I had the recent privilege of enjoying a night out with my family at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner. Originally meant for my husband and I – life got in the way and the kiddos came along too. I wondered how much fun we could have at such a nice place with 2 kids. Turns out a lot! Not only is the staff very family-friendly – they have a lot of opportunities for families and children too!

After a couple hours at their beautiful indoor pool (guests receive complimentary use of fitness center, pool, sauna and steam bath) we enjoyed dinner at their on-site wine bar and lounge, ENTYSE. I was pleasantly surprised that they offered kid’s menus with a great selection of family favorites. For my husband and I, the food was absolutely delicious and the wine selection top-notch. I personally tasted them all for you! I can see my husband and I going back in the future for date night – not only for the food, but live music and ambiance. ENTYSE offers live Jazz most Fridays and live music on most Saturdays.

We ended our stay with a great night’s sleep. The rooms were spacious, the beds super-comfortable (down comforter with a ton of pillows!), luxurious bath amenities, and more! DullesMoms.com highly recommends a stay there – whether for you and your spouse, your family, or just yourself! Also, take advantage of their upcoming special and ongoing opportunities, including: Peter Rabbit Tea for Children, their Annual Gingerbread House Opening Ceremony, Thanksgiving Day Brunch, The Princess and Nutcracker Tea, Gingerbread House Decorating Class, and more! Check them out here.

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We had a great afternoon at the new
PLAY WORK BUILD exhibit at the National Building Museum! What a unique opportunity for any kid that likes to build, touch and play.
 
This new exhibit gives children the chance to use their imaginations and build anything they want using a variety of materials from big to small.
 
There is a large table with thousands of building pieces — and a large space dedictaed to building with hundreds of large ‘blocks’. But — don’t expect your normal, everyday square block — these building materials comes in dozens of shapes and sizes — to get kids thinking about possibilities when putting their ideas into action.
 
There is also a huge wall with a digital blocks projected on it., Step onto a special carpet and your figure is silhouetted in the digital screen and you can break down the virtual walls!
 
Additionally, there are interesting exhibits of construction toys and building sets from the past 130 years or so — dating back to the late 1800′s. Don’t worry Mom and Dad — they are in enclosed displays so kids can’t touch. Also, there is a section for kids to sit and play with Lincoln Logs and similar toy sets.
 
You cant beat the price — $8/adult and $5/child. Located on F Street in NW, The National Building Museum, next to the Government Accounting office, has Street parking with a 2 hour limit is abundant around the building.
 
I highly recommend the drive. It took us 35 minutes from the Greater Dulles Area and was worth it. I would recommend going during the week, as you can see — there were no crowds (the museum is open Monday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm).
 
Kudos to the National Building Museum for placing this family-centric exhibit next to the restrooms and having antibacterial gel stations upon exit.
 
The exhibit is open until November 18, 2014.
 
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Via the National Building Museum website:
 
Research has shown how important play can be to a child’s development. But, play is not only for kids. Through this exhibition, visitors begin to see the connections between play, design, and the work of building professionals like architects and engineers.
 
Only at the National Building Museum can the concepts of PLAY, WORK, and BUILD be combined to create a new exhibition that will enthrall kids and adults alike. Conceived in partnership with the internationally renowned design firm the Rockwell Group, this exhibition combines a presentation of the Museum’s world-class Architectural Toy Collection, a hands-on block play area, and an original digital interactive that allows visitors to fill an entire wall of the exhibition with virtual blocks—and then knock them down.
 
After viewing a selection of construction toys from the Museum’s collection, from the familiar Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs to the lesser-known Bumpalow House and Ringa-Majigs,  visitors have the opportunity to reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play with individually-sized blocks. In the subsequent gallery, visitors are invited to work individually to reimagine their small-scale structures created into oversized structures using supersized foam blocks or to work in groups to design and build something entirely new. Whether visitors choose the tactile experience with the small or large blocks, the virtual block-play experience, or all of the activities, children and adults alike are encouraged to participate in unstructured, imaginative play that exercises muscles and minds.
 
Praise for PLAY WORK BUILD
 
“Parents and children may want to consider putting down the video games and picking up the building blocks. A new exhibit on playing with blocks has opened in Washington, D.C.”—USA TODAY
 
“PLAY WORK BUILD is both an extension and an elaboration on one of the museum’s primary missions, to introduce children to the building process. The second-floor gallery is now overrun by thousands of pieces of blue foam, some sized for building models and some sized to build forts.”—The Washington Post On Parenting
 
“Collaborative activity, physical movement, and no resemblance to a typical playground are the three major themes of this endeavor.”—Curbed DC
 
“The National Building Museum already hosts programs for teens interested in pursuing design as a career, but an upcoming exhibition intends to inspire a younger generation of architects, builders, and engineers.”—Residential Architect
 

The Atlantic Cities went behind the scenes to learn more about the “nation’s biggest architectural toy collection.”

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Our family had the pleasure of attending the Big Apple Circus LEGENDARIUM at the Dulles Town Center. Circuses have come a long way since the days of dusty tents, stereo-typical clowns and the such. This modern-day circus was multidimensional — engaging all your senses from live music, stunning costumes and acrobatics in every way you can imagine. I was thoroughly impressed by the range of acts and the athleticism of the performers. Their skills left you entertained, amazed and with the desire to go home and do a few sit ups of your own!

The theme of this years Big Apple Circus is LEGENDARIUM. The congenial ringmaster travel backs with the audience to when circus traditions were born. He not only introduces the audience to incredible acts, but give them fun facts about how the origins of the big tent circus became. Throughout the 2-hour performance we are also delighted by the Acrobuffos — a clown duo with endless energy, a penchant for physical comedy, and lovable personalities! Does your child have a fear of clowns? Well, Madame and Messieur, demonstrate to the audience how their wigs and masks come off — and underneath are 2 regular people! I thought it was a great family-friendly thing to do!

I highly recommend the Big Apple Circus LEGENDARIUM! At their Web site you can learn more about the cast, acts and talent that make up this one-ring circus. Also, there are no bad seats! The large tents hides the fact that you are never far from the entertainment — the setting is actually quite intimate.

The World Premiere of LEGENDARIUM began Thursday, September 20 and runs for 28 performances through Monday, October 8, 2012, under the Big Top at Dulles Town Center, 45630 Dulles Center Blvd. Tickets  start at $25 and you can buy tickets online at www.bigapplecircus.org or by calling (888) 541-3750. The Circus Box Office at Dulles Town Center is open Tues–Fri, 10AM–8PM; Sat–Mon, 10AM–6PM.

Although the physical location for Childtime Magic is no more (per the old review below) — Louis the Magician is still entertaining DC area families! Check out today’s time-sensitive deal from Certifikid:

$175 for On-Location Deluxe Magic Show Performance by Louis The Magician of Childtime Magic (57% off – $400 value)

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** Please note this is an older review. We still think Louis the Magician is GREAT — but some of the party and location info below is out-of-date. Please always check their Web site for updated and accurate information. **

I’m always looking for fun things to do with the kids so we attended Family Day at ChildTime Magic to see Louis the Magician. The kids loved every minute of the show and as adults, we were pleasantly surprised and had smiles on our faces the whole time. Louis the Magician was well-prepared, had great child-friendly magic tricks, was wonderfully-paced and he interacted with the kids throughout his performance. I tend to think of my 5-year-old son as slightly disruptive as he has a very loud laugh and often tries to talk to performers during their shows. But, Louis the Magician didn’t seem bothered by his “enthusiasm” — he was very professional and obviously experienced with children. In fact, my son got to assist with one of the tricks and hasn’t stopped talking about it since! In fact, my husband and I have been comparing notes ever since trying to figure our some of the things he did! So not only child-friendly — adult-friendly too!

I was impressed reviewing their Web site beforehand to learn about all the different services ChildTime Magic offers. I highly encourage you to check them out and don’t forget to sign-up for their Birthday Club. It’s free to sign-up and you receive monthly emails that teach you magic and discounts on your birthday party magic show. Additionally, ChildTime Magic was Nickelodeon’s Winner for Best Party Entertainer in the Washington DC area for 2009!

Check out an informative video and photos here. From their Web site:

Your “one-stop” place for ALL of your birthday party entertainment.

ChildTime Magic has been the leader in birthday party entertainment for over 10 years! Our entertainers are the best performers in the Washington DC area. Louis the Magician, owner, has performed for thousands of birthday parties. We have now trained other magicians and entertainers to continue the ChildTime Magic service theme: We create happiness by providing the finest in Birthday Party Entertainment.

Kids birthday parties are our number one focus, so we have become the “experts” in this area. It doesn’t matter what kind of entertainers you need for your child’s birthday party. If you need a birthday party magician we have the best and busiest in the area. We have many clowns for your birthday party. We offer other birthday party entertainment too!

Face painters
Clowns
Magicians
Balloon artists

You can also find Louis the Magician on Facebook.

Review: Chibis Indoor Playground

Today, I had the great privilege of checking out Chibis Indoor Playground with my six-year-old son. Right off the bat — if they had this place years ago when my now 6- and 7-year old were younger I would have lived there! It was fantastic. I was skeptical at first because we have seen the concept of an indoor playground attempted before in the Northern Virginia market with just so-so results (think the now-closed At Play Cafe in Reston). Additionally, with so many playgrounds offered by places like Burger King and Chick-fil-a, how different could it be? Needless to say — those place don’t compare. I was more than pleasantly surprised by Chibis’ space, the attention to details, and the quality of the equipment and toys.

Chibis Indoor Playground, located in Ashburn, off Loudoun County parkway near Ashburn favorites Sport Bounce of Loudoun and Jumping Jack Sports, is an interactive indoor playground for children 4-months through age 6. Open 7-days a week, they offer 90-minute play sessions. Not only do they boast a multi-level play structure, they also have a dedicated toddler area (ages 3 and under), and 2 additional “toy” areas with a kiddie-kitchen set-up and train tables. It seems that it would appeal to the most energized children who want to run and climb to kids who just like to sit back and play.

Upon entry, after you fill out one-time paperwork, you can request a numbered bin to store your belongings. They stow it for you for safekeeping.  If you don’t want a bin though, cubbies and coat hooks are abundant. Everyone is required to take their shoes off in the play areas, including adults, and socks are required for everyone. If you forget — don’t worry — they sell pairs for a dollar!

In addition to all the fun trains, puzzles, and sensory toys, they also have plenty of balls to play with, cars to ride on, and mini-structures to climb. While there, the management was busy picking up toys and washing them. I was super impressed with the attention to cleanliness — especially with the younger children and their desire to mouth anything! In fact, the whole establishment was bright, cheery, clean and spacious. They also have an area to sit, rest and grab a drink or snack. They offered a large selection of snacks for $0.25 and $0.50 each including mini-muffins, animal crackers, fruit snacks, fruit squeeze packs and more. For the mommas think coffee, water and soda. (Kudos to the management on the cute min-trays!)

Parents are encouraged to keep a steady eye on their children — but this is made easy with all the comfy couches and chairs throughout the facility. I saw lots of moms connecting and making new friends. I could easily see this as a hangout for a playgroup or moms club!

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend. Although, as glad as I am to have school-aged children, I am a touch jealous we’ll be aging out of this great option in 9 months and 21 days (but who’s counting). Perhaps we can convince the owners a Kid’s Night Out program for the big ones is in order (hint, hint Chibis!) .

Chibis Indoor Playground is located at 44675 Cape Ct., Ste. 175, Ashburn, VA 20147 and can be reached at (571) 918-0310. They don’t appear to have prominent signage yet, but they are in a red brick building directly next door to Great Falls Interior Design, Suite 171. You can learn more about Chibis Indoor Playground on the Web here. Also, find them on Facebook to become privy to deals, specials and updates.

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Written by DullesMoms.com a proud partner of Kid-Friendly VA (NOVA, PWC, LOCO). DullesMoms.com is your resource to children’s and family-friendly events and activities in the Greater Dulles area! Find DullesMoms.com on Facebook and Twitter!

Families in the Northern Virginia market are so lucky to have such a wealth of arts-related programs, shows and events available to our children! One of my favorites is the Puppet Company in Glen Echo, Maryland. The Puppet Company produces “critically acclaimed and award-winning puppet shows that incorporate hand puppets, rod puppets, marionettes (string puppets), masks, costume figures, and every trick in the book to entertain and amaze family audiences.”

Located in the heart of Glen Echo Park, just 20-ish minutes from the Greater Dulles area, they offer shows 5-days a week in an intimate theater that encourages children to sit up close to see the details and feel like part of the show! In fact, bench-style seats that surround the perimeter are intended for adults only — so kids have plenty of wiggle room on the floor and have the chance to sit only feet from the main stage. This set-up really lends itself to the kids feeling engaged and excited about the performance literally in front of them!

The Puppet Company features approximately 500 live performances every year, with programs for toddlers, school-aged children, teens, and adults. Currently showing is: Goldilocks On Trial! “There are two sides to every story, Goldilocks is being un-bear-able, and her housebreaking and dine-and-dashing could result in “grizzly” consequences. This tongue-in-cheek retelling of the old tale, tells the Bear Family’s side of the story, as well as Goldilocks’s, then lets the audience judge where the truth lies.”

With approximately 8 opportunities each week to see this show, DullesMoms.com highly recommends it! While my children, aged 6 and 8, sat captivated throughout the entire show — there were many toddlers and preschool aged children that enjoyed it too! The 40-minute show was perfectly timed and wonderfully produced. I was impressed thoroughly by the show quality and, once again, how engaged the children felt.

After the show, the puppeteers took pictures with the children and showed them how the rod puppets worked. My children were in awe of the mechanics of the puppets — something they actually had never seen before. I am really looking forward to seeing the combination of puppetry they use in the upcoming performance: Snow White and the 7 Dwarves which begins July 21st!

In addition to Goldilocks On Trial! on their Main Stage, the Puppet Company also offers a popular series called Tiny Tots with shows at 10 am on select Wednesday, Saturdays and Sundays. Designed just children ages 0 to 4 years old), Tiny Tots “offers a viewing atmosphere especially suited to small fry, their parents, and caregivers including shorter shows (about 30 minutes), no dark room, no loud noises and the theater doors stay open”. Tickets are also only $5 each!

You can certainly make a great day of visiting the Puppet Company. Located in the heart of Glen Echo Park, they are just steps away from a playground and picnic area, the Dentzel Carousel and a small cafe with family-friendly choices. There are also weekend nature programs at Living Classrooms Children’s Museum. Additionally, the
National Park Service offers “Just for Kids” Programs and Junior Ranger Programs through out the summer.

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Goldilocks On Trial! will run until July 15th. You can can see the full schedule and purchase tickets here. Located at 7300 MacArthur Blvd. in Glen Echo, MD, the Puppet Company is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but offers many opportunities, including weekends throughout the rest of the week. You can find them on the Web, Facebook and Twitter.

This review was written by DullesMoms.com — your resource to children’s and family-friendly events and activities in the Greater Dulles area! You can find DullesMoms.com on the Web, Facebook and Twitter. you can also learn more about their partner site Kid-Friendly VA here.

Today, I had the great privilege of checking out Chibis Indoor Playground with my six-year-old son. Right off the bat — if they had this place years ago when my now 6- and 7-year old were younger I would have lived there! It was fantastic. I was skeptical at first because we have seen the concept of an indoor playground attempted before in the Northern Virginia market with just so-so results (think the now-closed At Play Cafe in Reston). Additionally, with so many playgrounds offered by places like Burger King and Chick-fil-a, how different could it be? Needless to say — those place don’t compare. I was more than pleasantly surprised by Chibis’ space, the attention to details, and the quality of the equipment and toys.

Chibis Indoor Playground, located in Ashburn, off Loudoun County parkway near Ashburn favorites Sport Bounce of Loudoun and Jumping Jack Sports, is an interactive indoor playground for children 4-months through age 6. Open 7-days a week, they offer 90-minute play sessions. Not only do they boast a multi-level play structure, they also have a dedicated toddler area (ages 3 and under), and 2 additional “toy” areas with a kiddie-kitchen set-up and train tables. It seems that it would appeal to the most energized children who want to run and climb to kids who just like to sit back and play.

Upon entry, after you fill out one-time paperwork, you can request a numbered bin to store your belongings. They stow it for you for safekeeping.  If you don’t want a bin though, cubbies and coat hooks are abundant. Everyone is required to take their shoes off in the play areas, including adults, and socks are required for everyone. If you forget — don’t worry — they sell pairs for a dollar!

In addition to all the fun trains, puzzles, and sensory toys, they also have plenty of balls to play with, cars to ride on, and mini-structures to climb. While there, the management was busy picking up toys and washing them. I was super impressed with the attention to cleanliness — especially with the younger children and their desire to mouth anything! In fact, the whole establishment was bright, cheery, clean and spacious. They also have an area to sit, rest and grab a drink or snack. They offered a large selection of snacks for $0.25 and $0.50 each including mini-muffins, animal crackers, fruit snacks, fruit squeeze packs and more. For the mommas think coffee, water and soda. (Kudos to the management on the cute min-trays!)

Parents are encouraged to keep a steady eye on their children — but this is made easy with all the comfy couches and chairs throughout the facility. I saw lots of moms connecting and making new friends. I could easily see this as a hangout for a playgroup or moms club!

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend. Although, as glad as I am to have school-aged children, I am a touch jealous we’ll be aging out of this great option in 9 months and 21 days (but who’s counting). Perhaps we can convince the owners a Kid’s Night Out program for the big ones is in order (hint, hint Chibis!) .

Chibis Indoor Playground is located at 44675 Cape Ct., Ste. 175, Ashburn, VA 20147 and can be reached at (571) 918-0310. They don’t appear to have prominent signage yet, but they are in a red brick building directly next door to Great Falls Interior Design, Suite 171. You can learn more about Chibis Indoor Playground on the Web here. Also, find them on Facebook to become privy to deals, specials and updates.

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Written by DullesMoms.com a proud partner of Kid-Friendly VA (NOVA, PWC, LOCO). DullesMoms.com is your resource to children’s and family-friendly events and activities in the Greater Dulles area! Find DullesMoms.com on Facebook and Twitter!

We love our Saturday mornings at Home Depot! They offer a FREE hands-on workshops designed for children ages 5 – 12 offered the 1st Saturday of every month at all The Home Depot stores between 9 a. – 12 pm. The workshops teach children do-it-yourself skills, tool safety and instill a sense of pride and accomplishment. All kids get to keep their craft and receive a FREE Kids Workshop Apron, commemorative pin and certificate of achievement.

We go quite often and always have fun. Although the age limit says 5, there were younger children there, with the help of parents having a good time. You do not need to pre-register for this event. Although the Web site says this is at all store, I would highly recommending calling to confirm your specific location. Today we made planter boxes. The girls got to assemble the boxes with wood glue and nails from kid-friendly instructions and then decorate them. They also had their choice of plants to complete their planters including peppers and tomatoes.

Learn more about their free kids workshops here. Find your nearest location here. Check out our morning at Home Depot:

My son, who was turning 6, has wanted a Chuck E. Cheese (CEC) birthday party from the moment he stepped into the place. I have always resisted — wanting to have home birthday parties where I could geek out with a theme! But, alas, he became slightly more independent and opinionated this year and Chuck E. Cheese it was. Now, first let me tell you I am a BIG fan of the Chuckster. I know, I know — there are the haters out there. And believe me, I have been on days where I thought I was going to lose my mind with the crowds and noise. But — I love the fact I can go and sit and breathe for a few while the kids play in a safe, clean, relatively inexpensive environment. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a party.

We were originally going to go and commandeer a booth and decorate it and provide the kids with pizza, drinks and tokens — we weren’t going to buy a party. But, last minute — literally — the morning of his birthday, he proclaims how he CAN’T WAIT to go in the ticket blaster. The ticket blaster, available ONLY with a party, is right off the set of a game show — it’s a clear booth that the birthday boy or girl steps in. They turn on the air and tickets start flying. The object is for the kiddo to grab and keep as many tickets as they can get. There are special tickets in there too — ones worth 200, 500 and 1000 tickets!

So, I panic and wonder if I can get a party last minute. Not only did I get a party — I got to do it online in literally minutes. I was looking for the phone number to call them and realized they have an easy-to-use birthday party reservation system where you can customize your party with food, cake, novelties, gift bags, balloons and more! It also shows you all the available times. Did I mention you also get a party host?

I made the reservation for the minimum amount of kids (4), even though I had 8, intending to just get the perks of the ticket blaster, a inflatable crown, and a commemorative medal. I was going to add on to the party myself and buy extra pizza and drinks for the kids that exceeded the reserved amount. I wanted to use my coupons. I explained that to the staff and there were more than amenable to it. I also told them I didn’t need a host — as I felt guilty for booking a party for 4 and really having it for 8. I wasn’t trying to be cheap — I was just trying to maximize my coupons. But they insisted on helping!

So, I show up with a handful of kids, Grandparents, and an armful of presents. The kids are yipping and bouncing — excited to get started. But — as I told them I had a party reserved and they searched their paperwork, I realized I had reserved the wrong day. I had no party scheduled. The staff literally jumped into action — saying it was no big deal and they could make this happen. In literally under 10 minutes they had the entire set-up for us! Their willingness to accommodate my mistake and needs were FANTASTIC! I was so grateful! The party host did everything! He took my order (and coupons) from the table, got us drinks and refills, served the pizza, picked-up throughout the party, engaged the kids and kept the excitement high! He constantly checked-in with me to see if I needed anything. I was soooo impressed!

In the end, we had full bellies and 8 kids with HUGE smiles on their face. My son hasn’t stopped wearing his CEC medal and now my soon-to-be 8-year-old has confessed she wants a party at Chuck’s too! Were there any negatives? Not many! It was a bit hard to round up the kids — as they were in 8 different directions, but the staff was patient. I am unsure if I would have a drop-off party for anyone younger than 5, as it is difficult to watch them all. I would also recommend a weekday party as the crowds were minimal. I have been to weekend parties and felt suffocated. But, overall, I would 100% recommend it and do it again. A huge thanks to the Herndon Chuck E. Cheese staff for making my child’s day special (and easy on mom)!

Learn more about their birthday parties here.

When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest child, my husband and I were in the Army, stationed in Monterey, CA. In the small town where we lived off-post, there was a picturesque mommy-and-me parenting center that every mom in the area went to for classes, reading time, and open play. I took my first prenatal yoga class there, and wished with all my heart that we’d be able to stay at that duty station so I could take my daughter to classes there. But of course, we moved before my daughter was born, and moved again and again. I kept looking for a place like the one I’d been to in California, but couldn’t find it. Finally, we settled in Northern Virginia. And finally, I found the place I’d been looking for!

smalltalkers is a Mommy & Me, Play Together/Learn Together Parenting Center in Centreville that offers a wide variety of opportunities and activities for moms and their little ones to enjoy. The focus is on babies and toddlers, with new classes for preschoolers and children up to age six. Classes are all age-specific and developmentally-appropriate. The space is bright and clean and engaging; on Fridays and Sundays there are Baby & Toddler Open Play hours that allow parents and their little ones to interact and socialize in a fun and child-centered environment.

Owned by Terri Lee, a retired pediatric speech therapist who teaches the Baby Play infant development and communication classes, smalltalkers is adding new class offerings and expanding its schedule next month. New classes include Prenatal and Baby-wearing Hula, ZenBaby Infant Massage, Toddler and Family Music classes, SmartArt for toddlers, Sing and Sign sign language classes for ages 3-6, Baby Signs for 6-18 months, Mommy and Me Yoga classes for crawlers through age 4, and Infant CPR and First Aid. In addition to teaching Baby Play classes, Terri Lee also hosts Baby & Toddler Open Plays twice a week, a New Moms Group, and occasionally teaches a popular “Toddlers and Tantrums” seminar. There are classes for so many different interests and ages, every day and evening of the week.

After looking for years for a parenting center like the one I’d been to in California, I am thrilled to have found smalltalkers. Come check out what smalltalkers has to offer. Learn together, Play together!

For more information about the programs and activities available, or to register for a class, visit smalltalkers online. For the chance to win a $50 credit toward any smalltalkers class with registration in the next 90 days send a blank email with “BABY” in the subject line to elizabeth@dullesmoms.com. This contest ends on Sunday, February 5th. Winner will be announced via Facebook between February 5th and 8th.

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