Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Football Fun With the Kids

It's that time of year, where fans of football watch games with fervor and passion. For many families, sports and time together are intertwined, and sharing in the excitement of the game is a beloved weekend tradition. Whether you are watching college or professional league games, there are decorations, activities, and food to be prepared in honor of football's weekend excitement. Try these general ideas to get the family into the spirit:
-Make football pennants by cutting elongated triangles out of felt or paper. Decorate with your team's colors. Use all kinds of paint markers-some with texture and glitter.
-Invite the kids to make paper chains using your favorite team's colors.
-Cut a football shape into a potato or sponge, and decorate a plain green tablecloth with ball prints. Make sure you use fabric paints. You can also paint white lines on the cloth so it looks like a football field.
-Cook up your favorite chili; serve with the all-American hotdog and make some spicy popcorn by adding a small package of dry taco seasoning to your popped corn. You can even fold in some dry-roasted peanuts for an added crunch.

-Do some football player exercises. Jump and click heels together, run in place, and do jumping jacks.
With the Superbowl this weekend, pick your favorite of the two teams and have some fun. No matter which team wins, it's the family memories you are creating that's most important. 
Happy Parenting,
Photo courtesy of Tania Cowling

Thursday, January 24, 2019

5 Creative Toys From Household Materials

When the kids shout "I'm bored," suggest these games using household materials and some existing toys for a new slant on play. The children will learn educational skills as well.

Children love to play with games, store-bought or homemade. A manipulative type of game is an object used within a skillful manner. In other words, children can manipulate theses table toys to develop coordination and these same objects encourage thinking skills, visual perception, and problem-solving. Explore some of these innovative ideas and watch your children learn skills by using these homemade games for kids.

Shape Treasure Hunt -- Parents can precut shapes (squares, triangles, rectangles, circles, etc.) from construction paper. In advance, hide the shapes all around the room making sure to have enough so that each of your children can find at least 8-10 shapes. This is a game plus an art activity after the shapes are found. Direct the children to hunt for the shapes hidden. At the end of the hunt, encourage them to share shapes if one child gets more than the others. Sit down at a table and discuss what the kids have found. Ask, "Who can name the shapes?" "Who can name the colors?" "Did you get two or more of the same shape?" Now, let the children try to manipulate the shapes and create a picture or design. With glue, children can paste these into place on paper.

Twin Constructions -- Set out "fit-together" toys such as Legos, Duplo blocks, or any other construction-type toys. Have two children (or you and your child) sit side-by-side and try to construct the same structure. This activity teaches children to pay attention to color, shape, position, and also give them practice in following someone else's lead.

Make a Geo-Board -- Children can create geometric shapes on this grid-like board with the use of large rubber bands. Hammer nails (with adult supervision) in a grid pattern about one-inch apart all over a plywood square. Give the board to the children along with a variety of rubber bands in different sizes and colors. Invite the kids to stretch the rubber bands around the nails to create geometric shapes like squares, triangles, and rectangles. Who can create an octagon?

Paper Match Game -- Collect wallpaper, paint chips, or scrapbook paper samples and make a set of two matching cards. Index cards work well. Glue a large square of the same paper on two cards. After you have made a variety of cards, shuffle the deck and let the children turn over each card and match the pairs. You might want to laminate each card with clear plastic adhesive paper for durability. Kids can practice visual discrimination and attention to detail in this game.

Poker Chip Math Game -- Give the children a box containing red, white, and blue poker chips. Let them sort the chips by color and then count them. Next, make patterns with the poker chips, for example, two red, one blue, two white, one red, two blue, two white and so on. Let the kids copy the pattern with the remaining chips.

Make creative toys and games from household materials. Your children will love these homemade games for kids that will keep them amused for hours and teach them skills along the way.

Source: Personal Experience
Photo courtesy of

Hope your winter is cooperating with your family. These toys/games are perfect for cabin fever, whether it's rain or snow!
Until next time. Happy Parenting!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Toy Guide for Kids – Holiday Edition 2018

How do you find toys that children will play with long after the wrappings have been recycled? Think about what kind of play your children are involved and the toys that match. Do they need an active toy, something that can be played alone, or a game that requires a group? Here are a few favorites from Playmates and VTech toys.
Kuroba Training Pack by Playmates Toys

The Kuroba toy line is an all-new collectible line of cube-shaped creatures that puts a twist on the classic game of “rock-paper-scissors.” Each player selects rock, paper, or scissors, then folds up a Kuroba creature and locks it into game mode. They then slide two Kuroba toward each other, and the winning Kuroba literally captures the other!
Collect all 16 Kuroba, mix and match their panels to create unique Kuroba, and battle against friends to become a master Kuroba Keeper!
Read about Playmates Toys new Kuroba on their website. Watch Kuroba webisodes and other fun videos on the Kuroba World YouTube Channel or visit 
Photographed is the training pack with 1 transforming creature, 1 practice cube and 1 creature gem. The kids can practice their Kuroba battle skills and later increase their creatures for a world of fun.
This starter pack is recommended for kids ages 6 and up. It’s currently available at Target, Amazon, and Walmart with a MSRP of $8.99 each.
New Products by VTech Toys – check this website for all products!
Kidi Star Music Magic Microphone™
Set out on the path to stardom with the Kidi Star Music Magic Microphone™. Be the lead singer with this interactive microphone that features Music Magic mode, which reduces the main vocal track of your favorite songs so your own voice is center stage! Easily connect your MP3 player or mobile device and sing along to favorite tunes from your collection. The microphone is packed with exciting features like four games, four original songs, a voice changer with four effects and an applause button. Record yourself for up to two minutes and enjoy your performance again and again! Age 5 Years+, $29.99
Kidi Star also has a Karaoke Machine, which also includes a disco light and audience sounds like applause, cheering and laughter. Your child will feel like he/she is on a concert stage. This toy records the performance up to five minutes. It is recommended for ages 5 years and up, retailing at $49.99.
MickeyMouse has turned 90 years old, and in his honor, the VTech toy company has produced a variety of playthings.
Go! Go! Smart Wheels® Mickey Ramps Fun House

Ramp up the fun with Go! Go! Smart Wheels® Mickey Ramps Fun House. Take Mickey Mouse on an adventure with tracks that can mix and match to form three different play routes, two launch zones and includes two SmartPoint® locations. Watch Mickey Mouse and his Convertible ride around the track and off the ramp to see how far he can go! Spin the flower or the flag to promote motor skills or activate the SmartPoint® locations to listen to Mickey Mouse say fun phrases and encouraging words. Let’s jump to it! Ages 1-5 Years, $19.99.
And we can’t forget about Mickey’s girlfriend Minnie!
Go! Go! Smart Wheels® Minnie Ice Cream Parlor
Little sweeties will have a delightful time creating, exploring and playing with the Go! Go! Smart Wheels® Minnie Ice Cream Parlor. Take a ride with Minnie Mouse and her Ice Cream Truck down the tracks and through the gate, activating three SmartPoint® locations as you go. Drop ice cream shapes into the shape sorter and into Minnie Mouse’s Ice Cream Truck, raise the elevator, spin the gears and move the gate to promote motor skills. Listen to Minnie Mouse’s voice say fun phrases and encourage pretend play.  So brush off that sweet tooth and bite into this adventure! Perfect for ages 1-5 years, $29.99.
For more Disney adventure toys check out this website

Play is the very foundation of a child’s emotional, social, physical, cognitive and linguistic growth. Children learn through play – plain and simple. Including some of these toys will quench the toy wish and promote learning as well not only during the holidays but all year long.

Photos by Tania Cowling, all rights reserved
Package photo courtesy of

I would like to thank these companies for providing me samples of their products for my review. There was no payment for my blog post.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide 2018 -- Art and Creativity

What is your theme for gift giving to children this season? This year I’m leaning toward creativity. Things the kids can make and do during their holiday break from school. Look at your toy list holistically. Try to match the toy to the child’s interest and abilities. And, an important factor is purchasing age-appropriate toys/kits from well-respected companies that will provide playthings that will last and abide by the safety rules. Here are a few to consider during your 2018 holiday shopping trips.
OnTel Products Make the MagicPad

MagicPad™ features an amazing crystal-clear, light-up screen that not only brings art to life, but also makes learning fun! The kids just insert one of the stencils behind the screen featuring games, art or learning. Once their drawing is complete, press the color-change button to choose from 8 different light effects to see their creation glow! They can also create freely without using s stencil.
The MagicPad’s screen easily wipes clean and is portable for fun on the go.  It also has a built-in stand, so kids can display their creations, or it makes for a perfect nightlight. Each set includes a MagicPad™, 3 Dual-Sided Neon Pens (for six total colors), 30 Stencils, a Glow-Boost Card, Eraser Cloth and a Fun Guide.
Recommended Age: 3+ with a MSRP of $19.99
Availability: Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and
VTech Makes the DigiArt Color by Lights™
Let lights guide the way as you create your next masterpiece with DigiArt Color by Lights™. The light-up board identifies each of the 50 included coloring pages and responds by showing what color to use in each section. Download more pages online for unlimited printing and play. Connect the light-up dots to draw shapes, objects and animals. The art board features a dry-erase surface and a stencil card for more creative play, plus a variety of melodies to enjoy while creating your work of art. Color and create with light!
Ages 3-6 with a MSRP of $21.99
DigiArt Spirals & Sounds™

Create unique spiral art designs with DigiArt Spirals & Sounds™. Place a piece of letter size paper (not included) inside the electronic art board, choose an animal stencil, then use one of the five included gears and the marker to make fun and intricate spiral patterns. Place an animal stencil in the board and press the talk button to hear creative encouragement, fun facts and a silly rhyme about the animal. Roll a gear inside the animal stencil to trigger funny sounds. Switch to music mode to hear 20 cheerful melodies while you create. Let your creativity soar with spirals!
Ages 3-6 years, $19.99 is the MSRP
Kidi Secrets Selfie Journal™ by VTech

Protect your thoughts and dreams with the Kidi Secrets Selfie Journal™. Make a photo journal, write diary entries or record messages and keep them safe. Facial recognition software unlocks the journal only when it recognizes your face. Features front and rear cameras so you can take selfies and pictures of your friends. A full suite of mini-apps includes games, photo and video filters, music and utilities that give you a variety of activities to play. Create new looks for yourself and your friends, care for a virtual pet, decorate photos and videos, play learning games and more! You're the key to this diary!
Age 6 Years+, $49.99 is the MSRP
And of course we can’t forget about making music. This activity enhances the creative side of learning.
Kidi Star Music Magic Microphone™ by VTech
Set out on the path to stardom with the Kidi Star Music Magic Microphone™. Be the lead singer with this interactive microphone that features Music Magic mode, which reduces the main vocal track of your favorite songs so your own voice is center stage! Easily connect your MP3 player or mobile device and sing along to favorite tunes from your collection. The microphone is packed with exciting features like four games, four original songs, a voice changer with four effects and an applause button. Record yourself for up to two minutes and enjoy your performance again and again!
Age 5 Years+, $29.99 MSRP
These are just a few of the many toys that are available for gifts this year. I feel that these toys and others by these companies are perfect for hands-on fun during the upcoming holidays. Check out the company’s websites for more ideas.
OnTel Toys and Products --

Photos by Tania Cowling, all rights reserved
Package photo courtesy of jill111 / 1314 images

I would like to thank these companies for providing me samples of their products for my review. There was no payment for my blog post.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Watch Ya' Mouth Game

They say that “laughter is the best medicine” and this game sure is hilarious. The Watch Ya’ Mouth Game is fun for family night as well as parties (3-10 players). The box comes with plastic mouthpieces (ones like you find in a dentist office) and game cards. The concept of this game is to put in a mouthpiece and read the card. The phrase could be small as two words or as long as 10 words. The mouthpiece changes your speech and the other players need to guess the phrase. Ha, it’s not as easy as you think! And the funny faces that go along trying to read the card makes for gut-busting laughter.

The company’s idea came from this:
“Have you seen the movie 'The Boss' starring Melissa McCarthy? There’s a scene where she’s getting her teeth whitened, wearing the infamous mouthpiece and struggling to speak. From this one scene, the idea for our game was born.”
I found the ‘90’s edition’ fun, but a little hard for our elementary-age players. They didn’t understand some of the phrases. But have no fear, you can write your own cards or order expansion packs (sold separately) that fit the kid’s ages and interest.

I would like to thank the company for sending me this game for my review. We truly enjoyed this opportunity and will keep this in our game arsenal for other occasions.

You can find this game at big box stores and
Photos courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Crayola Experience in Orlando, Florida

Move over Disney! While in Orlando, families can visit an interactive attraction called The Crayola Experience. It occupies space in The Florida Mall in south Orlando, Florida, that features 26 family-friendly art activities in 70,000 square feet of space. This fun experience combines a retail store with Crayola products and hands-on activities to spark interest in artistic creativity.
This attraction opened the summer of 2015 and the second of its kind; the original one is in Easton, Pennsylvania that opened in 1996, Easton is where Crayola’s headquarters is based. There are also Crayola Experience sites in Plano, TX, and Minneapolis, MN.

Kids can use all sorts of digital tools to create art. There are ways to insert your child’s photo into a personalized coloring book, make your own crayons with personalized labels, project your child’s artwork on large screens, and more. How about designing a swirly-whirly picture with melted wax? My gang especially loved watching how Crayola crayons are made and molded their very own crayon souvenir!

The Crayola Experience is a gigantic two-story playground with the scents of crayons that brings back the nostalgia of an adult’s childhood and the best adventures for the kids today. And if you get hungry during your stay (at least 2 hours), there is a cafĂ© inside with lunch and snacks.

Our visit in October had a Halloween theme. The kids not only engaged in all the regular activities in each resource center, but had the opportunity to make Halloween-themed projects as well.

The Florida Mall is located at 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, Florida 32809. Open daily from 10am to 8pm. Call 407-757-1700 for more details.
SAVE $4 OFF General Admission to Crayola Experience when purchased online via this link 
Photos courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved

Monday, October 15, 2018

Halloween is Coming! Who Wants to Be Cinderella?

How many little girls dream of becoming a princess and little boys who want to be a prince? The story of Cinderella, a young girl who unexpectedly becomes a maid to her stepmother and stepsisters after her father dies, finds her way to the gallant ball with a little help from her fairy Godmother.  But, at the stroke of midnight she must leave the ball and her prince. This is a tale that many of us remember as children. Today, this story comes alive with a new movie slated to premiere on March 13, 2015. The tale of Cinderella will surface again. And will the prince find the lady who fits the glass slipper?

This isn't a costume, but I’m sure your little artists will enjoy making this craft. This simple project will bring the story of Cinderella into your home.
  • Card stock paper (pink or your child’s favorite color)
  • Gray construction paper (or white)
  • Safety scissors
  • Heavy-duty glue or low-temperature glue gun
  • Silver enhancements (sequins, glitter, faux gems, foil)

Step 1 – This cut and paste craft is not the messiest we have done before, but covering your table with newspaper is wise to prevent glue from marring your tabletop.
Step 2 – Invite your child to choose their favorite color for the background paper. Using a heavier construction paper or card stock will give substantial weight to hold the materials that the children will eventually glue on this page.
Step 3 -- Parents can draw the shape of a lady’s high heel shoe on gray or white paper. Challenge your child to carefully cut on the lines to make this shape. Then, glue the shoe to the background paper.
Step 4 – Now the fun begins, as your child will turn this paper shoe into a glass slipper. Think about all the baubles that will give the illusion of shiny glass. I took a trip to a craft store and purchased some clear faux gems and silver sequins. At home, I had silver glitter and ran to the kitchen for some heavy-duty aluminum foil. The foil can be cut into shiny circles or any other shape your child desires.
Step 5 – Begin to glue the shiny enhancements randomly on the shoe shape. Use glitter in between for sparkle.
Hang the Cinderella slipper craft in your child’s room to remind your princess/prince of this famous tale. This may be a good time to bring out the classic book or video and review the story together.

Photo courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved

Monday, September 10, 2018

Pinecone Owl Craft

Fall (Autumn) is harvest time, when crops are gathered, trees are shedding, the air is crisp, and we are getting ready for winter. This is the perfect time to make autumn crafts, which can be displayed throughout the next few months before the December holidays. Pinecones are plentiful during fall and a perfect body structure to make this adorable owl figure. So, plan a day with your child to go collecting cones and have them ready for the upcoming party.
Note: If you don't have pine trees near, pine cones can be bought at craft stores or on Amazon. Click link here.
  • Pinecones (one for each child)
  • Craft foam
  • Goggly eyes
  • Chenille pipe cleaners
  • Heavy-duty glue or a low-temperature glue gun
  • Safety scissors

Step 1 - Gather pinecones and have them ready for craft day. Most areas have pine trees that bear cones during the fall. Other cone-bearing trees include cedars, firs, cypresses, and redwoods. If you cannot find cones in your area, many craft stores sell them in bags.
Step 2 – Provide craft foam in autumnal colors, such as orange, yellow, and red. Instruct the children to cut two small circles for the eyes and one triangle for the beak. Younger children may need an adult to draw the shapes on the foam so they can follow the lines for cutting. Make appropriate-sized facial features according to the size of the pinecone.
Step 3 – Glue a googly eye inside each circle to complete the eyes. Owls are notorious for large, bright eyes that take up most of their face. They have sharp vision, especially at night.
Step 4 – Take a chenille pipe cleaner and cut two pieces about 4-inches in length. Fold this in half to being making the claws. Take another small piece and glue this inside the folded V-shape. This will create a three-toed claw. You will need two claws per owl.
Step 5 – After you have all the facial features and claws completed, you can begin gluing these to the pinecone. Have the cone sitting upright and glue the eyes onto the cone branches very close to the top. The triangular beak can be glued in the center of the cone.
Step 6 – Take the pipe cleaner owl feet and curve the ends of each toe (known as talons) upward. Glue these to the bottom of the pinecone one to the right and one to the left of the center.
Variation: I found a cute variation when making the owl’s eyes. Instead of craft foam, I found two small lids (they came off my milk cartons) and glued the googly eyes in the center of these dimensional lids.
Owls are such cute characters to decorate your home for the fall months. 
Craft photo courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Calling All Parents: Do You Shop Online?

I'm sharing an article that is very important to me as I was hacked and a victim of identity theft and fraud. Check out the "9 things you should know to avoid online fraud while shopping." Prevention is key to keeping your identity and credit safe.

Happy Parenting,

9 Tips from NordVPNs’ Security Expert on How to Stay Safe

"It’s back to school season, and parents are busy buying school supplies, clothes and tech products  for their young ones. While online back to school shopping is breaking records every year, hackers and cybercriminals are looking for easy ways to benefit from it as well.
“More and more parents and teachers are doing back to school shopping online. It’s understandable, as online shopping is less stressful and likely cheaper. These days it is absolutely possible to get all you need for school without ever leaving your home,” says Daniel Markuson, NordVPN Digital Privacy Expert. “But there’s bad news as well - online shopping frauds and identity theft are on the rise.”
While scammers, hackers, and other shady individuals are polishing new techniques, many online shoppers are still unaware of the basic online privacy rules. According to NordVPN’s Daniel Markuson, there are some simple steps that help avoid online fraud.
9 things you should know to avoid online fraud while shopping
1. Look into the online store
You should ideally stick to websites you trust or have bought from before, as there are some online stores created by scammers who just want to get your credit card information. Otherwise, do the research: Do they interact on social media? Are there any customer reviews? Are there any spam complaints? Check their email, phone number or address - if you can’t find any of those, it might be a fake company.
2. Too good to be true? Scam!
Criminals use two main techniques to scam you during the back to school sales season: rock-bottom prices and email scams. If the deal seems too good to be true - it probably is. Extremely low rates, when compared to similar stores, may mean that the website exists only to get your personal information. Similarly, scammy email deals promise a too-good-to-be-true prices or freebies, but clicking on them could infect your computer or smartphone with viruses and malware.
3. URL should start with ‘https’
When making an online payment or entering any personal information, the first thing you should check is whether the webpage URL starts with ‘httpsrather than ‘http’. The tiny ‘s’ means that the connection is made through a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.
4. Don’t give too much personal data
Pay attention whenever a website requests for more information or permissions than is necessary. If you are asked to provide very personal details that seem unrelated or excessive, it usually signals a scam. You should always think twice before providing your personal or financial information anywhere on the Internet.
5. Stay away from public WiFi
It’s never a good idea to shop online while you are connected to a public WiFi network at a cafe, hotel, city park or any other public place. Public WiFi networks are common hunting grounds for hackers and data snoopers, who try to access your personal and financial information, such as credit card details.
6. Use a VPN to encrypt your traffic
Can’t resist doing your shopping while on public WiFi? Then you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN encrypts your Internet traffic and is the best security mechanism you can employ to make sure your browsing data remains safe from spying eyes. From the moment a user turns on a VPN, like NordVPN, their Internet data is encrypted. It becomes invisible to third-party snoopers or hackers and even NordVPN itself.
7. Always use strong passwords
The most popular password is… ‘password.’ People are so overwhelmed with how many accounts and passwords they need that they go the easy way. Don’t do that. You need to change your passwords regularly and use a combination of capital letters, numerals, letters, and punctuation. For example, if you live on Flower Road, you can use ‘fL0w3rR04d!’ for a password. Additionally, share some tips with your family members on how to create strong passwords.
8. Mind the details
Stay organized: keep all the receipts, order confirmation numbers and other documentation you got after an online purchase. Also, don’t forget to check your credit card statements regularly, at least once a week. If you see some unexpected activities - recall whether you really authorized the charge. Your bank or other credit card provider can help you solve the problem.
9. Catch the bad guys!
And finally, if you fell into the trap laid for you by some shady cyber criminal - be a good citizen and report the incident. It might not help you, but it will make the Internet a safer place for us all. First of all, notify your credit card company or bank and then - file a complaint to the state authorities."
Article Courtesy of NordVPN:
NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider that is more security oriented than most VPN services. It offers double VPN encryption, ad blocking & Onion Over VPN. The product is very user friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 4,500 servers worldwide and is P2P friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is zero log policy. For more information:

Monday, July 16, 2018

Paper Plate Frog for Summer Crafting

During summer, kids are anxious to go outdoors to observe nature. Most children have seen a frog picture in books, but have they seen a real frog in its habitat? Your child will flip over this fun frog craft made with simple materials at home. It can even be manipulated like a puppet so the kiddos can make plenty of “ribbit” sounds with their frog project. Frogs are a perfect theme to get the youngsters thinking of the outdoors and participating in frog-acting games like leap frog and lily pad leapers. You’ll all have a hoppin’ good time!
  • Paper plate
  • Green paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Construction paper
  • Cotton balls or pom-poms
  • Heavy-duty glue
  • Wiggly eyes (optional)

Step 1 – Prepare your work area for messy art. Your child will be painting and gluing with this craft, so spread newspapers on the table and floor. Wearing a smock or adult tee shirt will help protect your child’s clothing.
Step 2 – Invite your child to paint both sides of a paper plate (the paper kind, not a foam one) with green paint. Set this aside to dry.
Step 3 –In the meantime, draw and cut out four green legs from construction paper and a red forked tongue. Cutting on the lines of these shapes help to develop scissor skills in young children. The very youngest may need your help.
Step 4 – When the paper plate is dry, fold it in half. This makes the frog’s head/face and mouth.
Step 5 – Glue the four legs inside the folded area – one on each side and two at the bottom. Glue a red tongue inside the mouth.
Step 6 – On top of the folded plate is the frog’s head and face. Find two cotton balls or pom-poms and glue these as the frog’s eyeballs. You can then glue on round wiggly eyes in the middle of the balls or as a variation use a hole punch and make two small black circles from construction paper.
Step 7 – After all the parts are dry, the frog puppet is now ready to manipulate. Your child can use his hand to hold the frog puppet and move the mouth to open and close.
Think about using this frog puppet to enhance songs, rhymes, and just to imitate “froggie” sounds. As the saying goes, “It’s fun to be green if you know what I mean!”
Until next week,
Happy Parenting,
Tania :)
Photo courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved