Raising Kids in the Capital Region: CapNY Families

Making a move to CapNY with kids?

Looking to get familiar with the educational and recreational offerings of this region as it comes to raising families?

You’ve come to the right spot.

“How can I find what school districts are a good fit for my child?”

Our first two questions were posed by recent NYC transplant, photographer Kim Trang. She’s a mother of three active kids who are 6-years-old, 4-years-old, and 6-months-old. Her main priority was finding a school district that fit her children’s needs. They eventually decided on Niskayuna. Seek answers before and after arriving in CapNY.

List Your Priorities

Family and Dog

Before starting this daunting task of finding your child’s future school, it’s a good idea to think about your priorities. What’s important to you? What can you afford? Small class sizes? Extracurricular activities? A good sports program? An excellent arts department?

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has all the information you need regarding public and charter schools, as well as school districts in the state. They have information about class sizes, the amount of local, state, and federal funds spent per pupil. And you can get an idea of the amount of diversity at a school. They also provide data on graduation rates, and rankings for how prepared a student will be for college.

We’ve compiled some of this information here. You can see more information on the NYSED site here for Graduation Rates and here for Class Size data.

Collage of information/ education

“What childcare options are available, what are the fees, how close are they in relation to my home and my workplace?”

Once again, we found New York State to have helpful resources here with their Division of Childcare Services. This has information about Early Head Start, for children from birth to 3 years old, and Head Start, for kids age 3 to 5.

Along these lines, the Capital District Childcare Coordinating Council has a service that helps parents find childcare. Child care referrals are available 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday at 518 426-7181 or toll free at 1-800-521-KIDS(5437). And Brightside Up has a list of the average childcare costs by county in the region and for the entire Capital Region as a whole. For example, on average in the Capital Region, weekly childcare costs for a toddler would be $220.79 at a Child Care Center.

“What can I do at home to best prepare my child to succeed in school?”

Lisa Barone with four year old son

Our next questions were posed by Lisa Barone, the Chief Marketing Officer at marketing firm Overit in Albany. Kim is the BUSY, working mother of her four-year-old son, Henry. They live in Selkirk where they enjoy hiking, puzzles, being outside, and Spider-Man.

This is “the” question, right? There’s no exact right or wrong answer here but some resources we recommend come from PBS and PBS KIDS. There are thousands of free teaching resources including videos, lesson plans, and games aligned to state and national standards. You can find these with PBS LearningMedia, PBS KIDS, the local PBS affiliate’s Home Classroom resources, and by watching educational programming at home.

“What are some activities to keep little ones busy and engaged (and out of the house, if possible) even during winter?”

Albany Public Library

You are in luck! This area is brimming with family-friendly activities for all-seasons, with options for inside and outside.

In the summer, the Albany Public Library, with other partners including the Albany Barn, WMHT, and the city of Albany, host weekly story-time events called Stories and Art in the Park at the playground in Washington Park in Albany. 

For hiking and walking year-round, even in winter, the whole family can enjoy the interactive displays and stories geared for kids at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands also has family-focused activities around the 22-acre site. Grafton Lakes State Park, celebrating 50 years in 2021, has family activities in each season, including a Winter Festival. You can find more outdoor activities here.

The New York State Museum in Albany has outdoor exhibits and the Empire State Plaza, with larger-than-life sculptures, is just across the street. Many local libraries have on-going workshops that are fun for the whole family

Written by: Danielle Sanzone

Danielle Sanzone is a freelance writer who worked for a decade at The Record in Troy and is currently in the Digital Initiatives department at the local PBS, WMHT.