Free and Cheap After-School Programs for NYC Kids and Teens

Tis the season for after-school program enrollment. Families looking for reasonably priced enriching and fun programs for their children have tons of sports, arts, academics, and other kinds of classes to choose from. In fact, a handful of high-quality after-school programs are actually free or super inexpensive!

Some places, like the New York City Parks Department, offer after-school coverage Monday through Friday. Other programs like those found at the Children’s Museum of Art (CMA) only meet once or twice a week. We've rounded up organizations that offer complimentary or reasonably priced classes to kids, tweens and teens throughout the five boroughs. Lots of the programs on this list have multiple enrollment periods per year. Check in with Mommy Poppins regularly to stay on top of enrollment options during the fall, winter, and spring.

Birthday Party Spots for Little Girls on Long Island

Does your daughter dream of being a princess or pop star for a day? When planning birthday parties, Long Island parents have a variety of choices to make a little girl's dreams come true. So we've rounded up a list of birthday party venues that offer everything a little girl can imagine. 

We realize that from the cake, to the theme, to the decor, there are lots of decisions to make. Many times, it all begins with finding the right party package for the birthday child. So read on.

8 Fall Foliage Trips with Extra Fun for Families in New England

When it comes to showing off fall colors, New England clearly does it best. And even though you don't have to travel to glimpse some red and gold, there are certain towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut that boast some particularly stunning foliage displays, drawing families for fall day trips or weekend getaways.

Sure, kids might not thrill to the wonders of changing foliage quite the way grown-ups do. But most enjoy trips to pretty destinations, with fun stops to hike, eat, and play along the way. These fall locales combine great fall color with fun family activities. Now all you have to do is convince the kids to put down their devices and appreciate the scenery! For more autumn hotspots around the country, check out the complete Mommy Poppins fall leaves and foliage guide.

DOE Announces New Waitlist Policy for Middle, High School Admissions

Anyone who's raised kids in New York City knows what a hustle it is to get them into a good school, and the process only gets more complicated as they grow.

The city is hoping a significant change to the middle and high school admissions process will make it a little easier. Gone are the Round 2 applications, instead replaced by a waitlist system DOE officials claim will make the process shorter, easier, and more transparent. Read on for the details, and how this may affect your child's middle school and high school application process.

Exploring The Children's Museum of Houston

The Children’s Museum of Houston has been a staple as one of Houston's best kid-friendly attractions since 1980 and boasts a wide array of activities to foster learning in a fun, innovative way. There are 14 different exhibits to visit with lots of things to do inside the museum, and there is something for any child from toddlers up to 12-years-old. It's a good idea to wear comfortable shoes as you will most likely be chasing your kid all over the place!

14 Popular Preschools in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Finding the right preschool fit is almost as daunting as getting your kid into the right college—meaning, people will try to terrify you, but odds are good you'll find a great spot for your little one, even if it isn't your first choice. Close your eyes. Breathe.

Whether you opt for a full day, five-day-a-week program or just a few half days, your child will benefit from spending time with kids and adults who are outside your family circle. Potty training, reading, small motor skills, early math—all of these come in time, but preschool will lay the foundations. The most important factor in choosing a preschool is whether you and your child feel comfortable there. Do the children look happy? Are they engaged in projects or play in the classroom? Are the teachers focused, but also friendly and welcoming? That's what counts.

Also consider whether you'd like to commit your own time, which would make you a perfect candidate for a co-op preschool, or if the time commitment required might be hard for you to fulfill, in which case a traditional or year-round preschool would be best. The difference between a school that embraces Reggio Emilia and one that uses a Montessori method are slight (both embrace open space and child-directed learning), but you may find you prefer teachers who consider themselves "guides" en route to making the child independent (Montessori) - or you may be drawn to Reggio's emphasis on communication and documentation. Home-based preschools may feel "cozier" and more a continuum of what your child has already experienced in your own home.

After that, look for:

  • Communication: How the school interacts with parents, and how parents interact with teachers, is key.
  • Security: Who has access to the school during the day? What is the teacher/child ratio for your child's age group?
  • Structure: What is a typical day at school like? Are there special progams, such as music or science?
  • Discipline policy: Does it align with your own? How is potty training handled (if your child is not quite "there" yet)?
  • What are the facilities like? Is everything sparkling clean? Is there a separate play space? What are the options for outdoor play?

And even though it is strongly recommended that your start your search early (at least a year in advance), remember that spots do open up. Ask about wait lists if you're late to the process or new in town.

We've done a little research on Park Slope preschool options, breaking down some fundamentals for you, below, but remember our Directory is an excellent resource, too! And prep for your interviews with 10 Questions to Ask During a Preschool Tour and our Preschool Admissions Tips.

Happy hunting.

Apple Picking near LA? You Bet There Is!

“Apple picking in LA?” your Northwest/Midwest/East coast friends scoff? Well you can tell them that California is the second largest apple exporter and the fifth largest apple producer in the United States. While it may not feel like fall in the Valley—where it was always 103 degrees yesterday—there are some apple-picking day trips nearby that feel like a seasonal retreat. (And when your bag runneth over, check out these tempting apple recipes...)

25 Things We Can't Wait to Do in Boston with Kids This Fall

Ah, fall … can there be a better season to get out and do things as a family in Boston? Whether you and your kids are partial to hiking, apple picking, corn maze exploring, festival hopping, or celebrating all things spooky and sweet on Halloween, there's something for kids of all ages and stages to enjoy during busy, beautiful, autumn in New England. To herald in the season, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite, must-do activities in September, October, and November, but for even more ideas for getting out their with your family, be sure to check out our Fall Fun Guide.

50 Fun Things to Do This Fall in Connecticut

Taking hikespicking apples, exploring corn mazes, going to a fall festival, finding that perfect pumpkin, and celebrating all things spooky and sweet on Halloween...there's so much fall fun in Connecticut! Here's a list based upon our ever-popular 100 Things to Do with Kids in Connecticut Before They Grow Up, but themed around busy, beautiful autumn. It's filled with great places to visit and fun things to do for families all over the state. For even more ideas to make the most of the season, check our Connecticut Fall Fun Guide.

Pumpkin Patches in the Hartford Area

The farm fields are brimming with bright orange pumpkins just waiting to be picked and painted, carved, or baked into scrumptious desserts. Pumpkin picking is one of the most beloved fall activities and there is no shortage of patches in the greater Hartford area. Head out on a crisp autumn day and find just the right pumpkin to decorate with your child. Don't forget to roast and enjoy the seeds! For even more fall fun, check out our CT Fall Fun and Halloween Guide.

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