Category Archives: Babies

Tips for Visiting Smithsonian Museums with Young Children (Ages 0-6)

[Note: This is a Guest Post contributed by Jennifer Liao, local mom and founder of Family Trip Guides. As my own kids are now well past the little kid stage, Jennifer brings a fresh take on navigating the National Mall’s museum scene with younger children.]

I started taking my kids to the Smithsonian museums as a tactic to survive the long summer, but it turned into the highlight of the season! We set a goal to visit all 12 Smithsonian museums with my then 2- and 5-year-old and made a passing grade of 8 over the summer and finished this past year. At first, my goals were to escape the suburbs and enjoy the free, world-class museums, but I wasn’t prepared for how much we would grow to love our visits! Now my kids regularly ask which museum we’re going to this week: The Dinosaur One? (Natural History), the Vehicle One? (Postal Museum), or the Inventions One? (American History).

Channeling Julia Childs at Wegmans Wonderplace in the American History Museum

The museums sparked so much curiosity and wonder in my kids that it became contagious. They were excited to share with kids and adults alike about what they discovered that, by the end, we were bringing neighbors with us on our museum trips. I started to get lots of questions from my friends about taking kids into DC by themselves, where to park on a weekday, and food options outside the museums. So, I started texting my tips to friends, which turned into emails, then ultimately created Family Trip Guides for the top five museums.
I love lists so below are: 1) My 3 favorite things about visiting Smithsonians with young kids, 2) Trip tips, and 3) Favorite museums for this age.

Exploring the African Art Museum

My 3 Favorite Things about Visiting Smithsonians with Young Kids

1. Following Their Wonder: I LOVE watching kids’ faces light up when they explore something new! I often follow behind my children when we first enter a gallery and listen to their oohs and ahhs and have them lead me to what they want to explore. Most recently, in the African Art Museum right behind the Smithsonian Castle, my 3-year-old was so transfixed by the beautiful gold exhibit from the Wolof in Senegal, commenting that one necklace looked kind of like a cupcake!

2. Free = No Pressure/No Guilt: All the Smithsonian museums are free which relieves a lot of the pressure to “see everything.” If you need to leave because of nap time or a tantrum, you have a guilt free pass to do so. We used to live in Chicago where the Field Museum is $26 for the basic admission per person so you wanted to get your money’s worth, i.e. you stayed awhile, even if the kids were no longer into it. The Smithsonians can be a great pop-in destination whether you live nearby or not.

3. Connection: Visiting a museum with younger kids requires a lot more attention for the parent or caregiver (why is Obama’s portrait at toddler-touch-level at the Portrait Gallery?!), but it leads to incredible moments of connection with your child. My kids help me live in the moment and see the wonder in the nature, art, and artifacts.

Don’t miss the Volunteer Carts for extra exhibits (and stickers!)

My Top 3 Trip Tips for Visiting Museums with Little Kids

1. Go at the Right Time: Parents and caregivers all know that timing is everything with this age group. Pick the time when your child will be the least tired, hungry, and overstimulated. For my kids, that’s in the morning, but I know some parents who visit museums after an afternoon nap. I aim to get to the museum right at 9:45am to get parking close to the museum (often right on the National Mall!) and get in line five minutes before the museum opens at 10am. This is my “magic time” before a lot of the school and tour groups seem to arrive around 11am, and tourists later in the afternoon. It gives my kids a couple of hours to enjoy a much less crowded museum and make a clean exit for lunch, either a picnic on the Mall or at an eatery close by. (I have 20+ food options categorized by each museum on my blog.)

2. Go to a Little-Kid Friendly Museum: There are 12 museums and an amazing National Zoo as a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world! All of them are special and wonderful in their own way, but for this age group, I would highly recommend focusing on the most kid-friendly of them (see below), especially if you will need good changing tables and nursing areas.

3. Avoid the Gift Shop: Confession time… my kids have never been to a museum gift shop! I think my daughter knows they exist, because we had to walk by one and I diverted her to another gallery. We really avoid the gift shop because, as all parents know, it can be a drawn-out negotiation that takes time and energy I’d rather be spending on the exhibits. So, instead, I have included Gift Shop Alternatives for each age group and for each museum in my Guides. A few ideas for little kids: If you’re near the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, take a ride on the historic Carousel — for $3.50 the only dilemma is which animal to ride. If you’re at Natural History or Air and Space Museums, ask the information desk where the Volunteer Cart is for the day — they might be giving out free stickers. If you’re near the Postal Museum, get a food treat at Au Bon Pain, Shake Shack, or another place in Union Station.

Start a stamp collection at the National Postal Museum!

My 3 Favorite Smithsonian Museums with Young Kids

1. National Postal Museum: This was the surprise favorite of our whole family during our summer challenge and definitely the “easiest” of the Smithsonians with kids. It has wonderful hands-on exhibits and the largest collection of stamps in the world — and they let you take a few to start your own collection! My 3-year old son calls this the “vehicle museum” because it houses a real train, a stagecoach, and an 18-wheeler truck to climb all around. The museum is located right next to Union Station, making it perfect for metro, parking, and dozens of food options from Shake Shack to Chipotle! 

2. American History Museum: This museum has so much to offer for all ages, plus the best enclosed play area for smaller kids. Wegman’s Wonderplace feels like a real museum (because it is!) with paintings and artifacts behind child safe glass and at their eye level. It is created for ages 0-6 and includes a kid-friendly bathroom, a nursing room in the back corner, a volunteer-staffed gate to keep kids inside, and an amazing kid-sized replica of Julia Childs’ kitchen! (Note: Wegman’s Wonderplace is closed Tuesdays.)

3. American Indian Museum: I love this museum because our kids don’t have much interaction with Native American cultures, and the museum does a great job at welcoming kids to learn more. We love the kids’ area called the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on the 3nd floor and The Mitsitam Food Court (which means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples). It’s an extension of the museum with foods from different regions. (Note: imagiNATIONS is closed Mondays.)

I hope something in all these lists sparked interest in taking your kids (or neighbor kids!) to one of the amazing national treasures we call Smithsonian Museums.

Thanks so much, Jennifer!

KFDC community, what are some your favorite Smithsonian Museums? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jennifer Liao is a mom of two curious kiddos in Fairfax County who unabashedly loves museums. She created to help other families have great visits with their kids. She also loves cooking with her husband and long bike rides.


Filed under Babies, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Gradeschoolers, Guest Post, Indoor Play, Museums, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend

Why Choose Bright Horizons Preschool?

Choosing a preschool is a big decision, and it’s one you want to feel great about. You want your child to be happy, to make friends, and to learn the academic and social skills needed for kindergarten. Plus, a location and schedule that’s convenient for you also helps.

Learn how parents found the right mix of curriculum, teachers, environment, and convenience with Bright Horizons in this video and then find a center near you and schedule a personal visit.

This post is sponsored by Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool®, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will be of interest to KFDC readers.

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Filed under Babies, Child Care, Daycare, DC, Educational, Maryland, Preschoolers, Schools, Toddlers, Virginia

Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station Opening Soon in Arlington!

[Note: This is a Sponsored Guest Post contributed by the staff at Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool®.]

Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool is excited to announce that Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station is opening next month in Arlington, VA. The center is conveniently located across from the Courthouse and just two blocks from the Courthouse Metro Station and Arlington Blvd. We are still accepting registrations for enrollment and are pleased to offer admissions throughout the year.

Bright Horizons knows working parents and is ready to be your partner in parenting with amenities and features designed to make life easier for busy modern families.

· Care and education for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years
· Convenient hours and year-round care
· Snacks and a catered lunch included in your tuition
· Dedicated drop off and pick up parking
· Parent workshops, resources, and support
· Movement, art, and curriculum-enhancing activities offered right at the center
· Our own secure app, which delivers real time updates about your child’s day straight to your mobile device

The center team, including Center Director Megan, Regional Manager MaryEllen, and their dedicated faculty, is busy putting the last minute finishing touches on the classrooms. At Bright Horizons we believe that the environment is the key to creating a joyful place for childhood and we put a great deal of thought and care into creating those spaces. In keeping with Reggio Emilia and Montessori philosophies, our designs consider not only what children need in a space, but how they will use it. Our classrooms will form an integral part of a child’s earliest learning so we carefully choose high-quality materials to create beautiful environments with rich, open-ended experiences that nurture development and inspire learning.

To learn more about Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station please visit the center’s website or call 571-305-5104. You can also follow the center on Facebook to stay up to date on center events like complimentary parent workshops, open houses, and other activities.

And if this convenient location doesn’t work for you, don’t worry! Visit our center locator to find another Bright Horizons center near you.

This post is sponsored by Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool®, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will be of interest to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2019, Babies, Class, Daycare, Educational, Guest Post, Preschoolers, Schools, Sponsored Post, Toddlers, Virginia, Weekdays

Visit Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station, Opening in Arlington in Early 2019!

[Note: This is a Sponsored Guest Post contributed by the staff at Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool®.]

Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool® is excited to announce a brand new child care center is coming soon to the DC Metro area! Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station is opening in early 2019 in Arlington, VA. Conveniently located two blocks from the Courthouse metro station directly across the street from the Arlington Courthouse and just one block from route 50, this beautiful new center will offer engaging programs for children 6 weeks to 6 years old.

At Bright Horizons, we understand how important the early years are to both you and your child. This is a time of remarkable growth, when children are experiencing rapid development, learning new skills, and progressing steadily towards physical, intellectual, and social-emotional milestones. With that in mind, our curriculum, The World at Their Fingertips, provides intentional guidance and rich experiences that build upon individual strengths and talents. With our child development professionals at their sides, children at Bright Horizons are assured of getting the care that they need, the creative learning experiences they enjoy, and the intellectually challenging opportunities they deserve.

In addition to our exceptional education, Bright Horizons provides child care that works for today’s families.

· Convenient hours, easy drop off and pick up, and year-round programs for infants through Kindergarten Prep
· An indoor movement space with structured movement curriculum as well as an on-site playground, and other curriculum-enhancing activities
· 21st century technology including SMART Board and touch screen computers
· Strong parent/teacher partnerships and communication, including daily real time updates right to your mobile device, as well as family activities and parent workshops
· Catered lunch option daily, included in your tuition

You’re invited to stop by to see Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station at a Walk-In Wednesday Open House. From November 14, 2018 to January 30, 2019, you can drop in any Wednesday afternoon between 12pm and 6pm for a visit. Meet our Center Director Megan, tour our well-appointed classrooms, learn about our innovative curriculum, and find out how Bright Horizons can support your family. Visit Bright Horizons at Courthouse Station for more information and follow us on Facebook to stay up to date on future events and activities.

This post is sponsored by Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool®, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2018, 2019, Babies, Daycare, DC, Educational, Guest Post, Preschoolers, Schools, Sponsored Post, Virginia

Programs for Little Learners at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

An SEEC Toddler Trailblazers workshop

[Note: This is a Sponsored Guest Post contributed by Cynthia Raso, Director of the Office of Engagement at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC).]

People are often surprised to learn that there’s a school at the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center is a small school for infants through Kindergartners that opened its doors over 30 years ago. We acknowledge that children of all ages are capable learners, and we operate from the core belief that children benefit from learning in museums.

Over the years, we have developed a unique approach to learning beyond the classroom. Today, community is at the heart of what we do. We believe that by learning in the community children can better understand concepts and experience more of the world. We also believe that by supporting a community of families, we can create a framework that will enhance a child’s overall growth and development.

Life is hectic, so we invite families to slow down when they enter our classrooms. We begin most of our classes by playing and we encourage our caretakers to interact with the children and adults in the room. We find that this period can be meaningful time spent with your child as well as a chance to socialize and meet other families. The best part of our play is that the SEEC team does all the clean-up — so go ahead, get messy, and enjoy!

Our community is a judgment free zone. We do our best to create an environment in which parents don’t feel pressured to have their kids perform or act in a certain way. If there is one thing we understand it’s that young children have a mind of their own and develop at their own pace. We want caregivers to feel good about their parenting even if their child is having an “off” day.

Preschool Pioneers on a visit to the Hirshhorn

To use an education phrase, we support the whole child. Our goal is to encourage the cognitive, physical, and emotional development of young children. Of course, we want our students to come away with new knowledge after a lesson, but our programs go beyond that. The play and activities that we facilitate help children practice everything from problem-solving to learning how to move their bodies. Our interactive group activities encourage children to think critically, listen to others, and make careful observations. Our curricula and materials celebrate children of all backgrounds, and we think carefully about diversity and inclusion.

Too often these days, young children are faced with learning environments that don’t reflect their developmental needs. We, however, offer a program that acknowledges a child’s need to move, explore, and investigate. We are not here to provide answers, but rather to suggest a pathway to the answer. We see this as a journey for the child and adult, and we believe that by engaging them in the content in fun and meaningful ways, children will continue to return to museums and learning.

An Artful Afternoon with SEEC

SEEC currently offers a host of options for families, including our full-time school for infants through kindergartners. Though enrollment in the younger years is limited due to space, we encourage you to look at our preschool and kindergarten options where space is often available. In addition to our full-time school, we offer the following weekend family programs for infants – 3rd grade and a part-time program for caregivers and children aged 18 – 36 months:

Visit the SEEC website to learn more about their programs. And if you are interested in enrollment in preschool and kindergarten, spaces are currently available in both programs for 2018-2019. The application deadline for 2019 -2020 school year is March 1, 2019.

This post is sponsored by Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2018, 2019, Babies, Class, DC, Educational, Museums, Preschoolers, Schools, Sponsored Post, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend