Kidding Around Toys

toysWhile I would really love for my kids to play with handcrafted, eco-friendly and artistically stunning toys, I also know full well that I might as well just set a pile of money on fire. The beautiful wooden farm house with hand painted animals is coated in a layer of dust. The hand-sewn finger puppet theater has yet to be touched by a human hand. That being said, I don’t want a house full of flashing plastic junk but I do like to find items that my kids will actually play with.

Kidding Around is a toy store in Chelsea that I really love as it does a great job stocking toys which are both parent savvy and ones that your kids will love. The website is in dire need of a makeover but if you visit the store in person you will be extremely pleased with what you find inside. Not only is it huge but it has everything that a child could want from birth through the teen years — all of which is thoughtfully edited and categorized. It is my go-to place for amazing birthday gifts and I always stumble upon something new when I go.

I have my sights set on this little red accordian to buy as a gift for someone who bought my girls two recorders last month. Payback time!

Art, food and a place to sit

newmuseum_kaufmanI do love New York but there are also a lot of things that I really hate about it.the lack of parks and open spaces, and the complete absence of places to just sit down. The other day I took my girls to the New Museum on the Bowery. I have been wanting to go since it opened and there was an exhibition by Urs Fisher which looked bizarre and cool. There was, after all, a croissant hanging from the ceiling on fishing wire with a butterfly on it! Anyway– the exhibition was indeed cool but the best discovery of the day was the little cafeteria with tables and chairs that they had in the back of the main lobby. It’s a nice place to sit (for free!) and shockingly, it was very kid friendly — they even serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So for those roaming around Soho or the East Village with a stroller looking for a place to just sit for a few minutes — stop in. Admission is free for everyone under 18.

Favorite children’s bookstore — Scholastic Store

scholasticI absolutely love hanging out in bookstores and the smaller the specialty bookstore, the better. I spend a lot of time at Scholastic and it is always a go-to destination when I am in Soho with the kids. It’s a huge space that offers a little something for everyone from birth through the angst ridden teen years, and they even have a decent sized section of books in other languages. They have a storytime for wee-ones on Tues, Wed and Thursday mornings at 11am, and carry a nice selection of toys, crafts and CDs – all educational. Also, worth noting – the place is a real mood booster — you can’t help but feel happy in here. It’s a bright and cheery space – something you don’t often see.

Belly Dance Maternity

nom_pic1Seems like everyone I know is having a baby all of a sudden. Funny how it always happens in waves.

With “three being the new two” and “twins being the new singleton” in NYC, the maternity business is booming! When I was pregnant I was determined to remain somewhat stylish (well with the roots growing in and the adult onset acne, the least I could do was wear a semi-decent outfit.) One of my very favorite brands to discover along the way was Nom de Naissance, which is based out of LA and is carried at my very favorite maternity store in NYC, Belly Dance Maternity. This adorable West Village shop carries a well edited selection of labels like Splendid, Diane Von Furstenburg and Ripe with the premise being that you can still dress like you did before you got prego. Two other amazing stores that I discovered along the way were Cappucine in Tribeca which does not have an on-line website but is definitely worth the visit. The owner carries both maternity wear and adorable regular clothes in larger sizes (and the owner is French so you know it’s cool). The other place that I found was Bump in Brooklyn which opened after I had the girls but it looks ultra, ultra swank. For the gals that are not into “Pea in a Pod” and “Liz Lange” – these stores are for you.

New York Transit Museum

new york transit museumOn a recent freezing and rainy Sunday we hopped on the subway and headed to the Transit Museum and what a treat it was! The museum itself exists in an old subway station and has two entire platforms of old subway cars to explore. It really is a trip down memory lane to the time of the good ole pre-blackberry days.  The early subway cars had hand-woven wicker seats and hanging lamps – can you even imagine how long those would last today? Upstairs there are two city buses that little ones can sit in and pretend to drive as well as a lane of turnstiles. It is much like the transport museum in London – but a bit more gritty. This is after all, New York. There is also a nice little lunchroom to take a breather, so pack a lunch!

Pomme

yhst-75091535464214_2082_6057535I always like to find special gifts that are useful and practical for friends with a new baby. In a cramped NYC apartment the last thing you need is more stuff, especially if you are on kid number 2 or 3, which is why I love these adorable little square quilts from Pomme. They are small, plush, easy to wash and cheery.

Pomme is an adorable little store in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn that carries a well-edited and unique array of items for young children. You can call the store direct to get matching pillows or if you are feeling particularly fashionable there are booties to match!

Getting Around: Tips for navigating NYC

New York prides itself on its amazing transportation system and it is only getting better, although more expensive, every year. When traveling with children, especially with a stroller, things can be a bit tricky but New Yorkers, contrary to popular belief, always help out when it comes to kids. I have seen strangers sprint to hold a door open and someone will always magically appear to help you carry a stroller up or down stairs. We still have a long way to go in terms of making transportation more accessible but it’s slowly getting there.

Subway — The subway is by far the fastest and most efficient method for getting around town. Unfortunately, it’s not great if you are travelling with small children because 1) there are a lot of stairs to navigate 2) it’s loud, 3) unless you travel during off-peak hours it will be packed. Your best bet with kids is to travel after 10am and before 4:30pm and take a local train to your destination — you will have the best chance of getting a seat and enjoying the ride. Useful Tip: Make every attempt to perfect your Metrocard “swipe” technique. If you don’t want to look like a tourist you need to get the movement down pat. It is a quick swipe, not a slow drag. Once you hear a “beep” you must move through the turnstile swiftly, like your life depends on it.

Bus – The Bus is great but it is SLOW. My mom LOVES the bus. She is 71 years old. It is certainly a cleaner and more sedated way to get around the city and is far more kid friendly, but depending on the time of day it can take a while. The system tends to be a bit more confusing then the subway but you can find a bus stop every few blocks among main avenues and larger crosstown streets. Again — best at off-peak hours. You will need to fold a stroller but people always give up seats when they see children in tow. (more…)

Doodle Doo’s

bonykids080310_4_560This adorable little West Village shop is a perfect place to go for kid’s haircuts – especially the very first one when most kids have the potential to totally flip out. Courtney wrote a post some time ago about a place called Tantrum which we visited during our stay in London and absolutely loved! Doodle Doo’s is its New York equivalent. The staff is beyond nice and when we went last week my daughters left not only with adorable new chic hairdos but also with a barrette, some sparkle hairspray and a lollipop. The premise is simple… place kid in car or boat seat… insert princess video… bribe with future delivery of treat… snip away. It just makes the whole experience a win win. They also have a wonderful selection of toys and children’s clothing for parents to browse while you wait and if you are up for it, it’s a block away from New York’s famed Magnolia Bakery.

Turtle Back Zoo — Who Knew?!

This past weekend we did a Saturday field trip to New Jersey to a place called Turtle Back Zoo. A quick 14 mile drive from lower Manhattan, the large 15-acre zoo has over 850 animals and it was a truly incredible place to spend the afternoon. Not only was I blown away by the huge selection of animals but I also loved that they had large and open natural spaces to roam around in. It almost felt like visiting a giant rural farm and I was surprised at times how close you could actually get to the animals.

When you are done checking out all the animals there are a bunch of other great things to do: a Carousel, a climbing area with slides, pony rides, even an old-fashioned train that takes you on a five minute ride around a nearby reservoir. We loved every second of our visit and on a sunny weekend day it wasn’t crowded at all! Heads up: If your kids complain about walking (like mine constantly do) definitely bring a stroller. You can also rent cute little wagons for $7.00. The one major downside is the café, which is sadly chock full of really gross fast-food so be sure to pack a lunch. Dare I say it… New Jersey wins again, first with a great museum and now with a zoo!

Central Park Zoo

central park zooThe Central Park Zoo is a treat for young kids – especially the separate children’s zoo that has a ton of things to climb around in, an adorable petting zoo, and a HUGE indoor rainforest filled with all kinds of wildlife walking around. While not as expansive as the Bronx Zoo (the real deal zoo in New York) the Zoo in Central Park has all the appeal of a large zoo in a nice compact space. There are Polar Bears, Penguins and Monkeys to name a few as well as a giant tank with Seals who put on shows a few times a day. Go early if you can, and like anything else in NYC — avoid on the weekends and school holidays if you can help it.

Pop Burger

2099832700_d4561866bbAs mentioned in an earlier post, I am not a huge fan of eating out with young kids. It’s not good for the digestion. But then again, there is Pop Burger.

This unassuming and very hip burger joint in the trendy Meatpacking district is actually one of my favorite super duper secret places to grab a special lunch with the girls. The burgers are delicious, and they come in sets of two which are perfect for teeny hands. They also have a nice selection of healthier items like a salad or an excellent chicken burger which pair nicely with a thick classic milkshake and crispy fries. (more…)

Chelsea Market

chelseamkt_1I really try to avoid taking my twins out to eat. It is nothing short of torture for me. Seriously….it’s like the minute they see that dilapidated cup of crayons and sad coloring placemat coming at them they start to make a scene. Chelsea Market, on the other hand, is now a destination of mine to eat with the girls on sunny days with the stroller in tow. I can only describe it as an underground culinary fantasy land and one where I am at complete ease dining with two three-year-olds. There’s a huge selection of delicious gourmet places to eat – all in a cool and low key setting. Kids can choose from homeade soup, sandwhiches and pasta and then watch fresh bread being baked, visit a fish market and toss coins into an indoor waterfall. Even better are the places to grab dessert – Eleni’s cookies, Sarabeths and Fat Witch Brownies. On the weekends they oftentimes have musical performances for kids so check the schedule and make a morning of it. And while the weather is still nice grab a coffee and check out the new and ultra-swank Highline where you can sit and watch a parade of New York’s hipsters saunter by.

Horse & Buggy ride

horse and buggy rideOh how I love playing tourist sometimes! And one of my favorite spots to visit is perhaps the crossroads of it all — the corner of 59th and 5th Avenue. Tiffany’s, The Plaza Hotel, FAO Schwartz, Bergdorf, Barneys, and the entrance to Central Park — to name a few of the highlights.

And I ask — is there anything more New York than taking a Horse and Buggy Ride through Central Park? So cheesy but oh so fun! Kids can often sit in the front with the driver if you ask very very nicely, and it’s a great way to see the park and take a break from the crowds. Ask to be dropped off at the old-fashioned Carosel which is great fun and a must visit (and at $2 dollars a ride it might just be the least expensive thing to do these days). And don’t forget Heckscher Playground – one of the biggest and best in the city.

Art classes for wee ones

wee artsWhen it rains in NYC a day at home can seem like an eternity. Wee Arts drop-in classes at Children’s Museum of the Arts is a wonderful way to spend the morning doing something that everyone will be happy about. For $22 a family, children can rotate from play dough to paint to stickers to block building. Young and engaging teachers walk around to help the children explore various materials and the program ends with a fun and upbeat session of sing-a-longs, drumming and a farewell book.

Wee-Arts DROP IN ?(ages 10 months to 3½ years) ?Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10:45am-12pm.

Music Together in the city

musictogether.jpgI started going to Music Together when my girls were 6 months old. They sat on my lap like two blobs back then and we continued to go once a week until they started pre-school. While NYC offers a million “mommy and me” type classes I found that we enjoyed Music Together the most. Its grassroots, back to basics approach is the type of class that I love. No flash, no bubble machine, just good old catchy tunes sung by a teacher, in jeans, with a guitar. Take a trial class to see which teacher you like as some are better than others. I would say that it is mainly geared for the younger set but it’s a great way to start kids out on a life long love of music and they offer classes everywhere. It also gave me a wide repertoire of kid’s songs to sing at home freeing me from the shackles of what seemed like a never ending loop of “Wheels on the bus”.

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