NY 529 College Saving Program 

*This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of NY 529

My kids may not be attending school in-person this year, but they are embarking on an odyssey through virtual learning where they will master new skills, learn about new topics and face new challenges. This academic year, more than any previous year, brings its own unique set of challenges due to the unprecedented global health crisis. And after careful consideration we chose virtual learning as the default instruction method for the kids both to keep them safe and to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. While embarking on this educational journey with my kids this year at times feels overwhelming, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have a front row seat to my children’s developmental milestones and achievements.

Although I’ve never pursued a career in teaching, I actually have a Masters degree in Elementary Education and understand the STEM-based educational model, which emphasizes the value of creating hands-on learning experiences for kids. Children learn best through play and the best educational toys and games are those that teach academic concepts through real world applications. Through the use of fun family projects such as assembling a cardboard rocket, we are nurturing children’s love of learning and expanding on their curiosity about the world. Taking time out of our busy lives to connect with our children in these meaningful ways is invaluable in their learning process and may help them to develop a life-long love of learning. 

Equally as important as investing our time into our children is the financial investment in their future education. As parents, most of us want to give our children the opportunity to experience a quality college education. But with the rising costs of college, it’s prudent to start putting away money for further education as soon as you can. One of the best things about the future is that it comes only one day at a time, which means we can slowly save over the course of many years. 

Shortly after my kids were born we opened up a NY 529 College Saving Program Direct Plan. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan that encourages families to save for college. I love the NY 529 Direct Plan specifically because the fees are unusually low, there is no minimum contribution and it’s easy to join and manage your account online.  With the NY 529 Direct Plan, we can set aside money for college now, while reducing the need for student loans and the number of students who are drowning in debt after graduating. By simply contributing to your child’s NY 529 Direct Plan regularly, you can avoid potentially burdensome student loans and the overall cost of college would also be lower because you wouldn’t need to borrow money.  Friends and family members can also easily contribute to your NY 529 Direct Plan online as gifts.

You can use the funds from the NY 529 Direct Plan at thousands of colleges, in addition to many graduate, vocational and technical schools. But rest assured, even if you decide not to use it for higher education, the money will always be available to you. Visit www.nysaves.org/blastoff to learn more about how you can start saving for college. And remember, an investment in your children always pays the best interest!

*Disclosure/disclaimer:

Contributions of up to $10,000 are deductible annually from New York State taxable income for married couples filing jointly; single taxpayers can deduct up to $5,000 annually. New York State tax deductions may be subject to recapture in certain circumstances such as rollovers to another state’s 529 plan, federal nonqualified withdrawals, or withdrawals used to pay elementary or secondary school tuition, registered apprenticeship program expenses, or qualified education loan repayments as described in the Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement. State tax benefits for non-resident New York taxpayers may vary. Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation.

Earnings on federal nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. Tax and other benefits are contingent on meeting other requirements. Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation.

Investment returns are not guaranteed, and you could lose money by investing in the Direct Plan.

For more information about New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, download a Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement [nysaves.org] or request one by calling 877-NYSAVES (877-697-2837). This document includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information. You should read and consider them carefully before investing.

Before you invest, consider whether your or the beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in that state’s 529 plan. Other state benefits may include financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors. 

The Comptroller of the State of New York and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation are the Program Administrators and are responsible for implementing and administering the Direct Plan. Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, serves as Program Manager and, in connection with its affiliates, provides recordkeeping and administrative support services and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Direct Plan. The Vanguard Group, Inc., serves as the Investment Manager. Vanguard Marketing Corporation provides marketing and distribution services to the Direct Plan.

No guarantee:

New York’s 529 College Savings Program currently includes two separate 529 plans. The Direct Plan is sold directly by the Program. You may also participate in the Advisor-Guided Plan, which is sold exclusively through financial advisors and has different investment options and higher fees and expenses as well as financial advisor compensation.

© 2020 New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan 

Cozy Up With Walmart’s Hottest Toys This Fall

As summer comes to a close and the first brisk gusts of wind swirl through the towering New York City skyscrapers, we pull out our coziest flannel pajamas from storage and huddle under our fleece throw blankets. We guzzle down warm apple cider and eat oven-baked cookies, delighting in the splendor of the upcoming holiday season. At this time of year, New York City kids start spending more time indoors as the temperatures outside continue to plummet. And as their afternoons at the playground begin to dwindle, parents scramble to find this season’s best toys in desperate attempts to keep their children entertained within the confines of their small NYC apartments. But with a market super saturated with toys and children’s items, it can be overwhelming to sift through all the options. I’m so thrilled to have partnered with Walmart, America’s Best Toy Shop, to share with you this Fall’s newest and most highly coveted toys.

Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Popcorn Party Play Food Set with 6 Non-Toxic Play-Doh Cans

I’ve never seen more excitement in Evan’s eyes than when I presented him with this Play-Doh Popcorn Play Set. He loved twisting the crank, watching the “popcorn” fall into the basket below, and utilizing his imagination to mold Play-Doh Oreos and chocolate candies. Like most Kindergartener’s, he loves the feeling of Play-Doh between his fingers and was so enthusiastic about creating these make-believe tasty morsels.

PLAYMOBIL Park Playground

When frigid temperatures prohibit trips to the playground, why not bring the playground to your kids?! Both Evan and Chloe loved using the figurines in the PLAYMOBIL Park Playground to re-enact their favorite playground activities, even including going down the slide head first. It can be difficult to find toys that interest both a 3-year-old and 5-year-old, but this toy kept them both engaged and encouraged them to play alongside each other.

Some of my other favorites at Walmart are as follows:

VTech Myla the Magical Unicorn Electronic Pet

Because what little girls these days are not fascinated with unicorns? Children can dip Myla’s magic brush into the butterfly palette to choose a color and then use it to paint her eyes, wings and horn a variety of colors. This is perfect for children who are obsessed with Mommy’s makeup and gives them the opportunity to practice mixing colors. I just added this Myla the Magical Unicorn to Chloe’s wish list and you should too!

PLAYMOBIL Noah’s Ark

I love toys that promote learning, which is why I was initially drawn to this toy.  As kids guide the animals up the ramp two by two and onto the floating vessel, it becomes the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the beautiful biblical story behind the toy. And get this – the PLAYMOBIL Noah’s Ark actually floats so it can even be used during bath time! 

LEGO Friends Dolphins Rescue Mission 41378 Building Kit with Submarine

I also love toys that bring awareness to global issues and send positive messages to our youth. When playing with the LEGO Friends Dolphin Rescue Mission Building Kit with Submarine, children will embark on a mission to rescue a trapped dolphin and find the hidden treasure throughout their underwater adventure! I just love how this toy teaches our children about the importance of caring for animals.

Little Tikes 2-in-1 Food Truck Play Kitchen with 20+ Accessories

In a city where food trucks line the avenues, the Little Tikes Food Truck Play Kitchen encourages role-playing and gives children hands-on experience serving up the tastiest treats. I love that it fosters interactive play and encourages children to play together. Even with their relatively short attentions spans, I can easily see this providing hours of entertainment for my kids this Fall.

LINCOLN LOGS Classic Farmhouse

Never has another toy made me feel so nostalgic about my own childhood than the Lincoln Logs Classic Farmhouse. This toy encourages kids to think outside the box to create structures of all shapes and sizes and even introduces the concepts of spatial awareness and problem solving. I’m always amazed at how focused my children suddenly become when they’re building and creating! 

LEGO Architecture Empire State Building 21046 Model Skyscraper Building Kit

My children are endlessly fascinated by the Empire State Building and other iconic landmarks of NYC that they see so frequently while growing up in this heaping metropolis. The prospect of constructing the LEGO Architecture Empire State Building Kit may seem overwhelming at first, but reinforces the importance of patience and working together to finish a task. Children will feel so proud when it’s complete!

 

Here’s the Scoop: Evan’s Fro-yo-licious Birthday Celebration

The hours may be long, but the days are most definitely short. I can hardly believe that my sweet boy is turning FIVE! To celebrate Evan’s milestone birthday, it was only fitting that we throw him a party that would be sweet, sugar-coated and oh-so-sticky, just like him. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been frequenting our favorite neighborhood dessert destination, 16 Handles, where we love watching both Evan and Chloe revel in the most decadent sweet treats. It was a no-brainer that this was the perfect venue to host a birthday party that would be most memorable and personally meaningful for him.

There’s something about frozen yogurt that bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood. It’s a delicious indulgence that neither young nor old can resist. So I knew that both Evan’s friends and their parents would be elated to attend his sweet celebration at 16 Handles, where they boast 16 fro-yo flavors and a toppings bar that knows no bounds. Nothing makes me feel like a kid again quite like visiting my favorite fro-yo destination!

The 16 Handles location on 64th St. And 1st Avenue proved to be the perfect space to accommodate our party. The oversized party rooms facilitated easy transitions from one activity to the next and kept all of our guests feeling comfortable. A long table in their party room comfortably sat 20+ kids with plenty of standing room for adults. And adjacent to that is another area where we set up a shark themed table complete with food, drinks, party favors and other party paraphernalia.

When the entertainer arrived we shuffled the kids into yet another room lined with benches, which is the ideal space for watching any kind of entertainment.

Making birthday parties for my kids has always been a source of anxiety for me, but the staff at 16 Handles succeeded in making Evan’s birthday party a stress-free experience. They were so incredibly helpful to ensure that the party ran smoothly and executed all of the details with ease. It was clear that their staff members are very experienced in hosting special events and private parties. They maintained composure and organization even in the presence of 20+ children with balloon swords on sugar-highs.

It filled us with so much joy to watch Evan and his pals devour more fro-yo flavor and topping combinations than you can ever possibly imagine. Cookie dough pieces, cheesecake bites, and rainbow cookies, oh my! A veritable heaven for those with even the most discerning sweet tooth. 16 Handles even offers sugar-free fro-yo and fresh fruit toppings for those who’d rather not have sugar coursing through their veins.

As the party winded down, I couldn’t help but marvel at how my baby boy has blossomed into the sweetest, most nurturing soul I have ever known. Being Evan’s mommy (and Chloe’s too!) continues to be the greatest privilege in my life. Thank you, 16 Handles for making this birthday a sweet celebration we will all remember.

With locations all over New York City and the New York metropolitan area, 16 Handles is the perfect venue for your child’s next birthday party. Click here to start planning your own!