Category Archives: Guest Post

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

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

Free Resources and Programming for Kids Who Stutter from SAY: DC

[Note: This is a Sponsored Guest Post contributed by SAY: DC .]

 

Kids who stutter don’t have to feel isolated or alone. If you you know a young person who stutters, SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young (a not-for-profit organization) is here for them with FREE support and resources. Since 2001, SAY has been working with children and teens who stutter (and their families), using the arts to unlock expression, confidence, and personal growth. SAY fosters an environment of creativity, empathy, and inspiration that gives room for the expansion of possibility. At SAY, you’ll find a community that makes each participant stronger and more capable than they ever thought they could be.

SAY: DC is dedicated to providing a safe, inspiring space for young people who stutter to be deeply heard and supported. There is solace in knowing you are not alone — that your struggle and your strengths are uniquely your own but that they also fit into a constellation of common experiences that other people face every day. The SAY culture of acceptance, deep listening, and reflection allows for countless tangible moments of success, transcendence, and joy.

Central to SAY’s mission is the breaking down of all financial barriers to attendance. SAY: DC is dedicated to providing its award-winning programming completely free of charge. SAY offers a broad range of programs in the DMV and this year alone, SAY: DC will underwrite more than $250,000 in programmatic costs so that all families have access to these important programs.

SAY: DC is enrolling for its 2020-21 season now. All offerings are free of charge, but registration is required, so sign up your child who stutters today.

 

Learn more about stuttering: www.say.org/dc
Call us: 202.919.4848
Email us:  DC@SAY.org
Find us on Instagram: @sayorgdc

 

This post is sponsored by SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, however, I only promote programs, events, and places that I genuinely believe in and think would appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2020, 2021, All ages, DC, Guest Post, Virtual Programs

Friends, Fun, & STEM at Boolean Girl Summer Camps

[Note: This is a sponsored guest post contributed by Ingrid Sanden, Co-Founder of Boolean Girl.]

Boolean Girl Camps have been recognized multiple times as a “Best Camp” by local and regional media outlets and, more importantly, by our campers. Here, girls entering Grades 3-8 develop new friendships and have fun as they learn about computer science and engineering in a welcoming, play-based environment with a series of unique projects and creative challenges.

Camps and classes are designed using a holistic approach to learning, with a goal to blend play and programming through hands-on instruction and sustained meaningful exposure to computer science and engineering. Our camps are part of a broad set of lessons and activities designed to encourage girls to progress from beginning coding to building electrical circuits.

While the girls learn a lot at camp, they are not just sitting at their keyboards and looking at screens. We play games, listen to music, play outside, and just be kids. Our instructors are a mix of teachers and female college students from schools like Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, and University of Maryland, and our interns are local high school students. Boolean Girl instructors and interns complete curriculum and classroom management training, as well as first aid certification and background checks.

Fridays at Boolean Girl Camps are special as we celebrate our week of STEM discovery. We have pizza, the campers show off their creative work, and we are joined by one or more Boolean Girl Ambassadors — local women working in STEM careers like electrical engineering and computer science — in the afternoon. Ambassadors share their experiences, lead a short project or challenge, talk about STEM education and careers, and of course they discuss the girls’ projects with them. Parents are always welcome to join their children for the project showcase at the end of the day.

In 2020, we are offering four different types of camps in Arlington, Fairfax, and Montgomery counties, as well as Capitol Hill. Each camp has an age or grade range recommendation, and we caution pushing kids too quickly, even if they’ve coded previously.

Not sure our camp is right for your daughter? Give our Clubhouse a try! Sponsored by Boolean Girl and Virginia Tech, the Clubhouse will meet on the fourth Saturday of each month from 1-4pm, starting January 25. Check our website for more info. And if you have questions or are just not sure, send a note to info@booleangirl.org or give us a call at 202.996.8241.  We love talking to parents and are happy to guide you to the appropriate camp for your daughter!

To learn more about our camps and register your daughter, visit the Boolean Girl website. See you this summer!


This post is sponsored by Boolean Girl, 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, Camp, DC, Educational, Gradeschoolers, Guest Post, Maryland, Middle Schoolers, Summer, Tweens, Virginia, Weekdays