East Side Music Together

The instrument free-for-all

During each class, there’s an instrument free-for-all where the children can try out different sounds.

Since she was only a few months old, I’ve taken my two-year-old daughter to Music Together — first in East Providence and now on the East Side of Providence. Classes are broken into nine-week intervals with a different theme (and CD to go with it) — Triangle, Bongo, Drum, etc.. The songs include simple sound combinations like Biddy Biddy to favorites like Palo Palo and John the Rabbit, so that children can start singing along as soon as they can make sounds.

Local mom and musician Jen Romanat runs our East Side Music Together class — in our most recent class, Jen led songs on both her guitar and ukulele, and the children sang, dance, spun with the parachute, and tried out a variety of instruments including drums, maracas, and tamborines.

Who wouldn't love parachute play?

Who wouldn’t love parachute play?

The Music Together philosophy suggests that children learn music through adults who model it for them so the class encourages adult participation. And although the children may be quiet during the class, don’t think that they aren’t listening, absorbing and learning. My daughter who sat pensively throughout many of the songs during the last class came home singing them and making the clicking horse noise she learned that day.

Note: Jen Romanat will also be performing at the Hope Street Market on July 3, July 24, August 7, August 21; the Armory Market on July 11, July 18 and August 15; and Gladys Potter Park (Humboldt) throughout the summer.

East Side Music Together

Music Together

Just Pickin’ Flowers (Jen’s Music)

Rock Spot Climbing: Rock climbing for all levels (and almost all ages)

Rock climbing–it’s for kids too.

It was as if she’d been rock climbing her whole life. That said, she is only five. Today, my daughter kept up with the best adult climbers as she adeptly made her way up the 30-foot climbing wall at Rock Spot Climbing in Lincoln over half a dozen times. Using top roped climbing, she was harnessed into a belay device to protect against a sudden fall and create a smooth, slow (and apparently fun) ride down.

When my husband asked her before bed if she’d like to go back, she said yes, she’d love to go back tomorrow.

Rock Spot Climbing
100 Higginson Ave
Lincoln, RI

1174 Kingstown Rd
South Kingstown, RI


They also have the largest indoor bouldering facility in New England at:
67 Sprague St
Boston, MA


Monster Mini Golf

The final hole at Monster Mini Golf in Warwick.

Madeline loves Halloween so much that she decided she wanted to have a Halloween birthday party — in April. So, we decided to test out the Monster Mini Golf in Warwick as an appropriate place for a spooky (but not too spooky) costume birthday party.

The indoor course glows with neon colored monsters and clowns, and they have chairs set up outside the course so parents can sit and watch. It can get crowded (especially the skee ball and other games in the front), but it wasn’t too bad last Sunday afternoon. Geoff’s only complaint was that the golf course isn’t actually designed to make a hole-in-one physically possible. Of course, Madeline didn’t care. Most of the time, she swung a few times at the ball and finally wound up dragging it into the hole.

Monster Mini Golf
33 Lambert Lind Hwy (Rte. 5)
Warwick, RI

RISD Museum: Tours for Tots

Madeline creates her own art during the RISD Museum's Tours for Tots.

Someone recently asked Madeline what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“Well,” she replied. “I’m already getting started. I’m an artist.”

So apparently in support of her current career, we visited the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum yesterday during their Tours for Tots. The hour-long program, which continues Thursdays in June, offers children ages 3-5 an interactive tour of one of the museum’s exhibits, along with a chance to create their own art. Yesterday’s tour brought us to the wooden Dainichi Nyorai Buddha, which sits 9-feet tall in its own dimly lit gallery. The children learned the story of Siddhartha, as they discovered how to sit and think like Buddha. We then moved to an open room where the kids spread out on the floor and created their own crayon drawings inspired by the story. The event ended with all of the new ‘artwork’ on display for everyone to admire.

A still from Schnitt's "Once Upon a Time"

Each week brings a different tour, so you can attend more than once. And while you’re there, you can get your fix of Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, and other masterpieces, along with some less traditional art like Sarah Sze’s notepad cut into a tiny and intricate fire escape or Corinna Schnitt’s video loop Once Upon a Time, which shows what happens in an unsupervised room full of chickens, cats, birds, fish, bunnies and a goat. Who says art museums are for adults?

RISD Museum
Tours for Tots

Thursdays June 2, 9, 16, 23 at 2 pm – 2:45 pm
(meets in the Chace Lobby, free with museum admission)
www.risdmuseum.org (also see family programs)

Sarah Sze
artist website | exhibit info

Corinna Schnitt
artist website | exhibit info

Duckpin Bowling in Rhode Island

Bowling for a three-year-old warrants even more enthusiasm than the average adult.

On a recent vacation in France, we made the mistake of promising to take Madeline bowling. After trekking out to the outskirts of Nice, we found the Acropolis only to learn that at age three and shoe size seven, she was much too young and too small to bowl. Somehow that never occurred to us.

To give the kids an advantage, they have a plastic ramp to roll the ball down the center of the lane.

So when we decided to take her duckpin bowling in Rhode Island, we called ahead to confirm their available shoe sizes, operating hours, and bumpers. Satisfied that this might actually work, we headed out to The Bowling Academy in East Providence, RI for an early Saturday night bowl (after 8pm, it’s Rock N’ Bowl).

Duckpin bowling, for those who don’t know, is a variation of bowling with smaller, lighter balls and shorter, fatter pins.  The Bowling Academy is one of a handful of alleys in the state that offer duckpin bowling (see list below).  The place is nothing fancy, but the lanes are gleaming and the employees spray disinfectant in the shoes after people leave, which I personally appreciate. Of course, for a three-year-old, none of that matters. Rather, the easy-to-handle balls; bumpers to keep them in the lane; and even a plastic ramp to slide a ball down the lane more centrally are the things that make duckpin bowling a surefire kid-pleaser.  So, it wasn’t at all a surprise that the next morning, she was already asking to go back.

Duckpin Bowling Alleys in Rhode Island

The Bowling Academy
354 Taunton Avenue
East Providence, RI
(401) 434-5839

Dudek Lanes
409 Child Street
Warren, RI
(401) 245-9471

Legion Bowl & Billiards
661 Park Avenue
Cranston, RI
(401) 781-8888

Meadowbrook Lanes
2530 Warwick Ave.
Warwick, RI
(401) 737-5402

Mac’s Bowlaway
890 Main Street
West Warwick, RI
(401) 828-3279

Town Hall Lanes
1463 Atwood Avenue
Johnston, RI 02919
(401) 831-6940

Wickford Lanes
7665 Post Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852
(401) 294-9886

Also see the Rhode Island Duckpin Bowlers Association at www.ridba.net.

A Trio of Libraries: Providence’s Public Library, Community Library and the Athenaeum

The Providence Athenaeum children's section has a cozy reading area filled with children's books.

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight.  The Providence Public Library consists of the Central Library at 150 Empire Street in downtown Providence.  But since July 2009 due to fiscal problems, the other nine city branches (Rochambeau, Fox Point, etc.) have been overseen by a nonprofit organization called the Providence Community Library.  As unusual as this sounds, the two remain linked, so that one can take a book out of the Rochambeau branch with a Providence Public library card.

There’s also the Providence Athenaeum, an independent membership library housed in an 1838 Greek Revival building in College Hill, which shouldn’t be overlooked.  Although there’s an annual membership fee, you gain access to events, borrowing privileges from their collection and RISD’s, and the knowledge that you’re supporting a historic piece of the community.  If membership fee seems too steep, no matter — the library is open to the public and encourages visitors.

With all this variety comes one challenge — keeping track of events.  So if you happen to be looking for a children’s story time, for example, be sure to check the Cradles to Crayons series held at both the main and other branches, as well as the the Athenaeum’s story hours.

Providence Athenaeum
251 Benefit Street
Providence, RI

Providence Public Library
150 Empire Street
Providence, RI

Providence Community Library
See a list of branches.

Support the Providence Children’s Museum

Climbing in the pretend forest at the Providence Children's Museum.

I’ll never forget the first time I took Madeline to the Children’s Museum in Boston — upon arrival we went directly into the first room which contains a wall of tubes and slides for ping pong balls. She didn’t want to leave.

She’s since learned that there’s usually something even more exciting around every corner so our recent visits to the Providence Children’s Museum have spanned all the exhibits from noise-makers to stacking magnetic shapes to human bones. My personal favorite is “Coming to Rhode Island” where kids (and crouching adults) can weave through Rhode Island’s past to hear stories and role play in four scenes related to families who emigrated to the state. On one recent visit, the Latino bodega became authentically bustling with kids shopping for canned goods, weighing vegetables and ringing up customers.

In one exhibit, kids can toss feathery balls and cloths through a series of air tubes to see where they shoot out.

Currently, the museum is a few hundred thousand shy of their $1.5 million fundraising target for their Play Works Campaign for Kids which will help them accomplish several goals including the creation of two new outdoor exhibits set to open in the summer 2010: Underland, an underground world filled with roots, tunnels and critters’ burrows and The Climber, a custom-designed climbing experience. So if you can, show your support — every small donation gets them closer to their goal.

Providence Children’s Museum
100 South Street
Providence, RI 02903

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market


Apples aplenty at the first Pawtucket Winter Farmers' Market. These are from Hill Orchard in Johnston, Rhode Island.

Today marked the opening day of the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market season.  Held inside the the central atrium of the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket,  the market gathers over a dozen farms, bakeries, and other vendors come together.


Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers' Market

I have a penchant for farmers markets, it’s true, but this one may be my Rhode Island favorite. First of all, it’s such a wonderful concept to begin a market’s season in November, when all the rest have already ended.  Winter can be so barren in New England, and it’s nice to know that whatever can be grown in the coming months (presumably indoors), I’ll be able to buy.  According to Farm Fresh RI, the market offers lettuces, greens, apples, potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, radishes, fresh herbs, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and winter squash all year round.  And of course, the meats (from grass-fed beef to pastured pork) along with cheeses, jams, honey, maple syrup, milk, and eggs will certainly be available year-round.

The architecture of the building reminded us a bit of Chelsea Market in New York, but in fact the market itself is more like a Paris market where you’ll find everything you need for a balanced meal — bread, meat, legumes, cheese.  You’ll also find local sweet and savory vendors such as The Cupcakerie, Olga’s Cup+Saucer, Seven Stars Bakery, Kafe’ Lila (for ice cream), Tina’s Caribbean Food, and even Hewtin’s Dogs (Chez Pascal’s food truck) so you can stop for lunch and dessert as well as get your food shopping done.

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 11am-2pm from November 7, 2009 to May 29, 2010
Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI

Newport, RI Rainy Day: Save the Bay

Save The Bay Exploration Center

Madeline touches a sea urchin at the Save the Bay Exploration Center.

What do you do on a rainy day in a place like Newport, RI where the summer activities include swimming, surfing and sailing?  Well if you’re among the super-cool, you’re surfing.  I know, because today we drove in the rain over to Easton’s Beach (“First Beach” to the locals) in Newport, RI where a half dozen surfers paddled out.

But if you’re looking for a more low-key adventure, then you’ll enjoy the Save The Bay Exploration Center tucked inside the beach’s rotunda.  This teeny, friendly aquarium features 14 tanks full of about 150 species that live in the Narragansett Bay.  One ‘touch tank’ allows you to reach in and hold the starfish, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other sea critters.  The staff has abundant patience and knowledge to share with visitors. The center also has tanks with horshoe crabs, sea horses, and lobsters, as well as tables where kids can color, read or play games — all marine-themed, of course.

On rainy days, there’s no beach parking attendant which means you’ll save the $10-20 parking fee.  And your $5 admission (free for kids under 3) supports Save the Bay, an organization dedicated towards protecting, restoring and exploring Narragansett Bay.

Save The Bay Exploration Center
175 Memorial Blvd.
Newport, RI 02840