Making The Most of Upper West Side with Your Baby

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Yania Andarini has been living in New York City since 2013 to accompanying her husband pursuing Master degree in Columbia University. She’s embracing the days of Manhattan’s hustle and bustle with little Harsya.

Two days after my husband was admitted to a graduate school in New York, our doctor told us that I was also carrying a baby inside my belly. It was beyond words. We could not express our gratitude to the Lord Almighty as we felt that we were among the luckiest couple. Not only we were trusted to become a parent, but also we were going to New York City, the land of opportunity.

Fast forward several weeks, after the bubble of euphoria had popped, we got worried because it would cost a shipload of money to raise a baby at one of the most expensive city in the world—all alone with no relatives and with a very limited student budget. However, with the help of the Lord Almighty and so many loving families in Jakarta, we decided to rise to the challenge and depart to New York.

Needless to say, we are running a very tight ship, here. But luckily, there are places that cost us a very little amount of money—even for free—to take our baby out and play. Here are some places and facilities that we usually hang out with our baby in my neighborhood in the Upper West Side at Manhattan:

  1. Hit up your local libraries for no cost. New York Public Library (NYPL) are great places for parents and babies to spend time together. In addition to a vast array of fabulous children books collections, some of the libraries–in my case, they are the NYPL Morningside Heights and the NYPL St. Agnes–have a play room with a lot of toys where babies or toddlers can play. By bringing your baby to a library and exposing them to tons of interesting books, it will develop a good reading habit for babies since their early years. On another note, sometimes the libraries also conduct a storytelling session where the librarians enthusiastically read books for dozen of cute little babies.

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  1. Your local bookstores do not only sell books, they have tons of interesting activities, too. You can enjoy free storytelling every day at your local bookstore. Storytelling is wonderful and full of educational activity. The best part of it, it is free! Storytelling introduces your baby to language and helps them to develop their verbal skills. It is also a great place to interact with other baby of similar ages. Here are some local bookstores which provide free storytelling within my neighborhood:

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  • Bank Street bookstore on Broadway and West 112 St. has a free daily story hour at 10.30 a.m. The storytellers do not only read out loud, but they also invite the babies/toddlers to sing together. Occasionally, they invite famous authors to read together. Have I mentioned that we can also interact with other cool mommies?
  • Book Culture bookstore on Broadway and West 114 St. offers a free storytelling time in various language– French, Spanish and English. The storytelling was located on its lower level. The schedule for the activity is every Saturday at 15.30

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Bank street bookstore also provides puppet show every Saturday and Sunday at 13.00 p.m. for one hour. This program is primarily intended for toddler but babies are also welcomed to attend.

  1. Stroll over New York parks with your babies and loved ones. New York City is a jungle of concretes but it is also a home for a lot of beautiful parks. During the summer, you can always bring your baby to parks and meet a lot of friends there. On top of that, you can play with your baby on a slushy green grass, do a swing or even play water splash!

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Luckily, there are three parks within 20 minutes of walk from my apartment—the Riverside Park, the Morningside Heights Park and the Central Park. My favorite is the Riverside Park, since it is so close from my apartment and it provides many children playground. Every afternoon at 5 pm I take my baby to the Riverside Park to play with other babies or to just enjoy the scenery of the majestic Hudson River adjacent to the park.
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There are many more places of interest in the Upper West Side—places like the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum. However, I am yet to visit those places with my baby. Once I do, I will let you know. In the meantime, enjoy your parks, libraries and bookstores!

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