Enriching After-school Classes for NYC Kids

NYC kids have it good when it comes to enriching after-school programs. The choices for hands-on learning fun are seemingly endless. Our Classes Guide is packed with posts about sports like basketball and tennis, performing arts such as musical theater and dance, language immersion for Spanish and Chinese, and even offbeat offerings like trapeze and archery. And every year we hear about fresh specialty programs.

Last year our new classes post featured many places that had just opened. This year is a little different as tried-and-true favorites like the 92nd Street Y, the Art Farm in the City and Long Island City Kids add new and notable offerings to their schedules. We've leafed through the catalogs and picked out the most exciting new kids' classes debuting this fall. Be sure to browse our Classes Guide for even more options.

Best NYC Kids' Concerts for Fall 2012: 11 Live Rockin' Music Shows

September is synonymous with back to school but it doesn't have to be all work and no play. This month also marks the beginning of the new fall culture season and we're kicking off our coverage with a roundup of awesome concerts for kids.

If you're a kindie music fan, it's likely some of your favorites are playing New York City over the next few months. Big names include Gustafer Yellowgold and Elizabeth Mitchell, as well as popular local acts like the Deedle Deedle Dees, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, and Suzi Shelton. My four-year-old daughter and I recently became fans of Shelton—we've been to three of her shows in the last three months.

The coolest thing about our kiddie concert roundup? Five of these shows are FREE. So get ready to move and groove at our top 11 family rock concerts in NYC this fall.

Table Tennis in NYC: Where to Play Ping-Pong with Kids

When kids say they want to play something with their parents, they usually mean they want to beat them at something. But when it comes to sports, there are few activities where a parent can honestly be bested by a person half their size and strength without resorting to throwing the game.

The exception: table tennis, better known as Ping-Pong. Forget size and strength; Ping-Pong is all about focus, aim and perseverance—qualities your kids have probably mastered in front of the Wii or Xbox. Here are our favorite kid-friendly New York City Ping-Pong spots where your little ones can whip you fair and square using a tiny paddle and ball.

Free and Cheap Magic Shows for NYC Kids

When you look at the prices of a lot of magic shows in New York City, like Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic or Sam Eaton's The Quantum Eye, you realize that the real trick is affording tickets. But there are some (comparatively) affordable magic shows for kids in NYC, in fact a few are even free.

Whether your child believes in sorcery or just wants to figure out how it's done, a good magic show can captivate even really young kids. Trust me I know: Ever since my preschooler saw a DVD of that old Frosty TV special in which a magician's hat brings the snowman to life, she's been obsessed and we've seen at least a dozen magic shows, from the free ones at Bryant Park's Le Carrousel to the long-running Off Broadway show Amazing Max. So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, behold our roundup of magic shows for kids in New York City this summer.

Where to Eat with Kids Near Madison Square Park Besides Shake Shack

In my pre-parenting days, I worked down the block from Madison Square Park and I remember waiting on line for Shake Shack when it was just a food truck grilling up dogs. Once I became a mom, the park became my go-to destination with my noisy, active toddler, and I recall arriving super early so we could avoid the Shake Shack lunch rush.

Much as my son and I still love the outdoor eatery's burgers and shakes, it's not the only choice for hungry families in the neighborhood. Over the past few years, a whole new crop of casual, kid-friendly restaurants have opened up around park, plus my family and I discovered a golden oldie that predates Shake Shack by, oh, 75 years. So this summer, after you hit the fantastic playground, check out the cool public art and groove to the free kids' concerts, skip the Shack and try one of these other dining destinations near Madison Square Park.

Best NYC Kids' Concerts for Spring 2012: 13 Live Family Music Shows

Last week we told you about 13 wonderful kids' shows playing in NYC this spring. Today we're sharing the best kids' bands rocking out on city stages this season.

My four-year-old daughter and I love seeing live concerts, and some of our favorite family bands are playing over the next few months, like the Deedle Deedle Dees and Alastair Moock. I'm especially excited to introduce my kid to a few groups she hasn't heard yet, like Bing Bang Boom and the Bari Koral Family Rock Band, at the annual Kindiefest concert. Here are 13 NYC kids' concerts to put in your calendar, including FREE shows from Hot Peas N' Butter, Elizabeth Mitchell and The Rockdoves.

Chocolate Show - New York: Sweet Stuff for Families

Yes, we realize your kids will be unwrapping their trick-or-treat loot for weeks to come. But if your family is as serious about sweets as mine, it's worth checking out the 14th annual Chocolate Show - New York, which takes place Thursday, November 10-Sunday, November 13. While the tickets are pricey ($30-$40 for adults), children under 12 get in free and once inside, all tastes and activities are included. The only additional cost is if you want to buy chocolates to take home. (For me, resistance is futile.)

My children and I attended Chocolate Show - NY last year and just loved it. (I mean, it's chocolate. What's not to love?) It's very family-friendly and even includes a Kids Zone, where creative youngsters can draw and paint with chocolate, make chocolate-flavored pasta and decorate cupcakes with—wait for it—chocolate. New this year is the Chocolate Grab game. Just like a scene out of Willy Wonka, kids will grab handfuls of chocolate and the child who finds the specially wrapped piece will win a prize, like tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the upcoming revival of Peter Pan.

Here are other some other sweet things you can do at the 2011 edition of Chocolate Show - New York.

Used Kids' Books in NYC: Where to Buy Second-Hand Children's Lit

As a novelist myself, I’m all for people supporting authors by purchasing brand-new copies of their books. However, as a budget conscious mom who has watched her two small children spill/drool/color all over expensive picture books, I know that sometimes buying used titles makes a lot more sense.

While there are lots of ways to snag second-hand kid-lit online—I see tons of kids' stuff up for grabs on sites like freecycle.org and paperbackswap.com—I really enjoy browsing used books in person. I always end up finding wonderful, weird vintage tomes, and I don't have to wade through all of the branded characters stocked by big box bookstores.

Here are my top shops in New York City to find used children's books.

Eataly Italian Food Market near Madison Square Park, but is it Kid-Friendly?

When I first heard that Eataly, the gigantic new emporium of enticing Italian edibles, would be recreated in the Flatiron District (the first one is in Turin) by uber-chef Mario Batali and a few of his big-name buddies, I figured the prices would be off the charts and the food would probably be too fancy schmancy for the younger set. To hear it described it certainly doesn't sound like a magnet for your munchkins, but think again. Eataly (which sounds like "Italy" as spoken by the heavily accented chef in Disney's Lady & The Tramp) is full of super snacks, sweet and savory, convenient lunch options, and plenty of tempting take home eats to boot.

What's more, because it's just across the street from the ever-popular Madison Square Park, it's a massively welcome kid-friendly alternative to the ridiculously long lines at nearby Shake Shack.  Stroller-friendly and offering heavenly coffee for the grown-up set, you'll be pleased to know about this new addition to the neighborhood. Read on for the full scoop (or two, if you like gelato!).

Toys of Yesteryear, Batteries Not Included

As adults we often have a great deal of nostalgia and affection for our favorite childhood toys and such strong sentiment has long kept the antique and vintage toy market alive.  Luckily for our kids, our ongoing cultural fascination with old toys has also prompted museum curators, famed collectors, and even toy manufacturers to create public venues right here in NYC, where cool antique and vintage toys can be displayed, admired and celebrated.  Nearly hidden in plain sight, all of them are worthy destinations for you and your kiddos. Keep reading to find out more!


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