Free and Cheap After-School Programs in NYC for Kids and Teens

The Children's Aid Society provides free and low-cost after-school classes to kids in New York City.
The Children's Aid Society provides free and low-cost after-school classes to kids in New York City.

After a summer of expensive camps, we could all use a great list of free and cheap after-school programs in NYC for kids!
The school year is barreling toward us and that means it's (past) time to start thinking about after-school programs, too. Families looking for reasonably priced, enriching, and even free after-school programs in New York City for kids have tons of sports, arts, academics, and other classes from which to choose. With offerings in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem, and more, you're bound to find a great inexpensive or free program for your kids, no matter their ages, interests, or where you live.

We've rounded up 12 local organizations offering free or cheap after-school programs for kids, tweens, and teens throughout the five boroughs. If you're looking for more options, be sure to see our New York City Classes for Kids Guide.

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Free and Cheap After-School Programs in NYC for Kids of All Ages

1. The Children's Aid Society – Locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island

This nonprofit offers after-school programs at centers and public schools throughout the city, primarily in Staten Island, Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx. Monday through Friday, participants do art projects, play sports, use technology, and also learn leadership values. Tuition varies by location. Some locations are 100% free; others charge reasonable rates, and financial aid is available. Space is limited.

2. NYPL After School – Locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island

Middle and high school students can hit select NYPL Locations after school on Mondays through Thursdays to receive free homework help from tutors, work with teen reading ambassadors, and enjoy extra enrichment in everything from STEAM topics to writing. Snacks are available, too. Visit the website to find a location near you.

3. HEAF – Harlem

This program provides a host of after-school enrichment opportunities for middle and high school students, including test-prep help, aid with high school and college admissions, and more. Candidates must maintain a 70 average and have recommendations from teachers and school counselors to be considered.

RELATED: End of Summer Camps and Classes Available to Book Now

Free and cheap after school in NYC AMNH classes
The American Museum of Natural History offers after-school classes and enrichment opportunities for middle and high schoolers. Photo courtesy of AMNH

4. American Museum of Natural History – Upper West Side

Each school year, AMNH hosts a wide variety of after-school classes for middle school students. Registration is currently open for a range of science enrichment classes for middle schoolers around topics like astrophysics, anthropology, and biology. Financial aid and scholarships are available.

5. Hit the Books – Harlem

The Harlem-based youth program offers a full-service after-school program, including MMA lessons, tutoring, mentorship, and meals. Founded in 2019, HTB offers additional educational resources to underserved communities through a sports-based development approach. Kids can engage in a variety of stimulating ventures daily, including outdoor activities.

6. The Boys' Club of New York – Harlem, Flushing & Lower East Side

For just a $5 annual fee, members can hang out in one of the three clubhouses and get homework assistance, snacks, learn to swim, take music and art lessons, play sports, and more. Attendance is expected three days per week. Register in person at a specific clubhouse depending on your son's age.

7. Good Shepherd Services – Brooklyn and the Bronx

This nonprofit provides free after-school programs at community centers and public schools. Contact the location nearest you for more information, including registration deadlines and how to apply.

8. Lower East Side Girls Club – Lower East Side

Housed in a state-of-the-art, 35,000-square-foot facility in the heart of Alphabet City, the Lower East Side Girls Club caters to middle and high school girls who live or attend school in the area. Membership and programs are free, but family involvement is a must. On-site amenities include a maker shop, biology lab, sound studio, rooftop garden, culinary kitchen, and more. Girls participate in various programs meant to "end the cycle of poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leaders."

RELATED: Best Coding Classes and Camps for Kids in NYC

Free and cheap afterschool in NYC Whitney Open Studio
Teens can drop in at the Whitney on Friday afternoons for Open Studio. Photo by Spencer Yeh for the museum

9. Whitney's Open Studio for Teens – Chelsea

The Whitney offers open studio time for teens each Friday afternoon. Teens can bring their works-in-progress or create something entirely new inspired by current Whitney exhibitions. Teaching artists drop in on occasion, too, and this is a great pathway to the museum's other teen programs, including a cost-free summer camp and paid internships.

10. Dorot Intergenerational Chess – Upper West Side

While not a full-time program, this chess program pairs young masters-in-training with seniors for an afternoon of gameplay. Actual chess masters are on hand to demonstrate moves, and refreshments are served. The program's application requires a phone interview. Details for the upcoming school year are available online.

11. New York Junior Tennis League – Citywide

The NYJTL offers no-cost tennis lessons throughout the year in all five boroughs. Children may join at any location at any time during the season. Registration information will be online soon.

12. Police Athletic League – Locations Citywide

PAL offers after-school programs Monday through Friday from 3-6pm for students in first through eighth grades. Activities include sports, arts, and academics. Tuition varies by location. Contact the center of your choice for more detailed information.

Originally published in August 2011. Photos courtesy of the respective organizations

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