Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

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.


Whether you are experienced hikers or totally new to the trails, The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal has everything you need to help you prepare for and enjoy exploring the great outdoors with children of all ages and abilities.

The 42 family-friendly hikes include short, stroller-friendly walks as well as longer, more rugged excursions throughout Rhode Island. Each hike description includes essential and helpful information, a detailed map, and driving directions, as well as journal pages for your family to use to reflect upon and document your experiences.


Written by local Mom and founder of RI Families in Nature and Kidoinfo contributor, Jeanine Silversmith, this wonderful guide offers local hiking ideas and a nature journal which is sure to inspire young and old to head outdoors in our beautiful state. It's a great gift idea for the hard to buy for family member or teacher for the holidays!

Check out RI Families in Nature - there are details of upcoming hikes, places to explore and lots more.

Order a copy of The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal here.

The 7th annual Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire will be happening during Foo Fest on Saturday, August 8, 2015 from 1pm to 8pm! The Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire is an awesome event for kids of ALL ages celebrating New Englanders’ do-it-yourself ingenuity and innovation. Great place to explore and connect with a cool community of builders, inventors, and designers here in Providence and across the state!
At the Maker Faire, you’ll find builders, designers, tinkerers, innovators, craftspeople, engineers, hackers, scientists, garden wizards, and robots from across the Northeast. You’ll also find hands-on making experiences.

Tickets are $7 in advance (before fees; $10 day of the show) and free for kids 10 and under (both in advance and day of the show)! Your Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire ticket will get you into the Foo Fest and vice versa!

The wonderful RI Wool and Fiber Festival takes place on May 16th from 9am to 4pm. Combining animals, history, delicious food in an idyllic setting and good old fashioned crafts and games, this is one of our own family's favorite annual events.

Three Sheep 400 x 266

Against a backdrop of a working 18th century farm, artisans, vendors and producers of wool and natural fibers from across the Northeast will come together for a day of public celebration and exhibition. The event also features the first-ever Coggeshall Cook-Off, where chefs of all ages are invited to make their best early American dessert.

Compete in the Coggeshall Cook-Off
Do you make the best Syllabub in town? Is your apple brown betty legendary? Are you an aspiring chef eager to show your talent?

All ages are invited to participate in the Coggeshall Cook-Off by preparing your best early American dessert. Contestants must purchase tickets to the festival and arrive with their dessert and recipe card by 10 am on Saturday, May 16.

Prizes will be offered prizes in four categories: Ages 12 and Under, Ages 13 to 17, Ages 18 and up, and Professionals. Judging will be performed by a panel of local chefs, Coggeshall Farm staff and David Dadekian, founder of Eat Drink RI. Winners will be announced at 12:30 on Saturday, May 16. For a complete list of rules, email


Demonstrators, Vendors and Guilds
Artisans and vendors from across the Northeast are participating in the festival, including:

• Dancing Threads RI
• Deb & Jean’s Mittens
• Dirty Water Dye Works
• Evergreen Farm (angora rabbits, fibers, handspun yarns and wearables)
• Foxfire Farm (felted bags, blankets and other items)
• Gigi Bonin Hand-Dyed Yarns
• Havana Banana (vintage buttons, ribbons, laces and trim)
• Joyette Studio (hand-sewn bonnets, bibs, pouches headbands)
• Katrinkles Knitting Jewelry
• Kevin Ford, Sheep Shearer
• Loop by Loop Studio
• Maybe Tomorrow Farm
• Ocean State Knitting & Crochet Guild
• Play at Life Fiber Arts
• Quare Fibre
• Rising Sun Earthworks
• Sit & Knit Tent
• Spiral Bracelets by Michelle
• Supermarno Studio (knitted and crocheted bracelets)
• Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe
• The Rocking “O” Alpaca Farm
• Third Floor Studio
• Thistle Hill Farm
• Wendy’s Wonders (handspun yarns)
• Yarncrafters (hand-dyed mohair, hand-spun yarn, scarves and blankets)

Food, Music and Dancing
Talented food entrepreneurs from Hope & Main, a food business incubator in Warren, will be sampling and selling their gourmet goodies. You can also get a healthy, delicious meal from the gourmet food trucks, Plouf Plouf, Championship Melt and Like No Udder.

Polish up your singing voices and get ready to sing along with the sea shanty band, "Sharks Come Cruising." Dancing encouraged!


Family Fun and Kids Activities
Make your own flower headband, learn to swing a beetle mallet, play a game of Graces, help us wash and card freshly sheared wool or have your face painted. The historic farmhouse will be open for tours during the festival, with interpreters dressed in 18th century clothing. We encourage you to wear your own historic outfit!

The children will be invited to participate in a celebratory Maypole dance at approximately 1 pm, at the conclusion of judging for the Coggeshall Cook Off.

Ticket sales and event information can be found at Coggeshall Farm. Tickets are $10 adults, $7 children and seniors and children under 3 years are free.


Botanica Ceramica: Large Scale Sculpture under Glass is an exhibition of large scale and site-specific ceramic sculpture, installed in the two main conservatories of the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center. The event runs from March 12 thru March 29th and costs only $3.

The exhibition includes the work of nine nationally recognized artists whose works responds to unique areas of the center and are inspired by the organic world.

Some of the pieces included in the exhibition will be a fifteen foot ceramic figure covered with trees and birds by New York based artist Kathy Ruttenburg, titled "Manscape"; a floating installation of glass and ceramic islands in the entry pool by New York based artist Tomoko Abe and "Dark Garden", an installation of four to nine foot high plant forms constructed of clay and rebar by Boston based artist Linda Huey.



As the parent of two active children, we are, like many of you, finding this winter a long event. My kids are 6.5 and 18 months old and so have very different wants and needs for activities.  The older wants to go out in freezing conditions and play in the snow, while our toddler struggles in the deep snow and colder weather for long periods of time.  Rather than stare at the cobwebs in our small house or wrestle the crowds at the usual spots, we have been wracking our brains to think of some fun, multi-age, money-sensitive activities to do in the local area.

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center
Open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-4pm
Adults $3, Children 6-12 $1, Children 6 and under Free
We love peeling off the winter coats and exploring the beautiful warm greenery at these gardens.  I find it really tranquil and relaxing here which is always most welcome as a busy parent. More info here.


Local libraries
There are some wonderful free libraries at our disposal here in Rhode Island. Why not check out a different library than you usually visit. Most have children's rooms with toys, story times and free activities going on throughout the year.
We love the Providence Athaneum, Providence Public Library, Barrington, Bristol and Warren.

Most YMCA have a guest pass system if you are not a member.  Local YMCA's offer indoor bounce house play, splash pools, rock climbing walls and childcare. Great to burn off some energy for all ages.

Om Kids Yoga at The Motion Center
Check out these wonderful multi-age yoga classes led by Elyse.  Great fun for all involved and suitable for all ages.


Audubon Center at Bristol
One of our favorite indoor places to visit in winter., Not as crowded as other places and offering a lovely indoor space with a huge whale and touch tanks suitable for all ages. Check out their website here for more information about ongoing programs.


Providence Children's Museum
Time it right and you can have a relatively quiet visit at this wonderful place for all aged children.  Take a lunch and spend a whole morning exploring hands-on activities.  If you are concerned about the crowds, call ahead and check if there are groups booked.

Flatbread Pizza Company
High chairs, real play dough, a roaring fire and delicious, local food are in store for all hungry families.  Hands down our favorite, easy to dine with kids, local restaurant. The staff and space are so friendly with kids and with tasty pizzas large enough to share delivered at a speedy pace along with valet parking, it is a really great family experience. Check out their website for more info including menus.

Recently my family got really into a card game: Anomia. And I got kind of evangelical about it. It's easy to carry, so I brought it in my bag whenever we were invited somewhere, just in case I might find players.

anomia_red-cardsI have played this game with adults, schoolchildren, and college students. Everyone* loves this game. Adults can play their hardest and lose to kids, and it only takes a few minutes to play an entire round. The only required skill is a tiny bit of reading. [*That is not true. Some people are naturally bad at this game (my husband), and people like that do not love it.]

To win at Anomia, all you need is the ability to name (kind of bagel) things, and fast. Why is this fun? We do not know. There is something about being put on the spot that makes it very, very difficult to name (three letter word) a thing quickly, and it is somehow giddy fun to feel your brain stutter while you try to come up with (book title) a thing before your opponent does. Anomia repeatedly forces you into what is commonly known as a brain fart, and this is somehow amusing to people of all ages. SESAME, DOG, PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

To play, you'll need at least three players, and the more you add (the box recommends up to 8!), the faster and more fun it gets, and there's never any boring waiting-for-your-turn part because you have to be ready to blurt the whole time. Anomia is easy to learn, and the instructions are written in a way that invites you to learn to play while you are reading the instructions, so you don't have to suffer through any boring learning-to-play time.

One caveat might be that Anomia can get loud. People who can't think of a word to say usually wind up going oh, oh, oh at increasing volumes as they try to churn something up. For us this was part of the fun. But being neither quiet nor subdued, a round of Anomia might not be a good choice for the Amtrack quiet car or strict old-fashioned library.

I'm still carrying Anomia around with me, in case I find myself in a situation with a table, some people, and some time. The basic set comes with two decks of cards. You need only one deck to play, but it's nice to alternate decks so your answers soak back into the depths of your brain before they're required again. Otherwise, whenever your opportunity to name some specific thing (article of clothing) comes up, you'll be screaming SOCKS before you have the chance to fall back into the thrilling, mysterious, wordless part of your brain.

1. Quality time with the kids. A family outing or just dad and the kids may start with breakfast at home or at his favorite diner or coffee shop followed by an afternoon outing like a trip to the beach, park, or museum. My husband loves having bagels and lox at home as much as dining out at the Modern Diner in Pawtucket or Julian's on the West Side.

2. An event. Give a gift-certificate (for two, if it includes you) to his favorite local restaurant or tickets to a sports game or music concert.

3. Re-purposed. Wallets and messenger bags made from old sails and bike tires make a very stylish statement and are a cool re-use of discarded items.Although it may be too late to have the actual gift arrive in time for Father's Day -  you can still place an order and wrap up a picture of the cool item in transit.

4. Make a book. Have your children help create a special keepsake for dad. Every year we make an accordian book filled with pictures and words documenting our sons’ current stage of development, likes and loves for my husband.

5. Techy Gadgets. My husband loves most tech things as do many dads I know. Although my husband may covet the newest iPhone with cool added or improved features, he will keep the phone he got last year. An iTunes gift card of any value though is always handy and appreciated–allows him to buy music, movies or special apps for phone, music player or computer.

Read more on GoLocalProv. Every week I share tips on how families can make the most of their family time – including helpful hints that make parenting easier and connecting you to great local happenings.

Brown University astronomers and historians will help the community mark the historic transit of Venus across the Sun during the late afternoon of June 5 with historical lectures, viewing opportunities and home-viewing advice. The celestial event will not happen again until 2117.

“The transit of Venus is especially interesting because more than 200 years ago the people of Providence observed the transit of 1769 as part of a coordinated international effort to determine the size and scale of the solar system,” said David Targan, associate dean of the College, who directs the University’s Science Center and Ladd Observatory.

Rich history in Providence

Scholars at Brown have been watching Venus transits since before the University was even named Brown. According to the Encyclopedia Brunoniana, Benjamin West, professor of mathematics, observed the transit of June 3, 1769, from a platform on an East Side street later named Transit Street. Another street in the area took the name Planet Street. On May 29 at the Providence Athenaeum, Targan and Brown historians Joan Richards and Jane Lancaster gave a public lecture about the history of the transit in Providence.

Viewing with Brown

Venus will transit the Sun beginning just after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, and the event will only be visible until sunset, from Providence. Members of the public are invited to join Ladd Observatory staff and members of the Skyscrapers Amateur Astronomical Society from 5 to 8 p.m. on the roof of the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, which will provide the best view.

A limited supply of special safe solar viewing glasses will be available. A suggested donation of $1 is welcome to offset the cost.
Brown’s Ladd Observatory cannot accommodate the large crowd that is expected, and trees or buildings will obscure the view for most of the event, so the public viewing has been planned for the athletic center. The Ladd Observatory itself will be open to members of the media (see below for how to access a live TV feed).

In the event of cloudy skies

In the event that cloud cover obscures the transit from view, members of the public are invited to the Barus and Holley Building, Room 168 (corner of Hope and George streets) to view a live feed from remote telescopes. If the weather is only partly or mostly cloudy, members of the public should try viewing at OMAC first, but they may be directed to Barus and Holley as an alternative.

How to safely view Venus in transit:

View the transit safely online

Other places to view the transit locally in Rhode Island

-    Frosty Drew Observatory, Ninigret:
-    Krupowicz Planetarium, Middletown:
-    Museum of Natural History, Roger Williams Park:

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