The mama: Y’all might know Lauren Parker as the owner of Lume Creative Learning Studios, the new(ish) South Philly community arts center for kids’ and adult classes, parties, art exhibits, workshops and the like. (And there really is a vast scope of happenings there — the classes alone cover visual arts, movement, music, parenting and more! Running the place is “a very fun juggling act,” she says.) Lauren also lives in South Philly, along with her kids Emalinda, who’s almost four, and Max, who’s 18 months — and though she grew up in North Jerz, she’s been here since 1995. “So … let’s just say that I’ve spent over half my life here so far. And also that I am truly old.” [Ed. note: We all are, Lauren!] Here’s her expert take on all the best Philly has to offer.
Where does your little one attend daycare/preschool/school? I admit it makes me paranoid to put this information on the scary internet but I feel compelled to share. Little Duckies Daycare in South Philly is the absolute BEST! The staff is caring and loving. My kids come home happy and having learned something new every day. It is clean and bright and fun. It’s well-organized. The directors, the teachers and the assistants truly put their hearts into that place, and it shows in every tiny detail. There’s usually a wait-list to get in since it’s small, but I would say it is totally worth the wait.
Favorite kids’ classes: I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but … TOOT. Lume has great kids’ classes!! We have drop-in friendly toddler programs like Free-Range Toddler Art and Songbird Art & Music Jam for kids ages 18 months to 4 years. We also have drop-off programs for the potty-trained set. One great option is LizArt — the kids sing with a local rockstar with a loop pedal, plus they dance, and make music and art. Another popular program I like to highlight is the Itty Bitty Breakdance class, which is exactly as adorable as you think it is. For older kids, we have an after-school art and literacy program with local school pickup. We also have school-aged drop-off classes every afternoon in a variety of visual arts topics. We are most excited for our Friday Rebel Girls: Contemporary Artists drop-off program where kids (of all genders) learn about a rebel of a female artist every week and create art based on their work.
Best way to spend a Saturday afternoon as a family: I like to get out of the city on the weekends, if possible. We like basic seasonal activities like fall pumpkin-picking at None Such Farms in Buckingham, or going to Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore the summertime.
Parents’ class: TOOOOOT. Lume has these too! We have a series called Parenting S.O.S. on Monday nights. We recently had parenting coach Brandi Davis do Discipline and Tantrum Taming classes. We also had a great class with Erica Desper, a local sleep specialist. The topics and speakers change weekly. We’re looking forward to a Hungry Education talk about picky eaters and another run of Beth Richey’s Solving Problem Behaviors Through Play class. You can sign up for whatever classes you might need a la carte, instead of for a whole series.
Date night: A date with my husband means we eat takeout burritos from Los Gallos, the best Mexican restaurant in the entire universe. Yes, I’ve been to Mexico itself, and I still stand by this statement. We catch up on TV while the kids are in bed. Real fancy stuff. (Seriously, if I do get a date, I want it to be with my best girlfriends and I want it to involve drinking lots of alcohol.)
Favorite spring break camp or summer camp: My kids are too young for camp but Lume does offer art camps during school district days off and throughout the summer!
Hidden gem for families: Sister Cities Park is not some hidden secret, but it is a special find. I think it’s my favorite place for kids in the whole city (besides Lume).
Rainy day go-to: The Aquarium. We have a membership. Or, honestly, we drag the kids over to Target or Ikea. I can’t wait until they’re old enough to both go to the movies.
Holiday tradition: My husband and I got married on Halloween. We celebrate our anniversary by trick-or-treating on Wolf Street with our little kids (blocks 10 through 13 are great and less crowded than the super popular 13th Street), and then giving out candy to visiting trick-or-treaters on our stoop. We enjoy a little champagne in our skeleton-hand champagne flutes. (They’re very fancy! Oriental Trading Company!) I also LOVE Christmas lights. The best thing about South Philly is the Christmas Lights and fun windows. We like to take walks over to Smedley Street and up 13th, of course.
Outing or event you avoid: Anything too crowded. I hate 4th of July on the Parkway. I avoid all those Night Market things because it looks like a nightmare. Too many people.
Outing or event you love: I love the Head House Farmers Market. I also love when Head House does little family-oriented holiday events. East Passyunk does a good job with this, too! It’s fun to take the kids around the neighborhood for a simple tree-lighting and dinner, or a little seasonal community event at the Singing Fountain.
Favorite app for parents, or favorite app for kids: I do try to avoid letting my kids play with my phone, but occasionally Ema will watch PBS Kids on the iPad. I also bought a bunch of TinyBop games for her. They’re really well-designed learning tools as opposed to just mindless entertainment. For me, I like Mommy Nearest or Mommy Poppins. Those sorts of apps. Wee Wander should make one!
Favorite fast massage or spa treatment or some treat for you: I am a no-frills sorta lady. I love the $1-a-minute chair massage place on South Street. I think it’s called Renew Spa. It’s the one next to the pet supply store at around 8th and South. I also love to get my nails done. I go to Vivi Salon on East Passyunk. They’re brand new. I get the cucumber pedicure, which involves all sorts of masks and good-smelling lotions and potions and a 10-minute foot rub. They also give you a little shoulder rub while you dry your nails. Heaven.
Family-friendly restaurant: We love Birra on East Passyunk for their happy hour special. You can get a red or white pizza for like $3 and whatever the drink special is. We like to bring the kids. Sometimes they give them pizza dough to play with.
Favorite cultural activity: Fleisher is the best. I love Artspiration.
Favorite community service with kids: OMG. We are the worst. I keep trying to get them to say please and thank you?
Gear you can’t live without: The Boken Bag. I love our diaper bag so much. Also, the Beco baby carrier. Our babies loved facing outward.
Person/professional you can’t live without: South Philly Pediatrics is a great practice. I like that all the pediatricians are women. Most of them are moms. They are really nice and knowledgeable. We go to the Whitman office.
Indulgence you can’t live without: Grubhub.
Place for baby/children’s gifts: There’s an exceptionally cute children’s clothing store on Ritner Street called “Believe.” Or, of course, Tildie’s Toybox!
Favorite children’s book right now: My daughter is really into comic books, so we read Superhero High Girls and My Little Pony comics. She also loves our old Calvin and Hobbes books. Max just makes us read No, David over and over again. Oh, and Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are hysterical. I Will Take a Nap is the best one.
Favorite outdoorsy thing to do with kids: When my son is a little older, we’ll be renting a little cabin and taking the kids camping in Elk Neck State Park. It’s right on the Chesapeake Bay, only an hour outside of Philly, near a cute little town and an awesome crab shack.
Fun kids party spot: Lume does great birthday parties. Our themes are fun and silly (monster mash; splash, splatter, spin messy art; rockstar and more). We have awesome visual arts, music or movement options.
Best piece of advice you’ve gotten about parenting: Sleep when the baby sleeps. HAHAHAHAHAHA, just kidding! Why do people say that?!?!?! You absolutely cannot.
Any mom’s groups you love? When Ema was new, I was part of a group of new moms through Lilypad/Kids South of Washington. Lots of like-minded, supportive, Passyunk Moms. I met some awesome women I’m still buddies with today.
Best parenting book you read: That big green Dr. Sears book is really helpful.
Favorite parent hack or Philly hack: No idea. I have no hacks. I need hacks. Somebody send me a hack.
Favorite toy or kid entertainment in your house right now: My Little Pony has taken over our world.
One thing you wish Philly had that it doesn’t: Clean sidewalks and parking. I love South Philly, but the trash is starting to get to me, and so is the schlepping of children and bags from the car to the house.
Hardest part of raising kids here: I wish we had a real yard. And a driveway.
Best part of raising kids here: The people, the food, the endless options for things to do and see. I love Philly. I always will.