Tag Archives: children’s books

Tips for visiting museums with children

As I fetched the morning paper from my driveway, I got a wonderful Northern California vibe from the misty rain that’s so rare in these parts. Perfect inspiration for a phone call made just a short time later to San Francisco author Janie Havemeyer.

A little something for those of you who share my fondness for giving beautiful books as holiday gifts

Havemeyer recently authored “Catherine de’ Medici The Black Queen,” illustrated by Peter Malone — which is part of a Goosebottom Books series titled “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames.” Havemeyer’s passion is bringing history alive for youth, something she’s accomplished not only in her writings — but also in time spent teaching social studies to elementary age children and years spent working in museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Hoping Valley families will find refuge from the rain in some of our own amazing museums, I asked Havemeyer for tips about enjoying museums with children. We assume too often that museums are boring places that couldn’t possibly interest our children or teens, but today’s museums are full of hands-on activities that bring art and history alive. And there’s plenty parents can do to up the fun factor.

First, suggests Havemeyer, pick an exhibit. There’s no need to explore an entire museum, and choosing exhibits well-matched to your children’s ages and interests assures they’ll find things of genuine appeal.

Suggest things ahead of time that your children might enjoy looking for, a technique Havemeyer calls “guided exploration.” In a museum full of paintings, for example, ask your children how many paintings they can find with images of children in them. “Make it a bit of a game,” suggests Havemeyer.

Stop by the museum information desk when you arrive at the museum, says Havemeyer, and ask about gallery handouts for kids — which are booklets of activities that often feature suggestions about things children can look for during their visit. Some museums put this information on their website so you’ll have it before you go.

Havemeyer also recommends checking with museums about their children’s programming. Ask about guided tours for youth, special youth activities and free youth programs offered by the museum. Some museums feature dedicated youth areas full of hands-on activities and exhibit spaces sized for children.

If your favorite museum is closed today, try making these cookies from the Facebook page for Goosebottom Books

Consider bringing a notebook or sketch pad along, adds Havemeyer, so your children can write about what they’re seeing or draw some of their favorite works. Ask your children about themes they see in various works, suggest Havemeyer, then ask what they think an artist might be trying to do or convey with a specific work.

The key, says Havemeyer, is making the museum experience “interactive.”

— Lynn

Note: Always check museum hours/admission fees before heading out to enjoy them with your children. Click here to read this month’s “On Exhibit” listing in the Raising Arizona Kids calendar. Click here to enjoy the teaching guide for “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames.”

Coming up: More musings from “Dastadly Dames” authors, Roses are blue…


Alice (and Phoebe) in Wonderland

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix presents "Alice in Wonderland" in downtown Phoenix

Lizabeth came downstairs one morning after watching a movie she’d rented online. She was eager to tell me about this tale of a family living with a young girl who is “different” — and who becomes involved with the world of theater.

The film, a 2008 ThinkFilm production, is titled “Phoebe in Wonderland.” It’s made the film festival rounds and earned accolades including a Heartland “Truly Moving Picture Award.”

It reminded me that our own Valley Youth Theatre, whose alumni include Emma Stone (recent nominee for a “best actress” Golden Globe Award), will perform “Alice in Wonderland” Feb 4-20 at the VYT theater in downtown Phoenix. Update: Show extended through Feb 27.

I was delighted to see familiar youth on the cast list, including Nathan Naimark (Footman/Executioner) — whose mom Dana Wolfe Naimark was the subject of a recent “Stage Mom” post.

While the young Naimark is readying for opening night, his mother — the head of Children’s Action Alliance — is contending with budget cuts that impact Arizona children in all sorts of ways.

I suspect she’ll be experiencing a few of her own “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum” moments in the coming weeks and months.

But back to the fabulous cast of VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which includes Maddy Rathbun (Alice), Alex Acosta (Mad Hatter), and Lindsey Brown (Queen of Hearts).

Couple VYT's non-musical "Alice in Wonderland" with a tea party, arts & crafts or puppet play

Were my girls a decade or so younger, I’d be working to put together an “Alice in Wonderland” weekend of sorts — having friends over to explore the Lewis Carroll tale via movies, books, puppet theater and the live VYT performance (which is a non-musical).

Kids can get some serious arts and crafts projects out of “Alice in Wonderland” characters and themes — objects changing size, roses painted different colors, playing cards that come to life.

Even a tea party at home, in the park or a charming Valley venue — such as the Teeter House at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix — would be fun.

I suspect that the sets and costumes for VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” will inspire hours of imaginative play. And who knows, your own son or daughter might discover that live theater is most wonderful wonderland of all.

— Lynn

Note: Heartland Truly Moving Movies is a non-profit organization whose work includes an annual film competition for works by high school students. Entries for the 2011 Heartland High School Film Competition are being accepted through June 1, 2011. Those who enter before April 15 pay no submission fee, and will be considered for a scholarship to attend “Prodigy Camp.”

Coming up: Other youth theater works coming to Valley stages, Arizona Girlchoir offerings, Musings on art and rock ‘n’ roll, Nuclear weapons take center stage, Summer camp meets glee club

“Midsummer” in Mesa

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by the Southwest Shakespeare Company is one of many productions currently featured at the Mesa Arts Center

The Southwest Shakespeare Company performs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Mesa Arts Center through Sat, Jan 22 — which gives you just one more week to enjoy this encounter between the world of people and the world of fairies.

If you doubt the existence of fairies, I have plenty of evidence collected while our three children were younger — books about fairies, hand-sewn Halloween costumes complete with fairy wings, tiny wooden fairy dolls and more.

One of several "fairy" items we've seen at The Doll House in Scottsdale

I’ve forgotten the name of the wonderful catalogue we used to order many of our fairy goodies — but you can find plenty of fairy fare at The Doll House in Scottsdale, a charming local toy store we practically lived at during its years at Hilton Village.

The Disney Store (with several Valley locations) is home to many a fairy toy, video, outfit and more. There’s even a special fairy section on the Disney website, for those of you seeking a fast fairy fix. Think art activities, games and other things that sparkle.

Sesame Street” fans can enjoy a bit of fairy fun with one of the show’s newest characters — a fairy-in-training named Abby Cadabby whose favorite phrase is “That’s so magic!”

Her Muppets “bio” notes an Oct. 21 birthday, which leaves me wondering how Cadabby feels about recent rumors of turmoil in the world of astrology — and why a 13th sign couldn’t simply be called “Pink.”

Our first experience with fairies on stage was a Valley Youth Theatre production of “Peter Pan.” If you’re looking for a local live production your young children can enjoy, you have a couple of options.

This Klutz kit for making petal people was another craft favorite when our two daughters were younger

You can check out “Peter Pan” — being performed by Musical Theatre of Anthem through Sun, Jan 23 — which “features a talented cast of almost 100 children and adults.” Or head to Mesa Arts Center for the Actor’s Youth Theatre production of “Peter Pan and Wendy,” which runs Feb 1-5 (shows are already selling out).

If you’re a fan of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” you no doubt enjoyed this season’s production by Ballet Arizona. Shakespeare classics are a wonderful opportunity to enjoy stories told in diverse ways, with unique twists and varying approaches to character and setting.

This Usborne title is one of many books that introduces young readers to William Shakespeare

The current Southwest Shakespeare Company production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Mesa Arts Center is set in a 1930s film studio. It’s directed by animator Don Bluth, known to many for his work on the films “The Secret of Nimh,” “An American Tail,” and “The Land Before Time.” Bluth elevates physical comedy to fine art.

Remember that Southwest Shakespeare Company does not admit patrons under the age of six. If you’re wondering which Shakespeare productions are appropriate for children or teens, you can check play synopses online.

I attended a Saturday evening performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and was pleasantly surprised to see several children, mostly middle school age and up, in the audience. I had a hard time discerning, based on all the hearty laughter, whether the kids or the grown-ups were having more fun.

I'm already dreaming about all the incredible items being auctioned at the upcoming gala to benefit SSC

It’s a delightfully fresh and vibrant take on Shakespeare’s musings about mere mortals tangled up in a world where dreams meet reality and playful spirits toy with passionate human emotions.

Hard core Shakespeare aficionados may well attend both this month’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Southwest Shakespeare Company and the Utah Shakespeare Festival production in Cedar City from Jun 23-Sept 3.

If your children aren’t old enough to join you for the SSC show this time around, you still have plenty of opportunities to expose them to the works of William Shakespeare — through books and local theater workshops that introduce the works and whimsy of the Bard.

Remember too that the Southwest Shakespeare Company has several education-related offerings for local schools, as well as individuals, which you can explore by clicking here. Think field trips, classroom workshops, student matinees and more.

This book by Lois Burdett, from the Shakespeare Can Be Fun! series, is a great way to introduce Shakespeare to younger children

Several educators, including a Montessori teacher and the head of a high school theater department in Florence, cheerfully chimed in during a post-show “talk back” with SSC artistic director Jared Sakren and the cast to compliment the company for bringing Shakespeare to life and even offering audition advice that helped a student land her first lead role in a community theater production.

If your school or community theater is presenting a Shakespeare-related performance or educational opportunity in the coming months, please comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: Options for very young theater goers include Childsplay, Cookie Company, the Great Arizona Puppet Theater and more. You can always find family-friendly events through the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine — which includes special sections on art exhibits and performing arts offerings.

Coming up: Musical theater meets Monty Python, “Spring Awakening” returns to ASU Gammage, Local theater productions based on children’s books, A high school theater program in Florence, “Midsummer” meets Montessori

Books & beyond

This new book will appeal to fans of musical theater

Mall it if you must, but I’m hitting the bookstores instead. Places like Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe feel more like community gathering places than retail shopping spaces.

Bring your holiday shopping list along, but be prepared to enjoy much more than their extensive collection of books and gift items.

Author visits and book signings are a frequent occurence at Changing Hands — and feature local as well as nationally-renowned authors. Some write for adults, others for children and teens.

A lovey selection for young music and cat lovers

My own personal favorite is fellow Arizona parent Amy Silverman — mom of two daughters, managing editor of Phoenix New Times and half of a dynamic “Mothers Who Write” duo offering writing workshops.

Silverman presents “Holidaze: How to Write About the Happiest Time of the Year,” at Changing Hands Bookstore on Tues, Dec 2.

For poetry lovers, Changing Hands offers “First Friday Poetry,” “Poetry Roundtable” and other events. There’s plenty for photographers too.

One of several Twyla Tharp titles for creative types

My fellow magazine readers will find an eclectic selection of titles for folks of all ages and interests — including many you won’t find at more traditional book stores or magazine stands.

“Workshop for Toddlers” with Ramie Manch on Mon, Dec 6, mixes toddler/parent together time with strategies for using puzzles to enhance academic and social skills.

Changing Hands has a charming children’s area full of colorful books, toys, puzzles, craft kits, stuffed animals, puppets and more.

Teen events include writing workshops, author visits and much more. Teens love the Changing Hands vibe, and will have a great time exploring Hoodlums Music & Movies right next door.

Gift idea for art managers and leaders

If music is your thing, check out the “East Valley Music School Concert” Sat, Dec 4. If stories rock your world, you’ll find plenty of storytimes at Changing Hands. They’ve even got opportunities to learn a bit of Spanish.

Changing Hands has diverse holiday offerings — commemorating Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and more. They also host local artisans on a regular basis so you can enjoy even more holiday gift ideas.

While reviewing their December calendar (I’m on their e-mail list to receive info on author series, workshops and community events), I stumbled on sign language, physics, wildlife, volunteerism and more.

One of many titles on my holiday reading list

Books are just a bit of the bounty you’ll find at Changing Hands Bookstore. Go. Listen. Read. Create. Meet. Explore.

— Lynn

Note: Changing Hands Bookstore, like Raising Arizona Kids Magazine, is a member of Local First Arizona. Click here to learn about local businesses that appreciate your support during the holiday season and beyond.

Coming up: Art adventures–Arizona Science Center

What’s your weekend style?

Maybe you’re a fan of festivals. Or marvel at all things multicultural. Or believe that reading books is best of all.

Whatever your weekend style, there’s plenty to enjoy in Arizona this Labor Day weekend — including a rich variety of arts events and experiences.

Your style: Art adventures

“Epeolatry: The Worship of Words” at the ASU Step Gallery in Tempe. Sept 3 (noon-3pm; free). National multi-media group exhibition curated by Intermedia BFA candidate Bucky Miller.

First Friday” artwalk throughout more than 70 galleries, art-related spaces and other venues. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm; free). Trollies leave Phoenix Art Museum for those who prefer to ride between venues.

Your style: Festival fare

Red Rock Music Festival” at the Sedona Creative Life Center. Sept 3-5 (times vary; youth and 3-day discounts). Music from Bach, Vivaldi, Gershwin — and plenty of Latin jazz.

Fiesta Septiembre” at the Wickenberg Community Center. Sept 4 (11am-6pm; free). Photography exhibit, folk dancing, mariachi music, arts and crafts, and kids’ activities.

Pine-Strawberry Arts and Crafts Guild Craft Festival” at the Pine Community Center. Sept 4 & 5 (times vary; free). 75 artist booths, raffle and kids’ activities.

Flagstaff Art in the Park Labor Day Show” at Wheeler Park. Sept. 4-6 (times vary; free). Arts and crafts, live music, kids’ activities.

Your style: Multicultural marvels

“Multi-media photographic art of Stacie Schimke” at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix. During “First Friday” hours. Free. Enjoy a traditional Irish meal by chef Frank Hand for just $10.

The Fine Art of Fine Print: Newspaper Sculpture and Costumes” at Galeria 147-Arizona Latino Arts and Culture Center in Phoenix. During “First Friday” hours. Free. Enjoy exhibit opening plus live entertainment including music, dance, painting and spoken word poetry.

Your style: Museum musings

Sandcastle Summer Send Off” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm; free). Features live music, sandcastles, cool drinks and ice cream — plus free general admission (including “Cezanne and American Modernism” exhibition).

“Free admission” to downtown Phoenix museums on the Artlink “First Friday” map. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm). Includes Heard Museum and Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Your style: Saving solutions

Into the Woods” at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. Sept 3-5 (times vary). “Theater Works” is offering half-price adult tickets during Labor Day weekend.

The Foreigner” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. Sept 3-5 (times vary). Student tickets just $10 for opening weekend with “STU” code.

Your style: Creative writing connoisseur

“First Friday Poetry” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 3 (7pm; free). ASU Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing event featuring Lois Roma-Deeley.

“Curiosity Day with Curious George” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (10am; free). Family event celebrates 70th birthday of monkey Curious George with costume storytime, video presentation, tasty treats and fun activities.

“The Pirate of Kindergarten” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (noon; free). Family event features award-winning children’s illustrator Lynne Avril (her 60 + picture books include the “Amelia Bedelia” stories).

“Club Read: Windblowne” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (2pm; free). Tween/teen event best for ages 8-12 includes free pizza, author chat via “Skype” and more

Whatever your style, you can always find family-friendly events listed online at www.raisingarizonakids.com.


Note: Please consult with venues before attending to confirm date/time, location, age range, price and such.

Coming up: A good knave is hard to find

Photo: www.rainbowweekend.org