MoMA's Free Family Programs Are Great for Parents, Too

The Museum of Modern Art hosts many incredible free family programs that introduce children and adults to the richly varied world of modern art through guided walks, art workshops, artist talks, film screenings, special events, activity guides and Web sites. Programs provide an approach to looking at and talking about art that enable people of all ages and all levels of experience to enjoy art together. Moms and dads will truly get as much from these fantastic art classes as children will. These are no "let's glue tissue paper to construction paper" workshops. Added bonus: these free classes include free admission to MoMA for kids and adults.

Children Blossom at Free Brooklyn Botanic Garden Programs

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's outdoor adventure garden is designed especially for young children to explore plant life from a kid's perspective. Filled with butterflies and birds, The Discovery Garden allows children and toddlers to pump water down a bamboo waterfall to a stream, hide under a tree, and hike a nature trail, all while exploring the wonders of plant life around them. The Brooklyn Botanic Discovery Garden hosts drop-in programs throughout the week for children 3-10. The programs are free with admission (which is always free for children under 12 and $8 for adults, but if you go on a Tuesday Adults are free too.) All of their free children's programs are from 2-4 and no registration is required. In addition to their free kid programs, they offer gardening classes and camps for a fee which you can find at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden website.

Free Family Programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not just one of the greatest museums in the world, it also is one of the most child friendly museums. And it doesn't end with the incredible exhibits. The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a slew of fantastic free programs for toddlers and kids of all ages. These are classes turely worthy of the institution which hosts them, world-class art classes for kids available at your fingertips absolutely for free. And they are highly underused. These classes should be packed, but many of them are not even full. So, take full advantage of these fabulous free art classes for kids and toddlers.

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UNIQLO makes it easy to be cool for kids and you

If you haven't dashed over to the trendy Japanese UNIQLO flagship store that opened last Fall in SoHo to deck yourself out in their cool Japanese threads (and, if you're anything like me, shopping for yourself seems as exotic as the idea of going out dancing, something you vaguely remember doing when you were younger), then I have some great news. UNIQLO has a great children's clothing department filled with inexpensive, delicious cotton basics and wonderfully simple, but stylish clothes for babies, boys and girls.

The children's clothes remind me a little bit of H&M. Same price range and basic clothes with a bit of a twist. In this case the twist is a little more toward that classic French look the Japanese seem to be favoring for their children. For boys find gingham shirts and polos with long cargo capris. For girls peasant tunics and skinny jeans. The baby girl clothes were too cute. I couldn't even look at them or I would have had to buy the whole line...and I don't even have a baby. But, no one should leave without some of the sumptuously soft PJs.

Free Outdoor Movies to Take the Kids to This Summer

There's something just totally magical about outdoor movies. Maybe it's just that we don't get to go out after dark that much any more since becoming parents, but sitting outside on a summer evening in New York under the stars and relaxing to enjoy a movie is just the kind of old fashioned, yet hip, kind of fun we love.

It's the best way for grown ups to go see kid movies because you can just enjoy being out on a nice summer evening with a nice picnic and the stars even if you don't care for the film. And, depending on your kids, it can be a great way to get out to see a grown up movie without spending the college savings on a sitter, as many kids will enjoy the classic films frequently shown or will just enjoy being out at night enough to sit (or sleep) through it.

Here's a rundown of the best free outdoor movies for kids in NYC this summer:

RiverFlicks in the Hudson River Park is the only kid-only film series. Shown at Pier 46 on Fridays, the 2007 series will be Charlotte's Web, Open Season, Back to the Future, Babe, Wizard of Oz, Happy Feet, and Willy Wonka. Grown-up movies are shown on Wednesdays at Pier 54 and a few, such as Rocky Balboa, Nacho Libre, Stripes and Superman Returns, might work for kids.

Bryant Park Film Festival shows classic films that many kids will at least tolerate if not enjoy. Not all of them are appropriate, but kids might like The Thing-From Another World, Paper Moon, The Sting, Bus Stop or Casablanca. You can buy a picnic dinner at kiosks and the park is a wireless hotspot to help pass the time while reserving your spot. Films are free every Monday starting June 18th.

Movies with a View, at the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park under the Brooklyn Bridge, has some real winners for family movie viewers, including The Princess Bride, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Hair, The Natural, and West Side Story. The setting is lovely, there's DJ music to entertain you while you wait for the movie to start and child-friendly food from RICE restaurant is available. Free films are on Thursdays in July and August.

Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell only has three films this summer, but all are accompanied by live music adding an additional level of magic. Another nice thing about this venue is that the screen is so large that you can sit back on the lawn behind the general audience and little kids can run around and play. The best bet for kids would be the Laurel and Hardy shorts.

Movies Under the Stars are shown in that other Hudson River Park, Hoboken Pier A Park. If you're coming from Manhattan just hop on the PATH train and watch films like Happy Feet, Flushed Away, and Charlotte's Web with Manhattan as your backdrop. Films are shown on Wednesdays beginning June 13th.

Summer on the Hudson shows films on Wednesdays at Pier 1 in Riverside Park South (72nd St) in July and August. All the films offered require parental discretion, but the best bets for kids would be North by Northwest, Caddy Shack, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

 

Free Summer Activities for Kids in NYC

Inspired by our post last week about free summer movies, we've decided to do a whole week's worth of free summer activities for kids in NYC. We'll feature Free Concerts, Free Outdoor Movies, Free Swimming Pools, Free Museums, and more. We'd like to make this a regular feature as well. If you have a great tip you'd like to share send it in.

Visit Kid-Friendly Dumbo

One of my absolute favorite things to do with the kids on a nice day is to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo. This excursion has all the makings of a perfect day out with the kids; a little relaxing exercise, great ice cream and pizza, a great park and a boat ride. I can't think of a better way to spent a day.

This weekend is an especially good time because Saturday, June 2nd is the Dumbo Block Party. So pack up some sunscreen and water (in your new aluminum water bottles and head to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. (You can start from Brooklyn and follow this backwards if you prefer.)

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is stroller friendly, just stay right, out of the bicycle lane.. You can stop under the arches to take in the view, snap some photos and read the plaques which describe some of the amazing history of the Bridge. When you get toward the other side, your first opportunity to exit will be a set of stairs. Take the stairs down from the walk way and walk around the corner and back toward the waterfront.

If you're hungry from your walk, stop by Grimaldi's Pizza, considered by many to be NYC's best pizza. Then walk over to Brooklyn Bridge Park which has a great playground, a pebble beach with lapping waves and all, a large lawn surrounded by a sculpture garden and incredible views.

If you're in the mood for shopping head over to ultra-hip children stores Half Pint and Pomme (this store is now closed. If you can resist buying anything, then you definitely deserve a chocolate reward from artisan chocolatier Jacques Torres Chocolates.

At 56 Water Street, gaze at the beautiful and fully restored original Coney Island Carousel. Rides are not allowed until they find permanent home for it, however, so you might want to avoid this just as much if you've got a little one ready for a melt-down.

But, tears will come to a screeching halt if you head back toward Fulton Ferry Landing for ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The ice cream here is unbelievable. If you ever splurge on a sundae, this is the place to do it. The caramel tastes like crГѓВЁme brulee topping and the fudge is out of this world.

When you've had enough, the easiest, fastest and most fun way to get back to Manhattan is to just hop on the Water Taxi to the South Street Seaport or around the harbor to another destination in Manhattan. Kids especially like to ride upstairs in the open air.

MOMMY POPPINS TIP: The story of the Brooklyn Bridge is really quite amazing and has lots of elements that kids will love. Here are a couple of book ideas for children of different ages that will add an additional layer of interest and excitement for kids when visiting the Brooklyn Bridge.

Twenty-One Elephants is a picture book that tells the story of a little girl who helps convince grown ups to trust that the bridge will hold. It is well researched and based on the real story of PT Barnum's participation in the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge:The Story of the World's Most Famous Bridge and the Remarkable Family That Built It tells the amazing story of the construction of the bridge for older kids. It is part of a series of Wonders of the World Books.

It's time to give up the (water) bottle

If you're a parent you can't help but be concerned with the environment lately. Especially when you think about it in terms of what kind of environmental problems we are leaving behind for our children. Often, I think, we feel helpless, like there's just not that much that we can do to make a difference. But, this weekend when I read the New York Times Magazine article about how much garbage water bottles alone are making for the planet, I realized how much difference one little change can make.

I have always felt guilty drinking water from a plastic bottle (and the idea of paying for water has always annoyed me,) but I never stopped buying water because it's convenient and for some reason putting water in a plastic sports bottle just tastes terrible. It's like I can taste the plastic. Thus, the feeling of helplessness (violins swell here.)

Finally, though, a couple of things have pushed me over the edge. Besides the above mentioned New York Times article and the overall growing sense of urgency to make changes in our lives to help protect the environment, there has also been the news about the danger of plastics leaching into our food. For a long time the hard plastic bottles that water is sold in were thought safe, but now they are finding that they also leach carcinogenic plastics even when kept cold. Babies, children and pregnant women are especially susceptible to hormone and endocrine damage caused by leaching plastics found in plastic sippy cups, water bottles and even baby bottles. Yikes!

Just as I was fretting over the global problem of plastic water bottles, in a wonderful moment of synchronicity, my friends came over this weekend toting beautiful aluminum water bottles for everyone in their family.

Blunder on, parents, it's all good.

Moms seem to have an endless capacity for self-doubt and insecurities about their mothering skills. I won't try to conjecture why that is, but I did see a quote in the New York Times that sums up the feeling quite eloquently.

I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything. One lives only to make blunders.

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