Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Crafts to Re-Create Signs of Spring

Spring is well underway and now that we can finally get outside, the days are feeling shorter and my kids seem to be sleeping better! We've been enjoying talking about all the signs of spring as we see them appear. It's so much fun to discover all these changes in nature alongside my three year old. Of course, there has still been the occasional rainy day, or in our case sick day, when we have been mostly inside. Those days when you may be stuck inside are great opportunities to create abstract versions of what we see happening around us this season, like rainbows, blooming flowers and birds' nests.

Rainbow Baking Soda and Vinegar Experiment

I was inspired by this mom's blog
I love that this activity is multi-sensory and has lots of learning embedded in the process but is still easy to create using things that you likely have at home.

You will need: vinegar; baking soda; food coloring; syringes or eye droppers; a cookie sheet or cake pan; mixing bowl and spoon

The most  time intensive is dying the baking soda but you probably have an eager helper to join you in the process! Be sure to talk about ROY-G-BIV (each successive color of the rainbow.)

To dye the baking soda:
1. scoop 4 big spoonfuls of baking soda in the bowl
2. add 2-3 drops of food coloring
3. moisten with a teaspoon or two of water
4. mix (it will be clumpy but should not be wet)

Arrange the colored baking soda, side by side in your pan. Then fill a syringe or eye dropper with vinegar and let your little one squeeze it onto the baking soda to see the reaction! As a grand finale, pour your entire cup of vinegar over the top of the rainbow :)

Blooming Flowers with Re-used Water Bottles

These kind of paint-stamping activities are easy and have a cute effect. I also like the idea of using an item from our recycling bin to make artwork! With all the seltzer water I drink, we always have an empty bottle handy. To enhance the fine motor component, have your child dip the cap in yellow paint to make the center of each flower. This project would also be a nice gift for a grandparent or elderly neighbor.

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Bird's Nest 

We have been so lucky at our house to have bird's visibly nesting two springs in a row! Last year, a Cardinal made her nest in the holly bush in the front of our house and this year we have five bright blue Robin's eggs in a boxwood in our backyard. I've always found it fascinating the way birds can make such beautiful, perfectly shaped nests from materials in their natural environment. Here is an activity for your little one to make his or her own work of art:

1. Take a brown paper lunch bag and cut about 4 inches off the top while the bag is still flat.
2. Then, depending on the age of your child, have him or her cut slits down toward the bottom of the bag (about 2 or 3 inches deep.)
3. Repeat this this with a second paper bag, then open the bags and place one inside the other.
4. Have your child scrunch or twist the fringed ends and voila!
5. To make eggs for the inside, either cut and paint a portion of a cardboard egg carton or take some extra plastic Easter eggs and cover them in masking tape or craft tape. My daughter loves sticking tape on anything!

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About the author:

Liza d'Hemecourt is the blog coordinator for Parent Talk. She lives in Needham with her husband and her two and three year old son and daughter. Prior to motherhood, she taught kindergarten and first grade.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten With Donna DeMaria of Hillside School



You’ve all seen the poster: Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten! I learned a lot in kindergarten myself: how to make friends and how to invite them over, how pack my own lunch (and add extra treats), how to use crinkle scissors, and other critical life skills that have served me very well over the past few decades.
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Of course we also know that there is a debate raging among parents and educators about just what we should EXPECT kids to learn in kindergarten: should they learn to read? Should they have homework? Begin a second language? What does my kid need to be able to do before she enters the classroom? 

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So bring your questions with you and join us onWednesday, May 13th, at 7pm at the Hillside School’s gymnasium in Needham, for a frank and practical discussion with one of Needham’s own veteran kindergarten teachers. Mrs. DeMaria will provide both a high-level explanation as well as a more detailed review of what students will expereince in their kindergarten year, how that fits in with their school experience to follow, and what they should be able to do when they begin school.


To register to attend, please go to: https://parenttalk-preparingforkindergarten2015.eventbrite.com

Post written by Shalini Broderick, Parent Talk Lecture Committee Board Member

Monday, April 27, 2015

Strategic Shopping at the Parent Talk Sale

So, the much anticipated Parent Talk sale is only a few days away, and you've probably been seeing many emails asking you to volunteer your time or donate your unwanted children's clothing and toys, BUT I am here to talk about what the sale can do for you. I know there are many members of the community who have yet to shop at one of the sales, but even if you have, perhaps you've never thought of how much easier it can make your life to strategically take advantage of the deals waiting to be had.
A bag of 'new' toys for the car makes for a happy ride! photo
Grab Bags to Ward off Meltdowns
Think about situations that may be challenging with your children: a long car ride; going to church; a sick day at home; a rainy day; eating in a restaurant---just to name a few that come to mind---now grab a gallon ziplock bag and a sharpie and write these situations as labels on each bag. Next, bring your bags with you to the sale and fill each one with toys, games or puzzles that your child has never seen! Resist the urge to use them when you get home and find a good place to keep them until that occasion arises. Voila! Meltdown and crisis averted for very short change!
Messy play? No problem with extra clothes at the ready. photo
An Outfit for Every Occasion (or accident)
Think of all the situations that arise when you need a different outfit for your child: spills; water table at a play date; didn't make it to the potty; impromptu night at grandma's; change of clothes for school or camp---not to mention how nice it is just to have extra play clothes so that you don't have to do laundry quite so often. I stopped carrying a diaper bag pretty early on and found myself in a few scenarios when I wished I had clean and dry clothing to change my preschooler and toddler into. I plan to make a list of these occasions and put these extra outfits together from the many well organized choices that await you on the clothing floor, downstairs at the sale. Then, put the outfits in bags and place them where they can be easily accessed (a permanently packed bag for the pool; emergency supplies in the car etc.)
Clothes that fit for little $$$ (photo)
Did you grow again?
It's also very savvy to think ahead to the next season, or even to the end of this current season and buy a few things that are one size larger. I never like to do this at retail prices because I'm afraid I'll get it wrong and returns are such a hassle, but at just a few dollars per article of clothing, you can't go wrong by planning wardrobes ahead when you shop the sale. My mother used to keep huge appliance boxes at the top of our attic stairs filled with hand-me-downs from our cousins and with each new season, we went up and tried them on to see what fit. Why not even buy a few sizes ahead if you see a coat in excellent condition? Just label it and pack it away for later. The $10 bag sale is an excellent time to stock up on clothes that will fit later.
You may find something unexpected! photo
Spruce up that bedroom
You may not think of the sale as the place to look for decorative items for your child's room, but the middle room (between the toys on the first floor and the downstairs clothing) often has unexpected treasures. I found a beautiful sterling silver frame of the Make Way for Ducklings statues, decorative shelves from Pottery Barn, precious book ends, and photo albums, to name a few. It's nice to peruse the sale often if you can shop early for the things you need and come back later to take a more relaxed approach and let yourself notice things you may have missed the first time.

We hope you can pop in for a little while on Saturday, May 2nd between 8:30 and 1:00 at Christ Episcopal Church, 1132 Highland Avenue in Needham (across from the library.) AND, if you'd like to shop early with your list, there is still time to sign up for a shift to volunteer for a two-hour shift, just click here.






Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Kicking-off Playground Season!

Though the ground is a bit soggy and most of us still have a dirty snow patch somewhere on our lawn, we can finally be certain that the days will only continue to get nicer. This winter has certainly taught us not to take the spring and summer for granted! I am ready to get started with outdoor living now. One way we are getting a jumpstart on taking advantage of local open air offerings is by helping out this Saturday in the town-wide clean-up.
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I can't wait to revisit our favorite playgrounds, where we can gather effortlessly with friends and playgroups and meet new faces. But, just like our own backyards and flower beds, before we can enjoy them, we need to do some sprucing! The same thing goes for the local parks and playgrounds that we share. This weekend, the town of Needham is hosting a community-wide clean-up and we thought that if Parent Talk took part, it would be a great kick-off to playground season and a nice chance to get outside and see people!



This Saturday, pack a picnic lunch, put on your play clothes and bring the whole family to Greene's Field playground where we will have supplies ready for you to pitch in and get the park spruced up and ready for lots of action in the coming months! We will plan to meet around 9:30 and finish up in time to enjoy lunch together at the picnic tables. Please register and join us!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let's Purge Toys for the PT Sale!!!

Are you in the mood to purge and create space? Does it feel like the toys you've been staring at (and picking up) for the past few months have lost their appeal? After enduring a long and snowy winter, (I guess we are still enduring the snow) most of us are itching for change. It will still be weeks, hopefully not months, before the playgrounds are ready for our children to run and climb but we can make some changes indoors that will give us all the mental cleanse we need. You may have guessed what I am getting at---The Parent Talk Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale is around the corner!

Learn more
I have already started preparing in two ways:

1. When I am playing on the floor with my kids and they aren't looking, I grab an opaque bag, like a plastic grocery bag, and rummage through toy baskets, tossing in items that are no longer relevant to them (or me!) We have had holidays and birthdays that have dumped many a plastic play-set and random figurine into the mix, and you know how the saying goes, less is more. Remember that if you would prefer to see some return for the items you give to the sale, you can request a consigner's kit.
Toys aplenty to renew your collection (after you clean it out, that is)
2. I am making a mental list (which needs to materialize soon) of what I think my kids 'need' to further their play at this stage of the game. My husband looked at me last week and said, "You know how some people are crazy cat ladies? Well you're a crazy toy lady." He's right, I love toys and spend a lot of time organizing them and trying to find new ways for my kids to play with them. But, even I have to admit that before I can bring more toys in, I need to clear some out. 
Buy wardrobe staples for the spring and summer and save $$$
This is what I love about the Parent Talk Sale: it comes at the perfect times of year when wardrobes and toys need an overhaul and it is one stop shopping to accomplish 'out with the old and in with the 'new.' 

Here are some items for Spring that most of us will need and will likely find amid the myriad of items donated and consigned to the sale:
  • rain coats and rain boots
  • spring and summer clothing
  • outdoor ride on toys
  • games and puzzles your child has not seen
  • toys to save for a rainy day
  • books to freshen up your bedtime routine

The Spring 2015 Parent Talk Sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 2


Plenty of room for your donations!
1. The POD has landed, so donations are being accepted! Email donations@parenttalk.info for the drop off location and any further information.

2. If you are interested in shopping before the general public (and finding all the best deals!) schedule a 2 hour volunteer shift (anytime between Thursday, April 30 - Saturday, May 2). To register for a volunteer shift, click here

3. For those interested in consigning, please email sellerskit@parenttalk.info to activate or renew your seller's number and ask for a current seller's kit (includes blank tags.)
If you have any other questions or need further encouragement to get involved, please email Seema and Diane at clothingsale@parenttalk.info or visit www.parenttalk.info

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Family Volunteer Project: Project Night Night Bag Stuffing Drive

As conscientious parents, we look for ways to exemplify positive values to our children but sometimes it can be tricky to find age-appropriate opportunities to put them into practice. Once again, Parent Talk takes the guess work out of it by bringing us Project Night Night, a charitable program perfect for involving little ones in the process of giving, from start to finish.

Project Night Night is a non-profit organization that collects and donates canvas tote bags filled with books, stuffed animals and blankets to homeless children in shelters. Each canvas bag stamped with their precious sheep logo is a perfect backdrop for you and your child to decorate. Together, choose a gently used or new stuffed animal, book and a new blanket (with tags) to fill it after decorating. The most important part of this activity could be the explanation you provide regarding how happy these bags will make their recipients. 

It can be uncomfortable and difficult to know how to address the topic of homelessness with children and depending on their age, you may not feel it is appropriate to be very specific. As is the case with most important topics we want to impress upon our children, turning to literature can help. The following books vary in terms of the age of their intended audience, but a local librarian or teacher may have other recommendations. 
Intended for grades K-4, two children discover a homeless woman living in their neighborhood and learn how easy it can be to make a difference in someone's life.
This book was written for children ages 4 to 8 and is beautifully illustrated and artfully told. It tells the story of a sad by who has no home but finds hope in taking care of geese. The story intertwines real world problems with a mythical and unexpected ending.

Set in Paris, this beautifully illustrated story depicts the unlikely match of a man with no family who ends up helping a mother and her children who are living under a bridge.





Participating in our Project Night Night Bag Stuffing Drive is easy - in fact, Parent Talk invites you to fill bags at home with your family, with your playgroups, preschools, sports teams, girl scout troups - you name it! There are four steps to get involved:
1) RSVP to Jenny at projectnightnight@parenttalk.info by Friday, April 3rd, and indicate how many canvas bags you'd like to reserve and fill. Each bag costs $3.50; checks can be made out to Parent Talk, Inc and delivered when you pick up your empty bags.
2) Stuff your bags for the gender and age (0-12 years) of your choosing. Each completed bag should contain these 3 items: a new or gently used book, a new or gently used stuffed animal, and a new blanket (with tags, please).
3) During the week of April 6th, pick up your empty bags in Needham (location TBA). You and your child(ren) or group may decorate them, stuff them, and prepare them to be sent to a local child in need.
4) Drop off your filled bags by Monday, April 13th in Needham (location TBA) for delivery to local area shelters.
If you have any questions, or would like to volunteer to deliver filled bags to shelters in mid-April, please contact Jenny atprojectnightnight@parenttalk.info

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

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