Hilltown Families


From classics to original creations, board games have much to offer regarding learning. Almost any game will encourage the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and specific games help players to hone in on particular skills or topics. By exploring local resources for playing games, creating new games, and digging into the history of games, families can maximize the educational potential of a great family pastime!

For Valentine’s Day, many folks are spreading and receiving tokens of friendship and kindness by participating in the Hilltown Families’ annual Handmade Valentine Swap! Participating or not, here four STE(A)M-based ideas many of our participants have tried over the year to inspire your family to get creative by making and giving these tokens of community connection to your friends and neighbors.

Benefits of Boredom There is great value to letting our kids be bored! Read more in our post about boredom. But can boredom benefit adults too? You betcha! Find out about the benefits of being bored: Boredom leads to great imagination! We have a couple of columns that have great ideas for generating both facilitated and self-directed play. Check out these posts: What to Play? Play Ideas for Family & Community  Let… Read More

What have you missed over on our Facebook page? Check out some of our top posts from this past week!

Join us on Facebook, and be sure to subscribe to our weekly eNewsletter too: http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?llr=exwricdab&p=oi&m=1102808931044&sit=8w7zndteb&f=0383bd7b-6431-490b-85cd-f5c4412d7cf2

What have you missed over on our Facebook page? Check out some of our top posts from this past week!

Join us on Facebook, and be sure to subscribe to our weekly eNewsletter too: http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?llr=exwricdab&p=oi&m=1102808931044&sit=8w7zndteb&f=0383bd7b-6431-490b-85cd-f5c4412d7cf2

What was your childhood passion? Jump roping? Star Wars collectibles? Baking in an Easy Bake Oven? Whatever was your favorite toy then and now, you’re sure to find it in Toytopia, a museum experience sure to rekindle the wonder and delight of your favorite childhood moments. This exhibit also offers a warm indoor place where you and your children can play all day in a world of big toys!

Apple Love After a trip to Pine Hill Orchard and taste testing several kinds of apples, strolling the quaint hills and admiring the artwork, my kids were obsessed with apples. It just so happen to be Apple Week at the daycare. I was on a mission to make apples even more exciting this year and so were the teachers at the daycare! We vowed to focus more activities on sensory play and… Read More

Summer is a time to cool off and have fun. Use these water experiments as a time to let your child explore and experiment with science.

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Garden Chores Galore

At three, rounding four years old, my daughter is still a menace in the garden. With her little friends, they terrorize the green tomatoes, eat green blue berries and rip up entire strawberry plants with ease. They trample over the kale and the hearty cabbage is still no match for the preschoolers size tens. In response, I have come up with the Four W’s for our visit to the farm, picking, and home gardening. They are watering, washing, weeding, and wondering.

Creating bath balls with your littles is a fun way to fizz up all their senses!

A tasty way to enjoy the last dregs of winter!

Use tape to build your way out of a sticky situation with multiple age groups!

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Do you want to build a snowman, but its too dang cold for your little one to be out more then two minutes without getting frostbite? Winter is always a fun time to use snow and ice as a medium for art. As you know, toddlers can make art out of just about anything. Playing with snow in New England is a time-honored tradition. Real snow is the best – you can bring it indoors in bowls or pans and let your little one explore the cold without gloves in the warmth of your house. However, it melts. This led me to experiment with several fake snow recipes. I tried a bunch, but this one is the most realistic.

Being thankful isn’t something with which we are born. We all have to learn how to be considerate, appreciative, and kind. Helping your toddler and preschooler learn these skills isn’t easy, but it can be fun! This month in “Let Them Grow: Fresh Ways to Engage Toddlers in Creative Free Play,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Candice Chouinard, shares three projects you can do with the youngest in your clan that foster connection and gratitude.

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Feeling Fall

Fall is such a busy time for the valley. Apple picking, pumpkin patches, hay rides, and fall festivals. All of these adventures are well worth the visit, but you can also get your kids engaged with nature based craft and sensory activities that are easy and inexpensive. Here are a few:


You can use any fruits or veggies for prints. When doing veggie prints I find it best to use a small tray with only a dab of paint on it. Using too much will distort the prints and ink-pads can develop mold. I find that using tempera paint in small amounts is ideal. Allow your child to dab or roll the fruit and then splat it firmly onto the print paper (card stock or cardboard). I find that apple, lemon, and corn prints to be some of my favorites. I like the detailed prints that onions create, but they can really burn the eyes. Combining apples and lemons makes a wildly vibrant and vivid print.

Toddlers love industrious work. Let them enjoy the print making, but also exploring the fruit, taking out the seeds and even tasting it!

“Three years ago I wrote a post about (daycare / preschool drop-off) separation and how to make it an adventure. This year, I am the mom, not the not the teacher, and it is far from an adventure; closer to a nightmare.”

Hilltown Families’ contributing writer, mom, and day care owner and operator, Candice Chouinard, shares her wisdom and a few pieces of tangible advice for parents dealing with the first day blues!

This week Candice takes us on a camping trip with kids. Camping can sound overwhelming with little ones, yet with a little preparation, camping can be a low cost, high fun activity for the entire family. Candice’s tips can be the help make the exciting adventure-relaxing!

My Pop Rocks Dad, Aba, Pappa, Baba, Daddy, Pop… Yesterday was Father’s Day and like any teacher or mother I was racking my brain to find the most unique way to help my toddler say “I love you.” We like to find clever ways to tell the father figures in our lives that they are appreciated, needed, and most importantly, loved. Here are two fun gifts we whip up that you can… Read More

Around two years old, most children can identify members of their family by name. Knowing the name of their caregivers can help a child if they are ever lost, or in a place where they need help. Playing name games to help a child learn the name of their caregivers is a fun but essential for safety.

Playing in the dirt is a joy at any age. Fostering a love of gardening will help sprout a true love of nature and with this, there is hope that the gifts mother nature bring will not go unappreciated or undervalued. Before you know it, your preschooler will be starting a garden of her own!

Let Them Grow: Anatomy Canvas for Preschoolers

Certain holidays are hard for small children to grasp. A great example of this is Presidents’ Day. It’s a vague concept for young preschoolers and toddlers to understand there is a hierarchy in government. Instead, I have found that by focusing on a theme in the holiday children can learn and explore the idea open ended. Collages are a fun way to explore art with limited restrictions and open a dialog about complex concepts. Here are two fun President-themed activities.

In this column, Candice Chouinard, a local daycare owner, takes a long hard look at winter, then she looks at the faces of the toddlers standing before her. She thinks “what are we going to do today?” Today it is about the ice that transforms the world around us!

During this season of giving, it may be hard to help young children fully enjoy giving to others. They can’t empathize fully with others yet, so why share? As we joke, “If I touched it, it’s mine.” Toddlers are inherently greedy; they can’t help it. It’s a learning phase and they will grow more caring and kind because of it. By making giving gifts a fun and engaging activity, we can help teach our children that sharing, giving, and going out of our way for others can be rewarding and enjoyable.

Allowing for lots of creative free play and gift-giving that comes from the heart, handmade gifts get at the heart of the season! Families can engage in DIY projects at home, attend upcoming workshops, or utilize resources offered by local arts organizations to craft handmade gifts with love.

Children are naturally drawn to explore and understand Nature in their place and time. The reading of, playing with and making of maps and paths helps children develop a connection with and love for Earth. Through active, playful love children are naturally drawn to know more about and take actions to care for Earth.

Art Abandonment… the simple act of leaving little works of creativity for others to find; spreading art, joy and kindness. This month in “Let Them Grow: Fresh Ways to Engage Toddlers in Creative-Free Play,” Candice sparks us to engage in creative-free play with our toddlers by making simple art that makes ripples of community connection through creativity!

”Stone age painting” is an opportunity for all, regardless of age, to use and value local resources, celebrate creativity, inquisitiveness and innovation as well as strengthen community throughout the summer and beyond as part of the Summer Creativity Challenge.

We have talked a lot about engaging children in nature-based art. It is a fun and easy way to get outside, have fun and expose your child to the process of art. We love taking the children out and collecting bits and pieces that can be used in the process. Spring is a great time for it. But, lately in the Valley and Hilltowns the weather has been unpredictable- making it tough to plan a full day outside. It has been cold and windy in the morning and warm and sunny in the afternoon. For toddlers, it can be tough to spend a long time outdoors, so we have found that we can break projects up into two parts: Collecting and then Doing, to make it more toddler friendly.

Explore and learn about your local woods while building forest fairy houses.

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