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Photograph: Shutterstock

Free and cheap ideas for the perfect playdate in NYC

While things are tricky this summer, our free and cheap playdate ideas will keep kids busy all season long

Written by
Danielle Valente
&
Oliver Strand
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OK, we'll admit it: Summer 2020 has not been kind to parents thus far. 

Canceled camp programs, unopened attractions and new social protocols are not terribly easy to navigate with little ones in tow. But fear not: We'll lend a hand, Mom and Dad.

If you're wondering how to keep the littles busy, let our guide to free and cheap playdate ideas entertain your brood (while at a distance, of course). These outdoor activities, cool things to do and fun spots to visit are a surefire way to make the season a success.

And, if all else fails and temper tantrums ensue, head to the nearest ice cream shop for a delicious milkshake—the cure to all summertime blues. 

Cheap playdate ideas for kids

Grab some sidewalk chalk
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + davekeys

1. Grab some sidewalk chalk

Let little artistes unleash their inner Picasso without any casualties to your apartment. Sidewalk chalk is the perfect way for kiddos to stay busy while keeping the mess outdoors. (We're told that an order from Mister Softee helps with the creative process.)

Set up a projector outdoors
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Set up a projector outdoors

Why not take your family movie night outside? Set up a projector in the backyard or on the roof for a new way to experience the best Disney movies of all time. Consider it a personal spin on the drive-in theater trend. 

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  • Things to do
Our guide to the best NYC parks for kids will help you make the most of your sunny afternoon! Simply put, these parks amazing. Some have the best playgrounds NYC families need to visit, others have the best water playgrounds in NYC. Go to these parks and you'll find the best bike trails for families in NYC, and even some of the best hiking trails for NYC families to explore. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC We guarantee that this list will steer you in the right direction! All that adventure is bound to work up an appetite, so why not make plans to go out after to one of the 50 best family restaurants in NYC? If the weather is right you can have a meal that's both en familly and al fresco at one of the best outdoor restaurants NYC families love the most!
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  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies

New York, New York—it's a wonderful biking town! From protected paths on the Bronx waterfront to the low-key cycling in Battery Park City, we'll help you find the best trails for families. (Don't worry: Training wheels are welcome.) 

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  • Things to do

Here's fishy, fishy, fishy! Grab the chumb bucket and cast a line into one of the city's catch-and-release freshwater ponds or see who's willing to bite at the waterfront piers. 

  • Things to do

Just because you live in the Big Apple doesn't mean you can't spend time in the great outdoors. There are amazing family-friendly hikes close to NYC—in fact, the Bronx River Greenway and Inwood Hill Park are right in the middle of the city! So: Check the weather, pack a picnic and make plans to visit mother nature with the fam.

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  • Art
  • Art

The creative juices are flowing! Kiddos are flexing their artistic muscles by way of virtual doodling classes, drawing on inspiration from the likes of Mo Willems and Dav Pilkey. (See what we did there?) And, luckily for parents, there isn't too much required in the way of clean-up. Grab a fresh box of crayons, untwist the marker tops and get ready to create a masterpiece! Here's where to find free coloring book pages for kids.

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  • Kids

Ready, set, strategize! Check out our favorite kids' board games and bring on the competition. Kids can test their vocabulary with Scrabble, solve the who-done-it mudery mystery in Clue and so much more. All you need is a few friends or siblings and you're set. (We recommend setting up shop at the park!) 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

This is shaping up to be the summer of reading. Titled "Summer Reading 2020: Quest for Adventure," the New York Public Library's program has a new homepage with online resources that will make reading that much more fun—and that will make your little bookworm feel connected to the library community. Why not host a storytime of your own while at home?

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