So, you're thinking of moving to New Jersey from NYC. But you have a young child and aren't sure if passing up on NYC's free Pre-K 4 All (UPK) program is worth it. After all, in most cases it'll mean having to pay for Pre-K 3 & 4, which is upward of $7k - 10K per year in most districts. And if that child has a late birthday between October 1 - December 31, they will enter Pre-K a year later in NJ than they would in NYC, so that's up to THREE YEARS extra of either fee-based preschool (or staying home). And let's say you have twins with late birthdays. You're looking at an extra $60k in schooling / child care for those 3 years. I know. It's a lot to take in. We've been hashing over it for years now. And I'm here to give you the info I've gleamed!! **There may be mistakes in here - please let me know if you find any errors or outdated info!!
UPK in NYC:
My twins are currently enrolled in an amazing free Pre-K program here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Getting in is a bit stressful as it's a lottery, but in NYC you are guaranteed a seat, though the location could end up being far from your home. We got lucky for all 3 of our kids getting seats at programs less than a mile (walkable) from our home. And nearly everyone does get into a school not too far away, though many avoid the stress by paying for their child to go to the 3's preschool program at that school, so they'll have first priority to get the free UPK seat. The rest of us simply list our top 12 schools in February and cross our fingers! The good news is you're waitlisted at the schools you ranked below the one you were offered. In our case this past year with the twins, we were offered our 11th school. But by September we'd been called by every single school we listed to be offered a seat! The program is amazing, even includes free lunch and snack. Unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, the school year got cut short by over 3 months early and we're pretty devastated. The teachers are still providing regular materials and activities for us to work on at home, and even calling to chat with my girls once a week.
Redshirting in NJ vs. NYC
NYC does not allow redshirting, i.e. delaying entrance into elementary school. Simply put, if you live in NYC, your child enters kindergarten in September of the year they turn 5 (i.e. birthday cutoff of December 31). So if they were born December 31, they will be 4 when they enter Kindergarten and the baby of their grade. My son was born on December 25 so he started Pre-K at 3 years old, which was amazing as far as free child-care goes, but emotionally, he struggled big time in Pre-K and K. If you don't want to send them to Kindergarten, no problem, but they'll start 1st grade with that same cohort that they would have started Kindergarten with. You can't simply enter them into Kindergarten a year later. It appears New Jersey is more flexible here and many choose to send their child a year later.
Most New Jersey districts set a minimum age of 5 years old by October 1 to start Kindergarten (list of later cutoffs coming below!). But let's say your child was born in September - you can discuss with that school to have your child wait to start Kindergarten the next year, when they're 6 years old. This minimum age continues through 1st grade, so if you're transferring your late birthday child from NYC, they would get held back for Pre-K, K, and 1st grade. After completing 1st grade (or is it 2nd? sorry I'm not 100% sure), it becomes a discussion with school administration as to whether you want to hold your child back or continue at their current grade level, knowing your child is likely 1-2 years younger than their classmates. It's not a huge deal in the younger grades, but once you get to middle and high school, emotionally and physically, I've heard across the board it's kind of a big deal and worth considering holding them back when they're younger.
NJ Towns with Late Birthday Cutoffs:
The state has recommended a universal birthday cutoff of October 1, and nearly every school district in New Jersey has put this into effect. However... there are a handful of towns that have slightly later cutoffs, which is worth considering if you're desperate to get your kid into Kindergarten instead of having to pay for Pre-K. This may not be all-inclusive because I could not find a list, anywhere!!! This is a list I've personally compiled after researching, alot (please do comment below if you know of a town to add, or remove):
5 years old by October 31:
5 years old by October 15:
NJ Towns with Universal Free Pre-K:
This 2019 list is compiled from Pre-K Our Way, where the towns are listed by county; ALL 3 and 4 year olds in these former Abbott and Expansion Districts can attend free preschool. From NJ Monthly: "Abbott districts—now referred to as “former Abbott districts” because the rules have been updated—are typically urban districts where poverty is commonplace and the education system found to be constitutionally inadequate. Extra state funding is pumped into the districts, from preschool through grade 12. The communities that have universal, free preschool include the 31 former Abbott districts, whose schools the state is required to fund under the Abbott rulings, and four additional districts—Red Bank, Little Egg Harbor, Fairfield and Woodbine—approved in 2003."
NJ Towns with Free Pre-K for Some (via lottery):
** this 2019 list is compiled from Pre-K Our Way, where they're listed by county **
NJ Towns with Half Day Kindergarten:
But wait, there's one more thing to take into consideration... some New Jersey towns don't have free full day kindergarten yet!!! Over 90% of NJ districts offer free full day kindergarten, but about 40 districts hadn't converted yet and only offer half day for free!!! Some people may see this as a plus, but most don't. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to tell from their websites alone, so we've researched and asked around and put together this very unofficial and incomplete list of some of the school districts that haven't converted to (free) full day programs yet (each year, more are converting to full day - 76% of schools had it in 2012 and 94% had it in 2019, so be sure to double check with the district):
Other Things to Consider:
My crew went back to school a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to take a minute to let you guys know about some of my favorite items we're using this year - from great kids shoes to bento box to washable labels, all from brands included in my $600 value jackpot Fall Favorites for the Family Giveaway running through September 19, 2018 - enter to win here!!
Click below to watch the haul on our YouTube channel, or read on for the blog version!
Stuck On You has the best personalized items for kids and families. I previously reviewed the Stuck On You Bento Box and Backpack my son is using, and we've just gotten their washable labels and fabric stamp to try out - must haves for school, day care, and camp! The labels come in all sizes to choose from, and as with all of the Stuck On You items, you can personalize the text, font, color, and even add a cute little logo or character! (Do take a moment to read my PSA on child safety at the bottom of this post regarding labeling items with your child's name). We haven't had these labels long enough to see how they do long term, but I'll check back in and update this post in a few weeks to let you know how our items have been doing with heavy use and being thrown in the dishwasher. My DIY sharpie labeling didn't survive a day at school on my twins' water bottles, not to mention the dishwasher! So, fingers crossed these labels live up to their promise (I'm pretty sure they will!!).
Another must-have to make sure your kids' items are all labeled before heading off to school is the Clothing Name Stamp Pack by Stuck On You. It comes with a personalized stamp, fabric ink, and blank iron-on labels. So you can choose to stamp directly onto the clothes or clothing label, or onto the iron-on label. SUPER easy, waterproof, and permanent!!
We've been a huge fan of pediped for years now, check out my past reviews of shoes here (2017), here (2016) and here (2015)! They are an award-winning children's shoe company known for supporting the healthy growth of children's feet, and their fabulous selection of adorable and stylish shoes for babies through big kids!
My girls were sent pediped's Grip 'n Go Nikki Pink/Orange Sandals, featuring a genuine leather upper, breathable leather lining, all natural rubber sole, and super comfy memory foam insole. Approved by American Podiatric Medical Association for promoting healthy foot development and available in sizes 19 - 23 (4.5 - 7), they're currently on sale for $30!! The velcro strap is easy for kids to do themselves, it's not a loop through (which mine frequently struggle with if they pull it too far out of the loop by accident), and they were my girls were literally flipping over the fun colors! The memory foam insole is very squishy and the sole is super flexible - check out the image above and get a better feel for it in my demo video here!
My son was sent these super cool Flex Logan boots in Chestnut, which are, get this - VEGAN!! They're also machine washable, have a natural rubber sole, breathable canvas lining, are approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association for promoting healthy foot development, and feature the "Flex Fit System" - they come with an extra insert per foot so you can make sure they fit your child perfectly. I love that they LOOK like a laced up shoe but they are in fact, not. The laces are non-tie elastic and stretch to allow your child to get his or her foot in there easily, with a velcro strap up top. Under pants or on show with shorts, these boots are fabulous for the Fall through winter and spring!
Don't forget you can win a pair of pediped children's shoes and a $50 store credit to Stuck On You in my $600 value jackpot giveaway on the blog now!!! Enter to win here!!
We are T minus 2 weeks til back to school here in NYC, so I wanted to take a moment to share with you a couple of our favorite school items we got last year - they survived to live another year - SCORE!!!
Stuck On You is an Australian brand that sells personalized, well, everything for kids and families! We're talking book bags, bento boxes, lunch bags, clothing labels, clothing stamps, pencil cases, hats, planners, you name it! Last year, we worked with them as part of our 2017 Back to School Giveaway, and were provided a personalized Book Bag, Bento Box and Cooler Bag for my son who was off to Kindergarten. (Stay tuned for our 2018 Back To School / Family Fall Favorites Giveaway going live in September!!!)
What's great is that each Stuck On You item you choose can be personalized - you choose the color, the image, text, and font! (Please see my Safety PSA at the bottom of this post!!!). It's fun for kids, and the parents!
His backpack has gotten TONS of mileage over the past year, carrying his gear to school in Brooklyn every day and even journeying to Japan and Maine with us! I love the gender neutral light mint he chose, though it did get pretty dirty thanks to a water bottle that quite often leaked. But, with a quick scrub in the bath tub it was looking good as new each time (see photos - these are after 1 year of use), so no worries there!! We got the "large" size ($44.95 on sale currently for $35.96) which fits full sized folders and holds his lunch box and everything, but they do have a mini sized too ($24.95 on sale now for $19.96) for the preschool/day care set.
We also got Bento Value Pack ($59.95) including the leak-proof bento box and bento box cooler. The cooler comes with an attached bag that zips closed to hold the included reusable ice pack, and this bag fits the bento box perfectly! The bento box has a removable partitioned insert, and SEALS SHUT when closed, meaning you could put a dip in one of the compartments and it won't leak into another compartment or into your bag when shut!! How amazing is that!!!
So, if back to school shopping, or just looking to replace some old items, definitely check out Stuck On You! And now on to an important message...
***CHILD SAFETY PSA***
Many warn not to put your child's name on any items that will be viewable out in the public, which usually means their backpack and jacket. The concern is the risk of a stranger seeing it and calling your child by name, making them think that it is a safe person. This is obviously a HUGE safety concern, however simply keeping their name off of their backpack won't cut it. I urge you to talk to your children regularly about the dangers of not just strangers, but "Tricky People" (read more here). In this day and age of social media and oversharenting (guilty!!), it's quite possible for your child's name and/or face to be quite well known. Not just that, but a stranger could be lurking and overhear you calling your child's name. Just because someone knows their name, or their parent's name, doesn't mean they're safe. Just because they're a stranger, doesn't mean they're dangerous. Unfortunately, even a teacher, a friend's parent, an uncle, a friend, anyone could have bad intentions. Without scaring them too much, we have to teach them to always be cautious, know to tell their caregiver immediately if ANYONE says or does ANYTHING that makes them uncomfortable. Know how to react in an emergency (scream, kick / scratch / gauge out eyes) etc. So, keep your child's name off of his or backpack if it makes you feel better (you could still personalize it perhaps with a nickname or initials or simply a logo or character they identify with), but know you need to be more proactive than that.
My kids don't take a bus or have after school care yet, so I'm not too concerned with their names on backpacks that simply go from home to under the stroller to school cubbies, and they're always with me anyway. But once they're traveling too and from school/camp/activities on their own, I certainly plan to leave names and identifying objects off of their backpacks. However, my kids are quite familiar with "strangers" knowing them and their names on a regular basis (because of our presence on social media), so we have the talk regularly about why people know them, what a "tricky person" is, why it's dangerous to run off or linger behind me on the sidewalk, etc. At 2 and 5 years old, I'm not sure how much they really "get it", but it's a conversation that must happen, often, and it evolves as they get older.
So, what do you think!? Do you personalize your kids' stuff? How do educate your kids about "stranger danger" and "tricky people"? Leave a comment below, and be sure to follow us across social on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YOUTUBE, and stay tuned for our HUGE Fall Faves Group Giveaway!!!!!!
Check out Kenzo sporting his Stuck on Me backpack at the airport in Japan:
I know, I know. Summer has just kicked off so the last thing we want to think about is school, right!? But, sorry guys, we gotta do it. And what better way than with another one of my awesome group giveaways!?? From a personalized bento lunch box to a travel booster seat to immune-boosting probiotics and fun dance music, we've gotcha covered at school, at home, and on vacation!! Read on for more info about our prizes (a $300 value jackpot going to one very lucky winner!!), and enter to win in the Rafflecopter app at the bottom!!
Stuck on You Bento Box & School Pack
Whether your kids are headed to camp, daycare, or back to school, Stuck On You is a brand you have GOT to know!! From backpacks and lunch boxes to stationary and clothing, all of their products come personalized! Our grand prize winner will receive a personalized Bento Value Pack (consisting of a bento style lunchbox, cooler bag, and ice pack) and a 5+ School Pack (consisting of 18 Large Name Labels, 50 Mini Name Labels, 18 Square Name Labels, 26 Medium Iron On Labels, and 1 personalized keychain style Bag Tag) - a $115 value!! I'll be doing a review of their Large Book Bag and Bento Box shortly (my son designed them and will be proudly toting them to Kindergarten in the fall!), so stay tuned for that!!
Did you know that a healthy gut is a key to overall health of pretty much every system of your body!? The idea is that you need to make sure your gut is filled with enough of the good bacteria to outnumber the bad bacteria, and probiotics are a great way to go about doing this. Formulated with billions of live cultures and several strains in each serving, LoveBug Probiotics offers a number of powerful and effective products, including Tiny Tummies (powder for newborn to 4 years), Little Ones (easy to swallow spheres for children ages 4+), Colds Suck (enhanced with immune-boosting zinc, echinacea, and vitamin C), Yeast is Best (for women's urinary tract health), Labor of Love (for expectant mothers), and Here's the Skinny (for general gut health). Our grand prize winner will receive a bottle of Colds Suck and Little Ones, a $60 value!! You can find all of their products available on a subscription basis their website, and get your first month free with code "FREETRIAL"! They're also by the bottle on Amazon (affiliate link).
Squeasy Gear Pouches (3-pack)
Made of 100% food-grade silicone and featuring a removable no-spill insert that really works, Squeasy Gear is my all-time favorite reusable food pouch. Hands down. They're self-standing with a large opening, so filling them up is super easy. They're top-rack dishwasher safe, can be turned inside out for cleaning, and can be rolled up for tight storage or travel. They come in 16oz, 6oz, and 3.5oz, and the no-spill insert works so well, you can even use Squeasy Snackers for liquids (as well as pureed baby food, yogurt, applesauce, etc)! Our grand prize winner will receive 3 Squeasy Gear products - size and color of his or her choice, a $50 value. You can find them available on Squeasy Gear's website and Amazon (affiliate link), and you can check out my personal review here!
mifold Grab-and-Go Booster Seat
Bulky booster seats raise your child up so that the seatbelt fits them correctly. Flat, compact, and portable mifold Grab-and-Go booster seat does the opposite - it brings the seatbelt down to your child to fit them correctly: on the shoulder (off the face and neck) and on the hip bones (off the stomach). Ah-may-zing!! 10 times smaller and just as safe (for ages 4 - 12 years). It folds to a mere 10" by 5", meaning you can easily throw it in your glove compartment or even in your child's a backpack so they always have it with them when traveling, carpooling, or catching a ride with grandparents. Our grand prize winner will get a mifold Grab-and-Go booster seat (a $45 value), in their choice of color! You can read more about them and buy one on their website and Amazon (affiliate link), and don't miss my review and demo of our mifold here!
Sneakz Organic Milkshakes
With a half serving of veggies in each 8oz box of flavored milk, Sneakz helps us sneak some extra nutrition into our kids! Coming in 3 delicious flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) and certified USDA organic, Sneakz is the perfect drink to throw in the lunch box, bring on a picnic, or suck down in the car on the way to school! Also, Sneakz is coming out with a dairy-free powder, with added protein and probiotics, that can be mixed with any plant or animal milk and even cooked or baked with!! It should hit the market in September! Our grand prize winner will receive a great prize pack from Sneakz including a six-pack of each flavor (that's 18 milk boxes!!), a Sneakz tote bag, and a Sneakz reusable shopping bag (a $40 value)! You can shop for Sneakz on their website (and even sign up for a discounted subscription service), at a store near you (click here to find one) and Amazon (affiliate link). You can read my personal review here and check out my recipe for Sneakz Neapolitan Chia Pudding!
Wubba Water (6-pack)
Did you know electrolyte replacement drinks tend to be full of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners? Big Bang Beverages wasn't too thrilled with that, so they created an organic and healthier alternative to Pedialyte: Wubba Water, a children's hydration drink free of synthetic dyes, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and GMO's! Colored only with fruit and vegetable extracts and having only 1 gram of organic sugar per serving, Wubba Water is a healthier way for your little one to replenish water and electrolytes when sick or playing sports (and they'll get a Vitamin C boost to boot)! You can find Wubba Water at Whole Foods (in the TriState area) and on Amazon (affiliate link), and our grand prize winner will receive 2 bottles of each flavor - blue raspberry, fruit punch, and orange - a $20 value!
Laurie Berkner: The Dance Remixes
Everyone from toddlers to tweens to parents will be rocking out to beloved children's recording artist Laurie Berkener's brand new album, "Dance Remixes", which features 14 of her classics, remixed into Electronic Dance Music (EDM) style! I'm psyched to see my favorite LB tunes, "We Are the Dinosaurs" and "Victor Vito", made the cut - did yours? The album is set to release on September 22 and our grand prize winner will receive one - either "old school" CD or digital download, a $10 value. Check out my review of the awesome new album here, and purchase any of her older albums on her website and Amazon (affiliate link).
Coordinated by US Japan Fam, this giveaway is sponsored by participating brands and open to US residents ages 18 and over. No purchase required to enter. Giveaway ends Wednesday, July 26 at 11:59 PM EDT - one winner will be randomly chosen and contacted through e-mail, and their name displayed on the giveaway page. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. US Japan Fam and participating blogs are not responsible for fulfilling brand-sponsored prizes. Prizes will be shipped directly from each brand.
I'm a sucker for sentimental gifts and photo props, and I have to say, with total honestly, one of my all-time favorites is Grow With Me Tee! Whether you have an infant, toddler, or school-aged child, they've got a tee for you!!
We got our first Grow With Me Tee, the "age ruler" toddler years one, for review over 2 years ago. You color off another section on the ruler and take a photo of your child in it every 6 months from 1 year through 5 years. You literally see your child growing into the shirt as you go along, getting ever so shorter on the legs and arms. It's fun to do, and makes for adorable and memorable photos! Below is a collage of my son in his shirt from 1.5 years through 3.5 years (just 2 months ago). The marker that came with it dried out unfortunately, so we switched to another darker green one, whoops. I recommend stocking up on 2 markers of the same color so you don't run into this problem!
My son is starting Pre-K soon, well, TOMORROW actually!!! So, we were thrilled to work with Grow With Me Tee again to promote their "Class Of" School Years tee. It's a huge shirt (size Large), with the year your child will graduate high school printed on the front (if you can't calculate the year, I sure as heck couldn't, don't worry, they know these things!). So, you can take a photo of them on the first and last day of each grade to watch them grow into the tee! It won't really work out if your child gets held back or skips ahead... maybe the company will send you a complimentary replacement shirt with the new correct graduating year? Ha! What's cool about this shirt is that you can buy or gift it to a child at any point, you don't necessarily have to get it for their very first day of school, you could start in 3rd grade or whatever! Of course, the sooner you start, the more dramatic the growth will be in the photos! I can't believe that my little dude, swimming in his shirt, will one day fill it out!!!
Grow With Me Tee also has a "baby's first year- clock" onesie for infants - you mark off each box for the current month and watch the baby grow into the onesie. Personally, I think it makes for an amazing baby shower gift!!!
These tees run for $20 a piece (they do have bulk discounts available), but you want to know something super awesome?? You can win one in my $400 value 12-product jackpot Back To School Giveaway!!! It's running through September 15, so what are you waiting for???
Disclaimer: Although I did receive this product free of charge, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
We're all doing our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle... right? So when it comes to your kid's lunches (or even yours at work), you know you should be using a reusable lunch box or bag. But it's not that simple. Plastic lunch boxes bring concern of BPA, phthalates, and all those baddies that can leach into your lunch. No thanks! So, I have a pretty cool eco-friendly option for you: PlanetBox!
PlanetBox containers are made of stainless steel, which is dishwasher safe, non-toxic, non-leaching, recyclable, and doesn't pick up odors or stains like plastics do. They are also segmented (like the Japanese bento box!!), allowing you to separate foods and keep the meal more organized. They come in 3 different size options (each having several color options for the carrying case):
We got our hands on the PlanetBox Shuttle, their smallest box, which I thought would be a good size for my little toddler. The first thing I noticed was that it's pretty heavy - one pound according to their website. I guess that's just one of the drawbacks of metal as opposed to plastic, but it's certainly not as heavy as a glass container would be, so it's kind of the middle ground in that respect. The metal container, and the way it snaps shut (which is easy for kids to open and close) made me feel like a boy scout from the 1950's! Ha! Definitely a unique style, in a good way!
You'll have an option of the carrying case you get (my son is in love with the blue alien one we got), and they come with matching magnets that you can use to decorate your lunch box with! Very cool, and easy to keep clean - just remove before you throw the box in the dishwasher, and rinse off the magnets by hand!! Here are a couple of examples:
Unfortunately PlanetBox does not seal water-tight, so you have to be careful not to include anything loose in there that is too liquidy. If you have a sauce, put it in the dipper container. If you have ripe sliced peaches or something, you might consider putting them in a water-tight baggy such as wet bag. And if you need to keep it cool you'll need to purchase their cold kit ($8), an ice pack made with purified water (yay!), which will do the job for up to 8 hours.
You can buy a PlanetBox on their website or you can enter to win one in my huge $300 value jackpot 8-product Back To School Giveaway running through September 8!
Enter to win here!!
Disclaimer: Although I did receive this product free of charge, I was not compensated in any other way to do this product review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
No, a public Japanese-English bilingual school doesn't exist in New York City... yet... but could be in the works!! Just saw this posted in one of my Facebook groups:
We are in the process of gathering a list of families that are interested in being a part of the first ever Japanese dual-language program in a New York City public school. If the idea of your child learning and speaking both Japanese and English from K-5 is appealing to you, please fill out the information below for our list. This list will help us in getting support from the Dept. of Education and other organizations that we are looking to partner with in making the program a reality.
We have been very lucky to have found two possible partnership schools in District 14. At this point, it is paramount that we show them in person just how much interest there is in starting a new dual-language program in Brooklyn! This vision is not just to benefit families interested in studying Japanese; dual-language programs have been known to transform school communities. Our efforts to bring more dual-language programs is part of a larger effort to improve and provide for more high quality choices in our very own public schools. Our decision to move forward with Japanese in D14 is because 1) Williamsburg and Greenpoint has the 2nd largest Japanese population in Brooklyn and 2) how is it possible that Japanese dual-language programs do not exist in all of DOE?
If you have time to come (with or without your wee ones) either tomorrow / Friday of this week to PS 147, we urge you to please come! We would love to have your support in droves! If you can also come next Wednesday to PS 196, they have invited Councilman Antonio Reynoso to address our wishes for schools in our district. What an opportunity to let decision-making folks know now what we want for our kids in the near future!
OPEN HOUSES (General, not just for the J-E Program):
Thursday and Friday, 3/20 & 3/21 at 9am PS 147 325 BUSHWICK AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map Phone: (718) 497-0326
Wednesday, 3/26 at 9am PS 196 207 BUSHWICK AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map Phone: (718) 497-0139
Finally, fill out this Google Docs form if you'd like to be kept in the loop by the movement's organizer, Lanny Cheuk! If you're like me and have no idea what school district you're in, you can find out here!
I can't say I'm not terribly bummed they're pushing for District 14. I mean, Williamsburg/Greenpoint is like another state when you're way down in Bay Ridge!!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)