Free Winter Parent Workshop
Choosing a Preschool or Child Care
Presented by Ellie Springer, M.Ed.
If you are planning to enroll your child in preschool 2022, or are looking for child care, you may have questions about how to find a school that will be a good fit for you and for your child. In this virtual meeting, we will discuss what options are available in the area, and what questions to ask schools when visiting. Handouts and an up-to-date listing of local schools and licensed child care providers will be provided. Ellie's teaching degree is in Early Childhood Educaton, and she has worked in numerous types of preschools.
Email lmatthews@jri.org for the connecting link.
Tuesday, January 4, 2022
7:00 p.m. with time for questions
Do You Have a Child with a Special Need?

Mamata Nanda, local parent, advocate and Family Ambassador with First Connections, is conducting a survey to help inform future Inclusive Family Events. Interested families in Acton, Boxborough and surrounding towns are encouraged to provide input using this 2-minute survey. 

December Story Times
In-person December Series
  • Each group will be limited to 10 families
  • We will space family groups out in the room.
  • These groups will be facilitated by Early Childhood Educator Ellie Springer.
  • Ages 2 and up are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status except where an individual is unable to do so due to a medical condition or disability.
  • Groups will be 30-45 minutes in length.

To Register: Email Linda with your name, children's names & ages, and town you live in.
Each family may sign up for one series. Thank you!

Toddler Story Time
In this story time, we will sing songs (Galloop and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom included, of course), move our bodies, and listen to several stories on a theme. For children ages 6 months-2 years. Infant siblings welcome.
Themes: Things That Go; All About Me; Wintertime
Monday, December 6, 13, & 20 at 10:00 at Bedford Library with a Chinese Interpreter present
Wednesday, December 8, 15, & 22 at 10:00 at Boxborough Library
Fridays, December 3, 10, & 17 at 10:00 at First Connections in Acton
Fridays, December 3, 10, & 17 at 11:00 at First Connections in Acton

Preschool Cultural Appreciation Story Time
We live in a culturally diverse community with people who are from different countries, speak different languages, eat different foods, and celebrate different holidays. In this story time, we will read stories from different cultures and books which celebrate diversity. We will begin with our “Hello Song,” singing hello in the languages spoken by families in the group and the community. For children ages 3-5. Younger siblings welcome, but stories will be aimed at the “big kids.” Themes: Families; Food; Winter Holidays
Mondays, December 6, 13, & 20 at Bedford Library with a Chinese Interpreter present
Wednesdays, December 8, 15, and 22 at 11:00 at Boxborough Library

Hanscom Youth Center Gym Story Time
We'll meet in the gym to sing songs, do some movement, and read a couple books. For ages 6 months to 5 years, infant siblings welcome. Mask required for ages 2 and older. Open to any family with access to the Base
Tuesdays, December 7 and 14 at 10:00
New Program!

Mandarin Story Times

Join Jasmine, a Acton parent and a Family Ambassador with First Connections, for three Mandarin Story Times held virtually via Zoom this December! This special opportunity for learning and practicing Mandarin is open to children aged 2 to 5 years old. Siblings are welcome to listen in as our Story Teller engages the children in songs and reads stories in Mandarin.

Saturdays, 9:00-9:30 a.m.
December 4, 11 and 18

Meet the Story Teller

Jasmine Wang graduated from Communications University of China with a Master's Degree in Language Arts and a Certificate of Mandarin Grade A. She is a former talk show host in China, and she has four years teaching Chinese (Mandarin). Jasmine specializes in teaching Mandarin vocalization, speech, recitation, and debate.

毕业于中国传媒大学,语言艺术硕士,普通话一级甲等,曾任中央数字电视频道访谈节目主持人,在美期间有四年中文教学经验,擅长教授普通话语音发声,演讲,朗诵与辩论!
Winter Playgroup Announcement
Time off for Ms Ellie

In January, Ms Ellie will be taking a medical leave to take care of her health. She wanted us to share that it is nothing life-threatening or dangerous. We appreciate your understanding and know that she will be greatly missed by your kiddos. Ellie fully expects to resume her role facilitating playgroups by March, rested and restored! We are in the process of lining up some special programs for families during Ellie's absence. Please stay tuned for additional January and February program announcements. 
New Parent Programs - Newborn to 12 Months
Feeding Progression and Introducing Solids
Presented by Speech & Language Pathologist Claire Borowski
Presented virtually from Emerson Hospital's Clough Family Center
for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies. This presentation is included as part of the Older Babies Group, but is also open to all - Email for link
Wednesday, January 26, 10-11:00

Introduction to Infant Massage
Presented by Certified Infant Massage Teacher Mary Beilman
Infant massage is a form of loving communication that fosters bonding and trust between parent and child. In this introduction to infant massage, Mary will share an overview of the curriculum created and endorsed by Vimala McClure. It has been shared with babies, parents, and educators for almost 40 years in over 50 countries. The strokes used in infant massage are a combination of Swedish and Indian style massage as well as reflexology. Learn about the benefits for you and your baby, what to expect in the class, and have your questions answered. Email for link: lmatthews@jri.org. Open to parents and baby's other caregivers. Appropriate for babies 0-6 months.
Tuesday, February 15, 10:00 am
Thursday, February 17, 6:00 pm

New Mothers Group - Every Wednesday, 1-2:30
Anyone who identifies as a mother with a pre-crawling baby is welcome to attend this ongoing weekly drop-in group facilitated by Early Childhood Educator Lactation Counselor, Sleep Consultant 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, learn about your baby's developmentand seek guidance about any concerns you might have. Currently being held virtually via zoom. Email mbeilman@jri.org for the link.
This group will NOT meet on December 29 or February 23.

New Dads Group - Held Monthly on Tuesdays, 7:30-9:00
Our New Dads Group is a peer-led group, facilitated by two experienced dads. This group allows dads to make connections, ask questions, learn about child development, and share their experiences of parenthood. Adjusting to a new identity as a parent along with the 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. This group is geared toward fathers with babies 0-12 months. We are LGBTQ+ friendly and welcome any person who identifies as a father. Please email hobrien@jri.org before attending to receive the connecting link for this currently-virtual group. Meets December 14, January 11 and February 8

Older Babies Parent Group - Wednesdays, 10-11:00
This virtual 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 of this group. Weekly attendance is expected unless you notify us that you are unable to make it in case we have a wait list. This group requires registration for the Winter semester by emailing lmatthews@jri.org.
Meets January 5, 12, 19, 26, February 2, 9 and 16
An Update about Our Diaper Pantry

The First Connections Diaper Pantry is struggling to support 18 area families with diaper needs during the ongoing pandemic and high cost of living in our area. Currently we have sizes Newborn, 1, and 2 in stock. We have a wait list of families who we distribute to as soon as any larger size donations are received. If any school, religious or community group, or business is interested in holding a diaper drive on a yearly or one-time basis, we would greatly appreciate donations of any size diapers. To arrange delivery or pickup email Linda, lmatthews@jri.org
Emotional Wellbeing After Baby
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 or depression in the postpartum year and beyond can come together in this supportive, nonjudgmental, confidential group to share stories and learn from each other while receiving coping strategies and skills. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the rates of anxiety and depression among pregnant and postpartum parents. Before participating for the first time, please contact the facilitator, Heather O'Brien, LICSW, so she can send you the connecting zoom link. 
Parents with Babies 0-12 Months: Thursdays, 9:30-11:00, ongoing
Parents with Babies 12-24 Months: Thursdays, 11:30-1:00 7-week session 1/6/22-2/17/22
Our office maintains an extensive list of mental health providers and support groups specializing in postpartum depression and anxiety. For assistance in finding a counselor or a support group that fits your schedule, or to speak about specific concerns related to postpartum depression or anxiety, email Heather O'Brien
Funding for these groups provided by The Nordblum Family Foundation and Sage Therapeutics
Newborn Behavioral Observation

Mary Beilman was recently trained through the Brazelton Institute to administer the Newborn Behavioral Observation System. The NBO is an infant-focused, family-centered, relationship-based tool that uses shared observations to learn and understand more about your unique baby! The NBO is used with families and infants from birth to 3 months. If you are interested in meeting with Mary, virtually or in person following COVID protocols, to partake in the NBO, please email her at: mbeilman@jri.org

For more information about NBO: visit the website
Winter Community Parent Support & Education
The following programs are not provided by First Connections but are compiled here for your convenience.
Virtual Parenting Workshops thru The Loved Child, Belmont Full information here
Peaceful Parenting, an Evidence-Based Approach, December 7 or March 8, 7-8:30 pm, $35
Supporting Sibling Relationships, February 8, 7-8:30 pm, $35
Toddlers 101: Tantrums, Hurting Behaviors and "It's Mine", February 22, 7-8:30 pm, $35

Virtual Sleep Support Group thru Baby Connections
Would you like to learn more about your baby's sleep? Do you want to connect with other parents with babies the same age who may be experiencing similar sleep challenges? This group is a judgement-free zone where you can learn about what is developmentally appropriate for sleep from a certified pediatric sleep consultant. Held on zoom, $40 for 4 weeks. Contact mary@babyconnections.org to register.
0-6 months held January 11-February 1, Tuesdays, 10-11:00
6-12 months held January 13-February 3, Thursdays 2-3:00

Virtual LGBTQ New Parent Group (FREE)
is held on the last Tuesday of each month through LGBTQ Birth, 1-2:30 pm. Register here

Virtual Parent Groups Held by the Center for Early Relationship Support (FREE)
If you have any questions, email dgardner@jfcsboston.org or Website Information
Fragile Beginnings for parents of babies who've spent time in the NICU, Tuesdays, 12-1:00, Register Here
Newly Adoptive Parents of babies under 12 mos. meets on Fridays from 10-11:30. Register Here
Parents of Toddlers (1-3 yrs) meets from 1-2:30 on Wednesdays. Register Here

Free Virtual Support for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Join the Asperger/Autism Network of New England for "Asperger's/Autism 101: a Workshop for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children & Teens" on December 9, 7-9 pm. Register Here
This organization also has free monthly support groups for Fathers, Spanish Speakers and Grandparents. Information Here

Free Autism Alliance Support and Activities for Families
Portuguese-speaking Group de Suporte for parents meets 6:30-8:30, 11/29 & 12/20, Info Here
Just for Dads Drop-in Support Group, first Wednesday of each month, 6:30-7:30 Info Here
Parents of Children Age 10 & Under Drop-in Group meets the 2nd Fridays, 12-1:00, Info Here

Parents Helping Parents Support Groups (FREE)
Facilitated virtual groups allow parents to get advice, give feedback, and find resources to help you manage day-to-day parenting challenges. Specialty groups include Single Parents, Parent Connection Evening Groups, Lunch & Learn, and those working with the Department of Children & Families. Information Page

NAMI Support Group (FREE) Information Page
NAMI offers support groups for family members of persons struggling with mental illness, as well as peer groups for those with a diagnosed mental illness. Specialty groups are available for partners and parents, including a Spanish-language group. "NAMI Basics" is an on-demand educational program available to parents/caregivers of children and adolescents with emotional or behavioral issues Link Here

Infant and Pregnancy Loss Support Group (FREE)
This ongoing 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 practitioner specializing in perinatal grief support. Individuals are encouraged to contact the facilitator, Katie Stockman at katie@kstockmannp.com or 617-299-1533 for the connecting zoom link. "We are a compassionate and nurturing community of grieving parents - you are not alone."
Second Monday of the Month, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group in Acton (FREE)
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 this group, which meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, 11-12:00, at 30 Sudbury Road (Acton Senior Center), contact Joe O'Leary at 978-760-0360 or j.j.oleary@comcast.net. For additional statewide resources, workshops, & evening groups, contact colleen.pritoni@state.ma.us or 617-748-2454. Upcoming webinar topics include Educational Advocacy and Positive Thinking

Adoption Journeys Monthly Support Group (FREE)
Every month this professionally-facilitated group for adoptive parents meets virtually for support, education, and connection. Periodic guest speakers, family events and a bi-monthly newsletter are additional benefits of registering. To find out more or join this group, email Child & Family Services, Christina Zalaket
Free & Low-Cost Community Parent & Child Programs
Free Virtual Storytime with Author Tricia Elam Walker at Silver Unicorn Books
Join the author for a reading of her new book, "Dream Street," a story about love between generations in a wonderful neighborhood. Saturday, November 20, 11-12:00 Register Here

Free Admission to Discovery Museum, Acton, for Everyone on First Fridays!
December 3, January 7, February 4, 4:30-7:30 p.m. Reservations required!
Free Especially for Me Autism-Friendly Day
December 5, 3-4:30. Registration is required! Information Here

Free Annual Reading of The Nutcracker with dancers from Commonwealth Ballet
Wednesday, December 1, 4:30-5:15. Register for zoom link thru Acton Library
Wednesday, December 8, 4:30-5:15. No registration necessary at Concord Library, 129 Main Street.
These program are geared toward ages 4-10.

Free Make a Holiday Home for your Favorite Elf, Troll, Fairy or Gnome
Grab & go supplies or stay and create! Held at Randall Library in Stow on Thursday, December 2, 3:30-5 and Saturday, December 4, 1-3:00. Library Information

Free Very Merry Hollyday Celebration at Nara Park, 25 Ledge Rock Way, Acton
Singalong, festive games, prizes, and a special visitor. Saturday, December 4, 4-6:00 pm. No registration.

Free Tree Lighting and Holiday Parade in Concord Center
Free photos with Santa (who arrives on a Fire Truck!), Rudolph, Frosty or Disney Princesses. Sunday, December 5, 3-6:00 pm. Information Page

Free Indian Music & Dance Festival at Boxboro Library
Musician Maitreyee Chakraborty is bringing a music festival featuring songs with keyboard and drum accompaniment, and dance numbers. All ages will enjoy this lively celebration of Indian music and art!
Saturday, December 4, 11:30-1:00. Register Here.

Free In-Person "Holiday House" Activity at Maynard Library
Join Wendy Valentine to make a graham cracker house decorated with frosting and candy! Appropriate for ages 4 and up. Limited to 15. December 16 at 3:00 in the meeting room. Register here

Family Trees Exhibit at Concord Museum through January 2nd
Visit the annual exhibit of trees decorated as a celebration of children's literature! Special events include a puppet show on Dec. 4, and constellation craft and stargazing event on author/illustrator day, Dec. 5. Admission: $18 adult, $8 ages 6-17, $5 ages 3-5. Information Page

Artfull Explorations at deCordova Park & Museum in Lincoln
Investigate ideas & unique materials inspired by the themes and artists on view in the park or museum with the whole family. Geared to ages 5-12. Pre-ticketing required to maintain capacity limits; ticket includes museum and park admission. $18 adult non-member, Trustees members and children free. Sunday, December 5, 1-2:00 pm. Register Here
An opportunity for art and play through experiences in the park, including art materials and stories for ages 2-5. $18 adult, Trustees members and children free. December 8, 10:30-11:30. Register Here

Free "Understanding Weather" with the Ecotarium for Grades 2-8 thru Littleton Library
Discover why weather changes and how tiny molecules can create massive storms through interactive demonstrations with Ecotarium staff. Free. Wednesday, December 8, 3-3:45. Register Here

Free Storytime Ballet: The Nutcracker with Dream Ballet School
Join Westford Library for this virtual adventure that brings a timeless story to life through music and dance. Wednesday, December 8, 10:30-11. Register for the Zoom link.

Free Holiday Sing-a-long with Steve Blunt through Westford Library
Virtual preschool concert featuring familiar tunes with a holiday theme to get kids singing, dancing and celebrating. Thursday, December 16, 10:30-11:15. Register for the Zoom link.

Free Rockabye Beats Live on the Concord Library Lawn, 129 Main St.
Fun family group playing rock'n'roll, calypso, funk and blues to get kids moving, counting, singing and speaking Spanish. No registration required. Drop in on Thursday, December 9, 11-11:30.

Free Concord Puppet Theater continues in the Sudbury Road Garden, 129 Main Street thru February! Different puppets each week, new songs, and occasional crafts under the blue tents. Bring your own puppet or instrument if you have one, and join the fun. Every Friday (except 12/24 & 31), 10:30-11:00. No registration required, just drop in.
New Resources in the Community
Discovery Museum Grandparents Blog
Former kindergarten teacher and grandmother of 4 Cheryl Beaudoin is facilitating a blog especially for grandparents on the Discovery Museum website. Topics such as "What About Grandfathers," "Hosting a Summer Camp for Your Grandchildren," and "Purposeful Play" are some recent offerings. Grandparents are invited to share stories, ideas, comments on how the Discovery Museum can best support you and your grandchildren.
Sesame Street in Communities: Autism
All children experience the world differently, and those differences are even greater for children with autism. As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism (or as someone who knows a person with autism), your understanding and support can help ease daily challenges…while celebrating the uniqueness of all. This resource includes activities, printables, a storybook, and learning resources for parents and kids such as self- and sibling-care, what to say to a parent of a child with autism, "Especially for Chinese-American Families," and more! Connect: HERE
Do you Experience "Tug of War" Behavior?
"Several years ago, a colleague described someone as a tug-of-war kid: a child who will pick up the rope and tug every time they have the opportunity. I jokingly talk with parents in my practice about how tug-of-war kids are often watching parents like a hawk, waiting for the moment that the parent merely glances at the rope. As soon as the parent has looked in the general direction of the rope, these children will pick it up and pull as hard as they can…every time! Whether you are parenting a child who occasionally likes to engage in a game of tug-of-war or one who is happy to say ‘game on’ at a moment’s notice, here are some tips to support parents who find themselves in a power struggle with a child."
Do you have Unmet Transportation Needs?
Do you live in Acton, Bolton, Concord, Maynard, Stow or Sudbury?
These towns are conducting a transportation needs survey of residents and employees who do not currently drive or have access to a car. Your input will help us understand your travel patterns, need for transportation, and help us plan better solutions. Completing the survey should take 5-10 minutes. Feel free to share this with others. Survey Link
Age-Specific Tips from ASQ
Healthy Children Texting Program
The American Academy of Pediatrics and Ages & Stages Questionnaire have teamed up to offer a new texting program that will send free age-specific texts to you right when you need it. Available in English and Spanish.
December 1st Transportation Forum
Find out How to Get There from Here, on Zoom!
For residents of Acton, Carlisle, Concord, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury and Westford
The Acton Transportation Advisory Committee is holding a Transportation Forum on Zoom for riders and potential riders. People from nearby towns that are part of CrossTown Connect (listed above) are welcome to come as well. Let's talk about:
° Your transportation experiences and unmet transportation needs
° What is CrossTown Connect?
° Do you know about the CAT Bus, MinuteVan, Rail Shuttle, PT1, Road Runner, and Maynard Shuttle?
° What is the "Making the Connections" program, and What is the new Taxi Program?
You will be able to meet the staff and ask questions. Join Zoom Meeting on December 1, 7:00 p.m.
Meeting ID: 856 8696 8469, Passcode: Transport One
Tap mobile +16468769923,,85686968469# US (New York) +13017158592,,85686968469# US (Washington DC) Dial by your location +1 646 876 9923 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) Meeting ID: 856 8696 8469. For more information, write to TAC@actonma.gov .
Thank you. Franny Osman Chair, Transportation Advisory Committee

Thanking our Community for your Support

Trinitarian Congregational Church, Concord
$2,000 donation

Acton-Boxboro United Way Day of Caring
for diapers & cleaning supplies

Boxboro's Free Bee Market and Acton-Boxboro Family Network
for diaper donations

CHNA15 for a Staff Training Grant
Determination of Need funds from Lahey Hospital and Medical Center