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Please Play With the Exhibit

New hands-on museum offerings—Donkey Kong included—for kids of all ages.

Illustration by Peter Arkle  
  • Pre-Schoolers

  • Museum of Chinese in America

    215 Centre St., nr. Grand St.; 212-619-4785

    The Lunar New Year brought a noodle-maker, a calligrapher, and lion dancers to the eighteen-month-old museum’s premises, and April’s Ching Ming Festival, which celebrates the arrival of spring, will feature kite- and family-tree-making sessions. Monthly arts-and-crafts workshops tied to current exhibits like “Chinese Puzzles: Games for the Hands and Mind” are hugely entertaining for even the youngest of museum-hoppers, while parents can easily lose a few hours wondering the Maya Lin–designed corridors.

  • Grade-Schoolers

  • Museum of the Moving Image

    36-01 35th Ave. at 37th St., Astoria; 718-777-6888

    No need to limit screen time here: This newly revamped temple to movies, television, video games, and the digital arts, turns the stuff of parental nagging into a source of academic fascination. The makeover introduced new-media labs, where kids can spark careers in the rewarding fields of video-game design, claymation, and stop-motion animation. They can also watch pre-Pixar film clips via Thomas Edison’s late-1800s Kinetoscope; play vintage arcade games like Space Invaders, Frogger, and Donkey Kong; and catch a family-film matinee (free with admission). Running through March: The “Fantastic Voyages” series, which includes the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

  • Middle-Schoolers

  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

    1071 Fifth Ave., at 89th St.; 212-423-3637

    Nabbing a spot at one of the city’s competitive arts high schools is tough, and student are often judged by their portfolios. Aspiring artists in grades 6 through 8 who want to assemble an accomplished body of work can hunker down at the Guggenheim’s studio for after-school sessions held over eight Mondays starting March 28. The $400 cost is steep, but includes personal instruction from two working artists, gallery visits (here and at other institutions), top-shelf materials, a family pass, and snacks.

  • High-Schoolers

  • Museum of the City of New York

    1220 Fifth Ave., at 103rd St.; 212-534-1672

    Budding historians who want more than a textbook view at the past can enroll in one of the free six-week courses offered Saturdays during the school year. On tap this spring: “The Sixties: Music, Movements, and Mayhem,” an exploration of the decade’s social revolutions; “Striving for Freedom: Free Black Communities in New York and Brooklyn Before the Civil War”; and “Public Art in East Harlem: Interpreting Latino-American History in the 20th Century,” a walking retrospective of the neighborhood’s murals. College-minded students can also sign up for a Kaplan SAT-prep course—gratis, too.

From the 2011 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine