Just walking around New York City can be a great experience for kids to learn about history, not just of New York, but American history as well; and there's no part of NYC more full of history and color for kids than the Lower East Side. Perhaps that's why it's been the inspiration for so many wonderful children's books. A walk around the Lower East Side brings some favorite children's books to life and, at the same time, brings the story of immigrants in America to life as well. Here's some wonderful children's books that you can read that will send you off on a great outing in the city with the kids to experience the history of immigrants in NYC first-hand while having fun, getting wet, and, most importantly, eating very well.
The Lower East Side was once the home to the largest Jewish community in the world and even though the neighborhood is being transformed by hipsters, there's still plenty of the old world for children to get a taste of this unique experience.
Reading When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Streetand What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street, are like primers to the Jewish immigrant culture of the area in the 1930s and will help paint a picture of the old neighborhood that can still be glimpsed when you visit the Eldridge Street Synagogue, once the religious hub of the neighborhood.
Commerce was at the core of this bustling immigrant neighborhood as illustrated in The Pushcart War. On Orchard Street you can demonstrate some good old-fashioned haggling for your children at one of the bargain leather goods stores there.
Children will be able to almost taste the history when they step through the door of Economy Candy. That's not all they'll want to be tasting in this museum to candy which sells just about every kind of candy you ever had growing up.
The Lower East Side and pickles go hand in hand and you'll want to be sure to stop by The Pickle Guys to taste a bit of history form the pickle barrel.
Another way to step back in time is to step into Yonah Schimmel's where you can try kid-friendly knishes in countless varieties. They also make real egg creams.
For a full tour of the Lower East Side's food offerings, take a look at CityRag's Lower East Side Food Tour.
If the kids aren't full of history yet, take them to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, an incredible experience that recreates the lives of immigrants in vivid detail.
Across the street you'll find Il Labortorio del Gelato . There's nothing old world about this gelateria. Even the flavors are new-fangled. But they're all incredibly delicious.
When you're ready to really cool off head over to Seward Park which is still a true melting pot. You'll find Chinese, Hispanic and Jewish children frolicking in the sprinklers together just as children have been doing in this park for over a century. Right next store is the Seward Park Library which has made books accessible to young immigrants so they can learn English for just as long.
For some serious splashing head to the nearby Hamilton Fish Rec Center's Swimming Pool.
You'll probably want to stop there, but to get the full immigrant trip you can continue on to Chinatown for another type of immigrant experience.
Chinatown is the epitome of exotic and children will realize they are in another, slightly foreign, world right away from the food stalls with exotic fruits and fish laying out in the open will bring the Chinese immigrant experience to life, lifting it right from the pages of William Low's Chinatown.
To learn more about Chinese immigrants stop by the Museum of the Chinese in America's. But, if you'd rather keep your learning to eyewitness accounts walk down to Columbus Park where, especially on weekends, you'll find older Chinese sitting out with their songbirds and playing Mah Jong , sure to impress young minds with the richness of a new cultural experience. If all else fails, they can at least head toward the playground at the southern end of the park for a little cool off in the sprinklers.
Head back north through Chinatown, perhaps stopping at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for some yummy cold snacks in exotic flavors like fortune cookie or lychee.
For food you can stop for Dim Sum at Sweet 'n Tart, one of the few restaurants that offers high chairs. The waiters love kids and will give them lots of attention and kids like the little bites of dim sum or a plate of noodles.
If you don't want a sit down meal buy some delicious buns at Fay Da Bakery or dumplings from Tasty Dumpling.
If you continue north on Mulberry you will come to what is left of Manhattan's Little Italy where children will find remnants of the world that Peppe the Lamplighterlived in. While in Little Italy be sure to stop for more gelato at Ciao Bello for delightful creamy concoctions in unlimited exotic flavors.
Before heading home, step into the food shops on Grand like di Paolo's Fine Foods and step back into Peppe's world. Why not take some Italian delicacies home with you too. It's very educational.