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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, January 19, 2005; 12:00 PM

Every other Wednesday at noon, local experts from washingtonpost.com share their best bets for arts and entertainment options for kids and their families. Our group specializes in local dining, museum, sports and recreations, day trips, children's theaters and the special events that keep life in metropolitan Washington interesting.

We're happy to answer questions, but we need to hear from you too. Tell us about your favorite public swimming pool, a movie that wowed your family, a toy shop with a "do touch" policy, or a restaurant where pizza is as welcome on the floor as it is on the plate. This is an hour for kids of all ages: So if you have teenagers who need a night out without you -- or vice versa -- ask away. Together we can fill our calendars with memorable activities.

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Our "With Kids" editor hosts each discussion, but the entire group will be sitting at the kids' table. If you need more ideas, see KidsPost and the Entertainment Guide.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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The Kids' Table: Welcome to the Kids' Table. The gang has made it today, despite the snow. Vicki is still shaking off the the snow (she'll be with us momentarily). The rest of us (Anne, Jen, Alexa and Maura) are sitting pretty and at the ready.

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Silver Spring, MD: Have you done a list of places, i.e., stores, restaurants etc. that give discounts to kids based on their grades or reading or other skill development?

Alexa: Oh goodness, I don't have any idea. Let's ask the savvy group...

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Falls Church, Va.: Just found your site and realized that I am looking for you. I own a very kid-friendly coffee/ice cream shop in Falls Church (Stacy's Coffee Parlor at 709 West Broad St.). We love to have playgroups and have toys, a child table, handpainted high chair and more. As a parent, I thought this is the perfect combination -- coffee and ice cream! Keep eveyone happy. It is a little tricky parking, but the secret is there is parking across the street; even sneakier parking in back. I would love to have you visit. Our prices are way better than Starbucks and, as a mom, I appreciate being able to get food for kids at a reasonable price. I am always open to suggestions.

Alexa: Falls Church, I have added you to our database and will keep you firmly in mind. Thank you!

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West End, Washington, D.C.: My sister and 4-year-old nephew will be visiting this weekend (Friday-Sunday a.m.). Any fun special exhibits or activities going on? He likes to read signs out loud and to make the garage doors in my parking garage open and close, among other activities.

Also, do you expect the inauguration to bring in many families? This is usually a nice, quiet time in the D.C. museums.

Maura: Hi, West End. Sounds like your nephew might like the hands-on activities of Five Friends From Japan at the Building Museum or the Discovery Room at Natural History. While it's not so hands-on, the mammal hall at Natural History is a must-see. Of course, your nephew will certainly love Air and Space if he's never been.

I think there will be a number of families in town for the inauguration -- those who want to see the parade or have tickets to the swearing in, so there might be an influx of tourists over the weekend, but I don't think it will be too overwhelming.

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For Rainy Days: My kids love the Occoquan children's museum Explore and Moore. We also go to the restaurant Glory Days in Springfield, which is extremely kid-friendly. The restaurant has a great kids menu, TVs tuned to cartoons, a full bar, booths and the noise level is loud enough so kids' talk doesn't bother anyone.

Maura: Good to hear, RD. Here's more on the Explore and Moore Museum.

Maura: Explore and Moore.

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McLean, VA: Just wanted to let the readers know that if you're looking for fun indoor activities with your younger kids (due to the snow! and cold!; brrr!), the Natural History Museum is great. I took my son, 16 months old, to that museum on Monday since I had the day off. The mammal exhibit is perfect for little kids, because a lot of the exhibits are just animals at ground level behind glass panels, so even little folks can see everything. There was a ton of toddlers there on Monday, and everyone was having a blast. Plus, the movie on evolution is geared toward little kids. My son may not have understood what the narrator was saying, but he enjoyed the many scenes of animals. Finally, the atrium cafe, right there in the museum, seemed to have a lot of healthful food choices (in case you don't want to be stuck with the usual eat-out hamburger/pizza options).

Maura: Great to hear. Any more readers with favorite museums?

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi,
I have a 14-year-old in 9th grade. We are interested in taking salsa lessons together, as a fun family activity. Is there any place that you know of that allows teenagers? Dance lesson places like Joy of Motion provide lessons separately to adults and youth. I would much appreciate any information that you have. Thanks!

Jen: Have you checked what Montgomery County recreation offers? I know they offer dance classes, but I'm not sure if teens and adults can take them together. Anyone else have bright ideas?

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Frederick Md.: If you are up for a day trip, the Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania is really neat. Kids can see how crayons and markers are made, and they get to do hands-on activities. I have been many times with the children that I nanny for and they were ages 6 months to 7 (there are 5). It was very cool and they still talk about how much fun it was. There is also a mule-pulled barge ride in the area that we did after the factory. Take a picnic lunch and make a day of it. I even had fun!!!

Anne: Thanks for the idea, Frederick. The Crayola Factory (a center, not the actual factory where crayons are made) is a bright place to visit. My sis and I liked that you could get individual crayons by the pound, if your cerulean is running low, for example. I'd note that this is long for a day trip, though. It's easily 3.5 hours from the Beltway in Maryland.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: What time are the fireworks tonight? This is the event most of could enjoy -- if The Post would tell us what time to look in the right direction.

Anne: A Celebration of Freedom runs from 4 to 6 tonight on the Ellipse. My guess is that the fireworks will come at the end, when it is almost dark. I hope we can see them through the snow.

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Stylish Mama: Does anyone know where I could get a pair of Levi's 501 jeans for my 12-month-old daughter?

Maura: Our shopping editor Janet isn't so sure they make 501's for babies. Have any readers out there seen them?

If you're searching for super-stylish, Janet does recommend Arlington's Cosmo Tots for chic little ones.

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Rockville, Md.: I don't want to open a can of worms, but maybe your readers can help me understand something. When I was 30 I chose to join the Peace Corps. Many of my friends chose marriage and procreation. When I came home I had hopes of being "Auntie" and offered to help with birthday parties, go on outings, etc. I was met with "you wouldn't want to do that", "you wouldn't be interested" and one friend makes plans with me, just doesn't include her son or husband -- EVER. I can understand that maybe she values "woman time". But I don't understand the others. I would think that an extra pair of eyes and hands would be welcome. Is there a better way I can make these friendships work? It seems sad to let them go just because we've chosen different paths.

Anne: This is an interesting comment. If I'm understanding right, one friend still does get together with you, so it seems yours is a friendship she wants to continue, at least. Do you think it's not working for her? Parents, let's hear from you: how do you balance family time and social time with friends?

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Herndon, Va.: I'm looking for some ideas on activities to do with toddlers in the Northern Virginia area in cold weather. We have a 15-month-old and all he really wants to do in life is run around, climb on things and explore. We've tried the toddler zone at Chuck E Cheese, but I was thinking there has to be other places like that. I've heard of Adventure Playground in Manassass, but haven't checked it out yet. What do other moms do to amuse their toddlers? Thanks so much! Love these chats.

Alexa: Have you looked into Gymboree. I never have but have friends who like it. It's musical gymnastics classes for kids. When my boy was a toddler we always took him to National Airport to run about, and he loved it. Though it might not have much of a sense of humor on this particular day.

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Lorton, Va.: I'm a fan of the open play area at Fair Oaks. Do any other malls have something similar?

Vicki: Hello, Lorton. Went right to our shopping guru expert, Janet, with your question. And she suggests the Ikea malls -- there's the new one in College Park and the famous Potomac Mills. Any shoppers out there know where to drop for some play time in a mall?

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To Rockville: I have kids, and most of my friends don't. We still have our child-free friends over to our house, although not as often as we used to. But, if a friend ever called and asked to do something that included my boy, I'd jump at the chance.

I think maybe some parents are just so worried about imposing their little treasures/terrors on anyone else that they turn down some activities. Or, like your one friend who does do stuff with you (only sans child), maybe they'd like to get away for some adult-time with you.

Vicki: And some thoughts on the with and without kids question.

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montgomery village mom: For the person wanting to renew friendships with her married kid-entailed friends. I suggest talking to them about this. Perhaps it's' your tone or perhaps its their assumptions, but nothing beats just asking them. I can't tell from your posting, but perhaps there are other reasons why you aren't being included. It may be as innocent as a misunderstanding as to your very real interest in being included or it may be that you are not considering other reasons why these outings may not be happening. I for one find it very difficult to get together with my friends who don't have kids unless they are willing to come to my house to hang out. I work downtown full time and my evenings are reserved for reconnecting with family, although once the kids are in bed at 7 we sometimes have friends over. The difficulty comes when some friends have assumed that we can stay out late or go out over nap time, etc. Both parties need to bend to make it work but it takes communication.

Vicki: Thanks, mvm, for reminding us all that sometimes it just takes "asking." I hesitate to share this idea -- blame it on a frozen thought-process -- but some of your parenting friends may worry that you won't "like" their kids or be critical of their parenting techniques (even just a facial expression may give you away) -- and that could be a relationship ender. Big rule: Love me, love my babies.

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Fellow Toddler Mom: This is in response to the mom of a toddler looking for indoor play areas other than Chuck E Cheese. We take our 2-year-old twins to the Soft Play Room at Lee District Rec Center & they LOVE it there.

Vicki: An endorsement from 2-year-old twins works.

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Alexandria, VA: My 16 year old "country boy" son is coming to visit for the weekend. He doesn't really care for "city" so what could I do with him that will prove to him that there are fun things to do in the city? Other than a movie and the Mongolian BBQ, I'm at a loss.

David: It sounds like museums might not be his thing, but the Spy Museum is pretty unique. It also might be a good weekend for ice skating at the National Gallery.

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Lorton, VA: Any UNIQUE ideas for a weekend getaway with a 1-year-old? We've already done the aquarium in Baltimore.

Alexa: Unique for a 1-year old? Isn't everything pretty unique at 1? Have you been to Frying Pan Park? Someone mentioned Pennsylvania's Crayola Factory that sounds fun and colorful. Any unique ideas from the group in these last few minutes?

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The Kids' Table: Well, it's just about time for me (Vicki) to brave the elements again -- and see if I can move the car up Wilson Bouldevard any time soon. Isn't this an exciting time to be in the nation's capital!? We have snow!! (People who don't have to walk or drive must be happy!). . . It is a great time to stay close to home and/or visit the zoo. Venture farther to see if there's a a one-size tube that fits your family. Oh yes, and there's this little event called Inauguration Day tomorrow.

If you want your children to be a part of history, maybe the inaugural parade is the route to go -- a spot near the end will be less congested and easier to maneuver in and out. And days after (it's available through Jan. 30), I think a visit to the Mandarin Hotel's "Oval Office" for a photo op with the 43rd president might make a good pix for the family album. And your pet, too, is welcome to visit the Presidential Pet Museum -- it really would be rude not to invite them in. Thanks for your time and questions today and please join us next time we compare notes on family plans -- Wednesday, Feb. 2.

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