Monday, September 29, 2014

Play Space and Party Room Spruced Up and Available to Rent

A Parent Talk membership affords us with great community building opportunities and unites us as families with a common goal: to raise happy, healthy children while having fun and making friends in the process. You may already be taking advantage of the Yahoo message board to find a great painter/plumber/daycare etc. Maybe you have even been to one of the organized events like the trip this past week to Drumlin Farm, but did you know that we have a beautiful, large, clean space that you can rent for your next Halloween/birthday/playgroup or holiday gathering? It is down the hall from the Dover play space and just underwent a major face lift. As a ParentTalk member you can rent out the play space as well as the room next to it for a nominal fee. 
The newly tiled floors will make clean-up a snap!
The play space is an 1800 square foot indoor space at the Caryl Community Center in Dover, three miles from Needham Center. It is made for children age 5 and under to play, and features age appropriate toys and play structures to engage children's imaginations. The party room was renovated this summer, and the playspace is undergoing a big toy clean-out and replenishing in the next month. If you haven't been, now is the time to check it out in person to see all the changes.

The room next to the play space is room #215, and you are able to have food and drinks in this location. The space has been freshly painted, has a newly tiled floor, a wall to wall blackboard and windows! Bring your decorations and entertainment, or let the children play in the play space and move into the party room for cake. Tables and chairs are provided, and the room can hold parties both large and small. 
The blackboard provides a blank slate for your decorating ideas
At $75 for the rental the price cannot be beat. The play space is available for private rentals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and only you and your guests will be able to access it during your event. There is even an Elmo costume available to rent for $30! 

To see when Parent Talk play space and party room are occupied click here

If you are interested in booking your party, please go to this page for further instructions.

Dates are booking fast for this fall, so don't wait and book yours today!

About the author:

About the Author:
Betsy Deitte is the Play Space Party Rental Coordinator. She and her family moved to the Broadmeadow are of Needham in 2012. Betsy is a former nurse who hung up her scrubs to take care of her three most important charges: Elise, age 4, Annabel age 2, and Elliot age 1.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taking Time with Toys as the Parent Talk Sale Approaches

At times I think that toy organization and acquisition could be a full time job. I can lose myself in the task of reassigning the proper Fisher Price Little People figurines to their various vehicles and scenery. And I love watching my kids interact with their toys. I know I am not alone in my toy-centric mindedness; I have heard moms in my playgroup proudly boast after replacing all the pieces of a wooden puzzle as we collectively piece back my toddler-torn living room. Then there is my husband's aunt who finds great joy in pulling out her grown children's toys for my toddlers to use. She says that the toys are attached to so many memories and emotions because they were constantly underfoot and she spent so much time picking them up! Still, toddler toys seem to have a relatively short shelf life---so with the long, cold months looming and the Parent Talk Sale on the horizon, how do you choose what to keep, what to part with, and what to buy and bring home to keep those babies busy!

Take time to sort your toys and crafts before the Parent Talk Sale

Toy rotation seems to be an effective way to keep things fresh but does require extra space and a bit of foresight. Keeping a large Rubbermaid container on hand and tossing in a few toys that seem to have gone stale can be a lifesaver when you unveil them again on a snowy or sick day. Diane Solomon, PT Sale co-chair, buys toys from the sale and purposefully puts them away until one of those days in the doldrums of January when you are at your wits end stuck inside. I find that sometimes simply moving a toy to a different location in my home can give it 'new life.' My house is relatively small, so in the winter time, I set up a few things in front of the sliding glass doors of my dining room. It is a bright, sunny spot and I can interact with my kids playing while I get things done in the kitchen. Still, I am at the point where my kids' toys don't seem to be holding their attention so I know it's time to sort out the 'baby' toys and make room for more.
Toy rotation bins keep clutter at bay. (source)

Parting with toys is a complicated endeavor. There are many factors that easily lead us to storing lots of brightly colored plastic. What if you have another child down the road? Is there a family member who could use these toys? Your kids don't play with it but it was very expensive.  Maybe you want to save certain things for your future grandchildren...I certainly have been hanging on to a lot of useless toys, clothing and gear for many of these reasons. BUT this year, I am going to part with certain things in order to buy other things from the sale that my children will use and that will, in turn, make my life (and winter) easier and less expensive.

For me, toys that fall into the following categories are going to the POD: 

  • I have duplicates or similar versions
  • It is a toy that was passed on to me and has no sentimental value 
  • My children never latched on to the toy and it has always taken up space 
  • It is a toy I can easily replace if necessary 
  • If it looks brand new or was very expensive, I am consigning it instead of donating!  

Now, if you have ever shopped the Parent Talk Sale, you know that it is no nonsense if you want to get the best stuff. In other words, make a list of what you want to find and get ready to grab it when you see it! I have been trying to think about where my kids are developmentally and what kind of toys will challenge, engage them and encourage imaginative play. I won't share my list in case you are shopping beside me! 

Happy sorting, purging and list making, then let the great exchange of toys, clothing and gear begin! For more information on the October 18th Parent Talk Sale, please visit our website with all the details and contact information. 

About the author:
Liza d'Hemecourt lives in Needham with her husband and two children. She studied theater and education at Boston College and taught kindergarten and first grade prior to starting a family.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Navigating Needham Kindergarten

With the school buses back on the road and Facebook flooded with photos of adorable kids headed off to their first day, you might be wondering, what do I need to know when it's time for MY adorable kids to go to school? 

Photo of Hillside School Mural by Ralph Mercer

Maybe you are already fretting because you know that Needham public schools have half-day kindergarten and you need coverage for a full day. Whether your child goes to kindergarten in the morning or the afternoon will impact your options. There are private schools that offer full-day kindergarten or you can choose from one of Needham's many before and after-school programs. Luckily, Parenting Expedited and Parent Talk are here to lay it all out and help you navigate this somewhat confusing first year of elementary school.

Join us for the second Navigating Needham Kindergarten Forum on October 7th from 7-9 at the Pollard School Lecture Hall and start your planning now. This event was a huge success last year - take it from newly minted "veteran mom", Katie Alwart -
"I remember attending the kindergarten fair last year, not knowing what time school started, what 'half day kindergarten' actually meant, how my kids were going to get to school and me to work on time, and what the heck NEDP and KASE were.  That evening was helpful as it allowed all of us who were equally confused to commiserate and get advice from some insightful 'veteran moms.'  Now, after week 2 of kindergarten, I can say that we've figured out the additional care and curriculum that work for our family.  If you're feeling as clueless as I was with a soon-to-be-kindergartener, I recommend the kindergarten fair as a great information jump-start."

Shanna, mom of three, wrote- "Even though I was sending my 3rd child off to kindergarten, our needs had changed since the last 2 went to K. The Kindergarten Forum laid out all our options at one time so we were fully informed to make our decision"
The event will give a brief overview of the logistics of the kindergarten day followed by a moderated panel presentation to discuss the choices that parents must consider in connection with the start of kindergarten.  There will also be tables with programs representing options for private kindergarten, afterschool and half day options. Come to gather information or arrive knowing your circumstances and armed with specific questions---either way, we hope you will find this evening informative!

For more information and to register for the event: 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Clean out your closets! The Parent Talk Used Clothing,Toy, and Equipment Sale is October 18th!!

The POD has landed and is ready to be filled with your unwanted toys, clothing and gear. Fall is the perfect time to clean out what your children have outgrown or no longer use! While you're at it, take stock of what you need to keep them busy in the upcoming winter months. You don't need to wait for the holidays to refresh your toys. Buy your fall and winter must haves at the Parent Talk Sale for much less than the stores!

For those interested in consigning, email to either reactivate your seller's number or acquire a new seller’s number.  A current seller kit and blank tags will also be sent to you upon renewal.  

We will be accepting all donations, big and small, as of Thursday, September 18th.   Please email for drop-off location and more specific information.

Volunteer for a 2-hour shift and shop BEFORE the general public. This is a fabulous opportunity to find the best bargains! To sign up for a shift (anytime between Thursday, October 16 - Saturday October 18)  please click HERE. For any questions on volunteering, please email

We are particularly eager to find people to help us out on Saturday.  If you're still on the fence about helping us out, please do!!!  Your support is absolutely needed.  Trust us, it's a LOT of fun!

Questions?  Please contact Seema and Diane at




Seema Layne and Diane Solomon
Fall sale date: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stay connected by subscribing to PARENT TALK MATTERS
To get the best deals, volunteer!!! All volunteers get to shop the sale early!!!  Email for more information or to schedule a slot.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Eight Tips For a Successful Holiday Photo Shoot!

It's that time of year again.  Kids are back to school, there's chill in the morning air, and the 

leaves are starting to turn.  And oh yes, it's not even October and you just heard a holiday song at the grocery store {huge eye roll}.  Believe it or not, it's also time to start thinking about getting updated family photos!  Who doesn't love the beautiful foliage in October and November as a gorgeous backdrop for holiday children's portraits?
Here are EIGHT tips for having a successful holiday photo experience from start to finish!

1.  Find the right match.
This is pretty obvious, but you need to find someone to take the photos!  Ask family and friends for recommendations and then check out some local photographers' websites.  First and foremost, do you like their portfolio?  Can you see yourself and your family in the images on their website?  Is the photographer within your budget? Do they sell what you're looking for?  If you really want digital files so you can create holiday cards and make prints for holiday gifts be sure your photographer sells them! If you're interested in mostly candid shots be sure the photographer can deliver.  Lastly, does your photographer carry liability insurance?  This very important item is often overlooked.  Safety first!

2. Don't delay.
Fall sessions book up quickly for in-demand photographers.  Get in touch ASAP if you are looking for photos that will be delivered in time for the holidays! So many of my clients book as early as July or August to ensure they have a spot on my busy fall calendar!

3.  Talk is not cheap
Have a conversation with your photographer.  Yes, an actual phone to ear (not fingers to keyboard) conversation about what you want to get out of your photo session and what you plan to do with the images afterwards.  For the most part, I assume clients have looked at my website before booking me and they know what type of images they can expect from me, but I always ask specifically what the client is looking to get from the session.  Being on the same page with your photographer is crucial to a successful photo session.

4. Timing is everything
Pick a time for your session when everyone (including you) is well fed and well rested.  For outdoor portraits, I always suggest about 1-2 hours before sunset to take advantage of soft, flattering natural light, but if this falls in the middle of your child's nap, you'll need a plan B.
Meeting in the morning after a good breakfast is another option.  This time is usually great for families with young children who get up at the crack of dawn anyway.  For those with early risers, 8:30am is practically lunch time, right?!  Just try to avoid the middle of the day, when the sunlight is high and harsh.

5. Comfort before fashion.
The most popular question I get asked by clients before a session is, "What should we wear?".  It's best to pick 2-4 colors that complement each other and plan outfits using this color scheme.  Let nature inspire you -- red, orange, gold, and brown all work well.  Coordinate your clothing- but don't get too matchy matchy!  Patterns and stripes are OK in moderation.  Logos or words on shirts can be really distracting and are best avoided.  The most important thing to remember in choosing clothing is to pick clothes that are comfortable and make you feel great.  This confidence will show through in the photos, guaranteed.  Here are some examples that really worked well with fall foliage:

6. To reward or not to reward
Decide ahead of time whether there will be an incentive or reward for your kids' cooperation during the photo session and communicate this information to your photographer so she can use it as a reminder sparingly during the session.  Younger children may not need any reward.  With older ones, you may need to get creative.  If you present it to your children like you are meeting up with a fun friend to have some play time, having a reward may be unnecessary.  Although, everyone loves to have ice cream after working hard at a photo shoot, right?

7. Play it cool
The best way to get kids to cooperate during a photo session is to just not try too hard.  Forced poses and demands of 'cheese!'  never really work that well, especially for the toddler set.  I find what works best is to follow the youngest child's lead.  If he wants to take a walk down the path, we'll follow him and work a pose around wherever he stops.  If there is one thing I've learned in this business, it's that you can't force a two year old to do anything they don't want to do!

8. Sense of Humor Required
Sometimes, no matter how much planning you do before a session, things just don't go exactly the way you had hoped.  As any parent knows, kids are unpredictable.  If my client's children are having a tough time warming up to the situation, I put my camera down and take a 5-10 minute break to play a game or run around.  But, if all else fails, embrace the reality of the situation.  A holiday card like this could be a favorite for years to come!!

Cara Soulia lives in Needham, MA with her husband and two children ( #3 in Feb 2015!).  She is a portrait photographer specializing in genuine, joyful and beautiful portraits of children and their families.  She is also a proud Parent Talk member and business affiliate.  Cara offers a Parent Talk discount of $50 off photography session fees.  Please or call 617.501.4008 to discuss availability for fall sessions! See more of Cara's work on her

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 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.

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