Places Kids Love

1. Center for Architecture. Once a month, this nonprofit organization hosts family days where kids and parents can work together to design and build various architectural projects. In June kids competed to build the best environmentally-friendly building. On Saturday July 14, kids will learn about tall building design and compete to build the tallest, sturdiest skyscraper. On August 11th there will be a walking tour of Governor’s Island.

What we saw when we visited: Kids who benefited most from this program were around age 10. They took the competition very seriously and some were engaged, one-on-one working with a parent for hours. But kids as young as 6 also had fun. One little boy completely ignored the rules of the competition and built an elaborate city chock-full of buildings and army men. His review: “I didn’t know this place would be so much fun!”

What we would change if we could: A few parents expressed disappointment that an educational presentation was not part of the day. Kids simply arrived and started building. Architects circulated to a few of the kids as they were building and shared lots of valuable information but this was given one-on-one to only a few kids and not to the group as a whole. Another parent expressed disappointment at the lack of clear directions about the competition. Her son had planned his project for days before the event and really wanted to win the competition. Part of the judging process involved taking building materials but then using as few of them as possible. This was done by weighing what the kids built, before and after. Because he had not weighed his original materials, after hours of building he was told he could not participate in the competition. He was very disappointed but then, later, did take part in the competition. We would do away with the competitive nature of the day and simply have architects comment on what is good, or interesting, about each child’s construction. We saw some really remarkable structures being built and, in our opinion, each of those kids was a winner.

Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place (between Bleecker and West 3 St.) New York, NY 10012. 212-358-6133. Admission: $10 suggested donation per family.

Directions: The 6 train to the Bleecker Street station. The A,C,E,B,D,F, or V trains to the West 4th St. station.

What to do nearby: See the street performers in Washington Square Park, which is just two blocks north, and spend some time in the lovely playground there. Our kids enjoy feeding the squirrels that make their homes in the trees surrounding the playground. Also, SoHo is a few blocks to the south, the West Village is a few blocks to the west and NoLiTa is a short walk to the east.


2. The Forbes Galleries. You’ll love watching your little one’s face as he examines the seemingly endless parade of toy soldiers, planes, boats and much more. The thousands of miniature figures are all displayed with interesting stories and background for you to read to him as he marvels at the displays.

Our son especially loved learning about the history of the toy submarine and was captivated by the display of the sunken Lusitania. We went just for fun but, to our surprise, the exhibit opened up a wide-ranging interest in World War I.

Location: Ground floor of the Forbes Building, 62 Fifth Ave., at the corner of 12th St.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Thursdays are reserved for group tours.

Admission: free. 212-206-5548.

To make even more of your visit: Ask your librarian to get you a copy of “Ghost Liners: Exploring the World’s Greatest Ships,” by Robert Ballard. He was the first man to ever explore the wreck of the Titanic and his book has stories, and pictures, of famous ship wrecks such as the Titanic, the Andrea Doria and (pertinent to this exhibit) the Lusitania, the German passenger liner that was torpedoed by the Germans, turning the tide of American public opinion in favor of entering World War I.

While you’re in the neighborhood check out:

The Farmers’ Market at Union Square Park on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man. A big, lively restaurant serving all things chocolate. Try one of the popular fondues. 841 Broadway, near 13th St. 212-388-0030.