Learn, Play and Explore at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum

Kids are natural explorers and scientists, investigating and trying to understand the world around them, and nature makes a perfect laboratory. For budding naturalists, we previously told you about some of Westchester County’s wonderful nature centers and covered kid-friendly hiking trails in the Hudson Valley area. Now we are heading to Orange County to explore the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall. I recently visited the museum’s Outdoor Discovery Center with my two sons (ages 4 and 8). We had a great time and plan on visiting again. So what does the this nature museum offer, and is it worth the drive?  

Explore the World of Katniss Everdeen at the New Hunger Games Exhibition

Many stories originally aimed at young adults end up appealing to people of all ages. Countless grown-ups have been sucked into the worlds of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, consuming the books and the movies with the same zeal as their kids. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins' best-selling YA trilogy, is no exception. I devoured the books in less than a week, and thoroughly enjoyed the blockbuster films based on them. To say I was excited to see the new multimedia installation The Hunger Games: The Exhibition at Discovery Times Square is an understatement.

The exhibit invites visitors to explore the fictional world of Panem, following the saga's heroine, Katniss Everdeen, as she moves from reluctant tribute to the face of the rebellion. Since my son just turned 10, he's only now old enough to start delving into the dystopian series, so I worried that he might find the exhibit confusing or, worse, boring. While The Hunger Games: The Exhibition is a must-see for fans, is it good for kids and parents who are new to the series?

Brooklyn Dance Classes for Kids: Ballet, Tap & More Lessons

My daughter is constantly putting on tap routines after dinner and showing off her latest moves for anyone who makes eye contact on the subway. So dance classes are something my family knows a lot about. When we moved to Brooklyn last fall, the thought of trekking into Manhattan for dance lessons seemed daunting. But after a little research, I found that we wouldn't need to leave the borough to find quality dance schools.

While we ended up going with a studio near our Bay Ridge home, there are plenty of fantastic options to choose from in Brooklyn. Bonus: The schools tend to be fairly reasonable in terms of price (especially when compared to Manhattan) but many also set aside money for financial aid, so it's worth inquiring about scholarships and sliding-scale tuition. Here are 11 great Brooklyn dance schools that offer classes for kids and teens who are serious about ballet, tap, modern and other dance styles.

Fashion Classes for NYC Kids

Buying clothing is fun but as anyone who's ever watched Project Runway knows, nothing beats making your own outfits and accessories. And since New York City is the fashion capitol, there are lots of kids' classes where budding designers can learn how to sew, embroider, knit, weave and crochet.

While tweens and teens can go all in with advanced programs that often end in exciting mock runway shows, younger kids can also get in on the fashion fun by trying less complicated projects, like making tote bags and scarves, and decorating clothing with paint, no-sew appliques and sparkly embellishments.

So for all of the aspiring Donna Karans out there, here are the best fashion classes for kids in NYC.

Art Portfolio Prep for NYC Kids: Preparing to Apply to Specialized Art High Schools

When my oldest son was 8, he said his ambition in life was to sell his art on the street. So it's no surprise that at age 13 he's set his sights on getting into Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

Like other specialized art high schools, including the High School of Fashion Industries, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, and the High School of Art & Design, LaGuardia requires applicants to submit portfolios of their work. While talent is key, taking a professional portfolio preparation class can really give applicants a leg up on the competition. We've rounded up New York City programs that help tweens and young teens prepare their artwork to apply to these popular high schools.

Great Day Trips in New Jersey: Watchung Reservation

Watchung Reservation, the largest park in Union County, is home to many wonderful kid-friendly activities, making it the perfect day-trip destination for any time of year. Numerous hiking trails, an interactive nature center and a fabulous playground provide both indoor and outdoor fun for NJ families. Whether you’re planning to visit for just a few hours or bring along lunch and stay all day, Watchung is a great place to relax, have fun and spend some time enjoying nature.

Chinese Language Classes for Kids in Fairfield County

You can practically say Sayonara to Spanish.  With the Chinese economy on a seemingly unending rise, Mandarin is the second language of choice for many mamas looking to broaden their babies' horizons.  There are schools across Fairfield County, for children as young as 18 months, and at a range of price points.  They all attempt to weave a considerable amount of Chinese culture into their courses, too -- Ni Hao Kai-Lan ain't gonna cut it after this! Photo credit CLSC.

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