Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Teddy Bear E.R.

It seems that during these tough economic times the question on everybody's mind is 'Where can I take my child's teddy bear to get a check up.' Well, taking this concern to heart, I found a place where you can bring your stuffed grizzly (kodiak, panda, polar... they don't discriminate) to get the once over by real live medical students. Albany Medical Center proudly presents:

Teddy Bear Hospital Day
Sunday May 17 from 1-4pm
Choices Cafe - (Hospital Cafeteria)
Albany Medical Center 47 N. Scotland Ave
Free Parking and Admission

-Face painting, raffles, giveaways.
-Explore an ambulance, fire truck and medical helicopter (not sure how they are going to squeeze those in cafeteria)
-Ask questions about going to the doctor
-Hands on displays
-Find out why teddy has seemed so feverish lately

Just for kicks, check this out (Disclaimer - some of these pictures are graphic and not for the faint of heart)

Fun fact: Did you know that bjorn (as in Baby Bjorn) means 'bear' in Scandanavia. Bring that up at your next cocktail party...everyone will be calling you an intellectual in no time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pick Up Sticks

When I first bought these chopsticks for my kids it was more because I liked the idea of them eating ramen like the pros, not so much believing they would actually be able to do so (plus, I'm a sucker for cool design). Oh ye, of little faith! These babies worked like a charm. As soon as they were out of the package the kids were eating dinner with them. And trust me, there is nothing sweeter than chubby kid hands using chopsticks. (see picture)

Basically they are chopstick training wheels that even the most uncoordinated adult could use. I also found that the kids are apt to be more adventurous in the eating department when they are using these. I bought mine for around $6/each at Borders (in the stationery dept.) You can find them here: Chopstick Kids

Chubby kid hands demonstrating chopstick use.

They come in two varieties... the red boy and the pink girl. They are both smiling too, and therefore very encouraging.

The Playground With No Grass

Hidden beneath the looming shadow of the Agency buildings on Empire State Plaza is a little gem of a playground we have come to call (thanks to our friend Julia-Bear) the 'playground with no grass'. I honestly never noticed this place until we were tipped off to its secret locale. Rockefeller included the playground in his original plans for his marble and steel baby, but for some reason it seems so unlikely that I never thought to look for it. However, once you know it's there you'll realize that it's a perfect place to duck away to when you are hanging out at the plaza doing whatever it is that brought you there. (4th of July, GE Kid's Day, catching a show at the Egg, visiting the museum etc.).

Instead of grass they have used that rubbery material, so your kids will never get hurt (maybe not never, but they are more likely to 'bounce' back...badum-cha!) There is plenty of shade, enough greenery, a separate play area for little ones, a wide variety climbing and slideing equipment, and there are usually lots of other kids to play with due to the the nearby daycare center (which might be a blessing or a curse depending on how congested you like your playgrounds). Here's the best map I could find of the area. The playground is right behind Agency Bldg. 1.

Purple Dinosaur Rating: None (but never fear... they do have a little riding motorcyle and car that seemed to keep their mind off of this)

Thanks to Laura D. for the tip!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hudson Children's Book Festival

On Saturday, May 16th, head on down to Hudson for the Hudson Children's Book Festival. Meet over 50 children's books authors and illustrators, browse through books for your home library, participate in workshops led by the authors, and eat fee treats. You can also win $100 in their "Name the Whale" Contest. Enter here.

Afterward, you can stroll around downtown Hudson, do some antiquing, and eat at Mexican Radio. A perfect day trip!

Check out this link for more information: Hudson Children's Book Festival

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Ever since having kids I have tried really hard not to get sucked into the precious world of children's music. I'm not ready to lose my groove yet, let alone get it back, so I try to steer clear of anything that damages my street cred. Sure, Raffi is entertaining enough, but in small doses, please! (There have been times I was ready to 'take HIM out to the ballgame', and by ballgame I don't mean ballgame, if you get my drift). But, I digress. Music is a beautiful thing to be shared with the family without the threat of a parent being driven into a lifeless stupor, mindlessly humming 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' over and over again. So with that I offer you the first of hopefully many posts with suggestions of cool music the whole family can enjoy.

My first suggestion is Jack Johnson's
Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George.

I have been listening to this album for a few years now and love it every time I put it on. (I'm not totaly selfish, the kids love it too). It's fun, danceable, sweet (in an un-cloying kind of way) and reminds me of summer. I thought is was especially appropriate for Earth Day since his song 'The 3 R's' extols the wonders of reducing, reusing and that third one... you know, the thing you do with cans and cardboard. Anyway, you can check out the video below or go to and take a listen.

Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions.

Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day at the NY State Museum
Saturday, April 25 — 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Museum Exhibit Halls - 4th Floor

Learn how to save the planet while partying with Smokey the Bear and his Forest Ranger pals (only you can prevent forest fires). This event looks like a lot of fun for the kids and it's all free of charge. See a puppet show, listen to storytellers, make a giant puzzle, grow an eco-garden, make a recycled souveneir, ride the carousel (that's not advertised, but you know your kids will want to do that too!) Find out more info here.

Can't make it to the museum? Here's are some book suggestions to bring a little Earth Day flavor to your home. Because you know what they say: Make it Earth Day, everyday! (Who's they? You know, Smokey the Bear and his Forest Ranger Pals, that's who.)

The Water Hole - Graeme Base
-Click on this link, buy this book, and then buy every other book this man has authored/illustrated.

Nature in the Neighborhood - Gordon Morrison
-You don't have to go to the woods to find nature....this book shows us where to find it in our hood.

S is for Save the Planet - A How to be Green Alphabet - Brad Herzog
- Self explanatory, pretty pictures.

Growing Vegetable Soup - Louis Ehlert
-This book has got it all... farming, good nutrition, soup recipe. Good for little ones.

Whole World Fun Eco Activities
: Go Green, Go Barefoot! - Christopher Corr
-A book with, you know, fun eco activities.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mardi Gras...Saratoga Style

Here's a fun weekend activity for you and the family.

The Third Annual
Saratoga Springs Mardi Gras Festival!

SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 2009

The 'kick-off' event is on Saturday night, but you have to order tickets, make sure your kids are well behaved..blah, blah, blah, so you probably won't want to do that... What you will want to do is get there on Sunday when your kids can get their faces painted, make masks, see a parade, indulge in a real-life cajun cook-off, and listen to live music under a big tent. Summer is here people! (positive thinking technique)

Here is a 'kid friendly schedule' from their website:

Fun for Kids:

Rena's Fine Flowers, 51 Ash St.
Bria Arponti professional Face Painting - 10:30am till 4pm
Lafayette Jewelry, 30B Beekman St.
Bead Bracelet making, Sidewalk Chalk drawing before and after the parade
for info call: 528-9114
Mimosa's 70 Beekman St.
Mardi Gras Masks, Hats and Maracas making for kids 10-Noon
for info call: 583-1163
Saratoga Downtowner, Broadway
Kids Craft Activities during the Festival 2-5pm

You can check out the rest of the schedule here.

Thanks to Leanne G. for the tip!

Free Burritos!!!

Free Burrito Day at Bombers on Lark Street!!! You'll have to stand in line... a long one... in the rain... but my friend is there right now and says its moving pretty quickly... Downstairs eating only. Bring an umbrella.

Not exactly the most kid-friendly activity, but I live for veggie chik'n nugget burritos, so though I'd share. This is about as exciting as it gets in Small-bany!

Thanks to Lua R. for the tip!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Can We Build It?

Did you know that Lowe's and Home Depot offer FREE kids workshops where you can channel your inner carpenter and experience the joys of hammers, nails , and wood glue all at the same time? Well, it's true, my friends, it's true. My husband and I took the kids to the Home Depot workshop and we all had a great time. Each child got an orange Home Depot smock, collector's project pin, and a wood project, complete with step-by-step instructions on how to put the little thing together. The project we had last month was a racing ramp with 2 cars. (The fact that I was able to put it together with relative ease... with my 3 1/2 year old's 'help'... is evidence that the projects are very user friendly).

All Home Depots in the area offers workshops on the first Saturday of every month from 9-12pm. The projects are on a first come first serve basis, so try to get there on the early side. Last month we missed out on the birdhouses because someone, (and I'm not one to name names...but I am married to him) needed to stop at the bank beforehand. They were gone by 11. If you don't want to do the project there, they will give you one to take home with you and there doesn't seem to be an age requirement. To find a Capital District Home Depot click here.

All the Lowe's Hardware stores in the area offer Build and Grow workshops, every other Saturday with the next one taking place on April 25th (the Lowe's rep. said she thinks this week's project is a hanglider). It runs from 10-11am , but they prefer if your child is in 2nd grade or older. (***Make sure you pre-register online, otherwise you might have a very disappointed child, and that's never fun) To find a Capital District Lowe's to find out more information, and pre-register, click here.

Why are these workshops free you ask? Well, I asked the same question until we spent a ton of money on home repair paraphernalia after they lured us in there. No such thing as a free lunch... or a free birdhouse.

Thanks to Leanne G. for the tip!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Love My Library

On most Wednesdays, my kids and I head down to the Delaware Branch of the Albany Public Library and take in a little story time. "Miss Rebecca", our neighborhood librarian, delights the little ones with fun stories and fingerplays and doesn't cringe when the kids voices carry above the standard library whisper. She creates an atmosphere that is welcoming for both the kids and adults (who arguably enjoy singing 'If You're Happy and You Know It" as much, if not more, than the kids).

Undoubtedly, you have a library you love to take your kids to as well, so here is your chance to have it, as well as all the others ones, recognized. A group of Upper Hudson Valley System librarians have decided to nominate ALL the libraries in the Capital District in the 'Best Children's Library" category for the "Times Unions Best of 2009". Take a moment to vote in this fun campaign as a way of saying thank you to all of your local libraries and librarians who spread their book-loving magic to all the little children in the Capital District.

Here's what you can do:
1. Click on the link.
2. Register
3. Begin to Vote (you can also take this opportunity to vote for all the other great places in the area that merit distinction).
4. When you get to the 'Best Children's Library' Category type "The One You Take Your Kids To"

Ballots will be accepted until Friday, April 24. Results will be published June 11 in a special “Best of the Capital Region” section of the newspaper.

Rock the Vote!

Thanks to Rebecca T. for the tip!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Handy Dandy Playground Chart

Here is a nice little guide from the Albany Parks and Recreation Office that lists every playground in Albany and what they have to offer.

The City of Albany Playground Guide

Whitehall Park

I'm always on the lookout for a decent playground for the kiddos. My kids aren't picky when it comes to these things, but if it happens to have a couple of those purple dinosaurs, they are especially pleased. So here is the first of hopefully many playground posts that help you find these little gems located around your neighborhoods.

Whitehall Park is located right behind The Albany School of Humanities (ASH) on Whitehall Ave. At first I thought it was part of the school playground, but further investigation proved that it was inded open to the public. (Note: During recess/lunch time, the school kids do use the equipment). They have a good variety of equipment, swings, slides, rock climbing things, tire swings, a couple of picnic tables, and lots of trees. The afternoon I was there, there were lots of kids of all ages and a mommy group meeting at the picnic tables. Overall, your kids will be very happy there... and if you don't mind a little graffiti on your jungle gym, then so will you.

Purple Dinosaur Rating: * * * (although, one of them is an airplane, and one of the dinos is green)

The Albany Aquarium

Albany has an aquarium? Ok, not quite, but we do have a pretty flipping cool fish store. Davey Jones Locker, located on Delaware Avenue, has all your fishy needs and is a really cool place to stop by and show the kids. According to their website:
Our 2000 square foot store has everything for both the beginning and advanced hobbyist. We provide top-quality aquarium supplies, kits, filtration systems, frozen and live foods along with an incredible selection of tropical freshwater, saltwater fish and invertebrates.

Since everyone (except me) in my family is allergic to basically any animal that breathes air, fish are our pet of choice. We have bought a few fish from big box pet stores, but the ones from DJL last a lot longer and they seem healthier and happier (I'm not an expert at reading their reactions, but let's just say that the ones I have bought from there have lasted on average 1 1/2 - 2 years with spotty maintenance at best.... yes, I'll admit it)

The owner and staff are really knowledgeable and there are plans to put an art gallery in the back to make it part of the 1st Friday circuit. If I haven't sold you on it yet, think about the local business you will be supporting and that should make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's also right down the street from Emack and Bolio's, so after you gorge on ice cream you could take a stroll over there.

You can find it here: Davey Jones Locker

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Day Out With Thomas

I can't vouch for this, since I have never been.. but when your tour is called the 'Hero of the Rails Tour 2009' it's got to be pretty rocking. If your child is a Thomas fan, a train fan, or just a person who could be entertained by large anthropomorphized modes of transport, then here is a great way to spend an afternoon.

According to the website you get to:
  1. Take a 25 minute ride on a real, live Thomas train. (pretty cool!)
  2. Meet Sir Topham Hat (oooh.. ahh!)
  3. Enjoy live music, legos, train tables, and other such related diversions.

May 22-24 & 29-31, 2009
Tickets are $18 for ages 2 and up. Advance purchase is recommended. Rain or Shine. For more info call The Upper Hudson River Railroad at 518-251-5334.

Bowling for No Dollars

Do you love free air conditioning on hot summer days?
Do you love free entertainment for your children?
Do you love the kitschiness only a bowling alley can provide?

Well then search no more my friend... because here is your answer:

The Kids Bowl Free Program

Bowling centers from around the country are giving away 2 free games of bowling each day as an opportunity for kids and families to enjoy bowling during the summer months. Check out this site to find out if a bowling alley near you is partcipating.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's my party

My daughter is about to turn 4 in a month and so the birthday planning begins. What to do, what to do? Here are some ideas of places you can go to celebrate your little ones turning a year older (and calmer??)

Ice Cream Social
Where: Emack and Bolio's (366 Delware Ave., Albany, 512-5100)

From what I found out, you can rent the room for around 20 dollars and have a 'Make your own Sundae" Party. You can choose from a 1, 2, or 3 scoop sundae and E&B's supplies all the toppings. If you prefer less mess, you can order an ice cream cake from them along with the room rental. When the weather is nice there is a great fenced in courtyard... perfect for games and running off all that sugar. For older children you can combine the ice cream party with an hour of mosaic-making at Mosaics by Christine. $15 per child.

Art Attack
Where: Albany Art Room (457 Madison Avenue, Albany, 427-3910)

Like the idea of a messy art party, but shudder at the thought of what that will do to your living room? The Albany Art Room to the rescue. A great location in downtown Albany (right by Lark St) with off-street parking. You can rent the room out for 1 1/2 hours ($150) and according to their website includes: 1. Welcome centers where kids can decorate goody bags, collage, and draw upon arrival. 2. Create a self portrait. 3. Choose a craft (painting, beadwork etc.) You provide the food, cake, goodie bags etc. They provide the space, the activties, the supervisors, and the peace of mind that comes with not having paint smeared all over your furniture. Check out their website for more details.

Swim Time
Where: Center for Disability Services (314 S. Manning Blvd. Albany, 437-5714)

94 degree pool. Need I say more? $75 gets you pool time and a party room to continue the celebration. Contact Rich Vassi. They also offer swimming lessons at $12/hr.

Do you have any ideas on celebrating the big day? Do tell...

Welcome to Small-bany

Before the birth of my second child, I remember my doctor telling me that his wife had one simple rule: Get out of the house at least once a day. She had four children under the age of eight, and this is what she did to keep herself sane. With two kids (age 4 and 2) I have a hard enough time keeping myself together, with four I can't imagine it, but that rule has stuck with me and is what has inspired this blog. Living in Albany, where the weather is bearable for 1/12 of the year (ok, not that bad, but we're well into spring and I still see flurries.. aargh!), it takes a mighty effort to bundle the kids up and head out of doors, but in my seven years of living here, the effort very often pays off.

So... the overarching purpose of this blog is to remind me (and you) that there are loads of kid friendly places to discover and explore. I hope to update this site at least twice a week with ideas on where to go, what to do, music reviews, book ideas, and other fun stuff that helps us enjoy our families and the beautiful place we call home. As always, the strength of this site will come from input from all you out there, so keep your eyes and ears open and let me know what to include.

Welcome to Small-bany. Where a kid can be a kid...or something like that.
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