Kid Stuff

Best of the City 2008

Kids’ Shoes

According to Joe Stamm of Castle House, when it comes to buying shoes with a proper fit, parents really only need to do one thing. “Bring in the feet,” says Stamm, whose family has owned the Hyde Park store for more than 40 years. “Sizing is the most important issue and it’s tough without the child.” Castle House stocks more than 300 different shoe styles, from familiar names like Stride Rite, pediped, and Merrell to European lines like Aster and PRIMIGI. Want to stock up? Check out Castle House’s biannual Goofy Sale in January and June and scoop up clearance footwear at discounts from 40 to 80 percent. 3435 Edwards Rd., Hyde Park, (513) 871-2458

Kids’ Birthday Party Spot

All the sugar-high energy kids build up at birthday parties needs a place to go and Pete DeLois’s Recreations Outlet can absorb it. You bring the food, the drinks, and the cake and Pete provides the Rainbow Play Systems slides, swings, and trampolines. The kids will be deliriously exhausted all the way home. 7605 Wooster Rd., Mariemont, (513) 561-8695

Children’s Educational Entertainer  

If you think science is all about periodic tables and hypothesizing, then Mad Science of Cincinnati has an explosion for you. The array of live programs the company offers includes scientists in white coats showing off the properties of fire and static electricity, and performing experiments that impress and involve the crowd. They’ll do events, birthday parties, or full-scale productions. Don’t worry, Mom, nobody will lose any limbs. 9471 Loveland Madeira Rd., Loveland, (513) 793-6784,

Chic Kids’ Resale

The Christmas sweater. The Easter outfit. The First Communion dress. Grandma spends a bundle on it, little Maddie or Maddox wears it once, then it ends up at the Snooty Fox. If you’re diligent and quick, you can nab gently worn higher-end snowsuits, sweaters, jeans, jumpers, and more for a fraction of the original cost at this local consignment chain. And thanks to Snooty Fox’s bounty of used bridal gear, there’s ample opportunities to find a flower girl frock. Multiple locations, check

Volunteer Opportunity

With stocks shaky, it’s wisest to invest in a neighborhood kid. Freestore Foodbank coordinates Kids Café with 14 partners like Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Families Forward, The Salvation Army, and the Urban League, which screen volunteers and operate the cafés—where kids come for a late-day meal (85,090 program-wide last year). Call Program Manager Kelly Lane or go to to find a Kids Café. Your returns will pay forward and back handsomely. (513) 482-4526

Kid-Friendly Coffee Shop

No one wants to hear little ones lisping about espresso macchiato and ordering venti half-cafs. But just like a grown-up coffee shop, the Blue Manatee Decafé has a civilizing influence. The cozy bookstore nook, with its fanciful “I Spy” tables, painted high chairs, and uni-sex restrooms (“Potty” and “Other Potty”) offers healthy snacks and pint-sized accoutrements, so that kids don’t get squirmy while their mommies and daddies relax. Best of all, there’s a smoothie named James and the Giant Peach. It’s never too early for literary humor. 3054 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 731-2665,

Sleepover Spot

Beginners can learn the basics of rock climbing from RockQuest Climbing Center’s seasoned instructors, then practice on 20,000 square feet of climbing walls, ranging from 18 to some 45 vertical feet. (The more experienced are free to climb at will.) After the kids exhaust themselves on the walls, they can camp-in for the night and start again in the morning. It’s much more fun to climb into the air with friends than out a window to meet them. 3475 E. Kemper Rd., Sharonville, (513) 733-0123

Kids’ Ice Cream Shop

An official list of a half-dozen or so animals guides the positively merry high schoolers who serve up the cone creations at Tucker’s Whippy Dip. That includes an elephant with cookie ears and candy eyes and a spider with gummy worms for legs. But most of the counter teens get a kick out of creating whatever kids request, including Santa Claus (a red dip hat and whipped cream for a beard) and monkeys (banana slice ears and gummy candy tail). 127 E. Main St., Mason, (513) 459-7966 (closed in winter)

Indoor Waterpark

We’re going to assume that if you’re willing to take your kids to a waterpark in the winter, your kids must really want to go. Make it memorable and take them to Great Wolf Lodge. It’s huge—78,000 square feet—with six giant pools, a dozen waterslides for tots to grownups, a treehouse “water fort” that makes you wish you were 10 again, and an army of lifeguards. Thing is, you have to rent a room to use the park—but call and ask about the birthday packages. Then don your swim trunks. 2501 Great Wolf Dr., Mason, (513) 459-8885

Model Train Layout

The entire family, from granddad on down, can really appreciate the year of painstaking detail that went into constructing the two miles of G-scale track and railcars at EnterTrainment Junction—not to mention the detailed model cities and landscapes that make the world’s largest indoor train display so impressive. There’s also a 5,000-square-foot play area; a railroading museum; and seasonal displays that bring out childlike wonder in all of us. 7379 Squire Court, West Chester, (513) 898-8000

Kids’ Birthday Cake

Kids are easy to please when it comes to birthday cake. If it’s sweet, they’ll eat. Why not serve a cake that will be adored by the parents too? The cakes Chris Girmann pulls from the oven of Little Dutch Bakery are the perfect crowd pleasers. They’re moist and flavorful with real butter icing that’s not too sweet and none of that greasy mouthfeel you get from grocery store cakes. You can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned yellow layer cake with thick chocolate frosting, but sheet cakes are available too. His cupcakes have their own special twist—they’re square. Girmann is a third-generation baker who bought the business from his dad when he was just 23 years old. With so many years in the kitchen, what’s Girmann’s favorite baked good? “We can do just about anything, but I like blackberry pie,” he says. 7611 Hamilton Ave., Mt. Healthy, (513) 931-3550

Museum for Kids

At the Cincinnati Fire Museum, kids see the history of firefighting in the displays of old-time equipment, simulations, and photos. But they’re most impressed with the fire pole and the pumper truck cab where they can sit and turn on the siren. 315 W. Court St., downtown, (513) 621-5553

Indoor Inflatables

Bouncing off walls is not a new concept for kids. Bananas Drop-In Jump & Play makes it safe on seven bus-sized inflatable playspaces, where kids of all ages can exhaust themselves. The entrance fee is a small price for a parental reprieve. 7102 Hamilton Mason Rd., West Chester, (513) 777-9200

Camps for Kids

Adventure: Survival on the Underground Railroad

Kids play the role of slaves being sold at auction during the Survival on the Underground Railroad program at Camp Joy Outdoor Education Center. The night camp is one of the 30 school programs on Joy’s 315-acre campus, and kids meet six historical characters as they walk through the woods. Talking to an abolitionist, plantation owner, or indentured servant puts a human face on history. 10117 Old 3C Highway, P.O. Box 157, Clarksville, (800) 300-7094,

Fun and Games: Laffalot Summer Camps

Old-fashioned backyard play keeps the kids running and, well, laughing a lot at Laffalot Summer Camps. Founder Pat Nymberg was a physical education teacher and coach at local schools before she started the week-long day camps, which now run at 17 sites around the region. Boys and girls attend separate sessions, but all play a variety of games including pillo pollo, flag tag, floor hockey, kickball, and scavenger hunts. For locations and schedules during summer and spring break, check out

Performing Arts: MAD Camp

For budding performers or just young drama queens and kings, MAD Camp (that stands for music, art, and drama) at Christ’s Church at Mason lets kids sing, dance, act, and create their hearts out under the guidance of teachers and volunteers. At the end of a week of practice, practice, practice, the kids get to put on a show! Judy and Mickey would be so proud. Christ’s Church at Mason, 5165 Western Row Rd., Mason, (513) 229-3200,

* Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2008 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.

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