percent of the money they earn each week.”


Dan Gehlbach is the owner and center director of Mathnasium – The Math Learning Center, located in West Des Moines. Dan lives with his wife and 2 daughters in Urbandale. Year round, the center helps kids get caught up, keep up and get ahead while they develop confidence and a love for math. For more information call 440-MATH or consult the web site at

Other resources and activities:


Another friend, Lisa, who did a lot of work as an after-school/day care provider and nanny recommend the game  “Payday”  She also says that “for young school age children, give them a denomination of money and then find things at the store that they can buy with that denomination. For older school age children, give them a denomination and have them plan a meal that can be bought with that money. ”

“Like” us on Facebook and watch for a chance to win 4 free tickets to Kidsfest!

Mommy & Me Sweetheart Dance

get-attachment-1.aspxWe had the best time at the Mommy & Me Sweetheart Dance on February 8th at Courage League Sports in Urbandale.

get-attachment-3.aspxThere are lots of Father/Daughter dances around town this time of year, but there aren’t too many (that I know of at least) Mother/Son (or Daughter) dances.

This event was a fundraiser for Variety – The Children’s Charity of Iowa and it was so well-done for its inauguarl event.



The Iowa League of Heroes was there for photo opts with the kids and they even danced with them!  They had a photographer taking professional photos, a massive dessert table of impressive desserts by Cache Bakery, flowers, crafts, dancing and more.

We had a great time and can’t wait to attend again next year.

Sky Zone-Jumping Fun For Everyone!

Today’s guest post is by my super fun friend Sonja.  Sonja is a stay at home mom of two, runner, scrapbooker and always in search of cheap entertainment for her boys.  She visited Sky Zone recently and was kind enough to share! Thanks Sonja!

Sky Zone is a great way to beat the heat (or cold)!
Since Tuesday was the last day that our favorite splash park had water turned on, we had to find a new way to beat the heat on Wednesday.  I had heard that Sky Zone in Grimes, just off of Highway 141, had a special toddler time, so we decided to check it out.
Toddler time is for ages five and under from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.  It costs $6 per toddler, and one parent can jump for free.
My little guy is only ten months and not walking yet, so he was free and I carried him most of the morning.  My big guy is 2 ½ and had a blast.
When we first arrived I had to sign a waiver for myself and my two boys, got shoes for myself, and we got ready to bounce.  My big guy’s feet are not big enough for any of their shoes so he went barefoot (the smallest size shoe available  is a toddler size 10).  I had to wear shoes if I wanted to go on the trampolines with him, so bring socks if you want to go out there with your kids.
First we spent time in the main trampoline court area.  It was filled with wall to wall trampolines, including the walls (which were fun to bounce balls on too.)  One area was netted off to play with the balls, and this was my son’s favorite since he was allowed to throw the balls inside.
There was one other part of the building open to the toddlers which included a big foam pit to jump into.  The trampolines were set up to run down and jump into the foam pit, then climb out and do it again.  Of course the foam blocks were as much fun to climb around in as the trampolines were for bouncing.

They have special pricing for large groups and host birthday parties as well.  Check out the pricing here.
We burned off a lot of energy in our one hour and had a lot of fun.  So whether you need to get out of the heat or just burn off some toddler energy check out Sky Zone for Toddler Time, or any other time.

Hit a home run at the Home Plate Diner

We were out by the fairgrounds the other day and hunger stuck.  We remembered that the Home Plate Diner was right across the street, so we went to check it out.  It’s really the only breakfast place we could think of in that area.  They have two locations in Des Moines now, so you can try them out across from the fairgrounds or on NE 14th st.

They offer your normal diner breakfast favorites as well as comfort food-type lunch and dinner items. They were very accommodating to special requests.

Nothing stood out on the menu as super-unique, but the food was good.  My mom said her omelet was on the greasy side, but I think you kind of expect that at a diner.

My kid was a fan of the chocolate-chip pancake, but I’m pretty sure he’s never met a chocolate-chip pancake he hasn’t liked.

The corned-beef hash was good and cooked how we like it and the hash-browns were crispy.

The baseball-realted decorations were fun to look at and the restaurant was clean and family-friendly.  We think it’s pretty cool that you can make a reservation online too!  Skip the dreaded wait!

All-in-all, the food was good, the service was fast and friendly and if we are on this side of town and get the hankering for some diner food, we’ll be back.

Prairie Meadows

Sure, you can go to Prairie Meadows for a day or evening of gambling.  But, have you considered Prairie Meadows for a weekend get-a-way?

Those are ostriches!

The new hotel is really beautiful!  They have a pool and exercise room.  Really nice decor and comfortable sitting areas throughout the lobby and of course lots of meeting and conference rooms if you wanted to host a meeting or party.  The guest rooms are spacious and modern and they have really great deals on the rooms. You can do a romance package that includes a meal, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries for about $159.


For dining options they have a few bars, a cafe in the hotel, buffet, outside vendors in the racing area and the really great AJ’s Steakhouse for a fancier option.  They often have live bands playing in the evenings and the full entertainment schedule is here.

Kids are allowed in most of the dining and racing areas. And if you think playing slots and table games are the only things to do, check out the racing schedule.  They even have zebra, ostrich and camel races once a year and they are hilarious!  Kids really like to watch the races and sometimes the jockeys will even give kids their racing goggles and take pictures with them after races.


And if races, dining, gambling and live entertainment aren’t enough to do, you can always go ride some roller coasters or water slides next door at Adventureland.  Jethro’s BBQ is across the street and Downtown Des Moines is just a few miles away.

So if you want to get away without having to go too far away, even for just a day, with kids or without, check out Prairie Meadows.  If you haven’t in a while a lot has changed and you might just find out you really like it!

UPDATE!! The 2014 ZEBRA , Camel and Ostrich races will be on July 20th, 2014.  Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult and there is no wagering on these races. Just for family friendly fun! Can’t wait!

Where Monkeys Hang

While the thought of tons of jumping kids in one place makes me cringe a little, kids just love Monkey Joe’s in West Des Moines.  And I’ve come to accept that Money Joe’s isn’t so bad when it comes to play places for kids in town.  For $8-$10, your kid can have hours of fun jumping and then hopefully an early nap or bed-time as a reward for Mommy and Daddy.

I’ve been impressed with the safety measures each time we’ve visited.  They have a parent and their children wear wrist bands and they check your band to make sure they match up with your kids every time you enter or exit.  They seem to be really good about this.

They have cubbies for shoes and jackets and they make each child wear socks.  The store is generally clean and the inflatables are fun and they have a few to cater to each age group.

They have a small arcade area in the back, and I like that it’s in the back because it’s a little bit out of site and it keeps my kid from asking for quarters every two seconds.

They offer a selection of pizza, wings, candy, etc. if you or the kids get hungry.  The prices are comparable to other place places in town and the pizza is pretty good.

We have been impressed with the birthday parties we’ve attended too.  You get your own room that is “color-coded” so kids know which room to return to to get something or food, etc.  The inflatable chair that the birthday kid gets to sit in is always a hit and Monkey Joe even makes an appearance to give the birthday kid a gift.  They offer pizza, cake and drinks and prices for parties run from $149 to $289 depending on how many kids you have and if you have your party on a weekday or weekend.

Check out the calendar here, for daily specials like Facebook Fan Monday and Two Fer Tuesdays.  They also run coupons on sites like groupon and living social occasionally, so keep an eye out for that.

Teddy Bear Connection

We had a great experience the other day at The Teddy Bear Connection at the Merle Hay mall.  I thought the items were a little more reasonably priced than some of the other stores that offer these bears in the area.  If you’ve never been to a “Make your own Teddy Bear” type place, kids pick an animal to stuff, name, dress and bring home.

They have a large selection of bears/animals that are only $9.99.  Nathan picked the dinosaur which was one of the 8″ bear choices for $9.99.  It wasn’t too small at all.  
The staff was very helpful and friendly.  They let him help to stuff the bear, add a sound ($3.99 if you choose to add it) and they had him make a wish and add a heart to the bear.  They let you pick the name of the new stuffed friend and the birth certificate is included. You can buy a small box for only $.99 if you want one.

You can stop there or add some clothes to your new friend.  The outfit for the 8″ bears were about $8 for a set.  My son was so excited about his new dinosaur that he didn’t care if he was dressed, but I know some kids would be more insistent that they get an outfit, so keep that in mind.  The salesperson was not pushy at all which was great.  They also had some seasonal items at the front desk that were marked down.  

We’ve been to birthday parties before at bear-building places and they are always fun, but can get pricey.  I think The Teddy Bear Connection would be a great option for a birthday party at $9.99 per child for a bear. With no other costs of you want to keep it at that.  You can of course choose to let kids add more items to their bear for added costs.  You can bring your own cake and drinks and they have a party area right in the store.  

We have had great experiences at most bear-building stores, but we especially liked the prices at The Teddy Bear Connection.  Check it out.

Tip: If you “like” them on Facebook, they often run specials and have contests for free bears.

Bowling up some fun

We are lucky with some great venues to bowl in the Des Moines area!  For those that live closer to the Valley Junction area, check out Val Lanes if you haven’t already.   

They have a ton of lanes and all of the normal stuff you can expect from a bowling alley like bumpers and ramps for kids, a cool arcade area, a bar and food. 
We were actually pretty impressed with the food options.  A big selection and surprisingly good quality.  I’ll warn you, the french fries are addictive.  Not too greasy and crispy on the outside. Yum.

They have all electronic scoring systems and automated lanes.  The alley is clean and the staff is friendly.  Our kids had a great time even if they only lasted a few strings before moving on the the arcade area. 

While we haven’t attended a birthday party here, the price looks reasonable at $9.99 per kid and the brochure says you can bring in your own food.  They also offer leagues and have a store right there to buy all sorts of gear.

They had shoes little enough for our youngest bowler (super cute by the way) which was a toddler size 6.

Tip: Ask for a lane near the arcade since the arcade area is in viewing distance of the lanes, so if the kids go to play you can still bowl or sit at your table and chat and still keep an eye on the kiddos.