So, your child is not quite a baby, not quite a full-blown “kid.” “Toddlers”—so-called thanks to their early efforts to master the art of walking—are technically children 12 to 36 months old. And NYC has lots of spots where toddlers can explore, learn, and of course have fun. (That little brain is really firing on all cylinders now, making all kinds of connections!) Here’s where you and your toddler can make the most of NYC, in any borough, any time of year!
Totally Tots at the Brooklyn Children's Museum
The entirety of the Brooklyn Children's Museum is a great place for kids, but Totally Tots is a special zone for its tiniest visitors. (Technically, it's designed for kids 6 and under, but in practice it skews younger.) Lots of sensory play can be found here, including a giant water play area, sandbox, dress up, blocks, a story area, mini slides, music making and more. (Note!: The museum is closed most Mondays.)
145 Brooklyn Ave.
Cant' make it to Crown Heights? The Brooklyn Children's Museum has an outpost right in DUMBO's Brooklyn Bridge Park. Another place for sensory play and exploring, SPARK has an Imagination Playground (big blue blocks that can be formed into whatever), ongoing activities like arts and crafts, places for impromptu storytime, a magnetic wall, and more. Read our full write up here. You can drop in, but due to its smaller size, reservations are recommended. Also closed on Mondays.
Spark by Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Tickets: $15 for open play slot; free for museum members
1 John St.
New Victory Theater
This is New York City, which means of course, you can take your two-year-old to the theater. The New Victory Theater stages shows for kids as young as 18 months, with many imported from some of the best children's theater companies worldwide. Performed in smaller, intimate settings, and often with an element of audience participation, these gentle shows stimulate the senses, minds and imaginations of little theatergoers. (For more on The New Victory Theater, which also stages excellent shows for older kids, click here.)
209 W. 42nd St.
And Many More Stages Around Town
The New Victory is wonderful, but it's not the only game in town when it comes to theater for the very young. LC Kids, Lincoln Center's programming for little ones, stages small-scale, imaginative work from stellar companies from all over. BAM Kids, the Brooklyn Academy of Music's offering for the junior set, does the same. At Carnegie Hall, there's Carnegie Kids, and Symphony Space's Just Kidding series rolls out shows for kids as well.
There's nothing quite like when a small person encounters a big, fuzzy creature (safely.) NYC is full of places where you can talk to the animals, and maybe even feed them. Here's where to find them!
Picking of all Kinds
Almost every time of year is ripe for picking with little ones around here. (You will probably do most of the work, but it's still fun and great for photo ops.) For cherries, head here. For berries, this is where to go. Fresh flowers can be plucked here. These are our favorite spots for apple-picking. Where should you pick a pumpkin? Try these patches near NYC.
Take a Spin
New York City is home to so many merry-go-rounds, each with its own personality and style. (Fish carousel? Yep. French carousel? Uh-huh. Bug carousel? Yes, yes, yes!) These are our favorites! (Which are also great for birthday parties.)
Liberty Science Center
We're big fans of Jersey City's Liberty Science Center, where many areas cater to the youngest of kids. (In fact, the center has a Young Learners program dedicated to serving visitors ages 2 to 5.) Don't miss I Explore (pictured) a section just for small kids, and the Imagination Playground and block area on the second floor. The LSC also typically hosts a traveling exhibit for the preschool set, with previous ones dedicated to Doc McStuffins, Arthur, and Thomas & Friends. On view now: Disney's The Lion Guard Lion King exhibit.
Closed on Mondays
Tickets: $23.75/adults; $19.75/kids 2 -12
Liberty Science Center
222 Jersey City Blvd.
Liberty State Park
So Many Play Spaces
Rain? Snow? Too much sun? No problem! Head to one of our favorite play spaces, most of which have areas for little ones (if they're not entirely safe for full free reign.)
These are our favorites around town.
Need a place in Brooklyn? Try these.
Live in Queens? Head to one of these spots in the borough!
More Classes Than You Can Shake a Shaker At
Sign up for them, drop in on them, sing, dance, make a mess—you can do all of that and more with your kid in NYC.
Drop in on a class in Brooklyn at these spots.
Or hit up one in Queens here!
PreSchool Place at the New York Hall of Science
Little ones ages six and under get their very own section to play and explore at Corona's New York Hall of Science. PreSchool Place is included with admission to the museum, and features lots of sensory, interactive fun such as blocks, puppets, balls, musical instruments, manually-powered conveyor belts, and a tube that blasts air to "magically" levitate beach balls. The space often hosts storytimes, singalongs and more on weekends and holidays.
47-01 111th St.
Your Local Library
Don't forget your local library! Yes, there are storytimes aplenty, but NYC libraries host lots of other events for little ones, including music classes, live concerts, yoga, arts and crafts, and more. (And most of them are free!) Check out New York Public Library kids programs here, Queens happenings for kids here, and Brooklyn Public Library programming here.
Staten Island Children's Museum
Located in the lovely Snug Harbor, the Staten Island Children's Museum is worth the trip! In addition to lots of green space to roam around the museum, there's lots to explore: a hall with giant board games; Ladder 11, where kids can pretend to be firefighters; an exhibit with live bugs; "House About It", where kids can see how a house is built and what's behind the walls; "Great Explorations", an area with various environments to explore (rainforest, ocean, tundra, etc.), and much more! In warm weather, don't miss the "Sea of Boats" an outdoor area with soft surface, nautical-themed play structures, and water features! Heads up! The museum is hosting its STEAM-themed Carnival and Science Spectacular on June 1 from 1 - 5 p.m. Get tickets here! (Note that the museum is closed most Mondays and holiday weekends.)
1000 Richmond Terr.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
The NYC toy store is back in a big way in Rockefeller Center, and it's got something for kids of all ages. Little ones will have a blast in the Melissa & Doug FAO Mart grocery store—where they can shop with carts, and then check out. The famous piano from "Big" is upstairs and worth a toddle on, and super sweet stuffies from Steiff are in the house, big time. (As is a baby doll adoption center, a Build-a-Bear section, lots of puzzles, and more.) Read our story on the grand opening here!
FAO Schwarz NYC
Mon.- Sat. 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (From Dec. 9 to Jan. 5, open until 9 p.m. on Sat. and 8 p.m. on Sun.)
30 Rockefeller Plaza
NYC keeps rolling out great places to play outside. Some of our favorites for toddlers, thanks to smaller structures, fun design features, and sometimes shade include Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1 playground (and the giant "Sandbox Village" on Pier 6), Manhattan's Safari "Hippo" Playground, and Evelyn's Playground in Union Square, and the accessible Playground for All Children in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Of course, if it's hot out, why head to the sandbox when you can hit the real deal? These are our NYC area favorite beaches that you can get to by train, and these are great ones a little farther afield if you're looking to make a trip out of it.
Headed to the Hamptons? Here's more ideas for fun while you're there!