The 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival

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Book lovers, mark your calendars! On September 24, readers of all ages are invited to join some of the country’s most celebrated authors for the 16th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Book enthusiasts, young and old, come from all over for the day of reading-related activities. Works by more than 120 authors, poets, and illustrators will be showcased and the creators themselves will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for special appearances.

All genres are represented on stages throughout the festival — Children, Teens, Picture Books, Contemporary Life, Culinary Arts, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Poetry & Prose, Science and Special Programs — where readings, presentations, book signings, photo ops with writers (and costumed PBS characters), and more exciting experiences for guests will take place. And a Book Sales area gives guests an opportunity to purchase selected reads — and possibly have them signed by the authors.

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If your children love books, chances are an author of one of their favorite stories will be there (Andrea Beaty, author of the hugely popular Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, among them). Kids will also be able to enjoy an array of fun and exciting activities on the Expo Floor. Last year, Sasha had a blast visiting booths representing every state and getting her passport stamped to earn a special souvenir.

Even more, there’s bound to be a writer — or many — that parents will be excited about, too. Joyce Carol Oates, Salmon Rushdie, Lauren Groff, Sarah Vowell, even Stephen King (!) are among the many that will be in attendance. Have a look for yourself at the complete list and start planning your National Book Festival experience. Most presentations are first come, first served — and people do line up early to get seats for the favorites — the Stephen King presentation requires tickets, which are free and will be issued electronically on September 14 at 9am.

The National Book Festival will be held at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday, September 24, from 9am to 10pm. Admission is free. You can read about one of our past visits — including an interview with Magic Treehouse author Mary Pope Osborne! — here.

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Where to Play on the Weekdays: September 12-16

What's not to love about the sculpture gardens on the National Mall?

What’s not to love about the sculpture gardens on the National Mall?



Monday – Enjoy the outdoors on the National Mall. View art al fresco — kids will love the whimsical creations at the National Gallery of Art and Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Gardens. Stroll along the paths at the Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. Take a spin on The Carousel for $3.75 a ride. And, of course, pop into a museum (or two or three) while you’re there.

Tuesday – Venture up to Baltimore for a day of play and learning at Port Discovery. Several levels full of awesome hands-on exhibits will keep the kids entertained for hours! Open 9:30am – 4:30pm. Admission is $14.50 for ages 2 and up (free for under 2).
Update: Port Discovery is closed for exhibit maintenance. Instead, check out the Baltimore Museum of Industry, a fun little time trip through the city’s early business days with lots of interesting, interactive exhibits. Hours are 10am – 4pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Tour on your own — admission is $12/adult, $7/ages 7-12, free for 6 and under — or join the Wee Workers program for preschoolers 10:30-11:30am (free for kids, $5/adults).

Wednesday – Catch a free concert for little ones as the Teddy Bear Band plays a lunchtime show, perfect for children ages 2-5 and their families. Pack some snacks and join the fun in the McLean Central Park Gazebo at the McLean Community Center. Showtime is 12:30pm. Admission is free.

Thursday – Hit the playground at Wheaton Regional Park. Two levels of slides, climbing nets, monkey bars, swings, and more fun features will appeal to all ages and abilities. Pack lunch to eat at nearby picnic tables under the lofty trees. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.

Friday – Head to the National Portrait Gallery for some creative fun at an Open Studio Friday session. All ages are welcome to explore a different art medium each week with all kinds of neat projects. Drop in anytime from 1-6pm. Go earlier or stay after to explore the museum’s collections and hang out in the Kogod Courtyard. Museum hours are 11:30am – 7pm. Admission is free. Read more about the Penn Quarter gallery in this KFDC post.


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A Birthday Party Giveaway, Classes, & Open House from My Gym Bethesda & My Gym Potomac!

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Yes, you read that right… it’s a birthday party giveaway! One lucky KFDC reader has a chance to win a celebration for their child at My Gym Bethesda or My Gym Potomac, an opportunity you definitely don’t want to pass up.

Parties at My Gym Bethesda and My Gym Potomac cater to both kids and parents. Tailored to delight each birthday boy or girl, they take special song and game requests and incorporate them into activities that reflect their regular offerings for families. Even better, they include just about everything — set up, decor, staff to lead activities and serve refreshments, and clean up — so parents can relax and enjoy the celebration along with their child.

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Three levels of birthday party packages are available, Grand, Deluxe, and Preimer. All of them give party-goers exclusive use of the space.

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Birthday packages are just part of the great offerings from My Gym Potomac and My Gym Bethesda. They also have age appropriate classes for ages 3 months to 10 years. There are Mommy and Me movement and music classes for babies and preschoolers, and older kids love tumbling, sports, and parkour classes. Plus, they have school holiday camps and special events. Read more about everything offered at My Gym Bethesda and My Gym Potomac.

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You can all go scope it all out for yourself! This Saturday, September 10, My Gym Bethesda and My Gym Potomac are hosting their Free and Fun Fall Open House. From 9:30am – 1:30pm, stop by either location to learn more about their programs and parties firsthand, meet the staff, and get the year’s best prices when you sign up!

My Gym Bethesda is located at 5110 Ridgefield Road and My Gym Potomac is located at 11325 Seven Locks Road.

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Giveaway: For a chance to win a Grand Birthday Party package at My Gym Bethesda or My Gym Potomac, simply leave a comment below telling me what theme your child would pick for a birthday party. To be eligible to win, you must like My Gym Bethesda or My Gym Potomac on Facebook and follow KidFriendly DC on Facebook as well. This giveaway will run through Friday, September 16, 2016, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by My Gym Bethesda and My Gym Potomac, however, I only promote places, programs, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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The Weekend Round-Up: September 9-11

Catch a sunset this evening at Yards Park's final Friday Night Concert of the summer

Catch a sunset this evening at Yards Park’s final Friday Night Concert of the summer



This summer is kind of like those last lingering party guests. You know, great to have around while the bash is in full swing, but now that it’s winding down, you’re ready for them to go. But don’t let summer’s overstayed welcome (i.e., heat) curb your family fun. Opt for indoor activities or seek out shade. And keep in mind that fall is just around the corner, so enjoy the last bits of this season while you can. Because when those guests do finally leave, you often long for their company again. Happy Weekend!

Final Concert by the River
Where: Yards Park
When: Friday, 6:30pm
Admission: Free

Tonight is your last chance to catch live music in the fresh air at The Yards. Party Like It’s, the DC party band, will be playing a mix of covers and original tunes on the boardwalk to close out the Capitol Riverfront Summer Concert Series. Go early, so the kids can play in the fountains before the music starts or listen to it as they splash around. Bring along a picnic dinner or buy food there (and note that you can’t BYOB).

Family Day at Abe’s
Where: President Lincoln’s Cottage
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy the grounds of President Lincoln’s Cottage and Armed Forces Retirement Home as the Lincoln family did! There will be live entertainment and activities inspired by the Lincoln family and their life at the Soldiers’ Home. A Civil War encampment, petting zoo, pony rides, arts & crafts (including a top hat station and card making for veterans), live music, and food vendors will be part of the day’s festivities. RSVP to the free event!

Step Xplosion
Where: Raymond Recreation Center
When: Saturday, 2pm
Admission: Free

Step right up for the culminating performance of Step Xplosion, the Step Africa! tour through all 8 DC Wards to kick off the new season. Featuring step teams from the DC area and DC’s own DJ Beauty & the Beatz, this is sure to be one thrilling show! Reserve your free tickets here.

Short Film Family Showcase
Where: DC Public Libraries
When: Saturday, 11am
Admission: Free

The 13th Annual DC Shorts Film Festival is back through September 18, presenting 131 films from 33 countries, countless parties, special screenings, and free events throughout the 10-day event. Among them is a FREE Family Showcase presented by RCN in partnership with DC Public Libraries – and you’re invited! For more about the films, the screenings, and the festival and to reserve your spot, visit the DC Shorts website.

Savor the Bay
Where: Sandy Point State Park
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: $10, free for ages 12 and under

How about a day filled with delicious seafood, live entertainment, kids activities, food demos and competitions, loads of shopping options, vendors, exhibits, contests? You can enjoy all that and more at the 49th annual Maryland Seafood Festival. Even better, it all takes place on the beautiful shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

You Say Tomato…
Where: North Bestheda Market
When: Saturday, 12-5pm
Admission: Free

You don’t have to travel all the way to Spain for a tomato-centric festival. And at Tomato Fest 2016, North Bethesda Market’s celebration of the fruit (or veggie, depending on how you categorize), you won’t get pelted by them either. Instead, you can enjoy live music, food & drink offerings, art, kids activities, contests, prizes, and a bushel of fun for the whole family!

Arts & Ales
Where: Hyattsville Gateway Arts District
When: Saturday, 12-6pm
Admission: Free

The arts and brewing are coming together for a festival the whole family can enjoy. Over 100 exhibiting artists and artisans, Maryland craft breweries, food vendors, as well a variety of music and dance performances, and activities especially for kids, will be part of the all-ages fun.

Family Fit and Fun Open House
Where: My Gym Potomac & My Gym Bethesda
When: Saturday, 9am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Take part in a specially designed and fun-filled day of fitness, including award-winning programs and Zumba, for kids of all ages. You will also have the opportunity to learn more about My Gym classes and offerings for children and families, and take advantage of enrollment specials and discounts offered at the event! Note that this is taking place at both the Potomac and Bethesda locations.

Pawpaw Festival
Where: Meadowside Nature Center
When: Saturday, 12-4pm
Admission: $5

Get your paws on this delightful native fruit and celebrate it with Meadowside Nature Center. They’ll have music, crafts, games, face painting, and advice on growing pawpaws. You can also get a taste of the fruit and purchase pawpaw trees, so you grow your own at home.

Fall into Fun Fair
Where: Washington Episcopal School
When: Saturday, 9am – 12pm
Admission: Free, but tickets are required

Got kids ages 3-11? Don’t miss the Fall Into Fun Fair presented by our friends at Activity Rocket! Try sports, dance, STEM, yoga, Instrument Petting Zoos & more FREE. Washington Episcopal School is located at 5600 Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda). Get your free tickets here.

Fall Class Sampler
Where: Imagination Stage
When: Saturday, 9:45am – 12:45pm
Admission: Free

Sample Imagination Stage’s line-up of fall classes – on them. Sample classes are about 20 minutes in length, and give students and families a taste of the theatre’s classroom setting. They have exciting offerings for ages 12 months to grade 5. This is not a drop-off event; children must be accompanied by a caregiver. Online registration ends at noon on Friday, September 9. You can still register by phone on September 9 and in-person on September 9 and 10.

A Musical Journey into Space
Where: Jammin Java
When: Saturday, 10:30am
Admission: $8

Can kids go into space? Find out at Jammin Java on Saturday morning as Dr. Jim Thorne, a real space scientist and singer/songwriter, takes you and the kids on a musical journey from the historic Apollo moon program all the way to the stars. The full dinner and drinks menu will be available, so plan on lunch there, too.

Fall Family Festival
Where: Anacostia Community Museum
When: Saturday, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the turn of the seasons with the Anacostia Community Museum at their annual event. Enjoy live entertainment, face painting, mask making, storytelling, art activities for the kids, and more. There will be all kinds of fun demos, vendors, and exhibitors outside, and even indoors – plenty of fun for the whole fam!

WashingCon
Where: Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: $40

If you’re serious about board games, this tabletop gaming convention is an event you’ll want to check out. There will be opportunities to demo new games, enter tourneys to test your gaming skills against some of the best players, meet people who make and sell games, and more. Kids 10 and under can enter a fantasy themed costume contest in the Family Area. And word has it there will be lots of good swag to score.

Merriment for All
Where: Revel Grove in Crownsville, Md
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 7pm
Admission: $19/adults, $16/seniors, $8/ages 7-15, free for 6 and under

Take a glorious day trip back to medieval times at the Maryland Renaissance Festival — it’s a faire that appeals to all ages and sensibilities. Enjoy jousting matches, kids shows, cheeky comedy, tight rope walkers, jugglers, puppetry, Celtic music… and that’s just some of the live entertainment. There are also pony rides, a pirate playground, a giant slide, and all kinds of fun, fascinating things to see. Walk among knights, maidens, pirates, and villagers in Ren wear in a 16th-century village as you chomp on turkey legs and down cups of “mead.” It runs every weekend through October 23 — and admission prices go up after this Sunday — so put it on your fall must-go list. Huzzah!

Virginia Indian Festival
Where: Riverbend Park
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: $7

Members of several Native American tribes will gather on the banks of the Potomac to share and celebrate their culture. See dance performances and dug-out canoe demos. Try throwing a spear, shooting a bow, and building a canoe. Shop for pottery, jewelry, and dreamcatchers. All in the beautiful Riverbend setting along the river!

Nats vs. Phillies
Where: Nationals Park
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Ticket prices vary

It’s one of the last weekends at home for the Nats as they host the Phillies. There are games tonight and tomorrow night 7:05pm, and on Sunday at 1:35pm. Stay after on Sunday for Kids Run the Bases, and check these KFDC tips for doing a Nats game without breaking the bank.

PG County Fair
Where: Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington
When: Through Sunday
Admission: $6/ages 12 and up, $5/ages 6-11, free for 5 and under

The county fair season continues! Enjoy a variety of entertainment and attractions for all ages at PG County’s annual event — 4-H exhibits, magic and dance shows, pig and duck races, a horse pull competition, a chain saw artist, a K-9 show, and much more carnival-style fun.

Rosslyn Jazz Festival
Where: Gateway Park
When: Saturday, 1-7pm
Admission: Free

Head across the Key Bridge from the city for this free annual music festival. Enjoy six hours of performances, fun, and drinks, plus a Kids’ Jazz Zone where children can create their own instrument by the Sandboxand play lawn games. See the website for the line-up of bands and details on parking.

Sing, Talk, and Read Family Festival
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
When: Saturday, 11am – 3pm
Admission Free

Join DC Public Library for a day of literacy fun and learn how singing, talking and reading with your baby or young child now can help them later in school. There will be workshops for, crafts and games for kids, live entertainment, door prizes, face painting, complimentary lunch, and more!

Apple Gala & Cider Festival
Where: Great Country Farms
When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $12/adult, $10/child

September may mean back to school for many, but at Great Country it means back to the farm for freshly pressed cider and freshly picked apples. Celebrate the start of the apple picking and cider pressing season with tastings of Rinkers freshly pressed cider — touted as the best in the Valley! — demos, picking, donuts, and more. Of course, the farm’s five-acre play area will be open for fun and amusement, too. Enjoy it all every weekend through September.

Adams Morgan Day
Where: Along 18th Street & Columbia Ave NW
When: Sunday, 12-6pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate one of the city’s most diverse communities at the 38th Annual Adams Morgan Day, offering a day full of music, art, culture, dancing, and more. The family-friendly celebration will have activities for all ages, including free crafts for kids and adults, the Make Fix Anything Project, bike demos, live entertainment, and tons more. More details and the schedule of performances are available on the website.

Rainbow Families Picnic
Where: Hillwood Estate
When: Sunday, 11am – 2pm
Admission: $5/adult, free for under 18

Connect with LGBT families and enjoy Hillwood’s urban oasis at this family celebration. Pack a picnic or purchase food from the café’s express menu, play lawn games, get faces painted, try on costumes, make a craft, explore the exhibitions, and more!

Falls Church Feeds the World
Where: Christ Crossman UMC
When: Sunday, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

Honor the memory of those impacted by the events of 9/11 through service at Christ Crossman’s Falls Church Feeds the World event. Volunteers (ages 4+) are needed to assist in assembling 30,000 healthy meals that will be packed and shipped around the world through Stop Hunger Now. During the meal packaging event, there will be a children’s festival outside, which includes games teaching children about food insecurity, and opportunities for service projects (ages 3+).

September 11: Reflections from the Smithsonian
Where: National Museum of American History
When: Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

To observe the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the American History Museum will display 35 objects from New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA, including airplane fragments, a World Trade Center stairwell sign and a Pentagon clock that stopped upon impact. Visitors can meet Robin Murphy, the inventor of a rescue robot used at Ground Zero and see a screening of the Smithsonian Channel’s award-winning documentary, “9/11: Stories in Fragments,” based on the museum collections and featuring the perspectives of victims, witnesses, ordinary people and heroes from that fateful day.


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Family Programs at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

An infant class recreates a landscape at the National Gallery of Art during a class on water

An infant class recreates a landscape at the National Gallery of Art during a class on water


[Note: This is a sponsored post contributed by Cynthia Raso of SEEC.]


Nestled inside the National Museum of Natural History and American History is a little known secret — the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), a school serving infants through kindergartners. Nearly 30 years ago, our founding director recognized the profound importance of a child’s early years and the benefits of learning in museums and the community. Today, it has evolved into a school that provides educational opportunities for children and adults, integrating innovative learning methods tailored to each learner.

“How do I enroll?” is a question staff hears a lot. Parents are encouraged to peruse the many options available. Responding to the high demand after years of limited space, SEEC recently began offering more and more classes beyond its full-time school. We now have weekend programs for children up to 3rd grade and a part-time program for families with children aged 18 – 24 months, the Smithsonian Early Explorers.

While our family workshop team is committed to high standards, they also know that these programs are about family, spending time together, and having fun. When you first arrive at a workshop, the classroom is set-up with several play options — play is learning for young children, and this free time is also a great opportunity for families to get to know each other. For the first half hour, participants move about the room while the children choose what most interests them. Each activity is carefully selected to introduce a concept and support developmental growth. Descriptive signs guide parents in how to encourage and engage with their child, ideas we hope they can take home and integrate into their daily routine.

A sensory table for infants during a recent class on birds

A sensory table for infants during a recent class on birds

Toddler practices fine motor skills while creating a pipe cleaner sculpture

Toddler practices fine motor skills while creating a pipe cleaner sculpture

After playing, we head into morning meeting. Different for each age group, they can include hands-on objects, experiments, interactive songs and books, and opportunities to wonder. From there, we often get together as a group for some art and a snack.

Two-year-olds imagine what it would be like to swing like monkeys from trees

Two-year-olds imagine what it would be like to swing like monkeys from trees

Toddlers get ready to see how powdered pigment can turn into paint using oil

Toddlers get ready to see how powdered pigment can turn into paint using oil

Next, we head out to a museum! These visits connect children to objects, literally bringing them to life. Often a combination of teacher-led and parent-led activities, SEEC educators introduce the subject using the same techniques as in morning meeting and encourage families to explore galleries together. Simple instructions help promote inquiry and observation in the galleries, a less-structured approach that helps keep young children engaged, bring families together, and give children autonomy in choosing in what interests them.

A simple basket plate helps connect this young child to the artwork while visiting the Renwick Gallery

A simple basket plate helps connect this young child to the artwork while visiting the Renwick Gallery

A mother and child stop at a painting before drawing at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

A mother and child stop at a painting before drawing at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

So many of our families have asked about programs for their elementary-aged children that we recently launched Artful Afternoons. One Sunday a month, SEEC’s art educator hosts an open studio featuring artful challenges around a central theme. This year we’ll be making Alexander Calder-inspired mobiles, exploring movement and food in art, and mixing in some theater, too! While these sessions don’t include a museum visit, each family is given a brochure outlining the activities and connecting them to objects at the Smithsonian and beyond. Parents enjoy the leisurely pace and are encouraged to bring siblings and make some art of their own.

Families make landscapes on sand paper with chalk and watercolors during a session on Impressionism

Families make landscapes on sand paper with chalk and watercolors during a session on Impressionism

Weekends are for family time and fun and SEEC staff really enjoy being able to share the Smithsonian collections with you. We hope that when you walk away from one of our classes, you and your child have learned something, had the chance to meet some great people, and enjoyed spending time with each other.

Come and join us sometime!
* Weekend Family Workshops: Children 4 months – 5 years and meet Saturday and Sunday mornings for 90 minutes
* Smithsonian Early Explorers: A 2 days/week program for caretakers and children aged 18 – 24 months on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 – 11:30am with a 12-week commitment. Fall trimester begins September 26 — two spaces are left
* Artful Afternoons: Elementary school-aged children meet most 3rd Sundays of the month 1 – 3pm
* Bring Your Own Baby: Beginning in January, a program for caretakers and their newborns
* SEEC Celebrations: Book a private event for your K – 3 grade child

A complete listing of events can be found here. You can also read a KFDC write-up about SEEC here.

Cynthia Raso is Assistant Director of the Center for Innovation in Early Learning at SEEC. Her interest in programming for young children in museums began almost a decade ago when her own children were small. She makes sure to find time to teach a class once a month — it is the best part of her job.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under Art, Class, DC, Educational, Indoor Play, Museums, Schools, Sponsored Post, Weekdays, Weekend