How-To Guide: Throw the Perfect Playground Birthday Party

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Were you lucky enough to have a spring or summer, or even early fall baby? That is, do birthday-month temperatures accommodate the budget-friendly option of having a birthday party in the park or at a playground? An especially good choice for the toddler set (because, just add cake and friends) a party at a public park can be a real cost-saver, loads of fun and even, with a little planning, easy to pull off. Here’s our guide to throwing a NYC park birthday party with ease! If you are looking for even more outdoor birthday party ideas, we’ve got lots here! (And hey, if you do want to buy a cake, we think these are NYC’s best!)

Choose Your Birthday Party Park Wisely

You can have a party at any NYC public park. You’ll want to suss out your options carefully before deciding on the perfect location. Look for a playground with age-appropriate equipment and a fence that locks securely. You’ll want the playground to be big enough to hold all the kids at the party, but not so big that you can’t see where your kid is at all times. If your party is in the summer, look for one that will be at least partially-shaded at the time of your party. (For both you, and the kids.)

A few other things to consider about your venue: does it have tables you can use? Are there bathrooms? A water supply? Does it have sprinklers to cool kids down? How busy does the playground get? And one very important detail to consider: how far away from is the playground from your home? Don't forget that you’ll be trekking there and back with a lot of stuff, so the closer the better.

Have a Rainy Day Backup Plan

You can never rely on the big party day being sunny and dry, so get your rainy day plan in order. Can you hold it in your home in a pinch? Is there a room in your apartment building you could use if needed? If not, you might want to consider a rain date. Either way, make sure you tell your guests your backup plan, and let them know as soon as you can if you are switching dates or location. 

Get a Permit for Your Party

If you plan to have 20 people or more in a NYC park, or want to reserve a specific area, you'll need a Special Events Permit. The permit is easy to get and costs $25. Just head to this page on the NYC Parks Department web site, create an account and apply online at least a month in advance. Be advised: permits are not issued on major holiday weekends. 

Playground & Park Party Decorating Tips

Obviously it’s a lot different decorating a shared outdoor space than your home, but it can be done. Print out (or buy) a birthday banner and tie it on the playground's fence. Attach balloons behind the table so people can find you. Turn the food into decorations with cute cupcake toppers (which can also be stuck into other food, like fruit). Gift bags also add color and festivity to the area, as do little stuffed animals placed on the table (which make great take-home gifts for kids who get particularly attached to them by the way!). Here's a lesson we learned the hard way: spend a few dollars on balloon weights—or make them yourself using rocks and decorative bags—to keep items that might blow away (plates, napkins, tablecloths) in place. 

Playground Party Extras

Consider bringing some fun things for kids to play with around the party area like balls, chalk and bubbles. Michael's is great for inexpensive options or a simple craft if you're feeling ambitious. Activities a key for keeping little kids occupied so you and the other parents don’t have to chase them around the playground the whole time. If there’s a sandbox, bring a few buckets and shovels. Buy enough of one simple craft or activity so that it can serve as the favor, which is nice and simple and lightens the load of what you have to carry back to your place. 

Playground Birthday Party Food

Don’t get carried away with food, unless you’re having it delivered. Carefully assess how you’re going to get everything there first. One easy idea is to host an afternoon tea party because you can get away with simply offering cupcakes, fruit and crackers. Finger food is the easiest to supply and the easiest for busy parents to grab and eat with one hand. Even easier (to serve and clean up)? Individually-wrapped snacks like mini bags cheddar bunnies, fig bars, etc. For slightly older kids (and parents) many places will deliver pizza to parks. Call the nearest pizza place and ask—chances are they've done it before.

An easy drink is juice boxes in bulk, or bottled water. The economical (and environmental) choice is of course to bring a pitcher and fill it up on site. (Bring cups if that's the case.) Also recommended is some water, seltzer, etc. for steamy adults. FYI: If you're celebrating in the afternoon and you're thinking about providing parents some adult beverages, that's not allowed. (i.e. it's illegal.) 

For sweets, offering cupcakes instead of a cake eliminates the need for forks and plates, which is helpful. If you think your kid will be heartbroken without a cake, make a small one for the big song-and-candle moment, and do cupcakes, etc. for the rest. (If you don't own a cupcake and/or cake carrier and collapsible display stand, it might be a good idea to get them. Even if you're not super PTA mom, they come in handy, and will prevent infuriating and heartbreaking mishaps with baked good in the future. The stand is just cute and will take your party game up a notch.) 

photo: Pixabay

Playground Birthday Party Music

You've gotta have some tunes! Try this one for a lot of "happy", or this one to get kids dancing! 

Boring But Important

There are several things you don't want to be caught without and others that will be nice to have. Make yourself a "go-bag" of these essentials and just-in-case items.

Garbage and recycling bags (those trash cans in playgrounds get full, fast.) 
Paper towels
Wet wipes
Band aids
Scissors and tape 

Transportation To and From the Party

If you don’t have a car or don’t want to hire a car service, you can get creative with transporting your party supplies. One idea: load up your stroller with the party goods. Your child can be put in a carrier if they’re not old enough to walk the distance on their own.

— Christine Knight

photos: Kristy May Photography

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20 Things Parents Love About NYC

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New Yorkers love New York. We love moaning about the sky-high rent and smelly garbage on the streets, but mostly we love living in the city that never sleeps – particularly if we’re parents to a mini-New Yorker who also never sleeps. Here are our favorite things about parenting in NYC.

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1. The Subway
It’s fast and it takes you everywhere (except if you have a stroller, or if you need an elevator, or if it is a weekend, or God forbid, if you live in Brooklyn. Also, do not, ever, for the love of all that is holy, take the G train). Who needs a car?

2. The Performers On The Subway
For a $1 tip, it’s a lot cheaper than a music or dance class and keeps kids entertained on long subway rides. Exception: Urban pole dancing performers (stand back and watch out!).

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3. Classes For Every Artiste
Got a future picasso on your hands? Or a potential member of the corps de ballet? NYC kids can takes classes from some of the best institutions in the world, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Alvin Ailey School of Dance.

4. Friends In Walking Distance
It’s impossible to step outside without running into someone you know. And as a parent, that’s a good thing. Playdates are so easy to set up that your calling card is always full.

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5. Playgrounds On Every Corner
When it’s one of the four months of the year when it’s warm enough to play outside, we’re lucky to be able to find a playground almost anywhere.

6. It’s A Cultural Melting Pot
You can celebrate holidays from around the world, with kids from every nation, especially at local block parties and festivals. Tolerance begins here.

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7. Kid-Friendly Restaurants
New Yorkers love to eat out, and our kids are mini-foodies in training. Babies at Balthazar are welcome. BYO Cheerios.

8. All Niches Are Covered
Got kids who want to try parkour? Aerial arts? Or who want to be a Broadway star? There’s a class (or five) for that!

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9. Central Park Is Your Backyard
How cool is that?

10. Broadway Shows
Even little kids can enjoy top-quality performances from toddler-age up. Annie? The Lion King? Seen it!

11. The Carousels
Is there anything more fun than taking a spin on an old world carousel? Jane’s Carousel, on the Brooklyn waterfront, possibly has the best location of any carousel in the world.

12. 24-Hour Bagel Shops
A great midnight snack for new parents pounding the pavement to get colicky babies to sleep. Or at least, a place to go in times of late night duress.

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13. FAO Schwarz
Dancing on the giant piano and taking a selfie with a giant stuffed giraffe is on everyone’s bucket list.

14. Toys ‘R’ Us Times Square
A ferris wheel indoors. A moving T-Rex. Rainy days are sorted.

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15. Tom Otterness Sculptures
His quirky statues pop up unexpectedly in places like 14th Street Station and Battery Park. Instant fun in ordinary circumstances.

16. Eat All Around The World Without Leaving The City
NYC kids grow up eating food from Greece, Japan, Mexico, India, Italy and China, and if they don’t like it, you can order it in after they go to bed.

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17. Governor’s Island, Rockaway Beach, Fort Tryon Park
It’s like taking a refreshing break from the city, but you’re only a short ferry or train ride away.

18. Everything’s In Walking Distance
From museums to 24-hour drugstores, it’s never-ending amusement and supplies, all nearby.

im-so-brooklyn

19. We Wear Our City Pride On Our Chests
Is there a kid in King’s County who doesn’t own an I’m So Brooklyn or No Sleep Till Brooklyn tee?

20. We Live Where Everyone Else Wants To Be
We can whine about the weather and never getting a seat on the subway, but we also know we live in the best city in the world and it’s amazing to say this is where our kids are growing up.

Why do you love parenting in NYC? Tell us in a Comment!

–Christine Knight

Where to Eat, Play & Shop in Gowanus

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Gowanus, long known as the crack between two hipster suburbs, is coming into its own. The canal might not be as scenic as the Hudson (yet!), but don’t let that stop you from taking a day trip around this ‘hood with your family. Here’s where to eat, play and shop in this up and coming Brooklyn locale.

<h2>Runner &amp; Stone</h2> <p dir="ltr">Stop by this bakery, restaurant and bar for superb pastries. Spacious and modern, Runner &amp; Stone has a downstairs room with comfy couches to curl up on. All the bread is made in-house, so take a sandwich to go if you don’t have time to dine in, plus one of the chocolate almond croissants that locals rave about.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a target="_blank" href="http://runnerandstone.com/">Runner &amp; Stone</a>, 285 3rd Ave.</p>fuck

Do you have a favorite spot in Gowanus? 

–Christine Knight

7 Stroller Nap Tours In and Out of Brooklyn

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At some stage in your baby’s life, chances are you’ll be doing the stroller nap shuffle to get her to sleep. The nap in which you have to keep moving, outside, to ensure that your child doesn’t wake up. You could curse stroller naps and get stuck going on the same daily route, or make your walks an adventure instead. Try some of these tried and true stroller nap tours in and out of Brooklyn – captivating scenery for you and constant air temperature and white noise for the napper guaranteed.

<h3>Over the Brooklyn Bridge</h3> <p dir="ltr">You’ll spend a lot of time dodging and cursing at tourist and knick knack vendors, but this is still one of the best stroller nap tours. The view is spectacular, and leaves you either in Dumbo or the Financial District. If you walk INTO Brooklyn, take the first exit off the bridge (be warned, there are stairs) and continue on the Dumbo tour. If you walk OUT of Brooklyn, take a right and keep strolling through Chinatown and into SoHo, which you should reach just in time for lunch. Drop by <a target="_blank" href="http://georgetowncupcake.com">Georgetown Cupcake</a> (111 Mercer St.) for a treat to sustain your walking.</p>fuck

What NYC adventures do you have while your kid naps?  

Images courtesy of Christine Knight, Jonathan E and Anna A.

–Christine Knight

Drama Llama Studios: Why Their New Theatre Classes Get Our Applause

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Growing up in New York City means seeing some of the world’s most amazing theatre productions on Broadway, so it’s only natural that NYC kids are interested in the theatre from an early age. After all, who doesn’t want to see their name in lights? We interviewed Lesley McKinnell and Stefanie Brown, the founders of the new Drama Llama Studios, about their theatre classes for kids ages 7 to 18.

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RT: What types of classes do you offer?
DL: We offer a range of classes that include the unique Page to Stage, a sampling of both playwrighting and performing where our llamas create and perform their very own original script, followed by a final performance of that staged script for family and friends on the last day of class. For kids just looking to hone their acting skills, they can take “ACT I”, a class where llamas learn the basic principals of acting, followed by a scene showcase for parents. And finally, “ACT II” is a more advanced class in acting, offered to students who have completed ACT I, which is also followed by a scene showcase. We also offer private voice, piano, audition and for older kids, college-bound coaching upon request.

RT: What will kids learn in your classes?
DL: Not only will the kids learn basic acting principles, story-telling and performing, but also they’ll learn how to work as an ensemble, which will help instill values of sharing, supporting and creating. Even if our llamas don’t intend or end up pursuing a career in performing later on in their lives, they’ll gain confidence, improve their self-esteem and have a lot of fun.

RT: What’s a Drama LLama anyway? 
DL: Being a Drama Llama means that you have a wonderful imagination. Drama Llama means that you love adventure, friends and music. Drama Llama means perhaps you’re a little “dramatic”, but our studio is a safe and fun environment, allowing kids to funnel that “dramatic” energy into a creative outlet.

We chose the name “Drama Llama” because it encompasses the truly joyful of nature of creatively-inclined children. Through our experience with kids though our careers and also part-time babysitting between acting gigs, we have come to learn a great deal about the pure, unfiltered nature of children: they see the world as a new, brilliant experience every day, and we want to encapsulate that sense of awe in an educational environment. If we can share even a little bit of the pure joy that we feel when we’re on stage or on camera with our Drama Llama students, then that’s all we can ask for!

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RT: What is your own background in theatre?
DL: We met while working on the first national tour of Wicked. We both received our BFA’s in Musical Theatre, and trained extensively in singing, acting and dancing. Even as teachers at the Drama Llama Studio, we both currently audition and work in theatre both in and outside of NYC.

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RT: How did you come to working with children? 
Stefanie: I worked with the Broadway Connection, a group that brings professional masterclasses to kids across America. I realized kids are “creative without abandon” in a way adults usually aren’t. So, I love to get the chance to play make believe again and to join them on their imaginary adventures.

Lesley: When I was on tour with Wicked, I led cast visits to the different cities’ children’s hospitals. We did crafts with the kids followed by a small performance, and for the children who were too ill to attend the actual performance, the hospital would broadcast it live to their rooms. The experience made me want to connect with children forever.

Looking for other theater classes little thespians of all ages from babies to teens? Check out our list of the top drama classes for kids

Drama LLama Studios are currently enrolling for their first semester of Page to Stage sessions for students aged 7-12 years: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays Jan 25th-March 1st. Email dramallamastudios@gmail.com for more information.

Where do your kids work on their acting skills? 
–Christine Knight

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial With Kids

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Visiting the 9/11 Memorial may be more of a somber activity to do with your kids, but it’s an important piece of the city’s history and one that can help you discuss the events that happened there. If you’re planning to pay tribute to victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks at the Memorial, here’s how do do it with your kids.

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Reserve Your Tickets in Advance
The Memorial is open for visiting through a time reservation system. The easiest way to book your tickets is online, but you can also book by calling 212-266-5211. Tickets are free, but reservations made online or by phone carry a $2 nonrefundable service fee per pass. Passes for same-day visits are also available on a first-come, first-served basis in person at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey Street.

Know Before You Go
Be prepared for the security screening before you enter the Memorial. Baggage larger than 8”x17”x19” are not allowed, and there’s no bag storage on site. All bags will be scanned by x-ray machines and may be opened and checked by hand. More info on the screening process and prohibited items is available on the website. You can also check out guides to photography (personal pics are fine), tribute items (small and non-perishable) and visitor rules and regulations (be respectful).

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Visiting With Kids
Strollers are allowed, and the Memorial is well set up for wheelchairs so accessibility is no problem to any area. With younger kids, keep the time at the Memorial short so they are on their best behavior. If you’re taking older kids, check out the Memorial’s guide to talking to children about the 9/11 events so you’re prepared to explain what happened and the significance of the Memorial.

About the Memorial
The actual Memorial is made up of two reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size and featuring the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood. The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools. There’s a lot of space near the pools with benches for sitting and trees for shade in the grove, so if your kids need a break, you can take them away from the crowds at the pools to calm down or have a snack.

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Must-See: The Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree is a pear tree that was the sole tree to survive the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Center. It was originally planted in the World Trade Center Plaza. After its discovery, it was transported to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for some TLC. It has since been replanted in the Memorial Glade (the grove of trees surrounding the Memorial).

Insider Tip
There’s a lot of waiting involved to get into the Memorial. You can either get there early so you’re first in line, or get there right before the cut off of your time period so you have less time to wait in the initial line. You will still have to line up to get through security however, so be prepared. Bring items to distract kids, and plenty of water and snacks (there’s no food for sale in the Memorial).

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Places to Eat and Play Nearby
After visiting the Memorial, let the kids run off steam at the playground in West Thames Park (West Street between Albany Street and West Thames Street.) If you’re hungry, grab delicious and reasonably-priced sandwiches and salads at kid-friendly Aroma Espresso Bar (100 Church Street).

9/11 Memorial Preview
Located at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, at the northwest corner of Greenwich and Albany streets.

Hours:
Now through September 22, 2013; 10:00 am – 8:00 pm with the last entry at 7:00 pm.  September 23, 2013 – December 31, 2013; 10:00 am – 6:00 pm with the last entry at 5:00 pm.

— Christine Knight

Photos by Christine Knight and  Phil H 

Top Neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating in NYC

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After a month of anticipation, the day has finally come for your little ghosts and goblins to put on their costumes (again) and trick-or-treat ‘til they drop. In NYC, the candy bowl runneth over when it comes to options of where to door-to-door it on October 31. We’ve rounded up the hottest hoods for trick-or-treating complete with spooky decorations, costume parades and candy galore!

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photo: Carnegie Hill Neighbors

Manhattan

Upper West Side  

19th Annual Halloween Celebration at American Museum of Natural History
Trick-or-treat in one of the most popular destinations for kids. In addition to loading up on candy amongst the pterodactyl, this early evening event will feature live musical performances, a magic show, arts and crafts and characters like Clifford, Curious George, Miffy and Cookie Mouse!

4-7 p.m.
Cost: $12/person; $11/museum members
Central Park West at 79th St.
Online: amnh.org

West 69th Street Block Association Trick-or-Treat
Trick-or-treaters flock to West 69th Street where police close the thoroughfare from Central Park West to Broadway. Kiddos can safety gather candy in the decorated building lobbies until 7 p.m. Should you feel like supporting the community organization’s work, volunteers will be on hand selling glowing necklaces to raise funds to beautify West 69th Street. Be prepared for big crowds!

Ends at 7p.m.
Cost: Free
Central Park West to Broadway
Online: w69st.com

Upper East Side 

Asphalt Screams!
Get some activity in before hitting the sugary streets at this event benefiting non-profit Asphalt Green’s “Fit Kids Fit City” campaign. Costumed kids can play Zombie Freeze Tag, Spooktacular Soccer Shootout and much more! Get there on time: The first 400 kids to arrive receive a goody bag. The event is free and open the public, although a suggested donation of $20/family is welcome. Interested? RSVP is requested.

4-6p.m.
Cost: Free, but donation of $20/family is welcomed
555 E 90th St
Online: asphaltgreen.org

 

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photo: Carnegie Hill Neighbors

Carnegie Hill

Carnegie Hill Block Party
Every year, Carnegie Hill Neighbors hosts a spooky block party with a costume procession, art projects, candy treats and dancing in the streets to a lively DJ set. Trophies and prizes are awarded for best costumes by age, family and pet, and the neighborhood’s most festively-festooned townhouses and storefronts are recognized as well. If your little pirates and princesses aren’t sated by the gathering, wander the east 90s between Fifth and Lexington Avenues for good candy collecting and spooktacular decorations.

5-6:30 p.m.
92nd St. between Madison and Park Ave.
Online: carnegiehillneighbors.org

Chelsea

Clement Clarke Moore Park
Kick off trick-or-treating in Clement Clarke Moore Park — known by locals as “Seal Park”— on 10th Avenue at 22nd Street, then walk up and down the decorated brownstone blocks around the General Theological Seminary. The west side neighborhood’s most popular streets for gathering the goods are 21st and 22nd Streets between Ninth and Tenth Avenues; for less of a crowd, head to the houses between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

21st-22nd St. between 8th and 10th Ave.
Online: nycgovparks.org

Greenwich Village

Washington Square Park Halloween Parade
They get the party started early in the Village. Gather by the iconic Washington Square Arch at 3p.m. for a kids’ costume parade around the park followed by some spooky fun with trick-or-treat bags, games and rides. You can then trick-or-treat your way through the surrounding streets of stately townhouses, just keep in mind that starting around 6:30 p.m. the more raucous ghouls and goblins (and naughty nurses) begin to descend on the area for the neighborhood’s legendary grown-up version of a Halloween Parade.

3-6 p.m.
Washington Square Park
Fifth Ave. between Waverly Place and W. 4th St
Online: nyu.edu

Battery Park

Asphalt Screams!
The downtown counterpart of the Upper East Side Asphalt Screams, this gathering geared toward keeping kids active includes activities such as Zombie Freeze Tag, Spooktacular Soccer Shootout and much more. The first 400 kids to arrive will receive a goody bag. It’s free, although a donation of $20 per family is suggested. RSVP is requested.

4-6p.m.
Cost: Free, but donation of $20/family is welcomed
212 North End Ave.
Online: asphaltgreen.org

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photo: via makelessnoise on Flickr Creative Commons 

Financial District

Hometown Halloween at Trinity Church Graveyard
Meet a friendly ghost in Trinity Church’s historic graveyard. All ages are welcomed to the Trinity church yard to trick-or-treat with the “permanent residents” (John Astor! Alexander Hamilton!) of Lower Manhattan. Also on tap: hot apple cider, a photo booth and a chance to win a prize. Costumes encouraged!

Held 3-4p.m.
74 Trinity Place
Online: trinitywallstreet.org

Queens

Jackson Heights

Jackson Heights Halloween Parade
This Queens neighborhood’s wildly popular Halloween Parade is the second-largest Halloween kids parade in NYC. As if marching in that wasn’t enough reward in itself, at the end of the procession, all kids get goodie bags.

4:30p.m.
37th Ave. and 89th St.
Online: jhbg.org

Astoria

Astoria Community Trick or Treat
Astoria’s Connection Church hosts a “Trick or Treat Extravaganza” at the Astoria Heights Playground behind IS 10. Great for one-stop shopping (with security on site!) the event will feature trick or treating stations, games, costume contests, door prizes and a family photo booth.

6 – 8p.m.
45th St. and 30th Rd.
Online: facebook.com/events/315173005332894

Middle Village
For an authentic, suburban, small town vibe, head to Middle Village. Highly residential, with mostly single-family homes, this neighborhood contains lots of houses spooked up for the holidays (think big inflatables) and pedestrian-friendly streets for tiny trick-or-treaters. Check out the areas to the South and East of Juniper Valley Park for prime door-to-door action.

Sunnyside Gardens
For a similar feel to Middle Village that’s a little easier to get to by subway (it’s a short walk from the 46th St./Bliss St. stop on the 7 line) try Sunnyside Gardens. One of New York’s first planned communities, this cohesive landmarked area’s streets of charming houses and oversized trees make for manageable and picturesque candy collecting.

Brooklyn

Park Slope

Park Slope Halloween Parade
For this somewhat legendary parade, bring your costume A-game and join in at any point along the route, or enjoy the creative and creepy costumes as a spectator. If you’re marching, gather at 5:30 p.m. at 14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in preparation for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. The parade will conclude at the Old Stone House in Washington Park on Fifth Avenue with a community gathering and dancing with the parade bands, winding down at 9 p.m. You can get started early here: in the late afternoon area businesses pass out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters. While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to hit some of the brownstone-lined streets, where residents are known for their out-of-this-world decorations.

5:30-9p.m.
7th Ave. at 14th St to Washington Park on 5th Ave.
Online: parkslopeciviccouncil.org

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photo: Peter Lopez

Cobble Hill

Cobble Hill Halloween Parade
Costumed kids gather at this Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood’s Cobble Hill Park and then hit the main drag of Court Street and the surrounding blocks to score big. (Venture further down Court to Carroll Gardens for even more candy and brownstones with large front gardens tricked out for the holiday.) Be on time: It’s not uncommon for businesses to have their candy stash completely cleared out by the festive costumed throngs.

4p.m.
Clinton St. between Verandah Place and Congress St
Online: cobblehillassociation.blogspot.com

Bedford Stuyvesant

Bed-Stuy Neighborhood Parade and Trick-or-Treat
When it comes to Halloween, Bed-stuy is an equal opportunity treat provider: the neighborhood encourages both kids and dogs to dress up and load up on treats at area houses and businesses. The Stuyvesant Heights Parents Association is sponsoring a spooky Story Patch, dance contest, and parade at Fulton Park on Stuyvesant Avenue, with festivities kicking off at 4:30 p.m. Afterwards, pick up a trick-or-treat map created by Bed-Stuy homeowners and block association members for the locations of eager candy distributors.  Should there be any doubt  where the treats are flowing, just look for the orange and black balloons along the way. (Now that’s full service!)

4:30-7:30p.m. 
Near 179 Erasmus St.
Online: facebook.com/events/366016516888248

Brooklyn Heights

Halloween in the Heights
It’s hard to find a more festive block in The Heights than Garden Place, which is blocked off from traffic in honor of the holiday.  Residents go all out, constructing elaborate Halloween displays in front of the street’s historic brownstones — fake coffins, life-size mummies, smoke machines,  jack o’lanterns en masse, etc. It’s a festive and very busy scene, so go early if you want to come out of it with treats in the bucket. For a quieter but still lovely trick-or-treating experience, head to nearby streets Remsen and Joralemon.

Fort Greene/Clinton Hill

Clinton Hill Children’s Halloween Walk and Performance
The Clinton Hill Children’s Halloween Walk and Performance is a favorite local event, with trick-or-treating on the streets and musical performances out in front of homes. Head to Pratt-Clinton Hill Community Garden for the beginning of the parade at 5p.m.

5p.m.
Dekalb Ave. at Hall St.
Clinton Hill
Online: societyforclintonhill.org

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photo: Chris Franko via Halloween 313

Halloween 313
While you’re in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area, make sure you check out the house at 313 Clinton Avenue  – the residents go above and beyond the Halloween call every year to produce a kid-friendly original theatrical performance for the locals. Performances run every 30 minutes starting at 5p.m. until  9:30 p.m.

5-9:30p.m.
313 Clinton Ave.
Clinton Hill
Online: facebook.com/Halloween313Theatrical

Greenpoint

The Witches’ Walk
Now a Greenpoint tradition, this Halloween parade hosted by the popular neighborhood children’s store The Flying Squirrel is a good choice for younger ghouls and goblins. In addition to strutting in costume, you can expect face painting, arts and crafts and pizza courtesy of Two Boots. En masse trick or treating at neighborhood businesses ensues following the procession.

4:30p.m.
The Flying Squirrel
87 Oak St.
Greenpoint
Online: flyingsquirrelbaby.com

The Bronx

Fieldston and Riverdale
The upscale ‘hood of Riverdale always makes for some good candy collecting, but the area’s neighbor, the community of Fieldston, is worthy of destination trick-or-treating. With much of it recognized as a landmarked historic district, the positively suburban-feeling area is filled with trees and beautiful houses that set the perfect backdrop for Halloween activities. (The varied architectural styles range from Tudor and Art and Crafts, to “manor” and “castle.”) There’s a good chance you’ll forget you’re in New York City.

Staten Island

Halloween in Richmond Town
Staten Island can offer you a trick or treating experience like none other in the NYC area: going door-to-door in a village from the 1600s!  Halloween at the island’s historic museum complex also features tasty treats for costumed kiddies as well as crafts, apple bobbing and games.

3:30-5pm.
Historic Richmond Town
Clarke Ave.
Staten Island
Online: historicrichmondtown.org

Have a recommendation? Share your favorite trick-or-treating hot spot in the comments below! 

Ashly Grzyb

 

10 Things To Do In NYC Before Age 10

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New York City is a magical places for kids to grow up and there is an endless supply of things for the littlest New Yorkers to do, experience, and explore. You may have written and checked off your “30 before 30” bucket list already, and now it’s time to plan a bucket list for your child. Check out Red Tricycle’s list of 10 things to do in NYC before your kid turns 10 years old.

Rock Out to a Kiddie Band

Little New Yorkers are lucky enough to have a plethora of kiddie rock bands to jam to - all especially catering to the toddler and kindie set. Our personal faves are <a target="_blank" href="http://www.roliepolieguacamole.com/&quot; target="_blank">Rolie Polie Guacamole</a>, a high-energy rock trio from Brooklyn, and the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.jitterbugsnyc.com/&quot; target="_blank">Jitterbugs</a>, well-known for their popular Thursday morning <a target="_blank" href="http://brooklynfarmacy.blogspot.com/2013/04/jitterbugs-same-day-new-time.html&quot; target="_blank">singalong at Brooklyn Farmacy</a>, as well as their retro-rock feel that gets all the little ones shaking.fuck

What’s on your kid’s 10 before 10 bucket list?

–Christine Knight

Images courtesy of Christine Knight, Raquel Frechette and Paul Kolnik.

Build-A-Bot at the Brooklyn Robot Foundry

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Getting your kids interested in science and technology has never been easier. Take them on a day trip to Gowanus, Brooklyn, so they can try out the Brooklyn Robot Foundry. They’ll get to explore electricity, gears, motors and maybe even design, build and take home their very own robot. Read on to get the scoop on this unique educational spot.

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What’s It All About?
The Robot Foundry offers drop-off classes, clubs, half-day and full-day sessions and open play for kids ages four and older.  Your kiddos will learn about mechanical engineering and electrical principles from teachers in the know. Toys and common household objects are used to help convey how electricity, gears and motors work. Sound too technical to be fun? No way – fun (while learning and doing awesome things!) is the Foundry’s primary goal. After all of the Brooklyn Robot Foundry’s programs (except for open/free play sessions), kids bring home a robot that they have built.

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What Happens at Open Play?
Every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 11:30 am, The Foundry offers weekend open play for kids ages 5 to 9. At these $15 per hour workshops, rather than doing a specific robot-related project, kids will put together obstacle courses, craft robots out of clay and found objects, create marble runs, build giant LEGO creations and much more. And since it’s a supervised drop-off session they’ll do all that while you grab coffee with a friend, hit the gym or insert other me-time activity here.

What Kind of Classes Can Kids Take?
If you choose a class, your kids will create their own robot to bring home. Each class (priced $40 to $80) has is slightly different, so make sure to take a look at all of their offerings per age group to select what interests your kid the most. For example, 7 to 9 year olds who love their plush toys can take a class called Electronic Stuffed Animals. In this class, kids build their very own creature, choosing from four designs and then incorporating LEDs into their creation. If you have kids 6 – 8 that love art projects, they can take a class called Doodling Robot, where they will make their very own robot that draws beautiful pictures for them.

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What Other Programs Do They Offer?
The Foundry is offering Spring After School sessions (with walking pickup from PS10, PS321, Children’s School, PS58 and the Brooklyn New School – check the website for details), parties (they last 1.5 hours and each kid will take home their very own robot) and summer sessions. The summer sessions are week-long programs giving kids the chance to design, build and play with robots. They will also engage in brainstorming and experimenting, plus they’ll spend some time outdoors. While the emphasis is on play, kids learn mechanical and electrical principles as well. They will be able to create robots that have systems similar to such everyday objects as vibrating cell phone motors and scooters.

They also have a Robot Girls’ Club, which meets on Sundays from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. At this program, unlike the others, parents have the option to stay and build with their daughters. Their hope is to create a community of parents and daughters who can build and learn together.

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The Backstory
The Brooklyn Robot Foundry was launched last year at World Maker Faire New York. The organization’s co-founders, Jenny Young and Dave VanEsselstyn, met while working at an educational software company. Young has her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and VanEsselstyn has his Ph.D. in Education Technology from Columbia. The two friends have both been working with their hands since they were kids, so they share a mutual philosophy of learning and coming together through making things. They believe in the “do it together” mentality and the importance of building a community around this common goal. Their goal with the Brooklyn Robot Foundry is to create an environment that is educational, community-based and, most importantly, fun.

The Robot Foundry
303 3rd Avenue (Between 1st and Carroll streets)
Brooklyn, Ny
Phone: 347-762-6840
Ages: 4+
Cost: $15/hour open play, classes from $40 (two sessions).

What kind of robot would your little engineers create?

–Christine Knight

Photos courtesy of the Brooklyn Robot Foundry

Pony Up For Eloise’s First Birthday Party at Jane’s Carousel

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When a little girl turns one, she invariably gets a sweet, girly party. When Brooklynite Eloise celebrated her big day, she was thrown a pink ballerina party at Jane’s Carousel, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO. Want to throw a memorable birthday party for your kiddo? Read on for our guide to planning the perfect carousel party.

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Location, location, location
The beauty of a venue like Jane’s Carousel – no decorating needed! The stunning Manhattan skyline, framed by the Brooklyn Bridge on one side and Manhattan Bridge on the other make for a picture perfect view that no decorations could possibly enhance.

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Keep the little (and big!) kids occupied
A first birthday party needs to walk a fine line between being geared towards kids (well, it is their day after all!) and the adults, who make up a bit portion of the guest list. The beauty of a venue like Jane’s Carousel is that everyone loves a pony ride. There’s also a big expanse of lawn next to the carousel for kids that are walking to run around.

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Booking Jane’s Carousel
The carousel has great packages for parties – just make sure to book yours well in advance, as they’re popular and book up fast. How far in advance? As of May 1 for example, they are completely booked for June, starting to book up for July, and have just opened up reservations for parties in August. Birthday parties can be arranged during the carousel’s regular open hours for 5 – 30 children. Cost is $20 per child for weekdays and $25 per child for weekends, and includes unlimited rides on the carousel for all guests, two hours of reserved seating in the picnic grove, one exclusive ride on the carousel for all party guests, and a keepsake carousel ticket for all guests.

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Do I really need to book the party?
Technically, you can just set up the party on some of the tables in the picnic grove, or on the lawn, and buy a bunch of tickets for your guests to use. During the week the carousel isn’t as busy so you can probably get away with doing this, and cut down on some of your costs. For weekends, however, particularly in peak season (which is basically as long as it’s warm enough to play outside), you’ll definitely want to reserve the party as the location is really popular for both tourists and locals to stop by. The biggest pro to this is having tables reserved for you, as it will save you having to fight with other families for the tables – plus keep in mind that someone else will likely have booked the party in and will be given reserved tables.

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Food, glorious food
For Eloise’s party, lunch was a platter of bagels with assorted toppings, from local store Mocha Bagels (202 Smith St), a few platters of fruit (cut up at home), cupcakes from Betty’s Bakery (448 Atlantic Ave), a cake from One Girl Cookie (33 Main St), and sugar cookies from SugarFairies, Etsy. For beverages, a cooler was borrowed, filled with ice and bottles of water.

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The bagels were delivered to the location for a small fee, and the cake was collected from the DUMBO location of One Girl Cookie, leaving only the fruit, cupcakes and cookies to be carried into the location.

Want hot food? Try ordering pizzas from one of the local DUMBO pizzerias, like nearby Ignazio’s (4 Water St).

When was the last time you rode a carousel?

–Christine Knight

All images courtesy of local Brooklyn photographer, Raquel Frechette.