[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’ activities around the DC area. See some of them here and here.]
Thanksgiving feasts and eight crazy nights and advent countdowns, oh my! Does your holiday season cup runneth over yet? December has only just begun, but if you are already feeling the weight of excess, this post about volunteering is for you.
In my Chrismukkah celebrating household, we have to work hard to make the holidays about traditions and family — because with two little ones, the presents can quickly take center stage. We knew that, like many, our traditions would need to involve giving back.
My [sometimes] mature preschooler seemed ready to get a first-hand lesson about privilege this year. I started looking for ways to expose her to those less fortunate, and for us to give back together. And guess what? Volunteer opportunities for four-year-olds do exist!
Comfort Cases, based in Rockville, MD, is a national organization that provides comfort and personal care items to youth entering the foster care system. Kids who literally have nothing but trash bags of belongings, are given brand new backpacks with brand new items inside.
Not only did this seem like the perfect place for us to volunteer, they also had lots of available time slots to choose from and no restrictions on age. They currently require proof of Covid vaccination or negative test results for volunteers age 12 or older.
Our service day was run by volunteers, creating a relaxed, communal feel. We walked in and immediately got started rolling fleece blankets. Next, we joined some girl scouts putting together packs of pencils and pens. My daughter was very excited to use the pencil sharpener.
But the best part for her was getting to put together a backpack for a young girl. She got to hand-select everything that went inside, including a stuffie, a journal, toiletries, and more items. She wrote her name on the finishing touch — a postcard that read “Prepared by Mia.”
After our time there ended, she was eager to do more and wanted to learn more about the kids who need parents and homes, let alone toiletries. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to volunteering.
Comfort Cases is located at 15825 Shady Grove Road #60, Rockville, MD 20850. Click here for information on volunteering and the available time slots. For more DC area volunteering opportunities where kids can help out too, check out this KFDC post.
Do you ❤️ celebrating Valentine’s Day with your little (and big) sweeties? If you’re looking for ways to celebrate (and prep for) the day, here are some ideas — both virtual and IRL — with something for everyone to love. Happy V-Day!
Spreading Kindness: Virtual Valentine Greetings
Where: At home
When: Through February 14
Admission: Your time and card making/baking efforts
Celebrate the Valentine’s Day by giving back with Eliana’s Light. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to create cards, poems, and paintings for children who have to be in a DC, MD, or VA pediatric hospital over the holiday. Pre-pandemic, these pieces of art would be delivered to their recipients, but this year volunteers should email them instead, and they will be shared through social media and email to give a boost to those who have been going through a lot over the past year due to the effects of COVID-19. This small act of kindness can have a big impact. More details about the program are here.
Virtual Workshop: Valentine Card Making
Where: The Paper Source | Online
When: February 10, 8-9:30pm
Feel the love with some Valentine fun at Paper Source’s annual workshop. Perfect for virtual a hang out with friends or some cozy solo crafting time. Make one-of-a-kind cards that you can gift to your bestie, significant other, or family on Valentine’s Day. Recommended for ages 14+. You will need to pick up recommended supplies.
Where: Sprinkles | Georgetown, DC
When: Order by February 9
Cost: Depends on your order
Sprinkle love to people you adore with Sprinkles Cupcakes seasonal boxes. They have special mixes, or you can customize your own. Orders must be places by February 9, and delivery or pick-up must be scheduled by February 14.
V’Day Sweet Shop
Where: Milk Bar | Logan Circle, DC
When: Through February 14
Cost: Depends on order
Milk Bar, the bakery that makes my favorite Birthday Cake, has special products for the holiday. Mini cakes, soft serve ice cream, and truffles are perfect desserts for an at-home date night or family celebration. Available for pick-up or delivery.
Make-Your-Own Sweet Treats
Where: Take home from Ice Cream Jubilee | DC & VA
When: Pre-order for pick up or local delivery Feb 11-14
Craft some sweeties with your sweetie! Ice Cream Jubilee is offering a make-at-home ice cream cookie kit especially for the holiday. It comes with sugar cookie dough, a heart cookie cutter, dark chocolate, Valentine’s sprinkles, and a pint of Bold Vanilla. Makes around 4 mini-sandwiches.
Naked at the Museum Virtual Scavenger Hunt (for adults)
Where: Watson Adventures | Onlines
When: February 12, 13, & 14
Watson Adventures’ wildly popular Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt is going virtual for the first time ever! Explore museums all over the country on a fun, flirty quest for beautiful and bizarre nudity in art. You might bump into a bronzed Adonis, encounter an incontinent Cupid, serenade moonlit sirens, walk in on handsy Egyptians, marvel at medieval codpieces, run across randy revelers, and see much more. Note: Participants must be clothed.
Virtual Nature Valentines
Where: Meadowside Nature Center | Online
When: February 13, 1-2pm
Consider collecting outdoor items to create your very own nature valentine. Before the program, go on a walk and collect nuts, sticks, and other natural items. During the program, participants will share why they collected items and assemble valentines. A suggested list of supplies will be emailed before the program to help prepare. An adult may need to assist the participant. This program will take place using Microsoft Teams. Recommended for ages 5+.
Hike & Seek: I [HEART] Nature
Where: Locust Grive Nature Center | Rockville, MD
When: February 14, 2-5pm
Looking for a little adventure? Work together with (or challenge!) your Valentines to nature trivia in a heart-themed scavenger hunt — it’s this month’s nature-themed Hike & Seek series puzzle. Register by Friday, February 12, to schedule a time slot and to receive a prize for completing the hunt. No drop-ins on the day of the program. Note that natural surface trails are not stroller accessible. See more about the program here.
Where: MLKing Jr. Recreational Park | Silver Spring, MD
When: February 14
Looking for a heart-healthy and fun activity for Valentine’s Day? Sign up for the Sweetheart Stroll at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Park on February 14th. Starting at 2pm, guests can walk or run along the 0.8-mile HeartSmart Trail. Be entertained and enchanted by multiple photo stations, string lights, and LOVE-ly decorations along the way. Watch for heartwarming messages along the path and a sparkling butterfly garden, too! Registration is required — see available time slots here.
Courtship in the Animal World Campfire
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park | Chantilly, VA
When: February 14, 6pm
What does it take to attract a mate in the animal world? Turtles, frogs, insects, birds and even fish all have unique techniques for finding that special someone. Learn about these techniques and enjoy a short hike before sitting around a campfire to roast marshmallows. Register in advance. Recommended for ages 4+.
Virtual Cake Pop Class
Where: Baked by Yael | Online
When: February 14, 4:30pm
Have your cake and eat it, too, at a virtual Baked by Yael cakepop class! They’ll teach you how to crumble the cake, mix it with frosting, and then roll, dip, and decorate your cakepops. The exact number of cakepops will vary depending on what size you choose to make your cakeballs. Some people end up with 12+ cakepops! The registration fee includes materials for one participant, a Home Cakepop Kit with baked cake, frosting, candy melts, edible glitter/sprinkles, cakepop sticks, and cakepop drying stand. (Please note that the gluten-free & vegan cakepops do not use frosting.). For just $25 more, we’ll include enough cake, frosting, candy melts, and cakepop sticks for an additional participant! See the website for more details.
Where: At Home
When: Whenever you have time
Admission: Just the cost of supplies
So, this is just my suggestion. One of my favorite annual programs is the National Postal Museum’s Valentine’s Day Card Workshop, and we tried to go every year. The museum would provide all kinds of supplies — pretty papers, stamps, washi tape, stickers, markers, and more — for guests to create Valentines. Everyone from families with young children to teens hanging out together to groups of adults attend, and there’s always a great sense of community. We’ll miss it this year, but we can still keep the make-your-own tradition going. So, grab some arty supplies and get creative at home. And make your loved ones’ (or a stranger’s — see the top listing) Valentine’s Day! And for more about the wonderful yet often overlooked Postal Museum (for when it’s open again), see this KFDC post.
The Valentine Dine
Where: Restaurants in Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: February 12-14
Love the one your with this Valentine’s Day Weekend and enjoy favorite Capitol Riverfront restaurants while you’re at it. Whether you’re planning to spend the day with your sweetheart, friends, or family, they’ve curated a list of the sweetest dining deals sure to send Cupid’s arrow through your heart. Choose from a romantic dinner-for-two options at Bammy’s, Maxwell Park, or Osteria Morini; daytime dining choices at Jackie, La Famosa, Scarlet Oak, or Slipstream; and the ultimate indulgence from Coldstone Creamery, Ice Cream Jubilee, and Jeni’s. The best part? ALL gift card options come with awesome discounts, plus complimentary desserts or drinks included with several deals. Order in advance!
Socially Distanced Date Nights for Everyone
Where: Restaurants in Adams Morgan, DC
When: February & March
Admission: Varies by place and activity
Adams Morgan is a great place for a date in DC, whether you’re a mom and daughter out for ice cream, a first date, or a married couple celebrating a double-digit anniversary. The Adams Morgan Partnership presents DATE NIGHTS with all kinds of specials, promotions and date lineups throughout the neighborhood during February and March 2021. Visit the website for a chart full of suggestions.
ET phone ARTECHOUSE? Digital face play at the gallery’s newest exhibit
Monday – Immerse in digital art at Future Sketches, the new exhibit at ARTECHOUSE. Enjoy fun and quirky digital designs, plus neat interactives that focus on faces. Hours are 10am – 6pm. Admission is $16-20/adult, $8-10/child (the lower price if you buy in advance), and you can find a discount here.
Tuesday – Roam the enchanting gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. The grounds don’t open to the public until 2pm, but you can play at nearby Montrose Park or grab a bite to eat on M Street beforehand. I promise, it’s worth waiting for the afternoon visit. Even better, admission is free to both — there’s never an entry fee at Montrose, and Dumbarton waives it from November 1 – mid-March.
Wednesday – Head to the Hirshhorn for their weekly STORYTIME program for little ones. During this session, have fun with brushstrokes! You’ll look at paintings by Pat Steir and explore color, lines, and color mixing. Following a reading of the book Mouse Paint, young artists will create their own colorful compositions and sculpturesThis takes place 10-11am. Admission is free.
Thursday – Explore and play — indoors and outside — at Potomac Overlook Park in Arlington. Visit the nature center where you can see turtles, snakes, and more creatures and learn about the area’s natural environment. Enjoy outdoor time, too… hike the short trails and let the kids romp on the playground. Hours are 10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is free.
In the evening, go see The REACH Winter Lanterns at the Kennedy Center, the special display of about 100 dazzling illuminations crafted by Chinese artisans. It’ll be lit up this week Thursday – Sunday starting at 5:30pm with extra activities indoors. It’s really fantastic for all ages! Admission is free.
Friday – Enjoy mountains of indoor adventures at Badlands Play Space. From active fun to creative explorations to learning experiences to relaxation options, including a cafe, the enormous facility in Rockville has it all! Hours are 9am – 6pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Admission is $20/child, $12.50/toddler, $5/adult.
[Note: This is a Guest Post contributed by Rachel Usdan, the DC Chapter Leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. And I did not make her write that first line. 🙂 ]
I am a big fan of the KidFriendly DC blog, reading it regularly since my children were born to plan out our weekly adventures in the DC area. I have always tried to teach my children about current events in a kid-friendly way, too, and to include them in civic-minded activities like taking them in the voting booth with me to help press the buttons and get their “I voted” sticker.
Two years ago, when I learned that my then 3-year-old was enduring active shooter drills in his pre-K classroom, I realized that he already knew more about gun violence than I had hoped. So, I have also involved my children in gun violence prevention activism since I started volunteering for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It’s actually not surprising that a movement started by moms (but open to dads, grandmas, and everyone else, too!) is in fact very kid-friendly.
Are you interested in getting involved in Moms Demand Action with your children? Here are a few activities that parents and kids of all ages can have fun doing together:
Wear Orange Picnic Wear Orange is National Gun Violence Awareness weekend. The community building event takes place in June every year. Last month DC Moms Demand Action came together for a family-friendly picnic in Anacostia Park with a survivor speaker, a voter registration table, food, face painting, kites, giant Jenga, and Frisbees.
Tabling at Community Events
We do tabling for a variety of reasons. It’s a great way to talk to people in the community about gun violence prevention, educate them on the Be Smart program, describe ways that they can get involved with Moms Demand Action, and even directly help them register to vote. We had a table at the Garfield Community Day block party in Ward 8 last week, where we talked to parents, grandparents, and community leaders about the gun violence affecting their lives. I brought my 6-year-old with me, convincing him that he could be my helper and that there might be a popsicle in it for him at the end. Not only was he excellent at applying temporary tattoos to other kids’ arms, he also had a total blast playing Frisbee with a police officer, getting soaked in the huge stream of water from a fire hose, and gobbling up a quickly melting popsicle.
Moms Demand Action is going to do tabling at the H Street Festival on September 15. We are also planning to do tabling several other times this fall specifically to register voters. You can Like or Follow the Moms Demand Action – DC Facebook Page and Text READY to 64433 to stay posted on upcoming events.
Canvassing for Gun Sense Political Candidates
We started young with our children and took them on daytrips to nearby Virginia to canvass when they were infants. With preschoolers, we made sure to pack lots of snacks and mapped out a playground pitstop to get some of their (and our) wiggles out in between door knocking. I’ll never forget when my then 5-year-old son decided to impersonate Hillary Clinton while he knocked on doors (“Knock, knock, this is Hillary Clinton at your door!”). With older children, tweens, and teens, the motivation might not be a playground or a snack, but they would be old enough to make a fun game out of seeing which parent/child team can get through the door-knocking list first.
The DC chapter of Moms Demand Action will be joining up with the chapter in neighboring Virginia to help with their canvassing events throughout the fall to help elect gun sense candidates — because a safer VA is a safer DC. We may also work with chapters in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania depending on candidate needs and volunteer capacity.
Activities that parents can do with teens:
DC Chapter Meetings
We typically hold meetings once a month. Our next one is taking place Sunday, July 15, 4-6pm, at We Act Radio (1918 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE). We will hear from Ron Moten, an Urban Violence Prevention Specialist and DC Community Organizer. RSVP and read more about it here!
Gun Sense Action Network
Are you and your teens looking for the most effective way for DC residents to influence gun sense legislation? Join the Gun Sense Action Network, a phone calling program that you can do from the convenience of your home. Our chapter is also planning to hold several phonebanking parties in the upcoming months to help elect gun sense candidates in the midterm elections. Again, you can Like/Follow the Moms Demand Action – DC Facebook Page and text READY to 64433 to stay up to date as we finalize these events.
Attending Hearings on the Hill
We are uniquely positioned here in the nation’s capital such that when the House or the Senate holds a hearing on a piece of gun safety legislation, the DC, VA, and MD chapters of Moms Demand Action throw on our red shirts and head to the Hill to let our lawmakers know we are following how they vote on these lifesaving laws. I think older kids would be fine attending hearings. They can be long and boring, but a child could bring coloring or another quiet activity. I’ve seen young children as well, but most are usually being entertained by an iPad with earphones (just FYI).
Students Demand Action
If you have a teen aged 14+ who is motivated to be involved on their own and with their friends, invite them to join the DC chapter of Students Demand Action! Many tweens and teens have begun to take this movement to the next level by forming chapters of Students Demand Action in cities and states across the US. Here in DC, high school students from across the city had their very first DC Students Demand Action meeting in June. They have jumped right in and have already created a Facebook Page and an Instagram account. They will be involved when the March for Our Lives Road to Change Bus Tour stops in DC on August 5, and are starting to plan other actions specifically for local students. Students can join by texting STUDENTS to 64433.
You can also help some of their efforts by donating to a GoFundMe campaign created by Lauryn Renford, an amazing DC Students Demand Action leader. She is raising money for a mural to memorialize DC youth who have been killed by gun violence, including her boyfriend, Zaire Kelly. She has already commissioned artists, found a wall, and received permission from the city. All she needs is enough money.
You can also help support the efforts of the Moms Demand Action DC Chapter, by making a contribution. Funds help support our work on the Hill and in the local community. We are a 501(c)3 organization.
Rachel Usdan is the DC Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She lives in DC with her children and husband. When she isn’t being an engineer or a volunteer, she likes to do arts & crafts projects and eat dark chocolate.
The Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill
Monday – Check out your local library! Drop in for story time, sing-a-longs, arts & crafts, and other activities, or just go to browse for books. See this post from the very early KFDC days for a little background and quick links to libraries around the area. Hours vary by location, admission is free. (Update: A KFDC readers just pointed out some libraries are closed in observance of Emancipation Day. For more ideas of things to do on the rainy day, check out The Great Indoors post.)
In the afternoon and evening, travel back in time with the National Park Service for Emancipation Day at Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. Relive the moment in DC’s history when Frederick Douglass gave his famous keynote address in Lincoln Park during the 1876 Emancipation statue dedication. The fun-filled day will honor Douglass’ legacy, celebrate and explore the significance of Emancipation Day, and highlight the importance of historic Lincoln Park. This will all take place from 2-8pm. Admission is free.
Tuesday – Catch a performance of Arts on the Horizon’s Outside the Lines at The Lab of Convergence in Alexandria, VA. The show about two pen pals, Bud and Vi, who brighten each other’s lives from afar, is recommended for ages 2-5. Showtime is 10:30am, and tickets are $9.
Wednesday – Go over the rainbow and beyond at Watkins Regional Park. There is so much for all ages to enjoy. The adorable Wizard of Oz themed playground will keep little ones frolicking for hours. You can also visit the animals at Old Maryland Farm, then head to the Watkins Nature Center to view some cool creatures and birds. Along with animals inside, look for frogs in the pond right outside and do some bird watching and visit the owls, then hike the short trails nearby. Park hours are dawn to dusk, 9am – 4pm at the Farm, and 8:30am – 5pm at the Nature Center. Admission is free.
Thursday – Enjoy a hike and a dose of history all at once at Roosevelt Islandt. The trails are easy for little legs to tramp, and you can explore the Memorial Plaza to learn about the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. The entrance to the park is located right off the GW Parkway, just past the Roosevelt Bridge, and accessible only from the northbound lanes. Hours are 6am – 10pm, and admission is free. Get a little more of the KFDC take on it in this post about local walks in the woods with kids.
Friday – Rock out with Alex and the Kaleidoscope at Discovery Theater, located in the Smithsonian Ripley Center (next to the Freer|Sackler Gallery). Emmy Award-winning children’s arts educator Alex Mitnick will be your musical guide for an Earth Day celebration of the treasures of the planet. Show times are 10:15am & 11:30am (Friday, too!). Enjoy some outdoor time after the concert — roam the lovely Haupt Garden right behind the Smithsonian Castle, ride the carousel on the National Mall, and/or see art al fresco in the Hirshhorn and National Gallery of Art Sculpture.