Museums can provide such a rich education for children, even through play! Here at CBS New York, we’ve found the best museums for children with free hours, or pay-what-you-wish admission.

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at West 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 769-5000

Lions and tigers and…dinosaurs? Oh my! Children will love exploring the two large halls of dinosaur fossils, as well as the Hall of Biodiversity- with the rain forest, the Mammal Halls – with animal dioramas, Hall of Ocean Life, and much more. For an even more stellar time, visit the attached Rose Center for Earth and Space. The Museum is stroller-friendly and offers great kid-friendly lunch choices in the cafeteria. They have a suggested donation rate, but pay what you wish at any admissions desk (shows at the Hayden Planetarium are extra).

credit: photo: Panorama of Playworks

Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 West 83rd Street
New York, NY 10024-4901
(212) 721-0471

Children ages 2-6 will adore the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Children 0-4 will enjoy PlayWorks – a 4,000 square foot area that includes a giant talking dragon who chomps letters, a deli, a fire truck, MTA bus, sand play, giant lite brite, plus a soft space for crawlers.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum
145 Brooklyn Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11213-1900
(718) 735-4402

This kid-centric museum contains the fabulous World Brooklyn – where kids can explore a series of kid-sized shops like an Italian restaurant, a Mexican Bakery, a West African Import store and more. The Totally Tots Section, for kids under 5, offers the fun Water Wonders Water Play area. Be prepared for the little ones to get soaked (the smocks will help). The Museum is stroller-friendly.  However, there are so many places for kids to play and explore that you may want to check strollers at the desk or park them in a corner. Admission is free from 2 – 5pm on the second and fourth weekend every month.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028
(212) 535-7710

It’s never too early to expose children to famous works of art. The Met is very kid friendly and offers story times in the Nolan Library for children ages 3-7, Art Treks, and family festivals (just check their schedule). The Met also includes The Cloisters, located a subway ride away in Fort Tryon Park, Northern Manhattan. The Cloisters celebrates the art and architecture of medieval Europe and includes approximately 5000 works of art from medieval Europe.  Recommended admission the Met for adults is $20 (but you can pay what you wish, admission to The Cloisters is included). Children under 12 are free.

Nancy Horn s a blogger with Mom in the City –