This Miami Beach Mom is Helping Families Find the FUN—Even Indoors

Jun 3, 2020

Munchkin Fun gives families everything they need to enjoy today.


Journalist Valerie Schimel remembers growing up in Miami and hitting every family event out there. Her mom would scour the local newspaper every single week, highlighting the best events and best activities—it was all right there, jam-packed into the weekly community calendar.


“In 2008 I was living in Miami again, and on maternity leave with my oldest daughter. Suddenly, I was the mom looking for fun things to do—and I realized there was no one go-to for all of those great events and activities,” says Valerie. “There was no community calendar. There was no one website or magazine. So I decided to create it!”


That was the beginning of Munchkin Fun. Valerie worked through her entire maternity leave and beyond, building the site and interactive community calendar. Then, she began spreading the word, soliciting events and activities from all corners of the community. If it was family-friendly, Valerie was happy to include it. She also rounded up her top 10-20 events in a weekly e-newsletter.

That was 2008—now, 12 years later, Valerie’s passion project has grown to become the largest digital parenting publication in Florida. Munchkin Fun now serves Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Orlando.


“Every time I’d go on maternity leave I’d spend time iterating on Munchkin Fun and how we could make it better,” Valerie says. “I had my second daughter two years after the site launched, and my third two years after that. So during those leaves, Munchkin Fun would grow and evolve even more. We launched a book club, holiday guides and summer camp guides during that time. We improved the calendar and updated the newsletter. But all of the changes always came back to our core mission of helping parents spend quality time with their kids.”


Mom-ing in South Florida

Much of Valerie’s inspiration for Munchkin Fun comes from growing up—and, now, raising her kids—in South Florida. A born and bred Floridian, Valerie left Miami for a decade, first heading to school in North Carolina, then living and working in New York City and her husband’s hometown, Chicago.


Fifteen years ago, though, the couple moved back to Miami Beach. “We love it here,” she says. “We’re outside year-round.” Their kids, she adds, are “true Floridians,” swimming, playing tennis and spending tons of time out.


“I also love and appreciate how different the neighborhoods here are,” Valerie says. “Even within Miami-Dade, every suburban neighborhood has its own lifestyle. But no matter where, the lifestyle is really amazing—that’s the biggest difference in a place like New York versus South Florida. Expectations here are high, but there’s a lot more moderation and a lot more balance.”


And beyond that, they love being at the beach. “Seeing the ocean everyday is incredible—we just love living on Miami Beach.”


Shifting focus to support even more moms and dads

While this love for Florida has always been core to Munchkin Fun, the brand continues to grow and evolve under Valerie’s leadership. The latest example: the launch of Munchkin Fun at Home, and their push to go national, supporting even more parents during COVID19.


“There’s so much less to do right now, in every community,” Valerie says. “So we’re out there, trying to help parents find something to do, even if it’s in the house. Our mission is still to help families spend quality time together. That hasn’t changed—in fact, it’s probably more important now, especially as we’re into month three of being inside.”


Each weekday morning, the Munchkin Fun at Home newsletter includes three fun, simple things to do.


“We cover everything,” says Valerie. “STEM projects are really popular now, but so are crafts, cooking and reading.” No matter the theme, she says, the projects are simple with minimal supplies required. “It’s a long day—we don’t want parents spending it looking for crazy supplies or trying to be Martha Stewart. It’s about quality time first.”


Looking ahead, Munchkin Fun and Munchkin Fun at Home will keep up their mission to help families enjoy quality time together—no matter where we spend that time in the coming days, weeks and months. Parents, Valerie hopes, will be able to utilize the brand to savor this time.


“I hope parents can use the Munchkin Fun ideas, activities and projects to have fun, together,” she says. “But I want to remind parents to cut yourself some slack. No one expects you to be the best at anything right now. It’s OK if you order takeout again or your house is messy or if your kids watch TV for an entire day. This will end and we’ll be back up and out. For now, though, just focus on getting through today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Just enjoy now.”



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Photo courtesy of Valerie Schimel

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