Archive for November, 2014

Kids Place Live/Parents’ Choice Holiday Guide

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Kids Place LiveThe 2014 Kids Place Live/Parents’ Choice Singable Holiday Guide is here!

Follow along with (Absolutely) Mindy Thomas and Claire Green as they sing and chat their way through some of the fun-est, smartest, and loveable toys of the year. The show will air throughout Thanksgiving weekend on Kids Place Live, SiriusXm Channel 78:


Friday, November 28 at 10pEST/7pPST

Saturday, November 29 at 9aEST & 5pEST/2pPST

Sunday, November 30 at 12pEST/9aPST


Here’s a round-up of the toys and games featured:

When we talked about Pretend Play, we recommended:

The Funny Frog Puppet and the Grunting Pig Puppet from the fabulous Folkmanis company. The age recommendation is 3+, but we can promise that they appeal to all ages. Pair the frog puppet with the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, and the pig puppet with the incomparable Charlotte’s Web.

Kids who come to life by putting on a show will like the HABA Doorway Puppet Theatre (ages 3+) and those looking for pretend play to rival Black Friday sales will enjoy Playmobil’s Furnished Shopping Mall (ages 5+). But be prepared, the assembly time for this clocked in at just over two hours.

Urban FoldWith a little twist on the Building theme, we talked about building words – and a thoroughly modern paper city. ThinkFun’s Last Letter ™ game (ages 8+) will take players’ observation skills to new heights and build vocabulary in some very playful ways. URBAN FOLD: Build Your Own Paper Block City (ages 6+) is stylish, clever, and creative play.

Want to cook up some fun-filled learning? If you’re shopping in Whole Foods, pick up one, or the whole fleet of PBS KIDS My Little Scoot! (ages 2+). The series is a partnership between Whole Foods and PBS; the little wooden trucks, made in the USA by Maple Landmark, are great stocking stuffers. Clifford Food Science offers young scientists food related experiments and activities, and the Playful Chef Deluxe Cooking Kit serves up five kid-friendly recipes; utensils, recipe cards and “tool belt” apron included.

Creativity is Huge. And so is the contents of The Big Creativity Can . It’s recommended for ages 4+, but our testers as old as 10 couldn’t keep their hand off it. That’s ditto for the Alex Toys Colossal Art Set . Crayon Rocks (ages 3+) are designed to help children develop the tripod grip, oh so important for grasping the obvious.

Remote ControlIn the Lots of Science; Loads of Fun category, we recommended Remote Control Machines DLX. This also doubles as a “grandma gift.” That’s from, not for Grandma. Moving on to the Lots of Fun; Little Bit of Science category, is the very uplifting Wubble Bubble Ball.

And rounding out this year’s singable holiday guide is our Wheels Up category.  The kid-powered rides we talked about are the Razor Jr. Zombie Kix scooter (ages 3+) and the Sbyke P16 (ages 5+) and the Sbyke P20 (ages 8+). You could also hint to Grandma for the Sybkes. We think she may even like to take it for a spin herself.


Thanks for listening!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and playful holiday season.


Language is a Funny Thing

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Language is a funny thing. Children learn by listening to their parents and we are always so thrilled when, without us realizing it, our kids have learned to associate words with meaning. Mommy. Daddy. Kitty. Hot. No.

©Brillo 2010

©Brillo 2010

Children are amazing little sponges that pick up so much, but we sometimes forget to see—or rather—hear the world through their eyes. The nuances of adult conversations can take on a whole new meaning for youngsters. For instance, our family often laughs about the time, when, retelling a story, my mother talked about wanting to do something “in the worst way.” My young niece, intrigued, looked utterly rapt and asked quite seriously, “what is the worst way?”

If anything, these instances reminds us how often we use old colloquialisms and clichés and how literally little ears can take them. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when I told her to “hold her horses” and she excitedly asked where her ponies where. That was a tough one to talk my way out of. She was similarly disappointed to learn that those little vehicles were go-karts and not goat carts. When my husband was a young teen, his mom sent him to the grocery store to “buy the staples.” He came home with a box of 500.

A good friend experienced similar word mishaps. While trying to stop smoking, she talked about going “cold turkey.” Her son curiously asked if ham would work, too. Another friend’s child spent a good deal of time searching the cupboards for elbow grease after his dad suggested he use some to help clean the bathroom. It makes you wonder how many times we’ve unintentionally confused our kids.

How many of the following phrases do you commonly use?

Clean as a whistle. One fell swoop. Pulling your leg. You crack me up. It’s raining cats and dogs. Woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Off the top of my head. Keep your eyes peeled. Break a leg. I could eat a horse. Put a sock in it. Jumped the gun. Piece of cake. Hit the books. Over my dead body. Kick the bucket. In a pickle. Chip on your shoulder. Put your foot in your mouth. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

Do your kids ever misinterpret common sayings? Let’s hear your stories!




Interstellar is BIG and bold

Monday, November 10th, 2014


Interstellar, the PG-13 space movie, is BIG and bold. McConaughey and kids

Humanity is in trouble. A blight is killing off the Earth’s crops. Drones are zooming randomly through the skies. And violent dust storms are making it really tough to keep the house – and everyone’s lungs – clean.

Someone needs to do something.

Enter scientist Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). Under NASA chief Professors Brand’s (Michael Caine) guidance, they set off into space in search of a suitable place to start a new colony. For McConaughey’s character, Cooper, whose wife has died, it means saying goodbye to his young daughter Murphy and teen son Tom, leaving them with his father-in-law. That’s not an easy choice to make.

The space story is complicated, but should spark the imagination of any family’s young star-gazers, sci-fi fans and budding astrophysicists. The explorers are brave, facing challenges of all sorts – from a giant wave to ice clouds to a black hole with serious gravitational pull. But there is a wonderfully elegant explanation of a wormhole at one point, involving a piece of folded paper and a pencil.

The heartfelt part of the story focuses on the father-daughter bond between Cooper and Murphy, played by Mackenzie Foy as a girl, Jessica Chastain as a woman and Ellen Burstyn as an older woman. Cooper is determined to keep his promise to return to Murphy, who desperately misses him. But will time allow? Can love transcend space?

Scenes are awe-inspiring and majestic, showing off vast new, stark realms. The music booms. There is intergalactic danger. There are tense moments. People die. And it’s a long movie – nearly three hours.

Still, if you’re going to see it, see it in IMAX. And it’s well worth seeing so that you can judge for yourself whether it’s the “masterpiece” that many critics have called it or if you find it “hokey,” as other critics have said.  Maybe, like me, you’ll land somewhere in between.

No matter what, it’s a chance for your kids to see an epic movie about space. And you will have plenty to discuss on the car ride home. Does it compare to Gravity or other space films your family has seen? Did the science add up? Did Cooper make the right choices? What is the future of our agriculture?  And why does the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night fit the theme so well?

It’s the kind of movie that will leave an impression for years, or light-years, to come.






Mom Camp

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Mom CampAn amazing thing happened in our house last week. My teenage daughter gave me what was simply one of the best compliments—inadvertently, of course.

More than a boost for my self-esteem it was reinforcement for all parents, who, with the help of YouTube, Pinterest, lots of caffeine and other inspirational parenting blogs are able to pull off some nifty feats for their kids—especially on the fly.

It was spirit week at my daughter’s school and since it coincided with Halloween, that meant extra special effort. I was instructed to be up early to help with “freshly dead zombie” face paint. After I applied the makeup, paying close attention to the gory details, my daughter admired my handiwork. She then asked if I could show her how to do it on her own. In fact, she said, after pausing thoughtfully, she wanted me to teach her more of fun things that I’ve done for her in the past. She asked, “Where do you learn this stuff? Is there a fun mom core camp?”I was more than happily stunned.

She actually thought about and noticed the attempts we parents make. Those late night cupcake making sessions, the failed homemade Play Doh experiments, the costume making—turns out they matter—even to teenagers. It was the kind of parental moment that, if I were a football player, I would be doing an end zone dance.

I’m not saying that parents should stress themselves out trying to be super mom or dad. And while those balloon animal making lessons won’t lead to a second income, they will eventually earn you some appreciation. And if you are really lucky, your kids might even let it slip once in a while and let you know it. I have proof.  My husband is my witness!


That First Kiss

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Wonder YearsThat first kiss. Those awkward junior high years. Life in suburbia for Kevin Arnold in 1968 was one challenge after another. And The Wonder Years captured it all perfectly.

The TV series debuted in 1988, amusing and delighting viewers with the story of a family in a typical American suburb exactly 20 years earlier – 1968. Running for six seasons, The Wonder Years followed Kevin from age 12 through 17, ending in fictional 1973.

We all watched as he navigated the tricky waters of his adolescence during turbulent social times. Now the series is back in a DVD set, and it’s as poignant and funny as ever. In fact, it seems to have gotten better with time.

One of the show’s best features is its unique storytelling format. Narrator Daniel Stern lets us in everything Kevin (played by Fred Savage, who tweeted a cute reunion photo earlier this year), is thinking, from contemplating his first kiss with neighbor crush Winnie Cooper, to wondering exactly what his father does for a living, through getting his driver’s license and beyond.

As the series starts, the backdrop of the Vietnam War looms large. Kevin’s older sister, Karen, is exploring the world of hippies, love and peace protests. Kevin’s older brother, Wayne, is constantly giving Kevin a hard time. And by Kevin’s side for all those wondrous years is his nerdy best friend, Paul.

All six seasons are in the new StarVista DVD set, which includes 26 discs and is packaged in a small locker that looks just like the one Kevin had at Kennedy Junior High. Among the bonus features are a discussion of the outtakes of that first kiss scene and enlightening interviews with Neal Marlens and Carol Black, as well as the cast. They all dish about how the show came to be and how it unfolded behind-the-scenes.

Boomer parents will love the classic music from the time, including the opener – Joe Cocker’s rendition of With A Little Help From My Friends. Be prepared for it – as well as your own time warp – to get stuck in your head as you move through the episodes.

While your tweens and teens may laugh at the pre-Internet, pre-Smart phone way of life depicted on the very non-high-def episodes, they will also undoubtedly see that the main reason the series is so watchable after all this time is because the scenarios are timeless: What do you say to the girl you like? Where do you sit in the school cafeteria? What exactly is a jock strap?

But it’s not just for boys. Girls should know that the actress who plays Winnie Cooper – Danica McKellar – went on to make a name for herself as a math whiz and author of four books on math targeted at girls.

So when you do watch with your family, the door will be open to some of those touchy topics such as birth control, dating, drinking and drugs. You’ll feel Kevin’s pain and heartache, along with his triumphs. As with any good television show or film, The Wonder Years will give you a chance to laugh together, remind you of what your child may be feeling, and allow you to address those topics in your own way.  In the meantime, you’ll have hours of entertaining television to enjoy together.