Reader Meetup: April 16, 2014

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Published: 04/10/2014
Hey friends! The Little Gym of Gainesville has kindly offered to host us for our next Reader Meetup! We'll be making a simple spring craft (it's going to be bunnies/eggs, so if that is going to bug you feel free to bring your own craft), and then we'll have some play time in the gym space!

Plan on playing from 1pm-2pm.

This family-friendly meetup will be geared towards ages 3-6, although younger siblings are welcome.  Older siblings will want to schedule a playdate elsewhere so no little ones are getting trampled. Thanks!

If you'd like to get involved in our meetups to showcase your business, shoot me an email! If you'd like to bring snack for this meetup (a great way to show off your business!) or you'd like to drop off some swag for our participants, also email me :)

I can take 25 children, not counting non-mobile infants.  PLEASE DO NOT TAKE SPOTS if you're not going to come.

Thanks :)

I'll pull winners one at a time on Friday afternoon, so you'll need to email me back by Friday at 10pm to save your space so I can fill all the spots.

Good luck :)

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Can't come on the 16th? Check out The Little Gym's Summer Camps!

Updated Readers Recommend: Preschools 2013-2014

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Published: 01/28/2014
Our old "Readers Recommend: Preschools" was getting old.  Some of the reviews were five years old, and places can certainly change quite a bit in that time!! If you'd like to submit a review for your preschool, email it to me!

The reviews we've received are from individual parents.  We don't recommend any particular preschool although now that all of my children have left, I will tell you that we were happy with Cloverdale School for all three of our children.  However, preschool should make you comfortable and fit your family and the experience type you want for your children.
In Alphabetical Order by School:

(**And, as always with our "Readers Recommend" posts, these do not necessarily reflect the views of PWC Moms.  They are voluntarily submitted by our readers and we do not edit them.  Please always visit a school.  None of the listed recommendations serve as an endorsement by PWC Moms.)

4R's Preschool (Haymarket)
I thought I would let you know about 4 Rs Preschool in Haymarket. My son is 4 yrs old and is in the 3 days a week program there. We LOVE 4 Rs so much. There are 3 teachers total and they are so nice, experienced, and easy to communicate with. They are a smaller preschool and that’s what we like about it. They do field trips and holiday programs too. My son always comes home having learned so much and having had so much fun. They have various programs/ times to accommodate ages 3-5. I highly recommend them and have nothing but good to say about them.

All Saints Catholic (Manassas)
We have nothing but wonderful things to say about All Saints Catholic School and their Pre-K program.  The programs is lead by Mrs. Caroline Kardaras, a veteran of the school for several years.  Mrs. Kardaras and her staff are exceptional teachers and care givers of our young children.  There are (3) classes.  Two classes in the morning and one class in the afternoon.  The morning session runs from 8am until 11am and the afternoon program runs from 12 noon until 3pm.  There are (18) children in a class with one teacher and one teaching assistant.  All Saints is accredited through the Virginia Catholic Education Association in coordination with the Virginia Council for Private Education.  Additionally, the Pre-Kindergarten Program is licensed through the Virginia Department of Social Services and complies with all state and diocesan policies regarding early childhood education. In 2009, All Saints Catholic School was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  The school accepts all families, including non-Catholics.   We currently have a son going through the program and an older son who already went through the program and is currently enrolled in first grade at All Saints.  We have been very impressed with their spiritual, educational, and emotional developments throughout the year.

Alpha-Bet Cooperative Preschool (Manassas)
I am writing to let you know about Alpha-Bet Cooperative Preschool in Manassas, VA.   "A Cooperative preschool is owned and/or operated by a group of parents and staffed by professional teachers.  Parents help the teachers in the classroom and contribute some of the daily work necessary to operate a successful school.  We have highly dedicated and impeccably trained teaching staff to ensure your child's success"  It is a really unique experience in that they are the only co-op preschool in PWC, which I love because it allows me a chance to be involved in my son's preschool experiences.  Everyone there is so great with the kids and have made my family feel so welcome.  My son comes hoe every day telling me about what he did, and wakes up every morning asking if it's time to go to school. I would recommend this school to anyone that is interested in a co-op.  It doesn't take much time at all.  There are a few "clean-up" days and parents volunteer a few times each month and bring in snacks.  There are also fun field trips, activities, etc. It is really a great preschool to look into.

Chesterbrook Academy (Multiple Locations)
Our oldest daughter is attending The Chesterbrook Academy on Troupe St. She absolutely loves it. She is learning so much. She comes home speaking/singing in Spanish. The teachers are so nice. However, I don't think we will send our youngest there next year. Our oldest is so naturally smart that I believe the Chesterbrook curriculum is perfect for her. Our youngest not so much. The tuition is high but we were willing to pay it (we pay $196 a week for 3 days, I think it's $220 or $260 for five days). Our youngest will probably be doing a part time school with a much lower tuition. So I look forward to the other reviews.

Daytime Playtime (Gainesville)
Just wanted to let you know about Daytime Playtime in Gainesville/ haymarket area. It is a preschool for 2,3 and 4 year olds with mornings and afternoon preschool, a Jr kindergarten and mommy morning out program. The class sizes are small and staff are all great and helpful. They do family field trips, extra curricular activities for the whole family and summer camps.
My 2 year old loves it and is always bringing home art projects and doing many activities during her time there. They use a playground, nature classroom which is outside, music and movement room and a science and math room. A lot to offer and very affordable!!

Greenwich Presbyterian Preschool (Nokesville)
I just saw your post and wanted to add that Greenwich Presbyterian Preschool is awesome. It is small, cozy and the teachers are wonderful. Mrs. Rood is the director and also the 3 year old teacher and has been there for about 23 or 24 years. The kids love her. Both my sons went there and now my daughter. Mrs. Arbus, the 4 year old teacher is equally awesome! 
Just wanted to give them some props!  It is in Nokesville. I am not sure if it is in PWC or not or right on the border. We live in Bristow and it is just a few minutes away - on Vint Hill by Patriot High School (Sort of)


Holy Family Preschool (Dale City)
Holy Family Preschool is attached to Holy Family Catholic School. We are military and while looking for schools for my then 4 year old, they were recommended. He finished his preschool there last year(half day Tuesdays through Friday) and we could not have been happier.  It is a play based curriculum. They also learned the alphabet and numbers and performed weekly science experiments. 
The preschool has an outside playground for daily play. When the weather is bad, the preschool plays in the gym. This was another important part of our decision because we did not want our children stuck in a small classroom. 
The preschool director, Mrs Judi Peacott, is wonderful. The minute that my husband and I met her, we knew that this was the place for our sons. Now my 3 year old is attending the Tuesday and Thursday class and he loves it. We are so lucky to have found this wonderful, caring school for our boys!

Little Sprouts Preschool (Bristow)
This school has a wonderful, caring group of teachers and staff who are some of the warmest people we've met. The directors were formerly with Little Graces Preschool in The Plains and they have moved over to expand the preschool program at Linton Hall School. My children adore their teachers and we've been thrilled with the incredible nurturing environment and the family atmosphere within this school. The teachers recognize the fact that every child has their own set of talents and they appreciate each of these and are committed to helping to cultivate them. The school offers a wonderful, well-rounded preschool education that also incorporates important (and fun) elements such as Music & Movement, Art, Hands-on-Science, Spanish and Technology. I highly recommend this school to everyone in the area and hope that you will consider joining this wonderful "family" within Linton Hall School's Little Sprouts Preschool.

Manassas Presbyterian Early Learning Center (Manassas)
We LOVE Manassas Presbyterian Church Early Learning Center. My daughter went for 3 years and my son is in his second year. They have a Parent's Morning Out program for 2 year olds that doesn't have any sort of potty training requirements. Then they have classes for 3 year olds, 4 year olds, and a Pre-K program, all of which require bathroom independence. They have options for 1, 2, 3, and 5 day programs, depending on the age of the child. All of their programs are morning only. 
While they are a church-based preschool and they do celebrate and discuss traditional Christian holidays, they are open, inviting, and accepting of children and families of all faiths. Older classes do have Chapel Time once a month. 
Why do we love them so much? Where to even start? The teachers of course! The teachers truly care about your children! The teachers remember children from previous years and ask how they are doing when they move on to elementary school and beyond! They create a positive, happy place for learning. Most of the teachers have been there for several years. They work in teams - each room has a lead teacher and an assistant. They are creative and energetic, patient and nurturing, mature and professional. 
The classrooms are bright and filled with great toys and materials. They are organized and not cluttered. They have child sized tables for seat work, a rug for circle time, bookshelves filled with appropriate books, and centers for playing and learning. The hallway is lined with creative art projects. 
The children go outside to play on the playground (swings, wooden train, slides, etc.) every day unless it's actively raining. If the playground is too wet to play, they go for a walk. 
This is their 50th year - as a school they have developed traditions (like an annual art show) and have learned and grown wiser in their ways over the years. They have a board and Director and are supported by a PTO. They are a peanut free school.
One of their greatest strengths is the diversity of the students. Since they are located on Ashton Ave. in Manassas, they have students from Manassas, Bristow, Gainesville, and Woodbridge. The children are like different pieces of a patchwork quilt, representing different economic backgrounds, speaking different languages at home, coming from a variety of faiths, all working together to create an amazing little preschool. 

Old Bridge Preschool (Lake Ridge side of Woodbridge)
I have to recommend Old Bridge Preschool in Woodbridge. My daughter who had only been home with me, was very against going to school, but after the first day she was asking to go. The teachers and staff are very friendly. The class sizes are perfect and have more than one teacher per class. My daughter is never bored, which for 4 and 5 year olds is important. The tuition is reasonable, but I do believe that they also offer tuition assistance for those who may need it. I would recommend this school to anyone who asked.


St. Francis Preschool (Triangle)
The teachers, Mrs. Land and Mrs. Peitler, have been teaching together for quite some time and are passionate about it. Their goal is to help the children feel safe and have fun while learning social skills as they prepare academically for kindergarten. The teachers are grounded in the Christian faith, and it shines in all they do. Both teachers work closely with the parents to share joys, successes, and concerns about every student. Parents are invited to stay and watch and participate so you can be a part of this precious time of your children's lives. 
Class starts with prayer, praise, and saying the pledge. The regular routine provides such comfort for the children. Children take turns having special jobs each day, including holding the flag and being line leader. They learn responsibility for self and to others as they learn the proper way to share and play kindly.
I was astounded that, although the focus isn't primarily academic, how very well prepared both my children were for kindergarten. Each child in preschool is at a different level, so the teachers spend a lot of individual time with them. 
A young neighbor (4th grade) heard that my children were attending St. Francis and he said, "My all-time favorite teacher was my preschool teacher there. Her name is Mrs. Land." He had learning disabilities, and he remembered her patience and kindness towards him. I told Mrs. Land about this conversation, so she came and surprised him with a visit one afternoon. She just cares that much!

St. Matthew's Lutheran Day School (Lake Ridge)
I absolutely love St. Matthew's Lutheran Day School. Both of my children went to the three day program and really enjoyed it.  St. Matthew's is a play based preschool which means there is a lot of free choice center time.  Some of the centers include housekeeping, library, blocks, science, math, writing, and art.  During this time, teachers pull students aside to work with them individually and in small groups.  Some days they are working on forming letters with blocks and other days they are baking.  The kids go outside every day except in instances of severe weather.  The teachers take photos of the kids at work and email them to parents weekly.  I loved this because my son is the type of kid that will say he didn't do anything at school.  I was able to use the photos as conversation starters.  The preschool is also very family friendly.  They host a Mother's tea, Dad's night, and Grandparents sing along.  Parents are welcome to volunteer in the class in a variety of ways.  I can't say enough good things about St. Matthew's.

St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School (Woodbridge)
I have a four year old daughter.  She is an only child and in hopes of exposing her to other children we placed her in part-time daycare at the age of 2.  We took her to Kindercare on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge.  We shopped a few options around town and chose this school because the director of the school genuinely seemed to care and there seemed to be structure in the curriculum even though it was just a daycare.  Within a month of enrollment, my daughter came home with a black eye and a scratched up face.  No one even bothered to call us to report the incident.  Needless to say we were very disappointed and after numerous mishaps and 3 months later we pulled her out of there.
We then shopped again, this time looking at big daycare/preschools and small non-chain ones as well.  We narrowed our list down to Minnieland Academy on Prince William Parkway and Prince William Academy in Lake Ridge.  We chose the latter simply because they offered foreign language classes.  Prince William Academy was okay.  We enjoyed the projects, communication from the teachers and shows/events.  I had gotten to know some of the parents.  I would hear mixed reviews about the teachers which I didn't really encounter.  The owner/director got sick during the school year and all of sudden everything just went into a downward spiral.  They kept switching teachers to the point where you didn't know who the person was at the head of the classroom.  It got to the point where my daughter would sometimes wake up and ask if she could just stay home.  She didn't enjoy school anymore.  For the money we were paying (about $7500 for 3 full days a week), we didn't have enough faith in the school that the $9000 for full time preschool would not be money well spent.  So, this lead us into another search...
Do we home-school for preschool or find a preschool program?  We discussed long a hard and decided to search again.
The search didn't take long.  I am an alumni of St. Thomas Aquinas Regional school in Woodbridge.  I attended school there in the 80s.  I made life long friendships, memories and learned valuable lessons that I still carry with me today.  My husband of years, remembers my happy stories of my childhood.  The elementary and middle school years were spent there.  So, we applied for our daughter to enter Pre-K for the 2013/2014 school year.  She is currently enrolled and loves it.  Her teacher, Mrs. Leckey actually taught both of my brothers in the late 80s/early 90s.  There are many teachers like her that have spent most of their careers in that school (like the librarian Mrs. Beda...she was there when I was there).  I even have a classmate from Aquinas now teaching there!  Mrs. Metzler is the assistant teacher and she is just as wonderful.  My daughter always raves about school.  She comes home with her completed worksheets and art projects.  There are also children in my daughter's class that were previously with her at Prince William Academy.  The parents of those students say that "this experience is so much better- in so many ways."  It is a half day, 5 day a week program in a Catholic school (being Catholic is NOT a requirement).  We love the fact that there is daily communication with the teachers, lots of fun activities for the kids which leads to volunteering for me and it's just a wonderful parent/student community to be part of.  I could go on and on about this wonderful school, but instead I'm happy to report that our search for the best school for our child is over....well, until 9th grade!


Christ Chapel Academy Preschool and K-12

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Published: 01/08/2014
The preschool at Christ Chapel started as Joyful Generation Preschool in September of 1984, under the direction of Debbie Wolf.  Joyful Generation was a part-day preschool that offered a 2 or 3 day program for 3 and 4 year old children.  The first full time childcare program, ranging in ages of 6 weeks through five years of age, in 1990 was contracted by Little Lambs Childcare.  Upon the end of their contact in 1993, Debbie Wolf was tasked to develop a fulltime program, thus Christ Chapel Children’s Center was born, which consisted of Joyful Generation Part-day Preschool and Kingdom Kids Full-time childcare.  Our name changed once again in 2010 as we moved forward to become known as one program, Christ Chapel Academy Preschool.

Christ Chapel Academy’s Preschool Program, Est. September 1984.


At Christ Chapel Academy’s Preschool program, you will find a fun and exciting approach to early child education and care.  We recognize the individuality of each child, and strong emphasis is placed on positively reinforcing the child’s own unique cognitive, physical, social and spiritual development.  We recognize that each child is a gift from God and that they deserve the finest in care and education. Full-time and Part-time options are available for children ages 2-5 years. 

3 Great Reasons to Take a Look at Our Program:

1. Security Patrolled & Monitored Classrooms 
2. Qualified Teachers with Longevity (3-12 years)
3. Accredited Program

Open House Dates:
January 10th, 9:00am-11:00am (Pre-K Only| Enrollment Information and Tour)
January 25th, 1pm-3pm (Pre-K-12th Grade| Enrollment Information and Tour)

Visit our Preschool page here for more information:
goo.gl/j4RkRQ

Contact Information:

Sheila Nelson
Preschool Director
snelson@christchapel.org
13909 Smoketown Road, Woodbridge, Va 22192 | 703-670-3822


This is a sponsored post brought to you by Christ Chapel Academy Preschool



Recap: Open Exploration at The Animated Child

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Published: 01/01/2014
When I was first able to actually sit down with Alejandra Hall, owner of The Animated Child, and chat face to face for the first time, I was so impressed with her vision.  I'd read the website and tried to understand everything that was going on over there- a preschoool, indoor play area with drop-in hours, language classes, art classes, social skills coaching (they're an inclusive center), memberships with special members-only benefits, parents night out, annnnd....I think I'm skipping something, too.

Minecraft- they have Minecraft camps and classes- how could I forget that? My boys have talked about NOTHING but doing Minecraft camp since we walked in the doors. 

They've got a TON of things going on over there, and understanding it just by reading the website is almost impossible, you really do have to drop in.

That's why I was so excited that The Animated Child invited us to bring a few readers over for a free open-exploration so they could experience it for themselves.  It was a great way to spend New Years Eve Day!
 Our target age was K-3, and I would say that Open Exploration is best aimed at ages 2-7. That being said, my 10 year old had fun when we came with just out family, but I think preschool-grade 2 would have the most fun. 
 My daughter had a blast at the tangram wall.  It's completely magnetic, and there are tons of patterns.  I think these two built a rocketship and a centipede before moving on to something else!
 The space that you play in for Open Exploration is divided into sections based on Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences (I told you that they impressed me with their planning!!).  There's are areas for playing with animals (guniea pig, lizard, and multiple fish tanks), a touch table, a train table, all sorts of building materials, body puzzles, a dress-up/pretend play area, and water bead station.  The space is open and inviting, and everyone (parents, too!) wears socks and uses hand sanitizer before playing to keep it clean!
 While the kids were playing, Mrs. Alexy took the time to let parents find their child's top intelligence and gifted everyone a shirt with "Music Smart", "Body Smart", "Math Smart", whatever their top match was. 
I think everyone left happy, and had a great time playing.  We had a few kids that did NOT want to leave!  I love that Open Exploration is engaging, quiet, and less rowdy than inflatable places (aka Bounce Houses), which I love, too, but with very small children who get hurt easily, or a child who can't bounce for whatever reason, there are few fun indoor options for cold/rainy/winter days, and I'm really glad that we've got one in Montclair!

To learn more about The Animated Child, visit their website, or better yet, visit them in person.  Open Exploration times are listed on their website, but are currently:
Open Exploration Scheduled Times:
 (Monday-Friday)
9:00am-10:30am                
11:00am-12:30pm
3:00pm-4:30pm
5:00pm-6:30pm
Open Exploration Scheduled Times: (Saturday)
10:00am-11:30am
11:30am-1:00pm      

You can also find Open Explorations listed on our calendar.    Open Explorations are $9 for non-members.  Thanks again to everyone who came out to play with us!!


Disclosure: The Animated Child is one of our advertisers, but all opinions are our own.  You can find out more about advertising with PwcMoms, or about hosting an event for our readers at your venue under the "advertise" tab, or by emailing us. 

Sponsored Post: Animated Child Programs for Fall

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Published: 10/24/2013

We are so thankful for all the businesses that support what we're doing at PwcMoms!! Animated Child is one of our fantastic sponsors, and we want to share with you more about a few of the programs they offer.

1. Before/After School Care:
Animated Child is the alternative to typical Before and After School Care.  Our program allows children to explore and learn while they spend  time in our Open Exploration area. Many parents have compared it to a children's museum! We ditch the traditional teaching model and learn science, technology, engineering and math in a completely hands-on environment.  Children can feed our animals in the Nature Smarts area and construct buildings in our Spatial Smarts area. Homework help is always at the ready and our S.T.E.M. room houses multiple computers for online learning. Join our program and receive 2-FREE Weeks of tuition! 
Call 703-763-0003 for enrollment information.

2. Classes in Language, Art, Social Skills, and STEM Topics
Animated Child is full service enrichment center offering classes in Spanish, French, Art, 2-D Gaming Design and P.E.E.R.S. social skills. Language classes are $200  for 1 class per week. $340 for 2 classes per week. Classes are in 8 week sessions. Enrollment is ongoing. Register any time!  Membership guarantees enrollment and great discounts.

3.  Open Play and Parents Nights Out
The Animated Child provides an integrated environment where children are encouraged to be curious and independent. Our setting is created for the inquisitive child. We aspire to develop a deep sense of self in our children.
Open Exploration Times: (Monday-Friday)
9:00am-10:30am                    Open Explorations are $9 ($7 for members)
11:00am-12:30pm
3:00pm-4:30pm
5:00pm-6:30pm 
Open Exploration Times: (Saturday)
10:00am-11:30am                  
The atmosphere is made to promote imaginative and creative problem-solving skills that generate intrinsic motivation. The Animated Child exists to bring into being an organic movement of emotionally balanced children that recognize abilities within themselves. Our innovative center is inspired by the multiple intelligences of Gardner’s theory, and we engage children in every element in order to highlight their unique way of learning. The vital element of emotional and social intelligence with a global perspective makes the Animated Child a leader in children’s education. The Animated Child recognizes the crucial value of a second language and provides a playful curriculum for complete immersion in language and culture.
4.  Birthday Parties
Various theme options available, including Minecraft!! Visit the website for details and options, as well as pricing. 

Snow and Story at PWICE

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Published: 10/17/2013
Take your little one to Prince William Ice Center for snow and story! This fun program lets them play on the ice (no skates required) and includes hot cocoa and a story at the end! Can't make the times listed? Your group can schedule a private "Snow and Story", too! Just call Maureen Brennan at 703-730-8423.  This is a great field trip for preschools or playgroups!  Space for drop-in days is limited, so to reserve your spot, be sure to call ahead!




Note: PW Ice Center is a sponsor of PwcMoms.com

Kings Dominion's "Planet Spooky"

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Published: 10/01/2013

Inside Planet Snoopy- Super Cute Fall Decor!

We were so excited to visit Kings Dominion in Doswell this past weekend.  It's roughly an hour's drive, which I consider to be more than do-able for a day of fun!   Kings Dominion is obviously open all summer as a great way to spend some of your vacation days, but they are also open fall weekends with a Halloween theme.  Planet Spooky activities and Trick-or-Treat with the Dinosaurs in Dinosaurs Alive! are open Saturdays and Sundays Sept. 28 - Oct. 27 from 12pm - 5pm. 

On Saturdays, the park actually opens at 10:30, and we arrived around that time.  While we waited for Planet Snoopy to open, we took our kids to some of the larger sections and enjoyed absolutely no lines.  Once the park got a little more crowded, there were still barely any wait times.  I think the longest line we were in was 20 minutes.  Most rides the kids got right on or waited one cycle for their turn. It was incredibly quick. 

Top of the Eiffel Tower

We spent much of the day in the newly reopened, larger children's section called "Planet Snoopy", or, as it's known for fall "Planet Spooky".  With 18 rides designed with kids in mind, as well as a host of family-friendly rides throughout the park, most of your kiddos will be able to have a great day on the rides.  What I discovered when we went, though, is that they've got numerous family-friendly accommodations, including a "Snoopy Family Care Center" and even a "parent switcher" option you can find out more about in guest services so that families with one child who can ride and one who can't, such as an elementary schooler and an infant, don't have to have one parent miss out on all the fun!
Inside the "People Washer"

You should know that the park also features a "Halloween Haunt" which is for ages 13 and up.  If you stay at the park past 7pm, you will likely have a zombie pop out at you.  If you're cool with that, then enjoy but since I am a giant fraidy cat, we left by 6:30.  There are some decorations that remain out during the daytime at the front entrance and in some of the other sections of the park.  They are fairly tame, and similar to things that you would see out at your local craft or Halloween store during this season, but I know that some children are very sensitive to that.
She's actually commenting that she wants to climb that...she's not scared of anything.  Ever.

Once you're inside the park and into the Planet Snoopy section, you won't see anything but pumpkins and scarecrows- or Lucy dressed up as a witch...but she's pretty cute :) Snoopy is on hand, of course, too!

Snoopy!
Several of the attractions in Planet Snoopy are designated as trick or treat stops, and when the children complete an activity, they're given a non-candy treat.  In addition to the regular rides, there were attractions such as a petting zoo, "people washer", pumpkin decorating, and hay maze.  Peanuts characters also come out both to meet with kids for photo ops, and to perform at regularly scheduled intervals.
Pumpkin Decorating! 
Linus and the Gang host a Sing-a-Long

Also open, for a small additional fee, is Trick or Treat at Dinosaurs Alive! which features a six acre animatronic tour of 36 life-sized dinosaurs from various eras. There's also a sand pit where children can dig for fossils (our day there was a "paleontologist" in costume).  During Trick or Treat, there are several stations with candy that visitors can stop at, and non-candy treats are available, as well as an allergy list.  I believe we stopped at eight stations along the route.  The dinosaurs make noise, and move, and some are even Redskins fans.
Candyvores.  Yesss.
#HTTR

We had a great time enjoying a fall day at Kings Dominion's Planet Spooky.  It's especially nice for our family now, because the rest of the park is open, affording my 5 year old the chance to enjoy all the great Planet Snoopy rides, and my almost 10 year old the option of some awesome roller coasters.  Everyone was able to ride something they loved, and the weather is so pleasant right now that it was an awesome day outside.

To purchase tickets, visit the Kings Dominion Website or purchase at the gate.


Disclosure: Our PwcMoms team (aka, "my family") was provided with free admission in order to do a park review.  We were also provided admission to Trick or Treat at Dinosaurs alive.  People who have had extensive brain and neck surgery shouldn't really ride much, but that was okay with me, because my kiddos had a blast! All opinions are my own, including those about Zombies being scary and me being a pansy when it comes to grown-up Halloween.  

Soccer Shots Free Demo Day- September 16, 2013

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Published: 09/12/2013

Business Review: Ticonderoga Farms

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Published: 08/20/2013
Most of the "fun farms" in Northern Virginia are in Loudon County and they take some time for me to get to from my side of Prince William.  However, while Ticonderoga Farms' address may be Chantilly, and while my friend from  Aldie told me it was "just a few minutes from her" (I consider Aldie to be the dark side of the moon from where we live!) it's actually just about 5 minutes from Manassas Battlefield, which is awesome!  Here's how that works:
Where A= Manassas Battlefield Park, B= Ticonderoga Farms and C=Aldie, VA

That's about the extent of the math you're gonna find here on PwcMoms.  It's not even that math-y, but I used equals signs, so we're gonna count it. 

I found Ticonderoga Farms to be really enjoyable.  I liked that it's shaded, I liked that it's not as crowded as some of the more well-known farms, and I think that it had a lot of good options for playing, especially for younger kids in the age Preschool-Grade 1 age range.  Let's take a photo tour, shall we?




There's a pond with a wiggly bridge over the top, which my boys loved.  If you stop in the middle and look hard into the water, there are little teeny tiny sunfish! This was, apparently, a HUGE deal. We looked at the tiny fish for a good five minutes.

 There are a few cutouts for you to take your picture on, and they were in the process of "Fall-ing" up the hayride space so it'd be ready for pumpkin season and Halloween.  I think the hayride will be very fun for those visiting in the fall.




There are a few antique firetrucks for kids to climb all over, and my daughter thought this was probably the most fun she'd ever had.  Watch for any nuts or bolts, but older kids will enjoy climbing up on top and younger kids will like "driving" the truck for a minute.

 Swings! And Trees! And Chickens running around!
One of the play structures- note that there's shade involved.  We also ate lunch on one of the picnic tables in the shade.  For my kids, this doesn't matter as much, but for me, who gets a sunburn on a cloudy day wearing SPF 80, it's a big deal :)  It looked like there was a snack bar that's probably open during festival weekends, but we packed our lunch and enjoyed a picnic.
 There are, of course, the requisite slides on a hill and there's a giant inflated pillow, for lack of a better word, that the kids can bounce around on.  Your socks will get dirty, but if it's too warm out and you go without them, the plastic can be a little warm on tiny toes, so I'd bring an old pair of socks, even if your kids are rocking the crocks.
 You know, as much as anyone can "rock" crocks.

We had a fun time and spent over three hours playing outside.  This is much more "farmy" than some of the farms you might think of, but we liked that, because it wasn't as crowded.  I think my oldest son might be getting slightly too old for places like this to be "cool" for him, but he did play nicely with his siblings, and he had fun looking at the fish and jumping on the pillow.

One note- there is a bamboo maze that is a serious maze.  I think my boys would've spent hours in there, but if you're going with young children, note that this isn't like a corn maze where you wander in one direction and come out, it's a real maze with multiple twists and turns.  I can see that being an issue if you've got a child who's potty training ;)

Here's what some of my readers had to say about Ticonderoga Farms:
we LOVE going there! so much fun!

Go there for Easter egg hunts during spring. I like that its not as crazy as Cox Farms and family owned.

 Also been to cut our own Christmas tree couple years ago. Plan on taking baby soon at the end of 

August & we always bring smore's fixings to make smores there.

We love it there!!! Love!!!! We can spend a whole day there.

We go every week because its where i pick up my CSA my daughter loves it there!!



 Ticonderoga Farms offers:
* Summer Harvest Festival, Spring Easter Festival, Fall Pumpkin Festival, and a Winter Festival
* A community garden for those who'd like to grow their own produce but don't have space
* A Farm Market  including organic eggs, local honey, produce, figs, and bamboo
* Fig groves and a fig festival
And more.  The farm is also working on a botanic garden, which, from what we could see from the road, looks amazing!

Admission depends on the time of year, but for summer is $8.95/person, and hours are 10am-5pm, all week long.  Field trips, group rates, and corporate/family parties are available.


Disclaimer: PwcMoms was provided with free admission in return for providing a review.  All opinions are our own. All information is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publishing, but events/dates/times/offerings may change over time. Please see Ticonderoga Farms website for updated information and offerings. 

Guest Post: Toddler Tyme at the Manassas Museum

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Published: 07/31/2013


We have been pleasantly surprised with the Toddler Thyme program at the Manassas Museum this summer.  The title is a bit misleading as the classes are for children ages 3-5 years old (they said they are looking to change it for next time), but Love Bug (who is a little over 2 years old) was allowed to join since Sweet Girl was signed up for the classes.  The classes cost $10 per child. 

The classes are being held every Monday during the summer and there's something for everyone!  Themes range from railroads to life on the farm to pirates to police.  Classes are offered at two different times and last one hour.  One class is at 10:00 am and the other begins at 11:15 am.

The class is run by two young ladies who work for the museum.  Each class usually starts off with a book about the week's theme.  Then, we sing songs and/or do fingerplays.  Next, the children are invited to a table set up with supplies to do a craft.  Sometimes, we have done two crafts in one sitting if they are "small" crafts.  Other times, we have taken a break to play games or do something more active.  The class typically ends with one more story and then children are given a special take-home surprise before the class ends.

The children are throughly engaged for the entire hour.  They are learning new things about the theme of the week, practicing their good listening skills, taking turns, standing in line and using both fine and gross motor skills with the art projects and games.

I have to admit that I wasn't too sure about paying $10 per class for each child, but it is well worth it in my opinion.  The young ladies that run the class remember my girls' names and they are so friendly.  They work very well together and do a good job of keeping the children engaged for the full hour.  I like how parts (or all) of the classes are held outside--if the weather permits it.  The girls have loved the activities and proudly display their crafts at home.  The girls also look forward to the special take-home surprise at the end of each class.  We always leave class happy and excited about the theme of the week.

There is still time to try out this wonderful program, but there are only four more classes left this summer.  If you are interested in joining a class, check out the Manassas Museumwebsite.  They do recommend that you register in advance.

Side note:  There is a wonderful playground and picnic area that is open to the public behind the museum.  It's a great place to run around if you get to class a bit early or to have a picnic after class.
You'll walk past the beautiful Butterfly Garden on your way to the playground.
The playground and picnic area.
Check out the fun we've had at Toddler Tyme!
(Edit from Kristina: Visit Angela's Blog for pictures to go with each event- there were simply too many for me to copy and share each one!)
CIRCUS
Craft:  Circus collage with stickers, paper and stamping
Games/Activities:  Circus songs, Pin the Tail on the Lion, Three-ring Beanbag Toss and Tight-rope Walking
Take-home surprise:  Circus animal tatoos
LIFE ON THE FARM (held at Liberia Plantation)
Craft:  Fuzzy Lamb 
Games/Activities:  Frog Fingerplay with frog finger puppets, Trying out a butter churn, Making real butter and Milking a pretend cow 
Take-home surprise:  Real lamb's wool
UNDER THE SEA
Craft:  Ocean sticker collage and Paper Plate Rainbow Fish 
Games/Activities:  Fish Fingerplay with finger puppets, Parachute fun with Blow-up Sea Animals and Magnetic Fishing 
Take-home surprise:  Fish tatoo and a fish or toad squeaky toy
PIRATES
Craft:  Pirate Hats, Paper Parrots and Pirate Coloring Page
Games/Activities:  Fingerplay, How to talk like a pirate and a Treasure Hunt with real "treasure" at the end!

Take-home surprise:  A "treasure chest" filled with loot:  play money, eye patch, necklace, tatoo, Manassas Bull Run Civil War patch

About the Author: 
The Master's Daughter, Angela Pounders, loves teaching and sharing her ideas with others. After working various teaching-type jobs, she now uses her God-given gifts with her children at home.

Disclaimer: This was an uncompensated post from a guest author.  All opinions are her own.  Visit Angela Pounders, aka "The Master's Daughter" at her website or on facebook

Giveaway: Camps at The Little Gym Gainesville

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Published: 06/13/2013

We're so excited to bring you ANOTHER camp giveaway- this time for the little ones!! The Little Gym of Gainesville, located at 7364 Atlas Walk Way in Gainesville (That's the Virginia Gateway Shopping Plaza- 7364 Atlas Walk Way, Gainesville VA) is giving away a day of their fun camps to THREE lucky winners!! The Little Gym is a ton of fun- we've been for birthday parties, and, Virginia Gateway has not one, but two salons, so you can go get a mani/pedi while your child enjoys camp.

Or, take a nap in your mini van.  I understand :) You could also go home and catch up on housework...but why would anyone waste 3 precious hours doing that? 

From The Little Gym:
The Little Gym camps combine physical activity and gym games with arts, crafts and special events and guests -- from a furry friend to our local heroes such as fire fighters and policemen!  Each week offers a different interactive learning theme and each day brings a unique lesson plan!  Our flexible scheduling allows you to book just one day, a week or multiple weeks at a time -- whatever will fit your families summer schedule!

Check out some of these fantastic themes
The Little Gym Crazy Carnival!!
Cars, Planes, Trucks and Trains
X-treme Sports of All Sorts
Superheroes!
Legends, Fables and Folklore
Lights, Camera, Action!
Cheerleading!
My Animal Planet
The Little Gym Olympics
Hip Hop Karate Chop!
Sky Rangers!

Camps begin this week (July 10th) and run through August 23rd, and there are both afternoon and morning half day options.  I personally love that The Little Gym has made the effort to offer both "girl", "boy" and gender-neutral themes.  Having both boys and girls in my family, I'm always on the lookout for a camp that will interest all of my kids so that I can spend my free time as actual free time, not running from one camp to another dropping off children with varying interests! 
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Guest Post: Helping Children Sleep After a New Baby

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Published: 06/10/2013

I just had a baby and now my older child won’t sleep – Help!!

You knew you would lose sleep with a newborn, but you may not have been expecting your older child to suddenly need your attention in the middle of the night.  This is however a problem I see quite often, especially if at one time your older child did have some sleep difficulties.

What is going on?

If your child previously slept with you or in your room, they may not understand why the brand new baby is now getting to sleep in your room.  After all, you may have told them that your room is just for Mommy and Daddy if you were transitioning them out of it.  They may start waking in the middle of the night trying to get in bed with you, or may start giving you a hard time about going to sleep at bedtime.  Even if your child did not sleep with you, just the change of having a new brother or sister may cause them a slight amount of stress, which could affect their sleep.  All the changes going on could also be causing their bedtime to be later.  If children are overtired at bedtime, they are more likely to wake during the night and earlier in the morning.

Having Patience

The first step in solving your child’s behavior is to first have (or try to have!) patience and realize where they are coming from.  If your older child was an only child before the baby came, they were used to getting all the attention.  Now, not only is the baby getting some of their attention, the baby probably gets to stay up later with Mom and Dad and gets to spend all night in their room.  How fair is that?!  It is a good idea to spend some extra one on one time with your older child during the day.  You should be totally focused on them (no cell phones or television) and this should last for at least 20 minutes.  Each parent should try to do this every day.

Bedtime

You may need to factor in a little extra relaxing time before sleep time at night.  Your child may need a couple of extra books or some extra songs.  Decide before hand what you will add, and do not let your child dictate what you do.  If you tell them you will read an extra book, stop at that extra book.  If they beg and cry for another one and you give in, you will have taught them to keep begging and crying even if you say no.
If your child is really upset at bedtime, you may think about sitting in their room with them while they fall asleep, then every several days moving further and further away from them or come check on them every 5 or 7 minutes for extra reassurance.

Middle of the Night Wake-Ups

If your child is waking in the middle of the night, discuss with your partner during the day how you want to handle it.  Being consistent is essential in changing a behavior.  So if you do not want your older child coming into bed with you, do not let them do that, even once.  This is especially important if your newborn is sleeping in bed with you – your older child may not be as aware of the baby and could roll on them or crawl over them. 
If you are okay with your older child coming into your room at night if they do not wake you or your baby, you could make a bed for them on the floor.  You could put a crib mattress or sleeping bag on your floor.  You will need to give your child rules – if they sleep in this bed, they need to come into the room quietly and not wake anyone.  This is probably a better idea for a child at least three years old and one that has not shown any jealousy issues toward the newborn.

It Will Get Better

Remember that it will get better, especially if you handle the behavior consistently and with as much patience as you can have being a sleep deprived parent!  Your child may need a little extra reassurance now, but will once again start sleeping well.  And by that time, your newborn may be sleeping better too!


About the Author:
Michelle Winters, of SleepWell Sleep Solutions is a certified Gentle Sleep Coach and Greenproofer based in Northern Virginia. Michelle provides sleep consultations for children up to 6 years old in which she assists parents in creating a gentle, respectful plan to get their children sleeping.  She can also assist parents who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant, and who already have children identify and remove toxins in their environment.  Michelle conducts in person consultations in the Washington DC Metro area and can also conduct consultations over Skype or phone for clients outside the area.  She is also available to conduct workshops and group talks to businesses, parents’ groups and preschools.
This post is provided by SleepWell Sleep Solutions.

Giveaway: "I See Me!" Books for Preschoolers

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Published: 06/05/2013
One of our most popular posts is always the Readers Recommend: Preschools list for Preschools in Prince William County, so I know that there are lots of you getting your child ready for preschool!  Here's a fun giveaway for the little one in your life!

For parents who want to help their toddlers become ready and excited for preschool, children’s publisher I See Me! introduces a new personalized storybook, The Very Important Preschooler (V.I.P.).
Celebrate your favorite little preschooler with this adorable new personalized storybook, The Very Important Preschooler (V.I.P.) Your child will learn that being a “V.I.P.” means making new friends at preschool, sharing, helping out, cleaning up, learning new things and more. The Very Important Preschooler is filled with lots of great messages for your little preschooler and is personalized throughout the story and on the cover with his or her name! Written by Jennifer Dewing, Illustrated by Jill McDonald.



I See Me! personalized children's books provides the highest quality, most personalized children's books available. We offer personalized books and gifts for all celebrations from Birth to 12 years old.   Our mission is to increase self esteem in children through personalized books that celebrate the uniqueness of each child. The goal of our books is to show each child how absolutely unique and special he or she is, to teach the child how to spell his or her name, and to build vocabulary skills.  
We'll be giving away two Very Important Preschooler books! Enter using the Rafflecopter below!
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Toddler Tyme at the Manassas Museum

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Published: 05/27/2013

Preschool Busy Bag Exchange

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Published: 04/21/2013
 Preschool Busy Bag Exchange 
by Courtney Power

If you already have a Pinterest account I am probably not going to tell you anything you don't already know. If, like me, you still don't pin keep reading because I've got an exciting idea for you. Preschool Busy Bag Exchange Being a non-pinner I had to google the term when an interest thread was started on my local neighborhood mom's Facebook page. Basically, it is the same principle as a cookie exchange but instead of baked goods you swap games/activities geared at the preschool age group.


As a mom of a 4yr old and 21 month old with self-professed "paint by numbers" crafting ability, I jumped at the idea of making multiple copies of a kid's game in exchange for getting back all new games in return. Our exchange was the Wednesday before Spring Break and the activities were lifesavers on vacation. A special thanks to Kelly who organized our neighborhood exchange and to all the other Montclair Moms who participated, you ladies ROCK!


We had 16 moms participate in our exchange. This may seem like a lot, especially when you’re in the throes of making 16 copies of a game, but when you walk away with 15 new games it is totally worth it. Below are pictures of the different games made. [Note: there are 17 items listed because two were bundled together] Some are overtly educational (alphabet match-up), some are just for fun (I-spy bottles) and some build great fine motor skills (anything with clothespins). While this was titled as “preschool” busy bag exchange the games really fit a spectrum of ages. My youngest one uses the I-spy bottle as a shaker and loves the pool noddle threading with no concern for following a pattern whereas my older child can easily do color matching but has been stretched by letter and sound identification.



A picture of my haul!



1) Counting/Shaking Eggs: match egg top and bottom, insert lentils or candy to match the number
2) Connect the Dots: a laminated flip book of connect the dots puzzles and a dry erase marker
3) Color Match: grab color card with appropriate clothespin
4) Number Tracing: trace numbers with monster finger puppet using rhyme to help remember
5) I-spy Bottles: small water bottles filled with rice and assorted treasures to find
6) Pool Noodle Lacing: pool noodle segments of different colors & numbers, pattern cards to replicate




7) Double Trouble: use the loose shapes to recreate the patterns
8) Felt Puzzle: match felt puzzle pieces to outline on background
9) Magnetic Fishing: wooden dowel fishing pole, felt fish with shapes and numbers
10) Color/Number Wheel: grab color or number with appropriate clothespins
11) Popsicle Shape Makers: Velcro dots allow creating of shapes with Popsicle sticks




12) Popsicle Stick Puzzle: line up popsicle sticks to create the puzzle image
13) Lacing Cards: practice lacing shoelace in the holes
14) Playdough Gingerbread House Mats: use playdough to make assigned number of decorations
15) Pipe Cleaner Threading: thread appropriate color and number of beads on the pipe cleaners
16) Colored Animal Sorting: use tweezers to sort animal figurines by color or animal type
17) Alphabet Match Up & Beginning Word Sounds: match uppercase letter bottle cap to lowercase letter or to picture that matches the beginning word sound



If you are interested this would be great to do just before school ends, in the middle of summer when boredom sets in or anytime really. Some thoughts on successfully executing a busy bag exchange. -- 16 participants were a lot and more than probably a high threshold level. You want to have enough participants to make the crafting effort worth your time and money, especially since it is generally more cost effective to buy materials in bulk but not too many that it becomes overwhelming and you run the risk of repeat or extremely similar activities. -- we used a Facebook event to organize our exchange. This way each participant could post a link to or describe what they planned on making (avoiding repeats). You could also feasibly use a Facebook group to coordinate as well. The communal forum also allowed for sharing of supplies that participants might have had in excess or weren't using. -- the exchange date should be set a couple of weeks if not at least a month from the initial setup time. This gives everyone time to browse for ideas, shop the sales and make the game/activity. -- Pinterest and Google are great places to get ideas. There are a ton of very crafty mom bloggers out there. -- for all you military mommas out there we had a participant from out of state who mailed in her contribution. If you were organizing for a geographically separated group you could either share addresses or ship to a single POC who would then separate, collate and ship.


The school year is drawing to an end of if you are going to host one of these with your child and classmates, now’s the time to start organizing!




Courtney Power is an Air Force wife and mom to two crazy kids. She lives in Montclair and can’t say enough good things about the Prince William County community and Montclair Moms in particular. 





Movers & Shakers Kids' Club at Manassas Mall

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Published: 04/07/2013


From January through October, the Manassas Mall Movers & Shakers Kids' Club takes place at 10 AM in the JC Penney Court.  Events feature musical performances, sing-a-longs, puppet shows, read alouds, interactive movement, and more.  Plus Discovery Junction is always there with fun magnetic creations for hands on play.  Check out the upcoming programs:


April 10, 2013 at 10 AM: Peter McCory Concert, Discovery Junction, and Fit & Healthy Schools

Join Peter McCory; the One Man Band; along with Fit & Healthy Schools at 10am in JCPenney Court, for an hour of moving and shaking to the music! 




May 8, 2013 at 10 AM: Uncle Pete Show, Discovery Junction, and Fit & Healthy Schools
Join Uncle Pete; along with Fit & Healthy Schools at 10am in JCPenney Court, for an hour of moving and shaking to the music! 



June 12, 2013 at 10 AM:  Mr. Don, Discovery Junction, and Fit & Healthy Schools


Join Mr. Don; along with Fit & Healthy Schools at 10am in JCPenney Court, for an hour of moving and shaking to the music! 



More programs July-October 2013 available at http://www.manassasmall.com/events.aspx



* Discovery Junction will be on hand with Magnetic Creations; let your child come play and use his imagination to create robots and much more with Magnetic Creations! For more information on Discovery Junction visit their website at www.discoveryjunction.org

*Find out more about Fit & Healthy Schools at www.fitnhealthyschools.org or facebook them on FitNHealthySchools
 


Review: Skate N Fun Zone

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Published: 01/17/2013
If you've been reading my site for any amount of time, you know that we're huge fans of "Mommy Dates" and "Daddy Dates" in our family. (If you haven't been reading my site, then welcome.) We truly value having one-on-one time with our children so that we can really have time to know their hearts and how they're doing.  We try to make sure that each child gets individual time with one of us at least once a month.  Sometimes it's a big deal and we take them out to do something that costs money, but other times it's a walk, or a trip to Starbucks, or a walk around Target and something from the $1 section.

On New Years Eve Day, our boys were invited to go play with friends, which left our daughter home alone.  I needed to do some lesson planning, so she and daddy decided to capitalize on their alone time by heading out to Skate N Fun Zone, which offers a New Year's Eve Party at both mid-day and midnight.  Brilliant!  They actually offer special events both weekly and monthly, including a homeschool skate, rock-n-stroll for parents who have infants and older children, and more.

Skate N Fun Zone is located at 7878 Sudley Road  Manassas, VA 20109 (for those of you who always like to have an address listed) 

$10 per person covered their admission, glow cups, a balloon drop, party favors, and glow sticks.  With just two of them, it was definitely workable, although they also offer a discount for purchasing a "super pack" with 4 admissions.  For a special event like New Years, I would say that's worth it. 

The actual building is behind a few other buildings, so while there is a sign from the road, you have to "do kind of a u-turn thing" to get to the actual location. 

He's an engineer, guys, not a writer. 

For this particular event, there was no parking available, and my husband ended up asking a local Liberty Mutual agent if he could park in his lot, and he was very nice, since it was New Years.  However, inside my husband heard there's overflow parking (somewhere) so be sure to check on that if you find yourself in the same situation.

After they rented their skates, they found a spot to drop their stuff, which was slightly challenging since there were so many people.  Lockers are available to rent for your valuables, which is probably a good idea especially on a special event day.  He had this recap:
"Everything seemed relatively clean, but definitely used.  The floor was definitely well-worn, but it didn't impede our ability to skate.  There's a jungle gym included in the price, a little food area where you can buy food, and an arcade area similar to Chuck-E-Cheese where you can pay for games and get tickets to trade in for lame prizes."
"I'd say what I liked most was that they had a large variety of things to do, and even with the skating they'd shift between a game (like Limbo or backwards skate) and regular skating, and there was the arcade and the gym, so we were able to rotate a lot and stay for a pretty long time considering our daughter is 4.  We were there for several hours.  We got there just as they were finishing the balloon drop, and it was loud, so she wasn't a huge fan of that becuase everyone was popping balloons and that was "scary" for her.  I'd go again, we had a great time. I also liked that their rules included the ability to kick people out who were not dressed appropriately, were cursing, or appeared to be under the influence of anything."
I tried to grill him about something negative to say, but the hard part about reviewing things in our family is that we, generally speaking, have fun, and decide that it's a good time :)

My daughter also said that she had fun and would go again.

Especially with her daddy.




Not a paid or solicited review, hubby and DD went and paid just like everyone else. 





Louis the Magician at Kidgits!

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Published: 01/14/2013
LOUIS THE MAGICIAN TO CAPTIVATE AUDIENCES AT POTOMAC MILLS
ON JANUARY 17
 
Potomac Mills presents the monthly Simon Kidgits Club® Third Thursday Event
 
WHAT:          Parents and kids of all ages are invited to a morning of magic and mystery with a hilarious performance by Louis the Magician as part of the Simon Kidgits Club’s monthly series of events at Potomac Mills. Guests will delight in complimentary refreshments courtesy of Starbucks and Rita’s Ice as well as special deals for moms and dads. Kidgits Club members will take home free silly nose/mustache glasses and a magic wand, while supplies last. Plus, for just $1, attendees will be able to enjoy VIK (Very Important Kid) goodie bags filled with delicious snacks.* 


 
In addition, event guests will receive a free $20 Disney Store Outlet gift card with any mall-wide purchase(s) totaling $100!**
 
*All of the proceeds collected from the VIK bags will benefit Simon Youth Foundation, which helps at-risk students earn high school diplomas and scholarships to realize their dream of going to college.
 
**Present the flyer provided at the event and receipts totaling $100 or more from retailers at Potomac Mills between Thursday, January 17, 2013 and Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at Simon Guest Services and receive one $20 Disney Store Outlet gift card; limit two.  Purchases must be in the same time frame as the redemption period.  Must be 18 or older to participate.  Void where prohibited by law.  See Official Rules and Regulations for more information.
 
WHEN:          Thursday, January 17
                        10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
 
WHERE:        Potomac Mills (Grand Court by TJ Maxx)
                        2700 Potomac Mills Circle
                        Woodbridge, VA 22192
 
COST:            Free

Readers Recommend: Preschools 2012/2013

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Published: 01/10/2013

The Lake Ridge Moms' Club is sponsoring its annual Preschool Open House on January 26, 2013 from 3-5pm at Tall Oaks Community Center; 12298 Cotton Mill Drive in Lake Ridge. Several of the Preschools listed here will be present.  This event is FREE and open to the public, not just members of LRMC.

**Disclaimer:  These reviews have been submitted by individual parents who are representing their experience with a school.  PWC Moms does not necessarily endorse any or all of these schools and encourages parents to visit a school before enrolling their child.  After much consideration, it is our policy when asking parents to share their experiences with schools or play areas, or businesses, to share those opinions to aid other parents, even if our personal experience contradicts the views of another parent.  Please always conduct your own research and site visits in addition to looking at the experience of other parents at any particular school.**

Please note this list is added to every year.  The oldest reviews are from 2010, and the most recent were received this month. The Schools we received feedback on, in alphabetical order by name of school are:

ALPHA-BET COOPERATIVE PRESCHOOL (2 Reviews)
10047 Nokesville Rd, Manassas VA 20110. 
My son goes to the fabulous Alpha-Bet Cooperative Preschool in Manassas.  It's on Centreville Rd in between Godwin and Wellington. We have an open house February 1 from 12-2.   Being a cooperative school, the parents are active in their children's education. I help out 1-2 times a month in the classroom, and I'm on the board. My son is so happy there, and the different parents helping really adds to the dynamic of the classroom.  :)  I had checked out many in the area and fell in love with Alpha-Bet. 

Myself along with 3 other mommy friends cooperatively taught our children for their first year of preschool. After looking at some other preschools in the Manassas area, I decided that a cooperative preschool was the perfect fit for us. It allowed me to be in the classroom but gave her the formal classroom that she needed to get accustomed to. And we both love it.
As the children arrive the day starts manipulative time, circle time, center time, and the rest of the day flies by with bathroom break, snack and recess. The last 15 minutes are circle time again where the themes of the day are reinforced, calendar and weather are talked about. Class ends at 12:15.
My daughter has really taken to her teacher and the friends she's made in the class. She's eagerly awaiting the return to class tomorrow. The ideas presented in class really stick with her and she's constantly telling me what Ms Jo said. Even if it's something that I know was introduced to her last year by me. Don't know if that is because someone else is explaining it, she's a year older, or Ms. Jo is really that good. :) Also, my daughter is always excited when she knows that I will be in the classroom. I love that I get to see exactly what's going on in the classroom. I don't have to pull teeth to know how her day went (as I've heard other Mommies mention). Plus I feel like I'm holding onto her just a little bit longer. Now the logistics. This is the part that parents always worry about. How much commitment there is. Before school starts every parent that will volunteer in the classroom is subjected to a background test and must obtain a TB test. Only one parent is required, however both parents are given the opportunity to volunteer. A parent will typically have to volunteer 2, possibly 1, times a month. One of those times you will provide snack for your class.  You must sign up for one parent "job". It can be as simple or involved as you wish. For example, organizing a family night, classroom parent, fundraiser coordinator, board president, etc.  In addition, a parent must attend 6 pre-determined dates for setup/cleanup or training. For those of you with younger siblings, the school will assist you in pairing up with another parent to trade babysitting services while the other volunteers. And ensures that you will not volunteer on the same day. I have a 3 year old (not old enough for school) and have found it very easy to trade with another mother and he loves going with her.  (Click Here for Website)

Note from the School: Please visit Alpha-Bet Preschool on February 1, 2013 from noon - 2 pm to meet teachers, tour the school, and register your child for an excellent preschool experience.  Alpha-Bet is a unique, collaborative school with excellent, developmentally appropriate academic and social experiences for 3 and 4 year olds.  Our students leave the school well-prepared for kindergarten, and our parents have an incredible opportunity for involvement in the school. We are the only cooperative preschool in Prince William County. We are also a non-profit, parent-run school with well-educated and excellent teachers. 


CHESTERBROOK ACADEMY
Various Locations- Reviewed Location is 12960 Troupe Street  Woodbridge, VA 22192
I recommend Chesterbrook Academy in Woodbridge.  My daughter began at summer camp when she was 3.  She had been home with me and it was a hard transition.  They encouraged me to call and check on her the first week and even called me with updates. She attended two years of preschool.  We have been very pleased with the progress she has made.  They teach Spanish, sign language, computer skills and more. I feel that Chesterbrook has prepared her well for Kindergarten.  I would recommend the school to everyone! (Click Here for Website)

CLOVERDALE PRESCHOOL (2 Reviews)
13506 Minnieville Road  Woodbridge, VA 22192
I love, love, love the 2 1/2 year old and 3 year old program offered by Cloverdale.  The teachers are superb.  They have a very real, effective way of interacting with the children, and to say they are gifted in teaching is an understatement.  These ladies are the kind you want your children to have teaching them EVERY year because of their true interest in the kids.  I can't say enough good things about these teachers.  Besides their basic preschool classroom learning (language skills, art, counting, etc.), the kids also had music and P.E.  My kids LOVED music day in the "Big Room".  The staff I interacted with were pretty phenomenal as well.  They always got me information I requested and were nice people to have around.  Cloverdale has a great program going on, and it's quite affordable.  I highly recommend it.

We absolutely love Cloverdale for many reasons, and have used it for both of our older children, our youngest will begin attending, too, in the fall.  With programs beginning at 2 and a half years (Half days Tuesday and Thursday) ranging up to an outstanding Pre-K program, Cloverdale has a well-established program that focuses on literacy readiness, core competencies, and social skills.  They offer German to the students in the 4 and 5 year old programs, which all of the kids seem to love.  The teachers are all amazing and most of them (the exception being the teacher for the relatively new 2 year old program) have been at the school for many years which speaks to the happy, cohesive teaching team at this school.  The teachers are as patient and understanding as they are qualified, and have the skills and calm, even tempers needed to help even the most clingy children adjust to being away from their primary caregiver while they learn to function in a school setting.  Cloverdale also offers "Stay and Play" for $10, which allows students to remain until 2pm (the normal day is from 9-12) and has been a lifesaver for me on a few occasions where I was volunteering at the elementary school or had a doctor's appointment.  Also, Cloverdale offers private K-3 grades if you are looking for a school where your child can stay for the early years of elementary school.  We love it at Cloverdale and would never leave if we could keep our kids preschool aged forever!! (Click Here for Website) 
From the school: Tours and class observation welcome Appointments recommended but not
required.


DAYTIME PLAYTIME:
14680 Gap Way Gainesville, Va 20155
A shout out to Daytime Playtime in Haymarket too, they are awesome!  We love their summer camp and they were a top contender when i was touring preschools.  So much so that we have sent our son to their summer camp 2 years running! (Click Here for Website

From the School: Registration for the 2013-2014 school year will be open to our current families at 9am on Tuesday, January 22nd. Open registration will begin on Monday, February 4th to the public. Contact the office for more information. The registration fee is $100 and class prices will remain the same.

FREEDOM CENTER PRESCHOOL (2 Reviews):
9100 Freedom Center Boulevard  Manassas, VA 20110
We sent both of our children to the Freedom Center for preschool. We were very happy with the teachers and curriculum.

The Freedom Center preschool is small, really tiny, and that's its strength and its weakness.  There is only one small classroom, so there are only 4 classes---3 am, 3 pm, 4am, 4pm.  The same teachers teach all the children (the three year old teacher is the four year old PE teacher, the four year old teacher is the three year old PE teacher) and the aides work for all the classes.  As a result, the children know their teachers very well and the teachers and aides know the children very well.  There is a very warm, family atmosphere that makes even the shyest kids feel comfortable.  Miss Phyllis, who is the director, is warm and accessible and laid back, and her attitude really permeates the whole program. The classroom is tiny, but the children leave at least once a day for PE elsewhere in the building and often times more frequently for activities.  There is a big emphasis on physical education and the children are taken outside whenever weather permits (even on chilly days, they bundle up and go out).  There is no pick-up/drop-off and the preschool room is in the very back of the large building.  This means on rainy days, you have to hustle through a huge parking lot and then through the whole building.  Pick-up/drop-off takes a lot longer here than I imagine it does at other schools. The curriculum is play-based and there is definitely a big difference between the 3 year old program (which has little academics and is more focused on teaching children what school is and how to be a student) and the 4 year old program (where there is a heavy emphasis on pre-reading skills).  There are little to no worksheets and lots of hands-on activities.  My son came into the program a bit wild and unfocused.  He struggled a bit towards the end of the 3 year old year but has really excelled in the 4 year old program.  I think the caring, relaxed atmosphere and the ton of physical activity provided have really helped him. (Click Here for Website)

From the school: Open Registration for the general public begins February 13, 2013.

GOOD SHEPHERD PRESCHOOL (5 Reviews):
14999 Birchdale Avenue  Woodbridge, VA 22193
Pros: low tuition, kind teachers, private classrooms, walk-in drop-off and pick-up. Cons: very little communication/organization from teachers or director, no outside play (even though there is a playground.) (**Note from PwcMoms- I get an angry email EVERY year that Good Shepherd does offer outdoor play.  I don't know anything about the program, so I can't comment)

I had such anxiety about sending my quite shy 3 year old to preschool last year but our experience at Good Shepherd had been so wonderful.  The director is amazing and from the first moment, she made my daughter and I feel so welcome and reassured.  It's not as "high-tech" as many parents would like, but the wonderful teachers and the caring and attention they provide the children (and the parents) cannot, in my opinion, be beat.  There is a feeling of "family" at Good Shepherd. They pay close attention to the safety of the children and as a "worry wart" mom, that has helped ease much of my anxiety.  I also like the smaller teacher to student ratio.  This is our 2nd year there and my daughter attends the 5 day a.m. 4's program (they're teaching the Handwriting Without Tears program which I love) -- she is SO happy everyday I pick her up that it really does warm my heart!  I KNOW she'll be ready to start kindergarten (both academically and socially) in the fall and I owe the majority of that knowledge to Good Shepherd.  I really believe that the majority of parents who choose Good Shepherd are 100% satisfied with their decision.  

I sent my two sons to Good Shepherd UMC for two years. I chose GSUMC when it was recommended by one of the teachers from their preschool in Florida, which I ADORED. We were very pleased with their preschool experience in the two years they attended GSUMC. 
My sons are only a year apart and one thing I Appreciated about GS was the boys could be in separate classes. They offer more age group options than many of the other schools, including classes specially for kids who just miss the K cutoff. I liked that they offered both morning an afternoon classes. I was pleased with the level of academics. 
The teachers and director were all extremely friendly, nurturing and kind. I never had any issues with the level of communication from either. In fact, when I was experiencing behavioral issues with one of my sons, his teacher and the director kindly sat down and listened/tAlked with me while his TA looked after my 3 children, all on their lunch break. His teachers then did everything they could at school to provide the structure an continuity he needed to address the issues at home.
GSUMC does have a playground and they had outdoor time every day, weather permitting. They also had a weather plan in place so that there was indoor physical activity available for those inclement days. 
To me, the only thing I was somewhat disappointed with was the balance of secular/religious for a Christian preschool. There was one short chapel talk and chapel music per month. I felt like there could have been more and I wished there had been more of a focus on the religious, especially at Christmas and Easter. 
Overall, we were extremely pleased with GSUMC as a preschool and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.


We are thrilled with Good Shepherd on Birchdale. The teachers are fantastic, and they work with an exciting and fun curriculum. There's a perfect mix of play and learning. The kids are outside everyday, and there are a lot of activities, such as a pumpkin patch trip, visit from fire fighters, and an outing to a holiday concert. They engage the kids with different crafts and activities and my daughter loves attending school!


The curriculum at Good Shepherd Preschool stresses all aspects of growth and development.  They work on physical, social, and emotional development, as well as academic development. They believe that children learn through their senses, activity, curiosity, imitation, conversation, imagination, and widened experiences. There is a fifteen minute chapel time monthly taught by GSUMC's Christian Educatoror her designee. (Click Here for Website)
 

HAYMARKET BAPTIST CHURCH PRESCHOOL & KINDERGARTEN:
14800 Washington Street  Haymarket, VA 20169
Can't say enough good things about the teachers and staff at Haymarket Baptist Church Preschool & Kindergarten.  Love them!  Great school, great programs.  (Click Here for Website)
         

KIDS IN MOTION PRESCHOOL (4 Reviews):
Kids N Motion offers an amazing preschool program.  My daughter attended the preschool during the 2010 to 2011 school year and my son currently attends the school.  The teachers are excellent and what I like best is that they make learning fun! Before I had children, I worked as a Prince William County school teacher, so education is very important to me.  I was looking for a school that would prepare my kids academically and socially for kindergarten and just as importantly be a place that they loved and looked forward to going to! Kids N Motion does just that, and I would highly recommend the school to other parents.


My son attends kidsnmotion preschool. The teachers are kind and personable. I have had trouble trusting anyone other than family with my children and I have become so confident in kidsnmotion. My son loves the projects they complete almost daily and I always proud to show off his work. They also offer "gym" time first which allows the kids to run off some energy so that they are ready to learn. The price is GREAT for the quality care and knowledge they teach. I will be sending all of my children to kidsnmotion and you should too!


A year or so ago, I asked my friend, who is a kindergarten teacher, what children need to know before starting school.  Expecting her to say that they should know their alphabet, their numbers, and how to write their name, I was surprised by her response.  She said that academics can be taught in kindergarten and are all part of the kindergarten curriculum.  What children really need to know is how to share, take turns, and take responsibility for their actions.  According to this kindergarten teacher, who has a Master's degree in literacy development, it is most important for preschool-aged children to have as much imaginative and creative play as possible.  With this in mind, I decided to pursue a preschool program that encouraged gross and fine motor skill develop, with more emphasis on play and physical development than on academics.  Kids N Motion has been the perfect balance for us, offering free play time on their inflatable bouncing equipment, structured exercising time to work on gross motor skills (i.e. jumping on one foot, balancing on a balance beam), pretend play with traditional preschool toys (i.e. play kitchen, trucks, and blocks), and one-on-one instructional time on fine motor skills (i.e. writing and drawing).  My 3-year-old twins have made many new friends and practice their skills and sing their songs every evening at home.  Also, the price is extremely reasonable.  Sending twins to preschool means that every cost is doubled, and yet we are able to manage the tuition within our budget.
My daughter attends kids n' motion twice a week.  It is a great preschool and accepts children starting at 2 and 1/2 and they do not have to be potty trained!  My daughter started at 2 and 1/2 and is 3 now.  They do play, craft time, snack, read books, learn letters, etc.  It is a really great program.  My daughter has learned so much already and loves making crafts. (Click Here for Website)

KIDS ON THE MOVE PRESCHOOL:
Kids on the move is great. Can't say enough good things about them (Click here for Website)

LAKE RIDGE CREATIVE PRESCHOOL- 4 Reviews:
Love the Lake Ridge Creative Preschool, located on the corner of Old Bridge Road and Oakwood Dr.  Explorers class for 3-4 year olds is Tuesday and Thursday, either 9:15 - 1:30 or 9:45 - 2:00.  PreK for 4-5 year olds is M, W, F, same times.  The curriculum is the perfect mix of fun and learning.  The children do art projects, sing songs, do puzzles, learn to use the computer, go on field trips, learn Spanish, play outside daily, etc - it is amazing to me the creative ways they get the children engaged in learning.  There is an after school reading program for children that show they are ready to begin reading independently, though learning the alphabet and writing skills are taught to all almost from day one!  The preschool is open to everyone - non-Lake Ridge residents pay a bit more in tuition, though it is very reasonably priced - last year, Explorers were $120/month for residents, $130 for nonresidents, and PreK was $170/180.  Contact the Lake Ridge Recreation Department at 703-497-7112, or stop by the office, located in the vicinity of the preschool at the back of the big parking lot. 

I follow your posts via Facebook and read that you were looking for preschool reviews.  I saw you had a recommendation for Lake Ridge Creative already, but I decided to send in another one.  The following is excerpted from a letter I wrote to the Lake Ridge Board of Directors a few months ago in support of the preschool program.  My daughter attended for both preschool and pre-K, and I am very pleased with the school and highly recommend it to others.

We left St. Matthews for Lake Ridge Creative preschool. We were looking for something longer and more comprehensive...we have loved every year! Ms Jean gives her heart to these kids and truly prepares them for kindergarten. She has reading and math groups after school for children who are ready to take that next step. She does this on her own time, without an extra charge. It is definitely a great balance between social/fun time and instruction.

When I was looking to choose a preschool for my daughter, my main focus was on the school's reputation and the quality of the program.  I had narrowed it down to two schools - the LRPRA preschool and one other local preschool.  LRPRA's preschool appeared to be more well-rounded in its activities and learning opportunities, and in preparation for kindergarten.  What finally "sold" me was the fact that I heard nothing but good things about the program.  My mother, who is a past LRPRA board president, told me that during her time on the board she received many positive reports from parents about the program.  A friend who is an elementary school teacher said that the children coming from the LRPRA preschool were generally better prepared for entering the structured environment of elementary school and excelled in their academics.  She said there was a notable difference between the LRPRA pre-school graduates and those of other preschools.  Nothing beats positive word of mouth "advertising" and opinions from other parents, and to me this spoke volumes as to how good the school is.My daughter has thrived at the preschool, academically and socially.  Her teachers are excellent, and I have no complaints.  I am already looking forward to when my one year old son is old enough to attend the program as well. (Click Here for Website)

LITTLE HANDS PRESCHOOL (2 Reviews): 
14391 Minnieville Road, Woodbridge
We've had our youngest in Little Hands Preschool for the past two years and we love it!

This will be my sixth year at Little Hands (all three of my children will have been through here!) and I cannot say enough good things about it. The teachers are wonderful and the curriculum is the same as most other preschools. The other great thing is that they do have a class for early threes (2 and a 1/2 year olds), which is where we started with our oldest, and they also have a great Pre K class for those kids not quite ready to go to Kindergarten or who just miss the cut off. (Click Here for Website)

From the school: Registration forms will be considered "timely" through 2/1/13. The preschool lottery will be held on February 4th.  

LITTLE LAMBS VILLAGE PRESCHOOL:

We enrolled our child at Little Lambs after researching a variety of preschools in the area and having several educational professionals recommend it for our child.  They said its play-based, active learning approach with a staff who are supportive of children of differing backgrounds and abilities would be perfect for our child’s strengths and weaknesses.  And they were right! Our child had a poor experience at a previous preschool and was quite leery about the whole school experience.  He is a smart child who learned at a very young age how to tune out people who talk down to him.  The staff at Little Lambs has been warm and welcoming to our child, taking him in and showering him with love to bring him out of his shell.  He has changed from a sullen child who was unable to recite the alphabet to a bright and happy boy who can write his own name, finds letters in his world on a daily basis, and counts everything he can touch.  He talks about his friends constantly, and participates in classroom activities with gusto. We can’t say enough positive things about our experience at Little Lambs.  Other parents of children at the school talk about how it’s the hidden gem of preschools in Western Prince William County, and we wholeheartedly agree.  The learning experience, teaching ability, and administrative leadership are second to none. (Click Here for Website)

NIKKIS CHRISTIAN LEARNING CENTER:
Nikki's Christian Learning Center in Dale City is great. My kids will be more than ready for kindergarten. They know bible verses, celebrate holidays and truly care about the students. My kids love school and have flourished since September.

OLD BRIDGE PRESCHOOL (5 Reviews): 
Old Bridge Preschool, associated with Old Bridge Methodist Church, has been open for 4 years. Besides being a great preschool with very caring staff, the also have a mission of accepting students with special needs. They have special staff for students who qualify for services through the county, and although they aim for 30% special needs, they also do amazing things with typically developing children. Their academic program appropriately prepares students for kindergarten and helps them develop a love of learning. I have had a great experience with the school, with both of my children attending during the 4 years since the school has been open. I highly recommend Old Bridge Preschool. 

I am thrilled with Old Bridge Preschool in Woodbridge. The staff Is so caring and very educated. The environment is fantastic as well. The school has so many activities for the children and families so you always feel involved! Though my son is not special needs the school does have a good program for those that need it. Being our first year of school we are very pleased and my son loves it! We'll be back next year too!

I wanted to share a review for Old Bridge Preschool. We've had a great experience so far! A few reasons why we like them: the teachers and staff members are very kind, student teacher ratio is 4:1, potty training is not required, they're an inclusion school with 20-30% special needs students, offer tuition assistance/ scholarships, and have opportunities for parent involvement/volunteering.The only downside is that they only offer 3hr classes, no full day program available.  

Our experience with Old Bridge Preschool this past year has been fantastic.  The staff is dedicated, friendly and truly caring.  The facility is clean, well organized, and a fun environment for learning and play.  Our son is currently enrolled in the 2 year old class.  He also has special needs, and the staff have gone out of their way to accommodate his learning and participation in both everyday learning as well as special events and activities.  He has come to love this school and his teachers, and can't stop talking about it when he's at home.  We will be sending our son here for the next two years and feel confident that he will be well prepared for the transition into kindergarten.  I recommend Old Bridge to all parents considering a preschool program.

Both of my kids have gone there and I can't say enough good things about the school and staff. We have loved every one of our teachers and both kids have learned so much through play that they didn't know they were in school. They also accept special needs children which really teaches the children compassion for others.  (Click Here for Website)

PRINCE WILLIAM ACADEMY (2 reviews):
Prince William Academy is a wonderful school. We currently have two children attending the school (toddler & Jr. K) & we have been more than happy with the quality of the education they have received. The school is NAEYC Accredited & has low student-teacher ratios, a well-rounded curriculum, qualified & caring teachers, flexible schedules & clean facilities. A testament to the school being so great is the joy our children have going to school each & every morning. If you're looking for a comprehensive program that offers creative outlets (art, music, play) & strong academics (language arts, math, science & languages), this is the school for you. We have been most impressed with the latter. Our Jr. Kindergartener is reading, writing & doing math at the Kindergarten level & we're considering testing her into 1st grade next year. This is a great school & would recommend it to anyone!
 
We had a horrible experience here and pulled our child out mid-year.  The program sounds so great on paper, but the classrooms are dirty and the teachers over-stretched without aids.  The preschoolers have indoor gym at the same time as older children and my child came home badly bruised one day when a 4th grader bowled them over and I didn't even recieve a note from the school or the teacher.  It's not worth the money. (Click Here for Website)

RIVERVIEW BAPTIST DAY SCHOOL:
Riverview Baptist Day School in Woodbridge. They offered different day options for parents which was nice, they have a dresscode of navy or burgundy polos and khaki or navy pants/skirts I liked this too, I know some parents may not. The staff was friendly and so was the director and their "nurse" was accommodating (my daughter has epilepsy). However my daughter absolutely hated the school and would wake up in the middle of the night begging me to not make her go back, she would never tell me why she hated it so much, but she had nightmares. It got so bad that she was having panic attacks in the middle of the day on the weekends that led to full blown asthma attacks, I tried asking her teacher for help but she tried to tell me it was normal for kids and just separation anxiety. I went along with it for maybe five weeks before I couldn't do it to my daughter any longer and pulled her out. She has been terrified of the idea of school since. And to put it in perspective my daughter is not super clingy and goes to daycare during the day so it wasn't her first time away from me by any means.  

RUSSELL ELEMENTARY (MCB QUANTICO) PRE-K PROGRAM:
My eldest has really enjoyed the 1/2 day, 5 day-a-week program for 4 year-olds offered by Russell Elementary School aboard MCB Quantico.  Each of the two classrooms fits 16, and there are three teachers permanently assigned to each class.  That makes for a great teacher:student ratio and provides ample attention to each student.  There are "out of classroom" classes, including art, P.E., and computers.  The class is run on a routine, and my eldest really gets into it.  She especially enjoys the big and small group times, where she can choose from a variety of activities provided by the teachers.  The school staff is a pleasant crew, and there are ample opportunities to volunteer in the classroom.  This is a good first look at "real" school (e.g., all the fundraisers, PTA, expenses, etc.), and I've appreciated getting my feet wet slowly.  Finally, there is a bus that picks up the kids. Only students from the same grade ride, and there is a teacher aboard the enter time to supervise seatbelting and that the proper adult is picking the students up.  It's a great program, and I'm thankful to have it. (Click Here for Website)

 SEVEN OAKS ACADEMY:
My son goes there, and he loved it from day one.  He is 4 and can already read a little bit.  They actually teach them there, not just babysit them.  The teachers are 'real' teachers, with degrees and certificates, and each class has it's own room with a door.  This is all great to me because he used to go to (other school name deleted) which is crap compared to this place.  He gets a newsletter sent home once a month with 'homework' and it tells the parents what they are working on, and helpful print outs to use at home, like sight words and refrigerator stories.  The preschool is from 9-12:30am I believe, but my son does go full time from 9-5:30pm.  But the actual 'school' part of the day mostly takes place in the morning before lunch.  They offer full time and part time preschool (you can choose 5 days a week or 3 days a week, but they only offer morning preschool, not afternoon).  They are affordable compared to other places, and offer morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack..  Their summer camp is GREAT, lots of field trips (about 2 times a week) and other fun activities for a reasonable summer fee.  (Click Here for Website) 

ST. MATTHEWS DAY SCHOOL (3 Reviews):
We love St. Matthews and feel like it is everything a preschool program should be.  It is structured enough for the kids to feel secure, free enough for them to explore, and loving so they feel safe in their first school experience.  We love that there is a carpool line because with a preschooler and a new baby this past year it was great not to have to get out of the car in the rain or snow with the baby! St. Matthew's was the only school we looked at because on our tour, our child walked right in and acted like they'd been in class there since day 1.  It's been great and we're military so we're not sure when we'll have to leave, but we'd be very happy if our youngest child was able to go here, too.

St. Matthew's Lutheran Day School in Lake Ridge has been wonderful for our Pre-K child. Great teachers and a wonderful environment.

Pros:Teachers seemed awesome and school seemed well-organized.  Cons: No handwashing (just wipes), no snacktime at a table (they eat on the floor,) no walk-in drop-off or pick-up, open/mixed classrooms. (Click Here for Website)


ST. PAUL'S SCHOOL/MDO (3 Reviews):
Loved the mom's day out program at St. Paul's in Haymarket.  The lead teacher there is amazingly loving and great with the kids!

We came to St Paul’s based solely on its reputation in the area.  We were new to the area, and everyone told us it was “the best” academically and “guaranteed” placement in the Gifted program once the children moved to PW schools.  As parents of extremely bright students, it seemed to be a great fit.  Unfortunately, the school did not work well for our children at all.  In fact, it was extremely detrimental to our children and we’ve spent the ensuing months trying to fix the problems caused.What didn’t work for our children was St Paul’s insistence on rote teaching.  The children come in, sit down, and are instructed/lectured for most of the day.  They are given worksheets to reinforce the lessons, and are expected to quietly fill in the worksheets at their tables.  There is very little collaborative learning amongst the children – even during playtime, the children each choose a toy and play quietly by themselves.  They don’t interact, play together, pretend or share things between each other.  There is almost no gross motor play/exploration/learning, as there quite simply is no room on the campus.  The classrooms are extremely small and have no room for typical preschool things like centers or active pretend play.  The outdoor play area is extremely small and very limited in activities.  Arts & crafts, a preschool mainstay, are virtually non-existent.  So are teaching methods such as sensory play and manipulatives.  You learn to count by repeating what the teacher says and writing numbers repeatedly, not by counting physical objects.  You learn your letters by writing them over and over again with a pencil on paper, not by acting out the letters, drawing them with a variety of media, or exploring how they start different words with different sounds. If the children do not learn well by rote teaching, there is no personalization of lessons to a child.  There is no time taken to determine if a different learning/teaching style would reach the child, if something could be explained differently. The child is simply labeled as unteachable, a trouble maker, or just left behind while the rest of the class goes on.  Our children learned virtually nothing in their time at St Paul’s, and are now playing catch-up to their peers who were able to learn the basics of letters and numbers in other environments.



We've been extremely happy with the PreK program at St. Paul's and highly recommend the school! (Click Here for Website)




12 Days of Giveaways: Little Pim Language DVDs

Permalink to 12%20Days%20of%20Giveaways%3A%20Little%20Pim%20Language%20DVDs
Published: 12/17/2012
Thank you all for your patience as I let this space be quiet in respect for all of us as we processed the events of the last few days.  I'll catch up on the giveaways, but sometimes we all need a moment to reflect, especially with such great tragedy.


I was asked to try the Little Pim series of educational DVDs and I was very excited to give it a go.  We pay pretty decent money at a preschool that teaches a foreign language for our daughter, but since I speak (spoke, in college) Russian and French, I'm not much help with the German she gets at school.
As background, Little Pim was created by the daughter of Dr. Paul Pimsleur, who developed the Pimsleur method of learning languages for adults.  They call the approach in the Little Pim series "Educational Immersion", and it is targeted at children ages 5 and under.  For more about the development, methodology and approach, you can check out the Little Pim Website.

So, remember when Baby Einstein was a thing? (Maybe it still is, I'm a few years out from babies) This is a similar format with a simple animated Panda between footage of actual people doing things.  It's all immersion, so there's no English, although there are subtitles for parents who need help with pronunciation.  In German that wasn't an issue at all, but in reading reviews from other sites, some users complained that in languages like Russian and Chinese, the subtitles were phonetic and native speakers teaching their children often felt like they'd do the phonetics differently, or they wanted their child exposed to the alphabet of the language they were learning.

Each DVD is divided into 5 minute mini episodes, so if you are really trying to get a younger child to focus, they only have to do it for a brief stretch.  My daughter sat down to watch this with my husband. She's 4 and he's in his 30s, and he did such a great job learning German, I'm very proud ;)
My daughter loved the DVD and at her age, she stayed focused intently for half the DVD, and then said her brain needed a break.  She's already asked if she can watch again tomorrow.  I assume that they use the same footage for each DVD and just put the language over the top because our first DVD was food/eating themed and we learned how to say "rice" and "chopsticks", but we also learned "strawberries", "kiwi", "cake", and "the oven is hot".  I'm not an expert, but I know that this approach seemed to work quickly for my daughter (and my husband) because they could see the actual item being used and hear the words.

You can order Little Pim in gift sets like the one above, for $169, which includes books, DVDs, music CDs, a plush, a backpack, and flash cards, but only in French or Spanish.  Other languages, including Chinese, Italian, German, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, English ESL, English ENG, and Portuguese, are available in 1 DVD or 3 DVD packs for $34.95 or $59.95.
(Shhh.....until the 19th you can get them over at Groupon, too)

Anyhow, I like the DVD concept.  I'm not going really dedicated to the idea of being bilingual by age four, so I enjoy that I can provide my child with learning materials she can use on her own, working at her own pace.  Could you really work these up into a language curriculum program for your toddler? Sure- but it's really nice to just pop in the DVD while you're making dinner, too.  I think we might pick up a few other German DVDs for my daughter, but if you'd like to get your own starter DVD for free, enter to win! Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I was provided with a DVD to try and with one to give away to one of you lovely lucky people.  Shipping will be directly from Little Pim.  PwcMoms is not responsible for your child walking around speaking a language you don't understand.  Winner assumes all liability.

It's Back! Snow and Story 2012/2013

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Published: 09/26/2012
The Prince William Ice Center will once again be offering "Snow and Story" both for playgroups and preschools who pre-register and for those who wish to drop in.  Admission is $6 per child and includes play on the ice with snow and toys, hot chocolate and a cookie, and a story read by a Prince William Ice Center employee.  Prince William Ice Center is located at 5180 Dale Boulevard Woodbridge, VA, and is next to the Hylton Boys and Girls Club.  


Drop-in Snow and Story will take place on October 1st and 23rd, November 5th and 20th, December 3rd and 18th, January 7th and 22nd, February 4th and 19th, March 4th and March 19th.  
Groups can also arrange for their own snow and story time.  Groups must be 15 or more and may pre-register by calling 703-730-8423. 


Guest Post: Play is Exercise for Children

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Published: 09/06/2012

Play = Exercise
Watch a young child playing and you will notice how much they move their body.  Children will walk, run, sprint, lift, squat, jump, climb, and stretch; all of the things we pay a personal trainer to tell us to do!  The children are doing it because they enjoy it!  Play is a form of exercise for children AND parents.    During play, children are usually laughing, smiling, encouraging each other, sweating, and high fiving each other when they accomplish something together.  These children are exercising and moving their bodies, but to them they are just playing and having fun!  When we play with our children, we not only reap the benefits of exercise, we also form a stronger bond.
Children need and want to move.  As parents and child care providers, we must provide children with opportunities to move.  Children are action-orientated and like to be challenged mentally and physically.  Movement promotes physical fitness and the enhancement of a positive self-image, self-confidence, creativity, and self expression.  Movement has also been proven to stimulate the learning process.  Early motor development has been recognized by physical educators and human development specialists to be one of the most important factors in the optimum physical, mental, academic, and overall development of your child.
We are all aware of the increase in childhood obesity in Prince William County.  Obesity can lead to numerous health issues.  By encouraging movement and increasing opportunities available to our young children they will naturally develop an enjoyment of moving their bodies and gain self confidence to accomplish anything in school and life.    
Here are a few ideas to get you started:  
INFANTS
  • Bicycle baby’s legs and arms gently to stretch out large muscles.  Afterwards, lay baby on back and do push-ups, give baby a kiss for each one completed. 
  • Supervised tummy time helps back and neck strength for the baby.  Lie on your stomach beside the baby; arch your back and move arms and legs like a swimmer.  
  • Hold older baby up and encourage them to jump up and down.  Use your biceps to lift baby higher and lower gently to work your arms. 

TODDLERS
  • Use a large ball to kick around with your child.  “Race” your child to get the ball.
  • Place child’s favorite doll/toy in a wagon and have child pull.  Walk beside wagon.
  • Have an ‘aerobics class’ with your toddler.  Turn on music and stretch, jump, and dance.  Your toddler will imitate your movements.

AGES 2-3 YEAR OLDS
  • Play Monkey See, Monkey Do utilizing different arm and leg positions, bending activities and other body movements.
  • Have your child throw balls or bean bags into a laundry basket.
  • Play a simple game of Follow the Leader through an easy obstacle course, using small blocks or chairs to step or climb over.  Use the entire room.
AGES 3-4 YEAR OLDS
  • Have your child toss bean bags or balls into a box while pretending the box is a mouth of an animal that you are feeding.  
  • Set up an obstacle course with streets and bridges to go through, over, and under by driving their imaginary car, bus, or train.
  • Play imagination games where you ask your child to be different things such as an airplane, popping popcorn, a floating balloon, frog, and various animals.  Demonstrate when necessary but encourage your child to use their imagination.
AGES 4-5 YEAR OLDS
  • Have your child move to music use movement words such as:  run, gallop, hop, skip, spin, twist, jump, and roll.  ‘Freeze’ when the music stops.
  • Give your child a balloon and challenge them to keep it up in the air and not let it hit the ground.  Volley the balloon back and forth to each other.
  • Provide a tumbling mat or carpet area where they can perform somersaults and other tumbling exercises.
Get moving - you and your child will have FUN!




Kathy Harju and Christy Moore recently opened their own child care center, Above & Beyond Child Care, in Manassas.  While working together for Prince William County supervising children's programs, they both realized they had the same dream of opening their own center.  Kathy and Christy have the same positive, energetic approach to working with children and enjoy it immensely.  They have a combined total of 45 years of child care experience.  They are looking forward to serving the Manassas area and would love to meet you and your child!

Phone:  703-361-2692

Smiley Face Pizzas

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Published: 09/05/2012
As I shared a few weeks ago, I'm on a constant hunt for easy-to-eat foods for our co-op days.  We tried out corn dog muffins, which were a hit with my kids, so I thought I'd switch it up for some vegetarian fare this time!

So pizza.  Pretty easy.  Easier than rotating pictures in your blog posts.  True story.  For these, we used whole wheat mini pitas as our base, leftover spaghetti sauce as our sauce, some part-skim mozzarella, and some bell peppers.  My kids adore bell peppers, and snack on the red ones whenever they can get their hands on them.  
I used the wrong end of a piping tip to cut circles, but a small cookie cutter or even a knife would help you get shapes just as well.  You could use other veggies, too, to make your faces, but we had bell peppers, sooooo....we just went with it. 
This one isn't rocket science.  Place a mini pita on the pan, add sauce to your liking (I let the kids make their own, so you'll notice various levels of sauce and cheese application) and then funny face it up! Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts, but do not over bake or the pitas will become too crunchy to be enjoyable.

These were a big hit for us.  We baked them the day before and ate them room temperature at CC for lunch.  The kids thought they were great, and didn't mind that they weren't hot.  My 8 year old ate two, but one was enough for each of the others.

Smiley Face Pizzas
4 Whole Wheat Mini Pitas
1/2 Cup Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 Cup Marina or Pizza Sauce
Vegetables to top

Guest Post: Building Good Teacher/Day Care Provider Relationships

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Published: 08/28/2012

Building good relationships with your daycare provider/teacher
By Nicole Dash, Tiny Steps Mommy
The start of school is a time of new beginning for many families. This year, my three older children start eighth grade, first grade, and kindergarten (insert sad face here). In my daycare, I am welcoming a few new children to replace my rising kindergarteners.
For many parents with children beginning daycare, preschool, or kindergarten for the first-time, the question is always the same. How do we stay connected with our children? When they are infants, we depend on and expect their providers to relay pertinent information about what how many ounces they drink, what they eat, whether they had a BM or not, etc. As they get a little older, our child care providers and teachers may share information about what they are learning, what story they read, and what fun activities occupy their day. But, this is not all we want to know. Are they having fun? Do they have a best friend and play well with others? Are they discovering something new each day? Did someone hurt their feelings? Do they enjoy learning?
So, how do we find out the answers to all these questions? The truth is as our children grow, we have to accept that sometimes we will not know everything that happens each day. Not even a webcam can tell the whole story. As children spend more time away from us, they develop a world beyond our scope. It hurts to think about, but it is a normal part of growing up. 
There are ways, however, to gain glimpses into this world. And this is through the eyes of their teachers and child care providers. As a child care provider, I feel privileged to witness the dynamics between the children who spend so much time together. With each month, their relationships become more intricate. Some days, I feel like I am observing a social experiment. 
If you build a positive and open relationship with your child’s provider/teacher then perhaps you will hear about stories that go beyond the daily report. Here are some tips for building a relationship with your child’s daycare provider/teacher. These tips may not make a difference beyond kindergarten, but are certainly worth a try.
  1. Introduce yourself. This may seem simple, but as your child heads into a larger setting, you want your child’s teacher to know you beyond “mom of one of the students.” You want your child’s teacher to know your name, face, and perhaps something about you.
  2. Ask their preferred form of communication. Don’t bombard your teacher/provider at the end of each day. Instead ask their preferred form of communication. Let them know you want to hear stories and updates. Not just on their “academic” progress, but about their social interactions. Sometimes you just have to ask.
  3. Don’t over communicate. Just because your teacher/provider gives you his/her e-mail or cell phone number does not mean you should call or e-mail every day, on weekends, or just because. Save your phone calls and e-mails for real questions or occasional check-ins. And be patient with a response. Your teacher/provider has a personal life and may not be able to (want to) respond at midnight or on Saturdays.
  4. Volunteer your time. Find out how your provider/teacher feels about volunteers. Even if you work full-time, try to make yourself available at least once or twice a year. I have always worked, so my ability to volunteer regularly is limited. I do, however, make a point to attend special events, like Thanksgiving lunch, Mother’s Day teas, or other special events. Your teacher and children will appreciate the effort.
  5. Offer to help. Teachers and providers often spend their own money on supplies. Ask if there is anything you can provide or bring to the classroom. Even better is to simply donate supplies like tissues, glue sticks, and anti-bacterial wipes throughout the year without waiting to be asked.
  6. Get to know them. Be interested in your teacher/provider as a person. Ask them about their weekend. Get to know if they have a family. Did they grow up locally? Is this their first year teaching? Did they have a profession before teaching? Don’t interrogate, but let this getting to know you process happen organically. The more you and your provider/teacher get to know each other, the more comfortable he/she will be sharing about your child.
  7. Be appreciative. You don’t have to buy expensive gifts or make grand gestures to show your appreciation. My favorite things have been handwritten and personal cards telling me how I have made a difference. Showing your appreciation is important, because it helps teachers/providers get through the hard days.
  8. Be proactive.  If you sense a problem at school, or if your child is suddenly acting out at home, please do not wait to communicate these issues. Your teacher/provider is there to help you and your child. They may not be aware of an issue, but probably have the insight needed to fill in the blanks.
Taking these steps may not guarantee the extra information you desire, but, it can go a long way to making you feel connected. And the next time your provider/teacher witnesses a funny scenario or example of some positive accomplishment, he/she may think to pull you aside or e-mail you to tell you the story simply because of the mutual relationship.
Do you have suggestions for building a positive relationship with your child’s teacher? Do you have a story about a good or bad relationship with your child’s provider? I want to hear from you. Connect with me on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/TinyStepsMommy) and visit www.TinyStepsMommy.com, a blog about family life and caring for children – yours and mine, to read more.

About Nicole Dash, The Tiny Steps Mommy
Nicole Dash, creator of the blog Tiny Steps Mommy (www.TinyStepsMommy.com), is a mother of four, childcare business owner and writer living in Annandale, Va. Five days a week she welcomes infants, toddlers, preschoolers and all their parents to Tiny Steps Day Care, her home-based daycare and preschool.

Guest Post: Last-Minute Back to School Shopping

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Published: 08/25/2012
Thanks to Laura Harders, AKA Beltway Bargain Mom, for following up with us on her input to PotomacLocal.com about back to school shopping!



Back-to-School shopping can be stressful and expensive, and perhaps you've been putting it off to the last possible moment. Whether you've been dreading *or delighting* in the back-to-school frenzy, I want to encourage you not to panic! Here in Prince William County, the public schools start back up the day after Labor Day, so you still have some time to get in gear for the school year. In case you need to do some shopping still or want to donate supply items on-the-cheap to local charities or organizations like Operation Christmas Child, I'm here to help! Here are my top 7 savings tips to help you with your last-minute back-to-school shopping:
  1. Shop in your house first.If your child has supplies from last year that are still good this year, like scissors, colored pencils, highlighters, ruler, calculator, etc, you don't need to buy new ones. Check your supply closet or craft drawer for items you already have.
  2. Stick to your list.Check your school's website for your supply list by grade, so you know the exact supplies you need. After you "shop" in your house, then make a list of the items you need to buy.
  3. Shop the sales.There are still some great deals to be had! The office supply stores have many 1-cent deals or 50%+ deals on back-to-school supplies. Take advantage of these sales and stock up.
  4. Use Coupons.You'll find many school supply coupons in your Sunday paper as well as printable coupons online. Also, some stores accept competitor coupons as well.
  5. Drug Stores & Office Supply Stores.Check out the drug stores & office supply stores for deals. Look at the weekly circulars for extreme deals such as Staples 1-cent Extreme Deals, and free-after-rebate items. You may not think of the drug store or office supply stores as your center for back-to-school deals, but they have quite a few!
  6. Price match.Take advantage of stores that price match, such as Office Depot, Staples, Target and Walmart. If a hot sale item is out-of-stock at a store and they don't offer a rain check, you can take your store ad/circular to a competitor that price matches to get the same deal. Price-matching can also help you save time, by combining shopping trips into 1 stop at a single store for that week's sale items.
  7. Go plain.If your child is intent on buying name brand or "official" rockstar/sports team/super hero branded gear, encourage them to buy a plain/generic item and decorate. You can buy stickers, patches and other DIY items on the cheap at your local craft store to help give notebooks, binders, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. a personal touch.
Credit: Amber Seat Photography

Laura Harders lives in Prince William County and is a native Northern Virginian who loves to share ways to save. She runs the blog BeltwayBargainMom.com and teaches local Savings Nation coupon workshops. You can find Laura sharing tips & being social on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.