The Central Park Conservatory may sound very serious and officious, but its Sandbox series is a lot of fun with large doses of silliness. Taking place in different Central Park playgrounds, the weekday summer program includes storytime, music, dance, and puppet shows. (And they’re all free.)
At a recent Sandbox Stories at the Safari Playground at W. 91st St., seasoned storyteller Brennan Lowery regaled the under five set with a Brother Grimm-style legend about a ravenous little girl who ate everything in sight (including family members). Besides telling tall tales, Lowery read from a storybook and got the kids dancing. Throughout the session, he recruited the kids to help bring the stories alive by asking questions and having them make lots of silly animal noises and sound effects.
The best part of the Sandbox program is that it’s outside at a playground. In the fresh air and under a canopy of trees, a Sandbox event makes a visit to the playground extra special. It also gives you a short break as well (but don’t be surprised if you find yourself joining in on the fun as well).
The Museum of Jewish Heritage knows how to get kids to pay attention to history. Just get techie and give ’em an Ipod and a stunning view.
At the museum’s Voices of Liberty exhibit, kids are handed a sensor-activated Ipod. When they stand in one of the themed spots in the room, they’ll hear a voice of a Holocaust survivor, refugee, and others talk about his or her immigrant journey to the U.S.
The extra cool thing about this exhibit is that the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island provide a very real, spectacular backdrop to the soundscape of stories. As kids listen to a first-person account about seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time, they can look out from the floor-to-ceiling windows and see the real thing.
At the start of the show, be sure to check out Timekeeper, another exhibit that incorporates technology and the very real to convey history. This interactive exhibit uses a time-lapse camera to record changes to the Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones sculpture. At the interactive station, kids spin a dial to flashback to the sculpture’s beginning. Afterwards, they can visit and walk through the peaceful park outside just a few floors below.
All photos by Alice Perry
Designed by Dan Graham with Günther Vogt, the commission’s centerpiece is a structure made with curved, reflective glass between two hedge rows. Graham calls the artwork a “two-way mirror hedge labyrinth walkabout,” and although that’s a mouthful, that description basically sums it up. Kids will dig walking into the patio structure and following the S-curved glass, which reflects the skyline and your image in funhouse proportions.
The rooftop itself is covered with synthetic grass so soft that when you sit down you may absented-mindedly pull on a “blade” like you do with the real stuff. Walk over to the terrace’s edge and drink in the amazing one-of-a-kind views of Central Park. The rooftop area feels like it’s floating and hovering just over the treetops like a magic carpet ride.
While you’re enjoying the view, buy a bite to eat at the Roof Garden Café, which serves tasty sandwiches, salads, and sweets, and take a seat under the shady pergola. And if you’re with some friends and a bit thirsty, try one of the fun specialty drinks like “The Ramble” (sweet tea and lemonade with bourbon) or “The Meadow” (basil syrup and cucumber juice with gin).
All photos by Alice Perry
C’mon, admit it. You’ve always wanted to go on one of those NY Harbor cruises with your kids, but you thought they just seemed too (that dreaded word) “touristy.” Well, have no fear. The Circle Line NYC Kids Cruise is a blast for everyone in the whole family and doesn’t feel touristy at all.
Throughout the 75-minute cruise (just the right amount of time), kids are entertained with a roving magician, face-painting or a balloon artist on the top deck, and a musical performance on the lower level. Despite all the goings-on, the fun feels loose and not regimented or overly organized.
Oh, and did we mention the views? Yes, your kids will be occupied with silly songs and onboard entertainers, but it’s really the sights of lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty that will most captivate your kids (and you too). Thankfully, a tour guide’s loudspeaker facts are kept to a minimum, so that your family can take in NY Harbor’s majesty on your own terms. Even if you do feel a teeny tiny bit like a tourist, you’ll love every minute of the voyage.
Circle Line’s next kids cruise departs this Sat., July 26.
El Museo del Barrio’s new show “Museum Starter Kit: Open With Care” pulls back the curtain on the museum’s history and its artistic founder as well as ushering in new standard-bearers of this Puerto Rican and Caribbean art-focused institution.
All photos by Alice Perry
Starting the show off with a bang is a huge painting of artist and founder Raphael Montañez Ortiz smashing a piano with an ax, symbolizing both destruction and reconstruction. Kids will dig a number of the exhibit’s art installations, beginning with Ortiz’s Maya Zemí I and Maya Zemí II. Covered in yellow, red, and blue feathers, these sideways pyramids jut out of the wall, begging to be petted (but try not to touch). Interestingly, the concept for this artwork came to the artist in a dream, reminding us that it’s OK to let our kids zone out and daydream and fantasize for at least a little while.
Deeper within the exhibit, kids are invited to climb on and explore Stack & Rack. Created by the artist collective BroLab, these 16 plywood cubes are meant to be a public sculpture in the truest sense of the word, one that can be moved around and readjusted. So go on: climb away (or at least take a seat). Another fun piece is Romy Scheroder’s Skin, which is a gutted wingback chair covered with hundreds of rubber bands.
While you’re at the museum, check out “Presencia: Works from El Museo’s Permanent Collection” across the hall from the main exhibit. Benvenuto Chavajay’s Suave Chapina wins the award for most summer appropriate artwork. The wall installation is made entirely of blue and green latex flip-flops, sure to get you and the kids in the summer mood.
Sometimes Eastern art can seem a bit intimidating for us westerners. You may wonder if the art’s Eastern precepts will fly over your kids’ heads and if they’ll “get it.” On Sunday, you and the family can test the waters and dip your toes into the Himalayan pond at the Rubin Museum of Art’s Chelsea Block Party.
All photos courtesy of The Rubin Museum of Art
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Rubin Museum, which is home to a massive Himalayan art collection, is swinging open its doors with all-day free admission and hosting an outdoor street fair from 1 to 4 p.m.
At 1:30, Buddhist monks will kick off the event with a blessing. Outside performances will take place throughout the day, including traditional dances by the Dance Theater of Nepal. Kids can get henna tattoos, create and design amulets and masks, and draw their own masterpieces with sidewalk chalk. Inside, you and the kids can watch Buddhist monks create an intricate sand mandala and listen to live classical Himalayan music.
The Rubin Museum is also introducing its new Family Sundays, which take place every Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The museum proclaims that “Sundays are for families” and rolls out the red carpet for families with kid-friendly tours and art activities like creating woodprints and making animal masks.
Just because you have kids now doesn’t mean you have to kiss your dancing days goodbye. MoMA PS 1 Warm Up, which happens every Saturday in the summer, is a huge outdoor dance party where you and the kids can join the masses and groove to tunes by an uber-cool DJ. The best part? You can proudly say, “I took my kid to his/her first rave.”
All Photos by Alice Perry
Located in the museum’s courtyard, the Warm Up’s crowds and noise can seem a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips to make the day fun for everyone in the family.
1. Arrive early and leave early. Although the Warm Up concert runs from 3 to 9 p.m., the doors officially open at noon. After 3 p.m., the lines to enter the museum become insane, as do the lines for food and drinks inside. Leave before 6 p.m. when the hipsters start having a little bit too much fun.
2. Best for your youngest and oldest kids. Because of the crowds and a lot of standing, it’s best if either you can hold your kid (age 3 and under) or your child (usually age 8 and up) doesn’t mind standing for long periods.
3. Bring water diapers. No joke, there is a small kiddie pool in the courtyard that kids can play in or just cool off. Just be aware that the pool doesn’t have a filtration system.
4. Ditch the stroller. Because of the pebbles in the courtyard, you’ll spend more time struggling as you push and shove than enjoying yourself.
5. Secret hideouts. If the crowds are too much for the young’uns, duck away into one of the side cubby rooms off the courtyard. Here you can sit down or just take a short break.
6. See some art. Go inside the air-conditioned museum to check out some of the exhibitions. Kids will dig Korakrit Arunanondchai’s installation of a psychedelic altar and stone-denim pillows, while you’ll gravitate Maria Lassnig’s striking paintings.
The overall vibe is very chill where club kids will greet your kids with a “’Sup, dude” and where you’ll score points as one of the cool parents.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of A Hard Day’s Night, Film Forum is running a pristine print of the seminal Beatles flick directed by Richard Lester. While kids may balk at the idea of watching a black and white movie, they won’t be able to resist the energy and exuberance of the pell-mell camerawork, non-sequitur editing, and infectious music. The film is silly, goofy, and all those other words associated with kids’ humor.
And, sure, you can watch it on Netflix, but we’re raising New York City kids here. We want them to appreciate arthouse theaters like Film Forum and to groom them into discerning cinephiles (Oh, and the popcorn is fresh and delicious too. It’s white, not that pus-festering yellow you find at cineplexes, and you won’t find any nuclear-processed butter topping here either).
So what do actual kids think? One 9-year-old boy loved the chase scenes (and there are a lot of ’em), and a 4-year-old girl kept singing along to all the songs and asking her daddy, “What’s the name of this song?” We did find one unimpressed kid, however, who told RedRover that it wasn’t as good as Transformers. Hey, there are plenty of AMC theaters to see that, but there’s only one Film Forum.
The hottest new movement in science education has come to the New York Hall of Science. Bolstering its reputation as one of the most hands-on museums in the five boroughs, NYSCI has revamped and rebuilt its lower level to create “Design Lab.”
All photos by Alice Perry
This fresh permanent exhibit engages kids with five distinct “pods” or large activity areas that all have the earmarks of the Maker Movement, a fast-growing education trend that emphasizes using everyday materials to explore, create, and come up with powerful new ideas all on your own. This DIY movement puts kids firmly in the driver’s seat; NYSCI just provides the tools and guidance.
Kids love to touch and build, and that’s why Design Lab succeeds. Here are the five pods, which will have changing activities throughout the year:
1. Sandbox: sorry, no sand, instead, kids are challenged to build a large structure like one using dowels and rubber bands;
3. Studio: families construct tabletop structures, illuminated and animated by LEDs, motors, and circuits;
4. Treehouse: kids explore gravity, shape, and air resistance by dropping their creations from the elevated walkway in the Design Lab. (You know this will be your kids’ favorite); and
5. Maker Space, which opened in 2012: kids learn how to use tools to convert design ideas into prototypes.
Design Lab is all about the process rather than the outcome. It’s about kids getting inspired by their own creativity and finding their own way.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is the darling of the international art world, and your darlings will love his artwork too. Much of the artist’s exhibit, “According to What?,” which runs until Aug. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum, is conceptual, but it’s easily accessible and speaks to kids as well. The show fills two floors of the museum and part of the lobby area, but we’ll narrow it down and give you the highlights of what your kids will dig.
All photos by Alice Perry
On the first floor, you might walk right past those six large rust-colored cubes. But put the brakes on the stroller and take a closer look. Entitled S.A.C.R.E.D., these iron boxes are dioramas that document Ai’s imprisonment by Chinese authorities. Yes, it’s a little bleak-sounding, but the kids will love looking through the peek-a-boo windows and spying on these sculptural recreations of the artist as he eats and sleeps.
Be sure also to check out Stacked, which is also located on the first floor near the brick arcade that separates the lobby from the Rubin Pavilion. This site-specific installation features 700 stainless steel bicycles interlocked together creating a monumental wall of wheels, spokes, and frames.
On the fifth floor, kids will gravitate to Moon Chest, which are seven huge chests evenly spaced across half a gallery. Each chest has four circular openings. When viewed from one end, the openings align in such a way to suggest the moon phases. Of course, kids will ignore contemplating heavenly bodies and prefer to stand at one end, look through the holes, and yell, “Can you see me, Mommy?”
Head down the gallery and check out Ai’s most well-known work, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. What kid wouldn’t love the sheer anarchy of the photos of Ai blithely smashing an ancient artifact? In the foreground, kids can stroll around actual Han Dynasty vases that Ai has defaced by dipping them in bright industrial paint or stenciling a “Coca-Cola” logo (although “Capri-Sun” or “Gatorade” would be more apropos for today’s kids) across its surface.
On the fourth floor, stop by the far end gallery to see Snake Ceiling. Although the artwork’s symbolism will make your heart heavy (it’s made of hundreds of backpacks to represent students who perished in the horrendous 2008 Sichuan earthquake), kids will stick get a kick out of seeing the snake suspended from the ceiling. Directly under Snake Ceiling are 3,000 orange and gray porcelain crabs. This installation is so steeped in Chinese symbolism and play-on words that some adults may barely “get it,” but kids will love seeing these roped-off crustaceans and wonder, “Are they real?”
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