Five Fun Ways To Help Your Kids Get Into Back-to-School Shape

Little boy playing on the life size puzzle game at the Museum of Mathematics

No question: Summer is awesome. If you're a kid, of course, it's because and you can sleep late, play sports and swim all day, or just chill. Not to mention, not do any homework for two whole glorious months. It's awesome for parents, too. Even if only because we don't have to pester our kids about said homework, and can actually, for example, take them out for milkshakes and a movie on a random Tuesday night.

Now THAT is the best. But as Labor Day approaches, maybe it's time to start easing our brains into things other than Minecraft and Minions. Here, then, are five educational-ish things to do with your kids before we all settle back into our Fall routines.

Two young children playing one of the mathematics games at the MoMath in NYC

Explore The Museum of Mathematics 

Even though she lives in Ottawa, Julie of Coffee With Julie reminded me recently of NYC's terrific Museum of Mathematics, which explores our daily relationships with seemingly abstract mathematical concepts in interesting and interactive ways. August is an especially pleasant time to check out MoMath, because it doesn't get invaded by field trips. And since MoMath is right across from Madison Square Park, you can include Shake Shack concretes and Orly Genger's fantastic public art piece, Red, Yellow and Blue.

Image of the Irish Hunger Memorial located in Battery Park City

Stroll Through The Irish Hunger Memorial 

Ok, so it doesn't sound like much of a party, but the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City is one of the most interesting and well-designed (by Brian Tolle) such spaces in the city. Enter right by the Hudson River and you basically walk up and through an Irish countryside, circa mid-1800s, complete with native plants and stone cottages. And through its deft use of quotes embedded into the walls, the memorial also makes it easy to get a conversation going about greed, inequality, and the great wave of Irish immigration that followed the famine and helped shape NYC well into the 20th century.

People going on one of Levy's Unique Tours of  NYC

Go on Levy's Unique Tours 

There are tons of guided tours of our great city going on all the time, some of which are off-the-beaten-path enough to engage even long-time New Yorkers. Pennsylvania resident and the blogger behind NYC, Style, and a Little Cannoli has a solid list of some of her favorites, but I'd also like to remind you of Levy's Unique Tours, which offers a remarkable variety of food-, cultural-, street art/graffiti-, and history-themed tours in every borough. The Levy family are all hugely entertaining and they know this town inside and out.

Image of the exterior of the Museum American Indian in NYC

American Indian Museum, Smorgasbar, and Imagination Playground

Our friends at Used York City recently served up a nice list of 5 Free Ways to Learn Something This Summer, including a link to Summer Sparks, a series of single-session pop-up classes in things like Origami and Juggling, though most of these are already over (next year!). They also mention the National Museum of the American Indian, which I haven't been to in years but remember being pretty impressed by the scale and variety of the art. Combine a visit (it's free!) with a trip to the terrific, creativity- and cooperation-encouraging Imagination Playground a few blocks away, plus a treat at the South Street Seaport's summertime Smorgasbar, and you have all the makings of a successful family outing.

A dad and his two kids sitting on a bench all looking at screens, whether its a lap top, a tablet, or a smart phone

Step Away From The Screens!

I always get a little lax in the summer about regulating my kids' "entertainment media" time (TV and Wii, iPhones and iPads, computers)–the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest no more than two hours daily for school-age kids, but we do a lot less during the school year–and sometimes we find it hard to get back into a more rigorous routine come September. Which is why this new list of 9 "Screen-Time Strategies For Kids" from the always-thoughtful Mommy Poppins comes at such a perfect time. True, it's mostly for parents with children much younger than mine, but we could all probably use a "screen time fast" a few times a year. 

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