Saturday, October 31, 2015

DIY Spooky Spider Sculptures Inspired by Louise Bourgeois

Artsy fartsy Halloween crafting idea that uses electrical wire and electrical's electric!

Reference shot: A Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture.  Ours wasn't this big.

Get the thicker stuff if you want it to stand up.  Our version is a table top style and we used about 10 feet of it.

Electrical tape was used to make the lumpy thorax and the "joints" and lumps on the spider.  Wrap with abandon!

How to make a wearable car costume with built-in candy compartment

Now he can say we gave him a car when he was 4.

My husband knows how to make a kid's costume dreams come true.  My son really wanted to be Renault Duster, an SUV that he learned about when we visited Cartagena, Colombia a few months ago. Rob made the car look like a Duster by adding the brand name and logo, but this costume can be made to look like any car, train or even a tractor with different color tape.  My son also helped make the costume by adding black tape to paper plates to make the tires.  He was part of the process, which made it a fun father-son activity.

The SUV costume was made out of stuff that we already had at home: two cardboard boxes, masking tape, foil-backed tape (used for laundry duct work), paper plates and brass fasteners.  

Check out the step-by-step photo-tutorial here!

Reference picture

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tinkergarten: a photo review

This is a photo review of one fall/winter season of Tinkergarten, an outdoor play-based classe we took in Prospect Park. 

My 2-year old took the class, but I got a lot out of it, too. Tinkergarten really opened my eyes up to the endless possibilities of playing in nature. And it looks like I'm not the only one who is into nature-based play and development. 

Our Tikergarten leader was Beth Ashley and we really loved her. She genuinely  cares about the kids and their experience in each session and she is fully committed to the Tinkergarten philosophy. It was a pleasure to see her each week!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

One Family's Scary Experience with Lax Safety Standards at Gymboree Play and Music

Your children's safety is in the hands of this bar. Is it broken? Is it installed properly? Does anyone at Gymboree know?

Parents expect that companies such as Gymboree Play and Music, whose business is built on the well-being of babies and toddlers, make safety the first priority.  But, Gymboree has compromised safety at its Brooklyn location and parents, including myself, want change.

On October 6, my 4-year old son fell from a high platform as a result of Gymboree's negligence.  The support bar that held up a heavy wooden platform and large wooden slide gave way and led to a violent and sudden crash.  My son had been standing, so his head was 8 feet above the ground at the time of the equipment failure.  My son was rushed to after-hours pediatric urgent care with a head injury.  Thankfully, he escaped a concussion and none of the babies or toddlers who were present at the time of incident, were hurt.  I learned from a Gymboree employee at the time of the accident that the equipment has failed in a similar manner before.  A malfunctioning latch on one of the aluminum bars is all that it takes to compromise the entire structure.
The bar that latches into this hole is what keeps all the jumping children and wooden equipment up

At the time of the incident, an employee told me that her and other employees have expressed safety concerns and they've been ignored.  She said, "if it comes from a mom, maybe now they'll take safety more seriously." Separately, I learned directly from a former employee that when she fell off of the play equipment because of a support bar failure, which was witnessed by parents, she was told by the franchise owner that she didn't need to fill out an incident report, which would have led to an investigation of safety procedures. When I told the franchise owner who doesn't actually work out of the Park Slope location, about my incident, she said it was the first time anything like it (the bar failure) had happened there.  Who can I trust?  In a letter that was posted at Gymboree, it suggests instead that such incidents are "rare." But one rare instance of Gymboree's negligence is too many.

The top bars are the ones on which the wooden platform and slide were

Please add your voice in telling Gymboree Play and Music in Park Slope that the community wants improved equipment and safety procedures by signing this petition.  What Gymboree has done so far as a result of this incident is they have posted a safety checklist at the location's front desk, but there was a safety checklist that was to be adhered to before the incident.  The checklist didn't do anything. Now what? There are many questions left unanswered.  10/14/15 UPDATE: Gymboree will now do increased frequency of and more rigorous safety checks, install cameras at the Park Slope facility so the employees will have more accountability in doing the checks, replace all the support bars and continue to study the bar that failed on my son.  But, Gymboree is still waiting to learn from their headquarters why the bar that failed did and I hope to learn soon.

-What kind of test does each bar undergo before it is put into use?  The bars must support the weight of a dozen small children at any given time and they are used by hundreds of babies and children over the course of a week.

-If you do a safety test in the morning how does this ensure that the equipment will be safe at night after it has been in use all day?

-What happens to a supporting bar whose latch malfunctions even once?  Is it ignored?  Repaired?  Are these incidents recorded?

-Since the playground landscape at Gymboree Play and Music changes every two weeks, it creates safety hazards since the equipment is constantly moved, taken apart, and rebuilt. Is an engineer putting the equipment together? What are his/her credentials to build elevated structures for newborns, infants and children to climb and jump on? How much time does s/he have to build out the structures every two weeks? It's my understanding that the people who put together the equipment at Park Slope are contractors, not Gymboree employees. What is their interest and incentive in building a safe environment besides the paycheck for that week?

-Why is Gymboree's culture such that employees' and parents' safety concerns aren't being taken seriously?  How will that change?

-How can current and future customers trust that this will never happen again?

We are concerned parents and demand change.

The heavy wooden slide that thankfully didn't crush anyone

The wooden platform that my son had been standing on

Video of the bar that failed my son.  This is video of it sticking.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A family-centric review of the New Whitney Museum

Activity 1:  We made our own paper sculpture inspired by the wooden sculpture in the background

We love love love the new Whitney!  So far, it's amazingly family-friendly and I just hope it stays that way.  It's been so wonderful since the museum opened a few months ago that I've wonder if it's too good to be when stores have a grand opening and all the cashiers are super friendly the first weekend and then they all go back to being disgruntled employees once the shop has been open for a while.  I hope the new Whitney keeps up the good work because we are very happy members of the museum right now.

The new Whitney Museum is family-friendly in that....

-The guards don't immediately yell at the top of their lungs if your child goes within five feet of a piece of art.  They politely and quietly ask you to step back, please, and their compassionate tone is appropriate for children, not criminals.

-It seems like half of the new Whitney Museum outside with its outdoor galleries and observation decks.  Visiting the museum feels like an indoor/outdoor experience and the city becomes part of the art.  Kids don't feel trapped!

-We have been to open studio for families at least five times and the teachers and staff have been very friendly and informed about art each time.  At the Met or MoMA, you're scolded and it feels like the teachers are doing kids a favor.  At the new Whitney, it feels like they've really been trained to work with children and the teachers are specifically trained in art education.  

-There's a general vibe from staff (from the door staff to security guards) that families are welcomed at the new Whitney, not that strollers or children are an inconvenience or a nuisance.  Clearly, it's coming from the top and trickling down that the Whitney wants to welcome families with open arms.  This kind of friendly environment absolutely doesn't happen accidentally.  And the old Whitney certainly didn't have the same environment, so something positive changed. 

OK, so about Whitney Wees, the program for 4 to 5-year olds!  We have taken two classes and I'm not sure if we'll do any more unless we know who the teachers are.  Our first experience was amazing (where I signed up for every future Whitney Wees program I could) and the second was extremely disappointing (where I felt embarrassed that I had invited my friend's family to join us).

Our first Whitney Wees class, taught by Queena, was age-appropriate and engaging and fun for kids and parents alike.  We were given three simple art projects to that complemented the works we were looking.  The language that Queena used was great for kids and she was able to get everyone, including parents, happily participating.  And we didn't sit in one place too long...we talked about the piece, did the art project and talked about that and then moved along a few minutes later.  The second class, taught by Barbara, was exactly like a lecture for art history college students and everyone was restless.  I'm sure Barbara is a wonderful docent, but teaching 4-year olds isn't her strength.  

So, my only point is that you really don't know what you're going to get.  Maybe that will change.  Hopefully the classes will become more consistent.  As a member, it was only $5 for the class and our family still got something out of that second class.  But, I invited a friend and the parents essentially paid $55 for the class because they paid to get into the museum and then the class fee.  The only reason they came is because I had talked about how amazing the first class was.  I feel like I personally wanted to refund my friend's money to them because they couldn't even stay to check out the museum that day...they were just there for the class.

Anyway, we still love the new Whitney Museum.  We've let our MoMA membership lapse, although not on purpose, but the Whitney is our new favorite Manhattan destination.

With that, here is a photo review of our first, awesome Whitney Wees experience.  (Ask for Queena!)  Also, I've posted pictures from printing in open studio the same day.

Activity 2:  We used pipe cleaners to make our own wire sculpture

Friday, October 9, 2015

You, too, can have a unicorn party...just B.Y.O.H. (bring your own horn)

Please note the magical unicorn horn on Marshmallow, who was from Kensington Stables

My Little Pony cake topper, unicorn edition

Unicorn horns made from model magic, painted with acrylic and tied with elastic cord

Favors to go with the unicorns and rainbows theme...are unicorns and rainbows!

My husband can now add balloon artist to his resumé

Rainbow sprinkes are de rigueur
Kids are unicorns, too

Unicorn stamps on the thank you cards to tie it all together

Commit to the theme!  Ha!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wrap art DIY inspired by Judith Scott

I love quick and easy crafts that can fill a small gap of time between other activities or events.  The artist Judith Scott didn't come to mind until I had already grabbed some twigs (just lying around my NYC apartment) and string and starting thinking to myself what I could do with those materials.  But, I will admit I felt pretty clever when I made the craft connect to a legitimate artist's work.