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…)

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…)

04/15/16 9:04am
“The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each”- First Ramones press release 1975 (Photo: Queens Museum)

“The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each”- First Ramones press release 1975 (Photo: Queens Museum)

Introducing your kids to your record collection is sometimes a crapshoot. They might get down with Michael Jackson, but then turn around and dis on Prince. My 6-year-old son’s favorite insult is that something “sounds like bedtime music.” There are no lullabies in the Ramones canon, and with their unbelievably catchy tunes, the music has become a great introduction to the punk arsenal for my son.

For kids, The Ramones are a great introduction to classic punk. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

For kids, The Ramones are a great introduction to classic punk. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

“Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk” opened at the Queens Museum last weekend, and for those unfamiliar with the borough, it is also a great introduction to Forest Hills, the birthplace of Joey, Johnny, Tommy and Dee Dee.The museum itself sits squarely in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, near the Queens Zoo and the New York Hall of Science. One entrance overlooks the Unisphere, the stainless steel globe the Beastie Boys posed in front of for the “License To Ill” album, which begs to be used as a family photo backdrop to blow up your Instagram. (more…)

03/24/16 5:05pm
Photo: NY Historical Society

This show proves the classic appeal of Mo Willems, as well as the special place he has in the hearts of little New Yorkers. Photo: New-York Historical Society

Most children are intimately familiar with the words and artwork of Mo Willems. Learning boundaries as an infant is fun with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus, sounding out words is enticing with the Cat the Cat series, and ideas of friendships are fully formed with the Elephant and Piggie books. New York City kids have a special connection to his characters, as the urban pigeon is obsessed with public transportation, Trixie and her family live in brownstone Brooklyn, and Knuffle Bunny rolls through a Park Slope laundromat. So it’s a ridiculous understatement to say that the New-York Historical Society’s latest exhibit, “The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems” appeals uniquely to Brooklyn-based children. (more…)

03/16/16 12:48pm
This exhibit, targeted for children, explores what a soul is and who has one. Heavy topics presented in a light way. Photo: The Invisible Dog; Copyright Erika Hokanson

This exhibit, targeted for children, explores what a soul is and who has one. Heavy topics presented in a light way. Photo: The Invisible Dog; Copyright: Erika Hokanson

Brooklyn kids might have limited access to nature, but that doesn’t stop them from fantasizing about and emulating the creatures of the wild. On a daily basis, my son runs around eating his friends like a jaguar, nibbles his snack like a mouse, or puts socks on his hands pretending to be a kitten. Through a child’s eyes, the world is filled with magic; it’s a place where humans can turn into animals, dead princesses can rise up, and sick grandmothers can be snipped out of the belly of a big bad wolf unscathed. Which makes the exhibit, “Anima,” at the Invisible Dog Art Center the perfect setting to spark a child’s overactive imagination. Taking its cue from the Mayan idea of Anima, wherein animals and humans are considered equal, this immersive installation invites kids (and adults) to walk through a forest to discover the magic within. (more…)

02/26/16 7:00am
The American Folk Art Museum welcomes kids with great FREE monthly family programming.

The American Folk Art Museum welcomes kids with great free monthly family programming. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

There may not be such a thing as a free lunch in NYC, but there certainly is no shortage of free art. Getting out of the cold with a family friendly activity for free is one of the few miracles of living here. Two weekends ago I took my 6-year-old son to the “Families and Folk Art” series at the American Folk Art Museum, a free interactive program that happens on the first Saturday of every month. Children ages 4-12 (and their adult) have the opportunity to tour the gallery and take a guided closer look at some of the art, followed by some hands-on artmaking inspired by an object at the museum.

The programming helps kids get up close and personal with the art.

The programming helps kids get up close and personal with the art. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

The current exhibit, “Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art”, runs through May 8th. Kids seem to relate well to folk art, which encompasses art made by untrained hands, including indigenous cultures, tradespeople, and “outsiders.” This particular show explores art made by secret societies and includes lots of symbols, rituals and utilitarian objects like aprons and furniture. We took a brief walk around the small gallery before the program started, and my son pointed out all the hearts, arrows, and “eyeballs.” There was a carved stage on display that my son desperately wanted to act out a play on, but luckily the programming was starting. (more…)

01/29/16 9:23am
This mechanical mask is one of a dozen objects on a scavenger hunt for kids. Photo: Ernest Amoroso/ National Museum of the American Indian

This mechanical mask is one of a dozen objects on a scavenger hunt for kids. Photo: Ernest Amoroso/ National Museum of the American Indian

The snow that dumped down on us from Jonas made my family hyper aware that we need some go-to inside places for the next few stir-crazy months. The wonderful part of living in New York is having unlimited museums at your beck and call, and the deep freeze of winter is a perfect time to explore these indoor arenas.

Since my son is studying Native American culture in his kindergarten class, we decided to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian located in lower Manhattan over the weekend. This gorgeous beaux-arts building stands on the northeast corner of Battery Park, and is just one stop from Brooklyn. With its absolutely free (every day, all day) admission, it proved to be a perfect winter destination to warm up out of the house for an hour or two. (more…)

11/20/15 10:27am
"The Good Dinosaur" doesn't come out in theaters until November 25th, but you can still get a Pixar fix before then. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

The Good Dinosaur doesn’t come out in theaters until November 25th, but you can still get a Pixar fix before then. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

If your kids are human, then they (and you) are already familiar with the Pixar brand. Growing up, your daughter was attached to her Buzz Lightyear doll, while your son slept only in his fuzzy Finding Nemo pajamas. Maybe earlier this summer, you sobbed your way through the emotional roller coaster of Inside Out, happy that the family was immersed in darkness. Pixar is known for making  that go deeper than most kids’ flicks, leaving images deeply imprinted on childhoods and uncovering lost memories in adults. (more…)

10/16/15 12:19pm
Signage

For hardcore comic fans or cape twirling tots, there’s something for everyone at this show. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Last weekend, “Superheroes in Gotham” opened at the New York Historical Society. Holy smokes! This show pulls out all the stops for both hardcore comic fans and young cape-twirling tots. The museum shop even sells replicas of the original vintage underoos. Finally, a way to bridge the museum experience and my five-year-old’s interests.

Excitement mounted from the street, where we could see the original Batmobile parked right inside the lobby. My son has never seen the classic Batman episodes, but was still enchanted by all of the gadgets and controls. The pure size of the vehicle commands attention, but my son was quickly drawn to the craft table set up at the other side of the lobby. Attendants were handing out clipped toilet paper roll cardboard for making your own superhero cuffs with stickers, pipe cleaners and hole punchers. My son declared himself “WOLFIE BOY” and joined the ranks of the other young superheroes to climb the stairs for the exhibit. (Many kids came in complete head-to-toe costumes, so if you want to get a jump on Halloween, here’s your chance.) (more…)