It’s not only that summer days are actually longer (you can’t fight City Hall on that one), but it’s that on summer days, kids have a tendency to wake up with the sun and as we all know too well, insist on staying up as long as it’s light out.  Add to that no school, fewer class offerings, and you’ve got a lot of empty hours to fill.

Luckily, the City Parks Foundation is looking out for you with SummerStage, featuring 100 performances in eighteen parks spread out over five boroughs.  Even the pickiest toddler – and their parents (hey, the kid had to pick it up somewhere) ought to find something to fit their musical, artistic (and nap schedule) tastes. Here are our picks for the 10 Must See SummerStage Acts to Catch with Kids – and Three You Should Probably Avoid. And, stay tuned for Part II of our Summerstage picks when we publish our favorite shows and performances for the second half of the summer.

Our 10 Must-See Picks:

1. Decadancetheatre on June 8, 2012
If there is one thing kids love almost as much as moving around to the beat themselves, it’s watching other people do it.  Not only is Decadancetheatre unique in that their hip-hop moves are performed by an all-women ensemble, but their choice of accompaniment is Vivaldi’s 289 year old “Four Seasons,” seeking to blend the modern and the classical in a manner sure to intrigue every member of the family.

2. Brooklyn Family Day on June 10, 2012
Though some may feel Disney’s encroachment on the day takes away from SummerStage’s independent spirit, it’s hard to argue with three hours of face painting, arts & crafts, sports workshops, Broadway performers and circus acts (all for free)!

3. The New York Pops on June 12, 2012
Not only is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States performing alongside an East L.A. band proudly mixing hip-hop, salsa, samba, funk, merengue, comparsa, Jamaican and Indian raga (got all that?), but they will be joined by Harlem School of the Arts’ Jazz band comprised of local elementary, middle, and high school students to make the show even more kid-friendly.


4. The Klezmatics, Socalled, Daniel Kahn, The National Yiddish Theatre, and Yiddish Princesses on June 26, 2012
Think of it as hip-hop – by Jews.  The music of Eastern Europe’s most popular punching bag minority is given a fresh twist as it’s mixed with Arab, African, Latin and Balkan rhythms, as well as jazz and punk.  (Oy gevalt!)

5. Limon Dance Company on June 30, 2012
Celebrating 65 years of this unique modern company that’s considered one of Mexico’s greatest artistic exports, not to mention a role model for Hispanic and Latino communities across the country, New Yorkers have the added bonus of, if your child appears mesmerized, taking lessons in the Limon Technique at Ballet Hispanico on Manhattan’s Upper West Side!


6. Bronx Family Day on June 30, 2012
Once again presented by Disney, Family Day in the Bronx focuses on a variety of circus artists, including Amazing Acrobats, The Hell on Wheel Unicycle Stunt Show, and a dance party for kids as young as a year old!

7. Central Park Family Day on July 8, 2012
Justin Roberts and The Not Ready for Naptime Players bring out the giant pounding drums and vintage electric guitars as Illstyle & Peace Productions’ multicultural dance company defy gravity and contort their bodies into impossible positions.  Kids, enjoy the show – but don’t try this at home.

8. Bessie’s Big Shot on July 10, 2012
Puppets.  That go moo.  And want to join the circus.  What else, really, is there to say? Photo below of Bessie’s Big Shot courtesy of Friends of Gulick Park.

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9. Robbi K. on July 10, 2012
She’s sung back-up for Diana Ross, Jewel, and Aretha Franklin.  And now she too has puppets.  Luckily, she also has shows on July 11 and July 12, in case you don’t want it to conflict with the above.

10. Parallel Exit Physical Comedy on July 17, 2012
They are two-time Drama Desk Award nominees… and they fall down a lot.  Just like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.  Just try finding a kid who doesn’t love that.

And now, to avoid:

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1. Buckshot, Smif N Wessun, Heltah Skeltah, and OGC on June 7, 2012
When the words “hardcore” and “dirty” appear in the first line of description – as in “hardcore raps over dirty samples” – your best bet is taking a pass – unless you really want to expand your child’s vocabulary.  And risk them sharing with their pre-school class.

2. Das Racist on June 19, 2012
Named to Rolling Stone’s and Spin’s lists of Fifty Best Albums of 2011, this hard-core rap/folk-music trio (bet you didn’t know those two could be mixed) prides itself on challenging the audience and making them think.  Good things when you can take the time to really focus on the obscure references within their lyrics.  Not so great when you are also trying to keep track of an inquisitive, squirming toddler.

3. The Metropolitan Opera on July 27, 2012
Kids don’t like strange songs sung in Italian.  And they have a tendency to let you know it.  Repeatedly.  And loudly.  Yes, sometimes even louder than the Italian singers.  The people around you tend to not appreciate that.

The above is only a small sample of highlights.  From a complete list of times and dates for all SummerStage kid friendly shows, click here.

What are your family’s SummerStage picks? Do you have any tips on taking your kiddos to these great events?

— Alina Adams