Ways to get kids involved in more than playtime


To be aware is to perceive, feel, be conscious of and engage with your surroundings. As parents, we are aware of many things. We’re aware when there is a child in the pantry. Or when a shirtless exhibitionist answers the UPS man’s knock. Or even when your basement bathroom has become the local hot zone. Although, by definition, these enlightenments fit the bill, it’s not the type of awareness we’re talking about here. Instead, we’re giving you ideas on how to get your kids involved in community, education, service and social interaction. You know, so they can be aware on why it’s important to keep themselves busy and their parents away from an extended prescription for Xanax.

The Hope Artiste Village is the home to the Wintertime Farmers Market, and it runs on Saturday mornings through May. A whole different seasonal crop of goodness to be had, the winter market boasts tons of fruits and veggies, along with local jams, jellies, pastries, gluten-free breads, fair-trade chocolates and more.

Any park that covets a gigantic canvas-covered sandbox or funky netted obstacles to climb is a favorite park of ours. Aside from the unique playground options, Friends of Brown Street Park hosts community gardens, summer concerts, performances, kids fitness expos, holiday activities and other fun family events. This neighborhood playspace is a testament to a true community park and should be on your list of places to visit.

If it’s a community space you’re looking for your kids to be involved with, look no further than the Providence/East Side YMCA. Aside from sports, aquatics and fun and fitness, the YMCA provides programs like Healthy Weight for kids and teens, arts and humanities classes and volunteerism. They also offers community youth outreach programs, like Y on the Move – which brings programs to youths and families where they live, play and learn together, in an effort to promote family health and well-being. The community involvement will gear your kids in becoming natural do-gooders and, let’s face it, it won’t hurt their someday-college applications either.

Does your little one constantly offer to help cook, clean, build or finish a task? Maybe volunteerism will make them happier than going to Nintendo Land. (Maybe.) Serve Rhode Island is the state’s volunteer center and commission for national and community service – where youth and students can find volunteer opportunities for the causes they love through SRI’s website. Even if they don’t have time between school, sports and work to physically commit, they can offer to handle small tasks from the comforts of their own computer or smartphone, in what’s called “micro-volunteering.” Micro-volunteering is like being a freelancer (but on a volunteer basis) who helps with something as simple as gathering information on a topic to a short-term task like translating a web page for a company. Check out the endless opportunities on SRI’s website.

If kids are anything, it’s flexible. You know that extended side angle pose you’ve been trying to perfect for months? Your eight-year-old will nail it in two tries after hanging out at Om Kids Yoga Center. Om Kids Yoga takes the ancient practice of yoga and translates it to a language that children enjoy. By using interactive games and animated postures, kids will build body awareness, improve concentration and focus, build confidence and self-esteem, and learn how to release energy and relax while also laying the foundation for a lifetime of health and well being. Plus, they have fun events like pajama parties and mother/daughter retreats.

You can’t help but to be captivated the moment you walk into any Whole Foods location – it’s like a playground for the senses. Both Providence locations (University Heights and Waterman Street) just launched the Whole Foods Market Kids Club. The super cool club issues an official “Kids Club” card to each child that they can show at Customer Service each visit to receive a free treat. (If you get lucky, they’ll share it with you.) The first spring Kids Club event is on March 20 – Planting Seeds for Healthy Eating – where kids will plant seeds for nutritious vegetables and make a healthy snack. In addition to all of this, the store offers tours on request for schools, girl scouts and more.

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