Kids’ Almanac: Meet a real reindeer, build a LEGO Christmas City, bid Sinterklaas bon voyage

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”
– Henry David Thoreau


Volunteering for all ages

Were you an active volunteer in the community before having children? Have you struggled with ways to get your kids involved in charity work? Local Mom Roxanne Ferber explores this topic on her blog,, highlighting ways for kids of all ages to help without leaving home!

Her initiative, Operation Christmas Cheer, is a perfect example: Children and adults simply mail holiday cards to children with cancer or other terminal illness to hang in their rooms. Roxanne explains, “My kids are too young for most volunteer opportunities, so I created Operation Christmas Cheer as a way for us to volunteer together. It’s something they can do at any age.”

She lists Bonnie Boxes as another way for families to support others all year round by creating gift packages for children or adults with cancer, including items such as hats, snacks, word puzzles and more. I know that I enjoyed receiving one at my first chemotherapy session! Roxanne also describes hosting a coat drive or collecting supplies for a food pantry. Check out her blog for more information.

Debbie St. Onge is another local community organizer who volunteers year-round and believes that “Everyone should get involved; everyone has talents they can share.” How about giving the gift of music? Debbie recommends caroling at area nursing homes or other agencies. Our family agrees and welcomes Kids’ Almanac readers to dress festively and join us in our annual caroling outing for all ages at the Mountain View Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in New Paltz on Sunday, December 6 from 2 to 3 p.m. Kids could make a craft ahead of time to distribute to the senior residents during the visit!

Volunteer work is needed throughout the year, and Debbie suggests running events such as a food drive and donating the contributions to your local food pantry, or even participating in the postal sort in the spring, organizing the food donations from the drive. Teens can volunteer at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie, or even the Walkway over the Hudson. Youth can be of great help at your town’s Community Day.

Debbie is a frequent volunteer at the Dutchess Outreach soup kitchen in Poughkeepsie, the Lunchbox: a terrific way for young people ages 8 and up to help prepare a meal, serve and clean up. And remember our animal friends by running a pet food drive, or making dog or cat toys to donate to an area shelter.  No matter the age of your children, there are ways for everyone to volunteer and support our community!



Family holiday programs at Albany Institute of History & Art

Want to see a live reindeer or take a photo with Santa without heading to the North Pole? Make plans to take your family to the Albany Institute of History & Art this weekend. The Albany Institute hosts special holiday family programming this Friday, November 27 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, November 28 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday, November 29 from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m. Additional activities include making cards, seeing America’s first commercially produced Christmas card, looking at the exhibitions on display and more.

Admission costs $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $6 for children aged 6 to 12 years and is free for children under 6. The Albany Institute of History & Art is located at 125 Washington Avenue in Albany. For more information, call (518) 463-4478 or visit I also recommend checking out the Visiting with Children portion of the website for helpful family guides for touring the museum.


Haunted houses in Wappingers & Ulster Park turn frosty

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and the two places that I mentioned last month for Halloween festivities have switched gears and are now in holiday mode, displaying decorative light exhibits, interactive elements and more! Kevin McCurdy’s Holiday Spirit Festival at Bowdoin Park begins Friday, November 27 and runs on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Admission costs $12 for ages 12 and up, $10 for military personnel, seniors and children ages 11 and under. Children under 2 years of age get in free. Bowdoin Park is located at 38 Sheafe Road in Wappingers Falls. For more information, call (845) 297-XMAS or visit

A Frosty Fest is the holiday transformation at Headless Horseman, which opens on Friday, November 27 and takes place on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 4:30 to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Admission costs $12.95 for children under 12 and $15.95 for adults. A Frosty Fest is located at 778 Broadway in Ulster Park. For more information, call (845) 339-2666 or visit


Meet the Animals at Hudson Highlands Nature Museum

Build on the memories of Thanksgiving by taking an outing with the family to experience nature. All weekend long, the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum invites you to its Meet the Animals presentations at 1 and 2:30 p.m., crafts, a story walk and more. You can visit the museum on Friday and Saturday, November 27 and 28 and Sunday, November 19 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. All programming is included in the regular admission of $3 for ages 3 and up.

The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum is located on Muser Drive in Cornwall, across from 174 Angola Road. For more information, call (845) 534-5506, extension 204, or visit


LEGO Santa’s Workshop in Kingston

Want to give your child a holiday LEGO experience without the mess in your own home? Register your child for LEGO Santa’s Workshop taking place this Friday, November 27 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Stockade Martial Arts in Kingston. Participants ages 5 to 12 years will build a LEGO Christmas City as well as their own LEGO holiday ornament to take home. The cost is $45.

The Stockade Martial Arts in Kingston is located at 302 Wall Street. For more information or to register, call (845) 255-1318 or visit



Sinterklaas sendoff in Kingston

Kingston is the place to be this Saturday, November 28 with celebrations and activities leading up to the big sendoff of Sinterklaas from Kingston (“Spain”) to Rhinebeck (“Holland”), where the festivities will resume next weekend. Activities are happening in Kingston beginning at 11 a.m. with the Crowns and Branches workshop at the Hudson River Maritime Museum on the Rondout. Or how about the ornament-making workshop at the Jay Teske Leather Company at 25 Broadway, or the cookie-decorating workshop at Milne’s at Home Antiques at 81 Broadway?

Take a photo with your crowns and branches between 12 noon and 3:45 p.m. at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, and take a swing at the Bee Hive piñata in T. R. Gallo Park at 3:30 p.m. The littlest ones, from birth on up, can join Miranda Haydn at 3 p.m. at the Arts Society of Kingston at 97 Broadway for songs and movement with Music Together. Be sure to walk in the Children’s Maritime Parade at 4 p.m. at the corner of Broadway and Garraghan Drive for the big Sinterklaas sendoff!

For more information and a complete schedule of Sinterklaas sendoff events, visit


Magic show with David Garrity at Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck

Do you believe in magic? Take the family for a performance of wonder and illusion with David Garrity this Saturday, November 28 at 11 a.m. at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. You’re sure to enjoy an event filled with fun, amazement and laughter. Tickets cost $7 for children and $9 for adults and seniors.

The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck is located at 661 Route 308 in Rhinebeck. For tickets or more information, call (845) 876-3080 or visit To learn more about the performer, visit



Panel discussion on public school issues at SUNY-New Paltz

Looking for clarity about school testing, policies that result in segregation and what happens if a school gets taken over by the government? Head over to “Receivership, High-Stakes Testing & Social Justice in New York State’s Public Schools,” a panel discussion taking place this Tuesday, December 1 at 7 p.m. at the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium at SUNY-New Paltz. Panelists include Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School in the Bronx; Kevin Gibson, Buffalo parent and educator, secretary of the Buffalo Teachers’ Federation; Ellen Roach, parent and Board of Education member-elect, Albany City Schools; and Bianca Tanis, parent and special education advocate. This event is free and open to the public.

SUNY-New Paltz is located at 1 Hawk Drive in New Paltz. For more information, visit


World of Animals at Highland Library

Nature buffs will be happy to hear about this weekday-evening event taking place! On Tuesday, December 1 at 6:30 p.m., the Highland Library presents “World of Animals,” a free presentation that could include a flying hawk, owl, falcon, vulture, alligator and more. No registration is required.

The Highland Public Library is located at 30 Church Street in Highland. For more information, call (845) 691-2275, extension 16, or visit


College Common Application workshop at Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie

Things have changed since you and I attended college decades ago. The biggest shift is the creation of the College Common Application, which enables students to apply to many more colleges much more efficiently. Before your teens start applying to colleges, have them learn more at the College Common Application workshop taking place this Tuesday, December 1 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Adriance Library. This program is free and open to the public, and no registration is necessary.

The Adriance Library is located at 93 Market Street in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 485-3445 or visit



Storytelling about gratitude in Rhinebeck

Treat your family to a special evening away from network shows and enjoy the enchanting tales of Phoenix Rising Kawamoto this Wednesday, December 2 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Izlind Integrative Wellness Center and Institute of Rhinebeck. The stories will focus on gratitude and will make your heart sing, whether you’re 5 or 105. The cost is $20 for adults, and children are admitted free.

The Izlind Integrative Wellness Center and Institute of Rhinebeck is located at 6369 Mill Street (Route 9), Suite 101 in Rhinebeck. For more information, call (845) 516-4713.


Erica Chase-Salerno is grateful for what she is and has. She and her husband Mike live in New Paltz, along with their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at [email protected].




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