I Have a Dream Today (and Every Day): Learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For the past few years, I take this important day to share Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with J.  For me, it’s important to leverage this opportunity to chat about Dr. King’s work, his life and how his actions and words continue to elevate generations today and tomorrow. 

 

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I trust that his teacher does an adequate job introducing Dr. King’s monumental influence but, does she have a conversation that only a parent might be able to engage?  As a biracial child, my six year old doesn’t fully comprehend ethnicity yet, though he understands that multiculturalism and different skin tones exist in our world.

 

I may not have a History degree, but candor and honesty in this case are valuable—nay, imperative—teaching tools.  Even further, for reinforcement mini lessons, YouTube and Pinterest are invaluable resources.  For this convo, I turn to the tv and computer to help teach the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s wise words. This is when Apple TV and YouTube become teaching tools. After reading an excerpt of the speech on our own, I loaded some videos online and we watched Dr. King’s speech together, pausing in between to ensure J understands language.  

 

Here’s a great mini-bio that we watched this morning from the Bio Channel.  At just under five minutes, we had a great discussion about Dr. King and his children.  However you choose to engage in a conversation about Dr. King, I hope it’s meaningful and thought-provoking.  

 

 

 

 


 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

PBS Kids Debuts New Dinosaur Train Special: Nature Trackers Adventure Camp

Looking for something to watch today while the kids are home?  PBS Kids is premiering a one hour special today called, Dinosaur Train: Nature Trackers Adventure Camp.  The Pteranodon family are taking the kids and parents on a journey that features four stories that highlight nature and adventures in varying geographic locations. On their adventures, they zipline, raft and mountain climb, among other fun things. 

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As lovers of the outdoors, Nature Trackers Adventure Camp has us excited for our own outdoor excursions when the weather thaws a bit.  I especially love how this episode has an interesting educational angle that engages my adventurers one step further.  Click through to read more about this fun special!

 

 

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Rafting”
Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and Don go river rafting for the first time at Nature Tracker Adventure Camp.  Their old pal Jess Hesperornis meets up with them, and they all learn about erosion and the importance of rivers before finishing up their adventure by cruising through some rapids!

Educational Objective: Rivers and streams are ribbons of water that start at a high point and flow downhill – often with streams gathering into rivers. Animals and plants living on land depend on rivers and streams to provide fresh water and nutrients.

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Mountain Climbing”
For their second outing at Nature Trackers Adventure Camp, Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, Don and other friends learn about the tree line as they set out to hike up a mountain. Shiny is determined to get to the top of mountain forest. Buddy wonders if they’ll be able to see anything from the mountaintop, through the tall trees. The kids are amazed that the higher they hike, the shorter the trees and bushes become! Then they reach the tree line – a certain point on the mountain where trees are really small because they don’t have enough air to breathe and the temperature is too cold. In the end, Shiny and all the kids use teamwork to all reach the mountaintop together!

 

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Educational Objective: The timberline, or tree line, is a certain elevation on a mountain where the temperatures are colder, the air is thin and the soil is less moist, making it hard for most plants and trees to grow. Trees may grow as small shrubs. There is less oxygen, so it’s harder for animals to breathe at the tree line and above.

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Ziplining” 
The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are back for another adventure – and this time they’ll be travelling to a rainforest! Once they arrive in the dense rainforest, the campers explore different levels of the ecosystem, including the forest floor and the canopy of leaves at the top of the forest. After a hike through the rainforest, the campers’ adventure culminates as each kid takes a ride on a zipline, where they all get a bird’s eye view of the entire rainforest!

Educational Objective: Rainforests are very dense, warm, wet, forests that are home to a vast array of different life forms. Rainforests get a lot of rain, at least 70 inches per year. Rainforests, often called the “lungs of the Earth,” generate much of the oxygen we breathe.

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Canyon Hiking” 
The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are led by Mr. Conductor and Gilbert on a hike down a canyon, where they can see the different layers of the Mesozoic Era! At first, Lily Lambeosaurus is reluctant to go, thinking that a new adventure sounds hard, but Don convinces her that a new adventure can be worth the effort. At the bottom of the canyon, the kids dig for fossils. Each Nature Tracker goes home with a “new” Ammonite fossil, and Lily is so glad she tried something new!

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Educational Objective: Canyons are deep cuts in the earth’s surface. They are formed by erosion. Erosion is mainly caused by the flow of rivers. It takes millions of years for canyons to become the grandiose natural landmarks they are today. The bottom rocks in canyons can date back billions of years, beyond the Mesozoic. Canyons can also be formed by a shift of the earth’s tectonic plates.

CES 2014: Smart Bulbs, Smart Monitors and New Tech for Babies and Beyond

I’ve been following the reports from Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show which is the international trade show that unveils the latest and greatest in technology.  From curved tvs to smart light bulbs, it seems everything is connected or has a smart element in it these days.

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Since I’m not at the show this year, here are just a few interesting products I’ve found and read about:

 Lumen Smart Bulb

The Lumen TL800 is an app-enabled Bluetooth smart bulb that is said to last 30 times longer than a typical incandescent bulb, but uses five times less power.  There are 16 million color options and the dimmable LED bulb create their own lighting atmosphere. It’s like the ultimate black light and beyond.



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With its proprietary app, this smart bulb features include:

 

  • Call Alert Mode: Notifies users of incoming calls by flashing when the phone rings.
  • Music Sync Mode: Visualize your music by synchronizing your music and lighting effects. 
  • Party Mode 1 and 2: Transform any space into a dance floor with pre-programmed flashing beats that match the music.
  • Wake Mode: Mimics the sunrise in the morning, gradually brightening until it reaches maximum intensity at the stipulated wake up time.  Users can customize how long the brightening process should take, from 5 minutes to 15 minutes. 
  • Romance Mode: Creates the perfect condition for a romantic date or quiet evening at home with a warm atmosphere.
  • Relaxation Mode: Simulates calming moonlight, creating a relaxing ambiance.

 

I actually think this bulb would come in handy for parents of young children, especially those who rely on night lights.  Think of those late nights when you’re up feeding late and need minimal, yet functional lights to change a diaper or get to the restroom.  My phone is always accessible, especially during late night feedings, so this would be something I can see parents using to update nurseries and kids’ rooms.  

The TL800 is available at Amazon.com for $69.99. Check out a video of the TL800 here.

Mimo 

Baby monitors are getting even smarter.  Taking a cue from other smart devices, Mimo uses a small monitor that clicks onto a compatible baby kimono and, literally, tracks baby’s every move.  Baby’s movement is reported on its proprietary app, and parents can track from their smart phones.  The small turtle-shaped Bluetooth-enabled device is too big to be a choking hazard and it comes on and off of the kimonos.  The organic cotton kimonos are machine washable, as is the device itself.  


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And while traditional media seems to be reporting Mimo to be an “extreme” monitor, I can see this concept as being borderline excessive.  Do we really need to know baby’s every move?  

But on the flipside, consider parents with sick babies or babies with special needs who do require extra care.  With an infant who was diagnosed with epilepsy at four months old, I could have used this device when we returned from the hospital after his diagnosis.  We went from 24-hour care from the most knowledgeable nurses to me, on my own, caring for a small child with a neurological condition that I knew nothing about.  Though he sleeps right next to my bed, there are times when we are away from each other and his breathing patterns can indicate an oncoming episode. 

I think the smart baby monitor is going to change parenting and how connected we are to our children, but it certainly won’t escape its critics.  Talk to any parent who has had to rush their small child to the ER because of a sickness; knowing those exact vitals could be life-changing.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to learn even more about this device.  Stay tuned, and hopefully, I will get more info as it this shelves after CES.  I dislike the whole mom brain angle (we’re all exhausted, but this is a tired excuse) check out a video of Mimo here.

 

Owlet

The Owlet is another smart baby monitor that provides an overview of baby’s well-being with a Blue-Tooth enabled sock. 

According to the manufacturers, the Smart Sock uses Bluetooth technology to wirelessly transmit information to your phone.  The Owlet tracks baby’s heart rate, oxygen, temperature and roll over alerts via pulse-oximetry.

 

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This monitor reminds me of the devices that are used in the hospitals to track sick babies’ vitals.  The Owlet monitor is bringing the comprehensive smart technology that’s been used in hospitals for years to the homes of consumers. To reiterate my feelings on smart monitors, this information is great to have, especially for sick or babies with special needs.  But if there isn’t medical necessity to know all of these vitals, do we truly need all of this information about our babies day-to-day? Are we harboring anxiety for new parents with this sort of technology?

 

I’ll be interested to see how consumers embrace this new technology.  Whether we really “need” it or not, I think this new technology is simply amazing.  Check out the Owlet video here.

 

 

Family Tech to buy with holiday giftcards

 

 

According to NRF’s Gift Card Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, holiday shoppers were projected to spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, up 4.0 percent from spent last year. Total spending on gift cards was said to reach $29.8 billion.  That’s a lot of gift cards!

 

Did you or the kids get gift cards for Christmas? Got a bunch of Christmas gift cards burning a hole in your pocket?  We rounded up a collection of great tech gadgets to buy with all of those gift cards.

 

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Headphones eKids from iHome

 

With all the new technology for kids, peripherals are something that I often forget.  While I’m not big on the kids isolating themselves with tech, I love the conveniences gadgets can provide.  When the tot is in his therapy sessions, my older son can read ebooks or play games quietly with his headphones on.  Our most favorite headphones, by far, are the Over the Ear Headphones from eKids.  They come in a variety of popular characters and licenses, including Skylanders, Disney and more.  These headphones might be kid-centric, but they’re just as comfortable for adults as well.  The size can be easily adjusted and the cord features a long length and accessible volume control.

 

 

 

iHome speakers

 

Need a way to listen to tunes you just downloaded onto the kids’ iPods and other devices?  eKids also has a fun selection of portable speakers.  These wired speakers connect to devices with an audio output cable.  The sound is great and the size is convenient for dance parties on the go.

 

Cellairis Rapture case

Get a new cell phone for Christmas?  Cases are one of those accessories that we always forget to buy.  I’m always on the hunt for protective, sleek, yet stylish cases.  Cellairis has an expansive collection of stylish cases, but we found the Cellairis Rapture case to be stylish AND functional.  It’s sleek and trim, yet showcases apple logo, something that I personally love.  Best of all?  It’s affordable and unique.

 

LeapFrog Leappad

 

As far as kid technology goes, it was like the year of the tablet in my circle of friends.  For many, the big ticket gifts were tablets or similar devices.  LeapFrog’s Leappad was a big contender in this category, offering a kid-friendly, educational platform for the tablet realm.  LeapFrog’s latest version of the LeapPad boasts a library of more than 800 educational games, creativity apps, eBooks, videos, music and beyond.  The Ultra has an incredible hi-res screen, paired with a stylus for kids to navigate their interactive experience.  In addition to the kid-tough exterior, the Ultra features power on the interior such as its rechargeable battery, 8 GB of storage and a safe web content via LeapSearch.  My six year old’s favorite are the cameras, which he can use the front and back to take still photos or record videos and manipulate when he’s done.  The LeapPad is available at major retailers such as Toys R Us.  We’ll be stocking up on games and other LeapPad peripherals with our Toys R Us gift cards.

 

 

Duracell Powermat

 

If your family is anything like ours, then it’s likely you have a bundle of devices that require charging.  Since everyone is constantly on the go, power outlets aren’t always accessible, which makes a portable battery a necessity.  Duracell Powermat is known for excellent power and charging options.  The Longhaul Charger, though, is definitely a top notch gadget for recharging multiple devices while on the go.  The Longhaul Charger provides up to four charges for multiple devices, which is suitable enough for a weekend away.  We found ourselves using this charger all throughout our Christmas break, which made charging our two iPhones and tablets everywhere we went so convenient.  It’s portable, convenient for families with its two USB ports and works with other Powermat charging devices.  Because of its capability to charge multiple devices, the Longhaul Charger does take a while to charge, but once charged, it’s a lifesaver.

 

 

 

GameStop 

Game Stop now offers new gaming consoles and, of course, offers the latest games.  Want even more funds to defer costs of new electronics and games?  Consider trading old video games, consoles, smartphones, tablets for store credit or cash at GameStop. I will personally be hitting up GameStop to trade in several old and duplicate games to grab some fitness games to help me get back in shape.  If you are a frequent shopper at GameStop, be sure to check out the PowerUp Rewards program where you can earn points for every dollar spent on purchases or trades. With those accrued points, you can buy collectibles, gaming accessories, more games, merchandise and more.  Choose between a basic or the $14.99 the pro membership, which comes with a year subscription and extra discounts.

 

Apple TV

Though we already own a smart tv and Google TV, getting an Apple TV seemed frivolous at best.  The Apple TV isn’t a new concept or have any new technology, it’s just cool to have.  It’s a fun luxury that makes gives Apple devices and tv a new dimension.  Nonetheless, our Apple TV was my husband big Christmas gift and it’s safe to say, we’re all in love with this gadget.  Apple TV streamlines our media, including our iPhones, iPad and my Macbook. I absolutely love the fact that you can mirror your devices onto your tv with the Apple TV, but to be able to stream shows and movies from apps makes the Apple TV that much more convenient.  At just under $100, so far, the Apple TV has been our most used and surprisingly best tech gift this year.

 

 

Full disclosure: some product samples were provided to facilitate this review.

Christmas books and instilling family traditions

Christmas brings with it a myriad of traditions and nostalgia.  Perhaps my favorite traditions are reading Christmas-themed stories with my brothers and fully divulging into the Christmas spirit through festive stories.

I’ve tried to instill this fabulous tradition with my boys by reading stories with them throughout the season.  I recently received two new books that are worthy of adding to our library and Christmas tradition. The Magic Christmas Key and My Snowman and Me, both from Pine Tree Publishing embody the beauty of the season and all that I hope to share with my kids.

 

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The Magic Christmas Key by Leeann Smith is about Andy’s adventures with a magic key, which his grandfather gave to him for safekeeping.  With this key, Andy learns about Christmas and Santa and the magic of believe firsthand.  In the story, the key finds its way into the wrong hands, but with his bravery and courage, Andy’s adventures lead him to the big guy in red himself.  

This is a beautiful and well-written book that keeps kids engaged in the Christmas spirit.  For younger kids, it’s a special book that can be read over a course of a few days. And for older kids and families, it’s well worth sitting and reading together.  The beautiful metal key that comes in the book set is a fun tactile extension of the book that kept my kids intrigued.  There’s so much beauty and mystery with a beautiful Christmas key, and one worth sharing.

 

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My Snowman and Me by Leeann Smith also comes in a fun gift set, complete with a stuffed and detachable snowman.  This story is an easy read, and totally appropriate for that first snowfall, or if you’re lucky, a white Christmas.  This is such a cute, fun read that teaches kids the magic of building a snowman, and that despite him going away because of warmer weather, the snowman will always be back when it snows.  The end of the book has a great way to engage kids even further and to capture memories for days to come.

Best Toddler Toys

There are so many wonderful toys for toddlers, I wanted to share just a few of our very favorites. With Christmas here, many of these were still available at my local Target, Apple Store and other toy store.

As I’ve said before, with Josh’s various delays, I view toys and play pattern very differently now. What was once a mediocre toy, I now find has so many great qualities for extended and open ended play. I appreciate the kinds of toys that encourage imaginative play and increase creative thought. We enjoy toys that use batteries, but not in an obtrusive, overstimulating way.

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1. Baa Baa Barn
Baa Baa Barn is, perhaps, the most play-ed with toy in our lineup of toddler toys. This barn play set from B. Toys features a jewel-toned set up and funky music. I love that there are so many nooks and crannies for toddlers to explore. The best feature of this unique farm-inspired play set, though, is the incorporation of interactive music. When an animal is placed on the barn floor, the song that’s played reflects the animal sounds. The little blue sax-playing raccoon has the funkiest beat that gets my almost two-year old grooving. Grab this awesome play set at Target.

2. Tiggly Shapes
I’m not very big into screen time with young tots; however, there are a few exceptions for my feelings on this. I appreciate when iPads or tablets reinforce educational play. Limited educational play via tablets have shown increased language skills and developmental progress in young children. While I am totally against using a tablet as a babysitter, I love that there are appcessory-type toys such as Tiggly Shapes that encourage this sort of educational play that I currently seek for my IE tot.
Tiggly Shapes combines tactile and digital play, merging play patterns to create a conducive learning experience for toddlers and preschoolers. With four interactive shapes, kids can explore shapes and objects on the iPad through several apps. The most recent app, in fact, is a Christmas-themed app that brings the season full circle. Pun intended.

3. 1, 2, 3 Take Along Fire Station
With a portable fire station set up, foldable wall and lift to the relaxation room on the first floor, what’s not to love about Playmobil’s Take Along Fire Station? This set’s portability and fire station theme, combined with the chunkier pieces make it ideal for toddlers and preschoolers. I love that it encourages open-ended play, doesn’t require batteries and houses all of its own pieces in the station. Playmobil is a classic and well-loved brand in our house with the big boy, but this playlet is a welcomed addition for my curious toddler.

4. AB3′s
Another fabulous B. Toys products lands in our favorites of the season. This beautiful wooden alphabet and number toy features letters at the top and numbered figures at the bottom which can be spun over and over. The beautiful colors and wooden details make this abacus-like toy a must-keep for future generations, and as my husband described, it’s totally “heirloom-quality.” This would make a beautiful gift for a baby, just as it would for a preschooler. My own toddler loves to watch the numbers spin, but I personally look forward to helping him learn his AB3′s.

5. Roll and Learn Suitcase
VTech toys never seem to disappoint, and the same goes for this innovative rolling suitcase from VTech. From the intuitive buttons to removable travel inspired blocks, this rolling suitcase can be opened to house smaller toys. The suitcase, aptly, is toddler-sized and can be rolled or pushed around with ease. I love the interactive features of this case, which is similar to that familiar VTech toys interface. My only qualm with this toy, though, is that I would have loved to see the interior include a little more interactivity.

6. Bubble Guppies Rock n Roll Stage
A favorite for preschoolers, Bubble Guppies’ catchy songs can be recreated on their Rock n Roll Stage. The stage gives these lovable characters a platform to sing and dance, and encourages imaginative play for Bubble Guppies’ fans. I love that the characters slide around on this playset. The fun songs and cute Nickelodeon characters make this playset a must-have for ocean-loving and Bubble Guppies fans alike.

NKT Gift Guide: Best Toys for Boys

There are so many fantastic toys out there for boys, and since my older son is at the sweet spot for big boy toys, I thought I’d round out his absolute favorites of the season.

My older son, whom I often refer to as Biggie or just ‘J’, has been tagging along with me to media and blogger events since he was just a year old.  He’s always had quite discernible taste, but as he’s gotten older, in terms of the next big thing in kid stuff, he’s truly seen it all.  Every November, when we open the Big Box stores’ toy circular, he circles less, if anything, and instead, offers his personal opinions on the toy manufacturer’s latest wares.

We had grand plans of having him do videos of the below toys, but life got in the way. Nevertheless, here’s a round up of really awesome goodies, gear and gadgets that my blogger’s kid really appreciates with my annotations :

1.  Skylander’s Swap Force

After much anticipation about this mega-successful franchise, J’s first impression of Swap Force was that it has a “new Chompy.”  That wasn’t exactly the reaction I was expecting, but nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed exploring Skylands even further with Swap Force.
The ability to swap characters’ bottom halves to determine how they move and interchange tops which determines how they fight.  The interchangeability makes gameplay possibilities practically limitless.

2. Lego Marvel Superheroes

This game is by far the most played game at our house.  My husband and son co-play video games, so playing a game with every (Marvel) superhero imaginable is beyond addictive for our house.  Combine the love with superheroes and Lego and you have Lego Marvel Superheroes, which is perhaps, our most favorite game of the year.  The story lines, graphics, superhero theme are just a few of the many elements that keep my guys engaged for hours.  True story: I know that a game is really good if my husband continues to play after my son goes to bed.

3. Angry Birds Go! Telepods Pig Rock Raceway Set

I’ve said it for years, but one of the smartest things for toy manufacturers to stay relevant in this ever-evolving digital world, is to coexist.  Hasbro is proving just that with their Teleport series of games, including their latest Angry Birds Go! Teleport game.  Angry Birds Go! is the latest version of the uber popular app that features those pesky pigs and titular Angry Birds, but this time, they’re racing.  The Angry Birds Go! Teleport Game allows players to race with tactile play and a physical race track, but also use the game figures to teleport into the app via front-facing camera on a smart phone or tablet.

4.  Rainbow Loom

Rainbow Loom, created by a dad of young girls who wanted to make rubber band bracelet creation easier, is rightfully up for one of the Toys of the Year.  This sensation is an old skill that’s making waves.  The Rainbow Loom is engaging both boys and girls, and giving them time to disconnect, stay focused on the task at hand while using their creativity, math skills and often times, encouraging charitable giving with completed bracelets and other creations.  What’s NOT to love about this fantastic toy?

Loom Boom is a holder and display fixture in the shape of a boom.  This simple structure was created by a young NJ boy who fulfilled a need to display creations.  The Loom Boom is proof that the Rainbow Loom and its creations fosters imagination and ingenuity. The Loom Boom comes in a variety of colors and can be found at TRU.  Support small business and USA-made products by grabbing a Loom Boom for stockings.

5.  TenKai Knights

Introduced to this shapeshifting Ionix building set from Spinmaster at the recent Kidz Vuz event, J loves how the ninja warrior aspect meets building with your hands.  This is a brand new toy that’s based on a series, so I’m excited to learn more about Tenkai Knights soon.

6. Kreo Cityville Invasion

Another amazing building set, Kreo’s Cityville Invasion brings monsters, zombies and more to “life.”  The cool monster theme keeps J engaged in this version of Kreo.

7. Crayola Crayons and Markers

Screentime during the week is extremely limited.  Depending on how much reading and homework is done, J gets less than an hour of screen time.  And in these cold winter months when we don’t have a sport during the week, we have to fill that downtime with something.  J creates murals and masterpieces almost daily with his Crayola art supplies.  Each cool drawing makes my heart grow even bigger.

8.  Minions

Those little yellow dudes have captured America’s hearts—well, with the littler guys anyway. J cracks up at these guys’ gibberish and silly shenanigans.  Thinkway Toys’ Dave, which can be found at Toys R Us, is truly one of the coolest interactive toys on the shelves today. This toy says upwards to 50 phrases and makes us laugh effortlessly. Looking for a last minute add-on gift?  Download Minion Rush for the kids.  My guys is obsessed with Minions!

9.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

There’s so much to love about TMNT, that it’s hard to narrow it down for J.  I just love that this franchise is almost as popular as it was when I was a kid!  The Nickelodeon series heightened the popularity of this throwback brand, it’s no surprise the toys are super hot sellers, too. From the lair to the RC Subway Car to the role playing gear, TMNT is taking over our Christmas gifts.

10.  Zoomer

I was smitten by Zoomer at Toy Fair this year.  Zoomer was one of the most memorable toys that I knew would be a hit this holiday season.  Zoomer is a robotic dog, who is ideal for those families who can’t have a real dog, or just aren’t ready.  Zoomer has quite the character and can be trained to learn commands.  He sings, “runs,” rolls over, goes to sleep, among other tricks.  J’s favorite trick:  having him pee.  What’s so fantastic about Zoomer is that he is popular with both the big kid and with the toddler.  Even more?  Zoomer has an app where you can learn different commands.  Zoomer, another favorite for Toy of the Year, is, no doubt, one of my personal favorites as well.

Welch’s Juice Ice Bars are a Sweet Frozen Treat

When it comes to fresh fruit, we have no problem snacking on the real deal, especially when it’s in season.  There’s nothing quite like enjoying a fresh piece of fruit and savoring the natural sweetness and natural juices.  But freeze juice?  Now, we’re talking.

Though we’re well-versed with Welch’s juices, I was recently introduced to Welch’s 100% Juice Ice Bars after attending Momtrends’ Holiday soirée.  After freezing the Juice Ice Bars for a few hours, we broke out the treats after dinner the other night.  They were sweet, flavorful, convenient, without all of the usual suspects found in other frozen treats.  By the way, if you’re adamant about integrating a “rainbow” of food to your family’s diet, Welch’s Grape Juice is a great way to incorporate purple foods since each four ounce glass amounts to a half cup of fruit, which is also one serving.

Back to the Juice Ice Bars: the pack that we sampled came with eight Juice Ice Bars, in three different flavors: concord grape, white grape with natural tropical flavor and white grape with natural cherry flavor.  J’s favorite of the bunch was definitely the white grape with natural tropical flavor because, according to him: “it tastes yummy like summer!”  Naturally.

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And speaking of naturally, one of the major selling points of these Juice Ice Bars is that they aren’t sweetened with HFCS or contain artificial colors or flavoring.  I’ll always associate my youth with ice pops, but unfortunately, it’s rare to find frozen treats these days that aren’t laden with artificial additives.  Welch’s Juice Ice Bars, though, have simple ingredients that I can feel good about serving my boys. I try to seek out the more wholesome ingredients, especially when it involves convenience and processed foods. So, having frozen fruit juice as an ice pop is a sweet treat indeed.

I love the fact that Welch’s Juice Ice Bars are shelf stable until they’re ready to freeze.  This makes having them on hand in the cupboard that much easier.  To sweeten the deal: Welch’s Juice Ice Bars are no more than 45 calories per serving.

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Welch’s Juice Ice Bars, manufactured by Kisco, are a seasonal product that will be back in stores this Spring. In fact, while doing some research, I found that the die-hard Welch’s Juice Ice Bars fans stock up on these treats and anxiously wait until they return to the store.  After tasting them ourselves, I totally understand the demand for these frozen treats.

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The only thing that would make Welch’s Juice Ice Bars even better is to have them more accessible year-round.  We’re already counting down the days ’til Spring.

I appreciate that Welch’s is a family affair: Welch’s is a Family Farmer owned company that uses concord and Niagra grapes grown in vineyards across North America, with many of the farms having been in their families for generations. The Welch’s Juice Ice Bars come in a freezer friendly bag with flavors including concord grape, white grape with natural cherry and white grape with natural tropical flavor.  Welch’s Juice Ice Bars can be found at Stew Leonards, Dairy Fresh, HEB, Canadian retailers: Demoulas, Loblaws and Sobeys.  As well as at BJs, Costco, Christmas Tree Shops and Walmart.

Full disclosure:  This is a sponsored post, but as always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Kidz Vuz Holiday House Party Highlights

A couple of weeks ago, Biggie and I had a much-needed mom and J day.  But it wasn’t just a regular day out, it was a day well spent getting our hands on some of the best gear for tweens.

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Though J is a few years away from the official tween stage, we were in great company at the Kidz Vuz Holiday Party.  In case you’re not familiar, Kidz Vuz is a safe online hub where tweens gather to dish and disseminate their thoughts on any and everything, including the latest gadgets and gear.

The Kidz Vuz Holiday Party, held at Gary’s Loft just footsteps away from the hustle and bustle of Herald’s Square, was abuzz with a slew of tween-appropriate goodies.  From tablets to gaming consoles to books to broadway, The Kidz Vuz House Holiday Party had everyone covered.

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Here are some highlights of the wonderful day we had at the House Party of the season:

Samsung

Samsung was front and center showcasing their Galaxy Tab 3 Kids 7.0.  Just as the name suggests, this 7 inch tablet is geared to kids and packs a punch in a colorful little package.  Heavy on the parental controls, this wi-fi enabled tablet allows kids a safer, yet simple interface.  There’s also a standard mode so parents can use the tablet as a fully functioning tablet.

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I didn’t get that much time with this cool device, but I was quite impressed with this kid-friendly tablet.  My only reluctance about this device is the yellow and orange, which, for us, wouldn’t be as appealing in a year.  At just six years old, my older son is already turned off by electronics or “babyish” devices.  We’ll group him into the spoiled Apple generation.

Nintendo
We didn’t spend much time at the Nintendo Lounge, but it was quite the hotbed for the tweens and teens, which meant the target audience was satisfied.  We did, however, have a chance to check out a few of the Nintendo DS games, which were fun.  Unfortunately, we’re not a big DS family since we mostly co-play on our XBox and PS3 and J prefers the iPad to a DS.  Nevertheless, I always enjoy Nintendo’s expansive offerings on their various platforms.

Spinmaster

J spent almost the entire afternoon at Spinmaster’s nook.  He was immediately drawn to the Tenkai Knights building sets.  Along with several other dudes, J built creation after creation until he could build no more.  Untitled
We are longtime Spinmaster fans, so we have been testing out the other toys they had on display.  I loved seeing how my favorites, Kawaii Krush and Zoomer, were well-loved.  Tenkai Knights have firm placement on our Christmas list.

Hasbro

Hasbro, another longtime favorite of ours, had several fun toys for the kids to explore.  The most popular of the Hasbro corner, though, was definitely the Rebelle shooting range. This fun extension of Nerf includes the Heartbreaker, Guardian, Sweet Revenge and Pink Cross.

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À la Katniss from Hunger Games, the Rebelle Heartbreaker underscores the popularity of archery, especially for our fearless females.  Make no mistake though, plenty of boys were giving the gear a spin for themselves.

The Furby Boom, which is looking like a hot item this holiday season, was also a featured product from Hasbro.  This new take on the quirky character is interactive via an app, is responsive and loves to dance.  This latest iteration of Furby is much more vibrant (if that’s even possible) and has more flair than ever.

Downtown Bookworks

This fun children’s publishing company had a selection of superhero books that made quite an impression on us.  With board books featuring DC Superheroes, such as: DC Superheroes, ABC 123 and My First Batman Book, this publisher has numerous titles that would make our littlest superhero fan stand proud.
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But it was The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook that kept my biggest superhero fan completely engaged. I love that this book combines two of our loves: superheroes and cooking.  The Downtown Bookworks table let the kids decorate their own superhero cookies with a stencil.  J made his own Flash cookie, which we devoured on the bus on the way home. By the way? This Wonder Woman apron was EVERYTHING!

Green Mustache Smoothies

One of my favorites of the day was Green Mustache Smoothies.  Created by a mom of a picky kid, these smoothies are made with a full serving of greens and fruits.  It’s non-GMO, organic and tastes amazing.  My younger guy is showing picky tendencies or textural issues, but he absolutely LOVED these smoothies.
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We normally buy another brand of smoothies, but after tasting these, we are sold.  In fact, I’m headed out today to pick up a few flavors at our closest store, which is 20 miles away.  I will be dropping off an info sheet at my local organic store, in hopes they pick this product up.

Chloe’s Fruit

Chloe’s Fruit was another delicious treat, this time featuring frozen fruit.  With quite a few flavors to choose from, I can see myself choosing this delicious treat over Tasti d-lite anyway.

The Lamp NYC

The Lamp NYC is an organization described by NYCcharities.org as an organization that educates and equips people to shape the media landscape through hands-on training.  The Lamp NYC teaches young, impressionable minds about news, reporting, commercials, digital media and more.  The purpose of this charity is to immerse kids head-on with the different types of media that shapes our ever-evolving informational landscape.  I love the purpose and meaning of this charity, and it’s one that I hope to get my kids involved in, when the time is right.

Kids’ Night on Broadway

Kids’ Night on Broadway takes place on Feb. 24- March 2.  For this program, kids 6-18 see a Broadway show for free with a full-paying adult.  Tickets go on sale on January 8th for this fabulous experience that gives kids a taste of culture as well as a peek behind the scenes during a fan festival.  This is definitely something I’m hoping we can take part in, so I’ll be penciling in the dates now!

Stonefire Flatbreads

Lunch was catered in part by Stonefire Flatbreads.  J and I ate some delicious sandwiches made with these amazing breads.  These are the fluffiest flatbreads and pitas I’d ever tasted.  Seriously, so fluffy and filling!  A big thanks to Stonefire for introducing me to a new family staple.

Homewood Suites

One of our absolute favorite places to stay when we’re on the road is most definitely Homewood Suites.  In fact, during Hurricane Sandy last year, we had a family member who was staying at a local Homewood Suites and we had the opportunity to stay there for a week.  We had the chance to experience the great complimentary weekday meals, fabulous indoor pool and impeccable service.  Whether traveling for business or with family on vacation, we personally seek out the comfort and convenience of establishments such as Homewood Suites.

Dermalogica

I had the opportunity to get my face mapped while at the Kidz Vuz House Party.  The well-versed aesthetician told me things about my skin that I had no idea about, such as I could still have acne prone skin and it still be dehydrated.  I also learned a bit about the Dermalogica’s teen line, which is more concentrated for problem skin that is often brought about during those hormonal teenage years.

Justin Case

Kidz Vuz had a lovely raffle going towards Lamp, which I was more than happy to make a contribution.  As luck would have it, I won a fabulous Justin Case Rechargeable Power Case from Innovative Technologies, which is a back up battery and iPad case all in one.  I read all about it on NYTimes.com, so I’m quite excited about this win!

A big thank you and congrats to my friends Rebecca and Nancy of Kidz Vuz.  I attend a lot of events throughout the year, and this was, by far, one of the most well-organized and informative events where my kid and I both came away with a lot of great information and fun goodies to boot.

Full disclosure:  I was not compensated, although I did receive a generous swag bag from the event.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

PBS Kids 2013 Holiday Programming

Like many others in our area, we enjoyed a fun snow day yesterday!  Though we didn’t park ourselves in front of the tv all day, we did, however, catch some of our favorite holiday episodes from a few of our fave PBS Shows.  In fact, because it’s Holiday Week on PBS, they will be featuring encore presentations of holiday favorites, including CURIOUS GEORGE: A Very Monkey Christmas, ARTHUR’S PERFECT CHRISTMAS, and holiday-themed episodes from PBS KIDS series, such as WILD KRATTS, SUPER WHY!, THOMAS & FRIENDS, and more.

ARTHUR’S PERFECT CHRISTMAS

Arthur gives kids a new spin on seasonal traditions in his first one-hour prime time special, showing children many ways to celebrate “the holidays.”

THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT CHRISTMAS!

Gather the family for a holiday adventure with the Cat in the Hat, Nick and Sally as they help a lost reindeer find his way home.

CURIOUS GEORGE: A VERY MONKEY CHRISTMAS

In A VERY MONKEY CHRISTMAS, Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat can’t figure out what to give each other for Christmas.

DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD

This holiday season, DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD premieres two winter-themed episodes: “Snowflake Day!” and “A Snowy Day”.

Thomas & Friends

During holiday week, THOMAS & FRIENDS will debut two episode premieres from : “Snow Stops Play” and “Tinsel & Trains.”

ELMO’S CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN

There’s a miracle on Sesame Street in this special holiday tale, which premiered on November 27 and repeats December 11 and 25.

Be sure to check your local listings for exact dates and times.

Full disclosure:  I am a PBS Kids VIP and am sharing this information to benefit you, my readers!  I was not compensated, however, I did receive promotional material.