50 Free Things To Do with Toddlers This Summer in NYC

Take the ferry (free at certain times) to Governors Island for family activities all summer. Photo by Matt Nighswander
Things to Do in NYC with Preschoolers, Babies and Toddlers: Water Parks, Nature, Art, Concerts This Summer

New York City is chock-full of exciting summer to-dos for its youngest citizens. Sure, visiting the sprinklers at your local playground can be enough to make your toddlers’s day, but when you and your littles are ready for some summer adventure, here are 50 FREE things to do with toddlers this July and August.

We've already put together a list of 100 Free Things To Do in NYC This Summer for kids of all ages, but the suggestions that follow are tailored just for little kids. (Looking for additional inspiration? Check out our Summer Fun GuideEvent Calendar, and Free in NYC Guide.)

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1. Join the FREE weekly family concert series The Rock and Roll Playhouse happening every Wednesday and Saturday in the Courtyard at Industry City in Brooklyn. Kids and parents can jam out to rock classics from David Bowie to Bob Marley.

Dance to the music at Madison Square Park's free Concert for Kids series. Photo courtesy of the event

2. Feel like being outdoors Thursday morning? Madison Square Park Concerts for Kids happens at a kid-friendly 10:30am each Thursday from July 11- August 15.

3. Wax poetic with your tot at Tiny Poets Time, a poetry reading just for toddlers every Thursday at 10am.

Listen to stories and have fun at Le Carousel Story Time at the Bryant Park Carousel. Photo courtesy of the park

4. Little ones will love Cali Co Cat and her carousel pals who bring the fun, games, and stories at Le Carrousel Story Time on Tuesdays at the Bryant Park Carousel.

5. Interact with other tots and make art at El Museo del Barrio’s Coqui Club, a bilingual program for the tiniest of visitors on the first Wednesdays and Saturdays of July, August, and September.

6. Spend the last three Mondays in July at the Bilingual Birdies Spanish Classes, where children learn new Spanish vocabulary words and participate in a singalong—and a bubble dance party!

RELATED: Best Summer Festivals and Fairs for NYC Families in July

Sorting through leaves in the BBG's hands-on Discovery Garden. Photo by Liz Ligon, courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden

7. Dig in the dirt at Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Discovery Garden when admission to the garden is FREE on Fridays from 8am-12pm.

8. Register for FREE swim lessons via the New York City Parks Department’s online lottery. 

9. Take your pick from the family-friendly lineup at Summer in the Square, Thursdays through August 9, where kid faves include Hop Along Andrew and the Story Pirates.

10. Explore the Staten Island Zoo for FREE every Wednesday from 2pm to 4:45pm.

11. Join a Brooklyn Public Library librarian and listen to stories, sing songs, and enjoy the breeze from the water on Wednesdays at Summer Reading Storytime at Brooklyn Bridge Park. 

12. Explore a variety of crops, fruit trees, fragrant herbs, and chickens too on Saturdays and Sundays at the Urban Farm Exploration Days on Randall's Island. All ages welcome. 

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

The Red Hook Pool offers a wading pool for little kids, alongside the Olympic-version. Photo courtesy of NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.

13. Cool off at one of NYC’s best FREE swimming pools for toddlers and kids. Certain pools have separate pools just for little ones.

14. Catch up with CityParks PuppetMobile’s live play The Big Good Wolf, a modern-day fairy tale starring classic characters from The Three Bears.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 sandbox is always a tot hot spot. Photo by DumboNYC/CC BY 2.0

15. Pack the buckets and shovels to hit up one of the city's destination sandboxes.

16. Try one of these 100-plus (mostly) FREE play ideas like a water cup race and shaving cream art projects.

17. Stuck indoors during a summer shower? Check out our roundup of best bookstores in which to spend an afternoon.

18. Visit a family-friendly beach near NYC. Brush up on water safety before you go.

19. Got wheels? Pack up and visit a water park that offers toddler-friendly perks, including FREE admission for kids younger than 2. 

20. Explore Queens’ iconic and expansive Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, with playgrounds, parks, lake, zoos, and museums galore.

21. Stomp, clap, and spin to the beat at Music in the Grove: Kids Concerts in Fort Greene Park on Wednesdays at 10am.

RELATED: 13 NYC Carousels to Ride Right Now

The popular Pier 6 Waterlab in Brooklyn Bridge Park is the perfect size to keep an eye on little ones. Photo by Etienne Brossard courtesy of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

22. Bust out the sunscreen and visit one, or more, of our picks for 23 Best Water Playgrounds and Sprinklers. Also don't miss the super fun and FREE Sprinkler Day at Asphalt Green on August 30. 

23. Get cozy on a provided FREE blanket during Bryant Park’s Friday Picnics.

24. Enjoy loads of FREE waterfront activities during City of Water Day on July 14.

25. Take a break from running about and relax to a story during Hans Christian Andersen Story Telling Hour in Central Park every Saturday.

26. Hit up the much anticipated (read: crowded) new Domino Park and Playground complete with splash pad, awesome playground, elevated walkway, amazing views, and a delish taco stand. (All FREE except food and drink.) 

27. Wave Hill in the Bronx is a great spot to visit this summer, and it's always FREE for kids younger than age 6.

28. Get your little one playing and socializing with other toddlers while you chat with fellow parents at Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park each Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 10am-12pm.

29. Find tons of fun for kids at the outdoor Summer on the Hudson: Play Dates featuring a puppet show and the magic of Sammie and Tudie.

Art, movement, storytelling and hands-on exploration at the Highline's Family Series. Photo courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

30. Frolic along the High Line at 14th Street for the Family Festival Series and start making stuff! The fests are held on June 30, July 28, and August 25.

31. Join a toddler-friendly music performance at the Stomp, Clap & Sing series happening at many branches of the Brooklyn Public Library.

32. Brush up on your sprinkler facts, locate a playground with sprinklers and make a day of it. These are nine of our favorites.

33. Stop by the Environmental Education Center to view the 250-gallon aquarium filled with critters from the East River; perhaps include a visit to the Main Street playground.

34. Check out the FREE Native Sounds Downtown concert featuring the folkloric rhythms of singer-songwriter Irka Mateo. 

RELATED: Free Outdoor Kids Music Concert Series in NYC This Summer

Every year, Lehman College brings Bronx families together with entertainment and activities at Kids Rule Weekend. Photo courtesy of Lehman College.

35. Get wowed by a magic show and take a pony ride at the FREE annual Kids Rule Weekend at Lehman College. 

36. For the parents: Get ahead on preschool research by visiting one of these many NYC preschool options, and read through the admission and selection tips in our Preschool Guide.

37. Toddlers always dance like no one's watching and will love getting their little grooves on at The Bronx Museum's Boogie on the Boulevard

38. Foster a love of reading at a young age with musical stories and sing-along encouragement on the comfy turf lawn at Summer on the Hudson’s Locomotive Lawn Live.

39. Salute the sun with your little yogi at Parent and Me Yoga in Fort Tryon Park.

40. Head to a new-to-you destination playground to enjoy the slides, swings, and more.

The open outdoor space at Free Arts Island beckons families to make art together. Photo courtesy of the Children's Museum of the arts

41. Get crafty with your toddler every weekend through August on Governors Island at this FREE outdoor art-making workshop by the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

42. Because of its glacier-formed moraine Alley Pond Park has numerous unique natural features, like freshwater and saltwater wetlands, tidal flats, meadows, and forests, which create a diverse ecosystem and support abundant bird life—all making it the perfect place to explore with budding nature enthusiasts.

43. Feed the animals at Tisch Children’s Zoo, or explore the rest of Central Park Zoo; children 2 and younger enter for FREE.

44. Explore Manhattan’s very own backyard with a visit to a few of these special spots in Central Park, including a castle.  

45. Snag a snack break and grab a FREE dog from The Hot Dog Bus which will be parked in Brooklyn Bridge Park every weekend through August 26. 

46. Take advantage of the New York Public Library’s extensive and FREE tot-friendly programming, including workshops, entertainment, and storytimes.

47. Retreat to the outdoor Reading Room events in Bryant Park on Saturdays this summer for visits from favorite literary characters, story-telling, music performances, and magic shows.

48. Head to the park or playground to introduce your kid to these 10 fun outdoor games from the 1970s, from Red Rover to Red Light, Green Light.

49. Visit the gentle and toddler-friendly Donald & Barbara Zucker Natural Exploration Area playground in Prospect Park. Bring a bucket and change of clothes: There’s plenty of sand and water to play in.

50. Done with your Ikea shopping? Tack on a visit to Erie Basin Park. This waterfront promenade (with strong and tall guardrails) is a huge hit with ship-, crane- and water-crazy toddlers.

A version of this article was first published in June 2016; it is updated annually.