Curious kids can go to town at the Arizona Museum for Youth, where ArtVille -- "Arizona's newest planned community" -- was founded this spring. Built on a "town philosophy of artistic exploration," the permanent exhibition is among the few spaces in the U.S. aiming to introduce babies and toddlers to fine art. "Art" serves as mayor of the 2,500-square-foot "hotspot for tots," where the median age is 2.5 years -- and where points of civic pride include a kiddy cafe, changing art displays, weekly activities and seasonal celebrations. Kids 5 and younger can take classes at the art studio, catch puppet shows at the performing arts center, explore the cushy Tot Town Square crawl space, and get back to nature at the tempera lake and fishing pier in Art's Park.

Grown-ups, however, have to watch their steps: Adults are required, by law, to be accompanied by a child while inside the town limits.

This little shop -- which also features a design center -- is a treasure trove for the new mom, particularly if someone else is buying. We fell in love with a feather boa-ed pig and a perfect pink ballet costume, and the selection for boys is just as precious. In case anyone is wondering, our personal favorite is the tiny red-and-pink bowling shirt, with Princess embroidered on the chest.

Small Change
If you're still buying brand-new clothes for your kid, you've gotta be a brand-new parent. Early in the game, we learned that it's pointless to dress up little Sophie in that $75 Baby Lulu dress with matching hat and diaper cover. Five minutes later, the dress is drenched -- either from the top of Sophie or the bottom. But we still love Baby Lulu and all the other fabulous baby clothes taunting us from department store racks -- so when we're jonesing for a junior designer fix, we head to Small Change. This used baby/kids' clothing store is strategically located in the heart of Scottsdale, right near all those moms silly (and wealthy) enough to buy retail. For just a few bucks, we can snatch up a nifty, barely worn outfit (the buyers at Small Change are very picky, we learned when we tried to sell them Sophie's soiled castoffs) and have some money left over for the toy and video section. Small Change also has a nice selection of maternity clothing and big-ticket baby items like strollers and cribs.

Teach those babies how to shop early!

BEST WAY TO KEEP THE KIDS HAPPY DURING DINNER

Wikki Stix

Some people have nightmares that they're back in school, naked, about to fail a test. We have nightmares that we're out to dinner with our kids. Let's face it: Fine dining isn't big among the toddler set. And so when we do venture out, we bring along a suitcase-size bag stuffed with art supplies and toys. Usually, that engages our youngster until the menus arrive. The crayons most restaurants offer are under the table by the time the chairs are pushed in. That's why we were delighted when the hostess at P.F. Chang's handed us a package of Wikki Stix on a recent visit. The "twistable, stickable, buildable, playable" sticks -- the brain child of Phoenicians -- look like brightly colored, oversize candle wicks. Turns out, you can twist them into all sorts of shapes, then untwist them and do it again. They're non-toxic, so it was okay when one disappeared.

Next time, we'll ask for two packages. We wanted to play with the Wikki Stix, but the toddler didn't want to share.

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