Category Archives: Parenting Tips

The Power of Practice

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By: The Kumon Team

“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.”  ―Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Kumon Program can be compared more accurately to sport and music training than to traditional tutoring. When children learn how to play the violin or baseball, results aren’t expected to happen overnight, although they are asked to practice often. Becoming good at the piano, tennis, math, or reading requires a commitment to steadily practicing and not giving up. Instructors are academic coaches that guide children to improve their skills through practice and to reach specific goals.

There are two stages of learning a particular skill: the thinking stage and the knowing stage.  When children learn how to play basketball, they need to think about how to correctly shoot the ball. But if all the players have to think about it each time, they cannot win a game.  You have to know how to shoot to win a game.  The transition from the thinking stage to the knowing stage is achieved through practice. Practice enables us to know how to do things automatically, and it decreases the risk of making a mistake. This is why, despite being the greatest basketball player in the game, LeBron James stays late after the team practice to deliberately practice his free throw shots. Continuing to practice the fundamentals is how you become and stay excellent.

“Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice ― perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again―and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court. . . . spontaneity isn’t random.”  ―Malcolm Gladwell

To learn more about Kumon’s programs in NYC, click here!

NYC Parenting Classes for You, Too!

While our major focus at Kidz Central Station is classes for kids, we also make sure to offer options the NYC parents out there who, like us, need a hand with this whole parenting thing every once in a while. At programs uptown, downtown and in between, there are great NYC parenting classes available, whether you want to get in shape after having a baby, brush up on important safety tips, or learn about the painstaking process of enrolling in preschool. So without further adieu, here are some great programs available right now!

NYU Langone Medical CenterBaby Sitting Happily In Car Seat. One of the best hospitals in NYC, NYU Langone Medical Center offers an array of informative classes to get you through every stage of being a parent—from prenatal to postnatal. Expectant parents can experience a free hospital tour and information session with the Ready . . . Set . . . Baby class, and if you want to brush up on CPR and first aid, there are courses for that too. You can even attend sessions for buckling your little one safely in a car seat—a must for any parent on the go. Bottom line, NYU Langone’s parenting classes cover everything you’d ever want to know about becoming a parent—and if you haven’t read NYU’s weekly expert blog posts, make sure to check them out for parenting topics and tips!


92nd Street Ystandard_fit_yoga_pregnantside_lg. The 92nd Street Y has classes for everything—you have probably seen a wide variety of their kiddie programs on Kidz Central Station. What you might not realize is that they also offer some amazing classes and workshops for new and experienced parents as well—from semester classes you can join for a season to drop-in workshops on various parenting topics. Expectant parents can check out classes like Lamaze Complete Childbirth Preparation and Caring for a Newborn, and newbies to the job can get back into shape with Yoga For Mommy and Baby or learn the basics of breastfeeding with a weekly Breastfeeding Workshop. Even experienced parents have their pick: you can learn how to best navigate the stresses of parenthood with workshops like Planning Your Child’s Early School Years and Motherhood and Your Professional Identity!

JCC ManhattanHappy Young Father is Playing with his newborn baby girl at home, and kissing noses together.  Vintage style color filter.. For Upper West Siders (or anyone nearby!), the JCC Manhattan offers a variety of great classes for kids (swimming, dance, sports, and more) as well as classes parents will definitely appreciate. If you’re new to the whole parenting game and want to meet others in your shoes (and eat!), there’s a Dad’s Meet Up Brunch and a New Moms Breakfast you won’t want to miss out on, as well as weekly parenting sessions ( called Parents Talk: Everything from A to ZZZs) that cover important topics such as baby sleep schedules and safety and first aid. And that’s not all—check out the full selection of parenting classes here!

standard_Postnatal_fitness_group14th Street Y. Whether you want to get in shape or bond with other parents, this downtown program has a class or workshop to meet your needs. Want to tone with baby in tow? There are some awesome fitness classes in yoga, pilates, barre, and more (prenatal yoga too!). Find out the answers to your burning questions about raising a toddler? The Parenting Your Preschool class is a series of informative sessions focusing on preschool age kids. Topics such as helping your child adjust to the demands of preschool, limit setting, language development, and even topics YOU bring to the table will all be covered throughout the semester. Conveniently located in Stuyvesant Town not too far from Union Square, this program draws parents from all areas and neighborhoods throughout the year.

Happy Holidays from Kidz Central Station!

BackgroundCHRISTMASLIGHTSv2(red)(LS)withHAPPYHOLIDAYS(E)Happy Holidays! We at Kidz Central Station want to thank you, all of our amazing and loyal members, readers, and followers for your support this year, and for helping us make Kidz Central Station the go-to place for finding and enrolling in NYC kids’ activities! It’s been another great year with lots of exciting accomplishments! In 2015:

The site has almost doubled to include over 5,000 classes, camps, and activities!

We’re going international! Launching in early 2016, Kidz Central Station UK will be the go-to website for finding the best kids’ activities in London’s metro area!

We’ve continued to improve the site, based on your feedback! We now have gift cards (a great holiday gift!) as well as a homepage event calendar that makes it even easier for NYC families to find and book classes in music, gymnastics, tennis, and more! Parents also have a range of scheduling options—from semester classes and drop-in activities to holiday camps and theater for kids.

Our team has grown—three new team members joined this year!

We’ve had some amazing press this year! If you missed it, we were featured in The Wall Street Journal and on WPIX 11 News

We hosted tons of awesome events, including pop-up parties with our favorite NYC kids’ programs and a holiday shopping event at Toys “R” Us Times Square with great sponsors, holiday giveaways, and lots of family activities. We can’t wait to host more fun events in 2016!

Thank you for being a part of our success this year—we appreciate all of your support, feedback, and time spent on the site. We wish you a very happy holiday and a wonderful new year—here’s to a fantastic 2016!

A Love Song For the Ages: Science Confirms Power of Music for Bonding With Babies

f229646b-84aa-4287-876d-b516101f5cd7-oBy Renee Bock

Sometimes science confirms what we know already on a gut level, a truth that we live by every day. I’ve been singing with young children for over a decade. Babies, three year olds, five year olds. They come to me as strangers and immediately connect through song. I don’t yet know their names, but they relax, they trust me, they are present as a group.

This week, scientists at Oxford University revealed that singing bonds people together more quickly than anything else. Over seven months, researchers studied the adult relationships forged in singing groups vs. creative writing or craft making experiences. They found that music makes people feel closer to each other faster and has tremendous power as an “ice breaker” between strangers.

Scientists have long debated the evolutionary value of music to humans. What contribution does singing make to our survival as a species? It doesn’t help with reproduction or self-defense. Is it nothing more than “auditory cheesecake” as cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker asserts?

Here we begin to carve out an answer, one that reminds us as parents, teachers, and caregivers, that singing is an incredible tool for bonding with children from birth, creating deep attachments and expressing love even before spoken language emerges.

Yes, classes in creative writing and craft making brought people together. Adult students shared stories, learned about each other lives, and relationships evolved as familiarity blossomed. Not so with music. When people sang together, they didn’t need time or stories, they just felt connected. Imagine what this means for tribes in early human history, large groups newly interacting, needing to forge immediate ties to find food, build shelter or fight enemies. They’d skip a lot of steps if singing inspired immediate affinity. Congruence, alignment, agreement, harmony, synchronization—the building of social networks. We don’t need to speak the same language to be a force, a community that moves and acts. Perhaps this is why religion is so often accompanied by song, and why we make music as we go into battle. Certainly this is why throughout human history we continued to sing and enjoy singing today.

As someone who sings with babies, this study feels like old but welcome news. We’ve known for a long time that singing generates good feeling, aligns our heart rhythms and produces endorphins. Singing changes our brains and makes us happy. Now we know that singing provides immediate glue between strangers. Babies, who can’t yet talk, share stories of their lives, communicate feelings in words, can bond immediately through music. It’s part of being human. Way more than “auditory cheesecake,” a dessert or afterthought of human evolution. Singing is elemental.

For those parents or caregivers who feel they can’t sing or who simply get embarrassed, the Oxford study reminds us to put those feelings aside and jump right into singing with children to deepen our relationship right away. Your special face, your special smell, and now your special song, will let them know that you are their special someone. The impact will be immediate, a love song for the ages.

Renee Bock is the chief academic officer at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan. She has a master’s in early childhood education and more than a decade of experience in the field.





Why Kidz Central Station Is Thankful This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Cartoon Clipart

This time of year is truly the best—with Thanksgiving upon us and the holiday season right on its heals, it’s the perfect time to reflect on all of the wonderful things that have happened this year and what we have to be thankful for. So, we’d like to take this opportunity to impart five great reasons why we at Kidz Central Station are thankful this year. We wish all of the Kidz Central Station families out there a very Happy Thanksgiving!

1. We love what we do. We feel truly lucky that we get to go to work each day and help NYC parents (like us!) find classes and activities that make their kids happy. We all know what it’s like to search high and low for the right kids’ classes, so it makes us feel good to know that we’re making life just a little bit easier with Kidz Central Station.

2. We all have wonderful families who support us every day. Period, end.

3. We get to come up with new and unique ways to reach the NYC parenting community. From our recent event at Toys “R” Us to our Best Kids’ Birthday Party Finder, it’s exciting and fun to reach parents in brand new ways, and best serve their needs. If you have questions or suggestions, let us know!

4. We get to meet and learn about lots of NYC families. Each day, parents call and email us with questions about kids’ activities—what’s the best music class for a 6 month old girl? (There are tons!) Do you have soccer for a 3 year old boy? (Yes, of course!) Through these exchanges we learn about what parents are looking for, what they want, and how we can better serve them. Right now we are gearing up for winter classes, so let us know if you need help finding the best classes for your child!

5. We all get to enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving break. This Thursday on Thanksgiving, we all get to take a moment to sit back, relax, and enjoy some much-needed family time (as well as Thanksgiving activities!). We hope you do too!

3 Kid-Friendly (and Delicious!) Gluten-Free Recipes

happy family with two kids making dinner at home
Last week, our awesome experts from NYU Langone Medical Center wrote about how to enjoy a gluten-free Halloween if you or your little one has Celiac disease or any another gluten intolerance. This week, we’re happy to share some of our experts’ favorite gluten-free recipes—one that’s perfect for Halloween and two others that are both kid-friendly and delicious!

1. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Time to Make: 30 minutes
Makes: 1 cup
Serving Size for Kids: 1/8 cup
Serving Size for Adults/Adolescents: 1/4 cup

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                       1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Parchment paper

1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Scoop seeds out of pumpkin using a large wooden spoon
3. Separate seeds from pumpkin flesh and rinse seeds
4. Drain seeds in a colander and pat dry with paper towels
5. Mix pumpkin seeds with olive oil and salt
6. Spread mixture evenly on the parchment paper
7. Bake pumpkin seeds for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, turning seeds over halfway through cooking
8. Allow pumpkin seeds to cool off before enjoying!

For Fun: Follow directions above but add your favorite spices for different flavored seeds!
Spiced Pumpkin Seeds: ½ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. cayenne (for spicy seeds!)
Pumpkin Pie Seeds: 1 Tbsp. sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg
Pumpkiny Trail Mix: toss roasted seeds with your choice of dried fruit and nuts for an on-the-go treat!

2. Sweet Peach Smoothie
Time to Make: 10 minutes
Makes: 1 cup
Serving Size for Kids: ½ cup
Serving Size for Adults/Adolescents: 1 cup

¼ cup water or coconut water
¼ cup plain, low-fat yogurt
½ cup fresh or frozen peach slices
½ frozen, overripe banana

1. Add water, yogurt, peaches and banana to blender
2. Blend until smooth

Fun Tip: Turn brown bananas into smoothie ingredients! Simply peel bananas and freeze in a freezer bag, then add to smoothies later!

3. Salad Selfie
Time to Make: 15 minutes
Makes: 1 plate
Serving Size for Kids: ½ Salad Selfie
Serving Size for Adults/Adolescents: 1 Salad Selfie

Cored pear quarters (fresh and ripe, or canned and drained)
Plain Greek yogurt
Cantaloupe or honeydew
Celery sticks
Shredded carrots (long strands, if possible)
Sliced strawberries
Dried cranberries
Parsley Sprigs
Small spinach leaves
Sliced radishes
Sliced kiwi
Sliced Black olives

1. Rinse fruits and veggies
2. Place half a pear flat down in the center of the plate
3. Take a round scoop of the plain Greek yogurt and place it on the narrow top of the pear (the yogurt should look like the head of a person and the pear is the torso)
4. Use the long strands of shredded carrots or celery sticks to create arms or legs
5. The remaining ingredients can be used to create facial features like eyes, nose, mouth, hair, hands, legs, and so forth!

For fun: Use any fruits and veggies you like. Name your salad selfie and eat!

And don’t forget—to learn more about nutrition and gluten-free foods, join NYU Langone Medical Center in the kitchen! Through a partnership with the Natural Gourmet Institute, the Sylvia Center and NYU Langone Medical Center’s S.Q.U.A.S.H., and Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Programs, kids learn to make fun, healthy, gluten-free recipes with professional chefs. Our next class, a Mexican fiesta, is on October 14, at 5:30pm. Class is FREE and open to the public for kids ages 7 to 12. Register here!

Why Family Mealtime is SO Important

We all know that family mealtime is important, but scheduling time together is often easier said than done. When you get home from work or if you’ve spent the day running around after your kids, it can be tempting to grab food on the go or microwave a quick meal for the kids and order in for yourself.

However, every once in a while it’s important to take an hour out of your day to turn the TV off, put the phones and computers down, and enjoy a healthy meal while reflecting on the events of the day. Take it from us (and our experts at NYU Langone Medical Center who also had something to say about the matter!), your family will benefit in more ways than you know:

It’s important for your family relationship. The only way to foster a close-knit family is to spend quality time together, and weeknight meals are the perfect opportunity. Eating together every night might be a stretch for your family, but a couple nights a week at least, plan a meal where you can sit down together, talk about your day, and find out what’s happening in each other’s lives. What you learn might surprise you!

On that note, you may learn things about each other wouldn’t otherwise find out. We rush around in so many different directions that we often don’t have the time to chat about the little things in life—who your toddler played with at school, the project your wife is spending her days on at work, the amazing book your teenager read at school. Taking the time to spend a meal together—without lots of outside interruptions—will help you understand each other better and address exciting news and/or challenging issues in a more timely manner.

Your picky eater may just try something new. Kids tend to eat pretty early, so it’s not always convenient to eat as a family. However, if you have a picky eater on your hands and you make a concerted effort to eat dinner together as a family, he or she may be inspired to dig in to what the rest of you are eating. It’s not a guarantee, but a major way kids learn is by watching and observing, which is pretty difficult to do if they’re always eating by themselves.

You’ll eat healthier. After a long day, it often seems like the best way to handle dinner is to order in or grab take out and eat as you please. While this might be easier, doing so may not be good for your waistline. More often than not, grab and go meals are much more unhealthy than what you’d make for yourself at home, and eating this way every night can add lots of extra calories and saturated fat to your diet. Home-cooked meals don’t have to be difficult or over the top gourmet. Marinate chicken overnight and throw it on the grill; roast some vegetables in olive oil, salt, and pepper; and bake a sweet potato in the oven—and there you have an easy and healthy dinner for the whole family.

If lack of cooking time is the reason for your lack of family meals, don’t let it be your excuse! Prep your meals over the weekend when you have the time so all you have to do is defrost or throw it in the oven. You can also search the endless number of cooking sites out there for easy 20-minute meals that literally entail throwing things in a pot. Or, check out Kitchensurfing, a company that sends a private chef to your home to cook, serve, and clean up a meal for your family. This way you can spend more time as a family and less time worrying about what to make for dinner!

5 Tips For Getting Through Toddler Separation

children and mother crying first day go to pre-kindergarten school

For many parents, preschool has just begun, and for some it’s the first time separating from their little ones—as in, dropping them off and picking them up when the day is over. We all have to go through it at some point, and for some parents their kids are easier than others (my son still cries every single time I drop him off, but he stops 30 seconds after I leave so I think it’s become a bit of an act!). If you’re new to the whole preschool thing or can relate to my daily experience, here are five tips for getting through toddler separation—without being in tears on a daily basis yourself!

Discuss it. Make sure to explain to your child, no matter how old, what will be happening when you bring him or her to school. Sure, toddlers are young, but they understand way more than we give them credit for—and it’s important that they fully understand that mommy and/or daddy will be leaving and that they’ll have a blast while we’re gone. And make sure to explain what has become my son’s daily mantra: “When mommy leaves, she always comes back!”

Say goodbye. One huge mistake I’ve made in the past when leaving my son is not saying goodbye. I mistakenly thought that if I slipped out when he wasn’t paying attention he would be totally fine. And I was SO wrong. In fact, he got more upset, probably because I didn’t explain to him what was happening. So beyond discussing separation, make sure to say goodbye and that you’ll see him or her after a fun day at school.

Then just leave. Many if not most separation programs favor a gradual separation schedule—as in, kids gradually stay longer and longer and parents gradually leave the classroom/building. While a day or two of helping kids acclimate to a new school is totally fine in my book, it gets to a point when it’s time to leave. All kids will get through the tears and get used to a newfound sense of independence—but in my opinion, this can really only happen once parents leave for good. Lingering only gives kids a false sense that mommy/daddy will be staying at school too. Once your child’s teachers give the thumbs up to leave, get out as fast as you can and don’t look back.

Get the scoop from the teachers. If your child’s seemingly incessant crying is worrying you, or if you aren’t quite sure how to handle the whole separation thing, talk to your child’s teachers, as they’re the pros. Not only have they dealt with hundreds of preschool kids before—all with different personalities—but they can also give you advice on how to prepare for your child’s specific school and provide tips that will make the process easier.

Give yourself a break. If your child won’t stop crying and you feel totally helpless, or if you find tears rolling down your cheek when you leave your child crying, don’t be so hard on yourself. This too shall pass, and one day your child is going to enter the classroom, let go of your hand, and say “Bye Mommy!” with a big smile. Talk to parents going the same thing, or even better, parents who’ve been through it before and lived to tell the tale—you’re sure to feel better.

Find a Lifetime of Memories in Your Children’s Clothing

By Renee Bock, Explore+Discover

ClothingMy sister and I have four boys between us and I’ve passed down lots of my favorite clothes to her son. Every fall, just as school begins, we ritually clean out the drawers, have a reckoning with how much they’ve grown and make way for the new. It’s a process where we say goodbye to trusted blue jeans and perfectly cozy socks that are way too small. My oldest is sixteen and her youngest is ten. There’s a lot of living in all those boy years, and a lot of sharing. Bathing suits, socks, boots, even underwear.

Every now and then while visiting my sister I’ll pleasantly reconnect with some of my kids’ well-loved clothing—my son’s shirt from two summers ago, the one he wore on the day we left him at sleep away camp for the first time; or a certain raincoat, recalling a sudden cloudburst in the backyard. My sister was pregnant then with a baby girl, and I can recall her running in the grass with her belly and four boys behind. I can remember how big that coat was when my son first wore it. These clothes are old friends. They unearth memories you didn’t know you had, a nostalgia based on the ordinary things we almost leave behind.

But these clothes are more. They’re really a personal map comprised of shirts, shoes, coats, pants, and even colors and smells that helps remind us of where we’ve been with our children—physically and emotionally. Read them correctly and they can even give us a hint of where we’re heading.

Think about it. When our babies are born we often receive clothing presents that catapult our children into the future. Overalls for a one-year-old, pajamas for an eight-month-old, even slippers for a new walker. Seasons fly by. Someone’s purchased a winter coat for the following year. The baby isn’t yet 10 pounds and already our relatives have them walking away. As a young mother, I organized their baby drawers with an eye to the future. Still nursing, my imagination flew to his toddler years, seeing him in 2T pants from my Aunt Clara. Who would this person be?

Things past, things future. The imagination and memories can saturate a mother. With four boys—grandma calls them “the four steps”—there’s an endless parade of laundry and memories wrapped up in what we wore.

Scientists muse about the connection between smell and memories of the past. We recently opened a box of baby clothes that was somehow tucked in the back of a closet for more than fifteen years. The patterns were so familiar—a sleep sack with bees in the hive, an intricate pattern of trains and trucks, a sailor suit meant for a formal portrait at six months. The smells of babyhood and everything good about the world. Four boys who shared their days, their disappointments, their dreams, now moving in larger concentric circles on their own. My oldest, the one who stands at 6’3, wore those tiny booties, his hand fit into such small mittens. It defies logic and yet is more real than anything I’ve ever known. You can’t argue with a size 15 basketball sneaker or evidence of a onesie so small and yet so familiar you’d swear you just tucked it away last week.

Things past and things future, the artifacts of childhood come together in a web of ordinary and extraordinary memories that make motherhood what it is.

Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the Chief Academic Officer at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan that is committed to setting the standard for infant and toddler care and education. Renee has more than a decade of experience in the field and holds a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York. She has three sons, Ariel (16), Raffi (14), and Shaya (13).


Talk, Read, and Sing To Your Kids Every Day: A Parent’s Mantra

By Renee Bock, Explore+Discover

IMG_3511I’ve been raising and working with children for almost twenty years and I woke up this morning to find one of the most compelling literacy campaigns I’ve ever seen. If you have children you will find it fascinating too. Too Small To Fail is an organization with a mission to raise awareness around what’s called the “million word gap”—the disparity in vocabulary between rich and poor children in the United States and its impact throughout a child’s education. Their recent public awareness venture is called “Talk, Read and Sing Together Every Day.” They are definitely speaking my language. Their message is straightforward and important: You, the parent, are your baby’s first teacher. All of your interactions with your child matter. If you want a child with lots of words who can think and read and take pleasure from these two things, you need to engage them with language of all kinds—especially around topics that interest them.

The importance of the campaign goes beyond focusing on parent interaction around one linguistic approach. It’s the triumvirate that has the greatest impact. The fact that talking, singing, and reading all build baby’s linguistic brain and add to later academic success (aside form overall productivity and happiness). That what the real news is here. We’d be wise to shift our teaching and nurturing of young children in response.

I’ll admit that I’m the perfect audience for this campaign. I’ve devoted my life to these three things, but mostly singing with kids. I became a teacher because I believed that by singing and playing guitar with children every day I would make an impact on their language, their ability to tap into emotions, to feel part of a community, and basically to be all around happy and high functioning children. I love to listen to children talk, as they always outshine adults by far. The wisdom and humor of children’s books has shaped my interactions with children. I can’t imagine running a classroom without these rich language exchanges. For the past ten years I’ve hired teachers and directors who feel the same way. I’ve even paid for them to learn to play guitar.

languageAll of this being said, the validation of the Too Small To Fail campaign bringing my three childhood favorites together—talking, reading, and singing—is immensely powerful. It ultimately felt like a mantra for all parents. Too Small to Fail is a largely influential organization. Backed by the Clinton Foundation and New Generations, and led by Kara Dukakis (Michael Dukakis’ daughter), they seem uniquely positioned to market big ideas that benefit all children. And I’m grateful. Isn’t it uplifting, during a campaign year, to find political money being used for the greater good in a way that is quietly inspiring and informative?

You can check out the Sing, Talk and Read To Your Child campaign here.

Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the Chief Academic Officer at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan that is committed to setting the standard for infant and toddler care and education. Renee has more than a decade of experience in the field and holds a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York. She has three sons, Ariel (16), Raffi (14), and Shaya (13).