Category Archives: Educational

Ideas for At-Home Celebrations of Light in Dark Times, from the Washington Waldorf School

[Note:  This is a sponsored guest post contributed by Alia Goodyear of the Washington Waldorf School]

 

At this time of year, when the daylight hours are diminishing, there are many ways to celebrate light shining out in the darkness. This year in particular, our need to connect to our own inner light and that of our fellow creatures is palpable. As the days get shorter, we might also feel more restless as we hunker down at home. Participating in some type of festival can bring some balance, calm, and hope. Perhaps you have a traditional way of celebrating — maybe your family observed Diwali recently, you are steeped in Advent, or your family is preparing for Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, or Kwanzaa. Perhaps you don’t have a tradition to guide your celebrations, but the idea of taking time to contemplate light shining out in dark times appeals to you. 

At Waldorf schools, we do not teach any specific religion, but we honor the spiritual life and make space for our community to explore the grand themes of the human search for connection and purpose as well as the work of making our world a better place for all. In particular, we have a few ways that we celebrate light in dark times. Here, we share them with you in the hope that you may find something useful to help your family create new traditions, or enhance existing customs, as you find sparks of joy in these times and feel the glow of a hopeful heart.

 

Lantern Walk

This festival is held after dusk, when our lantern light breaks through the outer darkness of approaching winter. It marks the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Carrying a light into the darkness in the company of others – as we do during the Lantern Walk – can be reassuring. This can be a good socially distanced activity to do with a friend or neighbor with whom you want to maintain or build a connection.

Making a lantern can be a fun activity at home, and it will foster anticipation for the walk. If you aren’t able to make your own, don’t let that stop you! You can use whatever portable light source you have available to take a walk in the darkness and see what you find!

Lantern designs: Balloon Lantern | Waldorf Paper Lantern | Glass Decoupage Lantern | Paper Dodecahedron Lantern

 

Candle Craft

Decorating a candle and holder is a great project, and the result is a unique light that can be lit with intention and feel very special. Your family may choose to light it at meal times or a young child’s bed time.

Look for a 1-2” slice of a thick tree branch or a thin trunk (a Christmas tree lot near you might have extras from the ends of trees they’ve sold). Drill a hole in the center to hold a tall candle, or a wide candle can sit on the wood or even just a little plate. To find decorations, you can pick up a few pine cones, acorns, berries, greens, etc. as you walk around your neighborhood or a park. Perhaps you already have some small treasures at home — seashells, stones, ribbons, etc. You can also order thin decorating beeswax to make shapes that will stick to the sides of your candle when warmed a bit. 

 

Winter Spiral Walk

A beloved tradition in Waldorf schools is the winter spiral. Usually, it is a spiral walkway created from evergreen branches laid out on the floor and decorated with shells, crystals, and small figurines. At home, a simple pine garland or even a plain rope can be used to create a spiral. Lights in the room are kept low and at the heart of the spiral is a lit candle (the spiral can also be set up outside). Participants sit around the outside of the spiral and wait for their turn. In silence, or with soft musical accompaniment, each participant sits holding an unlit candle. Often the candles are set into apples as holders. On your turn, carry your candle to the center of the spiral, light the candle and then carry your light back out of the spiral into the world. We usually find a place along the spiral to set our lights so that, at the end of the walk, we can tangibly see how our lights combine to bring warmth and illumination to the space.   See examples on Instagram.

 

With our hope for your family’s well being and that you find moments of light in difficult days…
The Washington Waldorf School

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Founded in 1969, The Washington Waldorf School is a coed, PreK – 12 independent school in Bethesda, MD. Our teachers incorporate academic, artistic, and practical elements into every subject, creating memorable lessons, successful scholars, and strong individuals.

 

This post is sponsored by the Washington Waldorf School, 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 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Guest Post, Maryland, Schools, Seasonal, Social Distancing, Winter

Explore the Power — & Magic! — of Language at Planet Word

 

Planet Word is sure to get people talking.  The museum dedicated to language recently opened in downtown DC with a mission to “inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading in people of all ages.”  And with three levels full of interactive and immersive exhibits that engage, educate, entertain, and delight, they easily achieve that goal.

It’s a museum that can be enjoyed by all ages, but older kids probably will get more out of it than younger children, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension.  Owen and Sasha, 14 and 11, were great ages for it — and older teens and adults will love it, too. (In fact, I’d rank it among my favorites museums in DC!)

Listen up under the Speaking Willow

The exploration of language begins before you even enter the building.  In the courtyard next to the entrance is the Speaking Willow, a ingenious art installation designed to look like a tree, its branches dangling 500 speakers that play recordings in different languages as you walk beneath.  It’s a fantastic preview of the word and language focused fun — and magic — that awaits.

Inside, the Planet Word experience begins on the third level and flows down, taking visitors through multiple exhibits on every floor, each of them highlighting different aspects of language in creative and interactive ways.  It starts with First Words, a short video about how we first learn language as babies, a cute and fitting way to begin.

Greetings from the wall of words

Audience participation encouraged

But that’s just a warm-up for the grand introduction:  Where Do Words Come From.  Featuring a lofty wall of words that tells the story of the English language, this exhibit combines impressive state-of-the art technology, clever narration, and  some interactive fun — microphones set up in front of benches let visitors have their say, too!  The installation is complemented by graphs that illustrate the evolution of language, plus touch screens that test your knowledge, too. (Note: The museum provides stylus pens, so you don’t have to touch screens with your fingers.)

Interactive word play

Explore languages across the globe in The Spoken World

That leads to The Spoken World, a large room with a giant disco ball globe as its centerpiece with voice-activated and touchscreen kiosks placed all around it.  Here, you can listen to people from around the world speak their language and talk about what makes it unique.  You’re encouraged to speak some words, too!  This exhibit also includes more interactives along one wall, giving guests a chance to delve further into diverse languages.

Do you know?

 

A first look at the library

In a museum all about language and words, books are sure to be showcased, and that happens when you hit the second floor and enter the glorious library.  The sight of it will get you first. Lined with floor-to-ceiling wood shelves and a mirror on the ceiling, it’s a magnificent space.  But it’s what the library contains that makes it so extraordinary.  And this is where my write-up gets tricky… do I reveal the details that make it so magical, or let readers discover it themselves?  Let’s just say that books come to life in fantastic ways, and you’re in for quite a treat!

Magic awaits here

A peek into a picture

Painting with words

There’s more magic nearby that I will share:  Word Worlds lets you “paint” with words.  Dip your brush into “autumn” then run it along the wall and watch it turn into deep red and orange hues, or try “surreal” to see odd shapes and swirls.

A “surreal” scene

Watch notable speeches…

…and recite one

The rest of the exhibits on the second floor don’t include magical elements, but they let you share your charm.  After you learn what makes a memorable speech, you can recite one of your own. Find out why some jokes work and some fall flat, then test them out in a Joking Around game.  And, because words help make songs, there’s a music-focused exhibit, too — with karaoke!  (Of course, we took advantage.)

Easy to keep a straight face in the joke games 😉

Get your karaoke on

Back on the first floor you will be sold on words in an exhibit all about advertising and how language is used to make things sell.  Walk through an interactive whirl, check out ads new and old, and play games on the way.

A whirl of ad insight

Fun with Wordplay

From there, enter the Words Matter room, where you can share your own story, express yourself in a word, and enjoy a few more interactives.  Here — and in all parts of the museum, for that matter — don’t miss the words on the walls, in the doorways, even on ceilings.  You’ll see quotes from renowned writers along with phrases that have become fixtures in our vernacular.

Any guesses which is mine?

Outside voices are encouraged as you make your way through Planet Word, whether you’re interacting with elements in the exhibits, reading quotes on walls, or just expressing yourself. Some other good things to know:
* There is metered parking along nearby streets and a parking garage right next to the museum on 13th St.
* McPherson Square (Blue/Orange & Silver) and Metro Center (Red) are the closest Metro stations.
* Free lockers on the first floor let you store coats and belongings.
* As mentioned above, the museum provides stylus pens, so you don’t have to touch screens.
* Other safety precautions, like hand sanitizing stations and social distancing guides, are in place.
* You can take an elevator or stairs to access different floors.
* Tickets are free, and need to be reserved in advance, but a limited number of walk-up tickets are also available on the half hour.

 

In case it’s not evident, I highly recommend visiting Planet Word — and making it a priority.  This does take some planning. Free passes are available on a rolling, 30-day basis, which means you need to know the date you’d like to visit, and reserve tickets 30 days ahead. Of course, if you have an open schedule, you can check any day and reserve a time slot a month away.

I can assure you, it’s worth the wait.

Planet Word is located at 925 13th Street NW in Downtown DC. Hours are 10am – 5pm, Thursday through Saturday. Admission is free, but a donation is suggested.

 

Museum with karaoke?  Count us in!

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Indoor Play, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend

Whip Up Some Fun with the Tiny Chefs & Teen Chefs Cooking Club!

 

Are you looking for online activities that your kids will literally eat up? Do you want screen time that is healthy?  Here’s a recipe for that, and it’s one you’ll all enjoy: The Tiny Chefs and Teen Chefs Cooking Club!

This new online membership from Tiny Chefs, the area’s premier provider of kids’ cooking programs, serves up unlimited access to on-demand cooking classes, recipes, activities, and more virtual goodies especially for young cooks.

There are themed courses for kids to join that include a variety of recipes with video instructions that are easy to follow along. For instance, Cooking Around the World features 10 dishes from different cultures, from small appetizers to main dishes to desserts, all within kids’ cooking abilities. And the treats don’t stop with yummy fare — there are also quizzes to test their knowledge and related activities for fun and learning beyond the food.

 

 

New content is added monthly, and a private Facebook group offers extra cooking inspiration. Members will also get their own Tiny Chefs or Teen Chefs aprons and access to special Facebook Live events.

Ready to get your kids cooking? Tiny Chefs is offering a special promotion for KidFriendly DC readers! Use the code KFDC50 to get $50 off an annual membership or one free month. The code expires on December 31, 2020.

 

This post is sponsored by Tiny Chefs, however, I only promote programs, services, and events that I genuinely believe in and think would appeal to KFDC readers.

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Class, DC, Discount, Educational, Professional Service, Virtual Programs

Little Kid-Friendly Places for Indoor Play with Precaution

A COVID-era visit to the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center

[Note: This round-up was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, local mom to two young children.]

 

“Winter is coming” brings a whole new shiver this year, as parents of little balls of energy are bracing themselves for the COVID Winter. Most will bundle up and tough it out, with fingers crossed for lots of sled-able snow. Many will enter a new phase of pandemic panic shopping for indoor play equipment. For those seeking respite at indoor spaces, some local businesses have taken extra measures to open with COVID precautions. Here are six little-kid-friendly indoor places to consider as the days get colder. (Please keep in mind CDC guidelines to limit activity indoors, and masks for ages 2+.)

 

Kids Play Gallery
When: 9:30am – 2:30pm daily
Where: Gaithersburg, MD
Admission: $15/ages 1+ (more details here)
COVID policies

An imaginative play space with a tiny town of play houses suited for ages 5 and under. The space is very clean and well-maintained, with a separate, closed-off area for eating. Business hours have been reduced and private play reservations are available. Call ahead to confirm drop-in play hours are as listed.

 

Launch Trampoline Park
When: Varies by location
Where: Rockville, MD | Columbia, MD | Herndon, VA
Admission: $22+ or $13+ on Groupon
COVID policies

Kids can run, jump, and literally bounce off the walls here, expending lots of energy. My active 18-month-old has held his own here, but it’s generally recommended for preschool ages and up. With timed-entry reservations, you should have plenty of space to yourself/your family. Professional-grade sanitizing is done between sessions. Reserve time online in advance; call to reserve time if tickets purchased through Groupon.

 

OmniFun
When: 12:30pm – 7:30pm daily; closed Tuesdays
Where: Gaithersburg, MD
Admission: Starts at $11.99/age 6 months+ (more details here)
COVID policies

Recently opened in 2019 and now reopened with COVID precautions, OmniFun features a soft climbing zone, giant building blocks, an arts and crafts space, a toddler play area, and more. Now, two hour sessions are reserved in advance for up to 9 kids at a time, and groups are rotated in 40 minute intervals. Recommended for ages 6 months – 12 years.  Reserve a time sot in advance.

 

BusyBees
When: 9am – 5pm weekdays; 11am – 5pm weekends
Where: Falls Church, VA
Admission: $15/child, free/parents and ages 1 & under
COVID policies

A chain of indoor playgrounds known for cleanliness, BusyBees features soft play climbing structures, slides, and spinning rides. Currently, only the Falls Church location is open, and it is unfortunately the smallest of the three locations. The space is closed for 30 minutes every hour-and-a-half for cleaning, so plan your visit accordingly. Be sure to check the website daily for modified hours.

 

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
When: 10am – 5:30pm daily
Where:  Chantilly, VA
Admission: Fre
e with timed-entry passes
COVID policies
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex has found itself to be a relatively low-risk space in COVID times with its spacious facility and timed-entry passes. Little kids should be well-attended here but have the flexibility to roam and, on a slow day, maybe even run circles around the massive aviation and space artifacts.

 

Shopping Malls
While their actual play spaces are closed, malls may make it into your weekly activities rotation. They are barren right now offering wide open lanes for kids to roam and browse. Plus, hand-sanitizing stations are set up throughout. Check your local mall for updated hours and safety precautions like these. (PS: A new LEGO Store is expected to open at Westfield Montgomery mall this fall!)

 

Tips for decreased risk:
* Go weekdays at opening times or midday when some places empty out for lunch and naps.
* Call ahead to see how crowded a place is prior to your planned arrival time.
* For a more controlled environment, look for places that allow reservations for private group play times like Kids Play Gallery, My Gym or Kids Ground.

 

For more indoor spaces, see this recent KFDC post for what’s currently open.

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Filed under 2020, 2021, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Gradeschoolers, Indoor Play, Maryland, Reopened, Social Distancing, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend