January thru March 2021              
FIRST CONNECTIONS' WINTER NEWSLETTER 
Playgroups, Support Groups, Parenting Seminars, Community Resources

 This logo indicates the program is funded by the Coordinated Family & Community Engagement grant awarded to Justice Resource Institute by the Mass. Dept. of Early Education and Care

  ALL FIRST CONNECTIONS PROGRAMS ARE FREE AND REQUIRE REGISTRATION BEFORE ATTENDING 

Email:

We are open and operating remotely. Messages left at 978-429-8284 will be returned on a less-frequent basis than email. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
Infant and Pregnancy Loss Support Group
This free monthly group is for those who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy at any stage or infant loss shortly after birth and are looking for support from others with shared experiences. The group is facilitated by an advanced practice nurse with experience supporting families whose pregnancies have ended unexpectedly or whose infants have died.
Held at Virtually
Mondays, 6:30-8:00 pm
Jan. 11, Feb. 8, March 8, 2021

Individuals are encouraged to contact the facilitator, Katie Stockman, NP, at 
katie@kstockmannp.com
or 617-299-1533 before attending, though this is not required.  
Childcare Subsidies
Parents who would like to know if they are eligible for a childcare subsidy should call 877-211-6277, or go to
To check if your household income qualifies for assistance check here:
 
Subsidy Update
There is an approximate one-year wait list for child care subsidies to help pay for the cost of child care. If you are already on the subsidy wait list and have recently moved, changed your phone number or email address, please be sure to contact the office below serving your town to update your record so you can be notified of openings on the waitlist:

ACTON, BOXBORO, CONCORD, HARVARD, LITTLETON, WESTFORD
 978-602-8650 or 

MAYNARD, SUDBURY
508-796-1838
marbrown@sevenhills.org 

BEDFORD, CARLISLE, LINCOLN
 800-660-2868 or
                                        
If you would like an updated listing of child care centers and home child care providers in the First Connections catchment area, we can easily send that to you by email or you can view it on our website. The list includes programs that accept vouchers, as well as scholarship information for preschool. Just email lmatthews@jri.org or go to:

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group in Acton

Come share the rewards and challenges of raising your grandchildren. Learn from and support others in similar circumstances. Discover ways to relieve stress. Benefit from the resources available from the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and hear about State agencies which can provide assistance. If you are interested in joining, contact Joe O'Leary at 978-760-0360 or j.j.oleary@comcast.net
Held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, 11-12:00, currently meeting virually.

For additional resources, workshops, and evening groups, contact the Mass. Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: 
New Resource

Hey Mama is a national online community for working moms. We are fortunate to have its Boston/New England Chapter Organizer attending our new moms program and she would like to share that there are bi-weekly virtual meetups happening which address business and personal topics. The local group meets Wednesdays Noon-1:00, and Fridays 9:30-10:30 am. If you would like to try a local virtual group to meet other local moms and business women, or if you have questions, email Lindsey, lsbinette@gmail.com

If you join the National Hey Mama group, membership gives you access to local meetings as well as all other groups across the U.S., a community Slack channel, a google forum where members collaborate, network, troubleshoot, brainstorm and connect . Learn more here:
New Resource

COVID-19 is putting incredible pressure on families. If you have been noticing your child struggle in new ways, or old problems getting worse, a new resource from the Mass. Dept. of Public Health and Office of the Child Advocate can help you figure out whether you should worry or not, and if so what the next steps should be. The website is translatable into Spanish, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese.



A reminder that the following towns have access to a free resource for finding a mental health counselor for adults or children:
Acton, Bedford, Boxboro, Carlisle, Concord, Lincoln, Littleton, Sudbury and Westford.
After a short phone intake a masters-level clinician will match your needs with therapists who take your insurance, practice within the distance you can travel (or have telehealth services) and have openings. You can use the service until you find a match. The website is translatable into many languages.
888-244-6843
New Resource
Baby Connections is a new service based in Acton providing (currently virtual) monthly Baby Sign and Infant Massage daytime and evening classes, in addition to lactation counseling. 
YOU MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR WIC AND NOT EVEN KNOW IT 

Pregnant women and children under age 5 can receive free healthy food. Women's, Infants & Children's Nutrition Program benefits will not count against immigrants as a Public Charge, and information is never shared with any government agency without your consent. In addition to free food, families can reduce their electricity bills, get free or reduced admission to 100 museums or cultural sites in the state, participate in nutrition education, receive breastfeeding support and/or formula, and shop at farmers' markets. Application is completely virtual/by phone right now in English, Spanish and Portuguese. You are automatically eligible if you receive SNAP or TAFDC, you have a foster child, or MassHealth insurance. To check your financial eligibility, and the program details, go to: 
WIC Eligibility
or call 800-942-1007 and leave a message - someone will call you back Monday-Friday, 9-5:00


Discovery Museum News!

Pajama New Year's Countdown
Thursday, December 31
9-11:00 or 12-2:00
Make your ticket reservation and make noisemakers, skate in your socks, and have a New Year's Countdown to say goodbye 2020!

Join Miss Bernadette for Free Virtual Music & Movement
Registration on the Calendar page required to receive the link. 
Held Jan. 8, Feb. 12, March 12

Especially for Me Free Access
January 10
Autism-Friendly Afternoon
January 31
Families w/ D/HH & KODA
February 28: All Access
March 7
Visually Impaired Afternoon
March 28
Autism-Friendly Afternoon

Food insecurity in Massachusetts has doubled during the Covid-19 Pandemic, and is highest among households with children (19%). Temporarily using a food pantry stretches your dollars needed for other things, and there are no qualifiers for using a pantry right now. To find resources for Food Pantries that serve our 11 towns Click Here

For resources in other towns

Does Your Mask Wearing Affect Your Baby?
Drs. Ed Tronick & Nancy Snidman of U. Mass. Boston Child Development Unit are trying to find out! Parents interested in this topic can participate in a research study from home with your baby age 3-18 months. The study involves your keeping track of how long you are wearing a mask over a few days, and making a video of playing with your baby. Click Here for More Info
Choosing a Preschool
Thursday, January 7, 7:00 pm
Presented by Ellie Springer, M.Ed
Hopefully by September 2021, children will be able to go back to school in a relatively "normal" way. If you are planning to enroll your child in preschool in the fall, or will be sending them back to child care later this year after taking a break because of the pandemic, you may have questions about how to find a school that will be a good fit for you and your child. In this virtual meeting, we will discuss what options are available in the area, and what questions to ask schools when visiting. Bring questions! Handouts and a list of local schools will be provided.
Email lmatthews@jri.org for the connecting link.

Introduction to Infant Massage
Presented by Certified Educator of Infant Massage Mary Beilman 
Wednesday, February 10, 7:00 p.m.
Infant massage is a form of loving communication that fosters bonding and trust between parent and child. The strokes are a combination of Swedish and Indian style massage as well as reflexology. The curriculum used in this program was created and is endorsed by the founder Vimala McClure. It has been shared with babies, parents, and educators for almost 40 years in over 50 countries around the world.
In this introduction to Infant Massage, Mary will share an overview of the curriculum, the benefits for you and your baby, what to expect in the class and be able to answer any questions. Register for the link by emailing lmatthews@jri.org

Healthy Sleep for Our Little Big Kids
Wednesday, March 10, 8:00 pm
Presented by Pediatric Sleep Consultant Emma Jackson
Learn about why sleep is so important for our toddlers and preschoolers, common issues that interfere with our children's healthy sleep, and, most importantly, manageable solutions to bring the peace and calm back to bedtime. Register for the link by emailing lmatthews@jri.org

First Year of Life Support Programs

 

New Mothers Group
Any mother with a pre-crawling baby is welcome to attend this ongoing weekly drop-in group facilitated by Lactation Counselor and Infant Massage Teacher Mary Beilman. This open discussion group is a forum for you to share experiences and resources, connect with other new mothers, and seek guidance about any concerns you might have. Currently being held virtually via Zoom. Email mbeilman@jri.org for the link.

Every Wednesday, 1-2:30 p.m. Will NOT meet December 30.

 

Emotional Wellbeing After Baby Group

Emotional challenges are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, yet parents often feel isolated and ashamed if they are struggling. Parents experiencing anxiety, depression, or just feeling overwhelmed in the postpartum year can come together in this supportive, nonjudgmental, confidential group to share stories and learn from each other. This is an ongoing, weekly group, which is currently being held virtually thru Zoom. Email the facilitator, Heather O'Brien, LICSW, at hobrien@jri.org for the connecting link.                             
Held every Thursday, 10:00-11:30 am 

 

New Dads Group

This group allows dads to make connections with other fathers, ask questions, and share their experiences of parenthood. Adjusting to the new work/life balance and changes in relationships with friends, family and partners can sometimes be a challenge! Fathers are welcome to attend with/without babies and continue to attend the group for as long as it is helpful. Please email hobrien@jri.org before attending to receive the connecting link for this currently-virtual group.
Tuesdays, January 12, February 9 & March 9, 7:30-9:00 pm  


 

 Older Babies Parent Group
This group is for parents whose babies are moving out of the newborn stage, beginning to move independently and eat a wider variety of foods. You may have different questions than parents who are in the 4th trimester. Your baby should be a minimum of 5 months and a maximum of 11 months at the start to join this group. Weekly attendance is expected unless you notify us that you are unable to make it. This group requires registration by emailing lmatthews@jri.org. Held Wednesdays, 10:00-11:30, January 13-March31, 2021
             
New Virtual Playgroups begin the week of January 11, 2021 - your child should be registered for the group that includes his/her age on the start date
Groups end April 2nd.
Registration is required for all groups: lmatthews@jri.org. No fees. Families may be registered for one
group. All groups require participation of a parent or caregiver. Registration begins as soon as you receive your newsletter.
Please let us know your child's first name and age, and the town you live in. Registration preference is given to the towns our grant serves: Acton, Bedford, Boxboro, Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Hanscom AFB, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury, Westford.

Playgroups will NOT meet during public school vacation, the week of February 15.

Ages & Stages Playgroup for 1 Year Olds 
Held Tuesdays at 10:00, January 12-March 30 
Ages & Stages Playgroup for 2 Year Olds . 
Held Fridays at 10:00, January 15-April 2
These caregiver & child playgroups are based on the Ages & Stages recommended activities and developmental milestones for each age group. The program includes an interactive story time, songs, and rhymes led by an Early Childhood Educator.

Math Fun for Multilingual Families with 2 & 3 Year Olds
Young children are learning early math skills such as shapes, counting, measuring, and patterns. In this group, we will make math fun with stories, songs, and hands-on activities. This group is for families who speak a language other than or in addition to English at home as part of their daily life.
Held on  Mondays at 10:00, January 11-March 29
  

Math Fun for 3 & 4 Year Olds
Young children are learning early math skills such as shapes, counting, measuring, and patterns. In this group, we will make math fun with stories, songs, and hands-on activities.
Held on Wednesdays at 11:00, January 13-March 31

Money & Math for 4 & 5 Year Olds
You may not realize it, but money is a big part of your child's life. They watch commercials, observe us buying groceries, clothes, and toys, and before COVID, they accompanied adults to the bank. While credit and debit cards are hard for children to understand, we can help them understand some of the basics of money. In this group, we will read books about money as well as other math concepts, and do some hands-on activities to make it fun and engaging. This group will have a similar curriculum to the same group last year, but children who were in the group last year are welcome to join again. This year's tour of the DCU Credit Union will be virtual. Offered at 2 different times:
Thursdays at 10:00, January 14-April 1 for families who speak a language other than or in addition to English at home as part of their daily life.
Fridays at 11:00, January 15-April 2 for all families with 4 & 5 yr olds 
 

Other Ways to Connect with Miss Ellie

Facebook Live Circle Time
Wednesdays at 10:00
No registration required, connect here:

Recorded Storytime Videos 
with activity ideas that are related to the story!
To receive notification when these are posted, or to connect with Ellie about anything else, email: espringer@jri.org
  

Registration for Kindergarten 2021 takes place in winter and spring - check your town's information so you won't miss it!
Acton-Boxborough Kindergarten Info Night
Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 7:00-8:30 p.m. 
Virtual Meeting Link and registration information will be posted here:
Students need to be 5 by September 1, 2021. 
Online registration will be held beginning January 20.
There will be NO in-person tours of individual schools this year. Each school will have a virtual meeting (details at above link)
Info: Registrar - 978-264-3303 or registrar@abschools.org  

Bedford Public Schools
No information at publication time. Contact Tami Heywood, 781-275-6804, at the Davis School (K-2) with questions.

Calling All Future Kindergartners in Carlisle!
Do you have a child who will turn 5 by September 1, 2021? If so, we encourage you to register for kindergarten at Carlisle Public Schools to help make the process a smooth transition. Please contact Amy Smack, Registrar, at 978-369-6550 or asmack@carlisle.k12.ma.us. Please include the student's first name, date of birth, home address, parent/guardian names, phone numbers and email addresses. If your child is eligible but you are making different plans for kindergarten, please share your plans with us. Thank you!

Concord Public Schools
Concord elementary schools historically do not register for Kindergarten until spring - keep watch on this page for more information. Students must be 5 by August 31, 2021 to register.

Harvard
You can fill out your "Intent to Enroll in Kindergarten" form to receive information on specific dates and timelines for kindergarten 2021 registration events. Contact person: Jessica, jdrennen@psharvard.org. Children must be 5 by 8/31/21 to enroll. 

Lincoln Public Schools
Students must be 5 by September 30, 2021 to enroll in kindergarten. Students already attending Lincoln/Hanscom Public Preschools do not need to re-register. Questions, call 781-274-7721.

Littleton Transition Information Night 2021
March 4, 6:00-7:00 pm and March 5, 7:00-8:00 pm
978-486-3959. Watch for details: New Student Registration Info
Children must be 5 before September 1, 2021

Maynard Public Schools
Children must be 5 by September 1, 2021 to register for Kindergarten. 2021 information has not been posted yet, but you can call 978-897-8246 for information or check this page.

It's Time for Kickoff to Kindergarten in Sudbury!
January 26, 2021, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Parent Information Session:
The evening includes a panel discussion for parents and guardians including teachers, administrators, the head nurse and PTO representatives. Join the discussion and Q & A session. Learn about "A day in the life of a kindergartner," the registration process, curriculum, school safety, and how to prepare. Kindergarten Registration begins February 1st. Please do not submit your registration through the online link until then. For more information: www.sudbury.k12.ma.us  

Westford Public Schools
Kindergarten Registration will be held on:
March 8, 4:00-6:00 pm & March 9, 9:00-noon at Robinson School
March 8, 6:00-8:00 pm & March 9 9:00-noon at Nabnasset School
March 8 & 9 at Miller School (978-392-4476 for times)
For children who will be 5 by September 1, 2021.
For questions/information: 978-692-5560 x2426

 
 Groups & Workshops

Does Your Child Worry a Lot? "Let's Talk About Anxiety Group for Ages 8-12" begins January 6
Social Emotional Learning Specialist Donna Shea is offering a 4-week group for kids who worry to meet other kids and learn coping strategies for when worry happens. Kids will talk about the different ways people experience anxiety, the brain science behind anxiety, how anxiety can physically feel, and will gain a toolbox of ways to understand & manage anxiety. $250 for the series. d.shea.peterpancenter@gmail.com or 978-413-1965 for questions. This is a virtual group. Registration link

Adoption Journeys bi-monthly Parent Support Group
Build connections and community, receive validation and encouragement in this online facilitated group. Held on Monday at 7:30 pm every other week. Topics presented, and sharing welcome. Contact czalaket@cfservices.org to register for this ongoing group. Free.

Parents of Adopted Babies under Age 1 Support Group
Center for Early Relationship Support free video support group held on Fridays from 10-11:30 thru March 19, 2021. For questions, contact mkahan@adoptionresources.org or register here: Adoption Group

Parents of Toddlers Age 1-3
Center for Early Relationship Support free video support group held on Wednesdays from 1-2:30 thru March 17, 2021. Register here for link:

Parents of Multiples up to Age 1
Center for Early Relationship Support twins & triplets support group for parents of babies will help you develop your own community. Held online Thursdays, 10-11:30 thru March 18. Free.  Register here

The Loved Child Winter Parenting Workshop Series
Toddler Tantrums, Hurting Behaviors, "It's Mine", 2/23/21, 7pm, $25
Supporting Sibling Relationships, 2/2/21, 7-9 pm, $35
Peaceful Parenting: An Effective, Relationship-Building Approach, held 3/2/21, 7-9 pm, $35
4th Trimester Saturday 6-Week Support & Education Group, Begins January 9 or March 6, 2021, 1:30-2:45 pm, $145
Register/details for all programs: The Loved Child Classes

Community Happenings - Parent & Child
Hansel & Gretel Storywalk & Gingerbread House
The main library (129 Main St) in Concord Center has set up a storywalk of Hansel & Gretel on the front lawn, and a life-size gingerbread house in the library's front portico, thru January 2! They also have a Take & Make craft program with a new craft every week. To reserve your kit for curbside pickup, call 978-318-3300 or email RnMcGrath@minlib.net 

Jack & The Beanstalk: A Musical Adventure thru A.R.T.
American Repertory Theater in Cambridge has filmed their new play and is making it available to families on demand thru January 4th.The production is appropriate for ages 4 & up and is 55 min. A "Jacktivity" pack of materials is downloadable or available for purchase. $20 per household (or pay-what-you-can option) gives you 7 days to watch.

Zoolights at Stone Zoo will take place 4-9:30 p.m. thru January 17. At publication time tickets were available for Jan. 3-17. One-way stroll through the lighted pathways lets you also see black bears, bald eagle, Canadian lynx and reindeer! Masks and timed tickets required. $13.95/person, under 2 free, or 4 for $50.  Zoolights Information/Tickets

Virtual Disney Family Trivia Game
Dress up as your favorite Disney character and join the Westford Library for a fun game. Think of your team, grab a computer for the zoom link and a smart phone/tablet to play the game (no app needed), then test your Disney knowledge. Held December 30, 1-2:30. Register Disney

Alphabits Weekly Program for Ages 2-5
Bedford Library is offering a free program for children to learn about each letter of the alphabet. Held on Mondays from 10:30-11, the program will include stories, songs, rhymes, activities and a printable letter craft each week from January 4-June 28. Pre-register Here

ABC and Me Weekly Program for Ages 2-5
Westford Library will begin a weekly alphabet program on Tuesday, January 26, 10:30-11. The storytime will help children learn to identify letters through books, songs, puppets, and emailed activity sheets. Registration will be announced on the Facebook page.

Littles & Letters Weekly Program for Ages 3-5
Littleton Library is offering a weekly alphabet program that uses songs, books and activities to learn about letters. This program happens each Wednesday at 11:30 on the children's Facebook page which you can join at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1498668993653206 

Art & Nature Drop In thru Umbrella Arts in Concord
This Zoom class for ages 4-10 will focus on a new craft combined with natural materials, scientific exploration, creativity, and reflection on nature adventures. Classes meet from January 21-April 1. If there are warm days in spring the group may meet in person. Questions about Covid protocols can be emailed to caroline@theumbrellaarts.org. This program will meet on Thursdays, 3:30-5:00. More info/registration

Thank you to the following who organized Diaper Pantry Drives:
Acton-Boxboro Family Network
High Rock Church Acton's Next Gen Group

Thank you to the following Organizations for their Donations:
AB United Way $5000 grant for 18 months
Concord-Carlisle Community Chest $2,500 grant
Acton Congregational Church, $2,500 donation
William E. Schrafft & Bertha E. Schrafft Charitable Trust, $5,000 donation
Eversource for matching a $2000 donation
J.M. Huber Corporation $310.15

Thanks to the "2020 Moms Group" for the generous gift cards to Target, The Blackbird Cafe and Silver Unicorn Book Store; and the Yook family for the Amazon gift card!
First Connections is funded by a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grant awarded to Justice Resource Institute by the Mass. Department of Early Education and Care and by the generous support of Eastern Bank, Concord-Carlisle Community Chest, Acton Congregational Church, Trinitarian Congregational Church, Maynard Community Chest, Acton Boxborough United Way, the Nordblum Family Foundation and other community partners. We provide free support, early childhood and parent education, and resources to all families with children under age 9 living in Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury, Westford and Hanscom AFB. To view our direct services and programs, please go to: