Do you know a motivated parent who has made a difference in the lives of Arkansas children?
Little Rock Family is now taking nominations for our first-ever Pioneering Parents feature, which will tell the stories of parents who have taken the journey of parenthood and community service into uncharted waters.
Tell us about a parent in Arkansas who has advocated for children -- from enacting literacy programs and raising awareness about special needs to providing shelter for homeless families -- and they might appear in our June 2014 issue.
Simply fill out the short form at www.LittleRockFamily/PioneeringParents to nominate a Pioneering Parent you admire. The staff of Little Rock Family will evaluate the nominations and choose the inaugural class of Pioneering Parents, whose accomplishments and good works will be featured in the June 2014 issue.
The deadline to nominate is March 31.
Welcome the month of March this weekend at a host of family-friendly activities to celebrate Mardi Gras, the birth of Dr. Seuss, marathon runners and more. Here are our top 5 family events:
1. Little Rock Marathon Weekend -- It's the 12th anniversary of the Little Rock Marathon, and families are invited to celebrate all weekend. The fitness fun kicks off on Friday with the Health & Fitness Expo at the Statehouse Convention Center. The two-day trade show is free and will feature more than 60 exhibitors with products and services for runners. On Saturday, March 1, you can cheer on the 5K runners. Plus, celebrate the children ages 7-12 finishing the Little Rockers Kids Marathon. Kids complete 25.2 miles prior to race day using the Little Rockers Kids Marathon Training Program, presented by Arkansas Children's Hospital, and then run the final mile on Saturday. The full marathon, half marathon and 10K run will take place on Sunday, March 2. For info: LittleRockMarathon.com.
2. Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Presents Verdi's Requiem at Robinson Center Music Hall -- Enjoy this memorable ASO and Arkansas Chamber Singers performance featuring Verdi's Requiem. The Requiem was inspired by his high esteem for two fellow Italian artists, Gioachino Rossini and Alessandro Manzoni. Performances are 8 p.m. March 1 and 3 p.m. March 2. $14-$53, children free to the Sunday matinee with the Entergy Kids' Ticket. For info: ArkansasSymphony.org.
3. Bilingual Dr. Seuss Celebration at CALS Main Library -- Guest storyteller Lupe Peña-Madison will present Seussical books, games, and crafts to celebrate two holidays: the birthday of Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Day. 10:30 a.m. March 1. For info: CALS.org. For more Dr. Seuss events in March, click here. FREE!
4. SoMa Mardi Gras Parade in Downtown Little Rock -- Enjoy homegrown floats, marching bands, beads, people and animal costumes, vendors and fun. Community Bakery will serve complimentary King Cake, too. Don't forget your folding chairs and blankets. Parade starts at noon at 24th St. and South Main. March 1. For info, click here. FREE!
5. Jurassic Bark: 5th Annual Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras Dog Parade & Block Party in Argenta Arts District -- Dress your pup in a costume for North Little Rock's dog parade to celebrate Mardi Gras. Enjoy live music, food and drink and more at the free family event. Meet at 5th and Maple; parade begins at 3 p.m. March 2. For info, click here. FREE!
For our full calendar of weekend events, click here.
College ball won’t be the only fierce competition hitting the courts in March. Special Olympics Arkansas will once again host its State Basketball Tournament this month. Special Olympics participants can engage in a wide variety of athletic options throughout the year—from track to golf and everything in between—and the State Basketball Tournament dates back to the early 70s. More than 40 years later, 45-50 teams participate every year. This year, the athletes will converge from across the state at the Russellville High School and Junior High School gyms to compete for the winning medals.
Though the tournament takes place March 14-15, the preparation begins much earlier. “We’re broken down into areas, so much like in high school sports, athletes play on the area level and then qualify for state level. They compete and train year-round,” says Camie Powell, the Special Olympics Arkansas Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations.
All children with intellectual disabilities—regardless of physical ability—are invited to begin training and competing with the Special Olympics beginning at age 8. Participants train until they are able to join a team; then, they practice with their team and try to qualify for the state tournament. “I began with Special Olympics as a coach, and I can tell you the benefits of the training are endless,” says Sawyer Ramsey, Special Olympics Arkansas Director of Sports, Training and Competition. “There are many times that Special Olympics was a main motivation for athletes not only around the time of a competition, but even weeks or months out. We would practice for a basketball tournament. After it was over they were already asking about the next sport and when practices were going to start.”
Of course, athletes are also practicing their motor skills, the structure of playing with a team and following rules, and the social skills involved with winning and losing. “We are a real sports organization—they win, they lose, they practice, but in the end we just want them trying as hard as they can,” says Powell.
At the State Basketball Tournament, competitive levels at the games are broken down not only between school-age competitors and adult athletes, but also “divisioning, a 5-minute game where we assess each team’s level and decide which teams to put together in a bracket to create the most competitive games possible,” Ramsey explains. Parents can feel secure knowing that athletes will be challenged, not overwhelmed by the competition.
There are also ways for new athletes to become involved, even if they aren’t ready for the state tournament courts, or even playing with a team. On March 1 at Mount St. Mary, athletes can participate in a workshop that goes over basketball basics like dribbling, shooting, passing and defense. Then, on March 13 at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, they can display those same fundamentals to compete in the Individual Skills competition (see sidebar). Plus, training, equipment and competition are free for families.
Cassidy Wharton, a 9-year-old from Sherwood, has grown up around her older sibling’s sports games, but participated in her first Special Olympics event last year when she competed in the Individual Skills event. Now she and her athletic family are hooked, calling the opening ceremonies at the State Games a “life-changing experience.”
“Special Olympics is a great opportunity to meet other families,” says Cassidy’s mother, Stacie Wharton, the Athletic Director at Immaculate Conception School. “It also provides the benefit of exercise, which is sometimes a struggle for those with special needs. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity to experience a sense of accomplishment. For Cassidy, it makes her happy. She thinks and feels like she is a winner everyday, but these events give her an outlet and a venue to be encouraged and cheered on by others.”
You’ll see all the benefits as you cheer on this year’s state b-ball champs. “I have not seen a Special Olympic athlete yet who does not radiate pride and pure joy when on the medal stand, the crowd cheering for their accomplishments,” says Wharton. “They are so proud of themselves, and in the end, isn’t that what we all yearn for—acceptance and appreciation for our efforts?”
Basketball Fundamentals Workshop at Mount St. Mary
This workshop is perfect for new players, as it goes over all of the fundamentals of the game, including dribbling, shooting, passing and defense. 10 a.m.-noon.
Basketball Individual Skills Competition at Arkansas School for the Deaf
After practicing the drills at the fundamental workshop, individuals will display their skills. Even if your young athlete isn’t ready for team play, this competition allows them go for the gold and compete for medals.
State Basketball Tournament at Russellville High School and Junior High School
Cheer on 45-50 teams at this state-wide tournament. The fun begins with the opening ceremonies at the Russellville High School on Friday evening. The competition will begin shortly after and continue into Saturday. Medals are awarded for each bracket. Free for spectators and athletes.
Training, equipment and competition are free. For more info on these events and more, visit SpecialOlympicsArkansas.org.
Last week, the editors of Little Rock Family toured the newly renovated William F. Laman Library's Argenta Branch, scheduled to open to the public on April 5. We saw the progress of shelves being put in place and books being organized. Now you can take a sneak peek inside the library, too (see photo gallery above).
The beautiful new space in downtown North Little Rock is located in the former Main Street Post Office building, which the library purchased in 2012 and has been renovating since last March. Step into the historic building and you'll notice that many original features were retained. Visitors still pass through the columned front entrance and into the lobby through a wooden vestibule. You'll also spy original crown molding and marble, heavy old doors and even a vault that dates back to the building's history serving the IRS.
The ground floor will house the book collections for adults, as well as an exhibit hall. On the basement level where mail was once sorted, you'll find a large space for community events, film screenings and other workshops.
Families will be most excited about the former attic space, which is now where the children's books reside. Overlooking the main floor, the bright loft features colorful stools, tables and other reading areas for families. Also upstairs: a reading nook complete with charging stations for mobile devices, as well as a bay of 19 or 20 computers for patrons' use.
Celebrate opening day at The Laman Library Argenta Branch on April 5 with special activities and programs. Check back for more details about the festivities as the event nears and keep up with the William F. Laman Library System here.
Attention Bard fans, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre just announced its 2014 season lineup and it looks to be a good one!
Here it is:
Click here to get more information and purchase your tickets.
And don't miss the 2014 Bard Ball: Swing Along with Shakespeare, happening at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 7 at the Junior League building, 401 Scott St., Little Rock. Dance the night away, bid on live and silent auction items, snack on yummy hors d'oeuvres and enjoy a glass of wine or beer while getting a sneak peak of the 2014 season. Tickets for the Bard Ball–which can be purchased here–are $75 in advance or $650 for a table of 10. Admission is $90 at the door. All proceeds from the night go toward the AST 2014 summer season.
Dr. Seuss would have turned 110 years old on March 2. Celebrate his life and work at these Seussical celebrations!
Bilingual Dr. Seuss Storytime at CALS Main Library -- Join Lupe Pena-Madison for a Dr. Seuss birthday party and activities. 10:30 a.m. For info: (501) 918-3050, CALS.org. For a full list of Dr. Seuss storytimes and workshops at various CALS branches, click here. FREE!
Read Across America at Barnes and Noble in West Little Rock -- Hats off to reading and Dr. Seuss. A special storytime will feature a Dr. Seuss favorite, "Green Eggs and Ham." The fun will include giveaways, activities and treats. 2 p.m. For info: (501) 954-7646, BN.com. FREE!
Dr. Seuss Week-long Birthday Party at William J. Clinton Presidential Center -- Local celebrities will read from their favorite books and share the joy of reading with elementary students in pre-K through third grades. Students will enjoy a special theatrical performance, will receive a book from the Dr. Seuss collection, and feast on birthday cupcakes. Reservations required. 10 a.m. each day. For info: (501) 748-0419, ClintonFoundation.org.
Sleepover, slumber party, bunkin’ party, pajama party: whatever you call it, tweens love ‘em. You probably have great memories of your own childhood sleepovers—all-nighters spent gabbing in your best friend’s basement or camping out in tents in the backyard. Now that you’re an adult, you probably realize that those carefree extravaganzas took a lot of time and planning by someone. Help your kids have a memorable sleepover (and hold onto your sanity) with these tips:
1. Control the numbers.
“Keep it small and simple,” says Becky Bahnks, a guidance counselor at Collegeville Elementary School in Bryant and mom to two Ty, 11, and Coop, 7. “In this day and age, it’s easy to want to go overboard and overindulge. However, most kids still just want to ‘play.’ By keeping your guest list small—5 guests or less—you keep it manageable for you and your child to tend to all the guests and not feel overwhelmed.”
2. Communicate with other parents.
Do any of the guests have food allergies or special needs? Are they allowed to do this or that? Who gets homesick easily? Talk to each child’s parents before the slumber party to determine if you need to adjust any plans or make any accommodations to make each child feel comfortable. Write down each parent’s best contact information in case an emergency arises, and coordinate a pick-up time for the next morning.
3. Go over the house rules.
Parents should also review the house rules with your child and other parents. Katherine Blackmon, mom to Elliott Solis, 10, says, “My only rule is to be kind to each other. And when I do tell them to do something, they better do it.” Other rules you might implement: no gossiping, no leaving out other sleepover pals, no mean-spirited pranks (who wants to wake up with a face full of shaving cream?), etc.
4. Talk to your child about being a good host.
Before the sleepover, take the time to talk about the qualities of being a host for friends. For example, you can encourage your tween to introduce any friends who haven’t met before, thank each guest for attending the party and model fair play if you’re planning party games. “Fair play among children is really just good sportsmanship and respect for others,” states EmilyPost.com. “It includes the practice of kindness, taking turns and sharing.”
5. Plan a menu.
Tweens can be ravenous creatures, so stock up on plenty of snacks ahead of time. Your menu can be planned to match the theme of the party, but make it easy on yourself—unless meticulously decorating cake balls is one of the party activities, of course. Remember: If you want to be asleep at a decent hour, limit the caffeine and sugar options.
6. Put the phones away.
Speaking of rules, “technology and slumber parties is new territory for many parents in the 10-12 age group,” says Bahnks. “Make it clear to both children and parents what the ‘technology rules’ are at your house. For example, parents should share their rules on texting, taking and posting pictures, playing ‘M’-rated video games, watching movies, and more.” Or, you can ask party guests to hand over their phones when they arrive and stash them in a safe place until morning. If your tween wants to take pictures of their fun night, go old-school and hand over a pack of disposal cameras. Another cool option is the FujiFilm Instax camera; the modern-day version of the Polaroid spits out pics in an instant.
7. Pick an activity.
You don’t want things to be too structured (uncool!), but you should plan some activities so that the kids don’t get bored. “I try to have a couple of things planned—a craft, a movie, something to cook or bake, maybe an outing,” says Blackmon. “I like to actually DO things with them: go roll on the hills by the Clinton Center; get cocoa at Starbucks; do a photo scavenger hunt with our cameras; go sketch at one of our museums. Usually, we only end up doing one or two of what I have planned,” Blackmon says. “Once you get them in a creative mode, they take over and put on plays, make movies and act like kids!”
Have a big backyard? Pull out sports equipment or make plans for a bonfire. If the weather isn’t cooperative, pick out a few board games (make sure that everyone can play at once, so no one gets left out!). If the plan is to have a movie night, pre-screen any movies to make sure they are age-appropriate, or visit a site like www.CommonSenseMedia.org to read reviews aimed at parents.
8. Give them space.
You want to make sure things are going well, but resist the urge to hover. “Interact with them to supervise and participate, but without being overbearing or trying to be ‘one of the kids,’” Bahnks suggests. “Remember, this is your child’s party. They want and need you to be the parent.”
Prospective families are invited to learn more about downtown Little Rock's Urban Garden Montessori School during an event held at the CALS Main Library this Saturday, March 1.
The brand-new school will be located in a remodeled warehouse with a rooftop garden in downtown Little Rock and will serve pre-k through high school students. The permanent location for the school is scheduled to open for the 2015-2016 school year; for the 2014-2015 year, Urban Garden will offer Montessori education for children through Grade 4 in a temporary building.
At this Saturday's event, prospective families will meet the faculty for the upcoming school year, experience Montessori lessons and learn about the school's scholarship fund. They'll also discuss the school's music partnership with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, plans for the school garden, foreign language programs and more.
The Urban Garden Montessori School information event will take place from 2-5 p.m. March 1 on the third floor of CALS Main Library.