The State Fair

Money pit or educational event?

As a child our family stayed away from the State Fair because we thought it was a money trap. Arcade barkers had games rigged to rarely allow a win and there were outrageously priced rides. But as a parent I’ve learned that the State Fair can be fun and educational without being too expensive.  I live in Arizona so the links below will connect to the Arizona State Fair site, but I check the 2014 State Fair Directory and there is a State fair in every state in the United States; some large states even have two, one for Eastern and one for Western areas.

So, here are my tips for an affordable, fun, learning adventure.

Admission – go when there are discounts. In previous years the Arizona State Fair opened on the Friday of our Fall Break from school and the admission price was $1 that day. I’m sad to see that discount isn’t available this year, but there are others times that are free or $2. Realize that if the discount reads “Free admission between 12:00 and 2:00” you simply need to enter between those times but can stay as long as you want.

Read and Ride program: Kids ages 5-14 can read 3 books to earn 3 rides.  Depending on the size of ride they choose, it can be over a $20 value per child.

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Visit the free exhibitsPetting zoo, Duck races, Reptile adventure, Kerr’s Farm tours, Slack Wire Sam acrobat show, Figure 8 racing (even dad’s would like this one!), Racing Lemurs, Native American Dancers and more. A few events are ongoing throughout the day but check the calendar for times of those that only show once a day. Don’t miss seeing all the different animals in the agriculture building and check out the exhibits in the Coliseum building. Last year in the Coliseum my grandsons and I found something we had not seen on the map; lots of full sized taxidermy jungle animals placed in areas that looked like their natural environment. It turned out to be one of their favorite parts.

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My teenage daughter got to feed and pet a Llama.

As a child she also won a ribbons at the fair for baking and sewing projects.




Did you know your kids could enter items into the State Fair? I didn’t until an experienced mom told me that every year she has her daughters sew items to enter. But you don’t have to know how to sew to enter. There are hundreds of entry categories; Baked items, Scrap book pages, Models built from kits, Recycled art, Engineering projects and even making Duct tape item (clothes, shoes or accessories). The list of categories is so inclusive it feels like there is something for everybody! There is a category especially for children 6-11 years old (the competition is not steep).

Entering items does require that you make a few trips to the fair grounds. You’ll need to take the items over early and picking them up after the fair is finished. But it will feel worth the time the day your kids go and admire the ribbons they’ve won. The entry fee is $1 per item but there are small cash prizes for first, second and third places.  SO, when you go to the fair this year, check out the Competitive display areas and see if it’s something your kids would like to do next year.

Parking – This is the only part that I’ve not found a good discount for and that is not educational or fun. But I have learned that I would rather park in the fair ground parking and only walk a short distance for $7 rather than park a mile or more away and pay $5.

And last but not least – the FOOD. I can’t resist the smell of the greasy, yummy food. We take snacks and water but do splurge on a food item.

Going to the State Fair is the type of activity that makes learning (and teaching) fun for me. If you live in the city taking your kids to the fair can let them see animals they might never see anywhere else, and they can be exposed to new and enriching sites and ideas.

Where Do Babies Come From?


Spencer 5:14

When I was 5 or 6 years old and I found a book in my mom’s room about Motherhood and pregnancy.  I remember it had a light blue hardback cover with the face of a smiling woman on front. It would have been published in the 1950’s and it showed by the pre-MRI black and white line drawings of a women’s body with all it’s parts labeled. It showed a cross section of a pregnant women and the baby inside her at all different stages of gestation. I opened the book and must have sensed it was something very private because I remember taking the book and hiding under the covers of my moms bed, out of site, to look at all the pictures. After I’d been looking for who knows how long my mom pulled back the blanket and found me. I thought I would be in trouble looking at the book. But my wise mother sat down beside me and asked what I was doing (although I’m sure she already knew). She explained to me that if I was looking at the book as something nasty or to laugh at that that was wrong, but if I wanted to know about the body and about how babies grow that I could look at it all I wanted to learn about the miracle of birth.

Fast-forward almost 50 years – Recently I went to the library and checked out all the children’s books I could find on conception and birth. My plan was to make a reading list of books parents could read to their children to help explain the human reproductive process.  I took the books with me to our cabin and my grandchildren happened to be there. So in the afternoon I got permission from my son and daughter-in-law to read the books to their children.  My initial thought was how fortunate I was to have a practice audience, but I was surprised the different feelings I had as I read. I was sitting on the porch on the bench swing in a cool breezy afternoon with two little boys I loved dearly snuggled close when I opened the first book. The first few pages were comfortable to read and we were all chatting about the pictures and enjoying it. As we got further into the book the pages started showing male and female body part and labeling them with their correct name. I started to get a little uncomfortable. This was sensitive ground and I began to remember why it was difficult for to talk to our kids about conception, birth and all the other things that come along with that topic.  I also found it interesting how differently the 4 ½ year old responded to the information compared to the 6½  year old. The older one got real quiet while the younger one pointed out pictures on the page that were totally unrelated to the subject at hand, like the cute cat that appeared on each page. I learned and was reminded of several things by this experience.

Parents should start young and talk often about the facts of life with their children. Berkendamp and Atkins, authors of, Talking to your Kids About Sex” suggest thatstarting the conversation about sex with your kids when they are young helps set the stage for open and honest communication throughout their lives- especially at those time when it will matter most”.

Meg Hickling in Speaking of Sex writes, “For children, silence on the part of the parents becomes a profound message to the child that this is a taboo subject. ‘My family does not talk about this, it must be bad, and I’ll be in big trouble if I mention ‘it’ or ask about ‘it’”.  Children need to be shown that talking about sex is private but not secret.

Only tell them what they are ready for. One day a young boy came home from school and asked his mom, “Where did I come from”? His mom thought, “Oh no, the time has come…” and she proceeded to give him a detailed lesson on the facts of life. After the mom finished her explanation the wide-eyed boy was silent for a moment and then answered, “Wow, Johnny just said he was from Cleveland”.

To avoid giving more information than your child is ready for, paraphrase the question they ask before you answer. This helps make sure you understand what your child wants to know.

When your child comes to you with a question about sex immediately say, “I’m so glad you came to me to ask that”.  This not only puts your child at ease because they see you are not mad at them for asking the question, it also give you a few seconds to calm down and decide how to answer. Also, it’s okay to say, “I need time to think about the best way to answer this, I promise we’ll talk about it after dinner tonight” then make sure you do.

Create a comfortable setting. A counselor friend of mine once told me that when he had a child client with tough things that needed to be talked about he’d take them to the park to feed the ducks. In his experience, conversation flowed easier while gazing at the lake than if they were sitting across from each other trying to make (or not make) eye contact.  I also found it helpful to talk about these types of things while lying next to my child, at bedtime, with only the night light on. I even once had a discussion with a child about birth control while we rode bikes on the boardwalk next to the ocean.

Talking to children about this subject will be very different depending on the age of the child. Teaching children about where babies come from is more that just teaching about sex. Below is a very abbreviated list of what to talk to children about at different ages.

Toddlers –This age is curious about their bodies and how they work. This is the stage for teaching about gender, functions of the body, parts of the body and their correct names.

Preschoolers- At this age boys and girls will notice boys and girls bodies are different from each other. Teach about appropriate/inappropriate touch, and that we only talk about these personal things in private (not blurted out in the grocery store isle).

Six to nine year olds- Kids at this age are starting to think more concretely and want some strait answers. They are starting to think things like, “How did that baby get in mom” and “how does the baby fit in mom’s tummy with all the food she eats”? If these type questions leave you speechless, there are books that can help parents know good answers to questions kids ask (see our reading list below).  They might also tell you that the whole idea is gross (remember this is the age when they see people kissing on the lips and say, “Yuuuuck”).  They also might say they will never do THAT! To which you can respond, “That’s good you don’t want to right now, because you’re too young” or “When you grow up you don’t have to if you don’t want but when you’re older it might seem like a good idea to you”.

Pre-teens and teens- At this age kids will probably not want you to talk to them at all about the topic. I think a few kids will be brave enough to ask a parent a question, but if there has not been ANY conversation between parent and child before this point, it could be an awkward to time to begin teaching about the subject.  This does not mean you should not try. Look for opportunities to bring up the subject; watch a NOVA or PBS special together and let them know you are always open for questions. Remind them that you are there to offer correct information as what they have heard from friends or other sources may not be accurate.

Bringing home a new baby or visiting someone who has a newborn seems to be a catalyst for good discussion.

So each stage our child is in requires a different approach. There are some books I found that I think contain good words to borrow to answer some of the questions your kids might ask that could leave you speechless. The picture books can be a good springboard to start conversation on the subject.

Suggested books

Picture books

What’s the Big Secret?  By Laurie Brown and Marc Brown

The Baby Tree by Blackall

It’ Not the Stork by Harris and Emberley

Getting Ready For New Baby Harriet Ziefert and Laura Rader

The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body Eye Witness Visual Dictionary

Book for parents

Talking to your Kids about Sex from toddlers to preteens. By Berkenkamp and Antiks (Don’t let the silly illustrations scare you away from this book, the info they write is excellent).

Speaking of Sex by Meg Hickling

So You Want to Raise a Boy (see pg 283-285 for typical questions of children)

This may be a difficult subject for you to approach with your child but remember, as a parent YOU ARE YOUR CHILDS BEST TEACHER.  Telling your child, “As you get a little older and your hormones start to kick in, you will have feelings you’ve never had before. You may start to think things you never imagined, but that’s all normal, it happens to everyone” will help them know nothing is wrong with them.

Start early, mention it often, and try not to panic no matter what they ask.

From a teacher’s perspective, Lindsey adds:

Nature seems to bring up a lot of questions regarding reproduction. I know that more than a few times I have had students in my class ask why some eggs have chicks inside and we could eat the other ones. They wanted to know the difference between the eggs, how to know if it would have a chick or if it would be safe to eat, etc. Since I was their teacher and not their parent I would say, “That’s a great question, you should ask your mom or dad about that”.



Our One Year Anniversay

Hello readers,

Happy one year Ann

Exciting news – this week we celebrate the 1 year anniversary of our website! Last August, we posted our first article. It’s been fun for us to be able to share our thoughts and ideas with you. Thanks to those who asked or have sent in questions. We appreciate the time you take to read Ask A Parent of Teacher and hope you’ll continue visiting our site each week for the next year.

Layton's in Thailand 8:2014

Lynn-Jenny at Havasupai Falls2

Lindsey’s in Thailand, working and vacationing, and I took a little time off writing to hike in and OUT of Havasupai. I also watch my three grandsons for a few days. Amazingly I survived both! We took two weeks off from writing posts, but now we’re back. While taking care of my grandchildren I was reminded of a few things.

That Parenting takes tremendous patience!

I remembered that there is a different time schedule when children are involved. Everything takes a lot, lot longer.

I remembered that lots of explaining is required.  I know why and how we are going to do something, but I forgot that children need lots of explanations in order to not feel frustrated, and to learn how things are done correctly.

 I learned that I should take 3 bags of snacks to church because young children do not want to share (or are just not good at it yet).

 I appreciated the patience of those around me because we brought extra noise and movement to places where there should have been quiet.

 I was reminded that I need to lighten up in order to enjoy the fleeting stage of childhood (and grand parenting).

I also want to share a very good example of patience parenting I observed recently:

I happened to see a young dad as he lifted his misbehaving child up to sit on a three foot block wall so he could bend down and be at eye level with him.  He began to kindly explain to the boy why his actions had been inappropriate and what needed to change. The boy listened for a few seconds and then spit right in his dad’s face.  I was only a spectator but I remember how angry I felt when I saw it. I felt my teeth clench and the blood rush to my face and I had the impulse to reach out and slap the young boy in the face, and I was not even the dad! Fortunately this story had a good ending, the dad stood up straight, took a deep breath, wiped off his face, looked at his son with a disappointed face, paused in an effort to regain some self control, then continued talking to his son (fortunately the boy did not spit again).  The father did not reach out and slap the kid’s face, like I felt like doing. I was SO proud of that young dad for displaying such self-restraint and not lashing out.   Parenting takes TREMENDOUS patience!


So Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to all you parents who, when pushed to your limits stay in control and resist the temptation to be unkind even when your child’s actions are unkind and irrational (No guilt here parents, none of us are perfect, we just try to do better next time than we did last time, right?).

Happy Parenting,

Jenny and Lindsey