Our Lives change when we become parents. We develop new routines (sleepless nights), learn a new vocabulary (Kowabunga, dudes!) and seale back cm nights out on the town. The process, which might appear daunting at first, is, thankfully, a gradual one. Most of us don’t require remedial work like TV’s Murphy Brown, who resorted to flashcards of Cookie Monster to bone up on her “Sesame Street” characters. Nevertheless, we could all use a little advice now and then on what to do with our Idds.

And so we present our guide to living In Dallas with children. From bookstores and barber shops to ballet-wear and birthday parties, we’ve assembled the best of what the city offers In activities, service?, shopping; and resources for all children, from the tall to the small. We’ve also Included a few heartfelt essays on some of the big-picture questions all paient* face. The Whole Kid Catalog: won’t get your kids to bed any earlier, but It will make life as a parent a whole lot easier.


To help you discover the best of what the city has to offer, we’ve compiled lists of seasonal bests, including a select list of summer programs that kids still have time to sign up for and our favorite events for fall, winter and spring. Turn also to our list of free but fun activities and the best activities for children with disabilities.



Forget leaching the kids how to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How about crab ravioli in sun-dried tomato and tarragon cream sauce? The Loews Anatole’s “Young Culinarians” classes, for children ages 8-12, will show them how. Classes begin July 6; deadline for registration is June I. A series of five classes is $145. Call 761-7290 for more information.

Slicky stuff, creepy, crawly things, robotics and lots more will be explored in this summer’s Science Place classes, for children ages 3-12. One-week, three-week and adult and child programs are available. Classes begin June 7; call 428-5555, ext. 343 or 344 to register and for prices, which range from $25 to $65.

Camp White Rock Lake, just minutes from downtown, has the feel of someplace far away. Sponsored by the Lone Star Council of Camp Fire, nine weeklong sessions teach children ages 6-15 about nature, canoeing, cooking and more. Sessions begin June 7. Call 521-2267 for more information about fees for members and non-members.

Lights, camera, action! From acting and video production to set and costume design, the Dallas Children’s Theater summer workshops offer plenty for children ages 3 and up. Classes begin June 14; prices range from $100 to $250.

Why does the Dallas Zoo have more dik diks than any other zoo? Children can learn die answer to this question and more at summer workshops and classes, held at both the Dallas Zoo and Dallas Aquarium. Available for children ages 3 and up, classes begin June 7. Prices range from $5 to $45. Call 670-7531 to register.

African-American history, archaeology, art and creative writing will be taught at the Museum of African-American Life and Culture’s series of weeklong workshops for children ages 8-12. The first session begins July 6. Costs range from $45 for individual courses to $200 for a series. Call 565-9026 for more information.

There’s the usual stuff-hiking, swimming and crafts-but now. Girl Scout camps provide lessons in the nuances of buying a horse at an auction and maintaining a bicycle. Day camps and resident camps are available for all girls ages 6-17. Prices range from $60 to $200, with a small additional fee for girls who are not currently members. Camps kick off June 13. Call 823-1342 for more information.

Boy Scout camps run by the day or the week. Some are a mix of outdoor activities, others are specialized-like the ham radio camp, in which boys can receive their amateur radio license. For ages 8-17. The first camp begins in June; call 637-1480 to register and for prices.

Children ages 4-12 learn about dinosaurs, insects, predators and more at the Dallas Museum of Natural History’s camps. Classes begin June 14. Weeklong sessions cost from $45 to $75; also ask about their daylong adventures and family fun days. Call 670-8466 for a brochure.

OK, we know it’s summer, but some kids actually like summer school. Richardson ISD offers elementary to high-school classes beginning June 9 for students citywide (out-of-district students pay a higher fee). For a class schedule and prices, phone 301-3376.


The Pepsi KidAround is one of the few events in Dallas designed just for kids. A giant sandbox, ball bounce and wooden gym let children jump and climb, while puppet shows, magic and storytelling provide enter* tainment for calmer souls. Sonia Manzano. Maria on “Sesame Street,” and other nationally known entertainers sing and dance on multiple stages. The $6 cost benefits The Family Place, and children under 3 enter free. October 16 and 17 at Park Central. Call 559-2172 for information.

Young dreamers can take off with the Flight Through Time aircraft display at Love Field, gazing at more than 75 planes- everything from WWII war birds to Stealth fighters. Air Force pilots stand by to talk about the wonders of flying, a Navy Seal parachute team jumps each day and model airplanes buzz overhead. Admission is $2 for children and $5 for adults. September 18 and 19. Call the Frontiers of Flight Museum at 350-1651 for more information.

Children can enter the world of the American Indian by learning Native American dances, songs, stick games, chiseling and feather-making at the American Indian Art Festival & Market. Storytelling, flute playing, face painting and tribal foods also will keep little warriors occupied for the evening. Youth night is the first night of the November 4-7 festival. Call 891-9640 for more information, including admission prices.


The gray days of January are great movie days, and the USA Film Festival designed its four-day KidFilm program for creative young minds. The festival emphasizes quality films to stir children’s imaginations and features both animated and live-action films. No Mutant Ninja Turtles allowed. Tickets for each film are $2.50 for both children and adults. Call 821-NEWS for information.

Take young pioneers back to a time when dinner was cooked over a wood stove and candlesticks were forged over an open kiln. At the December 10-12 Candlelight at Old City Park holiday celebration, children can take surrey rides, jump in the hay, make crafts and sit in an American Indian tee-pee complete with glowing fire. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children 3-12. Call 421-5141 for more information and dates.

The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth delivers calf roping, bull riding and livestock auctions for budding cowboys and cowgirls. Young hands can also see mother cows, sows, sheep and horses with their offspring. January 21 to February 6; call 817-877-2400 for more information.


Azaleas, irises and tulips compete for glory with ribbons, bonnets and patent leather on a truly Southern Easter at the Arboretum. With 20,000 candy-filled eggs, two hunts, and a special roped-off section for toddlers, this is one of the best spots in Dallas to spend the holiday. Hunts at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.; $6 adults, $5 seniors. S3 children 6 to 12, under 6 are free.

From hobbit holes to soaring falcons, Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie is all about fantasy. Kids can watch marionettes, juggling, comedians and artisans. Most of all they love the joust, where knights in armor fight for fair maidens. It may seem corny to grown-ups, but take your children while they still believe in unicorns. April 24-June 13; $11.95 for adults, $4.75 for kids 5-12, under 5 free.

What heralds spring more than the crack of bat against ball? If you reward them, they will come, so the Texas Rangers have special promotional nights when children 13 and under get a free glove, towel, bat or even a jersey celebrating Jose Canseco. The home season runs April through October. Call 817-273-5100 for a schedule.

With a BaaBaa here and a MooMoo there, the Samuell Farm Pioneer Heritage Festival park will be full of everything on Old MacDonald’s Farm, Kids can watch wool go from sheep to shawl and enjoy the simple pleasures of hay rides, lemonade and hot dogs. June 12 and 13; tickets cost $4 for adults. $3 for ages 3-12 and nothing for children under 3. Call 670-8263 for more information.


A panel of paid professionals gave us their innovative approaches to kid fun.

You probably won’t feel that Backdraft excitement, but small children find glamour in sitting in fire trucks and meeting the real men and women who drive them. For rules about visiting your local fire station, call the Dallas Fire Department at 670-4628 (670-4784 for North Dallas). Schedule your visit at least two weeks in advance.

Tours at Mrs. Baird’s bakery help satisfy kids’ insatiable hunger to learn how things are made. Open to children who have completed kindergarten. 5230 E. Mockingbird. Call 526-7201 for more information.

Small children will reintroduce you to the magic in flying, and Love Field is definitely a viewer-friendly airport, whether you watch the big birds from inside the terminal or from a more scenic vantage point near Bach-man Lake. Kids will also like the Frontiers of Flight museum, with such novelties as pieces from the Hindenburg propellors. 350-1651.

Parents with kids who may not be old enough to participate in school plays and concerts can still take advantage of them. Call the principal’s office at your neighborhood school for upcoming events and information. Many performances are free.

Dallas Nature Center is a 400-acre wilderness preserve of wooded hills and rolling prairies located on the White Rock escarpment. It is a great place for hiking, throwing the frisbee, enjoying a picnic and getting back to nature. Admission is free. Take US 67 south to 1-20, then go west to Cedar Ridge Road (exit 461). Head south to Wheatland Road. 7575 Wheatland Road. 296-1955.

The downtown branch of The Dallas Public Library offers scores of free kids’ activities, including a monthly lineup of puppet shows, special guests, clowns and storytellers. Preschool stories are read from 10:30 to 11 every Friday morning and short movies of children’s books are shown on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Computer classes are free to ages 5-12 on Mondays at 7 p.m., Tuesdays at 10 a.m., Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. Make reservations one week in advance. 1515 Young St. Call 670-1671 for reservations. Also, check the monthly almanac for activities at the 19 area branch libraries.

Drama class, yes, but the focus of the Junior Players program is building children’s self-esteem and improving verbal and literary skills through theater arts. Offered at 15 sites in Dallas, the after-school workshops and summer day camps teach improvisation, role playing and art. Participants also take field trips to local plays. 526-4076.

Our panel: Andrew Thayer, director of Junior High Ministry at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church; Meg Cadigan, public relations director for the Tejas Girl Scout Council; Ed Feldman, teen program director for the Park Cities YMCA; and Mane Bell, elementary school teacher with DISD.


These activities are selected by parents of children with disabilities. “Best” were those in which all kids can participate and succeed at their own level.

Activities at the Audubon Recreation Center range from a Mom and Tot program to sports that welcome children with disabilities. Special assistance is offered if requested. 342 W. Oates, Garland. 270-2236.

Fantasy Landing in Kiest Park is Dallas’ first public adaptive playground, allowing children of all abilities to play together. It is totally wheelchair accessible. 3012 South Hampton.

At the Dallas Museum of Art Gateway Gallery kids learn about the world of art with many hands-on activities. And it’s free. 1717 North Harwood. 922-1200.

Library story time is popular because often the same neighborhood children return time after time. The activity is usually low-key, with non-threatening, short opportunities for interaction. Check with your local branch library for schedules.

Both T-ball and bumper bowl are geared for success for everyone. T-ball is found in most YMCA programs. Bumper bowl is usually offered Saturday mornings at various lanes around the city.

Penny Whistle Park, a year-round all-weather location, is not only “user friendly” for kids with challenges, but employs adults with challenges as well. All kids can safely go on rides, play games and have parties-if they and their parents can stand the noise. 10717 E. Northwest Hwy. 348-8297.


What would childhood be without piano lessons, gymnastics and birthday parties? Here’s what you should know.


For Sports Fans

Parents begin lining up two hours early on registration day for SMU’s summer swimming program. Now in its 35th year, George McMillion’s program is still considered one of the best for early swim instruction through advanced competition levels. For the first time SMU is taking kids at age 5 (rather than 6). There are six levels of instruction for the two-week classes that run from May through July. Cost is $95. 768-2200.

Merriwood Ranch in Garland has been teaching horseback riding to kids for 37 years, but don’t look them up in the phone book, they aren’t listed. Director Sue Andrews says word of mouth keeps their year-round, after-school lessons and summer day camp going. English and Western riding, jumping and showing instruction cost $20 an hour. Four riding rings and 28 acres of wooded land for trail rides. 2541 Big Springs Road. 495-4646.

Shaun Williamson, head of the sailing program at Chandler’s Landing at Lake Ray Hubbard, accepts children ages 8 to 18 who have strong swimming skills. His sailing classes emphasize knowledge of equipment, how to tack and jibe and safety measures. Courses are taught by nationally ranked sailors. 771-2051 or 407-2428.

Dallas School of Gymnastics has ambitions to be the state-of-the-art family fitness center. Started by local gymnastics guru Steve Fleming, the 24,000-square-foot facility houses myriad children’s sports and fitness classes, from dance to self defense. But it is Fleming’s gymnastics followers who have sustained the business. He has opened satellite programs in rec centers and YMCAs across Dallas. Headquarters is 15555 Wright Brothers Drive, Addison. Sessions start at $40 per month. 960-1108.

For Artistic Types

Advanced pianists age 10 to 17 can apply for the Texas Conservatory for Young Artists summer program, a non-profit, masters-level course considered one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Headed by pianist Sam Wong, it exposes students to such accomplished musicians as conductor Leon Fleish-er and pianists Stephen Hough, Ann Schein and Awadagin Pratt, who teach and perform during the intensive eight-day program. While only 21 participants are accepted ($325), there is no limit to the number of student observers ($160), who can sit in on the classes, performances and recitals. Held at Collin County Community College Spring Creek Campus, Piano, June 20-27. 985-0392.

The Dallas Black Dance Theater Academy teaches year-round classes in ballet, modem, jazz, tap, dancercize and ethnic dance to kids of all races. Classes for ages 4 through adult are taught by professional dancers and guest choreographers. Students get discounted tickets to professional performances. Fees start at $30 per month. 2627 Flora St. in the Arts District. 871-2376.

Dallas Children’s Theater after-school and Saturday classes give kids age 3 to 15 a real taste of stage life. The program is fun and low-key but teaches real skills. Includes TV sitcom and music classes, and kids write and create their own plays. Prices vary; see our summer activities listing for information on their summer program. 2215 Cedar Springs. 978-0110.

For Inquisitive Minds

The Summer Enrichment Programs at the University of Texas at Dallas offer reading, writing and math classes that motivate kids in grades 1 through 6 with games, logical reasoning exercises and short-story writing projects. The program, in its 15th year, is taught by certified teachers and includes SAT Preparation for grades 7 to 12, Pre-Algebra Problem Solving for grades 6 to 8 and Developing Critical Thinking for grades 3 to 6. Cost is $ 125 per two-week session, $175 for the SAT course. 690-2057.

Kids age 3 to 9 can select French, Spanish or English as a Second Language classes or learn two languages in the Dallas International School’s after-school classes. Summer courses for ages 3 to 12 are also available. The minimum 4-week classes in the summer cost $65 per week for half-day or $125 per week for full day. 6039 Churchill Way. 991-6379.

St. Mark’s weekly summer science program lets children grades 3 to 8 and up explore chemistry, rocketry, physics and computer robotics. There is also a 2-week general interest day-camp for ages 4 to 10, and a sports camp. The camps are held June 14 through July 23. Day and sports camps are $290 for two weeks; the science camps are $ 180 class for each week session. Call 739-6516 for brochure (hint: the camps are extremely popular; call before March 1 to get on the initial mailing list).


Portrait Art

James Lilley’s multi-media collage paintings take an imaginative twist on portrait art. The Dallas artist juxtaposes photographs with acrylic paint to create three-dimensional portraits. He is known for mother/daughter and children’s portraits. Prices start at $2,000, depending on the size of the canvas. 941-3066.


At Razz Matazz Hair Designs For Children, customers 12 and under sit on a motorcycle, a truck, a pig or a horse instead of a barber chair. A carousel in the center of the salon holds a television showing children’s videos, Parents wait in a gazebo next to a play area for smaller children. Older kids can get their hair done in the Nintendo game area. Cuts at the full service salon are $12.95. 3100 Independence Parkway in Piano, 596-8979, or 8668 Skillman at LBJ. 348-3403.


Parents who have been on the birthday party circuit know the party in the backyard with cake and ice cream is no longer enough. Here’s a list of fresh ideas to help you celebrate that special day. One warning: Call at least a month in advance for reservations.

You Go to Them

Paint ’n Party. Their motto is “Our Mess-Not Yours.’7 For an artistic birthday party, kids age 4 to 13 choose a plaster craft to paint and take home. They have several hundred choices including fast food, sports items, animals and ninja turtles. After painting, the kids get refreshments in the party room. Parents can bring their own or arrange to have it furnished. BYOS (Bring Your Own Stuff) is $7 per child; for $ 10 per child, they’ll provide it all. The craft store is located at 7130 Campbell Road at Hillcrest, Suite 204, Call Donna Singer at 713-0086 for reservations.

At the Dallas World Aquarium in downtown Dallas, birthday parties are fishy affairs. Offered from 3 to 6 p.m. every day of the week, the basic birthday package includes entrance to the aquarium where children can view exotic aquatics, then retire to a party room for food. Fish-shaped pizza and French fries is die most popular choice, but other meals are available. The cost is SI 0 per child, which includes a beverage and a party favor. Bring your own cake, or they’ll provide it for an additional charge. The staff handles everything, including clean-up, so add 18 percent gratuity to the total bill. The party lasts 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Call 720-2224 for reservations.

A movable birthday feast is the specialty of the McKirmey Avenue Trolley. For $150, the birthday child gets a three-mile trip on a private trolley car for up to 38 of his closest friends. The original Dallas street car is decorated inside and out with balloons. The car clangs its way past the Dallas Museum of Art to the end of the line, where kids guzzle goodies provided by parents, play Trolley Bingo and open presents. Then the streetcar returns to the trolley barn. For smaller parties, parents can buy a few seats or three or four tables on a Story Trolley. For $6 per person or $20 for a table for four, the revelers play games, listen to a storyteller and eat and drink snacks that are provided. Bring your own cake. The party lasts about 75 minutes. Call 855-0006 for reservations.

At Teatime Treasures, little girls can step back in time. The children dress up in hats, dresses, stoles and jewelry, then sit down to a traditional English nursery tea: chocolate soup, banana-bread-and-jam sandwiches, strawberries, a teapot-shaped sugar cookie and pink lemonade. Then it’s time to hear a story, play games and open presents. The party lasts 1 1/2 hours, For $9.95 per child, the fee includes two favors: a photograph of each child in costume and a long-stemmed candy rose. Call 727-8293. Two locations: 1408 Avenue J in downtown Piano and Willow Creek Village, at Walnut Hill Lane and Central Expressway.

An old-fashioned birthday with plenty of room to run around is Samuell Farm’s specialty. This 340-acre working farm, located at Highway 80 and Belt Line, is owned by the city of Dallas and operated by the Parks and Recreation Department. They have farm animals to pet, antique farm implements to climb, hiking trails, picnic tables, grills and a fishing pond. The basic birthday package is $3 per child and includes invitations, admission to the farm, animal feed for the petting area, balloons, a party favor and a T-shirt for the birthday child. (Adults are free.) Bring your own cake and drinks. For $4 per child, add a hay ride. Call 670-8263 for reservations.

They Come to You

Indiana Jones meets Albert Einstein; mat’s the theory when scientist John Armstrong comes to the party. Armstrong, a former high-school science teacher working on a doctorate in immunology, has three party themes. With “Dinosaurs.” kids age 5 to 8 excavate a portable “paleological dig” and build an erupting volcano. For kids 6 and older, he has two themes. The “Time-bomb/Skeleton” party in which the children attempt to recover a gold skull from a cave and “The Mummy’s Treasure” in which the pint-sized archaeologists decipher a message on broken stone tablets to discover where a treasure is hidden. The parties last about one hour, and each child gets a test tube in which he mixes a few chemicals to create a glowing “night-light” they can take home. The birthday child also gets a Polaroid photo of the guests and the adventure scene. The cost is $75 for the first 10 kids; each additional child is $5. Call 817-540-0684 for reservations.

Hook Smith, the Yo-Yo Pro, visits birthday parties and shows kids the tricks he has been doing for 44 years. Now 54, Smith is a retired police officer. He starts with a demonstration, progressing from easy to knock-your-eyes-out tricks, then spends 40 minutes working one-on-one with budding yo-yo-ers. He brings good yo-yos for the children to work with, which are available for purchase. He’ll go anywhere in Dallas, Denton or Tarrant counties. His fee is $60. Call 828-3884 for reservations.

A teacher with The Kid’s Dance Company will come to your child’s party for an hour to demonstrate toe, tap and modern dance steps and then provide 30 minutes of instruction. Children also listen to an audio tape of a ballerina story arid act out the parts. The birthday girl gets a tutu, ballerina jewelry and the audio tape. Everyone gets a tiara or crown and a picture to color. For up to 15 children, the party fee is $85. Call Cindy Bellat 618-317.

For children in the throes of animal adoration, Sheryl McPeters, “Chairman of the Barn,” has a pony and a portable petting farm to set up on your premises. The children can ride Star, a Welsh quarterhorse-cross large enough for big kids. The petting farm includes a lamb, two pygmy goats, a hen, a duck and a bunny. Either the pony or the petting farm is $75 per party; McPeters will bring both for $125. Call 579-1319 several months in advance, if possible.

Rosalie Perryman, puppeteer and clown, arrives with an 8-foot puppet stage, three hand puppets and seven 30-inch-tall marionettes. Children sit in a circus ring, and the puppets perform close enough to touch. There’s a roller-skating teddy bear, a monkey who sings and plays the guitar like Elvis, a “Hug-a-Bug” marionette the children can touch and hug, and another puppet that sings Happy Birthday. The performance lasts 30 minutes, ideal for the attention span of age 2-6 crowd. Cost: $95-$ 150. Call RLP Puppet Company at 251 -1480.

Storyteller Elizabeth Ellis is a legend in these parts. Known for her spellbinding delivery, she makes appearances at national folk festivals, coffeehouses, schools, bookstores and libraries. Ellis charges $75 for appearances at birthday parties, Check out her style at die North Oak Cliff Branch Public Library at 3 p.m. on May 29. Call 381-4676 for more information.


Here’s our guide to some of the most interesting finds in children’s furniture, clothing, outdoor equipment and, of course, toys.


Child-sized camel-back sofas, a take-apart playhouse, telephone bean bag chairs, wood-carved canopy beds-Interiors International will create any design idea you throw at them. Show them a picture from a magazine or sketch it, and they’ll make it. An elaborate custom-made girl’s dressing table with three layers of ruffles cost S170, and a child’s chaise longue was $230. Choose from 22,000 fabric samples. 8920 John Carpenter Freeway. 638-1977.

KID CATALOG, from page 46

Ann Fox Foley at Room Service takes a sophisticated approach to children’s rooms, with a leaning toward Victorian florals, traditional plaids arid cowboy motifs à la Ralph Lauren. Her emphasis is on designs kids don’t outgrow in a few years. Five hundred fabrics, some custom-designed; unique wallpapers; handpainted furniture by an in-store artist; and a nice selection of duvet covers and hand-painted rugs. 4B54 Lovers Lane. 369-7666.

A sprawling store with name-brand bedding and furniture at reasonable prices. Stork-land Superstore has greatly expanded its stock of infant and children’s apparel. Lots of gifts, accessories and toys, too. With all the floor models of slides, playhouses and forts, kids keep themselves amused while you shop. 800 Preston Forest Shopping Center. 369-6909.


Shopper’s looking for kids clothes nirvana will surely find it. Favored haunts include The Children’s Collection (5600 W. Lovers Lane), with its play area for antsy shoppers, the bargains arid appliqued jumpers at Chocolate Soup (10P20 Preston at Royal), the vast selection at Animal Crackers ( 1900 Preston Road in Piano s Preston Park Village) and the Gap at North Park mall, which stocks everything (including shoes) for newborns to teenagers.

For new clothes at discount prices, try Sir Alec Children’s Outlet. Classic European-sty ling, in crisp fabrics well below retail cost. Eighty percent of the stock is Sir Alec; other labels include Eagle’s Eye, Echo Fields and Wess and Willie. 4288 Spring Valley. 458-8028.

Resale sho:>s are opening all over Dallas. Kid & Kaboodle at 130 Campbell Road in Richardson, I35-2858, has more to choose from than most-gently worn apparel in sizes 0 to 10, as we 1 as baby furniture, bedding and strollers. Wear Bears at 609 Park Forest Shopping Center, 620-0162, and Kids Kloset at 6138 Luther Lane in Preston Center, 369-2243, accept only quality apparel in good condition.

With savings of 30 to 70 percent on Nikes, the 64-mile trip to the Nike Factory Outlet in Hillsboro doesn’t seem so far. Located in the Southwest Outlet Center, the store has thousands of closeout or slightly blemished sports shoes, accessories and apparel for infants to adults. Located on I-35 at exit 368A or B. 817-582-745).

You wouldn’t expect to find a treasure like Sunshine & Rainbows in a hospital. Located on the ground floor of Medical City hospital, this children’s boutique is jammed with beautiful and unique children’s clothes and accessories for in! ants to preteens. It’s pricey, but good quality 777 Forest. 661-4590.

Area dance teachers send their students to bridges Dance Wear, 2303 Ledbetter, Suite 204, in Oak Cliff, 333-3762, or Art Stone at 533 Preston-Royal Shopping Center, 692-5551, for the proper gear at good prices.


When the Visiting Optician pulls into your driveway in an Astro mini van, she or he brings a selection of 400 different frames from 30 manufacturers and dozens of catalogs. You pick out the frames, hand over a prescription from your doctor and your glasses are back within three working days. Pat Stevenson, a licensed optician for 10 years, is certified by the American Board of Optometry and works full time for Larry LeClaire, owner, operator and optician. Prices are hard to beat since LeClaire has low overhead and buys directly from the manufacturer. 242-2621.

Outdoor Playgrounds

Rainbow Play Systems of Texas builds sturdy play environments of solid redwood. Styles include a multi-level clubhouse castle and a village with clean architectural lines that looks attractive in the yard. We liked the vinyl-coated ladder rungs and trapeze rings and the polyethylene scoop slide that stays cool in July. You can design your own system, starting at $1,700. 1694 W. Northwest Highway. 506-9950.


Mike Bolinsky, a former science teacher and industrial chemist, is the mastermind behind Science Projects, a store with everything from real kid-sized microscopes and acid rain kits to dissecting kits and astronomy projects. Bolinsky makes many of the science projects himself and the kits are complete and challenging. 267 Hickerson in Cedar Hill. 291-7563.

Not only can you buy magic tricks at Positively Magic, 8556 Skillman at LBJ, but they’ll show you how to do diem. The Penetration Frame lets kids magically stick a pencil through glass. Another trick turns pennies into dimes. Tricks for all ages and most are under $5.553-8320.

Video game addicts will thrive at Fun-coland. Each store has from L500 to 4,000 new and used video and arcade games for sale, and finds include Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and Neo Geo. They’ll also buy your old videogames. 14 stores in the Metroplex.

At Blackberry Cottage, one could imagine the dozens of dolls perched on shelves from floor-to-ceiling coming alive after dark. Most are top-quality play dolls, from $40 to $200, by Corolle, Gotz and Alice Darling by Madame Alexander; doll clothes are also sold. 5450 W. Lovers Lane. 358-3655.

Through the Keyhole has everything from doll house door hinges and electrical gadgets to complete three-story Victorian doll mansions. Doll houses cost from about $500 to $3,000; unfinished cottage kits from $45. Olla Podrida on Coit Road. 387-2923.

The prices and selection of party favors are staggering at Constructive Playthings/U.S. Toy. Buy 10 or a thousand of anything, like spider rings (13¢ a dozen), plastic beads ($5.25 per gross), novelty rulers, pencils, erasers, key rings, play money. Bag it yourself. Also tons of toys, teacher aids, art and school supplies and party stuff. 1927 E. Belt Line at Josey. 418-1860.

Rootabaga Bookery at 6717 Snider Plaza, 361-8581, remains a top children’s book oasis, but it’s getting competition from The Enchanted Forest, which has a well-edited selection of books, tapes and educational toys housed in a kid-friendly store at 6333 E. Mockingbird at Abrams (827-2234). Borders Books & Music runs its ample kids’ section like a separate store, stocking books to cover a wide range of interests. “We’ve got The Cat in The Hat in Hebrew,” says Rex Rasor of Borders. Check out their kids’ CDs, cassettes. tapes with books and videos, too, While kids listen to story hour on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. parents can enjoy the in-store espresso bar. 10720 Preston at Royal. 363-1977.

Kids push through their own four-foot door to enter the Imaginarium, a new hands-on toy store designed to let them try out the 3,500 neat toys (all non-violent) and books. Play stations are set up so kids can run the Brio trains, draw with markers, browse through books or climb the eight-foot lavender dinosaur. NorthPark mall. 373-8084.

Trade in your child’s old bike for a newer low-priced used one or spring for a top-of-the-line new bike by Schwinn, Raleigh or Cannondale at Bicycle Exchange, The store repairs and sells nothing but bicycles, for 2-year-olds and up. 11716 Ferguson, 270-9269, or 1305 S. Broadway in Carrollton, 242-4209.

Private Collection Rubber Stamp Company has trolls, animals, sports and custom designs, from $2 to $15. Stamp-a-story sets, like The Wizard of Oz, sell for $ 14. Also, ink pads, pens, stickers and embossing inks in lots of colors. Saturday classes in stamp art and calligraphy; ask about stamping birthday parties. 6108 Luther Une. 360-0621.

Bird, single-line, box, shark and serpent kites are among the designs available at Kites Etc. in Valley View Mall, Preston at LBJ Freeway. They go from plastic kites for $2 to ultramodern power kites for S800. 392-1300.

There’s a certain charm in the creaky floors and rustic atmosphere of the 50-year-old Hobby Counter on Lower Greenville. You’ll find one of the best selections of new and classic model airplane, ship, rocket, car and train kits, plus supplies to design your own. Kits start at $9.95. 1909 Greenville Ave. 823-0208.

Kids love dirt, which is one reason gardening is a natural. Nicholson Hardie caught onto this and has set up a special kids’ gardening area, where they stock kid-sized tools, mini watering cans and gloves for ages 3 to 9 ($2.25 to 5.95), books on gardening and nature, and Kidseed. a line of fruit, vegetable and flower seed packets designed for a child’s garden. 5725 W. Lovers Lane, 357-4348, and 5060 W. Lovers Lane, 357-4674.


To save time and money and really find the best for their kids in Dallas. parents turn to these publications:

Dallas Child magazine. Contains the most comprehensive listing of family-oriented events in the city in its monthly calendar. For subscription information, call 960-8474.

The Children’s Pages. From art classes to zoo descriptions, these are the ultimate classified pages for parents. Available for $6.95 plus tax and shipping charges. Call 960-8474 for more information.

A Guide to Dallas Private Schools. This listing of more than 100 private schools was compiled by native Dallasite Lynn Magid, a mother of three children, and is available in most local book stores or by calling 386-0956. Also keep an eye out this summer for her next book, A Guide to Dallas Learning Specialists.

Newsletters. While some organizations require a membership fee to get on their mailing lists, others just ask for a phone call. Here are some numbers to try:

Dallas Puppet Theater, 939-0004

Dallas Children’s Theater. 978-0110

Dallas Theater Center, 526-8210

Cabbages and Kings (children’s theater), 363-7292

The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary, Piano, with membership, (214) 542-5566 or” metro 238-6494

The Dallas Zoo, with membership to the Zoological Society, 670-6825

The Dallas Arboretum, with membership, 327-8263

YMCA brochures. Vital information on soccer leagues, T-ball teams and swimming lessons; drop by the local Y to pick up a schedule.


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