Low Cost and Free Classes in Los Angeles for Kids After School

Kids can do homework, hear stories, do arts & crafts, and more at free after-school programs in LA.
Kids can do homework, hear stories, do arts & crafts, and more at free after-school programs in LA.

The school calendar feels like it starts earlier every year! By the time Labor Day has passed everyone in the Southland is fully in back-to-school season, with families looking for enriching and fun programs for kids to take part in after school. Options for kids' sports activities, arts programs, and other activity classes for kids in LA are numerous and varied—lucky us!—but many are tough to manage on a budget. The good news is there are also several free classes for kids in Los Angeles, as well as inexpensive programs, all of which engage students’ minds and bodies in the hours after school lets out.

Check our guide to the Best Kids Classes and Activities in Los Angeles for more kids' activities and programs for everyone from tots to teens.

Did you know you can now book classes and more activities directly from the Mommy Poppins calendar? Find events with the "book it" button or filter for classes for simple registration in just a few clicks. Here are some of our picks for virtual and local LA classes available now!

On-Campus After-School Mostly (Free) Classes & Programs

After a year or more at home, LA-area schools have opened the doors for in-person learning 5 days a week. And with the return of schools comes the return of the after-school program. Most Los Angeles elementary and middle schools host a program that offers free or low-cost enrichment classes on campus, and most of these programs are excited to resume service at schools this year. However, please check with the programs at your school, as some hours and offerings may be modified this fall.

Programs like STAR, CREST, THINK Together, LA’s Best, Beyond the Bell, Prime Time, LACER, Jaxx Theatricals, and JMG Sportswise all offer a selection of age-appropriate classes that don’t require leaving school grounds and these programs are able to recruit super talented local professionals to share their skills. Most programs are free or offer scholarships and financial aid; we recommend getting aid applications in early so that waiting for approval doesn’t interfere with securing a place in the class your child wants. Check with your school to see what is offered and how to enroll your child.

Police Activities League After-School Programs in LA

A great source of totally free programming is the Police Activities League, which has been providing educational, athletic, and other recreational activities to local youth for decades. LAPD’s PAL website provides contact numbers for local organizers, plus many of LA’s incorporated communities have local police forces with their own PAL programs that may be easier to navigate. Santa Monica PAL, for example, offers free drop-in activities at the PAL Youth Center daily after school, and Pasadena PAL has a dedicated facility with free after-school activities.

Boys and Girls Clubs

The folks at the Boys and Girls Club have been doing this since long before anyone ever hyphenated the words “after” “school” and “enrichment.” For a small annual membership fee, usually around $20, kids can take part in the club’s sports, arts, homework help, and computer lab—and even eat a free snack while they’re doing it. Many local clubs offer daily transport from the public school to the club for an extra annual fee (prices vary by location). If you want school pick-up, apply early, as space is limited. The national website has a page for finding the nearest club by zip code.

YMCA After-School Programs in Los Angeles

Another national organization with a long history of kids’ programming is the YMCA – and as we all know, it’s fun to stay at the YMCA! The nearly 10,000 local kids’ programs across the country vary some, but not by much. A number of branches in the greater LA area welcome kids after school for homework help and enrichment classes such as science, creative writing, cartooning, and computer lessons. Prices vary by location, and some scholarships are available.

Your City's Parks and Rec Department's After-School Programs

Local parks are often a resource worth checking for free and super-cheap programs.  LA Parks and Rec, for example, has many recreation centers that offer free after-school care. Torrance Parks and Rec offers residents a daily after-school program (with scholarships available), on-campus at most of its elementary and middle schools. Santa Monica offers free daily homework help and other free after-school adventures at Virginia Park. LA County Parks & Recreation also has after-school programs at several parks.

City and County Libraries' Free Classes & After-School Programs

Libraries offer a whole lot more than just books, and with multiple branches of the LA County Library and LA City Library, as well as public library systems in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Torrance, Redondo Beach, and Long Beach, there’s always one close by. While you’re not likely to find daily child care, you can expect to find free book clubs, homework help, chess clubs, and knitting classes, as well as opportunities to play Wii, build with Legos, and create craft projects on a weekly basis. Programs are offered on a more limited basis for the 2021-22 school year, but check often, as libraries hope to add more activities as soon as it is safe to do so.

Low Cost and Free Classes in Los Angeles for Kids After School: 826LA

Photo courtesy of 826LA

826LA's After-School Programs

826LA is a neat program that only enrolls students who qualify for federal free or reduced-priced lunch. They offer, among other things, free after-school tutoring four days a week during the school year. Neighborhood students in Echo Park and in Mar Vista can come in for free one-on-one tutoring in all subject areas. Daily writing prompts are posted for students when they complete their homework and reading.

Update for 2021: Due to COVID-19, the centers are currently closed, and the program is not enrolling new students into the tutoring program. The Workshops program, however, is open for sign-ups.

KYDS' After-School Programs

The fabulous acronym KYDS stands for Keep Youth Doing Something. The organization provides a free school-based after-school program offering arts and crafts, sports, drama, and homework help at 15 different elementary, middle, and high schools around LA. Check with your school to see if the program is currently active at that campus (or find out if you can get your PTO involved in bringing this program to your school!).

After-School All-Stars Los Angeles

After-School All-Stars Los Angeles is the local branch of a national program that serves more than 14,000 kids in the LA area and Lucerne Valley, offering a broad enrichment curriculum and homework help. If your school is participating, ask for enrollment information in your school office.

Inside Out Community Arts

This arts program offers a free weekly after-school theater program for young people at several school sites in the greater LA area.

Updated from a piece originally published September 14, 2011

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