Best of Philly: Kids 2006
Hipster baby boutique
Genes Just about the coolest thing to happen to Philly parents since sex. Kristina Ferrari, mother of two, opened this über-urban kids’ lifestyle shop last year so that having children wouldn’t drown your life in pink, blue and plastic. She stocks chic L.A. and New York clothing labels (Claude, Lucy Sykes, Paul Frank, Trunk Ltd.), and has a denim bar with 10 premium brands, cool Italtrikes, double-wide Ultrasuede Nurseryworks rockers, the loft-worthy NettoCollection furniture line, Paula Quintana fashion diaper bags, Dwell bedding, and Bon Jovi’s Rock Star Baby strollers that you’ll actually want to tool around in yourself. 122 East Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, 610-902-0208; shopgenes.com.
GoCityKids If you do nothing else, sign up for the weekly calendar. Yes, there are listings on this website for stores, classes, restaurants, parks, activities and party ideas in the Delaware Valley (organized by neighborhood and age). Yes, there’s a place to recommend the great stuff you know about. But there’s this calendar. This thorough, helpful, free calendar of kid events all over the area, e-mailed every Thursday, that makes you wish you and your kids could be in about five places at once. gocitykids.com.
Chris’ Corner Books We searched everywhere. Literally. And we ended up back at our old fave on Pine Street, where there are tomes for every occasion, from board books for babies to sci-fi novels for teens to — our favorite — the ones with parent-friendly messages (i.e., Hands Are Not for Hitting). Plus DVDs, puzzles, toys, cards, story time, and free gift wrapping. 1940 Pine Street; 215-790-1727.
Ken Fink and Wondergy He electrocutes hot dogs. He makes ice cream using liquid nitrogen. He hammers a nail … with a banana! Who wants a clown (booooring!) when you can have Ken Fink, a former scientist and theater lighting designer who’ll turn your kid’s birthday into a science show? Maniacal mad-scientist laugh extra. $300 for up to 25 guests; 866-653-2853; wondergy.com.
Valerie Felgoise If punch and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey don’t cut it anymore, ring up this party gal to throw an event your kids (and friends) won’t forget. She does everything — dreams up the theme, chooses crafts, finds a caterer, rents carnival rides — and if you ask, she’ll even show up in costume. (For a party last winter, she made 25 individual gingerbread houses for the kids to decorate.) Her schedule is tight, so call six to eight weeks in advance. From $20 per child for 1 1/2 hours; 610-213-5675.
Baby loves Disco Velvet ropes, guest list, VIP (stroller) parking, cover charges — this dance party held on the first Sunday of the month at South Street’s Fluid rocks. The DJ spins ’80s and ’90s hits (no Raffi here) while revelers groove on the dance floor, nosh on healthy snacks (Whole Foods is a sponsor), and fuel up — juice boxes for kids and (oh yes) a full bar for adults. 2 to 5 p.m. 613 South 4th Street, 215-629-3686; babylovesdisco.com.
Time Out! Moms No kids. That’s the genius of this mom-group started by Friends Select alums Alyson Schwartz and Magen Kauffman. Every six weeks or so, the two plan a night out, usually in Center City or on the Main Line — wine-tasting, manis and pedis, a photo-taking workshop, author readings — to help moms recharge. All you have to do is show up. And mingle. And drink wine. $35-$50 per event; 215-850-4846; time-out-moms.com.
BE Monograms When the second one comes around, what you really need is a way to tell their ridiculous amounts of stuff apart. This chic Chestnut Hill monogramming shop makes life easier — it personalizes anything, from Built NY neoprene lunch sacks and bottle totes to chalkboard place mats, diaper covers, cloth-covered baby books, Lucite picture frames and, of course, bibs, burp cloths and onesies. 8127 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-8787; bemonograms.com.
Cutie P. Tootie It’s worth the drive all the way out to this quaint new boutique in Collegeville for the pretty dresses. There’s Zyno, Baby Lulu, Zutano, Frankie and Davi, Cach Cach, Betsy and Babs, and Max and Maddie. You’ll want to buy one of each. (If you’re like us, you may just do that.) Plus there’s a whole room of boys’ clothes and a whole room of baby clothes and a whole room of christening/communion dresses. 389 West Main Street, Collegeville; 610-831-0123.
Kid-friendly coffee shop
Chestnut Hill Coffee Company The authentic Seattle coffee may be the big draw (or maybe it’s the Miel pastries … or the cool decor with exposed brick walls … ), but we go for the second floor. On any given day, you’ll find tables full of moms with kids, making this an ideal meeting spot, with tons of room for your toddlers to toddle around. 8620 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill; 215-242-8600.
Summit sportstraining centers
You may not be able to get them away from their MySpace/PlayStation/cell phones — but the chance to work out alongside such pro athletes as Jameer Nelson will. And that’s the beauty of Steve Mountain’s three Summit Sports Training Centers: Tricked out with the highest of high-tech fitness gadgets and gizmos, they draw the pros — but the staff is just as passionate about attracting teens to the small-group workout sessions and helping them build the skills, confidence and habits that will make them want to make fitness part of their lives long after they outgrow high school, instant messaging and teen angst. Multiple locations; summitsportstc.com.
The pop shop Kids eat free on Saturday mornings at this bright, loud, always-packed diner in Collingswood, but only if they wear PJs. And the Shop is strict about what passes for jammies: “Nightgown or matching top and bottom PJ set. No sweatsuits, shorts or t-shirts.” No matter. The blueberry-stuffed French toast sandwich is worth a new pair of Garanimals. 729 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, 856-869-0111; thepopshopusa.com.
The Talking Teacup So cute, you’ll want to pet it: a 250-year-old farmhouse filled with tables covered in mismatched teacups and teapots, where kids can order PB&J or ham-and-cheese tea sandwiches (and moms can get salads and scones) served with their very own pot of tea. The best part? A dress-up room upstairs where everyone can bejewel and befur and behat for high tea. 301 West Butler Avenue, Chalfont, 215-997-8441; thetalkingteacup.com.
Jones There is no kid’s menu — and that’s exactly why Stephen Starr’s four-year-old super-cool, retro, diner-esque spot is so perfect. Kids will find stuff they love on the real menu (fried chicken and waffles, tomato soup with grilled cheese, and a baked macaroni-and-cheese that you may have to thumb-wrestle little Sammy for a taste of). You can be a kid again yourself — with the to-die-for meatloaf and whipped potatoes — or more grown-up and refined, with the sesame-seared tuna and coconut rice. 700 Chestnut Street, 215-223-5663; jones-restaurant.com.
The Attic at First Impressions The second floor of this Lafayette Hill boutique has the best bargains on select high-end kids’ lines, including C+C California, Flowers by Zoe, and Gold. Erica Katz Willner, who owns the hip children’s boutique Down to Earth Kids up the road, sells her overstock here at her mom Pamela Katz’s store for a fraction of the original price. (Super-soft Splendid tees are only $10!) Inventory changes as frequently as your kid’s size. 470 East Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill; 610-828-6775.
Butterflies and Blossoms It’s not just that the gear, clothes and toys at the small but crowded consignment shop are lovely and cheap, but also that the owner is conscientious about ensuring they have all their parts, haven’t been recalled, and are in good working order. The store has racks of stylish clothes from infant through junior, some for just a few dollars, as well as wooden toys and a take-one-give-one book exchange. 3 North Five Points Road, West Chester; 610-430-7601.
Kids’ department store
The Children’s Boutique Nowhere else in town is even remotely like this three-story mecca devoted to all things chic and sophisticated for newborns to 12-year-olds. The first floor houses the expansive layette collection (lines like Petit Bateau, Burberry and Bonpoint) and an unparalleled shoe department. Upstairs is the toy section — think FAO Schwarz on a smaller scale — with everything from ride-in fire engines and retro tricycles to toy kitchens, Hohner drum sets, books, life-size stuffed animals and Thomas train sets. Juicy Couture and Seven Jeans for the preteen set are on the top floor. 1702 Walnut Street, 215-732-2661; thechildrensboutique.com.
Sign With Me After she took her nine-month-old daughter to this class (held at the Hall-Mercer Child and Parent Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Maternal Wellness Center in Mount Airy), one mom said, “We never had another outburst that seemed related to her needing something she couldn’t express.” To which we replied, “You’re kidding. Right?” Wrong. There’s a reason why teaching babies (10 to 22 months) sign language is the trend of the moment — and watching oh-so-patient and down-to-earth instructor Davi Chandrasekaran perform signs in 3-D is much more effective than fumbling to learn from a book. $130 and up for a six-week session; 215-843-1902; signwithmephilly.com.
Piccolini All those ultra-modern lines you wish you could check out in person? They’re here, including hard-to-find Ducduc, Oeuf, Nurseryworks, Argington, OFFI and Magis. Be the first on the block to own an EVA foam chair (available this month) or the beautiful Nest Collection Bassinet by Ooba. Plus, there are fab accessories like the ubiquitous Bugaboo stroller, colorful bedding by Pixel, and the Marimekko-esque Angel Pack baby carrier — all too cool for drool. 922 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-527-4505; piccolinionline.com.
Youth Movement Fitness This kid-focused gym with child-oriented trainers holds rollicking classes every weekday for three-to-six-year-olds — from a basic gymnastics class to a pre-dance class to a sports-prep class — that harness all of their spinning-top energy and introduce them to fitness while priming them for the next level of classes (creative dance), and the next (cheerleading, hip-hop, sports skills and drills). After Youth Movement, they’ll never understand the “work” part of working out. 1111 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-520-2222; youthmovementfitness.com.
Classes, grade school:
Capoeira at Moving Arts of Mount Airy You think a trip to Gymboree burns up that perpetual kid energy? How about this hour-long class based on an Afro-Brazilian martial art that mixes dance, gymnastics, theater and improv — and drum-banging? If that’s not enough, kids seven to 13 can also take hip-hop, African dance and fencing. En garde! 550 Carpenter Lane, Mount Airy; 215-842-1040.
Classes, middle school
Music Training Center While Paul Green’s School of Rock put serious kid-jammin’ on the map, your kid will love after-school lessons at Music Training Center: Students wail on drums (or guitar or bass or piano) in $27-per-half-hour lessons, and worship the young guy teachers. (They all have names like Zack and Nate and resemble the awesome Drake Bell of Drake & Josh/Nickelodeon fame.) Plus, there’s a summer Rock Band Camp for nine-to-16-year-olds. The place has a full recording studio and stage, and puts on karaoke parties for ages seven and up. A second location is opening in Ardmore soon. Ridge and Butler pikes, Plymouth Meeting, 610-238-0300; musictrainingcenter.com.
Sailing at the Cooper River Yacht Club The Cooper River isn’t exactly the high seas, and there aren’t 58-footers to steer clear of, which is exactly why it’s the perfect place to learn the basics of sailing. Ten three-hour summer classes taught by certified instructors let kids ages eight and up work toward Small Boat Sailor Certification and captain their own sunfishes. $240; South Park Drive, Collingswood, 856-869-9145; cooperriveryc.org.