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


Welcoming the Season with Spring-inspired Crafts

Spring is well underway, and it’s finally starting to get warmer here in NJ. I just noticed my tulips and peonies are starting to emerge. It’s been a long, cold winter, so we’re all excited to see the landscape and outdoor color scheme transition from gray to lush, green and bold.

With that in mind, my boy and I have been crafting every chance we get during Spring Break. When we weren’t out playing or visiting family, we’ve been busy cutting, ModPodging and thinking of spring-inspired crafts. So, I thought I’d share a few that we found and enjoyed, much thanks to Pinterest.

First of all, a few weeks ago I scored a crafter’s delight at our local TJ Maxx. I scooped up a few containers of Mod Podge, a variety of baker’s twine and a cool date stamper—all for under $20. Not bad, considering a large container of Mod Podge can run you close to $10. I’ve had my large container of Mod Podge for 5 years, and I craft with the kid a lot! So, be on the look out at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods for crafting supplies.

Biggie has been inspired by the timely activities they do at school. So, to build on this conversation at home, I let him go to town with construction paper, crayons and scissors. From that, he created these imaginative spring objects. I especially love the bee and tree—they’re crazy-looking, but so fun.

The tree he created, we actually spotted on Pinterest. The craft originally found on

CrazyMommy’s site was intended to be a flower with hand cutouts as the petals. J made it a tree and made his handprints into the leaves. It originally had 4 handprints, but it looks like we lost one along the way. I love the way he decorated the trunk; I had a hand with the heart :)

This morning, we did a spring-colored decoupaged jar this morning, which I’ll share the results later.

And here’s our current work in progress:

As this guy dries, we’re off to enjoy this amazing day at the zoo!

Rollin’ with The TODAY Show and FamilyFun Magazine

Like my morning cup of coffee, I always start my day with The Today Show. Day in, day out, I rely on Matt, Savannah, Natalie and Al to get me going. And then, there’s Kathie Lee and Hoda. While the baby naps, these two hilarious ladies keep me company as I work at home.

Their segments are often lighter and sometimes wine-driven, but every now and then, there’s a topical subject for me, specifically something kid-related. In the past, Biggie has made appearances on the fourth hour to help KLG and Hoda with kid-friendly segments.  Yesterday, in fact, marked J’s third trip to the show to help with another timely FamilyFun Magazine segment.

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FamilyFun’s Deputy Editor Mary Giles shared several Easter activities and games to keep the kids entertained while mom and dad gorge on Honey Baked Ham and wine. Wait…

The activities overviewed on the segment included glitter, feathers, jelly beans and egg rolling with “Chinese sticks,” as J calls them.  I will definitely list which activities were highlighted after the segment airs, but in the meantime, for fun, I thought I’d share J’s outfit that he picked out.

What Did he Wear

If you know me, then you must know I have a sickness that involves buying cool clothes for my boys.  Way too many clothes. The outfit we agreed upon for his Today Show appearance was comprised of some fun pieces that I bought at a few of my favorite stores: a mix of big box, discount and boutique stores.  Here’s J’s best Zoolander montage:

Jack is geeky cool

I knew I wanted him to look playful, yet somewhat dressy since it was for an Easter segment.  I’m so glad we settled on the very Springy yellow button down and accessorized with a striped bowtie to assuage his current accessory obsession.  Can 5-year olds have signature pieces?

1. PD&C yellow button-down

In a sea of black and gray t-shirts found at my local TJ Maxx’s boys’ section, I spotted this super cool Paper Denim and Cloth shirt.  It was hard to miss this soft yellow and textured cotton shirt.  I almost put it back, but I’m so glad I ended up picking this one up.  It’s actually one of my favorite shirts of his right now.  The details on this shirt have an Americana/Cowboy vibe without being too Woody from Toy Story.  The color yellow is a total departure for us.  The shirt included in this Polyvore set obviously isn’t the same one, but I grabbed it as a visual.  I can’t find much information on PD&C, but I did read that this line just recently relaunched.  At $15 at TJ Maxx, you can’t beat this boutique-worthy and very versatile PD&C cotton shirt.

2. Levi’s Slim Fit Jeans

I’m one of those parents who puts my kids in skinny jeans and don’t think twice.  As long as it’s comfortable, durable and looks good on them, I’m all for it.  I found this specific pair of Levi’s at a new favorite boutique in Nolita in the City.  First turned on to Piccolini from my friend Brianne of Stroller in the City, I stumbled upon the store myself while taking my niece around downtown NYC during a recent visit.  There’s so much to love about this great shop, but beyond baby friendly baubles and onesies, Piccolini also sells must-have staples like this find.
The wash on these jeans are quite different than what we usually buy, but I’m definitely digging the brownish-orangish tint.  I have a feeling we’ll get a lot of use out of these jeans this Spring. (p.s. Brianne has a coupon on her blog for Piccolini!)

Today Show: Easter segment

3. The Children’s Place bowtie

When one of the producers told me that style guru and Today Show Style Editor, Bobbie Thomas, loved J’s bowtie, I sort of gushed, not because I dressed him, but because the bowtie is all him.  He looked sort of geeky-cool with his contrasting bowtie, but it definitely suits his quirky style. This Children’s Place bowtie is all of $5 right now.  If you haven’t picked up the kids’ Easter outfits yet, be sure to take advantage of their ongoing sale, including many of their Spring styles.  The gingham tie isn’t the same exact style that Jack picked out, but it’s quite similar.

Jack on the Today Show 3/28

4. Old Skool two-toned Vans

My children have more shoes than I do, and that’s not just because they’re growing out of their shoes almost daily, but also because boys have some super cool shoes (see: shopping problem above.)  We get new Vans almost every Spring, mainly because they’re inexpensive but they’re also practical for street-wear in the Spring and Summer months.  Growing up at the beach, I remember always wearing Vans with shorts, except back then, we did the checkered slip-ons.  But these Old Skools are a perfect complement for the warmer weather that is finally arriving!  I loved the contrast of this bright green and navy style, and would actually love the checkered pair for myself.

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It was another fun day visiting Studio 1A to roll some eggs with KLG and Hoda.  What made it even more special was that J got to bring along his friend, and so they experienced something so fun together.  A special thanks to FamilyFun Magazine and to my friends at 360 for inviting us to “roll” out.

Classroom Fun: Oh, The Places You’ll Go and Oceanhouse Media Dr. Seuss Apps

As Read Across America week winds down, I thought I’d share about my fun afternoon with J’s class today.

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Dr. Seuss reminded us that Life’s a Great Balancing Act (Just never forget to be dexterous and deft).  Which is why I chose to read Oh, The Places You Go! in class today.  In my trajectory as a writer and parent, I want to believe that it was his suggestions and wise words that have pointed me in this direction. (More on this later…)

Even though Oh, The Places You’ll Go! can be verbose for young five year olds, the class very much understood Dr. Seuss’ ideas and emphasis on imagination.
After reading to the class, we continued the conversation about Dr. Seuss with What’s in the Cat’s Hat, a hands-on game game from my friends at Wonder Forge.

This game is a classic guessing game, where the kids can utilize their senses by guessing what’s hidden IN the Cat’s hat.  Each kid took a turn poking and shaking the hat, even reading off prompted questions from the cards.  We heard silly guesses, but once the kids started getting their guesses right based on clues, the momentum of their deductive reasoning started to roll. I can’t say enough good things about Wonder Forge; this fantastic company has won numerous awards for their games and it’s no wonder why. Beyond What’s in the Cat’s Hat, Wonder Forge has various Dr. Seuss puzzles and games, including an app-centric game called Fun Machine.

Dr. Seuss apps from Oceanhouse Media

And speaking of apps, Dr. Seuss has an app—quite a few, actually.  Oceanhouse Media has done a great job with bringing Dr. Seuss titles to iPhones, iPods and iPads.  While I love my technology as much as the next geek, there’s nothing quite like a real book.  Nevertheless, you can’t beat having access to a myriad of Dr. Seuss titles while on the go.  Green Eggs and Ham while in the dentist waiting room? Why not.  Fox in Socks while on a 2-hour road trip? Don’t mind if we do.  The best part of these apps is that they’re interactive where you can record your voice while reading and even share those recordings.  Oceanhouse Media has a number of Dr. Seuss classics in the $3-5 range, as well as a few free apps.

Dr. Seuss Camera

Another app that gets rave reviews from my favorite five year olds: The Dr. Seuss Camera, also from Oceanhouse Media. This app simply utilizes the iphone, ipod touch or ipad camera and frames the subject with several different Dr. Seuss characters and imagery.  Point, shoot, edit and create, this app is endless Dr. Seuss fun and is free.  This app is a great way to continue the Dr. Suess conversation and branch it out to digital media.  In fact, we took pictures of J’s entire class and the kids had a blast picking and choosing which characters they wanted to be.  Sally, by the way, was the class favorite—for boys, too!  Go, Sally!

I loved talking to the kids about my job today.  Since most of the kids aren’t reading quite yet, I didn’t bother telling them about NKT, other than the topics that I focus on.  It was cute getting questions from parents asking me if I work FOR PBS.  No, but I am a proud VIP.

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Pinterest President’s Day Activities

Like many grade-schoolers, my Trans-Kindergartner has off today for Presidents’ Day. Today was one of the few days off that didn’t get taken away because of snow/Sandy make up days. With that said, we plan to do a few activities in honor of our Presidents.

Even though he’s come home telling me stories about our presidents every day for the past few weeks, I have to really wonder if my 5-year-old is actually absorbing the lessons he’s being taught. And because I’m big on enrichment activities at home to continue the conversations started at school, I love referring to PInterest. Like so many others, Pinterest is an invaluable resource for non-teacher parents. So, while many of you are pinning recipes and fabulous crafts, (I do that too), I’m usually pinning grade-appropriate lessons for my kids.

So here are just a few President’s Day activities that I have bookmarked for our day today.

This is a link to a collection of President’s Day activities.  I like that it includes past presidents like Washington and Lincoln, but it also includes an activity featuring our current presidents.  I haven’t seen too many of those, which, to me, makes it worth the $5.00 fee. Source: Teacher’s Notebook

Source: teachersnotebook.com via Jen on Pinterest

This is a fun-looking sight reading book, but this features Washington, making it timely for today’s holiday.  The word, “he” looks like the main word, so it’s perfect for early readers.  This activity book is $.90.  Source:  Teachers Pay Teachers via Maria Manore.

Source: teacherspayteachers.com via Jen on Pinterest

This will be the main activity for us while the baby naps later today.  Biggie is all about these mini books because he gets to color, cut and construct.  Best part? It’s free, well other than the ink and supplies.  Thank you, Ready, Set Read for this wonderful, free resource!

Are we following each other on Pinterest? Find me at jenrab on Pinterest!

Dinosaur Train Submarine Adventure Debuts on PBS

Buddy and the Dinosaur Train gang are heading out on yet another educational adventure. This time, the dinosaurs will head out to sea on a new vessel, the Dinosaur Train Submarine, where they’ll learn about sea creatures from the Dinosaur Age. In their travels, the dinosaurs will see things they’ve never seen such as, Otto Ophthalmosaurus to Archelon turtles.

On February 18, PBS Kids will showcase The Jim Henson Company’s Dinosaur Train Submarine Adventure, which is an hour-long feature. To coincide with the hour-long adventure, Dinosaur Train will also feature new content online and on mobile devices. The special will also be available on DVD starting February 19 for $9.99.

As water lovers, we loved learning about the amazing sea creatures from the Dinosaur Age. Being under the sea with the Dinosaur Gang was a fun change of pace and, not surprisingly, educational and eye-opening. Since it’s debuting today on PBS, if you’re home with the kids for President’s Day, make sure you tune in for this fun feature.  Thank you to our friends at PBS Kids for sending along a screener and coloring pages!

Full disclosure:  As a PBS Kids VIP, it’s an honor to share news about the various PBS Kids properties.  I am not compensated as a VIP, and as always, opinions on NKT are my own.

Aquadoodle Draw ‘n Doodle is Educational, Mess-Free Fun

Like most preschool-aged kids, my guy has been practicing his letters and numbers.  There’s so many great toys and tools that promote reading and writing-readiness, and Aquadoodle‘s mess-free mat is one that’s become a mainstay in our lesson enrichment stash.

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This toy has been around for a few years, but it just recently found its way into our inbox.  There’s so many reasons to like this educational toy, but I especially  like the fact that it promotes kid-powered creativity and brain power. With just water and the included pen and mat, the Aquadoodle Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat is both fun and educational, while remaining virtually mess-free. The kid loves the pen; it’s ergonomic shape for littler hands and cool water “ink” were quite the novelty for my 4 year old.  He loved seeing the different colors appear within the various sections of the mat.

Not too many complaints with Aquadoodle, although, I will warn that the pen will leak water if you don’t twist it tightly.  The water filling, too, can become a preschooler “I can do it myself” nightmare, as I’ve learned.  No really, kid, you don’t need a refill after writing one letter!

Here’s a little video where I try to get the kid to draw an “A” on the Aquadoodle.  Ten requests later, he finally complied. Sheesh!

In the $20 range, the pricepoint of the Aquadoodle classic Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat is very reasonable and a great pick for toddler and preschooler birthday presents.  In addition to the Aquadoodle Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat, Aquadoodle has several products in their line, such as the Travel Doodle, Plush Doodle Pet and the Doodle Wall Mat.

You can find Aquadoodle products as retailers such as Target, Toys R Us and Amazon.

Full disclosure:  I was provided with product samples for purposes of this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Kleenex Field Trips and the American Museum of Natural History

Having NYC in our backyard is a treat, and one that we try to enjoy as often as we can.  The city, and all of its robust offerings, never fails to entertain, but even better: it also educates.

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Aptly enough, last week, I was invited by my friends at The Motherhood to take part in a field trip to one of our favorite NYC institutions, the American Museum of Natural History.  Having explored the incredible exhibits on our own many times before, this field trip, sponsored by Kleenex, provided a unique behind the scenes experience for some of my blogging friends and our kids.

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Our group gathered at the AMNH to not only check out some of the latest exhibits, but also to learn about Kleenex’s current promotion that underscores the importance of field trips.  Field trips provide kids of all ages an opportunity to engage and absorb new educational experiences firsthand; it gives learning a totally different dimension, which is something that all kids should be able to enjoy.  And judging by the many mouths left agape in amazement throughout our visit, I can testify that our kids, especially my inquisitive preschooler, totally enjoyed themselves at AMNH!

Amazed!

Our first stop of the day was at one of AMNH’s newest exhibits, Frogs: A Chorus of Colors.  My guy practically screamed with excitement at every single case.  He just couldn’t believe all the (live!) frogs and toads in different shapes and sizes.  And since we were visiting right before the museum officially opened, we were told that the frogs’ behavior would be especially interesting.  The highlight of the frog exhibit, besides the video kiosk that showed each different frog’s favorite foods, was witnessing some frogs actually being fed.  Pretty cool!

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Our next stop was the World’s Largest Dinosaurs exhibit, and yet, another exhibit that didn’t disappoint, especially the dinosaur aficionados in our group! The kid had a blast playing with the mechanism that reenact the motions of how a brontosaurus ate.  But it was the fossil pit that was, perhaps, the biggest hit of all.  With “gwobbles,” tools and bones to dig out, we could have been there all.day.long.

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My niece will be visiting next week, so we’re hoping to take another trip to the American Museum of Natural History to discover even more!

Check it

Want to learn more about Kleenex’ Save the Fieldtrip Promotion?  Head to Kleenex’s Facebook page where you can enter to win $5000 toward your school’s own field trip.  In this day and age of cutbacks, I’m sure many teachers, parents and students could benefit from this awesome promo!
And since you’re already on the interwebs, check out their fancy on-the-go packs.  I am in love with the Wallet Packs.  Who knew tissues could be all stylish!

Full disclosure:  I am being compensated for my participation in this campaign.  The field trip was sponsored by Kleenex.  As always, opinions are my own.

Stocking up on Staycation Goodies and Gear with Diapers.com

As everyone is anticipating the upcoming holiday weekend, I’m finally getting back into the groove of things after last week’s travel and then a bout with sickness.  I hope you guys have fun weekends planned.

At our house, summer is definitely in full swing, and we’ve got the bug bites and sunkissed faces to prove it.  It’s our first summer in the suburbs, and by the smiles the kid gives us, I think we made the right choice in neighborhood.

Our new neighborhood, though just 30 miles from NYC, is in a wooded area that surrounds a lake.  Families swarm to the lake for daily swimming and evening outings; it might not be the chaos of the city that I love so much, but this corner of the world is truly more than I could have ever envisioned for our family.

A patch of grass to call our own

Having spent the past few summers at public parks, running through water sprinklers to cool off, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to have our a patch of grass to call our own.  As much as I miss city living, one thing I don’t miss is the lack of space.  Once upon a time, we’d have to question ownership of one or two ride-on toys and where we’d put them, and now, we sort of have a fleet of them, next to the baseball bats, footballs, water balloons, water guns, floats…

Boredom is not an option

Outdoor play is a big part of our day-to-day routine, and making sure we have the goodies and gear onhand is crucial.  Boredom is not an option.  Because of our former space restraints, we didn’t have too many big outdoor toys to begin with and besides our usual brick and mortar shopping locales, I love knowing that my go-to online shop for all things baby/kid, Diapers.com, sells toys and other outdoor play paraphernalia.

Diapers.com fangirl

I’m a long-time fan of Diapers.com and their sister site, Soap.com.  In fact, I went to the launch event for Soap.com and regularly sing their praises on Twitter.  When I was asked to participate in this BabyCenter Blog Network campaign, I giddily obliged knowing that I’d get to write about Diapers.com, yet another service that I already love.  And because the suggested topic idea had to do with a staycation, I actually waited to write about this campaign so it would coincide with our actual staycation, which begins this weekend.

On this recent shopping trip on Diapers.com, I made a point to stock up on even more outdoor toys and gear for the boy to enjoy over the holiday weekend.

The staycation  goodies and the gear

So, for this staycation,  I spent right around $100 and I made sure to stock up goodies and gear that would get good use on our staycation.  For starters, we have enough sunblock in our arsenal, but we’re low on bug ointment that actually works and is safe for the kid.  Badger Balm, which gets great reviews on Diaper.com, was first on my list.  Can’t play outside if the bugs have their way with you!  And as for the good stuff, of course I ordered toys..lots of outdoor toys!  I ordered a kiddie pool for the back yard, a float for the lake and various other toys to play with in the yard or when we go to the beach.  So, here’s the main goodies I ended up buying:

I’m so impressed by how many great toy brands there are on Diapers.com, including brands that I’ve only seen at specialty boutiques.  I especially LOVE Spielstabil‘s beach and outdoor toys.  Spielstabil is a beloved German toy company that’s also under the Haba umbrella.  Their products, which are extremely durable, are bpa, pthalate and pvc-free.  I just love that Diapers.com puts a lot of thought into the products they sell. (Trust me, I’ve seen the buying team in action at Toy Fair.)  I ordered the sand and water mill from Spielstabil and can’t wait to see it in action!

Amidst the hundreds and hundreds of choices of toys, gear and baby and kid products, I finally made my purchase and the first shipment should be arriving tomorrow.  The main caveats of this shopping trip were my indecision and that the order is coming in three separate shipments, with one of them not coming until next week.  Nevertheless, I  can’t wait to share more AND to reveal a pretty fun giveaway to boot!  Stay tuned.

Full disclosure:  This post is sponsored by BabyCenter in conjunction with the BabyCenter Blog Network.

Lego Encourages Kids to Rock Out with Duplo Jams

LEGO aptly describes their construction play sets as catalysts for ideas, and I couldn’t agree more. Like many of you, we’ve sat for hours playing LEGOs, building architectural masterpieces, crazy vehicles and pretend food, among other whatchamacalits… The possibilities are endless, but one thing’s for sure: creative play and LEGO go hand in hand.

At Toy Fair, LEGO once again invited bloggers to their booth for an after-hours party where we had the chance to check out all of the upcoming sets and more. Aside from their beloved bricks, LEGO gave us a peek at their latest foray into the creative play space: Duplo Jams.

LEGO launched Duplo Jams as a new dimension to encourage and inspire creative play for toddlers and preschoolers. The three songs that are currently available are all written and performed by a preschool dad that everyone listen to for free. Duplo Jams has a dedicated iTunes channel and Facebook Page where the free songs can be accessed and are also hubs for future anticipated releases. To encourage further creativity, LEGO says they plan to release a new song every month.

We found the British Pop inspired-songs, “Sort Out the Blues,” “Build with Letters,” and “Stick Together,” to be catchy and cool, and a funky musical backdrop while we play in the playroom. As more parents are realizing the importance of limiting screentime, musical outlets such as Duplo Jams are a fun way to shift the kids’ eyeballs to hands-on play and complement with good kid tunes, where copious sing-a-longs and dance parities are expected.

Many families already engage their kids in kiddie music classes, so I think Duplo Jams is such a great way to reinforce many kids’ natural love of music. We’re a musical family, so we can usually be found jamming out one way or another, and it goes without saying, Duplo Jams is perfect complement to our eclectic playlist.

Be sure to check out Duplo Jams’ latest releases on their iTunes channel—for free!

New Duplo Sets

And speaking of Duplo, have you seen the latest playsets? Here are just a few:

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