Fun with Educational Insights: Crowded Waters and Hot Dots Tots

When it comes to fun new toys, we’re always game to check them out. Educational Insights sent us a few toys a few weeks ago and we’ve been having fun with them.

Hot Dots Tots

I was first introduced to Hot Dots Tots at Toy Fair a few years ago and I was immediately smitten. These interactive books come in a variety of themes and are ideal for early and beginner readers.

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We received the Animals version of Hot Dots Tots, which was suited my toddler perfectly. Elliott, The Musical Teaching Bear, makes these fun book engaging and fun to navigate. The reading tool, Elliott, is powered by 2 AAA batteries, which are inserted in the head and secured with a plate that is screwed in.

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I liked how the book asks questions and encourages problem-solving and reinforces healthy reading habits for young and eager readers.  My 3 year old loves reading conventional books, so was very intrigued when using Elliot with his Hot Dots Tots books. We can’t wait to get more books to build our library.

Crowded Waters

As Shark Week and Sharknado fanatics, we were thrilled to have a chance to play with Crowded Waters.

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This strategy game is ideal for older kids who are able to insert logic and strategy into gameplay. The board game has a board that mimics the sea with spaces to insert game pieces. Players get to choose their color and then go on to strategize their path to stay afloat in the game.

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Admittedly, this game was hard to understand at first, but once we re-read the instructions, we caught on. I like that this game makes kids think, but isn’t an intensive game where kids may lose interest. This is definitely a new mainstay for game night!

Full disclosure: I received the games to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are mine.

 

 

Going Back to School with Target

The other week, I had the pleasure of attending a back to school event hosted by Target. The event highlighted great back to school gear and cool new styles that the retailer is featuring this season.

 

As a lunchbox fanatic, I was thrilled that model, actress and mom of 3, Camila Alves was onhand to personally share lunchbox tips!

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For those of you in the throes of back to school shopping, Target had several tips to offer that I’d love to share:

School supplies
DIY notebooks, markers, stickers and washi tape to add a personal touch

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One of the biggest trends in back to school supplies is personalization. Graphics are always awesome, but kids can truly make their gear unique with vibrant stickers and washi tape.

Backpacks & lunch bags
Target has some cool new gear that’s worth checking out. The Eco-friendly Embark Backpacks, Embark Crush Resistant Lunch Bags and Circo Light up Backpacks


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While I love and am now carrying around the Embark Crush Resistant Lunch Bag as my kids’ drink container these last few days of summer, it was that light up backpack from Circo that really caught my eye!

 

 

 

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I love that it can be switched on and off, unlike those flashing sneakers that always blind me. I thought this was a cool feature that could double as a safety feature when out at night!

Lunch items
Market Pantry and Simply Balanced products to make back-to-school snacks easy peasy.

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Truth be told, one of the main reasons almost everything I own is bought at Target is because I can get all of my shopping done under one roof! And that goes for lunch box supplies. I appreciate that Target has organic and inexpensive drinks and snacks to fill the kids’ lunch boxes. Even better, Camila shared several amazing recipes to make back-to-school snacks even more delicious!

 

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Kids’ Fashion
From Stevie’s Shoes to the new stretchy denim assortment to plaid—lots of plaid, Target has all of the best trends in stock at reasonable prices.

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Styles from my teenage years are back: moto boots, mixed patterns and plaid consumed me in the early 90s, so it’s fun to see them back on racks as my kids start school. I loved that Target had talented kid dancers at the event showcasing the stretchy jeans. With two very active boys and one who would rather see my kids in clothing other than athletic gear, I appreciate jeans and styles for active kids!

 

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And leave it up to Target to make school shopping totally seamless. Target’s new tool: School List Assist. The tool, which is in beta, is a curated assortment of the most common K-8 supplies on the list making it quick and easy for guests to find what they need. With a few clicks, you can purchase the supplies you might need and pick them up in store or have them shipped to home. For those of us who are still traveling and soaking up every last minute of summer, School List Assist sounds like it’s key in the time managment assistance department!

 

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Be sure to check out your local for the latest deals for back to school gear and supplies. And don’t forget to match and stack deals with your Cartwheel App!

SwimToday and Dara Torres Promote Swimming as #FunnestSport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·       Low risk of injuryNo contact makes for a safer environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

Join Tommee Tippee For a Twitter Party 6/18

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

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

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

Tommee Tippee Tableware Streamlines Travel for Families on the go

Like many families, we spend a lot of time on the road in the summer. Whether it’s visiting grandparents out of town or heading to the beach, we’re always on the go, and rely on gear that helps us get to where we’re going. 

 

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I can’t tell you how many meals we have when we’re on the road: granola bars before rugby practice, Go Go Squeeze before swim meets and, yes, even cereal with milk on the road down to Va. Like most toddlers, my 3 year old is still perfecting his eating skills, so he needs tools that help him accomplish those tasks. Tommee Tippee has a great range of feeding tools that work so well for families on the go.

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Tommee Tippee’s Easi-Roll bib is my all-time favorite bib for my kid, and as gifts for baby showers. This super-practical bib is softer, yet durable and easy-to-clean after the messiest meals. I love that you can put the bib into the dishwasher after eating. The best thing about this best is that you can roll and tuck it right into your diaper bag or carry-on to have it accessible for road trips or any time you’re eating on the go.

 

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TT’s Section Plates remain a mainstay for all meals at our home. These plates are sectioned off into three compartments, making it easy to portion food for toddlers and keep them from not touching! Unlike other toddler plates, this plate has an ergonomic shape that makes it ideal for little hands to grasp (when they’re not snoozing, that is!)

 

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Pop Up Storage Cups always come in handy for road trips. In addition to Goldfish or Cheerios, we love throwing my toddler’s little collectible toys in the Pop Up Storage Cups. Whether it’s little bouncy balls or crayons for his coloring books, the Storage Cups are great to contain items to keep within reach in the car. Added extra: they fit perfectly in the car and booster seats’ cupholders.

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Easy Scoop Feeding Bowls are another fave for summer excursions. Some mornings in the summer, we start our days early to get prime spots at the beach. This often means we’re eating breakfast in the car, which is where the Easy Scoop Feeding Bowls with Lid and Spoon come in handy. C’mon, whomever thought of stashing the spoon in the lid is a genius!  When we don’t misplace the lids, these bowls are ideal for easy eating at the beach.

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Do you have any favorite gear that helps you when you’re on the road? Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you streamline your travels with easy-to-use gear when you’re on the go.

 

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I am being offered compensation for my time and effort. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

The Children’s Place Spring into Style

The northeast is finally feeling the warmth of Spring, and with that, we’re starting to break out our Spring clothes. The thing I love most about Spring kids style is that we can start shedding layers and, inevitably, brighter colors come into play.

At The Children’s Place this Spring, boys and girls styles are as vibrant as ever with cool graphics and fun prints as main focal points. The boys’ clothes are a super fun mix of classic cool and modern fun. Girls’ styles are playful and eclectic, with copious amounts of sweet prints and sassy silhouettes.

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For my boys, I’m always drawn to TCP’s classic shirts and graphic tees. Since my younger one always inherits the older ones clothes, it’s important for me to stick with classic styles. I love the shirts I bought for Easter this year, and the ties and bow ties are the perfect complement, too!

Check out my Spring Haul from TCP!

Full disclosure: I was provided with a gift card to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

YouTube Launches YouTube Kids App

YouTube has launched YouTube Kids, a new free app that’s tailored to deliver carefully-curated content geared to kids and families. This huge move for Google and YouTube was met with excitement and could be regarded as a game-changer. 

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YouTube is the second largest search engine, the fastest growing video sharing website and has become a staple in our children’s media landscape, so the development for YouTube Kids was an expected and heavily anticipated move from parents and tech enthusiasts alike.

 

YouTube Kids App Icon

 

The new YouTube Kids app will allow kids to explore family-friendly content within safer parameters. With larger images and bold icons, the app features a fun design and easy-to-navigate interface for smaller hands.The search has a voice option, which is perfect for kids who can’t spell or type yet.

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Parents will appreciate the parental controls that will help to safeguard their kids’ usage and content they watch. The timer allows the app to shut down when their window of time is up. If headphones aren’t within reach, the sound settings can be adjusted to turn off background noise or sound effects. If you only want your kids to watch certain videos, you can shut down the search option to limit their ability to search for other videos. And, as with any new version, YouTube has allowed for an option to submit feedback.

 

As for content, YouTube has partnered with many of the most popular content creators that already provide kid-friendly videos. YouTube has aligned with Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, National Geographic, KidzBop, Play-Doh, among other kid favorites. A few months ago, we got a sneak peek of Furchester Hotel, the new YouTube series from Sesame Street. It’s safe to say, Littles is quite smitten with this cool new series.

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Entertainment and Educational 

I was initially under the impression that YouTube Kids would be more for the preschool set, where cartoons could live freely. After further exploring, I was quite excited to find Biggie’s favorite YT channel and personality, Mr. Stampycat. Oh, Mr. Stampycat…you’ve been so kind to keep my sporty kid with cabin fever entertained this winter! Before discovering Stampycat, Biggie has clicked on way too many inappropriate Minecraft tutorials where F bombs or other inappropriate words were dropped. Another excellent channel that I’m so glad is featured on YT Kids is the Khan Academy. The Khan Academy, themselves, are a game changer in the educational video realm. If your friends are like mine, it seems so many parents are lost by the new educational concepts being implemented, it’s great that kids will be able to get help with their common core math homework thanks to Khan. (Or will they?)

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A few things to note: I did not see an option to create and upload videos to YouTube Kids, which is good. It’s important for younger kids to enlist their parents’ help before uploading any content to YT. I would love to see YT partner with smart sites such as KidzVuz so kids can easily view authentic video reviews. Like bloggers are required, I think video content creators need to disclose products that were provided for review, as well as paid placement.  And speaking of sponsored content, there are ads within videos. I noticed mostly family-friendly advertisements. I know ads make services such as this “free,” and considering the target audience, this is a slippery slope. So I think the ad presence might be my main qualm for an otherwise innovative media app for kids.

YouTube: the ultimate kid distraction

Having spent so much time in the hospital and doctor’s offices for my younger guy, YouTube has always been an invaluable resource. Whenever Littles would have to get the electrodes placed on his head for an EEG, a process that would sometimes take up to an hour because of his physical resistance, we always turn to YouTube. YouTube always has new or different videos that would distract my toddler from the medical procedure du jour.

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After we’ve run out of things to play with in the hospital’s massive playroom, Mother Goose Club and Thomas videos were our only savior. 

With the ability to search for unboxing videos before buying something or how to fix our washing machine, YouTube has already changed life or modern parenting as we know it. For families who have limited media access, free services such as YouTube may be a child’s only exposure to educational video content. The YouTube Kids app will streamline family-friendly content, a measure that any media enthusiast—young or grown up—can appreciate. A big kudos to Google and YouTube for creating something that will undoubtedly be a game changer, and for some, life-changing.

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The free YouTube Kids app is available for download at Google Play and the App Store.

Toy Fair 2015 Faves: Knit’s Cool, Snap Pets, Lego Minecraft, Plan Toys

There was so much to see and do at Toy Fair this year. Before I share about the trends I saw, I wanted to share a few of my favorites from this year’s show. Most of these toys won’t hit shelves until this summer or fall, so here’s your sneak peek at a few of my favorite next kid things:
 

Knit’s Cool
 

Spinmaster’s Sew Cool did so well last year that they’re riding the maker trend with a number of cool activity sets for Tweens. Knit Cool is an interesting set that allows kids to knit with ease, similar to that of finger/arm knitting. I can’t wait to see this generation of kids continue to make cool things with their own imagination and ingenuity.
 

Snap Pets

Selfies and tech toys were displayed loud and proud at Toy Fair. Snap Pets from Wowee is a fun selfie tool that can be used to take selfie images or as a remote. Tweens will love the small size of this cool selfie tool. 
 

Lego Minecraft

Speaking of creations, Lego, as expected, has a slew of cool new sets. Because Lego Minecraft was one of hottest gifts last holiday season, I thought I’d share a few photos of the upcoming sets in this series.

I saw a lot of new and upcoming Lego sets that encourage kids to forego the instruction manual and enjoy open-ended play. The crafting box is just one of many sets that give suggestions on what to build, but just like the digital version of Minecraft, this set capitalizes on pure imagination.

The Mine is another cool set that I loved seeing coming to life. The skeleton, creeper and spider are my favorite part of this set!

The Ender Dragon is another cool set that is sure to be huge among Minecraft aficionados.

Plan Toys
 

Plan Toys remains one of my absolute favorite toy companies, not just because they produce aesthetically pleasing goodies, but also because they’re eco-friendly and socially conscious.
Here are just a few of my favorite finds from my Plan Toys booth visit.
 
This chalkboard table set would look super cool in a playroom or classroom!

This rocket nesting toy is so eye-catching. The toys nesting inside were never-ending!

I can’t resist boat toys. This sailboat was so classic and cute!

If only NYC taxis could be this innocent and cute. Nevertheless, I love this sweet wooden taxi.

You can’t go wrong with wooden pull toys. Plan Toys owns the cute card in this category.

 More details and fun finds to come!

2014 Best Baby Gifts

Since this year was the year of the baby within my circle of friends and family, I thought I’d share just a few of my favorite baby products from the year. Beyond all the typical baby gifts, my favorite baby gifts to give and receive are always the practical ones. So, here are just a few of my faves:

 

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1. O-Ball Linky Loops

This cool take on the classic links provide a modern aesthetic while giving babies great grasping toys to play with and chew on while in a carrier or stroller. Links are always some of my favorite toys because you can link them together and attach other toys to the carrier.

2. Cloud B 

Cloud B makes some of the coolest illuminating toys that are perfect for baby’s nurseries. The Tranquil Turtle combines soothing sounds with a relaxing glow, giving it a tranquil, almost spa-like feel for babies and kids to enjoy as they fall asleep.

3. Stokke Trailz

Stokke entered the all terrain territory with its new Stokke Trailz stroller. This sleek stroller merges that chic Scandinavian design with function. Like their other strollers,Stokke Trailz boasts an elevated seat and ample storage. This new stroller allows families to navigate all terrains, whether it’s bumpy city streets of unpredictable surfaces in the country.

4. Hape Roller Derby

Some of the best toys for babies are the ones that are kid-powered. Hape is one of my absolute favorite brands for fine wooden toys, and this Roller Derby is no exception. Babies and kids love ramps and balls, so the Roller Derby offers the best of both worlds.

5. Little Me

Perhaps some of the best gifts for babies, or rather the parents, are well-made classic clothes.  Little Me makes some of the most beautiful clothes for babies and toddlers. The fabric is soft and durable, yet classic and age appropriate. I love that you can invest in their clothes and pass them down to younger siblings or other families.

6. Aden and Anais

Aden and Anais seems to always make it onto my baby gift list, and all for good reason. I love their products and so do kids! I’m currently coveting the Dream Blanket, and will actually be getting my little dude this dream blanket for Christmas. He’s grown out of his baby blanket and has always loved the muslin blankets from A&A. This bigger size will accommodate kids and adults too!

7. Tommee Tippee

Tommee Tippee is another all-time favorite baby brand, quite simply because the products work well for us. The Truly Spill Proof Straw Cup is one of our most used kid products right now, so I am going to be getting a few more as stocking stuffers! These Sippys are one of the only ones that I know won’t leak and they use the straw design which is what I need for my growing toddler.

8. Stride Rite

Another all-time favorite practical baby gifts are Stride Rite shoes. The thing about Stride Rite is that they fit well and always look sharp. I appreciate the SRT Technology that Stride Rite employs in some of their early walker shoes, which helps to stabilize those wobbly baby feet. 

2014 Holiday Gift Guide Sneak Peek

And because Christmas is just two months away, I’m reluctantly, but excitedly looking ahead to the holidays. Actually, I’ve been thinking about the holidays since the summer because of all of the holiday press previews.  I’m finally organizing my thoughts and ideas for this year’s holiday guide. As in years past, I will be categorizing my guide, starting age and possibly by theme.  So, as a fun preview, here’s a sneak peek of The Next Kid Thing Holiday Gift Guide, babies and toddler edition.

NKTBabygiftguide14The items feature above have been included in NKT at one point or another. Here’s a round up of just a few of the items I’ll be featuring in our gift guide:

  • Starting with the Stokke Steps, babies and tots can grow with this sleek seating system. 
  • The Jack Spade/Kate Spade for Gap collaboration has my heart all aflutter, so I couldn’t help but include the fun blue oxford and striking red ballet flats with a gift bow detail at the bottom right.  
  • Feeding gear and other practical baby items are among some of my personal favorite stocking stuffers and add-on gifts. As always, Tommee Tippee keeps it cool with these sweet section plates and Truly Spill Proof Straw Cups
  • Stride Rite’s Isaiah Motion will keep the kids on their toes for the holidays. 
  • Aden + Anais will forever be one of my go-to baby gifts because of its versatility and sustainability. liam the brave sweet dream gift set would double as a gift for mama and babe. 
  • When it comes to classic kid powered toys, Melissa and Doug can do no wrong. Throw some pancakes into the mix, Melissa and Doug’s delicious playset is certain to be a toddler must-have.   
  • Kitchen sets are a favorite when it comes to toddler big ticket gifts. Plan Toys’ newly redesigned kitchen set keeps its same small footprint and sustainable design, while showcasing its modern aesthetics. 
  • And, perhaps some of my favorite baby board books to date, Baby Lit turns classic literature into baby board books. With fantastic imagery and graphics, simple one-word story lines, these line of books are perfect baby (or rather, parent) gifts for classic lit aficionados or English Majors like yours truly.

Stay tuned for more holiday gift ideas to come!