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

Rule Your Room Kit

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!

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!

Frozen: Easter Eggs and Printables

With the Frozen DVD and Blu-Ray hitting the shelves this week, we’re in a Frozen state of mind to say the least!  In case you didn’t pre-order from Amazon, it looks like the major big box stores—Target, Toys R Us, Walmart—have Frozen on sale for $19.99 this week.  

FROZEN Box Art

And, of course, if you’re the totally digital family who doesn’t even bother with hard copies of anything, you’ve been watching Frozen day and night for several weeks, right?  

So, in honor of Frozen, I thought it would be fun to re-visit some fun stuff found in the movie.  Disney and Pixar is well known for their generous helpings of Easter Eggs throughout their movies.  In case you haven’t already seen these, I thought I’d share the Frozen Easter Eggs as revealed in the Disney Blog!

Did you catch Eugene and Rapunzel at Queen Elsa’s coronation?  They’re over here in the bottom left.  I read some even cooler fan theories over here about Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel’s attendance.  This would make total sense to me!

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And what about the chocolates that Anna is eating?  Supposedly, these chocolates were also featured in Sugar Rush from Wreck It Ralph.

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One of the paintings from “The First Time in Forever” was also spotted on Tangled.

Lisa Swing Painting Part 21Lisa Swing Painting Part 11

 

And, of course, the Mouse makes a very subtle cameo at Oaken’s Trading Post. Do you see him hiding on the first shelf?

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Frozen Printables

 

Beyond the movie itself, we’ve been having a blast playing Frozen-centric games and doing cool activities.  During the push for the initial release of the movie, Disney Studios provided these fun activities and printables.  We had a blast making dancing Olaf at our recent Disney Side Party!  Check out the other activities below!

Be sure to save the below images to your computer to print out yourself!

 

Build an Olaf

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Find Olaf Maze

 

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Elsa and Anna coloring pages

 

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Spot the difference

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To download even more printables and fun games check out the link below:

 Download Frozen Activities

 

Photo credits: Disney Studios

Things We Love: Fun and Colorful Goodies and Gear

Cold, wintry days often mean monochromatic shades of gray for weeks at a time.  We’re currently craving warmth  and color on the dull days, and enjoying these goodies (and gear) that channel some much-needed cheery vibrance.

 

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EO Bubble Buddy

 

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Winter, especially with small children in school, typically equates to germs…lots of them.  There’s been a lot of negative reports about antibacterial products lately, which is why I prefer old fashioned soap and water when it comes to hand washing.  In fact, I’m currently I’m in love with EO’s Bubble Buddy. This kid-sized foaming soap squeezes out and features natural and pure ingredients and is paraben free, polysorbate free, disodium EDTA free and sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate free. With scents like orange, coconut and lavender, Bubble Buddies makes clean up time a little more fun.

 

 

New Balance

 

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A departure from my predictable and conservative gray New Balance sneakers, the Splatter 890v3 make quite the colorful statement for kids.  Neon colors are a resounding throwback design trend and remain a mainstay in kid style. These New Balance sneakers not only boast a brighter presence, but also feature glow in the dark details and splatter design. My boys have this style and have been sporting them when we head to the indoor playspace.  I love how the bright colors contrast against all the snow and gray landscape of winter.  Aside from the bright colors, I always love that the New Balance’s baby and toddler sizes feature a hook and loop closure.The Splatter 890v3, which was unveiled this fall, is available in toddler and youth sizes and are currently on sale.  

 

 

Play-Doh Rainbow Pack

 

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A longtime fan of Play-Doh, I’ve probably mentioned how my love for this classic modeling compound has been renewed with the babe’s ongoing therapies.  Between his occupational and developmental therapy, we get even more use of Play-Doh around here.  So, between the big kid’s creative sessions and the little’s therapy, we seem to always be creating something colorful, which is why I absolutely love Play-Doh’s Rainbow Pack.  With a palette of 33 different colors, the Rainbow Pack is ideal for those open-ended play sessions where a handful of colors just won’t do.  Even better, the singular packs found in the Rainbow Pack make Play-Doh even more portable for those families on the go.  The only caveat I found for this fun spectrum of Play-Doh is the clean up and storage afterward.  I don’t like mixing the colors, so we try to preserve each individual color by wrapping each one in plastic wrap.  There has to be a better way, though.

 

Pantone

 

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Having studied a bit of graphic design and then working closely with magazine production, I appreciate that Pantone remains the color standard.  A Pantone-influenced children’s book is an ingenious idea.  I couldn’t think of a better way to introduce a spectrum of color to young kids, than by the authority itself.  In this Abrams title,  nine basic colors and 20 shades of each are overviewed, giving toddlers and preschooler a bright primer on the beauty of color. The  puzzle element to the book gives it a tactile approach to engaging the kids even further, though unfortunately, we’ve learned by experience that these pieces are easily lost.  Nevertheless, Pantone Colors is our color theory board book of choice.

 

Ruum Headphones Hat

 

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We’re obvious fans of Ruum Kids Wear, but when I say I love them for their unique style, I mean LOVE.  Beyond the cool, yet classic styles, Ruum has some of the best accessories to boot.  Right now, they’ve got crazy sales going on, including their winter gear.  In January and early February, I like to stock up on basics for the next size up, but I positively love this cool headphone hat.  You rarely see purple for boys, so I always love that I can turn to Ruum for boy color schemes beyond baby blue.  Best part of this unique hat, besides the fact that it’s on sale for about $3?  You can wire a pair of buds so that they actually depict the design.  Want some gloves to match? Those are $3 bucks too! Cool!

 

Hunter Kids Boots

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I’m sure I’ve professed my love for Hunter Wellies before, but I’m currently loving these bright yellow boots for kids.  The fire fighter and lady bug rain boots get overplayed, so why not opt for a pair of yellow Hunters that are well worth the investment.  In addition to rainy days, Hunter boots can be paired with warm boot socks and worn in the snowy weather. If you have an older kid and need functional, colorful rain boots, check out Hunters.  These are the kind of staples that are worth the investment and hold up as hand-me-downs.

 

 

 

Kid Made Modern

 

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I’ve been in love with Todd Oldham’s kid craft line Kid Made Modern since its debut at Target a couple of years ago.  From the basic colored pencil sets to the craft kits, Kid Made Modern takes craft sessions to an all new level of cool.  Santa gifted Biggie with the coolest ukelele personalization kit and comic creation kit.  It’s like Kid Made Modern can read our creative minds to combine fun, function and crafting.  I’m currently eyeing the Felt Frenzy kit, which would be a great collaborative craft with the toddler and big kid.  The colorful kid-friendly felt crafts make this kit a perfect snowy day activity.

Best Toddler Toys

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

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

NKTToddlerToys

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

NKT Gift Guide: Best Toys for Boys

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

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

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

1.  Skylander’s Swap Force

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

2. Lego Marvel Superheroes

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

3. Angry Birds Go! Telepods Pig Rock Raceway Set

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

4.  Rainbow Loom

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

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

5.  TenKai Knights

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

6. Kreo Cityville Invasion

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

7. Crayola Crayons and Markers

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

8.  Minions

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

9.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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

10.  Zoomer

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

Trick or Treating with Moose Toys Trash Pack and Glitzi Globes

Halloween has always been one of my most favorite times of year. The crisp, cool air, costumes, monsters—oh, and the treats!

With two younger guys, we love getting all into the Halloween fun. I’ve made the boys’ costumes the past two years, and even threw something together for myself too! We went as a Star Wars-themed group with Biggie as Luke Skywalker as an X-Wing Fighter Pilot, the babe as Wicket the Ewok and me as Leia. We had a blast with it, and I’ll always have the boys’ smiles and laughter from the Halloween festivities etched in my mind. Having missed out on two Halloweens in a row, this year made it that much more special.


And speaking of special, one of the Halloween events we enjoyed this year was our community’s trunk or treat. Trunk or treat was a fun way to connect with our lake friends while watching our costumed kids parade around the parking lot. And once again, we teamed up with Moose Toys to hand out some fabulous non-candy treats. As superfans of Trash Pack and a new adoration for Glitzi Globes, I’m not sure who was more excited about our treats.


In fact, as our box of treats arrived, I immediately posted a Vine of the uber cool Glitzi Globes. I’ve been collecting snowglobes for as long as I can remember, so the concept of being able to create tiny collectible globes almost blew my mind.

It turned out, the Glitzi Globe samples that we handed out at Trunk or Treat were quite the hit. Several friends came by not two or three times, but as many as five! I don’t blame them!

The tiny glittery globes that are put together with a few drops of water transform into cutesy collectibles. Glitzi Globes make a fun activity and if you’re like me, they make for a fun new obsession. Like the big kid I am, I have my eye on the Mega Dome Showcase. I just need a girl of my own to help me out with toys like these! Or, I can just get them for myself, ahem.

Trash Pack are definitely a mainstay as well, so it was equally awesome to hand out sample packs of those too. Both boys and girls had a fun time comparing characters. And best of all, after all the parties and candies and trick or treating the kids did this year to make up for last year, it was great knowing that we handed out non-candy treats that we know and love instead of adding to that sugar rush.

A big thanks to our friends at Moose Toys for helping us spread the fun for a very special Halloween.

Full disclosure:  we were provided with samples, but were not compensated for this post.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Pumpkin Carving with PBS Kids

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

Reading Enrichment with Play-Doh and Star Wars

With school back in session, I wanted to share one of the many activities that we’ve been doing to sharpen and enhance Biggie’s reading skills.


Because of his late September birthday, we redshirted our five year old and thus, I’ve been vigilant about bridging the transition to Kindergarten. I have much to say about redshirting and transitional kindergarten in general, but I’ll save that for another day. Today, it’s all about Play-Doh and Star Wars.

Reading enrichment comes in many forms, but for one rainy afternoon, we paired Play-Doh and Star Wars to engage in a hands-on reading activity that just happened to focus on Biggie’s favorite characters. I let J flip through one of his favorite books right now, which is a DK Readers Level One book called Who Saved the Galaxy? by Catherine Saunders. Since he’s not quite reading fluidly on his own, I love the fact that this book has characters he loves and can decipher words with graphic help. Not to mention, it’s a well known tactic that familiar characters engage beginning readers. In our case, my beginning reader is most interested in things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, space and Star Wars.


For this project, we used Play-Doh’s new Ultimate Rainbow Pack. The wide range of colors makes this activity fun since the novelty of new colors and variety keeps J interested in the task at hand. Once he picked his colors, he used various cutters to cut out letters for characters like Luke Skywalker.


We moved on to other characters and even picked colors that matched the characters color scheme; yellow and brown complemented C 3P0 quite perfectly!

To change it up, we decided to roll letters, which also works on those fine motor skills, and is important for proper writing utensil handling. By rolling the letters, I found that it was a great way to better understand letter formation since he had to manipulate pieces to form the letters.


Our most favorite part of this project was making a model of R2D2. This project was a fun way to work together to create something we both like! To work further on those fine motor skills, I let J cut out the tiny buttons that make up R2D2’s robotic exterior. I helped J to make the formation of R2D2 himself, but allowed him to make the final touches of all the pieces.


By pairing Play-Doh and Star Wars, not only were we able to keep occupied and have fun on a rainy afternoon, but we made Play-Doh educational by twisting it into a reading activity. Play-Doh isn’t the cleanest activity, so I’d suggest using Glad Press and Seal for easy clean up. To make Play-Doh an educational activity on our own, just grab your favorite book, pull words and play away. The more accessories, colors and words, the better!

I’m so sure teachers do activities like this in school, but for us at home, it’s a great way to sharpen reading skills and express creativity by bringing our favorite characters to life via Play-Doh and Vine!

Full disclosure:  we were provided with a sample of Play-Doh, but we used our own creativity for this fun project.  As always, all opinions are my own.

The First Lady and an All Star Lineup will Headline Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day 2013

It’s the end of the summer and one of my favorite events is upon us. The 18th Annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day will take place Saturday, August 24 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. The popular fun festival for both children and adults features games, tennis events and the hottest musical acts. Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is always a fun way to kick off the 2013 US Open, which runs from August 26 – September 9.

This year’s talent line-up includes:
· Ariana Grande, who had the breakout single for Republic  Records, “The Way” featuring Mac Miller
· Fifth Harmony, girl group finalist in the most recent season of X Factor
· Austin Mahone, rising star who is dubbed as the “Next Justin Bieber” and named as the “Ultimate Breakout Star – Biggest Viral Artist” at the Radio Disney Music Awards
· Coco Jones, who was a finalist on Disney Channel’s “Next Big Thing” and whose video, “Holla at the DJ,” has surpassed 2.2 million YouTube views
· Lawson, breakout boy band who racked up 4 top ten hits in their native U.K.
· Cazzette, Swedish DJ duo who is a constant at EDM festivals, making them the only group to have ever play the Ultra Music Festival’s headline stage three times in two years and whose most famous song is “Beam Me Up”
· World No. 1 Novak Djokovic
· Reigning US Open champion Serena Williams
· Greatest tennis player of all-time Roger Federer
· World No. 1 Wheelchair Tennis Champion David Wagner

And as if that lineup wasn’t impressive enough, the First Lady, Michelle Obama will be onhand for the festivities. The First Lady, who has been a champion of leading healthy lifestyles and encouraging kids to Just Move, is expected to emphasize her message at the athletic event that attracts hundreds of thousands of families from near and far.

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day will be televised on Sunday, August 25 from noon -1:30pm. In the meantime, feel free to check out my photos from last year’s event! Our family will be onhand to hopefully catch a glimpse of the above stars and to tweet/Instagram live. Follow along at #AAKidsDay