Children’s Museum and the cost of giving one’s child a well rounded cultural experience in New York City

A friend who has young children recently told me about the Children’s Museum on the Upper West Side. It’s on 83rd and Amsterdam, so about 23 blocks north of where we live, and he said it would be a great place to consider getting a membership for once Kaia was a little older (walking age). He said most of the activities would be fun for children once they can walk and run around, so I figured I would wait until Kaia was walking confidently. The reason to consider getting the annual membership ($275) is that the admission fee, even for babies, is pretty steep: it’s $16 per person, regardless of age. So even if you took your 6-month old here, they would still be charged the SAME admission as you, an adult. That means every time a parent/caregiver were to bring their baby, it would be $32 each visit, which really adds up if you are planning to go often! The annual membership covers admission for two adults and up to four children each time, assuming you either had multiple kids, or wanted to bring other kids as play dates.

I had posted multiple times in several local parent groups asking about free activities for babies and young toddlers, and the only thing that seemed to come up was Story Time at the local library. Everything else cost… a lot of money per activity, at least $35-45 per 45-minute session of anything, whether that was music class, gymnastics, or swimming. Apparently this season, Story Time has been cancelled. In the early winter, it was so competitive to get a spot because parents and caregivers would line up about TWO hours ahead of the scheduled Story Time event, and because it was held indoors in the library, they had a head count cut-off given COVID and potential illnesses. It’s frustrating to know that we live in a city where we pay really high taxes, yet I cannot seem to get anything “free” to do for Kaia during the day and still have to pay even more. Everything seems to cost hundreds of dollars on end. The music class I am considering signing her up for is $35/session and asks that to lock in that rate, you pay for a whole “season” up front, so 13 classes. But if you want to do a la carte, it will cost $45-50 per class. That’s an ouchie, isn’t it, especially spending on your child who is so young that they won’t even remember you ever did this for them?

The city and country (if not world) we live in is a world of haves and have nots. You either have money to do these things, or you do not. I could do what my parents did for Ed and me…. and sign my child up for literally no activities, no extracurricular anything, and make my child think we’re just poor. But, well, I’m not planning to repeat the mistakes of my parents.

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