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Give Your Kids Great Hair for Photos

Monday, December 15th, 2014

*guest written by Cozy Friedman, founder of the new SoCozy Professional Hair Care Collection for Children and Cozy’s Cuts for Kids. The New York City salons are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. 

These hairstyling do’s and don’ts to give your little one the best shot at the cutest school photo ever, and are equally good for holiday photos.

DO shampoo your kid’s hair the night before and use a leave-in conditioner (like the SoCozy Cinch Detangler + Leave-In Conditioner) to enhance curls, smooth hair, and add body and shine. If hair is dry, flat, or full of static in the morning, spray it with a bit of water and a little more leave-in conditioner.

DON’T get a haircut the day before picture day. Ideally, schedule your appointment one to two weeks before. Hair will look more natural and any uneven areas can be corrected in time.

DO try to capture your kid’s everyday look, so that when you look back in thirty years, it’s a true representation. Nothing too fancy!

DON’T forget that school-picture day is a regular school day and not a private studio session. Keep your kid’s hairstyle simple and you’re more likely to end up with a photo everybody likes. For girls, that means no bows or hair clips.

DO use a light styling cream, such as the SoCozy Behave Styling Cream, or alcohol-free styling gel in the morning to hold a neat, smooth style that doesn’t look stiff or slick. But keep in mind the rule for styling products is the same for school glue: A little dab will do ya!

Are you a little too compulsive with your own photo-taking? Watch this video before the holidays!

Must-Knows On Tech and Child Development: Take Fewer Photos!
Must-Knows On Tech and Child Development: Take Fewer Photos!
Must-Knows On Tech and Child Development: Take Fewer Photos!

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Learning Apps Get the Disney Treatment

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Disney knows you’re searching the App Store for educational games for your kids, and trying to tell the good-quality from the waste-of-time is rough to say the least. (We know, we looked at a ton for our 70 Best Apps for Families.) Today Disney unveiled ambitious plans to pair their stories and animation with strong learning content; the first of some 30 Imagicademy apps will launch on December 11.

The search for “joyful learning that kids don’t run away from,” as Andrew Sugarman, executive vice president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, puts it, is universal these days. This generation is screen-savvy and ready to learn as long as we capture and keep their attention. To that end, the math app, the first one out, features games like “put the sleepwalking alien to bed” that cleverly build in number order along the way. Another activity in the app has a baby robot building a sandcastle, working in number sense by first asking the child to draw a numeral on the touchscreen, then having that number of balls of sand appear, then counting them out and assembling a castle with that number of spires. (A mischievous child can then gleefully destroy the sandcastle. It’s all part of staying engaged!)

This first Imagicademy math app will hit the sweet spot of ages 3 to 5, children in Pre-K and Kindergarten. A creative arts app will roll out in January, followed by a Frozen-themed science app in March and reading with Doc McStuffins in April or May. By 2016, Imagicademy apps will stretch from ages 3 to 8.

One final note: Parents will be able to download our own app, and receive push notifications about what a child is doing in the Imagicademy world. You can then send your child a virtual high-five or at least be able to give them concrete feedback, such as “I like that rocketship you built,” rather than having to always ask, “What are you doing on there?”

 

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

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Parents Goody Giveaway: Enter for the Chance to Win a Fisher-Price Power Wheels F150

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

What do you get the kid who has everything? How about his own car?! The 2014 Power Wheels are out for the holiday season, promising to make your kid the coolest on the block with a roomy truck bed, working tailgate, speeds of up to 5 MPH, the ability to reverse, and in some models, a working radio and lights!

And for laughs, you need to see their new commercial, just click on this picture: 

ONE (1) lucky winner will receive one (1) Fisher-Price Power Wheels F150, worth approximately $360 and appropriate for children ages 3 or older. (If you don’t win but still want one of these, start your shopping here!) To enter, leave a comment below, up to one a day between now and the end of the day on November 24, 2014. Be sure to check back on November 25th and scroll to the bottom of the post to see who won. We reach out to winners via Facebook message (it goes into your “other” message folder on Facebook), so if you win, look for us there as well.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Open to legal residents of the 48 contigual United States and D.C., 21 years and older. Begins: 4PM EST on November 18, 2014. Ends: 11:59PM on November 24, 2014. Subject to Official Rules at http://www.parents.com/blogs/goodyblog/official-rules-for-enter-for-the-chance-to-win-fisher-price-power-wheels-f-150/. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Meredith Corporation.

For more check out our official rules. Goody luck!

Best Toys That Get Kids Moving
Best Toys That Get Kids Moving
Best Toys That Get Kids Moving

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Meals I Make for My Kids Are Not Instagram-Worthy. They Eat Them Anyway.

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

I feed my kids well, and they are healthy, and for that I should get a freakin’ medal. But instead what I get is a Buzzfeed article called “This Woman Makes Staggeringly Pretty Meals for Her Children” showing a mom in Asia who creates works of art for her kids to eat, but first uploads photos of them to Instagram. Culinary masterpieces that, frankly, I doubt her kids even appreciate. They probably beg for a bowl of Froot Loops, but instead have to eat a rice Hello Kitty under a sunny-side-up egg sky.

Do you know what our family dinner looked like last night? It’s this bowl of mush right here: I can show you because I am eating the leftovers. Want to know how I made it? First I had to navigate Trader Joe’s on a Sunday morning, which, in my Brooklyn neighborhood, resembles Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I bought pork, broccoli slaw, and pineapple spears, and only had to wait in line about a half-hour. At 7 a.m. Monday morning I laid the slaw, the spears, and the pork in my slow-cooker, covered it all in Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sweet Korean BBQ sauce (I stockpile slow-cooker cheats in my pantry like liquid gold), and turned the dial to “low.” After getting my kids to school, commuting, working an 8-hour day, traveling an hour to retrieve my son at his band class, and then getting my daughter from her piano lesson, TA-DA! I added the finishing touch. I stirred in leftover Chinese fried rice from our Sunday-night takeout. I stress that I made this entire recipe up in my own head. We ate it, and my kids loved it, so there Hello-Kitty lady.

It took 12 hours from the time I started it to the time I served it, so if she wants to try and say she puts in more effort, I say heck no. It fed me and my kids and is feeding me again, and I’m guessing her fancypants plate only covers one of her four children. I win again. Okay, I am not going to address the sodium content in my dish, nor the calories. It had both fruit and vegetable! I am not to be made to feel guilty because I don’t carve up food to look like boats, or Pokemon, or mermaids.

That said, if she would come make this cream-cheese Olaf for me, I would be totally into it. 

Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

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Parents Goody Giveaway: Enter to Win a John Deere Wagon Full of Toys

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Harvest season intersects with toy season, and if Santa is feeling a little pressured all around, this week’s giveaway of a wagon full of John Deere toys can help! 

The John Deere Steel Stake Wagon (worth approximately $200) is one we have here in our offices; it’s our secret weapon for moving props around our hallways. You’ll love pulling your kid around in it, or watching him use it himself…ideally to help you get leaves to the curb.

The winner of this giveaway will also receive the following toys: Gear Force Harvest Action Combine ($60), Monster Treads RC Gator ($50), Monster Treads Shake & Sounds Farm Armor ($35), Monster Treads Raging Bull Roundup ($30) and Kernel Shucks ($16). Most of the toys are for ages 3 years+; the wagon is for ages 2 years+, Kernal Shucks is for 18 months+, and the remote-control gater is for ages 6 years+.

The approximate retail value of the total prize is $391. That’s a nice start, Santa! For your chance to win, you can leave a comment below, up to once a day every day between now and 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 17th. We’ll post the winner at the bottom of the thread, and please check your “other” message folder on Facebook to claim your prize. For more details, check in to our official rules. Goody luck!

We Pick the Best Toys of 2014
We Pick the Best Toys of 2014
We Pick the Best Toys of 2014

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Safe and Warm on Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Halloween is shaping up to be a chilly one in much of the country! Here are some tips for keeping your costumed kids warm and safe as they go trick-or-treating.
Layer them up. The year’s most popular costumes, Elsa and Anna of Frozen, lend themselves to this. The girls are from Norway, after all! Put some leggings under a dress and add gloves. If your daughter balks at wearing her regular winter mittens, stores like Party City have Frozen gloves that work perfectly.
   Boys can benefit from long underwear (or, in a pinch, long pajamas) under their costumes. Ninjas are a popular boy outfit this year and have the added bonus of a warm headwrap; you might be able to convince him, too, that real ninjas wear gloves (to avoid leaving fingerprints!).
Insist on sensible footwear. There is a risk of blisters or twisted ankles if kids are crossing lawns, racing down sidewalks, and climbing steps in heels, boots, or other impractical shoes. But no one looks at their feet! It’s the neck up that people notice when they open their door to hand out treats. Be sure kids are in sneakers or other comfy footwear.
Pin things up. Be sure that Elsa’s gown isn’t going to trip her; same with your ninja’s belt. Make sure your child can move around without worrying about headgear, too. If your child is wearing a pirate or witch’s hat, considering pinning it on.

Be the bodyguard. As the parent, it’s your job to wield a flashlight and keep your child visible. Checking to be sure the way is clear, and forbid kids from crossing the street without you (even if they’re handing out fullsize candy bars over there!).

Watch as we detail more Halloween safety tips with Al Roker on The Weather Channel!

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High to Low Orlando: Staying From $55 to $479 a Night

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We split our recent Orlando vacation between bargain and pricey options. Here’s a breakdown of what we got (and didn’t get) at each price point.

Whippoorwill KOA from $55

The kids and I stayed here because it’s close to the airport and we needed to pick my husband up from a flight. But also, we love a KOA (short for Kampground of America), and this one has a pool, playground, pretty lake, and friendly geese. 

What’s to love A KOA cabin has a ship-like compactness. Though tiny, it fits a fullsize bed, bunk bed, desk and chair, television, and A/C. There are deluxe cabins with bathrooms, but we’re cheap and fine with sharing campground bathrooms. Whippoorwill is primarily a base for RVs, so we seemed to be the only customers in the bathrooms anyway. This particular KOA offers clean linens so we didn’t need to bring our own. We had a pizza delivered to our cabin for dinner and drove three miles to a Panera for breakfast. Our short stay felt like a taste of “real Florida” as opposed to “tourist Florida.”

But of course You have to enjoy camping to stay at a campground. Whippoorwill KOA is very close to the airport but not particularly close to the theme parks; the Orlando/Kissimmee KOA is a little closer to that action. Though you’ll spend far less on lodging here, you won’t get any park perks such as early admission and you’ll need to drive everywhere, plus pay for parking, tolls, and gas.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando from $134

This is Universal Orlando’s first moderate resort. Our family of four stayed in a Tower Suite which runs closer to $200 a night since there’s a sitting area plus a kitchenette. My mom stayed in a poolside room for about $150 a night; standard rooms lose the view but are bargains starting at $134.

What’s to love Universal went all-out with the retro theme of this hotel, and the kitsch is cute. My kids loved the pools and sand areas. A free bus pulls up to sweep guests over to Universal’s parks pretty much constantly, especially in the morning hours. And because you’re on Universal property, you can get into the parks an hour early most days.

But of course A stay at Cabana Bay does not get you the Universal Express Pass, useful for cutting wait time at rides. Guests at the pricier Loews Portofino Bay and Hard Rock Hotel do get Express Passes, worth up to $60 a person, so if you’ll be riding a lot during high season, paying more for one of those hotels may make sense. We, however, were only interested in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Express Passes are fairly useless there: Most Potter rides don’t accept them. If, like us, you’re going to Universal Orlando for Potter mania, Cabana Bay Beach is a fantastic option.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge from $289

There’s no other resort like this one in the country, where you are immersed in another culture and also in a wildlife park. We stayed in a villa in the Kidani Village, where rooms are spacious. By this point it was me and my kids, my mom, plus my brother and sister-in-law and baby niece. Our two-bedroom, three-bath with a full kitchen plus laundry (and a living room that became a third bedroom at bedtime) runs for $767 a night, more affordable (about $256 per family) than three separate rooms.

What’s to love Staying on Disney property means Extra Magic Hours, free transportation to and from the airport, free bus service all through the resort, and Magic Bands. We were not low-maintenence, between my newly hip-replaced mom’s scooter and my niece’s stroller, and a ground-floor room at Kidani turned out to be ideal. We pre-ordered breakfast groceries through gardengrocer.com and ate morning meals in our pajamas. Every room has a balcony for animal-watching, and tracking the creatures was a highlight of the trip for every one of us. The pools and restaurants are among our favorites too!
But of course This is one of Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels and hanging out with the giraffes isn’t cheap. But though it’s deluxe-priced, you can’t walk to any of the parks like you can from the deluxe Contemporary or Yacht Club Resort. (Then again, Animal Kingdom is the only hotel with a nightly drum circle!) If you want a Disney hotel but need to really slash lodging to more like $100 a night, check out Disney Value Resort Hotels. The grounds are not as lush, but you still get all the park perks.
This resort invited us in during their opening month and we couldn’t say no. It was back to me, my husband, and our two kids, and we’ve never stayed together somewhere this luxe.
What’s to love Uh…everything. I woke up from my deepest sleep in years in one of their comfy beds and was inspired to hit the fitness room and walk around the lake while my kids actually slept in. It would be easy to spend an entire day among the pools, lazy river, and water slides, where staff rush to supply you with ice water, sunscreen, and frozen fruit (all free!), or pretty much anything else you want (mostly for a price). There’s an on-site Disney concierge to help with park logistics, a tropical paradise of a kids’ center, and a spa. And you can see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from here.
But of course You don’t stay at a Four Seasons unless you can spend. There’s no parking lot, only a valet (and valet charge). Our dinner, with a bottle of wine, went over $200. And that $479 price is not really for a family; using the Web site to try and book a room for four people, rates seem more uniformly about $700 a night. You’re living in a beautiful dream here, but it is Top. Of. The. Line.

This video nails all the reasons to go beyond the rides.

Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides
Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides
Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides

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How to Get Into Diagon Alley Early

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Seeing pictures of hours-long lines at Universal Orlando Resort, full of fellow Harry Potter fans eager to get into the newest Wizarding World on it’s first day, got us scheming: How can you get into Diagon Alley before the crowds?! Obviously no day will be as busy as that opening day, but still. Here are some places to stay that will get you in an hour earlier than most muggles!

Stay at a Universal hotel. All four of them, Loews Portofino Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando, Loews Royal Pacific Resort (named one of American Baby’s Most Baby-Friendly Resorts), and the brand-new, moderately priced Cabana Bay Beach Resort grant you early access to both Universal parks. Read all the fine print here, but the bottom line is, there’s not much fine print. As long as you have park tickets and an active room key for one of the hotels, you can get in early, which usually means 8am versus 9am. The other obvious advantage to a Universal Hotel is you’re right next to the parks and can either walk or ride a free shuttle, skipping the parking hassle. Hey, every minute counts!

There’s a $135 per adult, per night, tax-inclusive offer for a four-night stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort that includes multi-day park-to-park tickets and some breakfasts, so it’s a deal, as long as you can do a four-night getaway. Travel has to be August 17 to October 2, or November 30 to December 18, and must be booked by July 31. Start here. There are upgrade options too!

Buy a Universal Orlando package. Quite a few hotels in the area partner with Universal Orlando Resort and, if you buy a Universal-specific package, you’ll be granted those same benefits (early admission, park-to-park tickets) for about half the cost, you’ll just need to drive to the parks. For instance, Hilton Orlando’s “Universal Orlando Vacation” package boasts early admission and two park-to-park tickets for just $102/night for two people through December 18th, 2014, and $50 off if you book four or more nights using the promo code UNITRAVEL. (Based on availability, and some blackout days apply.) Those savings will buy you a serious amount of butterbeer and probably a wand, too!

Watch one staffer’s 11-year-old’s take on the Hogsmeade features at Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal Studios: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios: Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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