At first, I looked at the calendar with eight days home with three kids, four and under as I downed my third cup of coffee. With a very limited entertainment budget to spare, I needed a way to keep my kids happy. I posted my concerns on facebook and the ideas came rolling in from friends also in the same predicament. Things started to look much better and our first activity of the week was a great success and it cost me only $14.
When my friend suggested that we go to the Queens Zoo, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be smelly and overcrowded? Would my kids be able to walk the entire route or would the get kvetchy and fight for the stroller? Everything worked out perfectly, and I have my very professional and mother of five to thank for this. When my two year old almost climbed over the fence to hug the goats, she was there. When my one year old put his bottle back in his mouth after it had dropped on the ground, she was there.
In order to keep this visit to the zoo affordable, bring your own food and drinks. She brought a bagel with cream cheese and red pepper, water bottles, animal cookies, and cucumbers. Those cookies really saved the day when my two year old would not part from the barnyard. I brought juice boxes, whole wheat crackers, and cheese. No matter what I bring, my kids always end up eating what the other kids have in their bags. A special thanks to the moms that have this in mind when they pack their food. Speaking of food, all of the kids loved feeding the sheep, llamas, and goats. You can buy a hand full of grain for fifty cents, just make sure you have quarters because the machine is not sophisticated enough to take nickels and dimes. If you don’t have any change whatsoever, the animals will eat leaves as well. There are some other fun activities to enjoy while at the zoo. Our kids ran round a bit at the Migration Playground. It was a bit too advanced for my one year old because it is high up and there are open areas where he could fall. He knows I get scared when he tries to go down that way, he already has a sense of humor. It was hard to pull the kids away from the playground, this is where the juice boxes and cookies also came in handy.
On our way out, we treated the kids to a ride on the carousel. Originally installed here for the 1964 World’s Fair, this turn-of-the-last-century wood merry-go-round with 64 “jumping” horses (some with flying manes and tails), seven standing horses, a lion and two stand-alone chariots had my kids in awe. This ride is a piece of Jewish history, who would have known? The beautiful wood carvings were created by Lithuanian-born Jewish carver Marcus Charles Illions. He not only created carvings for carousel figures during the early the late 1800s and early 1900s, but he also was known to have created four sets of Ark lions for Brooklyn synagogues. As I found out more information about the history of the carousel, more Jewish names came up; Solomon Stein, Harry Goldstein, and Charles Carmel. These Russian Jewish immigrants used their skills from carving Torah Arks and channeled them into a trade that would provide food for their families in America. To see more images from the exhibition or to purchase a copy of the exhibition catalog, Gilded Lions And Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, is also available at the American Folk Art Museum. Or call 212-265-1040 or www.folkartmuseum.org. firstname.lastname@example.org