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Little Rock Family Blog

Events, activities, news, insight and opinion from the trenches of parenthood by Little Rock Family Magazine Editor Heather Bennett and her editorial staff. Share tips, news and feedback with Heather here.
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National Ice Cream Day is July 20: Here Are Three Sweet Celebrations

Image by Tyler Rosenthal

Beat the heat with Purple Cow's "Purple Vanilla Shake."

July is National Ice Cream Month and to sweeten the deal, this Sunday, July 20 is National Ice Cream Day! Here are three sweet celebrations in central Arkansas.

1. Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Blue Bell Ice Cream and the American Red Cross are offering a sweet reward for all who give blood at the hospital on July 18. Blood donors at the Arkansas Children's Hospital blood drive will receive their choice of a pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream! The blood drive will be held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 18 at Arkansas Children's Hospital in the Children's Hall. To make an appointment, call (800) 733-2767. Or, click here for more details.

2. The Purple Cow will be offering free one-scoop sundaes on Sunday, July 20! Visit any of their four locations in central Arkansas and mention that you saw the promotion in our sister publication, Little Rock Soirée to score the deal.

3. Yarnell’s will be giving away free cups of vanilla ice cream from 1-3 p.m. July 20 at Riverfront Park in Little Rock! Scoop, Yarnell’s mascot, will be on hand to celebrate with fans; he'll be located in the History Pavilion near the splash pad.


4. Yarnell’s will also be offering free ice cream in Conway starting at 5 p.m. July 18! Head to the Kris Allen Stage in Simon Park. THV 11 will be filming, so you may end up on TV!

Happy National Ice Cream Day! For more yummy spots to celebrate, check out our list of central Arkansas spots that offer ice cream and frozen treats.

7 Events for Weekend Fun: Cyberchase at Museum of Discovery, Santa Claus at Magic Springs and More

Image by Mauren Kennedy

Here's your weekend round-up! Celebrate Christmas in July, catch a live concert by Disney star Bridgit Mendler, enjoy a parent's night out courtesy of Good Earth Learning Center and more. These are our top seven events for weekend family fun.

1. Cyberchase at Museum of Discovery and Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center: The Museum of Discovery and the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center present a full day of indoor and outdoor activities, highlighting PBS's “Cyberchase” and using its companion educational tools. Take pictures with Digit, play Cyberchase games, snag free summer learning materials from PBS Kids, and enjoy free ice cream from Delta Trust. Plus, with paid admission to the Museum of Discovery, kids can watch an advance screening of "The Cyberchase Movie," which makes it AETN debut at 4:30 p.m. July 22. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. July 19. For info:

2. Bridgit Mendler in Concert at Magic Springs Water & Theme Park: See Disney star and recording artist Bridgit Mendler live in concert at the Timberwood Amphitheater. Mendler’s debut single off the album "Ready or Not", became an international Top 40 hit and was certified gold. Her second single "Hurricane" has been certified gold selling over 500,000 copies. Mendler is also an actress and has appeared on several Disney Channel series and the 2009 made for television film "Labor Pains." In 2009, she became a recurring character for the Disney Channel Original Series "Wizards of Waverly Place." In December of that year, she made her theatrical debut in the film "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel." Nashville artist and Hot Springs native Kimiko will open the concert at 7 p.m. Mendler will go on at 8 p.m. 7 p.m. July 19. Admission to concert included in general park admission. For info:

3. Character Day: Santa Claus at Magic Springs Water & Theme Park: Also at Magic Springs this weekend, Santa will be spreading some holiday cheer! Children can have lunch with Santa Claus in the Lakeside Theater. The fun day with St. Nick will conclude with a fireworks display at 8 p.m. Lunch with Santa is not included with general park admission; tickets are an additional $19.99, children ages 12 and under $16.99. July 18. For info:

4. Saturday Workshop: Animal Portraits at Arkansas Arts Center: Kids ages 6-9 will learn the fundamentals of portrait making in this one-day workshop. This week, they'll focus on animal faces. $55, members $44. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. July 19. For info: (501) 372-4000,

5. WAMA Student Recital at Wildwood Park for the Arts: The students of the Wildwood Academy of Music and the Arts present a unique concert for the public. The afternoon performance will celebrate the culmination of the inaugural seaon of the program. The evening will include a concert by violin and chamber music students, and a reception catered by WAMA students. 4 p.m. July 18. For info: (501) 821-7275, FREE!

6. Moonlight Matinee: Disney's Frozen at Good Earth Learning Center in Austin: Parents enjoy a night off, while kiddos ages 3-12 have a blast at Good Earth Learning Center in Austin. Children will gather eggs, chase fireflies, tell stories in the teepee and a enjoy a movie on the big screen. This week, they'll see Disney's Frozen! Hot dogs will be served. Reservations requested. 5-9 p.m. July 19. $30 per child. For info: (501) 732-0321,

7. Star Party at Pinnacle Mountain State Park: Join amateur astronomers at the visitor center for an evening with the stars and other celestial phenomena. As twilight settles in, the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society will provide telescopes for viewing objects in the night sky. If cloudy skies prevent observation, an indoor program on astronomy will be presented at 9 p.m. 9-11 p.m. July 19. For info: (501) 868-5806, FREE!

For more weekend events, browse our full online calendar here.

Family Travel: Vacation Tips & Pointers for Disneyworld

Image by Jeff Krause

It’s a big, big world after all and child development experts say exposing kids to new things and cultures widens their horizons, increases their empathy for others, encourages creativity, and can improve those all important test scores. With busy schedules and bitsy budgets though, how can you realistically take one of those vacations that tops bucket lists like traveling abroad, visiting our nation’s capitol, and going to see Mickey and Minnie at Disney? We’ve assembled some first-hand experience to help our readers crack the code on family vacay success. Whether you’re going some time this year or this decade, here are top tips for tipping the scales in your favor.

We’ve tapped in to our friend—local celebrity and mom, Liz Massey—for her experience going to Disney World. Liz went in September 2013 during Labor Day week with her parents, her husband, Keith and their son, Cruz when he was just days away from turning three years old. Here’s what she says about their trip to the Magic Kingdom.

What worked best for Cruz’s age and personality?

I’m normally a huge planner but for this trip, I knew we weren’t going to be able to see it all. We decided this trip is for Cruz and whatever he wants to do, we’ll do. We also let ourselves sleep in. We didn’t get up super early, because I knew Cruz needed his energy.

We decided not to spend tons of money booking breakfasts and dinners with the characters because I wasn’t even sure if he’d warm up to them. Eventually he did, so we went to one character dinner. We actually didn’t need a reservation. We just walked right in. That was at the Garden Grill. We were lucky, because I heard people book months in advance. We also didn’t worry about seeing shows because Cruz’s attention span at his age is short.

What did Cruz enjoy the most?

He loved the Magic Kingdom and all the rides especially Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster. He rode it over and over and over. He also loved Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. We actually had to wait about an hour or so to get on that ride, but it was worth it. The entire family could ride. Peter Pan’s Flight was another ride the entire family enjoyed. Cruz also enjoyed Downtown Disney and the T-Rex Café where you can eat with the Dinosaurs.

If you have a water baby like me, you have to check out Blizzard Beach. Cruz loved it. They had a lot of water rides that Cruz could play on from water slides to a zip line that dropped kids into the water. Also, you can buy a sand pail full of ice cream with all the toppings—the entire family enjoyed that.

Liz’s Top Tips:

  • Try not to get overwhelmed like I did at first. Ask friends for advice who’ve been before. There are even Disney Planners that can help you with your entire trip. I also did my research online.
  • Also, we made sure Cruz was 36 inches tall before we booked our trip. At 36 inches tall, there was plenty for him to ride.
  • Before we left, I searched online for videos about Disney World and the characters and showed them to Cruz and told him that’s where we were going. He started to get really excited.
  • Either bring or rent a stroller. We didn’t want to lug one with us so we rented one there. It was quick and easy to do.
  • If it’s your child’s first visit or their birthday—Cruz was celebrating both—tell them at admissions and they’ll give you souvenir buttons.
  • You can bring food and drinks into the park, so I packed snacks for Cruz plus a change of clothes just in case.
  • I had no clue about Photo Pass until close to the end of our trip. If you don’t want to carry a camera, they can help capture your memories. Disney photographers around the park will take your picture for free (as many you want, wherever you want). They’ll give you a card and you can buy your pictures online later.
  • While preparing for our trip, I went to the Dollar Store and bought several glow sticks for Cruz to hold during the parades. I recommend getting to the parades early to snag a front row seat. After a long day you don’t want to have to stand and hold your child so they can see.
  • If you’re in the military, check with your base, because ours had park hoppers at a great discount.
  • Also, think about the time you’re going. We went during Labor Day week. For most of the rides we only waited 15 minutes or less. Also be sure to get a schedule of when all the parades and fireworks are.
  • And my biggest advice of all, just have fun—don’t stress—remember you’re not going to see it all, even if you have 5 days.

Watch The Hunger Games at Movies in the Park This Wednesday


Movies in the Park shows yet another blockbuster favorite this week: "The Hunger Games." The 2012 fantasy film (rated PG-13) starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson is the next offering in this year's stellar lineup of free outdoor movies. The movie will screen at Riverfront Park's First Security Amphitheatre this Wednesday, July 16. 

Movies in the Park presents free films screened outdoors at the First Security Amphitheatre in Little Rock's River Market. Audiences can bring picnics (no glass containers) and settle onto the grassy field or snag seats in the amphitheater. Concessions will be available for purchase, including soft drinks, candy and popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream and more.


The park opens at 6:30 p.m., and films begin at sundown. The 2014 season of Moves in the Park includes two more films: "Friday Night Lights" on July 23 and "E.T." on July 30. For more information, click here.

Boating Safety: 7 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe on Arkansas Waterways

Hitch a ride on a sailboat during the Regal Regatta. No prior experience necessary.

With more than 600,000 acres of lakes and more than 90,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks, it’s no surprise that Arkansas is a great place for families to vacation on the water. Boating is big fun, but it’s also extremely important to be safe.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission works diligently every year to minimize accidents on the water through education and enforcement of boating regulations. Here are several tips they suggest to keep your family safe on Arkansas waterways this summer.

Wear Your Life Jacket

Persons under the age of 13 must wear life jackets while boating and everyone must wear a life jacket while on a personal watercraft. In accordance with state law, a lifejacket must be carried for each person on board all vessels. It must be the correct size for the wearer and in good working condition. But it can’t save your life unless you’re wearing it. Penalties apply to the owners of vessels found not carrying lifejackets or if there are not enough lifejackets for everyone on board.

Lifejackets are the most important piece of safety equipment on any recreational vessel. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the most common reason people don’t wear their life jacket is because of the way it makes them look or feel. However, 70 percent of all boating fatality accidents result from drowning. Almost 85 percent of those who drown are not wearing a life jacket.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, only six percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved course provider. Nine out of 10 people who drowned when boating were not wearing a life jacket.

Life jacket technology has come a long way from the bulky, ugly, old orange life jacket is thing of the past. Manufacturers are listening to consumers, refining fit and size options. Radical changes in life jacket design such as extra-large armholes, shaped fit, flexible panels, pockets, inflatables and more comfortable materials are making today’s life jackets easy to wear.

Learn to Swim

If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety includes knowing how to swim. Local organizations, such as the American Red Cross and others, offer training for all ages and abilities.

Be Weather-Wise

Always check local weather conditions before departure. Local TV and radio forecasts are a good source of information, and apps for smartphones can notify you if any serious weather is approaching. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.

Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist

Proper boating safety includes being prepared for any possibility on the water. Following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been overlooked or forgotten.

Use Common Sense

One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas, staying alert at all times and steering clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also, be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there to ensure your safety.

Designate an Assistant Skipper

Make sure more than one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations and general boating safety. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore.

Take a Boating Education Course and Know the Laws

Arkansas joins more than 40 states with educational requirements for operating a boat or personal watercraft on state waters. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1986, must take an approved Arkansas Game and Fish Boating Education Course, which includes either an online course or an instructor led course, before operating any motorboat which includes personal watercraft and sailboats. By completing and passing an Arkansas-approved online boating license course, you will have satisfied the educational requirement for Arkansas.

Post contributed by guest blogger Stephanie Weatherington, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission boating law administrator. For more on how to keep your family safe on Arkansas waterways or learn more about boating education courses, click here.

Win 4 Tickets to Magic Springs and Bridgit Mendler Concert

Image by Tyler Rosenthal

Do you feel lucky? Because today we are giving away a family four pack to Magic Springs Water and Theme Park for this Saturday (July 19), which includes admission to the Bridgit Mendler concert on Saturday evening.

Don’t miss your chance to win four passes to Magic Springs over on our Facebook page today! Also with your admission to the park, you can see Disney star and recording artist Bridgit Mendler live in concert. Mendler’s debut single off the album "Ready or Not", became an international Top 40 hit and was certified gold. Her second single "Hurricane" has been certified gold selling over 500,000 copies.

Mendler is also an actress and has appeared on several Disney Channel series and the 2009 made for television film "Labor Pains." In 2009, she became a recurring character for the Disney Channel Original Series "Wizards of Waverly Place." In December of that year, she made her theatrical debut in the film "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel."

Nashville artist and Hot Springs native Kimiko will open the concert at 7 p.m. Mendler will go on at 8 p.m. at the Timberwood Amphitheater.

To enter, visit Little Rock Family's Facebook page and follow the contest instructions. The deadline to enter is 3 p.m. today (July 15). A winner will be announced on our Facebook page at 4 p.m. Good luck!

For more information about Magic Springs Water and Theme Park, visit

Look Before You Lock and Prevent Heatstroke, Hot Car Death

In the fast-paced society that we live in, our daily routines are essential; they are what help us get things accomplished. When changes in our routine occur—even small ones—it is easy for us to lose focus and forget things, important things. No one wants to believe that they could forget about their child amid such changes, but it happens to good parents. Unfortunately, terrible stories and data prove that any parent can forget their child in the car on a hot day.

The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the first 10 minutes after it’s turned off. Pair that with the fact that a child’s body temperature heats up nearly five times faster than an adult and in only a few short moments a child can become dangerously overheated. Even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the inside temperature of the vehicle to rise to well over 110 degrees inside. In 2013, a total of 44 children died in the U.S. after they were left in a vehicle, and since 1998 the number of deaths has totaled more than 600.

Children die as a result of being left unattended in a vehicle in one of three ways:

  • 52 percent are “forgotten” by a caregiver
  • 29 percent are playing in an unattended vehicle and became trapped
  • 18 percent are intentionally left alone

Why are children at risk?

  • Their small bodies absorb heat more quickly.
  • Perspiration doesn’t cool infants and children as well as adults.
  • They can’t change their environment.
  • They can’t remove clothing or get out of the vehicle.

What doesn’t work?

  • Prior air-conditioning does little to prevent temperatures from rising. In five minutes the car’s interior temperature reaches that of the outside air.
  • Leaving the windows open doesn’t prevent the child from overheating.

With hotter days on the way experts estimate that one child will die every 10 days from heatstroke in the U.S. alone after being left in a vehicle. Again, most of these children have loving, protective and attentive parents whose routines are changed up.

It is vital to take steps to protect your children from these preventable deaths and injuries. While parents believe they could never possibly “forget their child in a vehicle,” the truth is that is the most fatal mistake any parent can make. Vehicular heatstroke is misunderstood, and is not limited to any certain “type” of parent. Remember, it only takes a moment to “look before you lock.”


  • The best way to remember a child is to leave something you will need at your next destination in the back seat. This could be a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or something else you always carry. You can set the alarm on your cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop your child off at childcare.
  • Teach children not to play in any vehicle. Once children get inside, they can be quickly overcome by heat and not know how to problem-solve and climb out.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, the best thing you can do is to call 911 (EMS) immediately. Wait by the vehicle so EMS can find you quickly. EMS personnel are trained to assess a situation and determine if the child is in danger.
  • Know the symptoms of a heatstroke: dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot/dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat or hallucinations.

4 Ways To Get On the Road with Vacation Reading

No need to get all hot and bothered or BORED when July temps hit their high notes and afternoon, outside play makes kiddos feel a little off key. Nix the TV. Get off the couch. And, take a summer reading road trip. Check out these clever ideas for making the most of the dog days of summer. Whether you have a willing book worm or a reluctant reader, you’re sure to have fun as a family!

Your Own Book Mobile

In-town jaunts or long trips fly by when you pop an audio book into your car’s CD player. You’ll find pint-sized passengers asking to wait to get out of the car until the story is over instead of asking “Are we there yet?” Visit the children’s audio book section at any local library to find a super selection for all ages and reading levels. They’re free and fun. Here are some suggestions ranging from very young audiences to early teens.

  • Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle Classics
  • The Berenstain Bears (various titles)
  • Magic Treehouse series
  • Hank the Cowdog series
  • “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Cryptid Hunters and Storm Runners series by Roland Smith
  • Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer series by John Grisham
  • Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Local Literature + Local Eats

Turn the idea of reading into a foodie field trip and local day of play. Don’t forget to check with local libraries on summer reading programs and story/craft times. There’s always a lot scheduled during the summer. You can also incorporate some of the following ideas into your itinerary. Everyone will enjoy the ride home with comfort foods in their bellies and comfort reads in their hands.

Hit the beautiful new Argenta Branch of The Laman Library, located in the Historic Post Office building on Main Street in downtown North Little Rock. Their expansive children’s section will surely delight young readers. Then stroll down scenic Main Street to dine at one of the yummy eateries there. Next, head to Riverfront Park and investigate the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum and the USS Razorback.

On the Little Rock side of the river, stop in the Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library to quench your appetite for great books then head to the River Market area to quench your appetite for great food. The Flying Fish and Iriana’s Pizza are sure to please your pack. Work wiggles out by taking a stroll along the river and reading, yes reading, all of the cool messages at all of the statues and park pit stops until you make your way down to the Peabody sculpture garden. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by all of the interesting tidbits you’ll pick up along the way. Before heading home, go to the Green Corner Store on South Main Street for ice cream to chill out and cap off your day!

Book Your Connection

Making a connection between what kids read and real life places or themes always make reading seem more relevant and fun. Consider reading books about treasure and pirates and then taking a day trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. A 6.19-carat diamond was found there on April 15! Some book ideas include…

  • “Magic Tree House, Pirates Past Noon” by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Geronimo Stilton book series
  • “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson (There are several adaptations for a variety of ages.)

Go East Young Man

If your crew enjoys the movie “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”, have I got a summer reading road trip destination for you…That Bookstore in Blytheville! The beautifully maintained, iconic bookstore in northeastern Arkansas is much more than a bookstore. It’s an invitation to dream and step into what the legacy of literature is all about. New owner, Chris Crawley is an enchanting, Morgan Freeman-esque curator of the museum-like store that’s nestled into downtown Blytheville’s Main Street. After enjoying the bookstore, fill up on amazing BBQ at The Dixie Pig on North Sixth Street. If your family is still up for some adventure, take I-55 to Memphis to check out Graceland, the Pink Palace Planetarium and the Memphis Zoo.

Some hot stops along the route to Blytheville include (Bald Knob/HWY 67) Who Dat’s or the Bulldog Restaurant. Then take HWY 14 to Waldenburg. Along the railroad track at the intersection of HWY 14 and 49, you’ll find the Dairy Bar at Josie’s Steakhouse.

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About The Author
Jennifer Pyron is the Associate Publisher and Editor of Little Rock Family magazine. She is the go-to gal for family events, activities, news and opinion. She and husband Charles are the proud, exhausted, penniless parents of Charles Jr. and Emily. Plus, should you need a pop culture lifeline on "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," you may call her.
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