Archive for the ‘ Time for Fun ’ Category

One of the Coolest Science Exhibits Ever

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Last year, Parents rated Philadelphia as one of the 10 best cities for families to visit. If it’s in your summer plans, be sure to check out the massive new exhibit, Your Brain, that opens at The Franklin Institute tomorrow. Almost 10 years in the making, the exhibit has dozens of interactive features. When my daughter and a few friends (ages 9 to 12) visited during a sneak peek event earlier this week, they were blown away, and you know that tweens are not easily impressed. Some highlights:

The exhibit starts out with a large screen that lets you see your own skelten. Jump, bend your leg, raise your hand, and the skelton on the screen will move too.

 

The visuals in all the displays were bold and fun, like this one that demos what a brain scan is like.

The kids spent a half-hour on two-story climbing structure, complete with lighting and sound effects, that represents brain pathways. They would have stayed in there all day if we let them.

Many of the activities in the exhibit are geared to kids ages 8 to 13. But if younger sibs are exploring too, making a face on this magnetic board will be fun for them (and so will that climbing structure!).

Another section of the exhibit focuses on illusions. I won’t give away all the surprises, but be sure to go in the bedroom. I took this pic of the kids in an area designated for photo ops.

Bonus! A traveling exhibit, Circus Science Under the Big Top, is at the Franklin Instutute through September 1. Check out the dress-up area with amazing costumes (of all sizes), a tight rope that kids who weigh 50 pounds or more can walk on, and circus games.

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5 New Children’s Books to Check Out

Friday, June 13th, 2014

A few weeks ago, I took my 11-year-old daughter, Katie, to BookExpo America in New York City, where many adult and children’s publishers have their latest titles plus sneak peeks of upcoming ones for fall and winter. Our fave finds:

Frozen Hide-And-Hug Olaf

It’s Disney’s version of Elf on the Shelf. The box contains a new Frozen story with a hide-and-seek theme, and a plush Olaf that parents are supposed to hide for kids to find (and hug). It will be available at the end of October; here’s a link for pre-order.

A World Without Princes

This is the second part of a chapter-book triology called the School for Good and Evil. It’s perfect for 8- to 12-year-olds, especially those who are fans of fantasy fiction. The kids who reviewed the first book in the series for Parents Best Books story last year loved it, and it was a close runner-up for the Best Chapter Book. (In fact, it was Katie’s top choice.) We had a chance to meet the author, Harvard-educated, Soman Chainani, who says he wrote the series because “growing up he watched a lot of Disney movies and felt that the good characters weren’t always the most interesting ones.” Both books are available now; my daughter says the second one is even better than the first.

Sisters

Over at the Scholastic booth, Katie was drawn to advance copies of this graphic novel paperback. She recognized the name of the author (Raina Telgemeier) because she had read Smile, a story that Raina wrote in 2010. Katie finished the book before we left New York City: Sisters is a breezy (yet satisfying) read about siblings who patch up their relationship. It’s coming out at the end of August; pre-order here.

JoJo’s First Word Book

Once we got past the crowds waiting to see Grumpy Cat in the Chronicle Books book, we were struck by the adorableness of this title. It features more than 200 objects and a carrying handle. You can watch a video about it here or buy it here.

Kid Presidents

We’re fans of non-fiction, and this chapter book for kids 8 to 12 is so clever, delivering quirky childhood stories from 16 presidents. (For instance, kids will learn that FDR’s mom followed him everywhere and that Harry Truman broke a collarbone while combing his hair.) It will be available in October; pre-order here.

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Score a $90 Yearly Pass for Your Preschooler and You at LEGOLAND Florida Featuring New DUPLO Valley

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

* This is part of a series of special travel deals. Most families take at least one vacay during the year; we’ll help yours be one of them. 

THE DESTINATIONLEGOLAND Florida, with its latest attractions area for preschoolers ages 2 to 5, DUPLO Valley.

This new expansion, which opened on May 23, brings the LEGO DUPLO line of building toys to life with farm-themed attractions, an air-conditioned indoor play area and a water play area. From the DUPLO Train, DUPLO Tractor, and the DUPLO Splash and Play, to the reopening of the indoor DUPLO Barn, kids can play in a comfortable, toddler-friendly atmosphere where their imagination comes to life! Your toddler can aboard the DUPLO Train by themselves or you can ride along, either way it’s fun for the  whole family to get involved.

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! In part of opening its doors, DUPLO Valley welcomes visitors with a new pass, known as the Preschool Pass, available for visitors will children under 5. The Preschool Pass is for weekday Monday through Friday admission to LEGOLAND Florida, plus standard parking, for one child under 5 and one adult, for a full year. It’s only $90, plus tax, and it normally costs $84 for a person age 13 and up to get in for just one day! So even if you only use your yearly pass on two days, you’ll save some serious cash.

Even better: The pass is in the child’s name, and is transferable to multiple adults and guardians in your family. You can take your toddler to the park one day and Grandma can take him the next time–allowing the entire family to enjoy!

BOOK IT! Check out all their annual passes as well as their various ticket prices online. You can view all of their summer hours online as well.

Want tips and tricks on how to pack your munchkin for a summer vacation?

 

How to Plan a Trip
How to Plan a Trip
How to Plan a Trip

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Celebrate Father’s Day with a Free Playlist for Dad!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Dad’s big day is almost here–it’s June 15, to be exact! To celebrate, cue up this exclusive playlist featuring positive songs about love and families.

Artists include Raffi–the children’s artist’s latest jam, “Love Bug,” is the title track of his new album–along with performers The Not-Its! (“Love is Love”), Brady Rymer (“Light is Love”), Suzi Shelton (“Ten Thousand Kisses”), Lucky Diaz (“When I Grow Up”), The Pop Ups (“Feelings Change”), Sugar Free Allstars (“My Daddy’s Record Collection”) and Eric Herman (“The Elephant Song”). Download the songs for free from June 13-18, or just stream the playlist here: https://soundcloud.com/bethbcpr/sets/a-playlist-of-songs-for

The songs have sweet lyrics that will make you smile (“Daddy loves you little one,” sings Suzi Shelton in “10,000 kisses”–she co-wrote the track with her husband, Dave Mitri!) and reflect ( “Families are never quite alike”/”Yours may not be just like mine,” sing The Not-Its! in”Love is Love”).

Need a gift idea for Dad? Lollypapas are a cute, clever, (oh, and edible!) treat you and your kids can make together.

Father's Day Lollypapas
Father's Day Lollypapas
Father's Day Lollypapas

Photo: Brady Rymer with kids Gus and Daisy, taken by Bridget Rymer. 

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B.J. Novak’s Children’s Book: Would You Buy It Even Though It Has No Pictures?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak front coverThe Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak back coverIf you follow B.J. Novak on Instagram, you know The Office star (and Mindy Kaling’s BFF!) has a tongue-in-cheek feed called “Pictures of Text” with…well, photos of text-heavy signs, posters, book covers, you name it.

So it’s no surprise that Novak pitched an idea for a children’s book called, “The Book With No Pictures“, a “picture” book without pictures…the first of its kind! Speaking to People, Novak shared, “I really wanted to get kids thinking that the written word is their ally not their enemy and it creates a great experience between the parent and the kid.”

Novak also posted photos of the front and back covers on Instagram and Twitter recently. Given Novak’s fondness for text, the cover is plain and sparse, similar to the black-text-on-white-background cover of his other book, “One More Thing,” a collection of short stories for adults.

Although little else is known about the picture book, Novak did tell People that it was a “simple” book with “hidden messages.” He got a chance to read it to a group of elementary school kids in Queens, who responded in a positive way. No doubt humor is a big part of the book (as evidenced by the text on his back cover: “WARNING! This book looks serious but it is actually COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!”).

“I think a lot of parents think they are not funny and are scared to read a funny book, but I’ve tested it with so many parents and I think this is fool-proof. No matter how you read it, you’re funny,” Novak said.

Look out for the book when it’s released by Penguin Kids on September 30.

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Jozy Altidore: “We need our kids to believe in themselves and believe in what they can do.”

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The FIFA World Cup kicks off June 12 (just around the corner)! Parents caught up with U.S. soccer team striker Jozy Altidore to get his insight on the upcoming tournament and starting kids young in athletics. At the age of 24, Jozy has some pretty mature insight into the values that make a successful, kind kid—on the field and off.

P: How you were drawn to the sport at such a young age and what makes soccer a great sport for kids?

JA: My family, from their background, it’s kind of a natural thing. They’re from Haiti and in Haiti soccer is basically number one. My dad is of Haitian descent and he got me into soccer since I was 3. I’ve been playing ever since then and I just fell in love with the game.

P: What makes soccer special for young kids?

JA: I think any sport [is great] for kids because it keeps them off the street. I know that’s important. That’s one of the reasons why my family put me in, to make sure I was doing something that required discipline. I think soccer is great because it’s a team game, being able to function in a group. It’s kind of a brotherhood; you’re a group of guys and you grow together as people and as players. You travel together; you play; you go through a lot. It’s a great thing for young boys and young girls to get into. Most importantly it’s fun!

P: You turned pro at age 16. What was it like to still be a kid navigating a world of professional athletes?

JA: It was next to impossible. I struggled with it at first, obviously. There’s so much to do and you’ve got such little time and adjusting to playing with grown men and not children, that was hard as well. Just getting used to what comes with being a professional, the criticisms, fans and all that. [You have to] quit worrying about if everyone is going to like what you do or like you as a player and just try to have a positive outlook on everything and work hard. That was the biggest challenge I think for me.

P: What was your most memorable moment from the last World Cup?

JA: Just walking out of the tunnel that first game because I’ll never forget it. I cried a little bit. It was just so surreal to me. It was just amazing. I don’t think I’m going to be able to replicate it. It was so special to me.

P: What are you most excited for about the upcoming World Cup now that you’ve already been? Will you still have that adrenaline walking out of the tunnel?

JA: Most definitely. Hopefully I arrive at the World Cup in a more mature way and not that youth where I’m just excited and I want to run everywhere and bounce off the walls, you know? Hopefully, I arrive there with more of an understanding of what’s new for me and how I can help the team to the best of my abilities. Just try to impact the tournament in the best way I can for my teammates. I’m looking forward to that.

P: Is there any one match that you’re most looking forward to?

JA: The first match is special for a lot of reasons. It’s the first game of a childhood dream. You can’t replicate the feelings that you’re going to feel on that day. You can try. You can play a lot of big games against big opponents, but that feeling as a player that I’ll have walking out of the tunnel against Ghana will be immeasurable. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to be part of it and I’m excited for the guys to have that experience, as well.

P: You started the Jozy Altidore Foundation back in 2011. What inspired you to do this?

JA: Well in 2010 I went to the place in Haiti with the earthquake. I was shaken up because it hit close to home for me being that my family is from Haiti. I just felt helpless like I couldn’t do anything. It was in that moment where I felt like I should try and do something. My family helped me figure out how to do that by getting a foundation. I could have donated something, which I did, but I thought having a foundation would be a more hands-on approach. I looked into it and I started it and I haven’t looked back. It enables me to help in many different ways, not only Haiti but in many different areas.

P: Your foundation’s mission statement says that you specifically want to serve underprivileged children. What is it about young kids that you relate to or feel for? What draws you to help that population?

JA: I’ve always been a big fan of the youth. I guess when you go everything so young that kind of just happens. I want to help the youth and see them do well.

P: You’ve said that no one is ever too young to make a difference. How do you hope to encourage young people to volunteer and raise money?

JA: I think it’s an easy thing. Kids are very naïve in a sense where they just want what they want. So if they want to help, they’re going to help. I think that will naturally just happen. I think kids just have a good heart and are genuine about their feelings. I figure that the best way to teach [generosity] is to teach them young because that’s the time when our hearts are the purest and you know they’ll get the most out of it.

P: Aside from this spirit of volunteerism, what other values did your parents impart to you that you have carried on and have made you so successful?

JA: My dad always says to be modest. To this day he always says it’s better to be modest, it’s always better to listen and sometimes not speak. He said it to me yesterday, actually. He’s always saying that to me. I think a lot of kids and a lot of people sometimes lose sight of that. I think it’s something that might be simple, but I think we oftentimes don’t do it.

P: Do you have any message for young kids who are dreaming about careers in athletics?

JA: To dream big and big and bigger! I think that’s important for kids. You can’t really tell anybody that “You can’t do” something. I think they have to believe they can. With that and with being persistent, they’ll make it whether it’s being a big time athlete or something else. I think we need our kids to believe in themselves and believe in what they can do.

P: Father’s Day is coming up. Do you have any plans? Anything special you do on that day even if you’re not with your dad?

JA: In my family—I don’t think I’m dissing anybody else—but I try to make them feel that they’re special every day whether it’s how I call to speak to them or give my mom a call when she’s least expecting it because for me my parents have been instrumental for me from day one. [Father's Day] will be a nice day to express that again, but I try to do that every day because I’m so thankful. I’m so grateful. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

Soccer not for you? Use this video to teach your son or daughter to throw a perfect pitch!

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

For more suggestions of fun activities with your kids, download our Activity Finder app!

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Is Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent Too Scary for Kids?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Maleficent-Angelina-JolieBy Chelsea P. Gladden, BreezyMama.com

When it comes to the live action Maleficent, Disney is pulling out all the marketing stops. My kids and I will pause from fast forwarding through commercials on TV to watch the preview– every time it airs. And that has been a lot!

When it was time to actually see the film starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, my 10 year old and I were beside ourselves with excitement.  So did it live up to all the non-stop hype?

The short answer is: Stop reading this now and head to a theater near you.

My daughter and I absolutely loved it. The film is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Sleeping Beauty,” and the later Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty, though this time from the perspective of the evil queen Maleficent, played by Jolie.

I’m a little surprised that it scored a PG rating as I felt it might be a bit more on the PG-13 side due to some violent scenes. Though my daughter was fine throughout, we did cuddle up during some very scary moments watching one of the greatest Disney villains ever.

Starting with Maleficent as a rambunctious young fairy you can’t help but root for, her innocence is ripped from her through a heart-breaking betrayal. Though she turns dark and seeks revenge on the king by cursing his first-born daughter (A.K.A. Aurora), you actually, in many ways, don’t blame her. Except for the cursing of the baby, of course!

From the start, the neighboring kingdom was bent on invading the moors she protects. With soldiers willing to stop at nothing to take her down, she relies on the nature around her, including some of the most frightening looking trees and a fire-breathing dragon made from the roots. Flying through the opposing army, she violently knocks them down one by one with her powerful wings protecting the land she grew up enchanting. The inability to bring her down further fuels the original king to encourage her demise, offering his throne to anyone who can exact revenge upon her.

My daughter and I decided those scenes and the epic-though-violent finale would be far too scary for my 5 year old.

With all the press surrounding the film, you probably know by now that Angelina Jolie’s 5-year-old daughter plays a young Princess Aurora. As Jolie previously mentioned, all other kids her age were too afraid of Jolie in costume.  It was a bit stunt casting, but when I actually saw the scene, I found it very touching. Vivienne and her mommy have a tender chemistry that ends up being quite essential to the plot.

Jolie as Maleficent is wickedly wonderful, which adds to the fun. Appearing from the shadows, her silhouette often looks just like the cartoon version, which is a treat for fans of the 1959 version.

Speaking of the original, the three fairies – Flora, Fauna and Merryweather – have always been favorites of mine, and the live-action versions definitely add some humor to the plot. Though Jolie is dark, she too has some fun playing tricks on the trio as well as some great one-liners.

Some may find one of the twists as taking too much liberty with the traditional fairy tale (hint: another twist with true love’s kiss). There are some slow-moving moments while waiting for the cursed Aurora to turn 16, prick her finger on the spindle from the spinning wheel and fall into the infamous deep sleep, but overall I found the film a lot of fun to take my own little “Beastie,” as Aurora is affectionately called, to see.

Grade on a scale of kid’s live action films: B+

Rated PG, Violent battle scenes; Slightly graphic; Scary moments; 97 minutes

Watch a sneak peek here:

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Score a Family Vacation Package from Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

* This is part of a series of special travel deals. Most families take at least one vacay during the year; we’ll help yours be one of them.

THE DESTINATIONGrand Traverse Resort and Spa, in Northern Michigan 

Take advantage of this two-night Family Fun package at a 900-acre resort that’s consistently rated among the country’s best. It’s got a child-friendly lakeside beach and an indoor water playground to boot.

BOOK IT! From $457 for a two-night stay in the Hotel for up to four persons in one room during the summer season (now through August 30, 2014). Weekend rates are from $485 for two nights in the Hotel. Note: There’s also a $15/night resort fee and 11 percent tax, and some restrictions apply. 

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! The Family Fun package includes two nights, four breakfast coupons for the bistro, one in-room movie (not available in some accomodations), a pound of candy from Dylan’s candy bar, 20 arcade tokens, and either two ice cream cones or lolliopops. Click here to explore more. You can also call them at 800-236-1577.

Get your kids psyched for an upcoming vacation (or the end of school!) with this Countdown Caterpillar craft:

Vacation Countdown Caterpillar
Vacation Countdown Caterpillar
Vacation Countdown Caterpillar

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