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2020-01-23 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine Prep Schools for Pre-Nursery Kids

Prep Schools for Pre-Nursery Kids

Brooke Parker tracks down the best programs in music, languages, and sports for the under-three set.
You’re the tots: Budding musicians at The Diller-Quaile School of Music

The Diller-Quaile School of Music
24 East 95th Street

For nearly a century, this neighborhood music school known as the “mini Juilliard” has echoed with the sounds of young children singing, clapping, dancing, and playing pianos alongside a slew of smaller instruments. Angela Diller and Elizabeth Quaile founded the school with the intention of instilling in children a lifelong love of music, and this remains a goal even as the school has expanded dramatically. Seasoned music instructors and professional guest artists oversee the musical development of the students, some as young as three months. Particularly popular among the tiniest musicians are “Meet the Instrument” and collaborative musical play. Cost of a 15-week program starts at $995.

Free to be Under 3
Church of the Heavenly Rest at
1085 Fifth Avenue

Those nerve-racking rumors you’ve heard swirling around city playgrounds that expectant mothers sometimes enroll their babies in early education programs as soon as they give birth are, in fact, true. In the case of this particular program, your due date is enough to join the wait list for the language-building, mommy-and-me class. Based on the principal that children learn best from repetition, each class builds slowly on skills mastered in the previous semester, so that tots can develop their language, social skills, and fine motor abilities at their own pace. Parents may moan about the monotony, but the children seem to love it, and this continues to be one of the city’s most popular programs. Classes begin at $675 a term.

Carousel of Languages
1309 Madison Avenue, 2nd floor

Foreign-language immersion programs are very à la mode these days, and at Carousel of Languages, classes are available for infants as young as four months, with 11 languages on the menu: Italian, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, English, Greek, Hebrew, Turkish, Hindi, and German. The multisensory approach involves visual aids, tactile story books, props, and the learning of traditional songs. All of the teaching materials are created in-house and are unique to the program. Classes are taught by native speakers with international cultural insights, and are capped at five children per teacher so that infants and toddlers can fully participate and stay engaged and stimulated. Cost of classes for one year is $2,340. 

Carousel of Languages

Little Maestros
344 East 69th Street
JCC Manhattan at 334 Amsterdam Avenue

Disco balls, gigantic bubbles, Hamilton puppet shows, strobe lights, conga lines, mystery boxes, themed classes, professional Broadway singers, and live music at every class: what’s not to love about this theatrical music program for infants and toddlers? A baby’s ability to sit up independently helps ensure that he or she gets the most out of the class. Added bonus: Little Maestros has herculean helpers to carry your stroller up and down the stairs. A robust schedule of six to seven classes a day are offered in 13-week sessions, starting at $580. 

Little Maestros

1520 York Avenue

Gymtime’s offerings are diverse: painting, cooking, Tae Kwon Do, and gymnastics in the state-of-the-art indoor gym. For the zero-to-three set, the classes begin with “Mini Movers” (six months to ten months) and “Tiny Tots” (ten to 17 months). A professional movement and dance therapist helps guide a child’s motor development and communication to hit early milestones, including crawling and walking. The Preschool Enrichment Program, aka PEP, is taught by New York State early-childhood-education-certified instructors. The course is 35 minutes of a preschool classroom experience followed by 35 minutes of organized physical activity.
Baby boot camp at its finest. Cost of PEP class starts at $985 for the summer term. 


Little Learning
4 East 81 Street

Often referred to as the “Navy SEALs of Early Childhood education” because of its structured, rigorous learning environment, this all-round enrichment program emphasizes pre-reading, socialization, and fine motor skills for children 18 months and older. Because of the small class size—five students to two teachers—the curriculum is tailored to meet each child’s needs and pace. Little Learning also provides one of the city’s best new parent sounding-board opportunities, with their hour-long individual conferences and extensive reading lists. A year’s tuition is $7,300.

Little Learning

Kids in Sports
1420 Second Avenue
Temple Israel at 112 East 75th Street
Sutton Family Center at 225 East 51st Street

Created by a group of early childhood educators, this indoor, multi-sport program has grown into a big attraction for children on the Upper East Side. Under the guidance of skilled, patient coaches, they can get an early start on everything from basketball and soccer, to tennis and floor hockey. For the youngest athletes (12 months old), learning sports translates into following multi-step directions, socializing, and learning how to cooperate with their classmates. With a coach-to-child ratio of one-to-five, these classes are available seven days a week. Once your child is walking steadily and learning to run, you can consider them ready to join in the fun. (For toddlers not yet enrolled in nursery school five days a week, there is a morning “Pre-School Athletes” drop-off class with one hour of organized sports followed by one hour of classroom activities.) A 15-week course starts at $90.

Kids In Sports

Rockin’ with Andy

Andy Baum is the go-to musician for 45-minute early-childhood, private and small group music lessons. He has calming guitar skills, a bag full of instruments and developmental toys, and a loyal UES following. 

Toddler Storytime
at the Nolen Library Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue

Children as young as 18 months attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s delightful storytime, located in the Children’s Reading Room of the beautiful Nolen Library. Met professionals read picture books and sing songs to their rapt audiences from 10:30 to 11:00 every weekday morning, and entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. This is a no-fee program and it’s recommended that you arrive at least 30 minutes early. 

Nolen Library

Brooke Parker is an early childhood educator and admissions consultant
in New York City independent schools. She created this local, vetted source of programs after being frequently solicited by fellow pre-k parents. 

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