Our new holiday tradition

Usually the holidays sneak up on me. Last year I didn’t even book my ticket home (to see my mother in Los Angeles) until December 22nd, for a red-eye leaving the next day. I did all my Christmas shopping in the Doha airport, and I spent New Year’s Eve on a 14-hour flight from LA back to the Middle East.

This year, I had to plan ahead better. There’s a new member of my family that takes up all my time, keeps me up at night, and reminds me what matters as I consider the year gone by. My new baby’s name? Jaleesa.

Maybe your family has grown this year as well? Have you had to rearrange your priorities to meet changing demands from family, friends, and your career? When talking to parents this season, the Jaleesa team has reflected on what the holidays mean in 2017. Giving back to our communities is one thing many of us can agree on.

So, as a special holiday thank you, we’d like to offer you 10% off your Jaleesa booking this month, with the code festive10.

Jaleesa does all we can to make life easier for families, kids, and babysitters. This fall, we partnered with Careem: members of the Jaleesa community are entitled to 20% off five rides per month with the discount code JALEESA. Order a car for your Jaleesa babysitter after a late booking, or just to avoid traffic headaches in the coming days.

Jaleesa is committed to scaling our social impact as our business grows. Next month we are launching a partnership with daycare extraordinaire Dent de Laitin Sodeco. Together, we’ll be hosting educational events for parents, with Jaleesa babysitters available to look after your children. Proceeds go toward Jaleesa’s subsidized child care for underprivileged families in Burj Hammoud.

Here are some of our adorable beneficiaries:


Finally, we compiled a guide to some beautiful social impact gifts available in Beirut. Proceeds from the sale of each product go toward initiatives working to make Lebanon better.

We listen carefully to customers and babysitters, with the goal of responding to complaints and compliments with equal care. I’d love to hear your thoughts: reach out to me personally at stephanie@jaleesa.co.

Our warmest wishes for a cozy holiday season, and a happy, healthy 2018 for you and yours.

Source: jaleesa blog

Beirut's best social impact Christmas gifts

Love the giving spirit of the holidays but bored by the impulse to amass more meaningless stuff? We’ve compiled a short list of fabulous gifts made by social impact businesses. Like Jaleesa, all of these organizations are founded on principles of giving back to their communities. And also like Jaleesa, their products are cleverly designed to make your life easier, during the holidays and all year round.

Two bottles of Lebanese olive oil in GGIL recycled glass bottles

Ziad Abi Chaker and his Green Glass Initiative has struck gold again– liquid gold that is– with this gorgeous case of olive oil. Everything in the package is locally produced or recycled: the oil is made by an elderly farmer in the Saida region, who tends his orchards in a traditional way, without the aid of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. The dark green glass bottles are made from recycled wine bottles from Abi Chaker’s street recycling bins project, and are sealed with recycled wine corks and locally tempered safety seal. Finally, the wooden box is made from recycled wine boxes and shipping palettes.

The pack is 65,000 LL, and is sold at Abi Chaker’s stand every Saturday at Souk el Tayeb. For an additional 9,000 LL, you can have yours delivered by bike messenger. For more information send Abi Chaker a Facebook message here, or email info@cedarenv.com.

Abi Chaker’s Green Glass Initiative vases and tumblers also make fabulous gifts. They are available at Souk el Tayeb, Plan BEY, Tawlet, and other classy establishments all over Lebanon.

Ghar Collective Aleppo laurel soap

Want to smell like a queen and put money directly into the pockets of Syrian craftswomen? Of course you do. Aleppo laurel soap has been made the same way for millennia, and counts the Queen of Sheba and Cleopatra among its famously beautiful fans. Today, batches of the soap are made by Ghar, a cooperative of 50 women in Aleppo, many refugees from other parts of Syria. Proceeds from sales in Dubai, The US, and Hong Kong are enough to pay each woman $150-$200 per month.

To snag a bar, pass by the Syrian Christmas Craft Fair on 7 December at AUB’s West Hall, or Mansion in Gemmayzeh in the evening between 9-15 December to pick up some of the soap that made Aleppo famous. Can’t make it in person? Reach out to the collective via Facebook or Instagram.

Art.Cages antique bird cage lamp

Light up your house (and conscience) with an Art.Cages lamp fashioned from upcycled birdcage. “We chose the cage as a medium because we believe in liberty,” says founder and CEO Ruba el-Amine. “We’re against captivity,” she continues, “for animals and for the human mind.” To that end, 15% of the profits from each sale will go toward Animals Lebanon.

Check out Art.Cages’ pieces, starting at $60, at their pop up shop at the Beirut Souks, in the alley behind Balthazar. Art.Cages is also hosting or attend a sneak preview screening of the new Jessica Chastain film Molly’s Game on 19 December at ABC Achrafiyeh. Tickets are 20,000 LL.

Koullouna gift box

Want to send a little bit of Lebanon to someone abroad? The Koullouna Box is just the thing. Lebanon-themed books, decorative items, food will be delivered to their door in a monthly themed box. The first box’s contents fell under a coffee theme, including a bag of Cafe Najjar coffee, a rakweh, traditional ceramic coffee cups, orange blossom water (for white coffee), and other goodies. 10% of proceeds from the coffee box went toward The Nawaya Network; future boxes will go toward other initiatives in Lebanon “doing the country good,” says founder and CEO Marielle Khayat.

Check out Koullouna’s Indiegogo page to learn more, and to place your order for the next box, to be delivered in March 2018, for €34 plus shipping.

Inaash Palestinian embroidery serving tray

The Inaash serving trays ($50-75) embellished with Palestinian embroidery are the perfect combination of modern and traditional. Amazingly, the Inaash Association has worked in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon for the past 50 years, sending designs and materials to Palestinian women who then work on pillow cases, cushions, and other textiles. The women are paid, then Inaash works the textiles into pieces like these trays or sleek stools.

The pieces are sold at the Inaash Association shop in Ras Beirut near the Saudi embassy. For directions or more details, call 01 744 609. The shop is open from 8 AM to 3 PM Monday through Friday, Saturday 8 AM to 1 PM.

Jaleesa gift card

We at Jaleesa also offer gift cards good for child care in any amount you’d like (starting at $50). We impact our community in three ways: 

  1. We work with NGOs to recruit women from underprivileged communities and train them as child carers
  2. Our non-profit events program funds a subsidized child care fund for underprivileged families living in Bouchriyeh and Burj Hammoud via the NGO BZ KIDZ
  3. Our high quality child care service lets women get back to work sooner after having a baby, should they choose to do so.

To purchase a gift card, email me at stephanie@jaleesa.co or WhatsApp me at +961 76 817 019.

Know another beautiful Levantine social impact product we should add to this list? Leave a comment or email me at stephanie@jaleesa.co or WhatsApp me at +961 76 817 019. Let’s make this a community effort.

And please accept our warm holiday wishes, from the Jaleesa family to yours.

Source: jaleesa blog

Beirut daycares roundup

Come summer’s end in Beirut, when it’s cooling off enough to venture outdoors again, the same questions crop up in every playground, every summer colonie, and every parents WhatsApp group: ‘Which daycare do you send your kids to?’ ‘What are some good and affordable daycares in X area?’ ‘What is a reasonable price for a daycare if I am leaving my son 8 to 5?’

No need to panic. Jaleesa already provides Beirut’s first trusted child care on demand. Using our website, parents can find, vet, and book a trained babysitter child carer in just three steps (click here to search for sitters in your area). Now we’ve put together the internet’s best roundup of Beirut daycares, including interviews with parents who’ve already been through it.

Don’t see your daycare listed here? We’d love to chat about your experience, and add to our list so that others in our community can benefit. Drop me a line at stephanie@jaleesa.co and I’ll be in touch soon.

Happy back to school!

1, 2, 3 Soleil

Location: SassinePrice: Around $500 per child per month, including meals. Methodology: More classical, traditional Lebanese conservative way of teaching the kids. It’s all about playing because it’s about a nursery.

Ages: From 4 months to 4 years.

Hours: 8 AM til 2:30 PM, can stay until 4:30 or 5 PM.

Languages: English, French & Arabic.

Contact: 01 216 262

“Very secure, very clean. It’s a little dim, because it’s in a building the corridors are very tight. Sometimes you choose your nursery just because it’s close to you. There’s no perfect school or nursery. I thought the hygiene and the closeness were very important. Other than that the kids were happy. The teachers were really nice, well-educated, they spoke three languages– English a bit less, but they could speak it if necessary.”

Claire Maassaab Key Nursery

Location: Gemmayzeh

Price: “It used to be $500 per month, including meals.”

Hours: 8 AM until 2:30 PM, with possible extension to 4 PM.

Methodology: Early childhood education that is project based, child centric, and trilingual (English, French, and Arabic). A “traditional and standard” way of teaching, says one mom. Another says “it was structured and academic.”

Ages: 2 months – 5 years 11 months divided into six classes

Languages: English, French, and Arabic

Contact: 01 564 198

“I tried one or two others (Cocoun, and then 1 2 3 Soleil). I’m going to be very honest. My experience with Claire Maassab was amazing. I found them really friendly, the atmosphere was great. They like to have contact with the parents. I used to be happy to take my child there. They would have really nice gatherings on special occasions, especially compared to the other daycares I tried. They had a very big and nice outdoor playground for the kids, unlike other nurseries. If I had to be critical, it could be a bit chaotic and messy, but I like things this way instead of super regimented.”

“It’s a very friendly location, in an old but well maintained residential building that was turned into a garderie. The parking in the same area as the garderie is a great advantage. The price seems about the same as other nurseries. I liked how they paid attention to my son and moved him from group to group based on his performance. Attention, love, and care is what every child asks for. Ali is lucky to have found those with Claire Maassab.”

Dent de Lait

Location: Koreitem & Sodeco

Price: Koreitem fees are $650 until 1 PM and $750 until 3 PM); Sodeco fees are $900 

Ages: 1 to 6 years old

Hours: 7:50 AM until 3 PM

Languages: French and Arabic

Contact: 01 792 787

“All parents complain about the building. It’s a very old building, the rooms are old and dark, and they only paint the walls to renovate. The facility in general is not a beautiful place like other daycares. That’s probably why they opened a new branch in Sodeco, in a brand new building.”

Editor’s note: Dent de Lait have indeed opened a huge new ‘Eco children’s center’ in Sodeco, a multi-level mixed media nursery + daycare experience that is as beautiful as it is well-designed for educational stimulation.

Innocent Minds

Location: Bliss, Sanayeh, and Hazmieh

Price: $600 per month

Methodology: Montessori + their own curriculum

Ages: 11 months to 4 years

Hours: 7:30 AM to 3 PM, with the option to extend until 5 PM.

Languages: English, French, and Arabic

Contact: 71 551 190 (Sanayeh); 03 056 976 (Hazmieh); 01 360 026 (Bliss)

“It feels like an industrial scale thing, where a kid gets sent in one end and comes out the other,” says one dad, who ended up sending his son to Jip and Janneke. A mom says she’s generally happy with Innocent Minds, but that the management changes frequently, but not the staff, so “some things need to be repeated.”

Jip and Janneke

Location: Baabda

Methodology: Based on Montessori

Ages: Walking to 4

Hours: 8:15 AM to 2 PM, possible to extend

Price: nursery around $400 per month

Languages: Arabic & English

Contact: 05 954 584

“For us the benefit is that it’s a very small nursery. It doesn’t have that feeling of conveyor belt– some nurseries you go to are really nice and expensive, it still feels like an industrial process where the kids come in one end and go out the other. There’s a big range of backgrounds and ethnicities. There’s a garden with real grass and real trees. It’s a hidden gem.”

“Don’t offer that many trips or after school care, which is fine for us because they keep their prices low.”

Les Citronniers

Location: Monnot, rue Huvelin

Price: $550 (including breakfast and lunch)

Hours: 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM

Ages: 2 months to 5 years old

Languages: French and a little Arabic

Contact: 01 327 402

“They’re excellent, very good. There were a few incidents at the beginning, nothing serious. I’m a very demanding mom and I was satisfied. They’re super patience and great with kids. Even if there is a child who takes a bit more time to adapt, they adapt to them. They were very open to criticism. Once I arrived at noon and my son’s diaper was wet and the teacher hadn’t changed it. The manager gave me an explanation and I was satisfied. You’d also be given a notebook with details of the meals and how many times he went to the bathroom etc.”

Lemonts Preschool

Location: Saifi Village

Price: $2,250 every three months excluding meals (meals additional $1,800 per year)

Methodology: Montessori. “All toys and objects and selected with care. Wooden toys are used over plastic. The educators follow up with kids individually.”

Ages: 1 to 5

Hours: 8 AM to 2 PM, possible extension to 5 PM

Languages: English, French, and Arabic. Each teacher speaks only one language with the goal of the children learning each language equally.

Contact: 01 971 490

A mom whose child goes to Lemonts says “I love that it’s the real Montessori way. The downside is that the outdoor play area isn’t a real garden with grass and plants. There’s also no parking in the area.”

Another mom: “I like it because of how they deal with the kids, they put them all together in the Montessori system. The nursery is really nice and homey, not overdone. I felt there are a lot of stimulating things for the kids to do. No criticisms at all, the teachers are really nice– I love them so much. My daughter is super happy there. The older kids do experiments and learn about artists and musicians. Every three months you get a very detailed report card.”

Another mom has glowing reviews from kids: “Both my kids went to Lemonts preschool. I had a great experience with both of them, especially when I had some difficulties dealing with my daughter’s short temper. I collaborated with the school, and they advised me day by day on how to deal with her while helping her stay true to her personality. What I admire most is their integrity, transparency, and professionalism.”

Source: jaleesa blog

The new Jaleesa.co – AKA “Why am I not at the beach”

Eleven months ago today we launched our lovely Jaleesa website. Today it’s had a major upgrade.

For the first time, parents can now request to book their chosen babysitter online. Very soon, you’ll be able to see all the sitters’ star ratings and their reviews from Jaleesa families.

We worked with a French designer to update our color palette and refresh the site’s design. We want to make sure every Jaleesa experience is professional, and also loving and fun – that’s genuinely how we feel about our work. I hope the new site shows that to everyone who visits.

Everyone in the team was part of the upgrade. Hassan, our Chief Technical Officer, heroically coded the whole thing from scratch (see how quickly those photos load!) Samar has worked hard for months to recruit a truly talented group of sitters (browse their profiles here!) Lara has personally spoken to 10 customers today. Stephanie is inviting our community to visit the site. What a bunch of heroes.

Week by week, we’ll be upgrading the site with new tools to make it even simpler.

I was supposed to go to the beach today. But I would rather be here (confession: I am clicking ‘refresh’ on Google Analytics and checking my phone constantly for feedback).

It’s worth it, though. Because – and I know this might sound crazy, but it’s true…

… it’s never been easier to find a trusted child carer in Lebanon. Literally!

PS: I am manning the Jaleesa Hotline today, so if you feel generous, message or call with your feedback! I’m on +96176817019.

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Source: jaleesa blog

7 Language development activities to do with your toddler

Babies begin listening and learning language even before birth, but it’s around year one where the most crucial language development happens. Early on, babies communicate through crying and gestures (pointing or tugging); around the age of 10 months, infants begin babbling and might speak their first word.

Research shows that children exposed to adult-sounding language (complex sentences and grammatical constructions) acquire language faster. According to Dana Abdul-Ahad Nawfal, M.Ed, co-founder and managing director of LEAPS Learning Center in Lebanon and the UAE, “all the research says that oral language development is directly related to school performance later on, especially reading. The more we enhance oral language development for a child as a base, the more chance she has later on to be successful in school– it’s as simple as that!”

Want to help your one-year-old learn language faster? Try these seven activities, or hire a trained Jaleesa infant carer (like Charlotte, above), and let us know how you get on!

  1. Read together

It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. Read together several times a day. Incorporate pointing into your reading time, Nawfal advises: “pre-speech children need to point before they speak. Pointing to something in the story and saying the name establishes the relationship between the object and the name, which is the basis for oral communication.”

Next steps: ask your toddler to point out pictures to you in the book, and ask her to tell you what she sees. Also read alphabet books to help her start laying the groundwork for reading.

  1. Drop the baby talk

Your baby acquires language from you, so you should be a model for good language skills. “Say it to your child the way you’d say it to an adult,” says Nawfal. “The idea is not to simplify the language because if you only use the same words the child’s vocabulary will be limited.”

Use proper grammar, slowly and in complete (but short) sentences. Listen attentively to what your child says. Repeat her words back to her to model pronunciation and encourage her to develop good listening skills.

  1. Harness pre-verbal communication with sign language

Because babies can communicate physically before they can communicate orally, introducing sign language is a way to help them associate a word with its meaning, says Nawfal. Babies are developmentally ready to understand sign language beginning at four months, but won’t be able to sign back until at least seven months. Try the sign for ‘eat’: place the fingers of one hand together and bring them to your mouth as you say ‘eat’. Repeat every time you say it in a sentence: ‘Is it time to ‘eat’ now? Are you ready to ‘eat’? Would you like another bite to ‘eat’?’. As your baby approaches toddler age, incorporate more complex signs like ‘ball’, or ‘cat’.


  1. Introduce spatial concepts like ‘on’, ‘in’, ‘under’, etc.

When playing with your toddler, give her objects that can go on top of each other. Say ‘I put the cat on the roof’ and repeat. Avoid saying ‘the cat is not on the roof’ as it will interfere with her picking up the concept, and avoid introducing other concepts (at this point) like in, or under. Next, ask your child to put the cat on the roof, and repeat with a variety of objects. Ask her yes / no questions about the concept (‘Is the cat on the roof?’), and conclude with asking the child ‘Where’ questions that will encourage her to say the word ‘on.’

  1. Turn errands into a scavenger hunt

At the supermarket, ask your toddler to identify things: ‘Point to something that is red! What is it? Point to something that is a circle! What do we do with that?’ At home, pretend you can’t find something easy, like her socks or the orange juice. Have your toddler explain where the object can be found.


  1. Sing vocabulary songs

Music reinforces learning for people of all ages. Help your toddler acquire new words by introducing songs like Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and rhyming songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider. If your child is in a nursery, contact her teacher to find out what songs they sing there, and reinforce them at home. When you get bored (you will get bored), introduce new ones!

  1. Prepare for word spurt with verbal labeling

“Every single thing the child touches the parent should be naming,” says Nawfal. “Follow the child’s lead, and put words to everything they’re doing, even if you think the word and the action might not go together. For instance, instead of saying ‘vroom vroom’ when a child slams a toy car down on the ground, say ‘bang!’. Or, during shower time, narrate what you’re doing: ‘You’re splashing the water! I’m lathering your hair!’”

These words will all come out in the ‘word spurt’ stage, around 18 months for girls and just over two years for boys. “My son was an early talker,” says Nawfal. “He started at 10 months, and I think it’s because we labelled everything. He started with one or two words, and then boom he was talking to me in complete sentences. Now he’s two years four months and he’s using huge words that I haven’t said to him in a year or longer.”

Photo credits: Jacob Russell, Alexander Drummer, Daiga Ellaby

Source: jaleesa blog