Natalie Silverstein

Natalie Silverstein

Natalie Silverstein's picture

Natalie Silverstein - NYC and LI Writer

A longtime New Yorker who enjoys exploring the city with her husband and three young children, Silverstein worked in health-care management before becoming a full-time parent, and part-time freelance writer, philanthropist and volunteer. In addition to contributing to Mommy Poppins NYC and Long Island, Natalie uses her healthcare knowledge as a copywriter and editor for Michael's Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to providing information and support to people struggling with colorectal cancer. She is passionate about teaching her kids the importance of giving back to their community, and serves as the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, an organization dedicated to inspiring families to raise children who care and contribute. In that role, she curates a monthly list of kid-friendly service opportunities for families who want to have fun by volunteering together. She is a board member and active volunteer at her children's school, and a supporter of a variety of other charitable organizations in New York City. Follow her on Google+.

Latest posts by Natalie

Sweet Ways to Donate Your Halloween Haul to Those in Need

Got a Halloween candy hangover? Come November 1, parents across the country are wondering how they're going to get rid of all the candy their kids brought home. Some of it will be eaten, sure, but just one look at the amount of calories in an average Halloween haul and you'll want to make sure the bulk of it goes anywhere besides your family's stomachs.

There are a number of creative ways to get rid of Halloween candy, like using it for crafts or science experiments, having the Switch Witch take it in exchange for a small toy, or, you know, saving it until Easter and throwing it in the basket. (Hey, it's only six months away—how stale can that candy get?) But perhaps the best thing to do with Halloween candy is donate it. That way your kids can enjoy a truly special treat: The feeling of helping others. Here are eight charitable organizations who accept donations of unopened candy.

Thanksgiving Volunteer Options for NYC Kids and Families

Every year around the holidays, readers ask about ways to volunteer with their children in New York City. It's not as easy as you think. Many charitable organizations have age minimums for their projects, and even when you do find family-friendly volunteering opportunities, they often book up weeks in advance.

With Thanksgiving approaching, we want to highlight some great ways NYC kids and their parents can give back to those in need. We're including opportunities for children of all ages so everyone can participate. While kids might not be able to work in a soup kitchen, they can help the homeless, hungry, and elderly in other meaningful ways.

Here are 11 family-friendly ways to put the "giving" in your Thanksgiving.

Sword Fighting & Stage Combat Classes for NYC Kids

If every pencil, ruler or ear of corn becomes a potential weapon in the hands of your young swashbuckler, it may be time for a sword or stage combat class where those instincts can be channeled in a fun and productive way. Japanese and Korean martial art traditions stress the "art" of sword play as well as the importance of respect for the weapons and the opponent. Plus kids can improve their body mechanics, breathing patterns, agility and speed in a safe space with trained instructors.

Here are three places where New York City kids can work on their sword play and stage combat skills—far away from your fine china. You can find lots of other offbeat and enriching programs for children in our Classes Guide.

10 Online Retailers That Give Back to Others

While we make it a point to encourage our readers to buy local whenever possible, we realize that doing holiday shopping online helps you avoid crowds and stress-while staying in your PJs. In addition to offering cool incentives like discounts and free shipping, many online retailers also give back to those in need during the holiday season by donating a portion of their proceeds to various charities. The opportunities to "shop for a cause" at this time of year are almost limitless, so we've highlighted nine favorites we think are particularly great for families. So go ahead and spoil the ones you love and feel good about it!

Gifts That Give Back: NYC Retailers That Donate to Charity

Have you ever looked at a kid's birthday party haul and wondered what kind of message it sends? All those shiny new toys and clothes and books stuffed into a clear garbage bag with a ribbon on top so they can be carted home with ease. There's no way the birthday child will ever use (or even open!) all of them. No wonder a lot of families have taken to asking for charitable donations in lieu of presents.

But there's a way to give cool creative gifts while also giving back to those in need. There are several New York City children's stores as well as online retailers that donate a portion of their proceeds to various charities. So the impact of your gift continues long after the wrapping paper has been thrown away.

Parties with a Purpose: Kids' Volunteering Birthday Bash To Help Those in Need

Kids' birthday parties should be a blast, but they don't necessarily need to be two hours of lavish expense resulting in a mountain of under-appreciated gifts. Just as you can organize an at-home volunteering project during a playdate, it's easy to throw a party with a purpose. This goes beyond encouraging guests to donate to charity in lieu of presents (which is great, too). We've rounded up fun and easy things kids can do to help those in need that can be incorporated into many themes, and all of our ideas can be done at home. Make sure you have a brief discussion with the kids before you get started about why you've chosen to host a party with a purpose, and who will benefit from their generosity. That way the children not only understand the concept, they can feel good about giving to others. Isn't that the greatest birthday gift of all?

Volunteer From Home: Host a Playdate with a Purpose

Children of all ages from toddlers to tweens love getting together with friends for playdates. And you love hosting them—except when the kids complain about being bored (yes, even with all those games and activity kits spilling out of the closet). The next time your child asks to have pals over, consider organizing a simple and fun service project that can be done at home to help people in need. It's a great way to keep the kids entertained while teaching them the importance of giving back to their community—and reminding them of how lucky they are to have a room overflowing with toys!

Whether you connect the project to something personal, like your child's birthday, or highlight a difficult social issue like homelessness, a service-focused playdate is a gentle way to incorporate helping others into your everyday lives. And of course, doing it with friends makes it feel all the more special.

Here's a list of easy projects for all ages that can be done at home, as well as charities that would love to accept your donations. Always remember to include a handmade card—a sweet personal message from a child can brighten anyone's day.

Rainbow Loom Craze: NYC Classes, Meet-ups, Parties & the Best Online Tutorials

My kids used to pick pennies up off the ground. These days I catch them trying to grab those small colorful Rainbow Loom rubber bands that seem to be scattered all over the place: sidewalks, school hallways (except where they're banned) and living room floors. It's a fad of course (remember Silly Bandz?) but one I can get behind. Crafting those intricate bracelets, necklaces and rings is fun and even challenging (have you tried some of those stitches?), and kids are even becoming entrepreneurs by selling their Rainbow Loom creations. Plus this hot hobby crosses the gender line: lots of boys are as into it as girls. (Heck, it was invented by a dad!)

While children as young as 5 seem to be able to master simple stitches as quickly as they do new apps on your smartphone, more complicated creations often require hours of experimentation or watching YouTube tutorials. So it's no wonder that local craft shops are capitalizing on the craze by offering Rainbow Loom classes, meet-ups and even birthday parties. Even if your kid can figure it all out on their own, it's a fun way to turn the obsession into a social outing.