There are so many ways for children to learn. Learning through the arts, or by engaging in a sport, or by learning circus acts, kids can expand their educational, cultural and physical horizons. Here are some of our favorite (and super fun) interactive programs where kids of all ages might discover hidden talents.
ABRAKADOODLE (New York and various U.S. locations), 212-875-4100)
Abrakadoodle teaches kids creative and life development skills through painting, drawing, digital art and photography, and a host of other mediums, creating portfolios of work that the children can take home and keep. This program reaches children through art, providing a network of art classes, camps and parties across the United States through an innovative mobile art education. It is designed for children 20 months to 12-year-old.
APPLE SEEDS (10 W. 25th St., 212-792-7590, $895 for one-year membership)
This indoor playground accomodates infants with a cushioned play area and allows toddlers to drive a wooden taxi, run a well-stocked deli or play on giant cushions in the sports playground.
BABY BOOT CAMP AT WEST SIDE YMCA (5 W 63rd St at Central Park West, 212-875-4100)
Baby Boot Camp takes Moms to Central Park for an aerobic workout that incorporates all that extra weight new moms lug around (including baby). New moms will push the stroller along the three-mile step-and-jog course.
BABY BITES LUNCHES (646-258-3907, $25–$55 per event)
Baby Bites lunches gives new moms a chance to meet other moms and talk about parenthood. There are various locations throughout the city.
BABY YUMS (24 E 22nd St., third floor, 212-228-9514, $40 per class)
Attend a hands-on Baby Yums workshop and you’ll learn everything you need to know about making your own healthy baby food. Your little ones are invited to sit in and be your best food critic.
BABY MOVES(139 Perry St., 212-255-1685, $14 per open play session)
This Greenwich Village center offers music, language and activity classes for tots under 2.
This is a manhattan-based language and music program for young children.
BLOOM-LUNA TENNIS ACADEMY (New York Tennis Club, 3081 Harding Ave, Bronx, 718-701-2511, 19-week session is $1,850)
With this class, kids pick up life skills. Students work on specific swings and by season’s end, they know all the major shots. Ideal for kids ages 4 to 12.
CHELSEA PIERS FIELD HOUSE (Pier 62, 23rd St., 212-336-6500, $30 per session)
Kids, ages 5-16, can enjoy 90-minutes of “Rock & Roll” sessions every Friday through Sunday, 1 to 3:30 p.m.
CHESS-IN-THE-SCHOOLS (CIS) (520 Eighth Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, 212-643-0225)
New York’s biggest chess program, Chess-in-the-Schools (CIS), which offers free in-class chess instruction at 76 elementary and middle schools, reaching 20,000 kids. CIS has produced several national championship teams and inspired imitators in other local schools. It’s a scale of chess instruction matched nowhere else in the United States.
CHILDREN’S PRESSLINE (646-789-4432, Free 12-week session, Oct 15-Dec 15, 4 to 6pm twice a week)
In this class, kids learn reporting and interviewing techniques, from finding a hook to gathering info, write and publish with help from established journalists. Ideal for kids ages 8 -18.
CHINESE BOOK GARDEN (2 W 32nd St., 212-868-8180, $20 per hour)
The goal of this class is for kids to learn to speak Mandarin and develop an appreciation for Chinese culture. Students enjoy Chinese dancing, cooking or crafts, while learning Chinese words and sentences. Ideal for kids ages 5 to 7.
CIRCUS ARTS (Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, 248 W 60th St., 212-787-1178, 13-week session is $585)
Circus Arts allows kids to build trust in one another, fortify their bodies and pick up the fundamentals of circus gymnastics. Ideal for ages 5 to 16.
DJ’ING FOR YOUTH (Dubspot, 348 W 14th St., 877-382-7768, Six-week session is $395)
The goal of this class is to teach kids to create music, learn how it’s structured, and develop mixing and scratching skills. Students get their hands on the turntables right away, then move on to using computer programs for digital deejaying. Ideal for ages 7 to 11.
FAIRIES & FANTASY (In Grandma’s Attic; various venues, 212-726-2362, 14-week session is $365–$405)
In this class, Director Deborah Bailey hopes to get little girls (and even little boys) to develop a lifelong love affair with dance. After kids dance the galop, walk on tiptoes and pretend to be butterflies, kids listen to a story, then dress up to enact part of the tale. Ideal for ages 3 to 6.
GYMBOREE LEARNING PROGRAM (U.S. and Canada locations)
Launched in 1976, this highly regarded Gymboree Learning Program is a network of playgroups offering play, art and music classes to children aged from infants to five-year-olds. Gymboree operates a useful Parents Resource Center on its website with program details, locations, classes, tips, advice and articles.
JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD (Wild Blue, 401 E 76th St., 212-628-3582, 13-week session is $455)
In this program, children experience other countries and cultures without traveling.Founder Kourosh Mahboubian (who’s also an arctic explorer) sees to it that each participant learns how to read a map and find a locale on it. Ideal for ages 3 to 7.
KARMA KIDS YOGA (104 W 14th St., 646-638-1444, $20 per class)
Karma Kids Yoga center in Chelsea offers Mom & Baby sessions that cater to new parents. Exercises for adults focus on the lower body and abdominal area. Parents also learn massage and yoga positions for babies.
KIDS’ KNITTING CLUB (Knitty City, 208 W 79th St., 212-787-5896, Four-week session is $100)
The class is an exercise in patience, eye-hand coordination, reading and math. After picking up the basics of knitting and purling, kids might start on a simple project like a wristband or an iPod holder. Ideal for ages 7 to 11.
KIDS MAKE MOVIES (Videovampires Inc., 42 W 29th St., 212-213-5722, Ten-week session is $1,100)
This program helps young filmmakers develop skills in planning, storytelling, project management, performance, and camera and computer programs. Ideal for ages 8 to 15.
KIDS ’N COMEDY (Gotham Comedy Club, 208 W 23rd St., 212-877-6115, Nine-week session is $550)
This program allows kids to create their material while pros advise them on stand-up stage presence, zingers and bombs. Classes also boost kids’ self-esteem by giving them a forum to tell jokes. Ideal for ages 10 to 18.
KIDVILLE (Various locations; $495–$995 per membership)
At Kidville’s four sites, more than 100 classes are available each week for kids up to age five. Newborns can enjoy a Little Maestros music session, while older babies can flex their muscles at an age-appropriate movement class. The Upper West Side branch has a supervised rooftop playground with space heaters and a canopy for use in bad weather.
LAVA AFTER SCHOOL (524 Bergen St, Brooklyn Heights, 718-399-3161)
During ten-session classes at LAVA’s studio, aerodynamic kids work on their front flips, back bends and other acrobatics under 12-foot ceilings and natural light. Kids and teens can also drop by on Wednesday afternoons for free, open workout hour.
LOOP OF THE LOOM (227 E 87th St., 212-722-2686, Eight-week session is $300)
Saori, an improv-based form of weaving invented in 1968, allows kids to make accessories and clothing from yarn without fear of messing up. First-timers can sit down at one of the classroom’s seven looms and start weaving after only 30 seconds of guidance from a teacher. Ideal for ages 5 to 14.
MOEY is Melissa Lewis, an award-winning Off Broadway songwriter who has become a Mommy Rocker. She ignites pint-sized crowds with her Moey’s Music Party classes and concerts at schools, parks, and parties around New York City.
MOMS CRACKING UP (14th Street Y, 344 E. 14th St., 212-780-0800, $15)
Hone yours at this comedy club run by stand-up comedian Jill Shely, whose jokes target all those crazy parenthood moments that aren’t especially funny as they’re happening but grow hilarious over time. The group meets every other Monday at the baby-friendly hour of 1:30pm. Think of it as laugh therapy.
MOTHER’S MEETINGS AT REALBIRTH (54 W 22nd St., 212-367-9006; 715 Ninth Ave, 212-245-0796; $15–$20 per session)
This program allows new moms to meet other moms and discuss parenting and health issues.
NEW YORK CITY EXPLORERS (388 Atlantic Ave, Boerum Hill, 718-625-6923, $10 day-long family play pass)
This program offers free play for little ones or a mommy and me music class inspired by Mozart or Bob Marley.
PARENT PLAY ( Various locations; $75 per family per event)
Parent Play is a company that arranges family nights out, then supervises and entertains the little ones in a separate room. Spa days, comedy nights and tastings are a few of the organization’s recent offerings.
PREMUSKETEERS(Manhattan Fencing Center, 225 W 39th St., 212-382-2255, Five-week session is $175)
In this class, kids engage in drills to promote attention span and balance, as well as some fancy footwork with plastic sabres and foils. The training improves kids’ fitness, discipline and decision making. Ideal for ages 4 to 6.
PRITI (35 E 1st St., 212-254-3628, $25–$70 per treatment)
Priti is anall-organic, child-friendly salon on the Lower East Side. You can even keep your little one on your lap while you indulge in a pedicure that’s formaldehyde-free.
ROBOTICS (38 E 23rd St (212-245-0444, vemny.org). 14-week session is $490)
In this class, kids use leading-edge technology to invent something cool, fledgling engineers exercise both their art and science muscles. In the first session, inventors will craft a “simple bot,” such as a little car with a touch sensor. More ambitious projects follow. Ideal for ages 6 to 8.
SLING-YOUR-BABY DANCE(The Brooklyn Dojo, 93 Pineapple Walk, Brooklyn Heights, 718-237-0568, $20 per class )
This is a 45-minute class, where you’ll strap on your baby in a front carrier and, after a quick warm-up, learn simple dance movements.
SPORTIME AT RANDALLS ISLAND (1 Randalls Island, 212-427-6150, $1,275 for a 17-week session)
Sportime gave its Randalls Island location a $13 million face-lift this year. The Pee Wee program (for ages 4-6) introduces the basics of tennis. The Junior Tennis Kinetic program, divided into two groups (one for ages 6-8, the other for ages 8 and up), focuses more on technique. The center also offers a Junior Travel Team for players ages ten and up, in which individual Sportime sites compete against one another.
STROLLERCIZE.COM (800-978-7655, $155 for four classes)
This is an outdoor work-out program for new moms and moms-to-be. Dads get in for free with mom’s membership. There are various locations throughout the city.
SUTTON EAST TENNIS CLUB (488 E 60th St., 212-751-3452, $1,190 for a 17-week session)
Pee-Wee Tennis (for ages 3 to 6) provides free rackets and emphasizes on hand-eye coordination and basic tennis movements. The Pre-Junior Development Program (ages 6 to 8), offers larger nets and court space for training. The Junior Development Program (ages 8 and up) refines basic skills while introducing kids to game-play in groups that are age- and level-appropriate.
THE ART FARMS (Locations: Bridgehampton (631)537-1634 and NYC (212)410-3117)
At The Art Farm, children and parents can take part in fun and stimulating programs which center on the care, respect and appreciation of animals and the farm culture. The Art Farm in the Hamptons, launched in 1999, offers an 8-week summer day camp program for children aged 2 months to 12 years featuring farm animals. The activities include tennis, swimming, rock climbing, photography, computer graphics, music, art and baking. The Art Farm in the City was established in 2005 and offers year-round weekday and weekend classes with small exotic animals. The activities range from music and art to baby gym, cooking and animal care classes; the city “farm” is open to children aged 8 months to 8 years.
The Talk n Drum foreign language and music program is designed to expose children to the sounds and rhythms of a foreign language. Ideal for kids 10 months to 5-years-old.
TEA LOUNGE (For locations, go to website)
Connect with other parents and enjoy a spontaneous playdate at this super kid-friendly coffeehouse, with three locations in Brooklyn.
CITY TREEHOUSE (129A W. 20th St., 212-255-2050, from $12.50/hr for members, $30/hr for nonmembers)
The highlight at this opened playroom is an extra-long tiered water table with balls, animal toys, fountains and tanks.
TOP ART & MUSIC CLASSES AROUND THE WORLD
MUSIC TOGETHER (International locations)
Launched in 1987, and now taught in more than 1,700 communities in the US, Canada and 21 other countries, Music Together offers mixed age-group family sessions in a classroom guided by expert teachers and musicians. The program is based on the idea that all children are musical and can gain life development skills from a very early age by taking part in these classes.
ART 4 FUN (172 West End Lane, London NW6 1SD England; Phone: +44 020 7794 0800)
At this interactive and original art studio/café, which is open daily, parents and children can stop by, choose a medium to work with — from ceramics to wood, glass, paper, fabrics and mosaics — and paint an original work of art. Grown-ups can either sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee, or join in on the fun. The cost is £5.95 a person for use of the studio (good for the whole day), paints, brushes, firing and glazing, and £3.50 for each item they choose to paint. Art 4 Fun can also be booked for birthdays and other private events.