New Spots for Swim Lessons!

 Two more locations of Goldfish Swim School are opening in the Philly ‘burbs Read more

goldfish swim school

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You guys may remember that we’ve written before about Goldfish Swim Schools: The popular spot for swim lessons (known for its small class size, super-comfortable warm water, and kid-friendly instruction) has heretofore had locations in Fort Washington and Mount Laurel. But as of this spring, there’s going to be two new Goldfish Schools — one in Oaks opening in early March, and one in Malvern, opening in May.   

A bit more about the school: The nationally known chain (with more than 80 locations around the country) teach swimming skills to babies from four months on up through 12-year-old kids in really nice facilities, complete with viewing galleries for parents, warm-water showers for rinsing off, snack bars, hair-drying stations, and more. More importantly, the teaching methods at Goldfish focus on the child’s comfort and competence at each step of the way — the end goals being that they love to swim and that they know how to stay safe in the water. There are loads of courses on offer, so you can schedule a class (or classes, if you have multiple kids) that works with your schedule. Another bonus: Classes are offered on a “perpetual” basis, meaning you don’t need to wait for the next session to start before you can enroll. The place also has family swims (for members and non-members) so everyone can just enjoy the water … and, of course, they do parties, too.

Want to check it out or register for classes? Visit the website (here’s the info for Oaks; here’s the one for Malvern; here’s the main site, where you can read all about the school in general), or follow them on Facebook (Oaks or Malvern). You can also hit up the ribbon-cutting in Oaks on March 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a free family swim.  

Wee One-On-One: Ceili Cascarano

A Philly supermama shares a bunch of her favorite stuff Read more

ceili c. wee one on one

The mama: Fairmounter Ceili (pronounced KAY-leigh) Cascarano is a senior manager in external innovation by trade (she works for a consumer healthcare company), and a Southerner by birth (she grew up in Atlanta). She came to Philly a few years back by way of Hoboken, where they lived for five years before “we decided that living in 600 square feet and having a crib in a closet wasn’t sustainable with two kids.” (About those kids: Braeden is 4, and Marion is 2 … and now they’re expecting a third.) Still wanting a city life, she and her husband decamped for Philly — the “best decision we’ve made in the last few years,” she says. “We’ve fallen in love with the energy, passion and endless activities this city offers.” 

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Your job description: Senior Manager, External Innovation.  I LOVE my job (most days!) and find it incredibly fulfilling. I work for a consumer healthcare company and spent my first six years there doing marketing and running businesses for some amazing brands. I’ve spent the last two years working with external companies across the world (mainly entrepreneurs and start-ups in the consumer healthcare and health tech spaces) that my company is actively partnering with/investing in. I’m inspired by entrepreneurs every day — they see a need and have the passion and ability to create a product, or to offer to do something about it.  It’s certainly a life lesson that goes well beyond the walls of any business.

Favorite kids’ classes:  Soccer Shots and t-ball. Gotta get that energy out somehow!

Best way to spend a Saturday afternoon as a family: We try to get the kids out of the house as much as we can and take advantage of all this city offers. During the summer, my absolute favorite activity is Parks on Tap at one of the local parks. Parents can “relax” with a cold beer, and there’s plenty of space for the kids to run around. A few of the events (like one at Lemon Hill) even offer children’s place spaces and activities.

Parents’ class:  I took the Beginner’s Yoga class at Wake Up Yoga, and it’s one of the best fitness classes I’ve taken. Laura Edoff teaches the class, and she is patient and clear.  

Date night: We love trying new restaurants, but our two go-tos right now are Bar Hygge in Fairmount and Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Fishtown. The food and ambiance of both are spot on.  And if we do the latter, I make sure to save room for dessert and swing by Franklin Fountain for a Mount Vesuvius Sundae. I dream about that sundae.

Favorite spring break camp or summer camp: During the school year, we send Braeden to Philly Art Center after school a few days a week, and we’re trying summer camp for the first time this year.  He’ll be going to Miquon for a few weeks, and I’m thrilled for him to get the “classic” summer camp experience, complete with lots of swimming and outdoor time.

Special find for families: Sunday night picnics at Azalea Garden at the Art Museum. It’s right off Boathouse Row, but it’s an open green space that feels private and contained, so the kids can play freely. It’s also right near Fairmount Water Works — the kids love watching the waterfalls and looking at the boathouses before we head home.

Rainy day go-to: Museums galore. Lately it’s been The Please Touch Museum or The Franklin Institute, and we often throw in a trip to the Free Library, which has a great children’s section, complete with activities like yoga and storytelling.

Holiday tradition (any holiday): We love the holiday markets at Dilworth Park and Love Park. There’s diverse vendors, and Santa is there for pictures (though my children have boycotted him for the last two years….). We also did the holiday light show at Franklin Square this year, and they have several special events throughout December. My daughter still talks about meeting Elsa there.

Outing you love: Concerts at the Mann. It almost doesn’t matter who’s playing: Just grab lawn seat tickets, a blanket, and enjoy a cold beer and live music.

Family-friendly restaurant: Pizzeria Vetri has food my kids will actually eat and some great beers and wines on tap. I love their Maurizio Pizza and their quick service, which is great if one of the kids is over it.  And the Nutella Pizza is worth indulging in at least once.

Gear you can’t live without:  Anything that helps us take advantage of the walkability of Philly and avoid the car. Right now, it’s the Micro Mini Original Kick Scooter for our 4-year old and the Step2 Whisper Ride II Ride On Push Car for our youngest.

Person/professional you can’t live without: My kids’ teachers, who enable me to go to a job every day, without hesitation or worry, and a cleaning service, which allows me to spend weekends with my kids instead of cleaning toilets (or at least not having to clean them every weekend….).

Indulgence you can’t live without:  Mani/pedi from Nail Spa Bar. They have so many colors; they’re always packed but never have a wait; and they offer a loyalty card that gives you a $5 discount every 6th trip.

Place for baby/children’s gifts: Philadelphia Independents in Old City- great stuff for kids and adults, all from local artists.

Favorite children’s book right now: The Llama Llama books, because the rhymes are catchy and there’s one for every holiday. The author passed away recently, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.

Favorite outdoorsy thing to do with kids: We try to go to the driving range at Strawberry Green when it’s warm. We go early so the kids can hit balls too, without fear of walking in front of someone’s drive. We also love Spruce Street Harbor on the Delaware River — so many activities to explore (our kids will both be old enough to ride a Swan Boats at Paddle Penn’s Landing this summer, and I’m so excited), great food, and beautiful views.  

Best neighborhood activity: When it’s warm outside, Tuesday nights turn into pizza night at the playground outside Bache-Martin school. Pitruco Pizza parks its pizza truck on the corner, and you can even call an order in ahead of time. I love the spicy garlic pizza.

Fun kids’ party spot: Smith Playground rents out its side porches, and you can bring in food, decorations and entertainment. Plus, the kids get to play at one of the best playgrounds in the city, with that awesome wooden slide.

Best piece of advice you’ve gotten about parenting:  To not take anyone’s advice….  Seriously though, I’m a big believer in you doing you. Every kid and every situation is different, and what works for one parent and kid won’t work for the other.

Any moms’ groups you love? We try to do impromptu play dates and pizza on Sunday afternoons, and it makes the transition back to the work week much more tolerable.  I so appreciate the moms in my life, both in Philly and in other cities — we keep each other sane, grounded and laughing.

Favorite Philly hack: Meatless Mondays at Whole Foods. You can fill up on all sorts of delicious foods for $8.

Favorite toy or kid entertainment in your house right now: Dress-up. My daughter walks around in Elsa gloves, singing “Let it Go”, and my son would wear his hand-me down SWAT team Halloween costume to school if he his school uniform wasn’t mandatory.

Toy or book you’d like to lose forever: Anything that makes repetitive noise and can’t be shut off easily.  My daughter received a “Tickle Me Elmo” for Christmas, and it was conveniently left at the grandparent’s house.

One thing you wish Philly/burbs had that it doesn’t: Hibachi. I can’t explain it (and maybe it’s a pregnancy craving?), but all I want in life these days is to go to Benihana and have the chef make the “train” out of a mountain of rice.

Hardest part of raising kids here: After-school programming options. I feel like a cruise coordinator trying to find afternoon activities once my oldest goes to kindergarten!

Best part of raising kids here: The people and the endless available activities. The number of playgrounds and parks alone makes Philly a wonderful place to raise kids.

30 FREE Places To Take Your Kid When It’s Awful Outside (a.k.a. February)

Well, free or very, very cheap. Our updated list of ways to survive this month with kids …. without going broke.   Read more

free winter fun philadelphia kids

Ugh, February. By this point, isn’t everyone just over it? Like, REALLY OVER IT? It’s the time of year many of us are at the end of our ropes, having run out of fresh ideas for inexpensive things to do with kids when the playground isn’t really a great option because it’s wet or blustery or snowy or freezing. (Which is almost always.)

So here, a February lifeline in the form of our annual (updated) list of fun things to do that don’t require a) much planning b) spending a fortune or c) freezing your face off.

Ikea. The South Philly mega-store boasts a supervised play space for kids who are between 37 and 52 inches tall (and potty-trained) — and it comes with the bonus of letting you get a little uninterrupted “me-time” with the Malm and Fjellse. That said, if you’re not cool with the play space, just wandering the store and letting the kids play in the display rooms works, too. (Note: the playspace inside the Chick-fil-A, which is located in the same shopping center as Ikea, is also clean and usually not over-crowded.) The Ikea in Conshy has a similar play space, as well!

The Big Museums. PAFA, the PMA and the Barnes all offer free (or pay-what-you-wish, in the case of the PMA) admission and/or activities. In fact, brand new, beginning in March, the Barnes is making their popular Free First Sunday program completely family-focused, with programs for all ages spaced throughout the day — so programs for littles from 10 a.m. to noon, then activities for older ones in the afternoon. (Read: That means no more having to show up at 9 a.m. and cross your fingers hoping you get a ticket — tickets are simply reserved throughout the days for families, and they’ll even have separate lines just for families. Cool, no?) Also! PAFA also offers free Sunday art workshops and activities — story drawing, bead work, painting, facepainting and beyond — geared toward families, from 2 to 4 p.m.. And kids under 12 are free at the PMA, and there are tons of family-friendly, kid-focused hands-on programs and activities throughout the year.

Fireman’s Hall. The great little Old City museum housed in a former firehouse features historic tools, uniforms, a bunch of carriages and trucks to ogle, and a fun interactive area for kids upstairs. Kids can even try on real fireman boots and gear — it’s adorable. (Bonus: It’s staffed by current and past firefighters, which is cool.) Admission is free, though donations are suggested. One tip here: Hours can be erratic, so you might want to call before you go. (Bonus: It’s a few short blocks from Franklin Fountain, where nothing is free, but you can spring for a cone or hot cider for about $5.)

Please Touch Museum. On the first Wednesday of each month, the admission here is just $2 — a MEGA-deal, compared to the normal admission of $19.

The Kimmel. One of the great benefits of city living: Culture at our fingertips. And on a regular basis, the Kimmel offers us a taste of FREE culture via their “Grow Up Great” programming — an interactive program teaching children about jazz and musical theater — and the next one, held in the Kimmel’s Commonwealth Plaza, is March 10. (Check here to keep an eye out for more.) Additionally, the Kimmel hosts monthly organ demonstrations as part of the free tour of the place. It’s very cool — and it’s held on a Saturday!

Smith Memorial Playground. Kids won’t even miss the potato-sack slide (which is closed until April) after they realize they have the run of this three-floor playhouse. Make sure to head downstairs, where there are trikes and scooters to ride around a track and little “town”, and also to the art rooms, where staffers lead activities. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

Storytimes. Not only do storytimes make for great, no-fuss outings, but there are SO MANY great free ones around town. Some of our favorites: Momo’s Treehouse has them Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m.; Barnes and Noble in Rittenhouse has them Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and sometimes Saturdays at 11 a.m.; Smith Playground has them at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays for kids 5 and under; and Head House Books has storytimes for littles Fridays at 11:15 a.m; and And of course, the Free Library branches offer a huge array of storytimes, held on different days, at different times, with different themes, geared toward different kids — truly a city treasure. Many, many suburban libraries offer storytimes, as well. (Note: For any and all storytimes, days and times can change, so call before you go. Please!)

Libraries. Beyond just storytimes, Philly’s Free Libraries are constantly making room for kids to be kids by opening play areas with toys, tiny tables, beanbag chairs, books to flip through, puzzles and computers with pre-loaded games. Almost all branches in the city offer quality programming in addition to their storytimes — things like Lego clubs, preschool yoga, cooking classes, knitting clubs and family playgroups, some of which are held on the weekends. We especially adore the children’s area at the Santore Branch in Bella Vista and the programming at the Parkway location and Walnut Street West.

Wagner Free Institute of Science. “Free” is such an important part of this historic museum’s mission that it’s in the name. Almost untouched from when it was founded in the 19th century, this quirky and odd little jewel near Temple U. has a ton for your kids to gawk at, from animal fossils to weird things in jars.

The Malls. Ash is the queen of hitting the mall on a crummy day. (She is, after all, from New Jersey. : ) But seriously, it’s a great way to kill an hour or two, and the King of Prussia Mall offers a couple sizable play zones, which have tunnels, slides and foam structures built for climbing, plus interactive toys that encourage kids to pretend to be doctors and nurses (likely because CHOP is a sponsor). You’ll find one at the Court (near the food court) and one in the Plaza (outside of J.C. Penny). Bonus: There’s now a Shake Shack at KOP Mall, as well! At the Moorestown Mall, you can hit up the garden-themed play area (kids under three will have the most fun here). It’s just outside of Macy’s.

STAMP Pass. More parents should know about this amazing program. Philly teens aged 14 to 19 can visit most of the city’s best institutions (The Barnes, Franklin Institute, PMA, the Zoo, Constitution Center, and more) for absolutely free, with occasional time/date restrictions, with one of these passes. You just need to request one online.

Sister Cities Park. Because some days are gross, but not unbearable. And while all parks are kid-friendly, Sister Cities on the Parkway offers a little more than the usual swings and slides: Kids happily climb on the rocks and the “mountain” that surrounds the boat pond area (still drained for the winter) and enjoy the foam building blocks at the Imagination Playground. At the park’s Logan Square Cafe, you can warm up (or use the restroom, if need be) and grab a hot cocoa or other snacks for a few bucks.

Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, et. al. This is Philly, yo. Very little ones probably won’t do so hot on the FREE Independence Hall tours (you can sign up for a time slot in person at the Visitor Center, or online) or waiting to see the Liberty Bell, but probably anyone over the age of 7 will be a reasonable companion for a few hours of American history. In that one little stretch, you’ve got a bunch of free stuff: Independence Hall. Carpenters’ Hall, the Liberty Bell, Congress Hall, the Declaration House, Ben Franklin’s grave, the U.S. Mint, and all the horse-drawn carriages you care to watch amble by. (PS. The self-guided tour of the Betsy Ross House is only $5 for grown-ups and $4 for kids.)

 

Photo Credit: Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Wee Bits: Pregnancy Skincare, the Beauty of Curling, Paying Kids Not To Fight, the Best Day In Philly Ever, and How Sick Is Too Sick For Daycare

A mid-week catch-up for you Philly parents Read more

wee bits

I spent all last evening — as I’m sure we all did — trying to think of what might make America’s government decide to do something — anything, really anything!?? — about all the children dying in shootings in this country. I can’t think of what it could be, if it’s not, you know … children dying in shootings. This is to say, our very heavy hearts are with those innocent children and their families in Florida. Meantime, here and here are a couple places we can go to not feel quite as helpless.

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I know we all have an Eagles hangover, but if you haven’t seen these remarkable photos of the parade from Philly.com, you absolutely MUST.

Hahaha. Oh, New Yorker.

Usually, we steer clear here of political happenings (because ARGH, and also because you don’t need Wee for that when you’ve got literally every other channel on the Internet), but you know, this GQ piece makes excellent points about how food shopping with SNAP (or not) affects families’ well-being and dignity.

A school district in Minnesota dropped Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from the required list. (Via Wash Po.)

Handy guide, here: When to keep your kids home from daycare. 

The Cut gave us seven skin-care products safe for pregnancy. 

Cool story from Kristin Graham: “Why One Philly Elementary School Is Paying Kids Not To Fight.” 

Love this WHYY story about Fishadelphia — like a CSA for FISH — at Mastery Thomas school. 

Interesting stuff, via the NYT: Before-school exercise makes kids happier and (of course) healthier.

It’s true, Vulture: Curling IS the Great British Bake-Off of the Olympics. 

Wee One-On-One: Dena Ferrara Driscoll

A South Philly supermom shares her favorite stuff Read more

dena driscoll

The mama: Dena Ferrara Driscoll may live in Passyunk Square, but she’s basically everywhere in this city — biking (on the world’s coolest bike) around Philly with her kids Milo, 7, and Juniper, 4; co-chairing the 5th Square Political Action Committee; and organizing Kidical Mass Philadelphia (which she also founded). And that’s just in her spare time — she also has a job with the School District of Philadelphia as a Grant and Development Specialist. It’s a vital job. “I help SDP district offices and public schools write and submit competitive grants,” she says. “I also teach caregivers, community members, and SDP staff/teachers learn to fund-raise and write grants themselves.” In 2016 her office brought in $50 million (!!!) in competitive funding to the district. “While I have been in non-profit development for a number of years, working for our city’s public schools feels extra important. All our children deserve an equitable education no matter what neighborhood they live in.”

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Did you grow up in Philly? How long have you lived here? I grew up in North Jersey, but came to Philly for college in 2002, and with the exception of one summer I lived at my parents’ home, I have never left. I’ve lived all over the city, but love South Philly the most. I want to grow old here. Read more →

Seven Things Getting Us Through This Winter

Freezing cold, gray skies, sickness everywhere, too much indoor time with small children. Here’s some things helping us cope. Read more

winter picks

Aside from obvious here — that is, the Eagles win and lots of good Netflix grazing this season — there hasn’t been much about this winter to love. So the little things that we can all appreciate go a long way. Things like …

Yummie leggings.
I have gone on record before with my love for Yummie nursing tanks (even as I wish the brand’s name weren’t something that made me feel vaguely embarrassed every time I type it). But this year, I bought the leggings, and they have become part of my winter uniform. What I like most isn’t the gentle shaping powers — although I’d never complain about that  — but really, the weight of them. They are warm but not in the least bulky. So: I look svelter and I feel warmer, and they wash well and don’t pill or fade or lose their stretch so far, after about a million wears.

Y2B TV
Also in the vein of looking svelter: I bought the postpartum bounce-back yoga online training program from Mt. Airy based Y2B Fit, and loved it so much, I bought the second round– next, I intend to buy the third. Part of my love for the online sessions (which I stream onto my TV) is rooted in the fact that it’s almost impossible to leave the house for exercise with a new kid in the house. (Also, in this weather, who wants to leave the house?) The other part of my love comes from how EASY it is to find the 30 minutes it takes to do these sessions. Also: The first postpartum program is exactly as chill and gentle as you want it to be, but I absolutely felt and saw results. Everything here — the ease, the cheery-but-not-too-cheery instruction, the price (about $60 for a six-week program), the feeling of accomplishment at actually exercising regularly again, the fact that there’s more options than just the post-baby courses — has made this winter so much better.   Read more →