Three Years Seizure-Free + Disney Love

Every time it happened, I can remember the way my heart raced out of my body. Instead of panic though, mother’s instinct overpowered the fear, and somehow, I remained calm every single time. 

Three years ago was no different; Josh was sitting in his Svan high chair in the kitchen with his Developmental Therapist when he had his last major seizure. Mid-session as they played, he lost control of his own body and a seizure writhed and zapped him, for what seemed like an eternity. I remember doing something they tell you not to do: I carried my two year old to the couch and hugged him until the seizure ended. Josh’s seizures were never longer than 3 or 4 minutes, but they were long enough.

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Although I knew what they’d say, this time around, I called the paramedics to be safe. They arrived at the postictal state, the part where Josh is physically drained by the events. He sleeps for a good hour and is out of sorts for several hours beyond that.

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When these episodes happen, it’s hard to forget the emotions and details of the day. That day he wore a gray Puma sweatsuit that my brother and sister-in-law gave him for Christmas. I remember scooping him up after the first responders and paramedics examined him and hugged him some more. I declined the ambulance since he wasn’t in danger anymore, and sadly, because I remembered how much it would cost. This is a reality of habitual hospitalization and the state of insurance/medical care.

Josh ended up being admitted to the hospital that day so that the doctors could examine his levels and detect any other seizure activity. Since it was right before a snow storm, we knew things would get tricky and unbelievably complicated. For the first time, Josh and I were separated from Jack and Jeff for two days as we stayed in the hospital during the snow storm.

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Thankfully, Josh remained stable and was well cared for while we were in the pediatric wing. I’ll always remember the nurses who were exhausted, but remained incredibly patient with my boy. I’d always ask if they got in to work ok, and if their families were faring ok in the storm. When you have a chronically ill kid, your respect for those who work in the medical field magnifies.

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In these past three years, thankfully, medicine and close monitoring has permitted my boy to flourish developmentally. I’ve put life on hold at times to be present physically to be a taxi to therapy two times a week, be present for mid-day school pick up and specialists’ appointments multiple times a year.

Josh has grown leaps and bounds, with the help of his educators and therapists. His vocabulary continues to grow as big as his personality and as vibrant as his imagination. He’s so social and makes friends wherever he goes. Language is definitely difficult for him to interact with his peers at times, but he tries so hard. Big bro is always his biggest champion and helps whenever he’s around.

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In the fall, he’s about to embark on a new adventure in Kindergarten. He’ll most likely remain in the special education program for now, but with the (possible?) changes in education, I have fears or the unknown.

Nevertheless, I’m so proud of this hardworking boy who goes to school year-round and endures 8-10 various therapies a week in school and privately.

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When we reunited at the hospital after several days apart, Jack and Jeff gifted Josh a giant Mickey Mouse balloon that they found in the hospital gift shop. Like for so many, Disney and Mickey have always been our happy place. After what our guy has had to endure at such a young age, we always promised a Disney Cruise, or a trip to see Mickey Mouse once he was stable. Disney is our escape from reality and a reason to reunite when life gets full of distractions and complications.

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I may have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, but our family was celebrating so much more. On this past trip to Disney World and Disney Cruise, we celebrated Josh being seizure-free for THREE YEARS!! This is huge because we get to discuss weaning him off of meds again! Go Josh, go!

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Whether it’s with a giant balloon or a chance set sail with Mickey, I’m grateful we have something to celebrate. Thank goodness for three years.

 

Watch PBS Kids 24/7

Earlier this month, PBS Kids, the pioneers in children’s programming, introduced a new TV channel and a live stream on digital platforms. PBS stations across the nation are able to broadcast PBS Kids shows like Curious George and Wild Kratts 24 hours a day on an additional television channel and offer a live stream. Kids will have their favorite PBS Kids shows during primetime and after school, or really, whenever they might need it!  

Nielsen data demonstrates that live TV is the dominant way children access video, accounting for 68% of the time children spend watching video content.  And most of kids’ TV viewing takes place on weeknights and weekend afternoons and evenings – especially within low-income families, underscoring PBS’ mission to reach all children with high quality, educational content.

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Families will be able to access the new channel on-the-go with the digital live stream which complements on-demand clips and full episodes. Viewers will be able to watch the station-branded live stream through pbskids.org and on the PBS KIDS Video App, which is available on a variety of mobile devices, tablets and over-the-top platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox One and Chromecast.

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PBS Kids is a staple in our home. Since we’re constantly on the go, I love that my little guy can access his favorite shows while he’s waiting for big bro to finish up his sports. For a kiddo with speech delays and unique needs, I’m so grateful that we have access to such excellent programming at home and on the go, regardless of the time of day. Bravo PBS Kids!

 

 

New Year, New Toys, New Toy Storage

Hi everyone! I hope your the New Year has been kind and generous to you thus far! I’m still reeling from the Holidays and our trip back home. 

To be honest, we’ve been home a week and I’m still wrapping my brain around purging BEFORE I can unpack completely. I’ve been pinning playroom storage, office organization and overall de-cluttering. I’ve bought several new containers to organize, but the fact of the matter is, I need to sit and figure out what we’re keeping, what I’m selling and what we’re donating.

Since I’m writing about it, it’s GOING to happen. ha! We’ll see about that! But, before I get to it, I wanted to post some of the ideas I’ve had about playroom organization.

IKEA Cubbies and Bins

I think the cubby and bin storage system is a popular one for many playrooms, possibly because it’s easy to maintain and affordable. We have something similar to Kallax from IKEA and I’ve put various Threshold bins to store toys.

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I’ve found that with this system, however, that my kids tend to “forget” about toys if they can’t see them. That said, I’m going to start labeling the bins with words and images or pictures. I’m going to try stock logos and images first to see how Josh does with this. Since he doesn’t read yet, and is the biggest mess offender, finding what works for him is the most important.

 

Nerf Peg Board Wall

As you may know, we are huge Nerf fans at our house. We had a big Nerf party and of course, these guns continue to be among the most played-with toys. Even though storage is limited, I still got Jack a giant Nerf gun for Christmas. Y’know, to add to the 30 other giant guns that litter our living room and playroom. 

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Source: Imgur
I decided a few ago to get the gun madness into control. I want Jack to enjoy the guns and invite him to play whenever he wants, but I don’t want to step all over them and continue finding rogue bullets in my kitchen cabinets. 

I’ve seen various ways of Nerf gun storage, but the peg wall is byfar my favorite. The above photo isn’t mine, but it was shared on Imgur. It looks accessible and streamlined. As with any organization method however, I’m sure it only works well if it’s actually implemented. I’ll report back when we finally put our gun storage together!

Closet Rack for Games

I’ve written about this before, but I like keeping our board games in the closet in a fabric organizer. I have to help with this storage method, but for the most part it works.Playroom I try to keep the older games up high and the younger games and puzzles down low so Josh can access those. Without fail, though, it gets messed up over time. But, when I do keep up with it, this system seems to work. I’m going to comb through the games today actually to donate and purge games that have missing pieces or haven’t been played with in awhile. We get so many games to review that I have to do this regularly.

Do you have any playroom organization hacks? What storage systems do you use? I want to hear ‘em!

It’s my hope that the kids can actually play in here again, rather than this being a storage room. In a perfect world, we’d have enough room to film videos for our toy reviews! Fingers crossed. I’m going to tackle the madness, so wish me luck!

Getting the Dirt on Germs at Lysol Germ School

 This is a sponsored post. Thank you for supporting The Next Kid Thing.

 

Before the kids go back to school, I went back to school—Lysol Germ School—to get a crash course on germs.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star


Hosted by my friends, Audrey and Vera, several of my blogger friends and I gathered together in a very chic classroom setting at Offsite in NYC.

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

 

 

After catching up with friends and grabbing breakfast, including a delicious smoothie from House of Juice, I settled in to my desk right in the front of the class. Audrey and Vera welcomed us and gave us a great overview of what to expect.

 

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 Photo credit: Will Star



Germ expert, Joe Rubino, led an informative discussion on the different types of germs. 

Key facts that I learned: bacteria can be reproduced inside or outside the body as they cause infections and viruses need to be inside living cells in order to grow and reproduce.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

Another very memorable fact from Rubino’s slide show was that people with cold and flu infections can spread the virus to others up to about 6 ft. away.

As the R&D Director, Hygiene Personal Care & Surface at RB, Rubino is considered an expert in hygiene and hygiene-related fields. Needless to say, with two school-aged kids, I was all ears during the crash course on germs.

For a closer look at how to avoid and control the spread of germs, Rubino led an exercise where we spread a gel on our hands and were then asked to wash with soap.

We all scrubbed our hands, presumably how we’d do it at home and how we’d teach our kids to do. Upon our return, Rubino shined a black light on our hands to show spots that we missed or and any other dirty spots. It turns out, many of us missed washing the outer most part of our palms, right above the wrist. I washed my hands thoroughly two times and made sure to open the door with a paper towel. It turned out, I had very minimal spots that glowed in the black light. I confessed that we spent a lot of time in hospitals, so proper hand washing has ultimately become an ingrained part of our routine.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

For the second part of our day at Lysol Germ School, I sat in on a roundtable discussion with pediatric consultant Dr. Jennifer Zubler. She answered many of our questions about health. She reinforced that hand washing with soap is the most effective way to avoid the spread of germs.

Sanitizers, such as the alcohol-based gels that are common in our mom bags, are the next best thing. Sanitizer is not as effective, but it works when you don’t have access to soap and water. Someone asked about how to clean electronic devices to avoid the spread of germs. Dr. Zubler recommended using Lysol Disinfecting Wipes when it comes to cleaning screens and keyboards.

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Photo credit: Will Star

 

According to the CDC, 38 million school days are missed due to the flu and tens of millions more are lost due to colds. Practicing healthy habits like hand washing and surface disinfection can help prevent the spread of germs, helping reduce the number of sick days.

At our school, multiple canisters of Lysol Disinfectant Wipes are at the top of the school supply list. I use Lysol around the house, in almost every room because I have two boys who gravitate to anything gross. I tend to pick up multiple packs from Harmon or Bed Bath and Beyond, where I can use our 20% off.

 

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Photo credit: Will Star

As a Box Tops collecting family, I loved learning that Lysol has partnered with Box Tops for Education as the exclusive household cleaning brand. You can help support your child’s school with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray, which are eligible for Box Tops redemption. And speaking of great partnerships: Lysol has partnered with the National Education Association (NEA) and National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to create the Healthy Habits Program. Healthy Habits Week will kick off on September 19, the peak back to school season. To learn more about the Healthy Habits Program and family activities on healthy habits, check out Lysol.com/HealthyHabits

 Start the new school year off with a fresh and healthy start by revisiting proper hand washing and sneezing techniques. Cover your mouth and wash your hands with soap is a constant refrain with my guys!

 

Full disclosure: I was compensated for participating in Lysol Germ School hosted by Audrey and Vera. As always, opinions on NKT are my own

Back to School Must Haves from Momtrends’ Back to School Bash

 

We’re still very much in summer mode, however, when it comes to trend spotting and scouting the best kids’ products, we’re always looking ahead. Last week, together with many of my blogger friends, we descended upon Momtrends’ Back to School Bash to check out some of the coolest gear and gadgets for Back to School.

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Joules

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I had the chance to meet British clothing brand, Joules at the Momtrends’ Back to School Bash. This brand makes beautiful, classic yet modern clothes with bold prints. The girls’ styles were age-appropriate, yet super stylish. The boys’ looks were polished, classic and fun. I loved the boots and outerwear and the vibrant colors that make these pieces stand out!

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Aidan, my friend Alicia from Mommy Delicious’ son, modeling some looks from Joules.

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Paula’s Choice

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Always on the hunt for new skincare lines that work for me, it was great meeting Paula’s Choice. While Paula’s Choice makes a variety of products designed for different skin types, I particularly loved learning about their Clear line which is designed for oily and acne-prone skin. Paula’s Choice products are intended not to be irritating, so there are no fragrances or dyes or anything that could be harmful to your skin.

 

Vamousse

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photo credit: Momtrends

Having kids in school, there’s no doubt that at one point you’ll be faced with sick kids and possibly receiving a note from the school nurse that someone in your child’s class may be infected with lice. That dreaded letter has found its way to my son’s backpack this year more times than I could count. Lucky us, products like Vamousse are designed to be effective yet non-toxic. At any given time, I always have a Vamousse treatment kit in my arsenal, knowing that lice infestations can happen at any time with 2 boys in school. I also like that they have Lice Defense Daily Shampoo as well as Lice Elimination Powder. And, yay me! I won a cool Amazon gift card from Vamousse at the event. Thanks for being a sponsor!

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Thanks to Vamousse, we were treated to a braid bar from Glam Squad. I had a great time getting my hair braided and catching up with Julie Cole, one of the founders of Mabel’s Labels! 

Chewbeads

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Known for their teething-friendly accessories, Chewbeads were onhand at the Momtrends Back to School Bash to showcase their new line of JuniorBeads. Perfect as accessories for kids, these necklaces, bracelets and pendants are made with silicone and can double as sensory tools. My younger guy has special needs and low tone, and we often have to exercise his jaw muscles with chewing on things, so these pendants would be perfect for him. Have a kid who bites their nails or needs some sort of sensory tool? JuniorBeads would be ideal for them. I love the necklaces, shark tooth pendant and that military tag!

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Mabel’s Labels

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One of my family’s must-haves year-round, Mabel’s Labels showcased several new designs, combo pack and a cool new school years memory book. I’m eyeing the limited edition zombie design for my tween who has outgrown the cutesy designs. The School Years Memory book is a perfect solution for parents who want to collect special certificates, awards and occasional artwork. I love the oversized size that can actually fit the giant posters that the kids bring home. The price is right around $30, making this affordable and an absolute necessity when organizing for the school year. 

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Nalgene

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As a lunchbox enthusiast and gadget nerd, I absolutely loved learning about Nalgene’s new Lunchbox Buddy. This durable and versatile lunchbox is made with the same material that makes Nalgene so popular. I love that these lunch boxes are simple and rugged; the box itself can be thrown in the dishwasher and the outer case can be thrown in the washing machine—perfect my messy kids! And something that I never knew: all Nalgene products have a lifetime warranty. How’s that for awesome? I truly respect brands, especially ones that accommodate kids, that can stand behind their own reliability.

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Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen

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In between school, sports, volunteering and all of the other demands of life, some days, we need an easy dinner solution. (ok, most days) Thank goodness for Earth’s Best. Earth’s Best has an extensive line of frozen foods that are geared to families. These products are void of all the bad ingredients, but packed with flavor and portability to boot. I loved tasting the different flavors, with the mini meatballs and pepperoni stuffed bites as my favorites. I will be adding Organic Fruit Cups into our lunch box rotation for when cheap fruit is no longer an option!

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Sister brand, Ella’s Kitchen has been a mainstay in our pantry since Littles started eating solids. I love the delicious flavors they offer for baby foods, and their Nibbly Fingers are the best for babes and toddlers. I loved learning about their smoothies, which I’ve been including in my preschooler’s summer school lunch box. Those things are a hit!

 

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Keen

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Keen, known for their awesome sandals, was featuring highlights from their fall lineup. I’m eyeing several boots and hightops from my guy. I adored the sparkly hightops for girls, only wishing they came in my size. I appreciate that this brand is known for their casual and rugged look and feel, which is ideal for school-aged kids.

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Wall Pops

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Wall Pops offers a great selection of wall coverings that can be used as decor or as functional tools that are helpful for staying organized or informed. Always a fan of the oversized calendars, I love that they have maps and dry erase wall pops that make our school days seamless. We like using Wall Pops as calendars and as an unobtrusive way of reminding us what to do and when! My friends and I loved hanging out in the photo booth, thanks to Wall Pops!

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A big thank you to Momtrends for having me once again at the Back to School Bash. As always, I loved checking out the awesome trends for fall, as well as hanging out with my girls!

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Full disclosure: I received a generous swag bag and won a gift card at this event. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

 

 

35 Awesome Finds From Target’s New Kids’ Decor Line Pillowfort

Later this month, Target is rolling out a stylish line for kids called Pillowfort. This new decor collection from the forward-thinking retailer embraces personality and whimsy, while touting affordability. Target is describing Pillowfort as a stylish decor line that appeals to kids and parents alike.

There’s so much awesome in Target’s Pillowfort decor collection, but here’s what we’re most excited about:

 

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While business publications are focusing on the gender neutrality of Pillowfort, I’m simply calling this bedroom collection: fun and fantastic for every taste. And how cute and catchy is the name? Pillowfort.

I made countless pillow forts with my brothers and cousins in my bright yellow mix-matched room. I love how this mix-matched style is on trend 30 years later.

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Designed entirely in-house by Target’s Design and Development Team, Pillowfort has an emphasis on statement pieces that are meant to grow with kids, with cool bedding and décor that can be mixed-and-matched as style evolves.

Target’s senior vice president of product design and development, Julie Guggemos describes Pillowfort as “cute enough for a three year old, and cool enough for a ten year old.”

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I just love that Pillowfort is suitable for babies to tweens. I’m all about furniture and decor that grows with the kids. Remember that Dream as Big as the Sea Whale Printable that I created last year? How sweet would it look in a nautical room with Pillowfort accents.

Though the collection exudes a style of its own, I think Pillowfort looks like Jonathan Adler meets Pottery Barn Kid meets your favorite kid deisgn Pinterest board.

 

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With hues of gray, mint, coral, indigo and scarlet, Pillowfort has so many pieces that I’m ready to add to my shopping cart now. The mid-century inspired pieces to animal prints to adventure designs, Pillowfort really has something for every taste. From the bulldog lamp, to the whale shelf to the sweet tent to the bear sheets, everything in Pillowfort is Pinterest-worthy and most certainly the Next Kid Things. Forget the kids, I’m getting several items from Pillowfort for myself.

The Pillowfort collection arrives in stores and on Target.com Feb. 21, with furniture arriving this summer. Prices will range from $4.99 – $59.99 for bedding and décor, and $39.99 – $599.99 for furniture.

And because I can’t get enough of this sweet collection, click on the photo of the arrows to check out the entire line:

The Next Kid Thing: Target Pillowfort

What’s your favorite piece in this collection? My 8 year old is obsessed with the teepee! My 4 year old wants the panda pillow. Me? I’ll take the bulldog lamp!

Best Family Cruises for 2016

 

Many families are in the midst of planning their calendars for the year, including vacations. Since we’re all about families on NKT, I wanted to find out more about the best family cruises. A few weeks ago, along with several fellow bloggers, my friends Audrey and Vera invited me to attend the Cruise Lines International Association media event where I had the chance to meet with various cruise lines. 

According to CLIA, 24 million passengers are expected to sail on a cruise in 2016. Despite that staggering statistic, not every cruise line is the same. As with any vacation, some cruises are geared to the luxe category, some to the more moderate passengers and others appeal to budget passengers. Some ships are oversized, others are smaller vessels that offer a more intimate experience. And as you can imagine, some cruises are suitable for families while other cruises are more appropriate for mature passengers (i.e., not kid-friendly).

There are so many cruise lines worldwide, so based on accessibility, affordability and amenities, here’s what we think are among the best family cruises for 2016.

 

1.  Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival is known for being affordable and accessible with 24 ships operating 3 to 16-day cruises to exotic locales such as The Bahamas, Caribbean, Europe, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Carnival has a brand new ship, the Carnival Vista set to debut in May this year. The Carnival Vista boasts a long list of features, but these certainly caught my eye: the first-ever IMAX theatre at sea; the SkyCourse and SkyRide for sports fans is a sports mecca and zip bike course and Carnival Waterworks, a water park with fun features, including a raft slide for two.

 

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2.  Disney Cruise Line

Disney touts their cruises as combining the magic of Disney with ocean travel. As a family who adores Disney and the idea of cruising, admittedly, a Disney Cruise has been on our must-do list for a few years now. This year, in fact, Disney Cruise Lines will be sailing out of NYC. 

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The Disney Magic will feature sailings from New York to the Bahamas and will include a visit to Walt Disney World Resort, plus a Park Hopper ticket and round-trip transportation between the ship and the resort. All New York to Bahamas voyages also include a stop at Castaway Cay. From their theaters that feature live musicals to spas for the adults to the cool activities with Disney-centric stories, Disney Cruise Lines seems like an idyllic cruise vacation for families in mind.

 

3. Norwegian Cruise Line

Known for their Freestyle Cruising ships, NCL has a relaxed, yet chic vibe to their ships. Their newer ships feature water parks and amazing Nickelodeon themed kids’ clubs. I love the idea of their Splash Academy, which is a youth program geared to 3-12 year olds.


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They even have a cool teen program called Entourage which is ideal for 13-17 year olds. The ships feature Group Sitting which is perfect when you’re hoping for adult time while in port or in the evenings. We were aboard the Getaway for a tour and press event just two years ago when it first arrived to NYC.

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We had a great taste of this fun ship, needless to say! NCL just makes it easy for families to have fun at sea.

 

4. Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is another cruise that has been on our must-do list. With ships that feature activities such as 3-D screens, rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and surfing simulators, RCCL appeals to families who love adventure and fun activities at sea. Their Adventure Ocean Youth Program has activities for kids to 17.

 

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Their Royal Babies and Tot Nurseries offers childcare and actives for the littles cruisers. RCCL goes to 230 destination through the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, the Panama Canal, Asia, Australia and New Zealand and South America. The cruise line also has 2 private destinations: CocoCay, which is a private island in the Bahamas and Labadee, a beach locale on the coast of Haiti.

 

5. Princess Cruises

A well known cruise line and part of the Carnival Corporation, Princess Cruises has a fleet of 18 ships. People may know Princess Cruises from their starring role on The Love Boat in the 70s. In modern days, Princess Cruises focuses on innovation and high caliber entertainment and amenities aboard their ships. I recently had the chance to get a taste of some of their offerings at a media event last fall.IMG 8973 Princess Cruises and Discovery have teamed up to offer some really cool experiences. From Stargazing experiences to Animal Planet shore excursions to my favorite, Shark Week at Sea, Princess and Discovery are tapping into pop culture and educational avenues with their new partnership. 

 

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Having covered the cruise industry in my previous magazine editor life, cruises hold a special place in my heart. As a parent who appreciates adventure and practicality, I love the idea of cruising for families. I love the inclusiveness and not having to drive anywhere after you board the ship. I appreciate that on these floating cities there’s something for everyone. So, if you wanted to vacation with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, you could do so. From food to fashion to kids’ clubs to water parks, there’s truly something for everyone aboard a family cruise.

 

Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore at Liberty Science Center + giveaway

 Just before all the holiday chaos started, we were invited to explore the Dora and Diego exhibit at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ.

 

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There’s so much we love about LSC, but the educational and interactive exhibits rank pretty high up on our list.

At our most recent trip to LSC we had the chance to explore the Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore! exhibit. If there was ever an exhibit that adequately examines the curious nature of toddlers and preschoolers, Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is it.  The exhibit features Nickelodeon favorites, Dora and Diego, along with their buddies, Boots, Map, Backpack, Isa, Tico and Swiper.

This exhibit was created by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with Nickelodeon and will be at LSC until January 24th.


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Like the popular Nickelodeon shows from which this exhibit is based, Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is an exhibit that encourages adventure, curiosity and how to solve problems while engaging Spanish speaking skills for preschoolers.

Highlights from the exhibit include:

The Purple Planet – Kids can climb inside and slide down on the surface of the whimsical Purple Planet

 

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Rocket Ship – Dora and friends need a ride to the Purple Planet. At the Rocket Ship, kids can suit up, pilot the ship and play memory with planets. 

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Constellations – Kids can learn about stars and identify the patterns made out of stars by inserting star shapes to light-up a constellation

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Isa’s Flowery Garden – At the Flowery Garden, Dora’s friend Isa the Iguana helps kids learn the beauty of flowers, plants, and animals. At Isa’s Garden, kids can pick flowers, interact with bird, butterflie, and insect puppets

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 Tico’s Tree and Car – Tico the squirrel needs help picking nuts from the tree for a family picnic. Kids can play along with Swiper to swipe the nuts and watch as they shoot up and over to fill Tico’s basket. Kids can help Tico fill up his car with nuts so he can begin his journey.

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 Pirate Ship – In the Pirate Ship, kids can band together with Pirate Piggies crew and dress like a pirate and sail the ship and share the treasure treasure. 

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Animal Rescue Center – Kids get a hands-on opportunity to care and help (stuffed) rainforest animals in Diego’s Animal Rescue Center. Kids can be an animal rescuer like Diego, as well as diagnose and help treat critters with the Scanner bed, First-Aid Station and fluff their fur at the Care Station. 

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Rainforest Maze – At the rainforest, kids can locate rainforest animals and swing across the Bobo Brothers’ monkey bars, crawl through a fallen tree, climb across Jaguar Mountain, and jump or hop across the River Rocks.

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Though the exhibit is geared to the younger set, both my preschooler and grade schooler enjoyed Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore. The many interactive features, games and activities kept my kids engaged for well over an hour and a half.

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 At the Rocket Ship, both kids loved role-playing and pretending to blast off. Tico’s Tree and Car was a fun activity for both kids, especially my preschooler who was excited to pick nuts and fuel up himself. At the Rainforest Maze, my 8 year old enjoyed climbing and helping his little brother jump and swing around. The Animal Rescue Center was another favorite for my boys, where they were able to partner up and play vet together. I loved listening to my older son read the little signs and share interesting information throughout this super fun experience.

 

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Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is a fantastic interactive exhibit that’s ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, but engaging for the entire family. LSC has been one of my family’s absolute favorite museums in NJ since my older son was an infant. There’s always something for everyone in the family to enjoy. It does get crowded on the weekends and at peak times, but it’s always a lot of fun. And as winter limits family activities, what better way to spend a cold day with family than exploring at LSC.

 

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With that in mind, in conjunction with What’s Down in Town, we’re giving away a family 4-pack of tickets to the Liberty Science Center that includes admission to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition gallery. This giveaway will end on Friday to give you a chance to enjoy LSC over the long weekend! Please enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

In order to facilitate this review, we received complimentary admission to LSC. Promotional tickets were provided for giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

Top Toys of 2015

From Toy Fair in February to recent holiday media events, I’ve been scouting toys and trends all year for The Next Kid Thing. I have several lists in the works, but before the biggest shopping day of the year kicks off, I wanted to share some of the coolest toys that I think might be the big sellers this season.

I put this list together based on the play value, my kids’ reaction, price point as well as accessibility. I’ve been checking out the toys’ popularity online and in person and have compiled, what I think, might be some of the hottest sellers this season. Some obvious picks did not make my list because the supply is more accessible or the price is out of reach for many people.

Keep an eye out for more of our picks. Until then, I present The Next Kid Thing Top Toys for 2015.

 

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1. Sit-to-Stand Ultimate Alphabet Train

 This is the latest version of Vtech’s popular Alphabet Train. The multi-phase toy is intuitive and is perfect for tots who are sitting, toddling or already on the go. I love that this toy grows with kids and offers so many different types of educational play and function. On sale, I’ve spotted this great toy in the $40 range.

 

2. Bright Beats Dance and Move Beatbo

Beatbo first caught my eye at Toy Fair because of its bright and simple aesthetic. Beatbo dances, sings and has engaging educational games, perfect for curious toddlers. Beatbo can be found at major retailers for $35.

 

3. Paw Patrol Interactive Mission Chase

 Chase has all kinds of features, making him quite the hot commodity. Chase is bigger in size and has cool details for making missions easier. Paw Patrol toys, in general, are popular, so make sure to pick up Chase before he becomes hard to find later in the season. This Chase is #1 on my little guy’s list.

 

4. Paw Patrol Patroller

This Paw Patroller vehicle holds 3 vehicles when closed and several more when opened, making it an ideal gift for Paw Patrol mega-fans. This cool vehicle has multiple functions and landed on several top toys’ lists, and will certainly be another popular toy this season. Head’s up: Target currently has a 20% off Promo on toys. Head to their site to take advantage of this deal.

 

5. Shopkins

Just like it’s been all year, expect anything Shopkins to be super popular this holiday season. Right now, playsets and blind bags are in stock, but expect anything Shopkins to be a must-have for kids who appreciate these super cute collectibles. I love this Ice Cream Truck!

 

6. Clever Keet

Little Live Pets have been a favorite for animal lovers, and Clever Keet is no exception. This clever guy can chat and respond to your voice. He dances and even rides his little cart. 

7. American Girl Grace Thomas

The 2015 Girl of the Year Grace Thomas encourages savvy kids to pursue big ideas and embrace the business world. Available for only one year, the Grace collection includes an18-inch Grace doll featuring long dark-brown hair and blue eyes, plus several French-inspired outfits, accessories, and toys that reflect her interests, such as the premium French Bakery Set with more than 60 pieces.

8. Girl Scouts Cookie Oven

The very cool Girl Scouts Cookie Oven is making quite the buzz this holiday season. With this fantastic toy, kids can bake their favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors at home while learning how to bake. 

9. Interactive R2-D2

With the upcoming release of the latest installment of Star Wars: the Force Awakens, it’s no surprise that Star Wars toys will be among the hottest toys this season. One toy that made our list of hot toys is Thinkways’ Interactive R2-D2. He projects images, turns his head while he talks, is voice-activated, among other cool features. With over 1000 programmable action combos, this smart toy will be a favorite for kids and adults alike.

10. BB-8 Sphero

BB-8 Sphero has been a hot Star Wars item since Force Friday earlier this year. This interactive droid is app-enabled and has voice-recognition, and has been dubbed the coolest Star Wars Toy by various outlets. Another toy that’s expected to be a popular multi-generational gift, this guy might be hard to find later in the season.

11. Lego Dimensions

Lego Dimensions joins the market as the latest toy to life video game. But this time, this video game has the clout of its beloved Lego franchise and characters to back up its foray onto consoles. From fun characters from the Lego Movie to classic superhero and cartoon figures, Lego Dimensions is already popular for kids and families. Since spotting it at the Kidz Vuz Back to School party, this game is #1 on my older guy’s list!
Head’s up: Lego Dimensions is featured on Target’s Cartwheel for 35% off for two more days, which makes it around $65. Combine this with an additional 5% off if you have Target RedCard. To compare: Toys R’ Us has Lego Dimensions on sale for $64.99 on Black Friday at 7am. 

12. LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum

LeapFrog’s latest LeapPad Platinum has some of the coolest features yet. It features a faster processor and crisp screen. In addition to the popular LeapFrog games and easy-to-navigate interface, the LeapPad Platinum features the unique and cutting-edge ImagiCard technology. My preschooler is obsessed with ImagiCard and I appreciate how reinforces counting, colors, alphabet, as well as tactile manipulation.

As of today, all of these toys are available in stores and online. Be sure to take advantage of pre-Black Friday sales and coupons which are proving to be cheaper than schlepping out to stores in the wee hours later this week.

Stay tuned for more gift ideas with all of my NKT Holiday Gift Guides!

 

 

PBS Kids: A Creature Christmas and Nature Cat to Debut

As we’re getting ready to feast on turkey, our friends over on PBS Kids are getting us into the holiday spirit with some great Christmas content featuring the Wild Kratts.

On November 25th, PBS is premiering “A Creature Christmas,” which is the first hour-long holiday Wild Kratts special. In this fun special, the Kratts take a break from their fearless questing for creatures to celebrate Christmas. But when they receive an alert that their favorite critters are disappearing around the globe, their holiday celebration quickly turns into a rescue mission. Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas premieres November 25 with encore presentations on November 26, 27, 28 and 29; December 7, 18, 20, 24 and 25.

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Then, following the debut of “Creature Christmas,” be sure to check out the brand-new action-adventure series, Nature Cat. The show stars an ordinary housecat named Fred who becomes his alter-ego, “Nature Cat,” – backyard nature explorer – when his family leaves for the day. We’re already loving the energy and spunk from Nature Cat. Check out the site!

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As longtime Wild Kratts fans, I’m looking forward to this cool holiday special. We can’t wait to see what kind of adventure the Kratt brothers are up to for the holidays. Nature Cat sounds like so much fun! I totally envision our crazy cat having his own alter-ego every time he escapes the house!