Old World Toy Store: Linden Noll Gift Haus
Nothing typifies the Old World flavor of Covington’s MainStrasse Village more than the wooden marionettes, nutcrackers, and tiny trinkets for sale at Linden Noll Gift Haus. For 25 years, Delores Lind Carpenter—whose parents emigrated from Germany just before WWII—and her husband David have tended shoppe here, overseeing the barely organized chaos in each room. Hundreds of toys—all battery free—plus holiday gifts and European memorabilia are packed like Russian stacking dolls into every room, including hand-carved Italian Pinocchios and nostalgic children’s books. Translation: It’s grandma heaven. 506 W. Sixth St., Covington, (859) 581-7633
Personalized Baby Togs: The Spotted Goose Co.
Sure, you can find “Jacob” and “Madison” emblazoned on ordinary goods. But doesn’t your child deserve something hipper? Renee Dustman thought so. She started personalizing baby items with playful embroidery and selling them, first from her home, then on-line. Now she and Renee Lentz have taken their company, The Spotted Goose, to the streets of Oakley. The store, in the former Baby A space, carries children’s clothes for newborns up to size 10 from La Folie, Room Seven, and Luna Luna, as well as accessories such as Zen-centric Haiku diaper bags. Plus, the store’s exclusive funny, fanciful embroidery transforms ordinary bibs, onesies, blankets, and towels into keepsakes. Lentz admits it was a risk. “Cincinnati’s pretty conservative; we have a funkier, urban style,” she says, but “so far, it’s going really well.” Welcome to the birth of the cool. 3048 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 351-9600, thespottedgoose.com
Kids’ Bike Deal: BikeWise Oxford
When it’s time to recycle your child’s bike and move up to a bigger set of wheels, BikeWise Oxford has a deal that’s hard to beat. If you buy a youth bike (26-inch wheel or less) from BWO, you’ll receive 50 percent off the original price toward the purchase of a larger bike. Caveats: The trade-in must take place within three years of the original purchase date, and the bike must be in rideable condition. Replacement of small flaws, such as a blown tire or ratty handgrips, will be deducted from the trade-in value. Still, that’s pedal power you can pocket. 9 N. Beech St., Oxford, (513) 523-4880
Petting Zoo: Parky’s Farm
The classic, Ark-ian “petting zoo”—where small children frolic with docile farm animals—is a rare find these days. Much more common is the multifaceted “educational farm,” like the sprawling, picturesque, 100-acre Parky’s Farm in Winton Woods. Just past the vegetable patches and playground barn you’ll hear the wavering bleats of sheep and goats meandering about their pen. The farm is a special boon for city kids, many of whom have never seen real cows or pigs or llamas, or ridden a pony or taken horse-riding lessons. It’s kind of like Green Acres without the chores. Or Zsa-Zsa. 10073 Daly Rd., Springfield Twp., (513) 521-PARK
Children’s Portraits: Owenemma Photography
When it comes to kids, photographer Rebecca Worple ditches staging and posing in favor of laughing and relaxing so she can capture your kids as they really are. Think of it as a playdate with a camera. “I like it when kids are in their element, doing the things they love,” says Worple, mom to Emma, 9, and Owen, 6. Worple acknowledges that if you’re looking for composed pictures of your children in matching white outfits you may want to look for someone else. “I go to kid-friendly places and have fun and let them drive me,” she says. Superman costumes, muddy shoes, bumps, bruises, and bad moods be damned. “So what if they don’t smile half the time,” says Worple on her Web site. “Half the time they do.” (513) 477-1434, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hip Baby Gifts: MiCA Contemporary Craft
Shopping for a baby gift at MiCA is like ordering off the menu at your favorite restaurant. The O’Bryonville shop is full of unique treasures and whimsical twists on the usual baby shower fare. Check out the modern onesies and caps from Lotta Jansdotter, soft woven blankets by Karen Kurak, clever graphic T-shirts from Ohio’s own Wire & Twine, and striped knit hats by Adachi Etsuko. MiCA also carries stitched pillows and bags by Shelly Klein’s k studio, contemporary silver spoons by Mantra flatware, and limited edition, phantasmagorical melamine plates from Poketo + PCP. You can also make your own gift through artist Laura Zeck’s “Short Stories” series. Choose from 300 of Zeck’s etchings to create a one-of-a-kind fine art print. 2039 Madison Rd. O’Bryonville 1201 Vine St. Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-3500, shopmica.com
Babysitting Service: Babysitease
There are times when we shine a spotlight on a local business or service that we would, selfishly, rather keep secret. That’s how we feel about Cincinnati’s gift to working parents, the locally based online babysitting service Babysitease. Some of us rely heavily on the speed and efficiency with which Peggy Murriner and Laura Parks-Kremer (the founders and owners) match parents with friendly and qualified babysitters who arrive right on our doorstep—no hassles, no worries. Log on, schedule a request, and Murriner and Parks-Kremer take it from there, making sure that a pre-screened, superlatively able sitter arrives at your front door on time. Just save a sitter for us, will ya? babysitease.com
Story Time: Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Thanks to the PLCHC there’s no excuse for your kids not to be at a story time right now. All 42 branches offer some version: Movers and Shakers incorporates music, rhythm, and movement for the pre-literate, ants-in-the-pants crowd, and working parents love the 7 p.m. bedtime stories at the Clifton, Sharonville, Madisonville, and Deer Park branches. “We integrate music, puppets, and flannel boards,” says Lisa Hamrick, Manager of the Children’s Learning Center at the Main Library. “It’s edutainment.” It’s also free! 42 branches, cincinnatilibrary.org
Nursing Nook: Kenwood Towne Centre Nursing Lounge
Given our nation’s breast obsession, you’d think there’d be a line of plush Dutailier glider rockers stretching from coast to coast just for breastfeeding mothers. The sad truth is that moms are forced to perch on the edge of toilet seats in public restrooms and share park benches with the human equivalent of Homer Simpson’s chain-smoking sisters. So hats off (or should we say bras off?) to the Kenwood Towne Centre for providing nursing mothers with their very own private lounge, complete with cushioned glider rocker, changing table, sink, and mirror. The Monet and Renoir prints are a thoughtful touch; the Muzak, not so much. But hey, you can’t have everything. Lower level next to Sbarro
Where to take the kiddos for fresh air, exercise, or to shake out the sillies.
Splish-Splash: Parky’s Ark
The sprinklers at Parky’s Ark wet playground at Winton Woods Harbor ease the sizzle of a summer day. Or try Parky’s Pirate Cove in Miami Whitewater Forest and Parky’s Wetland Adventure at Woodland Mound. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 11 am–7 pm. $1 per child. GreatParks.org
Inside Play: Children’s Museum
Time stands still when you’re stuck in the house on a rainy day. So head over to the Children’s Museum at Union Terminal where the kids are having so much fun, they don’t realize they’re learning something too. 1301 Western Ave., West End, (513) 287-7000, cincymuseum.org (Cash parking is $5.)
Climbing Course: Pleasant Ridge
Some kids only want to move in one direction: up, up, up! This playground has lots of vertical real estate for climbers and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. The outdoor swimming pool at the center next door is a summer bonus. Pleasant Ridge Community Center, 5915 Ridge Ave., Pleasant Ridge, (513) 731-7894.
Sand Castles: Julifs Park
That beach vacation may be a distant memory, but kids can keep their raking, scooping, and castle building skills fresh in the sandy oasis at Julifs Park in Anderson Township. Of course, there’s plenty of stuff to climb, swing, and slide on, too. 8249 Clough Pike, Anderson Twp., (513) 474-0003.
Sharing Space: Every Child’s
Every Child’s Playground at Sawyer Point is a great place to wear tykes out. Designed so all kids could play together, it has a smooth, even surface and equipment accessible to children with disabilities or in wheelchairs. Sawyer Point, 801 E. Pete Rose Way, downtown, (513) 352-6180. (Parking in Sawyer Point lot is $2.