Read about the Expo in "Nature's Pathways" March 2014 Edition

This way to the Natural Parenting Expo

March can be a tough month for families in Wisconsin. A long winter is finally drawing to a close and spring can’t seem to come soon enough! On Sunday, March 23, area families will have a fantastic opportunity to forget their winter woes: The Natural Parenting Expo at Monona Terrace will be anything but dreary! The resources and activities available make it a perfect environment for a day outing for parents and kids in southwestern Wisconsin.

At this second annual event, the 37,000-square-foot expo hall at Monona Terrace will be filled with exhibitors (last year there were 70) ranging from Aldo Leopold Nature Center to Zerorez (a green carpet-cleaning company). A packed performance/presentation schedule will run simultaneously in four areas throughout the day, and all-day exhibits keep kids (and parents) busy between booths and scheduled events.

The expo is a production of Natural Parenting Network, LLC (NPN), the conception of three local business owners (and mothers) who formed NPN in 2012 to combine their passions for parenting and wellness with community building. The expo is designed to motivate, not intimidate. “Our goal for the expo is to provide a day of inspiration,” says Kimberly Zahasky of NPN. “Whether it’s getting kids to eat more vegetables and a little less junk food, inspiring children to get interested in physics or break-dancing or hearing from experts about important issues that affect us all.”

The event is co-sponsored by Willy Street Co-op, Happy Bambino, Dane Birth Coalition and Blue River Chiropractic, which Zahasky co-owns with her husband, Dr. Ben Zahasky. Each company brings its expertise in the form of booths. “Every booth has staffing,” Zahasky relays. Quality and variety of exhibitors is key to the expo’s organizers. “We have parameters around what types of businesses can exhibit, and we do limit booths … and try not to have too many of each type of service so there’s a lot of variety. Some booths will be selling products and some booths are there to share resources and information.”

While, as Zahasky says, the expo has a lot of information for expectant parents and babies, the event has programming for ages up to 13. “This year we scheduled a lot of events for older kids and tweens in the afternoon — including the UW-Madison ‘Wonders of Physics’ show and the Wild Rumpus World Circus,” says Alison Dodge of Natural Parenting Network who coordinates programming for the all-day event.

Other main stage performances include: David Landau (a popular children’s entertainer); a “babywearing” fashion show; Irish, Hmong, Latin, and belly dance; and hula hooping performances. Family-friendly activities include an interactive worm-composting exhibit, a slingshot creation station from Fractal Madison, an inflatable obstacle course and bouncy house, and goats and other farm animals from Heartland Farm Sanctuary.

New this year is a keynote presentation. Dr. Dipesh Navsaria is pediatrician, occasional children’s librarian, public health professional and child health advocate who practices primary-care pediatrics at Access Community Health. His presentation “Books Build Better Brains” will cover the basics of current advances in early brain and child development in an accessible manner and present a simple route to realistically incorporate recommendations into the busy lives of families. Also included are the latest recommendations on screen time across the age spectrum. There is no fee for this presentation, but space is limited so early registration is recommended.

The Dane Birth Coalition will co-sponsor a screening of the new film “The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition” (followed by a brief community discussion facilitated by sexuality educator Amy Gilliland). This film is designed for high school and college students, and the screening is equally appropriate for expectant parents, educators, and parents of young adults.

Other presentations geared toward adults include a panel discussion on “Alternative Schooling Approaches” and presentations on the safe use of herbs for childhood ailments, holistic gut health, self-care for parents and food allergies in children.

Finally, a special performance by national director of the “Listen To Your Mother Show,” well-known blogger and comedienne, Ann Imig, is running concurrently with the expo. “The Children Ate My Gratitude: Parenting Humor with Ann Imig” will be followed by a Q&A on parent blogs and the blogosphere at large.

If that’s not enough, the expo runs on the same day as the FairShare CSA (community-supported agriculture) Coalition’s Annual Open House at Monona Terrace. “We felt sharing the day/space would provide another excellent opportunity for our expo attendees and introduce more local families to the concept of community-supported agriculture,” Dodge says. The open house is a free event (from 1 to 4 p.m.) and provides an opportunity to meet 35 local CSA farmers, find pick-up locations, sign up for a CSA farm share and learn about on-farm and FairShare events.

The Natural Parenting Expo has a full day of resources and family-friendly activities. But one thing will be noticeably missing: soda. “We take a lot of care in developing the concessions menu with Monona Catering,” Jennifer Bell of the Natural Parenting Network says. “This year, we were able to eliminate the option of soft drinks in addition to providing a nutrition-packed, delicious menu. Soda is linked to obesity, tooth decay and many other health issues. We’re excited to provide healthy options instead.”

In a nutshell, organizers say

The Natural Parenting Expo is a “fantastic opportunity to learn about local resources for parenting and natural living and enjoy a great day of family fun.”