Wee Bits: The Best Family Board Games, Barre Class With Babies, the Cleaning Product You Really Need This Winter, and How To Get Sleep As A New Parent

News, events, reads and other tidbits for Philly parents this week. Read more

wee bits late fall

Tis the season for family gatherings, which means it’s also the season for board games. The Strategist gives us their best picks. 

Heads up! This Saturday, you can take a barre class — with your baby! — at Y2BFit for $10. The baby-wearing barre class focuses on strengthening your core and pelvic floor, and all you need is a carrier, receiving blanket, grippy socks (available for rent or purchase) and bebe!

Hahaha: the big book of parent-child fights. (Via the New Yorker.)

Huh. The NYT reports that Americans value equality at work more than equality at home. (Though views seem to be changing with each generation.)

Speaking of workplace equality, I really, really loved this Cut piece on why we need older women in the workplace. I can’t help but think that many of my favorite, most impressive, inspirational co-workers of all time have been women who are older than me.

Also from the Times: How to prevent the flu this winter? Evidently, it’s insane levels of cleaning with bleach. 

The Cut tells us how to get 6 hours of sleep as a new mom. 

Thank you, NPR, for the best books of 2018 (in a handy searchable guide!) 

FYI, y’all might want to put this on your calendar! In January, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy is hosting the 2019 camp fair. It’s open to the public (and free!), and will feature more than 80 local, regional, national and international camps and summer programs for every age, interest and budget. Details are here!

Hey, Philly is GQ’s city of the year!

Inspiring Thoughtful, Engaged Citizens

A local preschool with an awesome way of incorporating a love of community into everything it teaches Read more

germantown friends early education

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As you all might remember, we’ve written before about Germantown Friends Schools Early Childhood Program, and how the age-old (but extremely timely!) Quaker tenets — Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship — are baked right into the curriculum.

While it’s probably not so unusual for preschoolers and pre-kindergartners to talk about these ideas and learn the basic concepts, one of the things that sets GFS apart is how integrated these values are with everyday learning — and in fact, how integrated all of the studies are, even for the very littlest learners. Here, social studies mesh with art, which connect with math, literacy, concepts of peace and community, and so forth. “We’re planting the seeds of understanding that we’re all interconnected, as are all kinds of learning,” says GFS Early Childhood Director Sarah McMenamin. “There’s nothing that happens in isolation.”

So, for example, if we’re talking about teaching four-year-olds to think about their role in the community, the lesson goes well beyond reading a book. It’s woven through a series of projects that the children do throughout the year, like, for instance, in a self-portrait unit that allows the little ones to think about self-identification. (“Who am I?” What makes me me?”) The teachers talk about faces, facial symmetry, and features; the children learn to mix paint colors to create new colors that match their own skin. Then they draw themselves, and they paint their self-portraits with the colors they created.

That focus on self soon expands outward to help the children shift from thinking about their own identities to considering those of the people around them. In the “Child of the Day” unit, for example, the kids conduct little interviews with, yes, the designated child of the day. (“What’s your favorite story?” “What’s your favorite color?” “Do you like swimming or painting?”) Then, the children work together to create an illustrated biography of the featured classmate using the information they have gathered.

Throughout the project, Sarah says, the kids are developing many different skills — social studies, artistic discovery, language development, and understanding the difference between questioning and commenting …for starters. “And, of course, they learn about each other, and develop a way to communicate with one another.”

Meanwhile, the next phases of the project include thinking about what kinds of questions the kids would like to ask the adults in the school community (the school chef, the nurse, the head of security), and then they interview those folks. “And we also talk about how the school is a microcosm of the larger world around us,” Sarah says. “So much of this is learning about our similarities and our differences, and what makes our communities special.”

It would be easy for me to go on here about other cool cross-curricular projects the little ones get to do. (Like how, for instance, as they explore the idea of their place in the community throughout the year, the kids get a chance to dabble in everything from grid-mapping to photography, or how the teachers celebrate the diversity in their class by having the students’ family members come in and talk about their own traditions.) At this point, though, you probably get the general idea of just how thoughtful and creative the learning experiences are for GFS preschoolers and pre-k’ers.

“The beauty of cross-curricular learning like this is that we’re creating learners who understand that they can explore and discover information virtually anywhere,” Sarah says. “Learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and so much of what we do is interrelated.”

Want to know more about the early education program, or GFS in general? You can visit the site for the Center City Campus (which is in Old City, in the Curtis building, and opened just last year) or the Main Campus in Germantown.


Wee Bits: An ADHD Bombshell, Refusing To Overspend This Season, Best 2018 Books, and a Whole Bunch of Holiday Stuff To Do With Kids

Reads, news, events and other tidbits for Philly parents this week Read more

wee bits wee wander

Welp, it’s time again for our annual reminder of how to pluralize your last name! Via Slate.

This story/controversy about rock ‘n plays (which, I have to say, we used a lot for baby napping) is so sad and alarming, and raises some very real issues. (WSJ)

Guys, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is getting an actual store! The Shop at Puttyworld in Norristown opens this Saturday — the grand opening is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — and it’s going to have more than 100 varieties of putty!

Ice sculptures! Gingerbread-making at Play Arts! Santa at Frankford Hall! This Fishtown Freeze event sounds awesome. Dec. 8.

Also Dec. 8: Smith Memorial Playground is hosting its Winter Wonderland event with ice sculpture, s’mores, a petting zoo, live music and more fun stuff. $10 per kid and free for members and Access card holders.

Lots of tree lightings still happening, y’all, and Visit Philly has cataloged them …  (and they have a whole bunch of holiday guides worth checking out, as well …)

Here’s your reading list for 2019! (Via NYT)

Well, this sounds cool: Figmano — a “drop-in holiday experience” that runs from Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. December 1 to December 29 — is a self-guided 45 minute treasure hunt through the studio of renowned muralist Meg Saligman. (It’s done up like a winter wonderland, and little ones — and parents — can collect silver bells as they walk through the studio, post in a life-sized holiday card, shadow dance with Santa, and more fun, out-of-the-ordinary stuff.) It’s been described as part art installation, part museum, and part escape room adventure. $10 for adults, $8 for students and kids 4 to 15, and free for kids 3 and under. Tickets are here.

From NPR: Milwaukee Girl Who Condemned Gun Violence Is Killed By Bullet. (She was 13.)

Related: We should all go buy some Toms?

Y’all, there’s a new exhibit in town — Independence Seaport Museum just opened River Alive, a huge exhibition that focuses on the life and challenges of the Delaware River watershed. It’s got a ton of interactive, high-tech, artistic and hands-on components, as well as field stations for learning. Nice to have a new stop on the riverfront!

This New Yorker piece is one of the saddest things I read about the horrors of separation moms and kids at our border (and I read a LOT of sad stories about that), because it’s so spot-on: as a mother, the pain of even thinking about separation from a nursing baby is personal, and it is physical. I will read parts of this to my Senator the next time I call (tomorrow).

Another bit of holiday fun for y’all — at the Please Touch Museum’s Polar Express event, kids can meet and share their wish list with Santa and Mrs. Claus, then settle in (in their PJs!) for a story time of, yes, The Polar Express. Saturday, Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m.

This bit of info about ADHD is not so surprising.

Really, truly smart advice on how not to overspend and blow your budget on gifts this season. Via the Cut.

Y’all, the Museum of the American Revolution has a ton of fun stuff planned for families all throughout the month of December.

Wee Spotlight: A Holiday Sing-Along Show… With Princesses!

Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Princess Holiday Concert is pretty hard to top. Read more

Philadelphia Theatre Company Holiday Princess Show

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If you’re one of the bajillion or so parents whose life soundtrack consists of songs sung by animated princesses (and the children who love them), well, have we got the holiday show for you: Philadelphia Theatre Company is bringing back its wildly popular A Dream Is a Wish: Princess Holiday Concert this year, for one day only — December 16.

The show, which is a live concert sing-along, features nine favorite princesses — Sofia, Cinderella, Elsa, Mulan, Moana, Belle, and more. The narrative of the performance is lovely — the grownup princesses teach Sofia the benefits of being herself — but for my money, the sing-along portion is the real highlight: Everyone gets a chance to belt out their favorite tunes, from “Jingle Bells” to “Let It Go,” along with some of their favorite movie characters.

As if all of this isn’t magical enough for your little theater-goer, there’s also this: The ticket price includes a post-show princess meet-and-greet reception, complete with photo ops, cider and cookies. The kids — princesses and princes alike — are encouraged to come in costume, for a little extra adorableness.

If you’re into the idea of catching a performance, you should know that the show quickly sold out last year. Happily, this year, PTC is offering two shows (and one is sensory-friendly). Details are below!

Here, the details:
What: Philadelphia Theatre Company’s  A Dream Is a Wish: Princess Holiday Concert
When: December 16, at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (The 6 p.m. show is sensory-friendly.)
For whom: The show, which runs just under 60 minutes, is family-friendly and aimed at children 3 years and up.
Where: The Suzanne Roberts Theatre
How: The seating is reserved in advance; get your ticket ($35 a person) here. You can also get four-ticket packages at a 10-percent discount.


On Marathons, Vomit and Motherhood

Stamina is something moms understand quite well Read more

Philadelphia Marathon moms

This past weekend was, as most of you know, the Philadelphia Marathon. I have always marveled at people who run marathons, as running for 26 miles straight is an extremely impressive feat that I have absolutely no desire to do. I feel about marathoners nearly the same way I feel about people who climb a really huge, dangerous mountain or do 21-day cleanses or tackle some other theoretically good-for-you-but-terribly-difficult thing in order to push themselves to the limit, to prove to themselves that they can, in fact, do this terribly difficult thing. Good for them, I think; for me, no. I do not have that gene. I would no sooner decide to climb Mt. Everest than I would decide to break my own jaw.

I’ll be honest: Sometimes these particular disinclinations makes me feel … I don’t know. Lazy? Unambitious? Incurious about my own abilities? I recently found myself thinking about this — about stamina, and pushing the boundaries of what I think I am capable of doing — in the middle of the night. My child, suffering from the same tummy bug that felled his father, threw up pitifully in his hallway on the way to the bathroom, and then slipped and fell right into it, snow angel-style. I watched the whole thing in slow motion, then died a million tiny deaths as my brain put together what just happened, and who, exactly, was supposed to be in charge of this situation. (Brain: “Wait. Oh, God. It’s me.”)  

And then, that thing kicked in — that drive that you hear runners talk about, that feeling like you’re at mile 20, and you still have to keep going or collapse, and so you keep going. You know, a magical, almost out-of-body sense of forward motion that happens in spite of you and your desires and perceived limitations. (A.K.A., motherhood in a nutshell.)

I picked my son up, stripped off his befouled PJs, clucked in sympathy while I carried him into the bathroom to finish barfing, then got him washed and settled back in before scrubbing the floor, gathering and washing the towels, and taking a second pass at the hallway when I realized the baseboards and walls had gotten hit, too. And reader, I didn’t so much as flinch. Me! Lifelong sympathetic vomiter! Not so much as a dry heave. It was nothing short of a parenting miracle.

I should say right now that there are millions of moms out there who do legitimately heroic things for their children every day — mothers who are refugees, mothers whose kids have health issues, moms who overcome real and seemingly impossible obstacles for their kids, who battle way more than just a strong aversion to vom.

But my point here is that parenting small children in general is an almost-daily exercise in showing you that you are capable of more than you ever imagined you could be and in surprising yourself with your own grit. What, you didn’t know you could carry a napper, a backpack, your laptop, a purse, a bag of diapers, a baby, and a stroller onto a Philadelphia bus. (“Ha,” some of you are saying. “I do that every day — with two kids!”) Or that you could function shockingly well on 4.5 hours of sleep for 6 months of your life? Or that, like one friend of mine, you were capable of removing an almost-dead mouse from the trap, killing it, and taking it out to the trash before the children came down and saw it and were forever scarred?

You see what I’m saying, here. It’s basically mini-Mt. Everests day after day. (With less layers and more laundry.)

And anyway, forget the mountaineers — they’re nuts. But I will say congrats to all the marathon runners out there (impressive!), and congrats, too, to all the regular mothers (also impressive!). I consider us all very deserving of cheering sections and people handing us bananas for fuel and also a giant carb-heavy brunches celebrating stamina, commitment and goals met.*

*And you marathon runners who are moms?! They need a special medal just for you. 


Photo courtesy: M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia 

NEW! A NEW Center City Aquatic Facility Opens Soon

And it’s going to have swim lessons, lap-swimming memberships and more! Read more

fitness alive philadelphia pools swim lessons

Y’all have read here before about Fitness Alive, the South Philly-based swim school (headed up by the longtime Phllly fave Holly Waters and partner — and Wee friend — Emily Leaman), which is beloved for its small-group classes, popular Friday-night family swims and private lesson for littles and grownups. Well now Waters and crew have just announced that they’re expanding into Center City with a NEW SPACE — a four-lane indoor lap pool at 1425 Arch Street.

The pool will open in early 2019, and you’ll be able to take lessons there, attend small-group classes (from Baby Bubbles to adult swim sessions), throw birthday parties or other events, and hit up the Family Swim Nights. Also at this new location? A lap-swimming membership for adults, water-and-land personal training (using in-pool and on-deck workouts), aquatic fitness for adults, and swim clinics and camps for kids. (Bonus: Brand new locker rooms with spa-like showers, a family-changing bathroom and elevator access for strollers.)

“We’re different from a lot of other swim programs in that we keep our class sizes intentionally small,” Leaman says. “Our instructors aim to personally connect with each swimmer and understand what makes them tick, so that our swimmers learn faster, have more confidence and feel more secure in the water.”

Excited? Curious? You can get more info about the opening here, and we’ll keep you posted when the place debuts. Yay!