The mama: If you don’t know Maria Lopez, well … this time next year, she might be someone you want to know. Maria, who’s mom to Alina, 4, and Luna, 19 months, happens to be in the process of getting certified to be a sleep coach. She’s relatively new to Philly, too — though you wouldn’t know it based on her knowledge of fun kids things to do around town. (See below!) The Fishtown resident moved from Atlanta about a year and a half ago, and originally hails from Bogota, Colombia. Here, her scoops on everything from awesome kids’ dance classes to the best gin and tonics in town.
Neighborhood of residence: Fishtown
Preschool: Mi Casita
Favorite kids’ classes: Ballet and Toddlers in Tutus at Palmer Pond Art Center. We love the small size of the classes and the laid back atmosphere.
Best way to spend a Saturday afternoon as a family: We usually visit a kid-friendly museum. We also walk to our local playgrounds and restaurants.
Date night: Dinner at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons or Root. Mulherin’s has pizza that’s out of this world, and Root is famous for its overall great food and selection of gin-tonics. Afterward, we head to the bars on Frankford Avenue. Fishtown Social is our favorite — it has a nice selection of cold cuts, cheese and pairing wines.
Favorite spring break or summer camp: My oldest daughter, Alina, will be old enough for summer camp for the first time this summer. We signed her up for one week of the summer camp at the Franklin Institute and are very excited about it!
Special find for families: We recently discovered Minnow Lane. It’s a unique kids’ store with tons of learning toys, books and clothes. They have a space where they hold special parent classes and events for kids.
Rainy day go-to: Play Arts. It’s a huge indoors play space with toys ranging from tricycles to Legos. They also have dress-up and a pretend house with two floors. There is plenty in there to keep the kiddos busy for hours. You can grab something to eat and drink at their snack bar.
Holiday tradition: The Elf on the Shelf, Baby Jesus and Santa visit us. We bake a birthday cake for baby Jesus on Christmas Day, and we have a Colombian tradition where we sing and tell Baby Jesus stories every night for nine days before Christmas.
Outing or event you avoid: We try to avoid huge crowds. The Trader Joe’s crowd during the weekend — we all know about that line that wraps around the store. Please Touch Museum during holidays is a no-no for us.
Outing or event you love: We love the observatory events at the Ben Franklin, the spring and fall festivals all over the city and Christmas at the City Hall.
Favorite app for parents or kids: We love Skymap. Our oldest daughter loves everything space, so we use it when it’s cloudy outside to know what’s up in the sky. It shows where the planets and constellations are related to where you are standing and your line of horizon.
Family-friendly restaurant: Fette Sau. We find the girls like most of the food on their menu and the staff is very friendly.
Favorite cultural activity or event in Philly or ‘burbs: The Chinese Lantern Festival at Franklin Park is beautiful at night.
Gear you can’t live without: We can’t leave without our Stokke stroller. It turns into a high chair, which is a lifesaver when eating at restaurants with no high chairs. It also collapses to be pulled up and down stairs.
Pro you can’t live without: Our incredible pediatrician, Dr. King from Chestnut Pediatrics. His practice is very small, only three doctors. He is always available and spends a long time with us each visit. The kids love him, too.
Indulgence you can’t live without: Chocolate in all its forms. Can’t. Live. Without. It.
Place for baby/children’s gifts: Minnow Lane.
Favorite children’s book right now: Dear Zoo, Good Night Gorilla, and a National Geographic book about space.
Favorite outdoorsy thing to do with kids: Gardening in our patio and berry-picking at Linvilla Orchards.
Best piece of advice you’ve gotten about parenting: Don’t be hard on yourself. We all have days when we sit back and feel like horrible parents. No one is perfect, and no matter what, you are perfect to your kids.
Best parenting book you read: Happiest Baby on the Block, Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep and The Baby Whisperer. I found all three of these to help so much with soothing the girls when they were infants, getting them into a routine and sleep-training them.
Favorite parent hack: We purchased a clock that has a bear that’s awake and a bear that sleeps. You can set the clock to light up the bear that’s awake any time you want. We taught our daughter that when the bear is awake, that’s when she can come and get us. It has worked like a charm.
Favorite toy in your house right now: Luna is really into Legos these days, and Alina loves her telescope. We use it up on our rooftop terrace on clear nights.
One thing you wish Philly had that it doesn’t: Good quality public schools. It has been awesome to see parents at the different communities working together to improve their schools, but the schools still need help. Also, free parking, haha. We also need one more Trader Joe’s.
Best part of raising kids here: There is just so much to do for kids here! We love the kid-friendly museums, Fairmount Park, Smith Playground, you name it. There is always something to do, no matter the weather. We also love how exposed kids are to diversity, art and history. We also love that the beach is only one hour away.