By Chelsea Murray Kaneb

The weather is warming up in Connecticut and it’s time to spring into action and enjoy the outdoors with your children. Here is a list of some fun family activities to make the most out of the beautiful weather….

• Get those little hands in the dirt and plant a garden with your children that teaches life lessons about patience, persistence, hard work, education and respecting the Earth. You can plant seeds in small containers indoors and watch the magic unfold each day before transplanting the starts outside, or you can support a local nursery or farm and buy starts directly from them. However you decide to do it, growing a garden with a child is a magical experience for them to learn about the whole process from seed to plate, and connect with nature and our ancestors.

• Build a birdhouse (not a bird feeder….which increasingly has become a tempting treat for the expanding Black Bear population in Connecticut). One of the most notable signs of spring is the return of the robins, so keep your eyes peeled for their nests in your yard, where you can quietly observe and talk about the process of a robin family growing from egg to hatchling to taking flight in a short period.

• Sit back and watch the clouds and see if you can identify shapes and figures as they float by.

• Bust out colorful chalk and let your kids express their inner Bob Ross on the sidewalk, driveway, or front walkway.

• Visit an animal farm—nothing quite like a farm in the springtime. Baby animals? Yes, please! Check out Flamig Farm in Simsbury, a magical place that offers a variety of family-friendly activities, a farm animal petting zoo, pony and hayrides, children’s programs, special events, and party rentals.

• Put together a mud kitchen for them to explore and express themselves. Mud kitchens is an outdoor play station that allows children to get sloppy while playing and pretend-cooking with mud, water, sand, dirt, and safe outdoor plant matter. A mud kitchen helps children work on their fine motor skills, role-play, hone social skills, fire up their imagination and give them a chance to explore, which are beneficial for toddlers and young children. A mud kitchen can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make it, but it can consist of some outdoor-friendly pots and pans, utensils, plastic jars/mixing bowls, and perhaps a watering can. Children see their parents and caregivers cooking with these items and love to be given the freedom to explore and try their hand at emulating what they see adults doing in their everyday lives in their safe environment.

• Explore toddler-friendly playgrounds in your area, such as ones with smaller slides, soft materials on the ground, and activities at their height level.

• Bubbles are a lifesaver with kids. A kid could be having the biggest meltdown, but their frowns turn upside down when bubbles pop on the scene. A cheap option to have a constant supply of bubble mix can be made by combining 1/2 cup of dishwashing liquid, 2 cups of water, and two teaspoons of sugar in a bucket or recycled plastic receptacle.

• Play or sing in the rain and keep your eyes peeled for newts, salamanders, turtles, frogs, frog eggs, and tadpoles.

• Speaking of turtles – stay on the lookout for turtles crossing the roads this time of year, especially during or directly following a thunderstorm. If it’s safe to do so, help usher them across the street to their destination instead of leaving them to get squished. Also, please leave them in the area where you find them unless they are injured and need to be brought to a rehabilitation center for assistance.

• Clean up an area in your town or city or perhaps just your road or neighborhood.

• Find an open space on a windy day and fly a kite and sing songs from Mary Poppins.

• Nature walk- Mother Nature is in full bloom, and there are countless places to enjoy the fruits of her labor in Waterbury, and Litchfield County. There is Hancock Brook in Waterbury, Hop Brook Lake, Southford Falls on the Southbury/Oxford line, Cheshire Trail, Hubbard Park in Southington, Sleeping Giant State Park, White Memorial little pond boardwalk trail, Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and the Farmington River Trail.

• Since the sun is glorious and with us much later in the day this time of year, it’s a perfect time to dine al fresco in your own backyard, at a park or at a local restaurant.

• Put on those rain boots or go barefoot and splash in puddles.

• Go for a hike and keep your eyes peeled for the elusive and alluring Lady Slipper flowers this time of year. They are considered off-limits for picking and are often viewed as a threatened flower in New England. They grow in cool, damp woods, swamps, bogs, and wet fields or meadows since they need to work together with a particular fungus to thrive and grow. White Memorial in Litchfield, and Buttermilk Falls in Plymouth are a well-known spots to see these flowers.

• Toss around a frisbee in your backyard or a local park.

• Check to see if you have a disc golf course nearby- We had an avid disc golfing friend visiting from out of town this past week, and he opened our eyes to how popular this sport has gotten and to the many available courses in the area. Here are a few, but you can go on to locate the majority of systems that are near to where you are- Norbrook Farm Brewery in New Hartford, CT, Brodie Park South in New Hartford, CT, Alvord Park, Torrington, Tower Ridge Disc Golf, Simsbury, Hidden Pond Disc Golf Course, Southbury, Orenaug Park, Woodbury.

• Read spring-themed books to connect the synapses about what they are seeing during this season. They recommended rotating books out, so they don’t get stale and highlighting holidays, times of the year, and recent interests.

Spring has sprung so I hope some of these ideas can put a hop in your step and help you squeeze more joy out of the season.

Local Memorial Day Parade Info:

• Waterbury Memorial Day Parade- Sunday, May 29- 1 PM. The parade begins at 1:00 PM and will travel the following route: Muster beginning at 12:00 PM on Freight Street. Turn Left on Meadow Street. Turn Right on West Main Street along South side of the Green. Turn Right on Bank Street. Turn Right on Grand Street ending at City Hall.

• Middlebury Memorial Day Parade- Sunday, May 29- 5 PM

• Wolcott Memorial Day Parade- Monday, May 30- 6 PM

• Watertown Memorial Day Parade- Monday, May 30- 10 AM- The parade begins at the Watertown Plaza, 1167 Main St., Watertown, CT. It proceeds North on Rt. 63 to the Watertown Gazebo (Intersection of Rt 6 & 63).

• Torrington Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony- Monday, May 30, rain or shine, stepping off at 9:30 a.m. The theme of this year’s Parade is the Global War on Terror.

Local events May and June:

Waterbury’s Palace Theater celebrates 100 years with a big Palace Block party on Friday, June 10th beginning at 5:30 PM. The will feature an array of delicious food, including festive summer favorites and a Beer Garden and Bourbon tastings. With live bands performing throughout the evening, starting at 9:00 p.m., the street will be transformed into a sensational laser light show and dance party that will rock the block. Get your tickets for at WWW.PALACETHEATERCT.ORG $75 includes all the fun! Live music, laser light show, dance party, unlimited food, and one drink ticket. Cash bars will be open for additional adult beverages. $45 includes admission starting at 8:30 PM for the laser light dance party only. Cash bars will be available for adult beverages. Entertainment:
The Zoo, Nicole Zuraitis, Latanya Farrell, Eran Troy Danner

The Palace Theater is also excited to announce the 2022-2023 Webster Bank Broadway Series. Filled with award-winning shows and songs, these five shows burst with memorable melodies, dances, and characters.

9-5: The Musical, November 5-6, 2022: Pour yourself a “Cup of ambition” and join us for this hilarious workplace comedy based on the film of the same name, with a joyful score by Dolly Parton.

Chicago: The Musical, December 3-4, 2022: The “Razzle Dazzle” Bob Fosse smash hit is celebrating its 25th anniversary. This show is the longest-running American musical on Broadway, with its tale of fame, fortune, and murder.

My Fair Lady, January 24-26, 2023: This newly staged revival of the classic tells the story of a flower seller’s transformation into a society lady. This show fully entertains and touches your heartstrings from hats to horse races.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T., February 17-18, 2023: This fantastic new show is the ultimate tribute to Aretha Franklin, the legendary Queen of Soul (performed at the Palace in 2006).

Fiddler on the Roof, April 15-16, 2023: If you’re looking for “Tradition,” you will love FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the beloved and uplifting story of family, community, and love.

Mattatuck Museum:

Exhibition Celebration- Sunday, June 5, 1:00-3:00 PM. Admission: Free for Members and Children (5 & under) |$5 General. Mattatuck Museum Director, Bob Burns, will open with remarks at 1 pm. Jason T. Busch, Director, and CEO of American Folk Art Museum, will be joining for the opening of Mystery & Benevolence and will share remarks about Mystery & Benevolence. Families are invited to participate in the Exploration Activities in the Studio. During the celebration. Manager of Public Programs, Elise Vanasse, will be on hand to preview the exciting lineup of summer program offerings. The Art of Yum Café will be open with delicious meals, snacks, coffees, and sweet treats available for purchase.

Upcoming Exhibitions at the Mattatuck Museum

Shipwrecks Duty of Memory

On View May 22-August 28, 2022

Since 1969, photographer Stefano Benazzo has captured images of boats stranded on shores and shipwrecks worldwide. Benazzo, a retired Ambassador of Italy and former diplomat at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., carried out his photographic project on four continents; his work brought him to the coastlines of Italy, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, Mauritania, Namibia, Turks & Caicos Islands, South Georgia, Chile, and Falkland/Malvinas. His photographs record the tragic fates of these vessels and hint at the stories of the individuals who once sailed them. Through his work, Benazzo intends to preserve the memory of these shipwrecks and their sailors long after the vessels themselves are erased by the actions of waves and weather. This exhibition features 60 of Benazzo’s haunting photographs, exhibited for the first time in Connecticut.

The Garden

On View May 22-August 28, 2022

The interdisciplinary works by the eight artists featured in The Garden address the sensory aspects of nature while embodying the artists’ emotional journeys over the course of this turbulent decade. Textiles, paintings, and ephemera in various materials combine to form an elemental space. This exhibition seeks to create a refuge through an immersive experience in art, reminding visitors of the beauty of nature and the joy of life outside the digital sphere. The Garden was organized by Wylie Contemporary of Mechanicsville, Virginia.

Mystery & Benevolence

On View May 29-September 4, 2022

An exhibition of over one hundred carvings, sculptures, textiles, and regalia reveals the Freemasons’ hidden histories and the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows. These objects convey the secretive practices of fraternal organizations through their rich symbolism and unusual imagery. To members, this iconography emphasizes the core values of fellowship, labor, charity, passage, and wisdom, yet the images appear puzzling to the uninitiated. Mystery & Benevolence was organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection, and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Beyond Fraternity

Charitable and Community Organizations in Waterbury

On View May 29-August 21, 2022

Alongside Mystery & Benevolence, this exhibition tells the story of Freemasons in Waterbury in the past and present and uncovers a lesser-known history of similar organizations that included women and people of color. Objects, photographs, and books are paired with audio clips from the Museum’s Oral History collection and interviews with community members to demonstrate the history of these societies in Waterbury. Organizations include Freemasons, Order of the Eastern Star, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Daughters of Rebekah, and Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

The Immigrant Suitcase Project: Italians of Waterbury

This exhibition showcases objects that provide a glimpse into the lives of Italians who immigrated to Waterbury. Families loaned each item in or around the City to represent their stories: people who stayed behind in Italy, the journey to the United States, and aspects of Italian heritage that are still reflected in the lives of the Italian American community today. This incredible collection of unique objects that present family heritage challenges you to think about the choices these Italians made when immigrating to the United States and examine what things in your life reflect your heritage.

An American Lens: A History of Photography in Waterbury

An exhibition chronicles the history of Waterbury’s photography through early photographs shot by Waterbury residents and objects, including cameras manufactured by Waterbury’s Scovill Manufacturing Co.

Silas Bronson Library:

Oceans of Possibilities summer learning program from June 7-August 12, 2022- Setting sail for some summer fun and kicking off summer learning with a fantastic outdoor live animal show on June 7 at 5 PM on the library patio.

Wonderful Wednesday Stories on Wednesdays at 10 AM on the Library Patio if weather permits and in the event of rain, it will be held in the Children’s room on the 2nd floor of the library. Join each week to share in storytime with singing, marching, and playing finger games along the way. For ages 2-6. You may also call 203-574-8213 or to register for this program.

Connecticut Beardsley Zoo:

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is pleased to release its calendar for May through September 2022. Spring is a beautiful time to visit the Zoo with its multiple gardens in full bloom, so make plans to get outside with the family. The Zoo plans fun and special educational events and seasonal programs for the entire family, most of which are free with the cost of admission. Calendar subject to change without notice. Please check or Facebook for the most up-to-date information. The zoo is closer than you think and is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Adult admission (ages 12 & older) is $17.00; children (ages 3 -11) is $14.00, senior admission (62 and older) is $14.00 and children under 3 years old are free. Zoo members also are admitted for free.

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is located at 1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and parking at the zoo is free of charge. Because the animals remain susceptible to Covid-19 transmission, the zoo requires masks in our indoor animal habitats: the Research Station and the Rainforest Building. Elsewhere in the Zoo, indoors or out, they respect masking as a personal choice. Everyone over the age of two, except those with a medical exemption, should have a mask to enter the animal buildings.

Mystic Aquarium:

Ocean Ambassador Coastal Clean-up on June 12 10:00 AM- 3:30 PM- You are invited to join Mystic Aquarium’s Ocean Ambassadors for our Annual Mystic-Wide Cleanup. The goal is to remove 5,000 pounds of marine debris, including ocean plastics, from local shorelines, and they need your help. Click here to register today.

Horseshoe Crab Walk at Bluff Point State Park on June 26 from 6 PM-9 PM- $5 admission price. Head to the beach and witness these “living fossils” gathered during our nighttime Horseshoe Crab Walk. Help Aquarium staff count the animals and learn about their role in our local ecosystem. Be prepared to get wet feet and hike a distance of 4 miles.

Registration is required.

World Oceans Day on June 8 @ 11:00 AM- 1:00 PM- Salute our ocean planet and learn simple ways to help protect the ocean environment during our annual World Oceans Day party. Bring your whole family and share fun, informative hands-on activities with aquarium staff, and learn about the vital role the world’s oceans have in sustaining our planet.

Five Points Gallery in Torrington:

Five Points Gallery, located at 33 Main Street in downtown Torrington, presents three new exhibitions. Margaret Roelke’s solo show in the East Gallery features powerful mixed-media sculpture and cyanotype photographs. The TDP Gallery showcases Linda Pearlman Karlsberg realistic drawings focused on the subject of women’s rights. In Dialogue, a group exhibition in the West Gallery, represents three contemporary artists whose work addresses various social justice issues. About the Gallery: Located in a historic downtown building, Five Points Gallery (FPG), is a nonprofit contemporary art gallery showcasing professional regional, national and international visual artists. The gallery presents exhibitions in three beautifully renovated exhibition spaces and has earned a reputation as one of Connecticut’s outstanding contemporary art venues. For more information about Five Points Gallery, please visit