Bronx

Little Naturalists: Wildflowers Everywhere

Photos by Leslie Day

All summer long, New York City is filled with beautiful flowers and gorgeous scents. Mommy Poppins' resident naturalist Leslie Day has put together this guide of local wild flowers for you to look for as your explore your streets and parks and some background science so you can turn a walk in the park into a teachable moment.

Linden Tree Flowers (above)
Everywhere you go on the Upper West Side and on streets that have these lovely trees throughout the five boroughs, you smell the heavenly scent of linden tree flowers. Show your children the leafy bracts that each flower cluster is attached to. When the flowers produce seeds, these modified leaves carry the seed clusters to the ground like little helicopters. At night, when you emerge from the subway, you are greeted with this heady perfume. Follow your nose!

The Best Grown-Up Outdoor Music Festivals for Families

The great thing about New York City's outdoor festivals is that everyone can enjoy them. If it's kids music, at least the grown ups can enjoy being outdoors on a lovely day or evening, relaxing. And, generally kids will put up with an outdoor concert or performance if they can run around, dance, play and picnic while you enjoy a little grown up entertainment for once.

The following (mostly) free outdoor festivals are not specifically children's festivals, but they, for the most part, each have at least one kids performance and otherwise offer great performances in great outdoor environments around NYC, making a fun day or evening out with the kids either way.

A Week of New York City Earth Day Activities 2008

eco-camp.jpgEarth Day and NYC Public School Spring Break are in alignment this year. Coincidence? ...Yeah, probably. (shrug). So, school's out but the fun, hands-on learning is just beginning. You don't have to go to a fancy resort to have an eco-vacation. With the Mommy Poppins Do-It-Yourself Spring Break Eco Camp kids can learn, do, make and play their way to a greener, smarter world right here in New York City.

We've organized a week jam -packed with the best of Earth Week's eco-friendly fun for NYC kids of all ages. It's almost completely free, will keep you busy all week, and registration is super-easy (just ask yourself if you still have spots available!)

Saturday, April 19
South Bronx EarthFest Celebration in St. Mary??™s Park.
A recycled materials fashion show, free boat rides in the Bronx River and electronics recycling are some of the highlights among the more than 30 activities booths at the South Bronx EarthFest Celebration in St. Mary??™s Park.
Saturday, Apr 19, 2008 from 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
St. Mary??™s Park , St. Ann??™s between 146th and 148th Streets
FREE
South Bronx Earth Fest is a family celebration of the environment and of the South Bronx community. Enjoy food and entertainment, including: a "Music Gets Me Green" song contest, a recycled-materials fashion show, a musical performance by the Oscar-nominated Impact Repertory Theater, free boat rides on the Bronx River, a student dance performance, and a keynote presentation by Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx. Bring your old cell phones, computers, printers, fax machines, TVs, VCRs and stereos to be recycled. Donate gently used clothing for reuse. Bronx Green-Up will be among the more than 30 activities booths, which also include Bronx Community Solutions, CENYC, Butterfly Project, Solar Oven, and South Bronx Job Corps Academy.
Free admission

Habana Outpost, Fort Greene's new eco-eatery, is hosting a very cool Earth Day Expo 2008. Two Days of free workshops and events including beekeeping, recycling within your environment, composting, recycled art show and umbrella recycling. I like this event because the activities make you think differently about greening your life rather than the same old topics we hear over and over again.
Saturday, April 19th & Sunday April 20th 2008.
757 Fulton Street (corner of South Portland) Brooklyn
Kid??™s Corner-Saturday& Sunday 12-6
Check the website for the full schedule.
FREE

Go Green Go Greenpoint
Saturday, Apr 19, 2008
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
McCarren Park, behind the Field House, Lorimer Street between Bedford and Driggs Avenues
FREE
Educational programs, recycling stations, a scavenger hunt, tree planting, live music and more.

Earth Day Weekend at the Queens Zoo
Sat 19, Sun 20 11am??“4pm.
Queens Zoo, Flushing Meadows??“Corona Park, Queens.
Free with zoo admission.
Kids learn how to sort recyclables, plant seeds, design their own reusable tote, and learn about environmental projects or activities going on in your Queens neighborhood and discover ways to participate.

Sunday April 20
Ninth Annual Gowanus Canal Flotilla
Sunday April 20 11am??“3pm.
Gowanus Canal, between Second Ave and Bond St, Brooklyn
FREE
Go on an eco-cruise. Take a ride in a 21 person indian shipping canoe and pick floating trash out of the Gowanus Canal.

Join us for a fun-filled of environmental education through recreation. Paddle along this annual flotilla on the historic and notorious little estuarine waterway that flows in the heart of Brooklyn. Armed with landing nets, garbage bags, our fleet of skiffs, including our unique 32ft canoe (accommodates 21 paddlers at at a time). The Urban Divers Environmental Educators guide eco-volunteers on an eco-cruise and help pick-up floatable debris along the water and on shore...Everyone is also welcomed to bring their own kayaks or canoes or GET ON BOARD OUR FLEET OF VESSELS, including our unique GIANT 32ft INDIAN SHIPPING CANOE- vessel accommodates 21 paddlers at time. To register to volunteer call The Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy at 718-802-9874, or 347-224-5828.

Earth Day Celebration in Central Park
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
FREE
Activities for all ages begin at 12:00 pm, including recycled musical instrument-making, tree tours, make and take home your own mini vegetable garden and more. Get the full schedule online.

Monday, Apr 21, 2008
NATUREMANIA
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Sherman Creek Campus (3725 10th Avenue)
SHERMAN CREEK PARK, Manhattan
FREE
Spring Break is marked by being outdoors and having fun. This year for Spring Break, come learn how to build a boat, grow plants and vegetables, plant and identify trees, explore habits and fish, and more. Also join in arts and crafts projects, story time, group games, and service projects during the spring break camp at Sherman Creek Park.

Tuesday, April 22

Earth Week at Still Hip
283 Grand Avenue Brooklyn
Cool Brooklyn resale shop, Still Hip makes it easy to be green during Earth Week. Drop your old clothes off for recycling and let the kids practice tree poses.
10-5 pm: Clothing Recycling | FREE
12 pm: Baby Wearing & Cloth Diapering Workshop | FREE*
2:30 pm: Yogi Babies Save the Trees | FREE*
3:30 pm: Tree Pose Kids Yoga FUNdraiser | FREE*

Wednesday, April 23
Earth Week at the Bronx Zoo
April 21-27
Bronx Zoo
Free with Admission
Party for the Planet at the Bronx Zoo. Visit the Human Footprint exhibit to learn the impact people are making on the Earth, see recycled animal sculptures, hear stories, make crafts and more all week. See the full schedule.

Thursday, April 24
Earth Week at the Audubon Center
April 21 ??“ 27, 12 ??“ 5 p.m. every day
Prospect Park Audubon Center
FREE
Celebrate Earth Week at the Prospect Park Audubon Center! This year??™s Earth Week will have a different theme each day, with programming for environmentalists of all ages. Learn how to do your part through lectures, tours, activities, film screenings, workshops, recyclable crafts, and a daily exhibit. Check www.prospectpark.org for a full list of what??™s going on.
Friday April 25
Still Hip
283 Grand Avenue Brooklyn
Private Picassos is offering FREE Recycled Art Workshops for kids age 2-7 at Still Hip on Friday, April 25th.
Pre-registration is requested. Email info@privatepicassos.com to reserve your spot today.
Workshops include:
Junk Printmaking Workshop
Young artists age 2-4 will use recycled materials for a relief printmaking activity. Feel free to bring any toilet paper or paper towel rolls,old dry sponges, wine corks, slightly used cardboard cup protectors and corrugated cardboard scraps. 10:00-10:45am

Recycled Robots Workshop
Young artists age 5-7 will use recycled materials to create their own robots. Feel free to bring old cereal boxes, small cardboard boxes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, corrugated cardboard, etc. 11:00-11:45am

Saturday, April 26
Go Green Expo
Saturday, April 26th from 10 a.m. ??“ 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 27th from 10 a.m. ??“ 3 p.m.
Learn about eco-friendly alternatives available today. More than 200 booths showcasing organic food and wine, home and office products, health and beauty supplies, energy alternatives, and the latest cars and transportation. Find out more at GoGreenExpo.com
Sunday April 27
Gardening Day at the Queens Botanic Garden
Sun 27 noon??“5pm.
$5 Donation
Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing, Queens.
Learn about and celebrate the honey bee with puppet shows, storytelling, and clowns!

Stay tuned for next week when our Earth Week posts really HEAT up. An don't miss our GREAT GREEN GIVEAWAY.

Get Ready for Summer with Free Swimming Events


Summer is just around the corner and summer means swimming. In preparation of summer and swimming season get your feet wet at these free swimming events.

The Big Swim
April 12, 2008
The Big Swim is a one-of-a-kind open swim meet where 1,000 New York City children ages 6-16 participate in a free day of competitive swim races. Each child experiences the excitement of a real race with starting blocks, officials, and a timed finish. Races are all supervised by lifeguards and swimming Asphalt Green aquatics staff. This event has been recommended to me by other parents who said that your child does not need to be an very strong swimmer to have a great time. The environment is not competitive and each child goes home a winner with a medal, a photo with Olympians, a t-shirt, and a goody bag.

The Big Swim takes place on April 12, 2008, but registration forms must be received by March 30th. For more information on the meet, call 800.NYC.SWIM (800.692.7946) or go to the website to register online.

Asphalt Green's The Big Swim
555 East 90th Street
New York, NY 10128

YMCA Splash Week
April 21-25, 2008
The YMCA of Greater New York is hosting a week of free swimming lesson during their Splash Week to promote water safety for kids and families. During Splash Week local YMCA branches will be offering free half-hour swimming lessons to anyone aged 3 and up. Yes, there will even be free adult swimming classes as well as lifeguarding classes for anyone who's dreaming of getting a job as a lifeguard this summer. You won't find any information about Splash Week online. You must visit or call your local YMCA branch to find out the schedule of classes, but if you don't know where the nearest YMCA branch is you can find it at the YMCA website. Participating branches can be found in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island.

If you're looking for swimming classes for read our swimming classes post. It includes mommy and me swimming classes and classes for older children as well.

Mommy Poppins Readers' Top 25 Places for NYC Kids

Our Custom Made for Kids personalized children's book giveaway is over, and what a great response we got. Not only did we have lots of responses, but each commenter told us their favorite thing to do in NYC with kids. The list is filled with some wonderful gems. After the jump, our contest winner and Mommy Poppins Readers' Top 25 Things to Do with Kids in NYC.

Free Parks Programs Let City Kids Discover the Nature All Around

I think I love being out in nature in the Fall better even than in the summer. The smell of the damp leaves on the ground, the crisp autumn air, it's very relaxing and great being outdoors with the kids at this time of year.

But you don't need to hop in the car to get your walk in the woods. There are woods all around us and the NYC Parks Department has tons of programs to help families enjoy them and teach NYC kids about nature. There are too many in one weekend to even list, but here's the top ones in every borough.

Staten Island: Haunted Hike
Explore the haunted history of Conference House Park, which was once a Native American burial ground. 7PM Friday, Nov 2.

Manhattan:Inwood Park Nature Walk
How would you like a guided nature walk by no less than the chief naturalist of the NYC Parks Department? Spot songbirds and learn about the ecosystems of Manhattan's last natural forest and salt marsh. Sat., Nov. 3. 8-10AM, Inwood Park

Queens: Fall Migration
Help Rangers count raptors as they pass by on their Fall Migration. Raptors are always cool and kids will love that they are helping the Rangers. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 10AM Sat, Nov. 3.

Brooklyn: Backyard Ecology Walk
A kid-friendly introduction to Fort Greene's wildlife will teach NYC kids about the nature that lives right in their own backyards. Sure to open city kids' eyes to the world of nature around them. Sat., Nov. 3, 1PM, Fort Greene Park.

Bronx: Fall Foliage Walk
Enjoy some of the most exquisite fall foliage in the city on a guided walk through an oak, hickory and sweet-gum forest and search for the special 400 year old white oak. Pelham Bay Park, 2 PM. Sunday, Nov. 4.

Want more NYC nature walks?

Check out trails.com. A member fee is required, but it gives you unlimited access to detailed guides for hiking, biking, kayaking and more all over the US. There's tons of guides for NYC and the surrounding areas and even ideas for hikes with kids. You can try it out with their 14 day free trial.

Gorp is free site that has lots of hiking and other outdoor activity ideas around NYC and the country. The information is less detailed than what you'll find on trails.com or in a book, but it's a good starting place.

Best Hikes with Children in the Catskills and Hudson River Valley

is a book that features 51 easy hikes to enjoy with your kids in the area.

 

Unicorns, Dragons, and Mermaids, Oh My!: A Kids Guide to Mythical NYC

 

 

The current Mythic Creatures exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is loaded with the fantastic stuff that kids love. Whether kids appreciate the underlying premise of the exhibit, that there are natural explanations for all of the occurrences of mythical creatures throughout history, or they just enjoy checking out all the great displays of cool mythical beasts, there's no reason to stop once you leave the museum.

We've dug up the best places for kids to see more mythical beasts around NYC so your dragon or mermaid-obsessed children can get their fill of fantasy fun.

No place in NYC has more unicorns than The Cloisters. With a whole cycle of unicorn tapestries, it's high-brow art that will surely engage children in it's bittersweet story of the unicorn hunt. The Cloisters are located in Fort Tryon Park which has been spruced up considerably and is now a nice place to enjoy a walk in the woods. Keep your eyes peeled for unicorns!

What a great way for kids to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art than to treat the museum as a scavenger hunt for dragons and other beasts. There are about 25 pieces in the permanent collection that have dragons, the most prominent possibly being St. Michael and the Dragon. (Hint: do a search for dragons on the Met site so you know what you're looking for.) The Arms and Armor exhibit is a must for little would-be knights and damsels to continue the fantasy of slaying dragons.

For more imaginative play walk over to Belvedere Castle in Central park. It looks just like the real thing and is a great backdrop for playing knights and princesses.

A different kind of dragon hunt can be had in Chinatown where you can see all kinds of dragon puppets, masks and more for sale. Great for decorating a dragon-lover's bedroom. Make sure to come back in February for the Lunar New Year Parade when performers do dragon dances throughout the streets of Chinatown.

To see the real thing, head to The Bronx Zoo, home to the Komodo dragon where not only can they see the real thing behind glass, but toddlers will love climbing on the bronze dragon sculpture in the reptile house.

For more mythical beasts to climb on, take your kids to one of the carousels in our Carousel post last week or to Imagination Playground's dragon fountain in Prospect Park.

A day out looking at mythical creatures can be made more meaningful by coming home to read some great books on the subject.

A classic like the Three Tales of My Father's Dragon or tales of dragons and unicorns from other cultures will give kids perspective on what they are experiencing and expose them to some great culture.

Dragons: A Pop-Up Book of Fantastic Adventures, in addition to beautiful pop-up illustrations of dragons, gives kids a taste of some of dragon stories from different cultures including Beowolf and Japanese dragon tales.

The Unicorn Treasury: Stories, Poems, and Unicorn Lores includes unicorn stories and poems by some of the leading fantasy writers.

And, of course, every child should have a copy of Greek Myths for Young Children, an excellent introduction to Greek Mythology for children and the magical world of mythical creatures that inhabit it.

Lastly, next June don't forget to go to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. It's the perfect thing for little mermaids who love to get dressed up and see everyone else in their finery.

 
Find more tips for NYC art and kids shows in our Culture Guide.

 

Outdoor Summer Festivals in Every Borough are Fun for the Whole Family

The great thing about New York City's outdoor festivals is that everyone can enjoy them. If it's kids music, at least the grown ups can enjoy being outdoors on a lovely day or evening, relaxing. And, generally kids will put up with an outdoor concert or performance if they can run around, dance, play and picnic while you enjoy a little grown up entertainment for once.

The following free outdoor festivals are not specifically children's festivals, but they, for the most part, each have at least one kids performance and otherwise offer great performances in great outdoor environments around NYC, making a fun day or evening out with the kids either way.

Celebrate Brooklyn is considered by many to be NYC's best summer festival. Located at the Prospect Park bandshell, Celebrate Brooklyn is a great venue with a diverse range of excellent performances. You'll find music, dance, films and more. We already wrote about the child friendly outdoor movies that are part of Celebrate Brooklyn. Another great kid event at Celebrate Brooklyn will be the Dan Zanes concert on July 22; sure to be packed with toddlers, children and adults alike rocking out to the king of kid rock.

Lower Manhattan's River to River Festival has hundreds of events including dozens of children's and family events. As part of the River to River Festival you'll find children's workshops, story times, fairs, singing and dancing and more. Check out the calendar for the full list of children's events.

Everyone is familiar with Central Park's Summer Stage. Many of the Summer Stage events will be enjoyed by children, but for sure kids will love the Summer Stage Global Family Day on July 15th. Led up by Hip Hop Harry, a Kangol cap bearing big yellow bear described as Barney "if he had lived in the South Bronx in the '80s." Hmmm. Well, there will also be a marionette show of Cinderella Samba, a performance by hip kid rockers, The Sippy Cups, a performance outlining the history of break dancing, and finally, some good 'ol Brooklyn barbecue from The Smoke Joint.

The NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks Festival travels to all five boroughs plus Long Island and New Jersey, making classical music from the oldest philharmonic in the United States available to all for free. While there are no children performances, classical music under the stars, followed by fireworks is sure to be enjoyed by the entire family. Or it's a least a good way to sneak a little classical music into your children's repertoire.

The last festival we were planning on featuring was the NYC Fringe Festival which has a series of FringeJR events designed for families. Unfortunately, they have not published their calendar yet and haven't yet replied to our inquiries. We'll keep you posted or you can check the Fringe NYC site.

9 More Free Museum Programs in All 5 Boroughs

Wrapping up our week of free museum family programs, we're sending you off with some frequently overlooked museums that offer free classes for kids and toddlers. We're traveling to all five boroughs for lots of free family fun.

The Queens Museum is home to the NYC panorama and World's Fair memorabilia. They have free family drop-in art classes on Sundays and weekend scavenger hunts. Website is not updated, so check or call for summer schedule.

In addition, in July and August The Queens Museum resumes their Passport Fridays, a dance and music festival that features the culture of a different country every week. Brazil, Columbia, India, Mexico, South Africa and Tunisia will all be celebrated with live music and dancing followed by a film. Free children's art workshops are offered between 6:30 and 8PM.

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