Where to Find Free Classes for Kids in NYC at Stores and Public Spaces

Free hands-on classes and storytimes are offered at the National Museum of the American Indian. Photo courtesy of NMAI
Free hands-on classes and storytimes are offered at the National Museum of the American Indian. Photo courtesy of NMAI

We'll just say it: Raising a kid is expensive. Weekend classes, summer camp, after-school care, sports, dance, and music lessons can add up. And let’s face it, as New Yorkers, we’re most likely paying much more than the average parent. That’s why we’ve rounded up a collection of FREE classes in NYC. These enriching activities lighten the financial load and all occur within free-to-access stores and public places, but there are also plenty of free and low-cost activities inside NYC museums and gardens, which make membership costs worth the splurge.

Read on for our picks for the best FREE classes in NYC and find more enrichment opportunities in our Guide to Classes and Activities for NYC Kids.

To get more free fun at home and in NYC delivered to your inbox sign up for our newsletters and discover all the free events and activities near you in our New York City Free Things To Do with Kids Guide.

There's plenty of hands-on fun to be had that the Lego Store.
Join a workshop at the Lego store. Photo courtesy of Lego

NYC Stores and Museums Offering Free Classes

Lego Store – Multiple Locations

This builder’s dream destination offers occasional free workshops for children ages 6-14 at three locations within the five boroughs (Flatiron, Rockefeller Center, and the Staten Island Mall). Demonstrations and events vary, but it pays to be a VIP. This free fan club gives you early access to coveted sets, plus special event invites.

Michael's – Multiple Locations

An arts and crafts chain with NYC locations in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan, Michael's offers frequent free Makebreak classes for kids (and adults), as well as Take & Make options, where you can pick up supplies for an arts and crafts projects to do at home. With guidance and demos by experienced crafters, kids work either on their own or with family members on painting, crochet, knitting, and papercrafts. In addition to in-store events, Michael's also offers a variety of online crafting courses for kids of all ages.

National Museum of the American Indian – Battery Park

This free-entry museum is a pleasure to visit any day, but for some extra fun, check the calendar for family events. Currently, most programming is running online only.

City Resources Providing Free Classes for Kids in NYC

New York City Parks Department Sports – Multiple Locations

The NYC Parks Department offers free sports, including basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, and much more year-round citywide. Check out its website for registration dates and details. The summer is also a great time to enjoy free sports lessons across the city.

New York City Parks Department After-School Care – Multiple Locations

Each August, parents scramble to sign up for the Parks' FREE after-school programs that are run at seven recreation centers spread throughout the five boroughs. Staff provides academic enrichment, supervised use of computer labs and healthy snacks, while also leading students in team-building activities, sports, arts, and cultural programs.

New York Public Library – Multiple Locations

Libraries all over NYC are a great resource for free recurring classes, story times, and more, but a visit to the famous Schwarzman Building makes for a great day trip as well. Pose with the Library Lions, visit the Polonsky Exhibition, and head across the street to explore the neighboring Stavros Niarchos Foundation Branch, with its spectacular children's and teen centers—and accompanying programming—plus a rooftop reading deck.

RELATED: Free Times to Visit NYC Museums, Gardens, and Zoos

Skate for free at Bryant Park
Bryant Park offers plenty of FREE fun, including on its skating rink. Photo courtesy of Bryant Park

NYC Parks That Host Free Kids' Classes

Bryant Park – Midtown

With ice skating in the winter and free movies and more activities in the summer, Bryant Park is a city favorite. Bookmark the 2022 calendar to see what's on tap.

Central Park – Central Park

Already a wonder to stroll through and play in, Central Park offers a plethora of FREE activities and classes for kids. The park provides discovery walks and plenty of space for recreation including baseball, soccer, softball, basketball, and handball, plus catch-and-release fishing with poles and bait provided gratis, and so much more. There are also programs for checkers, dominoes, backgammon, and, of course, chess. Find a full listing of Central Park happenings here.

Socrates Sculpture Park – Long Island City, Queens

Nestled on the shore of the East River, with an amazing view of Manhattan, sits the serene, free Socrates Sculpture Park, with programming as inventive as the art installations that call it home. Peruse its upcoming programs here.

You'll also find FREE year-round, family programming at most NYC parks, including Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and even The High Line.

A version of this story was published in 2018; it is updated annually.

Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides