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It’s that time of the year again! Hilltown Families celebrates 15 years in 2020, and for the past 12 years, we have coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap that connects community via loving-kindness. Making handmade valentines is an excellent way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday while being creative with your family and friends. Sign up to participate by Jan 31, 2020!

It’s that time of the year again! Hilltown Families celebrates 15 years in 2020, and for the past 12 years, we have coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap that connects community via loving-kindness. Making handmade valentines is an excellent way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday while being creative with your family and friends. Sign up to participate by Jan 31, 2020!

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

Each offering unique takes on the art of drawing, upcoming arts-based community events encourage art as creative free play and self expression. In Shelburne Falls, the 2nd annual Hilltown Draw Around offers a space in which to make art everywhere – floor and walls included. In Easthampton, the Circus Sketch Lab connects movement-based expression with the art of drawing, making for an experiment in collaborative creation.

Where did all the play go? Am I the only parent that is mourning its loss? The new math makes sense to me. I read Old Dogs, New Math: Homework Help for Puzzled Parents last winter after a friend with middle school aged children mentioned the math concepts coming my way. I like to be prepared. Current reading readiness makes sense. At first I was a bit surprised by the way letter… Read More

Play it Forward This month we need to spread the play. It’s cold out. People are looking for signs of spring. I think families can brighten a little corner of our world with kindness and have great fun doing it. Many people are helping neighbors near and far. Knitters have made blanket squares for victims of Super Storm Sandy (Knit Sandy). Many observed the National Day of Service in honor of Martin… Read More

Victorian Valentines Workshop Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke Sunday, February 10th, 2013 On Sunday, February 10 from 1-3pm, come to Wistariahurst Museum for this fun and creative program that will inspire the artist in everyone! In 1847, the year she graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts received her first Valentine’s Day card. She was so pleased with this English novelty that she tried making some valentines of her… Read More

It’s a great day to get out into the snow! Here are several ways for creative play in the snow, in addition to the traditional snowy day activities like sledding, building a snow person and snowball fights in “What to Play? Play ideas for Family & Community.”

Alternate Identities: Masks I know a 7 year old that loves to dress up. She rarely wears her star covered, super hero cape to school these days (peer pressure). She does continue to pop out of her room on a Saturday afternoon dressed in a cobalt blue, sequin covered leotard, felt crown and flower twirl skirt to prance around the house and then heads out to hang from the monkey bars in… Read More

Crazy Collage Our days have changed. School routines. September is in full swing. Fall is definitely here. I put a bit of effort into keeping our days calm. Chaos be gone. Life brings enough automatically. Last year at this time I was chatting with another parent at school pick up. I commented on how busy, crazy and rushed days became after my daughter entered kindergarten full time. This is a parent I… Read More

Clubhouses, Forts, Tents & Hideouts Two summers ago Forbes Library in Northampton had this incredible wooden house on the front lawn just outside the Children’s Department. The installation was called “Little House to Honor a Request for Poems: A Traveling Writing Hut” and was installed by Plainfield, MA artists/husband/wife team, Gene and Susan Flores. Visitors were encouraged to go in, hide out and write or draw a little something to hang up… Read More

Kid Goop and Tactile Play Messy. Yes. But icky, goopy, slimey, mucky, slushy, gooey, mushy, sticky, yucky play is so fun. My favorite part of messy play—it is inexpensive and open ended. We can gather a few simple ingredients, use containers from the recycle bin for storage and work on following a recipe all in the name of fun. There is color mixing, watching what happens when wets are added to drys… Read More

Tiny Playhouses There are playhouses we imagine and run to gather supplies for. Some are played with for hours and hours. Some made and forgotten by afternoon. Some re-emerge weeks later. The Smurf cottage made from an empty oatmeal container and paper bowls gets mixed with horse barns and Rapunzel’s tower. They can all be neighbors. Some we never actually play with like the fairy houses in the woods. Those are left… Read More

Monsters Here are the results of my very informal pole of 5 kids on the subject of monsters: Monsters bite. They are white. No hair. Teeth. They live in caves. Monsters bite everything. Nice monsters don’t bite. They are small, tiny. Why? Because they are monsters. Monsters are brown, purple and pink. Two eyes. Five feet. Ten arms and hands. As tall as a mom (This mom must have a side I… Read More

Puppets Puppets can be very open ended and offer children of all ages the opportunity to re-create favorite stories and often inspire new tales.  They come in all shapes, sizes, materials and complexities. You can purchase them new, or just use odd socks, your hands or paper. You can create a stage, or not. But if you did, stages can be found everywhere, even in the backseat of the car as you… Read More

Debut Column: This is the first of a new monthly post encouraging all to add more and more creative play into our families’ lives and into the local community. Each month I will present ideas to jump start your creative thinking with variations between family interactions at home and ways to get families playing out in the area to “bomb” the community with fresh ideas for play. I will present a monthly… Read More

QUESTION AND ANSWERS How does YOUR family handle excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays? Amanda Saklad writes, “We don’t visit any malls from October until February. Crazy out there!” Meagheanne Donahue writes, “My son gets “ten and a goat”. Santa brings him ten Christmas presents (not big ticket items, usually just movies, Legos, board games, etc.) and a donation in his name to Heifer International. Santa even leaves a Heifer International… Read More

Victorian Holiday Traditions & Events Did you know that many of our holiday customs have origins from the Victorian era?  From Christmas trees decorated with candies and fruits and presents placed under the tree, to plum pudding and Wassail, many of our modern day traditions can be traced back to the Victorian age. Christmas in the 1800’s was authentic, and celebrations weren’t distracted by commercialization as our modern day Christmas observances can… Read More

TRUCE Action Guides: Toys, Media & Children It’s Black Friday and many parents have holiday gift buying on their minds.  The discussion of holiday buying looms large in our community, with folks chatting about buying local, buying handmade, and buying non-commercial. Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), a Massachusetts based group of educators concerned about how children’s toys and entertainment are affecting the play and behavior of kids, has a few guides… Read More

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