New kids on the block in Washington Heights
Reported on Oct. 22, 2009
A typical morning for 20-month-old Josie Dean includes painting, singing, baking and knitting, all done in the company of several friends. Whether it’s story time, music class or “Mommy and Me” yoga, there is no shortage of kid-friendly activities in Washington Heights.
“It’s just a great place to raise children,” said Josie’s mother, Jennie.
As younger families populate Washington Heights, the numbers of infants and toddlers are noticeably increasing. According to the 2000 census, there were 14,389 people under the age of 5 living in Washington Heights and Inwood, comprising 6.9 percent of the district’s population. A 2008 census analysis by the American Community Survey found that the number of children in the area under the age of 6 totaled 21,594, accounting for 9.9 percent of the population.
The baby boom is not unique to northern Manhattan. In 2006, The New York Times documented a similar increase in the rest of the borough, as the number of children under age 5 grew by more than 32 percent over the last decade, and anecdotal evidence supports these statistics.
“From my own observations, I can definitely say that the rate of births is up, and yes, there are more children,” said Ebenezer Smith, district manager for Community Board 12. “Just walking on the street, you see so many mothers pushing their baby carriages.”
Others, like social worker Jessica Shapley, have noticed the trend as well. For close to nine years, she has been leading support groups for mothers in Washington Heights. A new group starts every eight to 10 weeks, Shapley said, with more than enough new parents to attend each cycle of sessions.
“I started this group out of my own need when I first moved here because there was nothing,” she said. “Now there are definitely more children and young families than ever before.”
Shapley also moderates a “Parent and Me” Yahoo! group, which boasts over 1,000 participating families from Washington Heights and Inwood.
One local hub for kid-friendly activities is Fort Washington Collegiate Church. The church hosts an educational program called Bloomgarden, which began there in early October and meets on Mondays and Wednesdays. The program, which emphasizes artistic expression through interactive classes, now caters to a small group of eight parents and their children, with expansion plans on track for next semester.
“We wanted to create a place where parents and children can grow together, and ‘bloom,’ so to speak,” said Rachel Lederman, Bloomgarden’s co-founder. “It’s a place for creative expression.”
The Tuesday Toddler group, a free program funded by optional donations, features story time, guitar-led singing, and free play. Nearing the end of its fourth year, the program has expanded well beyond its original eight families, and now attracts close to 80 families each week.
“It’s a chance for both kids and parents to socialize,” said Troy Schremmer, the church’s director of education who runs the program. “It’s really about meeting a need for young parents in the community.”
What Shapley likes about Washington Heights is that “it’s a unique place with a small-town feel, where people really know the faces of their neighbors,” she said. “These different programs speak to the needs of the community, and people are moving here from other parts of Manhattan because they want that kind of kid-friendly atmosphere.”
New programs continue to spring up as more and more people opt to raise families in the city. On Nov. 1, the Jewish Community Council of Washington Heights-Inwood started a lending service for maternity clothes and baby supplies that includes pregnancy and parenting books, and items such as strollers, swings, and booster seats.
“I had been receiving phone calls asking for baby items,” explained Anat Coleman, community affairs officer for the Jewish Council, a not-for-profit organization that provides a range of free social services. “In the last five years, I have seen many young families moving into the area, and many don’t have space in their apartments or can’t afford to buy these items, so this was created in response to their needs.”
Childcare, it’s one of the biggest issues personally and professionally. I will say, once the childcare piece is in place you can concentrate on the here and now, which is your baby.
Giving yourself enough time to find someone and hire them before you actually have to return to work , should leave you feeling much more confident in your decision. For all parents, the overwhelming question of “how do I begin this search” is often coupled with a fear of leaving their baby with a “stranger”. Good and affordable childcare is an emotional and financial issue for all parents.
A part time babysitter can run $12-15 an hour. A nanny (full time sitter) can range in price from $400-700. Referrals come from all sorts of places; neighbors, friend’s babysitters, the playground, a bulletin board, your friends. If you are looking for a part time or occasional sitter, you might try calling Cabrini High School at 212 923-3540, talk to the dean of students. They have identified good candidates for babysitting and will help match a student with a family. Barnard Babysitting Service is another option. Their telephone number is 212-854-2035. For a low fee they will try to match a student with your family’s part-time needs. You also might try posting in the lobby of Columbia’s School of Nursing student service board. Fax over your job description (212-305-3680) .
Before you interview the perspective nanny/babysitter you might want to find out their past experience and describe what you’ll need. Check references first then have a face to face. When talking to past employers ask if they’d hire them again. Find out how they found her and when and why she left. When interviewing the candidate clearly state what your expectations are and find out how flexible she is. Discuss safety issues and setting limits. Try to figure out what your views on TV or phone use would be, you expectation around nap schedules or housekeeping. Legally, you can ask anything you might feel is pertinent, from their health or medications they take to their own childcare needs. You can also ask to see an ID or driver’s license. You’ll want to be up front about vacations, sick days, travel expenses and general expectations. Some families write up agreements that all parties sign.
If a full time sitter is not affordable, Family Daycare, tends to be a less expensive option. Word of mouth and resources such as the Day Care Council of NY (www.dccnyinc.org) can provide licensed listings. Licensing requires 1 adult per 6 children (2 of which can be infants). Group Family Day Care requires 2 adults (1 provider and 1 assistant) for up to 12 kids, 4 of which can be infants.
Family day care can be a lovely option. Find out if they are licensed, what the ratio is, how the space accommodates both toddlers and infants, ask around and observe. The Department of Health can provide information on reported violations. For local listings of childcare resources you can look up www.washington-heights.us/ and click on resources and then click on childcare and you will find centers in the area.
Remember, who you hire now might not be the person you have in 6 months, 1 year or 3 . Your needs might change and your child’s needs might change. Factor in a trial period. From my experience there are more good childcare providers than bad. The more time you can have with this person or place before returning to work, the more comfortable you’ll feel leaving your baby. The relationship, ultimately, can be an enriching and loving experience for your baby and an asset to your family.
I am bringing New Mom’s Groups and New Parent Programing to you. My goal is to connect mothers and families, answer questions and ease transitions. I provide sleep workshops, teach infant massage and facilitate new mother support groups around the city, in a neighborhood near you.
I am thrilled to add The Discovery Program in Morningside Heights to my list of venues. This is a wonderful program that has provided programing for families for over thirty years. Morningside Heights has continued to grow into a wonderful family centered community. I am happy to join their commitment to serving new moms and families in and near Morningside Heights. With the New Mother Support Groups moms will find their power to embrace the journey. See you in the neighborhood.
Schedules: Programs and Places
Discovery Program Morningside Heights
New Mom Support Group
251 West 100th Street
New Mom’s Support Group
Wednesday February 3 at 12:30
Attention: This is NOT a drop-in class! | Pre-registration required
Prenatal Yoga Center: UWS
West 72nd Street
- New Mom Support Group for moms with babies newborn-6 months
Attention: This is NOT a drop-in class! Pre-registration required
both 2:30-3:30pm | 8 weeks | $155
Next Monday group: February 8 – April 19 (no meeting 2/15, 3/1, 3/29)
Next Thursday group: March 11 – May 6 (no meeting 4/1)
- Mom Support Group- Settling Baby: Settling Mommy(for moms with babies 5-12 months)
Attention: This is NOT a drop-in class! | Pre-registration required
$155 for new participants | DISCOUNT! $135 for returning 0-6 month group members
Mondays, 4-5pm | 8 weeks
February 8 – April 19 (no meeting 2/15, 3/1, 3/29)
212-362-2985 for discount!
Kripalu Lenox Ma
The Pelvic Floor and More
Bread and Yoga Studio Inwood
4951 Braodway at 207th 212 569 4112
- Sleep Workshop Jan 12
- Infant Massage January 26th at 12:30 to registser call 212 569 4112 $25 in advance, $30 at door
- New Mom’s Support Group Feb 2 at 12:30. This is not a drop in class $125 to register call 212 569 4112
ask about discounts if you sign up for more than one of Jessica
Wiggles and Giggles Playhouse Washington Heights
West 181st St at Riverside Dr 212 543 2393
- Sleep Workshop for babies newborn-1 year January 21 at 12:15 register with Wiggles and Giggles 212 543-2393
- New Mom’s Support Group Weds 11:30-12:30 Feb 3 $125 8sessions
- Infant Massage
Metro Minis: UES
821 Park Ave at 75th
- New Mother’s Support Group begins March 1 at 11:30 $125 Register with momsupport 212-781-6368
- Sleep Workshop January 27 12:30 ($20 pre pay, $25 at door) http://store.metrominis.net/index.php
- Infant Massage January 30 3pm http://store.metrominis.net/index.php
- New Mother’s Support Groups: 8 session series for moms with babies newborn-5 months
A facilitated support and discussion group for moms with their babies (newborn – 6 months)
Find the power to embrace the journey of motherhood with confidence and connect with new moms just like you. Share experiences, ask questions, and make supportive friendships.
mom and baby wellness
introduction to solids
staying at home versus working outside the home
self image, and more.
- Settled Mother’s Support Groups: 8 sessions series for mothers with babies 5 months to 12 months
A weekly facilitated discussion on the journey from infancy to babyhood into toddler-hood. Connect with other moms and discuss:
-Breastfeeding or weaning
-Introduction of siblings
-Returning to work
-Tapping into your own personal growth
- Sleep Workshops: 1 to 2 hour group sessions for parents with babies newborn-1
- What does a schedule even look like?
- My spouse comes home in the evening and riles up the baby.
- Is it OK to rock my baby to sleep?
- Should I put my baby on a schedule?
- How do I cut down on night-time feeding?
- Can I sleep with my baby?
- I feel guilty asking my partner to help at night.
- My baby is 3 months, can I still swaddle her?
- Is crying it out the only way?
Your questions and opinions are welcome!
- Infant Massage: For precrawling babies
Massage is great addition to your toolbox of techniques to sooth and bond with your baby. Massage assists with sleep, colic, communication and relaxation. Learn the techniques, routine and benefits of massaging your baby.
Infant Massage is taught in a relaxed, hands-on, one hour session with Jessica Shapley, certified infant massage teacher, practitioner and licensed social worker.
Infant massage is a gift each parent will be able to share with their child throughout a lifetime.