Items tagged with 'kids'

It's a Jazzy Christmas! at Massry Center

Massry Picotte recital hallThe annual "It's a Jazzy Christmas!" concert at the Massry Center at Saint Rose is coming up soon -- December 4. It's a fun show, and great for kids. Blurbage:

A Celebration of Vince Guaraldi's Holiday Jazz Music," a "high smileage," family-friendly evening of Guaraldi's signature style of jazz made famous in the "Peanuts" holiday specials. The Peanut Gallery Jazz Band will take concertgoers on an interactive musical journey reminiscent of 1940s radio serials, evoking images and emotions from an innocent childhood and days gone by. Guaraldi's music from the "Peanuts" specials makes this concert perfect for the jazz lover and the entire family, just in time for the holidays with all new elements this year making the show even better!

There's a milk-and-cookies reception after the show.

The show is Friday, December 4 at 6 pm. Tickets are $20 / $10 students / free for kids 5 and under (ticket required). It's a popular show and often sells out.

How Albany can make its case better for why young families should stay

buckingham pond playground dinosaurs

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

In 2009, my husband and I bought our first house. We chose Albany because we loved living in the city as renters, and couldn't imagine living elsewhere. We love the interesting homes, the walkable neighborhoods, the short commute, the parks, and the proximity to our families.

In 2011 our first child was born, and in 2014 we welcomed our youngest. Over the past six years I've come to appreciate how wonderful it is to raise a family in this city -- and how frustrating it can be as well.

As we outgrow our home, we're starting to figure out what's next. Will we stay in Albany? Move elsewhere? These questions have me thinking about the experience of raising a family in our city, whether it makes sense to stay, and how the city could do a better job of reaching out to young families.

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A good place for kids' haircuts

statue with curly hairBecky emails:

Can anyone recommend a good, reasonably priced place for a little boy to get his haircut? I don't want a buzzcut (I get why this is the default for lots of kids - it's easy, but I don't like the look), I want a real, preferably scissor-done cut for my three year old. I've not been impressed by what I've seen of Snip-Its - the cuts or the price. I've been doing his cuts myself since he first needed them, but I'd like him to get a good haircut for once, as mine aren't great. Any suggestions?

(Snip-Its is a chain that specializes in kids haircuts. We admit we had to look that up.)

So, got a suggestion for Becky and her son? Please share! And bonus points for a sentence or two about why're recommending that person or shop.

photo: Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski, cropped (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Living with kids in a Center Square row house

Open House Center Square composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Dave Hopper

As a child growing up in suburbia, I daydreamed about living in the city: walking to museums, living in a bustling neighborhood, sitting on a stoop a la the characters on Sesame Street. It all seemed so exciting and very different from my quiet street.

Gail* and her family have found that raising kids in an urban setting really is fun. The family, including two young children, makes the most of everything their neighborhood has to offer -- and in Albany's Center Square, there's plenty to see and do. They have found a vibrant community and eagerly shared their experience with downtown living.

I spoke with Gail about her reasons for choosing urban living, how it works for her family, and what it's like to raise kids in a 116-year-old row house.

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Checking out Huck Finn's Playland

huck finn's playland composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Last fall, my family visited Hoffman's Playland during its final weekend. The mood was as somber as it gets at an amusement park. The Playland was being sold after over 60 years in business, and at that point there were no known plans for saving any aspect of the park. The land was headed to commercial development, the rides to auction.

Hoffman's Playland was woven into the childhood memories of anyone who grew up in the Capital Region. It was the place to celebrate good report cards and birthdays, the place where we overcame fears, laughed with our families, ate too much cotton candy, grew up. It was a place we hoped our children and grandchildren would know and love. The thought of losing the Playland broke many hearts.

Just as the rides were set to be sold, Huck Finn's Warehouse announced that it would be buying all of the rides and opening a park adjacent to its furniture store in Albany's Warehouse District.

Huck Finn's Playland opened to the public last Thursday. I went by to check it out on Friday (with my 4-year-old Playland fan in tow, of course). We rode the train and the carousel together, she took the boats for a spin and made new friends on the mini ferris wheel. She got a chocolate-vanilla twist soft serve which melted all over her dress. She was a ball of glee.

So, how does Huck Finn's Playland compare to Hoffman's Playland?

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Huck Finn's Playland set to open this week

Huck Finn's Playland posted this clip of the relocated rides in action on its FB page last week.

The new Huck Finn's Playland -- which, as you know, includes the rides moved over from the now-closed Hoffman's Playland -- is set to open this Thursday, June 18 from 5-9 pm, according to its website. (And it sounds like that's weather dependent, too.)

Regular hours -- Monday-Sunday noon-9 pm -- will start Friday, June 19.

Ride tickets are $1.75 / 8 for $12.25 / 25 for $29.95, and they're available online.

The new playland is at 25 Erie Boulevard in Albany, just north the Huck Finn's Warehouse furniture store. (You can see some of the rides from 787.)

Earlier on AOA: What I'll miss about Hoffman's Playland (2013)

New York popular baby names 2014

name tag ariana

Say hello to Arian(n)a, Madelyn, Mila, Nora, Nathaniel, Luca, and Jaxon.

Every year the Social Security Administration publishes a list of the 100 most popular baby names for each state from the previous year. The lists for 2013 were released this week, so we pulled the results for New York State.

And here they are, the 100 most popular female and male baby names, along with which names are rising -- and falling -- compared to 2013.

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Swim lessons for young children?

indoor pool bw flickr Thomas R StegelmannSean emails:

My wife and I would love to get our 2 year old started with swim lessons this summer. We were hoping your readers could help us wade through the pool of options out there and recommend their favorite spots. We live in Albany, but would happily travel elsewhere for a great experience.

We're guessing there are multiple places that offer these sorts of lessons. So we'll be awarding non-redeemable bonus points for suggestions that include a line or two about why you're recommending that place.

Got a suggestion for Sean and his family? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Swim lessons for adults?

photo: Flickr user Thomas R. Stegelmann (cc)

Wedding bells... somewhere else

nyt upshot marriage mapKids who grew up in the Capital Region in the 1980s and 1990s have been somewhat less likely to get married than the national average.

That's one of the bits from the The Upshot's latest sift through the data about how place affect a kid's income mobility. For the Capital Region core, people were less likely to be married at age 26 compared to national average by:

+ Albany County: 6 percentage points less likely
+ Rensselaer County: 4 percentage points less likely
+ Saratoga County: 3 percentage points less likely
+ Schenectady County: 5 percentage points less likely

From the article:

These conclusions -- based on an Upshot analysis of data compiled by a team of Harvard economists studying upward mobility, housing and tax policy -- are not simply observations about correlation. The economists instead believe that they have identified a causal role that geography plays in people's lives. The data, which covers more than five million people who moved as children in the 1980s and 1990s, suggests that children who move from, say, Idaho to Chicago really do become less likely to marry, even if the numbers can't explain exactly why these patterns exist.

David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy write that the patterns appear to be hold form through age 30. Another takeaway:

One of the most striking relationships we found in the data was between political ideology and the marriage effect: The more strongly a county voted Republican in the 2012 election, the more that growing up there generally encourages marriage.

There's a good graph accompanying the article that illustrates that point.

One angle that didn't surface in the article that we're interested to see how it fits in: Is there any pattern involving the relative income of single women and men and the likelihood of people getting married?

Earlier on AOA: If place matters, why?

map clip: New York Times The Upshot

If place matters, why specifically?

Sometimes information raises more questions than it answers.

We were thinking about that today while looking through this impressive New York Times interactive piece about a new study that examines how place affects the income mobility of children. A clip:

The main innovation of the new paper -- part of the Equality of Opportunity Project, involving multiple researchers -- is its focus on children who moved. Doing so allows the economists to ask whether the places themselves actually affect outcomes. The alternative is that, say, Baltimore happens to be home to a large number of children who would struggle no matter where they grew up.
The data suggests otherwise. The easiest way to understand the pattern may be the different effects on siblings, who have so much in common. Younger siblings who moved from a bad area to a better one earned more as adults than their older siblings who were part of the same move. The particular environment of a city really does seem to affect its residents.
The data does not answer the question of whether the factors that distinguish higher-mobility places, like better schools and less economic segregation, are causing the differences -- or are themselves knock-on effects of other, underlying causes. "We still need clarity on that," Mr. Grusky, the Stanford professor, said.

There are a lot of important details beyond that clip, and it's worth reading that article and the accompanying pieces. Here's economist Justin Wolfers arguing that the study "makes the most compelling case to date that good neighborhoods nurture success."

So, we've been poring over the results for the Capital Region and they raise a lot of questions. For example:

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Pass It On Sale spring 2015

Thumbnail image for Pass It On SaleThe biannual Pass It On consignment sale for kids stuff is set to return May 1-3 at the SportsPlex in Clifton Park. Admission is free.

The sale is now in its 13th year and it's very popular. It includes tons of new or "gently used" kids stuff at good prices. Blurbage:

At Pass It On you will find clothing (sizes newborn to juniors) toys, books, videos, baby equipment (strollers, swings, etc.), sports equipment, children's furniture and more! Clothing is inspected to ensure the highest quality and our sales floor is extremely organized for the best shopping experience.

The first day of the sale is open to consignors and first-time parents. (First-time parent registration is already full -- it fills up very quickly. Keep an eye out for it for the fall sale later this summer.) The sale opens to the general public Saturday, May 2 from 8 am-8 pm. Like anything of this sort, the earlier you go, the better the selection. And then Sunday, May 3 is half-price from 8 am-2 pm.

Here's a look at the Pass It On Sale from way back in 2008 when it was at a different venue.

A handful of similar sales have popped up in recent years, and it looks like plans for some of the are up in the air.

Encore Kids
The Encore Kids consignment sale is set to open to the general public May 16-17 at the SportsPlex.

Got Kids? Sale
The Got Kids? Sale, which had been at the Frear Park ice rink in Troy, appears to be in flux -- a fall sale is in the works.

Old is New
The Old is New consignment sale for women's and men's clothing appears to be looking for a new spot.

Good parks for kids?

playgroundSean emails:

In our kid-free days my wife and I liked exploring different bars + restaurants across the region. Now that we have a kid, we like exploring parks! Our kid is just old enough where he can navigate playscapes at the park by himself. Aside from the small rotation of parks we like to hit near our house in Albany, we'd love to branch out and explore some really amazing parks in the region at large. Do you have any favorites or know of any especially fun ones that you can reach within an hour featuring something a 2+ year old can climb on? If so, we'd love to hear about them!

Some of the parks around the region that Lauren highlighted last summer/fall have some fun things for kids to climb around on.

Got a specific suggestion for Sean and his family? Please share!

Good daycare near Schenectady?

kid crawling with blocksLindsay emails:

About 2 years ago, you had a post asking for suggestions for good day cares near Albany. Now, I'm pregnant, and both my husband and I work in Schenectady. If possible, I was hoping that you could ask the readers for any daycare recommendations in the Schenectady area.

That Albany question generated a lot of suggestions, and it was great to see people explain some of the reasons they were recommending the daycares mentioned.

So, got a suggestion for Lindsay and her husband for a daycare in the Schenectady area? Please share!

photo: D Sharon Pruitt (CC BY 2.0)

Sky Zone Trampoline Park

sky zone trampoline park albany wide view

By Lauren Hittinger

For those of us who don't enjoy the cold, it can be really tough to stay active in the winter. And even if you do like getting outside for winter activities, a day in near zero temps can be less than appealing.

So, to avoid the cold and still stay active, I peeled myself off the couch and headed over to Sky Zone last week to check out its indoor trampoline park.

Mostly I wanted to see if it was worth the visit -- and if a 20-something like myself could fit in among all the bouncing kids at a trampoline park...

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Flight Trampoline Park

flight trampoline park albany interior

By Arielle Ewell

For years, I would watch my young son practice flips on his gymnastics studio's trampoline, sitting on the sidelines with the other parents and think to myself, "Gosh, that looks like fun" -- knowing that unless I invested hundreds of dollars into my own backyard trampoline, I'd never experience the fun he was experiencing. I was too big. Too old.

Enter Flight Trampoline Park, which recently opened in Colonie. I don't even know how to describe this place. But I'll try.

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New York popular baby names 2013

name tag charlotte

New York State has many little Sophias, Isabellas, Jacobs, and Michaels -- and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. But which names will soon be popping up more frequently at kids birthday parties?

Every year the Social Security Administration publishes a list of the 100 most popular baby names for each state from the previous year. The lists for 2013 were released this week, so we pulled the results for New York State.

And here they are, the 100 most popular female and male baby names, along with which names are rising -- and falling -- quickly in popularity.

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Where to go for golf lessons?

Thumbnail image for golf club head in grassDeanna asks:

My five year old daughter has recently taken a huge interest in golf. She insists on watching it on TV, chiding the players with vigorous, "Ah, you almost had it buddy," and, "just get the ball in the hole!" Needless to say, she is inquiring about lessons. I'm quite happy with this, and in classic horse-before-the-cart fashion, we bought some kid-sized clubs for her last year in hopes she would express a desire to chase the little white ball. Does anyone have a suggestion for children's golf lessons? Preferably a group lesson in the Albany or Schenectady area? Thanks AOA readers!

Deanna's asking about kids lessons, and if you have a place to suggest, great. But if you know a good place/person for lessons generally, we're interested in hearing about that, too -- because they might also offer kids lessons, or be able to recommend someone good.

So, have a suggestion? Please share!

Plum Dandy Cookies and Milk

plum dandy cookies and milk three cookies

A PB Dark, a Gooey Louie, and Zoo Animal cookies.

By Lauren Hittinger

When I first walked by Plum Dandy Cookies and Milk, with a charming family inside enjoying sweet treats with adorable glassware and fancy straws, I felt like I was staring into a modern-day hipster Norman Rockwell painting. I wanted to stop in right then, but I was on my way to meet friends somewhere else.

I love sweets, so it was only a matter of time before I arranged another chance to stop in. And here's what I discovered when I finally made it inside.

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"Dear City of Albany..."

7-year-old Albany resident pothole letter cropped

We were copied on this letter to the city of Albany from a 7-year-old girl who lives in uptown Albany. Here's the text (with a few copyedits):

Dear City of Albany
A water pipe was leaking so the construction men needed to dig a hole in our street and then they re-paved it but they left a pothole. Why it is a problem I was running on my street and it was really dark and I didn't see the pothole right in front of me so I ran right into it and my knee was bleeding and I can't do gymnastics or soccer because of it. I would like you to re-pave that pothole so that won't happen to me again or my brother or if my new neighbors have kids it won't happen to them. Thank you, Amy [last name]

Wait until this kid starts using that SeeClickFix app. Or shows up during the public comment period at a Common Council meeting.

A full image of the letter is after the jump.

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Prenatal classes?

baby bottleReader emails:

I'm writing in search of prenatal classes - yoga, dance, workout, etc - held in the evening or on the weekend. I'm in downtown Albany, but could travel to other nearby locales. Do your readers have any good ones to recommend?

It sounds Reader's looking for prenatal movement/exercise classes. But we'll expand Reader's question just a bit to also include prenatal classes on topics such as newborn care or breastfeeding.

Got a suggestion? Please share! Non-redeemable bonus points for a sentence or two about why you liked the class you're suggestion.

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A good obstetrician?

photo: Flickr user nerissa's ring (cc)

Emma Edgar's flying pizza box

Emma Edgars flying pizza box.jpg

The Capital Region's first Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday at Emma Willard. So far more than 50 makers are signed up, with all kinds of projects -- from interactive maps and robotics to wearable electronics and bike generators.

Some of the projects are more whimsical, if no less technical or nerdy. One that caught our eye: a flying pizza box created by 10-year-old Emma Edgar.

Yep, she took a pizza box and made it fly.

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What I'll miss about Hoffman's Playland

hoffmans playland dawkins composite

"I enjoy being an adult, but when I take my nephews to Hoffman's, I'm a kid again."

By Tim Dawkins

The owners of Hoffman's Playland, the half-a-century-old children's amusement park in Latham, announced this summer that they're planning to retire and, unless someone steps in to take it over, the park may close after next season. Tim Dawkins is one of many Capital Region residents who grew up with Hoffman's -- he even worked there for five summers.

In the summer of 1989 I was 9 years old, and I was playing baseball as a member of the Cohoes Little League.

It had been a rough season.

Early on I was hit in the head with a baseball at practice, and it ruined me. I was conditioned to jump out of the batter's box. I hadn't gotten a hit all season. I most certainly would have quit, but my dad believes that once you start something, you finish it. Since quitting wasn't an option, I knew I needed motivation.

That's when it hit me: Hoffman's Playland. I absolutely LOVED going to Hoffman's. I didn't know very many kids who didn't love Hoffman's. That was the pot at the end of my rainbow (I was 9, people). I vividly remember announcing this epic idea to my parents: if I got a hit, they had to take me to Hoffman's and give me an entire book of 25 tickets all to myself! My parents were awesome, but also -- I think -- pretty desperate to see me get a hit.

They went for the plan.

Fast forward several weeks. I got my first hit of the season. My only hit of the season. As I safely made it to first base (thanks to an overthrow by the shortstop), I shouted across the field to my mom in the stands, "Hey mom! We're going to Hoffman's!"

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At the fair, competing for a ribbon

cattle in the show ring with their handlers

By Casey Normile

We're right in the middle of county fair season in the Capital Region. For a lot of people, that means rides on the Ferris wheel, games, and food on a stick.

But for some kids the county fair is the culmination of months, even years, of hard work. It's a step toward a future career. It's an opportunity to compete. It's a chance to win a ribbon.

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Thinking differently about what a destination museum in Albany could be

city museum composite

A few scenes from Katie's recent visit to The City Museum in St. Louis.

By Katie Beltramo

Lately, plenty of people have been talking about building an aquarium in Albany. I support any efforts to make the Capital District more fun, informative, and entertaining for families, and I like aquariums and have visited several with my family.

But if we're trying to draw people into our area, I don't think that an aquarium is our best choice. There are some terrific ways to encounter water creatures not terribly far away, including the New England Aquarium in Boston, Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Granted, these aren't close enough to be easy day trips for us locals, but the point is, don't we want to draw visitors from outside the Capital District? Who's going to drive from Boston or Connecticut to see an aquarium in Albany?

Is there anything we can offer that's unique enough to draw visitors from far and wide, while being fun and active enough to build memberships and repeat visits from us locals? My whole family was inspired by such an idea on a recent trip to St. Louis.

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10 Thurlow Terrace

10 Thurlow exterior angle

"The Castle"

Perched on the north edge of Washington Park in Albany, 10 Thurlow Terrace is one of the city's unique properties. The home looks like a castle on the outside, and the interior is filled with beautiful woodwork (there are photos at that link).

And now it's close to finding a new life. The owner of 10 Thurlow and the Castle Island Bilingual Montessori school are working on a deal in which the school would move into the historic home.

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Capital Region high school graduation rates 2012

chalk on chalk board ledgeThe state Department of Education released its annual collection of data about high school graduation rates around the state on Monday. The statewide graduation rate for the 2008 cohort of students was 74 percent, the same as the year before. (That counts kids who finished up by June 2012. The rate was almost 77 percent if students finished by August 2012 are included). And as NYSED notes, this was the first cohort in which the "local diploma" option was not available to general education students, requiring them to graduate with a more rigorous Regents diploma.

We pulled out the stats from Capital Region school districts. As in years past, there continues to be a sobering gap in graduation rates among some school districts and groups of students.

Sorted stats (including notes and qualifications) after the jump.

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Consignment shops for kids clothes?

Pass It On Sale clothesSean emails:

My wife and I just had a baby and would love to dress the kid in all kinds of ridiculous outfits. However, they grow so dang fast that it just doesn't make sense to spend the cash on something new if they're only going to wear it once or twice. Do you or your readers know of any good consignment shops in the area specifically for kids clothing?

This isn't a shop exactly, but it's something Sean and his wife should definitely check out: the big Pass It On consignment sale for kids stuff, which if tradition holds, will be back in August. There are a handful of other similar sales throughout the year (see the comments on that post).

So, got a suggestion for Sean and his wife? Please share!

Capital Region's most popular baby names

baby name tags


Because we were thinking about birthdays this week, we thought it'd be fun to look at Capital Region baby names. (A name is one of the first birth day presents you ever get.)

So we pulled together the numbers for the past handful of years for the four core counties of the Capital Region.

And away we go...

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The ladies who (prepare and serve) lunch

shen skano tesago cafeteria lunch line

By Casey Normile

On Fridays at Shenendahowa's Skano and Tesago elementary schools, the kids know what they want for lunch. The menu includes chef salad and fish nuggets, but those mostly go untouched. Because it's not just any Friday -- it's Pizza Friday.

The tiny students run in to the cafeteria, excited and hungry, lining up by class. Finally, when they're up, they turn shy and quietly tell the energetic lunch lady, Libby: "Pizza, please."

Principals and teachers get a lot of the attention when we talk about schools, and rightfully so. Lunch ladies? Even with a job that involves making sure hundreds of kids are fed, they don't come up in the conversation as often. Maybe it's the old "lunch lady" stereotype: a cartoonish character with a hairnet, a snarl on her face, and a ladle full of cole slaw.

But that image doesn't do the ladies at Shenendehowa's elementary schools any justice.

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Butterfly house at miSci

misci butterfly houseOpening this weekend at miSci in Schenectady: an indoor butterfly house. Blurbage:

Escape winter's chill and discover hundreds of brilliantly colored native butterflies at miSci's new indoor butterfly house. Discover Monarchs, Black Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, and Red Admirals flying about (and possibly landing on you!) as miSci re-creates their habitat - the edge of an open field with flowers and trees. Be sure to stop at the chrysalis chamber to see the butterflies as they emerge. Learn about the exciting life cycles of the butterflies, and learn how to create butterfly-friendly environments outside your own home.

The exhibit runs through April 7. It's free with miSci admission.

The museum also has extended school break hours next week (February 16-24) and next month (March 29-April 7): Monday-Saturday 9 am-5 pm, and Sunday 12-5 pm (closed on Easter).

photo via miSci Facebook

Good daycare near Albany?

kid crawling with blocksSean emails:

My wife is pregnant (yay!). We both love our jobs and plan on continuing to work after the baby is born. However, we don't know anyone in the area with young kids that could recommend a reputable daycare near where we work (Latham). The commute is from Albany, so anywhere between Albany and Latham would be right in our wheelhouse. Any daycare recommendations?

This question has come up before, but it was more than two years ago -- and focused on Saratoga County.

So, got a suggestion for Sean and his wife? Please share!

photo: D Sharon Pruitt (cc)


andrew gregory boo tshirt wootThe kids version of Woot! -- appropriately called Kids Woot! -- is currently selling a cute Halloween t-shirt called Ghosties by local desinger Andrew Gregory.

It features three ghosts dressed up in costumes -- with a glow-in-the-dark message.

The shirt is $15. It's on sale for two more days.

Andrew lives in Rensselaer and designs under the name lunchboxbrain. One of his designs was sold by Gap earlier this year.

LEGO Challenge at Albany Institute 2012

LEGO Empire State PlazaThe Albany Institute's LEGO Challenge is back this weekend. Blurbage:

Bring friends, family, and colleagues to work together to create beautiful Lego® structures. This year's theme is "On the River." Whether you're creating a boat, a bridge, a house with a water view, or even an underwater creature, let your imagination run wild! Basic Building blocks will be supplied, however, contestants may bring their own.

Last year's event was a lot of fun, and included some really good designs.

The building sessions are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (Columbus Day). Registration is $20 per team -- teams can include up to four people, of any age. Space is limited, so the institute recommends pre-registeration.

And, of course, if you don't want to compete, you can just go to check out the designs as part of a visit to the museum.

A good obstetrician?

baby bottleAnonymous Soon-to-Be Father emails:

My wife and I just found out that she was pregnant. So recent, in fact, that it's too soon to tell our friends + family (shh!). We were hoping some of your readers could help us find a reputable doctor to catch our first baby. We're not daring enough for a home-birth and we like the idea of avoiding c-sections as much as possible.
Doula recommendations are also welcome! We're probably [not looking for] midwives, under the assumption that their services are more geared towards home-births. However, I've heard of midwives that will operate (no pun intended) out of hospitals sometimes...
In any event, we're looking to have the baby in a hospital (including or between Albany + Schenectady), have someone more knowledgeable than I in the room with us, and continue down the road toward natural child-birth (avoiding c-section) as long as possible.

Congrats! And important question! Maybe everyone can help Soon-to-Be Father and his wife sort out some of the local options.

Got a suggestion, or just a tip on how to go about finding the right provider? Please share! And please explain why you like that person, or why you chose that option.

photo: Flickr user nerissa's ring (cc)

Where to buy kids shoes?

kids shoesWith growing kids -- with growing feet -- Amarit emails:

I recently learned that Junior Shoe Port is closing their Albany and Latham locations, meaning that the only Capital Region children's shoe store is in Clifton Park. For those of us in Albany, that's quite a hike to get shoes for our kids, especially since they don't all grow at the same rate or need shoes at the same time. ... I know it seems minor, but as a parent of three kids with weird feet (and not all the same kinds of weird), I need a place with knowledgable sales people who can properly fit my kid for shoes. Ordering online for them is very challenging. Since learning about this closing earlier today from an equally dismayed friend, a number of other parents have expressed their concerns as well.

The Times Union reported recently that, in addition to the Stuyvesant Plaza store closing, the Clifton Park Stride Rite is also headed for closure. So there will be even fewer options.

Got any ideas for Amarit and her kids? Please share!

photo: Flickr user tamakisono (cc)

How to find a nanny?

baby bottleNew parents S and J reached out to us looking for some suggestions on finding childcare. They're having a tough time getting into their daycare programs of choice, so they're looking for a nanny. Eventually they may also be needing sitters. So...

How do you find a nanny -- or baby sitter -- in the Capital Region?

They'd welcome specific names (of course), but also suggestions about where to look.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user nerissa's ring (cc)

When the world points toward being fearful, how do you teach your kids to be brave?

standing on diving board

Sometimes it's a matter of knowing when to leap.

By Leah Wolff-Pellingra

So, I'm watching the Olympics with my daughters. And we're talking about how strong the women on the screen are, how brave the 15-year-old girl is as she twists and turns at 35 miles per hour off the high diving platform and into the water.

"Mom, I want to do that. But she should be wearing a life-jacket. How can she swim without a life-jacket?"

"Well, she practiced and practiced. And she learned how to hold air in her lungs and use her hands and feet, just like you do when you're wearing your life-jacket."

"But that's far to jump. She shouldn't go by herself."

I want to throw caution to the wind and tell my 5-year-old little girl that someday she'll be able to go places by herself, too. That she'll be jumping without a life jacket, and that I will hold my breath until she comes back up from under the water. But, truth be told, I am grateful for being the mother of a cautious child some days. Apparently, it's a scary world out there.

There was recently a report of an attempted abduction just across the bridge in Scotia. A 10-year-old girl told her mother and police about an older man in a rusted, light-green, 4-door sedan who had tried to lure her into the car with candy.

But she made it up. The girl later admitted to Scotia police that she wanted to get attention from her parents. There is a new baby at her home.

There was about a week between that first report and the news that it was false. And despite the statistics that very few kids -- only about a hundred, out of tens of thousands of reports -- are taken in this sort of stereotypical situation, I had a day or two when my girls only played in the back yard.

These sorts of stories generate a lot of fear -- they're our worst nightmare. And we'd like to think that the world wasn't always like this, that there were times that qualify as 'back in the day' when things like creeps in light green sedans didn't threaten the way we look at the world. But this just doesn't hold up. There have always been creeps in rusted, light green 4 door sedans.

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Camping with kids: Katie Beltramo

Katie B Kayaking .jpg

Camping with Katie

By Katie Beltramo

AOA is taking a little R & R this week. While we're enjoying a little summer, we've rounded up a few experts to share their tips for making summer fun simpler. Enjoy!

Today, Katie has some ideas on how to make camping with kids easier and more fun. (Many of these tips could apply to first-time campers of all ages -- because you know you want your own flashlight.)

Every year I ask my kids what they want to do over the summer, and the overwhelming, number one, far-ahead-of-everything-else choice is camping.

I was not "raised" a camper. I camped once, as a Brownie, in someone's backyard. Still, come to think of it, I remember that camp-out vividly. So I guess I loved it, too.

These days, no doubt because I'm a far kinder and more indulgent parent than my own parents were, I do quite a bit of camping. And it's pretty fun, actually.

So wanna make some memories with the kiddos? I'll help you get started.

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Blueberry season 2012

blueberries and raspberries

You can't have summer without blueberries. (OK, technically you can, but it's not recommended.)

Blueberry season at Capital Region farms is starting. July is usually prime time for blueberries in this area, but it appears the season is getting a little bit of an early start. One farm we talked with today said blues are about two weeks ahead of their normal schedule -- and "everything is coming in fast."

Here are a handful of places where you can pick your own (as well as other types of berries)...

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Here's your chance to touch a moon rock

nasa driven to explore exhibitComing to the Schenectady Museum in July: NASA's Driven to Explore Exhibit. From the blurbage:

Immerse yourself in the story of NASA: learn why we explore; discover the challenges of human space exploration; and see how NASA provides critical technological advances to improve life on Earth. And touch a 4 billion-year-old moon rock brought back aboard Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon in 1972. The moon rock is one of only eight lunar samples in the world made available for the public to touch.

The mobile exhibit will be at the Schenectady Museum July 12 (noon-9 pm) and 13 (noon-5 pm). The last tickets will be sold an hour before closing. Tickets are $7.50 adults / $5 children / $6.25 seniors / plus $2 for a show at the Suits-Bueche Planetarium.

And, of course, the museum will also be selling astronaut ice cream.

photo: NASA

Rediscovering a Capital Region childhood

Mason Daley - Soapbox Photo.jpg

One of Albany's newest residents has a lot to look forward to.

soapbox badgeAt 7:57am on Sunday, April 29, 2012, my life changed forever.

My wife, Jennifer, and I welcomed a beautiful 7lb,12oz. baby boy into the world. Mason Royal Daley. Our first child.

Words cannot do true justice to the emotions that poured over me when Mason was born. I felt bliss, fear, admiration, confusion, and excitement all at the same time. I'm coming to understand how much love I have that I didn't know I was capable of. I am so looking forward to being a part of my son's life. I'm excited to share with him all the things that I experienced growing up.

Parenthood, in some ways, is a bit of a second shot at childhood.

Mason's arrival has rejuvenated my desire to go out and explore, discovering and rediscovering wonderful things that are right here in my backyard.

Here's what's at the top of that list:

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Most popular baby names New York 2011

name tag masonAs it does every year, the Social Security Administration today released a list of the most popular baby names in 2011, sorted by state.

So we pulled the list -- the 100 most popular names for boys and girls born in New York State last year are after the jump. We also looked at how the top 10 names this year ranked during the last few years.

One name in particular has skyrocketed in popularity...

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Walking on eggs

egg hunt crime scene

Let the games begin.

By Siobhan Connally

soapbox badgeI should have known by the barrier that this was going to end badly.

The tape keeping the throng of sugar-crazed toddlers at bay read "CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS." Parents all around us were laying out strategies for their kids, so complex I expected at any moment a mom or dad would pull a chalkboard out of a stroller and diagram the game plans with arrows, Xs and Os.

This was an egg hunt of epic proportions, and we were out of our league.

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Where to have an indoor dart tag party?

nerf dart gunRichard emails:

My son loves NERF Dart Tag. He will be turning 13 in March and my wife and would love to throw him a NERF Birthday Blast Party with all his friends. We just found out that for the past few years - there has been a NERF DART Tag Championship (still wondering how people get selected for this championship tournament - cash prize is $25,000) - Wow. ...
We are looking for a local place that offers this kind of cool blow up dome with obstacles etc (featured in video) or a safe indoor place to hold a NERF Dart Tag party. We thought about asking Laser Tag facilities to accommodate us if possible (and may ultimately go in that direction) - but would love to find something a bit more soft like the inflatable dome.

That does sound like it could approach best-birthday-ever territory (for a 13-year-old). Got a suggestion for Richard? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Where to take the kids when they're bouncing off the walls during the winter

photo: Hasbro

LEGOmania at the Albany Institute

albany institute lego challenge composite 2011

Legos + creativity at the Albany Institute

This weekend, fortified by turkey and stuffing, teams from all over the Capital Region competed in the Albany Institute of History and Art's first LEGO Building Challenge. Teams of LEGO-maniacs faced off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Their mission: create Albany architecture from either the past, present or future.

We got to judge the contest on Sunday afternoon along with David Brickman, Jim Kambrich and Rebecca Angel Maxwell. We saw everything from an awesome model of the 1864 Saratoga Race Course, to a Village People concert at The Egg, to a futuristic hydroelectric power plant...

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A good family gift -- not just for kids?

mass moca lewitt black squiggle

One suggestion: MASS MoCA. Big indoor spaces. Art that kids might groove on (Sol LeWitt made instructions for people to draw on the walls!). And, of course, something to keep the adults interested.

Abby emails from afar:

For Christmas I wanted to give [my sister, who lives in the Albany area] a family pass to somewhere cool in your area. I was thinking something the whole family would enjoy, not just an indoor playroom. Could you make New York suggestions?
Anything from Six Flags type stuff, museums that are kid friendly (but not necessarily just for kids), science museums, or anything else that's fun to do.

So, Abby's getting an early start on the season. But she's working from out of town, so give her credit for getting a jump on it.

It sounds like she's open to a lot of ideas -- not just "family" stuff (sometimes it seems like the "family" label is license to be completely boring for adults). Got a suggestion? Please share!

A good pediatrician?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeSara emails:

I have two boys, ages 2.5 & 6. We all currently visit a very popular family practice in Slingerlands, and while we like a couple of the practitioners there, it's a hike for us to get there, we wait forever once we are there, they don't answer the phones between 11:30AM-12:30PM, etc.
We'd like to hear about some good practices or specific doctors, whether they are pediatricians, internists, and/or general practitioners. We live in Wynantskill, and our preference is within 15-20 minutes drive. Pleasant office staff, realistic scheduling, thorough doctors (NP's or PA's are also fine)...
Thank you! I really appreciate the input of AOA readers.

Showing up at the doctor's office on time and having to wait seemingly forever is frustrating. Having to do it with a sick kid? Eek.

Got a suggestion for Sara? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A good doctor near Saratoga?
+ Know of a good doctor near Albany?
+ A good eye doctor?
+ A good dentist?
+ A good oral surgeon?

photo: Flickr user a.drian

Kids in public

Angry kid.jpg


By Leah the Nosher

I was sitting in the Panera in Latham Farms doing work for class. I sought the air conditioned sanctuary of free WiFi and a predictably decent, cooling yogurt-berry smoothie. I buckled down to the task of wading through academic articles, having deposited children with grandparents and dispatched husband to work.

The three year old bouncing around the room, running up and down the aisles chasing imaginary aliens, was totally killing my buzz.

I took a deep breath. I said nothing. I tried to remember how much I value those two seconds of quiet at a table when my child is jumping up and down on something that is not me. But there was this niggling voice in the back of my head whispering, "I drove across two county lines and a river and cashed in a favor with my parents, so that I could sit here and get work done. Please, please, please, corral your kid."

Where do we draw the line as parents and as members of a greater community? Where is the line between "children should be seen and not heard" and "children should be see and heard with zero restrictions on the glory that is all forms of childhood and parenting?" How do we remember that one person's adorable is another person's obnoxious?

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Pass It On Sale summer 2011

Pass It On SaleThe big Pass It On Sale for kids stuff starts today with the private pre-sale, and then throws open the doors to the general public Wednesday.

What is Pass It On? It's basically a giant exchange for parents to pass on "gently" used kids items to other parents looking for a bargain. And it's enormous. The sale takes up the 20,000 square foot field house at Albany Academy. (There's a sale each August and March.)

We checked out the sale a few years back. It looked like there were some great bargains. And be ready to shop like you mean it -- the sale can get a little intense.

The sale opens today for consignors, volunteers, and new parents (you had to register ahead of time). The sale open to the general public Wednesday (9 am - 8 pm) and Thursday (9 am - 5 pm). Friday (9 am - 5 pm) and Saturday (8 am - noon) are half price days. It's free to enter.

Where to watch July 4th fireworks with kids?

july 4th fireworks 2009Planning for the Fourth of July, CVAA emails:

I am trying to find a perfect spot to watch the 4th of July firework. It has to be kid-friendly. A place where very active toddlers can walk around and is not too crowded would be ideal. Although I won't let the kids roaming around wildly, I don't expect them to sit still while waiting for the show to start either. If your readers have any suggestion, I would really appreciate it. Just a background. We live near Siena collage but would be willing to drive 15 minutes or so. I love fireworks and really hope to find a good spot to enjoy one this year.

We bet there are at least a few spots CVAA and her kids could watch the ESP fireworks, all while having a bit of room to roam.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Sebastien B

Most popular baby names in New York 2010

name tag isabellaAs it does every year, the Social Security Administration today released a list of the most popular baby names in 2010, sorted by state.

So we pulled the list -- the 100 most popular names for boys and girls born in New York last year are after the jump. We also looked at the top 10 names this year ranked during the last few years...

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Capital Region cloth diaper services

baby diaper butt

No pins required: Diaper covers make cloth diapers easy.

By Akum Norder

Cloth or paper? Which one would you prefer cradling your butt?

On second thought, don't answer that. I'll just jump right in to talking about diapers.

With my first baby, I chose cloth. It was soft. I liked that it "breathed" better than disposables. And I liked the fact that we weren't sending extra crap (ahem) to the landfill. But washing diapers at home was not an option: We were renting; the landlord had shut off the hot-water line to the washing machine, and you can't wash diapers in cold.

So we contracted with a diaper service. Easy: They provided the diapers. We just tossed the used ones into a bin, set them out once a week, and fresh clean diapers would magically appear the next morning.

But by the time our second daughter came around, the diaper service we'd used had gone out of business. We went with disposables. Yeah, she got diaper rash more often. Yeah, we threw out a lot of trash. But whether we deserved the eco-guilt we felt isn't completely clear: When you take the laundering into account, reusables aren't exactly guilt-free, either. Studies comparing the environmental impact of cloth and disposables have shown mixed results, and even the Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that "environmentalists from various organizations declared a draw, suggesting we all move on to issues where the costs and benefits were more clear-cut."

Me, my heart's still with cloth; but whatever your feelings, it's nice that parents have options. There are now several diapering businesses in the Capital Region, and they make it as easy as could be to go cloth with your baby.

Read on to learn more about three of the area's cloth diaper services.

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The Riverway Storytelling Festival

storytelling; Mr. Bill

Bill Cliff, a.k.a. Mr. Bill, weaves a yarn Monday night at Albany's Delaware Branch library.

By Akum Norder

It's no mean trick to fascinate six-year-olds. But to hold the children and their parents in rapt attention? That requires a gift.

It's a gift that will be in great abundance this week, as public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer counties play host to the Riverway Storytelling Festival.

Riverway is a community storytelling festival that's been held in the Capital Region annually since 2003. There are more than 20 events in all this week, and all of them are free. Some performances are for families; others are meant for adults. All of them celebrate the art, the power, and the joy of storytelling.

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The Wild Center

wild center otter

Otters = fun

By Bennett V Campbell

If you've wanted to explore the Adirondacks but don't know where you begin, the Wild Center in Tupper Lake is a good place to start. You can learn about the history and biology of the largest park in the lower 48 states -- and being almost smack in the middle of the Adirondacks makes it an ideal starting point for a variety of day trips.

Also, they have otters.

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Howe Caverns: fun, underground

howe caverns, top image.

Of course kids love it. But it's a really cool experience for adults, too.

By Akum Norder

If you haven't been to Howe Caverns since your elementary school field trip, I can give you five reasons why you should go.

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Planning ahead: Winter break activities

Uno cards from Flikr.

Because there's only so much Uno you can play.

By Akum Norder

Pssst ... The little dears are home from school next week. Got any plans?

Monday should be all right. Tuesday, too. But with all the snow days we've had recently, the crazies may set in by Thursday, and Friday may see faces pressed to the windows, desperate for a change of scenery. And that's just the parents.

Luckily, there are plenty of activities lined up for next week. Here are some that stood out for us. You know, the stuff we'd take our own kids to.

Here's what we found. ...

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Albany, Tula -- Tula, Albany

Tula, Russia.

Uspenskaya Church, Tula, Russia.

Know any teens with a yearning to travel? Here's a chance for them to write their own ticket.

The Albany-Tula Alliance, the Capital Region's sister-city exchange program with Tula, Russia, is sponsoring an essay contest for local students ages 16 to 18. Two winners will receive a two-week trip to Tula this summer. (And yes, there's also an essay contest being held in Tula, that will allow two Russian teens to come here.)

The topic: "Describe your vision for a cooperative international program for future space exploration, and how it could affect U.S.-Russian relations." A Tula-born cosmonaut, Sergei Zalyotin, will come to Albany to greet the winners in May (via airplane, not rocketship -- probably).

This is the essay contest's second year. Last year's contest sent students from Bethlehem and Shenendehowa high schools to Tula.

This year marks the Albany-Tula Alliance's 20th anniversary. The program promotes business development and cultural exchange with the city of Tula, 125 miles south of Moscow (similar, you'll note, to Albany's distance from New York City).

Contest submission deadline is March 1. Here's more information.

Photo: Flikr user Vokabre

Stack 'em up

The Saratogian's Lucian McCarty had a fun story today about Ethan Thomas, a 10-year-old from Ballston Spa who's a competitive cup stacker:

Winter getaway: Great Escape's indoor water park

great escape water park winter exterior

Winter on the outside, something a little more like summer on the inside.

By Akum Norder

I'll be the first to admit it: I'm not an "artificial environment" kind of person.

I like that New York has seasons, and that each season brings its own activities. January is for sledding. August is for camping. April's for watching the squirrels eat my tulips.

I kind of enjoy not being able to do everything all the time. It makes seasonal activities more special.

Which makes it all the more strange for me to admit: The Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark is pretty fun.

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Bouncing off the walls? There's a cure for that

jumping on the bed

Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

By Akum Norder

The snow will come and the snow will go, but one thing is constant: the need to get the kids out and moving. When sledding, snow forts and skis aren't an option, and when you can't stand losing one more Wii tennis match to your six-year-old, you might need to look elsewhere for a place to let the kids get their wiggles out.

What follows are some indoor activities that'll keep the youngsters -- and yourself - active, no snow (or membership contract) required. Please feel free to add your own suggestions below.

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Stuff to do with kids the week after Christmas

ice skaters on Buckingham Pond

Because there's only so much Wii you can play

By Katie Beltramo

Between shopping, mailing packages, and cleaning the house for guests, you probably haven't found too much time to think about what you're going to do for that stretch of time between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Oh, sure, right now, it's shimmering on the horizon, an oasis of restfulness and serenity after the pre-holiday bustling around. You'll have a new book, maybe, and a cozy fire, and the kids will be playing that brand-new video game.

Sounds wonderful, right? Except that then, maybe six hours will pass, and you'll realize that the kids are still playing video games. And your visiting relatives are starting to get itchy. And any minute now they might start noticing all the not-so-clean parts of the house that you didn't get around to fixing up for them.

That's when it's time for a little post-holiday outing. Here are a few suggestions:

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A peek inside Vicarious Visions

This is fun: local filmmaker Mike Feurstein shot a piece about a school field trip to Vicarious Visions, the video game studio in Menands. It likes it could be a fun place to work.

Mike's piece is part of series trying to get kids interested in science, math and engineering. He tells us the piece was also crewed by local high school students.

Also: Sandra over at Albany Kid has put together a short list of local resources for kids interested in learning about video game development. Both Vicarious Visions and 1st Playable in Troy sometimes have kids come in to test games. She's hoping you might know have a few other ideas.

By the way: the next season of Mike's eScape series, shot here in the Capital Region, recently premiered.

Capital Region Etsy: kid stuff

etsy holiday 2010 kids composite


By Crystal Powell

All this week Crystal is sharing local finds on Etsy.

Because I refuse to set foot into the madness that is a children's store during holiday shopping season, I've spent a lot of time on Etsy trying to find a great Christmas gift for my one-year-old nephew.

Between all the people who love this kid, he probably already owns at least one of everything in those stores, so I decided my best bet for getting him something he doesn't have would be to browse the kids shops on Etsy. In the process I came across some great local finds.

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Good neighborhood Christmas light displays?

bokeh christmas lightsJudy emails:

My kids LOVE Christmas lights. The oohs and ahhs from the backseat this time of year makes driving at night a fun adventure, but there's just one problem - we're getting used to our usual streets! Do your readers know of any local neighborhoods that really put on a show (and don't mind a little extra traffic, of course)?

We also got this question from @touchofgr3y.

The first place that springs to mind is Apple Blossom Lane in Colonie -- here's video by Christen Gowan from last year's decorations.

There have to be others. Know of one (or more)? Please share!

(And thanks to Katie at Capital District Fun for doing a little asking around on this one!)

photo: Flickr user George Deputee

Stuff to do with kids on Thanksgiving weekend


Learn the truth behind the 3 Little Pigs this weekend at Hudson Opera House.

By Katie Beltramo

Sure, Thanksgiving is great for spending time at home with family, friends, and food. But if you've got kids in the house (your own or guests or both), chances are pretty good that they'll be climbing the walls with energy to burn Friday morning.

Since I'm always on the lookout for family fun activities for my blog, Capital District Fun, the AOA editors asked me to look around for some good stuff going on this weekend.

Here are a few ideas...

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Martial arts classes for kids?

karate classCharley emails:

I'm interested in taking my girls, at least the 4 year old, to start learning a martial art. I'd heard about daddy-daughter martial arts in other towns, and am wondering if there's anything like that around here.
Some stuff I'm eager to drop kids off and let the teachers do their thing, but it seems like it would be really fun to do this and I can't believe I'm the only dad who wants to help his daughter become a blackbelt. Love your input.

Anyone have suggestions for Charley and his daughter? Please share!

photo: Kai Schreiber (Flickr user Genista)

Driving schools?

sideview car mirrorCarl asks:

I wonder if anyone has any good experiences to share with Albany / Troy area driving schools. Because the do-it-yourself model is not working with my daughter.

We've always thought having your parent teach you how to drive is maybe not the best idea. There's just so much... baggage. (Red light! You don't have to use that tone with me. Brake! I am braking!!)

So, a suggestion here could really smooth the road. Please share!

photo: Naimi Grondin (Flickr user Naimi&virg)

Capital District Soap Box Derby

soap box derbyMight be fun to check out: the Capital District Soap Box Derby is this weekend on Madison Ave outside the New York State Museum. Kids will "gravity race" in three divisions for a chance to compete at the "world" championship in Akron, Ohio later this summer.

When we think of "soap box derby," all the pictures that flash in our head are in black and white. The whole thing seems so retro. As it happens, the wheels almost fell off the sport last year, but it got something very modern: a bailout.

Also, another modern (and cool) thing about it: girls were the winners of four of the six divisions at the championship last year.

The races here in Albany start at 9 am on Saturday.

photo: Capital District Soap Box Derby


colortoons app screenshots

It's like a coloring book for the iPhone.

Check it out: a local software company in Clifton Park has built a coloring book app for the iPhone. Colortoons includes 20 animal cartoons that kids (or, you know, the young at heart) can "color" by tapping or painting with a finger.

We downloaded the app this afternoon and tried it out. The cartoons are very cute -- they include collections of dinosaurs, farm animals, woodland creatures and savannah animals. (There's also a blank canvas.) The finger coloring is a little like using a blunt crayon. You can save the works after they're finished (alas, there's no virtual refrigerator).

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Most popular baby names in New York 2009

name tag isabellaAs it does every year, the Social Security Administration recently released a list of the most popular baby names in 2009. You can break the list out by state, which is exactly what we did.

The list of the most 100 popular names for boys and girls born in New York last year is after the jump.

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Good daycare or preschool?

kid crawling with blocksVia Twitter, Bliss writes:

Jax's daycare closing in 3 weeks. Need to find a fulltime placement asap!
Looking for full time, state licensed care beginning May 31.
is for a 3 year old, so somewhere with a preschool program would be particularly good. Ballston Spa/Saratoga.

Anyone have ideas for Bliss? Let's open to this good daycare/preschool programs in the wider Capital Region, too. Share, please!

photo: D Sharon Pruitt

Hikes for tykes

Hikes for Tykes 1.jpg

Danger- cuteness ahead!

By Dawn Padfield

Way back in 1997, Elizabeth Meer was looking for a way to continue her weekly wildflower walks, but with her kids. So she, and a group of about five other families, started a weekly group focused on finding kid friendly nature walks in the area.

Skip ahead 13 years later and these hikes are still going strong.

While the faces of the families have changed as children have gotten older, the group is still scheduling walks and introducing preschoolers to the beauty of the great outdoors.

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Baby animals at Hancock Shaker Village

hancock shaker round barn

This way to the cuteness...

By Dawn Padfield

Growing up in Pennsylvania, every couple of years we took a compulsory school field trip to Amish Country, where we were transported back in time to find out how these traditional, religious communities lived. I get the sense the equivalent of that trip in this neck of the woods is a visit to the Hancock Shaker Village in Western Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, I didn't get chance to delve into too much of the history on my most recent visit because the real reason we were at the village was the baby animals.

And what's cuter than baby animals, you ask? Nothing, I say. And I have children.

(Yes, there are baby animals after the jump.)

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The Balloon Room

balloon room

How could you not smile in a room full of balloons?

By Dawn Padfield

When Burnt Hills' Cindy Gotobed wants a party, she doesn't mess around.

For the past five years she and her family have hosted a Balloon Room party in their living room for her kids and their friends. What's a balloon room party, you ask? Only 1000 inflated balloons packed into your living room.

Why? It's 1000 inflated balloons packed into your living room.

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Open skate at the TU Center

tu center ice

You know, so you can work on your triple lutzes.

This could be fun: the TU Center is holding open ice skating sessions February 16-18 (that's next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). There will be three sessions a day:

  • 12 pm - 2 pm

  • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm

  • 5 pm - 7pm

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids 12 and under. (The tickets will only be sold day of.) Skate rental is $5. If you print out this flyer, you can park in the TUC garage for $3.

More info: 487-2000.

Holiday gift guide: children's museum memberships

Children's Museum .jpg

Nothing says happy holidays like exploring earthworms.

Maybe you know some kids that seem to have more stuff than they know what to do with. You want to get them a gift but you don't know what they have, you don't know what they need, and you don't know what the hot new toy is.

Today's holiday gift guide suggestion is something kids can appreciate in December, or in June (and that parents won't have to clean up).

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More H1N1 flu shot clinics

flu shot needle


Update: The Albany County clinic is now full.

Both Albany County and Schenectady County have free H1N1 flu shot clinics coming up. Both counties' clinics are only open to county residents.

Albany County

Nov 22 | 10 am - 4:30 pm | TU Center
Nov 24 | 3:30 pm - 7 pm | Berne Knox Westerlo Elementary School

The clinic is open to people in the following priority groups: pregnant women,
people over age 4 who live with or provide care for infants younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical personnel, people aged 4-24 years and people aged 25 to 64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications.

The county says it doesn't have pediatric vaccine available for kids 6 months to 47 months.

Registration is required.

Schenectady County

Nov 20 and 23 - Schenectady County offices at 107 Nott Terrace in Schenectady.

The clinics will be open to the same priority groups as Albany County, plus children 6 months to pre-k.

You'll need an appointment -- call 386-2824.

Also: If you can't make it to one of the clinics -- or you live in Saratoga County or Rensselaer County -- give your doctor's office a call. New vaccine shipments have apparently been gradually arriving.

Rensselaer County's web site says it does not plan to hold H1N1 flu shot clinics.

photo: James Gathany / CDC

H1N1 shot clinic Sunday at TU Center

H1N1 micrograph

An electron micrograph of H1N1 virions. The image has been colorized.

The Albany County Department of Health is holding a free H1N1 flu shot clinic at the TU Center this Sunday. Apparently there will be about 4,500 doses available.

The health department's web site stresses that you must register in advance -- and it's currently registering Albany County residents in the following priority groups:

  • Pregnant women
  • Persons who live with or provide care for infants under 6 months old
  • Children 6 months - 4 years old
  • Health-care and emergency medical services personnel who have direct contact with patients or infectious materials
  • Children and adolescents 5-18 years old who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications

You can register online (be sure to follow the link for the appropriate priority group) -- or by calling 447-4505 from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm (Arielle says she registered her toddler this way this morning).

Turnout at other H1N1 vaccine clinics around the Capital Region has been strong, so it's probably a good idea to register sooner rather than later.

Saratoga County: Saratoga County Public Health has an H1N1 flu shot clinic for priority scheduled for tomorrow in Saratoga Springs. It's by appointment only, though. And when we checked this morning (after a three dials to get through), it was full. The person handling the calls said the county is hoping it will receive more doses next week.

image: Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC

The Herkimer Diamond Mines

herkimer mine

There's double-terminated quartz in them thar hills.

By Dawn Padfield

About an hour and a half from here, there's a resort and campground that charges you to play in the dirt. Crazy, right?

But, what if I told you that the very dirt I speak of held the glittering promise of diamonds (er, "diamonds").

Well, then... you might just be willing to dig a little deeper.

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I Love Books in Delmar

i love books exterior

So, it's... books?

By Dawn Padfield

When a shop has a name like "I Love Books" it's not hard to guess what's inside. Books... bookstore... got it.

But what if it was called something like "I Love Books, funky gifts, and toys I haven't seen since I was a kid?"

Well then, you might just want to take a closer look.

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The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Caterpillar .jpg

The place is crawling with very hungry caterpillars. In a good way.

By Dawn Padfield

The Cat in the Hat. Goodnight Moon. Where the Wild Things Are.

You know...the stories from your childhood. And while you might not remember exactly what the stories were about, you'd be able to pick those images out in a storybook line up, no problem.

The beauty of children's books is often in the artwork. And the beauty of the artwork is that you don't have to be a child to enjoy it.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has all kinds of art that can be enjoyed by kids, parents, and kids at heart. And it's just a quick drive from Albany.

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Adirondack Animal Land: It's a zoo

Zebra at Animal Land.jpg

Ain't I pretty?

By Arielle Trimm

When the Catskill Game Farm closed its doors for good in 2006, many of us were left wondering what would fill the zoo void.

Looks to me like Adirondack Animal Land in Gloversville may be the leading contender.

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Hammering away at Home Depot

home depot kids
By Dawn Padfield

What better way to bond (hopefully not literally) with your kids on a Saturday morning than with a hammer, some nails and wood glue?

On the first Saturday of every month Home Depot offers free "Kids Workshops" where you can channel your inner carpenter and relive your shop class glory days.

Your kids will probably have fun, too.

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Consignment shops for kids

fifis interior.jpg

Consignment for kids, Fifi's and Polkadots

By Dawn Padfield

Parents are always looking for a bargain. Especially on clothes. I mean, no sooner do you get them into a new pair of jeans or shoes then it's time to go shopping again.

Sure it's great to pass clothes and shoes back and forth between family and friends, but that's never enough. So I thought I'd check out a couple of the kids consignment shops in the area.

Umm... and the kids aren't the only ones I found things for.

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Jennifer Maher's toy portraits

jennifer maher.JPG

DJ Jennifer Haley and her toy portraits

So it's no secret by now that AOA spends a fair amount of time at Uncommon Grounds.

And lately we can't help but smile at the art on the walls. The current show includes a group of portraits of quirky, well loved, interesting toys -- bunnies, lambs, squeezy bath toys and Japanese cartoon favs.

They're the work of Jennifer Maher -- known in local rave circles as D.J Jen Haley.

Jen's on hiatus from the rave scene (or what's left of it) until her new daughter gets a little older. These days she's writing a little and painting a lot --specifically custom portraits of favorite toys.

She talked with AOA recently about her art, the allure of toys, and the common ground between cuddly animal paintings and rave culture.

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Hoffman's Playland

hoffman's playland.jpg

WARNING: Seeing this sign makes kids go a little nuts.

By Dawn Padfield

Remember the little amusement parks you went to as a kid? Not the giant, spend the whole day, super roller coaster, Great Escape variety. The little places with the kind of strange carney-like atmosphere where you could drop into for an hour or two, buy a roll of tickets and ride the Ferris wheel, or the choo-choo.

Well -- welcome to Hoffman's Playland.

Where the clowns are slightly creepy, the rides a little dated, but the kids are happy.

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Camping at Thompson's Lake State Park

Thompsons Lake Sign.jpg

It's a little like camping in the backyard. But cooler.

By Dawn Padfield

In my experience, camping with young children can go one of two ways: relatively well -- or really, really badly.

Thankfully, Thompson's Lake State Park, only about 20 minutes away from Albany, is a great place to take the kids camping. And if the kids (or you, for that matter) decide they've had enough of camping, you can all be back home and in time for bed.

So, Thompson's Lake has location going for it -- but there are plenty of others reasons to check it out.

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The carousel at the NYS Museum

NYS Museum Carousel.jpg

Say hi to Ann when you visit.

By Dawn Padfield

What's the most fascinating exhibit at the New York State Museum?

The giant woolly mastodon? The Iroquois longhouse? The set of Sesame Street?

Ask my kids and they'll tell you it's the merry-go-round on the fourth floor. Ask me-- or other adults that have seen it-- and you might actually get the same answer.

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Michael and Isabella are so popular

name tag isabellaThe most popular names for babies born in New York State last year were Michael (for boys) and Isabella (for girls), according to data from the Social Security Administration. Those names also topped last year's list.

The 10 ten names in 2008 for each gender are after the jump.

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Baby gifts at Clearly Yours

Clearly Yours blankets.jpg

Baby blankets from Clearly Yours.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

I don't think I've ever been to a baby shower where I haven't given the same gift someone else is giving.

Which is why I was immediately ready to stock up for the half-dozen moms-to-be I know when I saw these adorable ribbon-adorned baby bodysuits, blankets, and burp cloths at Clearly Yours in Latham.

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The Pottery Place

Pottery Place Stuyvesant Plaza

There's a cat mug in here just waiting to be painted purple and orange.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

If you're anything like me, you've been past that pottery place in Stuyvesant Plaza a dozen times and always wondered what it was all about.

Well, wonder no longer. It's The Pottery Place and it's tons of fun. If you loved art in elementary school, it's the perfect place to channel your inner child.

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Elmo overload

ElmoWe were kicking around the Palace's site yesterday when we noticed that "Sesame Street Live -- Elmo Makes Music" is coming there in February -- for seven shows. Yep, there will be seven Elmo performances over the course of three days.

A few thoughts:

1. As we understand it, Elmo is only three-and-a-half-years-old. Seven shows in three days has gotta violate some kind of child monster labor law. (And you don't want to make Elmo angry!)

2. The Capital Region must really love itself some Elmo. And, of course, we can only guess that Elmo LOVE Albany!

The Wiggles are coming!

The Wiggles

We'd tell Jeff to wake up, but he looks pretty chipper here.

Consider this your warning! Prepare yourself for herds of stampeding three-year-olds and a mob of parents afflicted with ear worms. The Wiggles will be performing at the TU Center on November 2.

The TU Center site says all the ticket details are currently TBD. But if you dig through the Wiggles own site (we did and we'll never be the same), you'll see that tickets are scheduled to go on sale September 5 at 10 am. It also looks like there's some sort of pre-sale September 3 at 10 am -- the password is "WAGS."

If you're wondering what this is all about... ignorance sometimes truly is bliss.

The Pass It On Summer Sale

Pass It On Sale

That's 20,000 square feet of bargains on kids stuff.

The semi-annual Pass It On Sale at Albany Academy's field house opens to the general public tomorrow (Wednesday). This consignment sale is loaded with good deals on "gently" used kids clothes, toys, furniture and baby items. Seriously, the stuff is cheap.

We got in Tuesday afternoon during the private pre-sale to check out what's available this time around. Pictures, and a rundown of how much some common items are going for, after the jump...

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The Butterfly Station

monarch butterfly

One of the butterfly house's inhabitants.

Here's something different to do if the kids in your life have gotten a little bored with the usual summer lineup of activities. The Butterfly Station at Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland is a student-run butterfly house, native plant garden, and organic community garden. Here's how the school describes it:

Besides walking among butterflies, visitors can watch how butterflies are raised in the metamorphosis room or make free butterfly projects in the craft room. Community members of all ages will enjoy the many interactive butterfly exhibits in the museum room.

We stopped by last week. We're guessing it's probably good for somewhere between a half-hour and hour with younger kids.

The Butterfly Station is open Monday-Friday 10 am to 1 pm until August 15. It's free.

A few more pics after the jump.

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The Albany Art Room


Karen Schupack giving art tips to Cole and his mom.

The Albany Art Room is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a big room (actually 3 rooms) filled with just about anything you can use to make art. There are buckets and boxes of crayons, markers, paper, paint, stencils and brushes. There are beads and strings and easels. There's glitter and paste and a big box filled with pretty purple sand. There's just all kinds of fun stuff.

And for $5 an hour little kids and little kid wannabe's (otherwise known as grown-ups) can play with all of it, and take their creations home.

Karen Schupack says she started The Albany Art Room because she wanted something like it in the world, and she thought other people might like it too. In between coaching
budding young artists and their parents, she told us why.

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Capital Region Pools


Doesn't this make you want to take the rest of the day off?

Summer isn't summer without a little pool time. So where can you cool off and get a few laps or a good game of Marco Polo in around the Capital Region? You pack the beach towel and sunscreen, we've got the list:

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Testing video games at 1st Playable

1st playable logoHere's something cool for your kids to do now that school's letting out. 1st Playable, a video game developer in Troy that specializes in games for devices such as the Nintendo DS, is looking for kids to try out its games. Not only do the kids get to play the games before they come out, they also get their names in the credits.

The only downside: you have to be 15 or younger, which edges out the AOA editors by, um, just a few years.

More details after the jump...

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They Might Be Giants at The Egg: The Swearabration and the other show

TMBG_Kids_Cover.jpgTMBG will be playing not one, but two shows at L'Oeuf on Saturday. But check your program-- these shows are very different.

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WEXT's Peanut Butter Jam

pbjamIf your inner child needs to do a little dance, you'll want to check out WEXT (97.7) tomorrow morning at 9:00 for, "The Peanut Butter Jam." It's an hour of eclectic rock and roll music that kids and adults can enjoy together. Think Rockey and Bullwinkle, not Barney.

Want a taste test? Download a sample (mp3).

The Pass It On Sale for kids stuff

The semi-annual Pass It On Consignment Sale starts tomorrow at the Albany Academy Field House. We've heard this sale is absolutely jammed with good kids stuff at cheap prices. Here's how the sale's site describes the event:

Pass It On is a twice-yearly children's consignment event in Albany, NY held in March (Spring/Summer items) and August (Fall/Winter items) We offer you the opportunity to sell your children's outgrown items and shop for new and gently worn items at bargain prices.

At Pass It On you will find clothing (sizes newborn to juniors and maternity) toys, books, videos, baby equipment (strollers, car seats etc.), sports equipment, children's furniture and more! All of our items are inspected to ensure the highest quality and our sales floor is extremely organized for the best shopping experience.

The good stuff goes quickly, apparently. So if you're looking to find something specific, you might want to stop by Wednesday. Here are the times:

Wednesday: 9 am - 7 pm
Thursday: 9 am - 5 pm
Friday: 9 am - 5 pm (half-price day)

(Thanks for the tip, George!)

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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