How Much Does Babysitting Cost in 2019



As you prepare to hire a babysitter, the important question of pricing may be looming in the back of your mind. While this is not a service that you want to cut corners on or skimp on, you also do not want to pay more than you need to for quality childcare services. As you decide how much money to offer your babysitter, keep these important factors in mind.

Factors Influencing Babysitting Rates

Babysitting rates vary dramatically based on several factors. These include the experience of the babysitter and his or her credentials. Consider that a professional nanny with a lengthy list of references may understandably charge more than a teenage babysitter who picks up odd jobs on the weekends. Your location will also play a role in the rate for childcare services. The minimum wage in your area should serve as a starting point when setting a threshold. The demand for babysitters, your need for special services, the number of children who will be cared for, the children’s ages and many other factors all must be taken into consideration.

The Difference Between Full-Time and Part-Time Care

There is a difference in the process of hiring a full-time vs. part-time babysitter. Full-time typically means being salaried with paid time off, holidays, etc, written in a contract, while part-time is normally paid out hourly but with set days/times. So be sure you know the minimum wage laws, but also do your research to know what the average rates in your area are for full-time nannies. If you are looking for one-time or part-time care, a slightly lower hourly rate may be reasonable.
The National Average for 2019

The National Average for 2019

The average hourly rate for one child is $16.75 in the U.S. for 2019. The national average for two children is $19.26 per hour. Additional children will raise the average rate further. Before you decide how much to pay for childcare services, consider asking your friends and neighbors how much they pay for their preferred babysitter. By polling several parents and making adjustments for the various relevant factors, you can better determine how much you should pay for the services that you need.

Many babysitters and nannies have a minimum rate that they are willing to work for. While you should research local rates, you also should ask the individuals whom you are interested in hiring what they charge. Through your research, you can determine if their requested rate is reasonable for your needs and for the area.

Meet Stacy and Bailey Katz, Westwood, Los Angeles

They say it takes a village to raise a child. When Stacy Katz became a mom in 2007, she created her own. A single parent of Bailey, now age 8, she left San Francisco, where she’d been working in public relations since the mid ‘90s, and bought a duplex in Los Angeles’s Westwood neighborhood, not far from where she grew up. Then she talked Bailey’s grandparents into moving into the other half of the duplex.

“It’s amazing, like something you’d see in Italy or Spain,” says Katz of her Mediterranean style side-by-side duplex home, where an interior courtyard connects her and Bailey to his grandparents. “He runs back and forth all day, often eating breakfast and dinner with them.” It’s a little bit like how things used to be when her own grandparents moved to the States from Lithuania, and the extended family lived on the same street and even shared houses. “Everyone chipped in and everyone benefited,” says Katz.  “We have a little bit of that here.”

Katz now owns her own public relations and digital marketing agency, Stacy Katz Communications, specializing in digital entertainment, immersive media, and consumer technology clients. After she walks Bailey to school, she often heads back home to work, or meets up with a client—or sometimes even squeezes in a workout. When we caught up with her, her head was freshly cleared from a morning spin class. She talked to us about how she’s creating a balanced life, and shares a few secrets to how she makes it all work.

Other than your parents being (very) nearby, is Westwood a family-friendly neighborhood choice?
Stacy Katz: Very! UCLA, my alma mater, is in Westwood, so there’s an eclectic mix of students and faculty from all over the world. It’s smack in the middle of Los Angeles, which means easy access to both downtown LA—where’s there’s a big resurgence happening—and the beach.

Do you spend much time at UCLA?
Stacy: There’s a lot to do there. Bailey loves to stop for donuts at old-school favorite, Stan’s Donuts, in the heart of Westwood Village, on the way to the Fowler, a cool museum on campus with tons of free or inexpensive kids’ activities on the weekends; or to a basketball game at Pauley Pavilion. There’s a great little secret garden on campus, too. You can easily make a day of it.

Eight is such a great age—still full of wonder, yet old enough to hang out a little later. What else do you like to do together? 
Stacy: I love this age. I grew up going seeing shows at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, and Bailey’s nearly old enough to make it through a show without me having to feed him Starbursts to keep him quiet! We have a pretty good weekend routine, starting Saturday morning with a martial arts class at Little Beast Gym, or sometimes he’ll take a class at Rolling Robots, where he’s learning how to code in a really fun way. We also love a day at the beach—Helen’s Bike Rental staff is awesome at making sure our bikes are in working order for the bike path. We’ll stop for lunch at Back on the Beach and play at the Annenberg Beach House.

We’re also fans of going to the movies—not the big fancy multiplexes, but the traditional, local Westwood theaters, like the Regent or the Fox, that have been around forever and are famous in L.A. for hosting movie premieres because they look like old school Hollywood. Sadly, they are losing customers to the fancy book-your-seats theatres so we’re committed to giving our business to them.  If it’s a movie night in Westwood, or a matinee, we like to grab a meal at TLT, which used to be a food truck and has made its home as a restaurant right in the heart of Westwood.

With so much to do around town, do you ever stay home? 
Stacy: We love to stay home and play badminton in our backyard—it’s our thing. We’re really big Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fans, so we often read or stream a video on M-GO, which has all the newest releases. We’ll invite friends over, bring in food from Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop or Panini Cafe, and have dinner on the patio.

Stacy and Bailey with his grandfather, Ronald Katz, in their shared courtyard

Having family around to help must be incredible. Are Bailey’s grandparents his built-in nannies?
Stacy: No! My parents both work full-time as lawyers. I’ve found an incredible male kid sitter who stays with Bailey after school while I work. Bailey adores doing macho things with him, like go-carting, playing dodge ball, or learning to play tennis.

How about when you need a little solo or adult time? What do you like to do?
Stacy: When Bailey is at a play date or with his grandparents, I get a bit of time to myself. I usually head to yoga or Pilates, or to a 30-minute meditation class at Unplug Meditation, to unwind. For a special treat, I’ll get a facial or massage from Nerida Joy at the Bel Air Hotel near Westwood. If I get a night out, I love to go salsa dancing with girlfriends, out to dinner at Taninos for great Italian or to Fridas Mexican Restaurant—where Bailey loves to go, too.

Do you think you do things differently as a single parent than you would if you lived with a partner?
Stacy: There’s no dad in our house, but I remind my child that there are all kinds of families, and we get to live with his grandparents. I try to create experiences and expose Bailey to different kinds of people doing cool things that I might not be so inclined to do myself. We rented a two-person kayak, which was a lot of work—and I ended up in the water, which he loved! I took him to a Tough Mudder race, where people train and show a lot of character and grit to get through it. It had a “Mini-Mudder course,” which he did and loved testing his physical abilities on the obstacle course like the fit adults. It would be awesome to say I did it with him, but…

Last year we learned to ride bikes together. I’ve had a phobia of bikes ever since I fell head first into prickly bushes full of spiders when I was a kid. I learned that sometimes the best way to teach your child how to do something is to realize you’re not the one to teach them. It’s important to be able ask people for help or bring in a coach or expert if you are able to once in a while.

It can’t be easy running your own business, being a mom and finding time for yourself. How do you do it?
Stacy: I aspire to go beyond just being a professional and a mother, but I don’t always succeed. My secret is personal training with Natalia. She has a sweet energy that pushes me when I have it in me, and does a great Thai massage or stretching when I’m exhausted. I don’t even have to tell her what I need.

My other key to keeping it together is the two hours of private time I give myself every morning. I wake up at 5:00 am, make my favorite Bullet Proof Coffee and a smoothie and usually read, meditate, or listen to a TED talk. I realized that I’m not very productive during the time after Bailey goes to bed at night, so I go to bed early and get up early. It helps me be present when Bailey wakes up, rather than trying to play catch up, because at 7:00 am, it’s on!

Photographs by Kyle Monk

Meet Amy Rodriguez, Adam Shilling, & Ryan, Orange County, California

Adam, Amy, & Ryan, enjoying some rare family time.

By Lela Nargi

With the Women’s World Cup of soccer kicking off in Canada this coming June, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FC Kansas City forward Amy Rodriguez has been spending the winter getting in shape, in the hopes she’ll make it on to the final roster. That’s meant grueling weeks away at training camp with the rest of the potential team. She alternates these with time at home with husband Adam Shilling—a former All-American water polo player for the University of Southern California and now an athlete-focused physical therapist—and their 2-year-old son Ryan, under balmy skies at their home just east of Laguna Beach.

“Adam is trying to get Ryan to be a swimmer—with my full support!”




“When I was pregnant, we wanted to find a community with a lot of kids,” says Rodriguez of her and Shilling’s choice to settle in mountain-rimmed, ocean-close Ladera Ranch. “My best friends in my wedding were the friends I met when I lived at home in Lake Forest. I wanted that for my son: a happy childhood! And there’s a good vibe here for raising a family.” The town’s proximity to Rodriguez’s parent’s house, Shilling’s PT office in Rancho Santa Margarita, and all the amenities of the OC—from beaches and parks to play spaces and yes, Disney—make this the perfect base in the hectic life of a professional-athlete family.

What’s a normal day like for you?
Amy Rodriguez: It is chaos! Even when I’m not at training camp, Adam is working 11-hour days, so it can be hard for me to find time to do my job, which is to work out. Right now, I’m doing two, sometimes three team workouts a day. We get these sent to us and follow the regimen, mostly of weightlifting and running. A lot of times, I drive to my parents’ house in Lake Forest, drop Ryan off, work out, then pick him up in time for him to have lunch and a nap back at home. I’m always stressing about the clock for what I have to do, but I try to keep him on a pretty consistent schedule.

Adam Shilling: I drive to my PT office, where I see many athletes: high schoolers from Santa Margarita High School, college students from USC and UCLA, professional baseball and football players. I usually have Thursdays off, though, which I spend at home.

Ryan and mom kick the soccer ball around.

What does each of you do for fun with Ryan?
Amy: Having a boy is mostly about getting active and outside, so he can burn off a lot of energy. Mission Viejo has an awesome lake I pull Ryan around in the bike trailer. The city of Lake Forest just built a new sports park with a tot lot. I’m trying to teach Ryan to kick the soccer ball. He does quite well! If the weather is bad, we’ll go to the Big Air Trampoline Park in Laguna Hills. We also have a membership to the Gymboree Play and Music Center in San Juan Capistrano and Ryan loves to crawl and climb on everything there. He used to have a biting and hitting problem and it’s been great for him to learn to socialize with other children.

Adam: I like to take him to the parks, and jogging in his stroller, or take him to the pool in our community.

Amy: They’re a cute pair! Last summer, Adam took Ryan swimming at the pool every day. One day they came back and Adam had taught Ryan to do a back flip in the water. He’s trying to get him to be a swimmer—with my full support!

Adam: I want him to be as comfortable in the water as possible, if for no other reason than safety. If he happens to decide he likes water polo one day—that’s great!

Swinging by the lake.

What do you do on those rare days the three of you get to be together as a family?
Amy: We just got over an issue with eating sand so we’re taking Ryan to the beach more—we’re really blessed with great weather here. Aliso Creek Beach is a fun one to go to; we’ve had a few barbecues there. And Strands Beach is great for biking, since it has a paved pathway along the beach. We don’t really eat out much, because I’m in training, so we tend to cook a lot. Although I think Ryan has to learn how to dine out at some point, and experience that world outside our home. But we do have Disneyland passes—Ryan is learning the names of all the characters, and he can run there, and get all that energy out.

Adam: In the afternoon, we hang out with neighbors.

Amy: We have a street full of kids. Our neighbors had a baby boy exactly one month after us, so our boys have become great friends.

What about grown-up time?
Amy: My schedule is so tough during a World Cup year—training camp for three weeks, then maybe 10 days at home, then back to camp for another three weeks. And this is a very crucial time for a player like myself; I haven’t solidified my World Cup spot. Luckily for me, Adam is in PT. Probably the last thing he wants to do when he comes home is more of that. But I’ll say, “Can you rub my calf? I’m in pain.” And he will, he’s great!

Photographs by Kyle Monk

Last Minute Family Day Trips For the Dog Days of Summer

By Ilene Miller

My two boys, age 10 and 13, love to spend summer “chillaxing” and getting away from the grind of the school year. But typically, by the end of July, we are all burned out on the pool and looking for some family fun in the sun that doesn’t involve a three hour car ride to the beach or the lakes.

Luckily for us, metro DC has an abundance of activities that make for great family day trips. But no matter what age your kids are—and no matter what city you live in—zoos and other places that house animals are a surefire hit. If you live in DC, check out the Leesburg Animal Park in Northern Virginia. My son Max has taken selfies with a goat, a chicken, and a donkey and hopes to cover all farm animals by summer’s end.

The Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo in Thurmont, MD offers unique animal encounters where you can touch an exotic animal and learn all about it through their terrific education program. To make a day of it, we like to visit the Cunningham Falls for a short hike and picnic. And of course, in the middle of the nation’s capital we have the star gem of the Smithsonian in the National Zoo. Admission is free and you can literally spend an entire day exploring all of the exhibits!  Once you’re tuckered out, be sure to stop by Baked by Yael’s Cake Pops, a newly-opened, woman-founded cake poppery right across the street and tell her Urban Family and Activity Rocket sent you!

New Yorkers can make the drive (or take a scenic Hudson River train ride) to the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills. A center for food and agriculture that’s built on part of the old Rockefeller estate, its 80 rolling acres of wood- and farmland are idyllic for families, even if you’ve got your dog in tow (Fido must be kept leashed at all times, though). You can sign up to collect eggs from the farm’s chickens, visit the pigs, the sheep, and the greenhouse, or just stroll around and take in a breath of fresh air. For lunch, sandwiches, salads and baked good made with the products from the farm are available in the Blue Hill Café. Or, if you feel like getting fancy, make a dinner reservation at Chef Dan Barber’s award-winning Blue Hill restaurant (you’ll also have to tote some snazzy duds—no shorts allowed in the dining room!).

In Chicago’s Brookfield suburb, the Chicago Zoological Park has been a Mecca for families for over 80 years. Built on 216 acres, and housing about 450 species of animals, this is an easy place to wile away the day. If you live in the LA area, the Santa Barbara Zoo is just 90 miles north of the city and is considered one of the most beautiful zoos in the world. Where else can you see more than 500 animals while overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Andree Clark Bird Refuge, and Santa Ynez Mountains? It’s right by the beach so it’s typically chilly—a bonus on a hot summer day. Not to miss: feeding the giraffes and riding the train, which goes all around the zoo.

When it’s downright boiling outside, we head for some water-bound relief. Harper’s Ferry is another short drive from downtown DC, and a great place to go whitewater rafting or tubing. Last summer, we had a blast leisurely tubing down the river and exploring the riverbeds, and the kids got a huge kick out of the floating cooler and waterproof camera.  In the District, at Key Bridge Boathouse, you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. Afterwards, it’s fun to walk around Georgetown or people watch on the waterfront. We also love to rent sailboats at the Washington Sailing Marina and classes are available for kids, adults, and even families.

Across the country, on the San Diego Coast, San Elijo State Beach provides all the thrills of camping and a day at the beach, rolled into one easy-to-reach location. By day, families can build sand castles and play in the reef-protected waters. When the sun goes down, build a bonfire, roast marshmallows, and teach your kids some camp songs. If you need a break from nature, Wan Pizza has delicious pizzas and the waiters bring kids dough instead of crayons to play with while you wait for your food. If you’re looking for watery adventure from Los Angeles, try a kayaking daytrip with LA River Kayak Safari, led by local guides and featuring wildlife galore.

Both San Franciscans and Angelenos can take a family road trip on Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco to piddle around the tidal pools at Montaña de Oro State Park, and watch the gray whales migrate north from lookouts along the steep cliffs of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

This summer, my family adventure bucket list includes Trapeze School New York in Washington and the zip line at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring. I have done both with my girlfriends but have not experienced them with my sons and husband yet. I can’t wait to settle once and for all who is our family’s biggest daredevil! Adventure parks are hot right now and you’ll have no trouble locating one within striking distance of your own city.

My kids would shoot me if I didn’t mention amusement parks. We try to end every summer with a trip to one that’s nearby. We are a huge rollercoaster family and dare each other to sit in the front seat, not hold on, keep our eyes open.  It’s a great way to celebrate the end of summer and for us, it’s a short drive to Kings DominionHershey ParkDutch Wonderland, and Idlewild from the metro DC area.

New Yorkers with little kids in tow will find rides for tots at the world-famous Luna Park at Brooklyn’s Coney Island; and north of the city, in Westchester, historic Rye Playland on the Long Island Sound has something for all ages—including Kiddyland, with rides galore for the just-walking set. Knott’s Berry Farm is a great destination for families in SoCal looking for an alternative to Disney.

So, rather than sit at home in the air conditioning as the summer starts to feel like it’s overstayed its welcome, hop in the car and drive off to a little adventure!

Ilene Miller is co-founder of Activity Rocket in metro DC. 

Profiles of Childhood: Kia Gomez, Doula & Babysitter

Kia Gomez and one of her favorite babysitting charges, Olina, 18 months old

Our childhoods shape us and prepare us, not only for our own lives, but for the joys and values we’ll pass on to others. 

As told to Dawn Van Osdell

“I split my time between school in the San Francisco Bay Area—Notre Dame de Namur University—and my hometown of Los Angeles. It’s not so different from the way I divided my time when I was a kid: between LA, where I was raised, and Belize, where my dad and extended family live and where I spent whole summers and every Christmas. The closeness of my family, and growing up in two places, made me who I am today, and who I am to the kids I take care of. My childhood prepared me to deal with different kinds of people and to realize I shouldn’t have any expectations of how people should be, act, or live.

My mom, brother, and I moved to LA from Belize when my parents divorced. I was 7 years old. I had several cousins in LA to help ease my transition, but it took me a while to catch on and keep up with the other kids. I remember how Americans phrased things so differently than people did in Belize, how the lingo was so completely new. I was fortunate to have a strong family and community of other Belizean transplants who knew the culture of my small country and helped me adjust to living in such a big, new place. Nonetheless, the change was difficult for me and also for other kids to understand. They didn’t get what it was like to be a part of a separated household spread across two countries. I couldn’t invite them over—we were living in a one-bedroom apartment. I didn’t have the luxury of getting picked up and dropped off in a car—I took a city bus. My clothes didn’t have brand names. I realized you have to ask questions to understand how another person lives. I also learned to not just accept differences, but to expect them.

Today, I babysit for dozens of different families. I don’t have expectations before walking in the door. Sometimes the kids are really shy and other times they are balls of fire—similar to the night and day difference between my brother and me when we were growing up. My parents always struggled to understand why I wasn’t more extroverted like him. I’ve vowed to respect and appreciate people’s differences because it makes us who we are. I have a built-in support system for interacting with kids, no matter their personality: my mom, a single mother and a nanny since she was 18 years old. I call her and say, “Help! What do I do? What works for you?” She always reminds to me try to understand the other side, to have patience, and to be confident.

Olina and her three-year-old brother, Samson, hang out in Los Angeles with their sitter, Kia

I’m studying kinesiology, which is the study of human movement. I may be an athletic trainer one day, maybe something else! I’m interning with a chiropractor in LA County, and starting to work with a mom I babysit for who is a yoga teacher for athletes. I’ve also become a doula—inspired by my aunt who is a nurse practitioner— which has given me so much information about what women need during childbirth and what needs to change. There is often a lack of concern over providing a mother and her child with a happy and healthy birth, and fallback from doctors who just want to get the job done. Becoming a doula has introduced me to feminist views, like how women are underestimated just for being female, and the inequalities that still exist between men and women. It’s made me want to speak up for others and for change. I’m able to help by serving as an advocate for low-income families and young mothers with unplanned pregnancies through volunteering at Joy in Birthing while finishing my degree.

Whether it’s the kids I babysit or my friends, I always encourage others to embrace what makes people difference and to try new things. Thinking about the “what-if” will only deter you from doing something that could possibly be wonderfully life changing. For me, even if I fail, I will be happy to know that I at least tried.

Photographs by Kyle Monk

Meet the Yanows of Los Feliz, California

The Yanows of Los Feliz, CA

By Dawn Van Osdell

From their whirlwind business beginnings nearly five years ago, Tony and Amy Yanow took inspiration from an unlikely but apt quote from George Orwell: “The Puritanical nonsense of excluding children and therefore to some extent women from pubs has turned these places into mere boozing shops instead of the family gathering places that they ought to be.”

Parents to three-year-old twins Chloe and Hudson and Tony’s 12-year-old daughter, Marley, the Yanows own and operate a now-burgeoning craft brewing mini-empire. Quite possibly, they hold exclusive rights on being the only pub owners in the country who’ve found a way to integrate family, wholesome food, and craft beer so that it all functions as one great, organic whole. “Business and family, together, have become a way of life for us,” says Tony.

The Yanows at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park

“Love brought me to the eastside of LA, which felt like a different country— and with the traffic, was nearly as far as one,” recalls Amy of her move six years ago from LA’s westside to be with Marley and Tony, who hails from Canada. She’s constantly surprised by the gems she’s still finding in the cluster of small neighborhoods that make up the family’s laid back, hilly community of Los Feliz and nearby areas—including a kid-friendly bowling alley, X-Lanes, right next door to one of their family’s favorite vegan lunch spots, Shojin, in Little Tokyo. “It’s a much more urban area, here, and so well-suited for family life,” she says of Los Feliz’s proximity to downtown LA and its many dining and entertainment options.

The Yanow’s home is an urban oasis, tucked away from the grit of city streets. It’s outfitted with a yurt, which houses the family’s home gym. And it’s just a short jog from the area’s greenway, Griffith Park—which, conveniently, links their house and all three of  their three businesses. “It’s a jewel of LA; everyone with kids knows it,” Amy says of the park. “There are trails to hike, a huge lawn for kids to play on, the observatory, haystacks and pumpkins in the fall. It even has a view of trains—Travel Town—for my train-obsessed son.” She says the park is a fantastic way to entertain her kids without spending a dime, right in her very own backyard.

Amy Yanow and her three-year-old twins, Chloe and Hudson
Amy Yanow and her three-year-old twins, Chloe and Hudson

Another source of local, family entertainment: roller derby! The Yanows are die-hard fans, supporting Marley’s LA Junior Derby Dolls team, both bodily from the stands on game days, and more practically through their businesses, as the women’s team’s corporate sponsor.

When it’s time to go to work, Amy says, “The kids love to go to the restaurants with us.” Although their eateries are famous for their expertly compiled local beer lists and menus aimed at the late-night crowd, they’re also super kid-friendly and reflect the values the Yanows find meaningful in their personal lives. Tony’s Darts Away is beloved for its board games, and has also earned accolades for thoughtfully sourced menu items the Yanows have added since they took ownership in 2010. Namely, an impressive selection of sausages—at least a half dozen of them vegan.

Mohawk Bend, an old Echo Park movie theater the Yanows have transformed into a sleek, industrial-modern gastro pub, has generated buzz on sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon for its vegan Buffalo Cauliflower as well as for nowhere-near-vegan options like chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates wrapped in bacon. “It’s packed with night owls who come in the late morning hours but before they wake up, it’s absolutely perfect for families, with no wait for a table,” says Amy.

The busy Yanow family heads to 12-year-old Marley's roller derby practice
The busy Yanow family heads to 12-year-old Marley’s roller derby practice

The Yanow’s most recent establishment, Golden Road Brewing in LA proper, which Tony co-owns with Meg Gill, is also designed to draw families, luring Mom and Dad in for a Point the Way IPA, and kids with lawn games, like corn-hole, set up in the side yard. All three eateries (at least possibly responsible for GQ Magazine naming LA one of the top five beer cities in American in 2012) have well-rounded kids’ menus that go beyond fried chicken fingers, including fresh fruit and simple pasta options.

In case you haven’t guessed it by now, the Yanows keep a vegan household (and at least a partially-vegan business), “for ecological reasons and because we like the way we feel eating plant-based foods,” Amy explains. She was raised vegetarian, and returned to the lifestyle after a brief burger rebellion. Their younger kids don’t know the word vegan, though, and aren’t strictly held to the diet. “We downplay it,” Amy says. “If they go to a birthday party and everyone is eating cheese pizza and cake, they can have at it, if they choose. I don’t want them to resent us.”

But Amy says the kids enjoy the meals she serves so much that she doesn’t share the pain some other parents feel about cooking healthy food their kids ultimately reject. One of the first things she does each morning is turn on the rice cooker. “It just tastes better when it’s fresh,” she says, explaining that she adds beans or lentils from big batches she keeps on hand for burritos, to pack in the kids’ bento lunchboxes. They are also big fans of raw cashews, whirled in their VitaMix to become cheese-like bases for rich, creamy sauces at dinnertime.

“Just like at our restaurants, no one feels like they are missing out,” says Amy of family life.  “We’re well rounded, something for everyone.”




Photographs by Kyle Monk

Chudney Ross is Bringing Literacy to a New Generation at LA’s Books and Cookies

Ross and daughter, Callaway
Ross and daughter Callaway enjoying the sunshine out on the Books and Cookies turf.

By Lela Nargi

On a low-slung strip of street halfway between the skate shops of Venice’s Muscle Beach and the boutiques of downtown Santa Monica, Chudney Ross has opened her kid-centric outpost, Books and Cookies. Twice.

Aiming to provide what she calls a “literacy-based experience” for the area’s burgeoning young family population, in 2011 Ross fell in love with a storefront that was wedged in among the area’s myriad coffee shops and palm trees, even though she knew the space was much too big for what she had in mind. “I had positive aspirations!” she laughs.


Books are arranged at toddler height, so kids can easily select their faves.
Books are arranged at toddler height, so kids can easily select their faves.


Those aspirations began even before Ross was a mom herself—to daughter Callaway, now age two. Back then, she lived in Venice (as she still does, with Callaway and fiancé Joshua Faulkner), rode her bike “everywhere,” and was writing her first children’s book at a nearby branch of the Coffee Bean. Wherever she looked, she says, “I noticed there was nothing at all for children. There’d be moms in the Coffee Bean but it was just a place for them to meet up with each other and chat before going for a walk somewhere else with the kids.”

That vision of a klatsch of moms-without-a-base stuck with Ross. And so it was that when this former teacher and youngest daughter to legendary Motown singer Diana Ross opened Books and Cookies in its first incarnation, she already knew that she wanted to create an environment that was welcoming and nurturing, not just for children, but for their parents as well. It’s an environment she likens to the ’80s TV show Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name,” Ross says.


Art time at Books and Cookies!
Art time at Books and Cookies!


The old place, like the new, significantly more manageable place—which Ross opened across the street from the original locale just this past September—was conceived as part bookstore, part event space. Parents could shuffle in for Books and Cookies’ ever-popular storytime, order up cups of strong hot coffee for their own bleary selves and some home-baked cookies for their kids. Then casually spend the morning hanging out with like-minded moms and dads who were elated to have a safe, fun place to park their strollers and veg out for a while. If they were feeling slightly more ambitious, they could drop in for a Mommy & Me yoga class or a craft-making event. Above all, says Ross, it was a place where “parents could bond.”

It’s been a work in progress since its inception. Says Ross, “Originally I thought of it as three separate businesses: a bookstore, a café, and an enrichment center.” Re-conceiving it as an all-in-one destination not only streamlined her original concept; it helped her create a place that is not quite like any other. “There are a lot of baby classes in LA that teach parents how to do all kinds of things. I’m not trying to teach parents anything—I’m learning everyday myself. What I know how to do is make reading fun.”

The fun starts when you walk in the door of the new narrow but bright space. Right up front is Ross’s continuously revolving and highly curated selection of books for kids of all ages, within easy reach of even the smallest of mobile tots. “We may not always have exactly the book you’re looking for, but we’ve got unique bestsellers and classics from when I was young,” says Ross. Certain titles are always on tap, like James Dean and Eric Litwin’s Pete the Cat. “It’s got singing, and fun colors—basically, it’s a good read for all the age ranges we see in here,” says Ross. Infants and toddlers dominate the morning; toddlers on up to kids around age 6 show up after nap time and stay well into the afternoon.

Whether or not to keep such tender merchandise within grabbing and gnawing distance was a matter of some debate. “People cautioned me from letting families pull down books,” says Ross. “But for me it was more important for them to spend time reading. And our families are pretty good about buying a book that has a bite mark in it, or a cover that’s a little mangled.” Ross also set up a bargain bin near the cash register—one of many unique solutions Books and Cookies adopted right from the get-go.

Another is found in the small details that turn up all throughout the shop, which welcome children to stay. And stay. And stay. Says Ross, “I found a picture of an amazing bookstore in Hong Kong, where kids could climb into holes in the walls and sit in there with pillows and books to read. I didn’t have the resources to recreate that, but Mimi Shin, who helped me design the space, made shelving structures you could climb under, and a hammock up front the little ones can sit in.” Also inviting intimacy with reading material is the teepee in the shop’s turf-topped, 600-square-foot outdoor playspace.


Sneaking a peek
Sneaking a peek.

Since babies and toddlers often prove to be such fickle and short-attentioned visitors, that playspace, which was tiny and indoors in the old location, was an unexpected boon to the business. “People love it—they walk in and say, ‘This is awesome!’” says Ross. Kids can run amok and burn off energy in the almost-always-balmy So-Cal weather—including Callaway, who Ross says used to be content to sit in the shop, propped up by books, but who now “tears the store up.” And parents don’t have to worry about losing a toddler, since the area is enclosed. It doubles as a party space for the myriad birthdays the shop hosts.

Although literacy always remains a focus. Says Ross, “A lot of times when they come in to book a party, people will say, ‘Oh we don’t need to do storytime—our four-year-old won’t like that.’ And I say, ‘Please give it a shot.’ Their kids always wind up loving it. They see us read with enthusiasm.” More often than not, they’re excited to bring that positive energy home with them.

Ross says it was simple enough to reinstate all the old favorite classes from Books and Cookies’ old outpost to the new. Although storytime remains the shop’s most popular recurring event—it happens four mornings a week at 9:30AM, led by one of Ross’s personally-trained staff members—there is also toddler yoga, and sensory playtime, and various music classes, run by a cadre of local kid specialists. But even these activities contain a subtle literacy bias. After all, says Ross, “We can also story-tell thorough our bodies, and through music.”

One thing that didn’t quite make the full transition: the cookies that comprise half the shop’s name. In the old space they were hand-baked daily on site. But in planning for the new space, Ross says, “I met with some of our regulars and asked what was the most important part of Books and Cookies for them, what would they be sad to find missing? Mostly they said they liked the sense of community, the classes, the varying array of books for kids in a broad age range. No one said food.” Which was lucky, because the new space had no room for a full kitchen. So, the cookies and a whole array of healthy snacks were taken off the menu. And Ross discovered that even without a health permit she could have 100 square feet of pre-packaged food available for purchase: cookies and muffins, mostly. But she says customers noticed a difference between store-bought and homemade, which are “baked with love.”

Coffee for the parents had to go, too. And although Ross admits that’s something of a problem, despite the profusion of coffee shops in the neighborhood—“People like to stop once”—bringing it back is beyond her capabilities. But she is working on resurrecting the homemade cookies. The week she spoke with UrbanFamily, she was trying out deliveries from Jojo’s Dozen in Inglewood. “We’re experimenting with having multiple kinds of homemade yumminess,” she says. “The cookies will be small, so you can mix and match: maybe one oatmeal raisin and one red velvet. We’ll get new deliveries of different kinds of cookies every two days. Our books rotate; why shouldn’t our cookies rotate, too?”

Visit Books and Cookies to learn more.


Books and Cookies


Photographs by Kyle Monk

Meet the Family Behind Edoughble: Rana & John Lustyan and Riley & Emma, Westside, Los Angeles

Lustyan family

By Dawn Van Osdell

What better way to satisfy a craving than to share it with others? Rana and John Lustyan did just that with the creation of Edoughble, their Los-Angeles-based company that produces raw cookie dough—in flavors like Birthday Bash and Snicker Dude—that’s meant to be eaten right out of the container.

“I have a crazy sweet tooth and I grew up eating cookie dough despite the dangers that came with the territory,” says Rana, who realized that her preference for eating the dough before it was baked was far from unique. With plenty of restaurant experience, including a stint as a pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills—Rana and her husband, John, a business development director at DreamWorks Animation, created a recipe for eggless cookie dough that’s safe to eat—just as is—without fear of foodborne illness.

Soon after they launched their business in 2013, their first child, Riley, was born. She was a fan of the tasty treat from her first bite. In fact, “She cried when I wouldn’t give her a second bite,” says Rana. Just two months ago, a second daughter, Emma, joined their happy clan. Read on to learn about the sweet life of this family of four on LA’s Westside.

baby emma makes them a family of four

Tell us about a typical day juggling a toddler, a new business, and a new baby.

Rana: I quickly realized when Riley was born that I can’t work from home and take care of a baby at the same time. As a small business owner and a mom, I’m stretched pretty thin but like all moms, I make it work. I have a part-time nanny and my mom to help me take care of Riley and Emma. I do all office work and customer service from home or by cell phone on the go, and John and I work together at home at night and on weekends on more creative tasks related to the business. We have a production kitchen where we make all the dough and taste each batch. We’re getting ready to launch a Pumpkin S’mores cookie dough and starting to play with Peppermint for the holidays.


John: I’m currently employed full time in the entertainment industry—outside of Edoughble. When I have on my Edoughble hat, though, I‘m focused on broader business strategy, marketing, and brand development. And I’m the dedicated lifter of all heavy sacks of flour!

Do you consider yourselves foodies? 

Rana: We are total foodies! John loves all the food competition shows and tries to be Gordon Ramsay when we go out to eat—being overly particular about tastes and textures. I love to examine the plating, service, and creativity and seasonality of the menu. Having worked in the front and back of plenty of restaurant kitchens, I know what hard work is involved with running one and I can really appreciate a good meal out.

John: Rana’s life revolves around planning meals and I am no way close to her foodie level, but I consider myself pretty particular about food. She’s always teasing me and telling me I should be a critic on one of those TV shows. Where I savor a bite of S’mores Cookie Dough and talk about how great the texture of the graham cracker is, she’s already on her fourth bite!

What are your favorite local restaurants and markets?  

Rana: We love brunch with the girlies on the weekends at Little Door Next DoorCafe Midi, where we can sit outside; and Milo and Olive and Huckleberry in Santa Monica.

Grocery shopping is also something I look forward to every week. I enjoy different markets for different things. When I want to explore new products, I go to Bristol Farms and Whole Foods.  When I want ice cream, I head to Gelsons, which carries a great selection. For house staples, I run to Trader Joes.

John: I have a ton of favorites, but really love Milo and Olive, too; and Pace in Laurel Canyon. A staple of ours is Bandera, where Rana was the general manager for a while.

What about your daughters; are they foodies, too? 

Rana: Riley is almost 20 months and is obsessed with sweets. We try to keep her meals balanced, and she has shown a preference for foods like sushi, Thai and Mediterranean—which makes me happy. We lucked out with her eating. She definitely has preferences, but she is not a picky eater.  We’ll see about Emma when she is old enough to eat solids.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Are you a dessert-every-night kind of family? 

Rana: During pregnancy and while I was nursing, we were.  Now that Emma is eight weeks old, I’m trying to move to every other night. We love ice cream with cookie dough—I’ve created a Pinterest board to collect all my favorite ways to eat it: milkshakes, parfaits, and brownie bombs.

How do you balance all those sweet eats? 

Rana: My philosophy is everything in moderation—I can take a bite here and there. I have the discipline to not sit down and eat the whole tub of dough, but maybe that’s because I am around it all the time.

What’s next?

Rana: Two kids under two and a business is quite a challenge! I really want to focus on growing our business. I would love for every cookie dough lover to have the opportunity to grab a spoon!

Photographs courtesy of the Lustyans

Carina Tannenberg Wants to Demystify Poop for American Kids and Parents

Carina Tannenberg

By Lela Nargi

Carina Tannenberg is the owner of online shop Sweden Toys, which brings a whole host of adorable, educational Scandinavian playthings to American tots.  But perhaps none of the shop’s offerings is quite as…unexpected as its duo of plushies called Pee & Poo.

You read that right: Pee & Poo plushies, meant to lift some of the mystery for kids from the always tedious and challenging event of potty training. Here, Tannenberg, not a mom herself but doting auntie to Maya, age 10, and Noah, age 8—they call her their “extra mom”—talks about what she sees as some critical differences between raising kids in the U.S. and raising them in her native Sweden.

Where did you grow up, and when did you move to the U.S.? I moved here in 1996 to go to film school. I currently live in LA’s Westwood area, where I’ve been for the last 15 years. There are some similarities here to back home in Stockholm: I live in a residential area in a big city. I think it’s a good place for kids to grow up, but it is not as free here for them. My niece, Maya, rides on the Stockholm subway by herself or with friends. I think that shows a lot about the difference in how we perceive a child’s maturity.

What are some of the differences you’ve seen between Swedish and American parenting styles? I know many of my Swedish friends who are parents feel locked into all the rules. But in Sweden you can easily have a career and be a mother. Here, it is very difficult, as schools seem to expect mothers to spend a lot of time with the school’s programs, as if they have a free schedule.

I also see is how important it is for kids to see that they can do things for themselves; being so dependent on their parents, as they must be in LA to get everywhere, can prevent them from evolving freely. I would add that there is a gender difference that is imposed more here than in Sweden. We are very careful in Sweden not to impose our ideas on our kids, and to try to let them learn and grow freely.

What’s your background, and how did you get involved in selling kid’s toys?I have a degree in Building Engineering from a university in Stockholm, Art and Graphic Design from a university in Paris, and Film Producing and Business from a school here in LA. Overall, I am interested in design and wellbeing, but especially for kids. I have Swedish friends who have designed these amazing products, and I wanted to get them out there.

The response to Pee & Poo has been great! I believe that even at a very young age, kids like to learn responsibility. I think this is why they love dolls and puppies so loved much—caring for them is in our nature. Once we find that teddy bear we love, we become very involved and “listen” very carefully to what it needs. With the Pee & Poo characters, we can get the child’s attention and explain how Pee & Poo needs to go to the potty and not in the diaper. We will also soon come out with Apps for Pee & Poo potty training, so that the child can be part of a rewarding program for their potty visit.

You are a breast cancer survivor. How has this changed your perspective on what you do? I was diagnosed in 2010 and I have been clear for 5 years, so I can call myself “cancer free!” I have always been interested in health and wellbeing—both physical and mental, they go together. I believe this interest started at a young age, so working with kids and health makes my life so exciting.

Going through cancer was life changing. When you don’t know if there is a tomorrow, you let go of all of your expectations and start to look at life as new again. Everything in front of you becomes a blessing because you no longer can expect anything—like a child; children are so excited about everything. It’s amazing to be able to have that again as a grown.

Meet Phoebe Hayman, founder of Seedling, Los Angeles, CA

Phoebe and her family

As told to Lela Nargi

Where are you from originally? I spent much of my childhood in the US and then moved back to New Zealand (where I was born) in my tween years. I studied Fine Arts in Auckland, and it made me understand what an important role creativity plays in our lives. I naturally sought out creative and hands-on experiences when my kids were little and realized how limited the offering was to create quality creative moments for kids; I thought there had to be a simpler and more positive experience out there. Kids are so excited and curious around exploring what they can do with their own two hands, I really wanted something that fully supported that spirit. So, I created [activity kit site] Seedling!

You’re living in L.A. with your family now. What made you choose this location? My husband, Suraj, and our two sons Kieran (age 12) and Ashwyn (age 10) moved back to open a US office for Seedling. I have been humbled and thankful for how supportive my family has been around this. We choose L.A. because it is still close to home but has everything Seedling needs to succeed: great talent, an inspirational startup community, easy access to the rest of the US and our favorite venture capital investors. We just visited New Zealand for the holidays and our favorite thing is seeing all our wonderful family, closely followed by the food which we ate far too much of! We often have family visiting and the handy thing is that L.A. is a stopover for many New Zealanders traveling around the world, so we get to see a lot of family and friends throughout the year.

We love living in Southern California, because we really enjoy the opportunities our kids have to experience the diversity of communities. Just going in any direction 20 minutes puts us in a different culture we love exploring. When my family visits, we love taking them to the beaches and eating at our favorite restaurants; when we go to New Zealand, we love visiting the beaches and eating at our favorite restaurants. I guess we are creatures of habit.

What’s a typical day like for your family? I get to enjoy breakfast with the kids before getting on the train to go to work. My husband takes the kids to school and then their sports in the afternoon, while I work through a day of meetings. We enjoy dinner together most nights, if the kids’ sports schedules allow it.

On the weekends, we usually have some kind of sporting commitment but when we don’t, we love to go on walks, play tennis, go to the beach, or hang out at home doing our own projects. My kids love to read and build things, I love to read and paint, while my husband enjoys tennis and catching up on current events. I also love taking photos of my favorite people so there are photos all over our house; actually, we all enjoy our creative moments so there are works of art all over the place (even my husband, who doesn’t think he is creative, has a masterpiece on the fridge)

When we get the chance to go a little further afield, we love experiencing new communities, a few of our favorites are Laguna for the arts festivals and San Juan Capistrano for the amazing mission village but we’re still discovering so many spots!

Are there any issues that are really important to your family? Supporting our communities at a local level is important to us and you’ll often find us volunteering at the various sports and school communities that we belong to. Without this level of support, kids wouldn’t have the opportunities they have and we are big supporters of opportunities for kids both in our personal and professional lives.

And what about Seedling—what’s in store? Big plans! There are so many ways that kids love to play and we’re focused on supporting it in many forms. If we can imagine an open-ended play opportunity, we plan on building it and bringing it to families around the world. 2016 will see some very big product releases for us and we’re super excited about it. Watch this space!