Follow Our Lead December "Gift Guide" - Family Games

For this month, we are circling back to some of our posts over the years and offering our recommendations for gifting. As you know, we love presenting experiences (coming next week!), and with gifts, less can be more. But we also appreciate that opening gifts is a celebrated tradition for many families. This week, we share some of our favorite games that are well loved!

Check out our posts on Family Games for All Ages, Fun Games that Support Math Concepts, and Cooperative Games. Recently, we've also been enjoying:

What are your favorites? We'd love to hear!

Family Brunch at Publico

For our second edition of Family Brunch, we tried Publico in South Boston and had another great experience!  It hasn't even been open a year and so it's fresh and new in so many ways.  


Publico occupies a very cool space.  It has a courtyard that is situated in the middle of the building that is a great place for an outdoor meal during the warmer months and because they cover it for the winter, it's a cozy space to relax when it's chilly outside.


The bar is gorgeous and we loved the Octopus on the door to the kitchen!


Head chef, Keenan Lanlois, has created a tasty menu that puts an unusual yet kid-pleasing spin on tradition menu items.


The Bag of Beignets are crazy tasty.  When they were set down, three of them were taken immediately so my photo is with 1/3 of the bag already gone.  The beignets are served with two tasty puddings.  One chocolate, that our kids loved and one creamy yellow pudding that I could have licked right from the ramekin!


I always bring travel games with me when we eat out.  These little metal tins come in all kinds of different games and are easy to pop in my bag.  Scroll down to buy them for yourself.


We ordered so much food and finished all but one slice of pizza (there are other dishes on another table out of sight of this picture)!  Everything looked so good on the menu and was so good to eat that we decided we'd just pig out.  My kids were full until dinner!  


Brunch seems to slow the weekend down a bit and make it possible for the four of us to connect.  We highly recommend taking the time every once in awhile to enjoy brunch as a family.

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Activities for Observing Changes in Nature

Encouraging kids and families to get outside is my goal at Wike Baby, and this post comes from my blog.  I’m Kelly-- a new mom, elementary school teacher, and nature enthusiast, and I write about ways to get your children outside and exploring the natural world.  I also review wikes (walks or hikes in nature) in the greater Boston area and beyond, so you’ll know exactly what to expect when you’re visiting someplace new.  Stop by my blog and subscribe to receive inbox love, follow our daily outdoor adventures on Instagram, or join our conversation on our Facebook page.  Thank you to Cady and Emily for hosting my guest post on Follow Our Lead Boston!

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Fostering a love for the outdoors starts with building an awareness of nature—and autumn is the perfect time to encourage your little ones to notice the natural changes around them! 

So how can you help your little ones see the changes happening so slowly all around them?  Here are some engaging, knowledge-building, and fun ways to track the daily and seasonal changes.  They range from ridiculously simple to more involved and can be used for all ages. As always, all my ideas follow my promise for high quality nature activities.

1.Become Daily Arborists- Choose a tree or other plant that you can see outside of your window and one you are able to visit frequently.  Make it a daily ritual to look at the tree together and talk about what you see. This sounds super simple, and it is—but those daily conversations will build an awareness of the natural world and the daily changes occurring. 

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Every day, I take my little one to the window to look at our giant maple tree in the back yard. We started when she was barely a month old. I narrate what is happening with the tree. Although the changes happen slowly, every day I have something to say and something to show her: buds emerging, seeds developing, seeds dropping, leaves changing, leaves falling, blue jays hopping about, squirrels playing, etc.

Talk about what you see, what you saw, and what you expect will soon happen. Go into detail about how the tree is part of the ecosystem, what is happening inside of the tree, or why the changes occur. As your child grows, your conversations will change, as will the content discussed. In my case, I’m looking forward to the days when our conversation is just that—a conversation and not a daily soliloquy!

2. Keep a Nature Journal- Keep a sketchbook journal for your child in your car or exploration backpack.  Visit the same outdoor space frequently (once per season at minimum) and give your child time to freely draw and write what s/he sees.  If possible, keep your own journal, so you can model the types of things to notice and draw and so that you can share and discuss it with your little one.  You may find that nature journaling is calming and restorative—no matter your artistic ability level!

This is a learning activity with indescribable potential and one that I’ve used with students spanning K-6.   I participated in the same activity myself as a middle schooler, and I attribute it to opening my eyes to the natural world.  Recently, as part of the Nature and Me: Explorations in Ecology workshop through Boston University’s School of Education, I engaged in training regarding using nature journaling with elementary-aged children.  Then, my colleagues and I took our classes of second graders to Arnold Arboretum three times during the year to visit their special tree and journal about it.  The types of changes children noticed and the questions raised from simply observing the same tree over time is remarkable.   It also fostered a connection with their tree akin to friendship—they truly cared about its well-being.  The same experience can be had by visiting and journaling about any natural space over time.

3. Take Inventory of One Square Meter- Take four meter sticks and bind them together to form a square.  Find a square meter of land that you can visit frequently and that has some diversity of life, such as the edge of a forest, part of your garden, a muddy area near a pond, or a tidal flat.  Place the square on a plot of land and use magnifying glasses to explore the living and nonliving elements of the one square meter of ecosystem.  Document what you see by drawing and counting.  Use field guides to research what you see.  Do the same exploration in the same location throughout the year to observe and discuss changes.

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This summer, I took part in the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s One Square Meter of Tidal Life Inventory in the tidal flats of Duxbury.  Our guide Doug put us in teams to inventory the life we found in a square meter of the tidal flats.  The meter was sectioned into a grid, and we carefully counted each periwinkle, mussel, clam, crab, snail, and even barnacle that we saw.  The Audubon Society plans to use the data as a baseline to study future changes in the ecosystem.  They consider this to be a sort of citizen science project, and boy was it fun to take part in!  This was an all-ages event, and it felt great to help with a meaningful experiment.  They plan to hold this inventory again in the future, so keep an eye out for it if you are interested!

You can replicate this type of inventory in your own natural space.  If creating the square meter frame seems too difficult, cut an inch of cardboard all around a box of any size, and use that instead!  You and your child will be amazed at what you might find under your feet when you look very closely!

However you do it, just do it: get outside and observe the changes taking place all around you.  Encourage your children to do the same, and you’ll be setting them on the path to becoming explorers, thinkers, and nature lovers who understand that they are part of the nature all around them


What natural changes have you noticed around you? What activities do you suggest for fostering an awareness of these natural changes?  






A Book Store and More: I AM Books

Boston's North End is one of our favorite places to go as a family, on date night or just to pop into quickly for a delicious lunch.  The restaurants, the history, the small locally owned shops are just a few of the reasons we head north.  Our new go to spot is I AM Books.  If you've never been, you're in for a treat and if you have, stop in again for one of the many upcoming events they are hosting.  An event we are particularly excited about is an author visit by Tomie dePaola.  We read his books to our kids all the time and remember reading them when we were kids!


The North End is famous for it's small spaces.  It's apparent to us that the owners of I AM Books have spent a lot of time laying out the space so that it's easy to maneuver yet there is plenty of room for children to grab a book on a low shelf and find a cozy place to read it.


I AM books hosts an Italian story time almost every Saturday for children ages 0-4 and their parents.  Piccoli Lettori will be reading on November 18, December 2 and December 16 at 10:30a.m.  It's so unique to offer a story time for children in another language and expose them to another culture.  It'd be so fun to grab an Italian lunch afterward in the neighborhood.


This cultural bookstore offers a wide range of books for kids in Italian and in English.  There are books in English about Italy as well as books about Boston.  Also, if you are looking for a gift for an upcoming birthday party or an out of town friend, I AM Books has a stash of well curated toys that can be paired well with a book.


A Boston Globe article, A North End bookstore with Italian Roots, Flair, that was written this past summer, describes how owners, Nicola Orichuia and Jim Pinzino, are working toward hosting more author, poetry, and musical events at the store.  There are events for children, like the story hour, but also many offerings for adults.

One of the owners, Nicola Orichuia

One of the owners, Nicola Orichuia

We are so excited for Tomie dePaola's visit!  He will be in the store on November 11th from 12pm-2pm.  Don't miss your chance to meet this iconic author and have a book signed by him.  Let us know if you go!