Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Take the Plunge---Join the Sale Committee for Your Love of Parent Talk!

Dear Parent Talk Parents-
I’m so happy to hear how much you’ve loved your last few years.  This is truly the best time of life and having a great community to share it with makes all the difference, doesn’t it?  The playgroup you joined has really created some great bonds for the kids and the parents.  The toddler/preschooler events are great for the kids. They also break up the day for parents and help build our community connections.  Cupcake decorating, barn babies, story time with Elmo, outdoor movies… Only a parent of young children can appreciate the benefit of not driving for more than a few minutes to get somewhere and the even greater benefit of having a group of friends for you and your kids at said events without having to coordinate ahead of time.  (Because, really, who has time to constantly think of great things for kids to do that are fun for you too when you’re busy grocery shopping, feeding, potty training, making sticker charts, and doing the million other things that come with being a parent.)  So we’re agreed, Parent Talk is pretty awesome.  We were hit with the lucky stick when we moved to this area and found this group.
And then, of course, there’s the Parent Talk Sale.  All the money it makes goes into funding these great events. And the Sale is a great event unto itself. Remember those adorable, barely worn baby clothes that you got for next to nothing?  The exersaucer that you absolutely needed for about three months?  All the books that you bought for 50 cents a pop that you read over and over to your child?  Your preschooler’s first bike?  You saved so much money because of this awesome event.  I’m sure you figured out Needham’s worst-kept secret early on:  If you volunteer for a two hour Sale shift, you can shop one whole day early and get a jump on all the shoppers who come on sale day.
That’s a lot of benefits from one little not-for-profit organization, isn’t it?  It would be easy to think that you’ve gotten all there is to get out of our group.  
What you might not know is Needham’s best-kept secret:  there is another level of connection and community that you didn’t even know existed.  Over the years, the Parent Talk Sale has become a well-oiled machine.  But it’s such a big event that it can’t run unless it has fresh energy and leadership each year.  When I made the jump from volunteer to committee member a couple of years ago I was taken aback by everything I got out of the experience.  I got to know a group of amazing local parents on a deeper level.  I got to choose how I wanted to contribute and use some skills that are often dormant as I focus on the massive to-do list that comes with parenting. (For me, writing this blog is fun.)  I get to contribute to a group that I have benefited from and that I believe in.  And, if that isn’t enough, I get to go to the big tagging (pricing) party before the sale and buy some really amazing stuff that will never even make it to the Friday pre-sale, let alone the Saturday general sale. (If I didn’t buy that great double stroller, there’s no doubt that somebody else would have scooped it up!)
So, moms and dads, there you have it.  I just gave away the best-kept secret in town.  And I’m not sorry- you deserve to know about this opportunity.  My sources tell me that it’s not too late to join the Sale Committee for this October’s sale.  You can email Seema Layne or Diane Solomon at ptsalechairs@gmail.com to get more involved.  
To quote Water Country’s old radio commercial:  “Take the Plunge.  Ride the Wave.  Spend the Day.” You’ll be so glad that you did.
See you at story time,
Kara Veley

Monday, September 8, 2014

Preschool Fair Prerequisites


The tenth annual Parent Talk Preschool Information Fair is around the corner and will not only represent thirty area preschools, but enrichment programs as well. Come prepared on Wednesday October 1st from 7pm to 9pm at Newman Elementary School! 

For some of us attending the fair, applications are on the immediate horizon while others may be at the very beginning of information gathering. Whether you know nothing about Needham, Westwood, Dover and Wellesley area preschools or have attended the fair in previous years, it is helpful to prepare your mindset in order to avoid being overwhelmed and to leave feeling that you got something out of the evening.  Here are a few items to consider…





How are you going to navigate the booths? Give yourself at least thirty minutes to make your way to all the tables and bring a bag or folder for any brochures and applications you gather. Do you want to hone in on preschools that are in your town or are you willing to drive to a neighboring area if the setting is right for your child? Some people are lucky enough to be able to walk their child to preschool and arrive toting a scooter for him to ride home. The three hour school day can become very compressed when you have to drive fifteen minutes each way. On the other hand, the preschools nearest you may not offer all that you want for your child's early education experience.

Arrive with a few questions prepared for the directors and teachers representing the preschool. Many people say that they make a decision based on 'a feeling' they get from interacting with people who will care for their child. In addition to taking hand-outs, be sure to make time to exchange a few words. 

As you form your questions and consider various programs, you will want to take some time to think about your own feelings about preschool and what you want most for your child.  Though there are programs that are better known than others, only you know your child and what will be the best fit for your family. What do you want from your child's preschool? Is the security of the building of paramount importance? Are you looking for a large outdoor play area? What about special subjects like music or a foreign language? Do you want a strictly child-centered program with a lot of opportunity for open ended play or does your child need more structure? Are you more concerned about socialization or academic skill building?

Finally, it may seem daunting to have to 'apply' for your child to have his or her first experience in school. After making all of these careful considerations, it is unsettling to know that the school of your choice may not be the school that accepts your son or daughter. Many preschools have limited numbers to maintain small student to teacher ratios and preferences go to returning families. Rest assured, your child will go to preschool and it is more likely than not that you will feel that it all happened for a reason. In the meantime, come to the fair and get your comprehensive book of local area preschools and good luck in your search!


About the Author:

Liza d'Hemecourt lives in Needham with her husband and two toddlers. She went to Boston College and studied theater as an undergraduate and elementary education in graduate school. Prior to having children, Liza taught Kindergarten and first grade in Needham.  



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What to do with all those apples?!

One of the greatest things about living in New England is that we get to experience Fall in all its glory, and when you have children, chances are that means you will go APPLE PICKING! There are many local orchards to choose among but let's talk about what to do with all those apples once you get them home. If you are anything like me, the thought of baking pie with two toddlers running around seems like a recipe for disaster. Still, there are fun and easy ways to use those apples with your kids so that the experience at the orchard will only be the beginning of memory making! Hopefully one of the three ideas below will seem feasible with your family.

1. The Surprise Inside and Apple Stamping: This is an activity that you can prep during naptime or with the help of an older child. You may want to lay out newspaper and you will need washable tempura paint in yellow, green and red (apple colors!) or any colors of your choosing, as well as a roll of paper or large sheet.



Lay the apple on its side so that your knife is centered between the stem and the bottom of the fruit. Slice it here at the roundest part of the apple and have your tot help you carefully remove the seeds. Point out the shape that the seeds made inside the apple. It is a star!

Next, lay the apple, star side down, on a cutting board and insert a fork into the side facing up. This is now the handle of your stamp.

Have your child dip the apple stamp in washable paint that you have previously squeezed onto a paper plate (or you can do this step and remove excess paint for better results)

On a roll of paper spread across a flat surface (I like to use the coffee table because they can stand up) have your child stamp the apple. Here is where you can be as creative as you like. Maybe show your child how to create a simple pattern or just let them pull the apple across the paper to make long streams of paint. 

2. Apple Science: Using a Simple Machine and Changing from Solid to Liquid:
Tell your child that a machine is something that does work to make our life easier and that you are going to show them a machine to use with an apple. An old fashioned apple peeler is a fun, interactive tool to use together and it takes care of one of the steps involved in preparing apples for applesauce (which is so much easier to make than pie!) Let them turn the handle and watch the peel spiral off of the fruit! Slice your peeled apples (approximately ten of them) and place them in a crock pot with 1/2 cup of water. Turn on low for 8-10 hours or high for 3-4. Your house will smell amazing and your child will get to see the apples change properties from solid to almost liquid!
  
If you decide to purchase a peeler online, consider using Amazon smile and some of the proceeds of your purchase can go to your charity of choice, Parent Talk. 

3. Spread the love: Make caramel apples and deliver them to your neighbors or family members! This is also a great activity for a play date or playgroup. The fun part of this easy and interactive recipe is getting creative with the toppings that your children can use to embellish their sweet, sticky treat. Oreos, crushed candy, sprinkles and nuts, in individual plastic bowls are just a few topping ideas. Cut a square of wax paper for each child and rub butter on the wax paper so that their apple doesn't stick. Use a plastic fork inserted into the apple as a handle instead of a popsicle stick! Most IMPORTANT: Make sure to use previously chilled apples (stick them in the freezer if you are short on time.) This recipe calls for six apples.


Unwrap candy caramels from one 14oz. package and combine them with two tablespoons of milk in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for two minutes. Let melted caramel sit for a minute and then dip the apples in, making sure to turn them constantly until coated. Then roll in toppings!
 
About the author
Liza d'Hemecourt lives in Needham with her husband Mike and her two children, Elizabeth and Mikey (ages 2.5 and eighteen months.) She studied theater and education at Boston College. Liza taught Kindergarten and first grade prior to having children.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Packing an A+ Lunch

While many parents are excited for the start of school, packing lunches day after day can be less than thrilling. Here are 5 tips to help you pack an inspired, interactive and healthy lunch to keep your star pupil energized! 

1. Plan ahead and keep must have items stocked in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Pack as much of the lunch (if not all of it) the day or night before. Some of my favorite items I keep stocked (besides fruits and vegetables) include hummus, guacamole, Joseph’s tortillas, Beanitos chips, hardboiled eggs, canned tuna, canned wild salmon, cheese, milk and ice packs. Lunches don’t have to be complicated. Try to use the foods you already have in the house. There’s nothing wrong with packing leftovers.

2.     Include a variety of colors, textures and shapes. Put in the extra effort to make the lunch look fun and appealing for your child. If the lunch looks good, your kids are likely going to eat it. Use cookie/vegetable cutters, sandwich cutters, and silicone cupcake liners for color and portion control. I try to make lunches fun and as interactive as possible. For example, I cut shapes into cucumbers and fruit; anything that can be dipped or skewered is usually a success.


3.  Aim for a balanced lunch. Half of the lunch should consist of fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein and the last quarter should be grains, preferably whole grains. Balancing meals helps to ensure that your child gets the needed vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and fiber they need to stay healthy and satisfied. When packing lunches, I always ask myself if I have most of the colors represented and if I have items from each of the MyPlate categories. Aim for your kids to eat fruits and vegetables from all of the colors of the rainbow over the course of each day to get the most nutritional benefits.



4.     Don’t be afraid to try new foods. It’s ok if some lunches are flops, your kids will not starve! It can take many introductions to a new food before your child develops a taste for it. Offer a variety of food in each lunch and your child will have something to eat. If I’m worried something might not go over well, I show my daughter a picture of her lunch for the next day and explain what everything is. If your child is old enough, include them in the lunch planning and preparation stage.

5.     Follow me throughout the year for healthy lunch inspiration atwww.facebook.com/tomorrowslunch and at www.tomorrowslunch.org.

Maggie Shapiro, MPH, RD, LDN

creator of Tomorrow’s Lunch

Maggie Shapiro is a Registered Dietitian and mom of two, who created Tomorrow’s Lunch to help parents and caregivers come up with healthy, colorful and creative lunches for kids. Maggie earned her MPH from Boston University School of Public Health, concentrating in Social and Behavioral Sciences, and completed her Dietetic Internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Her expertise areas include general nutrition, healthy eating, weight control, heart health, childhood overweight/obesity, and maternal nutrition. Follow her nutrition tips and advice for healthy meals attomorrowslunch.org and www.facebook.com/tomorrowslunch.


LINX Classes at Parent Talk Playspace!

Last Spring, Parent Talk had trial classes for children at our playspace, sponsored by LINX. According to our membership survey this summer, (more on that in a later post) those classes were very popular, so we are very happy to offer a full schedule of classes again starting in September! LINX provides their enthusiastic, well trained teachers and receives the benefit of new enrollment from the Parent Talk community. Our members get conveniently located classes at a discount and Parent Talk receives 10% of the fees paid!  
Beginning September 5th classes in the Playspace will include Monday and Friday mornings.  Mondays, Miss Carry starts off at 9:25am with Family Music Makers, a "mixed age family jam session" for ages 0-4. This is followed by Sports Safari at 10:35, where 18-23 month olds  will “run like jaguars, swing like monkeys and cheer like lions."



Friday is yoga day with Miss Ingrid which uses, Kidding Around Yoga™ (KAY), teaching yoga to children in a creative and playful way. During Family Yoga, at 9:45am parents and children ages 12 months to 4 years will explore yoga poses, breathing, meditation, respect and kindness while we “moo like cows, meow like cats, sail in boats, and so much more." Then at 10:45, 3 to 5 year olds will learn yoga while singing, dancing, laughing and storytelling. 



Classes can be tried on a monthly basis, or larger blocks with benefits.

Want to know more? Visit the Parent Talk page on the LINX site to learn more about the classes, schedules, program goals and prices.  It’s where you can register for classes as well.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ready for a FROZEN sing along?

"Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I'll be a .....Happy Snowman!"


Olaf couldn't have said it any better -- Parent Talk has made this a great summer as we present Olaf, Elsa, Anna and friends in Disney's ' FROZEN' on the big screen at Flicks on the Field on August 23rd!  Costumes are encouraged for our sing along version of the movie.

Flicks on the Field is a free annual event we have every summer -- it is an opportunity to have an enjoyable and memorable night out with the whole family.   Get your blankets, lawn chairs, and pack a dinner.  This is more than a town event -- it is open to anyone in towns near or far and we hope that people will spread the word and invite friends!



There will be entertainment from 6:30pm until 7:30 -- this includes a talented magician, crafts, music and games provided by our premier sponsor, LINX, and songs, photos, and a princess parade led by Elsa and Anna!  This is also a great way to spend the pre-bedtime hour in case your little ones cannot stay for the movie.

Across the street, Orange Leaf be serving our 'Frozen' treats and will give 20% of proceeds to Parent Talk.  Our beloved Needham 'Hot Dog Guy' will have his truck available for other snacks and refreshments.


We hope to see you all there on the 23rd, and hope you will join us in making 'Flicks' an annual family tradition!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Connect Amazon Smile to Parent Talk

If you are an Amazon shopper, you may have noticed the new pop ups calling out their Amazon Smile program. This is an easy way to help support your favorite charity, at no cost to you. For every purchase you make while on the Amazon Smile site, a small percentage kicks back to the charity you designate. If you are so inclined to choose Parent Talk, we are now set up to accept the donations through Amazon Smile.



First steps, click on the pop up to set up your Amazon Smile. Search for Parent Talk and check to make sure it reflects our organization's details.



When shopping for Amazon, if you visit the main site, sometimes they will remind you to hop over to the Amazon Smile site. Then your qualified purchases will all counts towards the donation. One quick tip is to install an Amazon Smile bookmark, or extension, in your browser window. Then you can go directly to the site.



Thanks in advance for choosing Parent Talk. All the money raised helps bring in new lectures, pays for the Playspace and events for kids and parents in the coming year. 

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