Category Archives: Toddlers

At-Home Toys Inspired by The Little Towns Children’s Museum

[Note:  This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children.   She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ items as well as local explorations with little ones. See more of them here, herehere, and here.]

 

If you’re not ready to venture back into the DC area’s indoor play spaces, this post will bring one of my family’s favorite places to you. The Little Towns Children’s Museum opened during the pandemic and was somewhat of a secret until recently, with play sessions now filling up. The play space, designed for kids ages 6 months to 8 years, is modeled after a real town — and actual local businesses — with every storefront a child could imagine

Little Towns is more modern and impeccably detailed than some of the other mini town play places you may have been to. And the space is large yet contained, making it conducive to lots of independent play. You can follow your children around, or enjoy a moment of solitude in the café space. Along with limited capacity, Covid protocols include temperature checks, mask requirements, and sanitation between play sessions.

However, if you are keeping your activities to outdoor-only, I’ve highlighted our favorite features of the space below, along with at-home items they’ve inspired. Whether you’re ready to start your holiday shopping extra early, or just need more independent play — like asap — this list is for you.

 

The bakery, modeled after Georgetown Cupcake, is always the first place my kids go, and the one place they return to again before leaving.

At-Home: This Cupcake Party Game has been a long-standing hit in our home. My kids don’t actually play the game, they just put together the cupcakes—over and over and over again.

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After the bakery, my daughter always heads to the fire station to put on one of the complete firefighter ensembles.

At-Home: Dress-up has been an activity with the longest shelf life (pun intended) in my house. Mix up the princess dresses with dress up sets like this.

 

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The beauty salon is modeled after Drybar, and you’ll find little ones “styling” hair there with brushes, clips, and rollers for a surprisingly long amount of time.

At-Home: We paired this Elsa Styling Head with this Hair Salon Toy Kit to get lots of kid-initiated, independent play. The battery-operated, blowing hair dryer is a favorite.

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The kid-operated vehicles at Little Towns are my son’s favorite. He loops around and around the town until it’s time to let another patiently waiting kid have a turn.

At-Home: If you have a loop of open floor space in your home, I highly recommend an indoor-only vehicle. My best purchase of the year may be our plasma car, used for this purpose.

 

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The diner is the newest room at Little Towns and is so well done. Kids love to reverse roles here and serve their grown-ups—a nice change of pace, even if it is just pretend!

At-Home: Pretend food that kids can “cut” has been a winner for us, and is still one of our go-to quiet time activities. We have a fruit and veggie set; this set is fun too.

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A do-it-yourself grocery shopping experience is always a hit with little kids, and the grocery store at Little Towns is as real as the pretend ones get.

At-Home: Toy shopping carts have been a favorite of both of my kids at one point or another, more so than any other push toy. This pairs well with the pretend food mentioned above.

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The dance party room set-up for dancing and pretend DJing, takes the excitement up a notch—and is just so darn cool.

At-Home: We’ve had this kids microphone for several years and the magic of Bluetooth in a toy never gets old. This one with LED lights is great for older kids.

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Every kid must be the veterinarian at some point during their visit to Little Towns. They love to dress up and attend to one of the toy animals in the cages.

At-Home: Vet kits are maybe better for independent play than doctor kits, since grown-ups tend to be the patients for doctor check-ups. Stuffed animals can get endless check-ups!

 

What’s your child’s favorite pretend play activity? Share with us in the comments!

 

And if you’re up for out-of-the-house, in-person play…

The Little Towns Children’s Museum
Where: 4931 Wyaconda Road |North Bethesda, MD
When: Mon–Thurs, 9:30am–4:30pm; Fri–Sun, 9:30am – 7pm
Admission: $25/child for Open Play
*Reservations required (limited capacity); book in advance 

 

 

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Filed under Gradeschoolers, Indoor Play, Maryland, Preschoolers, Product, Shop, Toddlers

Guest Post: How to Navigate Family Feelings About Returning to School

 

[Note: This is a sponsored guest post contributed by KinderCare Learning Centers.]

 

Whether it’s your child’s first day of kindergarten or the start of middle school, back-to-school season can bring a range of feelings – from worry to excitement – for the entire family. This year may be more emotional as many families spent the better part of the past two school years at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important to remember that even in the best of times, it’s normal for children to express feelings of sadness, isolation or stress,” said Tyreca Elliott, from KinderCare Learning Centers’ inclusion services team. “Learning how to address those feelings helps us build self-confidence, resilience, and independence. What’s important is the way adults respond to children’s stress. Offering comfort, reassurance, and assisting with problem solving will help children learn and grow from stress in a positive way.”

As an added bonus, Elliott said many of the most effective ways to help children learn to navigate their feelings work just as well with adults. Consider these three tips to help your children (and yourself) manage emotions during the transition back to school.

Plan Ahead
The fear of the unknown can be stressful. Children who aren’t able to clearly articulate their feelings likely won’t be able to make the connection between new, uncertain situations – like going to school and being around other people – and their feelings. Instead they may become overwhelmed by emotions, which might look like more meltdowns, clinginess or a variety of other behaviors. Talk with your children about how they feel about going back to school ahead of the first day of class. Ask questions to help them determine why they feel particular feelings when they think about school then work together to solve potential issues. That could mean finding a way to meet your children’s teachers ahead of time, whether virtually or in-person, or practicing introducing themselves to classmates.

Build a Consistent Routine
Routines can give children (and adults) a sense of security and structure, which in turn make it easier to cope with big emotions like stress and anxiety. Try to stay consistent, and if you need to make adjustments, talk them through with your children. Be sure to mention key milestones instead of times, particularly if they can’t tell time yet. Make sure your children have opportunities to ask questions about any changes to routines. They may need reassurance before they’re ready to face something new.

Create Special Family Moments
As important as routine is, it’s just as important to prioritize quality time together. That could mean a vacation or something as simple as Saturday bike rides or Sunday morning pancakes. Plan a family outing or special time together to celebrate completing the first week of school. Family rituals and celebrations can give children and adults something to look forward to. Quality time together also helps families build resiliency.

For more tips to navigate back-to-school season, visit Kindercare.com

 

About KinderCare® Learning Centers
KinderCare Learning Centers is America’s largest, most accredited child care provider, serving more than 160,000 children every day at more than 1,500 centers. For more than 50 years, we’ve been creating safe, encouraging environments where kids can learn, grow, and build confidence for life. At KinderCare, hardworking families are family — regardless of needs, backgrounds, and experiences.

To learn more, visit online at KinderCare.com, on Facebook, or on Instagram. For resources, information, and activity ideas for parents and teachers of young children, see the KinderCare Blog.

KinderCare locations now open in D.C.:

Watergate KinderCare
Ann Bride, Acting Center Director
2530 Virginia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20037
833-905-3276
Ages Served: 6 weeks to 5 years
7:30am to 6:3pm, Monday-Friday

Glover Park KinderCare
Dionne Muir-Clark, Center Director
2461 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007
833-905-3276
Ages Served: 6 weeks to 5 years
6:30am to 6pm, Monday-Friday

Find more area locations here.

 

This post is sponsored by KinderCare® Learning Centers, 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, Daycare, DC, Educational, Preschoolers, Toddlers

Bright Horizons at 2 Bethesda Metro Opening this Fall

 

A new Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool location is coming to the DC area this fall.  Bright Horizons  at 2 Bethesda Metro will offer infant to pre-kindergarten programs. Located near the Bethesda Metro station and right off Wisconsin Avenue, the center is convenient to get to, whether you’re working in the office or at home.

Visit the website to learn more and schedule a virtual or in-person visit to see what sets makes Bright Horizons a trusted partner for families!

 

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

 

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Filed under 2021, Babies, Child Care, Educational, Fall, Maryland, Preschoolers, Toddlers

Books Worth Buying for Little Ones

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, a local mom of two young children.]

 

Remember hanging out in libraries? Sigh… Once a weekly go-to, now a distant memory for my kids, and likely yours, too. In their absence, our book collection has grown. Acquiring books during the pandemic has been akin to stocking up on frozen vegetables. You’re gonna need those books — and they’re good for you.

Between our own book purchases (often an alternative to buying one more plastic toy), generous extended family — including a great-aunt that used to work at a children’s bookstore — and our neighborhood’s Little Free Libraries, we’ve been fortunate, and we’ve been reading.

Many of our books end up being read obsessively for a week, never to be child-selected again (ahh, the beauty of libraries!). But there are some that we keep going back to. The ones we’ve all memorized and have stolen phrases from for our everyday kid conversations. The ones that were totally worth buying…

 

The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss (Happy Birthday to the beloved author!)

We’ve ventured far into the wacky world of whosits and whatsits, but we always return to the gold standard. Every preschooler is exploring their autonomy and nothing illustrates the wild possibilities better. Plus, it’s so apropos for the times, Sally and boy with nothing to do.

Other Seuss/Seuss-inspired favorites: There’s a Wocket in My Pocket, Because a Bug Went Ka-choo! [KFDC Note: Someone just brought this to my attention about Dr. Seuss books.]

 

 

Freight Train, Donald Crews

This one is a must for the little train lover in your life. It’s short and simple, but will stop your busy toddlers in their tracks until it’s “going, going…gone!”. They won’t even realize they are learning their colors and prepositions, in addition to the trivial train lingo.

Another vehicle favorite: Good Night, Little Blue Truck

 

 

Nanette’s Baguette, Mo Willems

Reading is ten times more fun with the built-in theatrics that Mo Willems provides. This one is longer than his classics, but the plot is no more complex. Nanette must bring home a baguette before eating it all and being “beset with regret.” Show me a more clever rhyming book—I’ll wait!

Other Willems favorites: Waiting is Not Easy, The Pigeon Needs a Bath

 

 

The Good Egg, Jory John

From a young age we are taught to be “good,” which often leads to “perfect,” including everything around us. Relatable? Kids and adults alike will enjoy this one and the humorous way it teaches us to be kind to ourselves and accepting of others.

Also in the series: The Bad Seed, The Cool Bean, The Couch Potato

 

 

Mixed: A Colorful Story, Arree Chung

For preschoolers, the most powerful books on race use concepts and visuals from their own small worlds. This age-appropriate story about embracing our differences uses the whole color wheel and cartooned facial expressions to show how diversity makes a better place for all.

Other favorites that celebrate our differences: My Friend Maggie, Carrot & Pea

 

 

I Just Forgot, Mercer Mayer

There’s just something about Little Critter books—which were favorites of mine as a kid too. My youngest likes finding the hidden critters on each page. I assume my daughter can relate to the “I have more agency than you think” attitude mixed with the “mistakes are ok” messages.

Other Little Critter favorites: Just a Snowman, I Was So Mad

 

 

Tickle Time!, Sandra Boynton

Up your tickle time game with this simple board book by a classic author. Kids of all ages will enjoy the nonsensical strings of made up words, followed by being tickled high and low, and left and right. It’s a perfect almost-bedtime book when you need to reign the giggles into bed.

Another Boynton favorite: Dinosaur Dance

 

 

The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson

If I’ve learned anything from my countless hours of Paw Patrol viewing, it’s that kids love repetition and formulaic storytelling. The Gruffalo does this well, taking you on a journey through the woods and back again with masterful rhyming and humor.

Also in the series: The Gruffalo’s Child

 

 

Tuesday, David Wiesner

My daughter had me “read” her a word-less book for months, as if she was trying to memorize my ever-changing story. The almost word-less Tuesday will teach anyone the power of good illustration and storytelling. Bonus: you can make the story as short or as long as needed!

Another unconventional favorite: The Book with No Pictures

 

 

Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, Geoffrey Hayes

This comic style book depicts the love-hate relationship between young siblings better than I’ve seen anywhere else. Benny doesn’t want anything to do with his sister Penny, until he does. When he called her a dumb, bad little sister, well, that was just pretend.

Another favorite from the series: Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!

 

*What are your must-have children’s books? Share in the comments!

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Filed under 2021, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Educational, Preschoolers, Shop, Toddlers