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

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.


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.

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
•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.
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.
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.

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