Looking for fun and free/low-cost things to do with kids in Brooklyn? We've got the scoop on the top family events in May, including a sheep shearing festival, Memorial Day fun, and cool, kid-friendly shows.
Tramps Like Us
Most kids have no inkling about Charlie Chaplin. The same can be said for many of their parents. Chaplin, of course, was one of the true pioneering geniuses of early cinema, a comic actor/director/film composer who proved that dialogue and live sound were secondary to the visuals, particularly when an actor of his brilliance could impart such a broad range of emotion to an audience. Nearly 100 years after the silent film era in which Chaplin accomplished his best work, Brooklyn Public Library’s Silent Film Series brings two Chaplin works to the screen that perfectly capture his essence. A Dog’s Life finds Chaplin in his Little Tramp persona, negotiating a pauper’s life in the big city accompanied only by his faithful dog. Next is The Kid, which costars Jackie Coogan as an orphaned little boy who is discovered and cared for by Chaplin (also in Little Tramp persona). Through it all, Chaplin’s affinity for pathos and sentimentality try the audience’s emotions. Modern-day kids rarely get a glimpse of cinema masters like Chaplin, but there would be no Pixar without innovators like him. (FREE!)
Are You My Bulldozer?
P.D. Eastman’s adorable picture book, Are You My Mother?, tells the story of a newly hatched baby bird who falls from the nest while its mama is hunting for its first meal. As most of us know (because most of us have encountered this great story at some point in our lives), Baby Bird is lost and confused, knowing that it indeed has a mother but thinking perhaps it may be in the form of an excavator. This production, performed by the talented ArtsPower theater group at the College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, was adapted for the stage by playwright Greg Gunning, and it ably shows children and adults how loss can be turned into empowerment and the importance of friendship in the face of adversity.
Bring Your Own Kazoo
Have you ever been to a concert and wanted to jump onstage and grab a guitar? Have you ever wanted to jump onstage and grab a guitar and then smash it? This program can’t help you with either of those desires, but Radia and Sonic Smithy does offer you and your child the chance to jam along with some of Downtown NYC’s well-regarded musicians and composers and, collectively, create an on-the-spot composition. The show is the brainchild of violinist and composer Nicole Federici, who has successfully bridged a path between young musicians such as herself with more established avant-garde musicians and composers, among them Butch Morris and William Parker. For this particular sonic free-for-all at Roulette, in which audience members become performers, acceptable instruments include electronic beeping devices, cellos, saxophones, newspapers, trumpets, kazoos, plastic bottles…and if you want to strum a guitar, that’s okay, too.
The popular children’s program Angelina Ballerina is responsible for many little girls taking an interest in dance, and not just ballet. On the show, Angelina and her friends Gracie, Viki, AZ, and of course, Alice, encounter many different styles of dance from jazz to hip-hop. Through all of Angelina’s trials and tribulations is an overriding message: Just get up and dance, and try your hardest. In this musical performance based on the book and TV series, Angelina and her friends try to keep their cool as a special unknown somebody prepares to visit. And the big question looms: Will Angelina get her star turn?
Head to Prospect Park Zoo’s Fleece Festival for a barnyard hoedown full of sheep shearing, craft making, and live music.
Speaking of Sheep…
Shawn the Sheep bleats onto the big screen and into your heart at Cobble Hill Cinema’s Big Movies for Little Kids.
A Day to Remember
The irony of Memorial Day is how this rather solemn holiday, created to honor the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War, nowadays conjures thoughts of patio grills and summer. Many towns and municipalities claim to be its originator. President Johnson once declared that place to be Waterloo, NY, but Richmond, VA and Carbondale, IL also claim to be the first. Closer to home, Brooklyn claims the oldest continually run Memorial Day Parade, a tradition in these parts for 145 years. As always, The Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade runs through Bay Ridge, beginning at 3rd Avenue and 87th Street and marching along 4th Avenue before finishing at John Paul Jones park (4th Avenue and 101st Street), where a big ceremony awaits. Veterans are welcome to participate in what has always been a celebratory and joyful event. (FREE!)
Another Memorial Day event happens at Green-Wood Cemetery, the resting place of hundreds of Civil War soldiers. Green-Wood’s annual Memorial Day Concert features music by a few of the bone yard’s most famous residents, including Louis Moreaux Gottschalk and Leonard Bernstein, and performed by the ISO Symphonic Band. Imagine that it’s 1905 and you’re enjoying a picnic in a nice Victorian setting with a genuine concert band. Where else would you hear a euphonium? Visitors can enjoy a tour of the cemetery following the concert. (FREE!)
Search for even more fun family activities in Brooklyn and the NYC area in our full calendar of events.