Monday, March 23, 2015

Past and Future Parent Talk Events With Your Kids!

Do you find yourself looking for activities to do with your children during the week that go beyond your usual routine? Perhaps you want to meet more moms, maybe you are relatively new to the area and not yet aware of all the children's enrichment programs and classes available. Parent Talk's event coordinators, Ellie Beasley and Kate Swenson, have been doing a fantastic job this year by taking the guess work out of it for us and bringing fun opportunities for our little ones that allow us to get out, socialize and build connections within the community. Here are a few highlights of some recent successful events. I, for one, need to be better about checking the Parent Talk website and looking at the calendar under events so that I can work these into my monthly planning. Luckily, there will be many more options to come! Hope to see you there!

Let's look back at some of the fun you may have participated in from recent events. If you missed out, be sure to take note of what is in store for upcoming plans listed at the bottom of this post! 

Valentine's Day at Wingate
In a world of commercialized holidays, it was wonderful to have an event about the simple things: good music, good company and GIVING LOVE.

The Residences at Wingate, an independent and assisted living facility located on Gould Street in Needham, had an amazing team and made hosting the event at their space seamless. From the marketing staff to the activities staff to the amazing kitchen staff we couldn’t have been more helped and welcomed. The residents were very friendly and so sweet to the children.  Some even took the opportunity to hold the babies in attendance!

Between all the snowy days and school closings, it seemed like everybody was itching to get out and celebrate SOMETHING. It was perfect timing for Parent Talk and The Residences at Wingate to team up and host a Valentine’s Day party. The party promised Valentine staples like sweet treats and heart-themed crafts while also boasting a concert from the popular children’s entertainer, Stacey Peasley.

Children were invited to make a “paper love bug” for the crafting portion of the event and some even opted to give their completed decorations to the residents to brighten their day! What a great act of giving.


Stacey Peasley and Friends provided great entertainment for the group of young and old. With an appropriate mix of “love” themed songs (there was even some old Johnny Cash!) and children classics like “Wheels on the Bus”. ~Kate Swenson

Elmo Storytime

On a cold Saturday morning in January, Parent Talk members and their families kept toasty warm reading stories and dancing with Elmo at the Dover playspace. This free, popular annual member event was sold out again this year with 100 people in attendance. Everyone’s favorite Sesame Street character gave out hugs and high fives to the admiring children, posing for photos and even doing the hokey pokey with his fans after reading a few Elmo-themed stories. Families lingered long after the end of the event, coloring drawings of Elmo, playing in the playspace, running up and down the hallways in a spontaneous game of Red Light/Green Light, and catching up with friends. It was the perfect way to spend a wintery morning! ~Ellie Beasley


Mini Athletes Trial Class

On a weekday morning in March, Parent Talk members and their kids participated in private trial class at the incredible Mini Athletes facility in Norwood. Ranging in age from 2 to 5 years old, our “mini athletes” worked up a sweat and had a ball! The 1-hour mixed sports program was tailored specifically to our group of 16 kids, and included stretching, an obstacle course, running games, relay races, bubbles, a mini dodge ball game, and much more. Little siblings made their own fun on the sidelines with balls and toys that the coaches had provided to keep everyone entertained. Most of us stayed afterwards for lunch in the party room---we had some hungry kids after a morning of activity! It was such a fun way to learn about Mini Athletes, a fabulous place for kids’ sports classes and birthday parties, as well as a perfect venue for our kids to get their energy out after being cooped up inside all winter! ~Ellie Beasley

Please mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

  • March 27th- Parent Talk Happy Hour Spin @ CycleBar Wellesley Register Here
  • April 4th - Easter Egg Hunt at the Residences at Wingate. Registration and details coming soon!
  • April 7th- New England Sports Academy Parent Talk Open House Register Here
  • April 12thPuddlestompers/STEM Event at Bright Horizons. Information and registration coming soon!
  • May 31st- Barn Babies at Defazio Tot Lot. Registration to open at a later date

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Mayhem - What You Should Know


March Mayhem, an exciting new Parent Talk event, is coming to Needham on Saturday, March 21st!  We've been getting a lot of questions about this event so the following FAQ has been put together.

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What exactly is March Mayhem?
This event is a Texas Hold 'Em style poker tournament and so much more.  Several large screen TVs will be setup around the venue so that you can keep track of what's happening in the big tournament games.  You can also try your luck at our March Mayhem Raffle.  Five raffle tickets will be included with your event registration fee and additional tickets will be available for purchase that evening.  There will also be a cash bar available and some of our sponsors will be on site.  J. Hilburn will be taking measurements for suits and displaying their clothing.  If you want, you'll be able to order a custom tailored suit, sport jacket, or shirt on the spot!  Rooster's Men's Grooming Center will be there offering hot towels, neck trims, and beard/mustache shaping as well.  Even if you don't last very long in the poker tournament, you'll want to stick around.

J Hilburn suit

Do I need to know how to play poker?
Absolutely not! This poker tournament is for players of all skill level from beginner to experienced.  Plus, this is a tournament event.  So, you simply pay your entry fee and you will be given chips to play with.  There will be no cash betting at the tables.

Bernard Lee, a professional poker player with more than $2 million in career tournament earnings, will be providing a 30-minute seminar on the basics of No Limit Texas Hold'em from 6:30 - 7:00. In addition, our friendly dealers will guide you through the game and help answer any questions you might have during the game.

Who can play?
Anyone over the age of 21 is welcome to play in the tournament and the event is open to all regardless of Parent Talk membership status.  So feel free to bring all your friends and your poker buddies.  We welcome players of all skill levels as well.  To register in advance click here.

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How much does it cost to play?
The registration fee is $65 in advance and $75 if purchased at the door.  There will be no out of pocket betting at the poker table so the maximum loss you might incur playing is limited to your entry fee.  Your registration fee also includes 5 raffle tickets.  Additional raffle tickets will be sold at the event in groups of 5 tickets for $15.  To register in advance click here.

Win a Shinola watch!

 What can I win?
Prizes for the poker tournament are:

1st Place - a men's Shinola watch (retail value $750) donated by Long's Jewelers and a VISA gift card

2nd Place - $100 Capital Grille gift card, a set of 4 Capital Grille steak knives ($85 retail value), and 3 cases of beer from Sam Adams

3rd Place - $50 Davio's gift card plus a gift basket of beer and accessories from Clown Shoes Beer

Raffle prizes are gift certificates courtesy of our sponsors:
•5 Guys Burgers & Fries
•Rooster's Men's Grooming
•Ace Ticket
•J. Hillburn Men's Clothing
•Golftec
•VO2 Max
•Boston Sports Club Wellesley



Don't miss out on this incredible event.  Click here to register now and make sure to share this with any of your poker loving friends or any friends who've ever wanted to learn to play poker.  See you there!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Searching for Signs of Spring

The vernal equinox, or first day of spring, is around the corner on March 20th but with this very thick blanket of snow, we won't be seeing daffodils until much later! So, how can we 'push spring' a little bit, lifting our spirits while teaching our little ones at the same time? Feed the birds! An especially snowy winter like this one, is very hard on our feathered friends and if you believe that seeing a red breasted robin is a sure sign of spring, try one of these feeding activities.
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A great way to begin is with a book. Riki's Birdhouse, by Monica Wellington, is one of my daughter's favorites. In it, you see the way a little boy welcomes birds to his backyard through each changing season. The book also provides some great information at the end about building and installing a birdhouse, birdbaths and feeders, as well as identifying certain common birds. My favorite tidbit from the book for our purposes is the Bird Food Cupcakes recipe, which is as follows:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cups birdseed mixture
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup melted vegetable shortening or suet
  1. Mix ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Drop the mixture into greased or lined muffin tins
  3. Push a stick through the middle of each cupcake
  4. Chill until hardened. Remove the sticks and paper linters. Thread string through the holes and hang. 
To purchase a copy, please consider using Amazon smile and selecting Parent Talk as your charity of choice! 
more about the book!
If you want to set up a more longstanding birdfeeder that you can begin watching with your child, there are few things to keep in mind for success. The birds need to feel safe from predators in order to visit the feeder so place it around twelve feet from some type of brush or bush that they can easily retreat to if feeling threatened. Also, be sure not to place any feeder less than thirty feet from a window to avoid confusing them and causing traumatic collisions! To learn more about bird feeding specifics, I found this website helpful. Also, consider taking a trip to the Needham Garden Center on Chestnut Street. They have a wide variety of bird feeders and food, plus great customer service!

more ideas
This birdfeeder made from a re-used water bottle is an easy and inexpensive way to try your hand at bird feeding while involving the kids! Just cut the holes, insert wooden spoons or chopsticks, fill with feed and hang. But even simpler, and more hands on for little ones is the classic peanut butter covered pine cone rolled in birdseed (or have them sprinkle it on with a spoon!) It may be tricky to go for a winter walk and find an uncovered pinecone, but maybe you have some accessible branches you can reach from these high banks! Another option I came across is to use a toilet paper roll. Also, if you do not want to use peanut butter, use 1/2 cup of suet or shortening, combined with 1/2 cup of oats or cornmeal and then try pressing the covered pinecone or toilet paper roll onto birdseed poured out into a pie plate.
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I hope these ideas spring some hope into an afternoon for you and your baby birds! Let the countdown to green grass begin! Once the snow has melted, there are so many other ways to make your backyard a sanctuary for birds and birdwatching is a great way to teach patience and to instill an appreciation for nature.

About the author:
Liza d'Hemecourt is the Blog Coordinator for Parent Talk. She is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher. She lives in Needham with her husband and stays home to raise her two and three year old children.





Monday, February 23, 2015

Why We Should All Attend Go Green this Saturday

This Saturday is Parent Talk's annual night out. But you already know that, right?  You've bought your tickets, booked your sitter and picked out your outfit. What's that?  You haven't?  You need ANOTHER reason to go?  
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If the promises of food & fun, great raffle & auction items and dancing & good company have not convinced you yet, then let me give you the best and most important reason of all - this event is an integral part of fulfilling Parent Talk's mission of helping families with young children connect, learn, play and grow together.
Just a few of the ways we fulfill this mission include the operation of the Play Space and the provision of member benefits like the museum pass program, partnering with other local organizations including the Community Center of Needham and the Needham Business Association to bring you great community events like the 2014 Needham Lights, and giving back through the donation of items not sold during the bi-annual sale or the assembly of project night-night bags.
luminary stroll in Needham

Yet, the annual membership dues we collect cover just over one third of the annual operating costs of the organization. That leaves us with close to two-thirds of the operating costs to raise via fundraising events and activities. In a nutshell, we need events like Go Green to be a success if we want to keep offering the same member benefits and community support as we do today. 
Go Green attendees from 2014!

Second only to the bi-annual sales in terms of funds raised, Go Green is also one of our only events that is focused almost entirely on making sure that moms and dads get a night off from the kids to connect with friends, new and old, without the distraction of sports schedules, daycare drop-offs or wiping noses.
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So what are you waiting for?  Shake off the snow, give yourself the night off and click here to purchase your tickets and join me in supporting the amazing community we have here in Parent Talk.

This post was written by Wendy Todd, president of Parent Talk.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Little Voices, Big Changes! How Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Acquire Language

I like to tell a story that makes a lot of our friends who have kids laugh: my son pronounces “st” as “d”.  So a “stegosaurus” is a “degosaurus”.  Well, one day last summer, he was helping me in the garden.  I was putting sticks near the tomato plants to hold them up.  My little guy became very curious about what I was doing and grabbed a stick and ran off with it. When I took it back, he demanded in his very loudest voice that I return the stick to him. “NO, MOMMY! I WANT MY….” Well, you can fill in the blank.

So why is this story so funny to parents? Because it’s eminently relatable. Even if you are lucky enough to have a child who doesn’t scream… well… “STICK!” so loudly that the neighbors can hear it, you know that every kid has some linguistic quirk or foible.  Some kids don’t use prepositions, and others like to use the same pronoun for everyone and thing, regardless of gender.  Some kids don’t talk for a very long time and then burst out in a stream of language that amazes.

If you’re anything like me, you have also wondered whether you are simply wasting your time reading to your 8 week old baby – especially when he grows up to love degosauruses and … sticks.  Should I keep reading to his baby sister, despite the fact that she just falls asleep after I turn the first page?

It’s only natural, of course, for us to wonder if our babies and kids are on track, if those quirks are just that, quirks, or if they are evidence of a gap in learning or ability.  Linguistic benchmarks seem to be quite vague, or largely useless in the case of bilingual or trilingual kids.  And assuming that everything is in order, what can we parents do to help make sure it stays that way? 

Please join us for a special evening with Dr. Sudha Arunachalam, Assistant Professor in Boston University's Department of Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences and the director of the BU Child Language Lab, for a discussion of how language acquisition actually happens. She will explain the most cutting-edge linguistics research showing that language comprehension can be manifested in kids as young as 6 months of age, and how that changes as kids age. She will review the latest updates to developmental milestones, and she will provide a practical discussion of strategies that parents can use to support and enhance their children’s language development. Dr. Arunachalam’s research is focused on language development in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, and specifically on how they learn about meaning and grammar as they hear people speaking to them and around them.

The lecture will take place at North Hill in Needham from 7-8:30pm, beginning with a wine reception and registration. Click here to register for this event.

About the author:
A former middle school teacher, administrator, and corporate bankruptcy attorney, Shalini now faces her toughest but favorite audience: her kids, husband and cat Bishop. A Needham resident since 2012, Shalini is enjoying all the community-building opportunities offered through Parent Talk!

Monday, February 16, 2015

What to Wear to Go Green?

Are you ready to forget about snow and think spring? Time for the annual Parent Talk Go Green event on February 28th. Grab your green and pass go. Buy some raffle tickets and collect some goodies along the way.

You got your tickets, now what to wear? Parent Talk member Katie Sullivan helps out and shares some cute ideas on her new blog, Beantown Chic.  Festive means a cute green top and your favorite pants. However, since a lot of us are bored with winter, feel free to go for it with a fun spring dress!

Read all of Katie's fashion ideas here at her Go Green Inspiration post.



p.s. Be sure to watch the Parent Talk facebook page this week. We will be sharing a post where you can enter to WIN a free ticket to Go Green in honor of 1000 fans on our page! Get your tickets now with your friends. If you win we will refund your ticket price.

CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR TICKETS BEFORE THEY ARE SOLD OUT! 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How do you know that you are choosing the right summer camp for your family?

We hope you enjoy another fantastic guest-post from our friends at LINX. This is the perfect encore to our recent Parent Talk Summer Camp Fair! Grace Tummino gives us insight and thought provoking questions when it comes to choosing a summer camp for our precious wee ones.

This is the time of year when many families make the decision on which summer camp best fits their family’s needs. Maybe you’ve already attended a local camp fair and you’re trying to make a decision between two or more camps. Perhaps you are new at this and don’t know where to turn first for answers. One thing is certain; you want to feel confident that you are enrolling your child in the best possible summer camp to fit the needs of your family.
Before you start the search, ask yourself these basic questions. The answers will be your camp requirements.

Am I looking for a full-day or half-day camp, or is my child ready for sleepaway camp?

Is my child interested in many varied activities or is he/she more focused on one activity or sport? Are you looking for your child to learn a new skill? Many camps focus on specialties like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education), sports, dance, theater, arts and crafts, nature, outdoor adventures, etc.

Is my child most comfortable in small or large groups?

Does my child have a food allergy or situation that may require special attention?

Is my child more comfortable in single sex or coed activities?

Is bus transportation important to me?

Do I need a flexible drop off and pick up schedule?

What is my budget?

Once you have finalized your list of camp requirements, listen to recommendations from friends and family, attend a camp fair, search online using keywords that describe what you are looking for in a camp, and look for online reviews from local sources like Campseekers.com. You should always, of course, contact a camp directly. Here are some important factors to consider as you are learning about different camps.

Environment:

It’s important to get a feeling for the camp. Is the staff happy to see or hear from you? A good camp will partner with parents by making an effort to teach respect and kindness, and this will shine through when you converse with them. Listen to your instincts when you visit the camp or make a phone call. No matter how you contact the camp, pay attention to the way you are treated. If you feel rushed or they are unable to answer your questions, then it is probably not the best choice for your family. A good camp representative will always make time for you and treat you with the respect you deserve.
Staff and the right camper to counselor ratio are important for a positive experience, especially for children who are most comfortable in small groups. You want to know that the staff is nurturing and patient. Many young children are experiencing camp for the first time, and they need extra guidance from an experienced and caring professional. If this is important in your choice, you might want to look for a camp that hires teachers and/or college students studying to become professionals in the field of early childhood development.

Integrity and teamwork – You want to know that your child will be part of a team environment where failure IS an option. When the focus is fun and learning, and not competence or failure, the child is free to learn, take risks, and grow at a faster pace. A great camp will give you the feeling that your child’s emotional safety is top priority. A camp that rewards a child who tries his best in any sport or activity, no matter the outcome, is a camp with integrity.

When a child has a sense of belonging at camp, he/she is free to explore new activities and interests without fear of rejection from other children. Does the camp have a bullying prevention policy? As a parent you will want to know the camp’s procedure for prevention as well as actions taken if a bullying event should occur. Please take a moment to read Eradicating Bullying an educational article written by LINX Camps’ Vice President and Executive Director, Josh Schiering.

Some parents favor a more traditional environment where the camper will feel like he/she is part of something bigger. If this is important to you, then find a camp that has an inclusive environment where campers take part in opening and closing ceremonies or camp-wide games.

Safety:

CORI (Criminal Offender Registry Information) and SORI (Sex Offender Record Information) background checks should be completed for every adult leader or volunteer. This is a requirement, enforced by the local Board of Health, of all staff and volunteers who will be in contact with campers. Is the staff CPR and first aid certified? Is there adequate access to EMTs?
Many camps have a plan for dealing with food allergies, other allergies, and medical issues. Check out the policy each camp has in place. You will want to feel confident in the event of an emergency situation. According to Foodallergy.org, “Having a written food allergy policy in place ensures that staff members are well-equipped to care for children who experience food allergy reactions while at camp.” You will find extensive guidelines for camps on this website.

Instructor competence should be a requirement. If you have your eye on a specialty camp, be sure an expert in the field leads it. Specialty camps, in areas like science and sports, should be staffed with experts in the field for obvious safety and instructional reasons. 

Communication:

Is the staff of your camp choice willing to take your calls at any time of day? Are you free to drop in and see you child at camp any time you wish? There should always be complete open communication between parent/caregiver and camp staff. You should feel free to talk with counselors at the end of a camp day if you have a concern or just want to chat about your child.

Cost:

Discounts and specials can help work your favorite camp choice into your budget. Does the camp offer a sibling or a multiple camp week discount? Are there any other benefits that come with the price? Summer camp is an investment, and when it comes down to it, you want to know you are getting a lot for your money. There is a vast amount of camps out there competing for your dollar, so make them work for it!

With all of this in mind, your camp choice will help define the camp experience for your child. Whether it is a first time experience or one of many, I hope you find the ultimate camp to meet the needs and expectations of your family. The results will show in your child’s self-confidence, increased independence, friendships, and willingness to try new things.

About the author: Grace Tummino is a member of LINX's marketing team, specializing in content marketing and marketing project management. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Pace University in NY, has an extensive background in marketing and product development, and is part owner and marketing manager for a technology company in MA.



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