Notable News: Manhattan Playground Blog, Back to School for Kids in Need, NY Aquarium Discount

Roundup of News and Links for NYC Kids and Families

Happy August! This is limbo month for families: We're still in leisure mode but we're already preparing (or at least thinking about preparing) to go back to school/work/the grind. Still, don't you find it odd to pass by stores with sweaters and coats in their windows when we're heading to the playground decked out in swimsuits and sun hats? We do, too. 

This week's roundup of stories reflects this transitional time. We've got suggestions for what to do this last month of vacation as well as ways to do good while back-to-school shopping. Plus: the Lego Batcave. We have no idea how that fits in, we just know it's awesome.

Destination Playgrounds We've been profiling our favorite NYC playgrounds for quite a while now. But one intrepid local nanny, self-proclaimed Explordinaire Sarah Poppins (no relation), plans to visit all 207 playgrounds in Manhattan! Her blog NYC Park Hopper just launched in July, and already she and her two charges have romped at more than 20 spots. In addition to snapping cute photos of the equipment and writing about what you'll find at each playground, Poppins includes all kinds of useful info, like nearby bathrooms (if any) and shade factor. Ultimately she and the kids give each tot lot a rating. (Poppins tends to be more concerned about dirt and grime than her underage pals.) 

High Anxiety While we're on the subject of playgrounds, have I ever mentioned that they totally scare me? From the sandbox filled with hidden nastiness to tall climbing structures that get slippery when wet, I have trouble letting my daughter do, well, pretty much anything! I am trying to temper my fears, though, especially after reading this article in the New York Times that says playgrounds have become too safe. According to psychologists, the taller, riskier equipment allows kids, especially older ones, to be exposed to danger and, as a result, develop techniques that allow them to conquer fears later in life. Hmmm, maybe I didn’t play enough on them as a kid? After reading NYC mom Larissa Kosmos' essay on The Motherlode about her daughter conquering the monkey bars, I may have to let my kid money around a bit more.

No. 2 Pencils? Check. Helping Others? Check! I just got my daughter’s class list in the mail, along with a breakdown of everything we need on the first day. As you get ready to send your brood back to school, you can help kids in need do the same. For every "Like" Elmer's Glue receives on its Facebook page, the company will donate one of its product to the Kids In Need Foundation’s national network of stores, where teachers from disadvantaged schools can snag supplies for free. The campaign lasts through Thursday, September 1. Want to do more? The New York Foundling, a 140-year-old nonprofit that provides comprehensive, family-centered services for children and families in need, is having its back-to-school drive. Pick up a few items on the wish list while you do your own shopping, and then drop them at the Manhattan office downtown.

One Fish, Two Fish A lot of my friends skipped summer camp this year and enrolled their kids in "Camp Mommy." Of course that means every field trip needs to be planned and paid for by you know who. Well, if you're in that same boat, here's a cool destination that will cost you a little less this month: Coney Island's New York Aquarium. If you visit during August, you can save 20% off a Total Experience ticket courtesy of, which has designated the aquarium as its culture spot of the month. Just go to the site and print out your coupon. For other great deals, check out the Mommy Poppins Hot List, which offers more than $1,000 in savings on NYC's top tot spots.

Real Simple In honor of Simplify Your Life Week (which is happening right now: August 1-7), we thought we’d pass on a few helpful hints we came across. Did your kid “accidentally” put a Hello Kitty sticker on your laptop? Lifehacker says you can easily remove the decal with vinegar. Making homemade pasta sauce and need to get the skin off of tomatoes? says forget boiling them—freeze them. Once they thaw, the skin slides off like but-tah. As long as we're talking about removing things, here's a tip on how to remove (or, more accurately, relieve) stress from your busy schedule: allot time for transitions. A work-at-home mom at Wisebread reminds us that leaving a cushion will help you move from one thing (writing this post) to another (picking up my child from camp). Now if she could just tell me where to find that time...

Holy Legos, Batman! We like Legos. Our kids love Legos. But Alex Schranz is obsessed. He created a detailed Lego Batcave in honor of the Batman movie franchise (just in time for last week's San Diego Comic Con, of course). Detailed is actually an understatement. The 8,000-9,000-piece structure includes nifty Batgadgets and Batcomputers, and it's even back-lit! Check out the photos the master Lego builder posted on Flickr. We bet they'll inspire your kids. (Perfect rainy-day activity!)

Image: CarbonNYC