It’s that time of the year where our minds run wild trying to think of the perfect gift to give the children. Our Founder & Owner, Lindsay Bell, teamed up with The Strategist at NY Mag, and helped to create the ultimate toy gift guide for children ages 7, 9 and 10. Read for Lindsay’s top picks and check out the full lists per age group below. Happy shopping, readers!
For your 7-year-old: Ultimate Secret Formula Lab
“This chemistry lab is mesmerizing for those kids who like to mix potions,” says Lindsay Bell, founder of the Bell Family child-care company. It comes with beakers, test tubes, petri dishes, the works, and inside them you can combine mixtures of, say, phenol red and ammonia to create invisible vapors.
For your 9-year-old: ThinkFun Code Master Programming Logic Game
It’s an enticing concept — your avatar traveling to an exotic land to collect “power crystals.” First you have to write a program for yourself using the included Guide Scroll to set out your pathways along the map (this mimics the step-by-step sequences that need to be followed in computer programming). Once you snatch up all of the crystals on your designed route, collecting “action” tokens along the way, you win. What might not be noticed in all the intensity, though, is just how many fundamentals of programming you’re learning (even “conditional loops” and “branches”), which is why this game is a favorite of Lindsay Bell, founder and owner of Bell Family child-care company. Plus there are progressive levels of difficulty: An Amazon reviewer whose husband is an engineer wrote that even he enjoys the harder ones.
For your 10-year-old: Snap Circuits Arcade Electronics Exploration Kit
Snap Circuits, says Rumaan Alam, a novelist and father of a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old, “is one of a whole slew of toys meant to appeal to STEM true believers. I don’t know if it’ll ensure your kid grows up to be an engineer, but I do know my kids spent many a cooped-up winter day building an AM radio or figuring out how to turn a little motor.” Ruka Curate, founder of the Tiny Treasures Nanny Agency, recommends this arcade-themed kit, which is a more advanced Snap Circuits version for 10-year-olds. Another option, according to Lindsay Bell, founder and owner of Bell Family child-care company, is Snap Circuits Extreme, although it’s a bit more expensive.
For the full gift guides from The Strategist at NY Mag, visit the links below.
Our sitters and nannies are saying some great things about being apart of Bell Family’s childcare services team. Our women-run business has an established reputation for quality and excellence in childcare, and our childcare providers agree! Read below as sitters and nannies share their positive experience working with our team and all of our wonderful families.
Working with Bell Family Company has been such a phenomenal experience! It’s a fantastic way for someone who loves babysitting and working with children to be put in touch with amazing families throughout New York City.
Erin, sitter with BFC for 6 years
Bell Family does a fantastic job of pairing sitters and families. They’re meticulous in ensuring that the sitters have adequate information in regards to times, addresses, and backgrounds on the children and families. Their experienced in-house team run a very professional show, and always respond to their sitters and families needs immediately. A great experience on all levels – wonderful families, responsible sitters, and very proficient manage.
Shannon, sitter with BFC for 2 years
I became a sitter with Bell Family last year and it has changed my life in so many positive ways. I wanted to find a babysitting job to make some extra cash on the side, but BFC has provided so much more than that. I have met such incredible families who have had a profound impact on my life. It’s so wonderful! While I feel I can be a positive influence and make a difference in the lives of these children – they are also making a difference in mine. I am so grateful to be a part of the Bell Family team.
Laurie, sitter with BFC for 3 years
I’ve been working with Bell Family for over 2 years and I am happy to be one of their most active sitters! While I work as a full-time Actor, I am relieved to spend the other part of my life around the wonderful children and families that are associated with BFC. The children I have met have enriched my life, and I hope I have enriched theirs. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to work with such a fine company, and such playful children.
Laura, sitter with BFC for 2 years
I’m completely in love with the family you paired me with! You guys did such a good job placing me with them! Perfect match.
Larissa, nanny with BFC for 2 years
I am really, really happy working with the family you paired me with. They are super nice (thoughtful, grateful, kind, generous, respectful, good with communication) and their kids are just so sweet, lovely and perfect! Honestly, they might be the nicest people I have ever worked for and I am extremely grateful and excited to continue my long term journey with them.
Cynthia, nanny with BFC for 2 years
I tell everyone about your agency – you guys are truly the best! Again, thank you for giving me the chance to do something I love and something that I believe really matters (being a great role model for children).
Our member families are saying some great things about Bell Family’s childcare services. Our women-run business has an established reputation for quality and excellence in childcare, and families agree! Read below as families share their positive experience working with our team and fun-loving and experienced sitters, nannies and family helpers.
We have used Bell Family Company services for over six years and are so impressed with the wonderful babysitters sent to us. Every one of them has been capable, loving, knowledgeable and fun! My children get so excited every time they come over.
Betsey, mother of 2
I wanted to let you know my 3-year-old endorses your sitters, always! He remembers them and asks for them by name, and even when we have someone new he is beyond quick to say goodbye to me. I couldn’t be more thrilled with that!
Heather, mother of 1
As a busy mom and entrepreneur, I don’t have a fixed schedule. Bell Family Company gives me the best of both worlds: the absolute highest-quality child care — but only when I need it! Their sitters are dynamic, fun and safety-conscious. I get the flexibility I need with the peace of mind I demand.
Elise, mother of 3
Thank you so much for sending two amazing girls to help with our event. They were adorable and full of energy, and all of the kids and mommies loved them. They didn’t stop moving for one moment and were consistently asking what they could do, how they could help, etc. They are such professionals, it’s simply a pleasure!
Annie, Owner of Blast Events NYC
The party you helped us with was AMAZING. The kids had so much that no one wanted to leave! Some of the kids even came up to me and said it was the best birthday party they have ever been to, and to promise to have another one next year just like this one. Thanks to your awesome family helpers who made this last minute birthday party a big success!
I wanted to thank you for your hard work getting us through a very difficult transition of hiring a full time nanny. I’m not sure what we would have done without you! We had worked with another agency last fall, and the difference in experience was night and day. We were very impressed with the quality of candidates you sent us, as well as with your judgment as to who would be a good fit for us.
Cissie, mother of 2
To learn more about Bell Family and the services we provide, visit our website!
The women behind Bell Family Company are taking a stroll down memory lane and sharing their favorite Halloween memories this week. From country to city style trick-or-treating, and DIY costumers – there’s bound to be a story that will take you back to your favorite Halloween.
Lindsay Bell, Founder & Owner
My favorite Halloween memory was last year’s trick-or-treat in our new neighborhood. It was just like what you’d hope for after watching your millionth Halloween movie. The local police mark off the street so that no traffic can get through – making it safe for all to walk – and then crazy town is born (in a good way)! Thousands of trick-or-treaters roam the area, and parents are decked out in costume along with their kids. Almost every house on the road participates, with some homes going all out with decorations, spooky music, open bar on the porch for Mom & Dad, and the list goes on. I can’t wait for this year!
Meredith Hamler, Sitter Services Manager
My best memory of Halloween is that every year up until I was about 13-years-old, my grandma and I would go to the fabric store and pick out a pattern of the fabric I wanted, and then we would make my costume together.
Lauren Kruk, Nanny Services Manager
I always loved dressing up for Halloween! My hair has been very blonde my whole life, and for one Halloween, my mom had me dress as an Indian and sprayed my hair black. No one knew who I was at first! It was fun, but messy! We had a great neighborhood with a ton of kids, so trick-or-treating was always an adventure walking around the block.
Christine Bell, Recruitment & Retention
There is one vivid memory of Halloween as a mom of 5, piling the kids in the car in full dress, trying not to smash anyone’s costume or get it caught in the door. Trick-or-treating in the country meant driving in the dark from driveway to driveway, stopping long enough to open the doors and let the witches, scarecrows, cheerleaders or whatever other costume I could creatively throw together, out to run across someone’s yard to collect their treats.
We had Halloween’s of all kinds in northeast Ohio – rain, snow, heat – it was always a grab bag. Perks of a country Halloween: households with insight gave out large candy bars and individual bags of candy to these very special Halloween ghouls.
Courtney Garvey, Sitter Services Coordinator
One of my favorite Halloween memories is my first Halloween with my kids. It was so fun dressing them up; we were the Three Little Pigs and my husband was the Big Bad Wolf! I love everything about Halloween in general and now so do my daughters, so it makes the whole experience that much better!
Taylor Bell, Marketing & Social Media
Trick-or-treating always involved teaming up with my best friend to wander the development that a lot of my classmates lived in. The best years were the years we thought of a good group costume: my favorite being when we went as Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. Shoutout to my friend’s grandmother who worked tirelessly to knit our costumes!
After trick-or-treating we’d always pour our candy buckets out on the living room floor and trade pieces back and forth until it was time to go home.
Festivals, markets, and all of the pumpkin-themed fun possible. We searched around for some fall events in and around NYC that would be great for a family-fun day! Browse through our list, plan your adventure and tag us in your photos on Facebook, so we can get in on the fun too!
Harvest Homecoming When: October 20, 2019 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) Where: Brooklyn Botanical Garden About: Discover an old-school fall foliage festival in the heart of Brooklyn—complete with hay rides, carnival games, music, and more! Local cider makers and kombucha brewers offer tastings, a farmers’ market features heritage apples from local orchards, and kids can debut their Halloween costumes in a high-energy drum parade.
Scary Bazaar When: October 27, 2019 (10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) Where: Grand Bazaar NYC About: Grand Bazaar NYC transforms for Halloween into a “Scary Bazaar”. Expect to be greeted by creepy crawly and ghostly decorations, and explore the 140+ spooky vendors – many in costume – indoors and outdoors. There will be a fantastic selection of scary sweet treats from artisanal food vendors. Get your scare on and come out for a fun day for the whole family and maybe uncover unearthly finds!
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze When: October 3-31, 2019 and every weekend in November Where: Croton-On-Hudson, NY About: Witness an army of more than 7,000 glowing pumpkins in the tristate area’s most spirited Halloween happening, It’s also one of the best and easiest day trips from NYC!
Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla When: October 30, 2019 (4 p.m.-7 p.m.) Where: Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues) About: Celebrate the Halloween season in Central Park. Listen to ghost stories, check out a costume parade and get creative by carving a pumpkin. After the festivities, the Central Park Conservancy will partake in a traditional Pumpkin Flotilla, where 50 gourds (possibly your creation) will take a sail across the Harlem Meer at twilight.
I have a confession. I’m one of those maniacally organized people who, in spite of a demanding job and two little ones, cannot sleep when the house hasn’t been returned to order. My house is organized. There. I admit it. My containers match, I fastidiously use a label maker and you know what, I love a good surface wipe. But, even though my house is pretty organized most of the time, I still get that urge to turn the place upside down and go all Container Store on it every April. Why?! Trust me, I do not need another single thing to do. And, every year when I’m knee deep in a pile of stuff while both of my kids nap (I know what’s WRONG with me) I think – WHY?! Why do I feel compelled, driven even, to participate in full blown spring cleaning whenever the tulips pop?
Turns out there are strong cultural roots pulling us towards trashing our homes only to immediately set them right again when the sun starts shining. This practice is shared around the world, supported by biology and part of deep rooted American traditions. In the Jewish faith the house is rigorously cleaned in anticipation of Passover and Christian faiths suggest various cleaning rituals starting on lent and throughout the days leading up to Easter. Iranian New Year, Nowruz, falls on the first day of spring and dictates a thorough house cleaning too. For the agnostic among us, longer, sunnier days mean less melatonin fogging our brains, and less melatonin means more available energy. And for the history buffs, during the long winter frontier families’ homes would become covered with soot from the fires used for cooking and heat.
When the weather was finally warm enough to open the windows these homes got a through scrub down to remove that soot layer.
Now that I’m convinced spring cleaning isn’t just me killing time I don’t have, I’m going to break down how you can make it happen this spring in spite of all of the other things demanding your time and attention (because you know you want to…).
Set Your Goals Pick one or two priority areas that need your attention the most and define your goals for the space. For example, if you chose your entryway, your goal might be getting out the door in the morning faster. If you’ve chosen your kids toy room, maybe your goal is to bring older toys to light again. By defining your goal you will automatically align your actions with your desired end result.
Out, Sort, Distribute – Repeat Pull everything out of the space you’ve chosen and set it out so you can see as much of it as possible. Sort your belongings into 3 piles, Keep, Donate, Lives Elsewhere. Organize the Keep pile in a way that supports your goal. Ferry the Lives Elsewhere stuff to its rightful home and drop those donations off early in the season so those who need them most can take advantage of your generosity.
Keep It Simple If you have a bunch of time on your hands, sure, go full on Marie Kondo, but if you have limited time and competing priorities what sparks joy for you might be getting that one cabinet in order so you don’t have sippy cups raining down upon you every time you open it. And you know what? That totally counts. Keep it simple and do what works for you.
Our team of expert, skilled and savvy GYST Assistants had a few things to say on the topic too. GYST Assistants are excellent spring cleaning partners and even better than doing it yourself is delegating to an expert. GYST Assistants will help you set up organizational systems that are efficient, effective and easy to maintain and Bell Family Company families enjoy exclusive access to GYST Assistants on a project basis. Give us a call at (917) 912-9206 or say firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. Our goal is to set our clients free to focus on what matters most.
About GYST GYST sources, selects, educates and retains top personal and executive assistants and offers clients a flexible, high level assistant experience in a program optimized for long term success. Learn more at www.gystplease.com.
A special thanks to Brooke Stone, Founder and CEO of GYST, who shared her exploration of spring cleaning, organization tips and advice from GYST Assistants.
Now that burnout is an official medical diagnosis, I think it’s a good time to bring some simplicity back into our lives this summer.
There is always the temptation of the zillion great summer camp options available. I’ll admit I signed up for a week long one, one for each of my kids with the school they will be attending in the fall. The intention was to practice getting used to that school so drop off in the fall would be a breeze for both kid and me… mostly me.
This simple summer phenomena is not genius. It was how I was raised and probably how most of you and your parents were raised. With how complicated life seems to be today, here is what we will be doing to bring simplicity back. Beware, your kids may be bored at times, but I think that’s good! That’s when creativity is born!
Set up a safety town outside in the driveway. Grandma sent kid size street signs that are easy to set up and take down.
Host a lemonade stand and have your child make flyers to drop off at the neighbor’s house (this is the entrepreneur in me).
Swim, swim, swim! At home or a local pool (invite friends over, play pool games, etc.).
Play in the back yard. Sit toys or objects out and let the kids use their imagination to build and play.
Set up different areas in the house with different activities (e.g., front yard is sidewalk chalk, media room is trains, office is reading).
Go on a walk.
Go to a splash pad.
Pick vegetables at your garden or a local garden.
Water plants and teach your child about taking care of the environment.
Help clean up and make it a game.
Help mom cook! Teach your child about measuring cups, measuring spoons and practice the names of the ingredients.
We recently partnered up with Carly Snyder, M.D., who specializes in comprehensive reproductive health care and makes it her mission to help moms feel empowered and achieve life balance. Read below for our Q&A to learn more about Carly and her wonderful work with women’s health.
Q: What is your approach to help mothers optimize the body and mind pre- and post-birth? Are there certain services you provide that you find most beneficial for new moms?
A: The changes that occur in life from conception through baby’s first year of life are astronomical, and the impact of these changes on a woman’s sense of self is similarly huge. I spend a lot of time talking to my patients while they are still pregnant about identity and ways to incorporate their new identity as a mom into their current self, rather than feeling as if they are losing part of themselves with the arrival of their baby. I also work with women a lot on ways to feel proud and to own their changing bodies.
We focus a lot on living in the moment with a woman’s partner during pregnancy and enjoying the time until baby comes as a couple, appreciating one another and strengthening the relationship and continuing to function as a couple once baby arrives in addition to acting as co-parents. Too often after having a baby, couples transition to being parents and intimacy goes out the window. It is imperative that a strong bond be nurtured during pregnancy and then be reinforced after baby’s birth by having date nights and baby-free conversations. Pre-planning these date nights in advance, setting up a schedule with baby sitters lined up on a regular basis, establishes that the relationship remains important even after baby has arrived.
My patients and I also work hard on communication, speaking up about how a woman feels in the moment and making her needs known. During pregnancy and especially after the birth of a baby, new moms can feel as if their needs are secondary to their babies, but it is incredibly important that women feel empowered to speak up for themselves and to talk about their feelings and their needs openly. We explore what barriers they may have to opening up with loved ones about their experiences and then how to surmount these barriers so that open communication can occur freely going forward.
Another area that I focus on with my patients is making a sleep schedule during pregnancy for once the baby arrives to ensure that mom continues to get adequate rest. Whether mom is breast or bottle feeding, it is imperative that she sleeps at least six hours a night and ideally that she has can have uninterrupted sleep of three or more hours at a time. Moms are already exhausted as a result of labor and delivery when they leave the hospital with a newborn, and our country has no established supports in place to help new moms, so we must pre-plan to ensure that mom does not have to face feeding a baby every 2-3 hours every night on her own from day one onwards. This is only possible if mom has supports in place in advance, be it her partner, a family member, a postpartum doula or a baby nurse. A plan must be set up before baby arrives because otherwise mom will take on the full responsibility, and then she will undoubtably become exhausted and this can steam roll into feelings of sadness and a sense of being overwhelmed very quickly.
I also spend a lot of time discussing what are ‘normal and expected’ levels of anxiety and tearfulness during and after pregnancy, and at what point symptoms can be considered more significant and would warrant treatment, perhaps with more intense therapy, or with medication or with an increase in dose of medication if a woman is already taking something. Pregnancy is inherently anxiety inducing, and so is having a newborn. It is expected that new parents will be scared at times and will feel overwhelmed. At the same time, it is also important that women are able to control their anxiety and not feel that their anxiety or moments of sadness are engulfing them or taking over their lives. Parenthood will forever be scary because we love our children more than anything but cannot protect them from the outside world. We need to be able to compartmentalize our fears rather than allow the fears to control us because living in such a state of terror is not good for us or for our children.
Q: Why is it so important for mothers to focus on their mental health throughout the child bearing process?
A: Mom deserves to enjoy her pregnancy and the postpartum period as much as possible and this is impossible while struggling with a Perinatal Mood and/or Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). Mom’s mental health is intimately connected to her baby’s physical and emotional health both during and after pregnancy. Research consistently demonstrates that mom’s emotional state impacts her growing fetus and that feeling consistently severely anxious and/or depressed during pregnancy can have negative implications for a baby in the short and long run. Similarly, having a postpartum mood disorder is hard not just for mom, but also for everyone in the family.
Q: Tell us about your radio show, MD for Moms. What can listeners expect to hear and learn from tuning in each week, and how can listeners tune in?
A: MD for Moms is a show dedicated to helping women enjoy life more, to maximizing health and wellness and to improving women’s relationships with themselves and with others. For the last year and a half I have focused on what I call my “Mama Docs On Call” Series where I introduce my listeners to physicians who are also moms, like me, and they are on the show to provide information and support geared to moms and their families. We discuss topics ranging from women’s health and wellness issues to child-related concerns. It’s really a conversation between myself and a leader in a field of medicine, and listeners are invited to call in live with their questions throughout the show. For example, some recent shows included one with an OBGYN who answered every GYN question we all have but never remember or want to ask during our annual appointments, another show was with a pediatrician who is also a Lactation Consultant and we discussed breast feeding; another show was with an ER pediatrician who has taken on a special interest in keeping kids safe on-line, and we did a two part series on how to keep kids safe on social media… upcoming shows include a discussion on autoimmune diseases and fatigue, on childhood headaches, infertility, having a baby in the NICU, and so much more. The show is booked all the way through the new year and beyond – it is really exciting. Each week I post the upcoming show information on my blog as well as on social media. The shows air live on the BBM Global Network (on the internet), on TuneIn and iHeart Radio at 1pm ET every Wednesday or you can listen to it as a podcast. Just search for MD for Moms on iTunes podcasts and there are about 115 or so shows available for download.
ATTN New Yorkers – It’s time to get out and help others living in that beautiful city of yours! Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes, and no volunteer activity is too small.
We had the opportunity to learn more about New York Cares and the amazing volunteer opportunities that they offer. We were particularly taken by their kid-friendly volunteer opportunities where children and their parents can learn, give back and grow together, all while doing some good. Read below for our Q&A with Cynthia Chovan-Dalton, Director of Development, Individual Giving & Special Events at New York Cares and learn how your family can give back!
Q: Tell us about New York Cares Family Day on September 22nd. What does the event entail? Who can volunteer?
A: The New York Cares Family Day of Service on September 22nd will be a fun and educational event to introduce children to volunteering and giving back to the community. There will be eight stations that families can travel among to learn about different issues areas and participate in service projects such as packing baby boxes for families with newborns, making cards for seniors to brighten their day, creating seed balls for New York City parks, and learning how a family can collect coats to participate in New York Cares 31st Annual Coat Drive. The activities are designed for children ages 6-12, but younger and older children can attend (space for stroller parking is available). Parents can attend an express orientation for New York Cares volunteers, and then sign up for additional volunteer projects that are family-friendly. There are projects open to children as young as 6.
More information on the event can be found on our website.
Q: What are some other family-friendly volunteer events that you offer?
A: New York Cares Day for Schools on October 19 will have a family-friendly site. The New York Cares Family Council will plan additional volunteer projects over the course of the year that are exclusively for families, including a family-friendly coat sorting for the Coat Drive, a card-making opportunity for seniors or veterans, and a park revitalization project. Families can also search here for additional opportunities that allow children.
Q: How can someone sign up to be a volunteer? Can people of all ages sign up to volunteer?
A: Parents and guardians must create a New York Cares volunteer account and attend an orientation. They can then sign up for volunteer projects; for each project they must complete a Family Friendly Waiver. If a project is not one of the exclusive family projects organized by the Family Council, the parent or guardian must email the Team Leader of the project to let them know they will be bringing their child.
Q: What are some benefits you see families receiving after volunteering together?
A: We’ve heard from many parents that their time is limited and while they want to volunteer, they must prioritize family time. The solution is to volunteer with your kids! This will allow parents to pass on to their children the values of giving back and civic engagement that they feel are important. And research indicates that service-learning activities can reduce stereotypes, facilitate cultural and racial understanding, and increase interpersonal development, leadership, and communication skills. Children who volunteer are more successful in school, are three times more likely to volunteer as adults, and are more apt to vote.
A special thanks to Cynthia Chovan-Dalton for working with us for this Q&A blog post. Happy volunteering, readers!