Downtown

25 Top Things to Do with NYC Preschoolers Before They Turn 5

New York City doesn't lack for awesome family events and institutions, from the many children's museums and zoos and gardens to only-here street and art fests. But as a mom of two children younger than 5, I'm always looking for fun activities that appeal to the city's youngest children. It's such a special window of time, and I want to create lasting memories—within budgetary reason, and manageable enough for kids who sometimes still need a nap and a sippy cup of milk.

So, inspired by our roundup of 100 things to do with kids in NYC before they grow up, we came up with a list of 25 things to do with toddlers and preschoolers around the city before they turn 5 and head to kindergarten. A few of our selections are well-known favorites with specific under-the-radar attractions for preschoolers, while others are more off the beaten path, but all are things we've enjoyed doing or aspire to try soon!

Indoor Play Spots for NYC Toddlers with Weekend Hours

Indoor play spots are an essential resource for NYC families with young children (and limited square feet) as temperatures begin a steady decline into winter. Unfortunately, so many of the city's indoor play spots are limited to weekday hours. That's great for caregivers Monday through Friday, but mom and dad are left out in the cold, scrambling to fill up those chilly fall, rainy spring or snowy winter weekends with their preschoolers in other ways.

Luckily, we've uncovered over two dozen fantastic play spaces that get it, and are keeping weekend, drop-in play hours for kids, no membership required. All include playthings sized just right for the little ones, including for babies in many instances. They are stroller-friendly and equipped with changing stations, making them no-fuss options for the toddler squad.

Teen Spirit: 16 NYC Activities Even a Teen Will Call On Point

It can be tough to be a teen in New York City. They're too old to want the 'rents (that's you, mom or dad) to accompany them everywhere, but many destinations don't allow adolescents without adult supervision. If your high schooler's idea of a night out on the town has been reduced to hanging with friends and watching Netflix, help them mix it up by sharing this roundup of sweet 16 drop-in activities they can do on their own, a few of which were created by NYC teens. Worried that your teen never listens to you? Print this list out and leave it for them to find—perhaps they'll like these ideas better if you don't actually tell them to go out and try them.

Bonus: Many of these options are FREE or inexpensive, so you won't have to raise their allowance.

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

We'll just say it: Raising a kid is expensive. Weekend classes, summer camp, after-school care, and dance and music lessons can add up. A 2018 study by Sun Trust Bank found that a majority of parents spend at least $1,000 a year per child on extracurricular activities. And let’s face it New Yorkers, we’re most likely paying much more than that.

That’s why we’ve rounded up more than a dozen FREE classes that run year-round in NYC to lighten the financial load. All the classes listed here are free within free-to-access stores and public places, but there are also plenty of free and low-cost activities inside of NYC museums and gardens that have monthly memberships. Don't forget that your IDNYC card will give you free or discounted access to many cultural institutions.

Check out our Free in NYC Guide for more budget-friendly family fun.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day with Kids at These NYC Events

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is peaceful for New York City kids, but it sure isn't boring, with music and storytelling and volunteer activities all focused on celebrating Dr. King's life and teachings with kids. Enjoy interactive peace marches, a special story hour, a FREE bash at BAM in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and various museum events.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 21, 2019) is also a National Day of Service, when citizens are encouraged to help out in their communities. So we've included a list of family volunteering opportunities that are wonderful ways to honor King's work. You can find even more things to do on MLK Day in our Event Calendar.

Manhattan's Best Drop-in Play Spaces and Kids' Gyms

Finding a non-membership, drop-in play spot for your toddler or preschooler in your neighborhood is like gold to New York City parents—almost as good as scoring a deal on rent. Because when it gets too cold for the city's many playgrounds, and another playdate at home seems dull (or, let's be honest, stressful), taking your kid to a cool indoor kiddie gym or other play space, where everything seems new and someone else will do the cleaning up, is a relief to the whole family.

While the outer boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn dominate the indoor play space market, Manhattan has plenty of creative kid spaces. Some of these dozen awesome spots profiled below allow families to drop in, while others ask that you make reservations, but none require any kind of long-term financial commitment.

For even more wallet-friendly play spaces citywide, see our roundup of budget-friendly play spots. And if you've got a child under the age of 5 to entertain, you might also check out our roundup of a dozen indoor play spaces perfect for the pint-sized set.

10 Most Exciting Kid-Friendly Openings Coming to NYC in 2019

If there's one constant in New York City, it's change. The dawning of a new year has us looking at our calendars and into our crystal balls, anticipating all the fun that's still to come for NYC kids. We opened 2019 with some welcome family-friendly news, but that's not the biggest change in store for city families this year. Read on for 10 new places to play, museums to explore, shows to catch, and goodies to eat. If that's not enough kid-friendly fun for you, make sure you've visited our favorite spots that opened last year, too!

Winter Gardens: Where to Get Out of the Cold at NYC's Indoor Plazas

If you feel like you've already exhausted your favorite NYC museum or indoor play space, why not try a nearby public atrium or garden? New York City is full of semi-secret indoor public spaces, as well as not-so-secret gardens perfect for staving off cabin fever this winter with an antsy child.

Finding an indoor, tropical hideaway right in your neighborhood can be a real winter lifesaver. My son was a winter baby, and when he was a newborn, it was freezing everywhere. We found our own indoor oasis just a few blocks from our Midtown apartment, in the lush, green garden that occupies the atrium of the Ford Foundation building. There are a number of similar indoor public spaces dotted around the commercial areas of Manhattan thanks to a zoning initiative in which the city granted buildings the rights to additional air space (i.e., taller buildings) in exchange for indoor and outdoor public areas. 

Bonus: Public atriums are FREE to wander into, and many offer seating, snacks, Wi-Fi, and public art. Some gardens are so steamy and warm you'll feel as if you booked a tropical getaway. (This is why we love New York, right?) Here are 12 of our favorite kid-friendly indoor urban oases for NYC families. 

NYC Winter Fun List: 50 Things to Do Indoors with Kids

Cooped up in a tiny apartment with your kids hanging off the furniture (and you) is no way to spend the winter. We know it can be hard to put on all that winter gear, head out into the cold, and hit up one of the million daily kid events happening in NYC, but we're here to help. 

To inspire you, we've compiled a list of 50 awesome drop-in spots in the five boroughs, where kids can run, jump, bounce, learn, create, and get cultured. Some are even FREE.

Still not willing to open that door? Try one of these indoor craft projects at home as a family to keep those little hands busy, or one of our 40 Indoor Snow Day Boredom Busters.

Of course, you can always find more winter fun ideas in our Indoor Family Fun Guide, or even sign up for a new class.

Awesome Classes to Try Now for NYC Tots to Teens

Produce an indie film, create a graphic novel, perfect your backhand, or code your own video game. NYC offers amazing options when it comes to kids classes. Even babies and preschoolers can take terrific art, music and swimming classes. Our New York City Classes Guide and Directory list so many options, the hardest part might be finding time to try them all. To get you started, we're sharing a few of our favorite partners to consider signing up for now. 

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