Category: Kids

02
Mar

(Why and how we did) New York City With Small Kids

The jovial travel lords at Expedia commissioned me to write a piece on travelling to NYC with young kids, presumably because most people would read that sentence and think to themselves WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT ARE YOU CUCKOO NEW YORK CITY WAS BUILT FOR COCKTAILS AND RESTAURANTS AND SHOPPING LEAVE THEM AT HOME WITH GRAMMY AND POPPOP FOR THE LOVE OF BAGELS.

As it turns out, not only is NYC entirely do-able with kids (the people who live there even have some of their own!) it’s fun. And it makes for a pretty exquisite set of memories.

I say this because last year my husband and I spent six weeks in summery, sweaty NYC with our four year-old boy and 14-month-old girl. Partly for my work, (if you’re in North America reading this, next time you’re in Sephora, try Go-To skin care, okay thanks) but mostly because we love that city, and our kids are not yet locked to the school term, so we can afford to be a bit cavalier/ambitious/obnoxious with our trips.

We arrived in NYC after six weeks of training in Greece and Italy, where we perfected the art of constantly moving into new places, and eating pasta and pizza every day.

We chose to stay in three different areas of NYC. This is because:

1) If we booked one home for six weeks and it was noisy, (HAHAHA JK, every place in NYC is noisy) or it sucked, we were stuck

2) NYC is huge; there are so many areas to explore, and limiting ourselves to just one felt silly

3) We enjoy packing and repacking suitcases, schlepping them up and down lots of stairs, and making our children feel displaced and confused.

One of many city playgrounds we got to know very well. This one is on Bleeker.

We began with two weeks in a cosy apartment in SoHo.

This was ideal, since my work was based there, and we could get all our favourite NYC restaurants (Sant Ambroeus, il Buco, Minetta Tavern etc) and shopping out of our system so we didn’t spend the rest of the trip hankering for the part of Manhattan we know and love best. Our apartment was RIGHT IN THE THICK OF IT. Tourists everywhere, sirens, party drunks: SoHo is never quiet. But, the kids didn’t care. We slept well. Big days mean big sleep.

I found a babysitter through a friend so we grown-ups could enjoy the city. No point being in NYC and staying home every night. She babysat for us for the duration of the visit, and I am very grateful to her.

At Color Factory. If it ever comes to a city near you… ya gatta!

We ate: Out a lot – we were right on the cusp of Little Italy after all. Aside of that, take-away soup, sushi and chili from Gourmet Garage was our go-to. (I live on chicken noodle soup in NYC.)

We kept the kids busy with:

  • Numerous city playgrounds: There are a few around Bleeker that are huge, with water parks and fountains and lots of local kids to play with
  • Exhibitions, plays, and kid-based art stuff. (We went to Color Factory; it was phenomenal)
  • Going to Times Square (ahem, the M&M store) and the Empire State Building
  • Trips to The High Line for ice creams and sweltering strolls/tantrums (mine)
  • A train trip to Coney Island for the day with some friends (just the boy and the husband; too hot and far for baby)
  • Walking around the city finding parks and patting dogs

We had to: Buy a ton of Lego and puzzles for hot afternoons inside.

A wheely wonder-full time was had at Coney Island (sorry)

Next we headed to Park Slope (Brooklyn) for 16 days.

My knowledge of Brooklyn was limited to Dumbo and Williamsburg (I’m a Carrie, not a Miranda, after all), so we booked this having never been to the area. Next time we’ll spend a bit longer on Google maps, or ask any ex-pats we know over there for insight, as it wasn’t quite what we had envisioned. 

Alas! We’d heard Park Slope was great for families, and it really is. Lots of playgrounds, the colossal, lush Prospect Park, and tons of family friendly eateries and shops. The best way to sum it up is that it was like Real Life, whereas Manhattan always feels romantic and crazy and like I’m in a movie. (And that’s why I love it.)

Prospect Park BRINGS IT.  Esp on a Sunday morning. 

We ate: Mostly at home; there were loads of those dazzling, overflowing NYC grocery stores around. There were some great places around for early family dinners, notably Hugo and Sons, and we bought crepes at the delicious Colson patisserie on our daily walk up to Prospect Park. I booked an organic toddler food delivery service,(frozen, delivered in bulk for the week ahead, Nurture Life was the company) so we always had healthy lunch or dinner options.

We kept kids busy with:

  • Daily trips to Prospect Park (rivals Central park in size and beauty; above)
  • Numerous local playgrounds
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • A ferry over to Governor’s Island to camp for the night under the gaze of the statue of liberty (just my son and husband; baby not a keen camper) Even if you don’t camp, go: it has the longest slide in NY and an awesome park
  • Brooklyn Bridge park in Dumbo, (AKA, we went to the Jane Carousel, but this whole area is brand new and great)

We had to: Rack off to the Hamptons for a weekend to stay with friends to escape an epic heat wave. The Hamptons were GREAT. So pretty! Such good food! Many things for the kids to do, and many celebrities to spot! (Important.)

At LUNCH in the Hamptons. Yes, ’tis the diner from The Affair.

For the finale, we moved up to Central Park.

We’ve never stayed uptown (midtown, more accurately) before, but with kids it made sense. So, for the last 12 days we booked a hotel one block back from the park (1 Central Park – 10/10 recommend) to go out on a movie-set high.

I want to say: if you have young kids, stay up here. We were in that wonderful park twice a day, for the playgrounds, duck feeding, the zoo or the fairground. It’s magic, and it tires them out, and it’s just so dang beautiful.

We ate: Mostly in our room. (We upgraded to a room with a dining table and more space after seeing our tiny original room, knowing from experience that the money is worth it when you spend so much time at home with your kid and still-crawling baby.) I still had the toddler food delivery in place, but classic diner breakfasts or picnics in the park with sandwiches were good fun. The grocery stores in the city all do great soup/stews/salads, which I have zero problem with after three hours at a museum.

We kept them busy with:

  • Central Park (squirrels! Rocks to climb! The best playground we’ve ever seen!)
  • Central park Zoo
  • A Yankees game
  • MoMa (it has a lovely outdoor area and interactive kids room)
  • The Intrepid air sea and space museum (you can see a real space shuttle)
  • The American museum of Natural History
  • The subway anywhere. Kids. Love. Trains.

Before booking, I made sure each place we stayed had:

Some space to play indoors – Hot NYC summer days are super exhausting for small people. The kids could generally tolerate one big session outside a day, then they would nap, and hang inside on hot afternoons til dinner, which we would often go out for, because they were buzzing to get out, and so were we, and we’re more relaxed on holidays so we can forgive the later bed time and amount of ice cream being consumed.

Dark bedrooms – I always double confirm there are blackout blinds in the kids room. (We always travel with gaffa tape to tape down any light leaks too.)

White noise – much needed in NYC with all the sirens etc.

Proximity to playgrounds or parks – no more than a block or two. They act as your backyard.

A lemonade fountain and indoor slippery slide – obviously.

Oh, it was a big, beautiful, blur of a trip. We were in a constant loop of excitement, FOMO and exhaustion in NYC; it’s a city that gives as much as it takes, and we are more than happy with that transaction. (We are also more than happy with the amount of Aussie cafes popping up over there, because we are Melbournians and therefore very ARROGANT ABOUT OUR COFFEE.)

At Dumbo House. I LOVED this night. Thank you, friend with membership!

Responses to this drivel: 1 Comment
03
Jul

Fiji is the perfect family holiday destination.

My husband went to Fiji when he was three, and had the holiday of his life. He vividly recalls the beach and kids club in great, and some might say, unnecessary detail; it was a profoundly happy time in his life. Had I not revealed this, however, you would never know: he keeps that trip a closely-guarded secret, mentioning it only if someone mentions they’re going to Fiji, or whenever we consider holiday destinations with our two small children, or on Tuesdays.

It was horrible. As you can see.

Why Fiji made such a lasting imprint on him made no sense to me. Truth be told, Fiji never held too much appeal to me, I relegated it as a ‘family place.’ Friends with kids and their knowing nods only cemented the notion: “When you’re a family, you’ll see. Families LOVE Fiji.”

And so, once we had kids (plural: you can go anywhere with one kid; two steps things up a notch.) Fiji suddenly became very alluring. Especially after schlepping 18 hours to Maldives recently, for, if I’m be honest, The Exact Same Thing.

Just a teeny baby girl and her big ol’ daddy living their best sunset life.

And just like everyone says, Fiji really is the perfect holiday for families. The good overlords at Expedia knew this, which is why they sent me there to get proof.

The water is pristine, the weather is perfect, the diving and surfing is sensational, the flight is only five hours (from Melbourne), our favourite show in the world, US Survivor is filmed there, but the best thing about Fiji, is the people. Ask anyone who has been, (my husband included though you’ll have to drag it out of him, he’s very enigmatic) what they loved most; it’s the people.

Sure, when we hold hands and stroll in Melbourne it’s nice. But not THIS nice.

The Fijians I met were walking, talking sunbeams. Total A+ in delightfulness, helpfulness, and warmth. Because of who I am, (an optimist dipped in healthy cynicism) I searched for chinks in the armor, a momentary lapse in charm, but I never saw it. Not even when I had to politely ask for my baby’s dinner to be mushed up a bit more… and then send it back again for more mushing because perfect mush levels are known only to me. Oh, and Fijians LOVE kids.

This is wonderful Kat. My son loves her more than seems fair, considering I gave birth to him, and Kat did not.

Maybe even more than I love my kids, and you love yours. The way Fijian people connected and interacted with our children was genuine and whole-hearted. It never felt contrived or like it was their job. No matter which part of the island we were on, no matter what time of day, the staff would swoop our baby out of our hands, and whisk her off for songs, cuddles and quiet flower gazing. Meanwhile, our preschooler knew everybody’s names, and they his, and every day was like that scene in a movie where the popular guy walks through the school and everyone serves up pistol fingers and high-fives. (He cried in the shower at night because he wanted to go back to Kids Club RIGHT NOW, not go to stupid bed.)

Both of our children relished their deity-like status, (how strange!) and tailor-made activities and toys on offer. Resorts in Fiji are READY-MADE for kids: this is not arriving to find one of the conference rooms housing a few balls and a cheap tent as the “kids zone.” This is purposeful, considered child-minding, and it’s a huge relief for parents. Because if your kids are thrilled to be finding crabs and building pirate ships all afternoon with a gang of other kids and some funny adults, and your high-energy baby is with a doting nanny and 1000 toys at kids club while you and your husband have a meal and a swim, then everyone’s having a holiday.

We travel for lots of reasons: to see the world, to make the kids resilient, to bookmark our lives, and to be present with each other and especially our rapidly-growing young children, which is hard in our big, busy life back home. But at risk of breaking an unwritten parent code, parents don’t actually get much time off on holiday. We’re still parents! Gotta tend to the sick baby all night, and keep the kid entertained, and find clean clothes/snacks every two hours!

Good lord. This is the most ‘mum’ photo I have ever seen myself in.
I have two kids! How’d that happen? I thought I was still 22.

But in Fiji we got PROPER time off. The golden, rare kind where you know your kids don’t want to be with you, even if you want to hang out, cos they’re having more fun without you. And when you collect them, you’re revitalised, you’re excited to spend the afternoon with them swimming (three year-old) and eating sand (baby) and enjoying paradise (parents). You’ve had time to read a book, and relax, instead of Real Life, where any time the kids are out of the house, you’re working, or doing errands and household shit, so when you’re with the kids again, you’re buggered, and operating at 40 watts, and Just Doing Your Best To Get Through.

My idea of a happy family holiday isn’t about ditching the kids and sipping rosé all day, (…or IS IT?), it’s about having some time to re-charge so that the time I spend with my children on holiday is outstanding. Quality, present and who-cares-where-my-phone-is, time. Slow morning strolls and raucous pre-dinner swims, none of the snapping and ‘hurry-up-and-put-your-shoes-on-we-have-to-go!,’ that peppers each day in Real Life.

Fiji offered all of this and a bag of coconuts. We were lucky enough to stay at Kokomo Private Island, which is new, and very luxurious, and where everything (especially hiring!) is done exceptionally well. Families abounded, often boasting several generations, the food is world-class and the reef is breathtaking. We had a week our (then) three-year old has a chance of remembering for the rest of his life, and that’s not nothing. (Just ask my husband. He’ll never tell, obviously.)

Actual view from the front door of our villa. Disgusting.

At the end of our stay, I cried. Maybe it was the rousing, smiling choir of new friends that assembled to bid us farewell in song on departure, or maybe there was sand in my eye, or maybe we’d just had one of the best holidays a young family could ask for. Who can say.

What I can say is we are going back to Fiji next year.
We’re a family, you see.
And families love Fiji.

Responses to this drivel: 6 Comments
22
Jun

Recommendnation: Kid’s music that doesn’t suck.

I love recommendations.

I love them for restaurants, and travel spots, and places to swim, and peanut butter brands, and shapewear, and chiropractors, and apps, and hip-hop, and dry shampoo, and books, and movies, and just EVERYTHING.

I thirst for them, I live for them, I inhale them; I need them.

I love being given recommendations, or uncovering them accidentally, or hearing them second-hand even when they’re not for me, and I love writing them down furiously while listening to podcasts. And obviously, since I am a self-important person with access to a blog and social media, I like making recommendations myself.

Not because they are necessarily the best, after all, a recommendation is just an opinion dressed up in hyperbole, but rather to save other people the time and energy and bullshit of researching things that require being in the know (‘where should I eat dinner when I am in Brisbane?’), or overwhelmingly subjective (‘which pram is best?’), or authority (‘which lip balm should I buy?’) or being a bit of a tightarse (‘how can I save money on toilet paper?’)

And so, I wanted to start a specific category of blog post (and sometimes maybe just a social media post) that deals only in recommendations.

I will throw mine up on a topic, and then, since you have the ability to leave comments/your own ideas about what is good and what you like, you get to throw your recommendations down below in the comment tornado.

And so together, we create a living, breathing, dynamic, organic, passionate, authentic recommend… nation. A recommendnation!

What fun! What absolute magic!

Oh, let’s begin already, my heart can hardly take it. Tonight my recommendation concerns:

GOOD KID’S MUSIC.

As a parent you are inevitably and perhaps unfairly thrust into a world of music that you would not, in a child-free existence, toot towards. As a passionate music lover, and the owner of a home that must always have music playing, (Spotify via Sonos, since you asked) I was determined not to listen to music that sucked just cos I had a kid. I would listen to music that was child-friendly, even made for children, but not music that would make me want to stab myself in the knee with a fish knife. I realise it has to be fun for my son to hear and sing along to, but since I am listening too, well, it can’t be shit, basically.

So, it’s Aladdin, it’s Jungle Book, it’s the Muppets, it’s Rockabye Baby, Medeski, Martin and Woods, it’s Caspar BabypantsThe Dream Jam Band, (Nicky Nicky Knock Knock is a terrific song, I don’t care how old you are) and it’s Ralph’s World and Raffi (polarising/daggy but I love) and some Wiggles stuff (I think that Wiggle Town has shades of The Beatles. Yes, I just wrote that.)

Raffi

It’s generally pretty folksy and gentle; easy to have on in the background through the day without feeling like you’re about to eat some cut-up vegemite sandwiches, a squeezy yoghurt then take a nap.

Also we listen to Kinderling radio, mostly in the evening, when it’s cruisy and there are some stories and instrumental stuff to calm mad little bugs down, (I find all the talk during the day annoying). And thank F we do, cos that’s how I discovered The Teeny Tiny Stevies, a couple of Melbourne sisters doing some very good, and very easy to listen to indie-folk music for little people that I find myself singing along to even when the music has stopped, and sometimes even playing when Sonny is not around.  Kind of remind of me of the Whitlams a bit, if anyone remembers those guys. (You will know this song.)

Teeny-Tiny-Stevies

Here is my Little Kids Spotify playlist. Have a listen, or, don’t. Be sure to list any recommendations for good little kids music below. Be judicious, for the love of Gabba Gabba, be judicious.

Ultimately kids music is just music. If it’s catchy, and good, then I will listen to it. I’m not a genre snob, I just like good music. Whether that’s classical, rock, jazz, rap, pop, EDM or kids: if it’s good, I’ll listen.

Except for death metal. I fucking hate death metal. Sorry.

Responses to this drivel: 38 Comments