Raising a Cultured Kid: Freebies & Cheapies for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Central Park by the impressive statue of 15th-century Polish-Lithuanian warrior-king Jagiello. They dance to recorded music and welcome newcomers, who are encouraged to learn the latest step. It's absolutely entrancing for little ones. Moral of the story: Don't just hurry by; slow down, look, listen, learn and share.


City-organized festivals and activities

Every city organizes cultural events and festivals all year long, though the summer and holiday season usually have the most. The latest "in" thing to do is go to outdoor kids' movies, but all the old faithfuls, such as musical performances, puppet shows and games, still abound. Look for afternoon sideshows to adult events. For instance, the yearly swing festival which takes place at New York's Lincoln Center can get pretty wild after work, but on a Saturday afternoon, it offers a much tamer kid-centric version.

There's also plenty of free culture to be enjoyed at a city's ethnic festivals. Music, dance, food, theater, even toys and games '- there isn't a country or culture that doesn't have them. Go; explore; enjoy. Look for Norwegian fests (kids love to watch the authentic line dancing), traditional Irish celebrations (did someone say folk dancing?), polka parties, Caribbean family days and anything that features klezmer, Cajun or zydeco music. Holidays offer the perfect opportunity to learn about other cultures. Check out the Kwanzaa celebrations at Los Angeles's Leimert Park Village or the Chinese New Year extravaganza in NYC (a monthlong celebration that usually begins in late January and ends with the Golden Dragon Parade, firecrackers and yummy Lin Go cakes). Just beware of celebrations with corporate sponsorships (so you don't bring your little innocent to that beer-sponsored Cinco de Mayo festival.)

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