There is a silver lining to the post-Halloween slump of chilly days and early nights: West Side Play Space (WSPS) is reopening its doors for a 4th year of play this November!


West Side Play Space was founded by a group of parents on Providence’s West Side, transforming four classroom spaces in the former Asa Messer Elementary School Annex into a gathering space for play and community-building for kids 0-5 and their caregivers. The space includes a tumbling area, make believe/dress up area, reading nooks, and art supplies and projects. There also is a dedicated snack space, occasional special events, and opportunities for members to rent the space for birthday parties.


So how does it work? Parents and registered caregivers can drop in anytime during weekday and weekend open play hours with their children. In keeping with the vision to foster community among families, West Side Play Space operates as a co-op. Families contribute $10/month plus one volunteer shift per month. There is also an option to try out the space by paying a $10 daily drop-in. WSPS is open to all, not just Providence residents.


West Side Play Space is kicking off the 2016 November-April with a *free* Open House on Saturday, November 5 from 1:00 - 5:00pm for existing and prospective members as an opportunity to check out the space, enjoy some snacks and get to know the community.

This winter, look out for 3-week design mini-sessions offered to 6-9 year olds in collaboration with DownCity Design.


The Details:



A Families First RI mother and her twin babies with mentor.

A Families First RI mother and her twin babies with mentor.

It takes a whole village to raise a child -Igobo and Yoruba (Nigeria) Proverb

No matter what her circumstances, even with the most abundant resources surrounding her, when a woman becomes a new mother her hormones surge, her sleep is deprived, and her life as she knows it is completely rocked. When stressors like post-partum depression, lack of family proximity or support, single parenting, health problems, or financial concerns are added to the universally-experienced demands and fears of new-parenthood, the weight is simply too much to bear alone.

One local organization is bringing “the village” that much closer to mothers in need of a helping hand and listening ear. Families First RI is a non-profit organization that matches pregnant women and new mothers with compassionate, experienced mothers trained as volunteer mentors in the innovative “Moms for Moms” program. In this unique relationship, the lives of the mentor, mother, baby and entire family are positively impacted. Executive Director Beth Hurt, whose involvement with Families First RI began as a mentor, posed, “How often in your life can you help someone so directly, supporting a person in the most vulnerable time in her life?”

How to Get Involved

Be Matched with a Mentor
If you are in the late stages of pregnancy or the mother of a new baby and feel you could benefit from a weekly visit in your home to ask questions, share concerns, and receive guidance from an experienced mother mentor, all you need to do is reach out. The program is free of charge. A Families First RI clinician will do an initial visit to learn more about you for your match and help guide you toward additional resources if needed.

Become a Mentor
Perhaps you’ve made it to “the other side” of your own early parenting struggles and want to be there for a new mother in a way you wished someone had been there for you. After participating in a 4-week training with Families First RI clinicians, you will be asked to commit weekly 1-hour visits for a 1-year minimum with a mother to offer confidential, non-judgmental support, mom-to-mom.

Monthly Community Gatherings
Families First RI offers monthly Community Gatherings which feature guest speakers and an opportunity for parents to connect and nurture themselves while babies and older children play together. Community Gatherings are open to all families with an infant – you don’t have to be involved in the Moms for Moms program. These drop-in events are held the first Saturday of the month from 10:30-12:00 at the First Unitarian Church of Providence at 1 Benevolent St., Providence. The next Community Gathering is May 7, 2016, then they will take a break during the summer. Check back at the website for fall gatherings.

Annual BBQ Fundraiser at Mulligan’s Island
Support the mission of Families First RI while having a blast at this family event featuring BBQ fare, live music, a silent auction/raffle in addition to the usual fun Mulligan’s Island activities: miniature golf, pitch & putt, driving range, batting cages. There will also be a golf tournament on Mulligan’s 9-hole, Par 3 course. This year’s event honors the Kristen Kardos, MA Ed., and Kathy McGuigan, LCSW of Rhode Island New Moms Connection for their impact on the RI community of pregnant and new mothers.

MomForMomsLogo-HD copy

When: Saturday, May 21, 2016 from 3:00 – 6:00 PM
Where: Mulligan’s Island Golf & Entertainment Center, 1000 New London Ave., Cranston, RI
Tickets: $30 for regular admission, $15 for children aged 3-11, $50 for golf tournament (includes regular admission, space is limited)
Purchase tickets HERE

For more information on Families First RI – Moms for Moms
To be matched with a mentor or learn about volunteering as a mentor, contact Tania at (401) 383-9933 or email
Follow them on Facebook

By Michele Meek, ShelfDig

No one can deny the convenience of online shopping. Even my grandmother is ordering gifts from Amazon now. Still, many of us want to support our local stores. And believe me, the stores want that too.

So a group of us created ShelfDig—a website that enables you to browse and search the store shelves right here in Providence.

This year, why not try to buy all (or at least most) of your holiday presents locally? I’ve compiled a list of gifts for babies, children and teens, and you might be surprised by the variety of gifts you can find right here in Providence, many of them even locally made.

Gifts for Babies & Toddlers


Screen-Printed Onesies

These cotton baby onesies make unique gifts. Each one has its own decoration—a series of hearts, a tiger, or Martian. Locals might especially appreciate the “Don’t Mess with Rhode Island Either” design with a little RI within an outline of Texas. | $22

Cool Pop Teether 

Teething babies (3 months and up) will enjoy this colorful silicone teether in the shape of an ice pop. | $9.95

Animal Ornaments

These porcelain animal ornaments created by New Jersey artist Beth DiCara make a charming decoration for children’s rooms (although they’re definitely for show, not for play). | $18

Baby’s First Book: Nesting Dolls

Rag and Bone Bindery's best-selling baby book helps parents keep memories and mementos from baby’s first year. | $72

Milkbarn Swaddle Baby Blanket 
These 100% organic cotton swaddle blankets decorated with white roses or little foxes are perfect as nursing covers or stroller blankets. | $27

Annicke Mouse: Handmade Stuffed Animal

Made from light brown organic cotton fleece, with a hand-embroidered face and striped cotton lining on her floppy ears, Annicke is perfect for newborns because it doesn't have any buttons or strings. | $42

Gray Baby Kowali Kozyhat 

Gray and black fleece hat for babies. | $22

Plush Mini Creatures 

Handmade colorful soft toy stuffed creatures by Mr. Sogs Creatures. | $18-$46

Little Miss Austin: A BabyLit Counting Primer 

Designed to introduce 'little bibliophiles' to the romantic world of Jane Austen with a stroll through one English village to meet two rich gentlemen and discover what happens when the five Bennet sisters encounter four marriage proposals. | $9.99

Star Capes

Let kids create their own superheroes with these locally-made shiny and whimsical star capes. | $26

123 Beach Board Book

A beach-themed counting book is perfect for Ocean State children and babies. | $7.95

Touch and Learn Preschool Playbook

Preschoolers can learn numbers, alphabet, spelling and more with this compact electronic learning device that looks and feels like a book. | $23.99

Lion Bookends

Gold or white-colored lion bookends can decorate baby’s room. | $40

Gifts for Children


Handmade Car Seat Organizers

A great gift for kids and parents, these organizers hang from the back of the front seat and contain compartments to hold pens, pencils, books, tablets and more to keep children’s activities (read: clutter) in the car more organized. | $39

Lacing Cards Children’s Art Set

Children ages five and up can practice ‘sewing’ with these Children of the World Lacing Cards set from Eeboo. | $18

Children’s Height Chart

This refrigerator magnet height chart helps keep track of kids’ height. | $12.95

Wooden Bake & Decorate Cupcake Set 

A Melissa & Doug wooden cupcake set includes cupcake tray, cupcakes, icing tops, cupcake sleeves, candles, icing markers and oven mitt so children can celebrate birthdays any time they want. | $19.99


This variation on Bingo has been a favorite in our house. Both pre-readers and readers alike can play (recommended for ages four and up). | $19.99

Hand-Stitching Project: Owl

Crafty kids will enjoy being able to hand-stitch (with a little help, perhaps) their own stuffed animal. The kit includes pattern, instructions, and all materials necessary to complete the animal. Also available in Cat, Kangaroo, Fox and Whale. | $20

Skull Piggy Bank

These colorful ceramic skull-themed piggy banks can contain loose change in older kids’ rooms. | $15

Roominate Chateau Wired Building Kit

This Roominate chateau-building kit includes wires and designable furniture to teach children important STEM-related skills like basic circuitry, wheels and pulleys, and creativity. | $49.99

Geomag Color

This classic Geomag product contains magnetic rods and nonmagnetic steel spheres that combine to create an unlimited number of structures, for ages three and up. | $36

Peruvian Musical Instruments

Form your own kid band with a bamboo flute, painted maracas, a wooden mallet and metal chimes, and other instruments. | $10-28

Shrinky Dinks Refill Pack 

The old-fashioned technology of Shrinky Dinks still amazes. This refill pack includes six sheets of shrinkable plastic so children can imagine their own shapes and designs. $9.50

Set Card Game

This game of visual perception is officially for ages 8 and up, but we’ve played it with children as young as four (for them, we often take out one of the ‘layers’ – shading, shape, color, number). It’s as fun (and challenging) for adults as it is for kids. | $13.99

Make Your Own Bunny Puppet Kit 

Children ages four and up can make their own bunny puppet with this kit that includes a plush puppet body, fabric puppet parts, non-toxic glue, and instructions, along with puppet show ideas and a stage scene ready to color. | $18

Monster Pendants

These locally designed pendants by Lucky Bird Studios and Fishcakes feature a variety of themes to suit any tastes, from ‘I Heart Pie’ to ‘I Heart Pi’. | $26

Small Earthlust Water Bottles

Kids will find these BPA-free stainless steel water bottles with bird, elephant and owl designs ‘very grown-up’. | $16

Children’s Books

Ada Books offers gently used children’s books like Pairs: Twins and Other Twosomes, Mad About Monkeys and Leo: A Ghost Story. | Various prices.

Snap Circuits: Light

This circuit kit includes 55 parts that snap together with ease so children can make projects like a strobe light or lights that change to the beat of music.  | $79.99

Toysmith Juggling Balls

A set of three colorful juggling balls is perfect for beginners. | $ 7.95

Gifts for Teens



Choose from a variety of colorful skateboard decks, then choose a wheel color and truck to design your own skateboard. | $50 for decks; $20-$50 other parts.

Vampire Earrings

Here’s a pair they might not have already—a pair of vampire earrings. | $10

Fjallraven Kanken Backback

This iconic Swedish-designed backpack is durable and water-repellent, with adjustable straps. | $80

PARL Paw Print Bangle 

Animal lovers will appreciate this handcrafted paw print bangle with 20% of your purchase donated to the Providence Animal Rescue League (PARL). | $35

The Sharman-Caselli Tarot Deck 

An illustrated Tarot card deck created for the first time tarot card user. | $24

Decorative Cell Phone Covers

Celebrate sports teams (Yankees, Bruins, etc), Superheros (Batman, Hulk, etc) and other themes with a decorative cell phone cover. | Various prices.

Joe’s Jeans

Ripped jeans, white jeans, or simple blue jeans by Joe’s Jeans. | Various prices.

Earrings from Around the World

Earrings in a variety of shapes, colors and styles from around the world. | Various prices.

Leather-Bound Journal

A leather-bound journal (various sizes) makes a great gift for a budding writer or artist, or any teen that might appreciate the “old-fashioned” arts. | $32-42

Rhode Island Bag

This natural cotton canvas bag features a Rhode Island map filled with pictures, icons and city names. | $20

S'well Wood Collection Water Bottle 

This stainless steel water bottle, painted to imitate wood, keeps drinks cold for 24 hours, or hot for 12. Plus, for every Wood Collection bottle sold, S’well will plant a tree. | $36-48

Classic Books

In this selection of remainder books from Symposium, you’ll find classics like Ulysses or On the Genealogy of Morals, along with books by Nabokov, Faulkner, Proust, Hunter S. Thomas and Chaucer. | Various prices.

Rock Earrings 

Providence-based artist Margaret Hinge makes these handcrafted stone earrings. | $40


How about a shiny new bicycle? Find road racing, touring, upright hybrids, and mountain bikes in all colors and sizes. | Various prices.

Round Hanging Terrarium

Here’s an idea for an eco-friendly room design—grow a plant in a round hanging glass terrarium. | $30.50

Graphic Novels

Graphic novels and comic books, like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby and Gahan Wilson’s Sunday Comics, fill this shelf. | Various prices.

Hair Sticks

Made from carved wood with white inlaid patterns, each of these hair sticks features a unique design. | $12

Converse Sneakers

The classic sneaker still holds up—high-top and regular Converse sneakers in all colors. | $50

Designer Sneakers

Or if you know your teen wants the Nike Air Huarache or the Adidas Tokyo Purple Sneakers or the New Balance 996, browse this shelf for designer sneakers. And when you buy local, it makes it easier to exchange for a different size! | Various prices.

ShelfDig enables shoppers to browse, search and discover online the products available in stores in their local community. A semi-finalist in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, ShelfDig currently has partnerships with over 60 stores in the Providence area and launched to the public in the beginning of November 2015.


The holidays are here and the “Family Performance Series,” Artists’ Exchange’s newest family-friendly programming, is the perfect activity to entertain all of your family members for little to no cost.  Series performances began in September and will run through May 2016, with shows on Saturday mornings from 11:00am-12:00pm at Theatre 82 & Café, located at 82 Rolfe Square in Cranston.  Admission is “Pay What You Can” with a suggested donation of $5.00 per person.

Each Saturday is unique and guaranteed to engage and entertain your toddler and teen, your spouse and grandparent, and everyone in between.  Upcoming performances feature a line-up of theater professionals with experience entertaining families, youth, and children in puppetry, music, interactive storytelling, improvisational theater, dance, and more.

Photo6Ben GilbergBigNazo

“Laugh Out Loud” is every second Saturday of the month and “Big Day” is the last Saturday of the month.  Join “The Club” in “Laugh Out Loud” and be a member who follows the Club Rules: “Have Fun,” “Be You,” “Speak Your Mind,” “Play Games,” and “Dream Big.”  Act out stories, read and sing, be silly, and laugh with your new friends Lauren, Davey, Jessie, and Tommy.  In “Big Day,” you will celebrate daily holidays – ranging from favorites to rare to bizarre but incredibly fun – with Dr. Phineas P.T. Pretorius, festival presenter extraordinaire, and his sidekick, Larry, with sketches, stories, songs, and funny!

Sparky'spuppetspiratepostcardnotext-2Puppets and storytellers will delight you on the remaining dates with renowned performers including: the BIG NAZO Mini-Creature Show (November 21stJanuary 6th, and April 2nd), Marc Kohler, Sparky’s Puppets, and Marc Levitt.  Visit or contact Jessica Chace, Theatre Director, at 401-490-9475, for full schedule and information.

Artists' Exchange is a nonprofit arts collaborative whose mission is to create an atmosphere in which creativity, learning, and discovery converge and individuality is celebrated.  Home to multiple art studios, a gallery, online art boutique, café, and secondary venue Theatre 82 & Characters Café; it offers year-round classes and summer camps in art, ceramics, theater, and music.  Artists? Exchange is operated by Gateways to Change, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all human beings.

11130235_10153243118028799_3111019602809925118_nSo much fun to be had at one of my favorite local places to visit for all aged children. Check out the fun-packed calendar of events at Providence Children's Museum this April School Vacation Week.

Mad Science: Marvels of Motion
Monday, April 20 • 1:00 & 2:00 PM
Witness mesmerizing experiments exploring the laws of motion in this mind-bending interactive show. Discover the science of gravity and balance, see mad scientists experiment with kinetic beads, and watch as a tablecloth is removed without clearing the table! Shows at 1:00 & 2:00 PM; recommended for ages 4 and up.

Tuesday, April 21 • 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Tinker, build and invent creative contraptions with an innovative large-scale building kit featuring wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, rope, and nuts and bolts.

Happy Earth Day!
Wednesday, April 22 • 10:30 AM - 2:00 PM
In celebration of Earth Day, see No Time to Waste, an interactive family comedy about trash and recycling. This humorous performance gives a lighthearted look at the three R's of protecting the environment – reducing, reusing and recycling. Four 20-minute shows at 10:30 & 11:30 AM and 12:30 & 1:30 PM; recommended for ages 5 and up. Also try a variety of activities exploring conservation. Play a recycle sorting game, create sprout necklaces, and make other recycled crafts.

Animal Experiences
Thursday, April 23 • 11:30 AM - 3:00 PMDMcritterencounter
Meet an awesome assortment of live animals! Children have close encounters with furry friends, slithering snakes and other incredible creatures and learn fascinating facts about them from animal expert Dave Marchetti of Animal Experiences. Shows at 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 2:30 PM; recommended for ages 3 and up.

Farm Friends
Friday, April 24 • 1:00 - 3:00 PM
Families encounter a soft sheep from Maybe Tomorrow Farm (Chepachet, RI), a lively llama from Lladyllove Llamas (Foster, RI), rabbits from Paine Farm (Foster, RI), and other farm animals in the Museum’s Children’s Garden. Kids get a close look at these creatures and meet experts from Rhode Island farms, who demonstrate washing, carding, dying and spinning animals’ fleece into yarn.

All school vacation activities are free with Museum admission of $9.00 per person; always free for Museum members.

For more information, visit

100+ Things To Do with Kids in Rhode Island has just been updated to incorporate fresh ideas from Kidoinfo readers, and to remove items that have closed or changed since the list made its debut in 2009.

Consider 100+ Things To Do with Kids in Rhode Island Kidoinfo’s Bucket List, filled with things to do with your children before they grow up! Fun, food, culture, and history–all unique to our area: these are things we believe every young Rhode Islander should see and do.

For easy planning in any weather and any mood, our list is divided into four categories: Outdoor, Indoor, Food, and Close-to-RI-Favorites. We’ve included a note to let you know if the activity is FREE. (Always a bonus in our book!)


Consider  100+ Things To Do with Kids in Rhode Island Kidoinfo’s Bucket List, filled with things to do with your children before they grow up! Fun, food, culture, and history–all unique to our area: these are things we believe every young Rhode Islander should see and do.

For easy planning in any weather and any mood, our list is divided into four categories: Outdoor, Indoor, Food, and Close-to-RI-Favorites. We’ve included a note to let you know if the activity is FREE. (Always a bonus in our book!)

100+ Things To Do with Kids in Rhode Island has been updated again in June of 2014 to incorporate fresh ideas from Kidoinfo readers, and to remove items that have closed or changed since the list made its debut in 2009.

The guide is easy to use–print it out, check things off as you go, add date of visit, make notes, and add your own favorite spots!

- See more at:


Don't be alarmed! We will NOT be discussing bootcamps, marathons or one armed push-ups in the following article! We will however, talk about the mind-bogglingly difficult process of getting up and moving again after you have a baby.

Exercise! Whether that means a walk around the block, a yoga class, whatever your thing, it provides us with a wonderful dose of endorphins, a precious piece of soul-nourishing time and makes us feel so much better about ourselves. And yet, like a frustrated but happy hamster, we get stuck in this wheel of making it happen. We get energy when we workout, we need energy to workout, we don't have energy with a new baby, and round and round we go! I get it! Having a shower most days is a huge personal triumph and adding something else onto our daily lists can be overwhelming.  As with so many aspects of parenting, society imposes unrealistic pressures - presenting us with images of Moms who seem to get their pre-baby bodies back so quickly after giving birth.  If you worked out before having children, the need to return to those glory days as well as regaining some identity, can also be an additional dose of self-pressure. Getting back to your former self takes time, patience and sometimes a bit of letting go.

The benefits of exercising before, during and after pregnancy are amazing. Increased energy, fewer aches and pains and improved self esteem are among just a few. And yet, we often find this re-aquaintance with our post-baby bodies, one of the hardest parts about re-starting exercise. Why won't my body react when I want it to? Why does this exercise feel so hard now? Why do I pee the moment I move an inch off the floor? Remember, working out comes in many forms and it's all about moving your body, shifting energy and being kind to yourself.

Here are a few tips before resuming exercise:

Exercises with your baby
Finding the time to workout with a new baby can be really tricky.  Here are some easy exercises that you can do with your baby at home.

* Low Plank - elbows under your shoulders, feet together, body in one level line. Modification: drop knees to ground. Hold for 15 seconds and increase time daily.
* Cat stretches - hands under your shoulders, knees under hips. Round upper back and then flatten back. Repeat. Modification: Make fists if you have sore wrists.
IMG_7134* Baby Press - lie down on your back, knees bent, feet on floor.  Hold your baby over your chest and press them down towards your chest and up into the air.  Head and shoulders stay on the floor. Try 10-20 reps, rest and repeat 3-4 times.
IMG_7141* Squat - holding your baby in the middle of your body, legs are wide and feet facing 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, weight in your heels.  Sit down into your heels, stand up and squeeze bum as you do so.
IMG_7147* Baby on thighs - twists or lean backs.  Heels into floor, neck neutral, either lean back and then up OR twist to one side and then the other.  For a higher level, lift your heels off the floor.
IMG_7137* Child's Pose - such a great end of the day hip/low back opener.  Baby can be right on the floor between your arms. Open your knees up wide and rest body onto thighs.  Hold for 30 seconds or longer if you can.
IMG_7136* Baby bicep curls - Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Shoulders rolled back, tummy tucked in. Hold your baby sideways in your arms. Roll her towards your chest and then down towards your hips. Keep your elbows tucked in. Repeat.

Photo Credits: Suzanne Cadge, Catherine Lea

By Cathy Saunders, Director of Education, Providence Children’s Museum

Children in the U.S., for the most part, are not growing up in a “hands-on” society. Toys are bought, not made by hand, and are not designed to be fixed if they break. Classroom time is more focused on test preparation and less on project-based learning as this Washington Post article outlines. Cooking from scratch has largely been supplanted by microwavable meals and fast food. The list goes on.

This lack of hands-on experience with real stuff creates real deficits: children are not learning about materials. At 8 years old, I remember being surprised to learn how much easier it was to hammer a nail into a two-by-four than a piece of plywood, and discovering that honey does not make a good substitution for sugar in a frosting recipe. (What a gooey mess!) A recent study found that toddlers are more likely to correctly identify foods by name if they have been able handle them.


Hands-on experiences also provide opportunities to develop important learning behaviors, like observation, experimentation, persistence and risk taking. I recently watched two children parallel playing in our Water Ways exhibit, working to connect the fountain pipes. The 5-year-old was alternating between watching the 7-year-old and working on her own construction. The children made adjustments to their fountains that didn’t work — sometimes bringing them crashing down — but both went back to building, trying new ways to connect the pipes and move the water.

In recent years there’s been a trend toward working with real stuff again, which goes by many names — DIY, crafting, tinkering and maker movement — all of which share the basic tenant of learning by doing while using real materials. They all provide great inspiration for creating a “hands-on” environment for your child.

For some easy activities to get kids experimenting with materials, see these recent posts from the Children’s Museum: Home Grown Fun, Celebrating Engineers Week and Cardboard Challenge. If you want to take it up a notch, our friends at the Exploratorium in San Francisco have developed the Tinkering Studio which has a terrific website — find instructions to make a wearable circuit and read bios of many interesting grown-up “tinkerers.”

Take a field trip! There are plenty of opportunities to create with and explore materials at the Children’s Museum. There are also events that showcase and celebrate making and tinkering such as Maker Faires held around the world, including in RI, MA and CT.

Providence Children’s Museum is the best place for April school vacation FUN! From April 18-25, meet bunnies, chicks, goats, lambs and ponies. Build with big blue Imagination Playground blocks. See a show and try activities celebrating Earth Day. Encounter lizards, snakes and other incredible creatures. And explore Mad Science in a mind-bending interactive show! Learn more at Providence Children's Museum.

A snowy day beckons much joy on the face of our 5 year old.  She rushes to throw on gloves and boots even before breakfast has been gulped down.  As the parent of a 5 month old however, more snow brings on dizzying thoughts of "what are we going to do all day".  We love being outdoors and since we are not adverse to taking a baby out in even the coldest of weather (for a short time), we try to get out of the house if we can.

Snow Sensory Table from Sioux Empire Child Care Network

Some tips on heading outdoors with your baby:

If the weather is just too yucky, there are a few baby (non-walkers) activities that we love:


Dorothy Chin Gerding of Smithfield, RI shares how she and her family celebrate Chinese New Year.

year-of-horse-zodiac_1389986751Gung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Lunar New Year! In China this is a month long celebration that brings families together from far and wide.  Here in the United States, my own family and friends will make long distance calls to wish their loved ones good tidings of luck, joy, health, happiness, wealth, and even babies for the New Year.

Getting Ready

Preparations start a week before as family matriarchs head to the local market to buy decorations for the house and groceries for the special meals. Parents are to ensure that everyone has a clean or new outfit to wear on New Year’s Day.  Houses are to be clean and bills to be paid to start a clean slate for the New Year in hopes to signify that the coming year will be “smooth sailing”.

New Year’s Eve

In Hong Kong, each New Year’s eve, the children or “Mai Lan” go door to door to sell their “laziness” in hopes that they will work harder in school in the new year. Though I grew up in the states, this was probably one of my favorites since I would receive the highly coveted Red Envelopes or “Hung Bao”.

New Year’s Day

The big day is exciting and challenging for “little grasshoppers,” as children are to wake up happy, dressed in their fresh clothes, and greet their parents with tidings of fortune, health, longevity and a promise to be good for the year. Here’s where the good stuff comes, Parents will wish their children safety, advancement in school, and obedience as they hand over those beautifully gold embossed red envelopes, Hung Bao.

Red Envelopes

chinasproutNot all red envelopes or “hung bao” are created equal; each carries its own blessing bearing signs of longevity such as a boat for smooth sailing or a tangerine for good fortune. These days licensing is king, so you might find Hello Kitty, Snoopy or even Mickey and Minnie carrying tangerines and peaches

One red envelope from each elder is like hitting the lottery for a child. It is rude to open an envelope in front of your elders so it was never a surprise that most children are hiding out in a corner counting up their loot. Two dollars from Great grandma, $20 from Gung Gung (Grandpa on Mom’s side), $10 from Jei Jei (Married older sister), $50 from Mom and Dad, which goes straight to the bank for college.  In reality it all went to the bank for college, but the hopes were that you would get some of it for candy later.

Holiday Dinner

Today my family will sit down to the traditional “start of the New Year” dinner which includes whole fish, whole chicken, noodles, roasted port and seaweed with sliced pork. There will also be Chinese turnips and oysters, rice and lots and lots of oranges. We will be missing a few members as some them are working or in other states. However Skype will allow us to be together to send salutations and well wishes for a Healthy and Wealthy Year of the Horse!

resources +  books

Dorothy Chin sometimes Gerding is a first generation Chinese American born and raised in Apple Valley Rhode Island.  As a Design Director and mother of 2, she is constantly designing and redesigning her life as well as the life of others that will allow her.  As an ex Californian she longs for 80 degree weather for her 3 dogs and 5 turtles so she bask away in the sun while eating frozen yogurt.

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