There’s a new resource for Madison area parents! is a website that lists hundreds of links for pregnancy, groups, classes, activities, fitness, services, dining and shopping. Features showcase local events, specials, books, project ideas, recipes, decor, new products and much more. You can also post questions and comments to other local parents on their Facebook page: Madison Mamas

I’ve already found the website extremely useful for finding new kid-friendly places to shop and eat in the area. The site is so well organized, it’s simple to find exactly what you’re looking for. And I love the “Features” section – it’s given me some great ideas! (and was kind enough to feature RM blogger – and local Barefoot Books Ambassador – Kat yesterday! Thanks, ladies!)


Pipers in the Prairie

Engage your senses and rejoice in the season at Pipers in the Prairie, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center’s spectacular fall fundraising gala, Saturday, September 17 from 4:30 – 8 pm.

This family friendly event offers a unique and unforgettable seasonal celebration unlike anything in Madison! he eveningg commences with harvesthors d’oeuvress, Irish dance demonstrations, nature activities for the kids, a silent auction and scotch tasting, as Celtic music enchants with its ethereal and enchanting melodies..

As twilight descends, guests will hear a faint beating of drums in the distance. As they assemble outside the beat grows louder and faster – then suddenly stops – silence! Anticipation rises as a lone piper is heard in the meadow – other bagpipers from the Madison Pipes and Drums and Celtic Brigade Pipe Band, in full regalia, join him as they march up the trails to serenade the guests and lead them to the bonfire wood. Suddenly the wood pile erupts into a magnificent bonfire and lights up the night sky with its brilliance, and the threat of old man winter is driven off for at least one more day.

Don’t miss this unforgettable evening of enchanting and unique entertainment featuring:

-Complimentary Wine, Beer and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

-Hearty Hors D’oeuvres & Decadent Desserts

-Tasting and Judging of Highland Libations

-Captivating Celtic Music by West Wind

Nature-Themed Silent Auction / online & onsite (bidding now open! See below.)

-Nature Activities for Children

-Prairie Drama by the Green Man

-Irish Dance by Cashel Dennehy

-Pipers in the Prairie & Drummers on the Drumlin

-Spectacular Festival Fire and more!

Registration Form


Child (5-17)/$25

* All proceeds directly benefit children’s programming at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

The Pipers in the Prairie Auction is now open for bidding. There are tons of exciting, one-of-a-kind packages to choose from, featuring art, tickets, collectibles, sporting goods, gardening tools, gift certificates and more from over 100 local businesses and artists!

The auction is open now until noon on Sunday, September 18. There are still dozens of packages that haven’t been bid on, and they’re adding new packages weekly, so bid today to get great deals on exclusive packages and support our children’s educational programs here at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

Bidding is easy too! Just click here and you’ll be directed to the auction site. If you have questions, feel free to e-mail or 608-216-9374.

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center is located at 330 Femrite Drive, Monona.

Wonder Bugs – Aldo Leopold Nature Center

This summer we signed Milena up for the Wonder Bugs preschool program at Aldo Leopold Nature Center. This week was her second-to-last class (we learned all about ants!). We have had so much fun learning and exploring!

“Introduce your toddler or pre-school aged child to a safe and wonderful natural world. This program is specifically designed for children ages 2-5 (before entering kindergarten). Each week, we’ll explore a different seasonal topic through hikes, outdoor exploration, music, puppetry, songs, stories and more.”

Going into this summer camp, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Very few places have classes for 2 and 3 year olds, so I was really excited about the opportunity, but nervous about what the classes would be like. I was pleasantly surprised at just how wonderful they are!

Every week focuses on a different topic (parents are able to sign their children up for one class or multiple classes). Each begins with a discussion about the topic: for example, in our “Antsy Pantsy” class about ants today, we first looked at large toy ants to see the different parts, legs, etc. We talked about what ants eat and where they live. Our teacher, Miss Nicky, always does a great job keeping the kids’ attention and encouraging them to participate and shout out answers (right or wrong). Milena LOVES Miss Nicky!

All sessions involve some time outside where the kids can attempt to see the insect/plant/etc outside in its natural habitat. Each session also involves a snack and sometimes a craft, which often tie into that week’s topic.

Wonder Bugs Objectives:
1. to provide an opportunity for parents to interact with their child in a natural setting
2. to foster a sense of wonder for the natural world
3. to foster admiration and respect for the land

We LOVE Wonder Bugs, and we’re excited about the fall program sessions coming up. Aldo Leopold Nature Center also offers Wonder Bugs Family Days September 24, October 22 & November 19 from 9:30 -10:45 am, which take place on Saturdays (perfect for working parents!) – though they often repeat the topic covered during the week, so be sure to check before signing your child up for both!

Go here for information about the fall Wonder Bugs program sessions.

For more information about the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and its other events and programs, go here.

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center is located at 300 Femrite Drive in Monona. (608) 221-0404

Child Development Research Opportunities

I have been volunteering at the Infant Learning Lab at UW-Madison for 5 years, since Cass was born in January of 2006, and both Cass and Mari have participated in several studies. The research at the lab investigates language development — how children learn words and sounds, and how they develop cognitive and perception skills. The lab relies on volunteer children (and their parents) ages 6 months to 3 years to help with research. The Infant Learning Lab is part of a greater network of learning at the UW Waisman Center. Study at the Waisman Center is devoted to understanding human development, developmental disabilities, and neurodegenerative diseases.

It’s a pretty fascinating process. On a recent visit, Mari and I were involved in a study to understand how children know when one word ends and another begin. (Think of when you hear a foreign language, and you feel they are talking so fast you cannot even pick up on any of the words. This is what the study is about — how does a child figure out where the pauses are, where the words start and stop?) After getting a quick briefing about the study, Mari and I go into the soundproof room. Mari sits on my lap, I put on soundproof headphones (so as not to subconsciously direct Mari to the “right” answer, not that there is one), and we are left alone as the study begins. For about 5 minutes, Mari listens to noises and visuals on the screen and reacts by either looking at the visual or becoming disengaged. The noises are music and a made up language or foreign language that she has never heard.

At any time, we can stop the study. I have done these studies with Cass (my high energy, moving every second, chatterbox child) and Mari (my watch and learn, cautious child), and we have never not finished or had any problems with attention and fussiness. The studies are short enough that it really is just a quick activity for your child.

I cannot imagine an easier way to volunteer. I feel good knowing I’m helping educators and scientists understand how the mind and body works. Maybe we can help children with disabilities, speech problems, and other cognitive challenges.

All studies involve just 1 visit — no follow up or continued volunteering is required. Parking is free, and childcare is provided if another sibling is tagging along. The whole process takes around 20 minutes.

And at the end you get a free book or toy.

For children older than 3, there are several other studies that need volunteers at the Weisman Center. The Social Kids and SPACE Labs further look at language and social interaction among children and their environment. The SPACE Lab looks at childhood perception, action, and memory. The Social Kids Lab looks at social cognition.

You can learn more and sign up for the Infant Learning Lab here. You can learn more and sign up for the SPACE and Social Kids Labs here.

Raising Madison was also recently contacted by LearningRx – a brain training company that works with kids who are around 5 for kindergarten readiness, and other children of any age (and adults!) on key cognitive skills that unlock their potential, and help them achieve more in school and in life.

LearningRx also offer workshops and classes, including brain-body connection classes, test prep and note taking for students and adults, Love and Logic classes, and a number of other classes dedicated to helping students and families reach their life goals.

You can find more information about LearningRx on its website. LearningRx is also on Facebook: LearningRx South Central Wisconsin.

Has your family taken part in any local child development research opportunities?

MSCR “I Made That” Art Class review

Mari and I signed up to take Madison School & Community Recreation‘s (MSCR) “I Made That!” art class. The class is for ages 18 month to 3 years (and there is a separate class for ages 3 to 7). It’s only $33 for 5 classes. We love it so far.

The first class was exploring materials. Feathers and beads, pipe cleaners that you can fit in and out of drinking straws, construction paper with sparkly cut-outs, fuzzy colored balls and other shapes and materials. There were no shortage of shiny, fluffy things, and each child picked as much as they wanted and configured them as they wished. And there were glue sticks and scissors (with adult help) to help create an art piece.

Mari is 19 months, at the young end of the age spectrum for the class. She loved touching the materials (and throwing them and twisting them). And there were lots of containers to sort and dump and re-sort again. We didn’t use the glue stick or scissors. Most of the kids had something to bring home. Mari didn’t, which didn’t matter to me.

Next week we will be painting, and other weeks we will be drawing with different mediums and working with clay.

The class is 45 minutes total — and with set up and clean up at the end, it’s about 35 minutes of art play, which is perfect for this age. No one melted down or had to stop for a snack. It’s a basic art exposure class; perhaps something that you can do at your home for free. But they really do have all the materials you could need, and plenty of them. And, being a rather non-artistic person, myself, these are not things I have at home.

Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) is the public recreation provider for the residents of Madison (within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District). MSCR’s mission is: “to enhance the quality of life for individuals in the Madison Metropolitan School District and for the community by providing recreation and enrichment opportunities year-round that are accessible to all.”

You can sign up for the MSCR’s Summer Session starting March 14th at There are 8 sessions of “I Made That!” this summer, for various ages, along with several other preschool and school-aged classes. You can find the complete index of Summer 2011 classes (including registration information) here.

Have you or your children taken any classes through MSCR?

Call for Reviews: Classes

One of our favorite parts about the Raising Madison blog are the review posts! We enjoy sharing our favorites with you, and we love to hear about the different resources you’ve discovered. We think these first-hand reviews are what make RM different from many of the other parenting blogs out there, so we’re really excited to talk about our upcoming multi-post review topic: CLASSES!

There are so many great opportunities for local kids to get out and experience something new or dive into something they truly love. And we want to hear about them!

If your child takes a class for music, dance, art, cooking, yoga, etc, we’d love for you to e-mail us a review! Please include your child’s age in the review so our readers will have a better idea if that class is suitable for their child as well. And feel free to include a photo. You can e-mail your review to:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Because we did a review post on swimming lessons back in June, we’re not asking for those reviews. However, if you have something new to add, please e-mail us or add it to the comments on the lessons post!