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family fun

    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, family fun

    Friday Fun: Groovy Joe Dance Party!

    Disclaimer: We partnered with Scholastic to share this fun and groovy post!

    By Eric Litwin and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

    Release: September 12, 2017

    Recommended for ages 3-5

    By now you should know how much we love to read AND have fun!  So when Scholastic asked us to partner with them on a fun children’s book about music, dancing, singing AND learning math we were all in!  Have you and your kids heard of Groovy Joe yet?  If not, you’re missing out!  Check out the official book trailer to get a glimpse of exactly who Groovy Joe is!  We had fun with the first Groovy Joe book along with the Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes book so I had no doubt this one would be great too!

    Having our own Groovy Joe dance party in the comfort of our own home was a great way for the kids to unwind after a long day at school.  We read the book, ate yummy and healthy snacks, made our own music shakers, sang songs and of course we danced!  Check out some of the highlights below.

    We printed out the song sheet and these fun certificates!

    Like my homemade microphone?

    Making homemade music shakers with bowls and kidney beans.

    Peek-a-boo, I see you!

    My certified “groovy” dancer!  These certificates seemed to help make it more official and legit for the kids.

    Of course they had to play with our photo backdrop afterwards!

    About the Book
    Knock! Knock! Groovy Joe, the fun-lovin’, guitar-strummin’ easy goin’ doggy is back and ready for a dance party with you . . . and a whole new math-lovin’ doggy crew!

    Groovy Joe is totally fun.
    He’s a tail-wagging, song singing party of one!
    And he rocks like this:
    Disco party bow wow!

    #1 New York Times bestsellers Eric Litwin (Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes) and Tom Lichtenheld (Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site) are back again in another groovy story that will have little ones singing, dancing, and learning math to a whole new beat.

    In his second book, Groovy Joe has a dance party. But Oh no! More and more doggies are knocking on his door, asking to come in. Will there be enough room for everyone? Joe knows just what to do and soon enough he everyone moving and grooving — the party has only just begun! Signature rhyme, repetition, and musical writing style, combined with wild and witty illustrations infused and gentle math concepts come together to create an unforgettable new Groovy Joe story all about positivity, creativity, math, and kindness. Groovy Joe is back, ready to get groovy!

    Do you want to have your own Groovy Joe party?  How fun would this be at a kid’s birthday party!

    Read tips for hosting your own Groovy Joe party

    Groove to the Groovy Joe songs and sing-along with Groovy Joe song sheets

    Hand out Certificates of Groovy-ness to your party attendees!

    About the Author
    Eric Litwin is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who merges music and early literacy together. He is the author of the first fourPete the Cat picture books and the exciting new musical series The Nuts. Eric’s books have sold more than 6.5 million copies and won eighteen state and national awards, including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award. Eric is a popular performing artist who plays guitar, sings, tells stories, and brings books to life. Visit him at

    About the Illustrator
    Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of the New York Times bestsellers Duck! Rabbit!Exclamation MarkSteam Train, Dream TrainShark vs. Train; and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, which has been on the bestseller list for over three years. He has also written and illustrated a number of books, including What Are You So Grumpy About?Cloudette, and E-mergency, a Publishers Weekly and Boston Globe Best Book of 2011. For more information, visit him at

    Don’t be Shy…Get Social – Connect with Scholastic, the author or the illustrator!

    Like on Facebook

    @scholastic  | @scholasticparents | @scholasticteachers

    @mrericbooks | @tom.lichtenheld

    Follow on Twitter

    @scholastic | @scholparents

    @ericlitwinbooks | @tlichtenheld

    Follow on Instagram

    @scholasticinc | @scholasticparents


    family fun, STEM, technology

    STEM Saturdays: Osmo Creative Kit Review

    Disclaimer: I received an Osmo Creative Kit directly from Osmo in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    As a Computer Programmer and lover of all things STEM (science, math, engineering and technology), it’s important for me to expose my children to technology in order to help them build foundations for future academic and career success.  I want them to be as computer-savvy as possible from a young age.  Online skills are becoming as important as reading and writing for the younger generations, so why not give them a head start in life?  Since my kids are both still currently under the age of 5, my main goals are making sure they know their way around computers, smartphones and tablets without over exposing them too much.

    What is Osmo?

    I’ve been a huge fan of Osmo since discovering them a couple of years ago.  Simply put, Osmo is a unique gaming accessory for the iPad that comes with games that will change the way your child plays.  To date Osmo has been named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions, is a Parent’s Choice award winner, a winner of the prestigious Oppenheim award, and a 2016 finalist for Toy of The Year.

    What’s Included?

    We received the Osmo Creative Kit which uses interactive art tools in 3 creative apps: Monster, Masterpiece and Newton. With the creative kit you receive: a white board, dry erase markers, a pouch, and a cloth to erase.

    Each of the three apps you download transforms your drawings and instantly brings them to life on the screen right before your eyes! The drawings then become animation to take part in a story, solve a puzzle or they become a one-of-a-kind artwork piece you can frame!

    How Do You Play Osmo?

    All that you need to play Osmo is an iPad with a camera.  Osmo is currently compatible with: iPad 2, iPad (3rd Generation), iPad (4th Generation), iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Osmo does not currently work with Android-based tablets, however they hope to develop for Android in the future. Right now they are just focusing on iOS.

    Setting up your Osmo gaming system is easy.  You simply download the apps from the app store, place your iPad in the white Osmo base, and then clip on the red Reflector.  And once you set up your Osmo account(s), you’re ready to play!  Note:  If you have multiple children or people who will be using your Osmo you can set up different accounts.  I think this great to be able to track the progress each person has made.

    Why We Love Osmo

    Although we haven’t quite figured out how to play the Newton game yet, we truly love our Osmo gaming system! The kids enjoy playing Monster the best – they love Mo (and so do I)!  It’s so cool to see all of the things the kids draw being pulled onto the screen.  I’m still amazed at the technology and how it all works.  I want to see the code behind, but that’s just the techie in me I guess!

    I personally love the Masterpiece game since I am not the best at drawing.  My drawings always turn out looking amazing!  Now if only I could actually draw that well on my own – ha!  The Masterpiece app has several pictures in the library that you can choose from to sketch. I also like the fact that you can take photos of different objects in your home and draw them as well.  Initially getting used to looking at the iPad screen instead of looking at the paper takes some time and practice.  We love watching our drawings in fast play once we’re done creating them.

    My favorite thing about our Creative Kit is all of the games encourage creativity and lots of imagination.  In addition, they encourage children to work on their fine motor skills in a simple way that’s really easy to understand.  You’re learning while having fun and strengthening muscles in your body including your brain.  How cool is that?

    Osmo games teach children a wide variety of things like:

    • logic and problem solving skills

    • spatial relational skills

    • spelling and critical thinking skills

    • drawing and creative confidence

    • counting, addition and multiplication

    • math, money, fractions and nonverbal communication

    Osmo is recommended for children ages 5 – 12, but my children are able to use it just fine with very little adult supervision required.

    To learn more about the affordable Osmo gaming system kits and games visit their website.

    Your turn: Do your children have an Osmo gaming system?  How do you teach your children about STEM and/or technology?  Feel free to share in the comments.


    family fun, literary road trip series, STEM

    Literary Road Trip Series: Legoland Discovery Center Westchester, NY

    Disclaimer: My family was provided complimentary tickets to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

    Over the years, LEGO bricks have changed very little.  According to LEGO, you can mix bricks made more than 30 years ago with ones in your child’s current collection and-CLICK!-they’d snap together as though not a day had passed.  How neat is that?

    Interesting facts: In Latin, the word “lego” means “I build” or “I assemble”.  The interesting thing is LEGO inventor, Ole Kirk Christiansen didn’t know that when he came up with the name.  When Ole Kirk was deciding the new name for the now famous LEGO brand back in 1934, he took the Danish words for “play” and “well” – leg and godt – and combined them into the new name we know today, LEGO.

    Our Road Trip Begins!
    Last summer our family embarked upon an annual tradition of visiting a family-friendly destination followed by checking out either a local independent book store or library afterwards.  It was such a hit we decided to do it again and hopefully keep it as an annual tradition.  The first stop in our road trip series this year was LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Westchester, NY.

    Unlike the LEGOLAND outdoor amusement park in Florida, LEGOLAND Westchester Discovery Center has a wide range of indoor educational and interactive experiences for children (and grown-ups).  There are hands-on play areas, a 4D cinema, master classes led by Master Model Builders, two LEGO amusement rides and MINILAND — the venue’s signature re-creation of famous landmark locations and buildings throughout Westchester County and New York City, made entirely out of more than 1 million LEGO bricks.

    The MINILAND creations are amazing and so detailed.  We were told by an employee it took a team of 20 expert Lego model builders six months to complete – wow!  LEGO lovers will see replicas of: Grand Central Terminal, The Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, The Statue of Liberty, Met Life Stadium, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park and more.  Children will also be mesmerized by the exciting interactive features that include lights, sounds and moving parts.

    Upon entering we received a brief factory overview and learned how LEGOS are made from plastic.  First, the plastic is mixed, then heated and finally molded into different colorful bricks.  After that we headed over to the first of two indoor rides, The Kingdom Quest, an interactive laser ride complete with blasters to blast the “bad guys” in order to help save the princess.  We also took a spin on the other ride called Merlin’s Apprentice.

    Next, we headed over to the Build & Test Zone where we built our own race cars with different LEGO pieces and wheels.  Once our cars were assembled we enjoyed racing them down the speed test tracks.  Finally, we checked out some of the other exhibits and play pit areas before heading over to the cinema to watch a 10-15 minute 4D animated LEGO movie.

    Although they do have a cafe on-site, there weren’t too many options to choose from so we just opted for a light snack which consisted of chips and bottled water.  Since LEGOLAND is located inside of a shopping center you might be better off having lunch at one of the nearby restaurants.  That’s what we ended up doing.  It’s also worth mentioning that outside food isn’t permitted to bring in.

    Of course we had to visit the gift shop before we left to purchase some souvenirs.  The shop is stacked with popular LEGO sets, Duplo bricks, and some apparel (hats, t-shirts and watches).  The kids got their own LEGO sets which they have thoroughly been enjoying playing with since they received them.  Oh, and don’t forget to bring your parking ticket to the gift shop in order to get it validated.  Parking isn’t free, but with the validation it comes up to $1.75 for LEGOLAND attendees.

    If you’re in the Connecticut, New York or other surrounding areas I’d definitely recommend visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center.  Especially if you or your kids love playing with LEGOs like mine do.  It’s a nice and clean family-friendly destination to hang out at with your family for a few hours.  There’s a variety of STEM related activities to keep the kids busy and lots of different seating options for grown-ups to sit down while the kids play and explore. Also, bonus points for it being indoors!  That means you can enjoy LEGOLAND all year round without having to worry about the weather.  It’s heated in the winter and cool during the summer months – win, win!

    Connect with LEGOLAND Discovery Center!
    Website | Instagram | Facebook

    Surrounding Local Bookstore or Library

    There is a independent bookstore located about 5 minutes away from LEGOLAND Discovery Center called Womrath Bookshop.  They have a great selection of children’s and adult books as well as some novelty items.

    Yonkers, NY has three different public library branches to choose from.  We ended up going to the Grinton I. Will Branch located about 10 minutes away from LEGOLAND.  I didn’t know there were three branches to choose from so maybe one of the other two branches are located a bit closer to LEGOLAND.  In any event, the branch we visited was clean and organized with a cute play area in the children’s section.  They also have beautiful murals decorating their walls throughout the library.

    There’s a book for that!

    Looking to pair this outing with a children’s book?  Check out The Inventors of LEGO Toys by Erin Hagar.  It’s part of the Awesome Minds early chapter book series for kids!

    Your turn: Have you visited LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Westchester, NY or any other LEGOLAND?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    eeboo, family fun, giveaways

    3 eeBoo Products Your Children Will Love + A Giveaway!

    I initially found out about eeBoo products a couple of years ago while doing an online search for educational toys for kids.  eeBoo is an award-winning toy manufacturer located in New York City.  They make beautifully designed crafts, games, and toys.  All of their products feature cheerful, contemporary, and vintage-inspired designs. In addition to their design focus, all of eeBoo’s products are made of high quality and durable materials.

    Being a literacy advocate, I am also pleased to know eeBoo hires well-known children’s book illustrators to design their products.  How great is that?  So if you like books and beautiful art as much as I do then I think you’ll love eeBoo products too.

    With the winter season in full effect here in the Northeast, I like to keep the kids busy with lots of indoor activities, games and puzzles.  Our friends over at eeBoo were generous enough to send us a few of their products to try.  We received a 100-piece Children of the World Puzzle, I Never Forget a Face Matching Game, and a set of Good Citizenship Flash Cards.

    First Product: I Never Forget a Face Matching Game
    My kids are obsessed with playing the I Never Forget a Face matching game!  There are a total of 24 pairs to match up, but I like to break it up and let the kids do 12 pairs at a time so it’s not as overwhelming.  As they get older (around age 5) I think they’ll be able to handle matching up all 24 pairs at once.  The kids love seeing all of the colorful smiling faces of children from countries all over the world.  I love that the game is designed to teach spatial awareness, to help develop memory skills and sharpen recognition.  I also appreciate the fact that the pieces are made with soy-based inks and 90% recycled greyboard.

    Second Product: 100-Piece Children of the World Puzzle
    We also enjoy putting together the 100-Piece Children of the World puzzle as a group.  It allows us to learn about geography and diversity at the same time.  It’s also a nice conversation starter to talk about where people live around the world.  We also like to discuss different ways to celebrate differences and find similarities among the different cultures.

    Third Product: Good Citizenship Flash Cards
    The Good Citizenship Flash Cards are fun too.  I find the cards to be useful as they help reinforce some of the values we’ve already been trying to instill in the children over the past few years.  The cards are two-sided and focus on teaching appropriate behavior, unselfish values, and social responsibility. The front of each card starts a sentence which is finished on the back of the card.

    Here are some examples:

    When someone seems left out…
    Ask, “Do you want to play?”

    When you see a chore that can be done…
    Pitch in and help with chores when you see them.

    When playing ANY game…
    Never Cheat. Always do your best.

    As you can see eeBoo offers a unique collection of toys and gifts that inspire literacy, drawing, imaginative play, and more.  Simply put, they create toys and gifts that children will affectionately remember.  For more information about eeBoo or their products, please visit:

    Your turn: Do you and your kids have a favorite eeBoo product?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    The Giveaway!!!
    To enter the giveaway to receive the same bundle of eeBoo products featured in this post, follow us over on Instagram for all of the details.  All you need to do is tag two (or more) friends in the comments section of each of the daily posts on Instagram.  You can also answer the bonus question for an additional entry.  The giveaway for this particular prize bundle starts today, February 1, 2017 and ends February 2, 2017 at 12:00am midnight.  Open to all US residents age 18 and over.  Good Luck!

    P.S. This giveaway is part of our #28daysofgiveaways for Black History Month which starts on February 1, 2017 and ends on February 28, 2017.  All month long on Instagram we’re hosting a daily giveaway.  The prizes have generously been donated by 30+ sponsors.  You can enter to win diverse books, children’s book subscription boxes, games, multicultural dolls and more!


    children's books, family fun, giveaways

    Celebrate Computer Science Education Week With Your Kids + A Brightly Giveaway!


    There’s always a reason to celebrate, right?  Well, this week the kids and I will be celebrating Computer Science Education Week which will be observed December 5 – 11th this year.  One of the ways I’ll be celebrating is by participating in the Hour of Code.  Want to join in on the fun?

    In December 2013 the folks at started the first ever Hour of Code event, described as “a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104.” Sounds amazing, right?

    If you didn’t already know, I work full-time as a Computer Programmer and have over 15 years of technology experience.  In other words, I’m a true geek at heart.  As a parent, I understand not only the importance of reading, but also the importance of teaching your children about technology.  Today, we live in a world surrounded by technology: mobile phones, tablets, laptops, iPads, desktop computers, Smart TVs, etc.  Computer science and the technologies it encompasses lie at the heart of our economy, communication and daily lives.

    As the digital age has transformed our world and workforce, many U.S. K–12 schools have fallen behind in preparing students with the fundamental computer science knowledge and skills they need for future success. To be a well-educated citizen as we move toward an ever-more computing-intensive world and to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century, people must have a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of computer science.  Understanding computers has become increasingly important not only for those who want to pursue careers as programmers, but also for those who want to jump into other fields, which are becoming more and more entangled with and influenced by technology.

    So as parents and caregivers, what can we do to help our kids become little computer whizzes?  Don’t solely rely on your child’s school to help them learn.  Remember, your are your children’s first teacher.  I believe in giving kids meaningful, high-quality, and creative experiences with technology and fostering skills that enable them to be more successful throughout their lives.

    One thing you can do is read STEM and STEAM focused books with your children.  I love this list of 17 STEM focused books from Brightly and this one which is specifically for girls.  Another fun thing you can do is have family coding nights.  This consists of watching a fun one-hour tutorial with your kids or letting them do it on their own.  The tutorials on provides a variety of hour-long tutorials for students of all ages..  They require minimal preparation time and they are self-guided allowing students to work independently at their own pace and skill-level.

    And just in case you need even more reasons to get your kids excited about computers here’s a few:

    • Learning to code is fun (and cool)!
    • Computers and coding gives kids an outlet for their creativity and imagination.
    • Learning to code provides a setting for kids to practice problem-solving skills, the engineering process, teamwork, & collaborative skills.
    • Coding is a very rewarding talent that can enhance the value of any individual in any profession, as it is a key 21st century skill.
    • Your kids can be active creators of technology, rather than just passive users of it.

    Your turn: Does your child have an interest in computer science?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    The giveaway!
    For Computer Science Education Week, I’ve teamed up with our friends over at Brightly to bring you and your little computer whizzes this amazing giveaway!  One lucky winner will win two STEM focused books: Coding Games in Scratch and Minecraft Exploded Builds: Medieval Fortress along with a Brightly tote bag.  Use the entry form listed below or go here to enter.  Giveaway ends on December 31, 2016.  Good luck!

    family fun, giveaways, holiday gift guide series, product reviews

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: Hideaboo Hideouts + An Instagram Giveaway!


    5-4-3-2-1 blast off!  The kids absolutely LOVE playing in their new Hideaboo rocket ship hideout!  Created by an award winning teacher, Hideaboo hideouts help spark creativity and allow your kids to play independently or with each other. My kids love pretending they are astronauts in a rocket ship flying to outer space.


    One of the best things about the hideouts is they are totally portable and can be placed in any part of your house or used on the go (as long as your bring your card table along with you).  We currently have our hideout in our living room, but the kids have played with it upstairs in their room too.  It’s perfect for keeping them occupied while I do things like cook dinner or fold the laundry.

    Hideaboo also provides you with FREE access to their printable library.  They’ve created activities, diy costume ideas, an adventure journal and printable puppets for each of their Hideouts! Your purchase comes with a code for free downloads of your printable activities and instructions.  How fun is that?

    Each hideout is made to slide over a card table and it’s super simple to set up and fold away for easy storage.

    Here’s what’s you get:

    • Includes ONE Hideout and ONE storage bag
    • Card table not included
    • Slips over standard card tables, 34″ w x 28″ h
    • Easy to setup and tear down
    • Durable, high quality fabric & machine washable

    These are the current hideouts available:

    • Happy Camper Hideout
    • Enchanted Castle Hideout
    • Underwater Submarine Hideout
    • Outer Space Rocket Hideout
    • Down on the Farm Hideout
    • Lemonade Stand

    The best part?  Our friends over at Hideaboo were gracious enough to sponsor a giveaway!  That’s right, you can choose ANY one of their hideouts if you are the lucky winner!  Pop on over to my Instagram page if you want to enter to win.  Good luck!

    Connect with Hideaboo!

    Website | Instagram | Facebook