New Children’s Room at the Boston Public Library

There aren’t a lot of places for kids to play indoors in Boston’s downtown and Back Bay. So the new Children’s Room at the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch is a big deal for city families. It’s also a pretty big deal for tourists. If you’ve been dragging a child to historical sites and they need to blow off a little steam, this is a great place to do it.

We took a Saturday afternoon, rode the train to Copley, and decided to check out the room to see if it would help us kill some time inside on a cold day.

It did the trick.

Just a heads up. If you’ve got a baby or watch one, you’d better get here soon because once all the moms and nannies in the city find this place it’s going to be crawling. Literally.

First up, there’s a big play area with bins full of board books and big foam letters. The walls are covered with built-in toys. Oh, and there’s stroller parking and two family restrooms inside.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Toy Wall

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Toy Wall

Oh, and did I mention there are toys? Dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, and more.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Play Area

There’s a great storytime area with risers for kids to sit on to listen (or play on otherwise), plus some little puppet theaters. All of it in front of a big gorgeous window, a brightly colored Storyteller’s Chair and with some beautiful brownstones with built in shelves on the walls.

I was able to snap plenty of shots without asking for poses. They played. I took pictures, it was easy. Have you been to one of these indoor play areas? They cost a ton and they’re crazy and kind of smelly. I’ll take this place any day. Especially since I can curl up in a chair with a book of my own while the kids have fun.

 Boston Public Library Childrens Room Storytime Chair

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Brownstone Bookshelves

Kids dressed up at Boston Public Library Childrens Room

At first I was a little confused about all the toys but then I got it. What better way to escape and pretend than through books? Why not add some dress-up to the mix? 

The area for older kids and teens is a little more spare, with seating and shelves below this bright mural.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Teen Section

And don’t forget the books!

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Book Display

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Black History Month

Boston Public Library Childrens Room From Outside

Plenty of computers. A big room for activities. Oh, and 3 friendly lion cubs. They’re currently having a contest to name them. Graham decided his entries would be Bob, Fluffy, and Sunny.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Lion Cub 1

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Lion Cub 2

We were there for well over an hour and could’ve stayed longer. For our next trip, I’ll take the kids here and then we’ll walk over to the old building to check out some of the art, there are a bunch of Sargent murals I love. 

We also need to check out the AWE Early Literacy Stations, which have computers with touch screens for kids age 2-8 and don’t require a library card to use.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room AWE Early Literacy Station

You can get info on events and more at the Boston Public Library website. FYI, most events are weekdays during school hours. But you can’t hang in the Children’s Room without a kid, so curious browsers best bring the littles along. 

Autumn Cuteness Overload

I hope that in a few years when I look back on my life right now I’ll think, Well that sucked but at least I have lots of really beautiful pictures

I get serious satisfaction when we come home from an outing, put the SD card in my computer, and see that everything turned out so nicely. I’m not a pro by any means, but I’m getting pretty fantastic at getting pictures of my own kids, if I do say so myself. No more professional photographers for us, although I’m going to have to figure out some work with the self-timer if I ever want a decent picture with me in it.

We headed out to Pakeen Farm for pumpkins. I chose it for a few reasons. 1) Way closer than most other options. 2) No apple picking, so hopefully smaller crowds. 3) Mini-maze for pumpkin picking. 4) Cider donuts. It turned out okay. Short drive for us, a very small place, and even though we got their early it was starting to fill up by the time we left. The mini-maze was cute, very small, perfect for kids 6 and under to wander through and pick out pumpkins. 

Autumn Leaves

Nice foliage, if I do say so myself. I haven’t been able to get out and see much of it this year.

Pumpkin Maze

In the Maze

Pumpkin Maze

I found a little corner of the patch to have the kids sit down and smile for the camera. Thus began the ongoing struggle to get Tessa to look in my direction for pictures. It’s a battle I rarely win. 




Edited 6

Inside, and many pictures later, I finally got eye contact from the little one, only to lose it from the big one. Of course. Side note: when your kids yell “pumpkin” instead of cheese you get really hilarious open-mouthed pictures. Also this was totally their idea, not my suggestion.


Say Pumpkin

Then we ordered our donuts and cider, and the kids went leaf hunting while we waited for our snack. Graham was a big fan of the multi-colored leaves.

Autumn Leaves

Red Leaf

Tessa and a leaf

Graham was being silly, it made for some great pictures, with more than the usual smiles.



And this head tilt from Tessa shown in sequence below, is SO HER that I just about did a double take when going through the pictures.
Tessa's head tilt 1

Tessa's head tilt 2

All in all, it was a simple trip, not too long, and totally worth the small price tag for the pictures and the pumpkins which we decorated at home. (They picked little ones, so no carving which is fine by me.) And I now have a bag of leaves we may press if I get really ambitious. Don’t cross your fingers.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy

Every now and then as a parent you decide to take your kids to do a Fun Thing. For me, most of the time the Fun Thing ends up not being fun and the whole thing turns into an epic fiasco. 

But every now and then it goes beautifully.

This weekend I decided our Fun Thing would be a trip to the MFA in Boston. The kids have never been, I think they’re finally old enough to make a decent go of it, and it was National Museum Day so I’d get a free ticket. (Kids 6 and under are always free, kids 7 to 17 are free after 3pm on weekdays and on weekends.) 

I did a little prep work checking out the Museum’s programs for kids, then we headed off. With my fingers crossed. 

We took the train to add a little glamour to the trip. And because parking in the city? No thanks. Luckily our orange line is about a 5 minute walk from the Museum. I was worried it would be crowded, but to my surprise it was just about as busy as a usual weekend. 

Our first stop was the Visitors Center (in the middle of the museum, next to the Courtyard). We picked up two kits for the kids. Inside the little tote bags were a bunch of activities (I think my kids were still a little small to get interested in the particular ones they had) but they also had sketch books and colored pencils. Bingo. I told the kids we’d go find something we wanted to draw.

Next we hit the Jamie Wyeth exhibit. It was close by and I thought the kids may find his paintings interesting. Mostly realism, lots of New England landscapes and animals. We moved through the first room and Graham was skeptical. We went to the second room and he was still skeptical. But then he stopped and said, “Puppies!”

Jamie Wyeth painting

I asked if he’d like to sit and draw them and he agreed. So we set up camp at the bench across from the painting. They were still not quite on board with the whole endeavor.

Kids at the MFA


But eventually they got engaged with the pencils and the pencil sharpener and finally they were off.

Kids at the MFA


Graham drew a puppy and then asked, “Can I draw a Hot Wheels track?” He always draws Hot Wheels tracks but I figured that since we’d done pretty well so far it couldn’t hurt. “Sure,” I said. “And when you’re done we’ll find something else to draw.”

They were a pretty adorable sight, working away at their sketch pads. People stopped and clucked over their adorableness. I stood there trying not to die of relief and pride. I don’t really take credit for it, otherwise I’d have to knock myself down for every time our outings go horribly awry and that doesn’t sound like a great idea.

Finally we packed it up. We looked at a few more Wyeths (it really is a great exhibit) and then crossed the hall. Graham has a fascination lately with death and graveyards, so I thought he’d like the mummies. He did. He especially liked the way they told stories with carvings on the walls. We wandered through a few more ancient exhibits, stopped in American art but the kids saw nothing of interest, and then I took them out to the courtyard to see the Chihuly.

MFA Chihuly

They were kind of distracted and antsy and I thought they’d get a kick out of it. They did. It was a nice way to refocus them and get them engaged with something exciting.

We made a pit stop at the Kids Art Cart and after some more hemming and hawing from the kids, Graham got interested in a dragon they had on display. Dragons? Let’s hit Asian Art. So we headed over. 

The elevator near the Asian Art section lets you out in Modern Art. So it was just an accident of the building’s layout that led us to Spencer Finch’s Shield of Achilles.

Shield of Achilles by Spencer Finch

It captured Graham’s imagination immediately. He asked for us to stop and draw it. There wasn’t a bench, but I said okay. And it turned out there were a couple of chairs (Topia by Barbara Gallucci) that the kids were allowed to sit on that were part of the installation. 

I honestly hadn’t planned on Modern Art because a lot of it is disturbing and difficult and I wasn’t familiar enough with the exhibit to be able to decide how to approach it with them. But this was perfect. Out in an open hallway, the kids set to work.

Kids at the MFA

Tessa likes drawing. If anything, the problem was that she’d scribble for a few seconds then turn the page. She used up every page in the sketch book by the time she was done. But she was happy.

Tessa colors

She did notice Graham’s wide assortment of color for his project so she got more colorful, too.

Tessa colors

As for Graham, he hunkered down and got to work. I’ve seen him draw train tracks and race tracks and work pretty hard at it, but I’ve never seen him focus this intently on any other drawing. We were probably there for a half hour.

Graham draws

Graham draws

When he was done, he was so proud of the final product. I was pretty proud, too. I didn’t prod him or encourage him while he worked. I didn’t need to. He was so intent on what he was doing and so excited about it. It was a pleasure to watch. He didn’t even mind me photographing him.

Graham's art

I told him how great his picture was, but he didn’t really need me to. “It’s so good,” he said, “it’s super good.” I suggested we take a picture and show Grammy and he was all for it. 

I have no idea if he’s a budding artist, if he has any talent or interest in it. But by the time we were done, he asked, “Can we come back here again?” And my heart sang.

Sometimes I feel like it’s a little eg0-centric how we as parents take pride in our kids enjoying things we enjoy. As if this makes them better people than if they were kids whose interests diverged from ours. 

I love art and art museums, but it wasn’t that that made me so happy. It was seeing Graham get interested in something when he wasn’t being told to, didn’t have to, wasn’t made to. It was seeing him absorbed in something that he saw that stuck out to him. That? Was pretty amazing. Definitely not what I was expecting from our trip. I expected fighting off whining until none of us could take it any more and instead got one of those transformative experiences that hits you when you least expect it.

Graham’s Fenway Birthday

Graham turned 5 this week and my present to him was taking him to his first Red Sox game. Though technically I took him to Futures at Fenway which is not actually a Red Sox game but a farm team game. But they wore white and red so Graham was all good. I won’t be able to get away with this kind of stuff much longer. 

He was so. happy. A couple little whines here and there, but overall it was one of the longest periods I’ve seen him where he stayed in a happy place. He is, of course, still himself so he was often serious and asked approximately one million questions. 

I was planning to head out before the game was over, assuming he wouldn’t last, but he did. And he set his heart on staying for the movie after the show. I assured him it was a grown-up movie and that he may not like it. He wanted to stay anyway. Graham has never watched a live-action movie from start to finish. Even a short live-action tv show must involve trains or cars for him to get into it. But he watched ALL of Field of Dreams, all of it. He still asked approximately one million questions, but he watched it and was happy and declared it his favorite movie ever.

I am glad we had that day, just the two of us, and that I finally have my camera out again (I lost my charger and it took me ages to get a new one) because it was a joy to capture it. I am not the kind of person who gets schmaltzy about perfect days, but this was about as close as they come. 

Also: who is this tall and spindly boy? He is going to shoot up before I know it. And I’m sorry, but this kid is just so beautiful I can hardly stand it.