This article appeared in the Nov. 7, 2008 Jewish Advocate.
For active kids, the options never end:
Choices abound for youthful fun, exercise and enlightenment
By Susie Davidson
Special to the Advocate
Younger Bostonians have no excuse for sitting in front of the computer during their spare time – unless they’re mapping out the many ways they can have live fun, while exercising their minds and bodies. Nowdays, the power of the internet can result in great activities outside the home. A quick scan found innumerable local opportunities, organized on sites such as BostonCentral.com, in categories including Arts & Crafts, Boating and Sailing, Day Trips, Enrichment Programs, Farms & Orchards, Fitness, Indoor Sports, Historic Landmarks, Libraries, Nature, Playgrounds and Playspaces, Science & Technology, Tours, Winter Fun, Zoos & Aquariums. How could one be idle?
Elders get into the scene at gocitykids.parentsconnect.com, a national resource where parents rate activities such as Cooking to Learn classes, Family Wellness Workshops, Bay State Ice Skating School, and the Brighton Branch Library’s preschool story hours, film and Homework Assistance Programs. The site’s handy and extensive calendar has dozens of listings for this Sunday, Nov. 9, including “To the Ends of the Earth” at the Museum of Science; “Painting the Polar Landscape” and “Gateway Bombay” at the Peabody Essex Museum; and “Drawn to Detail” with drawings by 26 American artists at the DeCordova.
Other great exhibits this weekend are The Boston Children’s Museum’s “Children of Hangzhou”; Italian Cars at Larz Anderson; Concord Museum’s “Street Smarts” about Concord streets; the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s “Sea Creatures in Glass,” “Looking at Leaves,” “Arthropods: Creatures that Rule” and “Language of Color,” an interactive exploration of color in varied animal specimens; and nearby, “Holography: The Light Fantastic” and “Robots and Beyond” at the MIT Museum.
How about “Airborne Comedians” who juggle, ride unicycles and perform vaudeville at the Regent Theatre in Arlington? Or “Moccasin Stew” at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brookline, “The Coolidge’s “Soup2Nuts Animation Workshop,” Newtonville Books’“Story Time Fun,” Anne of Green Gables” at the Center for Arts in Natick, or Children's Book Day at the Leventhal-Sidman JCC’s Boston Jewish Book Fair?
The site also lists drop-in playgroups, and rates playgrounds. You can get online and then get out there!
For a rainy or wintry, or just plain indoorsy day, try Newton-based BabagaNewz.com.
Newton-based BabagaNewz.com is games, quizzes, videos, crafts and brainstorming central for Jewish kids. A scan found the Hesed Lyrics Challenge, where kids can write lyrics about kindness and Craig Taubman puts them to music, as well as JPod and Baba's Vault, a Chanukah Message Wall, Card-sending for ill children and Israeli penpals, and kids’ posted reviews.
Other sites, like Chadiscrafts.com, showcase and instruct in Judaic camp and “just fun” craftsmaking.
An online search turned up Emerson College Radio's “The Playground,” with three hours of varied childrens’ music on Sat. and Sunday nights on WERS, 88.9 FM. And for the real thing, a search also located Ben Rudnick, whose band performs Shalom Alechem while proclaiming “ZETZ!” at the end. A longtime area kids’ musician, Rudnick told the Advocate that his daughter Emily, who inspired their first recording, “Emily Songs,” is celebrating her bat mitzvah on Nov. 15 (will he play?). “Sodom and Gomorrah week!” he joked (maybe?). Rudnick’s band does Chanukah parties, with “Hava Nagilah” a staple. “This past summer, we are SURE we levitated the Watertown Free Public Library during one of the best Hava Nagila's we ever played,” he said. His album “Grace's Bell” was recently named the People's Choice Selection for the Independent Music Awards Best Children's Album in their international, 2007 competition. Aside from your next function, he’ll be at the Center for Arts in Natick on Dec. 6, and at the Regent on Dec. 13.
Glenn Dickson of Shirim also has a large internet, and kids’, presence. “ Shirim has done hundreds of kids and family shows over the years,” said Dickson. These have included educational Klezmer concerts in public schools. “We have found that kids love Klezmer music,” he said. “We have had kids hear us when they are 5-6 years old, and then request us to play their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs years later.” Shirim has also worked with childrens’ author Maurice Sendak on “Pincus and the Pig,” and their “The Golden Dreydl” with WGBH’s Ellen Kushner is being made into a stage show in New York City, playing at the Vital Theater Company in December.
If all this talk about kids sparks interest in non-parents, there is always a great need for mentors at Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, a nonprofit that matches volunteers with children and also adults with disabilities, creating and supporting life-changing relationships on both ends. Donors also can help supply tickets to theatre and sporting events. For busy workers, the “JBBBS in Schools” program finds “Bigs” for school lunchtime activities.
There’s textile learning at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, “Nature Tales” and Observatory Guided Tours at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, “FlightPath: Plymouth Beach” and a look at leadership in the 17th century at Plimouth Plantation, and “Polar Attractions” at Peabody Essex. Animal-loving kids will love The Stone Zoo’s Black Bear Exhibit with brothers Smoky and Bubba, rescued from the Appalachians, or the Franklin Park Zoo’s “Tiger Tales,” with Anala, a Bengal mix, and Luther, a white tiger.
Italian cars are showcased in “The Evolution of Speed” at Larz Anderson Auto Museum, where families can also enjoy a scavenger hunt. In Worcester, the EcoTarium’s “The Zula Patrol” helps kids explore weather on Earth and in space; “Cosmic Collisions” is narrated by Robert Redford. Gloucester’s Maritime Heritage Center’s “Fitting Out” depicts fishing gear in 1900, and at the Science Discovery Museum in Acton , kids can manipulate radio waves, solar explosions and auroras in “Solar Storms to Radio Waves.” The National Heritage Museum in Lexington takes kids back to 1775 in “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty,” while The nearby Munroe Tavern teaches kids about the British military.
Downtown, kids can learn about the Paul Revere House and see Revere artifacts and silver, tour Old Ironsides, take in “Here’s Boston” at the Immersion Theater on Central Wharf, or the African-American Patriots Tour or Cobblestone Theater’s roving historical characters at Faneuil Hall. The Frog Pond’s Carousel Rides end this Sunday (adults can ride next to the kids for free). Experience an archaeological dig site at 5 Wits in the Fenway area.
Your kids will need days at the Museum of Science to enjoy “Mythic Creatures,” “Playing by the Rules,” and “Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear,” which includes a “Fear Challenge Course. They can learn forecasting at “WeatherWise,” manipulate mirrors and prisms at “The Light House,” or check out “A Bird's World.” “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure” is playing at the Mugar Omni Theater and “Wild Ocean” at the IMAX, and “What Happened to Pluto?” is at the Charles Hayden Planetarium.