The choice to be a stay-at-home mom is a personal one, and a decision not to be made in haste. While opting to remain home with your children can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, it also presents an assortment of challenges. The rigors of parenting for both new and seasoned mothers can be overwhelming, particularly in the early years. Discovering fresh and exciting ways to stimulate your child and finding adult companionship during the day can be difficult. Fortunately, for Queens moms, the borough offers an abundant and diverse selection of activities that provide both enrichment for babies and much-needed social outlets for moms:
“Mommy and Me” Classes Classes for mothers and babies can be a great way to provide stimulating activities for babies, as well as socialization opportunities for moms. • Architots, in Middle Village, is a unique and interactive program founded by an architect, which encourages children to think creatively by exploring and understanding the space around them. Simple crafts, songs and free play are part of the program. Architots’ “Mommy and Me” program is for children ages 18 months-3 years. • Gymboree, with locations in Forest Hills, Whitestone and Glendale, features gym, music and art programs for children between the ages of newborn to 5 years. • Just Wee Two, in Bayside, offers parent-child classes for children between the ages of 14 months to 24 months, which include music, art, crafts, storytime, playtime and snacktime. • Community centers such as the Central Queens YM & YWHA in Forest Hills and the Samuel Field/Bay Terrace YM & YWHA, in Little Neck and Bayside, as well as the YMCAs in Bayside, Long Island City, Flushing, Bellerose and Jamaica offer an assortment of art, music, reading, swim and discussion groups for moms and their babies and toddlers. Check your local center for class schedules.
Storytime It’s never too early to expose your child to the joy of reading. Storytimes can provide a comfortable and inexpensive setting in which to introduce your child to reading, as well as to connect with other moms. • The Queens Borough Public Library system offers a variety of storytime programs for babies, such as “Mother Goose Rhyme Time”(babies under 24 months); craft and learning programs for toddlers like “Toddler Time” and “Toddler Learning Center”; and the “Pre-School Picture Book Hour”, for 3- to 4-year-olds. Check your local branch for schedules and programs details. • Barnes and Noble, with branches in Forest Hills and Bayside, provides bi-weekly storytime programs for babies, toddlers and older children.
Nature Preserves and Zoos Visiting a nature preserve and/or zoo is a wonderful way to teach your child to respect the environment and other species, and is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. • Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston is home to a multitude of exhibits including a mini-zoo-aquarium and nature trails. Classes for parents and little ones ages 18 months-3 years are offered that explore nature through stories, crafts, environmental toys and mini-nature walks. • The Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, has an extensive zoo dedicated to American wildlife, and a petting zoo where children can meet and touch animals like sheep, goats and llamas. The zoo offers classes such as “Kids to Kritters”, where 3- to 5-year-olds and their parents learn about animals and animal habitats through stories, crafts, games, tours and presentations.
Museums For both an educational and entertaining experience, visit some of Queens’ child-oriented museums: • The Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park, is the only working historical farm in the city and dates back to 1697. Open year-round, the farm offers tours, hayrides, an herb garden, an apple orchard, and livestock, as well as seasonal events such as the Strawberry Fest, Queens County Fair, Apple Festival and Children’s Carnival. • The New York Hall of Science, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, offers children a hands-on approach to understanding and enjoying the world around them. Pre-schoolers (ages 2-4) and parents can explore interactive workshops such as “Cars, Trains, Planes and Feet”, “Variable Vibrations”, and “Sticky Science”. The newly renovated and award-winning Science Playground exposes children to science concepts through play, and is open to children of all ages.
Parks and Playgrounds Two of Queens’ largest parks offer updated and extensive playground facilities: • The “Playground for All Children” in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Flushing, is geared toward both able-bodied and disabled children and provides recreational and instructional activities. • Forest Park, which serves the diverse communities of Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Woodhaven and Glendale, boasts a newly renovated playground, set in the third largest park in Queens. • Don’t underestimate the value of your local playground. The borough of Queens is bursting with playgrounds in every community. Local playgrounds are not only convenient, but also a great place to meet other moms from your neighborhood. Check out http://www.nyc.gov/parks to find a park/playground in your community.
Architots 64-64 Dry Harbor Road, Middle Village (718) 894-7777; www.architots.net
Gymboree 1-877-4-GYMWEB; www.gymboree.com
Just Wee Two/Bay Terrace Jewish Center 1300 209th Street, Bayside (800) 404-2204; www.justweetwo.com
Central Queens YM & YWHA 67-09 108th Street, Forest Hills (718) 268-5011; www.cqyjcc.org (under construction)
The Samuel Field/Bay Terrace YM & YWHA 58-20 Little Neck Parkway, Little Neck (718) 225-6750 (“Mommy and Me” programs offered at Bayside location)
Bayside YMCA 214-13 35th Avenue, Bayside (718) 229-5972
Cross Island YMCA 238-10 Hillside Avenue, Bellerose (718) 479-0505; (516) 358-6232
Flushing YMCA 138-46 Northern Boulevard, Flushing (718) 961-6880
Jamaica YMCA 89-25 Parsons Boulevard, Jamaica (718) 739-6600
Long Island City YMCA 32-23 Queens Blvd., Long Island City (718) 392-7932
YMCA of Greater New York www.ymcanyc.org/ygny/index.html
Queens Borough Public Library www.queenslibrary.org (718) 990-0700 (The Central Library, Jamaica)
Barnes & Noble Booksellers 70-00 Austin Street, Forest Hills (718) 793-1395
Barnes & Noble Booksellers 23-80 Bell Boulevard, Bayside (718) 224-1083
Alley Pond Environmental Center 228-06 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston (718) 229-4000; www.alleypond.com/home.html
The Queens Zoo 53-51 111th Street, Flushing (Located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park) (718) 271-1500; www.wcs.org
Queens County Farm Museum 73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park (718) 347-3276; www.queensfarm.org
The New York Hall of Science 47-01 111th Street (Located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park) (718) 699-0005 (ext. 387 for pre-school program enrollment) www.nyhallsci.org
City of New York/Parks & Recreation http://www.nyc.gov/parks Dial 311 for all Parks & Recreation information; outside NYC, call 212-NEW-YORK.