Best Car-seat Saviors
We've found another reason to thank many of your local fire fighters and police officers: They'll put your child car seat in for you for free, eliminating what must be the No. 2 reason new parents go crazy (sleep deprivation wins). What's more, they'll help even if you're not a resident. Of the many suburbs we called, only Lakewood and Cleveland Heights said they never install car seats. The two best we found were Westlake and Solon.
Westlake. Call first, but there's almost always someone on duty to help. An especially kind officer who assisted us was rained on for 45 minutes while he struggled to get the seat as secure as possible â€” proof to us that we couldn't have installed it nearly as well ourselves. (440) 871-3311
Solon. The city has 12 trained technicians, spread out over all three of their fire stations, who install seats by appointment only. They not only check the installation of the car seat, but also have a four-page list of all recalled child-safety seats. If they discover your infant or child seat or booster seat isn't safe, they'll sell you a new one on the spot for $35 to $50 â€” much less than retail prices. For an appointment, call (440) 349-6333. For more information on the program, call Carla Cavanagh, Solon's public-safety educator, at (440) 337-1483.
Best Kid's Clothes
Yes, the Gap and Old Navy have super-cute duds, but if you want your little one to look as unique as he or she surely is, you've got to go nonchain â€” and be willing to pay.
Francesca DiBiase and Vittoria Colantuono opened Baci (440-893-2224) in Chagrin Falls after Colantuono couldn't find what she wanted for daughter Silvana (now 2 1/2 and joined by baby sister Olivia). The store carries 17 lines that Colantuono describes as "forward-thinking with a classic spin." One example: a Lili Gaufrette chocolate-brown skirt with layers of cotton mesh ($99) and a matching top with ribbon detailing (also $99). "I like it because it's a different color and it has a very classic look to it," DiBiase notes.
Don't even spend that much on your own clothes? Two fresh chains recently made their way to town: In August, Legacy Village opened a Janie and Jack (216-691-0323) infants' and toddlers' clothing store and, this month, Abercrombie Kids (1-866-777-1892) will be among a handful of kids' clothing stores at Crocker Park in Westlake.
Best Bears â€” and Puppies, Kittens and Bunnies
Bears By The Falls is a new addition to Main Street in charming Chagrin Falls. Kids choose from about 35 different animals (all $18.95) to stuff on their own. There are also dozens of outfits to dress the animal â€” even some that come in big sizes, so your child can match his or her new friend. 100 N. Main St., (440) 247-6500
Do you enjoy going to Chuck E. Cheese with your kids?
God bless the 18 percent of respondents who go "happily, it's so much fun." But the majority, 46 percent, goes begrudgingly because the kids love it. A full 36 percent simply will not go. Fortunately, fun for the kids and for you can be had at Jimmy's Blue Heron in Strongsville, where a supervised kids' area opening this fall allows parents to enjoy after-dinner dessert and coffee while the little ones do crafts, play games and watch Disney movies. 12492 Prospect Road, Strongsville, (440) 238-4677