The La Brea Tar Pits | Seize a Learn Play Moment | Impromptu Family Field Trip
It's difficult to keep two little boys entertained all day every day, when there is nothing to do outside of the home. We do all the usual things. We play outside, we go on walks, we allow more screen time than ever before. We play toys and read to them. But the truth of the matter is, they are small, and they don't know how to express a great deal of emotions. Not just yet. So when they start getting in trouble, being mischievous and doing things that they know they shouldn't be doing because "It was just too much fun, mama", it lets us know that a change has to be made.
Negative reinforcement comes naturally. A naughty act is punished, not rewarded. But, after taking away all of their devices several nights in a row, I realized, that this was not the way to my kid's success. Negative reinforcement was simply not working.
I put my wild kids down for the night, on the last night of their shenanigans, and devised a plan for the following day. I was taking the day off, and dedicating all of my time to them. What they needed was structure. This is a very difficult thing to do when mommy and daddy both work from home, both have a lot to get done around the house, and still have time to make sure that their small kids are challenged.
Personally, I feel I fell short in this department, having thought that I would let them have all the fun in the world while on their winter break. Here's the thing, no matter how much fun small kids have, they still need structure.
So yesterday, we all woke up, had breakfast and went to "school" in their new home school area. Still wanting their winter break day to be fun, it was a no pressure kind of learning day. So while my oldest read to us, my little one had a short lesson on stretching sounds. This took about 15 minutes. I let them have a break and baked them cookies to enjoy before we dove into a few fun videos I found on YouTube about The La Brea Tar Pits, here in Los Angeles.
The first video was short, sweet and fun enough to suck the boys in. They loved that the creator of the video kept mentioning how stinky the pits are. Lot's of laughter followed.
You can find the video HERE.
Now the next video is what really got them interested in the Tar Pits. This video is a read a long history of the La Brea Tar Pits. It is full of interesting tidbits and old pictures of the area, pre-museum. It explains how tar is formed, talks about the animals who were stuck in the pits, shows animal skeletons, and even teaches them about the smartest predators. They enjoyed learning about excavations and discussing what they were learning about.
You can find the video HERE.
There are countless videos about the La Brea Tar Pits on YouTube, but I chose these because they focused more on the actual pits, than they did on the Page Museum. This came turned out to be to my advantage, as the museum is currently closed to the public, due to Covid-19, while the park and pits remain open to enjoy.
My kid's excitement was contagious, and I figured I would seize the moment by taking them on an impromptu field trip to The La Brea Tar Pits. Even hubby was on board for the trip.
So we packed a small picnic, and a couple of journals and pencils for the boys, then we were off on our adventure.
Because the museum is closed, parking for The La Brea Tar Pits park area is free to the public.
We have been to the La Brea Tar Pits countless times, but never like this. One of the videos we watched explained that while most of the tar pits are fenced so that people or animals do not accidentally step or fall in, a lot of smaller pits pop up all the time. So before the museum can take the time to build a fence, they simply place cones around the new pits. The boys could not contain their excitement to find tar stained cones around the park. Believe me, there are many!
If you have never been to The La Brea Tar Pits, the park grounds are beautiful. Gorgeous flora surrounds the grounds, but it does smell a bit like newly paved roads. There is apple space for kids to run around and burn energy, but you do have to watch for tar.
You can see several green cones in the image above, and a fenced in larger tar pit in the image below.
One of the videos we watched showed several photos of the La Brea Tar Pits in 1913-1915, which had our older boy extremely excited to compare what he saw in the photos to what is currently there.
Of course, they absolutely loved the largest Tar Pit, the one that claimed the lives of 26 Mammoths, thousands of Smiladons aka Saber Tooth Tigers, and tens of thousands of Dire Wolves. The questions were flowing, but the kids did not quite understand just how sticky tar is, and why it is that the animals could not get out, once they stepped in. Luckily, hubby came across a tiny tar pit that was not yet coned or fenced off. He was able to give the boys an incredible hands on experience. With the help of a few sticks and papa's guidance, they truly understood just how sticky and treacherous tar pits can be.
Next, my little ones shyly put in a request, trying desperately to not hurt my feelings. They asked if they could go for a walk of the entire grounds with just their papa. Boy time!
Of course I was ok with this. Twenty minutes to myself is always welcome around here. So I set up our little picnic and enjoyed the breeze while my men explored. Hubby was texting photos the entire time, so I did not feel left out. When they came back, I was told that the boys were telling hubby to take pictures of them in front of all of their finds, just for mommy. My heart was full.
These were their discoveries and little jokes.
They were really excited to find the REAL scientist research areas and all of the bins where fossils are kept. As well as the tented area where the scientists actually clean found fossils (not shown).
We ended our day with a small picnic. I gave each of the boys their own little journal with instructions to draw or write anything they wanted about our day. I was not sure how they would react, but it was a hit.
The boys both drew a few tar pits, themselves and our oldest even wrote "The La Brea Tar Pits are cool". Honestly, what more could a mama ask for?
This little field trip was such a huge success. We were able to show our kids that learning can really be a lot of fun, and I personally enjoyed trying in what they learned at home, with the real world.