Best STEM Toys and Kits

With a kid who is obsessed with computers and coding, STEM toys and kits are at the top of our list this year. We’ve had the chance to tinker with various STEM toys. Here are just a few of the many fun toys and kits that have piqued our interest. As of today, these great gifts are still available at select major retailers.

 

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1. LittleBits

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It’s no secret that the Maker Movement has been trending and gaining popularity with our budding coders and programmers. LittleBits has created several unique and award-winning STEM kits where kids can create tangible items for themselves. The Rule Your Room Kit contains various bits where kids can create unique inventions like a moving collage for their room. These kits teach coding, electricity, engineering, as well as encourage creativity and confidence. LittleBits has several other kits worth looking into, too! These are among my favorite STEM kits in the very big toy space right now!

2. BoseBuild Speaker

The BoseBuild Speaker is an incredible kit that allows kids to build and create their own Bose Bluetooth speaker. With this kit, they learn the basic fundamentals of sound, magnets, electromagnetivity and technology. Bose is well known in the sound space, so this kit fits their durable and reputable product line. This kit is a great parent-kid bonding activity, and one that delivers a really incredible product and usable tween staple.

3. HexBugs Vex Robotics Snap Shot

This is another really great kit that embraces building, creativity, engineering and math. HexBug Vex Robotics allows kids to create a functioning Snap Shot Shooter with easy to connect snapping pieces. My older guy who is HUGE into Nerf absolutely loves this kit. It took him a bit to get started, but once he got going, he loved the end product. We’re looking forward to creating more cool creations!

4. SnapCircuits

SnapCircuits is a classic toy that teaches kids the ins and outs of electricity and conductiviy. I believe my older brother had a toy similar to this from Radio Shack. The best thing these kits have going for them are the fact that they’re timeless toys that teach the fundatmentals of building and electricity.

5. Kano

Kano is a cool computer kit that the kids learn how to build. Perfect for budding techies, this kit allows kids to get their hands on the parts and pieces that make computers work. The kit includes Raspberry Pi 3, case, speaker, wireless keyboard, memory, HDMI and power cables, coding challenges, stickers and lots of appsKano has kits for the computers and a kit for the screen, both of which are in the $150 range.

6. Magformers

Magformers are among the most played-with toys in my home. They’re great for learning the fundamentals of building and creating objects with shapes. My little guy loves to create houses with squares and triangles or little jails for the Joker with triangles. Some of the best aspects of Magformers is that they’re compact, easy to clean because they stick together and they provide hours of open-ended play.

7. LakeShore Survive the Quake Engineering Kit

My kids love the premise behind this kit. It’s another great toy for kids who are interested in building, and for those who love a little bit of element of surprise. Lakeshore Learning always gets it right when it comes to fun and engaging toys that incorporate learning—even when the kids don’t realize it!

Rocking out with Rock Band Rivals

When it comes to music, we can only hope that we’re doing our best with influencing our kids’ taste and appreciation for great music. Thanks to stellar family games like Rock Band Rivals from Harmonix, we can rock out to both classic and current songs while instilling a stellar rock repertoire from one of the best music games series. 

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Rock Band 4 carries over the well-known drum, vocal and guitar games in a fun play back format. Players can choose a song to play and earn points collectively while sharpening their musical chops.

 

My guys and I had the chance to give Rock Band Rivals a spin in our own living room. Let’s just say that my kids were born ready to rock and have no problem performing on a stage, even if it’s just our living room.

 

Since most of the songs in the music library are classic hits, my older guy wasn’t familiar with the songs that I loved. The kids, of course, were familiar with the likes of modern pop hits from Imagine Dragon and Maroon 5. I, on the otherhand, could comfortably sing Elivs’ Suspicious Minds and R.E.M.’s The One I Love—by heart, no less.

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The drum kit controller in the Rock Band Rivals set is user friendly and easy to set up. Each player was comfortable with playing the drums in Rock Band Rivals. We even brought out our own drum stool because we’re crazy like that. The guitar, styled like a sleek Fender, is cool and also easy to use.Though we found it hard to maneuver for smaller hands, those of us with more dexterity could strum the Fender like a rock boss. The instruments/controllers were seamless throughout the whole game. I especially loved how you could switch from bassist to guitarist from song to song. The microphone felt sturdy, yet basic. Obviously, as a component of the game, the microphone didn’t amplify as loudly as one would expect.

 

Overall, we enjoyed the different playing modes of Rock Band Rivals. Although we’re musically inclined, albeit a bit rusty, we appreciated the no fail mode since we have younger kids who needed a learning curve (as much as we did.) The music library, as previously mentioned, has a lot of great songs that I love, as well as great songs that my husband loves. Since I love pop and alternative and he listens mostly to country and classic rock, Rock Band Rivals complemented the whole family’s musical taste.

 

Though it took some time to familiarize ourselves, it was easy to read the screen in playmode. The different colors and areas for notes made it easy to follow, even for people who aren’t familiar with certain songs. There were so many great features that made this game especially more fluid as a family game. Each player could be assigned a different difficulty level. So, if one person was more advanced, and another was a beginner, each player was challenged just enough to make it enjoyable all around.

 

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We also enjoyed the playlist selection, where we could answer a few questions and the game would help assign a playlist so that we could continuously jam out to said playlist. And speaking of jamming out, we all got a kick out of the rockers in the game. Each song had a different backdrop and band appearance. Some were more eclectic than the next.

 

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The highlight of Rockband Rivals is that it could be played in various modes, which makes it truly engaging for the whole crew. You can perform through a rock documentary about your band in the campaign mode and join Crews to show off skills and battle opponents in challenges. 

 

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We spent hours trading places in Rock Band. For one song I’d be the singer, the next the guitarist, the next the drummer. My husband and the boys all loved taking turns playing the drums.

 

My older son decided he loved the bass more than the guitar. He could feel the bass in the songs, which gave him a better understanding of the way music blends together. My younger guy, who is under the age bracket for Rock Band Rivals, had a fun time rocking out, even though he didn’t quite connect the dots. 

 

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Rock Band Rivals is a fun way to get the family together and rock out collectively. This latest iteration of Rock Band doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I can’t wait to check out the other songs available so that we can have more current songs for the kids to enjoy!

 

Rock Band Rivals is rated T for Teen and is available at major retailers. The Rock Band Rivals ($199) kit includes the drums, guitar, mic and game. Be on the lookout for great deals for the Holidays!

Full disclosure: this is a sponsored post in partnership with KidzVuz and Harmonix. I was provided with a review unit and compensation to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

 

 

The Summer of Nerf

As Biggie starts to get older, he’s been expressing a lot of interest in blogging and taking a more active role on The Next Kid Thing. J has often been the subject of my posts, not to mention a key reviewer, so it’s fun to help him take on these new responsibilities. Because of J’s obsession with Nerf, I gave him a job to write a post and recap his summer. Fun barely scrapes the surface—it was a phenomenal summer with memories to last a lifetime! And without further ado, I give you J’s first blog post:

This summer was the best!  I live in a lake community, and we spend almost ever day outside and play fun games such as Nerf guns. I got to play with all of my friends with Nerf guns every day. Besides swimming and playing on the sand, that’s all I did and I loved it.

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This summer I had a Nerf war I could not wait. It was a bunch of fun. We had target practice and capture the flag.

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In the battle, I used a Doomlands Lawbringer and got a lot of my friends. I thought capture the flag was fun because we used cardboard boxes as walls. Even when we’re not at our lake, we have fun with our Nerf Guns. We had a Nerf battle where most of us had vests.

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I also got a bunch of Nerf guns—they are so BIG! A neighbor who was moving gave us a bunch of classic Nerf guns. My dad, brother and I have fun shooting each other. Sometimes, my dog gets scared of our Nerf guns.

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 Now that summer is over, I will always remember this as the endless summer of Nerf!

Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Nerf guns and gear are supported by this boy’s obsession and our own checkbook.

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.

 

Back to School and Football Shopping at Sports Authority

When it comes to outfitting the kids for back to school, we entered a new frontier this year. Not only was it Biggie’s first year in public school (hello, regular clothes), but we also had 2 kids to buy new clothes for this year! We have our perennial favorite clothing stores, but I love being able to hit stores like Sports Authority to pick up clothes and sports gear.

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A few weeks ago, we hit our local Sports Authority to grab some shorts, athletic wear, some new Mets paraphernalia (Yay for clinching the NL East!) and of course, some football gear. I followed J as he made some important gear decisions and picked out some cool new duds for school.

We came home with a varied list of gear—actually more than we were anticipating. That’s what I love about Sports Authority, though: you can find a great deal for everyone in the family. I personally grabbed a few new Mets shirts that were on clearance and a new hat for the Littles. I got a kick out of J’s proud purchase of Big League Chew! ha!

Full disclosure: I received a gift card to share my shopping experience at Sports Authority. As always, opinions on NKT are my own.

 

 

 

 

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!

Mail from YouTube: Stampy Cat’s WonderQuest Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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!