The most in-demand toys for children are becoming more complex, and some can turn dangerous if not properly vetted or used.
It’s winter break for most kids, and with the weather growing colder, many parents worry about cabin fever setting in. The good news is that there’s no shortage of indoor and outdoor winter fun in our region, much of it free or reasonably priced. With a slew of ice rinks, holiday light displays, kid-friendly museums, and theater performances aimed at young audiences, there’s plenty to do. We explore the fun to be had for kids of all ages.
- Janet Stanford Artistic Director, Imagination Stage
- Linda Samuel Author, "Kid Friendly DC," an online resource for parents
- Kerala Taylor Senior Manager of Online Content and Community, KaBOOM!
Winter Family Fun: Activities In D.C., Maryland And Virginia
What: Roy Lichtenstein exhibit.
More than 100 of the artist’s notable paintings from his career, including classic early pop paintings and series like Brushstrokes and Mirrors (parents might choose to skip the one room of Nudes series).
Where: National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
When: October 14, 2012–January 13, 2013
What: Ai Weiwei exhibit. In this inventive exhibit, the Chinese artist’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” are displayed around the perimeter of the museum’s central plaza. Twelve bronze animal heads represent the signs of the Chinese zodiac, each of which stand approximately 10 feet high.
Where: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
When: April 19, 2012 to February 24, 2013
What: Play Work Build exhibit. Visitors see the connections between play, design, and the work of building professionals like architects and engineers.
Where: National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
When: November 18, 2012 – November 18, 2014
Price: $5 ages 3 to 17; $8 adults; free for age 2 and younger. Fees
include admission to all museum exhibitions.
Where: Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Md.
When: November 14 – January 6, 2013
What: Young Robin Hood
Where: Round House Theater in Bethesda, Md.
When: November 28 – December 30, 2012
Price: Kids tickets for Young Robin Hood are $10 (weekdays) and $15 (weekends)
What: A Little House Christmas. This show is based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The theater also offers a School’s Out! Winter Break Workshop; pricing varies.
Where: Adventure Theater MTC in Glen Echo, Md.
When: November 16, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Price: $19 GA ticket
What: Discovery Theater on the Mall. Smithsonian’s theater for young audiences. “Seasons of Light,” back for its 13th season, celebrates the history and customs of Ramadan, Devali, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Los Posadas, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice.
Where: Discovery Theater is located in the S. Dillon Ripley Center on the National Mall, adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.
When: Mon.–Fri., Dec. 3–21
Price: Tickets are $6 per adult, $5 per child and $4 for Smithsonian Resident members.
What: Various versions of the Christmas holiday classic ballet Nutcracker
Washington Ballet by Septime Weber playing at Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Show runs November 29 – December 23, 2012
Glen Echo features a puppet version of the classic holiday play at Puppet Company Playhouse in Glen Echo Park, Washington, D.C.
Ballet Theatre of Maryland in Annapolis, Md.
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker 2012 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, Md.
Ice Skating Rinks
What: Georgetown Waterfront’s Washington Harbour Ice Rink. At 11,800 square feet, it’s Washington’s largest outdoor ice skating venue and also larger than New York City’s Rockefeller Center rink.
Where: Georgetown waterfront, Washington, D.C.
When: Open annually from November until March for recreational skating every day, including all
Price: Adults: $9.00; Children/Seniors/Military: $7.00; Skate Rental: $5.00
What: National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink
Where: On the National Mall, view magnificent works of sculpture while skating in the open air and enjoying music from the state-of-the-art sound system.
When: Open mid-November through mid-March, weather permitting
Price: (Two-hour sessions, beginning on the hour) $8.00 adults; $7.00 seniors (age 50 and over); $7.00 students (with school ID); $7.00 children (age 12 and under); $195.00 season pass
What: Fort Dupont Ice Arena
Where: The only public indoor ice rink in Washington, D.C.
When: Open year-round
What: Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating Rink
Where: Arlington, Va.
When: Open every day including holidays from late October to mid-March
Price: Two hour skate rentals. Adults $8, kids 12 and under $7, skate rentals $3
What: Wheaton Ice Arena –Where: Wheaton, Md.
When: Indoor and outdoor
What: The Gardens Ice House features 3 ice rinks
Where: Laurel, Md.
Nighttime Lights Festivals
What: U.S. Botanic Garden Christmas Display. A perennial favorite, with a fanciful train display and inventive replicas of the city’s monuments.
Where: Washington, D.C.
When: November 22, 2012 through January 1, 2013
What: National Christmas Tree and National Menorah on the Mall. Seasonal displays include a Yule log, a large-scale model train and a Christmas manger.
Where: Ellipse in Washington, D.C.
When: Open December 7, 2012 to January 1, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
What: Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. They just opened a carousel.
Where: Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C.
When: November 23-25, 30; December 1-2, 7-9, 14-23, 26-30; January 1 from 5-9 p.m.
Price: Admission is free. Parking is $9 for members; $16 for non-members
What: Washington, D.C. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints, also known as the Mormon Temple, features Christmas lights plus a different local musical group performs a live concert nightly. Temple grounds glow with 600,000 Lights and feature an exhibit of more than 100 Crèches from multiple nations.
Where: Kensington, Md.
When: November 30, 2012 – January 1, 2013. Lights illuminated from dusk to 10 p.m. nightly. Nativity scene is open each evening from 6 to 9 p.m. Live musical performances begin at 7 and 8 p.m.
What: Brookside Gardens has a lights and train display
Where: Wheaton, Md.
When: Friday, November 23, 2012 – Sunday, January 6, 2013. Open every night except closed on December 24 & 25, January 1, 2, 3.
Price: Cars/Vans (Monday – Thursday): $20 (cash only)
Car/Vans (Friday – Sunday): $25 (cash only)
What: B&O Railroad Museum holiday festival of trains and toys
Where: Baltimore, Md.
When: Friday, November 23 – Monday, December 31; Monday – Saturday (10am – 4pm) & Sunday (11:00am – 4pm)
Price: $16 Adults, $14 Seniors (60+), $10 Children (2-12), B&O Members FREE!
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's winter break for many of us, and that means spending time with family. With the cold weather outside, many parents worry about cabin fever setting in. The good news is that there's no shortage of indoor and outdoor winter fun in our region, much of it free or reasonably priced.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIf you're game for venturing outside, there are a slew of new ice rinks and dozens of holiday light displays and indoor options, too, including theater performances aimed at young audiences and some surprisingly kid-friendly modern art exhibits out there, including Roy Lichtenstein's comic book pop art at the National Gallery. Here to give us some more inspiration is Linda Samuel. Linda founded the website "KidFriendly DC," which reviews events around our region for families. Linda Samuel, thank you for joining us.
MS. LINDA SAMUELThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is Janet Stanford, artistic director for Imagination Stage. That's a professional theater for young audiences and a theater arts education center. It's been in operation since 1979. Janet Stanford, thank you for joining us.
MS. JANET STANFORDThanks. Great to be here.
NNAMDIAnd Kerala Taylor is the senior manager of online content and community with KaBOOM!, a non-profit that promotes play and works with communities to build playgrounds for kids. Kerala Taylor, thank you for joining us.
MS. KERALA TAYLORThanks for having me.
NNAMDIIf you would like to join the conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. What's your favorite winter activity with kids? 800-433-8850. Linda, your website, "KidFriendly DC," lists events of things going on in our region this week. Can you tell us a little bit about the site and how it got started?
SAMUELWell, the site started for several reasons, one being a place to preserve sort of my -- or a place where I can preserve my place in the professional world. And also, it was really something that I was looking for out there when I was looking for activities to do with my kids. There are some other resources out there but none that really presented things in the manner in which I was looking to view them. And so putting these two things together, I just decided to start that myself.
NNAMDISo you just essentially created your own job.
SAMUELYes. And I wanted to do something, too, that let me balance, you know, my family time and my work time. So with "KidFriendly DC," basically, I have to be with my kids. I'm doing these things with my kids to see what's out there, and then I'm bringing them back to the blog and presenting them to the community and all of my readers.
NNAMDIKerala, parents know it's important for kids to get outside. But in the cold weather, it may be harder to find ways to do it. But cold weather, in and of itself, shouldn't keep kids inside, should it?
TAYLORExactly. I think that people in this region might be a little sensitive to the cold weather. I actually lived in New England for nine years, and I have to say the winters here are a blessing, comparatively. But, really, we have a saying that we like, which is there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
TAYLORSo in very rare instances, you might not want to go outside in the middle of hurricane, but if you're bundled up, you should be able to go outside. And, actually, one of my favorite quotes comes from a Minnesota principal, and he says his recess policy at his school is that if it's 15 below or warmer, they go out no matter what. But at 20 below, it gets iffy.
NNAMDII had an old aunt who lived in Minnesota who was 90 years old and was happy to report every year when she fell because she was always outside. Here's when my fall occurred this year. So she was not afraid of going outside. Linda, ice skating is a great way to get kids outside and moving. And there are a lot of options in our region. Can you talk about this?
SAMUELWell, one of the most popular ones is the Sculpture Garden that's on the National Mall. The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden has an ice skating rink right there. And, to me, that's sort of a winter in D.C. quintessential activity because you're on the National Mall, surrounded by all this wonderful artwork and all of the museums nearby. And you're just gliding away, doing something that is a quintessential winter weather activity.
SAMUELAnd then there are also some new ice skating rinks that have just opened recently. There's one at Canal Park in Southeast that just opened right after Thanksgiving. And then another one opened at the Washington Harbor right around Thanksgiving. And besides those, there are -- there's one at Potomac -- or I'm sorry -- Pentagon Row in Arlington. There's one in Silver Spring. There's another in Reston. So there are plenty of options to get outdoors and enjoy the season and also enjoy some fun with the kids.
NNAMDINo shortage of ice skating rinks.
NNAMDIHow do you get your kids outside in chilly weather? Call us, 800-433-8850. Janet Stanford, there are also a lot of indoor options, including theater for kids. Many parents are familiar with Imagination Stage. But for those who are not, can you tell us a little bit about it?
STANFORDWell, we are a professional theater and education space that's been in Bethesda for the last 10 years. And we have lots of professional shows for children, all the way from ages 1 in our theater for the very young, up to whenever they age out, around 11 or 12 or sometimes older.
NNAMDIThe thing I like about Imagination Stage is that it really thinks about the activity of children. You even have a timeout space in the theater. It's held for kids who are a little overactive during the performances. Can you talk a little bit about "Seussical" on now at Imagination Stage?
STANFORDWell, "Seussical" is everybody's favorite Dr. Seuss' stories and the character of Horton on an adventure that was created by the Broadway musical team of Lynn Ahrens and Peter Flaherty. And it's a wonderful adventure with the famous lines, like, a person is a person no matter how small. And we've taken the track of really trying to involve our audience in the experience to give them a chance to feel the live experience, that they're important, that they need to be there, and that the story is truly for them.
NNAMDII can testify 'cause I took grandchildren to see it, ages 10 through four or four through 10. And nobody moved during the entire performance. Their father -- my son and I were able to sit in another row and never had to discipline them in any way, shape or form. So, obviously, it keeps them riveted. Linda, what other kinds of theater is on for kids in our area?
SAMUELWell, there are several theaters in the area that are offering wonderful productions for kids. Some of them are holiday themed. Adventure Theater at Glen Echo Park has "A Little House Christmas" right now. The puppet company is offering their version of the "Nutcracker."
NNAMDIIf you have recommendations you like to make, give us a call, 800-433-8850, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. In case you're just joining us, we're talking with Linda Samuel, who founded the website, "KidFriendly DC." It reviews events around our region for families. Janet Stanford is the artistic director for Imagination Stage. That's a professional theater for young audiences and a theater arts education center. It's been in operation since 1979.
NNAMDIAnd Kerala Taylor is the senior manager of Online Content and Community with KaBOOM! KaBOOM! is a non-profit that promotes play and works with communities to build playgrounds for kids. Janet, Imagination Stage offers theater for the very young, kids under 5. Some people would wonder about taking very young kids to a theater performance. How do those shows differ from theater for older kids?
STANFORDWell, they're really for no more than 50 children at a time. Our belief is based on work that we saw in Europe and Canada many years ago. It's fairly new to the states. But these are interactive shows with a small cast, very gentle themes, often about the seasons and other sort of preschool ideas. And the children are invited gently into the story. They get up on the stage. They interact with the actors. They have a bag of props and things they can pull out and use in the course of the performance.
STANFORDAnd when we started doing this three years ago, the response was absolutely instant. People immediately knew that this was something their young children could benefit from and that it was a pleasure to watch their children enjoying it as much as to be there. So we've now expanded that to a full season of five shows over the course of the year, and it continues to tour to places like The Atlas and be very popular.
NNAMDITheater for the very young, it's my understanding, is a fairly recent phenomenon, and there's a difference in the way very young kids understand theater compared to older kids and adults. There's been a study that -- done on this. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
STANFORDYes. There was a study out of a university in England where they looked at children 4 and older and discovered that they really understand theatrical stories in the same way that adults do, that they know it's a distance from themselves, that it's a pretend experience. But when you watch a 1 or 2-year-old in the very -- the theater for the very young, they are completely immersed in the experience. I'd like to say it's as real to them as lunch.
STANFORDAnd that's a magical thing to watch. And we're very interested in partnering with the University of Maryland where we have a wonderful researcher my the name of Meredith Rowe who wants to study exactly what's happening in the brains of young children when they're on theater for the very young, so to speak, see how it's different from the brain activity that happens in older children or adults at the theater.
NNAMDIWhen they look at a mouse or an elephant, they don't see an actor. They see a mouse or an elephant albeit a friendly one. So that makes a difference.
STANFORDYou can see it in -- if you take a small child to, you can see how involved they are. Sometimes we've had a little toddler just stand, you know, gaping at the show. And then the involvement is very real too. At the end of "Wake up, Brother Bear," our first show, there is a moment where the bear is very cold. And there'll always be one of the 50 children picks up the little blankie they have, and they go and offer it to the bear. And the parents are crying around the circle. My child has empathy. My child has empathy. But it is a truly is a wonderful phenomenon to observe.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. We will start with Peter in Washington, D.C. Peter, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PETEROh, hi, thank you. I just have a quick question. One of your guests mentioned that the ice skating at the Washington Harbor in its new location. And I was curious, is that the same thing as the National Harbor or is that different, and where specifically might that be?
NNAMDIHere's Linda Samuel.
SAMUELNo. The Washington Harbor is down near Georgetown. The National Harbor is actually in Maryland up by Oxon Hill and...
NNAMDIPrince George's County.
SAMUELYes. And the ice skating rink at the Washington Harbor, I actually haven't been there myself yet. But I've heard that it is bigger than the one at Rockefeller Center. And I heard it's very nice.
NNAMDIThank you for your call. On to Jeff in Alexandria, Va. Jeff, your turn. Hi, Jeff. Are you there?
JEFFYes, I am.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.
JEFFHi. I just wanted to make a suggestion in terms of theater fare for young adults and children.
NNAMDIGo right ahead.
JEFFThere is a production of "Young Robin Hood" at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, which is the story of Robin Hood as a teenager. And it's wonderful. It's swashbuckling, a lot of action written by a man named Jon Klein who runs the playwriting program at Catholic University.
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned that 'cause I've been reading about it but hadn't seen a review of it as yet. So you like it, huh?
JEFFI do. I like it a lot. They got a nice review. And it's fun for the whole family.
NNAMDII was about to say you liked it, but did your kids like it?
JEFFWell, my 20-year-old daughter saw it and had a fine time.
NNAMDIOK, good. Thank you very much for your call...
NNAMDI…Jeff. Speaking of National Harbor, Linda, it's been a while in coming, but the new National Children's Museum just opened. And it's my understanding that you got a preview of it. Tell us about it.
SAMUELYes. So it opened last Friday, and we got to go to a preview...
NNAMDIAt National Harbor.
SAMUELYes, at National Harbor. And we got to go to a preview on Thursday. And it was really wonderful. It's been long-awaited. And basically, they did -- they are doing a world culture theme or explore your world. And so they do this with a space. It's a museum without walls. So it's really one big space, and they've kind of take children through the whole world from their home to the town and then to destinations across the globe, and they do this through all interactive exhibits.
SAMUELThey have one that is meant to look like a bedroom with bunk beds and a dresser. And then there's other ones that look like a fire truck, or there's a restaurant and a place where they can vote. And so it's kind of like a little journey that they can go through as they're just exploring different aspects of the world and sort of seeing how they all come together. And then they have some exhibits that are going to change out quarterly. Like right now, they have a Tanzania market place where they can see how people might shop in a market across the world and...
NNAMDIDo they teach you how to bargain in the market place?
SAMUELI didn't see that going on.
NNAMDIThat's essential. But go ahead.
SAMUELIt's fun. Yeah. But you can -- and then some of these exhibits kind of go together, like you can take what you buy at the market place and take it over to a kitchen nearby and then pretend to cook. So it really is a lot of imaginative play, a lot of pretend play, but it's hands on. And I think young kids really get into doing those kinds of things and exploring the world through actually doing things and not just reading about them.
NNAMDIIt's been a wait -- a long wait waiting for this new National Children's Museum. Is it worth the wait?
SAMUELIt's worth the wait especially for kids, I'd say, about 5 to 6 and younger. I think they will enjoy it the most. They say that kids up to 10 will enjoy it. But I do think the younger set will get more out of it and older than that. It really depends on the child. It depends on the kind of play that they enjoy.
NNAMDIWe're discussing winter fun for kids and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Are there some lesser-known places you like to visit in our region? You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to our website, kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about winter fun with kids. We're talking with Kerala Taylor, senior manager of Online Content and Community with KaBOOM!, which promotes play and works with communities to build playgrounds for kids. Linda Samuel founded the website Kid Friendly DC which reviews events around our region for families.
NNAMDIAnd Janet Stanford is the artistic director for Imagination Stage which is a professional theater for young audiences and a theater arts education center, which has been in operation since 1979. Kerala, another great option for kids, it's my understanding, is the National Building Museum exhibit right now. Tell us about it.
TAYLORYeah. Well, I actually had the opportunity to see it on Friday, and I brought my 1-year-old daughter there. She was there for about two and a half hours and then proceeded to sleep through the night for the first time ever. So I highly recommend it. Yes.
NNAMDIThat's a twofer.
TAYLORBut it's an amazing exhibit. It features imagination playground blocks which are blue foam blocks that we created in partnership with the Rockwell Group. And the idea is that it facilitates creative play. It's a lot of loose parts, then there's no defined or prescribed way to play with them. Kids can kind of figure it out on their own. So we're working to bring Imagination Playground to children across the country, at schools and community centers. It was created so you can play with them indoors and outdoors.
TAYLORObviously, at the building museum, it's indoors. But it's a wonderful space, and they have some really interesting interactive screens where you can kind of build with the blocks on a screen that's projected on the wall. So I highly recommend it especially during the winter when it's a little chilly.
NNAMDIThe building museum is a welcoming and large enough space that it feels like you're outdoors.
NNAMDIAnyway, Linda, what do you like about that exhibit?
SAMUELOh, it's a fantastic exhibit. I love that it's sort of spans a pretty big age range because along with the big foam blocks that Kerala was talking about, there is also -- there are small foam blocks that you can build with. There is a big, light table where you can make your own creations and put things together. It's almost like building with soft LEGOs. And there is another area that has a display of vintage toys, you know, toys -- building toys that we might have used when we were kids.
SAMUELThey have Lincoln Logs, and my daughter and I spent a lot of time making things out of Lincoln Logs, and that was really fun to sort of introduce her to something that I really enjoyed as a kid.
NNAMDIHere is Susan in Washington, D.C. Hi, Susan.
SUSANHi, Kojo. How are you?
NNAMDII am well.
SUSANI hope you're going to have a playful holiday. I love all of your guests and their organizations. I work with Playworks DC, and I just want to let parents know about a resource our organization offers where you can download instructions for over 300 games to play with your kids, maybe some neighbors too. So if you go to playworks.org and go to the signed games tab, we literally have hundreds of games. Many of them don't use any equipment at all. But if you have a ball or some hula hoops, the world is really your oyster.
NNAMDIOh, good. Thanks for sharing that with us, Susan.
SUSANGreat. And what was your favorite game to play at recess or when you were a kid, Kojo?
NNAMDII'm ashamed to admit it, hopscotch.
SUSANThat's great. Hi, Kerala.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
SUSANOne of my favorite games.
NNAMDII was hopscotch ace. There are -- Linda, there are a whole lot of holiday light festivals and train displays around the region. What are some of the highlights that you can talk about?
SAMUELYes. Well, we recently went to Brookside Gardens, and that is -- it was just fantastic. So you're walking through -- that's out in Wheaton and it is -- it's a big display garden. And right now, they have lights just decorating all of the plant collections there, and you see things like lightning, you know, flashing through a rainbow and just really, really wonderful, magical-looking scenes. And so we -- that's a walking tour.
SAMUELSo we did that recently, walked through, and then you go into the conservatory and they have a wonderful big train display in there. And then there -- one of my favorites is at the U.S. Botanic Garden, and that's called Season's Greenings. And this is a really well-known one, but it's just so wonderful. It's worth mentioning. They have a really big train display. It's an enchanted forest theme, and everything is made of out plant materials, except for the trains, of course.
SAMUELBut everything is made out of plant materials, and there's all these wonderful intricate details in there. And along with that, the conservatory is very festively decorated, and you can look at some of the iconic buildings of D.C., and they're all created out of plant materials as well. And that's -- it's just really magnificent to see that this time of the year.
NNAMDIHowever, some of these events cost money and some can get pretty crowded. Any in particular you might want to give a fair warning about?
SAMUELWell, Brookside, I would say that's $25 a car if you go on the weekends. But that's per car. So, you know, if you put the whole family and, you know, that's not such a bad deal. Something like Season's Greenings, that's absolutely free. There is no cost. Yeah.
NNAMDIBotanic Garden is free. You wanted to say, Janet?
STANFORDYeah, I just want to say that any of these trips that you take your children on have additional free pay off afterwards in that when the children come home, they're going to act out the show. They're going to make blocks out of their own toys. And I think you as a parent have a tremendous opportunity to really extend that play experience and let the initial, you know, output be something that you use as an inspiration for their own imagination.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here now is Jennifer in Vienna, Va. Jennifer, your turn.
JENNIFERThank you, Kojo. I just wanted to make sure everybody knows about a brand new walk of light, Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights in -- it's about two miles from Tysons Corner in Vienna, and it's a great activity for the whole family because it's about a half-mile walk, so they're actually up and active. It's ADA accessible and all that stuff, so it's an easy walk. But it's so gorgeous.
JENNIFERIt's a creation by some gentlemen who have enjoyed going crazy with decorating their own lawns, and these people were recognized, and now they're doing a professional display there. There are at least 500,000 LED lights, and it's just magical. So I highly recommend it.
NNAMDIThank you very much for doing that, Jennifer. We also got an email from Kat in Glendale, Md., suggests that one of the best-kept secrets in the district is the U.S. Postal Museum. Kat says even her skeptical 13-year-old daughter had fun. That's definitely a good recommendation. Kerala, we talked about the importance of getting kids outside no matter the weather.
NNAMDIOne issue is that most parents don't let their kids go outside on their own these days, so getting the kids outside usually means, well, parents being outside too. I guess we have to toughen up a little bit, don't we? Stop being so wimpy.
TAYLORYeah, it is a shame. It's harder and harder to find groups of kids just playing outside. There's rising safety concerns on the part of the parents, and it's sort of a vicious cycle that, you know, there aren't' other kids outside. So I'm not going to send my kids outside, and it plays on itself. But actually, one recommendation I have -- it's another example from Minnesota.
TAYLORBut I read on a blog I follow called free range kids, which is about giving kids some more independence to do things on their own, and she talked about a community in Minnesota, in the middle of winter, that held a block party. And I figure if they can do it there, we can do it everywhere.
NNAMDIEvery year. Every year.
TAYLORYeah. And it's a great way to just force everyone in the community outside. It's fun 'cause there's kids together playing. The adults can either get, you know, get in the fray and play as well, or they can stand on the sidelines and have some hot coffee or hot chocolate. And it just, it's such a different atmosphere when everyone's outside together, and I think you'll find that even if it's cold out, if you're moving, if you're talking to neighbors that the weather is not going to matter as such.
NNAMDIThe winter block party. This might help inspire more outdoor play. Can you talk about KaBOOM!'s book "Go Out and Play!"?
TAYLORYeah, for sure. So this is a book of games that we compiled. You know, kids these days are playing less than any previous generations. They're spending a lot of times indoors, in front of screens, more time in the classroom, less recess, more time in scheduled activities. So research shows that this lack of play has really detrimental effects on kids' health and development and their well-being.
TAYLORBut we also realized that because kids just aren't outside as much that the wisdom, all these games that we used to play as children that our parents' generation played, just aren't getting passed down to children. So this is a book of games that we complied, and there's classic game that most people will recognize like tag and hide and seek. But we also tried to include more unique games that you might not have heard of or just twists and variations on classic games.
TAYLORSo one that I'd recommend for the winter is flashlight tag. I know a lot of parents struggle with how it gets dark really early in the winter, and it's harder to go outside later in the day. But, you know, if you have an outdoor space, you can play tag where you actually tag people with a beam of a flashlight rather than your hand.
NNAMDIAnd do you know how to draw hopscotch grid?
TAYLORI heard that you were an expert, Kojo. But I did learn that growing up.
NNAMDIThe other game that I played growing up that a lot of people are maybe unfamiliar with is sardines. And...
TAYLORYeah. That's one of my favorites. I was just explaining that one to a co-worker this morning, and it's good for winter too because the idea is that instead of a bunch of people hiding and one person trying to find them, one person hides and everyone tries to find that one person. And then as you...
NNAMDIAnd here's the trick.
TAYLORYeah. As you find them, you have to join them. So in the end, a bunch of people end up getting crammed in this one hiding space like sardines and there's one poor person wondering around alone who hasn't found everyone yet. But that was one of my favorite variations of hide-and-seek to play growing up.
NNAMDIAnd the challenge for us used to be finding a place large enough in which the other people who eventually found you could be concealed...
NNAMDI...and yet at the same time, a place that maybe was not that easy to find. That's...
TAYLORYeah. And not giggling and giving yourself away is another challenge.
NNAMDIOh, yeah. What do you mean? There's got to be giggling. That is how you usually get found. Here is Jesse in Savage, Md. Jesse, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JESSEI was just going to suggest -- I was going out for a hike. I have a 5 and 7-year-old, and a lot of times, they ask to go to playgrounds or go somewhere inside when the weather's getting a little cold or not great. But every time I get them out like Patapsco or we have some great local trails by my house, we end up spending hours out there and having -- we have great conversations. And it's just a really wonderful time -- way to spend time of getting -- connect with them as opposed to going to a playground where they end up playing with the kids, and I kind of sit there with my phone.
NNAMDIYou get left out.
JESSEAnd, I mean, we always have a really great time, and we always end up spending much longer out there than we would if we would go somewhere else. And this place is so rich with trails and parks. It's just -- that's my preferred way of spending time with my kids and exercise.
TAYLORYeah, I completely agree with that. And I will just add that my family doesn't have a car, so we end up on a lot of urban hikes throughout the city. And another activity that we talk about in our "Go Out and Play!" book is the scavenger hunt. It's something that -- it's a great way to entertain kids while you're on a walk. You -- it's amazing how much nature is actually in the middle of the city, so you can give them a list of things to try to find as they're walking.
TAYLORObviously, that changes based on the seasons. But, you know, in the winter, they can look for acorns or pine cones or even Christmas tree lights, things like that. So I know kids aren't always super enthusiastic about hiking with a few, give them some kind of goal or something to play as they go that they, you know, forget that they're being forced to actually walk.
NNAMDIJesse, thank you for your call. You too can call us, 800-433-8850. Do you go to the theater with your kids? What's your favorite museum for kids? You can also send email to email@example.com. Here now is Mike who, I think, may have a similar suggestion with the last one. Mike, your turn.
MIKE CALLAHANHello, Kojo. I'm Mike Callahan, president of the Southern Maryland Audubon Society. And kids, as you know, love getting outside and playing, and they love to see wildlife and birds. So there's a lot of fun parks where you can take them. Just take a pair of binoculars even if you don't know the bird, but it's kind of like a scavenger hunt for wildlife. And here in Southern Maryland, we have a number of places: Battle Creek, Cypress Swamp in Calvert County and Patuxent River Park in Southern Prince George's County. There's lots of fun outdoor parks with trail that you can get lost in.
NNAMDIGood for you. Thank you very much for your suggestion, Mike. And, Kerala, if you really can't go outside or get to a museum or a theater, there is plenty to do inside that does not necessarily include either batteries or a screen. Can you talk about making space for creative play?
TAYLORDefinitely. One of our favorite toys at the KaBOOM! office is the cardboard box. There's so much that you can do with it. I'm sure many listeners saw the video about "Caine's Arcade" which is an arcade that a little boy out in L.A. created entirely out of cardboard. And there's just -- and every parent knows when the moment when they give their child a toy and the child starts playing with the box instead of the toy, it always happens.
TAYLORSo one thing I suggest is building forts. You can do it indoors or outdoors. You know, you give kids some newspapers, some old sheets, some cardboard boxes, and it's just amazing to see what they can come up with. We really love loose, open-ended toys where you're not necessarily looking at the picture on the front of the box and trying to replicate it but just using your imagination.
NNAMDIJanet, theater fits into the realm of creative play for kids, and education has been part of Imagination Stage's mission from the very beginning. Can you talk a little bit about that?
STANFORDYes. I was just going to add on, though, to what Kerala was saying about in the free play with children, allowing the child to be the leader, that if you, you know, you have this great ideas to do with them, ideally it's if they want to build a fort, so that they are invested in it. And you're, as the parent, facilitating that and really giving them the tools to do something they want to do.
STANFORDImagination Stage is really focusing on how theater teaches creativity and bringing those ideas about play more into the forefront of what we do with all our teaching because it's been proven that creativity is its own motivator. And with all the difficulties that we see in our school system and so many children feeling alienated from it, if we as educators and parents can find ways to capture their motivation, it's intrinsic.
STANFORDAnd then, you -- you are following their lead, you're enabling them to discover what they're interested in discovering. We find that many of the kids that come to Imagination Stage, grades four and up, are really motivated to do theater, and that's why they come back and back because they have a dream of expressing themselves in that medium. But for younger children, it's just wonderful for them to be introduced to as many different experiences as possible.
STANFORDTheater games can teach all kinds of school-associated skills. There's definitely proof that studying drama helps with academic skills particularly with literature and those kinds of things later in life. But following your child's lead is what I've been reading about most in the research.
NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding that there are classes available over the winter break?
STANFORDThere are, indeed. Yes, some classes for the very young ones just before the holiday. And then in the days after Christmas, we have programs for older children ages 4 to 14.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your call. We still have a few lines open at 800-433-8850. What's your favorite winter activity with kids? You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on winter fun for kids, a conversation you can join by calling 800-433-8850. We're talking with Kerala Taylor. She is the senior manager of online content and community with KaBOOM!, a nonprofit that promotes play and works with communities to build playgrounds for kids. Linda Samuel founded the website "KidFriendly DC," which reviews events around our region for families.
NNAMDIAnd Janet Stanford is the artistic director for Imagination Stage, which is a professional theater for young audiences and the theater arts education center that's been in operation since 1979. On to Maureen in Washington, D.C. Maureen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MAUREENHi there. Thank you so much for taking my call. I am calling from Rock Creek Park Horse Center in Rock Creek Park, and I wanted to let you guys know that we have two great events coming up to get kids outdoors and moving and on horses, as a matter of fact. We have got our Winter Holiday Mini Camp coming up for ages 7 to 14. That is Dec. 26 to 28, and it is a day camp.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for sharing that with us.
MAUREENThank you so very much.
NNAMDIThat was Maureen, calling from Washington, D.C. We move on now to Sonia, also in Washington, D.C. Hi, Sonia.
SONIAHi. How are you?
SONIAGreat. Hey, I want to weigh in and be a maybe a little bit of a holiday curmudgeon. I have three kids, and I love doing all kinds of things with them. But the thing that has sort of stood out for me the most is doing things that are outside their comfort zone or unmediated for them. For example, taking them to a Shakespeare play like "Midsummer Night's Dream," which is right now at Shakespeare Theatre, which they might not understand all of, or going to the National Gallery and not looking for the children's area, or, you know, I could go on and on and on.
SONIABut I guess I'm -- the best one I can come up with is that when we moved here when my son was in the middle of fifth grade, we created a Metro map so that he could ride it on his own. So I guess I'm interested in all of the evolution of children's focus, play-oriented things, but I sort of wish we had more of the, you know, you have to do what the adults do because it's interesting and you're going to be one one day.
NNAMDIYou know, Janet, I have often heard that children are not as mystified by the language in Shakespeare's plays as adults tend to be. They tend to glom on to it a lot more quickly.
STANFORDYeah, I agree with that, and I think also a big secret is letting children do Shakespeare. I think when children have had a chance to play the characters, the characters are so wonderful and feeling the language in their mouths gives them a huge appreciation for it. But I think Sonia's right. You know, taking your children to -- don't pre-judge whether the experience is going to be exciting or not for them, and you may be very well surprised.
NNAMDISonia, thank you very much for your call, and you might want to hear what we're going to recommend next because, Linda, when it comes to museums, most local parents are familiar with some of the favorites -- the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum -- but parents give some of the grown-up art exhibitions -- maybe they should give them a try, starting with the Roy Lichtenstein. Talk about that.
SAMUELSo I don't know if these exhibits were necessarily curated with kids in mind, but I do think that there is something for kids to get out of all of these. You know, the Lichtenstein exhibit includes works that have brilliant bright colors and some cartoonish features. And, you know, I took my daughter to see that, and she really just enjoyed looking at it. She's only 3 years old, so she can't quite get everything, but, you know, she gets the experience of being in a museum and kind of learning how to be in a museum, you know, knowing that she can't cross the line and touch anything.
SAMUELAnd, you know, we talk about the colors. We talk about what she likes and, you know, which was her favorite were. And, you know, the way I look at it, especially with some of these museums on the mall, they're free. They're pretty easily accessible. And so if we go, we take a look at the exhibit. It doesn't work out. The kids really aren't enjoying it.
SAMUELWe can always leave and go do something else they like. In fact, during the Lichtenstein, my daughter enjoyed it about halfway through and then decided she wanted to go to the sparkly walkway, you know, the concourse between the two buildings, and so we spent a good amount of time there. But I do think everything is worth experiencing.
SAMUELAnd I always try to present this to my kids as these are things that somebody imagined in their head. These are things that somebody thought about, and now here they are as actual works of art in a museum for you to view. And so even if they aren't getting the deeper concept of it, they can at least, you know, understand that someone made their imagination a real thing.
NNAMDIJanet, care to comment on that same comment?
STANFORDYeah. I absolutely believe that, you know, we say there's a continuum between imagination, which we all have, and the idea of creativity when you actually do something with it, you know? You can have all the imagination in the world, but if you keep everything in your head, no one else is ever going to benefit from it. And if we can create a culture of creativity where everyone is doing what they do, whether it's good or not, but enjoying it for its own worth, eventually innovation occurs because you're encouraging everybody to express themselves, and something wonderful will rise to the top.
NNAMDIHere now is Elizabeth in Washington, D.C. Elizabeth, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELIZABETHWell, I didn't hear the beginning. I'm terribly sorry. But I want to bring up something that seems to be a lost creative art. I was taught to sew. I was taught to make paper dolls, to make furniture out of paper boxes, to use any leftover fabrics. My brothers were taught to repair furniture, to do creative designs and paint. And I find that it's a quiet way to create.
ELIZABETHAnd I do believe, as someone just said, it isn't enough to use your imagination, but to use it in your work. I've been a professional actor for 60 years, and I find that being alone, quietly creating paper dolls, showing, creating things quietly, serenely, was a great help in my -- choosing my profession.
NNAMDIHow long have you been an actor?
NNAMDIAnd you're still at it?
ELIZABETHWell, I could be, but I have other interests.
ELIZABETHI'm a bit on the old side.
NNAMDIKerala, learning to create things on your own that can eventually become a craft or, in the case of Elizabeth, can lead to her professional choices.
TAYLORYes, I absolutely agree. And I actually do think there has been a resurgence lately in this interest in making things. You know, they call it the maker movement. There is Maker Faires across the country.
NNAMDIWe did a show on it. Yes.
TAYLORYeah. And I think, you know, Pinterest is something you can get rather addicted to, but it's a great place to go to find craft ideas for your children. We're on Pinterest -- outdoor play, pinterest.com/outdoorplay -- and we find a lot of great ideas, you know? There was an organization that built playgrounds. We're huge proponents of active outdoor play, but we recognized that there are all kinds of play, and they're all valid and important. So we quietly creating indoors is also extremely important as well.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an email from Mara, who says, "My kids have always loved going to Great Falls in any season, least crowded in winter though. We walk to the overlook, climb on the rocks, take in the views and enjoy this spectacular local treasure. Bonus, no bugs in the wintertime." Here is Dave in Gettysburg, Md. Dave, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Are you there, Dave?
NNAMDIOh, Dave is breaking up. Dave, I'm going to put you on hold until you find yourself in a better place. In the meantime, we'll talk with Steve in Columbia, Md. Hi, Steve. Your turn.
STEVEHey. How are you doing? Thanks so much for letting me talk. I have two suggestions I wanted to share. In Columbia, there is this wonderful place called Play N' Learn. It's a playground superstore. So, ostensibly, they're just there to sell their playground equipments and stuff, but what they do is they open up their doors to people to come and play.
STEVEAnd it used to be free. And now I think it's still free one day a week. And you have to pay, like, $3 or $4 the other days. But it's a huge space with lots of playground equipment and trampolines and basketball courts and stuff like that. So it's really, really great for us, especially...
NNAMDIYeah. The last time I went there, it was free. Now, you have to pay something?
STEVEYeah. They caught on that it's pretty popular, so they're charging some days. But I think it's still free on Sundays.
STEVEAnd the other suggestion I had is, there is this wonderful book out -- you'll excuse the title, but it's really -- it's a great book. It's called "The Cheap Bastard's Guide to Washington, D.C." And it lists everything free in Washington, D.C., so including all the museums, but also there's a huge chapter in it about kids activities and kid places to go. And so I definitely recommend that for everybody.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Linda, this week's event on your site includes some favorites like the train display at Union Station but also some hidden gems. What are some of the lesser known destinations you've highlighted in our region?
SAMUELWell, one that we recently discovered with the U.S. Navy Museum. This is one that I actually heard of before, but I had just never been to. It actually is hidden because it's on a Navy base, so you can't really drive by and just see it. So I think that's why people just tend to forget that it's there. But my son and I actually ended up going because we were going to ice skating at Canal Park and we had a little time to spare and -- because I'd gotten the opening time wrong. And so I thought, well, what's in the neighborhood?
SAMUELAnd I remembered the Navy Museum, so we went over there. And it turned out we had to go in the visitor center, show ID, get a pass. But once we were inside, it was such a treat. It is kind of like a smaller version of the Air and Space Museum, but obviously dedicated to the Navy and the history of the Navy. So there are a lot of model ships encased in glass. And there is a replica of the USS Constitution's fighting top, like, right in the middle. It's just really magnificent. There's even a Navy airplane hanging from the rafters.
SAMUELAnd there is many wonderful exhibits that showcase the history of the Navy. And a lot of the stuff is interactive. They have a whole submarine section where you can look through periscopes, and you see the USS Barry, which moored outside on the river. And there are control panels where you can actually push the buttons and flip switches.
SAMUELBut, you know, they don't really do anything, but you would get an understanding of everything that controls submarine. There are exhibits about Arctic expeditions, and it's -- the whole museum is filled with artifacts and relics from, you know, hundreds of years back. And it really is a fascinating place.
NNAMDIHow about the new Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna?
SAMUELThat is beautiful. So somebody mentioned Meadowlark before.
SAMUELThey mentioned their lake display. And I was going to say, if the lake display is anything like the garden, just, you know, which is just beautiful, it's probably magnificent. There are tons of plant collections there. It's just a wonderful place to just stroll around. And, you know, somebody also mentioned going on hikes with the kids. It's kind of like that. It's just a nice place to have some family time, you know, just a quiet outing with the kids.
SAMUELAnd there is wildlife to view in the ponds. You can see tons of turtles and geese. In the Korean Bell Garden, there's a new area. I guess, it was constructed about -- I think about a year ago. And it has all these really nice pavilions where you can go sit and relax, and, you know, it's sort of a meditative place. It's just a nice, quiet, peaceful place to be.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. What's your favorite winter activity with kids? Here is Alexandra in Bowie, Md. Alexandra, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALEXANDRAHi. I wanted to mention some of the outdoor skating rinks that are in the area. There are so many choices, and even some of the town centers are opening up ice rinks. And many times, the ice time is free or very inexpensive. And it's OK to be outside with the cold and to get some exercise and to spend some nice time with family with the various ice skating rinks in the areas.
NNAMDIA various ice skating rinks is how we started out the broadcast, as a matter of fact, Alexandra's, and as we're slowly coming to the end of the broadcast. Thank you very much for bringing it up again. But we cannot go without addressing an email we got from Bridgette, Kerala. Bridgette wants to know, "How about addressing activities to do with older kids, teens?"
TAYLORAnd that is a great question. I have a 13-year-old stepson, and I'm wondering the same thing. But, you know, part of our philosophy at KaBOOM! is that the playground isn't just a place for kids. And part of what we try to do is to really re-envision it as a multigenerational space for the whole community. And I don't think we're there yet with a lot of playgrounds that you'll find in D.C. or elsewhere.
TAYLORBut the question is, you know, what kind of elements can we bring to parks and playgrounds that would also interest teens? As one example, we have side projects. If you go to our website, kaboom.org, you'll find side projects, and you'll find other ideas on our blog. But one is like a chessboard tabletop. So if you'll introduce some elements -- I've also heard of outdoor ping pong tables, which are great, and just some things that would actually attract teenagers.
TAYLORAnd we're actually building some playgrounds now for the elderly as well. So I don't think playgrounds to build on what another caller said earlier, I don't think that all spaces just need to be for kids or for adults. We really love multigenerational community spaces. But it is a challenge to find ideas for older kids. Did you have something to add to that?
SAMUELWell, as far as some of the museum scope there, looking for some outings to do with the kids, one museum that is fantastic but often overlooked is the National Geographic Museum. And there are currently two exhibits there that I think kids of all ages can enjoy everywhere, anywhere from 3. My daughter liked it up until -- up to, you know, the teens. There is one that is called "Birds of Paradise," which is about the birds, you know, this rare bird species in New Guinea and in some parts of Australia.
SAMUELAnd then there's another one called "1001 Inventions," and this focuses on the golden age of Muslim civilization. And it's full of interactive exhibits and displays. And they really are interesting. And you can go as deep into it as you want, or you can just enjoy some of the games in the interactive displays there.
NNAMDIAnd finally, we got a tweet from The Durable Human, who says, "Don't forget in the spring that kids love creek clean ups. Good for them and for the planet." We'll keep that in mind, Durable Human. And I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Janet Stanford is the artistic director for Imagination Stage, a professional theater for young audiences and a theater arts education center. Janet Stanford, thank you for joining us.
STANFORDThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIKerala Taylor is the senior manager of online content and community with KaBOOM!, which promotes play and works with communities to build playgrounds for kids. Kerala Taylor, thank you for joining us.
TAYLORThanks so much.
NNAMDIAnd Linda Samuel, founder of the website "KidFriendly DC," which reviews events around our region for families. Linda, thank you for being here.
SAMUELThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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