Kids’ Almanac: Parenting in the “Poughkeepsie Triangle”

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been

the two most beautiful words in the English language.

– Henry James


Sometimes I just want to keep things easy. I want to go somewhere that’s straightforward to get to; an activity that is free or inexpensive; something I can do on the spur of the moment without much preparation or planning, rain or shine, maybe even climate-controlled – basically, an afternoon that we all love. I present to you some Kids’ Almanac inside info, what I call my Poughkeepsie Triangle: three off-the-cuff activities, all located at the South Hills Mall, that are open every day. Each of these activities can be done independently; but together, they make for a special and low-key afternoon.

We usually begin the afternoon with a family flick at Silver Cinemas South Hills 8. My husband and I have been going to this theatre for years, because it is never crowded and so inexpensive. They show a variety of second-run films, and the admission prices are so family-friendly: $3 per ticket for any show, and only $2 on Tuesdays. I feel smug every time I get change back when I buy my tickets.

They sell traditional fare at the concession stand, and they have a small arcade area where our children play the crane game, proving once again that you can put a price on happiness: 50 cents, to be exact. Silver Cinemas South Hills are located off of Route 9, at the rear of the South Hills Mall at 1895 South Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information or showtimes, call (845) 297-5993 or visit

After our movie, we drive around to the other side of the mall to visit Pet Goods, a pet supply store that also sells small animals, reptiles, fish and birds. We pick up any pet supplies that we need, and then head to the back of the store to see the critters. Our daughter’s favorites are the baby mice staggering around their Mamas. She loves watching their little heads pop up through the cage litter. Our son likes viewing the nearby snakes and lizards, often regaling us with epic imaginary reptilian adventures centered around eating baby mice.

Pet Goods is located in the front of the South Hills Mall, next to Hobby Lobby and K-mart. For more information, call (845) 297-3600 or visit

Our final activity is a trip over to ShopRite, at the other end of the mall. Recently, I discovered a nugget of parenting gold: Scrunchy’s Playhouse. Scrunchy the Bear is ShopRite’s mascot, and Scrunchy’s Playhouse is your free ticket to grocery-shopping bliss. The kids get 90 minutes of playtime and crafting, while you get 90 minutes to read labels, compare prices and make shopping decisions without additional “input.” While you hum along to the easy-listening music, you can chuckle to yourself about how very clever you were to find free childcare while you shop. If you time it right – and you know that you can, because you are shopping by yourself – you can even check out and load up your car, because the store’s loudspeaker is also audible outdoors.

I had no idea that this even existed until recently, even though it has been there since the store opened. This is the only grocery store that I know of in our area offering a service like this. The first time that I discovered it, I spent the first several minutes pressing the staff for the “catch,” but didn’t find one, and there really isn’t much fine print either. The first time that you drop your child off, you complete a basic application for information and provide photo identification. Then you and your child are given matching bracelets, which you must present at pickup for them to release your child. Personal items, toys, food and drink are not permitted. The kids also have to want to be there: Unhappy or unruly children will need to be picked up. No problem there; our daughter actually requests that I go grocery shopping now.

Scrunchy’s Playhouse is for children between the ages of 3 and 8 years. Space is limited, and they do not take reservations, so you can’t predict availability. The hours for Scrunchy’s Playhouse are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (845) 298-0024 or visit



Erica Chase-Salerno dedicates this week’s column to her husband Mike, her Exact Person: Here’s to another year of love, laughter and flying to the Moon. She can be reached at



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