Stuff We Love

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Kids, Parenting, Stuff We Love

We ventured on our 1st vacation with another family…ever.  We picked a great place to go and a great family to go with.  These were the professional Disney go-ers. You know the type, they know all the ins & outs – the best place to stay, the best rides for kids our age, the best way to avoid the lines – while we were one step behind most of the vacation, we added in the best restaurants and shows to see!  As Tom said, “You need to try out all the rides so you can blog about it!”  So as not to waste your time & $ when in Disney, here are some valuable tips:

Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort – A nice resort with great pricing where you can be in the mecca of Disney but also get away from it for a while and hide out at the Cabana Grill to feel as if you’re in Miami for a bit…

A walk to the Boardwalk  – where we had family bonding on our 4-person Surrey bicycle and motorboats to rent

Boat Launch to Epcot & Hollywood Studios (I’m old school so I kept calling it MGM studios!)

Swan Paddle Boats just off the beach – so cute!

Access to “Magic Hours” which was a life saver during this very busy time of the year.  **warning – to me, this was like running the marathon without training! ( 7-8am, 10-12m or 12-3am  Needless to say we passed on the 12-3am!)

Kimono restaurant – good sushi and even better Karaoke for our 11 year olds to get up and sing!

BlueZoo Restaurant – good food for all, fun ambiance

 

Epcot Must Sees – We got all of these in during magic hours, without them the fast passes were gone by 11am and the wait times were 2+hours on average!

Soarin’ – crazy fun (nauseating/scary if heights are in issue – as they are for me) ride were you feel like flying.  I had my eyes closed half the time while my eight year old daughter was basically trying to jump off….

Norwegian Boat Ride (sans movie)

Fireworks  – sitting at a café table with cappocino, chocolate crepe watching the fireworks cheoographed to classical music – (my favorite, although not a ride!)

Test Track – for the adventuresome – not my family.  But those with the need for speed love this one!

 

Magic Kingdom –

Cinderella’s Castle – really…Stop and stare.  So pretty.

 Splash Mountain – we all loved it.  Our family favorite!  Cute, sweet boat ride, then a fun log flume drop to kick it up a notch!

 Jungle Cruise – much tamer than the others, but our guide packed on the silliness, which our kids ate up!

 Peter Pan – So great to be immersed in the world and to fly through it.

 Pirates of the Caribbean – I felt like I was 12 again, but we almost lost my 8 year old who did not appreciate the dark…or the dark humor

 It’s a Small World – a classic.  A must.  I just want to put one of those dolls right in my pocket

 In serious need of a rewrite?  Bear Jamboree – Seriously, bears singing about “blood on the pillow”, making sexual innuendos, and showcasing stupidity and overweight bears?  I know it’s been around forever but that doesn’t make it a classic!

 Fireworks – I didn’t have a chance to get closer to the castle, but the fireworks over Magic Kingdom (as seen from Narcoosee’s) are so good that kids are spoiled forever and all other fireworks shows fail in comparison

Hollywood Studios

 Toy Story – A favorite for the younger set.  One of the kids couldn’t get enough and between the fast passes and magic hours I think he went on it 5 or 6 times in 3 days!  High score?  101,000 points!

 American Idol Experience – as close as it gets to being immersed in the real experience

 Sci Fi Diner – What can I say, we love a good food experience!  Pretending to be outside, with a dark blue sky, twinkling stars, eating in convertible cars with headlights that light up, watching silly old sci fi movies and eating burgers, shakes and fries!

 Monster’s Inc Laugh Factory – another underground favorite – we loved the interactivity (surprise, surprise!)  where all of us in the audience were featured as part of the personalized animated show.  (“Want to see something cute?  [pause] A baby!”)

 Muppet Vision 3D – Greg and my personal favorite (& Jim Henson’s last completed project) Sooo funny and we love the 4D smells waffed in, water spirted on you, puppets appearing in the theater….

Let me know if I missed any of your favorites!

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Kids, Stuff We Love

Throughout the blogosphere I’ve met some wonderfully talented, intelligent and creative people who have their own unique voice and something to share. My favorite relationships are those that are based on mutual respect. Lately, I’ve been corresponding with Kia Robertson,  a woman whose philosophy on nutrition and healthy eating I feel strongly about and equally share.

Kia had recently sent me her latest, a Today I Ate A Rainbow! kit, which allows children to monitor their progress within their quest to eat well. This is all done in a fun, intuitive and informative way with the assistance of charts, magnets, shopping lists and illustrated books. We all know that kids yearn for order, repetition and to be challenged, so Kia skillfully incorporates this into the Today I Ate A Rainbow! kit.

Should you have a picky eater at home or if you simply want a fun way for your kids to instill and nurture lifelong healthy eating habits, this kit will undoubtedly assist in that process.

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Blue's Clues, Kids, Parenting, Stuff We Love

Who else pre-bought tickets to the Muppets?!

We did!

On premiere day, Greg and I took the girls to see the new Muppet Movie.  We were all excited…and we loved it!  I have to admit that I got choked up a few times – especially at the idea that I was sharing this happy part of my own childhood with my girls. And well, a   comeback story always gets me.  And Rainbow Connection?  Bring on the tears.

My girls? They laughed!  And they were sad when Walter was sad.  And they cheered at the end.

And Mommy was a hero!

Why?

Because I know Walter!  Peter Linz, the amazingly talented actor who plays Walter played Polka Dots & Doodle Board on Blue’s Room.  My girls remember meeting Peter who was always so sweet to them.   Congrats to Peter!   You were awesome!

I seriously wish more movies for kids were like The Muppet Movie.  Silly, heartfelt, fun for all ages.  “Forget You” in chicken bok?   Genius.

And my girls can’t stop singing, “Manamana!”   Bonus!

 

 

by: Laura | Filed under Good Use of Media, Stuff We Love

While the search for a new book or a new author for a 4-8 yr old might be a little less intimidating, Laura’s really helped us out this week with some great recommendations for the 9-12 year old set. And as you can probably tell, they’ve all been kid tested & pleasantly approved 🙂  Enjoy…


Fiction

Johnny Tremain Esther Forbes (Newberry Medal)

Historical fiction at its best.  An exciting and educational tale set in the days before the American Revolution.

 

A Tale Dark and Grimm Adam Gidwitz

Alternating dark and creepy with hilarious and goofy.  Consistently brilliant.


The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Bette Bao Lord

Touching on immigration and racial tension in a gentle, sweet and funny tale.

 

The Giver Lois Lowry (Newberry Medal)

A thought-provoking novel.  I highly recommend reading this book along with or ahead of your child.  Expect great conversation to come of it.

 

Gregor the Overlander Suzanne Collins (Underland Chronicles Series)

A fun, thrilling series which is appropriately written for younger readers. My son has read the entire 5 book series… 3 times.  ‘nuff said

 

Non-Fiction

The Word Snoop Ursula Dubosarsky

Lovers of reading and writing of all ages will appreciate this book.  Consider it a tour of the English language from the early days to Twitter.  The plentiful puzzles, jokes and riddles are a bonus treat.

 

Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World Sid Fleischman

A gifted man in his rags-to-riches story told to young readers by notable late biographer Fleishman (also see his bios on Mark Twain and Harry Houdini).

 

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women who Dared to Dream Tanya Lee Stone

In the 1960’s you had to be a man to go to space.  This is the story of the women who were qualified.  They never made it to space, but they paved the way for those who came after them by challenging the system.

 

D.I.Y. Kids Ellen Lupton and Julia Lupton

Creative and unique DIY craft ideas for kids ages 7-12.  Lots of great stuff here!

 

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka Jon Scieszka

Scieszka is a family favorite in our house (he could write about paint drying and we would eat it up).  This memoir shows you how he became the knucklehead we love.

 

If you’ve got some “can’t put down” favorites from your 9-12 year old which didn’t make it here, please add it to our list in the comments section below.

 

by: Greg | Filed under Kids, Stuff We Love

Back in September we discussed Launchpad Toys’ Toontastic animation/storytelling app (see the post “Your Kids Should Tell Stories”).  Well, they’ve just released  Toontastic V1.4, Attack of the Megazoid Monsters!  The new update includes 3 New Mega Awesome Playsets featuring Sir-Stomps-a-Lot smashing and grabbing through San Francisco, King Jinx taking a waffle-cone sized bite out of the Chrysler Building, and Mr. Lizard – that slimey scourge of a sea monster– terrorizing Tokyo. Thankfully, the TV8 News Crew is live from the scene!

With this update, we’re hosting an Action News! storytelling contest with Launchpad Toys for kids to create and share their own News Broadcasts (Monsters Optional).  One winner will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card valued at $100, compliments of Launchpad Toys.

 

To Participate:

  1. Create a cartoon News Broadcast using Toontastic for the iPad (download the app HERE). Being that we’re nearing Thanksgiving, extra points for “signing off” with the line “Let’s all be thankful for ______. This is TV8 News, Signing Off.”
  2. Upload your cartoon to ToonTube and send a link to your cartoon to actionnews@launchpadtoys.com by November 9th.
  3. Participants will be announced on November 10th. Voting will be open through November 16th.
  4. The contest winner will be announced on November 17th.
  5. Contest is open to residents of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Please see contest rules for further details.

We can’t wait to see what mayhem your kids exact on toon-cities everywhere!


by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Good Use of Media, Stuff We Love

Launchpad Toys creates “digital toys and tools that empower kids (and parents) to create, learn & share their ideas through play”. Their latest creative learning tool is called Toontastic, an app whose design arose from a partnership with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and Zeum: San Francisco’s Children’s Museum. Off to a good start and it gets better!

In a clean & fun environment, it handholds the user through formal storytelling features (i.e. setting, conflict, character devpt., climax & resolution) and then a crash course in animation. Without cumbersome keyframes, one animates by clicking “Start Animation” and then simply moving and scaling the characters around by hand as if they’re digital Colorforms. The app records all of this motion, with a variety of characters, and also includes simple multi-touch gestures which separates this from other kid-friendly animation apps out there.

After the user records his/her voice-over track for all the characters on the stage (with the built-in mic) and establishes the background music to set the mood, they’re off to post their objet d’art on ToonTube, Launchpad’s Global Storytelling Network for Kids.  Here, kids can also find pride in receiving badges for Top ‘Toons.

Andy, over at Launchpad Toys, told me that they are “avid fans of Blues Clues and Super Why. We’re very excited to bring Angela’s readers’ stories to life (and, ok, their kids’ too)!” That said, the 1st 5 readers to follow @AngelasClues on Twitter & retweet the following will be given a FREE copy of the Toontastic app:

“@AngelasClues: What did you CREATE 2day? Win a FREE Toontastic app! TY @launchpadtoys! http://bit.ly/nVFJbK “

 

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Stuff We Love

10yr old Genna created www.GennasWorld.com to write & share not only her stories and book reviews but to call upon kids from around the globe to contribute as well.  While some post their own stories, others chose to add to a collaborative piece which builds and builds with everyone’s involvement.

Such interactive community writing is a great use of the web and sheds light not only on the untapped ability that’s out there, but the unselfish creativity of a 10yr old MA girl.  Well done Genna!

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Good Use of Media, Stuff We Love

Lego building

As our children go back to school next month, it’s natural to question to what degree do their activities assist their development. The positive benefits of childrens’ building products, like Lego, is incalculable. From learning design skills and construction theories, problem solving, tactile development…the list goes on.

Lego now allows you to download it’s Lego Digital Design Software for FREE, yes FREE! Your child (or you) can now create anything using virtual Lego bricks right on your computer.

Even if you have a complete Lego set at home and have been building for some time now, this allows your child to sketch to his/her hearts content and troubleshoot in a virtual environment. When done with a new virtual project, Lego Digital Designer will print out an inventory to list out your materials or simply to purchase the pieces you don’t have and then create, create, create!

Happy Building!

 

(FYI…a great article on the benefits of Lego play on children with autism can be found HERE)

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Stuff We Love

Enough said.

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Kids, Stuff We Love

Sometimes for the pre-school set, mealtime gets a little tricky…especially when we’re trying to teach them the importance of making smart food choices.

Let the good folks at www.uncommongoods.com toss a little fun into the mix with their whimsical dishware.  It probably won’t turn them into a Michael Pollan disciple overnight, but it’ll help foster their interest/love of foods with various colors & textures.  Why not let a little fun assist this time of the day?

Seen here: Ms. Food Face Plate & Construction Plate & Utensils