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Got Plans? With Kids

With the Entertainment Guide Staff
Tuesday, November 25, 2003; 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.

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.


The Kids' Table: Welcome to the Kids' Table "early bird" special. My (Vicki's) fellow turkeys Matt, Maura, Alexa, Lynette, Anne and Kate are thankful you're with us for our traditional ideas feast we call Got Plans With Kids? It's potluck. Everybody shares.

And for starters, this is a fine time to expand your family's dining out experience. Restaurants are expecting (dare I say welcoming) the youngest of patrons. Go to a museum show before or after. There will be long lines to the malls. But you may be the first in line for the holiday lights. So, what have you brought us?


Berryville, Va. - Fun family trip: Planning to cut your own Christmas tree?

Many tree-cutting farms provide hot chocolate, marshmallow roasts and fun activities for kids. Here is a fun-for-the-whole-family Clarke Country trip you might want to consider:
Ashcroft Christmas Tree Farm -- White Post, Va., 540-837-1240
Oakland Tree Plantation -- Route 340 N of Berryville, Va., 540-955-4495
Sipe's Tree Farm -- Route 340 S of Berryville, V., 540-837-1496
Nalls Farm Market -- Route 7 E of Berryville, Va., 540-955-0004

Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. For every real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place. There are about 1 million U.S. acres in production for growing Christmas trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

The Kids' Table: Hi Berryville, Thanks for the information. For those of you who are interested in gathering your own tree, you can also check the Weekend Section in this Friday's Washington Post for an article by freelance writer Mary Jane Solomon.

Here are some helpful Web sites listing places to cut your own tree in Virginia and Maryland.
At least one Northern Virginia farm, Ticonderoga Farms in Chantilly, offers potted Christmas trees for sale, which can be planted after the holiday for long-lasting enjoyment and benefit to the environment.

While the people who sell live Christmas trees, including the National Christmas Tree Association, insist there are environmental benefits to having a live Christmas tree, we wondered how the environmentalists felt about it. A quick check with some groups in the area found they generally agree.

The Potomac Conservancy's managing director, Matt Berres, also says that live Christmas trees can be used to benefit the environment. "We would encourage people to choose a native fir," Berres says, because a replanted tree native to Virginia or Maryland provides maximum benefit to area wildlife and has the best chance of longterm survival. Of course, if you don't have your own back yard, finding a place to replant a potted tree can be a challenge. The Potomac Conservancy does not accept tree donations at this time. Berres suggested checking with local schools or churches to see if they would have a place to plant the tree.

One option is the Anacostia Watershed Society, which will accept donations of live trees if they are native to this area. For more information and to make sure yours is a tree they can use, call the society at 301-699-6204 and ask for Josh Ungar or Steve McKindley-Ward.

If you prefer a cut Christmas tree, don't worry. The Anacostia Watershed Society also accepts donations of cut trees for use in their streambank stabilization projects along the Anacostia River. Most of their donations come from municipalities that organize tree pickups at the end of the holiday.

To repair damage from erosion, the society takes old sign posts donated by various highway departments and drives these into a streambank. They then build up a matrix of donated Christmas trees and tie the trees down with cables. Debris builds up on the trees and eventually the society is able to plant willows and other trees in the debris. This repairs damage from erosion by creating a stable streambank and increases the land's ability to absorb and filter storm water. The final result of this project is a cleaner river and less flooding after heavy rains.

So forget the guilt. Enjoy your live Christmas tree throughout the holiday season and then put it to use in a good cause in the new year. Lynette.


Silver Spring, Md.: I love the descriptions of Adventure land park (last post two weeks ago), but I have no idea where to find it within Germantown. I searched the post.com and couldn't find it.

Do you think you could provide me with a link?


The Kids' Table: Hi Silver Spring, I'm sorry to say we're drawing a blank on this one. Could you share a little more information, such as the title and exact date of the story or the type of events that go on there? We have a listing for Adventure Schools Rock Climbing in Cabin John, Md., or for Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo but that doesn't sound like what you're talking about. Thanks.


Washington, DC: I'm a single dad, I need to involve my 10-year-old daughter in some programs/activities/events her age where she can also develop some friendships.


The Kids' Table: Dear D.C.,
I have two daughters, now 11 and 8, and I'll just give you some examples of what worked for us.

I don't know if you're involved in a church at all, but they often have youth groups and youth sports. Also each community usually has places that have all kinds of activities like dance classes and karate. Talk to your daughter about what she might be interested in pursuing.

At school, both my girls have been in the chorus and have taken lessons on musical instruments. It's usually done during school time with after-school concerts in the fall and spring.

We've been most pleased with the recreational
sports programs in our area. My daughters have played soccer, basketball and softball. They've made friends while getting physically fit and learning about different sports and sportsmanship.

Their interest has also led us to take fun trips to Orioles games, Maryland women's soccer games and Maryland women's basketball games.

And being a sports fan, I've also gotten involved. At first I sat on the sidelines with the other parents, cheering the team on. I hadn't thought about coaching since I had never coached soccer or softball in an organized league. But I agreed to be an assistant, and learned that at the 9 and 10 age level, you're just teaching the basics, running drills and mostly trying to have fun.

I ended up coaching soccer and softball. During basketball season, I help out by running the scoreboard and clock or keeping the scorebook.

Hope this helps. Good luck -- Matt


Cape May Court House, N.J.: Hi, My family and I will be in D.C. 12/23-12/26. Where can we go for some great meals on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day?

The Kids' Table: Your best bet, if you're planning ahead, is to look at hotel dining rooms and restaurants within hotels. These are the ones you can pretty much guarantee will be open. Some to check with: Melrose, the Daily Grill, Tabard Inn, The Willard Room, Poste.... -- Alexa


Baltimore attractions: My 4- and 6-year-old nephews are visiting for Thanksgiving. I think we're going up to Baltimore on Saturday. What do you think will be the most fun for them, the aquarium, the science center, or Port Discovery? They're more the interactive type than the looking type, but they have loved nice aquariums before.

Also, will the 3D IMAX Bugs movie be too scary for them? I mean, are the bugs just big and cool or do they suddenly reach out to grab you or anything?

The Kids' Table: In my book, Baltimore's aquarium is a must-see and the shark show has plenty of interactives. Get tickets in advance if you can. Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest of the year for museums.

Of course, you won't go wrong with Port Discovery or the Science Center. And Kate said that while I may be to squeemish for Bugs in 3-D, the boys should dig it just fine. -- Maura


Detroit, Mich.: I do not know if I have just seen the wrong children's movies with my daughter or if there is a trend: the mother of a young individual getting killed and the father raising the child. The two recent movies of this type that come to mind are "Finding Nemo" and "Ice Age." I can't believe that seeing in a movie the death of the mother figure is not traumatic for a young viewer.

The Kids' Table: Good news, Detroit. You have not been to the wrong sort of movies. There is a trend, one far older than cartoon fish or even movies themselves.

There are several philosophies concerning the content of children's stories: what's appropriate in the story and why. I tend to side with Bruno Bettelheim, a child psychologist who published his now classic study of fairy tales in 1975. In "The Uses of Enchantment" Bettelheim was, like you, fascinated by the repeat instances of a parent's death (Snow White's mother; Cinderella's mother for example) in traditional fantasy stories intended for small children. Bettelheim argued if stories were magically told, so "enchanting" the narrative tragedies experienced by the hero (and the listening child) can be erased by that same hero's (or heroine's) ability to overcome adversity. That effectively, the sadness and the difficulties experienced by Snow White or Cinderella teach children they too can overcome difficult, terrifying situations and make sense of the world. Arguably "Bambi" and "Finding Nemo" are tales told magically enough to support their heroes through difficult times and (eventually) calm children. This is not to say sensitive children won't cry when the hunter shoots Bambi's mom. Rather, children remember being upset and remember feeling better.

Your constant challenge is deciding which stories, books, cartoons teach stories of resolve, heroism and beauty (like Disney's "Snow White" or Pixar's "Finding Nemo") and which films are empty moral balloons (like "The Cat in the Hat"). Jane Horwitz's Family Filmgoer column is most definitely for you.

Class dismissed, Kate


montgomery village mom: I was the one who wrote in about the Adventure park in Germantown. Here's more info about how to find it:
South Germantown Adventure Playground -
Germantown Park Drive, Boyds
It is also right near the
Splash Playground - South Germantown Rec. Park
18056 Central Park Circle, Boyds
See Swimming Pools & Water Parks.

Also see this link for more options in Montgomery County: http://www.playmoco.org/

The Kids' Table: Hi and thank you so much, Montgomery Village Mom! See, our chatters really do know everything! Here are the links to South Germantown Adventure Playground information, and to more information about things to do in Montgomery County. You can also always try MapQuest.com or Rand McNally for driving directions. Thanks again, MV Mom! Lynette


Vienna, Va.: In last week's discussion, an Oakton mom asked about indoor places to take her 19-month-old during the winter season. Here are a few ideas:

"Mr. KnickKnack" has weekly appearances at several area locations. On Saturdays, he performs at Borders (Tysons Corner) at 10 a.m. and noon. On Thursdays, I believe he's at Jammin' Java in Vienna. For a while in November, he was performing at Tysons I on Fridays, but I'm not sure how long this will last. He also performs on Sundays at Cosi in Reston in the evenings. Unfortunately, I don't know where to obtain his complete lineup with all dates and locations.

Also, many area libraries have story time for toddlers. Check out Patrick Henry Library in Vienna on Wednesdays at 10:30 or search the Fairfax County library site for other locations: http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/library/libevents/evntform.asp

The Vienna Community Center has a few classes and activities for toddlers, too. The "Music Together" class starts in January. Nonresidents are welcome to sign up -- just drop in to the center for a course schedule or view it online at http://ci.vienna.va.us/Town_Departments/Vibrations/vibe.htm

The community center also periodically hosts an "open gym" day where littles ones can bring their non-motorized ride-on toys to the gym.

For a fun day, too, how about taking the Metro to National Airport? Little ones can wander around and look at planes. There is plenty of shopping available for mom, too.

Finally, there are other weekly kids events at Jammin' Java. In addition to Mr. KnickKnack, the Banjo Man performs on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. Details at http://www.jamminjava.com/events/club.html


The Kids' Table: Thanks for the tips, Vienna. You must be familiar with Weekend's Carousel listings. This community events column is packed with story times.

As for indoor plans with toddlers, while you do any holiday shopping, consider Springfield Mall -- they have a Santa AND a working carousel. -- Kate


College Park Aviation Museum: Things are great at the College Park Aviation Museum as we're counting down the days until the 100th Anniversary of Flight. We are having an all-day celebration of the Centennial of Flight on Dec. 17, with a lot of fun activities.

Coming up sooner is Santa Fly-In. This event takes place on Dec. 6. from noon to 4 p.m. Santa flies in on an airplane (or sometimes a helicopter!) and is available for pictures in the museum's mock biplane. While you are waiting for Santa to arrive, there are crafts and fun activities.

Check our Web site at www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.com for all of our fun events!

The Kids' Table: Thanks, College Park. The centennial of flight will bring lots of activities to the area. We're looking forward to all of them.


Burke, Va.: Help! Relatives are visiting for the holiday weekend. I need fun activities Friday and Saturday for a 2-year-old girl, two 4-year-olds (boy and girl) and a 7-year-old girl. Any suggestions?

Also, last week someone from Oakton asked for indoor activities for her toddler. I have taken my young kids to the Explore and Moore Children's Museum in Occoquan. Good things for toddlers there are a bubble room, indoor sandbox, dressup room and a room specifically for younger children.

The Kids' Table: Can you bundle them into the minivan and enjoy the Miracle of Lights at Bull Run Regional Park together? A full carload is $12.

If you're game enough to head to the National Mall, see the jaw-dropping Hall of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History and the seasonal display at the U.S. Botanic Garden. They've installed trains and an erupting volcano. Note though, the weekend after Thanksgiving is notoriously busy for the Smithsonian Institution.

Or, go nowhere but get out the crayons: Engage them in Weekend's annual "design your own wrapping paper contest." There's still time, entries must be postmarked Nov. 29. -- Kate


Washington, D.C.: For the single dad with the 10-year-old daughter: GIRL SCOUTS!! And it's not what you think it is or may remember it as. He can check out the local council Web site at www.gscnc.org and the national Web site at www.girlscouts.org. And, yes, I was one as a child and I am now in my sixth year as a leader. Men/dads can be leaders, too!!

The Kids' Table: Hi, Washington. Matt had to leave early today; but if he were here, he'd be slapping his forehead. Of course, Girl Scouts!! And I (Vicki) can tell you as a faithful cookie customer of his daughters', he's there and doing that, too.


Bethesda, Md.: Can you please give me some suggestions on where to go for fun activities besides the movies and BAPA in Bethesda with my 5-year-old daughter on a Saturday afternoon?

The Kids' Table: The children's rooms in bookstores and libraries is a cheery, stimulating place, often with cushy chairs and toys, always with recommendations for good reads. If the weather allows outdoors tromping, the Audubon Society and Glen Echo have paths for little hikers, and Glen Echo is the home of more children's theater, too. -- Anne


Burke, Va.: Hey there guys!
Any good local light displays?

The Kids' Table: It's all good. These light up our lives, and you can also find them in the events search box on the Holiday Guide. Closest to you is the Miracle of Lights. -- Anne


The Kids' Table: Looks like we've sampled just about everything. Thanks for joining our discussion. (The nice thing about our ideas potluck -- no dirty dishes.)

Hope your Thanksgiving holiday is safe and happy. And please come back to join us at the Kids' Table Wednesday, Dec. 10, at noon. Thanks for all your questions and ideas.


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