By Shana Liebman
Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s populations are getting younger—even the skinny 20-somethings look weathered compared to the growing population of 2- and 3-year-olds. So it’s no surprise that the neighborhood has begun to accommodate the diaper-clad and their families.
If you’re new to the area or new to the life-with-little-ones, or just desperately need some family-friendly activities, support or a used Ergo Carrier, here are some of your best, and newest, local resources.
Farm to Baby makes baby food from organic ingredients sourced from local farms, and delivers them to your Brooklyn door. You can choose how much or little but they decide what to make based on what’s in season—Kobocha squash last month, for example. Check out their blog to sign up or learn about the week’s veggies and fruits. http://farmtobabynyc.com
Isa, the “unpredictable, singularly interesting new Williamsburg restaurant” according to New York Magazine just launched Craftbrunch where parents can brunch on creative tapas-like dishes (menu changes daily) from 11am-3:30pm while their kids do crafts in the loft upstairs. http://isa.gg/isa/
Owned by husband and wife team Jeff Lutonsky and Meghan Love who recently had a baby of their own, Mable’s Smokehouse and Banquet Hall is gritty enough for the restless ones to get rowdy. Plus mac and cheese is legitimately on the menu, along with Texas-style brisket and incredible pork ribs. Oh and there’s often a band for kids on Sundays afternoons—call ahead to find out if it’s happening. http://www.mablessmokehouse.com
A new addition to Smorgasburg (which launched its second season on April 7 and occurs every Saturday on Kent and N 7th) is That Tot Spot starring, yes, tater tots. Though tailored to meet adult needs with a choice of spice and sauce (think bacon tots with bourbon spiked ketchup) there’s plenty for young palates too (salt & peppered tots with regular ketchup, for example.) http://thattotspot.com/
By supplying each table with donuts and crayons, Egg makes it possible to actually eat during brunch with your little ones. And the farm to table menu is excellent—especially the Eggs Rothko with Amy’s brioche and Grafton cheddar. http://www.pigandegg.com/
PLACES TO PLAY
The biggest and best outdoor playgrounds are McCarren Park (the playground is on the other side of Lorimer and the pool opens this summer) and Grand Street Playground, adjacent to PS 81 on Berry and Grand. There are also several excellent indoor spaces where, for a fee, your kids can play and/or take classes.
Not only does Play’s modern toys and hip vibe make it a welcome meeting spot for parents too, but it’s also an early education center – with classes, managed by Rug Bug educational programming, in art, dance and tumbling for toddlers and more advanced subjects, like earth sciences, for older kids. The original space (named best playspace 2011 by New York Magazine) was conceived by uber-cool local parents Wade Groom and Katja Douedari (who are now focusing on their popular line of kids clothes Phoenix & Nola). http://playspacenyc.com/
The 2,800 square-ft. colorful padded Gym Park—mats, bars, trampolines, etc-hosts phys-ed classes (all levels of gymnastics, cheerleading and mommy and me infant/toddler groups) as well as mini camps for those weeks when school is out. http://www.thegympark.com
With 80s music playing over the squeals of delight, Klub4Kidz’ four-tier indoor playground, including a zip line, crawl tubes, mazes, and slides, as well as an 18 ft rock-climbing wall, can be a bit cacophonous but it’s a fantastic place for kids to run themselves ragged. There’s also a mini café and rooms for music classes and Wii-and-pizza birthday parties. http://www.klub4kidz.com/
Six years ago former gymnast and Williamsburg mom Wei Jiang opened Ms J’s Gymnastic and Dance, a nothing-fancy, low-key kids gym which is immensely popular for their movement classes and day camps, “Pick Up and Play” for after school, “Kids Night Out” for Saturday night and birthday parties. http://www.msjsgym.com/
The newest local clubhouse Frolic is rock and roll themed with a real VW bus (carpeted walls and groovy lights inside) and a mini-stage. An annual fee is the only option but if you plan to be a frequent visitor, the price is on par with the pay-per-visits. Don’t miss their Little Rock-Its class where three cute young musicians (on drums, keyboard and guitar) turn toddlers into mini rock stars. http://www.frolicplayspace.com/
Audra Rox has been teaching Music for Aardvarks (created by the musician David Weinstone) for years at venues including Mini Jake, Play and Frolic. With a guitar and plenty of musical props the interactive classes include songs like “Taxi” (now an animated video on Nick Jr TV) and the punky “Playdate”. www.audrarox.com/
New York artist Samara Kupferberg opened the small studio Painted Cloud for kids to experiment with high quality materials. Classes include portraiture where kids look at Cindy Sherman and Salvador Dali for inspiration. There’s also a three year old playgroup and after school trips to museums. http://thepaintedcloud.blogspot.com/
Williamsburg’s Danilo Krvavac, who qualified for the 2000 Serbian Olympic swim team, decided to open Aquabeba when he had a baby. Given at local condo pools in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the small classes for infants and toddlers teach swimming without devices as well as water safety. http://www.aquabeba.com
La Leche League, which helps new moms with all aspects of breastfeeding, has a new regular Friday morning meeting in the neighborhood—at Caribou Baby. Sign up and arrive early—it’s a tremendously popular and often over-attended event. http://www.lalecheleague.org/
Brooklyn Baby Hui (Hui=group or meeting and is pronounced Hoo-Ee) is an email listserv for local parents to ask advice, share information and sell/donate stuff they don’t need anymore. Unlike the often-acerbic Urban Baby, the posts are good-hearted and practical. For example, recent posts include “ISO Stokke Changing Table” and “Checking car seat with luggage at the airport.”
You may have seen those Mighty Mamas in McCarren Park, doing squats using their Bugaboo as support. The program was started by local mom/dancer Lakey Evans-Pena, a dancer and fitness instructor (who also owns The Williamsburg Movement and Art Center, WMAAC, beloved for its dance-based classes, http://www.wmaac.com/) as strength and conditioning workout incorporating yoga and pilates to shed post-pregnancy pounds. Classes are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from April through November (or organize a group/private session.) http://wburgmightymamas.com/
On alternate days, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, there’s now a local chapter of the nationwide program Baby Boot Camp run by Jody King Camarra, held at Caribou Baby and the Betz Method in Greenpoint. It features the 60-minute Strollfit class combining strength training and cardio for new (6 weeks postpartum) and not-so-new moms with stroller aged children. http://www.camarrafitness.com
Caribou Baby was opened in March 2011 by local mom Adriane Stare and sells a handpicked selection of eco-friendly clothing and accessories, homeopathic remedies and classes ranging from prenatal care to painting for toddlers. They specialize in the best methods of “wearing” your baby- i.e. wraps, slings, pouches etc. Perhaps most importantly, Stare has made this store a supportive and educational center for parents by holding relevant and supportive workshops and events in her store’s lovely sitting/play space and spacious back room—including a postpartum support group meeting and a baby massage workshop. http://www.cariboubaby.com/
Mini Jake is where you’ll find that gorgeous, architecturally genius high chair (that looks like it could be from Design Within Reach), and other modern, stylish, well-made toys and accessories for babies and kids. You can shop online but the lofty store holds most of their products plus a small activity area for kids. https://www.minijake.com/
Although slightly overpriced, the mini chain Area Kids (http://www.areakids.com/ )is a great place to go for gifts for kids up to 8 years old. Plenty of Melissa and Doug toys, NPR-logo-ed T-shirts, Appacha hats, mini scooters and loads of arts supplies and games.
For higher end wardrobe additions, check out nearby indies Smoochie Baby (http://www.smoochiebabynyc.com/) and Sweet William (http://www.sweetwilliamltd.com/). Both sell adorable clothes and shoes and you can actually measure your child’s foot size at Smoochie—a surprisingly difficult thing to find. And you’ll find more unique Brooklyn-grown gifts for kids—bandana bibs, handmade tooth fairy pillows, cute animal lunch sacks— at Honey and Hazel Kids, Honey and Hazel’s new little sister store around the corner. http://honeyandhazel.com/
Given the small window of usability for kids’ clothes, Flying Squirrel is a genius store–second-hand clothes for newborns and up, plus carriers, toys, games, books, strollers. It’s a small space but the inventory is carefully selected and well organized. The owners also host the annual Witches Walk, a sweet Halloween parade of kids in costume. http://flyingsquirrelbaby.com/store/
Finally, yet another reason to avoid the area’s new chain drug stores, Kings Pharmacy has an excellent selection of diapers, bottles, cups, plates, soaps and toys for babies and kids. And for those who choose not to go the disposable diaper route, there’s Diaper Kind—founded three years ago by two moms, the super eco-friendly service allows you to use cloth diapers without dealing with the annoyance of home laundering. Best part? They deliver to this neighborhood. http://www.diaperkind.com/.
The Knitting Factory makes the most of their mornings by using both the gig and bar spaces for kid-friendly, alcohol-free shows. Ari Brand and friends do singalongs on Fridays and some of the city’s best kiddie bands like Gustafer Yellowgold and The Deedle Deedle Dees play prenap weekend gigs. Check their schedule online. http://bk.knittingfactory.com/
This year, writer/actor Sara Todes started a smart hipster puppet show called Puppetsburg with music, balloons, bubbles and a rotating crew of funky puppets, many of whom have tattoos. They perform at Greenpoint Reform Church and PLAY (and will do private shows for parties or small groups). See their facebook page for more info.
Parents & Babies Movies organizes odd-hour screenings of first-run movies for moms and their babies (crying is allowed) at Nitehawk Cinema. Sign up at http://tinurl.com/parentsbabies to find out the schedule.
Town Square presents free kids concerts this summer in local parks as well as the annual Summerstarz program of family music and movies in East River State Park (N 8th and Kent) on Thursday evenings in July and August. http://www.townsquareinc.com
For more events, check out Mommy Poppins (mommypoppins.com), Time Out Kids (http://timeoutnewyorkkids.com/), A Child Grows in Brooklyn (http://www.achildgrows.com/).