Winter is not an easy time to be parent in Chicago. It’s cold and grey. Everyone is tired of being stuck inside. I go a little crazy trying to come up with ways for my kids to burn off some energy when they can’t play outside. And every time we do decide to brave the elements and leave the house, I have to get my children all suited up in coats, boots, hats, mittens, scarfs and snow pants. (That’s a whole category of aggravation that parents in Florida don’t have.) For some reason, this process never goes smoothly — especially in the mornings, when we’re in a hurry — and I end up yelling my head off. Not the best way to start the day.
Happily, I have two things to tell you about that may make these dark days of winter a little bit easier. One is a fun new spot for families. The other is an event that will help deepen our understanding of those…delightful… little people that we live with.
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the media launch party for a wonderful new coffee house/play space that is just as appealing to parents as it is to kids: Little Beans Cafe. You may have read a glowing review of this new spot in the Chicago Tribune. There are many indoor play spaces in Chicago where kids can blow off some steam, engage in imaginative play and argue about whose turn it is to ride the blue tricycle. Little Beans Cafe certainly has a large and inviting play space with all the features you would want to keep your kids active and happy. What makes Little Beans Cafe unique, however, are the features for parents: a cozy coffee bar where you can sip your favorite Caramel Macchiato and an option to pay a little extra and have the staff supervise your kids while you stay on site and work or relax in the cafe. There’s even talk of yoga classes for moms and ”manicure Mondays.” (Hello! For years I have said that combining manicures with child care is a guaranteed money-maker.) Whether you want to meet a friend for coffee, let your tots get their ya-yas out or get some work done without having to rustle up a sitter, Little Beans Cafe has got you covered. Birthday parties and fun kids’ classes are also available. Mark my words, this place is going to be the next big thing on the North Side. Although I doubt you need any more encouragement to check out Little Beans Cafe, I am giving away one free admission to the Little Beans play space, which normally costs $12. To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite tip for surviving the Chicago winter with kids. You can earn an extra entry by subscribing to my RSS feed. Just let me know that you have done so.
Now, imagine that you are at Little Beans Cafe and your beloved child throws a massive tantrum because some other kid is riding the very tricycle that he wants — the nerve of some people! — or because you have dared to suggest that it is time to go home. Do you know how to handle it? What is up with all those tantrums anyway? If you are looking to understand why your young child acts the way that she does, and wondering what you can do to promote her social and emotional development, I have an event for you. The Oak Park Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education is offering an all-day symposium on February 26, a Saturday, entitled We Can Work It Out: Promoting Social-Emotional Competence in Young Children. The Collaboration is a terrific non-profit organization that is dedicated to ensuring that all of Oak Park’s kids arrive at kindergarten with the skills that they need to succeed in elementary schools and beyond. To that end, the Collaboration aims to bring together every group or individual that deals with and cares about young children and families in the community: from the preschools and day care centers to the libraries and the YMCA to the pediatricians and even local government and the school districts. I have been active in the Collaboration for a few years now and I can honestly say that this dedicated group of people is making a difference in my community.
The Symposium is an annual event, with a different topic every year. Early childhood professionals make up the bulk of the attendees, but parents are always welcome. This year, the topic is one that I think has particular interest to parents, and so I am determined to spread the word about it. Goodness knows I will be there. I am always looking for ideas on how to handle JR, who, at age four with a year and a half of preschool under his belt, could still use some help with such concepts as “sharing” and “taking turns.” The keynote address by Jennifer Rosinia, an occupational therapist and child deveopment expert who teaches at the Erikson Institute, will be on understanding behavior from multiple perspectives. There will also be terrific breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon on topics such as team building for children, creating calm through art, the importance of executive function, and the role of emotions in behavior. Admission for the Symposium, which includes lunch, is $25 in advance and $35 at the door. You can register online here. Even if you can only attend part of the day, it should be worthwhile. I encourage you all to check it out.