#1: First class
In just a few short years you'll be fretting over ERBs, Olsats and public-school waiting lists, but for now, enjoy the fact that all you have to do is hand over your credit card to get into some of the most popular baby courses in town.
After more than a decade, Music for Aardvarks (musicforaardvarks.com)
and Audra Rox (audrarox.com)
are still the go-to choices for parents who would rather sing about taxis and bagels than itsy-bitsy spiders.
The "All Four on the Floor" class, where babies as young as three months shake maracas and crawl over parachutes, is a popular choice at the West Village's Baby Moves (155 Bank St at Washington St; 212-255-1685, babymovesnyc.com);
those who register for a class also get unlimited drop-ins at the center's afternoon open-play hours.
The Mommy & Baby yoga class at Karma Kids (104 W 14th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 646-638-1444, karmakidsyoga.com)
gives stressed-out parents a chance to stretch and om while entertaining their little ones.
#2: First meet-up
Whether you strike up a conversation with a parent at your mommy-and-me class or keep crossing strollers with the munchkin from apartment 3B, at some point you'll say, "Let's meet for a playdate!" But where to go? Preferably someplace with lots of cushioned surfaces for crawlers and an absence of roughhousing tweens.
At Wiggles & Giggles Playhouse (875 W 181st St at Riverside Dr; 212-543-2393, wigglesgigglesplayhouse.com)
, parents can enjoy the gorgeous Hudson River views while babies putter in the pretend kitchen and playhouse and scamper over climbing equipment ($7 per hour).
New York City Explorers
in Brooklyn (go to nycityexplorers.com for locations)
charges just $10 per family per day to drop in and play with puzzles, instruments, wooden trains and books.
Play (33 Nassau Ave at Dobbin St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-387-2071, playspacenyc.com)
has a separate soft area for the youngest guests; there's also a pretend kitchen and farmer's market area.
In warmer weather, head outside to Harry Chapin Playground (Columbia Heights between Cranberry and Middagh Sts, Brooklyn Heights), which has plenty of swings and shady spots for tots.
Back in Manhattan, at the water park at Pier 51 (Hudson River Greenway between 12th and 13th Sts)
, babies can splash around the mini stream in a swim diaper or play at the sand tables as they watch the ships pass by; in the newly renovated playground at 116th Street in Morningside Park
, low slides, ride-on animals and spinning steering wheels await.
#3: First afternoon at a cultural institution
In this city of world-class museums, it's never too early to start teaching your child to be a culture vulture. At the Children's Museum of Manhattan (212 W 83rd St between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway; 212-721-1223, cmom.org), the entire PlayWorks floor is dedicated to babies. Floppy-headed infants can enjoy gazing in the mirrors while more-mobile tots play with foam blocks.
The Baby Hub at the Brooklyn Children's Museum (145 Brooklyn Ave at St. Marks Ave, Crown Heights, Brooklyn; 718-735-4400, brooklynkids.org)
is a brightly colored play area with plenty of padded structures for youngsters practicing their first steps.
Tucked amid the molecular models and spaceships at the New York Hall of Science (47-01 111th St at 47th Ave, Flushing Meadows--Corona Park, Queens; 718-699-0005, nysci.org)
, Preschool Place has puppets to play with, cranks to turn and a padded corner with a bar where babies can practice standing (only open a few mornings a week; check website for hours).
And don't forget the The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org)
—wee ones love to look at the swirly colors of the Van Goghs. Hit the museum on a weekday morning; if you have a mammoth stroller, leave it at the coat check downstairs, where you can also borrow a backpack carrier to give your little artiste a better view.
#4: First time as a theater/music/film critic
The tiniest New Yorkers are too young for Broadway's , but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy some age-appropriate entertainment. For just $5 a kid (adults $8), families can watch a 45-minute puppet show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park (midpark, enter at Fifth Ave and 79th St; 212-988-9093, cityparksfoundation.org).
It's newest production, A Secret History of the Swedish Cottage—a fairy tale about the real 136-year-old theater—opens on January 18.
If you're more of a cinephile, head to the United Artists Court Street Stadium 12 (108 Court St between Schermerhorn and State Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; 718-246-8170)
for the first showing on Wednesdays: At this "baby matinee," lights stay on and the sound is low so moms can bounce, nurse and entertain their babes while taking in a flick. Click here for our roundup of NYC baby matinees
#5: First book group
Start your wee one early on two New York City traditions: reading great literature and lining up early to get something for free. The story hours at some New York Public Library branches are so popular that tickets are now distributed in the morning: The Upper East Side's Webster branch (1465 York Ave at 78th St; 212-288-5049, nypl.org) is known to have a particularly avid parent following, and the storytimes at St. Agnes on the Upper West Side (444 Amsterdam Ave at 81st St; 212-621-0619, nypl.org) and Mulberry Street in Nolita (10 Jersey St between Centre and Mulberry Sts; 212-966-3424, nypl.org) are standing room only.
#6: First birthday bash
Some of the most enjoyable first-birthday parties we've been to have involved nothing more elaborate than mimosas for the parents and a selection of toys scattered on a living room rug for the children. But if you have your heart set on a big blowout (we understand!), look for a place that has soft, safe equipment for young party guests to play on—and that won't cost more than your wedding venue.
At Moon Soup (go to moonsoup.net for locations)
, party pros lead little ones in hand games, singing and drumming; the birthday babe is invited to a free class the week before the party so she'll be comfortable with the space on the big day (parties start at $450).
High-energy one-year-olds can bounce around the padded, primary-colored kiddie equipment at The Little Gym (go to littlegym.com for locations)
, where first-birthday parties start at $450.
During a gymnastics party at Brooklyn's Powerplay (432 Third Ave at 7th St, Gowanus, Brooklyn; 718-369-9880, powerplaykids.com)
, babies can scoot down plastic slides and bounce on a tiny trampoline (parties start at $515).
#7: First haircut
That initial trim can be traumatic for both parent and child: While the baby is wondering why a giant pair of scissors is aiming for his ear, the mom winces every time a silky-soft curl parts company with her child's head. But balloons, bubbles, lollipops, taxi-shaped chairs and a never-ending loop of Elmo videos go a long way toward making everyone happy at these haircutting hot spots.
Cozy's Cuts for Kids
is a mini-empire, with three uptown salons specializing in the fine art of snipping baby hair (go to cozyscutsforkids.com for locations)
. Along with a savvy style, tots will leave with a toy from the treasure basket. In the spacious digs of Doodle Doo's (11 Christopher St between Greenwich Ave and Waverly Pl; 212-627-3667, doodledoos.com)
, little ones get comfy by checking out the huge selection of playthings for sale; they also get a goody bag and a certificate to document the special day.
At Brooklyn's Mini Max Toys & Cuts (152 Atlantic Ave at Clinton St, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; 718-222-8697, minimaxnyc.com)
, you can schedule your baby's first cut to coincide with drop-in music hours or storytimes.
#8: First restaurant experience
Sure, you could go to any corner diner to get a scrambled egg for your baby's first restaurant meal, but real NYC foodies-in-training can do even better at several fancier cafs that cater to the mushy-food set.
Alice's Tea Cup (go to alicesteacup.com for locations)
, a favorite for fairy-loving little girls, has house-made baby-food puree on the menu; banana, mixed berries, and carrots with apple are favorites.
Eco-minded GustOrganics (519 Sixth Ave at 14th St; 212-242-5800, gustorganics.com)
offers baby meals made of organic blends such as zucchini-carrot-potato or mango-carrot-apple. Be sure to call and order in advance if you don't think your baby can wait a half hour for the made-from-scratch treats.
At the Tribeca playspace/caf Moomah (161 Hudson St between Hubert and Laight Sts; 212-226-0345, moomah.com)
, babies snack on banana-avocado mash while moms enjoy their soy lattes and goat-cheese salads.
And the casual Moxie Spot
in Brooklyn (81-83 Atlantic Ave at Hicks St, Brooklyn Heights; 718-923-9710, themoxiespot.com)
may not count as fine dining, but little ones won't mind—they can enjoy mashed potatoes and then crawl around the carpeted play area.
#9: First pair of shoes
Save the Internet bargain-hunting for when your child is older; for that inaugural pair of tiny shoes, you'll want a pro to assess every nook and cranny of his piggies for the perfect fit.
Visit Stride Rite (1542 Third Ave at 87th St; 212-249-0551, striderite.com)
for moderately priced shoes for pre- and new walkers; go on a weekday morning to avoid the hordes of schoolkids.
You'll also find Stride Rites and soft-soled Robeez at Ibiza Kidz (830 Broadway between 12th and 13th Sts, 212-228-7990, ibizakidz.com)
, but the selection goes deeper, with a wall full of high-end brands like See Kai Run and Ecco. The staff will assess width and arch and recommend the best pair for your child (plenty of puzzles and bead mazes will keep him busy while you debate the choices).
Brooklyn parents love the neighborhood vibe and patient service at Windsor Shoes II (233 Prospect Park West at Windsor Pl, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn; 718-499-5755)
, while West Siders crowd into Tip-Top Kids (149 W 72nd St at Broadway; 212-874-1004, tiptopshoes.com)
for brands such as Jumping Jacks, Primigi and Pediped.
#10: First photo op
You're going to need about a million adorable photos to fill up your Facebook page, not to mention the top of Grandma's piano. Book a 90-minute session at Classic Kids Photography (1182 Lexington Ave between 80th and 81st Sts; 212-396-1160, classickidsphotography.com), and photographer Melissa O'Neal will capture an artistic series of you and your newborn. She shoots on film only for a traditional look (sittings start at $395; fiber-base prints start at $125 each).
Lenswoman Jordan Elyse (646-519-6080, jordanelyse.com)
comes to your home to do an intimate series of parent-and-baby poses (a "big debut" newborn collection is $400, including two 5"x7"s).
If you're looking for less of a financial commitment, head to Olan Mills Studio
at both the Astor Place Kmart (770 Broadway at Astor Pl; 212-673-1540, kmart.com)
and the one at Penn Station (250 W 34th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, 212-760-1188, kmart.com)
. City parents tell us you can get basic, high-quality baby portraits for as low as $8 each; or go to olanmills.com
to print out coupons for free photos (talk about priceless!).
**Check source link below for up-to-date information on all of these events and businesses.