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Plus celebrate music at the Kennedy Center or the arts at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival By Monica Sakala

BabyLove DC Carnival
What better way to spend a Saturday than fundraising for a great cause and rubbing shoulders with some famous faces? Head to the second annual BabyLove DC Carnival on Saturday from 10 to 1 at Tudor Place in Georgetown, hosted by Claire Shipman and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, White House press secretary (and Shipman’s husband) Jay Carney, actress Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order SVU, and John Bemelmans Marciano, author of books in the Madeleine series for children (created by his grandfather Ludwig Bemelmans). Carnival activities include story time with Hargitay, book signings, arts and crafts, face painting, and food courtesy of Design Cuisine and Sprinkles Cupcakes. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for kids over age two. Proceeds benefit needy kids and families in the area.

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Posted at 04:29 PM/ET, 05/19/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Or if you don’t want to head out this weekend, some ideas for science experiments at home By Monica Sakala

Pups in the Park at Nationals Park
Saturday marks the return of the popular Pups in the Park event at Nationals Park. Pack up the kids and dogs and get to the stadium before the Nationals take on the Marlins at 1 PM to participate in the “pup parade,” led by Tillman, the famous skateboarding dog. A special section of the park will be designated for fans and their dogs. All proceeds from the dog ticket sales will be donated to the Washington Humane Society. Owners must bring proof of vaccinations to the park and sign a waiver before entering. Tickets are $20 for humans, $5 for dogs.

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Posted at 02:16 PM/ET, 05/12/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Moms always deserve a break—make sure yours gets one this Mother’s Day By Monica Sakala

National Train Day

Saturday is National Train Day, so pack up the train lovers in your house and head to Union Station from 11 to 4 for free events for all ages. Kids and parents can climb inside the trains, tour historic locomotives and cars, or enjoy the model-train display. In addition to kid’s crafts and activities, Radio Disney and the Diggity Dudes will be performing.

Bears, Bears Everywhere at the Kennedy Center

On Saturday or Sunday, head to the Kennedy Center with the little ones for “The Teddy Bear Concert: Bears, Bears Everywhere,” a performance by National Symphony Orchestra musicians and storyteller Lynn-Jane Foreman. The concert, for ages three to five, incorporates the sounds of bears paired with the style of music from their homelands. Musical playtime starts a half hour before each performance. Tickets are $18, and there are two 45-minute shows each day.

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Posted at 04:20 PM/ET, 05/05/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
From Aviation Art to Family Day, ideas to help you plan your weekend By Monica Sakala

College Park Aviation Museum
On Saturday from 11 to 4, head to the College Park Aviation Museum to create aviation-related art. Kids of all ages can participate and enter their finished works into the museum’s art competition. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for kids ages two to 18 (kids under two are free).

Glen Echo Park
Glen Echo Park’s annual Family Day celebration is Saturday from 11 to 4. Activities include magic shows, balloon animals, face painting, hula-hoop lessons, and art activities. Plus, the antique carousel will open for the season. While you’re there, stop by the Adventure Theatre box office for tickets to A Year With Frog and Toad, opening May 10.

Race for Hope
If you haven’t already registered, you can still do so on the day of Sunday’s Race for Hope, benefiting brain-tumor research. Brain tumors are now the number-one killer of young children. The kids’ quarter-mile Fun Run begins at 10 and is free. The start line is on Pennsylvania Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, Northwest.

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Posted at 04:19 PM/ET, 04/28/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fun for kids, “fun” for parents By Monica Sakala

Welcome to The Meltdown Meter, the newest addition to Washingtonian’s parenting blog, where we rate supposedly “kid-friendly” events in Washington for enjoyment and ease of attendance with actual human children.

The event: Bunnyland at Butler’s Orchard (Germantown)

On paper, Bunnyland is a great idea. The egg hunt, the baby animals, the three giant and crazy long slides, the hayride, and moon bounce. In reality, it’s expensive and overcrowded, making the parent-meltdown risk high. Like masochists, we go back every year. What can we do, the kids love it.

This year, however, we were prepared for Bunnyland. Our strategic plan: first in, leave as the crowd swells. And miraculously, we executed said plan with precision early Sunday morning. At 9 AM, there were relatively few people roaming the wide-open fields, and though the wind always seems to be fiercer at Butler’s than anywhere else in Washington, my husband and I almost enjoyed ourselves on this outing.

First, the Butler’s staff appears to have finally learned some lessons from the chaos of previous egg hunts. This year, they divided field into three parts and directed families to a specific area; it helped manage the crowds. You can either bring your own Easter basket (though remember you’ll have to carry it the rest of the outing) or use Butler’s baskets. Unlike years past when I’ve had to bark at nine-year-olds for snapping plastic eggs from the hands of my unsuspecting 17-month-old, this year my girls hunted for the eggs at their own pace and without being on the defensive. It was a great change, so kudos to Butler’s. 

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Posted at 02:07 PM/ET, 04/22/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
A few non-bunny ideas for the long weekend By Monica Sakala

Junie B. Jones (Montgomery College, Rockville)

Catch kid-favorite Junie B. Jones on Saturday at 11 at Montgomery College in Rockville. This high-energy musical is great for kids ages five and up. Tickets are $7 for adults and $6 for seniors, children, and students.

Earth Day with the US Botanic Garden

On Saturday at 11, head to the US Botanic Garden for eco-friendly play Just a Dream: The Green Play. Kids of all ages will enjoy the puppets and magical effects brought to life by the story of Walter the Litterbug as he learns how to protect the environment. The performance takes place in the National Garden Amphitheater. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the lush grounds of the botanic gardens.

Easter Monday with the National Zoo

On Easter Monday from 10 to 4, enjoy the long list of activities planned for families at the National Zoo. Celebrating African-American families has been a long tradition at the zoo on Easter Monday, and special kids’ events include Create-a-Critter, the Easter Panda, and meeting curators at various animal exhibits throughout the day.

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Posted at 12:59 PM/ET, 04/21/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Spring is finally here—go out and play By Monica Sakala

Easter Eggstravaganza (Alexandria)
Saturday, head to Top Golf of Alexandria for the Easter Eggstravaganza from 10:30 to 1. Kids activities include egg hunts by age group, moon bounce, magic shows, games, prizes, and music. This event appeals to all ages.

Celebrate Robots With the Museum of American History
Saturday, head to the Museum of American History’s Spark! Lab to celebrate National Robotics Week. The Spark! Lab is the museum’s newest family-friendly hands-on center, and I’ve heard rave reviews about it. Kids can invent a robot’s arm, experiment with electronics, and play with ELECTRO, the lab’s robotic dog. Activities are held from 10 to 4.

Kids Spring Fling With the Bowie Baysox (Bowie)
Sunday at 11:45, the Bowie Baysox host the annual kids Spring Fling. Kids of all ages can participate in one of the largest egg hunts in the area, visit with the Easter Bunny, play games, and participate in kid-friendly activities until the afternoon game begins at 2. One of our readers tipped us off a few weeks ago that he thinks the Bowie games are the most kid-friendly baseball games in our area, so Sunday’s event seems like a great way to find out, and the weather (fingers crossed) should be great that day.

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Posted at 04:13 PM/ET, 04/14/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
And buy your tickets now for a Madeline musical at the McLean Community Center By Monica Sakala

Sheep Haircuts
The sheep at the Reston Zoo get their annual haircuts Saturday at 11, noon, and 1. Admittedly, this is an unusual event, which is probably why it first caught my eye, but the chance for kids to help bottle-feed the baby lambs is what sold my five-year-old on this activity. Kids can also go on a pony ride or take a Zoofari wagon ride around the grounds. Check out hours and admission prices here.

Art & Go Seek on Capitol Hill
Adventurers out there can participate in the Art & Go Seek scavenger hunt on Capitol Hill Saturday from 8:30 to 1. Teams of two to six people will seek answers to questions about art, history, and places of interest on the Hill. The event is open to all ages. Entry fees are $40 per adult, $10 for kids ages 13 to 18, and those age 12 and under are free.

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Posted at 10:42 AM/ET, 04/07/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Got extra diapers lying around? You can also donate them this weekend. By Monica Sakala

Run the Bases at Nationals Park
Today marks opening day for the Nationals, so it’s a good time to check the schedule for kid-friendly games. My family had a great time playing on the playground and taking pictures with the Racing Presidents last summer, on top of the excitement of the game. One time we happened to be nearby as the presidents strolled in to the kids’ play area and posed for pictures with the crowd, which consisted of just a few fans because most people were watching the game. It turned into a highlight of the day for us. My eldest still voices her affinity for the “angry” president, otherwise known as Abraham Lincoln. On select Sundays beginning April 3, kids ages 4 to 12 can run the bases immediately following the game; an adult is required to participate with the kids. And look for deals via the family fun packs on tickets and food every Saturday and Sunday throughout the 2011 season.

Cherry Blossom Art and Photography
Join the Corcoran Gallery of Art on Saturday, April 2, from 2 to 4 on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial for Drawing from Cherry Blossoms, a free, hands-on family workshop. Participants will be invited to capture the aesthetics of Washington’s iconic trees on paper using pencils, ink, charcoal, or oil pastels. This event is recommended for ages 8 to 16. And for all the budding photographers out there, the Corcoran is hosting the photo contest Blossoms in Bloom, also for ages 8 to 16. Submit your best picture of this year’s Cherry Blossoms by April 12 for the chance to win a Corcoran family membership and to have your photo featured on the Corcoran’s Web site. Images should be e-mailed to

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Posted at 11:13 AM/ET, 03/31/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plan a staycation or sign up for Wolf Trap’s music classes By Monica Sakala

The most successful spring breaks I’ve had are planned well in advance. Although spring break is late this year, it’ll be here before we know it. Here are some ideas on filling out your week—and for the little maestros in your house, an idea for music classes.

Eggstravaganza at Tudor Place
Make your reservation now for Tudor Place’s annual Easter-egg hunt and egg-rolling contest Saturday, April 23, from 10 to noon. The day’s events, including decorating eggs, playing games, and taking pictures with the Easter Bunny, will engage kids up and down the age spectrum. The hunt begins at 10:30; bring your own basket. Tickets are $7 for members’ children, $10 for nonmembers’ children, and $3 for adults.

Teddy Bear Tea at Strathmore
For the kids who want to recreate afternoon tea with their stuffed animals, register for Strathmore’s Teddy Bear Tea Tuesday, April 19, or Wednesday, April 20, at 1 PM. Children should bring their favorite teddy bear, and Strathmore will serve a kid-friendly menu and host storytime and children’s music. The price—$26 per person—isn’t cheap, but it strikes me as a special and memorable way to spend an afternoon during spring break. This popular event in North Bethesda fills up quickly, so make your reservation soon.

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Posted at 12:44 PM/ET, 03/29/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()