If you’re a true New Yorker, you already know that within the nooks and crannies of the city, hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. If you’re a truly savvy New Yorker you know about the ones that are amazing — and free. The New York City Public Library systems programs rank at the top of our list for enriching, family-friendly and fun resources available to the parents and kids of Gotham. (OK, presuming you pay your taxes, they’re not technically free, but still.) Read on to discover some of our favorites throughout the five boroughs!
An important note!
Programs vary by library system, location and branch. You can look up current kids programs and events happening at your local library by visiting the sites below and selecting “Children”, “Kids” and/or “Family” in the “Audience” field or drop-down menu and selecting the branch nearest you.
For Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island: nypl.org
For Brooklyn: bklynlibrary.org
For Queens: queenslibrary.org
Library branches throughout the city offer programs featuring these perennial kid favorites. The program title and description may vary by branch (i.e., “LEGO Mania”, “Leggo my LEGO!” “LEGO Club”, “PreRobotics” and “Bricks4Kids” to name just a few), but the gist is that kids are able to work with all types of LEGOS alongside other neighborhood kids, usually ages five to 12. Branches offering LEGO programs include but are not limited to the following: St. George Library Center, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Williamsburgh Library, Brooklyn Heights Library, Borough Park Library, Windsor Park, and Bellerose
Winter Wonderland Programs
The NYPL knows you and the kids can get a little stir crazy this time of year so they created an entire series to get you out of the house for some seasonally-themed fun. “One Snowflake”, is an interactive music and movement series using winter songs from the popular “Music for Aardvarks” catalog; kids can make their own puppet at a “Winter Wonderland Puppet Imagination Station”, Winter Arts & Crafts sessions give kids the chance to get creative with all materials provided. Some branches offering winter-related programs include but are not limited to: Grand Central Library (NYPL), and Seaside (Queens). See upcoming events here.
photo: via Brooklyn Public Library Facebook page
Ready, Set, Kindergarten! at the Brooklyn Public Library
Ready, Set, Kindergarten! is a fun program to help parents and kids ages three to five read, play, and learn together, and its Spring session kicks off in March. In addition to events system-wide (see dates and locations here), the program provides tip sheets and activity ideas to encourage early literacy and help kids get ready for school. They even have an app so you can have it at the ready at all times!
photo: Queens Library
Kickoff to Kindergarten in Queens
Kindergarten prep is offered in Queens, too! In this program, parents and other caregivers can help young children learn the key skills they need to be successful in school well before they start kindergarten. In this eight-session program, library staff and early childhood teachers show parents and caregivers of children ages 3-4 how to use book-reading, games, and hands-on activities to help build the most important language skills in children. Space is limited; preregistration is required. Multiple locations.
Gaming of All Kinds
Lots of different names: “Board Games”, “Game Day”, “Board Games & Chess”, “Game On!”, but all of them offer kids the chance to play traditional board games, and some even provide introductory chess lessons. (Yes, branches hold Wii and Playstation gaming events too, if you’re looking for games electronic in nature…)
photo: via Children’s Library Discovery Center Facebook page
Saturday Science Lab in Jamaica
Head to the main Queens library in Jamaica to learn about science through fun and interactive experiments with the branch’s Discovery Team. For families with kids 12 and under.
89-11 Merrick Blvd.
It’s probably no shocker that your local library hosts story times. As part of its Family Literacy Workshops program, the New York Public Library assembled a handy database of storytimes for different age groups. Click here to find one near you!
Read to a Therapy Dog
Perfect for budding readers, dog lovers and future vets, READ with Stella! features licensed therapy dogs and their owners, who would love to sit for a story. Enjoy one-on-one, no-pressure reading time with a furry friend at the Upper West Side St. Agnes branch. (Recommended for kids ages 5-12.)
Language Fun for Kids
Bilingual programs for kids are happening all over the city. Bilingual Birdies singalongs happen in Spanish in and French; at the Seward Park branch Bilingual Toddler Times are in Mandarin and English; stop by the Inwood branch for Bilingual Reading Corner or the Pelham Parkway branch for Bilingual Story Hour.
photo: via Brooklyn Public Library Facebook page
Arts and Crafts
Get creative and make something! Libraries all over the city host drop-in, often seasonal crafting sessions with supplies provided. Just a few examples include: Toddler Art Time in Ridgewood, Queens; Happy Hour crafting at Court Square in Queens; Kids Create at Kings Bay in Brooklyn; Kids Create: Art & Stories in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, or Project Art: Unleash Your Creativity at Stapleton in Staten Island;
Kid- and family-friendly screenings take place at branches throughout the city, often during the afternoon. Recent screenings include Minions, Hotel Transylvania 2, Akeelah and the Bee, and more.
In addition to ongoing programs, all of the city’s library systems host special events and program series with the financial help of endowments, foundations, and other donors. Just a few of the organizations and individuals popping up a branches all around the city include magicians Super Hero Muscle Man Mike (NYPL) and Jeremy the Magician (Queens); On Stage at Kingsborough (Brooklyn); Children’s Museum of Manhattan (NYPL); New Canaan Nature Center (NYPL); Turtle Dance Music (NYPL), and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum (NYPL).
Does your local library have a great program for kids? Tell us about it in the comments below!
— Meredith Levine