Welcome ROCmommas, ROCpoppas, and Friends!

Have fun with your kids - that's what it's all about. If you're looking for fun places to go in Rochester, NY (ROC), awesome
crafts to make, and yummy treats to bake with your kids - as well as some ideas for Date Nights - then you've come to the
right place. Welcome to ROCmomma. Happy reading, and please share your comments. Thank you!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

Looking for some fun in the ROC this weekend? Whether your kids are little cowboys and cowgirls, future Shakespeares, Jedis in training, or pint-sized scientists, there's a little something for everyone going on.

Family Fun Friday: Wild West!
Friday, April 27
Southeast Family YMCA, 111 E. Jefferson Rd., Pittsford
4:30 - 9 p.m.      - Adventure Center is open (wear socks)
5:45 - ?               - Pizza in the Lobby ($1/slice)
6:15 - 7:45 p.m. - Camp Crafts in the Lobby
6:30 - 8 p.m.      - Wild West Games in the Gym
7:05 - 10 p.m.    - Family Swim

Writers & Books Family Open House
Saturday, April 28 (10 a.m. - 2 p.m.)
Writers & Books, 740 University Ave., Rochester
A fun-filled day with storytelling, writing workshops, drumming, art, and discounts for SummerWrite. Play word games, write haiku, meet the teachers, and tour the facility. Free event.
10 - 11 a.m.           - Art Activity with Naomi McNamara
10:45 - 11:45 a.m. - Read Aloud with Cathy Buyer-Davis
11:15 - 11:45 a.m. - Mini-writing Workshop with Kitty Jospe
12 - 12:30 p.m.      - Drumming with Henry Padron
1 - 1:30 p.m.          - Storytelling with Marna Rossi

In Another Galaxy Weekend
Saturday, April 28 (10 a.m. - 8 p.m.) & Sunday, April 29 (noon - 5 p.m.)
National Museum of Play at the Strong, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester
Dress as your favorite Sci-Fi movie character and meet the members of the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion. Play vintage Star Wars games and see Star Wars artifacts from the museum's collections. Included with admission.

Explore with Sid the Science Kid
Saturday, April 28 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
WXXI Studios, 280 State Street, Rochester
Come meet Sid the Science Kid and have your picture taken with him

Sunday, April 29 (noon - 4 p.m.)
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Ave., Rochester
I wanna know why things happen and how, and I want to know everything now! Oh yeah... Sid the Science Kid will be at RMSC! Meet him in person, participate in hands-on science experiments and more.   Included with admission.

It's hard to believe it was in the 80s just days ago - with snow earlier this week! - but this weekend's forecast is for the low 50s; partly cloudy on Saturday but sunny on Sunday. Hopefully it will be warm enough to get a little gardening and mulching done in addition to hanging out with Sid and some Storm Troopers. Whatever your plans, have a great weekend! As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"And I Ran, I Ran So Far Away..."

"...I just ran; I ran all night and day; I couldn't get away..." Thanks to A Flock of Seagulls and my penchant for 80s new wave, these lyrics were my mantra on the treadmill this morning. And they likely will be for the next five months. You see, my ROCpoppa and I have decided - dun dun dum - to train for a half-marathon.

How did this happen to a couple of non-runners?

After some test results revealed high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, my husband started running 20 minutes on most days. Once the endorphins kicked in, 20 minutes wasn't enough. The day before Easter, he went out for a run and came back after completing six miles...on a whim. This past Sunday, he finished  10 miles. Yes, ten.

I was almost a runner about twenty years ago. In junior high I joined cross-country and track. Then played lacrosse and field hockey in high school, which required copious amounts of running and sprints. During college, I went through running phases a few times a semester. Flash forward by more than a decade and you can find me at the Y several times a week: BodyCombat on Mondays, Step Aerobics on Wednesdays, and running on the treadmill on Fridays. I have endurance, but I'm not quite ready to run even ten miles just yet.

We found a ten-week training program that we'll start in mid-July. Until then, we are each trying to run two to four miles per session, four times per week. My husband can run during his lunch hour or after work; I have a bit more of a challenge. My running needs to happen while the kids are at Child Watch at the Y - that's a two hour time limit per day, including shower time.  I'm not ready to give up my classes just yet, so today I went to step class for 50 minutes (I skipped crunches and push-ups at the end), then ran 2 miles in about 23 minutes on the tread mill (not my finest), showered and dressed all in under two hours. And I wanted to throw up at the end.

But it feels like a new beginning. And it will be amazing to cross that finish line in a few months. So we'll keep running when we can, trying to accumulate eight to 12 miles per week. Our final goal - 13.1 miles - will be accomplished on Sunday, September 23 at the Rochester Marathon.

To my fellow runners and non-runners who run, keep up the great work. I hope to see you pounding the pavement or cheering in the crowd in the fall.

As always, thanks for reading. If you have a marathon story or advice, please Post a Comment. Thanks!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Picky Eaters & the Great Food Battle

When my four-year-old was a baby, I made all of his food and he ate a full spectrum of produce, beans, and grains. Kale with sweet potatoes? No problem. Lentils, barley, and cauliflower? More, please. Apples, rice, and broccoli? Keep it coming.

Now his diet consists of bananas, dry pancakes, string cheese, PB&J, and a variety of crackers. That's all. Day in, day out. No variation will be tolerated. He won't even try ice cream, so it's not just healthy foods.

Is it my fault? Where did I go wrong? I'm not sure because I did everything the same with my two-year-old and he happily gobbles up black bean soup, sweet potato curry, and teriyaki stir-fry. Really, he'll eat just about anything on the table. So I don't think it's me.

The Challenges of a Picky Eater

Feeding a picky eater comes with logistical issues. We bring our own food to restaurants (I often just say he has food allergies so they don't give me a hard time), I pack a lunch when he goes to play dates, even family parties require that we bring a cooler bag. We cannot leave the house without preparing food first. I have visions of sending batches of pancakes, along with jars of SunButter and strawberry jelly, to my older son while he is in college. Ugh.

Overcoming the Pickiness (A.K.A. We're Not Above Bribery)

So, what do you do with a picky eater? We're approaching it with some desensitization, just like a fear of spiders. We put a few foods on his dish at each meal (a couple of grapes, a few noodles, etc.) and he doesn't have to eat them, but he needs to keep them on his plate the whole time. And before he leaves the table, he has to touch and smell each new item. If the glorious day arrives when he pops a blueberry into his mouth, we have a prize bag reserved just for trying new foods. Also, he will earn 5 stickers on his chart for each new food.

Testing the Wisdom of Others

Some have encouraged us to deliver an ultimatum: eat what we're eating, or don't eat at all. We tried this and he went without dinner for a week. During that week, he was not allowed any snack foods either. He didn't cave, and an article I recently read revealed that we may have been causing him anxiety about the food which was counterproductive and resulted in a loss of appetite. Awesome.

We've also heard, "Just ignore it. He'll eat when he's ready." Yeah, it's been four years. I don't think this one works.

Still others have told us that involving him in the process will result in him eating more foods. Well, my son loves grocery shopping and picking out produce, but he won't eat what we've brought home. He also loves to cook with me - he helps get out the ingredients, measure, pour, and mix. He has his own apron and chef's hat! Does he eat what we make? Only if we're making chocolate chip or snickerdoodle cookies. Last summer, we even went blueberry picking. He did such a great job picking the dark blue ones, leaving the green ones on the stems; he filled a whole bucket. We brought them home and he helped make blueberry muffins, but would not take a single bite.

This spring we're working on a small vegetable garden. We've already sprouted some tomatoes and peppers; we're just waiting for this weather to figure itself out (snow in April? Really?!?) before we transplant them, and plant some basil, carrots, and pumpkins. He's really excited about the entire process, but I have a feeling that he won't be enjoying any of our harvest. I hope I'm wrong, but, well, we'll see.

Another popular approach is to sneak in the good stuff. I bought The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapin and I like the premise, but those recipes really don't work on my son. I had to adapt them to the foods he will tolerate. My fellow ROCmomma has a similar book, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, and it's basically the same deal. So...

ROCmomma's Simple Steps to Sneaking Healthy Foods in to a Picky Eater's Diet

1. Make a list of all the foods your picky eater will actually consume
2. Make a list of the foods that are missing: green veggies, orange veggies, white veggies, fresh fruit, protein, dairy, grains, etc.
3. Try to match up a "missing food" with an accepted food in your child's diet

Here are some examples:

  • Pancakes - add pureed green veggies to the batter, along with an extra egg for protein
  • PB&J - add powdered multi-vitamins to the jelly and mix right on the bread
  • Muffins - add pureed orange veggies plus tofu to the batter (CONFESSION: my four-year-old used to eat these daily; he now says they're for babies but my two-year-old eats them)
Now, whenever I have leftover veggies, I puree them and keep them in small containers in the freezer. Around every 4-6 weeks, I puree a big batch of veggies and freeze them too. Keeping the small portions handy makes it easy to sneak in some veggies more often.

Green Veggies

In a large microwavable container, cook 6-7 cups of your favorite greens (i.e., baby spinach, broccoli, and fresh peas), with about 1 inch of water, for 10 minutes on high. Transfer veggies to a blender or food processor using a slotted spoon, and puree until smooth. Store 1/3-cup portions in freezer-safe containers.

You can do the same with your favorite white veggies (i.e., zucchini, cauliflower, potatoes, parsnips, etc.).

Orange Veggies

In a medium pot, cover 4-6 cups of your favorite chopped orange veggies (i.e., carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash) with water and boil for about 20 minutes. Transfer veggies to a blender or food processor using a slotted spoon, and puree until smooth. Store 1/3-cup portions in freezer-safe containers.

Pancake Recipe

1 c. Heart Smart Bisquick Mix
1 c. Multigrain Pancake Mix
1 1/4 c. skim milk
2 eggs
1/3 c. Green Puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour <1/4-cupfuls onto hot greased griddle. Cook approximately 2 minutes per side. Cool all extra pancakes and store in freezer-safe containers in the freezer. Move pancakes from freezer to fridge the night before, and they'll be defrosted for the next day.

Meal-in-a-Muffin Recipe
(based loosely on "Eggless Apple Muffins" from Super Baby Foods by Ruth Yaron, pg. 326)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl:

2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. wheat bran
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. raisins
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix wet ingredients in a food processor until smooth:

1 23-oz jar unsweetened applesauce
12 oz. soft silken tofu
1/3 c. Orange Puree
1/2 c. yogurt (plain, vanilla, or banana are best)
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix wet ingredients into dry. Pour into greased or lined muffin cups (about 2/3 full). Bake 25-30 minutes. Once cool, can be stored in freezer (to thaw, just move to the fridge and they'll be defrosted by morning). 

Whether you have a picky eater, or you're just looking for some new ways to get extra nutrition in your family's day, I hope these tips and recipes are helpful. If you have any suggestions or advice for parents of picky eaters, please Post a Comment. As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's So Great About CSAs and Farmers' Markets?

Some of my fellow ROCmommas refer to me as a tree-hugging hippie because I'm a vegetarian, but I don't agree. Yes, I bring my own reusable bags when I shop, even to the mall. Yes, I buy produce marked "Locally Grown" and/or "Organic" at Wegmans. Yes, I have packed empty water bottles in my suitcase because my hotel didn't offer recycling bins. But every time I think I'm doing my share, reducing my carbon footprint, and making eco-conscious decisions, I meet someone else who is doing more. Then my competitive nature kicks in and I want to out-green that person. Or just make faces at Her Royal Greenness behind her back.

Right now I have two Earth Day 2012 Resolutions:

  1. Join a CSA
  2. Start composting
I'm not ready to deal with worms just yet so I'm focusing on resolution number one. I just found out about CSAs a few years ago; before that I would have thought it was a new crime drama on Thursday nights. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allows consumers to buy a share of a farm's harvest, and allows farmers some much-needed income at the beginning of the harvest season - when they need it most. There is some risk involved: a bad growing season (too much rain, not enough rain, a plague of locusts) means fewer veggies in a share. But a strong growing season means you'll have enough produce to freeze, can, host a party, and put lunch and dinner on the table for a few months.

Here's how it works:
  • Find a CSA in your area; Rochesterians can look here for options
  • Sign up; the farm I chose has an online registration form that was easy to complete, and I am going to be sending in my deposit check tomorrow
  • During the harvest season (usually June through September), you'll pick up your share at the farm or designated location at a specific time and day of the week
Half-shares are an option at many farms. This usually appeals to smaller families, or to those who are a bit skeptical about adding kohlrabi and celeriac to their diet. A half-share means pick up is either every other week, or just fewer veggies each week. 

Some farms offer additional perks to their members, such as flowers or herbs. If you're an omnivore, some even offer organic meats. The farm we chose offers unlimited access to their flowers, herbs, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, green beans, and edible flowers. Plus we get to visit as often as we'd like. My two boys are going to love visiting the farm, watching the tractors, and picking some cherry tomatoes.

Most of the farms I've researched also offer cooking and storing tips as well as recipes for each item they grow. So if you're not familiar with garlic scapes, you can look on the farm's site to find recipes for making soup, stew, sauce, or a stir fry with these flavorful stalks. 

If you don't want to commit to a CSA, consider buying local at a farmers' market near you. When you buy locally, you definitely add gold stars to your green card. Well, not that green card - - your eco-savvy green card. Buying local supports the local economy. It means fresher food on your table with more nutrients, since the produce has been off the vine for a shorter amount of time than the supermarket options. Plus, local foods require fewer wasted resources - less packaging and less fuel to transport the produce. So, get thee to a farmers' market! Check out this list of Farmers' Markets in the Rochester area to plan a fruit & veggie adventure with your kids. Of course, most people in the Rochester area are familiar with the Public Market, but there are dozens of others. If you're not a ROCmomma or a ROCpoppa, try Googling "CSA" plus your town or city (example: "CSA Saratoga Springs NY").

I'm looking forward to trying out some new foods this summer and fall. Who knows? Maybe we'll find a new favorite! I'm also looking forward to the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a local farm. And of course the added bonus of out-greening other moms at preschool. Just kidding.

If you like fruits and veggies, I hope you'll try out a farmers' market or CSA this season. If you already shop at a farmers' market and you already belong to a CSA, then you get many, many kudos, and I hope you'll share your tips or experience with others in the Comments section. As always, thanks for reading!



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring-Clean & Go Green

What is it about the warmer weather that motivates us to clear the clutter at home? If I had a week to spare - or, let's face it, even a few hours - I would be sorting through closets, rearranging the kitchen cabinets, and attacking the toy room. This weather makes me want to jump right in and do it all. Some of this may actually happen; we'll see.

But what to do with all the detritus of Spring Cleaning? With Earth Day coming up this weekend, I definitely would not want to add to our landfills. We have such a knack for accumulating a variety of stuff...so how do we reduce, reuse and recycle it all?

There are actually many resources in the Rochester area to help recycle everything beyond the typical plastic, paper, glass, and metal. If you don't live near Rochester, NY you can Google the item you wish to recycle along with your town, such as, "recycle computer Denville NJ."

Unless you're a candidate for A&E's Hoarders, check the list below to see how to green your spring cleaning.

ROCmomma's "Happy Earth Day" Guide to Recycling Your Junk

  • Baby Gear & Baby Clothing - WeePeats children's consignment event takes place twice a year (Spring Sale is April 27-29 at the Henrietta Fair & Expo Center); sell your gently used baby clothing, gear, toys, furniture, books, and DVDs...you don't even have to be there! Or, check out Once Upon a Child in Henrietta to sell baby gear and baby clothing anytime, any season. They even have a page of selling tips to help you.
  • Batteries: Alkaline - for $2 per pound, you can safely recycle old batteries at the Go Green! Recycle Rally in the Seneca Park Zoo's parking lot on Sunday, August 15, 2012 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The Recycle Rally takes place several times per year; check the Seneca Park Zoo web site for additional dates in the future.
  • Batteries: Rechargeable, Button, and Lithium Ion Batteries - state law requires retailers to accept them back for recycling: Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, Staples, Sprint, Target, Radio Shack, Batteries Plus, and Verizon.
  • Bedding & Household Items - Goodwill accepts these items.
  • Books - contact your local library.
  • Building & Remodeling Supplies - Flower City Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts cabinetry, masonry, plumbing & electrical fixtures, doors, windows, countertops, like-new hot water heaters, paneling, sinks, wallpaper, flooring, trim, nuts & bolts, fasteners, HVAC and tools; 755 Culver Road, Rochester, NY.
  • Cell Phones - Drop off a cell phone of any carrier at any Verizon location; they will reprogram it and redistribute it to support Alternatives for Battered Women. Also, check your local schools, libraries, and even YMCA for bins to recycle your old cell phone, which helps raise funds for that school, library, or YMCA. Last resort: fill in the top two search boxes on Earth911
  • Clothing - Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Volunteers of America
  • Clothing: Gowns - Donate My Dress accepts prom dresses and bridesmaids gowns in good condition to make a less fortunate teen feel like a prom queen. They also accept dress shoes and accessories; unfortunately the closest location to Rochester is My Secret Prom Dress Closet in Syracuse: contact Melody at mldyarnold@yahoo.com. 
  • Clothing: Professional Attire - help someone in need land a job by donating gently used suits, business attire, business casual attire, dress shoes, and accessories to Working Wardrobe; call (585) 647-1150 to schedule a free pick up.
  • Computers - Micrecycle refurbishes donated equipment to provide affordable computers to families, schools, and community organizations; 49 Stone Street, Rochester, NY.
  • Craft supplies - Craft Bits & Pieces accepts sewing and knitting supplies, needlework kits and materials, art supplies, notions, woodcrafts, artificial flowers, seasonal decorations, baskets, wreaths, jewelry, knick knacks. All proceeds from sales support the Fairport/Perinton Senior Living Council; their donation station is located at 106 Fairport Village Landing, Fairport, NY.
  • Eyeglasses - Donate your old specs to help someone in need by dropping them off or mailing them to Rochester/Finger Lakes Eye & Tissue Bank, 524 White Spruce Blvd., Rochester, NY 14623. (open Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
  • Greeting cards - St. Jude's Ranch for Children recycles used greeting cards to create new cards for any occasion. The children at St. Jude's Ranch receive payment for their work and learn about basic job skills, as well as the importance of recycling. Cards are sold in packs of 10 for $10 to support their programs and services. All greeting cards, including Christmas, can be mailed to: St. Jude's Ranch for Children, Recycled Card Program, 100 St. Jude's Street, Boulder City, NV 89005. They cannot accept Hallmark, Disney, or American Greeting cards.
  • Household Hazardous Waste - call (585) 753-7600, press 3. For more information, visit the Monroe County web site.
  • Kitchenware - Asbury First Storehouse distributes donated items, including kitchenware, to people who are referred by social agencies, health care facilities, and churches; located in the lower level of 1050 East Avenue, Rochester, NY at the rear side (north side) of the building. Donations accepted on Mondays from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Plastic Bags & Plastic Packaging/Wrap - drop off clean, empty plastic bags at any grocery or retail store with a clearly marked bin (such as Wegmans). This includes newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, produce bags, furniture wrap, electronic wrap, case wrap (such as snacks, water bottles), wrap from toilet paper/napkins/paper towels/diapers, plastic retail bags (hard plastic and string handles removed), grocery bags, plastic food storage bags (such as Ziploc), plastic cereal box liners, Tyvek (no glue, labels, etc.), plastic shipping envelopes (no bubble wrap or labels), and any other plastic bags labeled #2 or #4.
  • TV - Goodwill in Henrietta will accept TVs; 376 Jefferson Road, Rochester, NY.
  • Everything else - list items on Freecycle for free and donate items to individuals locally.
Mark Your Calendar: Sunday, August 15 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. for the Go Green! Recycle Rally at the Seneca Park Zoo's parking lot. Batteries are $2/pound and TVs are $10 each; all other items may be dropped off free of charge. They accept TVs, computers, DVD players, microwaves, video game systems, bicycles, clothing, and shoes. They cannot accept air conditioners or household hazardous waste.

I don't know about you, but purging my old crap feels a bit cathartic. In November, we donated three garbage bags of clothing and two boxes of household items to Volunteers of America and it felt like a burden left the house. In January, I mailed a flat-rate box full of Christmas cards, thank you cards, and birthday cards to St. Jude's and I was excited that they would have a new life before hitting the recycle bin. So give it a try!

We can both hold out for a spot on Clean House and let someone else do it for us...or we can grab a few old boxes or bags and start filling them with stuff we don't need. Use the list above to separate your treasures into piles: sell, donate, and recycle; and make another pile for trash. Don't forget to involve your kids. They are great helpers, and this is the perfect opportunity to teach them about recycling to help the planet, as well as donating to help those who don't have as much as we do.

Good luck with your Spring Cleaning! I hope it's truly GREEN this year, and that these resources are helpful. If you have any other tips for reducing, reusing, and recycling, please share them in the Comments section. As always, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's Spring Break!

Yes, it's Spring Break, but we're not in Cancun anymore. Maybe if we squint really hard we'll see there is not much difference between being at home with the kids and being single on the beach with friends. Sure, there might not be pool-side margaritas and you're probably not signing up for a booze cruise, but there are plenty of other details that will have you convinced you're actually in Cancun.
ROCmomma's Top 10 Ways Spring Break 2012 & 1998 Are The Same
10. Guys are running around without shorts on
9. There are half-full cups lying around everywhere
8. Not everyone can agree on what to do or where to go
7. Afternoon siestas are the key to survival
6. You've been listening to the same 10 songs all week
5. There's someone crying in the corner
4. Everyone around you slurs when they speak and they don't always make sense
3. Spontaneous dance parties break out daily
2. There are "Foam Parties" nightly
1. There's always somebody who wets his/her pants

I hope you enjoy your Spring Break. Whether you're headed to the playground or the swim-up bar, have a wonderful week! As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to post a Comment. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Have a Super Play Date!

As parents, most of us have been out of the dating scene for a while. Then one day, your preschooler asks, "Can Aidan come over to my house and play?" Suddenly the same psychosomatic reactions that happened during your dating years start to kick in. You sweat a little. You can't think of a good reason why not, but you are not 100% in favor either. A hundred nervous questions race through your mind: How well do you know Aidan's mom? Will she want to spend an afternoon with you? Will she say yes? What should you wear? What will the kids do? What will the kids eat? What will the two of you eat? UGH!

Last year, when my oldest son was in a 3-year-old preschool class, I wanted to ask one of the moms for a play date. We each have two sons around the same ages, and we had been chatting for a few months during drop off and pick up times. It seemed like a good idea to me. My intention was to ask if they wanted to meet up at the Strong National Museum of Play on a non-school day. Here's what actually transpired right after class one sunny afternoon:

Me: So, do you guys, like, belong to Strong or anything?

Mom 2: Well, my husband works at Strong Memorial.

Me: Oh, I meant the museum. If you guys are members, maybe we can meet there one day.

Mom 2: You know what's great? I've taken Alex* there while Jake* is at preschool. It's not much time but it's really fun for him.

Me: That's a really great idea. (cue my youngest falling down and crying in the background)  Ooh, I've gotta go!
* Names have been changed.

True story. It's been over a year now and we still have never gotten together. However, we've had many wonderful play dates with other friends, thank you very much. And I've gathered many tips based on my new-found knowledge and experiences. So, please, avoid the awkward phase of play-dating and follow these helpful hints.

ROCmomma's Guide to Super Play Dates

The Ask

When you ask another parent to schedule a play date, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Would you like to meet somewhere, or invite them to your house?
  • Would you like the parent to stay and help supervise?
  • For preschoolers and toddlers, 2 hours is a good length of time for a play date. Be sure to specify an end time as well as a start time if the play date is at your house.
When a parent asks YOU to schedule a play date at their house, speak up if you would like to be there too.

If you don't know the family well, or have never been to their house, you can always be up front and say, "Yes, and I'd like to come too to help supervise." If the other parent opposes the idea, you can say, "Sometimes Sophie doesn't feel comfortable in a new place without me. I'd really like to be with her for the first play date, if that's okay with you." Or you can always offer to host, this way it's not an issue. If the other parent continues to oppose, it's okay to be an overprotective parent and decline this time around. After all, YOU are the one looking out for your child's best interests.

The Logistics

  • Toddlers, preschoolers, and even Kindergarteners will benefit from 1-2 play dates per week. Any more than that is a bit overkill.
  • Your child's play date should be close in age, but does not need to be the same gender. Around 5 or 6 years old, gender becomes an issue for some kids.
  • One friend at a time per play date is a good idea. Younger children may become overwhelmed with more playmates; older children may pair off, leaving one child feeling excluded.
  • If you are scheduling multiple play dates for your child during the week or month, try to vary the locations. Some ideas in the Rochester area include: Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Seneca Park Zoo, The Sandbox (Fairport), Wickham Farms (Penfield), Clubhouse Fun Center (Henrietta), Bounce It Out (Pittsford), Clover Lanes (Pittsford), and Kango Play Center (Rochester). 
  • If the play date is at your house, put away any favorite toys that your child might not want to share.
  • If you have pets, consider putting them in a room away from where the playing will take place. This is for your guests' comfort as well as the animal's. You never know when a child will pull a tail, or when an animal simply will not feel like being hospitable.
  • If your child isn't feeling well that day, reschedule.

The Activities

  • If you're meeting on neutral ground, such as a play center, museum, playground, et cetera, then you won't need to worry about activities.
  • A two-hour play date at home will probably work out this way: play time, snack, play time, clean up.
  • Play dates at home will undoubtedly include playing with toys. However, some other indoor activity ideas include: crafts, Play Doh, dress up (yes, even for boys!), freeze dance, and baking treats. 
  • Outdoor activity ideas include: bubbles, silly string, Tag, Ring Around the Rosie, Duck Duck Goose, Hot Potato, simple relay races or running races, and an exploration (go for a walk and give each child a pail to collect leaves, pine cones, and acorns along the way). 

The Snacks

  • Be sure to ask the parent about allergies ahead of time.
  • If you're meeting somewhere, you could each bring a snack to share or alternate bringing snacks for this date and next time.
  • Keep snack time fun by making snacks all one color or all one shape. Try green grapes & Veggie Pirate's Booty for green snacks; peach slices & banana yogurt for yellow snacks; kiwi or orange slices, mini Babybel cheese, & mini muffins for circles; cubes of melon, cubes of cheese, & whole wheat crackers for squares; strawberry slices & grilled cheese cut into triangles; or string cheese, pretzel logs, & carrot sticks for lines. 

More Than Snacks

  • Most often, we have play dates right after preschool (which ends at 11:30), so this means lunch.
  • For the kids, I always keep the following on hand: organic macaroni & cheese, peanut butter & jelly, Sun Butter as a nut-free peanut butter alternative, frozen organic meat-free "chik'n" nuggets, yogurt, grapes, apples, string cheese, baby carrots, raisins, applesauce
  • I've stopped stressing about what to feed the moms and just have a few lunch tricks up my sleeve. When it's chilly out, my go-to menus are Minestrone and Baked Potatoes, or Black Bean Soup and Cheese Quesadillas. On warmer days my favorites are Apple-Feta Salad and Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Pita Chips, or Spinach-Mandarin Salad and Chickpea Salad Sandwiches. Or never underestimate a buffet-style spread of hummus & veggies, cheese & crackers, and some grapes or berries. Almost every one of these ideas can be adjusted for vegans or gluten-free diets. And the best part is that they can all be prepped the night before, with minimal hands-on time during the play date.
  • For recipes, please scroll to the end. Enjoy!
Play dates require a little bit of work ahead of time, but they are well worth it. Your kids will have fun. You'll get to speak with someone who uses real words and full sentences. It's a win-win. 

If you have any great play-date tips to share, please post them in the Comments section. As always, thanks for reading!

Bonus ROCmomma Super Play Date Recipe Section

Easy Minestrone

1. In a soup pot, saute about 3 cups chopped vegetables (onions, celery, carrots, zucchini, etc.) in 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Sprinkle in 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, stir.
3. Add 28 oz. diced tomatoes or fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 2 cups vegetable broth, 2 cups water, 15 oz. can kidney beans (rinsed, drained), 1 cup frozen Italian-style green beans, and 1 cup small pasta shapes (TIP: Use rice pasta if your guest has gluten allergies).
4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered 30 minutes.
5. If preparing the night before, cool and transfer to fridge. To reheat soup, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes before serving. Parmesan cheese is a nice garnish.

Fast Baked Potatoes

1. Scrub potatoes then pierce with a fork several times.
2. Place a double-layer of paper towels on microwave-safe plate; arrange potatoes on top and microwave on high 5 minutes.
3. Flip potatoes and microwave on high 5 minutes more.
4. If preparing the night before, transfer to fridge. To reheat potatoes, place on microwave-safe dish and heat 1-2 minutes, until hot all the way through.
5. Serve with salsa, butter/margarine, shredded cheese, sour cream, and/or chives as possible toppings.

Black Bean Soup

1. In a soup pot, saute 1 jar of your favorite Salsa for 5 minutes over medium heat. 
2. Add 15 oz. can Fat-Free Refried Beans, and stir well.
3. Add 15 oz. black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 cup frozen corn, and 2 cups vegetable broth. Check the consistency; you may want to add another cup of broth.
4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes. (can chill at this point & reheat at serving time)
5. Serve as is or with sour cream, shredded cheese, and/or salsa as garnish.

Cheese Quesadillas

1. Shred 2-3 oz. cheese per quesadilla ahead of time. A blend of two or more cheeses is always good; I like extra-sharp cheddar and monterey jack. TIP: Cabot brand cheeses are lactose-free, if your guest is lactose intolerant.
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat; spray with cooking spray. Place one tortilla shell in skillet, cover half with shredded cheese, then fold over. Place second tortilla in skillet so that half overlaps the folded shell. Cover the half that's touching the skillet with cheese, then fold the other side over. Now you have 2 quesadillas with the seams next to each other.
3. Cook about 3 minutes per side. Cut with a pizza-cutter and serve wedges with salsa and sour cream.

Apple-Feta Salad

1. Core & chop 1 Granny Smith apple.
2. Toast 1/3 cup of your favorite nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir often & check often - when the nuts are fragrant and/or start to change to a golden color, immediately transfer them to a bowl to prevent burning. Pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, sliced almonds, or pepitas (pumpkin seeds) all work well.
3. Steps 1 & 2 can be completed ahead of time. At serving time, toss 1-6 oz. bag of Spring Mix (field mix/ mixed greens), 4 oz. crumbled fat-free Feta, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and the chopped apple and toasted nuts.
4. Serve with balsamic vinaigrette, raspberry vinaigrette, or (if you live near a Wegmans) Wegmans' Poppyseed dressing.
Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

1. Finely dice 2 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored), and mix with 2 Tbsp. apricot preserves, and 1 Tbsp. orange juice.
2. Finely dice 1 peach (peeled, pitted), 3 kiwi (peeled), and 1 cup strawberries (hulled). Mix all fruit together. Can be refrigerated 2-3 days. (best on the first or second day, though)
3. Serve with cinnamon chips, such as Stacy's Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips.

Spinach-Mandarin Salad

This simple recipe can be found on the Dole web site.

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches
When you're not sure if your guest is a vegetarian, this salad replaces tuna salad for awesome sandwiches.

1. Drain and rinse 15 oz. chick peas. Transfer chick peas to a bowl and mash with a potato masher (or fork).
2. Add 1 cup favorite veggies, diced (green peppers, carrots, and a little red onion are a nice combo), and 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional).  
3. In a small bowl, whisk 6 oz. fat-free plain yogurt, 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. salt-free seasoning such as Mrs. Dash, and 1/4 cup Wegmans Poppyseed dressing (optional). Fold mixture into the chick peas & veggies. Chill for at least one hour to let flavors blend; overnight is better.
4. Serve salad on bread, tortillas, flat breads, or in pitas. Serve with lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, dill pickle chips, banana pepper rings, cheese slices, and/or anything else you would put on a tuna salad sandwich.

Bon app├ętit!

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