Posts filed under ‘parenting’

Who needs a children’s museum when you have the MOMA?

MOMA Kids Audio Tour

Listening to the MOMA Kids Audio Tour

Mmm, wintertime in the city. Snow frosts the sidewalks, gourmet shops pour rich cocoa, and kids run wild in small apartments…where did I put the basement again? Oh yeah, our “basement playroom” is actually the Museum of Natural History. But every now and then — and especially by February — I need to get out of the neighborhood and into the great art museums the city has to offer. 

Recently, I planned a date with my 7-year-old son for the MOMA. He had yet another random day off from school and I cleared my schedule for a much-needed art fix. We’d been to the MOMA before but for some reason had never tried the  audio tours, so our plan for this trip was to try the Kids Audio tour.

We arrived in midtown a bit before the museum opened so we took time to wander through the fabulous MOMA store. The clever housewares and toys make browsing fun for visitors of any age. I ended up buying my son  a small car that, when pushed, brushes up eraser shrapnel, crumbs and other light debris.  Why? Just because.

We headed into the museum and were happy to learn the audio tours are free with admission. Cool. You can pick them up on first and sixth floors.  I selected the Kids Audio tour too so we could go on the same “tour.” As it turns out, because the audio guide is not a tour per se — it doesn’t send you around in a particular order, but rather allows you to hear about each work which displays the Kids Audio symbol whenever you want in whatever order you want — I later realized I could have chosen an adult Audio program. (The Kids Audio program sticks to the Painting Galleries and many of the works on those two floors are also supported by adult audio guides.)  No matter, though, because it was  fun for us to listen to the same thing and then discuss what we heard.

My son liked that the audio guide player displayed pictures of the artwork.  He mentioned he likes it better when an audio tour “says a “go here, then go there like the one at the Statue of Liberty.”  But, that clearly was a minor complaint because he insisted we view every piece of artwork shown on the Kids Audio guide map. He kept us soaking up culture for a whole two-and-a-half hours. Whew.

Since that trip was such a hit, we are now talking about hitting the Design: USA at Cooper Hewitt museum. I like to visit Cooper Hewitt in the summer because they have great activities in their (my?) grassy backyard but Design:USA’s incorporation of on-site iTouches loaded up with an interactive tour make it our new winter destination.

As a grande finale, I think we should visit the Tino Sehgal exhibit in the rotunda of the Guggenheim. Apparently this installation involves interacting with trained participants, some of whom are kids. I think it could be a healthy reminder that the best interactive experiences don’t require electronic devices.


February 4, 2010 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

Helping Haiti with Handhelds and Humble Pie

It is impossible for the horrible situation in Haiti to stay out of my thoughts for long.  Another earthquake hit Wednesday further stressing a difficult situation.  The news continues to take a personal turn as one of the longtime and wonderful staff members in our building is from Haiti.  After days of no communication after the original quake, this doorman learned his immediate family was unharmed, but that his aunt and her six children all perished; they were in their first-floor apartment in a typical cement apartment building. No word yet about further impact from the most recent quake.

We want to help our friend’s family but we will have to wait for that.  There is no way to do so until the situation stabilizes and begins rebuilding. For now, our family is giving to the Red Cross to help the country as a whole. And with digital media making it easier than ever to give, the overwhelming number of donations is making the once-trite statement of “any amount counts” an impressive reality. As of Sunday, an incredible $22 million, or 20% of the total $103 million pledged to Red Cross, was via text-messaging. (Send a text to 90999 to make a $10 donation, which will be charged to your cellphone bill.)

Beyond texting donations, mobile devices and social media have been used to great impact. They’ve been used to share real-time pictures of what is happening on the ground, to try to help families living outside Haiti identify survivors, and to spread the word about how doctors can get to Haiti, and provide info on local fundraising events.

And what about our kids? While teens are plugged into the digital world, younger kids also want to take action. My son’s grammar school is running an old-fashioned Bake Sale this Friday to raise money for Haiti. When I told my son, he decided he wants to donate some of his piggy bank contents to the cause. When he pulled out the cash, he wa disappointed by the amount he’d be able to give so he asked me if he could do some jobs around the house to earn more.  I gave him a big hug and asked,”How did you get to be so sweet?” And just in case I was harboring some sense of credit due to me, he immediately answered,”What do you mean? I’ve always been this way!”  Oh, right. I guess for the Bake Sale I should bring the humble pie.

January 20, 2010 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

MLK Day of Service provides worthwhile family fun

I love that our pre-school Claremont sent out a note reminding everyone that Monday, January 18, 2010, will be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.  The note included information about events you can participate in with your children here on the West Side of Manhattan. (Details included below.)  No matter where you live the in US, you can find local events by visiting

Three NYC events are listed below. My kids and I have participated in the Children for Children and JCC events in the past. Both are popular so I recommend getting there early. Last year, the JCC was mobbed but it looks like they are requesting registration this time around which will probably help them plan for all those motivated volunteer families living on the Upper West Side. I am not familiar with the third event listed but it may have a smaller scale (harder to be larger than the other events) and lists some really nice hands-on arts project.  Feel free to comment with additional event suggestions or let me know how your experience was after the fact.  Enjoy!

Children for Children  “Grow Involved”

When: Monday 1/18, 10am-2pm

Where: Martin Luther King High School, at 122 Amsterdam Ave @ 65th St. and, PS 57, at 176 E. 115th St between Lex & 3rd Ave. 

This event is free and open to the public and engages youth volunteers in hands-on service projects to benefit the community and those in need.  The Dream World features age-appropriate activities for the 5 and under group. For more information, go to

JCC Manhattan

Please join JCC staff, members, and neighbors by participating in organized community service activities in and outside of our building as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action.  Breakfast will be served.  To register, please contact Judy Gross at 646.505.4450 or

 Congregation Ansche Chesed Day of Social Action in honor of the MLK Jr. National Day of Service

When: Sunday 1/17, 10am-12pm

Where: Ansche Chesed on 100th St. between Broadway and West End

Please join our community as people of all ages engage in projects that address hunger, homelessness, poverty, the crisis in Darfur, the environment, human rights and other issues. Children’s programs include visit with JNF’s Blue Box Bob, making get well cards for pediatric patients, library bookmark-making, placemats for a senior center, cards for homeless shelter guests. For more information, contact Claremont mom Lynne Bermont at

January 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Embark on your own Time-Talent-Treasure Hunt

compass-map_~15295-22PSEvery semester we begin our grade-school Real-World Super Heroes program with an introduction to philanthropy.  We explain that everyone has three super powers they can use to help others: Time, Talent and Treasure.   We cite examples of kind acts and our new Heroes identify which of the three powers are used in each case. Here, you can give it a try (more than one answer allowed):

  • Clean up trash at the beach or park (Time)
  • Make a cool art project out of clean recyclables, to give to your grandma (Time, Talent, Treasure)
  • Sing in a concert for people in the hospital (Time, Talent)
  • Invite someone who looks lonely at the playground to play tag (Time)

It doesn’t take long for the kids to realize that Time and Talent are every bit, or even more, important as Treasure. Or, that giving someone attention or expressing “love is a treasure” as one of our young heroes summarized.

After everyone understands what the three Super Powers are, we set out on a Time-Talent-Treasure Hunt to discover ways to use these powers in our neighborhood.  You can replicate this activity in your own neighborhood.  Here’s how we did it:

Each hero was given a map of the neighborhood and clues to four locations. Upon arriving at each location, we discussed as a group how we could use Time, Talent and/or Treasure to help others given the site. As usual, the children came up with things we hadn’t even thought of. Check out some of their Super ideas:

Location: Post Office. Super Hero Ideas:

  • mail a letter to your grandma or grandpa or a get well card to someone who is sick
  • buy stamps for someone who is not able to get to the post office
  • send thank you cards to people
  • bring flowers for the post office workers (can you imagine how happy they’d be??)

Location: Preschool/Daycare. Super Hero Ideas:

  • donate books or toys we’ve outgrown
  • make a bookshelf to donate
  • make toys to give to the kids
  • be reading buddies for them or read to them

Location: Garden. Super Hero Ideas:

  • plant flowers
  • grow vegetables
  • give someone flowers (if it is OK to take some)

 Location: Grocery Store.  Super Hero Ideas:

  • buy food to donate to charity
  • buy ingredients to make lemonade and cookies and have a lemonade stand to raise money to donate
  • do shopping for someone who is sick or unable to get to the store

 Our Time-Talent-Treasure Hunt proved there are plenty of opportunities for us to be Super Heroes all around us.  It doesn’t have to be big and complicated. Our young Heroes received a star on their maps for each location visited. Back in our classroom, they turned in their completed maps for a little goody bag. Treasure well deserved!

October 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

Back to School AGAIN (as a mentor)

For high school students, back to school is a wild time of year, filled with hope and expectations and anxiety about what the year will bring.  My husband Greg and I are feeling these feelings now. We are halfway through a 4-year committment to mentor a teenage girl (now young woman?!).  So “we” are entering our junior year — such a critical time — hoping the progress made so far sticks, and that our mentee “K” has a breakthrough year.  K shines in personality and intelligence; it is our job to help her focus on developing her academics and knowledge of the career landscape so she graduates on time and faces an exciting future of choices.

Before being introduced to Student-Sponsor Partners (SSP)and “K,” neither of us had mentored outside the workplace. We were wary about over committing ourselves and probably a little scared of teenagers. I mean we are old (at least to a teenager). We don’t work in hip industries. And we knew we likely wouldn’t share our mentee’s cultural background. But our outrage over the poor performance of NY City High School, our strong belief in the importance of education and SSP’s fantastic track record energized us to take the leap.   

Big Brothers Big Sistersmay be the best known national youth mentoring program.  At the same time, there are many mentoring programs targeted to specific aims which may be more appealing to you, especially if you are considering mentoring for the first time.  SSP and iMentor are both focused on helping at-risk students graduate and go onto college and productive careers. It is all about providing a wider sense of the world and the options education can afford.  iMentor heavily utilizes technology such as email to complement face-to-face interaction, to better meet the needs of busy professional mentors.  According to the org: “Of iMentor mentors, 70% have never mentored before, 52% do not participate in any other volunteer opportunity outside of iMentor, and 97% work in professional fields.”   

If the organizations in this post don’t make sense for you, try a simple google search for “Youth mentoring [insert your city or state here]” — you’ll likely find organizations for mentoring youth of different ages, specifically for school or  for career exposure or even for areas such as the arts.

Spending time with K and her friends has shown us just how limited many children’s experiences are, even when they live in a city filled with learning opportunities — and how directly and severely that experience impacts academic performance regardless of IQ.  It has also proven to us that this limited — or in some cases just different — frame of reference does not mean the child’s parents don’t care or aren’t involved. And it has shown us that if we have any hope of connecting with our own 7- and 3-year-olds when they are teenagers, we better keep mentoring; it is just too easy to forget what it’s really like to be one of those amazing and mysterious high schoolers. So, here’s hoping 2009-10 is our best junior year ever!

September 16, 2009 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

9:58 this morning: Bloomin’ Earth. Tomorrow: Celebrate.

Central Park 9:58am Apr 24

Central Park 9:58am Apr 24

 I snapped this photo while running around the reservoir in Central Park today. As T.S. Eliot wrote,”April is the cruelest month.”  Any sunny day we’ve had has been followed by five gloomy ones. You expectantly pack away winter gear, and then Mother Nature just rains and rains on your parade.

Until now. At least for now. Perfectly timed with Earth Day, our lovely planet (or at least our small patch of it) seems to have burst out into the sunshine if full floral regalia.  So, celebrate with her.

Check out your local listings for special Earth Day events (or search by location here). If you are in NYC, check out the list at the end of this blog.

Another great way to celebrate Earth Day this week — and every week — is to shop at your local farmers’ market. You already know shoppinglocal food growers and is eco-friendly AND yummy, but consider this: today in the US, we consumer less than 1% of the vegetable varieties than we did a century ago.  This fact courtesy of my current read: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It turns out that consuming local varieties of food is good for biodiversity, your health and happily, your tastebuds. 

As I write this, my husband and daughter are shopping the Friday farmers’ market at W. 97th and Columbus.  If you don’t know where to go, it’s easy to look up location and days/hours of a market near you at the NY State Farmers’ Markets site or, for national links,  Happy Earth Day Eats and please share some seasonal recipes!

And, now for some select Earth Day Happenings in NYC: 

Earth Day in Central Park

DATE: April 26, 2009 from 12 – 4 pm

LOCATION: At the Bandshell just south of the 72nd St. transverse,


WHAT:  Live entertainment, including a puppet show, singing and African dancing; mini-landscape planting and container decorating, tree climbing, flower planting, wildlife corridor games and composting demos.  Greenmarket vendors.


Earth Expo at the Bronx Zoo

DATE: April 25 – 26, 2009 from 11am – 4pm


WHAT: Various activities and events including a “Recycled Animal Kingdom,”  (one-of-a-kind animal sculptures created entirely from found objects), arts and crafts including making a souvenir out of recycled materials and helping with an Earth Day mural, yoga sessions for the whole family, and a Human Footprint Exhibit showing our impact on the planet.  The Expo will showcase organizations and products which can help you and your family live “greener”. See website ( for specific times and locations within the zoo.


Earth Fair 2009

DATE: April 24- 25, 2009

LOCATION: Grand Central Station

                        Inside at Vanderbilt Hall

                        Outside at Vanderbilt Ave. at 42nd Street

WHAT:  A variety of events and activities celebrating Earth Day, including live bands, kids activities, face painting, yoga, & environmental action opportunities.

April 24, 2009 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

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