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As the new school year approaches, parents often make their own resolutions to get and keep their home organized—with a tornado of backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes and the like, a well-thought out plan can quickly turn your home into a disaster zone. We reached out to a couple of professional organizers to see how they recommend to not only keep the clutter at bay but how they personally hack their way to a clean and organized house, once and for all. 

Do: Resist Spontaneous Purchases

Don't: Bring new items in without dealing with your clutter first. 

Tidy people don’t constantly bring new things into the home, they exert control over their existing clutter first. To channel a new, organized and tidy person, “Limit volume to begin with, “ says, Shira Gill of Shira Gill Home, noting this is her number one rule. “And this one doesn't cost you a dime. Just press pause on purchases.” Sticking with this crucial rule will not only help with subsequent steps to keeping a tidy home but this tip also ensure your home remains clutter-free.

When it does come to purchases, use the "One item in, one item out" rule. Before anyone in the family is allowed to bring in a new toy, new book or the like into the house, they need to add something that is no longer played with or read, to the donation pile. This will help keep tidying up to a minimum and keep clutter at bay. 

Do: Designate a Place for Everything

Don't: Just put things down in a catch-all spot to deal with it later.

Tidy people tidy up by put their things away, says Gill. This is another crucial “do” in her book, and it begins with having a designated spot for everything. This simple system starts with creating a go-to hook, nook or closet for everything from shoes to backpacks, keys, the dog leash, jackets and mail. Gill says once everyone in the family knows where their belongings are supposed to go, it takes nearly the same amount of time to put the stuff away than it does to toss them mindlessly. 

Tracy Spitzer, owner and professional organizer of NYC-based UNSTUFF NYC goes one step further to guaranteeing a tidy home by labeling everything—but to think beyond the label maker. "Have kids write their own labels. For example, they can write their names on stickers above their backpack hooks. For younger kids, use clip art or print logos—you'd be surprised how early kids can recognize brand names like LEGOS—and tape them to the containers. Or if you use a picture of a pencil on a bin or a photo of Barbie, everyone can easily put their things away. No excuses!"

RELATED: 14 Clever Ways to Organize Your LEGOS

Do: Clean in Just Five Minutes

Don't: Spend hours putting things away.

Tidy people keep a clean and organized house with this in-the-know organization hack—by attacking messes in five to 15-minute bursts. Rather than declare Saturday morning as a clean-up session, consider introducing smaller, manageable tidy sessions throughout other key transitional periods of the day, such as before and after dinner and before bedtime. 

RELATED: Genius Pantry Organization Ideas That’ll Change Your Life


Do: Come Home to a Clean House

Don't: Leave the house in disarray.

How does one professional organizer manage to keep a house clean? About five minutes before it’s time for her kids to leave for school each morning, Gill asks everyone to put their dishes, LEGO or art supplies away. This little time investment has a huge overall impact on clutter she says, and this way they never come home to a messy house. 

photo: iStock

Do: End with a Treat

Don’t: Threaten reluctant organizers.

The old saying, "You catch more bees with honey" applies to kids when you need them to tackle some not-so-fun chores. So why not entice those little busy bodies with ice cream? Gill suggests the cheerful tone of a preschool teacher to present the news that it’s time to clean up. Try it like this: “Let’s hurry up and get this done so we can go have ice cream.” Kids love ice cream, but the cherry on top for parents is a clean, clutter-free and organized home. 

—Chantal Lamers


12 Secrets Organized Moms Want You to Know

How to Stay Organized with Kids When You Live in a Small Place

Want to Be More Organized? Follow These 7 Rules

10 Things Productive Moms Do Before 10 a.m.

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Want to be more productive? You might want to consider becoming a morning person. We asked a handful of entrepreneurial San Francisco Bay Area mothers to share what they do to launch into a successful day (or week), and yup, getting up early was on the list for these organized moms. Here are 10 tasks these boss mamas check off their to-do list before 10 a.m.

photo: iStock

Get the kids on board.

When Erin Wallace's children were 7 and 9, she started teaching them to pack their own lunches each morning, so she had time to prepare for work. "I made sure there were some easy-to-grab basics like baby carrots, chips and fruit, but otherwise left them to pack what they wanted," says Wallace, brand director at thredUP. "Instead of micromanaging their efforts, I let them know there were occasional surprise inspections, and that I needed their lunches to be reasonably healthy and well-balanced. If they passed inspections, they were eligible for 'nutrition-free Friday,' when I promised to look the other way, and they packed themselves whatever they wanted." Wallace said she was surprised how motivated her kids were by this task and found their Friday lunches were funnier than they were unhealthy: dry cereal to Nutella sandwiches and stale Halloween candy.

Workout a window

"Once a week on Fridays, my husband takes my daughter to school, and I do a quick at-home workout in the time that it normally takes me to drop her off at school," says Connie Wong, president and founder of Moderne Press public relations. "This lets me get a cardio workout—albeit short—in at least once a week."

photo: iStock

Make the most of every moment.

Stylist and editor Cat Dash is used to being on the go. So, when she's tied down nursing her newborn daughter Coco each morning, she makes the most of her downtime by listening to an audiobook. "So I feel like I'm doing something productive," says Dash. Having an electric kettle on hand also makes it easier for her to heat a quick cup of tea, which always feels like an indulgence in those early baby stages.

Set an alarm for me time.

Lisa Jackson, co-owner of Morningtide shop in Albany wakes up 15 minutes before her boys are out of bed. "I can wash my face, get dressed and take care of myself before taking care of the kids," says Jackson.

Eat, drink and be a better mommy

Jackson's morning self-care routine also includes drinking a big glass of water. "It's always been a habit of mine since I was a kid—my mom made me do this every morning—and I feel like it wakes my body and mind up." Jackson also makes breakfast a priority. "I like to make a giant green or fruit smoothie. Many times I will make extra French toast, pancakes, or waffles and freeze them so it's super easy to heat up on a school morning," she says. "Sometimes I'll have the kids add fruit or something so they feel like they helped make their own breakfast."


Skip the guilt trip

Kelsey Schmidt, director of marketing and partnerships for Elise Green, starts her morning routine every night before she goes to bed. "After the baby goes to sleep, I make his bottles and get anything he needs to be organized for the next day," she says. But she also accepts help, without feeling guilty. "Our daycare opens at 6:30 a.m. and most days I'm waiting there at 6:20 to drop him off. That way I can get the rest of my morning sorted out without the distractions of a little human."


Up your list game.

Catherine Weis, founder of the gifting company Bestowe makes a list with three columns every Monday morning. "Column one has the easy-to-do tasks that I know I need to do. Column two has the bigger tasks. Column three is the day of the week," she says. "In column three, I take one big task and place it there and fill in the smaller tasks everywhere else. It's like taking big stones and putting them in a jar and filling up the rest with pebbles."

An organized kid equals an organized mom.

But Weis isn't the only list maker in the household. On Monday mornings once her weekly list is set, she sits down with her son to help him create one of his own. "We make a list for things that he can do to help out the family, house, himself," says Weis. "This is usually daily and tends to coincide with what he has to do that day: if it's school, we talk about when he wants to shower, read, etc. so that we can all manage expectations."

Take time to meditate

Etienne Fang is a researcher, and creator of Having It All, a project that shares the beautiful diversity of what "having it all" means to women around the world. "After I wake up, I do a 10-minute meditation before the day gets started," she says. "I have a whole ritual around it. I bring out my meditation cushion into the living room, light a giant Le Labo candle, and turn on meditation on Headspace. When I am done, I feel less anxious about the day ahead. And my home smells lovely from the candle."

Get to ground zero

What's next on Fang's morning checklist? The dishwasher. "The simple act of putting clean dishes away in their place is my equivalent of starting with a blank canvas for the day," she says. "If I have to come home after work to a full dishwasher and a sink full of dishes, I would not be able to quickly prepare dinner and shield the onslaught of hangry kids coming home from a long day at school."

—Chantal Lamers




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7 Moms Share How They Rock Their Family Morning Routine


Meet 10 Bay Area Business-Owner Mothers

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Waffles and champagne in bed. A (long) nap. Maybe even a massage. These are all good ways to spend Mother’s Day. Another way to celebrate this occasion is by supporting Bay Area small businesses run by some of the coolest moms around. Take a look at how these women balance creative careers and kids.

photo: Petit Collage

Lorena Siminovich of Petit Collage

If you’re a parent there’s a very high probability that your respective child has a toy from Petit Collage. Founded by Lorena Siminovich some 12 years ago in San Francisco, the eco-friendly line has grown to include wonderfully graphic puzzles, wooden toys, coloring and sticker books, backpacks, lunch boxes, cool crafting kits, soft organic baby toys and much more. Her nine-year-old daughter has grown up watching her mom design this dream line of toys but now this little observer is beginning to turn the tables. “Matilda has been a muse from the start, participating in product testing, endless photoshoots, and always giving creative feedback,” says Siminovich. "Now she is proposing products for us to make! She is definitely the inventor type.” Who can blame her, in addition to her mother’s creative toy line, her father owns and curates one of the Bay Area’s coolest toy stores, Mapamundi Kids in Noe Valley. While Siminovich hopes Matilda will consider entrepreneurship as a possible career path, she has a feeling that’s not too far off. "Last week she brought a notebook to the flea market, that said something like cost/improvements/profit, so I get the feeling she already got the bug.”

Jen Garrido of Jenny Pennywood

Fine artist, owner of the incredible home textile line Jenny Pennywood and also the co-founder of the clothing line SEE SUN. As is that weren’t enough, Jen Garrido is also the mother to Jemma, 7, and nine-month-old Juna. What’s her secret? The San Francisco resident says having kids has made one thing clear: “I don't have time to dilly dally,” says Garrido. “I have to be focused in order to get things accomplished. A good, clear to-do list is always a must or else I feel like I am floating in the wind.” And while her daughters are still quite young, they’re already helping their mother in more ways than they may realize. “In small ways they serve as fit models sometimes, but in a larger way, they serve as inspiration to create a flexible and profitable business just so I can be with them as much as possible.” As for what she hopes they get out of the deal, simply the knowledge that with hard work they can accomplish whatever they choose.


Kris Galmarini of Neve and Hawk

Kris Galmarini is the owner and designer behind Neve and Hawk, an ethically-made surf-inspired lifestyle brand for families with a shop in Marin County’s San Anselmo. Mother to Neve, 10, Shepard Hawk, 7 and Sebastian, 1, Galmarini and her husband Bob started their business by turning their bedroom into a screen printing room, where they would work once their children were tucked in bed at night. "Fast forward six years and we now have grown that brand into something really special,” says Galmarini, who designs and sells clothing for women, men, children and infants. “Functionally, I want to design something that can grow with a child if possible or be worn multiple ways for more wear. Ethically, I want to design something that takes up the least carbon footprint to help keep our planet nice for my kids and their kids.” And speaking of her kids, they are no longer sleeping on the job. (Well, the eldest two, at least.) Once school is out, Neve and Shepard pop over to the shop, where they help clean, organize and even assist in all-ages screen printing classes, among other creative workshops. “I just hope they look back on growing up in our store with fondness,” she says. “We want to raise our children to have street smarts, empathy and grit—humans that can be faced with challenges and tackle them head on, not shy away.”

Lisa Wong Jackson of Morning Tide Shop and Good on Paper

Lisa Wong Jackson had been running a successful graphic design business called Good on Paper for more than a decade when last year she decided to dip her toes into retail, too. The shop she co-owns in downtown Albany is called Morningtide—a lifestyle shop that features locally and or handmade homewares, clothing, toys and yummy treats. While life with kids (Lucas, 8 and Theo, 5) forced her to shift the priorities of her graphic design for more work/life balance, her boys are also influencing her latest venture. “With Morningtide, my kids inspire me to choose products for our shop that I would own in my own home,” says Jackson, whose father owned a shoe store where she dreamed of playing store. “I think having the kids at the shop occasionally gives our business a family vibe that’s positive, fun and inviting,” she says. Her boys are learning to make their mark on the shop, too, based on some skills they’ve no doubt picked up from their cool mom. “Theo pretty much designed the Morningtide logo. One day he was practicing writing the letter ‘m’ over and over on a piece of paper on the floor. I told him to keep doing it and soon I had a bunch of versions that I scanned and cleaned up on my computer.” Meanwhile, Lucas is killing it in the customer service department. “Lucas loves to come in the shop, greet customers and occasionally ring them up. Inserting their credit card is his favorite part.”

Lisa Milestone of Pippa & Co.

Lisa Milestone has been helping local parents up their birthday party game since she opened her first shop Pippa & Co. more than four years ago in Alameda, followed by a second last year in Berkeley. Brimming with the best modern balloon bouquets, as well as giant balloons decorated with colorful tissue tassels, her well-curated stores are packed with the goods for every festive occasion—think banners to paper goods as well as fun favors right on down to the sparkling candles. Mom to Tycho, 7, and Pippa, 5, Milestone says the idea came naturally. “The entire concept and idea for my shop came from throwing parties for my kids so they were definitely the inspiration,” says Milestone.“ As they've gotten older, their love of balloons and decorating has only reinforced the family business.” But the best part is what her kids are leaving the shop with. “My hope is that they see their mom having it all; the family, the happy home and a thriving business.”

Audrey Smit of This Little Street

People always ask product designer Audrey Smit, founder of This Little Street how she does what she does with four girls. “And I don’t know,” says Smit. “It’s almost that I have so much more energy with them around. They bring so much life and beauty, and yes, let’s be honest, mess too, to our lives. It’s a happy mess, and I love it that way.” Smit’s office is based in a sunny nook turned office in the family’s Berkeley home (outfitted with enough chairs for her daughters to sit alongside her) where she designs whimsical floral wallpaper as well as rompers and dresses adorned with foxes, acorns and budding florals. She credits her girls Olivia, 8, Madeline, 7, Freia 4, and Penelope 2 for upping her creativity.  “I have always been a creative person, but seeing life through their eyes has made me want to bring a new new magical universe to life. Hence my outburst of inspiration to design new clothing collection. I even just launched a new, super whimsical travel book series for kids. My girls are a constant source of inspiration for my work.”

photo: Meghan Shimek

Meghan Shimek

If you’ve ever coveted a cozy wall hanging that you spotted on Instagram or Pinterest, chances are it was made by Meghan Shimek. The Oakland fiber artist uses a beautiful, raw, thick wool called roving to create the colorful and texture-rich pieces. Meghan’s inspiration for starting her business actually came after her son Grey, now 6, was born. "I don't think I ever would have pursued art professionally if it hadn't been for him,” says Shimek. “Watching him as a baby and how everything was a new experience, it opened up my eyes that the world, and my life, didn't have to follow the mold I had made for it. I think there is a lot of playfulness in my work and that comes from having an active and curious child.”

photo: Oaktown Spice Shop

Erica Perez of Oaktown Spice Shop

“Our kids have yet to fill a single spice jar, but they love to raid our cinnamon stick supply and play ‘shop’ while we work,” says Erica Perez, who co-owns Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland and Albany with her husband, John. “They also taste all of our recipes during development, although usually the verdict is, ‘too spicy!' Seriously, though, if I make a recipe that pleases their palates and ours, I know it'll work for other families, too.” Spicy food aside, what pushed Erica and John to expand goes back to their kiddos, Lusia, 4, and Rafa, 2. “So having children, and wanting to spend time together as a family, pushed us to grow our business so that it could be managed by others on nights and weekends. That was a key step in making it possible for us to continue to grow the business in other ways.” And while they may not be on the spice jar assembly line quite yet, Perez hopes they are building memories of the spice shop, from the huge sacks of peppercorns to all those cinnamon sticks they’ve consumed, that will last a lifetime. “Of course they will no doubt remember the aroma of the shop, our car, our clothes, our hair—everything! I also hope they feel empowered to pursue their ideas in unconventional ways and to take calculated risks.”

photo: Over the Ocean

Birgit Sfat of Over the Ocean

Birgit Sfat, founder of the Over the Ocean, a concept store for European design for families, started her business three years ago as a means of creating a flexible schedule to spend time with her daughter, Milla, 9. “Since I curate children’s clothes and toys, she is also my inspiration for the brand selections,” says Sfat, who works from a chic and cozy basement office inside their San Francisco home. “My girl has always been a wild one and I know how important it is that she feels comfortable. Our children's clothes are well-made pieces that need to stand the test of time and play and I would never sacrifice comfort for style.” Millia has also become quite involved in the family business, from assisting with art direction at photo shoots to order fulfillment and everything in between. “She loves to help me unpack collections and wrap orders. She tells me to also order bikinis and not only swimsuits. On our backyard pop-up shop event (May 4-5) she will make a lemonade stand for our little customers.”

photo: Bella Vita

Jennifer Viale of Bella Vita

Jennifer Viale is the owner of Oakland boutique Bella Vita, which carries locally-made toys and frocks for women and children, mixed among a perfect hit of vintage furniture and accessories. Mother to 12-year-old Olivia, being a small business owner has its benefits: “I work hard but I'm also able to make my own schedule. I love that I'm able to drop my daughter off at school and pick her up,” says, Viale, who opened the College Avenue shop 18 years ago. Having practically grown up in the shop, Olvia now helps around the shop on weekends and after school. “She has great input and she is amazing with customers.” But beyond the rad consumer relations skills Olivia has gleaned, Viale hopes what she learning will go beyond the shop. “I want her to know she can accomplish anything she wants,” says Viale. “I want her to be a strong, independent young lady.”

Do you support any local mom businesses? Share their links below!

—Chantal Lamers

Bay Area Kids Weekend Event: Oct. 27-29

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Halloween is so close you can practically taste the sugar from Friday. While official trick-or-treating is a few days off, there are plenty of ways to flex those candy collecting muscles this weekend. Check out the sweet stuff we’ve rounded up for a good time this weekend.

By Chantal Lamers

San Francisco

Get Supernatural with Sea Stars at the Academy of Sciences
Get downright creepy at this annual Halloween event. It’s not to miss. Bring the kids in costume to check out the skulls and specimens and to trick-or-treat their way through the museum. Also features dancing, magic, live animal shows, face painting, and a photo booth. Sat. Event details.

It’s Time to go Boo at the San Francisco Zoo
Don your costumes and head out to Boo at the Zoo where kids can explore a not-too-spooky Halloween fest. Participate in a costume parade and contest, trick-or-treat, watch the animals enjoy the Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp and more. Sat.-Sun. Event details.

East Bay

These Halloween Happenings are Scary Fun
Alameda South Shore Center is welcoming little ghosts, goblins and witches to its annual free Halloween Festival on from 1-4 p.m. on Oct. 28th, featuring family-friendly trick-or-treating at participating merchants, frightening face painting, and a silly selfie booth. South Shore Center totes will also be available. Costumes are encouraged. And from Friday, October 27 to Sunday, October 29 the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department will host a haunted house at Alameda South Shore Center. Proceeds will benefit the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department teen programs. Haunted house hours are Fri., 5-9 p.m. and Sat.-Sun.., 3-7 p.m. Fri.-Sun. Event details. 

Campout at the Family Sundown Spookfari
Grab your tent, bring your family, and get ready for an eerie overnight experience. Take a Trick-or-treat night tour through the Children’s Zoo. Make Jack-o-Lantern enrichment treats for the animals, and meet live, creepy, crawly animals up close! Before bedtime participate in a petrifying puppet show with Jungle Joe followed by some Ghost S’mores to finish the night. Wake-up in the morning (if you dared to fall asleep) to the sounds of animals and a hot breakfast. Watch the animals enjoy the pumpkins you worked on and stay the rest of the day for our Boo at the Zoo festivities. Sat. Event details. 

South Bay

Dance with the Dead at this Dia de Los Muertos Festival
Celebrate El Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with a full day of live entertainment, cultural demonstrations, and an eclectic mix of artmaking experiences at the San Jose Museum of Art. . Decorate calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls) and engage with your family and community at SJMA. Sat. Event details.

This Train Ride is a Real Treat
Start those little engines for big Halloween fun! That’s right, Thomas the Tank engine and his BFF Percy are visit Roaring Camp Railroad for some major Halloween fun. Throw on your costume and take a train ride then partake in the fun from face painting to temp tattoos, storytelling, toy trains, picking pumpkins and cookie decorating. If that weren’t enough, Thomas will be able to talk to his little fan, too. Sat.-Sun. Event details.


Get into the Spirit at these Day of the Dead Workshops
The gorgeous and colorful Día de los Muertos is approaching. And to get into the spirit of the celebration, Yes Creative Lab is offering some beautiful art projects full of skeletons, hearts, flowers, and sugar skulls. We will have projects for all artful spirits: from kids and pre-teens, to toddlers with their parents. Offerings include mixed media Sugar Skulls finger- and hand-painting project for our littlest artists ages 2-6. Includes a 45-minute class, all materials, and a sweet treat for all participants. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Get Juggling with the Zoppe Family Circus
Come one, come all, and join the Zoppe Italian Family Circus. In one ring, under one big top, families will be awed by a spectacular performances featuring amazing equestrian showmanship, daring acrobatic feats, canine capers and of course the antics of Nino the Clown. This year’s event “Celebrating 175 Years Under the Big Top” will be a great show highlighting the Zoppé family of performers, including some exciting acts that haven’t been seen in America for years. Tosca Zoppé will present her father Alberto’s classic bareback riding act to honor the anniversary. Fri. -Sun. Event details.

North Bay

Take a Spooktacular Cemetery Stroll
Join rangers for a head start on Halloween! Experience this one-of-a kind program that uncovers one of Marin’s most interesting, but little known cemeteries. All treats (and tricks) are free. Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes and don’t forget to bring a flashlight, and treat bag. There will be hot chocolate and snacks. Sat. Event details

Fetch Your Dog and Howl Over to DOGtoberfest
Strawberry Village will host its 3rdl DOGtoberfest featuring interactive pet related activities and resources for pet lovers and their four-legged family friends. Festivities will include free pet photos, pet sketch artist, animal rescue organizations and adoptions, police K-9 unit and more! There will be a Howl’oween Pet Costume Contest as well as free Center-wide trick or treating for kids and their families. Sat. Event details.

Are you getting tricks or treats? Tell us in the comments below!

–Chantal Lamers

Bay Area Kids Weekend Events: Feb. 10-12

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Baby, it’s been cold outside but we have some great ideas for how to spend the weekend that will warm your heart. Check out Chinatown’s famed Chinese New Year parade, go on a bilingual nature hike or make the loves in your life a handmade Valentine. No matter how hard the temperature drops, this cool crop of must-dos will melt your heart.

Snowy Day

Red Tricycle

San Francisco

Line Up For The Chinese New Year’s Day Parade
You’ll need to arrive early and brave hordes of revelers to see San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, but it’s worth it. You’ll see gorgeous costumes, elaborate floats, stilt walkers, lion dancers, the newly crowned Miss Chinatown USA, and the famous Golden Dragon, “Gum Lung”, all accompanied by music, drumbeats, and over 600,000 firecrackers! Parade starts on Market Street, up Grant, down Post, then through Chinatown on Kearney, ending at Columbus. Route follows Post, Sutter and Kearny on the outskirts of Chinatown. Saturday. Event details.

Make a Valentine For Your Love
Who is your Valentine? Head on over to Fort Mason art studio to create handmade Valentine collage cards, sponsored by SF Children’s Art Center and Flax Art & Design. Your love, big or small won’t forget it. RSVP required. Saturday. Event details.

Celebrate New Year at this Community Festival
A feast for the senses awaits in San Francisco’s Chinatown as the community gathers to celebrate the Year of the Rooster. Say “Gung hay fat choy” to one and all as you try your hand at lantern making, kite making and calligraphy. Cultural performances and demonstrations will immerse you in the sights and sounds of Chinatown. Sat.-Sun. Event details.

East Bay

Get Lunar at this Celebration
Join OMCA for the 16th annual Lunar New Year celebration, a fortune-filled family-friendly event to welcome in the Year of the Rooster and celebrate Valentine’s Day. Enjoy live performances and an array of Asian traditions in arts, crafts, food, demonstrations and more. A 24-Festival Drums performance highlights a festive tradition from Malaysia, along with K-pop dance, Korean drumming and magic shows by the Magic of Jade and Goofball. Sunday. Event details.

Tune In With Charlotte Diamond
Join MFMII and Charlotte Diamond for an afternoon of upbeat musical fun, with songs from her new album “Diamonds By The Sea” as well as old favorites, such as “Octopus” (Slippery Fish), ” I Am A Pizza” and many more!  Proceeds benefit Music For Minors II, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, “Nurturing the love and literacy of music in children’s classrooms and lives since 1988.” Following the concert, there will be optional autographs and photo opportunities with Charlotte Diamond. Concert recommended for ages 3 years and up. Sat. Event details.

South Bay

Take An Ocean Adjacent Wild Flower Hike
All of those winter showers are beginning to bring spic flowers and a profusion of those beauties are popping up around the Waddell Valley in Santa Cruz County. Join a docent for a leisurely four hour hike where families can learn to distinguish between the valley’s habitats, as well as flowers, plants, birds and insects. Hikes begin at the Rancho Del Oso Nature Center. Bring lunch, SPF and dress in layers. Friday. Event details.

Sail Away on this Adventure
Robinson Crusoe was the inspiration for all kinds of famous castaway novels that followed such as The Swiss Family Robinson. Now kids can learn this tale firsthand, about the struggle of Crusoe, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. He attempts to survive alone until he meets a native, who he famously names Friday. Saturday. Event details.


Celebrate Lunar New Year in Redwood City
It’s time to head to Downtown Redwood City for the 7th Annual Lunar New Year Celebration. This free event will include performances on Courthouse Square such as lion dancers, martial artists and taiko drummers as well as a kid’s arts and crafts area. Saturday. Event details.

Dance to Bay Pointe Ballet for Coppelia
Perfect for all ages, Coppelia includes exuberant folk dances, waltzes, virtuoso solos, and music by French composer Leo Delibes. Mark your calendars and plan to bring the entire family as we take you into a mysterious toy shop where the toys come to life! Based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, this amusing tale presents a romance between two villagers, Franz and Swanilda, alongside the curious workings of Dr. Coppelius, an eccentric inventor of life-like dolls. Infatuated at the sight of the inventor’s new doll, Franz sneaks into Dr. Coppelius’ workshop and mayhem ensues.

North Bay

Go On A Wild Bilingual Adventure
WildCare Family Adventures is leading an afternoon of nature exploration and education in both Spanish and English. Naturalist Marco Berger will lead the walk which will include looking out for frogs, toads, and salamanders, in addition to other winter-active animals. The walk will follow the creek to a beautiful waterfall, which will be the destination for lunch. Saturday. Event details.

See Oceans Aglow at this Family Hike and Campfire
Join NatureBridge Golden Gate and discover one of the most amazing natural phenomenon, bioluminescence. Families will hike out to Rodeo Beach and explore the sands for twinkling plankton. Where did they come from? Why are they blinking? Are they here all the time? We will try and answer all these and other questions. This program features an Environmental Science Educator-led hike in the Marin Headlands. Hikes are usually no more than 2 miles and allow for fun and learning along the way. After the hike partake in some fun around the campfire including S’more roasting, campfire skits & fun sing alongs. Saturday. Event details.

What warms your heart? Tell us in the comments below!

–Chantal Lamers

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Whether your tot shows an early appreciation for vintage or is simply happy to munch on the abundant Kettle Corn offerings, there’s more at the Bay Area’s bevy of antique flea markets for this little set than you might expect. From starting collections to creating cool bedrooms and unearthing old toys, we have some easy ideas for exposing children to the fun, colorful and creative world of reuse at your local flea. Your kids are up at the crack of dawn anyway, right? So let’s get shopping.

Alameda flea by Chantal Lamers

Photo by Chantal Lamers

Kiddos First Collection
First, let your kiddo know what’s in it for them. Many vendors sell inexpensive items that are perfect for the makings of a new collection. Not only does it make the flea market like a treasure hunt for them, too, it also helps retain their interest. Some items we love to collect include patches, plastic toy horses and souvenir pennants. Bonus: Depending on the age of your child, you can give them a budget and let them do the bargaining.


Photo by Chantal Lamers

Ready for a Kids’ Room Refresh?
If you look closely, the flea can provide never ending inspiration for decorating and accessorizing your kiddo’s respective rooms. Antique and vintage dressers can double as storage and as a changing table. And because these older pieces are often pretty sturdy they’ve proven that they can stand up to a toddler’s tough love. Also keep an eye out for pendants and chandeliers, kid-sized play tables and chairs, rocking horses as well as toddler and twin sized bed frames. Remember, just about anything can be painted.

Alameda Flea by Chantal Lamers
Alameda Flea by Chantal Lamers

Now onto the art and accessories. A lot of vendors sell wood plaid Pendleton style blankets that aren’t only great for layering on top of beds but super for picnics and ballgames, too. Along the way you might also spot wrought-iron animal piggy banks, those aforementioned souvenir pennants and all kinds of paintings that can be accumulated for mini gallery style walls. Old metal and woven baskets are also aplenty here and make for great toy storage. Get input from you child and, before making a purchase, check pieces to make sure they are safe.

Alameda Flea by Chantal Lamers

Photo by Chantal Lamers

Dress Em in Vintage
Depending on the flea you’re attending, there may be dozens of clothing vendors, too. Vintage children’s clothing is gaining popularity and this is usually a great place to snag vintage OshKosh B’gosh overalls and pinafores. Check measurements, not sizes, for a more accurate fit.


Photo by Chantal Lamers

Toys, Toys, Toys!
Now, onto the toys. A very plentiful item at the flea market is old enamelware (bowls, cups, buckets, pots) and the likes of small metal jello molds. The more worn and chipped versions are usually pretty cheap and are great for outdoor play kitchens and sandboxes. There are also vintage aprons and wood kitchen toys up for grabs like rolling pins and potato smashers that any potential top chef will totally cherish. Another little draw for kids is all of the old office supplies. Rulers, staplers, mini chalkboards and tape dispensers are easy finds that kids will love to add to their school or art stash.

Alameda Flea by Chantal Lamers

Photo by Chantal Lamers

If you have a baby doll fanatic at home, you can easily score inexpensive doll cradles, highchairs and clothing, too. If you have a kiddo who digs diggers, there are all kinds of metal toys trucks in all sizes that are great for indoor and outdoor play. (Some prime condition trucks can be super pricey but there are always bargains to be found.) Also in abundance are Fisher Price toys, from the classic A-Frame to the festive preschool and cottage dollhouse, you parents might even more inclined to purchase these plastic pieces of nostalgia.

Alameda Flea by Chantal Lamers

Photo by Chantal Lamers

Flea Market Survival Guide
Again, depending on the age of your children consider bringing a baby carrier, stroller and or wagon. Dress in layers and wear SPF and bring a large canvas bag for stashing purchases. Depending on the venue, the only bathroom offerings could be outhouses so be prepared with extra hand wipes. Finally, remind children too ask for help if they want to check out an item and encourage them to ask vendors questions. And whatever you do, don’t forget the snacks!

The Best Bay Area Flea Markets

The Alameda Point Antiques Fair is the largest of its kind in NoCal. Join hundreds of other treasure seekers to the island to browse over 800 antique dealer booths. Children under 15 are admitted free. There are food vendors here, too, so you won’t leave hungry.

When: 1st Sunday of Every Month, 6 a.m.-3 p.m.
Alameda Point, Alameda Point
2900 Navy Way
Alameda, Ca
Cost: $15/adult if you arrive before 7:30 a.m.$10/adult between 7:30 and 9 a.m.; $5/adult after 9 p.m.

The Treasure Island Flea host local Bay Area artists, makers, collectors, vintage designers, and indie and  Etsy creators. Specialty food vendors and a revolving selection of SF food trucks sell gourmet food including Mini Donut Sundaes! Enjoy your treats on the Great Lawn with an amazing view of San Francisco and plenty of kid-friendly activities.

When: Last weekend of each month, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Where: Treasure Island, Avenue of the Palms
San Francisco, Ca
Cost: $3/Person. 12 & under, free.

The Alemany Flea is small in comparison but there are always good deals. This rummage style market is best for pickers who have some patience. You can stroll through pretty quickly and it’s free to enter.

When: Every Sunday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: 100 Alemany Blvd.
San Francisco, Ca
Cost: Free

— Chantal Lamers

What’s on your shopping list? Share your wishlist with us in the comments below!



Read next

When Erin Gleeson, Woodside-based author of the the New York Times bestselling cookbook “The Forest Feast,” was expecting her first baby she decided to write a new version of her rustic vegetarian anthology and fill it with simple, wholesome recipes just for littles. That new cookbook “The Forest Feast for Kids,” (Abrams, $19.95) includes kid-freindly favorites from original book as well as 20 brand new dishes. We introduce you to this awesome Bay Area mom and give you a taste of her delicious new book right here.

Photo : Erin Gleeson

A Cabin in the Woods
Gleeson (whose son Ezra turns two in August) pens, photographs, hand letters and uses watercolors to illustrate her blog, The Forest Feast. She was working as a food photographer in New York but returned to California in 2011 when her husband Jonathan, a rabbi, accepted a job on the Peninsula. They settled into a secluded cabin in Woodside complete with knotty pine walls and a deck perched over and hugged by a forest. Understandably, the cabin (paired with her weekly CSA basket) became the inspiration and the backdrop for her blog and subsequent cookbooks.

Raised as a vegetarian on an apple orchard in Sebastopol, Gleeson says her rural upbringing is likely what inspired her to find digs off the beaten path when she returned to California. “Moving from Brooklyn to this cabin was a complete 180, but it felt familiar to me,” she says. “Perhaps it brought me back to my roots in a way.”


Photo : Erin Gleeson

Foodie Gatherings for Kids
Gleeson, whose own deck is the habitual landing spot for gatherings with friends, shares tips in her children’s cookbook for kid-friendly spreads, too. Her how-tos include a grilled cheese fete complete with ideas for all the fixings from breads and spreads (pesto, hummus and apricot jam) to cheese (fresh mozzarella and smoked gouda) and fillings (fresh basil and apples). The fruity ice cream sandwich bar lists tips for cookies to pair with fillings from coconut to dried cherries and peanut butter to ice creams like pistachio and raspberry and mango sorbets.

She prefaces it all with some guides that can be super helpful to a first-time cook. This section starts with an illustrated guide to sorting out measurements and prep (like what veggies must be peeled and which are optional) as well as a glossary with terms explaining boil, to broil, fork tender to dice and garnish. Also covered are various kitchen tools from the food processor to the colander and spiralizer. Last, she goes over cutting techniques like how to slice kale or cut basil into perfectly thin strips and how to pop cloves from a bulb of garlic.

the forest feast for kids by erin gleeson

Photo : Erin Gleeson

Keeping it Simple
By nature of the fruits and vegetables she sources at her local Portola Valley Farmers Market, Gleeson’s book is bright and colorful and, cooking alongside a group of kids, punctuates her food philosophy. “I aim for meals that are simple, colorful and plant-based, and I am interested in creating community through food,” she says. All of the illustrations in the book are painted by her in an adjacent studio and the photographs are taken throughout their cabin on collections of vintage plates and linens, glasses and platters that she finds at local flea markets.

By Erin Gleeson

Photo: Erin Gleeson

Springtime Favorites
So far this spring, Gleeson and Ezra planted bunches of nasturtiums in little pots on their desk so that they can pick edible flowers to add to their summer salads. And she’s already putting her favorite spring vegetable to use. “I think of asparagus as ‘the’ spring vegetable,” she says. “This asparagus tart recipe is probably the one recipe more than any other that people tell me they have made from my first book.”

Erin Gleeson /The Forest Feast For Kids

Photo : Erin Gleeson

Words of Wisdom
Finally, Gleeson also offers some good words of wisdom to beginning cooks and really anyone following a recipe: “The good thing about cooking is that things don’t have to be perfect or exact,” she writes. “There is room for creativity. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, I encourage you to improvise and try substituting something else.”

The Forest Feast For Kids
Abrams Books

Which one of Erin’s recipes do you think your kids will like best? Tell us in the comments below! 

–Chantal Lamers