Pumpkin Carving with PBS Kids

Halloween time is one of my absolute favorite times of year. Cool, brisk air allowing for sweatshirt and jeans, and of course, harvest time coupled with costumes—what’s not to love?


It’s the art of going to the pumpkin patch, painstakingly choosing the most perfect pumpkin and then, planning and carving our pumpkin to depict something we love, that embodies the kind of family Halloween fun that never gets old.


As crafty and artsy as we are, though, pumpkin carving is almost like a science. Unlike when we were kids, there are now specialized, kid-friendly tools and premade stencils to make this craft much easier.


Even better, many of our favorite kid websites provide these free stencils and other Halloween ideas. Last year, we created a Jack Skellington pumpkin via Disney’s website.

And of course, leave it to our friends at PBS Kids to share a plethora of fun character stencils to make this year’s pumpkins that much cooler. Whether you’re a fan of Peg + Cat, Daniel Tiger, the Wild Kratts or our good buddy Curious George, PBS Kids likely has a stencil fit for your pumpkin. Head to PBS Kids to grab a stencil for your family’s pumpkin!

Today, along with a few of our blogging friends, Jack was invited to join GMA Live for a fun segment just on this topic: pumpkin carving and Halloween fun inspired by PBS Kids. It’s always a treat when Jack gets to make an appearance on tv, so it’s quite fitting that it’s PBS Kids, one of our most beloved kid properties.


And speaking of Halloween fun: “CURIOUS GEORGE: A Halloween Boo Fest” airs Monday, October 28. It is the first ever CURIOUS GEORGE Halloween special.
Throughout the week of October 28, PBS KIDS will feature Halloween programming from other family favorites as well, including new episodes from THOMAS & FRIENDS and its newest series, PEG + CAT, and encore presentations of many other series (check local listings). PBS KIDS will also repeat CURIOUS GEORGE: A Halloween Boo Fest on Halloween.
Kids can also explore a pumpkin patch with George with a new Halloween game on PBSKIDS.org/curiousgeorge.
“CURIOUS GEORGE: A Halloween Boo Fest” is also available on DVD.

World Autism Awareness Day and Looking Ahead to the BRAIN Initiative

According to the CDC’s latest reports, 1 in 50 school children have autism, up from last year’s estimate of 1 in 88.  With those numbers getting higher, we’re all likely to know and love someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD.)

Today, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day, and the whole month of April you’re encouraged to light it up blue, too.

As a mother of a baby with special needs, helping to spread autism awareness hits home more than ever.  To be truthful, because of the baby’s medicine regimen and their effects, I don’t even know if our baby will be in that above stat.  Whether he is or isn’t you better believe I’ll be on the frontlines helping to spread awareness to better understand ASD.

The president had some uplifting words in regard to Autism Awareness and how his administration is addressing them.

And looking ahead, my Administration is investing in medical research that can help unlock tomorrow’s breakthroughs in autism detection, intervention, and education. Leveling the playing field for Americans on the autism spectrum also takes commitment in our schools. That is why we are advancing initiatives to help students with ASDs get a good education free from discrimination and undue hardship.

To read the presidential proclamation go here

And speaking of Obama, I actually found this article quite interesting:

Obama brain intiative announced on World Autism Day

BRAIN — which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — is a $100 million project that is focused on mapping the brain to better understand its function, and hopefully one day understand the causes and treatments for certain diseases. Autism advocates and organizations like Autism Speaks hope that this push will help reveal the mysteries behind the disorder.

This is a very big deal. Very big.

Here’s more information on this BRAIN Initiative.  Politics aside, this initiative affects a lot of people, and in a good way.

Today at the White House, President Obama unveiled the “BRAIN” Initiative—a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

I will update this post later with some great articles I’ve read on spreading autism awareness and how you can help, but in the meantime, please visit LightItUpBlue.org and AutismSpeaks.com .

Best Kid-Centric Twitter Profiles

Happy seven years to Twitter!  As a writer who has transitioned mainly from print to digital, I’ve found Twitter to be an invaluable resource. But more importantly, as a digital mom, Twitter is always there at 2am when my IRL network of family and friends are asleep and I have a bizarre question about one of my kids or some random thought that’s keeping me up at night.

Seriously, social media is my bff when it comes to researching ideas or stirring up inspiration. And in between the actual writing of articles, I appreciate tweeting with friends and kid-centric brands and organizations.

Always researching the latest in kid trends and relevant parenting topics, my Twitter Favorites list is a hotbed of profiles that (I think) are worth following.

1. @PBSKids

While yes, I may be a PBS Kids VIP, but I’ve been following every PBS Twitter profiles long before joining this fun ambassador program.  Specifically, @PBSKids does a great job with sharing great ideas for the kids, as well as relevant show and digital media information.  I’m big on continuing educational conversation at home, so even if it’s a 20 minute after school activity, I appreciate PBSKid’s helpful links, which often highlights their curriculum-based media with characters that my 5-year old knows and loves.

My most recent @PBSKids favorite links to some writing milestones for kindergartners from @pbsparents

I’m such a fan of Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids’ Interactive.  I favorited her tweet that shared the link to her Podcast of her session at SXSW.

2. CBC Book

The Childrens Book Council dishes out the latest and greatest in children’s and young adult lit news. One of my most recent favorites from them was this one:

3. Kidscreen

Kidscreen tweets timely headlines about children’s entertainment industry.  And because they cover the global market, they share breaking news about toys, online media, tv shows and much more.

4. @Inhabitots

Inhabitots tweets interesting news that may be relevant for the eco-concious family.

5. @Playworks

I’m all about playtime and encouraging play and recess, which is why I appreciate following Playworks.  They not only share helpful stats and articles relating to play, but they also engage with like-minded advocates.

6. @HasbroNews

We’re all about toys and theHub as of late, so I love checking out @HasbroNews to keep abreast of all of their properties.

Overall, I’d love to see more organic conversation on Twitter, including these brands, I do like seeing them in my Twitter stream.  Everyone I know uses Twitter differently, but I really wish people didn’t use it as a surveillance channel or as an promotion machine.  I get it, people enjoy “watching” others online, but Twitter was actually created to stay in touch with friends.  As in, conversation.  Conversation, to me, is key when it comes to Twitter.  Sharing information and interacting with others first-hand is perhaps the coolest aspect of this social media channel.  I appreciate brands and organization who “get it” and follow through with dialogues that were created by “regular” followers and fans.  Better yet, I appreciate fellow Twitter users who still engage with one another!

And if you’re one of those who just funnel links to your work on Twitter, well, I’m just not a fan…and I know many others aren’t a fan either.

So, who are your must follow Twitter profiles?

Halloween Episodes on PBS Kids are Spooky but Fun

With the excitement that Halloween brings with it, not surprisingly, kid programming is joining in on the ghoulish fun!  PBS Kids, an NKT fave, always does a great job on incorporating educational episodes while sharing seasonal shows, and Halloween is no different.

Last week, as part of PBS Kids’ Halloween-inspired programming, the animal exploration series, Wild Kratts, (think: Animal Planet for the grade school set) highlighted all kinds of creatures during Predator Week.  The Kratt brothers explored fierce predators such as great white sharks, wolves, cheetahs and raptors.  With Great Whites in the news so much recently, the episodes from Predator Week couldn’t be more timely.  Be sure to keep an eye out for these fun episodes.

On Dinosaur Train, the kids set off for an adventure at the Haunted Roundhouse and explore the spookiness of the “unknown.” Like many families do as part of an Autumn rite of passage, in the Big Pond Pumpkin Patch, the dinosaurs learn all about gourds, pumpkins and everything else that makes the pumpkin patch so fun.

On The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About That! Nick, Sally and Cat go trick or treating and learn about some fruity non, candy treats.  They also meet a “scary” creature who teaches them a few new things, including how he eats bugs!

Everyone’s favorite inquisitive scientist in training, Sid The Science Kid, encounters his own scary adventures in the “Halloween Spooky Science Special.

We’re a fan of most of the shows on PBS Kids, whether they’re geared to the preschooler or not, so we always find these holiday-themed shows a great way to learn even more about how everyone celebrates these fun holidays, even the animals!  After screening these Halloween-themed episodes, I learned that my guy is totally mesmerized by The Wild Kratts, even though it’s targeted to the older crowd (ages 8 and up).  The episodes were a perfect primer for our recent trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom; he even took away some of the lessons he learned from the show and applied them to our visit!

Check your local listings for air dates and times!

Check it

On a related note, last week, PBS Kids launched 40 new games which are aimed to help children ages 2-8 build critical math skills. The games comprise PBS Kids’ largest offering of interactive math content for preschoolers to date. The games are centered around various PBS Kids media properties, ranging from Curious George to Sid the Science Kid.

My guy is a huge fan of Curious George’s Monkey Jump.  Jumping, counting and Curious George? Count him in!  These are the kind of games that will be sure to keep us busy when we start hibernating!

Royal Wedding Fever

Despite the excessive media coverage of Will and Kate’s nuptials, it was hard not to ignore the elaborate details that came together for the whole world to see.  I originally had this post scheduled to post yesterday—before the wedding.  Obviously, that never happened.  And since the wedding happened today, I thought I’d share a few kid-related items that gave a nod to Prince William and the now Princess Kate’s Royal Wedding.

Kate Middleton Paper Dolls

As a little girl, I can barely remember Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ Royal Wedding, but what I do remember was THAT dress.  And perhaps, just like many of us thought of Will’s beloved mother in her gown 30 years ago, I’m willing to bet a generation of little kids will forever remember just how beautiful Princess Kate’s dress was today.

Princess Kate’s dress was a secret leading up to the moment she stepped out onto that Royal red carpet.  The Wedding watchers of the world let out a collective gasp when she revealed that lace and satin gown designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. I thought she looked demure and elegant, with the classic lines and modern details.  As one of the many people gawking at Kate’s dress, to get kids on the dress action, I particularly love Disney Family Fun’s paper dolls that you can print out online.  It’s basically the Disney princesses’ dresses with a brunette Princess that looks somewhat like Kate. Grab the glitter pen, crayon and help the kids create their versions of Princess Kate’s wedding dress.  If only there was a Wills Paper Doll to go along with Kate!



Lego Royal Wedding

Speaking of Wills…have I ever mentioned how much I love when people create Lego Art?  Or my love of Lego Mini Figures?  Check out the creativity of this Lego Royal Wedding featured over on BBC.  My favorite is I Thee Wed, although the real church scenes were much more romantic!  Be sure to check out the rest of the scenes!

Playmobil Special Correspondent

Playmobil has been cracking me up over on their FB page. They’ve had “Sarah” as a special correspondent covering the Royal Wedding all week.  Hilarious!

Cooking With Kids Video Series Debuts

Michelle Obama initiated a movement when she started her Let’s Move campaign to emphasize the importance of combating childhood obesity.  Jaime Oliver embraced this same movement in his own way with Food Revolution, where he’s gone on to raise awareness of how skewed the food “system” has become and educate families about eating better.

Because I’ve become so interested in food and how it pertains to our kids, I’m always impressed when a company I already admire joins this movement.  In line with getting kids to make healthier decisions, Weight Watchers, perhaps the favorite weight management program among my friends, has launched their “Cooking with Kids Web Video Series.

The Cooking with Kids video series, featured on Weight Watcher’s site, aims to bring to life “teachable moments to help kids value fresh and healthy foods to instill good eating habits at an early age.”  Through this video series, Weight Watchers hopes to take kids beyond the kitchen to discuss topics like where the food is harvested, the culture behind the food and the difference between fresh food and processed. And as we’ve seen from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, it’s clear that these are topics that many kids don’t know about.

[Read more...]

Cooking Connections Offers Insight on Picky Eaters

The other week, I participated in a great dialogue on TheMotherhood’s Cooking Connections about “Expanding Your Family’s Palate by Placating Picky Eaters.”  The hosts and co-hosts were some of my favorite bloggers, many of whom blog about food and parenting and topics in between.

There were so many great takeaways from our discussion about picky eaters, and I was sure to add my two cents about the experiences I had growing up with an extremely picky sibling.  I loved hearing other parents’ suggestions about getting picky eaters to try new foods, as I’m sure it’s something many of you have experienced firsthand.

My favorite suggestions for placating picky eaters includes eating and introducing colorful foods and involving kids in the cooking process.  My friend Carol said it best: “involving kids in the kitchen gives them a sense of accomplishment…”

Some great insight from the other participants and hosts was the effectiveness they had with the “one-bite rule” to get their kids to try a food before simply refusing it.

“Our rule is you just need to take a full size bite, chew, swallow and then say, ‘Yes, please’ or ‘No, thank you,’” said host Jennifer Leal, Savor the Thyme.

[Read more...]

Sophie the Giraffe on Slate

Since we’re chatting reader feedback, I have to mention this one: last week, my dad sent me a link to a very interesting Slate article.

It was an article about a teether—not just any teether, but Sophie the Giraffe.

Sophie the Giraffe, a rubber teether of international fame, has been a favorite among new parents for quite some time.  And unlike the article insists, most new parents I know swear by Sophie because their friends swear by it.  I couldn’t tell you what celebrity baby had Sophie, but I can tell you which of my friends did.

We’ve all been there: when a kid’s teething you’ll do anything to soften the cries and lessen the pain.  That is, anything that’s safe and effective.  And for me, I hardly consider a teether a social status.

For many parents who opt to go the natural route, numbing medicine is replaced by teethers and homemade methods.  Likened to the feel of a bottle’s nipple, Sophie’s rubber resistance against a baby’s aching, teething gums has been called a lifesaver when nothing else worked.  And just like the article mentions, when concerns started to rise about the safety of products from China, parents turned to less questionable products, including the rubber giraffe from France named Sophie.

Sophie the Giraffe is made of 100% natural rubber and food paint, making it completely safe to chew for babies.  Her unique size and shape make it easy for tiny fingers to grasp as well.

Regardless of how she got her rise to fame, Sophie is a beloved teether in the parenting community.  Sure, she costs a little more than her plastic counterparts, but for many, her effectiveness and safety is worth the expense.

Check it

Be sure to check out this interesting article on Sophie the Giraffe on Slate.

Sophie the Giraffe from Viulli can be found at specialty stores and retailers like giggle.  I even spotted her on Bed Bath and Beyond‘s site and diapers.com.

Ralph Lauren Debuts Spring Collection with New RL Gang

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready to abandon the monotonous gray and black palette, heavy coats and snow boots in favor of brighter shades that scream Spring. Oh yes, the snow is melting and the days are getting longer, which means it’s almost time to break out the Spring clothes.

Many of our favorite children’s brands have been previewing their Spring lines for weeks now.  But one that’s caught my eye—and ears—is Ralph Lauren Childrenswear.  Ralph Lauren, a purveyor of classic styles for the entire family, debuted its Childrenswear Spring line with a new installment of its RL Gang, a unique video storybook.

An online video and interactive page-turner, the RL Gang is narrated by Uma Thurman and features a gorgeous, diverse group of kids that form the RL Gang.  The story, complemented by an artistic watercolor backdrop, follows the RL Gang on an imaginative school-based adventure in welcoming a new student.  Each kid showcases a stylish Ralph Lauren look, embodying a spectrum of styles and personalities as diverse as the kids themselves.

Often characterized by chic stripes, classic plaids and different shades of Americana, Ralph Lauren’s Spring Childrenswear line also boasts a burst of bright colors and trendy details.  My personal favorite looks from the RL Gang are River’s multi-colored striped polo and Mae’s ruffled Rugby Dress, which both showcase bold colors and modern details that are dominant throughout the rest of the Spring line.

If you have a few minutes, be sure to check out this new RL Gang shoppable storybook. Want to shop for the styles seen in the story?  Be sure to check out the kids’ closets or hover over the character to get more information.

Check it

What’s even cooler about this shoppable storybook? It has a charitable aspect: proceeds from the RL Gang shopping experience will support the Room to Grow organization – a not for profit offering parenting support and essential baby items for babies born in to poverty.

Can you see your cute kid as part of the next RL Gang?  You’re in luck: Polo Ralph Lauren is hosting an international search for one child to be cast in an upcoming installment of The RL Gang.  To nominate your kid, head over to Ralph Lauren’s Facebook page.

Cooking Connections: Placating Picky Eaters

“Mama, is broccoli a treat? Because I love it.”

“Sure, honey. Broccoli can be considered a treat if you like it.”

“How about carrots?”

“Yup. Carrots can be treats, too.”

Last week, one of our dinnertime chats went a little something like that.  At three years old, the kid questions whether or not veggies are, indeed, treats. And for as long as it lasts, I’ll to continue to advocate that veggies are treats, while simultaneously singing “There’s a Party in My Tummy,” the Yo Gabba Gabba eating anthem for preschoolers and parents alike.

IMG_1385

Having grown up with the crowned prince of picky eaters, I’m well versed in the picky eating realm.  Public breakdowns and refusals to eat unless we had what he wanted, my older brother’s precarious eating habits never made life easy for myIMG_1383 parents. I was known to eat not only my dinners, but also my brother’s—perhaps to pacify his pickyness and to (ahem) feed my own love for food at an early age.

Whatever the case was, once I became a mom, I made it my personal crusade to try and avert the picky eating habits while refining my own eating habits.  It makes me smile when my guy reaches for broccoli in the app tray at parties before he heads to the dessert table. Now, if only every day was a broccoli-loving day…

Kids are relentless when it comes to eating, but I don’t think it should always be a battle. Tactics like involving kids in the kitchen, helping with grocery shopping, and something as simple, yet significant, as eating the same meal together as a family can help with picky eaters. My motto is, I’m not an app cook, so we all eat the same thing for every meal.  Special meals should be reserved for special days, preferably the days where someone is serving me too!

I know, I know…it’s easier said than done.

Let’s Connect with Cooking Connections

I’ve devoted a a lot of coverage lately to kid-centric food and healthier habits, but by no means does that make me an expert in this parenting arena.  I am, however, quite excited to be a co-host in tomorrow’s installment of Cooking Connections, where picky eaters will be the topic at hand. Our fabulous hosts will lead a discussion on TheMotherhood.com, and I’d love it if you could join us!  The deets are below:

When: Wednesday, March 2, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: TheMotherhood – here is the link to the page where the class will be held: http://www.themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62135

And here is the registration page for all Cooking Connections classes: http://www.themotherhood.com/cookingconnections

What: The class I am co-hosting is called “Expanding Your Family’s Palate by Placating Picky Eaters,” and it is hosted by Jennifer Leal (Savor the Thyme), Kimberly Coleman (Mom in the City) and Kelsey Banfield (The Naptime Chef).  We will be talking about how to make meals work for all members of the family, healthy and interesting foods that kids AND adults love, and strategies for getting picky eaters to try new things.  Join us, and feel free to ask questions, share recipes or chime in with your own suggestions!

The class is sponsored by ConAgra and hosted by TheMotherhood.

My other fabulous co-hosts are:

Marla Meridith, Family Fresh Cooking
Kristy Bernardo, The Wicked Noodle
Jo-Lynne Shane, Musings of a Housewife
Dara Michalski, Cookin’ Canuck
Brooke McLay, Cheeky Kitchen
Shaina Olmanson, Food for My Family
Carol Cain, NY City Mama
Shari Simpson-Cabelin, Earth Mother just means I’m dusty
Amy Johnson, She Wears Many Hats
Stacie Billis, One Hungry Mama

I personally can wait to hear everyone’s ideas and recipes aimed to placate picky eaters.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! See you then!