Saturday, August 29, 2015

Parent Talk's 2014-15 President Wendy Todd and VP Emily Roach Thank Volunteers, Board

  2014-15 President Wendy Todd (left) and
  2014-15 Vice-President Emily Roach (right)
Summer always brings lazier days and a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of the school year.  Summer also means the transition from old to new at Parent Talk when the official changing of the guard comes and a new set of amazing volunteers takes over and begins planning the many events and activities that will keep our families busy for months to come. This past June was no different as the outgoing leadership team passed the torch to a wonderful group of incoming board members. But before we say our final goodbye, we want to take a moment to thank the many wonderful volunteers that have contributed their talents and time this year.

From left: Wendy Todd and Emily Roach with PT's new President Megan
Bourque and outgoing Board Members Deb Dorman, Lauren Baum, and
Kristen Capodilupo














First, we want to give a big thank you to our 2014-15 Board Members: Lauren Baum, Shalini Broderick, Kristen Capodilupo, Colleen Doran, Deborah Dorman, Riley Hastings, Susan Koslow and Maggie Shapiro.  For the past few years, their time and endless energy has gone towards making Parent Talk the wonderful organization it is today.

2014-15 Sale Chairs Diane
Solomon (left) and Seema
Layne (right)

                                                                                     
From left: 2014-15 Go Green Chairs Cristina
Santamaria, Kate Hassan, and Joanna Noon
 Second, we want to thank our 2014-15 event chairs and committee members.  They each made significant contributions to the success of Parent Talk’s programming and fundraising efforts this year.  There are too many of you to name here, but we would like to give a special shout out to Sale Chairs Seema Layne and Diane Solomon; Go Green Chairs Kate Hassan, Joanna Noon and Cristina Santamaria; and Volunteer of the Year Liza d'Hemecourt.

Liza d'Hemecourt
Center: Liza d'Hemecourt, Volunteer of the Year

























Finally, a huge thank you to each and every one of the member volunteers who contributed to Parent Talk’s success this year.  Whether it was as a 2-hour volunteer at the sale, helping to move tables at Flicks, or writing a post for the blog, this organization does not succeed without the support of every individual member. Thank You!

During our tenure on Parent Talk’s leadership team, we had an amazing ride and met wonderful people who will be in our lives for years and years to come.  Thank you to everyone for your support and friendship over the past few years.  We feel very lucky to be part of a community as wonderful as Parent Talk and we are thrilled to be leaving the organization in the capable hands of the 2015-16 board, led by President Megan Bourque and Vice-President Ellie Beasley.

All our best, 
Wendy Todd and Emily Roach

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Free Girls' Lacrosse Clinic this Saturday

Ever wonder about how the game of lacrosse is played? Or even wonder, "What is lacrosse, anyway?" Many people go through life without knowing the exact answer!  Sure, we see a bunch of players running about a field with nets on sticks tossing a ball around, but what skills are they using, and what are the actual rules of the game? This Saturday, any questions from you or your girls (preschool age through grade 2) can be answered.

Photo by mhara442
This coming Saturday, August 29, 2015, there will be a free trial lacrosse clinic offered by Stix 4 Chix at the Boch Hockey Center in Dedham.  The 30 minute clinic is for entry to first year level players and covers basic rules and fundamentals of lacrosse. Trial classes are small, with a maximum of 8 children per session.  Leading the clinic will be a former collegiate player and current official. Interested?  Register here.

Lacrosse is one of North America's oldest games and was played by Native Americans.  Its popularity has not yet caught on like the mainstream sports of hockey and soccer, but interest is growing.  Grow your family's interest in this game by registering now!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Flying on Airplanes with Young Children

As an A-lister on Southwest (back when that meant taking more than 50 flights per year), I never was overly bothered by a crying child on an airplane. However, some people have a lower threshold of what they can tolerate. That threshold can be easily breached by the nearby child who is unable to perform all those things that naturally fall within a mature adult's capacity -- to sit quietly for a prolonged period in a particular seat in cramped quarters in an enclosed environment with very few things to do or see. Instead, a child may feel the need to talk loudly, engage neighboring passengers (whether or not the passengers like it), wriggle, refuse to respect the fasten-seat-belt sign, cry, yell, or otherwise be a very young person on a very boring airplane flight.

"Buckled In" by Scott Sherrill-Mix
The recent murmuring about what some people perceive as a need for child-free flights is not entirely new. There have been previous arguments for child-free zones on airplanes. Both arguments raise the issue faced by many parents of how to best travel with their children.  It's not a pleasant experience to get dirty looks from other passengers. Or despite the great love we feel for our own, parents can need a break from their childrens' airplane antics as well.

While I no longer qualify as an A-lister, having family and a house in other states resulted in my logging a fair share of flights with child in hand. From the first few flights of his infancy to the more frequent trips in his preschooler days, we have taken anywhere between 4 to 20 flights per year as a family. In that time, I have learned a few tips and tactics, both from experience and other frequent fliers.

"Toddler's first airplane" by Scott Sherill-Mix

1. Different Travel Distances for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers - Although it seems counter intuitive, travelling longer distances on an airplane can be easier with a small infant than a toddler.  Infants can nurse or bottle feed on take-off and landings, and swallowing can help relieve the air pressure building in their ears which leads to crying.  They can fly free on our laps, and may also sleep easily and often throughout the trip with a minimum of wriggling.  

Toddlers, on the other hand, may want to get up and move around more often, so shorter flights can be preferable. It can be much more of a challenge keeping a toddler happy and entertained in his seat when the "fasten-seat-belt" light comes on.  Due to his increased need for space and physical activity, buying a seat for a toddler can make a long flight more bearable, even if he still technically qualifies for free travel as a lap child.

"Seatback" by Sean Munson
Preschoolers will need their own seat if simply due to age restrictions for free travel (up to age 2). They may be able to handle longer flights in their seats than toddlers, having greater ability to entertain themselves in one place.  Overall, I find cross-country flying easiest with my preschooler. He is now happy in his seat the whole flight and is a good enough walker (and I have strong enough arms) that we don't need to lug around a stroller. I found the same trip most challenging with a toddler who had difficulty sitting in place.  Designing vacation travel around different distances for your children as they age is something to consider.

2. Mystery Bag of Goodies -- A selection of new, age-appropriate toys and books can help keep kids interested and happy in the air.  As a toddler, my son enjoyed walking around the plane and peeking around his seat more than playing with the toys we brought, but he did play a short time with his stuffed animals and sketch pad.  He was also interested in viewing (and ripping up!) the pages of the on-flight magazine and playing with the safety card instructions.  The shiny packages of in-flight snacks became toys to him. As a preschooler, he enjoys coloring at his seat with water-pens, sewing or other travel-friendly crafts, listening to music (especially The Wiggles), and reading books.

"what was in my bag" by Ariel Grimm
3.  Wholesome Meals/Snacks - Adequate food became one of my top travel worries once my little guy was eating solid meals.  Knowing that he was hungry while I was stuck in my seat without  the right foods for him (at the time, I only carried snacks and purees) was an awful feeling.  Also, airplane snacks just don't make the cut for a healthy and filling meal. Some airlines like Virgin America have decent meal-type snacks for purchase, but there is no guarantee that what you want will be available, especially for kids with allergies. 

I now have learned to pack our own food in an insulated lunch bag.  Cut-up hot dogs, cheese, cold meats, fruit and vegetables do a good job as a meal. Child-sized servings of yogurt are also a life-saver for filling a hungry belly when it is lunch-time but we are still a long time away from landing. Goldfish crackers and fortified cereal packed in small, hard, plastic containers are also good to have on hand. Boiled eggs are healthy and portable, along with sandwiches.  Instant oatmeal can also be made by travelling with an oatmeal packet (or use starter baby cereals in a plastic bag) and asking the flight attendant for a cup of hot water.  Food can be prepared either at home or purchased from a supermarket's hot/cold food bar (such as at Whole Foods) when on the go.  Be sure to bring utensils!

"064" by Kelly Polizzi

4. Layover or Direct?  This choice can be highly individual, depending on the child's energy level and cost of direct flights.  On one hand, a layover can provide opportunity for everyone (especially toddlers and preschoolers) with an opportunity to walk and stretch. On the other hand, it can be disruptive for a child who wants to sleep.  If the layover comes at nap time, noisy terminals can make it impossible to sleep, leaving the parent with a cranky, crying child.  

Compared to flying direct, each separate leg of travel increases the risk of delays which can make your child cranky and irritable. A long trip that suddenly becomes even longer can seem unbearable to a little one and result in nonstop crying when finally on the plane. We once had a 7 to 8 hour trip become a 14 hour trip due to delays from our layover. While I sympathized with the people around me who had to hear my child miserably crying, I felt even worse for him.  Anytime we can fly direct, we now try to do so.  It  can be expensive, but budget-friendly airlines like Southwest, Jet Blue, and Virgin America make it a little less painful.

"On our way to America" by Lars Plougmann

5. Time of Day for Flying - One of the greatest travel tips I received was from my executive-platinum-frequent-flying brother-in-law. Fly the first flight of the day for your route. Not only does this avoid delays caused by traffic patterns due to flights ahead of your flight, but it also means clear travelling en route to the airport. In car-heavy cities like Los Angeles, this can mean getting to the airport within 20 minutes without traffic instead of an hour-long drive in traffic.  While taking the first flight of the day can mean rising in the dark before the birds chirp, we have found that the quiet, early morning travel to the airport and plane ride to be vastly more enjoyable for our child than loud, busy mid-day travel when both traffic and chatter is high.  It makes for a calmer child, and is more conducive to helping him nap, compared to travelling at a busier time.

For many more travel tips that go far beyond these, I recommend Travels with Baby by Sherry Rivoli. This book is an incredibly thorough and helpful resource for travelling with kids. I only wish I had discovered it sooner. It is available in both hardcopy and e-reader format.

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently the blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Do you have special tips for travelling with children? Please share them in the Comments section below.  



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Flicks on the Field -- Free Screening of The Incredibles


Parent Talk is hosting its annual Flicks on the Field this weekend. Thanks to the YMCA for sponsoring this event!

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Bring lawn chairs, blanket, picnic, and of course, the little ones to watch The Incredibles for free at Memorial Field in front of Needham High School on Saturday, August 22, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 pm.  Come dressed as your favorite super hero! There will be activities and concessions beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the movie begins at sundown, around 7:45 p.m.  There is also an opportunity to volunteer at this event.  Rain date is Sunday, August 23, 2015. 


Sunday, August 2, 2015

"On My Own" Programs for Kids: When, Why and How to Start

Are you thinking about enrolling your child in “on my own” style activities but are not sure what age is best to start or what program to try first? 

Independent classes for kids can start as early as age 2 and provide a great way to prepare young children for the routine and socialization skills needed in preschool.

 

Examples of "On My Own" Activities and Recommended Starting Age

 

2 Years


Preschool Prep – This type of program is valuable because it encourages a child’s natural desire to explore through play and imagination while preparing little ones to become more independent. 

2 1/2 Years 

 

Art – Every kid loves to get messy and dive into his or her own creation. An art class will give your child exposure to different media, help foster independence, and enhance motor skills.   

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Multi-Sports – Children at this age do well with an introduction to fundamental skills across many different sports while having fun.
 
Math – Programs at this age use song and dance to create a fun learning experience focused on numbers and counting.

3 Years


Ballet, Tap, Hip Hop, Jazz, and Tumbling – These classes are popular and introduce technique while improving gross motor skills, coordination, balance and posture. 

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Theater – At a very young age, kids can have fun and build self-confidence through dramatic play and creative movement, while learning stage etiquette and performing stories.  

Yoga – Young children are capable of learning and practicing yoga. This type of class incorporates songs, games and stories to hold a child’s interest, build self-confidence, and promote relaxation. 
 
Half-Day Summer Camp – A half-day camp with a low ratio of campers to counselors will provide the right amount of summer fun, activities, and time to make new friends. The low ratio will ensure that your child gets the individual attention he or she needs to succeed within the camp group.  

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4 Years  


Beginner Martial Arts – Children can develop confidence, focus and self-control as they learn self-defense skills.  

Benefits of On My Own Programs

  • Have fun while learning new skills
  • Increase creativity and love of learning 
  • Enhance motor skills
  • Socialize
  • Exercise 
  • Build confidence and self-control

Deciding on a Program


With so many choices out there, you may not be sure what to start out with! Speaking from my own experience as a mom, I say, “Go for whatever they get excited about!” Try to really listen and pay attention to what your child enjoys doing, and then look for a program to add to the fun. 

When one of my daughters was very young, I noticed she would always, with no exception, hum or sing a tune while doing something at home that she really enjoyed. She got super productive one day, and proudly came to me with her “bakery” made from paper, crayons, scissors and glue! She actually spent hours on it. From this, I learned that she loved to express herself creatively, so I went with it. Over time, she took independent classes in dance, martial arts, art, piano, and more as her interests changed. 

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If your child gets excited about music and loves to move, you may want to start with a dance class. If he or she likes putting on little plays in the family room or sing without anyone listening, you might want to try a theater class. If the child loves to toss a ball around the house and play games of “catch” with you, a multi-sports class can be a great introduction to different sports, teamwork and self-confidence.  

What to Look for in a Program and Facility


Once you know what kind of program you want for your child, the next step is finding a facility that meets your standards. A good enrichment program will grow with your child. And the familiarity of using the same facility for multiple classes will help increase your child’s confidence to try new activities, as he or she gets older. You will want to seek out classes that offer different levels to best fit your child’s abilities. 

A search online in your area will provide some options, and the best way to get a feel for the program is to visit the facility and talk to the instructors. If the program doesn’t look fun, or if you and/or your child are uneasy after visiting, then you need to look for a better fit. Lastly, keep in mind that the staff of a good enrichment facility will make time for both you and your little one and answer all of your questions. You should be able to schedule a time to talk about the program or programs that are best suited for your child.  

From my own personal experience, I can see that what class children take isn't as important as whether or not they enjoy it. Having fun is the best way to learn something new, and each experience has so many benefits. We don’t need to focus on finding programs with the goal of producing artists like Van Gogh or world-renowned dancers like Baryshnikov. Activities at this stage in the game are all about raising confident, independent kids who are not afraid to try new things and be the best they can be. 

After all, my little singing artist is well on her way to a biochemistry degree, and I am certain that her childhood experiences have provided her with skills to succeed. They have helped to shape the fun loving, intelligent woman she is becoming. 

Good luck to you and your little one as you start this fun-filled journey.

About the Author
Grace Tummino is Marketing Specialist at LINX in Wellesley, a company offering classes and camp experiences to help children have fun while they learn.

If you have comments or an experience to share related to this blog, please speak up!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Limiting Pesticides in Summer Fruits and Vegetables

Now is the time to enjoy the fresh offerings of summer --  shining dark cherries, juicy peaches, buttered corn, sugary sweet melons, crisp bell peppers and lots and lots of berries, to name a few.  As parents, we want to make sure that our kids eat as healthily and nutritiously as possible.

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For many years now, from my past life as a vegetarian to my current days as an omnivore, the vast majority of produce that I have brought into my home has been organic.  Although this preference has resulted in significantly higher costs than buying conventional produce, I believed that doing so would make me healthier, by limiting my pesticide and chemical intake.

Recently, I was surprised to learn that the USDA organic label does not, in fact, completely disallow the use of pesticides.  Instead, what typically sets organic produce apart from conventional produce is not whether pesticides are used, but how the pesticides are made. The USDA organic label allows the use of naturally derived pesticides. Conventionally grown produce is treated with synthetic pesticides.

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Along with the small shock of this discovery, however, I was glad to find that my years of higher grocery bills were not completely for naught. Organic food has been found to be associated with:
  • Lower levels of pesticides than conventional produce.
  • Higher levels of antioxidants than conventionally grown produce.
  • Production methods that are thought to be more ecologically friendly than conventional food production.
I tend to think, though, that what may be most important in the end is that our families eat a balanced diet. This can be provided either by conventional or organic foods. 

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The pesticides used in conventional produce generally should not exceed government safety thresholds. That said, I also think there is nothing wrong with parents wanting to give their families a diet at the lowest end of the spectrum for what the government considers acceptable pesticide ingestion.

So, what can be done by parents seeking to further limit their families’ exposure to pesticides? 
  • Consider growing your own fruits and vegetables.  
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water and discard outer leaves and skins. Learn more here.
  • Be familiar with the "Dirty Dozen."
  • Eat food from different sources to limit exposure to any one pesticide.
  • Buy locally at Farmers' Markets.
At local farm stands, consumers can personally ask growers what production methods they use.  Asking, “How frequently is your produce sprayed with pesticides?”  and “What type of pesticide do you use?” can inform a purchase.  Local growers may also be more responsive in taking their consumers’ concerns directly into account when considering which production methods to use.

Aside from the issue of pesticides, families may simply be interested in helping to support local growers. Below are links to local farm stands and farmers’ markets.

Dedham Farmers Market (open Wednesdays)

Needham Farmers Market (open Sundays)

Newton Farmers Market (two locations – one open Tuesdays, one open Saturdays)

Powisset Farm Stand (open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays)

Volante Farms (open daily)

Wellesley Farmers Market (open Saturdays)

Westwood Farmers Market (open Tuesdays)

Lastly, for those who want to help bring the fresh fruits of summer to everyone’s table, there are volunteer opportunities.

One organization, Boston Area Gleaners, collects after-harvest leftovers from local farms to distribute to over 500 hunger-relief organizations in eastern Massachusetts. Gleaning is the ancient practice, dating at least as far back as Biblical times, of collecting the surplus left in farmers’ fields. This group invites volunteers aged 13 and up to help glean the fields of numerous eastern Massachusetts farms.

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

If you have comments or an experience to share related to this blog, please speak up!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Making Memories this Fourth of July

My childhood memories of July 4th paint the picture of a quintessential, small town-americana celebration. There was a three day fair with dizzying rides and mouth-watering fried dough, with 4 H blue ribbon competitions, mud runs and a demolition derby. All of this built up to the morning of the Fourth, when dozens of floats representing local businesses and decorated in tissue paper flowers, paraded down Main Street with the high school marching band, little girl baton twirlers, and local pageant winners en route. That evening, we would cook red hot dogs over an open fire at my grand parents' house and watch the fireworks cuddled up in blankets on their roof.
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I can still remember the anticipation of the Fourth and loved the time we spent together as a family having fun, but I didn't realize then how much I would cherish the memory in retrospect. Now I want to try to create a similar tradition for my children around our wonderful country's big day. Thankfully, we live in a town that also takes pride in its Fourth of July festivities. Speaking of making memories, your child can even have the opportunity to ride their bike in Needham's Children's Parade!
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In the past, Parent Talk has coordinated an effort to meet and decorate bikes to be used in the Children's Parade route, and we are bringing it back this year. What could be better in the eyes of a child than sprucing up their prized possession with red, white and blue flair and then getting to show it off while riding in the street?! All you need to do is bring the bike; Parent Talk is supplying the decorations. People are gathering at 8am on Saturday, July 4th at Greene's Field in Needham. This fun kick-off event is free and open to non-Parent Talk members as well, so be sure to spread the word!

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I will be back in my hometown of Houlton, Maine with my husband and our two and three year old. We plan to bring them to the same fair that I grew up loving. I'm not sure about the hot dogs over an open fire! Have a wonderful celebration however you choose to honor the day.

About the author:
Liza d'Hemecourt lives in Needham with her husband and their two children. She grew up in Northern Maine, attended Boston College and taught kindergarten and first grade before becoming a stay at home mother. 


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