THE BLOG

This is our place to share parenting perspectives, member news, community events and other ideas.


The AFC Blog presents articles written by our members and people from the local community. If you would like to contribute to the blog (just once or regularly), please contact Amber to get involved!

  • Wednesday, March 08, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I probably shouldn’t do this… but I’m going to share my super-secret activity for weekday afternoons. The location isn’t secret. Everybody knows that the Oakland Zoo is a fun adventure for families with kids of any age (or for grown-ups without kids too). The trick is in the timing!

    Typically, when parents plan activities for the kids, the goal is to get there early – to beat the crowds and to ensure a full day of fun. This is a mistake. The morning is great when you first arrive but within an hour or two, the crowds reach full capacity. The levels of noise and chaos increase with each arrival. Your toddler becomes a ticking time bomb from over-stimulation. You’re constantly hovering, forced into helicopter mode by throngs of kids and other, equally-stressed parents. What happened to that nice day you were gonna have at the zoo? The fun? The relaxation?

    Well, we fixed the zoo trip.

    The first trick is to buy a membership. Zoo memberships are a great investment. The perks include free parking, discounts at other area attractions, one complementary family pass  and a handful of ride tickets for the mini amusement park. Ultimately, the lowest level of family membership costs about as much as two visits. You can keep an eye out for sales and discounts (like on Cyber Monday), and once you join there are always incentives for renewal when the next year rolls around.

    Toddler looking at river otter exhibit

    Once you can visit as often as you like, the pressure to “make a day of it” is off and you can make the best choice possible. You can go late! Because the zoo is at it’s best in the two hours before closing time.

    I call it The Golden Hour.

    Free from the stresses of chaotic crowds, you can smile as your child runs ahead with unbridled enthusiasm. There’s nobody to run into. Mom and Dad have a clear view. And with only a few other lucky families enjoying the afternoon quiet, the place feels magically private.

    The animals can sense the dropped tension too. Without the noise and chaos caused by tons of visitors, the animals settle into more natural, playful routines. The gorillas are no longer agitated and stare curiously through the glass. Tigers that usually hide throughout the crazy morning and hot afternoon now come out to play. They tumble around the habitat like kittens, wrestling together and purring happily. A family of otters enjoys their evening meal as zookeepers begin the process of feeding all the animals before bedtime. The animals snack as guests enjoy a fun little show.

    Family at the zoo

    I’m not going to lie. The first time we went to the zoo at 2:30pm on a weekday, it was an absolute fluke. I couldn’t get it together . Nobody had shoes. Grandma got out of work late. All the sippy cups had disappeared somehow. We left the house hours later than intended without ever considering the fact that closing time was at four. But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way! Now, we just make a habit of going late and planning a short, special visit. No meltdowns. No crowds. No problems. Just an hour or two of peaceful, playful, educational fun.

    So next time you finish up lunch and are wondering how to spend the last bit of your afternoon, consider the zoo. There’s no better time to visit than when there’s hardly any time left to visit!

    – Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa serves on the AFC Board of Directors as Marketing & Communications chair. She’s also a mom of two wild little men.


  • Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    You’re invited to our next Education Series event, Black History is American History: Talking to Tots about Diversity. We will be gathering on March 18 from 11-12:30 at Rhythmix Cultural Works (2513 Blanding Ave, Alameda) to engage in an open dialogue about raising children in a culturally, racially diverse society.

    The concept for this Education Series event was originally discussed as a February workshop idea, but I wanted to break out of the tokenizing restraints of Black History Month and highlight the fact that we need to talk about and celebrate diversity all year long. In an ideal world, Black History would just be a part of our shared history. But, for some children, February may be the only time they hear about Black leaders and the impacts they’ve had on the world. In our current society, we desperately need Black History Month. Unfortunately, it is often the same few Black Americans being honored in a narrow and limited way. In a world where our  current  leader is trying to divide us apart, it is imperative that we actively work towards creating a more inclusive community. This means having sometimes awkward and uncomfortable conversations about race, religion, sexual orientation, and class and how they all intersect.

    Hands in many different shades reaching out to form a circle

    The best way to help our children avoid internalizing the wide array of isms that exist in our society is to discuss them fully, ensuring that all narratives are examined. The upcoming workshop will empower parents to reflect on their own privileges in a judgement-free way.  The goal is to broaden our own perspectives and understanding of diversity so that we can comfortably talk to our young children about the complexities and nuances of multiculturalism.

    The conversation will be facilitated by Michelle St. Germaine, an Alameda mom who is the Assistant Director of the California Early Childhood Mentor Program. Ms. St. Germaine has more than two decades of experience in the Early Care and Education profession. Prior to coming to the mentor program, she spent 15 years working as a teacher in an Early Childhood Development lab school where she modeled best practices and mentored practicum students in quality care and education practices. Eleven of those years were in a demonstration classroom for infant and toddler care. She has worked as an adjunct instructor at Chabot College, Cal State East Bay, and currently, Merritt Community College. Her background and passion will help us to create a lively, informative discussion at this special event.

    All AFC Education Series events are free and open to the public. Childcare will be provided by the Alameda Family Collective Babysitting Coop. Please join us in helping to create a better, kinder future through positive parenting and continued self-education.

    – Mali McGee

    Mali serves on the AFC Board of Directors as the Education Series Chair. She is a passionate mother and activist.


  • Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parenthood offers up its own intense on-the-job training with each new day as our children grow and change. However, it’s nice to have some help and an expert opinion from time to time. Along those lines, AFC members can now enjoy a new resource for parenting knowledge with our Lending Library.

    This resource came into being when my doula suggested that I give away a book she’d loaned to my husband. I posted it on our Facebook page and several mothers expressed an interest. Rather organically, they began to organize a borrowing schedule that would allow them all to share the book. I could not miss the obvious message – our community needs its own library!

    Stack of three parenting books

    The AFC Lending Library will feature books on a variety of topics related to parenting including birthing methods, pregnancy, fatherhood, sleep training, healthy habits, relationships, babies and toddlers. Books can be borrowed for one month, up to 3 books per family at a time.

    Borrowing requests can be made by email. To see what titles are available, members can visit the AFC Library Catalog online where books will be listed by topic for easy, intuitive browsing. (Members can access the catalog via a link listed under our Facebook group’s pinned post.)

    Several of the parenting books in the AFC lending library

    All books have been generously donated by members of AFC and the greater Alameda community. If you currently have gently-used parenting books that would be appropriate for inclusion, we would greatly appreciate your contribution to our little library. Just give them to a board member or get in touch.

    It is my hope that this new resource will allow our members the opportunity to access more knowledge for better, happier parenting experiences without spending extra money or creating waste. The AFC Lending Library is just one more way that the families our community are coming together to help one another!

    – Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa is the chair of Marketing & Communications on the AFC Board. She manages the website and blog in addition to wrangling two tiny men.


  • Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A year and a half ago when I decided to step away from my teaching career and explore life as a stay-at-home mother, I spent many hours combing parenting blogs and websites. I needed inspiration for how to fill my days with my walking and babbling son. I had a few mom friends who worked part-time or were also home with their children, so we eagerly scheduled playdates. It was a daily challenge (and still is) to come up with creative activities that engaged my little one and pushed me out of my comfort zone as a parent. With that, sensory playdates were born. I hoped that I could encourage and learn from other parents who were willing to embrace the opportunity to get messy and creative together!

    Children doing a scooping activity in a park

    Sensory play is critical to a child’s development. They do it naturally when they put objects in their mouths or when they bathe themselves in sand at the sandbox. But, for many parents, it can be challenging to let our children engage in this kind of sensory play when it involves messes. Or we may hesitate to let them roam freely in nature, even if it is  just in a pile of leaves in the backyard. To be honest, these acts of inhibition made me uncomfortable at first…so I kept pursuing it with his best interest and development in mind. Children need to put their hands in dirt; they need to play with play dough. They need to paint, to scoop tiny objects like beans and oatmeal, to be a scientist in their budding, explorative ways while transferring water from one bucket to another.

    The original goal of these playdates was to introduce a sensory-based and engaging activity to both the child and the caregiver. We wanted to encourage this type of play at home by  collaborating and sharing the recipe for fun. Most of the activities that participants have hosted were just that – stimulating and interesting for the child and easy enough to be recreated at home.

    Sometimes children might find certain sensations uncomfortable and aversive. I also say – stick with it! Give them a chance to move into it slowly, supportively, and allow for many, many opportunities to try it. Children may have sensitivities to sounds, textures or tastes. Using their fine and gross motor skills such as grabbing small objects, pushing rolling pins on play dough, or jumping into a bean bag may be a struggle. But, they will learn from their peers by observing and trying once it seems more like play.

    Child playing with leaves

    Some of our inspiration comes from parenting blogs like http://www.funathomewithkids.com/, http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/http://handsonaswegrow.com/ and Pinterest. My hope is that parents continue to see the inherent value of letting children get messy and doing it with other like-minded friends! The kids love it, and it’s fun to spend some time exploring new horizons together.

    – Julie Venuto

    Julie serves on several AFC committees and helps to organize Sensory playdates in addition to the Music for All Ages program.


  • Wednesday, February 08, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sometimes getting my kid to eat vegetables is the hardest part of my day. I try my best at every meal and still somehow arrive at 8pm totally aware of my utter failure to convince him that vegetables aren’t trying to kill him. Success is often entirely dependent upon my ability to sneak them in… so here’s a list of AFC’s favorite tricks for getting vegetables into your kid’s mouth.

    Carrot juice pouring into pot of box mac n'cheese

    Carrot Surprise: My son loves his “Blue Box” Macaroni and Cheese. I often add a can of tuna for some protein. But what about a vegetable? Carrot juice! Use any boxed Mac N Cheese and replace the dairy component with carrot juice. The flavor is hidden behind delicious golden cheesy goodness and your kid will be none-the-wiser.

    The Un-Mac: While we’re doing Mac N Cheese… consider swapping out cauliflower for pasta when making homemade versions! The taste is very mild and under some cheesy goodness, the difference is almost undetectable.

    Pasta is Pasta: Right? So spice up your pasta game with the easiest vegetable swap of all and use a pasta that already contains vegetables! Barilla offers up options with spinach & zucchini or tomato & carrot. And, there are other brands with similar products.

    The Fine Dice: For kids who love pasta with sauce… finely diced spinach is your friend. I’m talking a very very fine dice. Just keep chopping until it’s basically spinach dust and then throw it in there. I can typically work about a handful into a bowl of pasta. That’s a veg, folks!

    Avo-cadabra: Avocado’s natural creaminess makes it an easy sub for other fats. Use it to up the nutritional content of classic favorites like deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, and even chocolate mousse.

    Smoothies & Milkshakes for the Win: Pair your kid’s favorite fruits with vegetables in delicious smoothies or milkshakes. Mild-flavored veggies like zucchini or yellow squash are great additions with little to no flavor impact. And sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes or roasted red pepper blend especially well with berries.

    KIND Pineapple Banana Kale Spinach bars

    The Lie: I have convinced my kid that the Pineapple Banana Kale & Spinach bars we’ve been buying him at Trader Joe’s are CANDY BARS. I tell him he can’t have one… it’s not time for a treat. Momma was saving it for herself; it’s not yours. Make that prefab veggie-rich item a coveted treat instead of calling it like it is – healthyish.

    Popsicles from Heaven: Outshine makes some tasty fruit-rich popsicles and even some with no sugar added. But did you know that they make a version with vegetables added to the mix? It’s zero effort. Just throw your kid a treat they desperately want anyway and do it with a sense of pride. They’re eating a vegetable. You did that!

    And, if all else fails, try throwing some money at the problem. A recent Wall Street Journal article suggested temporary cash incentives may help create sustained healthy eating habits; there’s even a study to prove it!

    Share your favorite tricks for getting your little ones to eat veggies in the comments section below. When every serving counts, we need all the help we can get!

    – Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa is the chair of Marketing & Communications on the AFC Board. She manages the website and blog in addition to wrangling two tiny men.


  • Wednesday, February 01, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Trabocco

    Trabocco on Yelp

    Good for ages: 0+

    Kid-friendliness: 4/5

    Time to food: 12 minutes

    Highchairs? Yes

    Crayons? Yes

    The fact is, it’s not always easy to find a restaurant that’s kid-friendly but also appropriate for celebrating a truly special occasion. When your business colleague wants to meet your whole family for dinner or when honoring a treasured relative, the last place you want to make your reservation is at a “kids’ restaurant.” What’s a family to do? Fortunately, we have a great white-tablecloth option in here in Alameda that welcomes kids with a smile!

    Trabocco Kitchen + Cocktails is located at the South Shore Center and serves up authentic Italian cuisine with unabashed warmth and hospitality. You can tell it’s owner-run and operated. The chef is always circulating throughout the dining room, ensuring that everyone is having a great time. When I was pregnant, he happily joined us for a few minutes to discuss parenting and the bittersweet nature of kids growing up. And, as our server explained, “[They] don’t have customers at Trabocco, [they] have friends and guests.”

    Toddler boy drinking from straw cup

    The kids’ menu features beautiful Italian fare that any adult would be happy to eat. Pastas galore, simple protein options, and very little “dumbing down” of their cuisine. Plus, you can always just order a delicious pizza from the regular menu. Prices and portions are reasonable. And, honestly, I couldn’t stop stealing bites of my son’s cheesy macaroni. “Come on, just let mom try one more bite?!?!”

    Now, you might hesitate to take your kid to such a nice place, and I don’t blame you. Dining out with children is no simple undertaking…and the last thing you want is to make a scene or to leave before the food even arrives. What I love about Trabocco’s location is that you can easily take your kid out into the complex for some quick run-around time if they need a break from the dining table. This is especially easy if you request a seat outside – don’t worry, they have heaters if it’s cold out. When we were ready to go, the staff was speedy about packing up leftovers, bringing the check, and helping us to be on our way before the kids had any issues.

    Creme brulee

    How do I know that it definitely wasn’t a problem for us to show up at a fine dining establishment with a newborn and a toddler? When we returned for date night a few months later, our server remembered us and our children. She was delighted to see us taking some time just for mom and dad, but let us know she can’t wait to see our boys again. We’ll definitely be going back.

    – Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa is the chair of Marketing & Communications on the AFC Board. She manages the website and blog in addition to wrangling two tiny men.


  • Wednesday, January 25, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    School’s back in session, and we guarantee you won’t want to miss this class! Every other Thursday, AFC holds an Educational Playdate geared toward getting your little ones excited about learning and familiar with basic classroom concepts. Children ages 1.5 to 4 are welcome to attend so they can prepare for school in a relaxed, supportive environment with friends. Each lesson focuses on a new theme, often related to the current season or an approaching holiday, and seeks to integrate STEM oriented activities in a play-based curriculum.

    Two toddlers playing at a picnic table

    What’s really great is that these educational playdates are run by and dependent upon parent participation! Each session, a parent hosts – offering up the opportunity to share their wisdom and teaching skills with a group of young, eager learners. Any and all parents are welcome to host. If you are crafty or loved playing “school” as a kid, then this is a great way to volunteer within AFC. If you want to host but don’t know where to start or what to do, the program coordinators have a selection of resources and outlined lessons to follow. Contact one of them through Meetup or Facebook and they will gladly guide you, answering any questions you may have. It’s a great way to be more active within the AFC community without making a long-term or ongoing commitment. And, your child will love having their parent lead the group in this co-op style classroom.

     Scheduled curriculum for these 2 hour playdates usually looks something like this:

    – Circle time to discuss the theme for the day
    – Theme-related activity
    – Snack time
    – Physical activity
    – Storybook session
    – Goodbyes and (optional) free play

    Check out our Pinterest page for an idea of what has been done in the past, as well as  for inspiration if you would like to try you hand at hosting: AFC Educational Playdates Inspo.

    Montage of preschoolers doing art projects

    Playdates can be arranged to meet in-home or at local park. Having the perfect classroom in your home definitely isn’t required to volunteer! If you’d like to participate as a host or want your child to attend, check out the Educational Playdates on the AFC Meetup Calendar. It’s a wonderful way to prepare your children for a lifetime of learning and educational exploration. We can’t wait to see you there!

    – Jessica Flash

    Jessica serves on the AFC Marketing & Communications committee as an editor & regular blog contributor while being a mom to two awesome little girls.


  • Thursday, January 12, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Have you seen all those viral videos with kids being magically calmed by swirls of glitter in a bottle?!? Well, I have! I know they’re supposed to be great for helping toddlers to overcome their big, new emotions like frustration & anger, but – if I’m really being honest – I was just thrilled with the idea of swirling glitter.

    Half filled water bottle, funnel, glitter, and glitter glue

    These things are actually very easy to make. You just need: a plastic bottle, glitter glue, glitter (small or large, any color), food coloring (optional), and water.

    First, fill the bottle about halfway with very warm water. Then, add the glue and stir or shake to dissolve. After that, add glitter, coloring, and then fill to the top. Seal the bottle – Super Glue might be a great idea here. Shake and enjoy!

    Toddler boy holding glitter bottle

    When selecting supplies, there are a few things to consider. The more glue you add, the slower the glitter will swirl and fall. Additionally, larger glitter will fall faster. You can use a variety of glitter here to have some falling slow & some fast. We used three small tubes of glitter glue (pictured) and only large glitter in ours; it takes about 3 minutes for the sparkles to “calm down” within the bottle. You can make this by reusing bottles that would otherwise end up in the bin on Trash Day, but there are also bottles available for purchase via Amazon or at craft stores. Experiment with different materials, quanitities, and bottle shapes for a variety of shimmering results!


    Smiling toddler boy lying in front of glitter bottle

    This craft took about 10 minutes to do. The little guy was thrilled to help squeeze glitter glue out of the tiny tubes into the bottle. He helped add the glitter, using a funnel to minimize the mess. Afterwards, we were able to enjoy some quality time watching the glitter, talking about the color and shiny goodness, and discussing how to manipulate the glitter by shaking or turning the bottle. I’m not sure how useful it will be to help calm him down… but one thing is sure – my love of glitter definitely passed down to the next generation!

    “The sparkles! Shiny! I LOVE IT!” – Owen

    – Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa is the chair of Marketing & Communications on the AFC Board. She manages the website and blog in addition to wrangling two tiny men.


  • Wednesday, January 11, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When my husband and I decided to move to California, I instantly imagined sunny weather with little rain. Upon arrival, one couldn’t miss the “brown is the new green” signs, the lack of flowing fountains, and threatening messages from the water company. California is in a drought, take heed! …and then it rained for three weeks. Needless to say, this winter has been one of our wettest to date. Lucky for us, there are no shortage of indoor play spaces to keep our little ones occupied. Here are my top five favorite indoor play spaces in the Bay Area, sure to please.

    Two toddlers playing on a platform swing

    Jumpity Bumpity (Hayward) – An ocean themed indoor recreation center for ages 12 and under. The entire play space is essentially a gigantic jungle gym, complete with slides, obstacle courses, tunnels, and swings. A separate toddler area includes merry go rounds, a rocking boat, age-appropriate slides, and piano mat. A train table, play kitchen, and arcade games complete this amazing space.

    Mel’s Play Place (Castro Valley) – For sitters, crawlers, and new walkers, there is a padded gym area with mirrors surrounding the perimeter and toys, including activity tables. For toddlers, you will find three play houses, ride on toys, play structures with slides, and two bounce houses. Additional play areas include a basketball net, air hockey table, lego tables, and chalk board.

    Kid’s Gym (Berkeley) – You begin in a room filled with puzzles, arts & crafts, and a massive chalk wall. The next room has gym equipment, including tunnels, slides, just about every swing imaginable, and even a zip line! An alternate room offers two large trampolines, a rock climbing wall, and basketball net. Additional rooms include train tables, building blocks, books, baby toys, you name it – there’s a good chance Kids Gym has it. They even have a nap room and sensory calming room.

    Twirl (Alameda) – Our home town play space boasts many imaginative play areas (kitchen, cash registers, dress up, tool bench, etc.) as well as a play structure with slide, lego wall, ride on toys, train table, books, baby toys, and so much more. The large arts and crafts area with rotating projects such as painting, sensory bins, play-doh, and seasonal collages sets this apart from the rest.

    Toddler sitting on a ride

    Small Talk Family Cafe (Walnut Creek) – A cafe and meeting place, a safe play area for children, plus additional, daily activities such as art projects, storytime, and even massages? Sign me up! Here you’ll find separate play areas for babies versus small children. They have a large selection of baby toys, as well as kitchens, puzzles, train table, slide, and dress up clothes. They serve numerous lattes, teas, and snacks, so bring your appetite.

    There you have it. What are your favorite places to escape the rain? Let us know in the comments!

    – Amber Prewitt

    Amber is an AFC member who serves the organization by helping to coordinate both Sensory Playdates and Mom’s Night Out.


  • Wednesday, January 04, 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Welcome to the new year. It’s 2017 and I think it’s fair to say we’re all just trying to move forward with hope, grace, and determination (leaving 2016 far far far behind us). Everyone has made their resolutions. Some of us are headed back to the gym. Others are throwing out their sugar and preparing to use the hashtag #Whole30 a lot. Others still are tucking their wine bottles away as they embark upon the journey of Dry January.

    This year? This year, I’m jumping on a new tradition in the style of NBC’s much-loved sitcom Parks and Recreation. Folks, it’s time to TREAT YO SELF!

    All too often, as parents, we focus everything we’ve got into one or two areas. Parenting & Work. That’s it. That’s where we put our 100%. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, when the kids are finally in bed – we spend some time folding laundry, tackling last minute to-do list items that went ignored in favor of tantrum control, or just give up and grab a glass of wine (assuming it’s not still Dry January). Ultimately, this pattern of constant catch-up and exhaustion short changes the whole family. Burnt out parents can’t be their best for anyone. We start get frustrated with the kiddos. We don’t give our partner the patience & support they deserve. If you work outside the home, that suffers too (since it’s hard to excel on only 3 hours of sleep when you’re also worried about that load of laundry you didn’t fold because you gave up and had wine instead).

    So, I propose we all take some time to live like Tom & Donna once in a while. When we focus on ourselves as individuals a little bit more, we feel more fulfilled and can be our best for the ones we love. Here’s a short list of practical little ideas for how you can Treat Yo Self in 2017.

    • Take a Bubble Bath (with a side of Netflix binge, some chocolates, and maybe wine).
    • Hire a sitter for a few hours and just go for a walk or sit at the park. Do nothing.
    • Make your favorite meal for dinner, even if nobody else likes it.
    • Buy the good stuff once in a while. Whatever it is that you always buy generic but really love… splurge and buy the fancy brand. Chocolate. Cereal. Shampoo. Dish soap. Whatever would feel most luxurious!
    • Sleep in! (Make plans with your spouse or a friend to do whatever it takes. Just stay in bed until it’s way too late to still be there.)
    • Indulge with friends by setting up a Meetup where you do home spa treatments, go for a wine tasting, or even take a relaxing jog together. Because sometimes treats are best enjoyed with good company.
    • Take time to breathe. Often. Even if you have to hide in the bathroom to do it.
    • Go full-blown Tom & Donna… hit the day spa, buy a ton designer clothes & enjoy every meal with a glass  champagne and a side of truffle butter. (Ok, maybe that’s a bit much.)

    It’s 2017 and it’s ok to take care of yourself first sometimes. It’s actually more than ok – it’s important. Happy New Year!

    – Marissa Ramirez


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