Our guide to cultural events in New York City for children and teenagers happening this weekend and in the week ahead.
BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL CHILDREN’S DAY at MetroTech Commons (Sept. 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Where’s Waldo? For once, this question will have a (relatively) easy answer: That elusive character of picture book fame will be in three locations at this free celebration, the fifth annual fair that the Brooklyn Book Festival has devoted to bibliophiles ages 2 to 11. And Waldo will have lots of company. Almost 50 authors and artists will perform in some way, among them the married musicians Dan and Claudia Zanes; Jon Scieszka, who will invent a story while Booki Vivat and Nick Bruel draw it; and Mo Willems, winner of the Best of Brooklyn award at this year’s festival. The event will also feature musical theater excerpts from the 92nd Street Y, as well as the popular Illustrator Smackdown, a live drawing contest for seven artists. Creative opportunities for the young include making pop-up books with the illustrator JooHee Yoon, building a working catapult with the team behind the TinkerActive Workbook series and creating superhero outfits with the “Super Satya” author Raakhee Mirchandani. (A costume parade will follow.) Know any teenage readers? Their turn comes on Sunday, when the main festival will host young-adult programs.
BROOKLYN SCHOOL GARDENS CRAWL at various locations (Sept. 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Knowledge isn’t all that takes root at this borough’s public schools. This free, self-guided, rain-or-shine journey will take families to 10 school gardens in District 15, where participants can investigate fruits, vegetables and flowers and enjoy themed activities. While on the crawl, which is presented by the consortium Garden Train, children can collect stamps on a passport. (It’s included on the downloadable map on the event’s webpage.) This will make them eligible for prizes at a free after-party from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Gil Hodges Community Garden. The fun along the way will include going on a wildflower scavenger hunt, as well as creating a sachet of herbal pizza toppings at P.S. 118, tasting unusual fruits like goji berries at P.S. 32 and holding and feeding the garden hens (a.k.a. “the girls”) at P.S. 146.
FALL FAMILY DAY: BAM! CRASH! POW! at the Resnick Education Wing, Carnegie Hall (Sept. 22, noon-4 p.m.). It’s not hard to guess the type of instruments this free program will celebrate: If your children would savor the opportunity to bang and pound with impunity, this is their afternoon. Filled with percussion performances and workshops for ages 3 to 10 — everything is first come first served — the schedule includes opportunities to learn basic West African drumming and dance with the group Wula Drum and to build instruments from recycled materials with the ensemble Bash the Trash, who will also play. Rizumik, a beatboxer extraordinaire, will instruct participants in how to turn their bodies into instruments, and Carnegie’s teaching artists will help young composers, who can create for, play in and even conduct a percussion band.
ICE CREAM SOCIAL at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery (Sept. 21, noon-3 p.m.). Although the title of this free celebration sounds old-fashioned, you can expect much that is innovative, including vegan ice cream flavors. (Arrive early before the sweet treats run out.) Commemorating the center’s 25th anniversary, the afternoon will feature tours and drop-in activities, including an opportunity for children to design and draw uniforms that are inspired by the examples in the gallery’s show, “French Fashion, Women, and the First World War.” The social also offers two workshops that require registration and fees. Grown-ups can make an anti-fashion statement by fabricating unisex jumpsuits with the Rational Dress Society, a collective that seeks to end conspicuous consumption. The kids’ interactive workshop, Pictures Come to Life, at 1 p.m., is far more open-ended: The artist and educator Jeff Hopkins will invent and act out a story as he simultaneously draws it on wall-size sheets of paper. Afterward, he will lead young participants in a storyboard exercise to create their own illustrated tales.
KIDS ’N COMEDY: ‘THE BACK TO SCHOOL SHOW’ at Gotham Comedy Club (Sept. 22, 1 p.m.). Some children don’t consider the return to academia even mildly amusing. But the stand-up artists — all tweens and teenagers — who perform with Kids ’n Comedy can always find something funny about it, if not downright hilarious, and you can enjoy their jokes at a Manhattan club with a child-friendly menu. The most talented students in an organization that employs professional comics to train young people how to write and deliver their own routines — the material is geared toward audiences 9 and older — these comedians promise sophisticated humor that is still clean. And how rare is that?
KIDS EAT HISTORY: THE STORY OF SCHOOL LUNCH at the Henry Street Settlement (Sept. 22, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). At first glance, a program about cafeteria food might not seem, well, appetizing. This lunch-and-learn combo (reservations are required), however, promises both delicious historical tidbits and flavorful dishes. Presented by two venerable Lower East Side institutions — the Henry Street Settlement and the Museum at Eldridge Street — this event will explore how Lillian Wald, the settlement’s founder, helped pioneer the concept of public-school lunches in the early 1900s, when many poor immigrant children got no midday meal. Those initial efforts included some sweet surprises — daily hot cocoa — and even attempts to incorporate young New Yorkers’ diverse culinary heritages into the menus.
QUEENS COUNTY FAIR at the Queens County Farm Museum (Sept. 21-22, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.). Ever get lost in Queens? The experience will actually be fun at this annual festival, which will feature the seasonal opening of the Amazing Maize Maze, a labyrinth of tall corn stalks that this year is in the shape of the Unisphere from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Taking place at a museum that is simultaneously a working farm, the country-style weekend will also offer pony and hay rides, tractor pulls, sack races, egg-on-a-spoon relay races and a petting zoo. You can even see an agriculturally themed magic show — “The Magic Bean” — in the family entertainment tent.
SPY WEEK FAMILY DAY at the Fraunces Tavern Museum (Sept. 21, 1-4 p.m.). This annual event honors exploits of American espionage that are even older than America itself. Taking place on property where many colonial conspirators met — this 1719 building’s original tavern was popular with local patriots — Family Day invites young visitors to explore the museum’s Revolutionary-era exhibits (a spy-themed tour is at 1 p.m.) and hear Claudia Friddell read from her children’s book “George Washington’s Spies.” They can also try some of the low-tech methods 18th-century operatives favored: writing messages in invisible ink; using a cipher wheel, an early encryption and decryption device, to interpret the spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge’s code book; and arranging garments on a clothesline, which was Anna Smith Strong’s unusual way of transmitting secret communications.