Winter Wonders at Kirstenbosch

School holidays are approaching and for once, we don’t have to balance the tricky arts of child-minding and something to do, because we’re going to be on the Heading North 2012 tour. For the rest of you parents though, it’s time to get juggling.

However, help is at hand – step forward Kirstenbosch Gardens with their winter programme for kids:

The annual Winter Wonders programme at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden gets underway from Monday 25 June until 14 July with a host of unusual and creative activities – everything that you could possibly need to keep the kids occupied. Parents and grandparents can enjoy this winter break making the most of this leisure time.

All the events have an environmental theme and what better than to show the younger generation our precious heritage and how to be highly creative at the same time.

The programme includes puppet shows that will have the children agog. Be captivated by the wonderful stories spun from our clever local authors. Creative children can be signed up for the half day, one or two day arts or crafts workshops, bringing home a precious piece of handiwork at the end of the workshops. A series of delightful Garden walks, ideal for all ages, opens up the many paths and plants to a curious audience while learning why we in the Cape are so proud of our natural heritage. Bask in the beauty of Kirstenbosch’s winter mantle and the holidays will pass by in a flash.

With FREE entry to the Garden for children six years to 17 years old enjoy a hassle free holiday in the most beautiful garden in the world.

It was just over seven years ago that I got married in that most beautiful garden in the world, thereby turning it into the celebrity venue it is now, and I can think of no better place to amuse and educate your kids this winter.

Full details are here and you should note that some events have limited space available.

Up The Junction…

A trip to Agulhas this weekend abandoned for technical reasons, we took the kids to Ratanga Junction today – and what a day we had. While I hadn’t been to the park as a proper visitor before (I was there for some corporate do back in 2004, but had three prolapsed discs at the time), Mrs 6000 had taken the kids along over the summer holidays this year, and they’d had a great time. But they had stuck around Hippo Hollow, doing the kiddies stuff.

It was while we were doing the kiddies stuff today that Alex noticed a giant tap attached to a tower and I used his curiosity to get him up and onto the Stargazer: A “supertubes” ride that you do in a tiny inflatable boat. We went down at high speed, Dad got a very wet bum and Alex couldn’t wait to have another go.

From that point, there was no turning back. Suddenly, the Monkey Falls log flume, complete with its sheer 19m drop, was Alex’s target. And where Alex (almost 6) went, his 3 year old sister was sure to follow. There was a slight moment of concern as we were at the front of the queue, as the attendant had to get her clipboard out to measure Scoop against the minimum height mark (107cm), but with a teensie hint of tippie toes and some ever so subtle stretching, she made it. My daughter is 107.1cm tall. I know adults who are only a ruler and a half taller than that. Scoop will be there by age 7.

What followed was a revelation to myself and my wife. Our kids, usually pretty backward in going forward and trying new things, couldn’t wait to have go after go after go on the log flume, Alex describing each time the “funny feeling” he got when we went down the big slope. We finished the day soaking wet, very tired and very happy. I managed to tick the Cobra:

a suspended looping coaster which catapults riders from a height of 32m along 779m of track at up to four times the force of gravity and speeds of close to 100km/h. Adding to the thrill of the ride is the suspension of riders beneath the track, feet flying free. This ride is not for the faint hearted.

off my bucket list, having driven past it many times, although not quite at that speed.

We had such a great family day today that I’m sticking this one in the elusive 6000 recommends category. Ratanga Junction isn’t cheap (adults R152, kids R75), nor will it compare favourably with that famous theme park you visited in America, but it still offers great value for money if you do it right. And that means picking your day carefully, arriving early, and – it seems – having kids above 3 years of age, and above 1.07m, but below 1.30m in height. This last one means that they’ll be able to enjoy just about all the rides on offer.

Queuing times were minimal. 10 minutes tops for the Cobra, Stargazer and Monkey Falls, walk straight on to the kids’ stuff. I can imagine that you could have a nightmare time when the queues are an hour for each ride, but that’s why you must choose your day carefully. Parents will want to take a couple of spare sets of clothes for the kids (and maybe for yourselves) as you know that once kids get wet, they may start to get cold and once they get cold, they start to lose interest. We didn’t quite hit that point, but then again, we did take some spare clothes.

Photos, such as they are, (the gravitational pull of the Cobra and the hydrological aspects of the Monkey Falls not being conducive to active photography) can be found here.

The 5 Best Toys Of All Time

At a time when parents start panicking about Christmas gifts for the young ones, please enjoy this review of “The 5 Best Toys Of All Time” on Wired.com.

Here at GeekDad we review a lot of products — books, toys, gadgets, software — and I know it’s impossible for most parents to actually afford all of the cool stuff that gets written up. Heck, most of us can’t afford it either, and we’re envious of the person who scored a review copy of a cool board game or awesome gizmo. (Disclosure: that person is probably me.) So while we love telling you about all the cool stuff that’s out there, I understand that as parents we all have limited budgets and we sometimes need help narrowing down our wishlists.

So to help you out, I’ve worked really hard to narrow down this list to five items that no kid should be without. All five should fit easily within any budget, and are appropriate for a wide age range so you get the most play out of each one. These are time-tested and kid-approved! And as a bonus, these five can be combined for extra-super-happy-fun-time.

I went into the article, ready to disagree with some American subjective approach. I came out understanding and concurring with just about every word he wrote. “GeekDad” Jonathan Liu brings us a sobering reminder that childhood doesn’t have to be all about PS3, LeapPads and Wii.

His list – complete with reasoned argument for each entry – reads as follows:

  1. Stick
  2. Box
  3. String
  4. Cardboard tube
  5. Dirt

And yes, he’s correct, although I’d also possibly have ball, bucketriver, vuvuzela & rubber chicken on standby.

He’s even followed it up with another article, in which he rates water as the Sixth Best Toy Of All Time, pipping “rock”, “bubble-wrap”, “ball” and “tape” to the post. It’s worth a read.

All mouth and no trousers?

Big words from the Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle this week on two new plans to improve road safety in the Province. Firstly, he outlined plans to institute huge fines for parents who do not belt their children in when they are in the car. And those driving on the roads of Cape Town will note that this is a very common issue. Very common.

Currently, SA law only made provision for fines of about R200 for failing to use seatbelts, Carlisle said – and children were not differentiated from adults.
He said the provincial government wanted this increased to between R4 000 and R6 000 per child, which was in line with countries such as Britain, the US and Australia.

This is, without doubt, a good idea.
The statistics stated within that report are horrendous and include (but are not limited to):

  • 85% of parents do not strap their children in.
  • Road accidents remain the top non-natural killer of children in the country.
  • Between 200 and 300 children treated for trauma at the Red Cross hospital every year, between 70 and 90 percent had been injured in car crashes.
  • About 8 000 children die each year on the roads.
  • About 89 percent of those taken to the hospital for treatment had not been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crashes.

So of course, I’m fully in support of any steps taken to reduced these injuries and fatalities. Who wouldn’t be? Reinforcing the laws around kids and seatbelts is a good idea and upping the fines for those who don’t comply is a no-brainer.

The trouble is that it’s illegal to talk on one’s cellphone while driving, to speed and, in fact, to not wear a seatbelt yourself. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol. But people still do it. And they do it because they can – and do – get away with it.
Remember this?

The spokesman for Cape Town Traffic Services, Kevin Jacobs, said 4 184 drivers in six months had been fined for the unlawful use of a cellphone while driving.

From which I calculated this?

4,200 in 6 months. That’s 700 a month. Or 24 a day. 1 an hour.
In a city with 3,000,000+ inhabitants. It’s a drop in the ocean.

So the laws are there, but the fact that they’re just not enforced means that the driving public feel that they don’t have to obey them. As Mrs El Presidenté said of the “Buckle up your kids, or pay” article, on Facebook:

Nice idea, but exactly how are they going to police it?

And I agree: this is pretty much worthless without backup. However, I’m also aware that the first step is to at least have decent laws to enforce. At the moment, we don’t even really have that. So this is a move in the right direction.

But perhaps a better way of making the roads a safer place to be is to change driver attitude and raise awareness of the effects of poor or illegal driving practices. And Robin Carlisle has made plans here too, with the new Crash Witness website, featuring genuine CCTV footage of accidents on the Province’s highways.

Described as:

Not for sensitive viewers /Ayilungiselelwanga abaButhathaba / Nie vie sensitiewe kyker nie

it is obviously designed to encourage drivers into thinking before they engage in dangerous driving. When I visited the site yesterday and again this morning, the videos refused to play – which merely served to encourage a lot of frustration here Chez 6000. I had to have a couple a Red Bulls to calm myself down before hitting the M3 into town.

I very much doubt that it will be possible to measure the results that Crash Witness may/will have in the Western Cape. I presume that beneficial effects from this type of thing have been shown elsewhere. But again – anything which improves the safety of our roads has got to be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Do you buckle your kids up when you are driving? If not, why not?
Do you use your cellphone at the wheel? If so, why? What would make you stop?

Three faces

Man-flu. Shopping. Pay day. Chaos. Braai. Beer*. Friends. Kids. Chaos. Fun. Mess. Tired.

All of which adds up to quota photo time. Here are the kids, earlier today: Three faces; One Smile.

So, to complete the picture (so to speak):

Blog. Drugs. Bed. Sleep.

(Medicinal)