Kids

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.

 

OpenHouseNewYork Weekend Guide for Kids

If you're planning on staying in the city for the long Columbus Day Weekend, then you've picked a good time to stay home. Besides the Apple Festivals we wrote about yesterday there's another special free festival this weekend with all kinds of unique activities for kids. The openhousenewyork weekend is America's largest architect and design event, opening 350 doors to off-the-beaten-track locations throughout New York City. And OHNY Kids has special programs designed just for children. You'll find programs that teach kids about sustainable living, discover places you've never heard of, go places rarely open to the public, see artist studios in action and participate in fun activities at one of the many historic sites around NYC. We've picked out some of the highlights for you, but you can see the whole Open House New York program guide online.

Ice Hockey for NYC Kids: Fun and Affordable

I should never admit this, but when I was younger I kind of liked the idea of being a soccer mom. The image of popping my athletic kids into a station wagon and driving them around our little town to their various activities seem kind of nice. It does make the suburbs sound kind of appealing to think about little leagues and soccer games and all of that. But I don't think I could have really done it. It's just not in my DNA code. Luckily you can have all that team sport goodness right here in NYC - no car or mommy jeans necessary.

A Kid's Guide to New York Underground: Subways and Beyond

Some kids are obsessed with the subways of NYC. They memorize the maps and know the trains inside and out. Other kids amble along the city streets never giving a second thought to what lies beneath. But at some point every kid wants to know what those big steam chimneys are for and if there really are alligators in the sewers. Here's some really cool places you can start to explore the world beneath our streets.

Labor Day Weekend: Wrap Summer Up at 5 NY Fairs

Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend of the summer for NYC kids. Time for one last fling with fun. One last chance to lose yourself to the joys of summer. Labor Day Weekend is also the time for The Fair.

Just a short drive from NYC families can find themselves in 4H country. State and county fairs boast agricultural exhibits where farm kids compete for the best rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, cows, crafts and more. It's a wonderful view into a completely different type of childhood experience, not to mention a great big petting zoo.

After the jump, a run-down of the state, county and other fairs in the area this weekend. Plus find out how any NYC child can participate in the county fair experience right here in NYC.

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.

 

Let's Get Together: 10 (or 12) NYC Parenting Groups

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED. READ THE NEW VERSION HERE.

When you are a new parent New York can be like a sea of humanity: people, people everywhere, but not a soul to commiserate with. Finding the right parenting group can give you an instant social network to share the trials and tribulations of parenthood. Some mothers groups plan events and get-togethers, some offer seminars and discussions on pertinent topics, and some are just a place to chat on-line. Here are ten twelve NYC parenting groups for moms and dads of every stripe.

Be a tourist in the South Bronx

In my last post, I said that my current favorite outing with kids in NYC is to take the trolley to explore the South Bronx. I thought I'd write up some more details so more of you can enjoy this great excursion. And thanks to everyone who has contributed their favorite outings.

A free travel kit for kids

When preparing for a long trip with kids, whether by car or airplane, there's always a moment of trepidation before leaving when you consider those long hours in transit and how your child will be possibly stay occupied, tear-and whine-free while on the go. It is always my instinct to go to the book or toy store and buy a travel kit or some other small toy. I find that the Klutz kits are always a hit and help pass the time nicely.

However, occasionally I stand there in the aisle and think to myself, "What happened to the books I got the last time?" And,"What's wrong with all the other toys and books my kids have stuffed into shelves that they barely look at?" And I realize that this exercise is really for me - to easy my anxiety about the trip with some consumer therapy.

So now I have a new routine before trips. Rather than heading to the bookstore, I go straight to the toy box or bookshelf. I dump the toy box upside down and dig out some small toys that my children haven't looked at in months - new to them! Pick some of the books of Super Silly Mad Libs Junior and Klutz books from some previous trip, and toss them in a small backpack. Et, Voila! A free travel kit filled with plenty of fun and games for the long haul.

And the truth is that the kids have just as much fun with this stuff as they would with new stuff. It just shows how much the needing to buy stuff for kids originates with the adults.

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