When I moved from Manhattan to Astoria twelve years ago the landscape was very different from what it has become today. Back then Astoria was just the place you came to for the best Greek food in the city, and due to its proximity to La Guardia, an excellent place to rent if you worked for one of the airlines. As time has passed I’ve watched it change and grow into the hip, vibrant, young (yes, I’m still including myself in that demographic!) and family oriented neighborhood that it is today. The parks and restaurants are busier than ever with more and more growing young families taking full advantage of all that our great area has to offer.
Programs abound for your wee one from Music for Aardvarks to Gym-Mazing and music mornings at Waltz Astoria, as well as baby yoga at The Giving Tree to name just a few. These are all great programs for your preschooler. But what happens when your pre-teen tells you “Mom, I really need a creative outlet!”? My reaction? Total panic sprinkled with a healthy dose of mother’s guilt. Outside of school, and the usual dance or music classes, what kind of enrichment programs are available to our pre-teens and teens? I donned my Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat, embarrassed the hell out of my pre-teen and promised to find out.
As it turns out that there are actually some great programs for teens in Queens and the surrounding area. Youth Communication in New York City was formed in 1980 specifically to produce independent citywide teen magazines written by a team of teen writers. It has since diversified to books and the web. It really encourages kids that would otherwise not be interested in reading or writing, to find their voice and get it down on paper to help other kids their age. If you have a budding Ernest Hemingway or Dorothy Parker on your hands, you can check out their website for more information. http://www.youthcomm.org/for_teens/writing_program.html
Queens Museum of Art runs several programs for youth, including a teen art and writing workshop for high school students who study or live in Queens. http://www.queensmuseum.org/
Any parent of a pre-teen is no stranger to high octane dramatics from time to time! The Secret Theatre Academy of Dramatic Arts in Long Island City can channel that energy into exploring simple theater techniques as well as improvisation. Each semester the students perform in a production as well as a free student showcase of scenes and monologues. http://www.secrettheatre.com/Classes.html
There’s no doubt that I am entering into “interesting” territory with my daughter, as she attempts to figure out who she is, who she wants to be and what she wants to do. While programs abound for our little ones to explore the world through art, music and play, you have to dig deep to find the programs that do the same for our older kids. But they are out there. As we encourage our younger children to explore life through art and music, we should absolutely not forget to do the same for our older kids. Indeed the need for self expression is even more vital at this age, and our responsibility to nurture it, encourage it and support it, even greater.