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
2. Go: Apple for Teacher Nothing gets you in the autumnal mood faster than some old fashioned apple picking. Although there’s no shortage of PYO locations in the tri-state area, our family likes to simply pick apples without the distraction of bouncy castles, petting zoos, haunted houses, moonwalks, corn maze or ice cream sundaes. For an authentic, small scale, family-run orchard, look no further than Riamede Farm in Chester, N.J. Without the crowds, and extra costs, our biggest complaint has been that we come home with way too many apples. Riamede Farm, 122 Oakdale Rd, Chester, N.J.
3. Buy: Weekend Plans Even if your kids haven’t experienced James Cameron’s 3-D film, Avatar, they may enjoy TORUK: The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil. I took my 7-year-old son–it’s billed as a family-friendly show–and he was held rapt by acrobatic feats, special effects and a mesmerizingly plotless 2.5-hour performance. This unforgettable experience blows into Brooklyn from September 7-11 and continues in Newark September 15-18. You can expect a visual smorgasbord of daring feats, hanging silks, and incredible costumes. Tickets start at $40. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn.
4. Go: Back to School Party Kick off the school year with a back-to-school party at Recess, a playspace in Dumbo. Drop off your 2.5-6-year-olds for three hours of art projects, open play, pizza and a bouncy house while you celebrate the end of summer with your own date night. The events have a great teacher-kid ratio in a clean space, with great restaurants within walking distance. $45/first child, $40/sibling; September 9, 5:30pm-8:30pm; Recess, 81 Washington St., Dumbo
5. Sign Up: Cool Classes Your kids are in school learning all day long, so in their off hours, why not sign them up for something they actually want to do? If your child is always belting out Miley Cyrus at home, get him to “Roar” in tune with The Blue Balloon School’s Songwriting for Small People. These private lessons (in your home) will teach your kid the fundamentals of an instrument, along with the skills to actually write their own songs, culminating in an end-of-year performance on stage at the Knitting Factory. Watch out, Biebs!
If your child is more active, get her moving with Saturday Skateboarding classes at Homage Skateboarding Academy. Group lessons are drop-in every Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, and focus on step by step instruction that work the basics. Soon enough she’ll be replacing her scooter with a longboard! Homage Skateboarding Academy, 615 Degraw St. Gowanus
And if your child is more of a gamer, let him release his inner prodigy, with Minecraft Club at Geek Forest. This is an open lab on their Minecraft server that will let kids build to their hearts content, and make new friends in the process. Geek Forest, 329 Grand Street, Williamsburg
6. Download: Science Class If your child yearns to be an astronaut, download the FREE Skyview App, and astonish your friends and family. Just point your phone at the sky, and you the app will properly identify every star, constellation and satellite. Once they are ready for space travel, blast off to Tribeca where the Children’s Museum of the Arts will present Mission To Space, a show, “about the mysteries of outer space and how it continues to challenge our imaginations. As life on Earth faces a volatile future, outer space emerges as a destination of refuge, peace, and infinite possibility.” This group show will educate about space exploration, but also inspire. Opens September 13; CMA, 103 Charlton Street, Tribeca; admission, $12
7. Read: Crack those Books Bookworms rejoice at the yearly Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Day, a free day-long event at MetroTech Commons. This year the day will encompass two tents and an auditorium, and with books signings, STEM workshops, illustration events, there’s enough to keep your little ones entertained all day. Some highlights look like: noon, TADA! Youth Theater performance Celebrating Ezra Jack Keats’s 100th Birthday; 1:30pm, Star Wars Trivia; and 2pm Once Upon A Story Workshop with Bad Kitty author Nick Bruel. Plus, children’s publishers will be on hand for perusing the latest and greatest books. Saturday, September 17, 10am- 4pm; MetroTech Commons; all events free
8. Go: Play Outside Last month we suggested you go to Governor’s Island for the longest slide in the city. This month we’re singing the praises of Play:ground, The Children’s Junkyard, an adventure playground on a stretch of land near the ferry on Governors Island. Parents aren’t allowed in, and after signing a waiver, I was able to watch through a chainlink fence as my son teetered on the roof of a rickety scrap heap while his friend explored the park holding a pair of rusty scissors he found on the ground. There was only one adult inside, who was busy handing out saws and hammers to very young children. Even though I questioned the benefits of having no adult supervision, and many times had to avert my eyes from the bedlam of kids whipping metal chains over their heads and collapsing timber, my son and his friend came out alive and all the more independent for it. Governors Island, through September 25
9. Go: Choosing Favorites If your kids are obsessed with Roald Dahl, and you’ve already gone to see the film BFG (twice!), then you’ll be happy to hear that the Central Library is throwing him a party. The Roald Dahl 100: A Celebration For Children and Families event will be celebrating everything Dahl from phizz-whizzing activities to time-twiddler book readings, culminating in a screening of Matilda. Additionally, throughout September the cafe will be serving a James and the Giant Peach pie to commemorate the author. In preparation of the day, read this fascinating article in Slate about Roald Dahl and his food. September 18, 1:30-4pm, Central Library; 10 Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights; free
10. Go: Forget the Yellow School Bus In lieu of the traditional yellow school bus, most New York City kids commute via subway. Celebrate our favorite form of transportation by listening to author Shana Corey read from her new book, The Secret Subway, which tells the little known story of New York’s very first subway. Kids will go crazy over the pictures, hyper-detailed sets made out of cloth, wire, wood and clay. Powerhouse Books on 8th, 1111 8th Ave., Park Slope; Sunday September 18, 11:30am; free; RSVP@POWERHOUSEon8th.com
If your children can’t get enough of subways, continue the playdate to the New York Transit Museum, the best place for experiencing the history of the train ride. Additionally, their renowned after-school program, called Subway Sleuths, for students on the autism spectrum in the 2nd through 5th grades, is now accepting applications for the fall session with a deadline of September 8. Applications can be submitted here: nytransitmuseum.org/access. New York Transit Museum, Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, Downtown Brooklyn
11. Buy: In the Darkroom Fujifilm Instax Mini ($52) is NOT a kids camera. This will actually break if you drop it, flush it down the toilet, or somehow insert a cookie inside of it. But for the older kid who has Nan Goldin aspirations, this camera provides instant gratification with its credit-card-sized Polaroids. The cameras come in tons of kid-friendly shades, like pastel pink, pastel blue, deep purple and canary yellow. Kids can use their allowance for the film and then set them loose at the Atlantic Antic on September 25, and start looking for an agent. One thing to keep in mind here is that the film isn’t cheap–the 60-exposure value pack goes for $35 at B&H.
12. Sign Up: Book a Sitter If you’re freaking out about how many days off from school there are in September and October, you’re not alone. If you can’t take unlimited three-day weekends, and don’t have Mary Poppins at your disposal, there’s Smart Sitting. Their tagline is that it’s easier to get into Princeton than to become a Smart Sitter, and I believe them. After signing up through the site, I had a lengthy phone conversation with a representative from the Smart Sitting team who asked targeted questions about my child’s interests (puppet shows, fairy tales and singing) and matched him with the perfect sitter. The sitter was a dream: she was a kindergarten teacher! Who arrived early! And loved puppet shows! They can accommodate last minute bookings, homework help, full-time, part-time or temporary care.