Monthly Archives

September 2017

    family fun

    Spooktacular Halloween Events at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester!

    Halloween is Spooktacular at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester!

    Fall is in full swing at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester with many opportunities to spend quality family time together, no matter the weather! They have lots of great Halloween-themed events and promotions happening in October.

    Brick-or-Treat (Weekends in October & Tuesday, October 31) – A ghoulishly good time is brewing at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Brick-or-Treat! Little ghosts and mummies can experience Halloween every weekend in October (beginning October 7) and on Tuesday, October 31 with spooktacular activities sure to please the whole family.

    • Brick or Treat around the attraction to complete a LEGO Bat model that you can take home with you!
    • Halloween themed mosaic builds in the Master Builder Academy
    • Haunted MINILAND, Brick or Treat Factory Brick Giveaway, and LEGO Jack-O-Lantern & MINIFIGURE Ghost Photo Opps
    • Wear your Halloween costume and receive $5 off admission

    Teacher Planning Night (October 12) – Calling all Teachers! LEGOLAND Westchester is hosting a special Teacher Planning Night on Tuesday, October 12 from 5 – 7pm. Bring a guest (adult or child) and explore all of the fun and educational elements that we have available. Enter our free raffle for the chance to win a free trip to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester for your entire classroom (up to 25 students)!

    Adult Fans of LEGO® Night! (October 26) – Kingdom Quest has been overrun by the dead! Do you dare to walk through the zombie-infested ride? Even grown-ups should be able to enjoy a LEGO ex-FEAR-ience. Join us on Thursday, October 26 from 7 – 9pm for our Halloween Adult Fans of LEGO® Night and build your very own graveyard scene to keep. Spooktacular activities include horror movie/TV trivia, zombie target practice, a survival gear scavenger hunt, and more.

    • Games, prizes, fun, cash bar & more
    • Build and share ideas with our Master Model Builder, LUG members and other Adult Fans of LEGO®
    • You must be 18 years or over to attend. The fun starts at 7pm (last admission is at 8pm). Take advantage of a special online purchase of only $15 plus tax

    Little Playtimes (Tuesdays) – Little LEGO lovers can enjoy big fun at Little Playtimes on most Tuesdays between 10am and 2pm. Enjoy activities including DUPLO Story Time, Farmer’s Workshop, and newly added Animal Bingo.

    • Just $22 for one adult and one child (additional children are $10) plus applicable tax
    • Appropriate for children under the age of five (children age two and under are free)
    • Annual Pass Members are always free

    LEGO® Ninjago City Adventure (NOW OPEN)

    Pick up your swords and don your headband if you haven’t yet checked out LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester’s newest attraction? LEGO® Ninjago City Adventure, a 2,300-square-foot interactive play area (larger than four average-sized NYC apartments!), immerses guests into the world of the popular LEGO® Ninjago building sets.

    • Put your Ninja skills to the test — balance, agility, strength and endurance — on your quest to save Ninago City and become a Spinjitzu Master
    • Modeled after the Temple of Airjitzu, the two-story play structure includes more than 20 interactive features (horizontal climbing wall, color crush reflex reaction game, obstacle course challenges inspired by kids’ favorite Ninjago characters and more)
    • For our youngest visitors, Ninjago City Adventure is also equipped with a special Toddler Area that features a spin cup, toddler climber and drum panel

    Connect with LEGOLAND Westchester Discovery Center!
    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    family fun

    5 Must-Haves For Your Car If You Have Kids + Child Passenger Safety Week Tips

    Disclaimer: I partnered with to bring you this informative sponsored post following child passenger safety week.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Our family likes going out to explore new and different things and places so we spend a lot of time traveling in our car.  This is especially true on the weekends.  Spending more time in the car means we always need to be prepared for the unexpected, but most importantly we need to keep the kids safe and entertained at the same time.

    Since last week was Child Passenger Safety Week, I thought it would be a good time to not only remind you of car seat safety, but also to let you know what must-have items I keep in our car at all times.

    1. Water – I don’t like storing plastic water bottles (due to leaking chemicals) in our car so I keep it in a glass bottle instead.  The water is mainly used for emergencies only, not for drinking unless absolutely necessary.  We also travel with fresh water in the car too that I fill up in a thermos before leaving the house.

    2. Blankets – I do this because the kids and I are constantly cold, especially in restaurants.

    3. “Busy” bag – I have a backpack filled with: books, crayons, pencils, coloring books, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and small toys.  This bag comes in handy for keeping the kids entertained at places like the doctor’s office and restaurants.  I also refill our busy bag with snacks for the kids each time we’re going on longer car rides.

    4. Tissue, napkins or paper towel – Life gets messy at times.  You’ll be glad you keep at least one of these handy in your car at all times.

    5. First aid kit – Because you never know when an emergency will strike.  Be prepared.

    Also, if you’re looking into purchasing or renting a car has a lot of great information!  They also provide car maintenance tips and car seat safety tips for parents.

    Did You Know?

    • Road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children in the United States.
    • Of those children ages 8 and under who died in vehicle crashes in 2014, 26 percent were not restrained by an age-appropriate device such as an infant seat, booster seat or seat belt.
    • Children should ride in a vehicle back seat until they are at least 13 years old.


    Your turn:  What’s on your top 5 must-have list of items you keep in your car?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, giveaways

    A New Scholastic Early Chapter Book Mystery Series for Kids: Hilde Cracks the Case Hero Dog! + A Giveaway

    I am thrilled to partner with Scholastic Branches on the launch of the new book Hero Dog! (Hilde Cracks the Case #1) and host this fun giveaway!

    Hero Dog! (Hilde Cracks the Case #1)

    By Hilde Lysiak with Matthew Lysiak

    Release September 12, 2017

    Recommended for ages 6-8

    About Hero Dog!
    Ten-year-old crime reporter Hilde Lysiak is starring in her very own Branches early chapter book series — inspired by news stories Hilde wrote in real life! In this first book, there’s been a break-in on Orange Street! Cupcakes have been stolen, and soon a pie goes missing, too. Hilde and her sister/photographer, Izzy, must interview witnesses and follow the clues. Can Hilde crack the case in time to post her news story online? Joanne Lew-Vriethoff’s personality-filled illustrations appear on every page, bringing Hilde’s adventures to life for young readers!

    Hero Dog was such a fun read aloud for us to read together!  We’ve read aloud a few other early chapter book mysteries before, but I love how nine year-old Hilde (it rhymes with build-y) jots down clues and fun notes in her notepad along the way making it easy for readers to stay engaged and follow along.  There are cute illustrations throughout, questions and activities to do after reading the book and a neat two chapter sneak peek of the second book in the series (Hilde Cracks the Case: Bear on the Loose).  Oh, and there’s also a great discussion guide to use at home and in the classroom.  You can download it here.

    I also appreciate that the chapters are not too long which makes it great for bedtime reading at home.  We managed to squeeze in two short chapters per night and finished it in one week.  At the end of each chapter we couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next and ultimately how it would end.  Who stole those cupcakes and pies?  Will the bake-off bonanza be ruined?  Oh, the suspense!

    I think the coolest thing about this book is that it’s actually written by a kid!  That’s right, Hilde Lysiak is a real-life kid reporter.  Her dad used to be a reporter in New York City which helped inspire Hilde to become a reporter too.  She created her very own newspaper for her hometown called the Orange Street News when she was just seven years oldToday she has millions of readers!  Hilde know that to solve any crime or mystery you need to answer the six important questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

    Check this one out for your sleuth lovin’ little readers.  It may even inspire them to start their own newspaper for their hometown or write their own book!


    Visit the Official Site

    Like Scholastic on Facebook

    Follow Scholastic on Twitter and Instagram

    Download the Classroom Guide to Growing Young Reporters.


    Branches is a unique line of books specifically designed for newly independent readers, typically kids ages 5 to 8. The Branches line is here to help you foster a love of reading in your kids and give them the tools they need to become life-long readers. Each book includes: easy-to-read text, simple plot lines, plenty of context cues, cliffhanger chapter endings, and purposeful illustrations (on every page!) that aid in reading comprehension.  Feeling like a successful reader will bolster your child’s self-confidence, which will lead to an increased interest in reading.

    About the Author

    Hilde Kate Lysiak is the reporter and publisher of the Orange Street News. Since starting her paper at the age of seven Hilde has written and published hundreds of stories in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Hilde has been recognized for her work in the New York Times, NBC Today Show, GMA, The Washington Post, and thousands of other media across the world.


    One lucky reader will receive:

    • One (1) Copy of Hero Dog!

    Open to US addresses only.
    Prizing and samples provided by Scholastic.

    Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog! Book Giveaway

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Lovely by Jess Hong (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

     by Jess Hong

    Publisher: Creston Books
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 3 – 7
    Grade Level: Preschool – 2
    Publication Date: October 1, 2017 Available for pre-order now by clicking here!

    Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!

    Growing up, I was regularly exposed to people, ideas and foods from other countries all over the world. Now that I’m a parent I try to encourage my children to be open-minded about people who look, act or think differently than they do. It’s central to our family beliefs.

    I think this forthcoming picture book does a good job embracing diversity and inclusion across race, ethnicity, capability and sexual preference for younger readers. It starts off by asking the question: What is Lovely? The simple one sentence per page or one word per page answers the question by letting little readers know that lovely is different and comes in many forms. All people are lovely in their own way.

    Lovely is you. Lovely is me. Lovely is different, weird and wonderful.

    What makes this book stand out to me is the colorful and striking illustrations since the story itself is quite simple, yet poignant. Little readers will be exposed to a little girl with two different eye colors (one blue, one brown), a child wearing braces, a person in a wheelchair, someone wearing a prosthetic leg and more.  Recommended for ages 3-7.

    Your turn: What makes you lovely?  Feel free to share in the comments?

    book reviews, children's books

    Before They Were Famous: Rosa Parks & Hillary Rodham Clinton

    Disclaimer: I was provided copies of these books from the author in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

    Do you ever wonder what some famous people were like as children?  What was their family life like?  What were their favorite hobbies and who were some of their early childhood inspirations? I certainly think about questions like these and more.  Well, thanks to the new Leaders Doing Headstands series of books we can find out the answers to some of our most burning questions as they pertain to famous people like Rosa Parks, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Walt Disney, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more!

    When Rosa Parks Went Fishing by Rachel Ruiz

    Synopsis: No discussion of the Civil Rights Movement is complete without the story of Rosa Parks. But what was this activist like as a child? Following young Rosa from a fishing creek to a one-room schoolhouse, from her wearing homemade clothes to wondering what “white” water tastes like, readers will be inspired by the experiences that shaped one of the most famous African-Americans in history.

    “Rosa grew up trying to stop the unfair treatment of others. And then one day in 1955, she did something simple and brave. She sat down in a bus seat-and became a hero to millions of people.”

    What a beautifully illustrated and informative book about Rosa Parks and her childhood!  Little readers will enjoy learning about a side of Rosa’s life seldom heard. Follow young Rosa from her favorite fishing creek and her one-room schoolhouse to the busy streets of Montgomery, Alabama.  While Rosa’s mother worked at the school, she and her younger brother Sylvester spent time with their grandparents at a nearby fishing creek.  Rosa learned a lot from her grandparents like standing up for things you believe in and not allowing others to push you around.

    There is also some additional information about Rosa’s life as a teenager into adulthood.  I never knew she dropped out of school when she was 16 years old to care for her ill grandmother.  Many years later in 1934, she finally earned her high school diploma.  Nearly 20 years after that accomplishment, Rosa became famous for standing up for herself by refusing to give up her seat on a local city bus.

    The back of the book contains: an afterword about Rosa Parks, a glossary, additional references and critical thinking questions to discuss as an extension activity for deeper thinking.


    When Hillary Rodham Clinton Played Ice Hockey by Rachel Ruiz

    Synopsis: Hillary Rodham Clinton has always dreamed big … and achieved big too. But she didn’t become the greatest woman in US political history overnight. She was a kid first-organizing neighborhood carnivals, playing backyard ice hockey, and writing NASA to volunteer for astronaut training. This story shows readers the fun, fears, and challenges young Hillary had and encourages them to find their own strengths and dream big.


    This book starts off with a very distraught 4 year-old Hillary crying to her mother about being bullied by another girl. Hillary’s mother didn’t know what to do so she tells her to go back outside and stand up to the girl, so Hillary did. Thanks to her parents, young Hillary learned very quickly how to stand up for herself and speak up for what’s right.

    The book then introduces little readers to Hillary’s father and hew two younger brothers, Hughie Jr. and Tony. Hillary’s mother was always sure to tell her she could do whatever her brothers did.  The rest of the book talks about some of Hillary’s milestones and achievements like going to Yale Law School (where she met President Bill Clinton), getting married, having children, becoming a U.S. Senator for the state of New York and more!

    The back matter contains: an afterword about Hillary Clinton, a glossary, additional references and critical thinking questions to discuss as an extension activity for deeper thinking.

    I love the fact that both of these books are so inspirational and informative for young readers.  I learned information about both of these women that I didn’t know before like Hillary writing to NASA at the age of 14 because she wanted to become an astronaut.

    The only thing I didn’t really understand was why there was no significant tie in to the title of each book.  For example, the Rosa Parks book only has one page of Rosa going fishing as a child.  I was expecting to learn what made the creek where Rosa went fishing so significant and special to her (if anything)?  Did she continue going fishing in her adult years?  The same is true for the Hillary book.  Again, there is only one page showing Hillary and her friends playing ice hockey during her childhood. Did Hillary go on to join an ice hockey league or did she play at her school?  Maybe this isn’t relevant or important, but it’s just an observation.

    Although both books are historical picture book biographies, there are lots of lessons to help reinforce concepts of: hard work, speaking up for yourself and standing up for what is right.  Both Hillary and Rosa are excellent examples of strong women who continued to persist and persevere despite the consequences or roadblocks they faced.  I think these books would both make great additions to any home or school library and would be valuable for an elementary aged student working on a biography project for either Rosa or Hillary.  Recommended for readers ages 6 -12 and up.  32 pages.

    Your turn: What famous person’s childhood would you like to learn more about?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Picture Book for Little Activists and Nina Simone Fans!

    Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone by by Alice Brière-Haquet, illustrated by Bruno Liance

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

    Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
    Pages: 40
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 4 – 8
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3
    Publication Date: December 5, 2017, Available for pre-order now by clicking here!

    A stunning picture-book biography of the High Priestess of Soul and one of the greatest voices of the 20th century.

    With evocative black-and-white illustrations and moving prose, readers are introduced to Nina Simone, jazz-music legend and civil-rights activist. Shared as a lullaby to her daughter, a soulful song recounts Simone’s career, the trials she faced as an African-American woman, and the stand she took during the Civil Rights Movement. This poignant picture book offers a melodic tale that is both a historic account of an iconic figure and an extraordinary look at how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go for social justice and equality. A timeless and timely message aptly appropriate for today’s social and political climates.

    If you are a Nina Simone fan you are definitely going to want to add this picture book to your home library! Even if you’re not a Nina fan or have no idea who she is, I’d still highly recommend this book.

    I think it’s so well done! It uses the black and white keys on the piano as a metaphor to tell a beautiful story with themes of: racism, activism, standing up and speaking out, talent and success. Oh, and the black and white illustrations throughout are to die for!

    Here are a couple quotes from the book that really stood out to me:

    Music has no color.  In music there is only one rhythm.  Only one heart.

    Black people were nothing but half notes on a huge ivory keyboard.

    Martin’s dream (referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) was my symphony.  Black and white people could come together in the big dance of life.

    I also want to point out this book is not a historical biography about Nina Simone’s life.  There are some parts of Nina’s childhood that are highlighted like her first childhood memory of seeing a piano for the first time.  There’s also mention of Nina’s first solo piano performance at her church concert.  The book reads like a melodic lullaby being told from the perspective of Nina Simone from beginning to end.  Her daughter has trouble falling asleep so Nina tells her a bedtime story.  Fun fact: Nina Simone’s daughter is currently still alive and well.  Her name is Lisa Celeste Stroud and she is a singer, songwriter and actress.

    Overall, I think it’s a great introduction to Nina Simone and activism for little readers.  Not knowing much about Nina Simone and her life myself, this book made me curious to want to learn more.  I think some children may also want to do their own research and find out more about her too after reading this book especially since this book does not contain any biographical information about Nina’s life in the back matter.  That is perhaps the only thing I can think to add – a brief one page summary about some hit songs, accomplishments and achievements throughout Nina’s lifetime in both jazz and civil rights.

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers?  What’s your favorite Nina Simone song?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books

    Doc Like Mommy by Dr. Crystal Bowe (A Book Review)

    Doc Like Mommy by Dr. Crystal Bowe, illustrated by Mike Motz

    A beautiful story that teaches you that you can be anything you want to be.

    At some point during your childhood, do you remember having a desire to be just like your mom or dad when you grew up? While not all children feel this way, there are some who do like the adorable little girl in this rhyming book. She aspires to be a doctor just like her mommy.

    What I like about this book is not only does the girl want to have the same career as her mom, she also wants to do some of the other things her mom does. Like cooking healthy meals for the family, kissing boo-boos when you get hurt, reading bedtime stories and attending ballet recitals. I think this book does a great job showing a healthy work/life balance despite having a busy career like a doctor. Yes, moms can in fact have it all! Most importantly, it shows children they are the more important than any job or career could ever be.  Check this one out for little aspiring doctors or for any kids who want to be just like their mom when they grow up.  Recommended for ages 2-6.

    About the Author

    Dr. Crystal Bowe is a dedicated, bilingual, board certified family physician who serves all ages in Gaston County North Carolina.  She is the mother of 2 wonderful children who have inspired her to create literature that promotes diversity and inclusion.