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…)

08/12/16 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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07/01/16 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…)

04/20/16 9:00am

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My ten-year-old tore open the envelope, a slightly unhinged smile of anticipation on his face, and pulled out the sheet of paper inside. I held my breath. The paper rattled slightly in his hands.

Silence.

He stared.

I would have snatched it from him, but my own hands were shaking too much. “What’s it say?”

“I don’t…. know?” He handed me the letter, and I understood his confusion instantly, with dismay: the middle school he had been matched with was not on the list of the schools that we had ranked.

“Oh. Well…I guess…” I looked at his deeply baffled face and screwed up my courage to finish the sentence. “You didn’t get into any of the schools on our list, honey, so they….they put you in this one. But we can –”

He didn’t hear the rest, though. He was sobbing too loudly.

The rest of that April afternoon was a bit of a blur. Tears and texts, as all of his friends’ parents texted me with their matched school: “447! You?” “51! First choice!” Except for our closest friends, we chose not to respond. Two of his best friends, though, both stellar students and cheerful, polite kids with the requisite good test scores, had found themselves in the same situation as my son, and came over ashen and crying.

We ended up having a damp dinner at the local burger joint, our children drowning their sorrows in shakes while their friends and their families, a few tables away, celebrated their good news.

We, the parents of these “unlucky” sons, were drowning our sorrows too, with something a bit stronger than milkshakes. Some of us were angry. Emails were sent. Others were grim, despairing. “We’re going to have to move out of the city,” one groaned. Another mentioned homeschooling, followed by hysterical laughter. (Nobody mentioned going to the underperforming school where we had been placed; perhaps we should have sent them there anyway, there’s an argument for that, a very long one, or maybe a simple one: but that’s not what this piece is about.)

This piece is about what happens when the school choice process sloshes you around in its mysterious and complicated maw and then spits you right out. (more…)

03/04/16 7:30am

It seems like every other story we read these days is about how very hard it is to get dinner on the table every night (along with why it’s so very important to eat together around said table). A flurry of meal delivery services and apps designed to make cooking for and with kids easier have popped up in response to this nightly crunch. Here are three we’ve recently tried and liked. (more…)

02/05/16 10:50am
This weekly family dance party gives you a chance to rock out with your children.

Debbie Attias has taken her popular adult class, Dancorcism, and scaled it down for the youngest dancers. This weekly family dance party gives you a chance to rock out with your children.

Have you ever just gotten to a point where you fantasized about throwing the homework in the trash, skipping karate lessons, lighting the dinner on fire and just taking your kids out clubbing? In this fantasy, you’d dance until the break of dawn like you used to in college, screaming “THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN GOOD GRADES AND POPULARITY CONTESTS!!!” Your kids would finally think you were cool and you would connect on a deeper level on the dancefloor. Then Bianca Jagger would come riding in on a white horse, and after convincing your kids that it wasn’t one of those Central Park horses, they would think it was magical. You’d all be laughing and dancing, and most importantly having fun like a family should!

Chances are your kids would be too tired to enjoy the adventure. You’d be paranoid about one of the kids accidentally eating some molly, or worse still, slipping through a wormhole to Burning Man. But what if I told you there was a way to have just as much fun dancing with a rockstar, with none of the night life risk? Because Debbie Attias, founder of the (now defunct) electroclash band, Avenue D, has started a Family Dancorcism dance party on Thursday afternoons from 4-5pm in a church in Greenpoint. (She’ll host one over winter break if she gets enough interest–email her if you can make it.) (more…)

12/11/15 11:18am

Holiday wish lists are already coming together for kids, and although Santa or Hanukkah Harry may not be able to find an “Invisibility Cloak” or a “flying bike” in their workshops, they could provide the tools for kids to actually try and build them. We recently wrote about STEM-focused classes, but if those don’t fit into your busy schedules, these smart toys will instruct and inspire kids to bring what’s in their imagination to life. Here’s a list of our favorite tech toy choices for 2015 for every age range. (more…)

07/17/15 9:40am
Don't worry! The new Whitney Museum is spacious enough to handle the High Line crowds. Photo: Photograph © Nic Lehoux

Don’t worry! The new Whitney Museum is spacious enough to handle the High Line crowds. Photo: Photograph © Nic Lehoux

My fear of viewing art in between heads and limbs, and being shoulder to shoulder with scores of tourists has made me put off visiting the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new location. But last Saturday morning, my family and I decided to suck it up. When we arrived at the mammoth new building, a long line had already formed in front. Rumors swirled that Secret Service had closed the building to prepare for Malia Obama’s visit. Before I had a chance to start complaining and seething, the line moved and we were already inside Renzo Piano’s stunning, airy, air-conditioned building that is built for crowds. (more…)