Family Life

TOY STORE

New Canaan Toy Store


Photographs: Garvin Burke

Going to the toy store should be fun. Kids know this, of course, but Mom and Dad might need a reminder, and New Canaan Toy Store couldn’t do a better job of it. Located in beautiful, calm New Canaan, it’s an easy stroll to the shop, where the family will find a wide selection of toys—from the highly educational to the purely silly. The shelves are packed with dolls, construction toys, board games and lawn games, puppets, first musical instruments, puzzles, Hula-Hoops, figurines and more. Some are classic, some are brand new and trendy. Let the kids explore and haul back the perfect find for childhood happiness.

94 Park St., New Canaan, 203-966-2424; newcanaantoystore.net


PLACE FOR CHILDREN’S PARTIES

Great Play

Well, well, things certainly have changed. Have you seen where you’re kids are having their parties these days? Hope your little one gets an invite to one at Great Play. The gym training/party space offers award-winning programs that develop children’s motor skills, sport skills, fitness and coordination in an interactive space—and it’s a blast. While little ones burn energy, older kids develop athletic skills and confidence. Don’t miss that interactive part—when your child throws a ball at the screen and it lands in the bucket, the image reacts. Kids toss and kick balls, jump with coaches, swing and slide and have fun learning.

2000 West Main St., Stamford, 203-978-1333; greatplay.com/stamford


FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT

Chip’s Family Restaurant


Photograph: Chip’s Family Restaurant

Kids love classic American food, from a pile of fluffy pancakes in the morning to meatloaf and mashed potatoes in the evening. The thing about Chip’s Family Restaurant is that it loves to give kids lots of choices—especially for pancakes. Its “Build Your Own Pancakes” means buttermilk or whole wheat batter and then every topping a kid could dream up: pecans, chocolate chips, banana and apple slices, blueberries, cinnamon, caramel chips and so on—just not all at once. Plus, they make a few suggestions, with combinations such as German Apple: sliced apples cooked inside buttermilk pancakes and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar and a side of raspberry purée sauce.

525 Tunxis Hill Cut Off, Fairfield 203-332-3370, see all locations at chipsrestaurants.com


CHILDREN’S CLOTHES

Groove


Photograph: Julie Bidewell

Today’s kids, tweens and teens know what’s what—and they want stylish clothes and fun accessories. Their dream destination is Groove in its expanded shop in Westport and in its second, recently opened New Canaan location. Both are filled with the bright, happy and cool dresses, rompers, PJs, Ts and leggings for the younger set. They also have essential camp supplies—sure, shower caddies, laundry bags and bus bags—alongside funky finger spinners and poppy-colored nail polish. (See also “Baby Store.”)

115 Elm St., New Canaan, 203-920-1700 420 Post Rd. W., Westport, 203-557-8111; grooveforkids.com


BABY STORE

Groove

There is nothing like dressing a baby—everything they wear is just so cute. Groove stocks adorable playsuits, onesies, dresses and even newborn hats—like strawberry and unicorn—that will have new parents diving for their cameras. Don’t miss the adorable toys and accessories, like bibs, too. (See also “Children’s Clothes.”)

115 Elm St., New Canaan, 203-920-1700 420 Post Rd. W., Westport, 203-557-8111; grooveforkids.com


KIDS’ FITNESS/SPORTS TRAINING

Chelsea Piers Connecticut

Whether your child knows exactly which sport he/she wants to do, or is busily exploring all of the options, they will love Chelsea Piers Connecticut. This enormous facility has training and equipment for most any sport that a kid would want to try: soccer, swimming, basketball, gymnastics, skating, ice hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, tennis and on an on. It has youth leagues, classes, camps and even drop-in sessions for its trampolines, batting cages, Parkour, Gaga (dodgeball in a hexagon-shaped pit), track and Splash Zone (complete with colorful, loopy slides).

One Blachley Rd., Stamford, 203-989-1000; chelseapiersct.com


MUSEUM

Stepping Stones Museum for Children

Stepping Stones Museum for Children is so popular that it seems like a requirement for Fairfield County parents of young children (ages ten and under). Its secret is the hands-on exhibits that act as total fun zones. Colorful, bright and cheerful, the museum allows kids to be free to touch, jump, make noise, crawl and, most of all, discover. The million-dollar Energy Lab, with its raceway powered by water, is always a huge hit. Parents will have so much fun seeing their children exploring‚ in sections for age-appropriate learning, that they’ll find a chance to relax.

303 West Ave., Norwalk, 203-899-0606; steppingstonesmuseum.org


CHILDREN’S HAIRCUTS

Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids

At Sharkey’s Cuts kids enjoy a wash, cut and blow-dry as much as the salon’s gaming stations, balloons, lollipops and kid-appealing chairs. Tweens and teens even get their own section, so they can enjoy getting glam with nail art, updos and makeup lessons. The salon meets kids at their stage, helping them relax in a salon setting and leave confident in their new cut, blow out or styling.

1568 Post Rd. E., Westport, 203-557-8700; sharkeyscutsforkids.com


NANNY/BABYSITTING SERVICES

Nannies As Needed

Sure, it takes a village to raise a child, but perhaps for Fairfield County moms and dads, just having an extra set of helping hands would be enough. We hear they’re calling in Nannies As Needed, LLC. This service provides professional staff who are screened in a comprehensive interview process and then matched to the best placement. Choose from temporary, short-term or emergency coverage.

203-874-4939; nanniesasneeded.com


ART CLASSES

Silvermine Arts Center

Founded more than a century ago, in 1908, Silvermine Arts Center is an essential destination for artists. Its courses and workshops are as well respected and attended as its exhibitions. While children ages four to twelve may want to try the Summer Art Studios & Workshops to explore the creative process, techniques and necessary materials, they can also find programs during the school year.

1037 Silvermine Rd., New Canaan, 203-966-9700; silvermineart.org


COLLEGE PREP COURSES

Carnegie Pollak

No one is born knowing how to crush the PSAT, SAT or ACT. It takes prep work, strategy, test-taking skills and confidence. That’s why our voters told us Carnegie Pollak aced their test of providing college-prep courses. They arrange for award-winning instructors to cover material in multi-session courses or a two-session all-out sprint to test day.

136 Old Stone Bridge Rd., Cos Cob, 203-352-3500; carnegiepollak.com


KIDS’ MUSIC LESSONS

Fairfield School of Music

Wind, brass, strings, maybe percussion or voice; children can learn and polish their abilities at Fairfield School of Music. Talented and dedicated teachers cover all of the essentials, including lessons, workshops and performance recitals. (See also “Music Lessons.”)

338 Commerce Dr., Fairfield, 203-690-1888; fairfieldschoolofmusic.org


BOOKSTORE

Barnes & Noble

It’s high summer, which means one thing: beach reads! Finally, it’s the time of year to jet to the closest Barnes & Noble and pick out your favorite book to dive into at the shoreline. For some that means chick lit, for others a mystery, for others a political thriller (and, sure, a few of you like the history of economics, but who are we to judge?). At this shop, readers of all types will find a great selection of fiction and nonfiction, best-sellers, longtime classics and niche works with impact. Moreover, there are plenty of options for music and gifts and special author appearances. The kids love to explore the children’s section.

1076 Post Rd. E., Westport, 203-221-7955; barnesandnoble.com


PET SUPPLIES/CLOTHING

Earth Animal

Our furry best friends are so good, so sincere, so cute that their owners love to provide the best food and pet supplies for them. Of course, clothes may not be essential, but they can be simply irresistible. Earth Animal is stocked with all-natural food, vitamins, treats, natural flea-and-tick remedies, toys, beds, leashes, brushes and other necessities. No one said owning a dog would be tidy; they need stuff. The shop started in 1979 with a commitment to natural products for pets, and has found a loyal clientele ever since. You can count on great customer service, too, with helpful suggestions, tips and advice.

606 Post Rd. E., Westport, 203-222-7173; earthanimal.com


DOG GROOMER/PET SPA

The Bark Club

This modern and chic pet spa is a dog’s best friend. Dog owners love it, too—and they know their best friend will be treated well. This full-service grooming salon, founded by Mark and Angela Castellano, is cage-free and by appointment only, so each dog gets individualized attention. Doggies go in scruffy, come out fluffy and happy, having received the royal treatment, including bath, blow dry, nail trimming, ear cleaning, aromatherapy, teeth brushing and even massage, among other choices. The space is clean  and organized, perhaps not a little unlike your own favorite spa.

193 East Ave., 2nd Fl., Norwalk, 203-354-4491; thebarkclubct.com


VETERINARIAN

The Veterinary Cancer Center

Nothing can prepare a pet owner when a beloved pet faces a health crisis. But they can be sure that they’re making a good decision by consulting The Veterinary Cancer Center, a state-of-the-art facility and the largest stand-alone veterinary comparative oncology center in the country. Veterinarian-owned and -operated, it again wins the trust of our Gold Coast voters.  Your beloved pet will get advanced care and will be treated with tenderness. You can count on being fully informed about the treatment options.

129 Glover Ave., Norwalk, 203-838-6626; vcchope.com


LOCAL HOTEL

Delamar Greenwich Harbor

High standards, über posh, an informed sense of style and luxury…right this way. Delamar Greenwich Harbor’s whole raison d’être is to indulge its guests in a moment in time without the rougher edges of life. With a deep bow to refinement and elegance, Delamar has hotel rooms with private balconies that overlook the picturesque harbor. They are handsome and incredibly comfortable with flat-screen televisions and Bulgari bath products. Enjoy the good life from the moment you pull up and step into the beautiful lobby; perhaps take in a massage at the spa or sip a cocktail outdoors in the summer breeze. Life here is good, which just goes to prove something most of us already know—the best is usually somewhere close to home.

500 Steamboat Rd., Greenwich, 203-661-9800; delamargreenwich.com