25 Things To Do With Preschoolers in NYC Before They Turn 5

Introduce your preschooler to art in a laid back way at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, which is stunning in any season. Photo by Jody Mercier
Introduce your preschooler to art in a laid back way at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, which is stunning in any season. Photo by Jody Mercier

If you've got a little one at home, we've found the best things to do with preschoolers in NYC. Read on for our top picks for little-kid fun.

New York City doesn't lack awesome family events and institutions, but as a mom of two children under the age of 5, I'm always on the hunt for new ideas. These early years are fleeting, and I want to create lasting memories—within budgetary reason—manageable enough for little kids who sometimes still need a nap and a sippy cup.

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

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Things To Do With Preschoolers in NYC at Cultural Institutions and Play Zones

1. Children's Museum of Manhattan

Little imaginations love exploring all four floors of the Children's Museum of Manhattan. Don't miss the backyard with its expanded Dynamic H20 exhibit. Timed-entry tickets must be booked online in advance.

2. Visit a Play Space

When the weather is too unpredictable for a playground, one of our favorite things to do with preschoolers in NYC is hit these indoor romping spots in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and citywide

3. Brooklyn Children's Museum

Explore all kinds of creative stations at the Brooklyn Children's Museum with its Totally Tots play zone, geared to those under age 5.

RELATED: Popular Upper West Side Preschools (and How to Know Which One Is Best for You)

A visit to the American Museum of Natural History is one of our favorite things to do with preschoolers in NYC
Roar with the dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by Jody Mercier

4. American Museum of Natural History

See the full-scale dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History or visit one of its rotating exhibitions.

5. New-York Historical Society

Sneak in a history lesson and have fun at the same time at the DiMenna Children's History Museum at the New-York Historical Society.

6. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling

The hands-on Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling was practically made for preschoolers, and invites families to hear stories and create art, meet working artists, explore art-making studios, and view permanent and rotating art exhibits.

7. Visit the Train Show

A visit to the NYBG train show a rite of passage for preschoolers in NYC and will not disappoint. Buildings are added annually, so there's always something new to explore.

RELATED: 15 Popular Preschool Summer Camps in NYC

Little girls ride on the SeaGlass Carousel a fun outing and one of our top things to do with preschoolers in NYC
The SeaGlass Carousel makes a stunning destination in any season. Nighttime visits are magnificent, too. Photo by Jody Mercier

Outdoor Fun Things To Do With Preschoolers in NYC

8. Ride a Carousel

It's easy to find a preschooler-friendly place to take a spin on one of these local carousels. Choices abound: Ride the fast-paced Central Park or Prospect Park carousels or try out the more mellow merry-go-round like Chelsea's Pier 62 Carousel, Brooklyn Bridge Park's Jane's Carousel, or the mesmerizing SeaGlass Carousel. All boast fantastic waterfront views.

9. Governors Island

Romp on the playgrounds at Governors Island, swish down the epic slides on The Hills, or swing in a hammock. The island is now open year-round.

RELATED: 21 Signs You Have an NYC Toddler

There's always fun things to do with preschoolers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
It's easy to spot fun things to do with preschoolers in NYC at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by the author

10. Explore a Botanical Garden

Sniff the cherry blossoms, daffodils, and all the flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Queens Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, or Wave Hill in the Bronx.

11. Fantasy Forest

All aboard the rides at Fantasy Forest in Queens for an amusement park experience that's a perfect addition to our list of things to do with preschoolers in NYC.

RELATED: Five City Destinations for Mini Day Trips With Preschoolers

The Pier 6 Water Lab in Brooklyn Bridge Park draws plenty of preschoolers into its spray
The Pier 6 Water Lab is worth repeat visits long beyond preschool graduation. Photo by Jody Mercier

12. Hit the Splash Pad

A visit to a sprinkler park is a rite of passage and one of our top things to do with preschoolers in NYC. Here's our list of the city's top splash pads guaranteed to induce giggles for years to come. The water is usually turned on in early June.

13. Go For a Spin

Rent bikes (with a bike seat) to pedal through Central Park or along the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront. Be sure to stop for ice cream.

14. Little Island

We just love Little Island, where preschoolers can explore the floating park and attend one of its many (mostly FREE!) events.

RELATED: 30 Top Things To Do in Queens With Preschoolers

Set sail on Central Park's Conservatory Water for one of our top things to do with preschoolers in NYC
Float a toy sailboat across the Conservatory Water in Central Park. Photo by Mark Peters via Flickr

15. Sail in Central Park

Too young to row their own boats? Sail a toy one across the Conservatory Water in Central Park.

16. Plan a Day Trip

Take a preschool-appropriate (in both sights and length) day trip. You can hit uptown, downtown, parts of Brooklyn, and more.

17. Socrates Sculpture Park

The FREE Socrates Sculpture Park is open year-round and affords visitors amazing waterfront views, public art, and super cool events making it a must-visit with preschoolers.

RELATED: Our Favorite Toddler Playgrounds in Brooklyn

A day trip to Coney Island offers plenty of things to do with preschoolers in NYC
Hit the rides in Coney Island, which has plenty of mild thrills for little ones. Photo by Matt Nighswander

18. Check out the Kiddie Rides

Bring the little ones to Deno's Wonder Wheel amusement park in Coney Island, which has 16 kiddie rides to choose from, including ride-on fire engines, water boats, and a sweet carousel.

19. The High Line

Chelsea's High Line offers tons of things to do with preschoolers in NYC, including fun railway trails, beams to climb on, a sundeck, a water feature, and lots of kid-friendly programming.

20. Go Camping

Score a spot through the Urban Park Rangers camping lottery (held every summer) to get the chance to create some family memories while camping for a night in one of NYC's parks.

RELATED: NYC Preschool Directory and Listings

A visit to the New York Aquarium is sure to please little ones and is one of our top things to do with preschoolers in NYC
Visit the sharks at the New York Aquarium, which is the perfect, compact size for preschoolers to conquer, no stroller required. Photo by Louise Trapasso

Things To Do With Preschoolers in NYC Who Love Animals

21. New York Aquarium

Take the train out to the New York Aquarium to gawk at the amazing Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit, and all manner of marine life, or cross the boardwalk to come face to face with the Atlantic Ocean.

22. Central Park Zoo

Visit the toddler-sized Central Park Zoo to take in a sea lion feeding and get up close with the playful penguins. Stop for a cute photo-op in the Tisch Children's Zoo.

23. The Art Farm

Visit the city's only indoor petting zoo, The Art Farm in the City, or one of these other local petting zoos near NYC.

RELATED: Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in and Near NYC

Two boys on a hayride at Queens County Farm Museum
There's plenty of farm fun to be had within city limits at the Queens County Farm Museum. Photo by Ros Muggeridge

24. Queens County Farm Museum

Feed the goats, chickens, and other critters during a festival at NYC's only historic working farm, the Queens County Farm Museum.

25. Bronx Zoo Butterfly Garden

Wear something colorful to the enchanting Butterfly Garden at the Bronx Zoo in hopes a butterfly mistakes you for a flower and lands on you. Open April through October.

This article was first published in May 2014, but it is regularly updated.

Places featured in this article:


Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel

Queens Botanical Garden

Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Arts & Storytelling
Wonder Kids Day Camp - Adventures with Gaia
School of Wonder - 9:00 AM Pick
Discovery Walks for Families: The Ramble
Central Park - 11:00 AM Pick
Yom Kippur in Prospect Park
Prospect Park - 12:00 PM Pick
In Search of a Song: The Tour
Manhattan West Plaza - 12:30 PM Pick
Queens County Farm Museum's Pumpkin Patch
Queens County Farm Museum - various times Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides