Monday, July 3, 2017

Keeping Cool with the Kids This Summer - Area Splash Pads, Sprinkler Parks & Wading Pools


As summer temperatures rise, what better way to get the kids outdoors without overheating than hitting one of the many splash pads, sprinkler parks and wading pools in the area!  

Massachusetts is home to a few full-on water themed resorts, most of which offer day passes, with the exception of Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, which is an overnight-only resort. In no particular order:
CoCo Key Water Resort in Danvers
Hurricane Harbor at 6 Flags in Agawam
Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis
John Carver Inn and Spa in Plymouth
Water Wizz in Wareham
Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg

Looking for a place you can just stop by and cool off on the fly? Try one of these great spots:

Artesani Park & Wading Pool (free) in Brighton - my personal favorite, Artesani is not only free - it also has loads of parking, clean restrooms, life guards, a sprinkler park AND separate wading pool, playground, picnic area, and is located right on the beautiful Charles River. The entire facility was upgraded about 2 years ago. IT'S AWESOME.

Rings Fountain on the Greenway (free) in Boston - located right near the Aquarium, it's a great place to stop by and cool off after a trip to see the fishies. Every summer my daughter and I hit the Figment Art Festival (this year planned for Saturday and Sunday July 22 & 23) on the Greenway to check out the music and interactive art installations, and we always visit the Rings Fountain for a good soaking. In fact, there are fountains all along the Greenway, so you can take dips the whole way through.
Frog Pond on the Boston Common (free) - it's easy to spend the whole day on Boston Common with the kiddos, whether there's an event going on or not. Check out the enormous wading pool, the sprinkler park, the playground, the carousel, maybe even take a ride on a Swan Boat - not to mention the gardens are stunningly beautiful, great for a stroll with an ice cream cone before you head home. There are also lots of fun activities planned for the summer months, like free evening yoga, so check out their website to find out more.
Minot Rose Garden Playground (free) in Brookline - I live near this one, so we hit it a lot, and the roses are in full bloom right now. The splash pad is the usual playground sprinkler set up, nothing fancy. The fancy part is its location - right next to a fantastic playground that is itself located inside a large, shady, fully fenced in park with a paved loop perfect for scooters or bikes. This park is named and known for it's gorgeous rose gardens, and makes a great spot for a picnic or catching a free morning yoga class on a Sunday.
Daniel Ford Playground at Emerson Park (free) in Brookline - another great Brookline playground, along with a separate sprinkler/fountain area, in a large sunny park where summertime often finds my daughter and I (and a hundred or so other families) sharing some takeout pizza with friends and listening to some live music at the Brookline Summer Concert Series Wednesday evenings.

Those are my personal favorites, but there are so many more:

Soule Recreation Center (free) - Chestnut Hill
Charlesbank Playground & Spray Deck (free) - Boston
North Point Park & Splash Pad (free) - Cambridge
Danehy Park Splash Pad (free) - Cambridge
Johnson Playground & Stonybrook Spray Deck (free) - Jamaica Plain
Bradley Palmer State Park & Wading Pool $ - Topsfield
Beaver Brook Spray Deck & Playground (free) - Belmont
Luciano Park Spray Pool (free) - Arlington
Artemas Ward Wading Pool (free) - Marlborough
Nelson Memorial Park & Splash Pad (free) - Plymouth
Davis Farmland $ - Sterling (Yes, this is a farm with a spray park. I cannot WAIT to take my daughter here.)
Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park (free) - Braintree
Cellucci Skate & Splash Park (free) - Hudson
Lynch Park Splash Pad (free) - Beverly

Or look them up yourself:

Waltham alone has 9 parks with splash pads, so depending where your day takes you, there may be a place to cool off nearby : Spray Parks and Pools

Wherever you go to stay cool this summer, be safe, have fun, and don't forget your SPF!

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do Good, Have Fun, and Shop! Volunteer at the Spring Sale Saturday May 13th

     This weekend myself and countless others will be volunteering (and, of course, shopping!) at the 2017 Parent Talk Spring Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale, happening Saturday May 13th at the Christ Episcopal Church in Needham. The founding members of Parent Talk put on the first Sale in 1993, and since then it has mushroomed in both scale and popularity. Now it's held twice a year, with shoppers and volunteers returning again and again, some for most or all of the Sales over the past 24 years.
       If you've never been to the Sale before, it's what I can only describe as an extravaganza of deals on quality gently used kid's items. You can find everything from books to bikes, strollers to swimsuits. Proceeds support the Parent Talk organization, and all the items that remain after the Sale are donated to charities and non-profits. If you've been, but have yet to volunteer, know that a meager 2 hours of your time is all that is required to reap the reward of early shopping hours before the general sale is opened to the public. And if you've taken advantage of the early shopping, but have yet to join the Sale Committee, I'm here to tell you you're missing out.
       So here's how the Sale happens from a general shopper's perspective. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and everyone can have at all the fantastically priced stuff until 11:45 a.m. Then everyone cashes out, and those who'd like to take part in the Clearance Bag Sale are provided as many bags as they want, at a flat rate per bag. At 12:00 p.m. the doors reopen, and the shoppers have until 12:45 to cart out as much as they can fit in their bag(s); anything too big to fit is automatically reduced to half the tagged price. It's fast, it's fun, and everyone gets great stuff without spending a ton.

Sounds good, right? It is. But volunteering at the Sale is way, WAY better.

You get first pick of everything. 

 This is the most obvious perk, but I'd say not even close to the best. Still, allow me to share with you the mindblowingest of the many bargains that I personally found at the last Sale. Number one is a pink princess vanity table with mirror I snagged for a cool $20. I saw a similar one at Home Goods a few weeks later priced at $99. Number two is a full kid's drum set, complete with little stool, pedal and drumsticks I scored for a jaw-dropping $35. I looked it up online later; $180 new. (On a side note, I'm aware that buying something like that for a 3 year old might be considered evidence that I've lost my mind - the truth is, my kid's just got a really cool mom.) I also picked up a beautiful velvet dress with the price tag still on it, suede winter boots (in 2 sizes, you never know), puzzles, a box of wooden train tracks . . . . Let's just say Santa was VERY good to my daughter this year.

You will be fed delicious food.  

Breakfast this year will be donated by Cafe Fresh Bagel, and the lunch spread will be provided again by Sweet Basil restaurant. YUM.

It's exciting. 

The Sale is basically a pop-up, and as such a ton of energy, planning, and hard work goes into organizing and setting up a pretty large-scale event for a remarkably brief period of time. The past 24 years of mistakes, solutions, and ideas has fine-tuned the strategy and organization of the sale, resulting in an event that for all it's many parts runs like a well-oiled machine. As someone who appreciates efficiency and preparation (in other words, as a mom) this is inspiring to witness. It goes by quickly, with never a dull moment. I feel weird saying this about volunteering at a fundraising sale, but it's a rush.

You get to hang out with your friends. 

And don't tell me none of your friends are going to be at the Sale. I moved back to this area from NYC three years ago, volunteered at my first Sale this past October, and not only did I make new friends doing so, I ran into neighbors and people I didn't even realize I knew at the Sale. This has to be the best perk of volunteering, whether you do the 2 hour gig or join Sale Committee for all the fun get-togethers too; you will have a great time socializing and meeting people in your community.

Your faith in humanity will be restored.  

Maybe that's a bit dramatic, and maybe your faith in humanity is fully intact, but if you wouldn't mind a little positive upswing to your perspective, this could do it. There's really nothing like working with other people toward a common goal to make you feel more connected to the world. Especially when you know that everybody is there because they want to be. It feels good to be a part of something positive, and to be supporting not only Parent Talk but the other great charities and non-profits that benefit from the Sale, including Cradles to Crayons, Circle of Hope, Room to Grow, Bayong Kulturang Pinoy Inc, Jeremiah Project and others.
       In addition to all the aforementioned benefits, I personally get a great sense of satisfaction from the Sale because I abhor waste, and almost equally despise clutter. So I love that I can easily clear my closets of outgrown items guilt-free, and that something I want or need at the moment is there for me to use, instead of becoming more garbage. I also love saving money (don't we all), and while I suppose I could buy a drum kit for my child at $180, I'm not about to. But now she has one, and she loves it. Almost as much as my neighbors do.
       The Sale is almost upon us, but it's not too late to sign up for a volunteer shift! So if you'd like to give some of your time to a good cause and have fun doing it, see how below. See you at the Sale!

Volunteer:  email to get a link to the Sign Up Genius shift schedule

Check out this blog post with great tips on how to donate, consign, and utilize the Sale to declutter and clear out your outgrown children's items : How To Consign and Donate to PT's Sale

More info : Parent Talk Spring Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale
Saturday May 13, 2017
Christ Episcopal Church in Needham
1132 Highland Avenue (across the street from Needham Public Library)
General Sale: 8:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
Clearance Bag Sale: 12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :

Call for submissions:

Would you like to write something to be featured on the Parent Talk Blog? Send me an email!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benefits of Boredom

April vacation is here! The kids are out of school and the weather is warm, great conditions for a family vacation.  Alternately there are plenty of options from gymnastics to computer programming to fill those non-school hours with edifying pursuits. But some of us do not have a trip planned and prefer not to spend an almost equivalent amount of money on "vacation camp", and we are faced with the daunting question: "What am I going to do with my kids all week?"

Well, the magic answer to that question does exist : NOTHING. That's right, nothing. Apparently boredom has benefits that may outweigh any or all of the 21+ enriching activities we've spent hours planning to get ourselves and the kids to the end of the week.
Creativity & Imagination
Being bored forces children to use their imaginations to entertain themselves. A 1980s study comparing the imaginative capacity of preschoolers who watched TV with those who didn't showed significantly more imagination on the part of the TV free kids. More recently, Dr. Teresa Belton, who studies the connection between boredom and imagination at University of East Anglia, maintains that boredom is critical to the development creativity in children.

Independence & Self Reliance
When kids don't have their whole day scheduled out for them, they are compelled to figure out on their own how to best spend their time. According to child psychologist Lyn Fry, "Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy."

Tolerance & Emotional Self-Regulation
Having to deal with being bored is one way kids get practice tolerating things they may find unpleasant or uncomfortable, definitely an important skill in adulthood. It will serve them well when they become parents, and have to listen to their own kids whine about being bored.

Better Sleep Habits
This particularly applies to the overuse of digital devices for entertainment, but applies to non-digital forms of excitement as well. Giving kids' brains a break from constant stimulation, even educational or beneficial stimulation, can improve sleeping habits and contribute to the ability to calm oneself. If they never get a break, how can they learn how to consciously take one when needed?

Does this mean we don't have to play cruise director? We don't have to defy time and space to deliver 3 children to 3 separate activities that all begin within the same 15 minutes? That's exactly what this means. But before you start calling your mom friends to find out if they prefer mimosas or margaritas, I'm afraid I have to point out one teensy weensy downside to this approach : they are going to whine. By 'they' I mean your kids, and that's 'whine' with an 'h'. So herein lies the real challenge for us, the parents: to listen to the whining and hold strong. As in "No, you can't watch TV"; "No, you can't play video games"; and "No, you can't use the ipad".
That being said, we're only human. So when you've reached the point where you're wishing you actually were a cruise director, on a boat, somewhere far away - remember it's only a week. Still fantasizing about working for Norwegian Cruise Line? You'll find a few links for some activities and ideas for things to do below. So you and your mom friends can make it to the end of the week and enjoy your margaritas in peace.

"A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety if impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them to grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony." Philosopher Bertrand Russell, 1930

Kids' Fun Stop Indoor Playspace (Parent Talk member discount $2 off child's admission)
Needham arts & crafts drop off classes (Parent Talk member discount 15%)
Jump N' Slide (Parent Talk member discount 33% on walk-ins)
Check out our ParentTalk Member Discounts page for more discounts on drop-in fun
Needham Public Library Calendar
Needham Candlepin Bowling
Wellesley Toysinbox 3-D Printing Show
Natick minigolf
Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln
Cambridge Science Festival
Boston Common Swan Boats
Museum of Fine Arts Vacation Week Free Activities
Zoo New England Vacation Week
Ecotarium in Worcester

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :

Friday, March 31, 2017

Teaching Kids Compassion

We all want our children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, happy adults.
Research has shown that engaging in acts of compassion increases individual happiness, well-being and physical health. One study found that even in toddlers as young as 2 years old (yes, even those little monsters) giving to others made them happier than being on the receiving end. We are all born with an innate sense of compassion, but while adults have the benefit of learned impulse control and the understanding that tomorrow is another day, children live in the moment, at the mercy of feelings they can't even name. So how can we help them tap into this beneficial ability?

Live our own lives compassionately
If there is a golden rule of parenting, it's probably this: If you're gonna talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk. Our kids learn how to be people by watching us, so if we want them to become compassionate people, we have to show them how. First and foremost by addressing their needs. Particularly when they are pushing our buttons. It's often in those moments when we aren't exactly bursting with spontaneous compassion that our kids need our comfort the most.  And when we screw up? We can admit it. We can apologize if an apology is in order.

Talk to our kids about compassion
There are lots of ways to bring compassion into the conversation with kids, since it plays a role in so many aspects of our day to day lives. We can't force them to be kind or care about others, but we can certainly sing their praises when  they do, and we can ask questions that lead them to both articulate their own feelings in a given situation and ponder how someone else might feel. Examples can be found during dinnertime discussions of the day's events, while moderating sibling disputes, or by reading books or watching movies together that tell stories of compassion and kindness. Younger children especially are still learning how to name their feelings, and by helping them do so we are not only teaching them how to communicate but also helping them develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence. 
For a list of books with compassionate themes for all ages, click here: 

Encourage acts of compassion
Cheering up a sad friend, comforting a sick sibling, or helping a neighbor are all acts of compassion. We can help our children write sincere thank-you notes for received gifts, or volunteer in our community. You can find family friendly volunteer opportunities here on the Parent Talk website, such as our upcoming Project Night Night event on April 8th (info below). Check out this article for more Boston-area volunteering ideas:

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator. Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here:

Please join us on Saturday, April 8th, from 10-11:30am for Project Night Night Bag Decorating and Playtime. We'll provide all the supplies you need to decorate your bag(s), plus your child(ren) can enjoy the playspace when they are done with their bag(s). Bring your PNN bag(s) or bring $3.50 for each bag you are picking up at the event, as well as your items to fill them with.
Location: Caryl Community Center, Room 215, 4 Springdale Ave, Dover
More info about Project Night Night:
Contact: Nar and Julie
Register (before April 7th):

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PT Volunteer Raffle Winner Does It All, But How?

Parent Talk's new volunteer appreciation program has drawn its first raffle winner and . . . (drumroll) . . . Julie Hannon and her family have won a free Parent Talk membership year!  

Julie joined PT about three years ago after being introduced to PT's playgroups by a neighbor.  Since then, she has become a familiar face, volunteering at PT's Preschool and Kindergarten Fair, the bi-annual Used Toy, Clothing, and Equipment Sale, Spring Fundraiser, and the Summer Camp Fair. Volunteering at these events can include helping with things like set-up/clean-up, tagging, contacting participants, organizing, and marketing.  This year, Julie's efforts coordinating Parent Talk's 4th Annual Summer Camp Fair resulted in her name being entered in PT's first raffle under the new volunteer appreciation program.

Julie with  her husband P.J. and sons Bobby (5 months old), Patrick (4.5 years old) and Joseph (3 years old).

Julie works two nights a week as a nurse at Boston's Beth Israel and is married with three kids (aged 4.5 years, 3 years and 5 months old).   Parenting is a challenging job, whether you share responsibilities with others or do it all yourself.  Add the energy devoted to nurturing a relationship with a partner or spouse.  Add the demands of a stressful job like nursing.  Add the fact that all three kids are energetic boys under age 5.  Add that one of them is an infant.  What do you get as the total sum?  Not a lot of time left for volunteering, that's for certain! So, how does Julie do it?!

Julie explains, "The great thing I found out about Parent Talk is that sometimes you are afraid that you have no time to dedicate to it, but a lot can get done on your own time.  You can do it a little at a time, and not all at once."

Julie's first volunteered at PT's annual Preschool Fair.  She needed to research preschools for her family, so decided to fill the role of event coordinator.  She enjoyed it, and coordinated the Fair the next year, along with volunteering for many other PT events.

"It can seem overwhelming at first to take on a coordination role, but you can do a lot from home and online, especially with events like the Summer Camp Fair and Preschool Fair.  You can do it when you have a free moment, whether it be morning or night.  There's a lot of historical help.  [Parent Talk's] Preschool Fair [keeps] spreadsheets of who to contact.  It's easy to navigate a list of what to get done.  It makes it so much easier.  You don't necessarily have to get together with a group of people and coordinate schedules."

Julie says volunteering has helped her make connections and meet people in the community she otherwise would not have met.  "The best thing about volunteering is that you learn about Parent Talk offerings . . . and you are helping a great organization," she adds.  You might miss an online announcement, but volunteering puts you in contact with the community and can keep your family in the loop about fun events and helpful resources.

While many volunteers could just as easily have won this first raffle, we are happy that it was you, Julie!  Thank you for all of your efforts that benefit our entire Parent Talk community.

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell first volunteered for Parent Talk at its biannual Used Toy, Clothing and Equipment Sale a few years ago.  She continued to volunteer at various events and enjoyed a stint as PT's Blog Coordinator.  Currently, Darlene is enjoying her role on the Board as Volunteer Chair,  She looks forward rewarding more PT members in future raffles under the new volunteer appreciation program!

Parent Talk thanks all of our wonderful volunteers who are essential to making PT events, programming and resources available to all members!

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