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Snack & Play

Day trip: Taking the East River Ferry to the Imagination Playground

Imagination Playground, South Sea Port, via Brunchwithmybaby.com

With the temperature (finally!) rising, life with a kid is all about finding ways to cool down. There are only so many times you can go to your closest splash park before you literally go bananas from boredom (sorry, it’s the truth!). So why not venture out of your neighbourhood to try something new? You’re not the only one who will enjoy checking out a new playground – and getting there and back is just part of the adventure.

A great afternoon (and cheap!) outing we recently took was jumping on the East River Ferry to Wall st/Pier 11, and the Imagination Playground at the South Sea Port. It’s worth noting that the ferry trip alone made for a great adventure for the kids. They were insanely excited to sit in a big person seat next to the window, and see Manhattan quickly approaching. There is a cool breeze through the middle of the ferry while it’s on the water that will make you want to stay on the ferry and spend the entire day just going up and down the river…

Imagination Playground, South Sea Port, via brunchwithmybaby.com

We decided to test drive the Imagination Playground because we really wanted to see how the toddlers enjoyed playing with the blue, foam blocks that the Imagination Playgrounds are famous for. Imagination Playground blocks are suitable for kids aged two and up to play with. They’re basically huge shapes made out of non-toxic lightweight foam. The blocks come in a variety of shapes (curved and sharp angles) and sizes, and encourage kids to use their imagination to transform their play space into anything they can dream up. A robot, a play house, an animal or rocket ship – the only limit to what can be built with these blocks is a child’s imagination.

Imagination Playground, South Sea Port, via brunchwithmybaby.com

The blocks are only one feature of this great playground. At one end lies a huge sandpit, with a ramp running over the top and a twisty slide that ends up back in the sand. In the afternoons, this section is fully shaded, so gives a great respite from the heat if you can just get your kid to stay there.

Imagination Playground, South Sea Port, via Brunchwithmybaby.com

At the other end of the playground lies the sprinklers, and a whole host of kids of all ages trying to cool down. Tip: dress your kid in their swimwear and water shoes, so they can run around from one area to the next without dirtying their regular clothes. Don’t bother with a swim diaper (the kids won’t get THAT wet), but do remember a hat and the water shoes in particular.

Imagination Playground, South Sea Port, via Brunchwithmybaby.com

My toddler’s splash park outfit this summer consists of a long-sleeved swim top (better sun protection and less time spent trying to cover her in sunscreen while she wiggles and objects), a swim diaper (I put it over her regular diaper if we are somewhere that only has a basic sprinkler as she doesn’t get very wet, just so she has something to wear that’s water-friendly with her top) a hat and water shoes (we upgraded to the Natives shoes after taking these photos because the water come straight out, so your kid can wear the shoes in the water, and then all afternoon without getting wrinkly, soggy feet).

Imagination Playground, South Sea Port - via brunchwithmybaby.com

One last feature of the playground is an array of pipes and turning wheels, that older kids enjoyed climbing and the toddlers enjoyed spinning the wheels. Like everything else at the playground, each item can be played with by kids of all ages and abilities.

Imagination Playground at Burling Slip
Cost: free
Hours: Daily, 9am-6pm
Front St., John St., and South St.
Manhattan

East River Ferry
Cost: $4 per trip, $12 for an all-day pass
Hours: Ferries run ever every 20 minutes on weekdays, and every 15 minute on weekends. Be sure to check the schedule and your closest terminal. The trip from Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO to Pier 11/Wall St only takes five minutes.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

A Star Twinkles in Williamsburg

There’s a saying that you don’t live in New York for the weather. The five months of this year so far have certainly proved this to be true, with a long, cold winter, snow and a ridiculous amount of rain.

So what’s a parent of a little kid to do, when it’s too wet, too cold (and now that the summer months are upon us—too hot) to play outside?

The answer? Catch the G (or L!) train to Williamsburg and check out the play space there, Twinkle.

Twinkle is a true family business, owned by sisters Vanessa Yee-Chan and Mieka John, and their father Victor John. The family has been part of the Williamsburg community for over 30 years, and decided, after noticing a lack of play spaces in their area for families to go to, to create the amazing world that is Twinkle.

Walking into Twinkle was literally like walking into a wonderland. Here is a breakdown of the many, many different areas of the playspace: Red Hot Fire House (a giant fire truck where kids can make the lights and siren flash), Stardust Tree Fort (a life-sized tree with a fort in its branches), How to Feed your Dragon (four 15-foot dragons that suck up scarves into their pipes and shoot them out the top), Pretty in Pink (a beauty parlour with crazy wigs), Brooklyn General Store (the most amazing kids store we’ve ever seen, stocked with play groceries and carts, and a moving conveyor belt on which to “buy” items after shopping), the Graffiti Studio (a dance room filled with balls and balloons), Gently Down the Stream (a water play station), The Hard Hat Zone (a sandpit with construction toys), Young MacDonald’s Barnyard (adorable pretend farm animals for kids 18 months and younger), and Twinkle Lounge (a place for parents to sit and relax, overlooking the playspace).

My toddler is 21 months old, and the perfect age to enjoy a lot of what Twinkle has to offer. The playspace is suitable for kids under the age of six, so they have a range of activities that children can enjoy depending on their age. My daughter in particular enjoyed the grocery store, the fire truck, the sand pit and the water play station. I enjoyed seeing her deliriously happy.

Twinkle is a membership-based play space, with a $25 first-time trial drop-in rate, which is exactly what we did to test drive the amazing space. You can also buy a six-visit pass for $130 if, like us, you’re not a local to the play space, but think you’ll be back a few times over a two-month period. The six visit pass is perfect for summer and winter in particular, if, also like us, you spend all of your time during these seasons trying to escape the excessive heat/cold.

Maybe we’ll see you there!

This article was originally posted on the MommyNearest Blog.  

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

A Day With A Toddler At American Museum of Natural History: The Hit List

American Museum of Natural History - A Day At The Museum, via brunchwithmybaby.com
Right, so this cold snap means we need to find places that are warm and entertaining for a toddler, FAST. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is the the perfect place to take an active kid. It has enough rooms, exhibits and general cool stuff to occupy kids of all ages all day — and their parents too (praise be!).

The AMHN has plenty of special exhibits on as well as the permanents like ye olde dinosaurs. If you’re planning a day at the museum (and with toddlers, two hours often feels like a whole day), make sure you visit these toddler-pleasers:

American Museum of Natural History via brunchwithmybaby.com

Origami Holiday Tree
The Origami Holiday Tree is a tradition that goes back 40 years at the museum. Volunteers start folding the ornaments in July to complete the hundreds of creatures that are displayed on the tree. Every year the tree has a different theme — this year it’s Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful, in honor of the Museum’s new exhibition The Power of Poison. The animals are mostly easily identifiable, even for toddlers, so you can easily spend a long time just at the tree, asking your toddler to show you the different animals, and pointing out those they they might not be able to identify themselves. It’s also a good photo op.

Dates: Through January 12, 2014
Entry: Included with general admission

American Museum of Natural History via brunchwithmybaby.com
Dinosaurs
Everyone’s favourite dinosaurs are crowd pleasers for the toddler set too. We like to let Cheese loose in the dinosaur rooms and watch her roar at the T-rex. If your kid (or spouse) is a dinosaur freak, take the “Dino Tour” suggested by the AMNH website to help visitors take in all the dinos on offer. The most entertaining part of the dinosaur exhibits for us is when Cheese tells her dad that the T-Rex needs to brush his teeth (see pic above).

Dates: Permanent exhibit
Entry: Included with general admission

American Museum of Natural History via brunchwithmybaby.com
The Butterfly Conservatory
These beautiful insects flutter into the museum every year. Entry is timed, so you need to buy a ticket for this special exhibit, and play close observance to the rules. I’d suggest taking only babies or older toddlers who can follow directions into this exhibit, as the butterflies are within toddler-reach at all times. The butterflies like to land on visitors — making for some very exciting times for toddlers when they experience their light touch. An enchanting experience, not just the toddlers.

Dates: Through May 26, 2014
Entry: Additional ticket required

American Museum of Natural History - A Day At The Museum, via brunchwithmybaby.com

Whales Of The Deep
This exhibit is fascinating for adults, and fun for kids. There is a life-sized whale heart that kids can crawl inside, and a massive sperm whale skeleton. Cheese’s favourite part of the exhibit was the sound chamber where you could spin a wheel and select a whale, and then listen to its distinctive sounds.

Dates: Through January 5, 2014
Entry: Additional ticket required

American Museum of Natural History - A Day At The Museum, via brunchwithmybaby.com

Frogs: A Chorus Of Color
This live exhibit features frogs in bright orange, blue and red. Toddlers and kids of all ages will enjoy seeing such a large variety of frogs from around the world. It’s a rare chance to get up close to these critters, not to be missed for frog-lovers of all ages. 

Dates: Through January 5, 2014
Entry: Additional ticket required

American Museum of Natural History via brunchwithmybaby.com
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life
The 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling is a must-see for every visitor. The hall has recently been renovated, and now features 750 sea creatures, including computerized glowing jellyfishes, and includes modern technology in the exhibits, such as high-definition video projections and interactive computer stations. The best spot in the room is lying directly underneath the whale on the floor. No kidding. It’s amazing how different the world looks from down there.

Dates: Permanent exhibit
Entry: Included with general admission

American Museum of Natural History
79th Street and Central Park West
New York, NY

After (or before) your visit, check out these delicious places to eat that are right around the corner.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Taste Buds Kitchen Cupcake Kids Class

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

Cheese is really into “helping” me in the kitchen these days. She likes to “help” spread Vegemite on toast, “cut” vegetables and “crack” eggs in a bowl. She’s been so interested in food preparation lately that I thought I would give a Cupcake Kids class at Taste Buds Kitchen a go.

The class theme for this week was Pinkalicious (the theme changes every week), based on the bestselling kid’s book series of the same name. A cute table is set up for 10 kids and their parents, ages two to six, with all the ingredients laid out, ready for mixing. Cheese was the youngest kid in the class that day by a fair amount (she turned two in August). The kids were on average, ages four to six.

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

The above photo pretty much encapsulates how the class went. Cheese was thoroughly enjoying trying all the ingredients. She followed the simple directions, like which ingredient to put in the bowl, but mixing was a bit hard for her to really get right (time to step in, Mama!).

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

I’ve always loved baking, since I was a kid too, actually. I’ve been wondering how to introduce baking to Cheese, so this class was not just fun for her, it was also educational for me to see how I can teach my toddler how to bake. I have to admit, I thought the class was just cupcake decorating. If I’d known it was baking from scratch I might not have been so game to bring her, as it’s definitely not something I would have thought she’d be into and for which she would be able to sit through a class.

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

After mixing through the ingredients, it was time to spoon the mixture into cupcake pans and have them placed in the oven to cook. Notice how they’re all pink?

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

While the cupcakes were baking, Chef Maggie read Pinkalicious (which I’d never read before, so it was fun for me too, ha!), while the kids listened and colored in a special Pinkalicious-themed coloring sheet.

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

Cheese was really into the book. A few months ago, this would have been a disaster (Read: toddler running ALL OVER THE ROOM) but since she started preschool last month, her concentration has definitely improved. She was up and down a few times to wash her hands again and get some food to eat, but over all she was really into the activity.

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

After the story came the frosting. The cupcakes hadn’t quite finished baking, so we frosted some previously prepared cupcakes while the others were still baking. After a quick lesson in the right way to frost, it was over to the kids, or in my case toddler, to let them do their stickiest. Cheese was in heaven. Didn’t want me to help (of course), so her cupcake looked kind of . . .  like a toddler decorated it 🙂 She really enjoyed picking up hearts and pink sugar and sprinkling them on top (and tasting a few).

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

We were given a sweet little container to place one of our decorated cupcakes in to take home, while we enjoyed eating the other cupcake right then and there (of course).

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

Taste Buds Kitchen: #Cupcake Making Class For #Kids via brunchwithmybaby.com

Cheese really enjoyed the class (she was going on about the “cake cakes” all the way home), and it was a fun activity for us to do together. I think she was a little young for the class, but not by much. I would definitely take her again when she’s a little older — probably in winter when I’m desperate for ways to entertain us both. As with a lot of things that I get stressed over (for nothing), Cheese proved me wrong in her ability to handle her first baking experience. Even though her attention span did wane at times, the class was a success for the both of us.

Taste Buds Kitchen
109 W 27th St
212-242-2248
Cupcake Kids is held every Saturday morning at 9am. Classes cost $45 per child.

Brunch With My Baby attended as a guest of Taste Buds Kitchen. All opinions are our own. We happen to love, love, love cupcakes.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Great Kids' Classes for Fall: Kidz Central Station

As New Yorkers, we pride ourselves on certain qualities: we’re cosmopolitan, confident, and open.  We love our city because of the unique opportunities it provides us to experience the best in education, culture, art, and science.  Of course, as parents we would like to share these values and opportunities with our children, too.  But the curse of having so much available to us is that the choices can be overwhelming. We at Kidz Central Station can help!

Below are our picks for some of the best New York City-centric classes for the Fall.

Best #Kids' Classes for Fall, thanks to Kidz Central Station and brunchwithmybaby.com
Art Adventures and Story Art-Ventures
Does your child lean towards the Pollock school of art (i.e. great when it lands on paper. Not so much on your couch)?  If so, encourage your little artist by enrolling her in a creative adventure. Claire’s Creative Adventures, based on the Upper East Side, boasts a variety of offerings for students ages 2 to twelve. Art Adventures and Mini-Art Adventures introduces children to modern and contemporary artists and gives them the supplies to try their hands at creating their own masterpieces. Field trips to city galleries draw on the wealth of art displayed around New York.  Does talent run in the family?  Try the  Parent/Child Workshop together. To give your child some artistic inspiration, sign her up for Story Art-Ventures at Let’s Gogh Art NYC where students from ages 2 to 4 are read a popular children’s story in every session, followed by the completion of a unique art project related to the story. The class also incorporates age-appropriate math, science, writing, geography and history concepts. Depending on the theme, students might also sing, dance and play games.

Best #Kids' Classes for Fall, thanks to Kidz Central Station and brunchwithmybaby.com
Little Scientists and Magical Math
Many of the best minds in the country are based at New York’s myriad institutions of higher learning.  If your child is a budding brainiac, check out these intellectual outings: Little Scientists, offered in lower Manhattan by Little Peep Prep for kids from 16 months to 3 years old and by the 14th Street Y in the East Village for ages 3 to 5, provides a venue for mini-Einsteins to conduct hands-on experiments and to discover the natural world.  If your son or daughter has more of a mathematical bent, Little Peep Prep’s Magical Math for students from 20 months to 4 years old provides children the opportunity to count, sort, match and explore a variety of materials, allowing them to naturally understand the relationship between everyday life and math.

Best #Kids' Classes for Fall, thanks to Kidz Central Station and brunchwithmybaby.com
Animal Care
Healthy, local food is a New York obsession.  We sign up for farm shares and patronize farmer’s markets, but your city kid may wonder what, exactly, a farm is.  Nurture your child’s curiosity and/or love of animals by signing her up for the Animal Care class at the Art Farm in the City, an indoor organic farm on the Upper East Side.  Students from ages 4 to 7 participate in a variety of stories, games, and other activities.  Every session  includes actively caring for the animals in the farm’s indoor petting zoo, up-close  encounters and time to record observations. Before it’s time to go, students can read an animal-themed book or just relax with a favorite creature on the farm.

Best #Kids' Classes for Fall, thanks to Kidz Central Station and brunchwithmybaby.com

¡HOLA! A Playgroup in Spanish
There are hundreds of languages spoken around New York City.  It’s never too early to begin teaching your child a second language; in fact, as we’ve previously discussed on Kidz Buzz, young children’s brains are primed to learn new languages.  The ¡Hola! program hosts Spanish-language playgroups and after-school programs for aspiring polyglots from ages 18 months to 8 years in multiple locations throughout Manhattan and Queens. The program focuses on a wide repertory of concepts to build vocabulary and to help children acquire the correct use of phonetics from a native speaker while also enhancing children’s cognitive abilities, fine/gross motor skills, and social and artistic capabilities.

Best #Kids' Classes for Fall, thanks to Kidz Central Station and brunchwithmybaby.com
PopFit and JumpLife KIDS
New Yorkers are some of the most physically fit people in the country, but students sit in classrooms for most of the day during the school year; and, with the decreasing prevalence of physical education classes in schools, it’s more important than ever to help your child stay active throughout the year. PopFit Kidssignature class (and their junior class), develops “The Fab Five” (Cardio, Balance, Flexibility, Strength and Endurance), in students ages 3 to 8; through energizing circuits, dynamic drills, exciting games, yoga, and more. JumpLife‘s appropriately-named kids’ class in Tribeca caters to older students, ages 8 to thirteen.  The unique 45-minute trampoline workout distinguishes itself from other classes by its atmosphere of non-competition, where students can express themselves and avoid the pressure of organized sports.

The suggestions above only scratch the surface of the wide range of fun, educational, and enriching classes listed at Kidz Central Station.  KCS does the work of finding and researching kids’ classes for you.  Visit our website, where you can sort offerings by activity type, age, price, schedule, and location and peruse the in-depth descriptions and reviews to identify the perfect class for your child.

Lauren Pohl, Kidz Central Station Lauren Pohl is the founder of Kidz Central Station, a website where parents can search for and book fun classes and activities for their kids. Lauren lives with her husband and two kids, her four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son, in Manhattan.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park; Kid-friendly Things To Do in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York

With an unseasonably warm forecast, we head down to DUMBO for lunch at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since we’ve been craving sunshine for months, we decided to pick up a sandwich at Foragers City Grocer and head on down to the park to eat and let the Cheese run free.

Foragers have a great range of locally-sourced breads, groceries and snacks, as well sandwich and smoothie bars. While you can perch on stools and eat in, we prefer to take everything to go.

The area of Brooklyn Bridge Park directly under the Manhattan Bridge has possibly the best views of both bridges and Manhattan that you’ll see anywhere. It also has a huge grassy area, so bring a ball for the kids to kick around, or a blanket to sit on. The pirate playground that sits in this area of the park was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy – we were thrilled to see that it has been repaired and is due to re-open next month.

Brie and Granny Smith apple with watercress on a baguette.
Cheese runs amok.

Foragers City Grocer
56 Adams St,
Brooklyn, NY
Phone: (718) 801 8400
Prices: $$
Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-9pm Sun 9am-8pm
Get directions.

Foragers Grocer on Urbanspoon

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!