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November 2015

    blogger events

    Xfinity Lunch N’ Learn: Using Media as a Learning Tool

    The phrase “screen time” is often associated with being negative, especially in today’s society.  Growing up as a kid, we did have some television rules in place like: we were only allowed to watch “G” rated and “PG-13” rated movies.  Relative to my childhood, limits on screen time have become increasingly restrictive and confusing.  At least to me anyway.

    Since I work in the technology field, it’s important to me that my children are familiar with technology and know how to use it.  At the same time, I don’t want to overdo it and let my kids overdose on having too much screen time.

    The iPad, Kindle, and various other tablets have opened up a world of “educational” screen time.  For this reason, I totally subscribe to the new “transmedia approach” that some schools and colleges have recently adopted.  Basically, the transmedia approach uses different forms of media to teach and reinforce key concepts.

    For example, using the transmedia approach, you can let your kids watch a 1o-15 minute episode of a TV show, then move to an app that reinforces the lessons from the TV show, and then extrapolate on the topic in your lesson plan, workbook, read a book, or do another learning activity.

    Recently, I was invited to attend an exclusive Lunch N’ Learn event at the Home of Distinction with a few other fellow mom bloggers in my state.  The event was sponsored by Comcast (my local cable provider).  Being a current Comcast subscriber I was excited to attend this event for a few reasons: 1) I’d have the opportunity to network with other local bloggers in my area.  2) I wanted to learn about some new features my family could take advantage of. 3) I was excited to learn more about the X1 platform because I think it’s a great way to incorporate the transmedia approach with my children at home and on-the-go.

    The Lunch N’ Learn consisted of three different segments:

    1) Xfinity X1
    2) Xfinity Home
    3) Xfinity Mobile Apps

    First, I’ll provide a brief description about each segment, then I’ll tell you how I think you can apply it to your family and the transmedia approach.

    xfinitycollage

    Xfinity X1

    During this segment I learned about the new voice-activated remote control.  That’s right, you can “talk” to the remote and tell it what to do.  How cool is that?  For example, you can say the name of your favorite show, tell it to turn to a specific channel, and so much more!  It’s also bi-lingual, but only understands English and Spanish at the present time.

    I also learned more about the Kids Zone which is a safe place for kids to independently explore their favorite shows and discover new ones too.  Although my kids still don’t know how to maneuver the entire remote, I would feel safe leaving the room knowing the television was tuned to the Kids Zone.  Also, since you can activate the parental controls you won’t have to worry about your kids changing the channel to another program outsize of the “zone”.

    kidszone

    It was also interesting to learn about the new integration of displaying movie ratings and reviews directly onto your TV.  It’s similar to the Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings you may have seen online.  This is so helpful for parents to determine what content is appropriate for different age ranges.

    How to incorporate the transmedia approach: Using Xfinity X1 you can watch a television show with your children at home.

    Xfinity Home

    The Xfinity Home Security System is a steal starting at just $30 a month.  Using a mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer you can do things like: turn on/off the lights, arm/disarm your security system, control the temperature, and even view a live video feed to see what’s happening in your home in real-time.

    You also set up notifications to let you know when a door is opened and receive other e-mail/text alerts related to your home.  Some of the other security features they provide are: 24-hour monitoring, door/window sensors, water sensors, glass break sensors, smart thermostats, indoor and outdoor cameras and smart light switches.

    How to incorporate the transmedia approach: Using Xfinity Home you can teach your children about video cameras and how they work.  It’s also a great learning opportunity to teach kids about security and the importance of being safe.

    Xfinity Mobile Apps

    With Xfinity mobile apps television shows and movies can be watched on your smartphone or tablet making it a truly portable experience!  And the best part is you and kids can can watch your favorite shows even if there is no internet connection available!  Simply download your favorites including DVR recordings and then watch them at any time whenever you want!  Another cool feature is the ability to share live stream video and photos with other Xfinity subscribers using Xfinity Share.

    I was completely surprised at how much I learned about Xfinity and all they have to offer in a short two-hour period. For me, learning about the Xfinity Wifi app and downloading your DVR recordings were truly game changers!  Having the kids favorite shows available at my fingertips at anytime when I need them to sit quietly will definitely come in handy.

    How to incorporate the transmedia approach: Using Xfinity Mobile Apps you can you can watch a show with your children on-the-go.

    So you see, screen time isn’t such a bad thing, right?  The truth is in today’s tech-savvy world kids will ultimately have access to screens.  There’s not much we can do about that except be aware of how they’re using them, AND get creative with ways to keep them occupied (and ourselves sane) both with and without screens.

    Let Xfinity show you how media can be an amazing tool for learning when used correctly.

    P.S. If you live in Connecticut, you can tour the Home of Distinction during one of their public tours.  See their website for more information.

    Disclaimer:  This post is sponsored by Comcast.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn:  Have you tried Xfinity TV yet?  How are you and the kids enjoying it?  Do you limit screen time in your home?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    audio books, our latest obsession, storytelling

    Our Latest Obsession: Playaway Bookpacks!

    If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen an image I posted a few days ago about Playaway audio bookpacks.  Playaway is a better listening experience combining an easy-to-use player with an entire audiobook(s).  Each bookpack comes with books (or one single book), a player, and a AAA battery.  You just plug in a pair of headphones!

    The audio book(s) are already pre-loaded on the player so there’s nothing to download…just put in the battery, plug in your headphones and press play.  Easy, peasy!  My local library carries a variety of Playaway bookpacks for both children and adults.  So far we’ve enjoyed listening to classic books like Make Way for Ducklings, The Cricket in Times Square, and more modern books like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

    playaway

    Prior to finding out about Playaway the kids and I hadn’t really explored audiobooks much .  I actually thought about purchasing a subscription through an audio book service before in the past, but now there’s no need to spend that extra money when I can just go to the library and check out a Playaway bookpack.

    The player has 5 different narration speeds so you can find the reading pace that best suits your needs.  You can also adjust the volume, reverse by chapter, fast forward to the next chapter, and rewind/fast forward within the chapter.

    Playaway bookpacks are ideal for any upcoming travel by car, plane, bus, or train.  Everyone can listen to their own audiobook on the go!  They are also ideal for long commutes to work.

    Check out your local library to see if they carry these wonderful audiobook packs.  We’re obsessed with these gems!  If they’re not available at your library – request them!

    For more information about Playaway bookpacks check out their website here.

    Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn:  Have you ever heard of Playaway?  What’s your favorite way to listen to audiobooks?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    product reviews

    Interactive Growth Charts for Kids Plus a Discount!

    Sometimes when I look at my kids it doesn’t seem like they’re growing that much.  I think that’s because I see them everyday so I don’t notice the difference as much as a person who hasn’t seen them in a few months.  It’s only when I look back at photos from previous months/years that I notice they are in fact growing like weeds and it sort of makes me want to burst into tears!  I love the fact that they are growing and learning new things and coming into their own, but its happening so quickly.  If you’re a parent, I am sure you understand.

    Since I never had an official growth chart growing up, I knew I wanted one for each of my children.  As a kid, I remember having a wall in our apartment where we would measure how tall we were. It was always so fun to see how much we had grown. But then we moved and the wall went away… as did our “growth chart.” I wanted something for my kids that could move with us, but was still simple and easy to store. The interactive growth chart from PaperRamma is perfect because it simply rolls up and you can store it away.

    Here’s the proof image I received which shows the entire growth chart from top to bottom.
    CharnaieGordon_Proof

    I recently came across PaperRamma and instantly fell in love with their interactive, info-graphic style growth charts for kids.  They are so beautiful, chic, and modern.  Gone are the days when you just used a growth chart to record your height…that’s so 20th century!  With this growth chart, you can keep track of milestones, favorite things, first words, birth stats, and more!

    GrowthChartCollage

    Each chart is customizable and printed on canvas. You can pick the colors, customize with your child’s name, pick a world or US map and can pick almost anything to put at the top for design from flowers to a graphic that fits your nursery decor.

    I love the overall concept behind this growth chart – it’s a keepsake you can move from home to home (or room to room) with you.  You can also write down notes (using an oil-based marker or pen), add photos and remember all those cute and funny moments for the whole family to look back on.

    My growth chart arrived within a few days in a sturdy cardboard package and I couldn’t wait to get it open!  Once out of the package, I was instantly impressed with it. The colors are beautiful and the design is flawless.  I can tell the chart was made to last.  Their design gurus use rich, vibrant inks which will help to preserve the design for years to come.

    I truly love the interactive growth chart we received and it is so much nicer and more creative than the other charts I had been finding in stores and online.  I’m sure it’s something my children will also treasure for years to come.  Order a personalized growth chart for your little ones today before they grow any more!  Makes a great gift for holidays, birthdays, or baby showers.

    Interested in ordering a chart?  Well, you’re in luck!  Our friends at PaperRamma have graciously provided a discount code for all of my readers to use.  Just visit their website to browse their collection and use the code READ10 in order to receive 10% off of their collection interactive growth charts.  Offer ends Jan 31, 2016.

    Connect with PaperRamma!
    Website
    Facebook
    Instagram

    Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary growth chart in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn:  How do you guys document your kids growth and milestones… or do you?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun

    Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day: December 5th

    We’ve all heard of “Take Your Child to Work Day” and “Take Your Child to the Library Day”, but did you know the first Saturday in December is designated for “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day”?  If you have heard of it, then maybe I’m just a little late to the party, but if you haven’t – read on!

    TakeYourChildToABookstoreBanner
    Unfortunately, the kids and I may not be able to participate this year as we already have a kid’s birthday party scheduled as well as a another event planned later that day.  However, I wanted to let all of you know about it in case you want to take your little ones to a participating bookstore near you.

    Saturday, December 5th, is the sixth annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. Founded by novelist Jenny Milchman, TYCBD has grown from 80 stores participating in its first year to 700 this year across all 50 states, Canada, Europe and Australia. Milchman was inspired by taking her own young children to bookstores: “Did all children know the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore? I wanted to begin a holiday that would expose as many kids as possible to this joy.”

    Each bookstore plans their own events, a mix of everything from story time, giveaways, children’s author visits and even a few canine companions for kids to read to. Participating stores can be found on this interactive map.

    What a great initiative that encourages families across the country to visit their local bookstores as a way to encourage literacy and love of reading.  I love this idea and totally support it!

    While I do purchase some books online from Amazon, I still enjoy physically going into a bookstore.  Online shopping just can’t beat things like: face-to-face interaction with friendly, knowledgeable staff, comfortable and bright reading nooks and spaces to unwind, an array of refreshments, in-store author events, and of course, story time for the little ones.

    Have I convinced you to check it out yet?  If there is a child in your life, won’t you consider taking him/her to a bookstore this December 5th?  I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word about this wonderful event.

    For more information about Take Your Child to the Bookstore Day go here.

    Your turn:  How often do you take your little readers to the bookstore?  Have you attended a Take Your Child to the Bookstore Day event in the past?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews

    Stunning Braids: A Book Review

    Since I have a daughter and I’m a natural hair enthusiast, it was inevitable that I at some point I was going to write a post about hairstyling books.  I own a few hairstyling books in my personal home library so I was excited to have the opportunity to review Monaé Everett’s book Stunning Braids.

    stunningbraids

    Synopsis
    Nothing impresses like an intricate braid. Whether you’re looking for a fun way to fix up day-old hair, a chic look for a night out on the town or a dazzling do for your wedding day, the braid is the way to go. In this DIY guide, New York City celebrity hairstylist and YouTube sensation Monaé Everett presents easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step photos for creating beautiful looks. Up your skills as you master a range of braiding techniques for any hair type, including:

    •Five-Braid Updo
    •Diagonal Lace Braid
    •Fancy Fauxhawk
    •Fringe Lace Braid
    •French Fishtail Pony

    stunningbraids2.jpg

    Reflection
    Stunning Braids is a beautiful publication that includes step-by-step illustrated tutorials for 25 braided hairstyles.  I love the fact that each style is accompanied by color photographs on different models with various hair types and textures.  I think this book also does a great job of describing different styling tools and equipment that is needed to achieve each style.

    I tried out several of the hairstyles on my own hair and was pleasantly surprised at how they turned out.  I’ll definitely be wearing these styles at various holiday parties I’ll be attending over the next few weeks.  This book is my new go-to book when I want to style my hair in a cute, chic, braided style for weddings or other special occasions.

    The photographs are professional quality and they’re not over-styled as they perhaps would be in a fashion magazine, making them seem achievable – even to some women who may be ponytail kinda girls.   I think this book is great for tweens, teens, and adult women especially if you like braided hairstyles with a touch of elegance that are not too overwhelming.  I suspect the intended audience for this book is teens and adults, but the tutorials are so well laid out that they can be followed by all ages with ease.  A must-have for your home library collection if you’re into hair as much as I am.

    About the Author

    monae
    Monaé Everett knows how to bring out the beauty in everyone.  Her celebrity clients have include:  Taraji P. Henson, Mariah Carey, Connie Britton, Lauren Graham, and more.  Her expert opinion has been featured in major publications such as: Huffington Post, Redbook.com, and Essence magazine.  To help make women look and feel their best, she regularly blogs at HairandMakeupBlog.com and uploads beauty tutorials to YouTube.

    Connect with Monaé!
    Website: MonaeEverett.com
    E-Mail: Monae@HairandMakeupBlog.com
    Stunning Braids Press Release

    Find Her on Social Media!
    YouTube   Instagram   FaceBook   Twitter   Pinterest   Google+   LinkedIn

    Your turn:  Did you enjoy this post?  Do you like to experiment with your hair and try new styles or do you usually play it safe and wear your hair the same way all of the time?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, giveaways

    Crow Made a Friend Book Tour & Giveaway!

    I’m thrilled to be a part of the TLC tour for Crow Made a Friend by Margaret Peot!

    crowmadeafriend
    Recommended for Children Ages: 4 to 8
    Themes: Easy Readers, Animals/Fiction, Friendship

    Book Synopsis
    Try, try again is the lesson Crow teaches beginning readers in this picture book reader. Crow was all alone. But like all crows, he was very clever. Using autumn leaves for wings, sticks for the body and a crab apple for the head, Crow made a friend! But winter winds blew in, destroying his creation. Undaunted, Crow fashioned another bird friend out of snow but could not prevent it from melting in the warm spring sun. Alone again, Crow heard the caw, caw, caw of a real, live bird. Together they built a nest and by summer, Crow had a family. This warm, satisfying story, celebrates perseverance and ingenuity.

    Reflection
    Making new friends can be intimidating, but it’s definitely rewarding. After all, friends form a big part of our life. They are the ones who walk through life together, share our ups and downs and joys and pains. Without friends, life wouldn’t be the same at all.  The lonely crow in this book certainly understands this so he goes on a quest to make a new friend and ends up starting a new family at the end.

    The kids and I really enjoy this book!  It’s a wonderful, charming, beautifully illustrated, short story that my three-year old daughter can read word for word on her own.  It’s a quick read and perfect for beginning readers to enjoy over and over.  I think the overall messages about the importance of friends and continual effort are easy enough even for the youngest readers to understand.

    After reading the book, the kids and I did the craft activity that was included to make our own “friend”.  I adore doing craft activities with the kids after reading the book as it seems to help reinforce what we’ve just read while having fun.  You can download your very own crow activity sheet here!

    I’m a true believer that children’s books teach us some of life’s most valuable lessons.  The valuable lesson I took away from this book is the key to making new friends is YOU!  Friends will not magically come your way.  It takes time, trying different things, and lots of effort on your part.  Just like shopping for shoes, you have to try on lots of pairs before finding the right fit.

    About the Author
    MargaretPeot_400x600

    Margaret Peot is an artist, writer, and a teacher.  Some of her other books include: Inkblot: Drip, Splat and Squish Your Way to Creativity (Boyds Mills 2011), The Successful Artist’s Career Guide: Finding Your Way in the Business of Art (F&W 2012)Alternative Art Journals: Explore Innovative Approaches to Collecting Your Creativity (F&W 2012), and Make Your Mark: Explore Your Creativity and Discover Your Inner Artist (Chronicle Books, 2004).

    Margaret attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and studied with Alex McKibben, Rocio Rodriguez, Lon Beck, Thomas Effler, Geoff Fishburn, Michael Griffiths, and Crossan Curry. She is currently serving on the first College of Creative Arts Advisory Board at Miami.

    Connect With Margaret!
    Author’s Website
    The InkBlotBook
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Pinterest (Crow)
    Pinterest (Birding)

    Also, be sure to “like” the TLC Tours Facebook page for contests, giveaways, book talk, links to great reviews, and much more! 

    Now you can enter to win a copy of the book!  TLC Book Tours is Giving Away a Copy of Crow Made a Friend to one random reader. To enter simply leave a comment below.  Hurry, ends Monday, November 16, 2015.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

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    children's literacy

    Literacy Expert Spotlight: Sophie Helenek

    This month’s literacy expert is Sophie Helenek.  Sophie is an elite athlete, award-winning author, former banker, Everest summiteer, runway model, and mother.  Also, her daughter happens to go to the same preschool as my son – how cool is that?
    sophiehelenek

    Please tell us a little about yourself and your background?
    I was born in Guyancourt, France.  I’ve always had a passion for music, education, and sports.  At the age of 22, I obtained my Master’s degree at La Sorbonne Business School.  In 2013, I became a new mom and embarked on the journey of writing a baby book series which includes four delightful board books Fruits, Sky Wonders, Shapes and Musical Instruments.  I am also a motivational speaker and panelist at different events around the world.  I am currently embracing my new career as executive coach and keynote speaker.

    Please provide some insight on what it’s like to be a children’s book author.
    As per my experience, it is not easy to be a children’s book author mainly because everyone thinks they can do it. But it is far from easy. Writing a children’s book is a tedious and challenging process which requires lots of research, great attention to details, and a mental made of steel! You are working on complex concepts that are expressed in “simplistic” ways. Such discrepancy often undermines your hard work and it can be very discouraging.

    My inspiration
    My inspiration was my daughter. When she was a small baby, I showed her an M.C. Escher book. She seemed to like the black and white spiral drawings. When I say “like,” I understand you don’t really know what is going on in an infant’s head, but I could tell that something happened. I was surprised and started reading about how babies’ eyes work, what they see, and why.

    At birth, babies are very nearsighted; that is why they are interested in bold black and white shapes and high contrast patterns. Eager to learn more, I read bunch of studies on speech development, child temperament, and babies’ milestones. Gathering all this information, I developed and designed My First Books series from a baby’s perspective. I wanted to write an engaging book that promotes bonding and supports an infant’s developmental growth milestones: vision, memory, speech, and social skills.

    They are not just picture books or bedtime stories but rather activity books conceived to stimulate a baby’s senses.

    SophieHelenekCollage

    Here how My First Book series works:

    • At first, a baby will enjoy simple illustrations with black-and-white and high-contrast patterns designed especially for the very young to focus on.
    • As babies gets older, their brains learn to distinguish bright primary colors and will start identifying the illustrations with the words you read, which triggers their memory process.
    • Each picture is accompanied by a simple word that babies will love repeating and which helps their speech development.
    • The last pages show all the illustrations together, which also helps the baby’s memory process.
    • My First Book series offers a special feature for toddlers, as they can write on the book with a white board pen, wipe it, and write again!

    What tips and advice would you give to others who may be considering writing a children’s book?
    First you need an idea. Then, do your research and see if your idea makes sense, and if it could target an audience niche. Once you are getting ready to start writing, step back and ask yourself : Why am I doing it? And What do I really want to achieve with my book? Write down your answer, and keep it handy. It will be a good motivation boost going forward!  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need advice.

    What are some activities that you’ve done with your child to promote literacy?
    I placed books everywhere, among toys, on shelves at her eye sight, on the dining table, in the car…. Books are part of her daily life. It is a bonding time, as well as a self-exploratory medium for her. She discovered she can turn pages, choose her books, “read” at her own pace, etc.

    What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
    I always encourage people to think out of the box and be open minded to your child interests and affinities. Some unknown authors wrote wonderful books which are not promoted by big publishing companies and therefore are stuck under the radar of the “must-have” children books.

    Nevertheless, I personally love board books by Karen Katz, Where’s Spot flap books, and Mother Goose.

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family?
    I read her books every morning before or after breakfast, and every night before going to bed. I always give her a book to look at when she is in her car seat.

    I also incorporate several types of books into my parenting: nighttime stories, which are mainly soft pastel drawing books that are calming; nursery rhyme books, which are more wordy and playful; and activity baby board books like My First Book series which are placed with all other toys.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
    Don’t hesitate to read in front of your child – before you know it he/she will mimic you reading.

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
    It is never too early (or too late) to read to baby.

    Parents play a key role in their child development by supporting their healthy physical, emotional, and developmental growth. Being a first-time mom my motherhood instincts were to love, bond, and nurture my child as well as to feed her active brain. I played and read a lot to her and she loved it since day one. It is never too early to read to your baby, despite their seemingly passive demeanor their brain is constantly at work absorbing information and generating new connections among brain cells.  Reading to babies appears to be an excellent nourishment to complete their brain development, a “brain food” as mentioned in Baby Read-Aloud Basics book.

    Hardcover, Paperback, or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
    I love hardcover books. I don’t like e-books, I love turning the pages and writing notes.

    Fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, romance, or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
    I am scared very easily, so it is impossible for me to read a suspense or thriller book. I enjoy reading fiction and business/reference books.

    Name an adult book that:
    You really enjoy:
    Gabriel Garcia Marquez author of the marvelous book “One hundred years of solitude”.  I also like more light hearted authors like Natalie Nothomb or Anna Galvalda.

    You would recommend to others: The book series by Katherine Pancol
    “ Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles”, “La valse lente des tortues” and “Les ecureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi”

    What books are on your nightstand right now?
    I did not realize how many books I read at the same time. I have two magazines on my nightstand, the Times, and the Atlantic ; a financial book: “The New Advisor for Life” by Gresham and two books in French “au revoir la-haut” by Pierre Lemaitre and “Un secret” by Philippe Grimbert.

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
    I am working on a new board book series “Baby Babble” dedicated to promote speech development by introducing fun and engaging age appropriate sounds. The first book of the series will be released in spring 2016 “Baby Babble Ooo”, which includes vocalization such as Ghosts say Boo, Cows say Moo, Owls say Ooo, as well familiar words and functional objects such as spoon and balloon.  Some videos will be added on the publisher website to guide parents in helping their child in the production of the sound Ooo.

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?

    Website: www.nurserybooks.net
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nurserybooks
    Twitter:  @nurserybooks
    Books available on :

    Your turn:  Did you enjoy this post?  Are you interested in being featured?  Do you know someone who might want to be featured?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

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