Summer is underway, but some kids remain at loose ends. There is still time to put some fun and structure into July and August with a variety of free city programs that are just getting started!
Reading every day is the bottom line recommendation to keep kids skills up-to-date and incidentally to enjoy the wonders of new worlds and ideas. The three NYC public library systems feature reading challenge programs, story hours and craft activities. And it's fun to browse through the stacks and pick a week's worth of reading. Check out summer reading in your branch library in Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island; Queens Library or Brooklyn Public Library.
Two great resources for finding the right book for your child's age or grade are Oprah's list and the American Library Association.
Practice Makes Perfect has a small but innovative program for students about to enter 5th grade who are in need of support. They get help from high-achieving 9th graders who are, in turn, mentored by college students. Down and up the scale, kids benefit from extra study and advice and friendship. Contact Jahn Jaramillo (347) 371-0904,
A good way to meet other families in your neighborhood is to hang out at your neighborhood public school playground. A city initiative called Schoolyards to Playgrounds lists 258 playgrounds here (pdf). Many are now open even if school is not. Department of Parks and Recreation playgrounds are also open from 8 am to dusk. Their website has a list of playgrounds and other indoor and outdoor recreation program and wheelchair accessible playgrounds, fields, pools and beaches.
For kids who have tired of swings and slides, there are many other recreation opportunities: The City Parks Foundation sponsors free instruction in golf, tennis, track and field for kids ages 5-16 at all levels. Call (718) 760-6969 for more information.
The city's Department of Youth and Community Development lists daily Summer Youth Activities and good deals at museums.
For students in grades 5-12, the Big Apple Games, a sports program at city schools sponsored by the Public School Athletic League, is underway until August 9th. Register any day at any of the sites listed here.
The New York Junior Tennis League's Summer Community Tennis Program is now open and operating Monday through Friday at locations throughout New York City. Kids from 5-18 at all skill levels are welcome. You bring snacks and water, they provide the equipment. Registration remains open throughout the season, which runs through h August. Participants must register IN-PERSON at the location nearest you.
Green Thumb is an umbrella group for community gardens, which depends on local volunteers. Their website is somewhat complicated...best to call to find the garden nearest you and how to start digging.
Free concerts are a tradition in the city:
What about taking your kids to hear some great free music and performances. Check out these concert series:
• Celebrate Brooklyn
• River to River
• Summer Stage
• Sundae Sermon
New York Classical Theatre hosts workshops for children ages 7-12 and their families in Battery Park at 5 p.m. on July 21 and 22 in front of Castle Clinton. There are also kid-friendly performances of "Twelfth Night." 7 p.m. sharp in front of Castle Clinton through July 24.
And don't forget free summer meals at city schools, parks and pools.