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may 2021

newyorkfamily.com

Let’s Hear it for

Moms!

Jenny Greenstein

on Your Soul Style, her family, and being a guiding light for her daughters

Jodie Patterson

The social activist shares on her new children’s book


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contents

May 2021

NewYorkFamily.com

pg. 14

pg. 30 pg. 16

pg. 18

pg. 28

FEATURES 20 | Crafty & Creative Getting kids back to connecting in the arts 28 | Jenny Greenstein - North Star Jenny Greenstein on family, Your Soul Style and being a guiding light for her daughters

Stories & columns 4 | Editor’s Note May Flowers

Directories 16 | STEAM Listings

6 | Ask The Expert Tips as kids get back to being social 10 | Mom Stories Reconnecting with the ones I love 14 | STEM How to get kids to love coding 18 | Mom Hacks 5 baby skincare brands we love 24 | SpotLight Jodie Patterson shares on her new children’s book 30 | Family Fun 7 New York petting zoos kids will love

on the Cover Photo: Yumi Matsuo | yumimatsuostudio.com Makeup: Buffy Hernandez | buffysaintmarie.com Hair: Johnny Haeger | johnnyhaeger.com

May 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family

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Editor’s Note

NewYorkFamily.com Publisher: Clifford Luster Executive Editor: Donna Duarte-Ladd Digital Editor: Katarina Avendaño Senior Adviser: Susan Weiss Digital Director: Erik Bliss Partnership Managers: Erin Brof, Mary Cassidy, Shelli Goldberg-Peck Ad Operations Manager: Rosalia Bobé Art Director: Leah Mitch Web Developer: Sylvan Migdal Graphic Designers: Arthur Arutyunov, Connie Sulsenti

Nina Gallo Photography

May Flowers The weather is warming, and we are starting to re-explore our city. Some of our kids are heading back to school and getting back to the swing of things by taking classes and seeing their friends. As kids start to get reacquainted, we have Tips for Kids Getting Back to Socializing (page 6). Now that kids are back out or doing remote classes, we have an insightful piece on how we can reconnect our kids through art with our article on Crafty & Creative(page 18). A year ago, we were planning this month’s

cover of Jenny Greenstein, North Star (page 28), her wife Dina, and their two young daughters. Of course, life for all of us shifted in ways we may have never thought would happen. Yet, in a sign that we are starting to get out and get back to our new normal, our vaccinated crew finally was able to visit Jenny and her family to shoot this month’s beautiful cover!

Xo, Donna and New York Family

Editorial Contributors: Jana Beauchamp, Cris Pearlstein, Mia Salas Editorial Interns: Patrick Delaney, Analiese Dodd

Contact Information

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Address: New York Family Media/Schneps Media 1 MetroTech Center North, Third Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201

President: Victoria Schneps-Yunis CEO: Joshua Schneps Group Publisher: Clifford Luster

New York Family has been awarded the PMA Gold Award for Excellence both overall and in Website Design

2020

New York Family is published monthly by Queens Family Media, LLC.

get in touch Share your feedback and ideas about family life in the city! Email us at editorial@newyorkfamily.com and tag us at #newyorkfamily

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Reproduction of New York Family Media in whole or part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. All rights reserved. ©2021 Queens Family Media, LLC


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5


ASK THE EXPERT

Tips as Kids Get Back to Socializing Vaccines, re-openings, and warm weather mean children are adjusting to time together again BY DONNA DUARTE�LADD

T

he tantrums have been one for the books, in between remote classes or after a long day of Zoom — out of the blue; my eleven-year-old, who hasn’t had meltdowns since toddlerhood, displays emotional highs and lows. When the kids are finally around other kids, while joyous, it can also go from zero to 60 over the simplest things. And the parents. I have seen outbursts and have been on the receiving end of a fellow parent’s outburst, while both sides wondering afterward WTF just happened?! It is as if we have all been stuck in the same house for a year. Ahhh, yes, that is it, we have been in the same place for over a year. And now, as we slowly make our way back outside in the world, how can parents get their kids (and ourselves) back to socializing courteously and respectfully? I touched base with Dr. Christina Johns, Senior Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics, with tips on how kids can transition back to being social? Has quarantine affected kids’ development? While I think pediatricians and parents alike are very concerned that social develop-

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NewYorkFamily.com | May 2021

ment has been delayed because of isolation, the reality is that kids are pretty resilient, so we’re hopeful they will bounce back once we emerge from the pandemic. That said, we currently don’t have enough long-term data to determine what developmental effects the pandemic will have on children, and we will be following that very closely in the years to come. Pediatricians are concerned because there is some data that suggests learning has slowed down, but the evidence-based answer is that we don’t know for sure yet. Kids have either been glued to a tablet or have had limited time with friends; as New York re-opens, how can they transition into being social again? My recommendation to parents is to ease in slowly. I wouldn’t recommend that kids who haven’t had social time go to a sleepover right away, for example. Instead, it’s a gradual transition. I suggest shorter playdates and one-on-one time to start, all the while reminding children to respect their peers’ physical space. Before getting back to socializing, bring up the discussion of sharing depending on the child’s age. I also suggest reminding them of other general

social norms, like manners and respect. It’s ultimately about easing in and gradually expanding from there. Always remember to be smart with outdoor playdates, structured playdates with activities to provide a format to help kids socialize easier. How can a kid deal with misunderstanding and hurt feelings once they start having more face-to-face time? I see this more than ever with my oldest when he is on Zoom with friends, and one hangs up or loses their temper easily. Role-modeling, the behavior you want to see in your child, is key. I also suggest scripting. In other words, talk to your child about how to navigate these kinds of situations before they actually happen, and you can arm them with strategies. I also recommend you ‘name the feelings’. Teach your child to say “you seem upset right now” to a peer, for example. Once it’s named and kids have a shared understanding of the situation, they can go ahead and try to resolve it. It doesn’t make sense, for example, to have a child apologize if they don’t know what they’re apologizing for because that may not be appropriate in the setting and doesn’t teach the strategies for conflict resolution for the future.


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ask the expert

What can a parent do if their child seems anxious or depressed as they get back to just being a kid but with all that it comes with (peer pressure, competitiveness, etc.)? I would encourage parents to make sure they know what the truly concerning signs of depression and anxiety are in order to determine when it’s time to speak to a pediatric physician for help. Those signs can manifest in a child getting so anxious that they can’t get through their activities of daily life, their sleep schedule seems to be thrown off, they are completely disengaged, grades are dropping, etc. Those are real signs depression and anxiety have taken over, and that is the time to actively seek care. It’s a great idea to start with a pediatric healthcare professional as they can often help to screen the child and give you the best guidance on the next steps. If you don’t feel like your child is exhibiting any of these truly concerning behaviors, but they seem anxious, starting to slowly ease back into normal life may be the best way to move forward. People so badly want to resume pre-pandemic activities right away; however, any kind of expectation

“I suggest shorter playdates and one-on-one time to start, all the while reminding children to respect their peers’ physical space.” that getting back to that in the immediate will lead to disappointment. As a parent, setting up some small successes for a child can help them regain confidence, so they are less anxious about various situations going forward. As for parents, how do we set good examples for our kids? We practice what we preach. One thing that I encourage parents to keep in mind is the idea of balance. Try your best as a parent to set boundaries for yourself and do something that’s actually engaging and social during the day. If you’ve been working all day, sitting in front of a screen, give yourself a break and go outside to chat with a neighbor. And, bring your child with you. If you start engaging in safe, social activities together, your child is more likely to pick that up and do it independently.

Dr. Christina Johns is the Senior Medical Advisor and Vice President of Communications for PM Pediatrics, where she provides evidencebased pediatric expertise for patients and families everywhere. A pediatric emergency physician and medical leader, Dr. Johns is board certified in both pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine. Dr. Johns has contributed to Good Morning America, been featured as a medical expert on CNN and Discovery Health shows, hosted Clear Channel Radio’s medical talk show, Doctors Call, and served as a spokesperson for SafeKids Worldwide on behalf of child advocacy on Capitol Hill. Dr. Johns is a mom of two, a son and a daughter, and resides with her family and their two dogs in Annapolis, MD. Visit Dr. Christina’s blog, Dear Dr. Christina, and on Instagram @deardrchristina, Twitter @DrCJohns, and Facebook @Dr. Christina Johns.

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mom stories

Reconnecting With the Ones I Love As the world reopens, reflecting on the most important personal connections in my life By Leah Fink

I

t’s early April of 2020; the light is dreamy in eastern Long Island, where my family is seeking refuge from Covid 19 in the city. Long shadows on the ground, neon green buds on the trees, and the ocean waters crash into soothing tones. And yet, we’re worried. There is uncertainty in our world. And there is no word when our children will be returning to school. My husband and I are both trying to manage our businesses and our kids, not to mention deep grief over the loss of a few close family members. A mom friend of mine told me that sometimes she’s too tired to brush her teeth at the end of the day. Sadly, I understand. I grew up with recitals, soccer games, baseball games, and a separate birthday party for all fourteen family members: aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters. My grandmother was the center of it all. We celebrated large holiday dinners with way too much food in typical

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NewYorkFamily.com | May 2021

Jewish fashion. Matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, topped with small slices of orange carrots, several different kugels, and a whole table full of desserts. Dinners that nobody was allowed to miss. We were never not together. We were never not celebrating something. Fast forward to my move to New York. My family wasn’t thrilled with the physical distance, but I stayed close with frequent trips home and promised to call my grandmother every morning on my way from the subway into work. Three years into living in New York, I met my now-husband, Johnny. Then came babies. Having my children made it harder to be away from my family, but I kept my new mom friends close. We’d get together every Friday night to debrief the week while the kids ran around under our feet. Pre-Covid, another tradition I created was a Sunday Night Dinner at my home in Brooklyn with a rotating cast of characters, including friends and family. We celebrated holidays, birthdays, and engagements.

When someone passed the bar exam, we ate a football-shaped Carvel cake. When my beloved cousin died suddenly, two friends cooked all my family recipes to comfort us. Like so many New Yorkers, our friends, especially my mom friends, became a lifeline. Later, a friend and I started B’nai Brooklyn, a progressive Jewish organization on a larger scale bringing families together for Shabbat services and a pizza party in Brooklyn in (so Brooklyn) a church basement. The warmth that we felt with a room full of people — kids running around, adults eating pizza and drinking wine — felt familiar to me. The crowd of 75 doubled between the first and second event, and then COVID hit. Weekly happy hours: paused. Pizza Shabbat: paused. Sunday Night Dinner: also paused. Back in pandemic life, my nuclear family quarantined in the house with beautiful surroundings, and my big, close family met


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mom stories

on zoom every night (Yes, every night!) at 5 PM for THREE MONTHS. And I really missed my friends. From the beginning, a group of four were on a text chain that went deeper and longer than any before. We chatted about the highs and lows of our days, how scared we were about what was happening. We even texted from our closets while hiding from our kids! Mid-pandemic, the numbers were down, but us moms were way stressed. The four of us decided to get tested, quarantine carefully, and then get together for a few days at my house. What happened next was magical. There was laughter; there were tears. There was wine tasting, yoga, beach walks, and even an OUIJA board attempt (It didn’t work.) There was an epic co-working session where we threw out ideas, reviewed each others’ emails, and may have even hatched a business. And now, as New York opens back up, I am craving the in-person community I had in Brooklyn more than ever. I’m craving warmth, fun, the ability to have a conversation with one group and then

I’m craving warmth, fun, the ability to have a conversation with one group and then walk over to the other side of the room (or the park!) and have a conversation with another. walk over to the other side of the room (or the park!) and have a conversation with another. All the women I know are so tired. We’ve been keeping up households, careers, holding up kids and partners. Like no other year in history, we’ve been pushed out of the workforce. We’re worried about health and school and what the world will look like in the months to come. There was a point in my career where I realized that almost everything I do is recreate the warmth, the joy, the fun that I felt as a kid growing up with my extended family. So it is not lost on me that I chose a career where I am always with people, be it as a community builder, teacher, or life coach. I want to continue the feeling we felt at the end of our quarantine retreat. To feel anew, connected, refreshed, and ready to be with my beautiful friends and family.

Leah Wiseman Fink is a life & business coach with a background in education. Her coaching practice focuses on empowering women to make thoughtful, pragmatic decisions that lead to positive, life-changing results. She holds two masters’ degrees in Education Leadership and Secondary English Education. Leah worked for the NYC Department of Education in many capacities, including where she opened new schools in underserved communities so children could thrive. She is also a children’s book author, the co-founder of B’nai Brooklyn, also hosts epic retreats for anyone who needs a refresh. Leah’s love for NYC is magnetic, knowing that the pulse of the city is unlike anywhere else in the world. She has two children and her family owns Williamsburg Pizza, which many call the best slice in New York. To find out more about upcoming retreats, go to leahwisemanfink.com/events

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13


STEM

How to Get Your Kids to Love Coding BY YUMIO SANEYOSHI

A

s parents, we want to expose our kids to as many intellectually stimulating and emotionally growing activities as possible. When we see our friends’ kids taking a coding class, we immediately think – “should we be signing up our kid to be the next Mark Zuckerberg?” How exactly should we go about this? From a fancy coding camp at Stanford University to free online resources, there are a myriad of choices that can be overwhelming. Many think that coding is like learning addition and subtraction in math. Take a few lessons to learn what a loop is and how to write an if/then and you’re done. But memorizing the definition of a loop is useless unless the student uses it to solve a problem or task. Parents have a specific language in mind when they sign up their kids for coding lessons. They might say, “My office IT uses Python. I want my kids to learn Python.” But when it comes to kids learning to code, they first need to start by unlocking their passion for creation. Learning Coding is Like Learning a Musical Instrument I often tell parents that learning coding is

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NewYorkFamily.com | May 2021

like learning to play a musical instrument. The most important criteria for choosing an appropriate instrument for your child should be the child’s enjoyment of playing that instrument. Just as a parent should not force a child to play the oboe because it will help them get into Stanford (it doesn’t), you should not force a particular coding language on a child because of some market demand for certain coding languages at a particular time. The primary ingredient for success in coding education is motivation. While an adult might grind through coding boot camp with the promise of a high-paying job, kids are best motivated by inner joy. The most obvious inner joy is when hard work and patience is rewarded by their newly found ability to create something of value that can be shared with others. Inner joy is one of the most powerful motivations to overcome kids’ tendencies to give up when faced with a challenge. I found that even the most technologically reticent child can be coaxed into spending a few hours per week working on code if they see that their efforts lead to creating a game or app that they can call all their own. We

have seen numerous eyes light up when they make their first simple calculator (as long as they can color the keys lavender and use Lobster font) or a little Javascript animation sequence that they designed to tell a story. Through carefully curated projects and exercises, kids gradually pick up on the way to talk to the computer. They learn to channel all the great ideas they have about what they want to build into a structure that a computer can understand. Once the code language makes sense to them, nothing can stop them from creating the next great app or algorithm. Teaching to Debug Beyond the basic concepts of coding like loops and conditionals, the most important thing for kids to learn is the ability to debug their own code. Once kids gain the self-confidence to debug their own code, like the proverb about teaching a man to fish to feed them a lifetime, you’ve taught them how to self-learn from the vast world of online resources for coding. No matter what programming language they need to learn, they will have the ability to overcome challenges with the assistance of billions of


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stem

online resources if they possess this critical skill. You do not learn debugging by memorization. Debugging requires an understanding of how the computer thinks and how you must adapt your commands to conform to that thinking. Kids need to develop a “sense” for what works and what doesn’t in coding without trying to memorize the rules. They must think like a computer, not memorize ten different ways to write a for a loop. As anyone who has tried to talk to Amazon’s Alex or Google Home Assistant, the computer has a certain pattern that it recognizes, and it’s useless to try to plead it to understand how we think. We must adapt our commands into phrases that it can understand. In Coding, Don’t Sweat the Details Some parents, especially computer programmers, want their kids to learn best practices in software development from the very beginning. I often discourage this approach. Software development best practices make sense for professional coders

The primary ingredient for success in coding education is motivation. While an adult might grind through coding boot camp with the promise of a high-paying job, kids are best motivated by inner joy. and those who already understand the consequences of certain coding patterns. It can be quite confusing and inexplicable for those just learning coding for the first time. The child needs to possess some basic vocabulary to build up their computer program, but putting them together to accomplish the task should be entirely up to them. Let them discover the faults in certain approaches to problems so they can learn from their mistakes. Worrying about the most efficient way of doing something should only come after the student has gained enough experience to understand the need for such best practices. It is cliche to expound that fact that coding opens so many doors. Almost all

our teachers who learned to code after they arrived in college wish they knew to start when they were still in grade school. Coding is a lifelong pursuit, even if you never become a professional software developer. Let coding become a tool to foster your kid’s inner joy. Yumio Saneyoshi is the founder of Penguin Coding School, which teaches kids ages 6-18 everything from Scratch, Minecraft, Roblox, Javascript, Python, Java, Robotics, 3D Printing and Hands-On-Science. Penguin Coding School offers both online virtual and in-person classes throughout the year. Yumio worked in various software companies in Silicon Valley for 15 years before starting Penguin Coding School. He is a parent of two teenagers.

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NewYorkFamily.com | May 2021

1501 Jerome Avenue, Bronx NY 718-758-5901 newsettlement.org/community-center The New Settlement Community Center, also known as NSCC, is excited to reopen its doors to the public on July 6th, 2021. They’ve been preparing all year for a safe reopening, and are thrilled the STEAM program, known as “Tech Crew”, is returning! Geared for ages 7 to 12, participants will learn primary coding languages such as HTML, Python, and Scratch, the concept of game design, and will create their own video game to share with friends and family. They will also be able to build robots from scratch and program simple commands. For more information about NSCC, call them at 718-758-5901.

STEAM into SCA St. Catharine Academy Summer Camp 2250 Williamsbridge Road Bronx, NY 10469 718-882-2882 scahs.org/steam/ STEAM into SCA is a camp that inspires girls to love math and science. It is a three-week summer program that combines academic coursework in Math and English while exploring the arts and sciences, such as robotics, art and dance. Rising 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls are able to make new friends as they enjoy activities such as athletics and games. July 12th - July 30th from 9am to 2pm. The program fee is $500 which includes course materials and a t-shirt.


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May 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family

17


mom hacks

5 Baby Skin Care Brands We Love By Donna Duarte-LaDD

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kin care for babies is growing every year. And while the products keep expanding and evolving, allowing parents to find the best product for their child, it can be a bit mind-boggling to know which ones are the right fit for your family. We reviewed the many baby products sent our way and came up with a top 5 that we love, all for different reasons, but all do one thing — provide skin nourishment for your baby and beyond.

Tots by Babyganics Hair Care Babyganics newly launched skincare line, Tots by babyganics, tackles the toddler stage, you know, once the hair has grown in and curls, tangles become part of your growing babe’s hair. Dermatologisttested, this line helps calm and control flyaways while maintaining growing hair. We tried the 2-in-1 Curly Shampoo & Conditioner, $9.99, on a very curly hair prek’er. If you have a curly hair child, you know that post-bath is when their curls look the best and the following day, poof… gone. The tots line, which consists of coconut oil, avocado, apricot oil, and chamomile extract, helps to moisturize and smooth out unruly hair. There is also a non-curly 2-in-1 version, and for the hair that tangles (what do they do to get so many knots in their hair?), the detangling spray is not heavy, leaving none of that sticky residue some products tend to do.

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Mum & You Hypoallergenic Skin Care The Mum & You line, which is naturally derived, and vegan, focuses on mom and baby. We tested the Mums Touch Massage Oil, $9.99, a 2-pack of massage oils, one for the day and one for the night; the day oil includes organic jojoba and organic chamomile, which we tested on both ourselves and the kids. For the evening, after a bath, we used the sleepy night version — the oils went on super smooth, and within days our skin softened. As a mom bonus, we tested the Tummy Time (for mothers),$25, a firming and toning gel. The combination of sunflower seed and turmeric extract helps boost collagen and tighten the stomach area. After a year of really not taking care of ourselves, these products felt like much-needed self-care for us, the moms, and the family.


Ever Eden Plant-Based We found ourselves going from giving the products a go on the kids — to full-on incorporating products such as nourishing baby cream and Foaming Baby Shampoo and Wash, $16, to our beauty routine. Our tester (the curly hair babe) loved the foaming wash because who doesn’t love foam? Pediatriciancreated with naturally-derived oat amino acids and coconut juice, and coconut water. We loved it for being super gentle and tear-free. The product this editor is now sharing with her son is The Nourishing Baby Face Cream, $24, rich in moisture; it goes on those still brisk mornings on the kids and on mom as a night cream- rich hydration something many of us need after being home for months.

Baby Bum by Sun Bum PlantBased One of our favorite picks for SPF care, Sun Bum, has a well-curated baby skincare linebaby Bum. This is perfect for parents looking for plant-based baby skincare. Bubble baths are what nighttime routines are made of, and the Bubble Bath, $9.99, doesn’t mess around. Ingredients of sea minerals like magnesium, calcium mixed with monoi coconut oil and banana, aloe, & white ginger make for one hydrating, moisturizing bubble bath. The Calendula Cream, $13.99, while perfect for a new baby, is also excellent for the entire family as the calendula flower mixed with lavender oil and shea butter nourishes as we all make our way outdoors again.

Baby Dove by Dove for Eczema Care Baby Eczema, dry, flaky, itchy skin, affects babies and even big kids, mostly on their face, especially their cheeks. While stressful for parents, it is uncomfortable for a little one. Dove’s Baby Dove Derma Care Soothing Wash, $8.99, is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and made without dyes, parabens, phthalates, steroids, or sulfates. That is the technical stuff; what we love about it for baby is that it is super gentle and doesn’t dry out the skin. For relief from the itchiness, hydration is beneficial, and the Baby Dove Eczema Care Soothing Cream, $8.99, is a powerful moisturizer with patented technology that strengthens your babe’s skin.

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19


arts

Crafty & Creative How to reconnect our kids with their artistic sides By Mia SalaS

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ew York boasts some of the best art programs for kids, from dance to theater to music and everything in between. But since the start of COVID-19, in-person art programs have come to a stop. And with work-from-home, school-from-home, and a whole lot of emotional stress on us with everything going on in the world right now, art-at-home hasn’t exactly been a priority. Yet as things start to open up again as more people get vaccinated, it’s time to get crafty and creative again with your kiddos! Inperson after school and summer camp art classes are ready to welcome your child, and many art programs have developed lasting hybrid models to get your kids back into the arts. We’ve got the scoop on all-things arts in New York for kids: why the arts are important, how art programs have shifted since COVID-19, and the many ways to get your kids back to being creative! First and foremost, even though art may not have been a top concern for us during the height of the pandemic, our brilliant New York art programs never stopped running! “Making art never stopped! When the world shut down last year The Neighborhood Playhouse knew we had to keep the arts and children’s dreams alive. We started online classes very quickly. Students sing, dance, act, and write plays from home with guidance from our extraordinary teachers,” says Carmen Lamar Daehler, Neighborhood Playhouse Junior School Director. Although we may have been nostalgic for the days of in-person art, these programs found a way to continue art at home. “Since the pandemic, the kids enrolled in our String Music Program have experienced art straight from their living rooms, bedrooms and

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haven’t missed a beat (no pun intended),” adds Chinita Pointer, President/CEO of Noel Pointer Music. Even if your kids did stay creative during the pandemic, transitioning back into inperson art can be intimidating, especially for little ones who haven’t had much exposure to these sort of programs. Artistic Director of Play Group Theatre, Jill Abusch suggests: “I think that kids have to remember that, even though they might not have had an outlet for their creativity, they never stopped being creative! They are creative, and always will be. And once they get back into the theatre -- classes, rehearsals, performances -- they will start feeling creative again. That spark will be re-lit! It is ok to feel a little bit scared and hesitant, but it is so important to push through

those fears and get into the theatre.....and trust those creative feelings to be there when they do!” We couldn’t agree more. Think about all those times you watched your kiddos make up their own games at the park or turned the living room into a pillow-fort! And as parents, we can have comfort in knowing that New York art programs continue to develop and shift to keep our families safe, healthy, and of course, creative. “Now that we have learned best practices to conduct live, in-studio classes, Steffi Nossen is jumping into the summer and getting back into the studio!” says Shelley Grantham, Executive Director at Steffi Nossen School of Dance, “Our dance students, during the course of the pandemic, have pivoted through pre-recorded classes, online live


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Arts

classes, outdoor dance and a new landscape of performing with site-specific locations and outdoor amphitheaters...Art and dance is naturally ever changing, adapting to the world around it. Steffi Nossen dancers have risen out of this challenging year and together we have found new ways of learning, exploring, growing, and expressing our inner artist through communication, collaborating, and creativity.” You may be wondering: why is art so important for kids right now, anyway? Well, art encourages collaboration and creativity with other kids. Yes, athletic and academic after-school programs also bring kids together, but there is something unique about art in the way that it encourages self-expression and communication in a collaborative environment. “One of the hardest parts of the pandemic for artistic children has been the separation from like-minded peers. Being with other kids with shared artistic interest not only provides a comfortable space in which they can be themselves but also provides an exciting exchange of imagination and ideas,” explains Loren Anderson, Owner of Katonah Art Center. Beyond the social aspect, art also instills self-confidence, improves mental health, and, in some cases, develops physical fitness. “Supporting children’s social, emotional, and physical growth and well-being through the pandemic has been our first priority at Ballet Academy East,” says Julia Dubno, Founder and Director at Ballet Academy East, “The arts, and dance in particular, is a powerful way for children to have the opportunity to express themselves, interact with friends, stay physically active, and have fun! The best way to join back into class after a prolonged absence is to jump right in. Experienced teachers will know just how to encourage and inspire a young child who might feel tentative in their first class.” As Dubno notes, teachers will serve as an important part of the transition back into the arts for your kiddos. And once your little artists are back in-action, they’ll surely be reminded of just how rewarding art can be. Now how exactly can your kids transition back into the arts? What kinds of programs are available and what might those classes look like? One option to get back into the swing of things is through music. “One of the best ways for kids to get back to the arts is to actively engage in music or other performing arts! Now that in person music lessons are safely available in addition to virtual, the personal interaction with a teacher in private

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There is something unique about art in the way that it encourages selfexpression and communication in a collaborative environment. lessons or small classes creates a wonderful feeling of creative self expression and accomplishment. When children choose to play an instrument which has the sound they love, happiness is the result...For preschoolers and babies, exposure to hands on music making with age appropriate instruments such as bongos, ukuleles, shakers, small violins, xylophones are both fun and enriching,” explains Deborah Molodofsky, Founder and Director at Amadeus Music School. If you’re totally on-board with music as a transition into the arts, then you may also want to check out Noel Pointer Music: “To get kids back to being creative, I’d suggest they sign up for our ‘String Music Program,’ especially this summer, where they’ll learn how to play an instrument, go on a fun trip, meet some really cool kids who are doing the same thing and develop skills that will enhance their academics,” says Chinita Pointer. We know how popular summer day and sleep away camps are, but as you look towards the summer, consider sprinkling in a bit of music, either through musical camps or classes, to get the creativity rolling again. Another option to consider is to get back to being creative through dance! “Kids need to move and what better way to get back into the arts than dance? Let your child dance for joy with our fun, energetic approach,” says Roberta Humphrey, Owner of Dance for Joy, “Our ballet based programs allow students to progress at their own pace in a noncompetitive, developmentally appropriate syllabus. Start with BippityBop where 3-6 year olds explore the world of dance and have their own recital. Ballet classes start at age 7; also jazz, contemporary and modern. Add performing in their Nutcracker or other performance opportunities and your child will shine!” We’re obsessed with the creative and oh-so-fun classes at Dance for Joy. We also appreciate how supportive the

New York dance community is, making the transition for your kids that much easier. Shelley Grantham explains how dance classes are structured at Steffi Nossen School of Dance : “Arts programs such as the Steffi Nossen StoryBook and Summer Dance Camp offer a supportive environment where our youngest dancers will gain focus and a jumping off point to emerge from the isolation of social distancing to be more comfortable exploring their own creativity with friends. Older dancers are given the tools and technique to confidently expand their knowledge of diverse dance styles while using their own voices to create original dances.” Yet another option for creativity in New York for kids is theater. After spending a lot of time cooped up at home, kids need to not only get creative again, but get social! And theater is definitely one of the best ways to push kids (safely and securely) out of their social comfort zone. “This year has been a different journey for everyone-- some kids have felt super creative in a variety of ways, and others have felt a total lack of creativity. Right now, The Play Group Theatre is focusing on being a place where everyone can come together, wherever they’re at, and begin building back. We all love the theatre. We’re going to start from that place, and be patient with each and ourselves as we rediscover how we make art together,” says Jill Abusch. And last, but certainly not least, is visual arts. If your little one can’t get enough of Crayola crayons and Scento markers, then visual arts may just be the perfect creative transition. “While home, some kids had the ability to experiment with art materials, within the limits of a home environment,” explains Loren Anderson, “In the KAC studio, kids will be use a wide range of materials while getting instruction in drawing, painting, pottery, cartooning and more. KAC instructors are all professional artists who teach the subjects that are their own passion. We are looking forward to sharing our wonderful space and getting back to creating art at KAC.” Let’s help our kids reconnect with the abundant art that New York has to offer. If we learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that our kids are flexible and adaptable, sometimes even more so than we are. Whether they’ve been in formal art classes before, took part in art at school, or have little to no art experience, now is the time to introduce (or reintroduce!) your kids to their crafty and creative side.


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23


SPOTLIGHT

Jodie Patterson Shares on Her New Kids’ Book “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope” BY MIA SALAS

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ere at New York Family, we know that parenting is all about learning. We learn how to talk to our kids about the world around us, we learn how to prioritize time for ourselves, we learn how to raise our little ones amidst a growing digital landscape (from TikTok to the new Instagram for kids and everything in between). But every now and then, our kids surprise us. They teach us something new, something that opens up our perspective and redefines the way we relate to others. And in her debut children’s book, Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope, Jodie Patterson reminds us how to be there for our kids when they do. We got the scoop on this must-read book, beautifully illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, that puts gender identity and gender fluidity in conversation with young readers and their parents. Yes, Born Ready is the trans, queer, and Black representation that we need, but let’s think beyond representation. Instead, let’s look at how and why these communities are being represented. And if we do that — if we have the “beyond representation” mindset — we (kids and parents alike) just might discover what it means to love, learn from, and accept the people in our lives who are different from us. We knew that Born Ready would totally be on the radar for our NYC parents, so we caught up with Jodie Patterson to dive deeper into what this book is all about. Read on to see what Jodie has to say about self-discovery, family, and experience as truth. First, a bit about Jodie Patterson: Jodie Patterson is a social activist, entrepreneur, and writer. She is the author of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation and was Family Circle magazine’s Most Influential Mom in 2018.

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Photo by Yumi Matsuo

She works closely with a number of gender/ family/human rights organizations and is the chair of the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign. She is a sought-out public speaker addressing a wide range of

audiences about identity, gender, beauty, and entrepreneurship. She is the mother of five children, two of whom are self-proclaimed gender nonconformists—one transgender and another genderqueer. Jodie raises her


family in Brooklyn, New York. To get us started, can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author, from your 2019 memoir, The Bold World, to this new children’s book? How do you see art and activism related, if in any way? I’ve always liked to write and read a lot. In writing The Bold World, I was influenced by my journal entries and notes that I had tucked away and then resurfaced during the process. When my son told me “Mom, I’m not a girl. I’m a boy”, it provoked this question: If I didn’t know my own child was a boy, what else in the world do I not know? To understand what you know and what you don’t, you have to go back. I went back in my history — the history of my family — to look at the moments when gender was described to me. I wrote this story about how a cisgender, uppermiddle class, Black, hetereo woman, transitioned into knowing a bit more about life. A lot of the readers said “I love the book, and I can’t wait to share it with my children”, and I thought, “Well, I don’t know if it’s a book for a five-year-old”. So I wanted to write a book that was digestible for kids and families. Born Ready allows children to enter the conversation about gender, identity, and family, without placing old ideas on new minds. Born Ready brings forth Penel’s truth, his siblings’ truth, and it shows how we can shift communities for the ones that we love. Parents want to be able to find the “yes” when raising their children: yes you can, yes I believe you, yes let’s do this together, but often times we don’t know where to find it. I’m hoping that Born Ready can show us how to find the “yes”. Although a children’s book, I found myself eagerly turning the pages as I read it to find out what happens next in Penel’s selfdiscovery. I’m curious about the audience: when writing Born Ready, who did you imagine the audience to be? If a trans-identified child or a sibling of a trans-identified child, and particularly if a trans-identified child of color, picks up this book, then that is a win. The audience is primarily children, but I think that children are complex. Children have an understanding that is deeper than we acknowledge. There’s a moment when Penel transfers his ninja powers to me. It’s a concept that I study as an adult, about human potential, about how we can transfer energy from human to human, but also how we can gain information from objects,

“I want people to understand that this is not only how it could happen for other people — there can be triumphant stories within queer Black families — but this is how it actually did happen.” nature, and other people. Energy transfers are not a light, “kids’” topic. I hope that people feel the depth of this book. I didn’t try to simplify it into a picture or word, because I’m working with really big concepts. I’m actually really compelled by the “ninja” thread that runs throughout the story. On the opening page, Penel tells readers: “I’m a ninja.” Then when he tells his mom that he’s a boy, he “[transfers] some of [his] ninja powers to help her understand”. His room is covered in ninja-like drawings, and later, he joins karate, winning a competition in the end. How did you see this idea of the “ninja” working its way into the text? I wasn’t necessarily using the ninja as a way to describe Penel’s gender nonconformity, because it was who he himself claimed to be. He would act as a ninja all the time: zipping through the house, karate chopping, and lunging. But if I had to look at it, I think it was about power for him. Ninjas have a way of moving through obstacles that seem dense. They can appear in one place and then reappear in another, and you’re not quite sure how the ninja got there. Ninjas have this power to transform and to break through barriers that most of us would not understand how it could be done. There is power in being authentic, but there’s also power in being trans. Penel himself has a power that is unique, and we’re calling that his ninja. A bit of back story: as of about two months ago, Penel said that he does not want to be referred to as Penelope. We named him after his grandmother, and when he

first told me he was a boy, I asked him if he wanted to change his name. He looked at me like I was crazy, and I stumbled and said “well, maybe you want to choose a more boy name” (still stuck in this idea that there are boy names and girl names). Penel said that he would never want to do that because he loves his grandmother. But now that he’s in eighth grade, he wanted to change his name to Penel. I’ve heard arguments like, what if the child doesn’t know what they really want, what if the child changes their mind, what if this is not the last point on the journey? More than likely, this is NOT the last point on the journey. I hope that my child shifts and changes from 5 to 95, and we will shift with him. I definitely noticed that throughout the book, even though Penel struggled to tell his loved ones how he felt on the inside, once he did, he had everyone’s full support, besides the bit of tension with his older brother. And that tension is actually still there. When I look at my five children, much of how they were ten years ago is how they are today. Not everyone agrees on gender, not everyone agrees on trans reality, and in fact, Cassius still does not think it’s scientifically proven that there are multiple genders. That scene where he says “You can’t become a boy. You have to be born one”, is still his perspective. I think a lot of people assume that my activism is for Penel. And it is, but it is also for every child in my family. The same way that I respect Penel, I respect all the children, and have allowed for a very robust conversation to take place around gender, identity, race, and May 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family

25


sPotlIght

“Parents want to be able to find the ‘yes’ when raising their children: yes you can, yes I believe you, yes let’s do this together, but often times we don’t know where to find it.”

sexuality. In our differences, we’re still at the dinner table together. Beyond that tension with his brother, Penel had support from a number of people. How do you then see this book speaking to trans-identified kids who do not have the support that Penel has? We have certainly progressed a lot when it comes to diversity & inclusion, but there is still a long way to go. So how do you see this book speaking to kids who are hesitant to identify as LGBTQIA+ because they’ve grown up in an environment that may not understand or support them? That is the tough part, because this is community work. I’d say it’s two fold: first, I want kids to think about the power that they own. Their voice matters, their responsibility matters, and I want kids to see that there is an ownership in this process. But I also want kids to look towards folks that are in their lives, whether that is their biological family or their community. I think Penel’s karate coach was just as influential in terms of developing Penel’s confidence as I was. I hope that kids will see that their person could be mom, but mom might be busy. It might be a sibling, but that sibling might not understand. It could be a coach, or a best friend who says “you look great”. So the message to kids is 1) Recognize that you have power, and then 2) Find someone who sees you and plant yourself right there.

because you have to remind people of what is true.

Can you tell us a bit more about the title and your inclusion of “The True Story”? Why is it important to you that readers know that this is a true story? A lot of times people say that it couldn’t have been that easy. They say: tell us the real story. This is not how I wanted it to be; this is how it actually went down. I wrote this book with my children. I want people to understand that this is not only how it could happen for other people — there can be triumphant stories within queer Black families — but this is how it actually did happen. So many times, queer people are made to “prove” their realities. Being in the numerical minority, as Black people and trans people in America, we are asked over and over to prove our truths. With the title of my children’s book, I wanted to set the record straight, from the beginning: Penel is true, we are true, our reality is true. The title was actually an afterthought: “Born Ready” was always there, but we added in that line, “The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope”,

Given that you live in Brooklyn with your family, has NYC shaped your perspective, either as a mother, author, or activist? Absolutely. I grew up in New York, and theater has been huge for me. I remember sitting, right out of college, at the public theater watching Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther just come to life on stage. For me, theater coaxed this idea of activism and creative dynamics in New York. And New York has so many distinct communities: whether you’re on the subway or the street, you will interact with these diverse communities, personalities, and even gender identities. So the very soil of New York City birthed a lot of creativity and revolution in me. I was worried when we moved from Soho to Brooklyn, but Brooklyn, and Bed-Stuy in particular, has only been a place of support. Bed-Stuy has been a sort of “chosen-family” concept for us: biological or not, when you find a village that supports you, that’s where you want to plant yourself. And we definitely

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Photo by Yumi Matsuo

planted ourselves there. What I would hope that Born Ready does is encourage us not to live in small bubbles: we should push ourselves outside and align ourselves with people who do not necessarily look, sound, or identify as we do, yet we can find the commonality between us. One last question for you! We’re always on the lookout for diverse & inclusive children’s books. What other children’s books would you recommend? Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love! It’s about a child who wants to present as a mermaid, and Julián’s grandmother who supports his gender fluidity, allowing Julián to go along in life the way Julián wants to be. Julián is a Mermaid is a beautiful, graceful story. Big thank you to Jodie Patterson for this inside scoop about her book. Want to share Penel’s story with your kids? Purchase a copy of Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope today! Curious to learn more about Jodie and her family? Follow her on Instagram @ jodiepatterson.


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27


North Star

Jenny Greenstein on family, getting back to work after the pandemic and being a guiding light to her two daughters By Donna Duarte-LaDD

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first met Jenny at a parenting press event back in my fashion editor days. I was a bit in a withdrawal phase as I was in the throes of therapy for my youngest son, who would later be diagnosed with ASD. I was not in the mood to chat it up. Yet, I loved Jenny’s vibe immediately. She had an outfit I coveted, and most importantly, she had this energy about her that was friendly and inviting. I found myself wanting first to know what she was wearing and to know about this ‘cool’ mom. This was three years back; now I know more about Jenny and her beautiful family. While she is undoubtedly one of the most stylish people I know, there is much more to who this human is. Married to her wife Dina for 9 years, they are parents to Viva, age 5, and Bloom, age 1. While Jenny has an impressive work background, ten plus years working in the corporate fashion industry as a stylist and visual merchandiser, she founded Your Soul Style after a semester working on her master’s in Social Work. This, of course, does not surprise me as there is a deep empathetic quality about Jenny, who gets a mother’s journey and connects with where they are in life. She understands that as women and mothers, we have many layers to us. She isn’t trying to impose her style on you; she shares her wisdom and talent to help you connect with your personal style so that you can feel your best. She is also a true activist for mothers, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQ rights. And like many parents, she is coming off one crazy year, juggling family life and getting back to work.

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“Being their mother means that I need to simultaneously do the work on myself so I can show up even better for them.” The New York Family team recently visited Jenny, her wife Dina, and their beautiful girls. Read more about this ‘cool’ family. The presidential election weighed heavy on you. You are married to your wife Dina and raising two young daughters. Can you share what was on the line for your family at this time? When same-sex marriage became federally recognized under the Obama administration in June of 2015, it was a historical moment for our country, but personally a huge moment for our family. On that night while 9 months pregnant with Vida (our first daughter), we went to a celebration rally at Stonewall Inn and me, Dina and my giant belly were bursting with happiness knowing that our child would enter the world, never knowing anything except that her parents’ marriage was considered just as legitimate as anyone else’s. But ever since the 2016 election, I have worried that things could be reversed.

And in the four years of the Trump administration, constantly evaluated the “what if”. The 2019 election exacerbated my fears with the supreme court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and it was at that point that I really understood how vulnerable my relationship was and what could be taken from us. While I feel more at ease now since the election of President Biden, the future is still unclear. Anything can happen. That said, I will continue to stay hopeful, and motivated to raise my kids to be changemakers in a world that could use more love and inclusivity. Being in your home, I instantly felt the unity and a strong partnership between you and Dina. With a vibrant 5-year-old and an active toddler, what lessons did you learn through lockdown that helps you and Dina in parenting your girls? One thing I learned for sure is how capable and resilient we can be in the face of adversity. This goes for me, Dina and my kids too. For the first 6 months of the pandemic, like many, I felt overwhelmed. How was I to simultaneously manage my 5 year old with remote school and my (at the time) 8 month old? It seemed impossible and at the end of most days, I couldn’t actually believe I made it through another day. But, as time passed, and as Dina and I were able to strengthen our partnership and create necessary boundaries and structure in our day to day, somehow the system continued to function. Dina and I believe that in parenting we should hold space for all the feelings — every single one of them is valid. And in this crazy time, it’s important to stay mindful and considerate of each ebb and flow. But children need boundaries or else they feel like they are falling without a net. With the


uncertainty of the world, what was most important for us was to ensure that our kids felt held — even if that meant just within the four walls of our home. A secure foundation and a strong attachment to family of origin is what I feel will set up our children for success. You are relaunching your business, Your Soul Style. Can you share with us all that Your Soul Style method encapsulates? The Your Soul Style method is an integrative approach to style and mindfulness. I don’t believe one can exist without the other because style is a reflection of who we are at our core and an opportunity to authentically self-express. While this has always been my approach, during the pandemic, I completed my core life coach training at Coactive Institute. My certification begins this Fall which will coincide with the relaunch of YSS, and all of the tools I’ve acquired through my courses, combined with the experience of working with my clients in real time is informing the evolving Your Soul Style methodology. My approach is deeply personal and before we evaluate what my clients will wear, we first need to establish who they are. My clients are prompted with questions like, “What are your core values?”, “What inspires/influences you?”, “Are those influences positive or negative?” or “In what parts of your life do you feel stuck and how does this reflect what you wear?”. These are just a sampling of the questions we explore in our initial sessions, along with specific Your Soul Style exercises I’ve created for the discovery phase. As we move further into the process of Closet Cleansing or Shopping/Styling, we continue to build from the inside out as opposed to the outside in because when all parts of our being are in alignment, empowered personal style can emerge. Based on the feedback from my clients, I know this is transformative and powerful work and I’m very proud to do it. I’m super, super excited for what’s to come. Stay tuned.

Photo by Yumi Matsuo

The month of May, as we know, shares Mother’s Day; what does being a mother mean to you? Being a mother means being a guiding light and a north star to the little humans I am raising. I don’t see my daughters as an extension of me, but rather their own people who I am supporting on their own life path. Being their mother means that I need to simultaneously do the work on myself so I can show up even better for them. And while helping to nurture their own growth, I am also nurturing my own. If your children do better than you, you’ve done your job. May 2021 | Bronx/Riverdale Family

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Family Fun

Petting Zoos!

7 New York spots kids will love By Patrick Delaney

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ith the city opening back up, activities like visiting New York petting zoos become a reality once more. Although we live in an urban setting, there are still many opportunities to explore nature and learn about animals we don’t see every day. Petting zoos are a great way to introduce your children to new animals and allows them to have an experience they won’t forget. A New York petting zoo can be broken down into two categories: farms and zoos. Farm petting zoos are slices of land that raise animals and you can see and interact with them in a more natural habitat. Zoos on the other hand have sections designated where children can interact with them; it’s a little more urban and controlled. Depending on what kind of experience you and your child want to have, we have broken this list up by farms and zoos so you can easily find the best fit your family! Farms

Green meadows Farm, Brooklyn Price: $12 per person

Green Meadows Petting Farm made a big leap by moving their business from Queens to Brooklyn. The results, however, were absolutely worth it. Allowing for more visitors and family fun. When you imagine a petting zoo this is the classic example that comes to mind. They are a bit of a wait though, as those services are only coming around in May. But once again, Green Meadows Farm is absolutely worth it. White Post Farms, Melville Price: $20.95 per person

White Post Farms has always had an element of grandeur that petting zoos tend to lack. This establishment focuses on the childlike

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thrill that petting zoos are supposed to generate. Come look at their giraffes and ride ponies The art Farm NYC, Manhattan Price: $25 per person

They do camps and they do classes, but when you’re in the mood to just pet some good-natured animals this is a great place to venture to. Though their animals steer more towards lizards and guinea pigs than the classic farm animals, they’re still great candidates for petting. Every weekday from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm they offer this amazing service. Queens County Farm museum Price: Free Entry

Yet another great New York farm, this time steering more firmly into the farm animal category. Though free upon entry, there are some events and activities that will require payment. So be sure to check out their website for what is up and coming. Zoos Bronx Children’s Zoo Price: +$6 to entrance ticket

If you’re a little too skittish to jump into the deep end of the farm, then try this more urban setting for your New York petting zoo experience. By all accounts, it’s a classic zoo but with the add-on of a children’s section. It’s a couple of extra dollars but in exchange for a wonderful day with your little one. Central Park Tisch Children’s Zoo Price: Children $8.95, Adults $13.95, Senior $10.95

In the same vein as the last addition to the list, this is a specific section of the esteemed Central Park Zoo that presents the cutest animals to children so they can interact with them and learn about the animal kingdom. Prospect Park Zoo Barn and Garden Price: Children $6.95, Adult $9.95, Senior $7.95

Prospect Park Zoo can be overlooked when stacked next to its larger siblings — the Bronx Zoo and Central Park Zoo. But this is just a matter of size and notoriety and not because of quality. Alpacas and Pigs at Prospect Park Zoo are just as cute and just as worth visiting for the petting zoo experience.


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