09/30/16 11:28am
A fire-breathing robot from last year's World Maker Faire at the Queens Hall of Science. It returns this weekend, Oct. 1-2. Photo: Velleman Store

A fire-breathing robot from last year’s World Maker Faire at the Queens Hall of Science. It returns this weekend, Oct. 1-2. Photo: Velleman Store

Halloween takes center stage this month, but there’s more to do than just eat candy and get cavities. Here are 12 (dentist approved) kids events to fill your October with autumnal fun.

  1. Go: The Maker Faire at New York Hall of Science is a must for many Brooklyn families. This year’s schedule is chock full of Minecraft, drone racing, BUST Craftacular shopping, and pop-up farms. At the Faire, kids and adults can learn to pick locks, try out enormous wheeled bicycles, and experience zero gravity. There really is something for everyone here, from the youngest makers (interested in Puppet Phactory) to the oldest (fascinated with genome editing.) Ticket packages range from whole weekend ($65 adult/ $40 child) to single day ($35 adult/ $25 child). Saturday, October 1- Sunday, October 2 New York Hall of Science 47-01 111th Street, Queens

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09/08/16 10:58am
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The Toruk refers to a dragon/bird that must be tamed. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

If you are wondering why someone would resurrect the 2009 film, Avatar, by James Cameron as a live show, please remember that the cast is painted blue, have tails, and live on another planet. Cirque du Soleil is remarkable at creating atmosphere, and putting their dazzling flair on the cold CGI film is like watching a parade–you don’t even notice the buildings, because you’re blinded by the confetti.

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Avatar is brought to life with blue human hybrids astonishing audiences with arial performances. It’s better than watching the film in 3D. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

I brought my 7-year-old son with me to Barclays Center to see Toruk: The First Flight, because it is being billed as a family friendly show. (For fans of Cirque, this means no trademark nudity.) From the time we sat down, we were both awestruck with visuals of earthquakes, waterfalls and volcanic eruptions. The deep-set stage is like a gladiator pit showing epic battles, tribal truces, and the rescue of the “tree of souls.” Blue human hybrids were conducting an aerial ballet, while speaking a made-up language and flying blimp sized kites.

“Do you understand the story?” I asked my son, as a voice narrated the quest for five secret amulets. “Ha ha! There’s no plot to this show!” my son replied. And he was right; that was secondary when you’re watching people construct a dinosaur out of bones and then somersault on top of it. “It’s a skeleton see-saw!” my son rejoiced. (more…)

09/08/16 10:11am
A visit to CW Pencil Enterprise will remind you how fun school supply shopping should be. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

A visit to CW Pencil Enterprise will remind you how fun school supply shopping should be. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

It’s suddenly September. What are you going to do now that school is back in session (at least a few days a week) and the weather is still nice? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Go: Sharpen Your Pencils CW Pencil Enterprise is a store that sells pencils. Yup, that’s it, just pencils. You might say it’s very niche, but it’s also very practical and fun. A rainbow display of pencils lines the wall, with everything from non-photo blue pencils to specialty graphites available. Kids will love the selection of rainbow pencils, colored pencils and an ingenuous pencil machine where you put in a quarter for a “surprise” pencil. My son was thrilled with his “Don’t settle for less…get the best at Johnson’s Garage” vintage #2. Plus, there’s a selection of State pencil bags, a book about sharpening pencils, and some handy notepads. The friendly enthusiastic staff will make sure you don’t leave empty-handed. CW Pencil Enterprise, 100a Forsyth St., Lower East Side (more…)

08/31/16 12:37pm
Amy Leipziger's favorite fan of her homemade granola, All Granola. Photo: Amy Leipziger .

Amy Leipziger’s youngest fan of her homemade granola, All Granola. Photo: Amy Leipziger .

Amy Leipziger had been making granola for years, using a simple recipe she learned from her mom. Then in 2014 she became a mom herself, and started to tinker with the recipe, not because she was tired of the the way it tasted, but because she wanted to create a granola that would help boost her milk supply. (more…)

08/29/16 11:14am

9780374229702When you are expecting your first child, well-meaning friends, family members and total strangers love to regale you with horror stories about how difficult it is to have an infant. How you’ll never sleep again. How the baby will cry for hours on end. How life as you know it is soon to O-V-E-R. (The last part is absolutely true, though not necessarily in a bad way.)

I actually found my son’s early months to be mellow and almost soothing compared to the intense anticipation and anxiety leading up to his birth.

No, I find his toddlerhood–he just hit 18 months–to be much more challenging than his infancy. And part of that is due to the fact that I’m not just supposed to be caring for him, feeding him and making sure he gets enough exercise, stimulation and sleep. According to current educational trends and aspirational parents everywhere, I’m supposed to be cramming his little head with numbers, letters, colors and shapes at every turn. It’s a weird pressure that has cast a pall over playtime for me.

Or I should say, DID cast a pall over playtime, until I read The Gardener and the Carpenter, a new book about the way children learn by Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist and author of The Philosophical Baby  and The Scientist in the Crib.

Gopnik argues that the whole idea of “parenting” as a modern task that we are supposed to master, like whipping up gourmet meals each night in our chef’s kitchens and cultivating a yoga practice that includes various acrobatic feats, has little to do with what young children actually need to learn about the world around them. If you think about this for a minute it’s a very liberating idea, and one backed by an immense body of research, both from Gopnik’s child psychology lab at U.C. Berkley and from her colleagues in the field around the world.

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08/12/16 11:28am

The summer heat is still blistering, but the Labor Day countdown is officially on. There’s still time to create a lasting summer memory of going down the longest slide in NYC, retreat from the heat in an air-conditioned mini golf course, and get an insane sugar high from a Fruit Loops-covered ice cream cone.

Here are 9 kid-approved activities to squeeze in before school starts:

Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

This indoor miniature golf course is pirate themed, with a Brooklyn spirit. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

  1. Go: Miniature golfing. Finding reprieve from the heat and bizarre summer storms can be challenging. (There are only so many times you can sit through “The Secret Life of Pets.”) Instead, check out a theatrical mini-golf experience that will engage even the youngest tee toddlers. Shipwrecked Miniature Golf is not anything like the suburban golf greens from your youth. Instead, this enormous indoor adventure starts when a hologram pirate explains the rules, and continues through 18 holes complete with special effects and buried treasure. 621 Court St., 2nd Floor, Red Hook. Admission 13+: $14, Senior/ Military: $12, Child (3-12): $12, Child (under 2): free.
Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Eat your heart out with a choice of Fruit Loops, Rice Krispie or Nutella cones at Emack & Bolio’s. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

  1.  Eat: Fruit Loop Cones. It’s hard to challenge ice cream as summer’s essential food group. Rock n’ Roll ice cream connoisseurs, Emack & Bolio’s, started their business in Massachusetts and claim to have invented the Cookies n’ Cream flavor. Since then, they have taken frozen dessert to a new level with their truly outrageous, Instagram-worthy cones. Try a scoop of “Space Cake” covered with rainbow sprinkles tucked neatly inside a waffle cone covered with marshmallow and Fruit Loops. It’s a trippy treat (and insane sugar high) that will definitely surprise and endear your children. Emack & Bolio’s, 115 Montague St. Brooklyn Heights.

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07/15/16 11:10am
Head to Long Beach on the LIRR. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Head to Long Beach on the LIRR. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Summer is here and that means it’s time to go to the beach! It’s a little counterintuitive, but it’s actually easier to take my five-year-old to beautiful Long Beach on the LIRR than taking public transportation to most of the beaches in New York City. Plus, there’s a sweet beach and train combo deal–when buying your ticket, choose the Deals and Getaways option which includes train fare plus a day pass to the beach all for $24. Consider that if you drove and paid for parking and for a beach pass (yes, you have to pay to get on to Long Beach). All you have to do is exchange your train ticket for a day pass to the beach at one of the kiosks along the boardwalk. Children under five ride for free and ages five to 11 ride for $1. 

Off we went on the sunny Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, starting at Atlantic Terminal, making an easy transfer at Jamaica, and ending up at Long Beach Station. The entire trip takes about an hour, but for my boy and his friend the train ride was almost as much fun as playing in the sand. The front of the train will be crowded as that’s where the exit is at Long Beach Station. If you want a seat, head toward the back. (more…)

07/01/16 1:23pm
The splash pad at LeFrak Center at Lakeside is a pretty sweet spot in the summer. Photo: Prospect Park Alliance

The splash pad at LeFrak Center at Lakeside is a pretty sweet spot in the summer. Photo: Prospect Park Alliance

Optimal ages: 2 and up
Good for mixed groups: Yes
Bathroom access: excellent
Food: Lots of options
Price point: basically free if you bring a picnic

My son is just 16 month old; his attention span for everything save climbing on top of our coffee table and standing on the toilet, turning the faucets on the bathroom sink on and off is fairly limited. When he was a baby he napped in the stroller through the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the new Whitney (he burped so loud after a feeding session on one of their Hudson River-facing couches that other museum goers gave him a round of applause). Now though, he’s a toddler with very strong opinions who attempts to launch himself out of that same stroller when he grows weary of my overly-grown-up pursuits, so after a few failed excursions that were not age-appropriate I learned my lesson–it’s just not worth it to drag a little kid an hour each way on the subway to something he’s not ready to dig. Especially when we can just walk 15 minutes to visit Franklin, the pig who lives at Crest Hardware in Williamsburg and I’m like, mom of the year.

New York is so full of cool stuff to do with kids though, that I’m always eager to join groups of mixed ages for excursions, so when my sister visited a few weekends ago with my two-year-old nephew I was excited to venture to Prospect Park to visit the splash pad at LeFrak Center. The trip from North Brooklyn wouldn’t have been worth it just for my son to splash around for 20 minutes, but with my nephew and a friend’s almost four-year-old and a picnic in the mix, it was a totally successful day trip. (more…)

06/03/16 10:38am
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From Beard Boy, illustrated by former Brooklynite and still-bearded Steven Weinberg, and written by local author John Flannery, a fellow beardo.

When illustrator Steven Weinberg was a contributor to Brooklyn Based, his bio identified him as “one on the many tall and bearded young men hailing from Brooklyn, NY.” Weinberg is still bearded, but he now hails from the Catskills, where he co-runs the Spruceton Inn, a “Bed and Bar” with his wife, and regularly illustrates children’s books. His most recent book draws upon his fondness for facial hair: Beard Boy, by John Flannery.

Just as Knuffle Bunny strikes a chord for Brooklynites who get to see their beloved brownstones, Prospect Park and Grand Army Plaza on page, Beard Boy delivers the same sweet sense of familiarity. “Ben wanted a beard,” it begins. “All the most boss people in his neighborhood had one.” Weinberg sets the initial scene with all the markers of Brooklyn: water towers, buses, pigeons, brownstones, a dude in a Nets cap, and of course the “bodaciously bewhiskered” men who little Ben wants to emulate.

He is something of an aficionado. The best baker in town has a “short boxed beard,” his friend Bobby’s dads rock “boisterous beards,” and he spots a “stacheburn”–something he’s never seen in person. Against his hot, tattooed mom’s wishes (I swear I spent time wondering whether she was the sitter), he interrogates anyone on the street sporting a beard about their upkeep–a Hasidic man, an Islander (the NHL kind), a police officer, a pizza delivery man. He’s obsessed, it turns out, because he wants to be just like his dad. No amount of consoling from his father stops him from attempting to grow one, and his alone time with a permanent marker doesn’t go over too well.

Even in a house where a five-o’clock shadow never appears, Weinberg’s very playful style of drawing and Flannery’s alliterative writing make this a fun read, particularly as Father’s Day nears. And for those who are in fact bodaciously bewhiskered, it will be an even bigger hit.

05/26/16 12:16pm
One of the nautical themed "courses" at Shipwrecked. Photo: Janah Boccio

One of the nautical themed “courses” at Shipwrecked. Photo: Janah Boccio

As big fans of mini-golf, my family doesn’t have many options in the city to play as much as we’d like. We were so excited to hear that Shipwrecked had finally opened, we set sail for Red Hook as soon as we had a Saturday afternoon free.

Located in an unassuming beige building at the southern end of Court Street, you’ll think you’re at the wrong place, but you’re not! Inside there are signs directing you to the elevator, which you’ll take to the second floor. Upon entering, you’re transported to a maritime scene, complete with lobster traps, fish nets and eye patches. My 5-year-old was immediately hooked. “Be careful of the giant crab lurking behind the 5th hole!” he warned us, and made plans to steal the pirate’s treasure.

If it’s your first time, it’s worth the extra $5 for a bag of coins to dispense along the way. You’ll hear mixed-media tales of pirate ghosts, sunken treasure, volcanoes and train rides. (more…)