A couple of weeks into the new school year, how are you feeling about your child’s teacher and classes? Compare your thoughts to the answers 500 moms gave Parents in our exclusive partnership with the research firm Quester. While the majority of moms reported that they were satisfied with their child’s teacher, many also said that their child’s curriculum could be more creative. Study our school report card, and then tell us in the comments how your kid’s class would do. And for great ideas about how to make your child’s classes more inspiring, check out our story on 10 Innovative Elementary Schools. Working the arts into every subject, teaching math in Greek, and running a classroom business are just a few of the cool approaches these schools used to engage kids.
Judging from the stream of smiling backpack-clad kids I saw in my Facebook newsfeed this morning, I figure today is the the first day back (or the first day of school ever) for a lot of children. My daughter’s school actually started two weeks ago, so we’re in our afternoon snack groove already. The most-requested munchie: these mini pizzas that use whole-grain crackers as the crust. Just top your kid’s fave cracker (I typically use Triscuits) with tomato or pesto sauce. Sprinkle on a little part-skim mozzarella cheese and add any veggie she’ll eat. Red peppers are a hit in my house now. Pop the mini pizzas in the toaster oven until the cheese melts, just 2-3 minutes. Now if getting homework done were only that easy…..
One of the best tips I learned when writing our story about Dream Vacations on a Real-Life Budget: September is an awesome month to travel. Around this time of year, I usually pine for the preschool days when our family’s schedule was more flexible. But this year, because my daughter’s school is doing some construction, she actually has off at the end of September. So when I got the finalized school calendar a couple of weeks ago, I went searching for deals. Ultimately, we decided to book plane tickets to London (one of our dream destinations—made only dreamier by two weeks of Olympic coverage). We chose London because of the new Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter (my daughter is obsessed with the series), great, free museums, and low-cost theater tickets (we could see three shows there for the price of one in New York City). I signed up for a TravelZoo alert and jumped on airfare for around $550 per person—an amazing price. But in the process of deciding where to go, I ran across all other kinds of cool deals to share with you.
Atlantis (Paradise Island, Bahamas) Ranked by Parents as a top beach resort for families, this water-mecca (with shallow pools, dump buckets, water canyons, and much more) has rates that start at $145 per night, including breakfast and the Atlantis Experience Pass. The pass lets your kid interact with a dolphin in shallow water, snags you a couple of free margaritas at Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay’s restaurant), and much more. Find out the details here.
Loews Hotels & Resorts This top hotel-chain pick from one of Parents’ recent stories is offering Loews Long Weekends—families save 20 percent when they book a stay of three nights or more from Thursday to Sunday. Since Parents last covered the chain, it opened a location in Hollywood. One of my faves is Coronado Bay in San Diego. It’s only a short walk or shuttle ride to the beach, and the hotel has a giant stash of loaner toys and equipment. If you head to San Diego in October, there’s free admission for kids to big-time attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and Legoland. Click here for details.
DisneyWorld September and October are typically way less crowded (and less hot!) than the summer months. When my daughter was 4, I took her in mid-September and we hardly waited in line for anything. This website always has the most complete list of Disney deals. The sales going on now include up to 30 percent off on hotels and free dining plans when you book a six-night stay. If you want to go to Orlando but not stay in the park, JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes (which has an awesome pool complex with a lazy-river) has rates that start at $199 per night.
Know of any other good offers? Share them with us!
I’m at the Natural Products Marketplace this weekend—a mecca of new healthy foods and natural beauty products. Normally, I’d save all of my finds to include in Parents magazine, but I ran across three products that were so delicious that I wanted to share them with you now. My first pick: The Real Deal Veggie Chips. They’re different from most veggie chips on the market because they don’t try to imitate potato chips. Instead, they’re like corn chips and half their weight comes from green peas, giving them a serving of veggies in each 100-calorie bag. My daughter and I couldn’t detect a hint of pea taste. These are a winner for picky eaters and perfect for lunchboxes!
I also loved Almond and Cashew Swirls from a new company, Anna’s Choice. These nut-butters come in a resealable squeezeable container so kids can squirt them on crackers, bread, or, better yet, in the groove of a celery stalk. Anna’s also makes Pecan Sprinkles, crushed pecans in a shakeable container that would be great as a pancake or salad topping.
Finally, I couldn’t resist stopping by the booth that offered me chocolate cake (even though it was 10 am!). Blossom Fine Foods was sampling its new vegan, gluten-free cake. Not being vegan or gluten-free, I didn’t have much hope that I’d like it. But it was wonderful—better than most regular chocolate cakes. The buttercream-like frosting was particularly amazing; the company’s owner told me her secret ingredient is vanilla soymilk. I’m planning on picking up a cake for my daughter’s birthday party next month because several of her friends have dairy and wheat allergies.
You can find out where any of these foods are sold near you by checking out the company websites. Have a yummy weekend!
I used to think toddlers and preschoolers were the toughest crowd to feed: After all, 2- to 5-year-olds can be a picky and stubborn bunch especially when you’re serving healthy food. But as my own daughter has gotten older, I’ve realized that the school years are just as challenging‚ if not more so. Kids this age make many of their own food choices without you—they’re on their own at the school cafeteria, at camp, at a friend’s house so it’s even more important for them to genuinely enjoy healthy foods. That’s why I love this funky video “Unjunk Yourself!” produced by David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, in conjunction with Kidtribe. It features three of Dr. Katz’s kids. They’ve grown up since I worked on this story with the family and even since they helped to judge the Parents Snack Awards. Grab your kid and rock out!
I already know what my daughter, Katie, is wearing tomorrow–her Annie tee, from the local production of the musical she acted in a couple of months ago. Normally, she saves this top for play practice, but Friday is special because it’s National Wear Your Show Shirt to School Day. The nationwide event is spearheaded by the American Alliance for Theatre & Education to promote an arts and drama curriculum in schools. With budget cuts facing many districts across the country, funding for school plays, end-of-year shows, talent competitions, and drama classes are on the chopping block. If your child has a shirt from a show that she was in (or one that she’s seen), ask her to put it on tomorrow.
A report from the National Assembly of State Art Agencies found that being involved in drama in school or in the community helps improve reading comprehension as well as verbal skills. We also have a beautiful story in the April issue of Parents, highlighting how acting benefits kids with autism and other special needs. When the editor of the piece told me about it, I immediately thought of a family we met at a summer theatre camp. Their daughter and mine hit it off–they were so bubbly and chatty together. It wasn’t until two years later that I learned that my daughter’s friend from camp had Asperger’s Syndrome. Her dad told me that the summer camp and other drama classes she took “changed the whole family’s life.”
If you’d like to get your child more involved in drama, start by being in the audience. Many elementary and middle schools put on shows every spring that are open to the public, and tickets are usually under $10. Plus this is also a big time of year for family-friendly community productions. For instance, Katie’s theatre group is performing The Little Prince, with a mix of kid and adult actors. Tell us what your drama queens (and kings) have going on.
My daughter dressed up for school as Gertrude McFuzz today. Tonight, we’ve made a playdate to go to a Dr. Seuss birthday party, with crafts and story-telling, at a local bookstore and tomorrow we’re seeing The Lorax on the big screen.
All across the country this weekend at libraries, bookstores, and museums, celebrations are taking place to honor the famous story-teller: At Children’s Museum of Houston, a Parents magazine 10-best, kids can cook up green eggs and ham in the Power Science Lab. The Crayola Factory has meet-and-greets with Cat In The Hat. The Springfield Museums, in Massachusetts, which boasts a permanent Dr. Seuss sculpture garden, will host a Seuss-themed cake contest and puppet theatre performance tomorrow. Read Across America is sponsoring events too; click here to see if there’s one near you.
But there’s no place I’d rather be this weekend than Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Island of Adventure. We visited twice–and loved spinning on the Caro-Seuss-el, cooling off on the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish ride, and going on an alphabet adventure in the The High in The Sky Trolley (pictured here). Tell us what Seussified fun you’re planning this weekend.
If you’ve been wanting to take a family vacay this spring or early summer to Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, book your trip by February 10. Atlantis, one of Parents10 best beach resorts for families, launched a 72-hour sale starting today. Room rates for travel through March 31, and from April 22 to June 13 start at $199 per night. Plus, you can snag up to a $450 airfare credit. Sweet!