Colors Unit for Preschoolers

Colors are all around us and offer so many delicious ideas for exploration, adventure and learning.

Today’s unit is perfect for preschoolers and children a little younger and older with a few simplifications or additions.

Let’s dive in!

Color Unit Ideas for Preschool

Our units often start with a book and a field trip – here are two ideas for field trips to get the wheels spinning about possibilities.

2 Color Field Trip Ideas

A field trip is always a great way to bring a topic to life – to draw connections between what you’re learning at home or in the classroom.

These two field trip ideas are ways to draw attention to the colors all around us.

Car Colors Walk

1. Color car hunt

This is a fun idea to do any time of the year with kids who are excited about or learning about transportation.

Before the Field Trip

Prepare color swatches (paint chips work great!) or color cards for each kid to reference on the walk.

Read a book about colors or talk about different color names and then introduce the idea of hunting for colored cars. Show them the color swatches or color cards they will be using during the field trip.

During the Field Trip

Head outside with our color cards in hand and a plan to look for cars. My toddlers each picked a color to look for first.

From there we alternated between looking for that color and labeling the color of cars we saw. For the most part, we searched for the color Red.

We also talked about shades. Our color cards have different shades for many of the colors which gave us the opportunity to discuss shades of colors.

after the field trip
  • Tie your colors into play back at home in the classroom. Add your color swatches to your block area in a basket next to a collection of toy cars. Don’t force the idea of matching, but have them available and support your kids if they are interested in using them with the toy cars.

Flower Color Hunt

2. Flower colors walk

Spring is the perfect time for a Flower themed color hunt around the neighborhood to further deepen the early interest in flowers.

Before the Field Trip

Introduce the idea before you go.

We read Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert and then went back through the book reviewing the different colors we saw. As we identified each color, I drew a corresponding circle of the color on a piece of paper for each of them.

You could also bring your DIY Color Swatches along in place of making a list.

During the Field Trip

*Papers in hand, we headed out into the neighborhood to see what we could spot.

*Consider taking a photo of each flower you find or inviting your child to take a photo.

after the field trip
  • Print photos of the flowers and arrange an invitation to draw at the table.
  • Talk about planting your own plants or flowers.
  • Sort your flowers by color

Color Unit Field Trips and Activity Ideas for Toddlers and Preschool

Color Activity Ideas

Learning colors is a learning goal for preschoolers. Field trips like the ones described below and activities like the ones below are some fun ways to explore color.

One of our favorites was color week. It was a week of color and fun that got my preschoolers excited about color and led to other explorations afterwards.

Color Week Resources

Rainbow Colors Week Ideas for Preschool

More Color Themed Activities

Literacy Activities

  • Rainbow Journal Start a Rainbow journal and use for the entire Color Week or throughout the year.To make ours I simply stapled together several pieces of paper that were folded in half. On the front, each of my kids wrote “Rainbow Book” following the example I wrote out for them on a piece of paper.Next, they turned to the first page and wrote RED. Then they used a collection of Red art materials to draw on the other page whatever they wanted.The following day we provided Orange materials and so on.
    (Literacy)
  • Read Books about Colors Here are my favorite picture books for each color of the rainbow.

Art Activities

  • Collaborative Rainbow This art project will last you the entire Preschool Color Week or over the course of a few days. Start by drawing a rainbow outline on a large piece of paper. Hang this on a wall in your art area or classroom.Each day present art materials for that day’s color of the day. Monday, we added Red Gummed Art Tape to the first stripe.
    (Creativity + Social Skills)

STEM Activities

  • Play PRESS HERE: The Game. This is such a fun game for exploring the way colors and patterns work together. It is great for building color awareness and reasoning skills, as well as imagination.

More ideas!

5 Reasons to Head to the New York Hall of Science

My kids squeal when we get out of the car. The New York Hall of Science is one of their favorite places to spend a morning.

I know what’s you’re thinking – You take them all. the. way. to Queens? It is SO far away. Is it really worth the drive?

Before moving to New York City I completely underestimated the largeness of the city. Obviously I knew there were tall buildings and lots to do, but it’s a tiny little island right?

There is some truth to that. The whole city is only 305 square miles. That is tiny really. London, for a little comparison, is almost twice as big at 606 square miles.

That being said, with the intense traffic and population congestion (over 27,000 people per sq mile), it takes far longer to get across a few miles than anywhere else I’ve been. A fact I am still adjusting too.

However, I’m wandering off the point. It might take you a while to get there, but the NY Hall of Science is worth the drive and here’s why…

5 Reasons to Head out to Queens Today

There are so many things to love about the New York Hall of Science, but there are some things that stand out. The things that my kids adore time and time again. The things you should make sure not to miss when you go. And the things that make the drive out there entirely worth the trip.

1. Connected World exhibit

This is by far the coolest use of technology I have ever seen for kids. This interactive exhibit allows you to interact with huge projections of environments.

2. Hands on Explorations

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a huge vatt of bubbles in my kitchen. Many experiments are too messy, big, or expensive to reproduce at home, but at the Hall of Science your kids can dig their hands into some really big projects. This huge bubble area was a favorite the last time we visited. There are a huge variety of STEM related projects to try throughout the museum.

3. Dedicated Space for Littles

There is a five and under space for the littlest scientists. It is just as full of hands on things to maniuplate, create, and build with and my kids are clinging onto every month they can still visit this area.

4. Gross Motor Activities

The museum definitely engages the mind, but it also encourages you to move. We love this exhibit Sports Challenge exhibit right now. In the summer they also have an awesome outdoor exploration space and mini-golf. You can see the full list of exhibits here.

5. Special Exhibits

There is always something new and always something going on at the NY Hall of Science. Right now through the holidays you can see these amazing gingerbread house on Gingerbread Lane, but there are constantly new things popping up. We got every month or so and there is always something new to explore. You can find them all on their events page.

Overall, if you have a kid who loves to explore and ask questions (that’s all of them right?!) they will have a blast at the New York Hall of Science.

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A Visit to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Driving up you can tell right away that the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is an unusual place.

The building itself is fascinating. The outside is a tiled brilliant yellow construction that reaches to the sky. Inside is an oddly laid out but fun collection of exhibits. My favorite parts were the large windows that allow sunshine to flow into the play spaces. A rarity with Children’s Museums.

After you enter, your kids will likely notice this rainbow ramp leading downstairs. My kids were eager to race through it.

At the bottom there is a community play area where you can make pizza and more. It celebrates the diversity of Brooklyn, one of my favorite things about our city.

This portion mirrors much of Sunset Park, the Chinatown of Brooklyn. My kids were delighted by the familiar sights.

The under 5 space is long and stuffed with interesting sensory intrigues and play ideas. This music wall was her favorite part.

The water area was his favorite part of the under 5 space. If you have an under 5, make sure to spend some time here. We will definitely go back at least once more before my 5s outgrow this area.

On the second floor there is a building area. My kids could have spent the entire day here.

There were blocks in big, medium and small sizes. They also had these unique wall blocks that you build up and out from the wall. These had a dreamy, imaginative feel to them.

The visiting exhibit upstairs about architecture and building was also fascinating.

Overall, I was hugely impressed by the beauty and diversity of experiences included in the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. I highly recommend a trip. We will be back soon.

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9 Hours in Lower Manhattan with Kids

How would you spend just one day with kids in New York City?

This is nearly an impossible question to answer, but I find myself being asked it quite regularly since we moved to New York City. I have thoughts on the subject of course, but let me say this first, there is no one right answer.

It is hard to explain just how much there is to do here until you really spend some time here.

There are always things going on.

There are millions of places to eat and many of them are fantastic.

There are museums, playgrounds, zoos. theater, landmarks, and history.

And for each of those categories there are dozens of excellent options. Well, except the zoos. There are only 5 of those…not dozens.

But when our lovely friends and family ask me for suggestions, my first question is usually – have you been here before? 

Because if not, there are some essential New York experiences. Central Park is at the top of that list for me.

I wrote this list of New York must-dos with those first timers in mind.

However, if you have been to New York before and you only have one day, then Lower Manhattan is usually what I suggest.

We have done some version of this itinerary a few times now with at least 3 different groups of people and I think it’s a fun mixture of things for a short amount of time.

Let me answer a few questions before we get started:

Why 9 Hours? That’s about as long as my kids last before they fall asleep standing up.

Who is this for? Really anyone, but we’ve tested it with kids ages 3-10. We’ve done it with just adults and our kids, with a family, and with one other adult and their kid.

Why Lower Manhattan? I’m about to explain…

9 Hours in Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan is (probably obviously) the lowest part of Manhattan. Manhattan is one of the 5 boroughs that make up New York City, but what most people think of when they think of New York. Central Park, Rockfeller Center, Times Square, Broadway, etc are all in Manhattan.

Some day I will share a day in Brooklyn (start here for sure) because it is infinitely worth exploring, but for now – Manhattan.

Lower Manhattan is also known as Downtown Manhattan. I tried really hard to figure out which one was the correct term, but they seemed to be used interchangably. One map I saw drew Downtown Manhattan bigger and Lower Manhattan was the lowest neighborhood included. Wikipedia seems to think it’s Lower Manhattan and I went with that purely so it would be easier for you to search for additional information.

So, you’re headed to Lower Manhattan – but why? What is there to do there? Here’s where the fun starts.

10 am : SeaGlass Carousel

Grab a bagel on your way and start your day at the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park. You can find more details in this post.

10:30 am : Staten Island Ferry

The SeaGlass Carousel is across the street from the Staten Island Ferry. Head over and up the stairs where you can ride the ferry for free.

Why ride a ferry? Well for one because kids are amused by riding transportation they don’t normally get to ride. The other reason (the more adult one) is that you get an awesome view of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Depending on the time of year, there are a couple things to consider.

1. Dress for the weather. We have done this in November and December and it can get a little windy and cold. My kids having spent the last 2 years in Mississippi are a touch dramatic about cold, but you will want to have hats and warm coats. The ferry DOES have an indoor part with big windows though, so standing outside is optional.

2. While we did this early on in the day, you can also reverse this itinerary and do these first two things last. The view of the city and the Statue of Liberty at sunset is breathtaking. Again consider the weather though, because on colder days it will be chillier with the sun going down.

When you get to Staten Island, assuming you don’t want to stay, you get off the ferry and hop back on the next boat to Lower Manhattan.

Round Trip this takes about an hour. I recommend packing a snack for the ferry.

11:30 am : Fulton Street Station

Grand Central Station is absolutely cool and the history of it makes it even cooler, but the Fulton Street Station is my favorite in the city.

This station is new to the city. It was still largely under construction when we moved here in May of 2016.

It is now part subway station, part PATH station, and part mall. It has an extensive underground tunnel system that connect to many of the nearby buildings.

If you didn’t take the train into this station to get to Lower Manhattan then make sure to walk through on the way to your next stops. From the Staten Island Ferry you can walk a couple of blocks, hop on the train a couple stops and be at the Fulton Street Station.

If you’re hungry this also has some lunch options or there is an Au Bon Pain between the Staten Island Ferry and the Fulton Street Station among a zillion other choices.

12:00 pm : One World Trade Center

Currently the tallest building in the USA, this is an impressive structure. It towers over the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

You can gawk up at the building and visit the two memorials for free. If you want to visit the 9/11 Museum or go up in the One World Trade Center (which is a cool experience) then I recommend eating first and buying tickets ahead of time online.

12:45pm . Brookfield Place

On the surface Brookfield Place is just an upscale mall. What sets it apart however is the awesome art installations and events that it has throughout the year.

This summer the Musical Swings hung out in the terrace, there were birds flying inside at one point, and right now there is a host of events including the beautiful luminaries.

When we walked through the first weekend in December we stumbled onto a free one hour performance of the Nutcracker ballet and an ice skating rink outside.

Make sure to check out their events page before you go.

Also, if you still haven’t gotten around to eating lunch or need a snack there is a cafeteria style option downstairs and a food court (with a Starbucks) upstairs.

There are also clean restrooms on the first floor near the escalators. Friendly staff will point you in the right direction.

2:00pm . Playground Time

One of our favorite reasons to visit this area is for the playgrounds. There are fantastic ones all over the city, but these are 2 of our favorites.

Nelson A Rockefeller Playground

This is the bigger of the two and good for all ages. It sits right along the waterfront just a little ways up from Brookfield Place.

It is large, has a variety of climbing and play equipment, and ample seating for adults.

Tear Drop Playground

This is a tiny playground nestled in between a couple of skyscrapers. (Pictured below)

It has a sand area, a slide (that my kids think is fanastic) and an awesome water area in the summer.

This playground is best for 3 and up.

There is a public bathroom to the north east of this playground, also about a block from the other playground as well. It is in the bottom of an apartment building but accessible from the northwest corner to the public. If I have learned one thing about life in New York with kids it is to know where the bathrooms are and take advantage when you’re near one.

4:00pm . Walk & Eat

Somewhere in the 4 or 4:30 neighborhood we start wandering for dinner. If your kids aren’t used to eating until later, obviously adjust this time table. If you visited either World Trade Center attraction or stopped for an event at Brookfield Place then after an hour or 2 at the playground it is already later than this.

For dinner, you have a huge variety of options.

There are a few more casual options, like Shake Shack, a couple blocks from the playground.

If you’re up for a little bit more of a walk, then I recommend heading over to Stone Street.

On our latest Lower Manhattan adventure, my friend brought paper and crayons for the kids to color with during dinner. They each drew a picture about their day and it was so fun to see what they remembered and enjoyed most. No surprise, the ferry ride is still topping the charts.

7:00 pm . Taxi or Subway your tired kiddos home.

It takes a while for anyone to get a used to the amount of walking New Yorkers do on an average day. I personally love that about the city, but it can be exhausting – especially to little legs. After 9 hours in Lower Manhattan you will have all earned a great night’s sleep.

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5 New York City Christmas Events for Families with Little Kids

The season of the towering tree aglow with lights, the merry Santa that rolling into town on Thanksgiving, and the streets bustling with shoppers is upon us. Every year the magic of a New York City Christmas is brought to life in countless movies, books, and shows. It is a magical time to see any spot but New York is one of those special cities that everyone should see at least once.

Like most parts of the world, this is the season for joy and lights and twinkle on every corner and New York City is no exception.

We have been lucky enough to spend two holiday season in New York City for the holidays and the biggest problem is always narrowing down what to do.

If you are visiting for the first time then there are some things families must do in New York City but below are my holiday musts. You will probably notice that things like the Nutcracker (of which there are dozens of performances), the Rockettes, and several other traditional New York holiday spectaculars are not on the list.

This list is intended for families of children with young kids. These are things that I have personally done with 3 year olds and would work for most 2 and up kids.

5 New York City Christmas Events for Families with Young Kids

1. Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

The tree is impressive to anyone, but especially for a small child. It’s grand scale towers above the center and everyone below. All of the decorations around this part of Manhattan are fun and exciting to explore for little ones. Take some time to see it through their eyes.

You can certainly watch the tree lighting on November 30 but be prepared for huge crowds. If you are visiting with young kids and want to see it lit up, note that it is lit every night after November 30 until January 7.

Find Details Here

2. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

While yes, not exactly Christmas – in my house growing up Santa arriving at Herald Square is what kicked off the Christmas season. It is the starting point.

If you are in New York City around this time of year with young children, it is not to be missed. We got super lucky and ended up with warm-ish weather and a beautiful sunny sky for our day at the parade. The Macy’s Parade is something worth seeing in person at least once.

Our Top Tips for Going with Kids

 

3. New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show

This is not just an holiday train display. The details were astounding. The grand scale of the show was amazing. My kids soaked up the details and were not ready to leave when it was over.

Read Our Tips for Visiting

4. Enjoy Some Holiday Shopping

We did a little holiday shopping during our trip and there really is no better place than New York for Christmas shopping.

Two of my favorite spots were the Union Square Holiday Market and the Strand Bookstore during our trip. The Union Square Holiday Market is this darling outdoor market that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a European Holiday Marketplace. It is filled with little shops holding all sorts of treasures. There is also a crafting spot for kids hosted by the Children’s Museum of Arts.

The Strand is just an amazing bookstore. The walls are lined with bookshelves and the second floor has a wonderful corner overflowing with picture book delights.

5. Macy’s

You can do a number of Christmas activities at Macy’s. With floor after floor of shopping, checking things off your Christmas list is definitely possible. You can also visit a magical elven land and see Santa. My recommendation is to make sure you take a little time to view the holiday window display.

The year we visited, 2015, Charlie Brown’s Christmas has come to life in the windows. Little episodes from the movie are re-created with moving puppets, text, and sound. It is truly a wonderful representation of one of my favorite Christmas movies. Around the corner you can also walk your way from window to window viewing the story of Letters from Virginia, another wonderful story.

Christmas in New York City is bustling and crowded, but it is also filled with delights. It places simple and magical touches on the holiday that are perfect for children young and old.

A Weekend in Spartanburg + Greenville SC with Kids

A Weekend in Spartanburg and Greenville South Carolina with Kids

Our latest weekend family trip took us to Spartanburg, South Carolina. Spartanburg is a town in northwestern South Carolina about an hour from Charlotte and about a half hour from Greenville.

My sister and her husband moved there this summer so our family flew down for a visit this Thanksgiving.

read also: thanksgiving field trip + activity ideas

A Weekend in Spartanburg and Greenville South Carolina with Kids

The first thing we all noticed were the beautiful leaves. Winter is creeping into New York City and our pretty Fall colors have been falling away, but South Carolina was still alive with bright yellows and oranges and reds.

Read also: Fall unit for Kindergarten and first grade

It was pretty clear that this was going to be a gorgeous place to explore.

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A Weekend in Spartanburg and Greenville South Carolina with Kids

A Weekend in Spartanburg + Greenville SC

 

Fall is definitely a gorgeous time to visit South Carolina, but I look forward to coming back in warmer months as well. I think everything we did would be at least equally enjoyable in the Spring or Summer.

EAT.

The Chocolate Moose Bakery and Cafe. Greenville SC

This was in Greenville, walking distance from the Falls Park on the Reedy I’ll share more about below. This was an exciting stop for us because they had a dairy free and gluten free cupcake option on their menu!

Other Spartanburg Restaurants:

  • Lime Leaf – delicious Thai food restaurant. I loved the curry.
  • Wild Ace Pizza and Pub – yummy pizza. We didn’t get to try this one, but my sister recommended it.
  • Jason’s Deli – tons of sandwich, soup and salad options. Also everyone gets free soft serve ice cream (that part was obviously not dairy free friendly). There is also a McAlister’s Deli nearby with similar options.

TO DO.

We spent a lot of time outside during our weekend. If you’re looking for big events or more inside ideas for Greenville and even Spartanburg I’d recommend checking out Kidding Around Greenville.

Cleveland Park and Playground. Spartanburg SC.

This park was SO pretty. The Fall colors were insane. The layout was so inviting and walkable and the playground was fantastic.

The playground had a space for tots and a space for bigger kids. There was a structure, climbing wall, swings, tons of different things to climb…I could go on and on. Our kids loved it.

The next day we drove the short 35ish minutes from Spartanburg to Greenville.

Falls Park on the Reedy. Greenville SC

We loved this park. This was probably the highlight of our whole weekend.

It is Such a pretty place to walk and wander – especially in the Fall with all the pretty leaves, but I imagine it is just as lovely in the Spring and Summer whenever thing is green and blooming.

Our kids loved walking across the bridges…

Isn’t that gorgeous? I took a million pictures.

and climbing out on the rocks – which is technically not encouraged but everyone was doing it.

Afterwards we wandered around Greenville a little bit.

There are lots of cute little shops and restaurants. We were there on Black Friday so it was also decorated for Christmas and had a little rink for ice skating set up a few blocks from the park.

Greenville SC

Bookshop at the Chocolate Moose & Cafe. Greenville SC.

I mentioned the yummy cupcakes above, but the cafe is set inside a cozy bookshop with lots of fun book to browse and gift. Our kids immediately holed up in the kids area after they finished their cupcakes.

This was a nice break from walking around outside. The grown ups could chat and browse and the kids could look through the tons of picture books.

Overall, we loved the Spartanburg – Greenville area. It was a super quick weekend, but we can’t wait to come back again and discover more.  

A Weekend in Spartanburg and Greenville South Carolina with Kids

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What to do at the Brooklyn Bridge Park with Kids

Why go to Brooklyn? Manhattan gleams with it’s famous skyscrapers, oasis like Central Park, it’s bustling Times Square and it’s one of a kind shops and theater…so why go to Brooklyn?

Truthfully, before we moved here in May of 2016 I hadn’t spent much time across the bridges. Don’t get me wrong, Manhattan is awesome but hop one borough away and you might be amazed at all there is to offer.

Where to start? Brooklyn Bridge Park. 

Walk, drive or train across into Brooklyn and the first thing you will meet is Brooklyn Bridge Park. It runs 85 acres along the East River waterfront from Atlantic Avenue, past the Brooklyn Bridge, all the way to the Manhattan Bridge.

The unique park is divided into Piers 1 through 6. Each is part of the waterfront revitalization and includes a variety of playgrounds, diverse topographies, landscaping, art pieces and more. There is truly something for everyone in one of these nooks.

If you follow us on Instagram, you saw our playground pit stop early in our Brooklyn adventure with the gorgeous Manhattan skyline in the background. We have since explored Brooklyn Bridge Park several more times with our twins and we have some don’t miss spots for this fun Brooklyn spot.

The park website has a pretty good map, but let me give you a little tour…

What to do at Brooklyn Bridge Park with Kids

Main Street

Sitting North of Pier 1 and directly under the Manhattan Bridge is this fantastic nautical themed playground. Our kids have a fantastic time running around here. The Education Center also has wonderful programming for preschoolers.

The downside: you hear every single train that rumbles across the bridge and they are not quiet.

The upside: There is a bathroom in the Education Center next to the playground, the play structure is tons of fun, and if you wander inland a couple of blocks there are yummy things to eat and a cute bookstore to explore.

Empire Fulton’s Ferry

Head South from the Manhattan Bridge and you will wander into this little section. The highlight? Incredible views of Manhattan and Jane’s Carousel. I was amazed at how reasonably priced a ride on the carousel is per person and with the glass windows you really can’t beat the view. Just down the street you will also find two of the best pizza joints in all of New York City.

Pier 1

Strutting just a few yards South from the snacks and excitement of Empire Fulton’s Ferry, is Pier 1. If you’re visiting with toddlers this is the spot for you. This playground is best for the 3 and under crowd.

Pier 2

Head further South and you’ll be sure you wandered into an outdoor gym. Covered, but open air sections offer basketball courts, bocce ball courts, shuffleboard courts, a roller rink and more. These are all available for walk up use and come complete with lockers, water fountains, and restrooms.

In the Summer, Pier 2 also offers free kayaking programs and a pop-up pool. It’s all kind of too awesome for words.

Pier 3 + 4

While these piers offer some pretty places to explore and great views across the harbor, if you’re walking with kids they will likely be less impressed by these sections. Keep heading South to Pier 5.

Pier 5

Here you can find some fun field events on the waterside soccer fields, but the highlight for kids are the two playgrounds. There are two – one for younger children that is perfect for toddlers and babies on the move and another climbing structure for older kids. Neither is as expansive as the playgrounds at Main Street, Pier 1 or Pier 6 but they are enjoyable and offer some spectacular views.

Pier 6

At the Southern-most end of Brooklyn Bridge Park is Pier 6. In some ways it is tucked away, so much so that we missed it the first time we visited. It is worth searching for however, because this little nook has one of the most fantastic playgrounds I have ever seen. For Southerners, this reminds me most of the amazing Shelby Farms Park playground in Memphis TN.

Whatever your child’s preference – sand, water, slides, swings, or exploring – one of these five playground nooks will hit the spot. Get here early to avoid the crowds because these playgrounds are worth the hype.

Note: The sand area is reserved for the 5 and under crowd and the water lab is turned on only in the Summer. Also, the Governor’s Island Ferry runs from this Pier.

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New York Botanical Gardens with Kids + The Holiday Train Show

The New York Botanical Gardens are, in a word, incredible. We were only able to briefly scratch the surface of all they have to offer, but it is a place I would love to explore further.

The Botanical Gardens are described as an oasis in the busy city and that is most definitely what it is. This National Historic Landmark is 250 acres and has a wide range of diverse flora. The Botanical Gardens also engage with the community as an educational institute, partnering with public schools, and operating a large research and conservation program.

I think it is easy to think of botanical gardens as something for adults, but they are wonderful places to explore with children.

We visited in November of 2015 and spent the majority of our time in the Holiday Train Show and the Children’s Adventure Garden – two particularly child friendly spots. Given more time I would happily explore further or make frequent return trips.

Getting There

The Metro-North Harlem local line from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan drops you off across the street from the Botanical Gardens. The train took about 20 minutes and was a super easy way to get to and from the Botanical Gardens. If you live or are staying a little closer to the Bronx, the subway might be a better option for you. There is more information on their website or through the MTA.

Put on Your Walking Shoes

Remember when I mentioned about that the New York Botanical Gardens are 250 acres?

My biggest tip is: be prepared to walk.

It is a lovely walk. The well maintained trails and paths, the beautiful landscaping, and the stops along the way insure the pleasant nature of your walk, but it is a lot to walk.

If you are visiting with younger children, I highly recommend bringing a stroller or carrier. Our four year olds were old enough to walk to the train show, to the adventure garden, and back to the train stop but they slept really really well that night.

The Train Show

The Holiday Train Show was the main reason for our visit to the Botanical Gardens and was well worth the trip. If you are in the New York City area during the holidays I highly recommend a visit if you are at all interested in trains, architecture, or nature.

Our kids are HUGE train fans. We have played endlessly with trains at home and they have learned a lot through their play. Given their seemingly limitless enthusiasm for trains, finding train shows and train rides is natural for us.

The train show at the Botanical Gardens was extra exciting because not only was it filled with amazing trains and tracks, but we also rode a train to and from Grand Central Station to get there!

read also: 25+ Ways to Play With Trains

We have been to other lovely Holiday Train Shows, but from the moment you step into the New York Botanical Gardens train show it is obvious that this is on a whole different level. The entire conservatory is filled with room after room of incredible landmarks, all recreated with natural materials, and G-scale trains zooming across tracks. It is dazzling.

We spent over an hour exploring and there were still details and corners I am sure we missed.

It should be noted that it was busy, but not overwhelming. I imagine Saturday mornings are more crowded, although they do limit the number of people allowed in the space at a time.

The train show is in the conservatory so it gets warm. Be prepared to shed some layers if it is cold outside.

 

*NOTE: Advanced Reservations are strongly recommended. You can buy tickets on their website.

The Children’s Adventure Garden

From the moment you spy the rainbow colored streamers welcoming you into the Adventure Garden it is clear that this is a spot for kids. I was hugely impressed by this natural playspace and its carefully laid out corners. The space was thoughtfully planned and is engaging in the most natural way. It immediately inspired our twins to come play and they were not ready to leave when it was lunch time. If you live nearby (I am jealous) and I highly recommend buying a membership so you can frequent this delightful little corner of the world.

Overall, we all loved the New York Botanical Gardens. It is certainly worth a trip if you are visiting or a membership if you live nearby. What an incredible resource for education and beauty hidden in the busy city.

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Grand Central Station in NYC with Kids

If you are visiting New York City with kids, Grand Central Station is a fun stop. Our kids have been train enthusiasts for several years so we made a point of stopping at Grand Central Terminal during our family trip to New York City. It is a busy, bustling place and completely impressive.

Grand Central Depot opened in 1871. The original 1871 building was Grand Central Depot. It became Grand Central Station after renovation and expansion in 1901.

Then in 1913 a new building was unveiled, the current building, as the Grand Central Terminal.

This might explain why you find it called all three of these titles in different places. In case you were curious, technically it is currently Grand Central Terminal.

Getting There

Grand Central Terminal is accessible by subway, bus, train, and airport shuttle. We took the subway in and then caught a train out to the New York Botanical Gardens.

Things to Do

*Climb the steps in the main terminal to get a better view.

*Head downstairs to some of the shops. This train store was our favorite.

*Grab a bit to eat at one of the many dining spots.

More Tips

*Grand Central is open from 5:30a-2:00a.

*There are elevators and ramps making a stroller possible, but I recommend carrying your infant or toddler in a baby carrier if at all possible. As with all public transportation, strollers will definitely slow you down.

Learning Thru Adventure: 5 Minutes with a Tow Truck

5 Minutes with a Tow Truck

“Mom can we get out and watch the tow truck closer?”

I hesitate. We only have 5 minutes to get down the block to my daughter’s dance class. That sounds like a long time but my kids are notorious for making walking a few blocks take hours and I don’t like being late.

I look down at their pleading faces and shrug. “For a minute” I say.

They hop out of the car and race to the edge of the sidewalk with a “wahoo!”

The man operating the tow truck looks over with a smile. I assume he’s just thinking they’re cute with their ceaseless exuberance but then he surprises me.

“Do you want to come help?”

They glance up at me for a nod and then hop, skip and gleefully jump over to him.

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He lets them take turns with the different levers that move the ramp up, down, in and out. They move a car up and back onto the tow truck.

The whole thing takes less than 5 minutes but they skip all the way to dance waving to the tow truck and shouting “that was the coolest thing ever!”

5 minutes to make their day.

5 minutes to make a couple of kids feel seen and important.

5 minutes to teach them something I doubt they will ever forget.

5 minutes of kindness from a complete stranger to restore my faith in people in a big, busy, smelly city.

Those 5 minutes and that kind man have stayed with me.

When my kids ask to help me slice vegetables or load the washing machine my instinct too often is to sigh. I know them helping will make my task take longer.

Then I think about those 5 minutes. 

I let them help and then leave with a smile on their face and a little extra knowledge tucked under their belts.

Those 5 minutes add up.

To the kind smiling tow truck man with the Captain America hat, thank you.

Thank you for seeing my kids that afternoon in Brooklyn.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with them.

Thank you for reminding me the value of those little moments.

Thank you for those 5 minutes.

5 Minutes with a Tow Truck Learning Through Adventure

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