Your kids’ first scribbles are the baby steps toward handwriting and communicating. And while some schools have dropped penmanship from the curriculum in favor of the keyboard, a number of children’s exhibits have taken up the cause and elevate handwriting to an art form. These fun shows and workshops in New York City, the Hamptons, Boston, and Atlanta will inspire you and your kids to pick up the pen or crayon and keep bold printing and curlicue letters alive for at least a little bit longer.
In New York City, this is the last weekend to catch “Mel Bochner: Strong Language” at the Jewish Museum. The colors are bold and exciting, and kids can relate to the works’ finger-painting quality. Best of all, the artist’s love of language is contagious. At the Children’s Museum of the Arts, “Drawn to Language” brings together top artists’ works that spotlight words and letters. Kids will love the show’s Explosive Drawing, a huge notebook page filled with colorful comic lettering. And at New York Hall of Science, your kids can design their own notebook and customize it with fun accessories at Make It: Inventor’s Notebooks.
At the Parrish Museum in the Hamptons, the worlds of art and language collide and form a happy coexistence at the Poets and Painters exhibit. Fragments of or whole poems are written directly onto collages and paintings, the words adding to the image’s power and vice versa.
Even the youngest kids in Atlanta can learn to express themselves through the act of writing (or most likely scrawling) at Let Your Creativity Flow. This workshop at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta invites kids to don a smock and write, draw, and paint on the walls.
In Boston, future authors can get in on the act as well at the Boston Children’s Museum. During the fun Messy Sensory Activity: Scribbling, kids build up those little hand muscles by gripping hard on to markers. Not only will the little ones develop fine motor skills, they’ll keep handwriting alive as well.
Who doesn’t love a puppet show? It’s a magical moment when inert puppets transform into real beings, and make-believe becomes utterly plausible. Even the squirmiest kids become rapt audience members after the curtain is pulled back. This weekend a number of theaters in New York, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco are staging classic fairytales using puppets and marionettes. Not only is this a great way to introduce kids to live theater, but it’s a fun time for the whole family
Get in the spooky spirit in New York at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre’s production of Hansel and Gretel’s Halloween Adventure. Under the auspices of City Parks Foundation, this theater group is one of last public marionette companies in the U.S. Like everything else in NYC, even puppet shows can be delivered. The City Parks Foundation’s Puppetmobile performs Little Red’s Hood this weekend at PS 107 Thomas A. Dooley Elementary School in Queens on Saturday. At Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, kids can get up close with everyone’s favorite Sesame Street puppets (or rather Muppets) like Elmo, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster at the New York Public Library’s exhibit Somebody Come and Play. Featuring more than 250 Sesame Street items and 20 Muppets, the show includes a photo booth, a special children’s play area, and a replica of the iconic brownstone stoop.
In Atlanta, kids can be entertained by other beloved children’s characters like Dorothy, Tin Man, and Scarecrow. At the Center for Puppetry Arts, the story of The Wizard of Oz comes alive with marionettes. After the performance, be sure to make your own Cowardly Lion string puppet at the center’s “Create-a-Puppet” workshop.
Boston families can catch another timeless classic but with a clever twist at Puppet Showplace Theater. Little Red Rosie and the Dragon of Dümm uses Little Red Riding Hood and Sir George and the Dragon as a jumping-off point. In this updated fairytale, Rosie takes matters into her own hands to save the day.
Peter Pan gets the puppet treatment at San Francisco’s Children’s Fairyland. In this production, the storybook tale leaps off the page, and Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, Wendy, and, of course, Tinkerbell all outsmart Captain Hook.
There’s more than one way to go green. And we’re not talking about recycling or saving energy, but about eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Just saying “it’s good for you” isn’t enough for kids to develop healthy eating habits. From visiting a working farm to planting seeds and cooking a delicious meal, here are some fun ways to teach your kids about healthy eating habits in New York, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco.
At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, “Eat Sleep Play” is a huge exhibit featuring 70 interactive games and stations about ways to be healthy. Kids can crawl through a giant digestive system and learn about how food affects the body. Over at the Queens Botanical Garden, young gardeners can get in touch with the earth through planting seeds and harvesting vegetables at the Fall Children’s Garden program.
In Atlanta, health-conscious munchkins can learn about food as it travels from farm to grocery store to table at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta’s Fundamentally Food exhibit. For any sous chefs in your family, check out Kids in the Kitchen at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library where kids learn that there’s more to cooking than spooning a dollop of dough onto a cookie sheet.
Learning about healthy habits doesn’t have to be academic either. At Marini Farms near Boston, families can have a blast exploring life on a working farm from greenhouses to fields, jumping on a supersized outdoor trampoline, and chasing each other in a corn maze.
Not surprisingly, San Francisco, the home of Alice Waters, boasts a ton of farmers markets where your kids can help you pick out fresh fruits and vegetables. CUESA’s Saturday Market at Ferry Plaza offers farm produce, artisan foodstuffs, and baked goods. And the Agricultural Institute of Marin hosts six farmers markets this weekend: Grand Lake-Oakland and Hayward Farmers Market on Saturday; and San Rafael Farmers Market, Stonestown Farmers Market, Clement St. Farmers Market, and Newark Farmers Market on Sunday.
You may soon have the kiddos begging for vegetables!
Sure, your children can watch kids movies on your phone, but it’s a lot more fun to watch a film in a theater filled with other kids all laughing at the same silly moments. (The popcorn’s better, too!) Your Netflix queue will always be around, so put the remote down and catch these special kids movies and screenings in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Boston this weekend.
Little cinephiles in New York can start the weekend with Movies for Tots at the New York Public Library’s Kips Bay branch or with Movies for Children at Brooklyn Public Library’s Borough Park building. Kids under age 5 can giggle at a short cartoon or movie (usually starring Elmo, of course).
For braver kids, head over to the American Museum of Natural History to see a wowza screening of Great White Shark in its IMAX theater throughout the weekend. If your kids prefer to float on the water rather than dive deep, stop by the Film Forum on Oct. 5 to see the classic Captains Courageous, part of its Film Forum Jr. series.
Everyone likes to be the first one to see a new movie—especially kids. Catch a special sneak peek screening of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at Chelsea’s SVA Theatre on Sunday. For cool cats and kitty lovers in the family, head out to Brooklyn for the super fun New York Feline Film & Video Festival at Galapagos Art Space, also on Sunday.
In Atlanta, your smallest film fans can pretend that they’re at a drive-in movie and watch Monster House at The Little House of Art’s Kids Drive-in Movie Night on Oct. 3, while older kids can pretend that they’re piloting a submarine as they experience the 4-D Journey 2: The Mysterious Island at Stone Mountain Park.
While many cities’ summer screenings have ended, lucky kids in San Francisco can still watch a flick under the stars. On Friday night, older kids can lie on a blanket outdoors and watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, presented by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and laugh at “big buts” (only one “t”).
Boston Public Library has all the ages covered when it comes to kids movies this Friday. Kiddos age 4 and younger can get their celluloid fill with Preschool Films at the Codman branch, while teens can stop by the Mattapan library after school, catch a flick, and hang out with friends at its Friday Films program.
A lot of lucky kids can’t wait for bedtime this weekend. Various museums and cultural institutions in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and San Francisco are hosting after-hours adventures from sleepovers aboard ships to nighttime feedings of exotic animals.
In New York, the American Museum of Natural History holds its hugely popular A Night at the Museum sleepover on Sept. 26. Kids can search for fossils by flashlight and sleep under the massive suspended whale. Across town at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Sept. 27, future mariners can discover what it takes to live, eat, and sleep on the U.S.S. Intrepid at Operation Slumber. If you’ve got animal lovers in your family, check out the Bronx Zoo’s Family Overnight Safari on Sept. 27 where kids can get up close and personal with the animals and then rest with ring-tailed lemurs.
Atlanta’s young’uns must love animals at night, too, because Zoo Atlanta’s Sept. 26 sleepover event Nightcrawlers is sold out (the next available sleepover is Oct. 25—get tickets now!). If your kids still want to get into their PJs and stay up late, try Kids Drive-In Movie Night at the Little House of Art. While you go on a much-needed date night, kids eat pizza, climb into their sleeping bags, and watch Puss In Boots from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Little night owls in Boston can also stay up past their bedtime on Friday at Nocturnal Night at Animal Adventures. From 7-8:30 p.m., your mini-zoologists can meet exotic animals, learn about their world after dark, and attend a special night feeding.
In San Francisco, kids can camp out with seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Center on Sept. 26. At the Seals & Slippers sleepover, families will snooze under the stars but not before they watch the night crew take care of the animals at the evening feeding.
Kids are taking it to the streets this weekend. Literally. In pockets of Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Brooklyn, select streets will be closed for families to gather for block parties, bike and trike tours, and street fair celebrations. It’s a great way for kids to have fun and take in the cityscape. (Plus, it’s so exhilarating to stand on that center yellow line!)
Brooklyn artists and kids will overtake the streets during the Dumbo Arts Festival this weekend. Roads bracketed by Water and Plymouth Sts. will be closed to cars and open to gallery-goers and kids during this celebration of art on the waterfront. Also in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Antic will shut down a massive swath of Atlantic Ave. for “the street festival to end all street festivals.” Live music, pony rides, face painting, and lots of food will keep the kids entertained for hours.
On that same day, plenty of kids in Atlanta will be biking in the streets—specifically a five-mile loop along Highland, North, and Boulevard. Atlanta Streets Alive celebrates all things bicycles and includes a bike parade. Kids can join the parade and see their neighborhoods from a new, two-(or three) wheeled perspective.
In Boston, Circle the City hosts Open Streets, Open World, which will close down Blue Hill Ave. (between Dudley & Warren Sts.) on Sept. 28. Free bikes will be available for all ages. Besides pedaling the roads, families can enjoy live music, kids’ games and arts and projects, and Zumba and yoga sessions.
In San Francisco, Sunday Streets will close down traffic on Mission St. between Geneva & Theresa/Avalon in Excelsior. Along the route, families can check out the Excelsior Festival for live music and performances and delicious multicultural food. As well, your youngest kids will dig the Tricycle Music Festival with tons of tot-bopping bands and activities.
Photo: Central Atlanta Progress via Flickr
If Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Tin Man were transported to any number of children’s museums this weekend, they’d be likely to exclaim, “Spiders and cockroaches and snakes! Oh, my!” There are plenty of creepy crawlers on view at museums from New York to Boston and San Francisco, where kids can get an up-close look at critters and learn how cool—and important to the Earth’s ecosystem—they really are.
New York’s American Museum of Natural History spins an enormous web of an exhibit with Spiders Alive! Kids can get up close (and safely) to more than 20 species of spiders, including a Black Widow and the type of spider featured in Charlotte’s Web.
While spiders also get their moment at Arthropods: Creatures that Rule at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, in Boston, cockroaches take center stage with their own mini-exhibit at the museum. City dwellers may get freaked out at these creepy crawlers, but scientists attest that cockroaches are nurturing parents and often carry and protect their young.
If spiders and cockroaches are a little too commonplace for your kids, the staff at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco would be happy to introduce them to some exotic and colorful snakes this Saturday at Ssssnake Encounter. Kids will learn about these slithering creatures’ unique natural history, predatory behavior, and surprising special senses.
Photo courtesy of Alice Perry
It’s time to get yer geek on this weekend. Dubbed the “greatest show (and tell) on Earth,” the World Maker Faire takes over New York Hall of Science Sept. 20-21. This traveling circus of invention and creativity will feature hundreds of DIY makers who will showcase their fun and over-the-top creations, such as rockets, electronics, and robots.
Speaking of robots, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta hosts Grady Robotics on Saturday where Grady High School’s First Robotics Team will demonstrate some of its cool robots and other engineering feats. Kids will be able to build their own LEGO robot and operate a remote-control robot.
Over in Boston, some super smart MIT students will also be showing off their quirky inventions this weekend at the Inventions: 2014 Student Showcase at the MIT Museum. Kids will dig the futuristic creations like the tabletop interface that converts everyday objects into musical instruments.
Meanwhile at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, kids can build their own geeky gadget on Saturday at Chibitronics. At this hands-on workshop, your little inventors will learn how to create light-up LED cards using circuits and paper.
Photo courtesy of Maker Media
If there were a heaven for abandoned playground equipment, it might look a lot like the Nancy Rubins exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery. Entitled Our Friend Fluid Metal, the show features four colossal installations made from old spring riders. This is one Chelsea gallery exhibit where your kids will definitely recognize the source material.
All photos by Alice Perry
Defying gravity, the forgotten duckies, elephants, and ponies are tied together and suspended in the air by bridge cable wire. Kids will groove on the carnival of colors and toy animals even if they can’t touch them. They’ll love that they’re able to not only walk around the artwork but can stand underneath 20,000 pounds of metal.
The gymnasium-sized Gagosian gallery gives the artwork space to spread out and breathe. The largest of the group stretches 42 feet by 24 feet across the gallery, floating like a celestial body. Another of the assemblages, also made from industrial steel coils and chipped-painted animals, rises from the floor, shaped like a freeze frame of a mammoth wave that never crashes. What’s interesting about the show is that there’s no feeling of an ironic wink-wink about using old playground toys. Rubins is simply reusing and recycling the equipment in the most artistic way possible.
The free exhibit is on view until Sept. 13 at the Gagosian gallery at 522 W. 21st St., open Mon. through Fri. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The New York International Fringe Festival isn’t just for hipster theatergoers. As part of the two-week fest, FringeNYC offers Fringe Jr., which is specifically designed for families and is a great way to turn your kids on to live theater.
The Fringe Jr. plays are recommended for kids age five to 12 (although we think younger kids would dig them as well). Most of the plays include music and lean toward the goofy end of the spectrum. The best part is that the productions respect the younger audience and never talks down to them.
One of the four plays in rotation for Fringe Jr., Vagabond$ tells the story of a friendship between two travelers who speak different languages but learn to communicate through their love of music and pizza. Presented by the bilingual ExtraTeatro, the one-hour show traces their rags to riches and back to rags journey using lots of physical comedy (one of the actors has Harpo Marx’s moves down pat). Although it may rehash the old adage that money can’t buy happiness, it does it in a fresh and entertaining way that will get the kids (and you too) laughing.
Other shows include Alienne: The Musical Adventures of My Little Martian, which transports Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid into a wacky world of outer space; And Then Came Tango, inspired by the true story of male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who raised a baby fledgling and caused a public outcry; and My Monster Friend about a lonely doctor who creates a friend in his lab with a mail-ordered brain.
All shows are performed at the Theater at the 14th Street Y and cost $13 per person.
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