Holly and her family on one of their cultural excursions!
It has always been important to me to make culture a real part of our family life. When my kids were babies, I realized that I had to take a brief hiatus from most spectator activities. So I turned to the kinds of art projects and activities they could enjoy in the comfort of our own home: music classes, dance parties, art projects and watching classics like Parent Trap
and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
on TV. Whenever possible, we would attend outdoor art festivals where the kids could sample and participate to the extent they were able. I looked forward to the day when we could venture into theaters and museums, but we took baby steps. I knew the big day would come.
And indeed it did. Over the past few years, since my kids have ever so slightly matured, I have been bringing them to cultural events in New York City—all over the boroughs. Now we go into the city often. Here are a few strategies for integrating culture into your family life, based on my own experiences:
Less can be more
Plan ahead to save
- Choose a hand full of theaters and museums that you know and trust, and focus on their offerings. The more you try to do, the less you'll actually do.
Tap into what your children like
- Sign up for something like Cool Culture, which lets your family visit New York City’s best-loved cultural institutions!
- Become a member of the organizations that you believe in so that you can schedule events in your calendar well in advance, as well as save money. At the New Vic, by ordering tickets for three or more productions at one time, you become a member and save 35% off your tickets.
- When my daughter was young, she was into the Disney princesses, so I took her to see The Little Mermaid on Broadway. This year she is into fairies and witches, so we went to see Wicked.
- Go to museums that offer kids' tours or scavenger hunts, kids' sections or activities. It will make the art much more appealing to your children, and you'll have a better chance of being able to take in some of the exhibit yourself.
Holly's daughter visiting the New Vic for The Enchanted Pig.
Introduce new things
Encourage their budding interests
- We are actually regulars at The New Victory Theater, where we are amongst many moms, dads and kids eager for the special performances they present from around the world. For one of my daughter's first theaterical experiences, we went to see The Enchanted Pig at the New Vic. It was one of those "Aha!" moments for me about living near New York City and being able to introduce my children to the finest theatrical experiences in existence. My daughter was literally enchanted by the production.
Know your family's limits
- When your kids are ready, start them on musical instruments—even toy instruments, until you feel they are old enough to start taking lessons. Going to a classical concert will take on a whole new meaning. We recently took our kids to Jazz at Lincoln Center—Jazz for Young People. Now that my son is interested in playing the guitar and is taking piano lessons, his interest in these types of concerts is far greater than before.
- The same goes for drama lessons! If your child seems to have a knack for acting, don't shy away from it. Nurture the passion and energy.
- Space your events out. I know that my kids need to play too, so I never plan too much in a weekend. Going to one event and making it special goes a lot further than overwhelming your children and wearing them out.
- Make sure your kids are well fed before the curtain rises to avoid any issues during the show.
- If your child has a meltdown or can't make it through a show, take a step back and stop going until you see a change in behavior. Instead, read books, talk about plays and encourage music and theater at home.
Culture is important to my kids because it's important to their mom. I make it a part of our daily life, and using the tactics I mention above, they want it just as much as I do. Living in New York City, there are so many choices for a culture-loving family. It's important to take advantage of what we have on our doorstep.
This post was originally seen on our blog in 2011.
||Holly Rosen Fink has a career that spans the world of television and publishing, including positions at Lifetime Television, Nickelodeon/MTV and John Wiley & Sons where she worked closely with Arthur and Pauline Frommer to promote their brand. She is currently the founder and CEO of Pivoting Media, a marketing consultancy that focuses on mindful social media.
With the start of summer just around the corner, kids are going to be school-free for nearly three whole months. This may lead to beaches, sand, and sun tans, but it may also lead to what those in education call the summer slide
. This means that some of the strides your kiddos made in the past year might disappear due to lack of academic challenges. So how do you fight this dastardly detractor? Reading! Research shows that these three habits can turn any summer into a mind-enriching season.
1. Six to Success
: Challenge your kid to read at least six books over the course of the summer. It evens out to only two per month!
2. Daily Reading
: Make a ritual out of reading. Whether it's a daily newspaper article or chapters of a book, make sure your kids practice every day.
3. Reading Aloud
: Turn reading into a family activity by reading out loud as a group. This gives you some valuable family time, while allowing your kids to practice their public speaking skills.
Captain Cook, one of Mr. Popper's Penguins! Photo: Helen Murray.
Many of the shows gracing The New Victory's stage next season have been translated directly from page to stage (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Elephant & Piggie's We are in a Play, The Way Back Home, Oh Boy!, Grug and the Rainbow, ). If your kids are looking for a bit of reading inspiration, check them out of your local library before visiting the New Vic! Unsure of where your local library is? You can find one nearby here.
Have your kids already explored The Nautilus or met all of Mr. Popper's penguins? Don't let them stop there! Our friends over at Scholastic have created an engaging way to incentivize your young readers over the summer. Called the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, it's designed to help kids acheive the summer leap instead of suffering the summer slide. This year, their theme is becoming a more confident independent reader by transforming into "A Reading Superhero." The best part of all of this? It's free! Start your kids on the Summer Reading Challenge here.
To give you a quick preview of Scholastic's challenge, a few of the books they recommend are listed below by age:
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney & Anita Jerman
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle
Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray & Jim Field
Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Greenfield Thong & John Parra
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio & Christian Robinson
8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper
Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert & Sam Ricks
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack
Kalahari by Jessica Khoury
George by Alex Gino
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
||What other books would you recommend for kids this summer? Make sure to leave them in the comments!