Category Archives: Places

Reading MA Recreation

We live in Stoneham, MA, which abuts Reading and it turns out Reading has a very active recreation department and a bunch of great activities and playgrounds. Woot! Stoneham doesn’t have a Rec Department (sob :’-( ), but please post in comments if your town has one and where to find their events and resources.

This from Jenna Fiorente, the Reading Recreation Program Coordinator

Dear Playground Hunt Families,

Reading Recreation is a self-supporting Division of the Department of Public Works. The mission of Reading Recreation is to provide the community with year round recreational activities. The Division believes programs should be broad based to meet the recreational needs of all segments of the population.

We have several programs, workshops, and free events throughout the year. For the little ones, we have just started Super Soccer Stars and Babies & Books. We hope to grow our toddler programs based on feedback from our parents.

We have several parks and playgrounds here in Reading as well. For information on all of our programs, events, and facilities, please check out our website at www.readingrec.com . Please also feel free to call us at 781-942-9075.

 

Reading Recreation Department Links:

 

Camping in Maine

We (Alex, Jen, Mama Angelika, and Bella the dog) went for a 7 day camping trip to Maine. This post is a cross between telling the stories, writing down the suggestions for making it work as a resource, and memos to myself for what to do different for the next time.

Driving

Google said it would take just under 4 hours to get from our house to the campground. It took 5 1/2 with pee stop, snack stop, pee stop, ice-cream stop, pee stop. That’s a long time for two active kids to sit, so I had prepped heavily with a lap table, picture books, coloring books, treasure hunt, and audio books.

The car tables I got were the Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray – which just sits on their lap and buckles around the back of the car seat. I loaded up the pockets on either side with drink bottle, snacks, crayons, and small coloring book.

The audio books I had with me were Bad Jelly The WitchandMagic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8on CD on loan from the Library. Alex in particular was very interested by the Tree House books and listened to the whole lot over the week.

Hint: I also found lots of audio books that could be borrowed for 2 weeks through the online loan system that lets you download files to your media player.

The drive went really quite well. The trickiest part was getting everyone to agree they had everything packed. Bella the dog had the front passenger seat and tried to lie down – often pushing the gear stick from D to N. I initiated a pit-stop every time they got restless, which is a change from other travels where I tried to make it to a certain place before stopping. Here I just figured that the main goal was to keep everyone happy – even if it took us an hour longer.

Campground

Several friends had recommended Searsport Shores Ocean Campground as a child-friendly, fun place to take young children. The more I read on their website, the more excited I got – they were writing about their goats, organic gardens, resident artists, and activities on the beach.

Wobbly bridges at the playground

Wobbly bridges at the playground

And it was even better than I had hoped for. There was a huge playground they had built themselves, and which was therefore interesting. There was a really nice play room with a cozy book corner (if you can call that many shelves a corner) with good books, a fireplace, and a shop for ice-cream (and various fiber arts and camping supplies).

The bathrooms were spotless, there were free hot showers, and even a handicapped stall, which is good for wrestling kids into the shower. There are also lots of washing machines and dryers. Turns out this is very useful if your theoretically potty-trained 3 year old has an accident and pees in her sleeping bag. Sigh.

The campground also has lots of gardens full of interesting plants for eating and dyeing. There are lots of sculptures, wood carvings, and little treasures to discover in the forests. And an amazing art studio occupied by a rotating cast of artists-in-residence.

Campsite

I chose a campsite where we could also park. The campground has sites where you have to walk a couple of hundred feet from car to campsite, but this seemed like a lot of hassle with little kids. Our campsite was shaded and all round really lovely. It had several trees where we built Fairy Houses, a fire pit (wood for sale at office), and a water faucet 10 yards away. The toilets ended up being a little bit too far for us. Next time we’ll get a closer site, and with electricity so I can recharge my phone.

Good things I brought for the campsite:

  • potty – even though both Alex and Jen are totally potty trained, sometimes we still get the “I have to go potty NOOOOWWWWWW!” and then it was good to have only a couple of feet to go. I have the Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus, Blue with disposable inserts.
  • 10 different flashlights – variety is the spice of life here, apparently
  • 100 glow sticks – each kid got 4-6 glow sticks each night as a night light
  • wet wipes for when the kids refused to get washed in the shower
  • bikes – Alex tore up the campground riding back and forth and we managed to get to places (bathroom) without spending 30 minutes trying to drag dragging feet.

Arts

Turns out the Searsport Shores Ocean Campground has artists that stay there for a whole week and provide activities for the whole family in the custom Studio.

Check out the schedule for this year:

Week of: Artist in Residence Activities
June 23-29 Tom Cote Wood carving and whittling
June 30-July 6 TBA Ocean learning adventures
July 7-13 Barbara Andrus Weaving a Shorefront structure from twigs and driftwood
July 14-20 Blake Henderickson Wood Block Buffet
July 21-27 Susan Tobey White & Jeannie Painting, drawing and seeing
July 28- Aug 3 Ellen Mason Playing with Dyes and Yarn and Fabric
Aug 4-10 Steven Scheurer Chain Maille, Macramé & Caricatures
Aug 11-17 Maryly Mathewman Seaside Quilting and Color play for all ages
Aug 18-24 TBA
Aug 25-31 TBA
September 1-8 Fiber College 4 days of amazing fiber classes, demos, vendors and happiness

Pretty awesome!!!

Dyeing with EllenWe got there halfway through Ellen Mason‘s week, but she had us promptly dyeing, stitching, cutting, etc, although she also does a lot of knitting and designs patterns. She was super fun and engaging and both kids looked forward to going back to the studio – sometimes we went twice a day 🙂

Next artist-in-residence was Steven Scheurer, a.k.a. Santa. He looks like Santa, and does a lot of volunteer work and charity stuff as Santa, and as an all-round nice guy taught us how to make survival bracelets and chain mail. This was a bit above Alex and Jen, but I (and all the older kids) had a great time making bracelets and dog collars.

Beach

The campground has it’s own private beach, and they ran several activities during our time there: seining – catching little fish with a net for the kids to look at and crab hunting  (for an invasive species) were the ones we made it to. They put a lot of emphasis on conservation and the ecology of the beach and made it fun and education for all.

Tide pools

Tide pools

It’s a rocky beach with a pretty big tide difference. That meant that at low tide we could find lots of different shells, look at the rock pools, wade around looking for green crabs, and chase the occasional little fish in clear cold water. It’s not a sandy swimming beach and Alex and Jen asked for one of those a couple of times before they got used to the rocks and being interested in the animals there.

Another blog post will follow about what the camping experience meant to us personally, but meanwhile here are some pictures:

Figment Boston 2013

Do you want to mix your outside time up with some art and culture? Art museums are fantastic, but are they sometimes too hands-off and enclosed? Is, um, er, Burning Man too far away, pricey, and not quite kid-friendly enough?

Check out the Figment Project!  It’s a yearly FREE art festival on the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the whole point is for artists to come up with art projects and installations that are participatory and interactive.  Wonderful for kids, but many adults go on their own every year.  It’s affordable and kid-friendly, but the art is serious enough to satisfy adults.

Figment is in nine international cities around the world so far and we were actually introduced by our friend Ashley who lives just outside New York City.   New York hosts theirs on another great urban green space, Governor’s Island.  So check dates if you’ll be state hopping or globetrotting, but it is a regular annual event, so you can just watch for Figment Boston 2014.  Better yet, volunteer or, if you’re an artist, submit an idea.  (The link is actually for last year’s, but I’m assuming they’ll be reopening it there in late winter, as usual, so start brainstorming already!)

But, ironically, it had never worked out timing wise (what with summer so full of travel and barbecues and whatever else) to make it to the one in our very own city.  Well, this year it lined up perfectly, and we’re glad it did.  We had a great time.

Here’s Bridget enjoying the Hedgecone ring toss!  She made a ringer, and won a lollipop from inside one of the safety cones.

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Fiona’s vocabulary is still burgeoning.  But, charmingly, one of her favorite words is love.  She and Craig are a bit squirmy so it was hard to line ourselves up correctly in the thought bubble booth, but we thought this was appropriate:

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Bridget made me a crown we later hung from the Sustainabilitree (made completely from found objects) behind me:

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Some of the projects were edgy and some of them were sweet, and some, like the armpit-smelling booth called Bring a Pheromone and this farting dog sculpture called Amelia’s Angry Stomach involved enough bodily function humor to make grandma tut-tut.  But going with kids of a certain age and phase?  There’s a market for that!

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Bridget’s favorite was Lend Me a Sound.  We don’t have any photos of the booth because it was basically just a woman sitting at a computer, but she’d take sound samples from passers-by and make songs out of them.  Bridget’s squeaky “hello!”, her duck noise (in honor of Fiona’s favorite animal) and her pretty trill went quite nicely with the other participant’s meows, yodels, and twangs.

Fiona’s favorite was String Theory.  Relatively simple in concept (unlike the theoretical physics string theory) it was basically just hundreds of yellow strings suspended from a frame in a 28′ wide circle, increasing in density and length near the middle.  It was indeed fun to run through (Imagine running through a hundred beaded door curtains from the 70s in a row!  And odd but accurate description.)  and it was quite gorgeous.  IMG_9132

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And finally, the girls hula hooping with the Boston Hoop Troop in front of the famous Os Gemeos mural in Dewey Square:

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We hope you enjoyed us sharing our day.   Our favorite part of Figment, which also has a Facebook page?  Just like Outside the Box, last week’s brand new and highly acclaimed new arts festival on the Common, Figment Boston is  incredibly creative community use of park space!  Inspired?  Come help us finish rebuilding Rounds Playground and park space in Stoneham August 24th.  See if we can pretty it up even more and attract some fun cultural events there.  See you there!

Sign up here!

http://www.slyreply.com/app/sheets/4jie8nj1h0gt/

Thank you!

Yurts on Peddocks Island

Camping on Boston Islands

We just came back from a pretty special overnight trip to the Boston Harbor Islands. We stayed one night in one of the new yurts, which were installed this spring.

Getting to Boston Harbor Islands

After much internet surfing, I finally discovered THE best way to get to the Boston Harbor Islands. The wharf at Hingham offers free overnight parking passes and there are no transfers. I had envisioned parking at a T stop, taking the Orange Line, then the Blue line, then walking, then the boat to George’s Island, then transferring to Peddocks. It sounded like work with two children. Instead we drove to Hingham in our somewhat air conditioned car, parked, used the restrooms, and got on the boat. Easy-peasy.

We paid for the tickets on board and thoroughly enjoyed the 30 minute ride straight to Peddocks Island. Everyone was very helpful with getting all the stuff and children on and off the boat. Note – the boat’s restrooms are out-of-order, so plan accordingly.

Getting to the Campsite/Yurt

Peddocks Island has a very pleasant air conditioned visitor center with running water, flush toilets, a bit of historical information, and a remarkable amount of activities for children (fishing, exploring the shore for creatures,…). They also have wheelbarrows you can borrow to take all your stuff and children up the hill to the campsite.

It’s about a 10 minute walk up a gentle slope. That being said, it can be a long 10 minutes if one child or another goes on strike in the heat 😉 The road is first sealed, the gravel.

The Yurts

…are beautiful, and I want one! They are large, clean, and super comfortable. There are two double beds, and two single bunks, one on top of each double. There is a large table and two benches inside. Surprisingly, there is electricity and we had two outlets and a floor lamp. Outside has a picnic table and there is one shared composting toilet, and several drinking water faucets.

Yurts on Peddocks Island

Yurts on Peddocks Island

You have to bring your own sheets or sleeping bags, pillows, plates, cutlery, pots, stove or charcoal. No wood allowed because of those invasive beetles, but each yurt and campsite does have it’s own grill thing. But you can plug in your phone to recharge.

Stuff to Do

We brought one of our Explorer Kits and made heavy use of the coloring book, bubbles, crayons, and the Curious George book. It was too hot to do much running around with the flying disc or ball.

Otherwise, we

  • saw fireflies
  • build rock walls
  • made rock art
  • collected feathers and shells
  • played pirate ship on the bunk beds
  • climbed around the yurt furniture
  • watched boats
  • explored the old houses of the Fort
  • learned a whole lot of seashore stuff from a Ranger
  • went on an extended boat trip to the other islands

Lakeside Camping, Island Pond, Vermont

My family just had a great week camping at Lakeside Camping campground in the Northeast Kingdom in Island Pond, VT. Okay, okay, at 3.5 hours away by car it is hardly the Greater Boston area. But it is perfectly doable for an inexpensive vacation or even a weekend away.

And it has a beautiful playground! Honestly, my family usually find the state or national parks most appealing for camping for both atmospheric and affordability reasons. We’ve found private ones can have too much of a commercialized or trailer park feel and as tent campers, we lean towards rustic or even backpacking.

But Craig’s family has been coming here for nearly 40 years. Since before he was born–he actually turned 33 on the trip, complete with cake around the campfire. I can see why they made the exception! There are beautiful spots right on the lake but if you’d prefer to avoid those (as well as some equally gorgeous ledge-y ones) with small kids it works out nicely because many of the remaining sites wind around a lightly wooded hill so you get the full view without the risks.

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The playground! You all love playgrounds! It’s a big-kid structure with swings and see-saws. No wildly unique attributes but it is perfectly fun and makes up for it with location. It’s nestled right between the front sites, the beach, the camp store and a picnic area and you can safely supervise all but the very youngest kids from any of those comfy locales.

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There are boat rentals (feel free to bring your own, too), a raft to swim out to, and there is lots of loon watching. They frequently sponsor free kid-friendly events like ice cream socials and DJs on the beach.

One caveat that is actually a perk for many: active train tracks go through the edge of camp. Keeping kids away from the tracks is not an issue–there are fences or wooded areas everywhere except the main driveway. The main concern is the rare one that might come through post-bedtime and disrupt light sleepers. But usually the one or two that pass through a day are at an hour that make for some great trainspotting for curious and choo-choo crazy kids.

As if there isn’t enough to do on camp, there is plenty to do nearby. The region is sparsely populated but they’ve got a lot of culture and are ready for tourists.

–The Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge complete with a moose viewing station (we saw 5 this year, including a mama with her baby!) and boardwalks around the bogs

A stock photo, but our glimpse was just as heartwarming!

A stock photo, but our glimpse was just as heartwarming!

 

A science museum

A children’s theatre

–A state  park with even more camping and hiking

–A free private dog park, with galleries, special events, and a memorial dog chapel

Derby Line, the town with the library/opera house that famously straddles the international border

–The Cabot Cheese Factory with tours and loads of free samples. Did someone say free cheese?

And much more, including all the hiking, horseback riding, geocaching, skiing and other outdoor activities you could ask for.

Craig and I were into rock climbing in our pre-kid lives.  This is just an illusion--she's only a few feet off the ground--but we wonder if Bridget will take after us!

Craig and I were into rock climbing in our pre-kid lives. This is just an illusion–she’s only a few feet off the ground–but we wonder if Bridget will take after us!

You’ll only be a few miles from the Canadian border, so bring your passports for more options (American children should be okay with just their birth certificates until they are 16). Franconia Notch in the White Mountains is less than an hour away, too, with even more to do.

If you’re looking to get away from it all in less than a half day’s drive from Boston, we’d recommend this destination!

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Playground Hunt at the beach

Bucket List Summer 2013


I had a little panic attach a couple of days ago that there weren’t enough days in summer to do all the things I want to do. so here is my list of things I want to do with Alex and Jen this summer. Then I remembered that I should stop and smell the flowers, and the forest, and the ocean. So here is my initial list of thing I want to do this summer. Let me know if there is something we absolutely must do on Facebook.

Camping

use Reserve America http://www.reserveamerica.com/

Playground Hunt at the beachBeaches

The Department of Conservation and Recreation manages several swimming beaches. Freshwater lake beaches are listed here: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/inlandSwim.htm and their ocean beaches here: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/oceanSwim.htm. The ones I would like to get to this year are:

Playgrounds and Sprinkler Parks

Hiking

Summer Concerts

Fruit Picking

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • peaches

Kayaking

We randomly went kayaking on Spot Pond last year and both children, then 2 and 4, greatly enjoyed it and both want to do it again this summer. The blog post from last year is http://www.playgroundhunt.com/blog/kayaking-on-spot-pond/

Specials

I’ve even made a special map with just these locations:


View Summer 2013 Bucket List in a larger map

Please stay in touch, report any errors, let me know about must-see-places, and fun things to do on Facebook (it’s where I frequently post snippets and interact)

Inserts for Advent Calendar: Signs and Logos

I started making this collection of Boston Area attractions a couple of years ago in the hope of printing it and putting little slips of paper into my children’s advent calendar. Finally got back to it and will ACTUALLY do it this year (rather than just putting in some badly hand-drawn pictures) ==>BostonLogos <== pdf file

And here are the logos I have included so far… Hope it helps with making an excellent adventure-filled month of December.

Art in the Park – Playground Hopping

Welcome “Playground Hopping”

I was so happy to see another playground blogger in the Boston area. Please visit Playground Hopping’s new blog at http://playground-hoppingmass.blogspot.com/ and check out her other posts. Here is one with lots of pretty pictures of Boston area playgrounds from earlier this month…

“Parks and playgrounds should invite you in, be a place to relax and chat with your neighbors while your kids play and meet new friends. If you’re lucky, you might come across something very rare…ART IN THE PARK! In our search for more art, we uncovered IconParks right here in MA that designs wonderful playgrounds. Like Dorothy following the yellow brick road, we will hop along to every playground designed by IconParks. Below is some of their work, in addition to wonderful artwork we’ve discovered in Boston and Cambridge.

Dorothy Curran Playground – Dorchester, MA
http://www.iconparks.com/
Alexander Kemp Playground – Cambridge, MA
http://ericpowell.com/
The Esplanade Playspace – Boston, MA
Created by artist and poet Mitch Ryerson
http://www.foresthillstrust.org/path/ryerson.html
Julia’s Playground – WWI Memorial Park – North Attleboro, MA
Creekside Commons Park – Chelsea, MA
Julia’s Garden – WWI Memorial Park – North Attleboro, MA
Playground Hunt map of playgrounds near Boston

Sprinkler Parks near Boston

Playground Hunt map of playgrounds near BostonNorth Point Playground (Cambridge – map) – big water feature, superb playgroundS near Museum of Science (read my review at this LINK)

Springs Brook Park (Bedford – map) – man-made lake with sandy beach, playground, and huge sprinkler park, concessions (read my review at this LINK)

Grimmons Playground (East Somerville – map) – separate fenced toddler area, big kid playground, sprinklers – beautifully designed (read my review at this LINK)

Cedar St Playground (Cambridge – map) – shady playground with sprinklers (read my review at this LINK)

Simond’s Park Playground (Burlington – map) – large playground with structures for all age groups, wading pool (read my review at this link)

Fort Point Playground  (South Boston – map) – large park by harbor with beach and well designed playground (not sure where my review went)

Lederman Park (Boston – map) – by MGH/Museum of Science – never made it but it looks awesome from Storrow Drive.

Bradley Palmer Wading Pool and Playground (Topsfield – map) – wading and sprinkler park – this will be the summer we make it!

Spy Pond (Arlington – map) – large fenced playground with structures for toddlers and older kids, sandbox, and by a couple of little beaches for wading in Spy Pond (read my review at this LINK)

Albion St Playground (Somerville – map) pleasant playground with a fun sprinkler/water feature – not sure why I never wrote a review, but this playground made for a nice couple of days last year

Playground Hunt offspring at Springs Brook Park

Bedford Water Park – Springs Brook Park

Since the couple of photos I posted on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PlaygroundHunt) got so many questions about the where, what, and when, I figured I better write a slightly longer post about the awesomeness that is Springs Brook Park, or possibly Spring Brooks Park. Who knows? The GPS address is 171 Springs Rd, Bedford MA 01730

Ignoring various spelling on various locations, all I can say is that Alex, Jen and I have thoroughly enjoyed this place for the last three summers.

It is a public, man-made beach with sprinkler park, lake, playground, and a very reasonable concession stand. It costs money to get in, but the maximum per day per family is $25. Bedford residents can get a season pass cheaply. They only take cash.

The staff are superb, there are lots of very attentive lifesavers, the place is clean, the people are friendly.

We bring a picnic blanket, snacks, lots of sunscreen, and swim stuff. I’m looking into buying a beach shelter thing, just because the trees shade the side of the lake away from the sprinkler park, and I like to plop down in between.