Lego Duplo’s “Read! Build! Play!” initiative strives to develop early literacy and strengthen learning through their Read and Build series of simple story books paired with easy construction activities.
Last year, Lego Duplo and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) partnered to create resources that combined reading and play. “Through play, young children learn about their world. With this knowledge, they can understand books and stories once they begin to read,” says Starr Latronica, Vice President/President-Elect of the Association for Library Service to Children.
This summer, Lego and ALSC have created the first Summer Reading Lists/Activity Guides for toddlers and preschoolers. Two free guides (one for Ages 1-3, one for Ages 3-5) pairs 10 already-published books with Lego projects designed specifically for each one. The books, easily available at local libraries, were chosen by ALSC’s Early Childhood Programs and Services committee. A Parent Activity Guide is also available for free, to explain the importance of play and to offer advice on how to interact with kids.
Parents can preview a list of the chosen books below and click on the jump to see a photo of the suggested activity for Meeow and the Pots and Pans by Sebastian Braun. Visit ReadBuildPlay.com to download the entire activity guides (which includes the full lists of Lego projects with instructions, plus coloring pages).
No matter how health-conscious you are or what diet you’re on, there are times when you just can’t pass on dessert.
When it comes to Sandra Lee’s pineapple-passion-fruit cupcakes, Guy Fieri’s caramel apple bread pudding, and Buddy Valastro’s Italian butter cookies, I can’t think of a single reason to say no.
On May 1, I perused the World’s Largest Bake Sale at Grand Central Station, sampling sweets, meeting local bakers, but most importantly, learning about child hunger in America.
Sponsored by the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, the bake sale raised both money for the cause and awareness for the more than 16 million children affected by hunger in America.
I chatted with of New York City’s best bakers and browsed their selection of champagne cupcakes, pistachio-cherry scones, and peanut-butter-strawberry-jam doughnuts. All sweets were sold for $5, the proceeds from which were put toward the campaign.
Bake sale host Sandra Lee whipped up her favorite strawberry shortcake and banana split cupcakes for the event, and spoke to me about the urgency of the child hunger epidemic.
“Some working moms are going home with one check, paying rent, and wondering how they are going to feed their kids. Sometimes they have to choose between paying bills and food,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way in America.”
Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss,” said that as a baker and a father, he just had to be part of the event. He also shared with me a personal story about his family history.
“My dad grew up in Sicily and I remember him telling stories of going to bed hungry, after sharing one plate with his family,” he said. “It really puts life in perspective. This is about more than raising money, it’s about saying, ‘Hey, America, this is happening!’”
Ty Pennington, former host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, expressed a personal connection to the cause and donated a colorful, handmade bake sale stand for the Share Our Strength Auction.
“I may not have a child of my own, per se, but it is staggering to hear that one in five kids goes hungry,” he said. “It really opens your eyes about not wasting as much and makes you think about what we can do to make sure they are fed.”
The Share Our Strength Auction for No Kid Hungry runs through May 31 and features items donated by food masters like Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. This is your chance to take a class in the Cake Boss’s kitchen, dig in to Bobby Flay’s signature Southwestern dishes, or learn to swirl icing like New York’s iconic Magnolia Bakery.
I am lucky not to have any food allergies, but I still want to make so many of the delicious-sounding recipes in Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Simply Allergy-Free: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Every Night of the Week. Just looking at the gorgeous photos in the book, you’d never know that ever recipe is free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and nuts. Author of the blog My Allergy Free Life and owner of the online allergen-free bakery Betsy & Claude Baking Company, this busy mom of two girls has multiple food allergies. She says, “I like to think of these recipes as the little black dress of my pantry—simple and economical fare that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.”
She shows you how to use (and where to buy!) key ingredients like xanthan gum, agave nectar, superfine rice flour, powdered vanilla rice milk, and sorghum flour, which can make gluten-free and allergen-free foods taste like “the real thing.” The recipes I can’t wait to try include chicken tikka burgers, chickpea French fries, beef tostadas, corn quinoa salad, herbed biscuits, and chocolate pretzel pie. Yum!
I’ve been to a ton of great talent shows over the years, but none have come close to impressing me as much as the Garden of Dreams Talent Show. The free event, put on by the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the Madison Square Garden Company each April, gives children struggling with unfortunate circumstances, such as illness and homelessness, the chance to forget about their problems by showing off their talents on the Radio City Music Hall stage.
I blogged about the show beforehand after chatting with celebrity host Tony Vincent and was expecting it to be chock full of great performers from his behind-the-scenes preview. What I wasn’t expecting was to be sitting in the audience with tears in my eyes after each act. To watch these genuinely talented kids express themselves and their hardships through their performances was an experience I can’t quite put into words.
Take 5-year-old Malik Naser, for example. Malik has to receive daily blood transfusions due to an illness and uses music as a distraction during the difficult routine – but you’d never know from the way he stood center stage sporting a fedora and bow tie as he sang Bruno Mars’ “Walking on the Moon.” Or there was 10-year-old Jeremy Dickinson whose love for singing got him through his neuroblastoma. He says he decided to perform “Put on a Happy Face” because he was always smiling, even through his toughest treatments. And if those two didn’t melt your heart enough, 6-year-old Julianna Pierre, a pediatric cancer patient at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, sweetly sang her favorite song from The Lion King, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
The 15 other acts ranged from a seriously talented break dancing group called “High Energy” to rapper Kasean Session, whose powerful lyrics are about witnessing his mother’s murder when he was 6 years old.
The amped up audience, awesome celeb hosts (New York Giants Super Bowl champ Victor Cruz, the Rockettes, and Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels from Run DMC – to name a few), and unlimited free popcorn made the whole night as fun as it was touching. I can’t wait to see what will come of these young role models and what the Garden of Dreams Talent Show has in store for next year.
Check out the Garden of Dreams video below (shown at the beginning of this year’s show) to see for yourself how incredible these kids truly are.
Photo: Performer Malik Naser with New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz
The Australian music group, The Wiggles, has been entertaining millions of children around the world for over 20 years. This year, they’re announcing three new cast members, including the first female Wiggle. Emma Watkins joins as the Yellow Wiggle, Lachlan Gillespie as the Purple Wiggle, and Simon Pryce as the Red Wiggle. Anthony Field, the founder of the The Wiggles, remains as the Blue Wiggle.
To introduce the new Wiggles, the quartet is on an international tour called “Taking Off!” and they will visit 35 U.S. cities starting in August. In addition to the tour, the group has also released a new CD and DVD. (To find a concert in your local area, click after the jump for confirmed tour dates.)
Watch a video of the new Wiggles performing “Do the Propeller!”, a song from their CD:
This post is by Julianna W. Miner, who writes the blog Rants from Mommyland (recently named The Blog Most Likely to Make you Laugh by Parents Magazine). She has three kids, a long-suffering husband, a very naughty dog and a geriatric, ill-tempered cat. In addition to blogging, she teaches at a college she couldn’t have gotten into because she made bad choices in high school.
I love Mother’s Day, but I’m somewhat confused by it. I think it’s like New Year’s Eve; a combination of high expectations and inevitable disappointment. It always feels like there’s some ideal that only specials get to experience. I’m a regular, so it doesn’t happen to me.
I feel kind of stupid and whiny complaining about Mother’s Day. It’s not like my husband and kids ever got it wrong, per se. Or that I had really high expectations. Mostly I just wanted to sleep. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET ME SLEEP. But then someone would always get an ear infection. And I would forget to go to the grocery store the day before so my “special” breakfast would be comprised of an old Capri Sun and a crumbly granola bar fished out of the bottom of a school bag.
But here’s the problem: what I really wanted, they couldn’t give me. Because the only people who truly understood what I needed to hear on Mother’s Day were other moms. They get it. I needed someone to look at me and say: “Remember that time you showed up at preschool and you hadn’t slept all night and there was a booger stain on your shoulder and you were counting the minutes until you got back to your empty house so you could shower and possibly take a nap? But your kid was upset and needed you to stay and so you did? THAT WAS AWESOME OF YOU. High five.”
I needed someone to tell me that even though sometimes I yelled at my kids or let them watch too much TV, that I was still doing a good job. That making mistakes is part of it. That waking up every day and trying as hard as you can to be the best person you can be is enough. That you fall short. But you get up and start over. And that is what makes you a good mom. Not being perfect. Not being a person who never messes up. With the notable exception of Gwyneth Paltrow, those people don’t exist. Those imaginary perfect moms are like the idealized New Year’s Eve or the “Pretty In Pink” prom moment that none of us actually got.
Realizing all that made me feel better. It also gave me some much-needed perspective. I have a family who tries to make Mother’s Day special for me every year. I have friends who get it and who love me, even though I’m a big weirdo. I began thinking about all of the moms who have nothing. Who work twice as hard as I do with half the resources to support them. I began thinking about the women who struggled to provide a home for their kids. Or who were brave enough to leave bad situations to make a better life for their families. For those women, Mother’s Day is just another Sunday. Another day struggling and living in need.
What better way to acknowledge Mother’s Day (and give thanks for my own blessings) than to honor moms living in homeless and domestic violence shelters? So that’s what I decided to do. I enlisted my friends Courtney and Christine from Naughty Betty (the world’s most amazing gift and greeting card company) and together we designed a bunch of hilarious Mother’s Day eCards for the Real World. Then we found a sponsor. The folks from Sweet Relish.com stepped up and offered to donate up to $10,000 to Shelter House (an organization that helps families struggling with homelessness and domestic violence).
So here’s how you can help moms in need this mother’s day: check out our eCards, and if you like them, share them! The more they’re shared across the internet, the more money Sweet Relish will donate. We think the cards are pretty awesome on their own, but if you factor that they’re going help families who need it, we think they could go viral.
Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.
First conceived by Julia Ward Howe (the composer of the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) in 1870, advocated by Anna Jarvis in 1908, and officially established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, Mother’s Day has become a proud American tradition that is now observed in more than 70 countries worldwide. A 2010 study by VIP Communications found that Mother’s Day has the highest phone call traffic of the year, exceeding Valentine’s Day and New Year’s. Another 2010 study, by the Society of American Florists, found that more than one quarter of all floral purchases in the U.S. each year are for Mother’s Day. Everyone knows everything there is to know about Mother’s Day, and writing about it is a little like writing about love or money or religion: What more can anyone say about it that hasn’t been said? Well, for the first time in the century since it became a national holiday, I think it’s time for a fundamental change to the Mother’s Day ritual. Drum roll, please…
From this Mother’s Day forward, I propose that the first Thursday of every month be declared Monthly Mother’s Day. And the third Wednesday of every month shall henceforth be declared Monthly Father’s Day. Every household with a mom gives her special treatment on the first Thursday of the every month, and every household with a dad gives him special treatment on the third Wednesday of every month. Each of these new monthly “‘holidays” gives us 12 additional opportunities to celebrate parenthood with our kids, and 12 times the number of traditions, memories, and family moments.
Why am I not making my new holidays on Sundays? Because weekends are for big traditions, and these are small observances that don’t require a whole day; they can fit into school nights, early bedtimes, and daily routines. These are family traditions that should take little time and no money – they don’t have to involve dinner out, gifts, flowers, or even candy — but they do require a fair amount of thought, something special that isn’t done the other days of the month. One month, give mom the night off after dinner so she can read, take a bath, or watch her favorite show. The next month, cook her favorite dinner. Create a handmade card or hand-painted picture frame for another month. Ditto for dads on their special monthly Wednesdays. Best of all, you still get to celebrate the “real” Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. While we’re at it, why not establish a monthly Kids’ Day, too? Like the second Tuesday of every month. On these days, parents can prepare kids’ favorite meal or dessert, have Scrabble night, or plan a Wii table tennis tournament.
Life is short. The years go by fast. You can never have too many reasons to celebrate each other. And thinking about ways to honor moms, dads, and kids is good for the soul, and good for the whole family. May 12, 2013 may be the “real” Mother’s Day, but the one after that will be coming up soon, so start planning. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbartis Professor andVice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recentNo Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York TimesMotherlodeblog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Who doesn’t love Little Critter? We read the books all the time (see my son Joe with our favorite, about going into the city with Mom, down below) and I was thrilled to talk with the author and illustrator, Mercer Mayer, also shown, on the eve of his launch of the Little Critter app for iOS, Android, Nook and Kindle devices.
Q: First, what is Little Critter?
Mercer Mayer: “He technically is identifiable, but I don’t tell anybody what it is.”
Q: Is he based on you as a child? Or your own children?
MM: “Everything you do as an author is from that well of your own childhood. I got some advice many years ago from a publisher to ‘Just start with your childhood and lie like hell.’ Little Critter is full of things that happened to me as a child and then I exaggerate when I imagine what a kid might go through.”
Q: You have kids of your own, right?
MM: “Three boys and a girl, and now grandkids. They just added to the whole pastiche. I would love to find a way to get this into a book: When my eldest boy was 9 years old, he would never go to bed. I would throw him up in the top bunk and he’d scream that he was hungry, or had to go to the bathroom. Then one night he said he was sick. I didn’t believe him…and then he threw up all over me.”
MM: “I write about situations that kids get into that can be overwhelming. But now my books are getting an extra kick in the pants with the apps! There are more possibilities with them.”
Q: The apps sound like they’d be good for Spring break and Summer travel.
MM: “The games are simple for 3- to 7-year-olds. There’s animation and the story pops out. So there’s reading, and it’s educational, but also games, such as a hidden alphabet and color-by-number. The GamePak includes DigiStix, which are interactive stickers that a kid can move around. I know some apps are just for reading, but these two create a whole little world of adventure, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Q: Are you still writing new books?
MM: “Yes, I’m working on Just a Kite now and finished up Just a Little Love. I write about three a year. I’m still doing it. I guess I don’t know how to stop!”
You can get The Trip-Little Critter Reading Adventure for $3.99 at all the usual channels (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Barnes & Noble). And for the first 30 days of the launch, you can buy the additional The Trip-Little Critter GamePak for $2.99 (after that it goes up to $3.99). The GamePack is the one that includes more than 175 cool DigiStix digital stickers.
Want the chance to win both the apps and also a signed giclee print from Mercer Mayer? It’s this collage of Little Critter and his baby brother with their toys, and would look great in a kid’s room! It’s officially worth is $75 but I think it’s fairly priceless. Leave a comment below, up to one a day between now and the end of the day on Wednesday, March 27th. After that we’ll pick one person at random to win both the print and a code for the apps, worth about $83 all together.