Preschool in the Park? Outdoor and Nature-Themed NYC Classes

Nature provides the perfect classroom for preschool-aged kids. Even New York's little urbanites love to jump in puddles, make mud pies, climb trees, and dig for worms. For parents looking for a classroom that draws its lessons from nature, we've rounded up the city's best preschools, "forest schools," and toddler classes in which kids spend a significant part of each day outdoors or interacting with the natural world. As classes are often held rain or shine, proper outdoor gear is a must, so get some sturdy boots and rain pants and let your kids explore!

For more preschool options, be sure to check out the directory of schools, as well as our New York City Preschool Guide with tips on what to ask during a tour and how to ease the transition for kids (and parents).

Sunnyside Plays: A New Drop-In Play Space for Queens Kids

Western Queens just gained a new indoor play space for kids with the opening of Sunnyside Plays in, of course, Sunnyside. My family was super excited to have a new indoor playground so close to our neighborhood. In fact, we were amazed when we saw our 7-month-old son start crawling there for the first time. We are already making memories.

The spacious location on 48th Avenue, which just opened this month, is close to Sunnyside Library and Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Noonan Playground. Sunnyside Plays, founded by local parents Ed Kim and Vanessa Quinn, is 1,700 square feet of open, rectangular floor space with 16-foot ceilings. LED track lighting and the studio's vibrant colors give it a refreshing artsy loft feel. Kim and Quinn have art backgrounds and use their knowledge to offer events and classes for kids and adults. 

The Best NYC Kid Destinations that Opened in 2015

If NYC had a Facebook page, its Year in Review would go something like this: debuted three new museums, two cat cafes and one seriously jaw-dropping carousel. And that's not all! Dozens of cool kid attractions opened in New York City in 2015 and we've rounded up the 15 best new destinations to add to your family bucket list.

Read on to see how many you've already visited (they're all over the five boroughs, yes, even the Bronx and Staten Island), and then make an early New Year's resolution to check out the rest of these must-dos over holiday break (or, for seasonal spots, in 2016). Don't forget to post pics on Facebook to make your out-of-town friends Grinch-green with envy.

STEM-Inspired Play Space Opens in Queens

A techie-inspired play space that just opened in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens is offering everything from tumble and mommy and me classes for toddlers to coding and fashion design classes for older kids. 

With everything kids love—from padded play areas for infants and preschoolers and robotics and Legos for their older siblings and teens, iPlayTek promises immersive and inspiring fun for all ages, especially at a time when many parents are on the lookout for new ways to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) into activities and outings. 

New Play 'Studio' Opens in Queens for Babies, Toddlers and School Kids

It's no secret that the Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside are loaded with kids and families, and while we're spoiled with fantastic parks and libraries, the popular area is definitely lacking indoor play spaces.

Sure there's Chuck E. Cheese's, but try finding a local drop-in play spot on a rainy or too cold or too hot day, and you're sure to hear other parents complain about the dearth of options—until now. Sabrina's Play Studio opened this summer on busy Queens Boulevard across from the New Calvary Cemetery, and parents immediately, with their toddlers and older kids in tow, began to queue.

Check out our review of this bright, indoor kids' playground in western Queens that offers both weekday and weekend drop-in play sessions.

Queens Dance Classes for Kids: Ballet, Tap, Hip-Hop

Hey Queens parents: Do you have a kid who's pleading for dance lessons but you dread the thought of schlepping to Manhattan or Brooklyn? That was my worry when my preschooler started begging for ballet. But after doing a little research and talking to many of my fellow Queens moms, I was happy to discover that I don't need to leave the borough to find quality dance studios for children. Bonus: Dance classes in Queens tend to be significantly less expensive than their Manhattan and even Brooklyn counterparts, and many offer scholarships or sliding-scale tuition for those who qualify.

Some Queens dance studios are local favorites that have been serving their communities for years, like Landrum in Whitestone and Heavenly Bodies Dance Studio in Ozone Park. Others, like Astoria's Sol Dance Center, are part of the wave of new kid-friendly businesses opening up throughout the borough. And if you have a dance-loving boy, don't worry: Most of these programs offer classes for boys, including ballet and hip-hop.

Here are 12 Queens dance studios offering classes for kids and teens who are serious about ballet, tap, modern and other dance styles. You can find other enriching programs in our Classes Guide and Directory Listings.

Recycle Your Jack-o'-Lanterns at Pumpkin Smash Composting Events in NYC

Halloween inevitably ends with way too much candy, which is why we're big fans of donating or repurposing excess treats. But you know what else we have too much of on the holiday? Decorative pumpkins and gourds. Often they sit and rot on windowsills and stoops until they cave in, at which point parents can finally convince their kids to chuck 'em in the trash. But there's a more fun and environmentally friendly way to get rid of your jack-o'-lanterns: Recycle them at Pumpkin Smash, a series of FREE composting events being held throughout the five boroughs this Saturday, November 1.

6 Family-Friendly Irish Pubs in NYC

While it's true that St. Patrick's Day (make that season) is upon us, my family and I are always on the lookout for great kid-friendly Irish pubs year-round. We love the yummy Irish dishes (soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, just like my mom used to make), the drinks, the vibe and the live Irish music.

Many Irish pubs in New York City have kid-friendly hours in the afternoons or early evenings when families are welcome to drop in and enjoy some authentic cuisine and culture. From my personal experience, we're usually able to avoid the more adult crowds by going to off-the-beaten-path places. That's why my list of favorite NYC Irish pubs for families includes some out-of-the-way ones, like Rocky Sullivan's in Red Hook or the Dog and Duck in Sunnyside. Be sure to check the official websites to see if there are any special events going on around St. Patrick's Day—or anytime.

Sunnyside & Woodside Family-Friendly Restaurants: Awesome International Eats

One of the things I love most about living on the border of Sunnyside and Woodside is that we have an incredible variety of restaurants dishing out cuisine from all over the world. In fact, some of Queens' top family-friendly eateries happen to be in Sunny/Wood.

While we certainly have spots serving standard kid pleasers like pizza and burgers, this area of Queens is well known for its ethnic eats. When rounding up my family's favorite spots, I was impressed anew by all of our choices: Turkish, Thai, Mexican, Filipino, Romanian, New American and a slew of kid-friendly Irish pubs. We finish up our month-long focus on Sunnyside and Woodside with a list of my family's go-to local restaurants. Our area has so many wonderful kid-friendly eateries, it was tough to pare down the post to 13!

Sunnyside Gardens Park & Other Places to Play in Sunnyside & Woodside Queens

While we may not have fancy waterside parks like neighboring Long Island City, there are still some great places to play in Sunnyside and Woodside, both outdoors and in. In addition to playgrounds like Lou Lodati Playground and Windmuller Park, which frequently features live entertainment at its band shell, there's the lovely members-only Sunnyside Gardens Park that locals can join and visitors can explore during a handful of annual public festivals.

We have a handful of drop-in places to play indoors, too, including two local libraries with regular storytimes, a pair of awesome playgroups and, if you're really in a bind, a Chuck E Cheese's. (You may hate it but kids love it!) We continue our month-long focus on Sunnyside and Woodside with a curated roundup of our favorite romping spots in the area.


Subscribe to RSS - Woodside/Sunnyside