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Amsterdam’s Science Center NEMO

The first thing my 20 month old noticed when we walk into the NEMO science center in Amsterdam was the bubbles stations. He forgot the year before when my husband tried to stand inside the a large bubble and it popped. My poor baby cried until we distracted him with all the buttons in the next area. (Poor baby being my son, not my husband)

This time, my toddler wanted to try it for himself. The problem? Too many big kids. So, while we tried to get him to use some of the other bubble making tools he eventually lost interest. Which was ok because there were many new and exciting activities waiting for him. (Side note: they import their soap used in the bubbles from the USA!)

Fact: The only time you can take a picture of an excited toddler inside a science center, the moment he sits down on one of the exhibits.

Fact: The only time you can take a picture of an excited toddler inside a science center, the moment he sits down on one of the exhibits.

Of course there were tons of exhibits waiting. Science Center NEMO is huge. I would soon rediscover its five floors by chasing my little boy. He ran from exhibit to exhibit to exhibit. Between my husband and the grandparents, someone was always trying to rein him in. Since I was super-pregnant with our daughter, I got out of a lot chasing duties.

TIP: don’t want to be responsible for chasing a toddler around? Go during your third trimester!

He was worse than a pinball because of all the other pinballs running around him.

This place is great for all ages!

The first time we visited NEMO Science Center our son was only 8 months. Since he wasn’t walking yet, we tried the Age Machine. We took a picture of ourselves, then moved a dial to see what we looked like as a kid and what we will look as we age. My husband as a kid was eerily accurate. If this is any indication, that means my son will not be the best looking old man.

I loved this exhibit. You take a picture of yourself and then you can see what you like like as a kid and as you age. This is my husband as a kid. It looks exactly like him.

I loved this exhibit. You take a picture of yourself and then you can see what you look like as a kid and as you age. This is my husband as a kid. It looks exactly like him.

Unfortunately, if it's accurate this is what my little boy will look like when he's old. (He kind of reminds me of my mom!)

Unfortunately, if it’s accurate this is what my little boy will look like when he’s old. (He kind of reminds me of my mom!)

My son’s favorite exhibits had one thing in common: buttons. Still, there was one button that stood out in a room of buttons. He’d spot this button from far away and we knew what was about to happen. Arm extended in front of him, raised with his finger ready to push, he’d start running. Then the four adults in our group would look at each other. Using just our eyes for communication we would assess who was closest, fastest, and who he was most likely to listen to. Most likely it was grandpa. So, grandpa would go after W before W got to his favorite button of them all: the elevator button.

Fortunately the elevator button “exhibit” wasn’t his favorite. I think that honor goes to a ball exhibit called Machine Park. I’m not entirely sure what the point was since there were several stations, each doing something different. At the one my son picked he had to grab a ball and push a button. The ball would eventually make its way around, get dropped into a bucket, and the process would start again. You could even get a progress report. He’s going to make a great line worker some day.

He also loved one so popular with kids, it was hard to read what it was about. The kids were covering a lot of the explanation and doing the experiment. I think it was about water purification. Warning: toddlers don’t care about purification as much as they care about water. He ran in and minutess later, after his grandfather caught up with him, they both came back to us soaked.

Addressing sexuality in a science center

As for the adults in our group, we got the biggest kick out of the Teen Facts floor. It’s about sexuality and the changes teens experience during puberty. You know you’re in a science center in Amsterdam when…

Within this area a separate area restricted to 18 year olds. I’m too much of a prude to go into details, but I will say that it was a discrete area. A staff member kept young kids out.

Back to the unrestricted area. Along one wall there was a cartoon showing the development of a boy and girl from baby to teenager and repeat. It was really cute and a reminder of that awkward puberty stage. You can watch the video here, I highly recommend it.

The funniest exhibit definitely goes to the French kissing booth. Here you tongue battled with anyone you wanted, but not how you think.

French kiss strangers!

French kiss strangers!

Take a break from it all

The highlight at NEMO was the rooftop. Along one side of the building there’s stadium style seating with views of Amsterdam. When we were there in 2011 the rainy weather kept people away. In 2012 I left the grandparents with my son so I could enjoy some quiet time alone. Not going to happen. The sun was out and my peaceful city-escape was crowded with school kids running around and enjoying themselves. When I noticed the water fountain that all the kids were jumping in I texted the family: hey, don’t bother meeting me up here, no way W will ever leave. Meet you downstairs.

Amsterdam views from the rooftop. This was a rainy day, but you can see the potential if it was sunny.

Amsterdam views from the rooftop. This was a rainy day, but you can see the potential if it was sunny.

There are even fun learning opportunities up here!

There are even fun learning opportunities up here!

Practical information:

  • NEMO Science Center is a 15 minute walk from Centraal Station, next to the public library
  • Hours of Operation: Open Daily from June to September (10:00 am – 5:00 pm), closed on Mondays the rest of the year. Also closed on New Year’s Day, Queen’s Day, Christmas Day
  • Admission: Free for kids 3 & Under. As of this post, it is EUR13.50 for everyone else, more details here.
  • There are restaurants and cafes in the museum. You can also bring your own food and eat in designated areas.
  • There are lockers for visitors, available for a small fee.

Tips:

  • I recommend buying a ticket online to avoid the line, there is a small fee to do so.
  • Weekdays are busy with school trips and weekends are busy with local families. It’s big enough that you can still enjoy yourself.
  • Bring an extra pair of clothes so your kids can enjoy the water exhibits without hesitation.

I recommend this to: anyone with the slightest interest in science or fun, regardless of age. Yes, we are even taking out childless friends who are visiting from the states. I’ll let you know how they like it.

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How paperclips make organizing passports easier

I used to fumble around airports and immigration offices looking through our stack of passports to find the one they needed at the moment. Not as fun as it looks with crying babies, disgruntled customs employees, and a line of people whispering about your obvious disorganization.

Then I learned of the trick to make things easier: using color paperclips on each passport. So simple. Whenever we need a specific passport, we just look at the paperclips. Now my kids don’t cry, customs employees smile and suggest the best local restaurants, and the line behind me breaks out in applause when they see my paperclips. Ok, maybe not, but that’s what I like to think they’re doing.

If you can’t find or don’t want to spend money on color paperclips, just tie a different color string or ribbon on each paperclip. Or attach a cute piece of washi tape to a paperclip. You can also attach nice washi tape directly to the passport, but my husband likes to keep things simple.

Other ways we organize our physical documents for travel:

  • We have a travel wallet for all things travel related. One travel wallet for the family. We keep our passports, membership cards, and local currency to our 2 most travelled areas (in our case we have USD and EUR). If we have tickets that we printed online and need to show, we store it in the travel wallet so we don’t have to look for it later. TIP: Buy a travel wallet in a bright color so it’s easy to spot and zips all the way around so nothing falls out.
  • Most travel wallets I see don’t seem like they can hold more than 4 passports. If your family has more than 4 passports, I hate to tell you, you just might need to buy two wallets.
  • We email copies of our passports and other important documents to ourselves so we know where to go to find them.
  • If, for some reason, we have more documents than what will fit in our travel wallet, we use a folder or binder. We put each document in their own page protector. It’s easier to find things when we flip through the pages.
The easiest solutions are the simplest. Using different colored paperclips to distinguish different family member's passports.

The best solutions are the simplest. (At a glance I can tell you my husband’s passport is not included in this photograph – he was traveling when I took the picture.)

So, this is how I handle paper documents, do you have any tips? Also, I know it’s becoming easier to use apps to organize digital information. Which apps do you recommend?

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.car battery for 2012 nissan altimadildo discount

Traveling with my son’s security blanket

My son’s blanket was laying way down on the train tracks. THE blanket. I was running to catch the train. Something fell out of my backpack. I wasn’t even going to check, but when someone yelled, “YOU DROPPED A BLANKET” I had to look.

Here's the blanket on a trip to Hamburg.

Here’s the blanket on a trip to Hamburg.

 

When my son was first-born, 7 months earlier, everyone told me to give him something to associate with sleep. When he gets that item enough at bedtime, they said, he’ll know it’s time to close his eyes. I tried various things without luck.

Until this blanket.

It’s made of two materials, one on each side. Light brown on one side, dark brown on the other.

We never intended for this to be his sleep associate. We wanted something small and easy for our travels. But, as we started using it and he started sleeping better, we knew we were in for it.

We brought it on our trip to the US a month earlier. We used it on the flight over. People on the flight told us they didn’t even realize a baby was on board. We used it at the hotel. He only suffered through one night of jet lag. We used it on our road trip from North Carolina to Florida. He slept most of the way.

It was a magic blanket.

Look how happy this blanket makes him!

Look how happy this blanket makes him!

And now it was about 5 feet down in the train tracks. Laying behind the train that was going to leave Amsterdam Centraal Station any second. The train I needed to get on to get home.

Several people gathered around me, muttering what I could only assume to be their condolences for my lost sleep. Images of my son sleeping peacefully with the blanket intermixed with images of him screaming all night without it. My neighbors were going to love me. None of us would ever sleep again.

I was snapped out of it by one strangers voice. She was a little louder than the others and saying something in Dutch. Another woman, a very tall woman, was bending over the side. Stretching as long as she could, she used her umbrella to pick it up. Then she handed it to me. VICTORY!

I tried to stuff it back into my bag. My face was red with the mixture of rushing, anxiety, adrenaline, relief, and more anxiety. I took off for the train again, but this lady’s voice grew louder and louder. I turned to look at her and she said something in Dutch. I looked around not knowing what she could be saying – did I drop something else, did I care?Then she said it in English, “your train, it doesn’t leave for 10 more minutes.” I looked at the clock and she was right.

Have you ever lost your kids security blanket or toy while on vacation? 

My friend, Farrah, over at The Three Under, is an expat living in the Netherlands. I recently asked her what she thought I should blog about and she immediately said, “why you love the Netherlands so much.” As I started thinking about it, I realized that there were too many reasons for one post. Instead of one post, I’m collecting several stories, tips, and pictures to illustrate our experiences. These should explain, directly or in directly, why we like it there. 

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Free printable travel journal for kids

Free Printable Travel Journal for Kids from Travel Turtle

Today I want to offer you a free printable travel journal for kids. It’s a one page (front and back) travel-based prompt that you can print for your next trip. There’s room for elaborate writing or drawing, their choice. Because it’s only one page, and because of the nature of the prompts, you can print one for every day of a trip or for the whole trip. It works great with staycations, vacations and playcations!

What’s the printable travel journal for kids all about?

Well, I strongly feel that including kids in all parts of the travel process benefits everyone involved. This printable page is a simple way to get kids thinking about their vacation, while on vacation! They can even do it afterwards. The best part is the memories it preserves – in their own handwriting. I think filling this out for several trips would be fun. Just print one (or more) when you need them. Then you’ll have a record of their thoughts and feeling about family vacations. Not to mention, I’m sure they’ll enjoy looking at it once they are older.

This download includes the two pages above (which can be printed front to back), as well as a list of suggestions for use.

Can I see the travel journal in action?

Of course. Andrea over at Passports and Pushchairs recently went on a family trip to the Pacific Northwest. (If you want some tips for your own family’s trip to Seattle, go ahead and check out her posts.)

She was kind enough to try the travel journal with her 5-year-old son, F. She also sent pictures!

Here's F working on the travel journal while eating breakfast. I love that he's sticking out his tongue! I also love that my son has those PJs.

Here’s F working on the travel journal while eating breakfast. I love that he’s sticking out his tongue! I also love that my son has those PJs.

I love the drawings and his answers. This will be fun to look back on when he’s older, or the next time they go to Seattle.

Thank you Andrea and thank you F for taking the time to test it out and send me pictures.

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Download the free printable travel journal for kids:

If you’d like a copy of this, please click here. I also have a Project Life version of this available here. I’d love to know if you use it. Send me an email via my contact form and I’ll pin your post to my printable board.

Want to know when more printables are created? Follow my pinterest board.

More tips for helping kids record their travel memories:

(Please note that these are affiliate links. A small commission is earned on any sales made after clicking on the link. But, I still like these products.)

  • Markers! Kids need good markers to jot down their thoughts. I love these little ones from Crayola because they don’t take up too much space. Don’t bring too many, just a few incase some get lost.
  • Camera! I bought this camera for my daughter. She does a good job taking photos of things I just don’t see because I’m not at her level. I plan to get one for my son as well.
  • Storage bags! These waterproof storage bags are a good place to store their journal and pens. They also have the added benefit of holding the little things they pick up on the way.

This free printable travel journal for kids was also seen on:

Apartment Therapy and Cool Mom Picks!

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