Pixels is Out-of-This-World Funny

If I had a quarter for every game I played at the arcade with my brothers and friends at our beloved Aladdin’s Castle, I could most certainly be a wealthy world leader by now. Instead, I’m more than happy to write about the new movie, Pixels, where a group of guys (including the fictitious leader of the free world) relive their childhoods and join forces with the government to conquer aliens and secure hero status for gamers everywhere.

 

 

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Having grown up with video games at our fingertips, the latest buddy comedy, Pixels, is a hilarious nod to the classic arcade so as this genre of entertainment has evolved from our childhoods. In the film, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler,) Will Cooper (Kevin James,) Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad,) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) are kid video game phenoms who battle it out in the 80s. Fast forward to real time, Will Cooper is the President and his best friend, Sam, is an electronics installer who partner together to figure out how to save the world with their video game skills. Lamonsoff, a theory conspirist, and The Fire Blaster round out the gaming gurus with their over-the-top characters who exudes ridiculousness throughout Pixels. Michelle Monahan’s Lt. Violet Van Patten is fierce as the female lead who keeps the guys in check, especially Sandler’s Sam Brenner.

 

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When the aliens feel threatened and proposition Earth to several “real-life” video game duels, Sam and company must join forces to save the world with their gaming skills. The movie’s premise is as hilarious as it sounds, and truly lived up to the same Sandler-esque comedy our generation knows and loves. Like most of Sandler’s films, this one had its fair share of significant one-liners that kids of the 80s can appreciate.

As expected, Pixels is a riot, filled with gratuitous video game references, action and nostalgia, ideal for this generation’s parents who were arcade enthusiasts. Older kids would get a kick out of Pixels, but if they’re not up to their 80s pop culture, expect to whisper explanations throughout the film.

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Last week, I had the chance to sit in on the blogger junket with the esteemed director, Chris Columbus, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Michelle Monahan and Kevin James. The ensemble was “on” and kept us on our toes and fed into the kid interviewers in the crowd.

Sandler made us chuckle with his experience and thoughts of the way we grew up playing at the arcade. In fact, the arcade he went to as a kid was really called the Electric Game Factory, just like in the movie. We learned that Michelle enjoyed exuding girl power as her turn as Lt. Van Patten. Josh Gad’s ability to charm the room was no surprise. And, quite frankly, it was an honor to listen to Chris Columbus speak, considering many of us have grown up with his artistry on the screen.

But it was Kevin James, who is typically, the awkward secondary character who kept his cool during our interview…until I asked my fellow Mets fan what he’d do if he was really president to ensure the Mets made it to the World Series.

Without hesitation, the funny guy says, he’d institute mandatory siesta every day.  Considering the upswing that the Mets are on right now and my personal appreciation for siestas, I’m totally down with that!

 

 

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Tracking City Steps with the Omron Alvita Activity Tracker

As a former urbanite, I had such a great time reliving my single city life last week for Blogger Bash NYC and the festivities surrounding it. I stayed at  Yotel on the west side and traipsed around town in cabs, Uber, trains and clocked lots of steps in between. During the several days I had in the city and at the conference, I had a chance to test out the new Omron Health Alvita Activity Tracker.

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This small pedometer can be connected to a smart phone via Blue Tooth, and is able to record steps, aerobic steps, distance and calories burned, which can help with your fitness and day-to-day regiment. Being in the city for a few days for a blogging conference was the perfect chance to test out this cool new device. From morning to night, I tracked my steps and distance from my hotel to the expo hall and then to cocktail parties and outings with friends. 

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I really like how the Alvita Activity Tracker is so intuitive and is able to be connected to my phone. All of my information and data is sent to my phone, which I can then analyze for the week or month. The app is pretty straight-forward. And the device, itself, is simple to use and non-intrusive. I had a few issues getting the app and device to sync a few times, but after a few times, I was all set.

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On the day that I did the Expo all day and then went to several parities at night, I walked all over town, but didn’t over do it. I found on those days, I clocked the most steps. After returning home this weekend, I found myself getting into the car more more, and my steps significantly diminished back in the burbs. This could also have to do with the fact that I was resting a bit after a busy busy weekend. I expect my steps to skyrocket again when it comes to chasing after the kids.

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One of the main caveats of the device, I thought, was the small size and clip; I constantly felt like I was going to lose the tracker. In fact, it fell off of my shirt a few times, but I was able to find it.If there was a way to secure this small device, it would make this technology that much better!  I can now see the value of wearable devices and the popularity of activity trackers. Overall, I enjoyed testing out the Alvita Activity Tracker and plan to continue to use it, especially to amp up my physical activity and fitness goals. I love that it shows distance and calories burned and the information can be found on my phone.

The Omron Health Alvita Activity Tracker can be found at various retailers for less than $50.

 

Full disclosure: I was provided a device and compensation to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Day Out With Thomas to Pull into The Delaware River Railroad Excursions in Phillipsburg, NJ + Giveaway

There’s never a shortage of fun summer things to do around here. And since we’re always up for a family day trip, what better way to go out and see things than by train—Thomas the Train, that is!

Thomas the Train is pulling into The Delaware River Railroad Excursions on July 10-12 and 17-19 for Day Out with Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015. In honor of Thomas & Friends celebrating 70 years of friendship, this fun day is expected to be as exciting as ever.

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At this event, little engineers can take a 25-minute ride with everyone’s favorite blue train, Thomas the Tank Engine, and enjoy the day on the grounds doing arts and crafts, meeting Sir Topham Hatt, enjoying storytelling and other fun Thomas-themed events. The rides operate hourly July 10-12, 17-19. Now in its 20th year, will make 42 stops across the U.S. and Canada and is expected to welcome nearly one million passengers in 2015, including Phillipsburg, NJ overlooking the Delaware River.

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And what’s a celebration without a fun giveaway! In conjunction with Nextkidthing.com, we’re giving a 4-pack of tickets away for the Sunday, July 19 3:00 Day Out with Thomas event. Winners will be picked at random after entering below. We will notify winners on Friday, June 10. Winners’ tickets can picked up by will call. It is advised to arrive an hour ahead of departure time to park, pick up tickets and board Thomas The Tank. Of course, feel to arrive earlier and stay later to enjoy all the Day out with Thomas activities. Enter to win tickets below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tickets for Day Out with Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015 at The Delaware River Railroad Excursions for July 10-12, 17-19 are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb toll-free 866-468-7630, or by visiting 877trainride.com  Ticket prices are $21.00 plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges and fee may apply). Not in NJ? Check and see if Thomas and Friends are visiting a railroad near you!

For more information and directions, contact the Delaware River Railroad Excursions, 877trainride.com.

For information on Thomas & Friends, visit www.thomasandfriends.com or follow along here: @ThomasFriends #DOWT #ThomasObsessed

Kevin, Stuart and Bob are Hilarious in Minions Movie

Everyone’s favorite hilarious little yellow characters are front and center in Universal Pictures’ Minions. As the leads in their namesake animated feature, the Minions are up to some shenanigans and life before Gru. 

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Minions explores life for the yellow fellows and their hunt for their leader. When collaborations with leaders like Napoleon, Dracula and dinosaurs ultimately fail, the Minions decide to tap some of their best, er, most willing guys—Kevin, Stuart and Bob—set off on a hunt for their true leader. 

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Several series of events lead the trio to their chance encounter with an evil family who help them get down to the Villain Con in Orlando.

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Their search leads them to Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock) and then becoming her evil henchmen. Kevin, Stuart and Bob are tasked with taking the British crown, which then leads to them becoming royalty and making Scarlett feel threatened. Because the Minions are loyal, they grant Scarlet the monarchy and things get a little crazy to say the least. Kevin, Stuart and Bob beckon the rest of their crew to England and must save the World in the process.

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Despite the evil brouhahas and constant scheming, Minions is a story about friendship, loyalty and courage. In their first foray as the lead, the Minions are able to endure their brand of comedy and nonsensical scenarios, without uttering a complete intelligible sentence, thanks to the supporting cast and silly storyline. Sandra Bullock’s Scarlett Overkill added a feisty flavor to the mix, as did Jon Hamm as Her Overkill. We learn to love the Minions’ imperfections even more than we already do, and Kevin, Stuart and Bob 

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My Minion-obsessed 3-year-old sat through the entirety of the 1 hour 44 min runtime, and could’ve watched it several times over. I thought it could’ve been a little shorter, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Overall, Minions is a fun family flick, and one that’s sure to be a hit with the littlest guys, as well as the adults. 

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Minions hits theaters on July 10th.

Baking with #Pyrex100: Chiffon Cake with Strawberries and Nutella Ganache #ad

Summer bbqs and get-togethers among our circle of friends tend to yield a lot of delicious foods. I’ve been noticing, however, that the desserts are often the afterthought. So, for desserts for parties we attend, I try to whip up creative baked treats that are attainable. And since it’s summer, I’m all about including locally sourced or in-season ingredients.

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Since early spring, I’ve been dreaming of a delicious strawberry shortcake. Problem is, I don’t always love strawberries and I don’t always love angel food cake. I need a good cake to pair with my strawberries.

For this recipe, I wanted to combine a chiffon cake with some ripe strawberries and squeeze some Nutella ganache for good measure.

 

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Chiffon cake wasn’t always my favorite kind of cake. In fact, I loathed this cake because I think it was the only kind of cake my mom used to make. We didn’t do boxed cakes or much prepared food, for that matter. For baked goods, my grandmother was the pro in this department. She baked almost every kind of Filipino pastry; and man, they were better than the bakeries’ pastries. Her food was, ostensibly, baked with love.

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So, my mom’s chiffon cake is a special kind of cake because it conjures up fond memories in the kitchen. I can still envision my mom’s jet-black hair, coifed much like an 80s mom-do. Since chiffon cakes was her signature (and only) baked good, she made it look so effortless to bake. The classic Sunbeam mixer mixed the ingredients; and I can still smell the motor on that classic mixer, mixing the cake like so. 

The ingredients are quite basic, and can be measured with a Pyrex mixing cup, as well as in the mixing bowl. I have always used Pyrex for baking because of the convenience and durability and it feels right. I like being able to look into the bowl from the sides to ensure balanced mixing. I also need to be able to measure liquids without having to second-guess those measurements. With a swipe or two of a rubber spatula, I love being able to clean my cups and bowls effortlessly.

I loved the addition of the Nutella ganache because it adds more depth and texture to this cake. It’s already rich, but it adds just a little more flavor to complement the berries and cake. And because I’m all about letting the kids help in the kitchen whenever possible, I let Biggie cut all 2 lbs of strawberries that were needed for this recipe.

 

This is a multi-step cake, but it’s not too hard. I adapted my grandmother’s recipe and separated the eggs to hopefully make it more spongy. So, this is how it goes:

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Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and egg yolks.

 

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Beat egg whites until there’s soft peaks. Gently fold egg whites into cake batter. I used a 9×13 pan so I can take it on the go, but chiffon cakes are typically baked in tube pans.

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While the cake is baking, you can work on the ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil and then add to the nutella. Mix until it’s even.

 

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Strawberries can be cut beforehand and set aside.

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Before assembling cake, beat cream and confectioner’s sugar to make the whipped topping.

 

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After cake has completely cooled, cut in half. Place bottom half back into pan. Spread ganache onto first layer. Add half of strawberry mix. Add whipped topping and then place second layer of cake on top. For top layer, add whipped topping and then arrange strawberries into a fun design.

 

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Thank you to Pyrex for sponsoring this post and helping me to share such fond memories with my family in the kitchen.

The Pyrex® 100 Days of Giveaways is sponsored by World Kitchen, LLC. There is no purchase necessary to enter. In order to participate, you must be a legal resident of the fifty United States or the District of Columbia and must be at least 18 years old at the time of entry. Entries will be accepted from March 22, 2015 at 10:00:00 a.m. ET until June 30, 2015 at 9:59:59 a.m. ET.

Disclosure: I have happily partnered with World Kitchen LLC to share the wonderful Pyrex® 100th Anniversary product line. All opinions are my own.

 



Pyrex® 100th Anniversary Giveaway


 

Free Thank You Printable: You’re The Balm

School just ended and we had so many things to celebrate with our wonderful teachers. Littles had a lot of help with his transition into preschool. I was so grateful that these wonderful educators always take such great care of my boy. I felt we could go a bit further than a gift card or generic card. So, I combined some fairly inexpensive beauty items that I absolutely love with a catchy phrase, and voilá!

 I made a super easy thank you gift that conveyed my thanks for multiple teachers and aides who took care of my special needs preschooler all day.

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For this gift, I bought multiple flavors of EOS lip balm and lotions. I then bagged and added a ribbon and a tag. I really think the tag turned out super cute for something I whipped up in just a few minutes. End result: You’re the Balm thank you gifts! EOS balm and lotions can be found at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. And when they’re on sale or if you have a coupon, it makes them that much sweeter.

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I noticed that there’s a few new flavors and loved being able to incorporate them into my gift. I definitely want to try the tangerine medicated lip balms for myself. As for the lotions? I can’t get over the easy to grab and portable packaging. The scents are fresh and sweet; the only thing about these lotions is that I’d love to see even more scents!

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And these You’re the Balm thank you gifts can be used beyond teacher gifts! I shared the printable on Facebook and my friend used it for her friend’s bachelorette and bridesmaid’s gifts. When it comes to giving small beauty gifts to show your gratitude, the possibilities are endless. And because I’m all about sharing the love, please download the printable here! If you do use it, don’t forget to Pin it or comment below or on Facebook and tell me how you used it!

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SwimToday and Dara Torres Promote Swimming as #FunnestSport

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of joining an informative media event at the Asphalt Green for SwimToday, hosted by our friends at MomTrends. SwimToday is a joint, industry effort created to promote and grow participation in the sport of swimming. The campaign is led by USA Swimming, Arena USA, Speedo USA and TYR Sport.

Dubbed the #FunnestSport, this campaign hopes to highlight the many benefits of swimming as a sport. SwimToday and MomTrends brought together influencers to listen to Ambassador and Olympic Gold Medalist, Dara Torres, and hear several swim moms share their kids’ experience as swimmers. 

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Before Dara shared her experience, I enjoyed learning some benefits of swimming as shared by SwimToday:

·       It’s closer than you think – 62 percent of families live within 10 minutes of a pool; 52 percent of households with combined income of $50,000 or less report they have access to a pool nearby

·       Everyone participates – Swimming is inclusive, there are no benchwarmers (nor benches)

·       Swimming is a team sport – Only 16 percent of non-swimming parents view swimming as a team sport but parents of swimmers associate the sport with teamwork more than any other sport

·       Suit up and go – Only a swimsuit, cap and goggles are necessary to get started

·       Life skills – Swimming increases self-confidence, self-esteem, time management, goal-setting and social development

·       Easy to learn – 76 percent of parents said the ease of learning to swim was high

·       Low risk of injuryNo contact makes for a safer environment

·       Swimming = total body fitness– Burn 650 calories in an hour – more than walking, biking or team sports

·       Sport for life – Once you learn to swim, you can enjoy no matter your age

·       Swimming is FUN – Parents confirm that swimming is the #FunnestSport

I appreciated the swim moms’ different perspectives about their children’s involvement as swimmers. For some, their kids love for swimming began as tots, for others, swimming opened brand new avenues and camaraderies. I enjoyed how the moms shared how swimming rounded out their kids altogether.

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Dara Torres shared how her career as a swimmer didn’t always go swimmingly. In fact, there was a time she said that she didn’t always come in first. Since her youth, however, she said she worked hard and never gave up. She was constantly reinventing herself and striving to do more as a swimmer. I loved listening to her speak as a swim mom and how her career has molded her outlook as a parent. She was so down to earth and well-spoken. I think we could’ve listened to her talk longer, had there not been any time restraints.

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Since we live at a lake, I’m proud to be a current swim mom. My older guy enjoys being active and participating in sports, and swimming is one of those sports that we’ve just recently added to our summer schedule.

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Unlike the contact sports that he prefers, swimming is a challenge because it’s still new to him and he’s constantly competing against himself in addition to participating as a team. As the other swim moms mentioned at the SwimToday event, swimming competitively allows the kids to develop special bonds with teammates. It gives kids a chance to challenge themselves and learn how to better themselves with every lap. At 7 years old, my guy isn’t the strongest swimmer, but I appreciate his willingness to try hard and to pull through for his team.

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I see us continuing to be a swimming family, especially now knowing that my younger guy loves the water. For someone who’s had so many challenges, being in the water seems to make him feel invincible. It didn’t take much for SwimToday to convince me that swimming is the #FunnestSport. We are pretty lucky to live by the water and are able to enjoy swimming almost every day in the summer!

To learn more about SwimToday and the #FunnestSport, be sure to check them out on Facebook. Head to SwimToday.org to find a swim club near you.

 
 

Join Tommee Tippee For a Twitter Party 6/18

Our friends over at Tommee Tippee are holding a Twitter Party on Thursday, June 18 1-2pm! Tommee Tippee will be chatting all about what parents are doing this summer with the kid lets. If you aren’t already following Tommee Tippee, be sure to check them out at @tommeetippee_NA and I’m at @jenrab.

I hope to join in, so if you participate, be sure to say hi. We have a busy summer planned already, I can’t wait to get the show on the road! 2 more days of school!

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Full disclosure: this is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Whole Wide World Toys Village Playsets Introduce Diversity and Culture

Unearthing new and innovative toys is our favorite thing to do around here. When it comes to checking out new toys that help my kids grasp different cultures and diversity, I get down-right giddy.

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As a multicultural family living in not-so-diverse town, playing with toys that allow us to have healthy conversations about race, culture and to examine what makes us different is rather important. Whole Wide World Toys sent us some a set of their new World Village Playsets—China, and we’ve been enjoying learning about China and a culture that isn’t very familiar to us.

The World Village Playset is multi-faceted; it comes with a fabric playmat, a chunky wood puzzle with 13 pieces, a My China Travel Journal and 14 story cards. The set encourages culture with creative play, and that’s exactly what I found my kids to do upon opening the set.

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My youngest was immediately drawn to the playmat and wooden puzzle pieces, whereas my older son was intrigued by the cards and journal. The playmat and wooden puzzle pieces quickly turned into a scene where they made up a story and were able to interact with one another. We learned English translation of each item from the puzzle pieces and enjoyed the story, which gave us more insight.

I appreciate that this set encourages curiosity about different cultures and serves as a wealth of conversation starters. The amount of open-ended play that the set allows is great for younger kids, as well as older grade schoolers. I especially found this set to be a wonderful way to engage in speech and language with my younger son who has a speech disability.

 

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I totally visualize that this beautiful set could be used within a classroom setting to complement a lesson about China or at home for kids who are genuinely curious about culture. I can also see this Whole Wide World Toys to be a great resource for multiracial families like ours, or in a blended family where a child is adopted from a China or another country.

Overall, this well-made playset is an excellent tool that encourages culture, creativity and conversation about the world around us. You can find Whole World Wide Village Playsets on Amazon or at specialty retailers.

Mail from YouTube: Stampy Cat’s WonderQuest Launch

As we returned home from DisneySMMC a few weeks ago, we were treated to a surprise package from our friends at YouTube.  I love the smirk on Biggie’s face as he revealed contents:

It was a signed poster from none other than Stampy Cat! It’s not every day that you get snail mail from your favorite YouTube super cat!

If your kid plays Minecraft as much as everyone else’s, there’s a chance that he or she also knows about StampyCat. In fact, at my house, I swear, my kid watches more StampyCat than he actually plays Minecraft. Don’t get me wrong, if my kid is going to be staring at a screen, I’m glad he’s watching content that I’ve approved and encourages imagination. 

If you’re not on the up and up about Stampy, then you must know that this YouTube channel stars a cat, and overviews the countless ways that Minecraft can be played. According to The Guardian, Stampy’s channel on YouTube has upwards to 5.6 million subscribers and nearly 3.4bn video views. The main audience of this channel are, not surprisingly, children.

The kids are drawn to the funny banter and easy-to-follow gameplay. As if he’s a big brother paving the way through the mines, Stampy is the kid’s virtual buddy and a bonified pop cultural phenomenon.

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With this wild success comes other great ideas. The creator of Stampy Cat, Joseph Garrett, has launched a new second channel called Wonder Quest. Guardian reported that it’s a 12-episode show of the same name that aims to blend education, entertainment and – while still shot within Minecraft – higher production values. Wonder Quest is a partnership with Maker Studios and YouTube is the official distributor.

Tube Filter reported that there will be a supplement animated series to Wonder Quest called I Wonder. The show will feature  Stampy and his friend Wizard Keen further explore the educational topics presented in the flagship series. Both shows will be hosted on the new Wonder Quest channel.

Finally, Garrett’s Side Quest series contains eight episodes of Let’s Play-style videos where Stampy and his friends play games in maps featured in Wonder QuestSide Quest will be hosted on Garrett’s original Stampylonghead channel, which boasts over 5.6 million subscribers.

After watching an episode or two, I think Stampy is here to stay. I love that this show is scripted and set in the same Minecraft World, and keeps the same funny vibe that kids love. That lovable, fun tone is what keeps the kids engaged, and if that’s what it takes to mesh education with screen time seamlessly, I’m all for it.