Natalia Baliraj

Bright Horizons is opening a new state-of-the-art early education and preschool center in Lower Manhattan this spring. Bright Horizons at 200 Liberty Street will serve children ages 6 weeks to 5 years with Infant, Toddler, Preschool and Kindergarten Prep programs. We had a chance to connect with the Director, Natalia Baliraj to learn a little more about her, her new child care center and some of her favorite things to do in NYC.

1. What’s your favorite part about being Bright Horizons’ Center Director?

I love that Bright Horizons believes in best practices. We emphasize the importance of high-quality child care and meet the needs of the entire family. Our curriculum, The World at Their Fingertips, provides purposeful direction and rich experiences that build upon individual strengths. Our children get the care they need, the inspired learning experiences they enjoy, and the intellectually challenging opportunities they deserve.

2. Tell us one of your most memorable experiences in the early education field.

I love dancing with my students. Dancing (often times with abandon) is your body’s way of showing happiness. When I can take a moment to dance with toddlers or sway and jiggle with infants, I feel happy.

3. If you had to suggest 5 things every NYC family must do, eat or explore, what would that be?

Visit Brooklyn Bridge Park if you have children. The park is amazing because it’s a gross motor wonderland and it’s beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to climb to the top of the slide and see the best view of lower Manhattan as you slide down?

Visit the outer borough parks like Van Cortland and Pelham Bay, These parks are natural habitats and wildlife conservatories for all sorts of animals. You can even explore glacial rocks and go island hopping!

Take advantage of the city’s summer concerts. These are free and lots of the concerts are for kids and super fun!

Visit Governor’s Island! Rent a side by side tandem bicycle, I promise you won’t be able to stop riding because it’s so much fun!

Eat any ethnic foods you can find, NYC is the original melting pot! My favorite is Vietnamese food at Thai Son, but every nationality is represented here. Visit Little Italy, China Town, Little India, Korean Town etc.

 4. What was your favorite childhood book? Do you have any new favorite kids’ reads you recommend to parents?

I love the book ‘In the night Kitchen’ by Maurice Sendak, but, today my favorite children’s book is ‘Press Here’ by Herve Tullet.

Bright Horizons has a Growing Reader program where we recommend children’s books and reading activities to foster early literacy at home. Visit our Growing Readers program to learn more.

5. Since you grew up in the Bronx, what are some of the kid-friendly hidden gems in the area that only a native would know about? 

Living in Pelham Bay, the Bronx I became a hiker and animal lover. I go hiking at the Twin Islands with my dogs a lot. They are trail blazers and I love finding all different types of plants and animals in the trails. I also enjoy photographing all of the beautiful scenery.