10 Tips for Contra Dancing With Kids

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(I wrote this last year with the help and input of my two kids, but managed to not follow up with the places I submitted it for publication. I just thought of it again as my older daughter was describing to me all the defensive dancing tactics she has developed and decided I should put it out into the world myself.) 

We just got back from another lovely weekend at the Dance Flurry Festival in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Nadia, 9, has been dancing for several years and is an accomplished contra dancer who can dance both roles and hold her own through most complex figures. Her younger sister Molly, 5, has just started dancing full contras this year and is still a beginner.

For the most part, the contra dance community is wonderfully warm and welcoming to its youngest members, appreciating their delight and cheerfully helping them out when needed. However, we have noticed a few counter-productive tendencies that many dancers have when they encounter kid dancers, and so we wanted to offer you this set of tips to help us all bring up the next generation: Continue reading

Fort Kit!

This morning we revealed our Twelfth Night present to the girls—an upgrade in the DIY fort kit Rebecca had brilliantly concocted for them a few years back. An expansion pack, if you will, on a previous roaring success.

They did not immediately give their delighted “ooh ooh ooh!” reaction that they are so good at, which is not surprising given that it was “just” a reboot, and came at the end of the holiday season. And yet, what matters more is that a few minutes later they were climbing all over the dining room, hanging rope, testing suction cups, and demanding that I fetch even more clothespins, and then got teary as we tried to peel them away to get to school on time.

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Industrious fort building, poorly documented

A DIY fort kit is a great way to give a gift that inspires creativity, free play, and civil engineering practice. And it can be really cheap.

Want to build your own? Here are the essential components: Continue reading

Charity and Justice

A few weeks ago my daughter got a bee in her bonnet about wanting to help homeless people. Like many of her peers she has begun to notice the world outside of herself and has run into panhandlers on the street, outside the Co-op, at highway exit ramps.

She had no interest in giving to shelters, or buying toys for toy drives. It had to be directly to the very people she saw on the street. Continue reading