Thursday, December 18, 2008


Winter Session sign ups are today!

Get in now to enjoy some great classes.

Class: Tumbling for Toddlers

LG graduated from Tumbling for Toddlers on Tuesday. I have to say that though I had my reservations after our first class, this ended up being a pretty awesome experience for her. She learned so much about taking turns and being with other kids. She had the opportunity to run and jump in a much larger environment than I could provide for her at home and she even learned a few gymnastic skills.

Her teacher, Miss Donise (I apologize if I spelled that incorrectly!) was fantastic. She was really sweet with all the children and had some really good tips for the parents.

We did regularly have issues with not wanting to stay at a particular center but LG was fairly easy to redirect. The foam pit opened for the last 3 session of our class and LG was a big fan. When she was 14 months the foam pit was her least favorite thing so I was glad to see her jump right in.

We really did get a lot out of this class and it was a tough call on whether or not we wanted to do it again during the winter session. In the end we decided to do art class instead (Abrakadoodle for Twos) but I am sure that we will sign up for gymnastics again in the summer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Class: Long Branch Nature Center

Long Branch Nature Center
625 S Carlin Springs Rd
Arlington, VA 22204

This morning LG and I attended a class at the Long Branch Nature Center. We had never been to the center before but it had been recommended by a neighbor. I thought that a good way to explore the center would be through the class (my neighbor has not attended a class). The class was inexpensive ($3 paid upon arrival) and runs for 45 minutes. There is one theme per month and the classes are offered multiple times per month. You can find out about classes in the Snag Newsletter.

Here is a breakdown of the class:

~ Information Session
The theme of the class is introduced, in our case: Bears. There were stuffed bears for the children to play with while the teacher told them about bears and hibernation. The teacher engaged the children through questions and by showing them a bear rug.

The children were all given the chance to stretch. The teacher did a little rhyme that children followed along with. It was cute but the teacher only did it two or three times so by the time the children had caught on to the game, it was over.

This was where we started to go downhill. The ball game. The teacher took out a ball (a highly desirable object for toddlers) and proceeded to roll it to one child at a time and have them roll it back. Okay, this is fine if there are say 3 kids, but with 9 children? I don't think so! This was way to long to ask most of the children to wait. LG was fine with the waiting but after she waited so long and patiently she was really disappointed when she didn't get to at least hold the ball for a little bit. So we made it around the circle with minimal tears and then the teacher decides to do it again! You have got to be kidding me! When something fails, just bail out! Anyway, this part of the class obviously bothered me.

So the theme is bears. I would think it would be very easy to find a book about bears that is appropriate for young toddlers. Sure it might not talk about hibernation but it would be about bears and therefore be on theme. So you can imagine my confusion when the teacher pulled out Don't Wake Up The Bear by Marjorie Dennis Murray. LG and I have taken this book out from the library. It is a good book and it does deal with the concept of hibernation. But it is a difficult read out loud book for 2 year olds. LG did fine with it when I read it one on one with her and was able to make it slightly shorter and we could talk about the animals. However, with this many children things got a little confusing (and loud, by this point many of them had had it).

~Art Project
This was a very cute idea. Each child received a brown construction paper bear and a brown paper bag. The bear could go into his cave. LG really liked putting her bear 'Night night.' There were cotton balls to add on for snow. Again very cute. Unfortunate that we didn't have a table when the glue came out but in the end we all coped just fine and the kids had a cute project.

~Nature Walk
This was not the day for a nice walk so we kept it short. We went to see the owl, who was awake and very cool. I can definitely see that this would be a great place to come on a nice fall day. The grounds seemed very interesting with a lot of fun things to explore.

One of the parents in the class commented that she enjoyed the class at the Gulf Branch Center more than this class. I am not sure why she enjoyed it more but I just thought I would put that out there.

I imagine that that class differs slightly depending on who is teaching it. We are signed up for another class in January so I will let you know if that one has a different format.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter Session: Arlington County Class Registration!

The Winter 2009 edition of "Enjoy Arlington!" is available online now ( and will be in mailboxes and available for pick-up at Community Centers and Libraries this week!

Online registration and processing of mail-in and fax-in registrations for residents begins at 8am on December 18. Non-resident registration begins on January 6.

To register online, go to The opening day of registration is extremely busy. For a successful first-day registration online, we encourage you in advance to login to your account and verify that your household members are listed.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where Have I Been?

No, we have not dropped off the face of the earth. Yes, we are still out and about in Arlington, VA.

However in November:
  1. We celebrated LG's 2nd Birthday - a panda theme complete with a trip to the National Zoo.
  2. Did a lot of birthday shopping (see item 4) in Clarendon and Tyson's corner.
  3. Left for an extended stay down in Florida.
  4. While in Florida, we celebrated Aunt JuJu's 32 birthday, Thanksgiving, Dada's 32 Birthday, Mimi's :) Birthday, and Papa's :) Birthday.
  5. We returned from Florida on Dec 3rd. Wow, it is cold here.
Hopefully I will be able to come up with some good ideas of things to do to get out of house, yet stay warm.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Special Event: Halloween Treats!

The Market Commons at Clarendon
Fall Festival and Trick or Treating

October 25 ~ 3pm - 5pm

Bring the kids in their Halloween costumes for a fun filled afternoon at our annual Fall Festival. Children are invited to Trick-or-Treat at participating stores. Other activities include pumpkin painting, moon bounce, entertainment, face painting and more. For more information or in the event of inclement weather, please call (703) 807-2922.

Vienna Halloween Parade

October 29th ~ 7pm

Check the website for all the relevant information. Kids can participate in costume in the parade.

Ballston Mall Trick or Treating

October 31st ~ 5-7pm

This Halloween, come trick-or-treat with us at Ballston Common Mall. Join us Friday, October 31 from 5:00-7:00 PM for a spooky celebration! First, stop by the food court to pick up your free Halloween trick-or-treating bag, and get a list of participating stores for trick-or-treating. Then, visit your favorite retailers for great goodies! Don’t miss out on face painting, balloon sculptures, and much more located throughout the mall.
Halloween at Tysons Corner Center

October 31st ~ 4-6:30pm

Trick or Treat at Tysons Corner Center!

Join us on Halloween for treats for the mind and a spooktacular show!

WASH-FM 97.1 FM – 4:00 to 6:30

4:00-4:45 - Halloween Spooktacular
5:00-5:45 - Magic Show
6:00-6:30- Creepy Creatures Alive

Trick or Treating: 4:00pm to 6:30pm
Children may pick-up there spooktacular treat bag at the Guest Services 1 (Macy’s Court) or 2 (Restaurant Court). Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Special Event: Pumpkin Patches

Pumpkin patches are my favorite part of Halloween. I could live without the rest of it, but I really like going out and selecting pumpkins.

This is where we go:

Arlington United Methodist Church
Glebe Road
Arlington, VA
We have been selecting our pumpkins from this close by 'patch' (really just the yard of the church with lots of pumpkins on it) for the last 3 years. For the 2 and under set it definitely enough. Our pictures are all from this 'patch.' The pumpkins are not locally grown but the sales do benefit local organizations.

On 10/25 from 10am-2:30pm the church is having a special festival:
"Children's Festival & Book FairAn array of children's activities will be offered in conjunction with the Pumpkin Patch -- moon bounce, face painting, target games, improv, sing-a-long, crafts, & much more. The book fair will also be offered for parents and others to enjoy that day as well."

Other places to check out:

Burke Nursery and Garden Centre
9401 Burke Road, Burke, VA
Phone: 703-323-1188
Fairfax County, Virginia

Cox Farms
15621 Braddock Road, Centreville, VA 20120
Phone: 703-830-4121
Fairfax County, Virginia

Cox Farm Market
2599 Chain Bridge Road, Vienna, Virginia
Phone: 703-281-0165
Fairfax County, Virginia

Heather Hill Gardens
8111 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA
Phone: 703-690-6060
Fairfax County, Virginia

Krop's Crops
11110 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, VA
Phone: 703-430-8955
Fairfax County, Virginia

Meadows Farms
10618 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA
Phone: 703-759-3900
Fairfax County, Virginia

Mount Vernon
South end of George Washington Memorial Parkway
Phone: 703-780-2000
Fairfax County, Virginia

Nalls Produce
7310 Beulah St., Alexandria, VA
Phone: 703-971-4068
Fairfax County, Virginia

Friday, October 3, 2008

Special Event: Firestation Open House

I have to admit that I still think fire trucks are pretty cool. They're big, they light up, and they make a lot of noise; what's not to like?

I know LG thinks firemen (and police officers) are pretty great as well, so I was glad to read that Arlington County is having their Fire Prevention Week Open House on Saturday, 10/11 from 10AM-4PM.

The Fire Department does this each year to promote fire safety and Fire Prevention Week. I've seen that they've had this in the past but have never been. It looks like they have activities for kids as well as tours of the stations and safety presentations. You can head down to your local station on Saturday to check it out.

BTW, it looks like many of the Northern VA counties hold the same open house program, and I'd imagine DC and MD do too.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Playground: Alcova Heights

Alcova Heights Park
901 S. George Mason Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22204

This newly renovated playground reminds me of Lacey Woods, which is a very good thing. We always have a great time at Lacey Woods. The equipment here is very similar as is the shaded playground space. I doubt LG will want to stop at Doctor's Run again now that she knows this playground exists just a few blocks away.

  • Swings ~ bucket, regular, and tire!
  • Slides ~ small, tall, covered, and even two metal slides (watch out in hot weather)
  • Playhouse, well actually it is a train but it has a table with benches.
  • Multiple window openings below climbing equipment
  • Zip line (that is best description I can come up with)

  • Street Parking
  • Restrooms
  • Water Fountains

Bonus Features:
  • Creek with wooden bridge
  • Large field
  • Picnic Pavillion
As I mentioned, this park is very close to Doctor's Run park so I want to highlight a few of the differences between the parks in case you are trying to choose. Doctor's Run has a sandbox and is overall smaller than Alcova. Alcova is more removed from the street and has much larger equipment. Alcova also has a large field for children who like to play ball. Doctor's Run is equipped with a handicap accessible swing. Though LG prefers Alcova, your child may not so check them both out.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Playground: Doctors Run Park

Doctors Run Park
1301 S. George Mason Dr.
Arlington, Virginia 22204

This small neighborhood park is on our way to gymnastics so we gave it a try. We had a fun time and we will definitely stop by again when it is convenient for us (but wouldn't make a special trip for it). LG enjoyed the swings, ignored the sandbox, and wanted to go down the big slides (we stuck to the smaller ones).

  • Swings: bucket and handicap accessible
  • Sandbox
  • Slides: large and small
  • Chimes
  • Climbing structure
Additional information:
  • Street parking
  • Shade
  • Drinking fountains
  • Not fenced in

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Class: Tumbling for Toddlers

Arlington County Classes
Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center

LG and I attended our first Tumbling for Toddlers class on Tuesday. LG was pretty excited about it. She couldn't wait to get in the tunnel and play on the balance beam, unfortunately for her, we first had to sit and listen. She actually held up rather well to a speech that could easily been shortened by providing the relevant information to the appropriate parties rather than all the information to everyone. Luckily, we only have to do that part of the class this time.

It was then time to warm up. I think of this as circle time for gymnastics. There are 3 classes in the gym during our session: family, toddlers, and preschoolers. All the classes warm up together. This is something that I think could be reworked. Toddlers and preschoolers do have different developmental needs and abilities when it comes to following instructions and it would be nice to have a warm up that engaged toddlers more. That said, LG will benefit from a whole group activity since she is used it being just her and Mama.

After warm up, the classes were divided up and headed to one of three stations. Our first station was the trampoline. After sitting again for some instructions (which were very important for safety reasons), LG headed off to the balance beam. Right, that would not be a part of trampoline. At least this balance beam wasn't in another station though, so it was safe for her to use it while she was waiting for her turn on other things (I did ask an instructor if it was okay, she said yes). LG did eventually get around to jumping on the trampoline and swinging on the rope, which she loved.

On to the next station - floor. LG was not ready to leave the first station, she had just warmed up to it - I think this is going to be running theme for us. LG is an observer. She wants to watch before she plays. The trouble is when we only have 10 minutes at each station, she doesn't have time to watch and then play (at least not with each thing). Hopefully, as the equipment becomes more familiar to her, she will warm up faster. The floor station is in my opinion the best one for toddlers. There are tunnels to crawl under, stairs to climb up, mats to jump on, a balance beam, and places to practice rolling. I would be very happy if the entire class was organized like this obstacle course. What I really love is that there are intended activities for each piece of equipment but the instructors are fine with the children using them in any safe way. LG likes the music. LG gets very MAD when the music goes off. So MAD in fact that all she can talk about is how MAD she is that there is no MUSIC. She actually refused to do anything until the music turned back on. This is going to be a problem.

The final station of the day was Balloons. I see how this would be fun. Kids do love balloons. I can also see this as a festering pit of germs. As the last group to have balloons we had the joys of many wet balloons - ew. Balloons just seem to be one of those things that children, even those do not normally mouth things, like to put in their mouths. I should mention that both LG and I are now sick - not that it necessarily came from this exposure (we went to JW Tumbles and the grocery store earlier this week). I hope that next week there is something that is not so tasty available.

At the end of the class the children recieved a stamp (on hand or foot) and a coloring sheet. The 45 minutes went by really quickly so we must have had fun! I think this will be a great experience for LG to interact with other children.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Birthday Idea: JW Tumbles

JW Tumbles
Various locations
Click here for list of locations in VA

We recently attended a neighbor's third birthday celebration at the JW Tumbles in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. My experience with toddler birthdays outside of homes is limited, but JW Tumbles did seem to do a great job.What made it great?
  • The staff was upbeat and full of energy to match the toddlers.
  • The parents of the birthday girl did not have to do anything except sit back and enjoy (they did provide all the food and beverages).
  • Lots of equipement for various ages.
  • Separate eating area.
  • The staff provided antibaterial gel to children as they left the play area and headed in to eat and then provided wipes for cleaning off cake before re-entering the play space.
  • Bathrooms on site.
What to watch for...
  • Know your child - this is not the birthday for the slow to warm up child (LG took a good 20 minutes to sit in my lap and observe before she would even touch anything)
  • Expense - call your local location to check prices
  • Timing - pick a time of day that works for what you will be serving (the party we attended started at 4:30, which worked well for everyone's nap time, if not their dinner time)
Personally, I don't see myself doing something this elaborate for a 3rd birthday, but I a lot can change in a year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

StoryTime: Central Library

Central Library
1015 N. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22201
703-228-5990 (Main)

For the past two Fridays, I have taken LG to storytime at the Central Library. She has always been a big fan of the library and this just adds to her love.

The Facts:
  • Storytime occurs each Friday at both 10am and 11am. It lasts approximately 30 minutes.
  • There are two sessions at each time. One session (held downstairs near the children's area) is for children older than 2. The other session (held in the upstairs meeting room) is for children who are 2 and under. We attend the sessions for children 2 and under.
  • You need to check in at the desk in the children's area. It is free but they do limit the number of children admitted. On a rainy day, the 11am time slot does seem to fill up.
  • The way the storytime is conducted depends on the storyteller. The last two weeks we have had two different storytellers and two different but enjoyable experiences.
  • For the 2 and under storytime, the storytellers pick age appropriate books, sing songs, and use puppets to engage the children. Neither has minded a wandering or snacking child, which is nice.
Soon she'll be ready to try out the older storytime and we'll let you know how it goes :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back To School

Today marks the first day of school for Arlington and Fairfax County public school children. I have found that even though I do not have school aged children, back to school still affects me.

Let us count the ways.....
  1. Pools and spraygrounds are now closed (at least during the week, but most for season)
  2. The carousel at Clemyjontri Park now only operates on the weekends
  3. Parks near schools suffer from lack of parking during drop off and pick up times
  4. Parks far from schools are now empty most of the day (especially in the mornings when preschool is in session)
  5. The mall is a significantly nicer place now that the preteens and teenagers have somewhere else to be (yes, I was mallrat at this age too, and I am sure there were many mothers who were glad to see me head back to school)
  6. Grocery stores are understaffed (see now I appreciate the teenagers being out of school)
  7. Weekday babysitters are harder to find (again more teenager appreciation)
  8. The zoo, National Building Museum, Smithsonians, and other tourist attractions will be much less crowded until field trips start (usually not until the second month of school)
Now if only it felt like Fall...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Playground: Chesnut Hills Park

Chestnut Hills Park
N. Harrison St. & 27th St. N.
Arlington, Virginia 22213

This is a large and fun space to play. It is great for toddlers, preschoolers, and school aged children. There is lots of equipment and places to climb (both high and low), 4 bucket swings, regular swings (2 are with the bucket swings), and more.

Another great aspect of this playground is the 'car lot' as I call it. There are a bunch plastic Little Tykes cars and push toys that are for communal use. The asphalt path that encircles the large jungle gym guarantees plenty of driving room.

LG is, of course, in love with the little houses in the sand area. There are play kitchens and small booths set up that are perfect for playing house or restaurant. Lately, I have been recreated these small houses indoors with couch cushions (no big deal since I don't sit down much when she is awake anyway). She delights in the simple act of someone ordering some food from her. Sometimes she will bring it to you and sometimes she eats it.

The sand area is huge but it is that dirt sand that we aren't really fond of (you know the kind that turns to mud when it rains). I would prefer a smaller sandbox with the nice play sand like they have at Hayes. The kids don't seem to care, but then again, they don't need to clean the car, house, shoes, and clothes that suffer.

The park is a mix of shade and sun so it is good during any type of weather (though after rain, it is prone to mud puddles). Parking is limited to street parking. There are restrooms and water fountains on site.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Inside Fun: National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History
10th Street & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20560

As with most of the Smithsonian museums, this museum is huge with many exhibits. It is advisable that you browse the website and select the exhibits that you would like to spend time in before heading out to the museum.

Today we went in for the Butterfly exhibit. The butterfly pavilion features live butterflies in a garden setting and is very cool. I have been to larger contained butterfly gardens but given that this one is in the middle of a museum, it is a good size. We decided to forgo the ridiculous charges for purchasing the tickets in advance and risked not being able to enter. We were in luck - perhaps because we got there before 10:30 am. We were able to purchase tickets for the next entry time and had a short wait in line.

LG really liked seeing the butterflies up close and was very excited when one landed on Dada. She really wanted one to land on her but it didn't happen. We only lasted about 10-15 minutes in the exhibit but it was a good time.

Tips for success:
  • The museum staff said that mornings are the best time to see the butterflies because this is when they are most active.
  • Get there early to avoid long lines. Even if you purchase your tickets in advance the time stamped on the ticket is not your guaranteed time of entry.
  • Strollers are not permitted in the garden.
  • Some children are scared of the idea of butterflies flying so close and landing on them. Be prepared to leave if your child needs to.
  • Diligence is required. Children should not touch the butterflies and must be careful not to step on them.
  • It is really humid in the pavilion. There are water misters that go off frequently.

After seeing the butterflies, we headed off to the Mammal Hall where we saw lots of 'sleeping' animals. LG decided that they were sleeping; we did not tell her that (but we did agree with her).

We then decided to eat in the cafeteria; this was a bad idea. It was expensive and dare I say, gross? We had a hot dog, fries, a hamburger, sandwich, and 2 fountain drinks - for 30 dollars. The sandwich was the only thing worth eating (and was actually large enough to feed the whole family). It wasn't a great sandwich but in comparison to the grill fare it was much better. Next time we will head home earlier or bring our own food for LG.

After the metro ride home, we were all tired but we had a good time so that is what counts.

COST: Museum ~ Free; Butterfly Pavilion ~ $6 per adult, $5 per child, free for those under 2

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fitness: Stroller Strides

Stroller Strides
Various locations, please check website

I recently ran into my former Stroller Strides instructor and remembered what a great experience it had been. I would still be doing stroller strides now if I had: 1. a daughter would would sit in a stroller for an hour; 2. a running stroller (I was fine with my Bumbleride when she was little but I think that now a running stroller, preferably a BOB would be much better for both of us).

I wish I had started striding when my daughter was about 3 months old. I think that is when I would have first been able to handle the workout (which is more intense than you might imagine) and LG would have been very content in her stroller. As it was, I didn't sign up until LG was already 9 months old and so I really only got in 3 good months of exercise before LG was walking and wearing me out at home. Had I stuck with it, I could probably still convince her to stay in her stroller that long because it would be a regular occurrence. There were a lot of mother's who had walkers that were content in the stroller. Somehow, I just don't see LG as being one of them. Or perhaps that is just my excuse so that I don't have to work out. :)

The workouts I was a part of focused less on walking/running and more on strength training. We would walk for a short while and then stop to do some resistance training with the elastic bands or some pushups or leg lifts. We also did cardio bursts, which really did me in.

It was a great place to connect with other moms and get in shape. Of course, everyone was always really understanding when you just 'had to go' or your child would not stop crying/screaming, or in my case, your child threw up all over her stroller.

Wow, I have almost inspired myself to try it again. Almost.

You can register at anytime during the year. The classes usually take place outside but when the weather gets to cold or hot, they move inside. There are a couple of pricing packages available and I would recommend starting with a ten class pass so that you can determine how many times a week you can handle it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good Eats: Elevation Burger

Elevation Burger
442 S. Washington St.
Falls Church, VA

Since I mentioned Elevation Burger in my post about Johnny Rockets, I feel as though I should give the restaurant a proper review.

Currently (as of Aug 2008) there seems to be only one location in Falls Church. However, according to this article more locations can be expected.

It is a casual environment where you order at the counter and seat yourself (highchairs and booster seats available). It is clean and the staff is friendly. Food comes out pretty quickly and we have retrieved it ourselves and also had it brought to us so I am not sure what the SOP is. There are small high top tables and large lower tables but no booths. Given how crowded it is, you might end up sharing a large table with another family.

Dada loves Elevation Burger. He says that they are some of the best burgers in the area. I take his word for it. LG is pretty happy with her burgers from there as well. Mama is happy because they have Veggie Burgers! Two types actually and both are good depending on what you are in the mood for but Mama does prefer turkey burgers. (Hey Elevation Burger, want to add to your menu? Can you PLEASE add a Turkey burger? Thanks!) The milkshakes are fantastic.

Elevation burger has replaced Five Guys for us since Five Guys uses peanut oil (a no-no for LG) and does not have Veggie or Turkey burgers for Mama (they have some sad little thing that they call a Veggie sandwich but I have nicknamed it the toppings sandwich because there is nothing to it but burger toppings).

Thankfully, Elevation Burger now has Sunday hours 11am to 5pm so we can head there for lunch on the weekends.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good Eats: Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets
Pentagon City Mall
Shirlington Town Center

A fun atmosphere where you don't mind if you kid's are loud or make a mess. A good burger for Mom and Dad and milkshakes all around. At the Georgetown location the wait staff performs during certain songs and I have seen quite a few birthday celebrations there as well. The Pentagon City location is by far the least festive. The wait staff is fine, but doesn't usually cater to children. Still a decent choice if you are at the mall and need something besides the food court.

I like the Turkey burgers here and there is a veggie option as well. My favorite is a #12 and Dada likes the Original.

Watch out for: kid's menu prices, for some items it is actually less expensive to order off the adult menu. A la carte ordering can be pricey as well. The french fries do not come with meals and can quickly add to your bill.

Overall: An expensive but kid friendly option.

Other options for a good burger: Elevation Burger in Falls Church (perhaps a better option)

A Simple Plan

Going for a Walk

Never underestimate the value of a good walk outside. I am always amazed at what fascinates LG as we make our way through Arlington. On this particular adventure it was the ATM at Wachovia. She was touching the buttons and asking, "Where's the money?" (mostly in sign language). Keep in mind that I have stopped at the ATM with her only a handful of times in the past 6 months. I was surprised to find that she knew what the ATM was for. She was very disappointed when we had to leave because someone actually wanted to use the ATM.

LG also found excitement in her stroller (a Bumbleride Flyer). She has been very into clasps and hooks and buttons lately so the stroller provided at least 15 minutes of entertainment.

Some great places to walk around outside:

Urban: Ballston Metro area (not right next to the metro but in the area around it) there are fountains to explore (head toward the Westin Hotel); birds to feed (in the open area next to Cosi is usually good); and wide open sidewalks to accomodate strollers.

Nature: Lubber Run has trails that are stroller friendly. The community center on site ensures that you will have access to a bathroom if necessary and there is also a playground an picnic pavillion.

Waterside: Mount Vernon Trail this paved trail provides a beautiful view overlooking the Potomac River.

Added bonus for all this walking? Mommy gets a work out!
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Inside Fun: Central Library

Central Library
1015 N. Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22201
703-228-5990 (Main)

I am raising a book worm. We go to the library all the time. LG loves it. Mama loves it. Good times for all and a money saver to boot.

Our closest library is the Central Library at Quincy Park and for LG it is so much more than a place to get books. She loves the puzzles and playing hide and go seek in the rows of books. She adores watching the other children and the music collection. I have frequently made the mistake of thinking we could pop into the library only to find us still there 45 minutes later. I have learned to never go to the library when we have somewhere else we need to be.

Other things we have learned:
  • If Mama wants books too, it is best that she place them on hold using the online catalog. This way, Mama's books are waiting at the check out desk and there is no need to bring LG upstairs.
  • Story hour(s) are on Friday. There is a 2 years and under story hour upstairs at 10am and 11am. There is also a 2 years and up story hour downstairs at 10am and 11am. I do not know which is best if you have multiple ages to entertain but I imagine that is more dependent on your family dynamics than anything else.
  • The library staff is extremely helpful. If you do not know which books to select for your child, try going to the help desk. They can find some great books that you would never have time to find on your own.
  • The library is a good spot to meet up with other parents. For some reason it is easier to maintain a conversation with another parent here than at other indoor locations.
  • Self-checkout is not hard to do. If you do not have books on hold, try self-checkout (especially if your child is contained in a stroller).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good Eats: Cheesecake Factory

Cheesecake Factory
2900 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 294-9966

Not unique to our area but kid friendly all the same. A kid's menu is not available but since the portions are so large, you can probably get away with just having your little one eat off your plate. There is a toddler plate that servers will bring out for free (ask if they do not do so automatically). It consists of bread, bananas, and strawberries. The smoothies at Cheesecake are also made with real fruit so if you have a smoothie nut like we do, that might be a good option as well.

LG's favorite part is the bread and bacon:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Arlington Classes Registration!

Don't forget Arlington Classes Registration is TOMORROW!

Find out more about the classes here.

You can register for classes online starting at 8am. If you don't already have a log in, I suggest you get one today. If you are not planning on registering online, you can fax or mail in your registration but you must have a paper copy of the catalog of classes to do so. Enjoy Arlington! Class Catalogs are available at the libraries and community centers.

Playground: Quincy Park

Quincy Park
1021 N. Quincy St.
Arlington, Virginia 22201

My daughter really wanted to go to the library today but it was so gorgeous outside that I had to make sure we had some outside time as well so after our visit to the Central Library we walked over to the playground area of Quincy Park.

We don't usually go to this park because there aren't any swings but I am glad that we went over today. Now that LG is old enough to climb stairs and crawl through tunnels, this park is a nice outing in combination with the library (not really a destination in and of itself though). There is a sandbox that was in the shade of some nice large trees but the remainder of the park is hit or miss with the sun depending on the time of day. The too larger slides were both already too hot for sensitive toddler skin at 10:45 this morning. Luckily the two smaller slides had not heated up yet and were perfect for LG.

Quincy Park is really a sporting park so in addition to the playground there are tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a baseball diamond, basketball court, and soccer field. There is plenty of run around space and people watching opportunities (LG likes to watch older kids/adults play sports). There are multiple picnic spots available as well.

Next time we will bring a ball and let her down on the soccer fields!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Good Eats: Silverado

7052 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
(703) 354-4560

YUM! So delicious and yet kid friendly. The atmosphere is relaxed and loud enough so that you don't have to worry if your toddler is having an off day. No table clothes to worry about and booster seats and highchairs are readily available.

Best part? Mom and Dad get a GREAT meal. Starting with the delicious breads from Best Bun Company (extra good during brunch times) and moving right on through to the unbelievable chocolate waffle for dessert I have yet to have miss here. My personal favorites include: the Tex Mex Eggrolls, Silverado Roast Chicken Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, and the chocolate waffle. No one likes the chocolate waffle more than my husband. He will crave it and devors it quickly. Since my daughter has a dairy allergy she has limited participation in this portion of the meal, but has already learned that the chocolate star that decorates the plate is hers (just a decorative dose of dark chocolate but for her it is heaven).

Watch out for: No kids' cups. Odd in a place that is so kid friendly but they serve children's drinks in glasses with coffee lids. Some children may be able to handle this but for us, it is a disaster waiting to happen. We bring our own cup.

Kids' Menu:

For kids under 12...served with fountain soda or milk

Playground: Clarenford Station

Clarenford Station Park
13th St. & N. Vermont St.
Arlington, Virginia 22201

Clarenford Station Park is one of our regular stomping grounds. It is small and over looks Route 66 (yes, you can hear the traffic) but we like it anyway.

Why do we love it?
  • It is hardly ever crowded. Most days we have the place to ourselves so it feels more like our backyard than a playground.
  • The small size and fence allow freedom of movement without a helicopter for a mother (bonus for child and mother).
  • Bucket swings! (2)
  • Slides: 1 small set with easy stair access, 1 small twist slide with stair access, and 1 tall twisting set with multiple access points but none that easy enough for a child to get up (unassisted) if s/he is not ready to go down the big slide.
  • Climbing mountain (a big plastic mountain to climb up, one of the access points to the larger slides)
  • Merry-go-round (the old fashion metal kind that can make you sick but are great fun to ride or run around)
  • Sand box with TOYS! (lots of different toys that provide many opportunities for pretend play)
What would we like to change?
  • Proximity to Route 66 (and on some days its road kill)
There are 2 picnic tables and a bench for parents who have the luxury of sitting down at playgrounds and street parking is available.

Overall, it is a nice place to go when you just want to play!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Inside Fun: Tysons Corner Center

Tysons Corner
Kids Play Area (located by the 3rd floor food court)
A place to explore and slide. Brightly colored with a padded surface it was truly designed with toddlers in mind. My daughter loves the tunnel that goes under the tree and the many different animals decorating the floor.

Some words of caution: Go early because it gets crowded fast. Be careful because frequently children are unsupervised and run a muck.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Outside Adventure: Clemyjontri Park

Clemyjontri Park
6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, Virginia 22101

This playground is unbelievable. Located in McLean it is under 30 minutes from most anywhere in Arlington and well worth the trip. Clemyjontri (named for the 4 children of the family who funded the creation of the park) is accessible to children of all abilities (think ramps, special swings, wide spaces for wheelchairs) and is a toddler's delight.

The playground has 4 main sections that surround a carousel. To fully explore each section you would probably need to stay at the park for 3 hours, however, since most toddlers cannot handle three continuous hours of running, you should not plan on doing everything in one visit. There are picnic pavilions available for use and they can also be rented for parties. The entire playground has a special track like surface that makes falls fairly painless.

We started our visit with a ride on the carousel. During the week the carousel is free and on weekends tokens are required. Each token is $1.50. Children under 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult and this adult does not need a token to ride. The carousel is beautiful. Children have the option of riding on a horse that goes up and down or one that stays stationary. There is also a teacup that spins and a chariot to sit in. The chariot is a nice option if you have a child who can not yet sit on his or her own since you can hold the child on your lap. The staff was really sweet with the kids and boarding and unloading was very efficient. My daughter had never been on a carousel and was absolutely delighted with just sitting on the horse. When the carousel started to move she was thrilled. The carousel is fully covered but stops operation on October 26th. As of September 1st the carousel will only be operational on the weekends.

We then had to go find the swings (of course) which are located in the Rainbow Room section of the playground. There were regular swings, bucket swings, chair swings, tire swings, and adapted bucket swings. We opted for a chair swing followed by a bucket swing.

From the swings we sprinted to a ramp accessible jungle gym. There were numerous steering wheels and other fun things to touch along the way to the slides. There are numerous jungle gyms of varying sizes throughout the playground. This one happened to be in the Schoolhouse and Maze section of the playground. Later in our visit we did go to the maze but our daughter didn't particularly enjoy it. She was confused and a little frightened by the walls. According to another parent, 26 months is the magic age where that starts to be fun.

In the Movin and Groovin Transportation section kids are able to play on every type of vehicle I could imagine. There were cars, planes, school buses, fire trucks, and trains for kids to climb on, 'drive', and just explore. We liked the school bus and the fire truck (which has a slide). There is also a track for foot races and many different bouncers. The frog was our daughter's favorite.

It was then that the playhouse was spotted. The playhouse is very similar to any playhouse at any playground but it caught our daughter's eye. We played restaurant (Mommy orders food, LG brings it to her, Mommy pays) until it was time to go on the carousel again.

The final section Fitness and Fun is geared towards older children but the balance beams (3 different types all with bars to hold on to) and seesaw were a big hit. The huge jungle gym has a lot to explore but for now was just fun to run on.

One more time around the carousel and then it was time to go. We were tired but happy.

Additional information:
Parking ~ there is a parking lot at the site of the playground but it fills up quickly. The overflow lot is a good walk so you might want to have a stroller on hand in case you cannot get close parking. There is a drop off area at the front of the park.

Bikes ~ though there is a very cool 'road' and tricycle parking spots located throughout the park, tricycles and bicycles are not allowed (safety issues I imagine). Wheelchairs and strollers are permitted.

Weather Warning ~ this park is new and the trees are young so there is very little shade. My daughter melts easily in the heat so we cannot go if it is over 80 degrees outside. The park surface and equipment absorb a lot of heat so be careful of burns on fragile toddler feet and hands.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Music: Jammin' Java

Jammin' Java
Weekdays at 10:30am is tot rock. The performer changes with the day. We happen to like Mondays with Miss Belle and Thursdays with Oh Susannah. We have not been to Rocknoceros Wednesdays but I have heard good things (especially if you have school aged children).

The space is large and appealing to walkers and dancers (crawlers will also delight but their parents may not as the floor reminds me of a typical bar floor). The coffee is good for mom or dad and Cheerios and other toddler snacks are available for purchase.

There are also many weekend shows that vary in price. Usually the weekend shows are more appropriate for kids ages 4 and up, but it depends on your child's tolerance for crowds and noise.

COST: $5.00/child (adults are free)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Arlington County Fair

Special Event this weekend! The Arlington County Fair is operational August 6-10. Click on the link for more details. We have not been previously but we are hoping to take advantage of the nice weather predicted for the weekend and head out to see the Little Piggie Races at 11:30 on Saturday (other times available).

There is also going to be a petting zoo, pony rides, and carnival rides. Our daughter is too young to partake in most of these activities but she will have fun watching and maybe there will be a carousel for her.

Thomas Jefferson Community Center

3501 2nd Street South
Arlington, VA

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Arlington County Classes

Arlington County Department of Recreation has released the schedule for Fall Classes. There are many different classes for all ages (starting at birth). All classes are Mommy and Me until the child is 3 at which point it varies. Registration begins on 08/21/08. You can register online, by mail, fax, phone, or in person.

Classes we have previously taken include:

Waterbabies ~
Swimming with the little ones. My husband did this class with my daughter when she was about 10 months old and it was nice time for them to bond together. He actually learned a lot of techniques for playing with her in a swimming pool and getting her comfortable in the water.

Cost: $90 for 11 sessions
Location: Various locations and times available.

Tiny Time ~
Gymnastics and movement class. I signed up to take this class with my daughter when she was 13 months old. We only were able to attend 3 classes due to illness and planned vacations. Those three classes were quite the workout for me! Since the classes meet in the normal gymnastics center at Barcroft, all the equipment is there for your little one to explore (i.e get hurt on). It is hard to keep a 13 month old from wandering off to various locations. The activities were a little advanced but she had fun just playing with the items that were appropriate for her. I think that now she would enjoy it more since she is comfortable walking and likes to balance, climb, and jump. At 13 months just walking around was enough for her.

Cost: $127 for 13 sessions
Location: Barcroft, multiple days/times available

Signing Smart Beginner Play Class ~
Signing was something that I really wanted to do with my daughter. I was dedicated enough to sign to her for 6 months with no signs from her. Now she has about 100 signs and regularly uses them to communicate. The signs help her to clarify her speech or say things that she doesn't have the words for yet. I highly recommend signing with your child.

That said, we didn't learn a lot of the signs from this class. I liked the instructor and I thought that she was wonderful with the kids. She had lots for them to play with and really made age appropriate choices. The materials we had to purchase for the class were good and bad. The video was terrible (there are much better videos available) but the 'manual' for the parents was very helpful. The parent guide had all the information that that class taught, which was very valuable because I could rarely learn anything from the 'lecture' section of the class due to noise and since I was also trying to entertain my daughter. Overall, it was a great place to meet other parents who shared your interest in signing and it was a nice playgroup for my daughter.

Cost: $147 for 10 sessions PLUS a $47 materials fee
Locations: Various locations and times

Classes that we are considering for this fall:
Water Tots
Tumbling for Toddlers

Friday, August 1, 2008

Music: Mr. Skip at Stacy's Coffee

Stacy's Coffee Shop
Thursday mornings at 10:30am this cute little coffee shop becomes a rockin' spot for the little ones. Mr. Skip (pictured) performs weekly for about 45 minutes. He appeals to the kids sense of humor and engages them in movement while he strums out favorites and original songs. My daughter enjoys her cinnamon raisin bagel served by the ever smiling Jeff and the lattes are pretty good for the mommies. It varies in how crowded it is so to secure a seat I do recommend showing up a little early.

COST: $5.00/child (adults are free)

Inside Fun: Libraries!

Arlington County has great libraries. We frequent the Central Library on Quincy. The children's section is large with room to read, puzzles, and computers. There is a weekly all ages story hour, which if my daughter could sit through it, would be very fun. Children as young as 2 years old can have a library card.

Kid Friendly Stores!

With the oppressive heat bearing down on us, sometimes you just need a new venue to play in. Some stores offer a quick escape for you and your little one. Cost to go is free if you can resist the urge to purchase something :).

Tree Top Kids
We are lucky enough to live about 5 minutes from a Tree Top Kids store. WE LOVE IT! My daughter will play here for about an hour. There are so many toys out for the kids to explore, which I really appreciate because I don't like having to select a toy without touching it. This allows me to see which toys my daughter really likes - if it can hold her attention in a store full of toys, it ought to do well at home. The stuffed animal selection here is fantastic. Some of the toys that they have out include: push toys, a train table, a play kitchen.

Kinder Haus Toys
Similar to Tree Top Kids, but smaller. It does have a nice area with a train table and another table for the kids to play at. Again, there is a good stuffed animal selection. Kinder Haus also sells ballet shoes and accessories.

Borders Bookstore
- in Bailey's Crossroads
Bookstores are always fun. This Borders happens to have a very large children's section on the first floor. Tons of books, stuffed animals, and other fun things.

Barnes and Noble Bookstore - in Clarendon
Located upstairs, the children's section is a large portion of this bookstore. There is a train table, a stage area, and reading spaces. Perhaps a smaller selection of toddler books than Borders, but still a lot to see. If you are looking for a large selection, try the Tysons Corner location - every board book you can imagine!

Inside Fun: DC National Aquarium

Ugh, welcome to late summer in the DC area. It is just too hot to go outside. No matter how wonderful the playground, my daughter is melting after 15 minutes. Time to check out some indoor options.

National Aquarium

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that DC had an aquarium. Though small, it is the perfect hot day activity. It is located at the Department of Commerce Building and is a fairly easy metro ride from Arlington. Most of the viewing tanks are high off the ground but the first one you see has turtles and alligators and that is on a toddler level. We spent a lot of time watching the turtles.

No restaurant but a nice store.

COST: $7.00/adult, $3.00/ages 2-10, FREE/under 2 years

Inside Fun: National Building Museum

National Building Museum

Building Zone

A 25 minute metro ride from Arlington but my daughter seems to think that the metro is half the fun so we don't mind. Added bonus is that you only have to walk across the street once you get out of the metro - unless you need a ramp access, then you have to walk around to the other side.

The Building Zone is intended for children ages 2-6 but really it is appropriate for any child who can walk and I know a few 9 year olds who would love it. It is a wide open space with every type of block you can imagine, dress up construction clothes, trucks and cars, bean bags (to load up in the trucks), a book corner, a tool center, and even a small model house. I cannot tell you who had more fun my daughter or me but we played for an hour.

In addition to the building zone, your little one can blow off steam by running laps in the HUGE lobby area. Complete with a large fountain that has benches by it for a quick snack this area is a toddler's delight.

There is a Firehook Bakery on sight and an extensive store where you might find time to snag a cute gift for someone.

COST: Donation of $5.00

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hayes Park

Hayes Park
1516 N. Lincoln St.
Arlington, Virginia 22201

  • Contained Sandbox with digging tool and play structure
  • Bucket swings (4)
  • Swings (4) - separate structure from bucket swings
  • Preschool jungle gym (large slide, small double slide, small climbing wall, cargo net)
  • Boat structure
  • Spinning seat
  • Bouncy seats (3 attached together)
  • Tunnel
  • Open grass space
  • Paved paths
  • Sprayground (open Memorial Day to Labor Day)
  • Tennis Courts
  • Basketball Court
  • Restrooms
  • Picnic Pavilion

  • Large park with lots of options
  • Large sandbox
  • Partial shade (depends on time of day and area of park - swings are always shaded)
  • Parking lot and street parking available

  • Frequently is very crowded (especially in the summer due to the sprayground)
  • Not many options of for older children (which can cause conflicts with the younger children)

Lacey Woods Park

Lacey Woods Park
1200 N. George Mason Dr.
Arlington, Virginia 22205

  • Bucket Swings (2)
  • Sand box
  • Preschool jungle gym (2 slides, tunnel)
  • School-age jungle gym (covered slide, small double slides, bridge)
  • Climbing structures
  • Basketball hoops (multiple level)
  • Open fields
  • Picnic pavilion
  • Mulch ground covering

  • Shady
  • Combination playground for both preschoolers and school aged children
  • Restrooms
  • Contained sandbox with play sand

  • No parking lot (street parking is available on both sides of the park)
  • Playground drops off into wooded area (there is a defined playground area but children can easily leave the playground area)
  • Street in the park grounds (this street is not a through street but we did see cars on it)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bon Air Park

Bon Air Park
850 N. Lexington St.
Arlington, Virginia 22205

This refers to the preschool playground that is located by the gardens.

  • Covered slide
  • Open slide
  • Boat structure
  • Multiple steering wheels

  • Large parking lot
  • Beautiful gardens with paths
  • Large open grass fields (extra bonus for toddlers is that no ball play is permitted on the fields so you do not have to worry about stray balls coming onto the playground)
  • Shaded
  • Restrooms
  • No swings
  • Gritty dirt sand covers entire area

Other information:
  • The playground structure is small
  • Separate school age playground is not visible from preschool playground

Map of Parks