Perfect Winter Playdate: Free Family Programs at Brooklyn Historical Society


Families can really bond at the Free Family Programs at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Photo: Courtesy of Together in Dance

Really bond with your kids at Brooklyn Historical Society’s free family programs every Saturday. Photo: Together in Dance

Winter afternoons mean hibernating inside, climbing the walls with your kids. Or at least that’s how it feels in my house. On a recent weekend, we decided to brave the wind chill and go to the Brooklyn Historical Society’s free family programming series. Every Saturday at 11am, the BHS in Brooklyn Heights offers up free events ranging from music sing-alongs with Lloyd H. Miller (best known as the lead singer of the Deedle Deedle Dees, an educational band that sings about history), Brooklyn Family Boogie dance parties and hands-on craft workshops. All for free!

My 5-year-old son initially whined about going, as the historical name sounds a bit stuffy and not so kid-friendly. The gorgeous brick landmark building that houses the organization, which was founded in 1863 and is dedicated to preserving Brooklyn’s 400-year history, is recognizable to my son as “the one with all the heads on it.” If you look towards the top, you can see busts of Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Michelangelo gazing back down at you.

Inside, about 20 children and their parents crowded collegiately into a gallery showing works by painter James Ryder Van Brunt, whose watercolors depicted the early settlers of Brooklyn’s farm life. The educator leading the discussion pointed out quaint houses dotting the empty fields. My son comfortably squeezed into a spot on a bench and happily listened. Buildings were the theme of this weekend’s programs, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate for my kid, whose newfound interest in “The Three Little Pigs’” shoddy house has changed his desired career path from zookeeper to architect.

It's astonishing what you can build out of glue and balsam blocks. Photo: Antonio DePietro

It’s astonishing what you can build out of glue and balsa blocks. Photo: Antonio DePietro

After the short discussion, we all headed down the regal oak staircase to an oversized classroom set up for crafting. Lightweight balsa blocks, paint brushes and wood glue were placed at each seat, and with no explanation needed, the kids dove right in. Some of their constructions were immaculate, tidy abodes and others ended up looked more like sunken shantytowns. But each one was attended to seriously by their young creators. My son built a chimney for the big bad wolf to slide down, as well as a separate one for Santa Claus. When they had finished, we could wander around the galleries and the exceptional gift shop, while we waited for the buildings to dry and take home.

All of this hard work built up our appetites. Although there are many restaurant choices on Montague Street, we like to frequent Vineapple, a Stumptown-serving coffee shop on Pineapple Street that serves yummy pesto grilled cheese sandwiches. All in all, it was worth braving the cold, and if history repeats itself, we’ll do it again next weekend!

Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St. Brooklyn Heights, Free Family Programming for ages 3-7, with their adults, every Saturday 11am through May 2015. 1st Saturday: Sing Back, Brooklyn! with Lloyd H. Miller; 2nd Saturday: Handmade History; 3rd Saturday: Handmade History; 4th Saturday: Brooklyn Family Boogie

Vineapple Cafe, 71 Pineapple St. Brooklyn NY 11201 Monday–Wednesday 7am–8pm, ThursdayFriday 7am–10pm, Saturday 9am–10pm, Sunday 9am–8pm

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