Category Archives: Educational

Guest Post: My Favorite Preschool Age Toys for the Pandemic Age

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, a local mom, writer, and navigator of pandemic life with two young children.]

 

It’s that point in the pandemic winter where I just want all the things that will keep my little ones busy. And I mean busy quickly, independently, and for extended periods of time. The allure of the @busytoddler DIY sensory and creative play has faded as pandemic-fatigue has left me with little set-up and clean-up energy to expend. My son is also in the “sudden burst of throwing everything” phase. He can have his rice sensory bin this summer, outdoors.

Over the past year, my almost 2 and 3.5 year-olds have gone through many play phases and explorations. My daughter’s puzzle obsession has left us with cabinets full of them for another day. Our crafts corner is fully stocked, waiting for the moment it will finally be utilized unprompted. A supply of Legos is ready for its heyday, and stronger hands. Only a short list of items have risen to the top for us, consistently used eagerly and unsolicited.    Here are my tried and true items for preschoolers.

 

Climbing Rope Swing

This rope swing may be my best purchase of 2020. I had seen them around my neighborhood hanging from large trees — which we don’t have. After some assurance from Pinterest that they could be used indoors, we installed one in our basement this past fall. My 3-year-old has sustained enthusiasm for it since then, and even sneaks off downstairs to use it unprompted. It has a long life ahead holding up to 120 lbs. 

 

Magnetic Tiles

Magnetic tiles have been a household favorite for awhile but made a big resurgence when my son was old enough to join in — aside from being the tower destroyer. Now, both kids will play with these together for up to an hour. We recently added a set with gears to our collection, plus some window and door tiles, and are on the lookout for more accessory sets like this

 

Melissa & Doug Activity Pads

This brand is a classic for a reason! Their activity pads are my favorites, giving us lots of extended and/or independent play. My kids can do these Scissor Skills activities (with assistance) for an oddly long time, and do these reusable Puffy Sticker books over and over again. These Seek & Find sticker pads are my go-to when I need some uninterrupted time, and this one has quiet time written all over it. The painting pads with built in watercolors like this are genius. 

 

Board & Card Games

We’ve tried a dozen games during the past year but only a few are in heavy rotation. The trick has been finding ones that don’t exclude my youngest child, and bonus points when it’s mildly entertaining for the grown-ups. Zingo is as good as you’ve heard. We’ve had success teaching our little ones to play Go Fish, even if they are playing with open hands. Disney’s Eye Found It! is a winner, and there is a board version.

 

Playdoh

I had an aha moment with Playdoh at the start of the pandemic but it went out of favor after I realized it had to be cleaned up and capped — quickly — to avoid drying out, and also monitored to make sure someone didn’t smush ten new colors into one brown blob. After trying the alternatives, I brought the ‘doh back into the rotation, and I get it again. It just works so well for all preschool ages, especially if you add the right tools to the mix. 

 

Bath Puzzles

At some point, every parent realizes that bath toys are no good. The mold is annoying at best and dangerous at worst. I recently discovered bath puzzles with foam pieces that stick to the tub and walls without holes to collect or squirt water. Perfect for a much-needed extended bath time! After a quick search, I have a few more on my wish list like this alphabet set and this numbers set. This one is cute too.

 

Honorable Mentions

Building toy alternatives like Flower Gardens and LeapBuilders products (more toddler-friendly than Duplo’s) have given us lots of independent play. My eldest preschooler enjoys workbooks, particularly the mazes which don’t require much assistance, and the dry erase ones where mistakes are welcome. 

 

*What are your go-to items? Share in the comments and help a mom out!

 

 

 

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Filed under Coronavirus, COVID-19, Educational, Guest Post, Indoor Play, Preschoolers, Social Distancing, Toddlers

Spring Enrollment Open for Live Virtual Programs with Young Playwrights’ Theater!

 

Do you know a young person with an interest in creative writing and a story to tell? The Digital Playwriting Program at Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) is a virtual, live-taught program for students interested in playwriting. Virtual classes for each school level (elementary, middle, and high) take place bi-weekly for six weeks with a YPT teaching artist on Zoom. Students will be able to craft their own play while supporting their fellow students in writing through constructive feedback and peer review.

Spring 2021 Workshop Schedule: February 22 – April 1, 2021

Elementary School students (Grades 3 – 5)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30-4:15pm

Middle School students (Grades 6 – 8)
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-4:15pm

High School students (Grades 9 – 12)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:15-5pm

Tuition for the 12-workshop series is $30, and KidFriendly DC readers can take 50% off with code ypt-kf50.

YPT is committed to making our programs accessible to everyone; to learn more about tuition assistance or for more information about this program, please contact our Programs Team at [email protected].

ENROLL TODAY!

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Calling Rising 10th and 11th Graders
: Apply to SAFER (Students Advocating for the Eradication of Racism)!

Applications are now open for YPT’s new after-school program for high school youth to expand the possibilities of storytelling and performance.

SAFER (Students Advocating For the Eradication of Racism) is a social advocacy and arts education program for 10th and 11th-grade students living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area who are committed to promoting racial justice in their communities through their collective creativity. Over the course of a school year, students will learn and practice the skills required to organize and galvanize their communities and will showcase those skills through a theatrical performance event.

All applications and letters of recommendation are due June 11, 2021. If selected, interviews will be held virtually the week of June 28.

For more information, visit the website, or contact YPT Programs at [email protected]

APPLY TODAY!

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About Young Playwrights’ Theater
Young Playwrights’ Theater is an award-winning arts education organization and theater company in Washington, DC. YPT inspires young people to realize the power of their own voices through high-quality arts education programming and productions. Learn more at yptdc.org.

 

This post is sponsored by Young Playwrights’ Theater, however, I only promote programs, places, and services that I genuinely believe in and think would appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Class, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Gradeschoolers, High Schoolers, Middle Schoolers, Social Distancing, Spring, Theatre, Virtual Programs, Weekdays

Celebrate Black History, Online and Around DC Through February — and Beyond

 

February is Black History Month, and if you’re looking for ways to celebrate it with kids, you have plenty of options, both virtually and in person around the DC area.  Museum programs, guided and self-guided tours, visits to significant sites, story time sessions, online concerts, and more will be enlightening and entertaining for all ages. And while some of these are happening on specific dates this month, many of them are ongoing for year-round enjoyment and education.  For even more good reads and related content, check out the Black Lives Matter page.

African American History and Culture
Where: NMAAHC | Online
When: Through February
Admission: Free

The National Museum of African American History & Culture may just be the best place to learn about Black history and culture in America. And while the actual place is closed right now, there still are lots of digital resources available through the website that let you explore it all, including online exhibits, programming for children and adults, and a whole section on talking about race.

The Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Where: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Take a hike that provides insight into the experience of enslaved peoples’ escape to freedom. This walk through woods and along edges of fields (with a map and explanation of the hike) is interesting and enlightening as well as an active, socially distanced way to spend time outdoors.

Visit BLM Plaza
Where: 16th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The two blocks along 16th Street NW, between K Street and Lafayette Park just across from the White House, was emboldened with the giant yellow BLACK LIVES MATTER statement this past summer as the BLM movement began to swell after the murder of George Floyd. The now pedestrian area became a meeting place and focal point of protests and other events — and a site of historic significance in DC. The protest signs that covered the fence around the park have been removed, but the location still provides good context for a conversation with kids about BLM.

Tour Memorials
Where: Several locations in DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Tour some memorials around the city that highlight notable African Americans and related historic events. Head to the MLK Memorial at the Tidal Basin, where you can view the grand sculpture of Dr. King and read some of his most inspiring quote engraved in surrounding walls. From there, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where even more MLK words, “I Have a Dream” are etched into the steps where he gave his famous speech. In the Shaw neighborhood, the African American Civil War Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy.  On Capitol Hill, the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.

Discover Women’s Landmarks
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The Wander Women Project, a has gathered all the places honoring pioneer black women in the DMV area (and slightly further). Since many indoor museums are closed due to Covid-19, mostly outdoor sites and online resources are listed, making outings to visit to them perfect for social distancing.

Black History in Alexandria
Where: Throughout Alexandria, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by activity
A new blog post from Visit Alexandria discusses their renewed commitment to racial equity that pre-dated the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement. There are new major projects and programs that highlight Black history experiences throughout the city, including the Duke Street Black History Trail, Courageous Journey: Alexandria’s Black History Driving Tour, a waterfront African American Heritage Trail and an Underground Railroad-themed tour from Manumission Tour Company.

Black History in MoCo Parks
Where: Parks around Montgomery County, MD
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies

Several sites within the Montgomery Parks system have connections to Black history. See Civil War ruins, visit a place named for the man who inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin, explore the site of a 19th century African American roadside community, and more. Get more details here.

Black History with PG Parks
Where: Parks around PG County, MD
When: Through February
Admission:

Celebrate and honor African American heritage with the PG County park system during Black History Month in February. From performances to history lessons to tours, there are a lot of exciting events and activities planned throughout Prince George’s County, both virtual and in person.

The Slave Memorial & Exhibits
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under

Make a point to see these on a visit to George Washington’s estate in Northern Virginia. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage. The exhibit Lives Bound Together explores the personal stories of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon while providing insight into George Washington’s evolving opposition to slavery.

Introducing…
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Online
When: February 3, 10, 17, and 24
Admission:

The National Portrait Gallery’s program for children ages 3+ shines a light on Black historymakers and their portraits this month. Kids will learn more about art, hear the stories behind the portraits, and even hear some new vocabulary.

Royal Fun with Culture Queen
Where: Online
When: February 6, 2-2:30pm & February 21, 1:30-2pm
Admission: Free

Culture Queen, the children’s author, entertainer, and educator known for presenting empowering entertainment — music, movement, and storytelling — for kids, has a couple of online events this month. Join for Black History Live on February 6 and for a Virtual Dance Party on February 21.

Library Programs
Where: DC Public Library | Online
When: Throughout February
Admission: Free

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of online programs — story times, book discussions, crafts, and more. Visit the website to see when they are taking place.

Let It Shine
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: February 6 & 13
Admission: $17.95

At the wonderful children’s museum in Baltimore, celebrate Black History Month by reading festive stories inside The Oasis at the Reading Corner. Of course, plan to enjoy the multiple levels of fun and educational exhibits while you’re there.

Black History Month at the Tiny Desk
Where: NPR Music | Online
When: Through February
Admission: Free

NPR Music’s awesome Tiny Desk Concert series is celebrating Black History Month by featuring 13 Tiny Desk (home) concerts by Black artists across genres and highlighting performances by Black artists from the archives with weekly curated playlists. The celebration will spotlight different genres and generations each week.

 

*Do you know of a Black History Month event or activity that you don’t see listed here?  Feel free to share in the comments!

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Annual, Black Lives Matter, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Museums, Ongoing, Outdoor, Social Distancing, Special Event, Virginia, Virtual Programs, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Hike the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park

 

I first mentioned Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park on the blog back in mid-June after the kids and I had just visited the locale in Montgomery County.   I’d heard about the park and the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at least a couple of years before that, and it had been on my long list of places to check out.  But as the Black Lives Matter movement really began to swell, it moved up.  An outing there seemed like a timely experience and educational opportunity for all of us, as well as a good place to go for a socially distanced outing.

The Federal-era manor

The newer Woodlawn Museum

Located in Sandy Spring, MD (just down the road from the popular Adventure Park), Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park offers a glimpse into the area’s past.  It contains a Manor House built in the 1800’s and a newer museum “where echoes of the past tell the story of a bustling farm, its community, and those who made a bold bid for freedom on the Underground Railroad.”  (That last part is in quotes because it’s straight from the website, as we couldn’t visit the museum ourselves; along with the Manor House, it was — and still is — closed due to Covid.)

But the Underground Railroad Experience Trail alone warrants a visit.  At the time we visited, the Montgomery Park’s website had said the trail was part of a network of routes that enslaved people used to escape to freedom.  However, it now has been modified to say that “there is no documented evidence that Woodlawn Manor’s property, owners or buildings were involved in the 19th century Underground Railroad.” Regardless, you still can get an idea of what an escape to freedom entailed.

The walk through dense woods and along edges of fields is an interesting, enlightening, and active way to spend time outdoors. It’s about two miles each way  — there and back; the trail doesn’t loop — and  generally flat and easy for little legs to tramp. During non-covid times, guided tours are available that explain the experience and highlight the conditions enslaved people encountered on the Underground Railroad.

Currently, all hikes are self-guided, but a KFDC reader suggested the great idea to print out the map and an explanation of the trail to bring along for context.  With information about timing of escapes, areas along the route best for hiding, obstacles they may have faced, and other notable aspects of the trail, it helps provide insight on the Underground Railroad experience.  And it’s an outing everyone should move up on their list.

Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park is located at 16501 Norwood Road in Sandy Spring, MD.  The park and trail are open dawn to dusk. Admission is free.  Guided tours will be available after park programming begins again.

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Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend