Saturday, July 20, 2019

Building With Blocks: New Toys By LeapFrog



When children build with blocks, they are developing control of the small muscles of the fingers and hands. Perceptions of size, weight, and shape are developing and language skills are growing as the kids discuss what they are building. Cooperation and planning among children develop as they work together toward a common goal. Simply said, building with blocks is a great activity for development and fun!

I want to introduce you to a new set of blocks from LeapFrog. LeapBuilders look like a larger size of Legos, perfectly sized for the younger builder (ages 2+ and up). But, they are smart blocks!

"By combining technology and interactive curriculum-based learning content, LeapBuilders inspires creativity through fun playsets like the ABC Smart House™, Food Fun Family Farm™ and Shapes & Music Castle™. LeapBuilders playsets come with a Smart Star™ cube that responds with educational songs and learning content when the blocks are inserted into the interactive cube. All blocks from other LeapBuilders sets work interchangeably to create an immersive playtime experience."

LeapBuilders ABC Smart House - 61-piece house-themed block set - MSRP $39.99
LeapBuilders Food Fun Family Farm - 50-piece farm-themed block set - MSRP $34.99
LeapBuilders Shapes & Music Castle - 30-piece castle-themed block set - MSRP $24.99
LeapBuilders Jumbo Blocks Box - 81-piece blocks - MSRP $19.99

I had the opportunity to sample and play with LeapBuilders Soar & Zoom Vehicles. This set has 22 pieces, with 16 building pieces and 6 learning blocks. The plastic blocks are colorful, easy to grip, and promotes creative play. Included are picture cards showing the child how to make a helicopter, truck, race car, supercar, boat, and train. This gives gentle instruction, although the child can make any creation he/she wants.  $9.99 on amazon.com

Learn more about these building sets HERE.  
The sets are also available on Amazon -- Check this LINK   

Add a motor mat to make this type of imaginative pretend play with vehicles fun. You can buy one on Amazon.com (see HERE)


OR make a homemade version:
  1. Take a piece of vinyl or plastic dropcloth.
  2. After sketching your road plan, lay down the roads using black electrical tape. Use yellow tape strips to create divided roads.
  3. Blue adhesive paper is perfect for ponds, lakes, of any body of water.
  4. Green adhesive paper will make lawns, parks, golf courses, etc. 
  5. Draw buildings with permanent markers.
  6. Once the mat is complete, bring out small vehicles and people pieces to partake in city pretend play.


Enjoy spending time with your kiddos building with blocks and playing with vehicles. Play is valuable; it teaches our youngsters about their world. 

Happy Parenting,
Tania 

I want to thank this company for the opportunity to review this building toy. I was not paid or coached to write this blog post. The information about the product was provided and these are my own opinions. 

Photos courtesy of:
Tania Cowling, all rights reserved
Amazon.com
LeapFrog

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

5 Toys That Foster Creativity and Critical Thinking




When buying toys for children I always lean toward creativity -- things the kids can make and do. It can be an art kit or a toy that challenges creative thinking. 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.
As a parent/grandparent who looks for money-saving toys – I’m always looking for a bargain. Let’s face it; kids grow out of toys too soon. Either the child grows out of the toy’s age span, or interests change. We need to look for deals – comparison shop!  Here are a few prices I found – but these prices are always changing. So, let your fingers do the shopping, even before you set out your door or online shop.


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
·      Target $14.29
·      Walgreens $19.99
·      Walmart $19.88
·      Amazon $14.29 
Now, if you are shopping online don’t forget to use Ebates/Rakuten to gain cash points (percentage varies per store). Please use my code: rakuten.com/r/TKCOWL
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
·      Walmart $19.88
·      Target $19.89
·      Amazon (only by second distributors $30+) 


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
·      Target $10.49
·      Walmart $10.49 (out of stock at the moment)
·      Amazon$10.49  

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
·      Target $31.49
·      Walmart $37.49
·      Amazon$31.49
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
·      Walmart  $22.99
·      Target $22.99
·      Kohls $29.99
·      Amazon$22.99   
These are just a few of the many toys available that foster creativity and critical thinking. The list is endless.

Note: you have to factor in the shipping costs. Always try to get free shipping if online shopping. 

Don’t Forget – Amazon is having Prime Days July 15 & 16, 2019  - check to see if prices have dropped.

Photos by Tania Cowling, all rights reserved
Feature photo – Pixabay 

I would like to thank these companies for providing me samples of their products for review. There was no payment for my blog post. Please use the clickable links for online shopping – the affiliate bonus helps to keep this website up and running.





Friday, July 5, 2019

It's All About Family: Activities for Kids



Whether you are a parent who is homeschooling or a teacher needing a lesson plan for the classroom --- family is a good theme. Celebrate this very special relationship by using a variety of activities that focus on the family. Take this theme into reading, writing, speaking, music, and art.
My Family Quilt

There is nothing cozier than a quilt. They feel like home. Begin this lesson by reading The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy and discuss the importance of family and what family means to each child. Talk about the making of quilts and how you can incorporate family heirlooms and memories inside this stitched piece of art.

Why not try an art project involving quilts? Cut out squares of pastel-colored paper. Invite the kids to draw and color a quilt block for each member of the family including pets. Draw the person and surround the headshot with things they love. Now, if you have an odd number of family members, just have the child create an extra quilt block (or two) with some of his/her favorite things. When all blocks are done, glue them together onto a sheet of poster board. Next, take a black marker and create stitch marks around each quilt block to replicate the real stitching on a quilt – a work of art that has spanned generations.

Family Fun and Laughs
For this themed activity, read the book The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. It’s a fun pairing of words and pictures that capture the energy and love that flows from a family reunion. After reading the story together, take time to share memories of family experiences.

For a project, have the kids think of a specific family gathering.  At the top of the page of paper, write the event in a large circle. Next, branch down to the next level and add all the family members who attended. The third row holds circles for things that happened during the event.  The last row of circles includes thoughts of how the children felt during this family gathering.  This “graphic organizer” project helps kids to express how they feel about their family, the events, and even tips for future family gatherings. This organizer design is almost like an outline for when students are asked to write a story.
CONTINUE READING... (a Bright Hub Education article by Tania Cowling)


Books available on Amazon -- Click to Purchase

The Relatives Came
The Patchwork Quilt

Family is always a good theme to engage children in discussion and activities. Children learn through books and art -- get them involved today. 

Happy Parenting,
Tania  :)

This post may contain affiliate links. The money we make from linking helps to keep this website up and running. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Celebrating July 4th With the Kids



July 4th is the birthday of our country and the most important of all our national holidays. This holiday commemorates the adoption on July 4, 1776, of the final draft of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress to proclaim America’s freedom from British rule. Every year Independence Day (July 4th) is the legal holiday celebrated throughout the country with picnics, parades and firework displays after dark. Just as you celebrate birthdays of family members, use this day to have a birthday party for our country.  Decorate the house, prepare festive foods, play Americana games; get the family involved in activities relating to this historic event. Here are some tips to make this a “sparkling” holiday.

Recycled Noisemakers

it wouldn't be a celebration without noisemakers. Here are two simple ones to make from recycled trash and a few art materials. 

The first shaker is made with plastic water bottles. After you clean the bottle (dry it) and take off the label, brainstorm with the kids what you want to put inside for noise and for a pretty display. My gang chose sparkly pipe cleaners, wooden beads, jingle bells, feathers, and such. There are endless possibilities. To make sure the contents do not spill out, run a bead of glue inside the lid before screwing on the top. These bottle shakers are so cute to make for other events such as birthday parties, New Year's Eve, and more. What a fun take-home craft!

The next shaker is using empty soda cans. Clean the cans and let them air dry. Invite the kiddos to fill the can with pebbles, rice, or coins. Tell them to be careful of their fingers when filling the can. The opening is sharp.  When finished, tape the opening closed with heavy-duty tapes, like duct tape. Proceed to wrap the can with construction paper and decorate with drawings, stickers, and other baubles you can glue on. Top the can with a cluster of ribbons. I found that the clusters you buy from the gift wrap section of your favorite store works best (and easy). Sometimes you can find these ribbons at a dollar store.

Around the USA Game
You can't have a successful party without a game or two. This one is fun and makes you think!

Gather the family together and have them sit in a circle.  The first player announces, “I’m traveling around the country and in [state] I visited [place].  For example, “I’m traveling around the country, and in New York I visited the Statue of Liberty.”  The next player must repeat what the first player said (“I’m traveling around the country, and in New York I visited the Statue of Liberty”) and add another phrase like, “and then I traveled to Pennsylvania and visited the Liberty Bell.”  Play continues around the circle with each player repeating previous phrases, and then adding a new one.  As a player forgets an item in the list, he/she is eliminated from play until one winner remains.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Independence Day!
Happy Parenting,
Tania :)

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Are You Visiting the Beach? Capture a Memory!



Summer is beach weather and the perfect place for fun in the sun, sand, and surf. Whether you live near the ocean, vacation there, or attending a home beach party, this craft is a way to hold onto memories. Your children will love to make this time capsule-type craft that will savor the memories of the beach. If you don’t have a beach nearby, fear not! These supplies can easily purchased at craft stores. It’s an easy project that can be saved and displayed in your child’s room as a great decoration and memory maker. 

Supplies Needed for this Beach Craft:

Medium sized plastic jar with lid
Photo of your child 
Tape
Sea shells
Beach sand
Netting or raffia
Heavy glue or low-temperature glue gun
Seaside favor or decor

How to Make a Beach Memory Jar:

  1. Find a suitable jar for this craft. With young children it is best to use a plastic jar with a lid. I chose a mayonnaise jar. Wash and dry the jar thoroughly.
  2. Look through your photos and find one of your child at the beach. If you are doing this craft at a beach party, the host/hostess can take photos when the children arrive in bathing suits and then download and make prints before craft time. 
  3. Take the photo or photocopy and place it inside the jar. Tape it in place to the back curve wall of the jar with the picture showing through the front. 
  4. Pour a couple inches of beach sand into the bottom of the jar. 
  5. Add some sea shells and arrange them to your liking. You may want to include some sea coral or a star fish. Just make sure if you are using fresh beach finds that there are no living organisms inside your shells. These need to be returned to their natural habitat. 
  6. When you are finished filling your container, screw on the lid tight. You may want to run a line of glue inside the lid before screwing it on. This will prevent spills of beach sand all over your floors.
  7. Now, it’s time to decorate the lid. Glue on some extra shells; a low-temperature glue gun works best. Wrap the side of the lid with raffia or a netting-type ribbon.
  8. As an extra enhancement I added a paper beach umbrella to the top or think about a plastic palm tree as another option. 
  9. With a black permanent marker, mark the child’s name, date, and location to the top of the lid.

Memory jars are awesome projects for children of all ages and various events. Think about making a miniature time capsule for birthdays, visiting a theme park, or to add mementos for any vacation. 

Happy Crafting With the Kids,
Tania 
Photo courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Closet Cleaning and Poshmark



It doesn't matter the season, it's closet cleaning time any time of the year!

I decided it was time to clean my closets -- maybe the Marie Kondo way. If I don't love something, why am I keeping it? If I haven't worn something in over a year, do I really love it? Well, it's time to trash, donate, AND maybe sell it!!!!

Many towns have really good consignment shops, but for me, I wanted something easy and online. Well, I found Poshmark. It is so easy -- you upload pictures of your item, set a price and wait for a buyer. When your item sells, Poshmark sends you the mailing label. You just attach it to the package and mail. Now, how easy is this? And, the USPS will even send you free priority mail boxes just for asking. Check it out HERE.

Oh, did I tell you -- Poshmark accepts women's, men's, and even children's clothing. Yes, it's time to clean out your kiddo's closet.


Go to Poshmark's website and set up your account. It's free!  In the FAQ they will explain the procedure and how much they take from your sale to cover shipping label help and other efforts to help you. It isn't very much. When I sold a $12 item, they took like $3-$4 from my earnings. I feel like these are clothes I cannot use or do not like. If I make a few dollars -- this is a good thing!

And, if you join please use my referral -- you don't have to, but I would appreciate the love!  @TKC6


Hope you all have a great summer,
Happy Parenting,
Tania  :)

I am not affiliated with the Poshmark company in any way. I'm just a client and voicing my opinion.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Fish-Themed Activities For Children



It's summer and many families spend these days fishing, boating, at the beach and maybe visiting an aquarium. Here are ways to help children develop knowledge about the creatures that live under the sea.

Fish Stories
Cut out fish shapes from construction paper. From old magazines, cut out interesting pictures and glue these onto the fish. Place all fish into a box. Invite the children to pick a "fish" from the box. Look at the picture and try to incorporate it into a fish story they make up. This is a fun game for a group of children or with the family.

Pick Up Fish (A fine motor game)
Remember the game of pick-up-sticks? Here is a fish version. You will need two containers, one empty and the other filled with fish shaped crackers. Invite the children to use tweezers to move the crackers from one container to the other.

Fish Dramatic Play
Have the children pretend to be fish swimming in the water. Ask, "What type of fish do you want to be?" Tell them to lie on their stomach with their arms close to their side. Now, have them wiggle their body and try to move. Ask, "How would you rest when you are tired? How would you eat? Where would you hide if there were danger?" Have the children describe what they imagine in their underwater world. Act out the following verse.
There is so much activity beneath the sea.
The crab crawls, the eel wiggles,
The octopus swims, the jellyfish jiggles.
Dramatize the creature you want to be!

Fish Net Mobile
Save one of those net bags that oranges or potatoes are sold in. Hang this in a favorite spot. Invite the children to make colorful paper fish cut from construction paper and decorated with art materials. Punch a hole at the top of each fish. Attach the fish to the net with hooks made by opening paper clips.

Going Fishing (Snack)
Give each child two paper cups. One with fish shaped crackers and the other with peanut butter. Give the children a carrot stick and tell them to dip the end of the veggie stick (fishing pole) into the peanut butter and then go fishing into the crackers. The peanut butter makes the crackers stick to the carrot stick. Kids love to see how many fish they can catch!

Children love fish themes and you can enhance these ideas with books, songs and even movies like the new movie Finding Dory. There is a mysterious and beautiful world down under the sea, so as you are having fun with fish activities, children are learning through play.


Photo courtesy of Flickr  

Friday, June 7, 2019

Author Richard Scarry Celebrates 100 Years



When my kids were young, they would frequently bring Richard Scarry's books to me to read. They are colorful, not too wordy, but full of information. The children loved his "Best Word Book Ever." Anyone remember that one? Full of pictures that relate to words. I think this book helped them to develop their vocabulary.

Well, this week on June 5th, Richard Scarry celebrated his 100th birthday. He was born in 1919 and died in 1994. An author this generation will truly miss. Learn about his life and book collections HERE. Why not allow your kids to share a few of Scarry's books at school, or even with their friends during a playdate?


Are your kids into watching YouTube? Here is a VIDEO all about Richard Scarry's career.

This is a good time to visit the library to read some of Richard Scarry's vast collection of books.

Little Golden Books even has a collection of Scarry's best books. Titles such as Chipmunk's ABC, Best Little Word Book Ever!, The Bunny Book, Just For Fun, Naughty Bunny, Polite Elephant, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse and Other Stories, I Am a Bunny, The Gingerbread Man, Busiest Fire Fighters Ever!, Cars and Trucks, and Good Night, Little Bear.  

This collection can be found at bookstores and Amazon

As a parent and former early childhood teacher, I want to keep Richard Scarry's legacy alive. Please introduce your kids to his books, especially during his 100th birthday celebration happening now.

A selection of his single books can be found HERE.


Enjoy reading with your kids this summer. It's a healthy activity!
Tania :)

This blog post contains some affiliate links. Any profits from these links help to keep this blog post alive. Photos are courtesy of amazon.com. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

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 http://bit.ly/2wAIQh7 
Photos courtesy of Tania Cowling, all rights reserved

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Hurry Up Cobbler Dessert



Have you ever been in a real hurry to prepare dessert for your family? Are friends coming over for coffee and you want to serve something delish? Here is a quick dessert recipe that has been in my family for years and I'd like to share it with you today.

This cobbler is a simple supermarket shortcut that makes a delicious dessert served with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. Here's what to do!


  • Take a can of fruit pie filling (apple, cherry, peach, blueberry) and empty the can inside a baking dish.



  • Use a box of yellow cake mix and sprinkle one-half of the mix over the pie filling. If you pick up a "Jiffy" cake mix (9oz) you will use the entire box. If' it's a regular box of cake mix, then you'll use half the box. (Save the rest for another cobbler).



  • I chop up nuts to sprinkle on top. Chopped walnuts or pecans are great. This is optional.



  • Take about 3/4 of a stick of butter and cut it into thin pats. Place these pats of butter over the entire top of the cobbler.




  • Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes (give or take according to how hot your oven bakes).



  • When the top is golden brown -- take it from the oven and cool.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I always keep these supplies in my pantry for when a hurry-up dessert is needed. It has never failed me!

Happy Parenting,
Tania  :)