Healthier School Lunches Should be a Priority

The subject of school lunches remains a hot topic in the headlines, and of course, it’s a timely topic for Wellness Wednesday.

In fact, yesterday, a report released by the Institute of Medicine suggested that school-provided lunches and breakfasts need to be improved and updated. I read a number of reports on the topic, but The Checkup on summed things up nicely.


The IOM, an independent organization (one of the four National Academies) that advise the federal government on health and nutrition matters, issued a report today outlining its recommendations for improving standards for the national school nutrition program, in which virtually every public school and the vast majority of private schools take part. The report comes a few weeks after the Child Nutrition Act expired on September 30; Congress is due to reauthorize it this session.

The new rules would, for the first time, establish an upper limit for calories (650 per lunch for kids in grades K-5, 700 for kids in grades 6-8 and 850 for those in grades 9-12).

Students should be served more fruit, only half of it in juice form; more leafy and orange vegetables but fewer potatoes; only 2 ounces of meat at lunch and 1 ounce in school-provided breakfast; more whole grains, and 1 percent or skim milk instead of whole or 2 percent.

The school lunch program’s current nutrition standards are based on the 1995 Dietary Guidelines for America — which were revised in 2005 and are again under revision, with a new set due next year. The similarly outdated 1989 Recommended Dietary Guidelines have since been supplanted by the IOM’s Dietary Reference Intakes.

Read More

Where the Wild Things Are Opens Today

Well, it’s here! It’s opening day for Where the Wild Things Are! The classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak, which was adapted for film by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers features Max whose imagination leads him to wild places. Reviews so far have been positive, and I can’t wait to see for myself. I highly doubt my little guy will sit through the entirety of this movie, even though some reviews are saying it’s for “all ages.” Either way, I’m crossing my fingers that we get to check it out soon! Does anyone else plan on seeing this?
Read More

Let’s Get Wild!

41nUsRyPaJL._SS500_As I’m sure you’ve seen, I’m pretty wild about the Where the Wild Things Are book and movie! As a kid and now adult with a wild imagination, I hold the premise of this beloved classic so close to my heart.

For years, there have been tons of shirts and paraphernalia paying homage to Max and his wild buddies, though I’ve had a hard time finding unique kiddie shirts. I did, however, find a cute shirt that would be great for tween girls. With its pink lettering that reference the book and movie spelling out, “Let’s Get Wild,” it’s still girly and innocent, but I particularly love the beasts running amok among the letters.

This t-shirt is by Junk Food, one of my faves for the kid, so I expect it would have that vintage-y look and feel, meaning that it’s thin and comfy. It comes in sizes S-XL for juniors and retails right around $20 on Amazon.

Where the Wild Things Are Video Game

There’s been so much hype for the opening day of one of my most awaited movies, and rightly so!  The movie, Where the Wild Things Are, which is set to release this Friday, is directed by Spike Jones and adapted by Dave Eggers–two of my favorite creative minds. I planned on talking more about this exciting movie later in the week, but in the meantime, I thought I’d mention that the video game is already out.

wildthingsvideogameIn The Where the Wild Things Are video game, players take on Max’s perspective and explore the island, dangerous terrain and battle fierce, er, lovable creatures. The video game follows the same premise as the beloved book, but with a modern twist. The graphics are mysterious, exciting and absolutely incredible. Based on the trailer below, this game looks like something big kids and parents will enjoy.

This video game is rated E10+ and is available for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS.

Playmobil Egyptian Playset–Pyramid

For those with history buffs or Indiana Jones wanna-be’s, Playmobil has a really cool line of toys inspired by Ancient Eygpt. At the Holiday Showcase, I had the chance to check out Playmobil’s Pyramid, part of the Egyptian line of playsets.
Playmobil Pyramid
Playmobil PyramidPlaymobil Pyramid

The pyramid features trap doors, revolving secret chambers, hidden vaults, secret passageways, just to name a few. With its removable pyramid walls, kids can hunt for the secret treasure chamber and explore the pyramid’s many features. Playmobil’s Pyramid is unique and interesting, especially for those who love adventures and history-influenced toys. The pyramid set includes four figures, tomb and many more accessories. Like many of Playmobil’s playsets, there are other play sets and add ons in the Eygpt line, including: Royal Ship of Egypt, Egyptian Chariot, Pharaoh’s Temple, Tomb with Treasures and Sphinx with Mummy.

These toy sets are suggested for 3 and up, but because of all the smaller pieces, I think it’s best suited for the 5-8 age range. Like any well made play set, the Pyramid is in a higher pricepoint. Having checked it out in person and making notes to myself about how impressed I was about this award-winning playset, I’d say it’s worth the $100 range for a set that detailed and intricate. The add ons and smaller sets run from 7.99 and up.

Time to Play’s Must-Have Holiday Toys

At last week’s Time to Play Holiday Showcase, I had the chance to check out, firsthand, the hottest toys of the upcoming holiday season. With all of their insightful predictions and the large range of toy companies represented at the event, it”s really no wonder that Jim Silver, editor in chief, and Chris Byrne, content director aka The Toy Guy are recognized as experts in the industry.

With all the toys that were showcased, I can only imagine how daunting it was for to choose their top 16 must have toys. Having had the chance to check out almost every single toy on the list in person, I can see just why they all made the cut.

And without further ado, here are the first few of Time to Play’s picks for the must have toys for the 2009 holiday season. I’ll break down the list to add my commentary.

1. Barbie Fashionistas
Fashionista Barbie
Barbie’s been a girly favorite for generations, but this new line boasts six distinct fashion personalities, as well as the ability to strike a pose, thanks to its 12 points of articulation.  I personally love the Artsy and Sassy Fashionistas! With their adorable accessories, including trendy outfits and with hot boots or shoes to coordinate, I think Barbie Fashionistas is the most stylish Barbies to date.  Starting at only $11.99, Barbies Fashionistas are just as affordable as they are stylish.

2. Crayola Crayon Town from Wild Planet

Crayon Town
Crayon Town adds a whole new dimension to crayons–quite literally! With Crayon Town, kids can create an entire town, complete with 3D structures to color and build, including a horse ranch, neighborhood, airport, construction site and zoo. Each set includes Crayola crayons, coloring sheets, pop-up buildings and accessories. I love that Crayon Town adds even more imagination and creativity to a crayons, a product that is well known as the arts and crafts standard. The only caveat I see for this toy is the amount of pieces and probability to lose stuff. Other than that, with all the activities included in Crayon Town, this set is bound to be a hit. Starter sets start at $9.99 and deluxe sets are $19.99.

3. Rocky the Robot Trucks from Matchbox

Rocky the Robot Truck is, just as he’s named, a robotic truck. I thought this guy was one of THE coolest toys included on Time to Play’s list, but that also has a lot to do with my truck-loving tot. Rocky the Robot Truck from Matchbox is a dump truck that has a personality of its own. It can stand up, squat, shake, tells jokes and even dance with the help of interactive sensors. Rocky says over 80 quips and hilariously enough, Rocky even urges kids to “shake what your mama gave you!”

Rocky the Robot Truck
You can only do so much to cars, trucks and toys for boys, so I appreciate the fun and technological twist to Rocky the Robot truck. I have a feeling that in a month of so, Rocky will be one of those hard to find holiday toys! Rocky retails for $59.99, but I saw a link for $49.92 on QVC.

Battle Strikers are a force to reckon with

One exciting toy that’s worth buzzing about is Battle Strikers by Mega Brands. This new toy, which was released earlier this year, is already being called a “breakout toy” by Chris Byrne, AKA The Toy Guy.


So, what is it? An updated and exciting version of the classic spinning top, Battle Strikers takes it to the next level with battery-operated launchers, unique and superfast Strikers and a tournament arena. After being launched, the lightning-fast Battle Strikers can be navigated by magnetic finger Controllers, adding even more excitement to the playing field. Battle Strikers is a simple concept that Mega Brands has revved up to offer a kid-controlled battle system


Mega Brands gave us the chance to test out the Tournament Set, so I enlisted the help of my 12-year old nephew who is no stranger to battle systems.  The Tournament Set, which retails for $35, comes with two Launchers, two Controllers, two Strikers and a battle arena.  Starter kits and single Strikers are also available.

Upon first impression, as a mom to a little guy, I balked at all the small pieces that Battle Strikers included. (The suggested age range is for 6 years and up) But once the actual Strikers were constructed, it all made so much more sense to me.  The Launchers, Controllers and Strikers are all boldly colored and appear to be durable enough to withstand countless battles. The arena is a basic plastic square with walls that allow for enough room for the Strikers to battle, but still be controlled. There are a few great YouTube videos that showcase Battle Strikers in motion, but I love how candid this one is:

launcherAs I mentioned, the premise of Battle Strikers is simple, with new technology and engineering for a new generation. There are 12 different Strikers, which all have their own character and strengths, differing in attack, defense and control.  Kids can collect and interchange the different Striker pieces to customize and enhance their battles.  The Strikers easily click into the bottom of the Turbo Launchers. The Launcher, which channels a joystick of sorts, accelerates the Strikers by pushing a trigger on the handle.   The Launcher releases the Strikers by bumping the opponent’s Launcher or tapping the top of your own. Once things are in motion, it’s pretty empowering to be able to navigate and strategize with the magnetic Finger Controller.  (Don’t get let the Controller get too close to the Striker because the magnet will pick it up. I know this one firsthand!) The object is to keep your Striker in motion, and the last Striker standing wins.


One thing my nephew kept mentioning is that Battle Strikers reminded him of Beyblades, another battling top sort of toy. From the research I did, it seems like Beyblades has a very loyal following, many of whom seem to have mixed opinions of the new Battle Strikers. I remember buying my nephew a few Beyblades toys when he was into them, but from what I can tell now, they seemed to have fizzled since I haven’t heard much about them. With its powerful launchers and 12 different customizable Strikers and Finger Controllers, Battle Strikers will likely have its own loyal following!

Battle Strikers is a fun new game that involves imagination, competition, strategy and speed, and one that I think older boys will love. Battle Strikers is likely to land on a lot of Christmas gift lists this year, and don’t be surprised if you hear even more buzz on these soon!


Be sure to check out Battle Striker’s website to get a taste of the action with all their fun interactive features! Battle Strikers can also be found on YouTube and Facebook.

Portable and Huggable: Mobi TykeLight GloMate

Because of the husband’s job, sometimes we get to try out new products or test out samples that we wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. The TykeLight GloMate from Mobi is the latest cool gadget that we had the chance to try out, coincidentally on our most recent roadtrip.


The TykeLight GloMate is a new take on the old school nightlights. This nightlight is rechargeable, portable and even huggable. On our 350 mile roadtrip back to our hometown, a trip that we take way too often, we try to find ways to entertain the toddler when he isn’t sleeping in the backseat. Since we haven’t succumbed to the car dvd player, toys and music are our savior. This time, right at sunset, we broke out the TykeLight GloMate and the little guy didn’t let go until we made our destination, hours after he’d fallen asleep.  The soft, colorful glow was so comforting and never overpowering—a perfect complement to our bedtime routine.
We have various other nightlights and sound machines that we’ve used since the baby days, but the TykeLight GloMate is the first that we can bring on roadtrips or snuggle with. As we speak, the kid is pretending it’s his own little baby and shushing it to “sleep.”

Bedtime can get rough, but having consistency at bedtime is key. The TykeLight GloMate is the perfect size for toddlers to tote to bed or on the go, yet ideal for bigger kids to use in their bedroom, too. The TykeLight GloMate glows blue, green, red, violet or cycle through the rainbow of colors. It can glow for 10 whopping hours per charge and features a 15-minute dimmer when the kid falls asleep.

Because of its functionality and portability, the TykeLight Glomate is one of my favorite kid gadgets to date. At just $20, I foresee the TykeLight GloMate becoming one of my go-to gifts for my new mom friends.

Bento Boxing it

With the kids back in school and the ongoing concern for childhood obesity, healthy eating habits, naturally, is a hot topic for many parents.  One trend for packing lunches that’s flourishing in not only kids, but also adults, is the Bento Box.  Japanese-style bento boxes have nesting compartments which is perfect for fresh fruits, veggies, pasta, last night’s leftovers—you name it.  The compartments also serve as a built-in portion control system!  Genius.  As the popularity of Bento Boxes grows, as do the different varieties.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

The Goodbyn

The Goodbyn is an awesome Bento Box that Brandy, a friend and NKT reader, first told me about a few months ago.  And after hearing about it, it’s no surprise that I read about it in various places—it’s just that cool. 

Snapshot 2009-09-24 10-46-23Snapshot 2009-09-24 10-46-55

This Bento Box, designed by a mom, has six compartments, a lid and an 8.5 oz. drink cup.  The animal-ish shaped boxes come in kid-friendly colors and even come with stickers that kids can use to personalize.  The beauty of Bento Boxes is because of its compartments or nesting containers, it eliminates the usage of plastic baggies, and in this case, juice boxes.  The Goodbyn, an eco-friendly and pretty sweet alternative to traditional lunchboxes, not only promotes healthier eating by controlling portions, but it’s also safer since it’s said to be  Phthalate and BPA-free.  It’s no wonder The Goodbyn is creating all that well-deserved buzz.

Zojirushi Mini Bento Box
I recently had the chance to check out the Zojirushi Mini Bento Box and I love it; it’s so cute and functional!  This is one company that gets it right.

41IGc1oW65L._SS500_We received an amazing Zojirushi electric skillet as a wedding/shower gift, and we love it.  And so when I received this one at an event, I knew it would be just as great.  The Mini Bento Box comes with 3 containers:  2 smaller plastic containers and 1 larger container with a twist off lid.  The smaller containers would be ideal to hold leftovers, fruit, veggies and the like.  The larger container looks like it’s meant to hold rice; I love that it also has a removable outer metal cup to keep it warm.  The fabric bag is cute and very portable; it certainly wouldn’t take up much space in a bookbag.  This set comes with a chopsticks and handy matching case, too.  Like many Americans, I have no discipline when it comes to portion control, and so I will say that this mini bento box lives up to the “mini” part.  It would be ideal for kids, especially since you can tuck things into the pockets in the fabric bag.  For mamas who make their own baby food, this mini bento box would be perfect to store those cubes in!  This Bento Box can be found at Amazon.

Bento Set in Black Sushiil_fullxfull.83560673

This Etsy find from Spacestitch was too cute not to mention.  It encompasses elements of both of the above Bento Boxes, all rolled up into one.

I love the sushi print combined with the black contrasting fabric and pink ribbon, which gives it a modern and whimsical look.  This set comes with a two-tiered plastic bento box, utensils, napkin, drawstring bag and elastic bands.  This set looks like it would carry a lot more, making it perfect for moms and older kids.  This Bento Box cannot be microwaved or put in the dishwasher, but its convenience and cute factor make up for that!

If you already do Bento Boxes, what are some of your meal ideas?  I love how creative people get with lunches, so let’s hear ’em!  For some great ideas check out: The Goodbyn blog; Hippomum’s photos; and  Kideats Flickr Pool

Seriously, these people inspire me to get more creative and diverse with the kid’s meals.  Hey, if it gets kids of all ages interested in eating/trying healthy foods, I’m all for it!

Sweet Treat: Hershey’s Yum Drives

In the olden days, our school supply list included No. 2 pencils, loose leaf paper, folders and maybe a few pens.  Nowadays, with computers playing such a integral role in our lives—especially our students’ lives—flash drives have become so imperative.  From saving papers, images and important homework assignments, transporting documents from one computer to another is at their fingertips—and USB drives.  And because flash drives have become so popular, they now come in colors, designs and flavors as unique as the personalities that own them.

For those with a sweet tooth, Jazwares introduced a fun new line of Hershey’s Miniatures and sweet assortment-inspired USB drives.  These USB drives are truly sweet and come in 1, 2 and 4 GB in the regular Hershey’s, Krackel, Mr. Goodbar, Twizzlers and Bubble Yum varieties.

Jazwares Hershey's USB

This isn’t just for students, I found that this flash drive was fun and compact, yet its chunky size was easy to find in my computer bag that’s already littered with a collection of the stick-style flashdrives.  The USB attachment easily slides in and out of the candy bar, adding to its ease of use and making it a perfect addition to any student’s school supplies arsenal.  These USB drives retail in between $14.99 and $29.99, depending on memory size.  The Hershey’s Yum Drives can be found at retailers like Best Buy.


I’ve got a 2 GB Hershey’s USB Yum Drive up for grabs.  Comment to let me know any (or all) of the other flavors that are offered.  Share about this giveaway for extra entries.  This giveaway ends on 10/6.  Enjoy!