ec8a0da30420501dce791a4256aaa582Having become a new parent for the second time recently, I had conveniently forgotten how long it takes to do regular, day to day tasks. The last 9 months were also spent frantically de-cluttering our family nest and it would be over my new jiggly bits that I would allow more gear, gadgets and fluffy rabbits to take over this minimal mothership!  You see as nice as one more onesie or blanket would be, what we new parents really need is time!

Below are some ideas for time-giving gifts - hope you enjoy and share with other new parents (they will think you are fabulous - honestly)!

1.  Dinner.  If you are not able to take over dinner yourself, how about a gift card to a local eatery, preferably one with takeout or delivery.

2. Booze, Drinkies, A Tipple, A Wee Tot!  However you call it, an occasional libation has brought much relief to this frazzled Mama.  Bottles located on Providence's East Side offers free same day delivery on orders over $75 or a $9 delivery charge.

3.  Cleaning Service.  This can be a true luxury for a lot of new parents as well as a total sanity-saver.  A local Providence friend uses the Merry Maids company and really likes them.

Photo Credit: Pinterest4.  Laundry and lots of it!  There is definitely an untapped market for a machine that can either hang laundry out on the line or transfer it from washer to drier!  In lieu of this invention, check out My Laundry Hamper who will collect and deliver laundry to your door. If your new parent pal uses cloth diapers, then check out local companies, Mama Blu and Mama Earth.

5.  Errand Runner. Task Rabbit is a new site that came to my attention when a friend needed her large couch moving.  She posted the job on the site and the next day two charming and much-muscled fellas helped her move said couch for a low price.  Task Rabbit is great for new parents as they handle everything from taking your pets to the vet, going on an Ikea run or mowing the lawn.

6.  Walking the dog.  As a Mama of two fur babies, walking the dog is one thing that, in the initial stages of parenthood is unfortunately way down the list. Ruffin Wranglers offers amazing door to door doggie excursions. Peace Dogs Canine Care offers great dog walking for your pooch (401 429 3647).

Photo Credit: Ruffin Wranglers7.  Grocery shopping.  Groceries delivered to your door at a time that suits you is available from Wholefoods, Eastside Marketplace, Peapod and Monroe Dairy.  All of these stores offer online shopping which eliminates the overwhelming job of getting oneself presentable and out of the door with a new baby.

8. Your time, if you can spare it. If you are able to give some of your own time to a new parent then this is the best option in my book. Free to you and providing your pal with not only a few minutes to take a shower, throw in some laundry or take a nap, but also a much needed adult chat.

Photo Credits: Clock (Pinterest), Laundry (Pinterest), Dog (Ruffin Wranglers)

These days it's more common to have twins because of increased use of IVF and women having children at a later age.  Teachers, coaches, families, and friends spend more time around multiples now, but may be unsure of how to deal with the unique situations that may arise with siblings the same age. Although these tips are geared for families with multiples, they may also be useful in parenting siblings of different ages.

It's hard enough negotiating the holidays when there are only two sides of the extended family involved. But blended families have the extra emotional and logistical challenges of sharing holiday time and making visitation arrangements.

Here are some tips to help you plan for joyful holiday season.

For more than twenty-five years Dr. Kate Roberts has helped children and families navigate through the ever evolving world of relationships. As a licensed psychologist, family therapist and couples counselor, and wife and mother of two, Dr. Kate offers a unique and highly qualified perspective in her practice, in the media and in her blogs on Psychology Today, Empowering Parents and Nobullying.com.

As the holiday season begins, I hope to teach my kids how important giving is. But reality kicks in about one hour after the Thanksgiving pie is eaten.  Relatives start asking my kids, “What do you want for Christmas?”  Any hope I had about teaching giving, not getting, is gone.

lafayettekidsI finally decided to buckle down and start a new family tradition; one that takes our focus off the wish list and onto a giving list.

1.  When the giving season begins, gather your family and together decide on twelve ways the group can help others. Ideas can be easier for young children such as brushing the family pet a few extra minutes or dropping coins in a Salvation Army bucket.  Ideas for the entire family might include shoveling a neighbor’s driveway or baking cookies for the mail carrier.  Each family likes to help out in different ways, so think of what will work for your family.

2. List the ideas on paper. Children or adults can write the list. Have a child who’s artistic? Encourage him or her to spruce up the list with drawings or stickers.

3.  Post the list in a spot that’s visible to the entire family, such as on the refrigerator door.

4. As a family, choose a good deed to do each day. Is your weekday schedule already full? Good deeds can be done over a weekend, too.

5.  Check off each deed as it’s finished.

6.. Finding you can’t get to a deed you chose? Erase it off and add a new one that your family can do. You might even do the same activity twice, such as shoveling snow during a snow storm.

Once you have completed your 12 Good Deeds, break out the hot cocoa and gingerbread men and give a toast! Compliment your children on working together as a family to help others. You may find your children continue to have ideas for more good deeds. There’s no reason to stop in December.  Keep a list going into the spring and summer. Shoveling snow might turn into mowing lawns or raking leaves. Just don’t forget to switch the hot cocoa and gingerbread men for lemonade and ice cream.

Bainbridge School invites the community to join a screening and discussion of the film "Room to Breathe". A panel of experts on the integration of education and mindfulness will reflect on the film and take questions from the audience immediately following the screening. All ticket sales from the screening will go toward the expansion of Bainbridge School to serve more local children and families.

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Room To Breathe is a surprising story of transformation as struggling kids in a San Francisco public middle school are introduced to the practice of mindfulness meditation.

Topping the district in disciplinary suspensions, and with overcrowded classrooms creating a nearly impossible learning environment, overwhelmed administrators are left with stark choices: repeating the cycle of trying to force tuned-out children to listen, or to experiment with timeless inner practices that may provide them with the social, emotional, and attentional skills that they need to succeed.

The first question is whether it’s already too late. Confronted by defiance, contempt for authority figures, poor discipline, and more interest in “social” than learning, can a young mindfulness teacher from Berkeley succeed in opening their minds and hearts?

Panelists: Thursday, December 5

Panelists: Sunday, December 8

Screening DetailsBainbridgePhoto1.205201

Where: Cable Car Cinema, 204 South Main Street, Providence
When: Thursday, December 5 at 7 p.m. or Sunday, December 8 at 4 p.m.
Tickets: $12. Purchase here

About Bainbridge School

Bainbridge is a small home-based preschool on the East Side of Providence. This fall, school director Kate Bothe, along with a board made up of current and former parents, incorporated the school as a Rhode Island nonprofit with the goal of expanding the school to serve more children and families. Bainbridge School offers a true education alternative, incorporating the arts, outdoors immersion, and age-appropriate mindfulness activities into a curriculum that draws on the best practices of progressive school models such as Montessori, Waldorf, and Enki. For more information about Bainbridge, please contact bainbridgepreschool@gmail.com.

Photo Credits: Top "Room to Breathe, Bottom "Bainbridge School"

I'm not anti-toys or anti-shopping but I am against glorifying the need to buy stuff  from a big box store by squashing or diminishing the importance of something valuable–in this instance, environmental education or any educational school field trip of which there are so few these days.  A recent ad put out by Toys R Us emphasizes consumerism over the importance of environmental education.  It makes a mockery of all the work that some of our favorite organizations, Save the Bay, Audubon Society of Rhode Island and others, have done to elevate the importance of environmental education on a local, regional and national level for over 30 years. I think many would agree, that a field trip with a place like Save The Bay, an experience on the water, along the shoreline, at the Exploration Center or Bay Center is anything but boring and more like life changing.

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Take action:
Save the Bay and others has been working on a strategy to get Toys R Us to remove this ad so the message that it sends of EE being boring isn’t communicated to a larger audience over the holiday season.  A petition has been created locally to request that Toys R Us  remove their anti-environmental education ad. Please consider signing it here.  Please share this link. Power in numbers!

Here is a link to see how The North American Association of Environmental Education responded.

 By Janice O’Donnell, Executive Director, Providence Children’s Museum

In this country, saying that someone is a professional playworker will get you blank stares, dubious looks, maybe even snickers. WaterWays-Sept2013PCMBut in the United Kingdom, playwork — the art of supporting children’s play without directing it — is a recognized and respected profession, practiced in playgrounds, housing projects and childcare programs.

The concept of playwork originated in Europe following World War II, when children reclaimed their devastated communities by playing amid the wreckage and rubble. This inspired the creation of “adventure playgrounds,” play environments that kids can shape and reinvent by manipulating loose parts, as well as the role of playworker. Playworkers create play-rich environments, in which their presence is nearly invisible and where children freely pursue their own play, take as much risk as they can handle, solve their own conflicts, and play the way they want to for their own reasons.

Playworkers understand that all children need to play, that play is an innate impulse and is critical for healthy development. They provide open-ended environments and loose parts — elements that encourage children to choose their own play activities and narratives — and see risk taking as a positive and necessary part of kids’ play.

Playworkers describe play as “a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated.” In other words, they have no agenda for children’s play. They are not coaches training kids in athletic skills. There is no game to win unless the kids themselves organize one. They are not teachers with a curriculum to “cover” or even informal educators hoping that, by building and testing kites or puff mobiles, kids will learn something about wind power. If kids decide to make and fly kites, a playworker will take note of their endeavor. She’ll offer some materials good for kite making and ensure the kite-flying field is free of hazards like broken glass or electric wires. If the kids have organized some sort of ball game, she will help them figure out ways to include the child whose disability prevents him from throwing a ball. If a child seems unsure of how to play in an open-ended non-directive environment, the playworker might model playing, packing a mud pie herself and casually decorating it with sticks and grasses.

AdventurePlay-Sept2013PCMTo respond to and extend children’s play, playworkers carefully and constantly observe kids at play so they can make good decisions about intervening — or not. And they reflect on what they observe and their own responses. “Reflective practice” also involves documenting and sharing these reflections with fellow playworkers and tapping into personal childhood memories of play. As a result, a playworker is really attuned to the play — not leading or interfering with it at all but aware of its rhythms and nuances.

Interest in playwork is growing in the US and its techniques are beginning to be employed in parks, during school recess and at children’s museums. At Providence Children’s Museum, we’ve been studying and experimenting with playwork practices both in the Museum and in our outreach initiatives. We hosted workshops with two British playworkers last spring and are excited to welcome a third this month.

Join us to learn more about playwork during a talk and training with renowned London playworker Penny Wilson and Joan Almon of the Alliance for Childhood on Wednesday, September 25, about how to restore play for children of all abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.  Click here for more information and to register.

Is a teary drop off at preschool our problem or the kids? What? You mean it could be us (the parents)? In my work, and as a mom, I have found that during most of the difficult transitions and changes it is about me having a hard time letting go of control.

mother_and_child_holding_hands-t2No denying the fact that our kids will get older each year and each year we will have to let them go–and grow–a little at a time. In the beginning of their precious lives, we are in control of every drop they eat and every muscle they move. As preschool or daycare enters the picture, losing control becomes our greatest hurdle. Once we get our emotions in check (and understand we are not alone) we can find ways to make it easier and healthier for our kids to transition into preschool.

What can I guarantee, if you say a quick confident goodbye even if you feel torn up inside? Your child will gain trust in you and he/she will grow in confidence each day. Remember leaving with a smile gives a nonverbal message that you and I will be OK. Then call a friend and cry over your coffee cup, like I did.

This is hot topic among many of my friends with grade school and middle school aged children. phone_pile-300x158Since phones today are often more than just a telephone, loaded with additional features such as video, texting, and social media apps, deciding when to let our kids have a phone is a bit more complicated these days.

PBS.org has a great list of questions here that parents can answer first including assessing your child's independence and maturity level, how the phone can and will be used, cost, and school policies to help guide the cell phone dilemma and assist in making a plan that will work best in your family.

Choosing the right child care for our kids can be daunting. We want the best for our child but how do we find that perfect place with quality care, compatible schedule, space availability and a price we can afford?

Reader Cecilia Pirotto shares wisdom garnered from her personal search for the “best” daycare for her child. After visiting five centers, she decided on Meeting Street Early Learning Center. I believe her questions (along with your own list of priorities) are relevant and hopefully helpful for any parent looking for daycare and/or childcare.

Early learning Center at Meeting Street 2

Important questions Cecilia asked during her search:

Who licensed the center?

I learned that all day-care centers in Rhode Island are required to be licensed by the RI Department of Children, Youth and Family. I also learned that their standards are not that hard to achieve. What really convinced me to enroll my kids in Meeting Street is the fact that they are also licensed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Less than 30 centers in Rhode Island have been accredited by NAEYC, the highest standard around.

Is the staff educated, trained, and caring?

When I first interviewed with the directors and teachers I thought to myself, if I have a problem, would I feel comfortable asking them for advice? If the answer is “yes,” then that was a good sign. I asked about the employees’ education, too. It was important for me to know whether they had a background in early childhood development or CPR and other emergency training.

Is the place conveniently located?

A big priority for me! I didn’t need the center to be right next door, but I wanted easy access to the highway when I dropped the kids off and went to work.

May I look around?

I scheduled a tour to get a feel for the environment and teachers. I also asked about the curriculum in order to see how my children would be challenged academically. During the tour, I also asked what precautions the center takes to keep the children safe.

Does the center have an open door policy? 

I love this policy because it allows me to visit my little ones at any time, especially during lunch time while I was breastfeeding.

Does the facility have enough room to play?

Since we have long winters in the Ocean State, I wanted to choose a place with plenty of room for my kids to exercise and play indoors. Meeting Street offers way more than I expected: a huge gym, a pool, a music room, a big library with interactive tools and sensory rooms throughout the building.

I hope this list helps you to find a good place for your bundle of joy.

Cecilia Pirotto is a full-time mom and part-time bilingual marketing consultant for brands that use direct sales models to reach the U.S. Hispanic market. In 2011 she move from Argentina to Rhode Island where she now lives with her husband and 2 kids.

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