7 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids
Mama and Tata’s Candice Miller gets creative with playtime.
Walking down Leonard Street in Tribeca, you may find Candice Miller dressed to kill in a jungle green Rochas gown, a stellar Gucci clutch and minimal Gianvito Rossi heels on her way to the New York Academy of Art ball. Living her philosophy that mothers don't have to sacrifice beauty, style, glamour (and, yes, personal time)—this is just another mom’s night out for the born and bred New Yorker. As half of the motherhood blog Mama and Tata which she started with her younger sister, Jenna Crespi, she’s usually found taking her daughters to birthday parties, occupying them on long drives to Disneyland and whipping up healthy, kid-friendly recipes in her kitchen.
When Jenna was pregnant for the first time, the mom-to-be peppered Candice with questions about motherhood. Realizing moms needed help navigating the city, they decided to put their street smarts to the forefront. Launched on an apropos Mother’s Day 2016, the New York-centric site covers everything from the best at-home tailors and where to get a quick haircut to decor inspiration for baby rooms and how to get through the tough school admissions process.
“We are able to be an honest, reliable resource for women, to help them save time and do the right thing for their kids—and also for themselves,” says Candice.
Candice is a big proponent of “me” time and starts her caffeine-free mornings with a Tracy Anderson fitness class. She often frequents healers, acupuncturists and masseuses to level her head. But that’s only when she’s not extensively researching spots for moms who don’t have time to go through the trial and error.
Investigative, type A and creative by instinct, this role of curator is a natural fit for her. After studying psychology, Candice also gave up the opportunity to be Anna Wintour’s assistant so that she could be a learning specialist for children. She had a tremendous passion for kids and helping them overcome their learning disabilities. To fit the fashion bill, she was also head buyer for Tenet, a boutique in Southampton. Together with Jenna, a former lawyer and e-commerce professional at Gilt City, their site was destined for success.
Part of the reason Candice loves her job is because she’s supporting moms with valuable information while also supporting small businesses. It allows her to work with her family—and not just her sister. She involves her 3 and 4-year-old daughters in the day-to-day, whether exploring a new kids’ activity or on a farmstand photoshoot on the weekend.
“I really think it’s nice, if possible, to integrate your kids in whatever you’re doing,” she says. “What’s important is not quantity, but the quality of time you spend together. Just making them feel loved, having fun and playing with them—that’s what it’s all about.”
Candice has done the research, and she knows how to have fun with little ones. Here’s how busy moms can spend more quality time with their kids (and maybe even squeeze in that cardio workout):
1. Be available
It’s a no-brainer. Kids need that quality time with you and you need that quality time with them in order for them to understand that they’re loved and that you want to be with them. You have to be present in the moment. You can’t be looking at your phone all the time. While my kids certainly know that I have my phone as a part of working, I shut it off from 4 to 7pm to give them my full attention when they come home from school until they go to bed.
2. Channel their creative spirits
We like to do Freshmade cooking classes with a group of friends at someone’s home. They learn to cook nut-free and vegan and we all eat dinner together. This can easily be replicated in any home, as long as you have kid-friendly recipes. You can bake muffins and cakes or make veggie pasta, pizza, tacos and even vegetable dumplings in rice paper! If you have a small chopping board, apron, plastic knife and mixing bowls, you can pretty much do anything. In NYC, there’s also a class called Blue Balloon. The kids choose an instrument (my daughter chose guitar) and they write their own lyrics and create their own music. The company records them so you have your child’s voice singing their own original piece. At home, if you play the guitar, you can ask your child to tell you a story, make it the lyrics of a song, have your child sing it aloud and record it on your phone to play back and hear the magic!
3. Take them on cultural excursions
On the weekends, I typically love to go out for lunch with my kids and husband. I see whatever activities are going on that weekend. I try to find something cultural for the children, whether it be one of the gazillion museums in the city or a class that we can take together. Even trying a new restaurant or new type of food is something a little bit different that's fun to experience as a family.
4. Ask them questions during the morning rush
Breakfast is fun—you can have conversations about what you’re both going to do that day. Ask them what art projects they are working on at school. What books they are reading during library time? Do they have music that day? What are they going to sing? It’s a great time to bond with your kids before they head off to school.
5. Indulge their imaginations
After school, I take them to their extracurricular activities and watch or we come home and they play with their baby dolls. They sing, play instruments and have dance parties. They pretend they’re in a band. Their absolute favorite thing to do is to play the soundtrack to the Nutcracker. They’re very girly and they float around like fairies all over my dining room. We play dress-up all the time. They act like Cinderella and have a ball. They’re always taking care of their “babies” and feeding them, making picnics for them, or birthday parties. I think having that downtime and allowing them to use their imagination instead of always planning things for them is very important for their brain development.
6. Incorporate tech
Jocelyn Greene is the founder of a company called Child’s Play. She has these tutorials that she puts on YouTube. They are do-it-yourself activities at home with your kids—from making clean-up time exciting to an obstacle course that will have them chill out.
7. Burn some calories together
We love dancing. That’s our fitness time. They definitely get it from me. It’s very sweet and it also gets out a lot of energy that serves me well for nap time.
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Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo