Free Fun Friday: This Weekend's Guide to the Best of the Boroughs


Photo courtesy of Lefferts Historic House

Did you know that you don't need to head out of town to go apple picking or watch honey bees?  Want to find out where you can see top Broadway stars dance and sing without dropping a dime?  There is so much going on all over the city this weekend I decided to do a best of the boroughs so you can explore the best of your neck of the woods.

Brooklyn
- Harvest apples right here in Prospect Park, just as Brooklynites did years ago when nearly every farm in old Flatbush had apple trees.

Foreign Language Playgroups for NYC Kids

[UPDATED: August 17, 2012]

Whether you want to preserve your heritage, develop your child's brain, or prepare them for the eventual Chinese world dominance, there are many foreign language playgroups in New York City, ready to help you out. Studies show that even brief, regular exposure to a foreign language at a young age can help your child's ability to pick up languages later in life as well as developing their ability to think abstractly and to focus.

Here are some foreign language playgroups to try out:

New York Family Classes and Activities Expo

Have you checked out our Back to School Guide yet? Back to School is kind of a misnomer since it's got lots of helpful information even for little ones who aren't in school yet, like mommy and me classes and healthy snack recipes. With classes, activities, snack and meal ideas, even shopping...it's not one guide; it's a phantasmagoria of guides (I don't actually know what that means, but it sounds cool, doesn't it?).

Another great resource for New York City kids programs is the New York Family Classes and Activities Expo. New York Family Magazine is hosting three events where parents can learn about all the classes and enrichment programs New York City is overflowing with. In addition to this one-stop-shopping for programs you'll be able to meet and talk to top school consultants about private, public and nursery schools. And, make sure to bring the kids because there will be photographers on hand doing free family portraits plus, face painting (note to self: portrait first, face painting second), giveaways and goodie bags.

Using the Power of the Internets for Good

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My daughter poses with some of the children eagerly waiting to receive their supplies.

Sometimes you hear about the power of the internet; usually referring to how online mobs can pressure corporations into changing their policies. But here on Mommy Poppins we wielded the power of the internet in our own small way. Through the community of Mommy Poppins readers, friends of Mommy Poppins readers and Mommy Poppins' friends' readers, we were able to fulfill the Back to School dreams (and needs) of the dozens of homeless children temporarily housed at Seneca Houses in the Bronx.

It amazes me at what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time. From the moment I received the first email asking for help, to arriving at Seneca Houses with my car full of school supplies, was less than two weeks. That baffles my mind. Donations came not only from New York, but also from Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, and Massachusetts. In total we raised well over $1000 in pencils, pens, folders, crayons, markers, composition notebooks, back packs, school glue, construction paper, pencil cases, binders, pink erasers, rulers and flash cards.

Linkin B'logs - Palin, School Blues, Free Etsy, Fall TV, Vitamin D and More

This week's hot tips and important stories for parents, so you can be the most-in-the-knowiest.

The Mommy Wars staring Sarah Palin
.  Having raised a bunch of debates with her scandal filled life, somehow this gun toting, moose eating, anti-choice woman is suddenly the poster child for working moms. I am all for her exercising her rights to make the choice to go back to work 3 days after having a kid even if I couldn't even get off the couch on day 3 but that don't make me like her. And anyway, in the end it's her politics that we need to watch out for not her mommy style. 

Blogger Susie Bright admits to feeling somewhat sorry for her, she's the latest "photogenic 'spokesmodel' that the GOP specializes in recruiting for jobs that they prefer to be handled by professionals behind the scenes". Vanity Fair reports on the reaction by Urban Baby mommies and it's not good. And for some reason her story inspires movie comparisons - Gawker does a Juno comparison and my favorite, Maureen Dowd's op-ed compares the whole saga to Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.

Coney Island's Astroland Closing its Gates Forever After Sunday

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The Astroland Amusement Park out at Coney Island is closing its doors forever after this Sunday, September 7, so if you want to get one more tilt-a-whirl ride in now's the time to go. The park will be open 10am to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. The Cyclone roller coaster will not be closing, however, so hurling by the beach will still be an option. [via NewYorkology]

In other amusement park news...

Free Fun Friday: A Weekend of Alternative Fun for NYC Kids

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The school year has started back up and with it comes a whole new wave of fun weekend activities for kids. This weekend is especially packed with cool alternative events especially fun for kids like the River to River Festival's Big Draw, Howl Kidz, The Art Parade and Circus Amok plus some cool street festivals, a county fair in Staten Island and more.

Clara Hemphill on NYC Public Middle Schools

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If there is one human being who has done more for NYC parents trying to find a good public education for their children it is Clara Hemphill, the author of the the Best New York City Public Schools Series and founder of the indispensable website InsideSchools.org. Finding and getting your child into great public schools in New York City is one of the toughest challenges NY parents face. And it's made even tougher because it's so hard to know what the schools are really like when we have so little access to information.
 
Clara Hemphill's books on NYC's Best Public Elementary, Middle and High Schools are the only way any parent can get a straightforward, no-hype, objective, inside peek to all the best public schools. She and her staff personally visit every school and write a detailed description of the school from their expert eagle-eyed point of view. Each book details only the top schools in each borough as well as lots of other practical information parents need. In addition to her books, reviews of all the schools can be found and searched online at Insideschools.org.
 
I used her book on Public Elementary Schools like a bible to find our precious little elementary school and I'm glad to announce that she has just released a brand new and updated edition of New York City's Best Public Middle Schools: A Parents' Guide just in time for all us parents who are starting to freak out about middle schools right about now. I read the whole thing cover to cover and I have to say that after reading this book, I think that many parents will feel significantly assured that there really are many wonderful options for middle schools, even though middle school still has the reputation of being the black hole of NYC public education; that does seem to be changing.
 

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Clara Hemphill and ask her some questions; I'm happy to be able to share her responses with you. Read on to hear her tips for the one thing you should check out on a school tour, the most important way to be involved in your child's education, and some great schools that don't require top test scores to get in.

Think Outside the Preschool Box with these Creativity-Based Preschool Alternatives

Picture 12.pngThis is traditionally the week that competitive preschools open their application process, but more and more parents, tired of vying for the same few spots, are opting out of the preschool rat race and looking to preschool alternatives. At the same time, some dedicated parents are creating their own alternatives by starting co-operative neighborhood preschools.

Preschool is a magical time and a lot of that magic comes from the warm, nurturing, creative environment of the school. Little neighborhood preschools and preschool alternatives, whether started by parents or well established can make the preschool years the most magical ones of all.

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