teach kids to be smart, strong, and safe: the safety show

teach kids to be smart strong safe

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Talking big topics with your kids is sometimes so hard.teach kids to be smart strong safe

Especially if you’re as emotional a person as I am.

But as our kids get older, these conversations have to be as regular as breathing. We’ve got to talk openly and often about cyber safety, bullying, stranger safety, scary news, hunger, and all those topics we wish didn’t exist but really do.

We’ve got to do everything we can to prepare our kids for this big game of life–the good, bad, and the ugly.

I feel grateful to have the opportunity to work with a brand whose sole focus is to help parents raise ‘good people’.  A lot of what I write about here deals with just that—how we, as parents, can raise kids who are well-rounded, smart, savvy, and safe.

Our kids don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be good. people.

So when The Mother Company asked me to check out their new show about keeping kids safe, you know I jumped on the opportunity.

The cool thing is that everyone wins here.

The Mother Company is offering teachmama.com readers three rockstar opportunities: a sweet discount code, the chance to win one of three copies of The Safety Show, and an invite to one of their Safety Show screening parties around the country.

Not kidding.

Here’s the skinny. . .

The goal of The Safety Show? To ‘inspire, inform, and empower’.

 mother co 'the safety show'

 mother co 'the safety show'

I love it.

And it really does.

The Safety Show is about an hour. It takes place in Ruby’s Studio and consists of a series of animated, stop-motion, and music videos –short sketches tied together with the same important theme–staying smart, strong, and safe.

Kids are reminded to:

  • listen to your gut
  • ask for help
  • speak up for themselves
  • own their body.

 mother co 'the safety show'

 mother co 'the safety show'

The Safety Show is easy for kids to relate to because they can connect to the situations in the shorts. They hear the kids speaking and nod because they ‘get’ what they are saying.

This heavy topic isn’t made light with silliness or nonsense in an attempt to make kids laugh to relieve the anxiety they feel; rather, kids are empowered to listen to their ‘uh-oh’ feeling, to ask for help, and to speak up for themselves. They’re learning that it’s okay to say ‘NO.’

Check out a trailer for The Safety Show here:

So great, right?

What I also love is the Boss of My Body video, which you can check out below:

It empowers kids to be the boss of their body under all circumstances–with their peers on the playground, with adults, with friends, with anyone.  No matter their age or size, this song reminds kids that they ‘hold the key to the safety of me’.


The Safety Show: Launch Events —  are you nearby? The Mother Company would love to have YOU attend their free launch events for The Safety Show!

  • New York: October 19 & 20
  • San Francisco: October 27
  • Chicago: November 9
  • Dallas: November 16


Special friends & family discount code for all teachmama.com readers

  • 25% off of your entire order when you purchase The Safety Show
  • at checkout use code:  safe143
  • think: family, friends, schools, troops, & more


GIVEAWAY: one of THREE copies of Ruby’s Studio: The Safety Show 

Do you want to win your own copy of Ruby’s Studio: The Safety Show??!  Yes, yes you do.

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, November 1, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to anyone and everyone because the copy of The Safety Show will be available via electronic download. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 11/1/13.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

fyi: This is sponsored post, written as part of The Mother Company’s Blog Ambassador program.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator.

why i heart my neighborhood toy store (and you should too!) *sponsored*

why I totally heart neighborhood toy store

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why I totally heart neighborhood toy store


I am a longtime fan of the neighborhood toy store.

In fact, I can honestly say that I honest-to-goodness totally heart my neighborhood toy store. And I think you should too.

  • Why I Totally Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store (& You Should Too!):

Not only do neighborhood toy stores boost local economy and develop and enrich communities, these independent retailers keep town centers hoppin’ and keep families smilin’ due to the diverse–often unique–product selection and top-notch customer service.

My own local toy store, Olney Toys, is seated right next to a coffee shop and drug store and was a regular stop on the kids’ and my weekly errands, especially when they were younger.  With a train set and dollhouse out for kids to oogle over and try, there was always a new toy to check out or a pal to chat with.

When I saw the owners of our toy store at Toy Fair this year, I nearly had a heart attack, jumping up and down, dancing, hooting, and hollering. They are great people, and they hugged me like I needed them to, hung out with me for a while, and then went on their merry way.

I like them. I would love, love, love to own my own toy store, so I do really want them to do well.  It’s all awesome.

astra best toys for kids: zingo

We totally and completely heart ThinkFun’s Zingo Sight Words. . .

  • Best Toys For Kids List, 2013: I also want my great readers to be on top of the latest when it comes to best toy recommendations for their kids and loved ones.

Did you know that there’s a non-profit organization called ASTRA (The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) that provides leadership and resources to grow the specialty toy industry? I didn’t, either, up until a few years ago when I started attending Toy Fair.


astra best toys for kids: zingo

. . . which is a smart game for early readers that made ASTRA’s 2013 list!

Each year, ASTRA gathers 650 experts and asks them to create a list of the Best Toys for Kids that year.

They vote on:

  1. a toy’s ability to promote open-ended or creative play;
  2. a toy’s innovative design features;
  3. a toy’s exceptional safety standards.

The 21 winning toys are on a list for kids of all ages, and it’s essentially designed to help toy shopping easier for parents and guardians. I love it.

Check out the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids 2013 list and start doing your holiday shopping (at your neighborhood toy store, of course!).


astra best toys for kids: laser maze

Another of our fave toys from the list this year: ThinkFun’s Laser Maze

The good folks at ASTRA are celebrating the fun of shopping for toys at your local toy store with an ‘I Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store’ Sweepstakes.

Through November 8, 2013, log in and win some seriously huge prizes. A family vacation. Crazy toy prizes from fab brands that we all love. Big prizes and lots of ’em.  All well over $200 each.  Check it out.

i heart my toy store sweeps

Go enter for your chance to win and please let me know if you do!

Do you frequent your local toy store? Do you love yours like I love mine?


fyi: This is a sponsored post, written as part of the ASTRA Blog Ambassador program.  As always, my opinions and ideas reflect my experience as a parent, teacher, and lover of all things done in the name of learning and fun!

recipe reading (and cookie-eating)

recipe reading (and cookie eating) | iced pumpkin spice cookies

post contains affiliate links

iced pumpkin spice cookies cooking with kids



This post was originally published on December 12, 2009, but as I searched for our Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookie recipe, I found this oldie but goodie and realized that many would appreciate this fun, fall favorite.  Enjoy!


Today was our holiday cookie-baking day. We baked a million cookies, and we’re still not finished.

As Maddy’s becoming a stronger reader, she has really enjoyed trying her hand at handling the recipe-reading herself. And with this recipe, I formatted the ‘Directions’ differently than I had before, with our muffin-making or fun with that ginormous zucchini.

This time, I roughly followed the structure of Mollie Katzen’s series–frame-by-frame instructions. But I simplified it just a bit, and it seemed to work well.

  • Recipe-Reading–Iced Pumpkin Cookies: We love these sweet cakey-cookies, and I (shhhh!) decided to make them again for my yearly cookie exchange with friends.

It’s an easy recipe, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora get a kick out of adding all of the spices. Plus, the cookies are nut-free, so my pals with allergies in the family can also enjoy them.

iced pumpkin spice cookies -Maddy’s adding spices. . .

The Kid-Friendly Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe is here to download. But if you’re exchanging with your pals, why reinvent the wheel–the Mom’s Cookie Exchange Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe is also here to download.

Because the recipe calls for ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pumpkin–on top of the normal sugar, butter, egg, my kids seem to especially like making these. And every single time–every time–they want to try each spice.

iced pumpkin spice cookies . . . and Cora’s giving the spices a taste.

So I make tiny piles of the ingredients and let them taste each. Sure, every time Maddy, Owen, or Cora tastes cloves or nutmeg, they stick out their tongue and yell for water, but usually an M & M clears their tiny palates quickly.

I think it’s great to get kids familiar with the differences between salt, sugar, flour, and anything that’s safe to try.

iced pumpkin spice cookies The Pampered Chef cookie ballers
(or whatever they’re called. . . ) really make the job easier.


I slipped the recipe sheets into plastic sleeves so that the kids could write on them with crayon and then wipe it off for next time.

As we completed each step of the recipe, Maddy put a check in the appropriate box, just like she did as we gathered our ingredients before we began.

pumpkin spice cookies finished
Our finished Iced Pumpkin Cookies


 Our finished products tasted great and looked pretty darn good, too.

Recipe: Iced Pumpkin Cookies by teach mama


And that’s it for today. . . tons of cookies baked, and my little emerging readers got some practice reading and following the steps to the recipe as well.

Pour the milk, put some cookies on a plate, and let’s eat some sweets!


Do you want to take the recipe to a neighborhood cookie exchange? Print out the parent-version below:

Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe to Share by teach mama

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

5 reasons families need backyard chickens (no, this is not a joke)

why families need backyard chickens cover

post contains affiliate links



We love chickens.backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

We really do.

We love backyard chickens.

As in, we love them thanks to two hens who came to us from Rent a Coop here in the DC Metro area and stayed with us for four weeks.

Kiki and Jennifer.

Though they were admittedly not the first chickens we ever knew (my close friends and family are nodding–or shaking their heads– remembering fondly the days of Peepers and Pappy), but they were the first plump, sweet, free-range feathered girls we ever really loved.

And now that they’re gone? We miss them. We talk about them often, and we laugh about the good times we had with them.  The kids do Kiki and Jennifer impressions.

Brady still mopes around our yard, wondering where his feathered sisters have gone.

Have you thought about giving backyard chickens a try? Sure you have.  And now’s your chance. Our friends from Rent a Coop are offering one teachmama.com reader the chance to have backyard chickens for four weeks, just like we did.

Or if the backyard chicken experience isn’t for you, then they’ll let you in on their chick hatching program which we’re trying for ourselves this winter.  Wetotallycannotwait.


backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

And we can hardly wait.  Have I said that? We can’t.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 5 Reasons Families Should Have Backyard Chickens (& How YOUR Family Can Do It):  Backyard chickens may seem crazy, silly, ridiculous to you, but I’m totally convinced that they are an awesome addition to any family.

Clarification: many families.

Sure, with any pet, you’ve got to make sure it’s the right time and that you have the time, effort, and energy to care for them. But these girls? So easy.


backyard chickens for families teachmama.com


1.  Your family will learn so, so, so much.  We all learned so much about chickens, and we’re still learning.  Our friends learned a ton about chickens.

No one in our world really knows about chickens, which is why having them in our backyard was so much fun.

We learned that chickens love treats.

backyard chickens sept

backyard chickens sept

We learned that our chickens wanted to be close to us and would never wander far.

We learned that chickens like to be held, ride on tire swings, and spend time on tricycles.

We learned that chickens like to drink water from dog bowls.

And we learned a whole lot more.

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

2.  Gathering eggs? So fun.  It’s like Christmas morning every time you run out to the coop.  It was the perk of whomever’s day it was to be the one to pick up the eggs.  So fun.

It took Kiki and Jennifer a few days to get into a schedule of laying eggs, but soon they’d each lay one egg sometime late morning.

And what we learned about eggs is that no–even if we didn’t eat the eggs and prayed hard enough they still wouldn’t hatch into chicks.

You need a rooster for that.  You’re nodding your head, right? Now you get it.  Everyone who came to see the chickens wondered the same thing–what makes the eggs hatch? It’s the rooster, yo.  Learned that for myself from the BackYard Chickens FAQs.

Also what’s cool about the eggs is that there you go–you have breakfast right there in your own backyard. Owen learned to make his very first scrambled eggs–all by himself this summer. And he got the eggs from Kiki and Jennifer. We’re like basically self-sufficient over here.


backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

Sometimes Maddy just likes wearing Harry Potter robe around the yard. Jennifer liked it.

3.  Chickens are so easy.  Seriously.  We put their organic feed in the feed bowl and only had to refill it every few days. We did the same thing with their water.   Every week-ish we cleaned out the coop and put in new wood shavings. Voila. Done.

They do not bite, and their pecks are so gentle.

They’ll eat anything almost, and they love treats. (Check out the Chicken Eats & Treats sheet we had hanging in the kitchen for the last four weeks!)

Kiki and Jennifer let Maddy, Owen, and Cora hold them, carry them, love them, hold them, and carry them more.

They actually got along with Brady.  And by ‘got along’ I mean, Brady chased them and they let him.


backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

backyard chickens for family fun and learning

backyard chickens for family fun and learning

4.  Chickens are hilarious.

They look really funny when they run.  And they’ll run for just about any treat.

Want a few more funny chicken videos? head to my Instagram account
They are just plain hysterical to see in a suburban backyard, in the same way that it’s funny for kids to see their teachers outside of the school building. It’s just not–the norm.

So when you are eating breakfast and your pet chicken hops up on your porch and struts by your sliding glass door, the kids will go nuts crazy laughing.

When you’re doing dishes and see your kids holding a chicken on their hips, walking around your back yard or swinging with a chicken on their laps, you’ll laugh.

When you hear your kids tell other people about your chickens? When you all watch a chicken shove its face into a watermelon, peck a tomato, or steal grapes from your hand? All funny.


backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

5.  Your kids will be so proud. They will love becoming experts on chickens.

They will be beaming as they demonstrate to their friends and neighbors how to properly hold a chicken.

They will love to be able to show family members how awesome their chickens are.

They will love to have people come by to visit and meet your chickens.


What you need to think about if you’re considering chickens:

  • chicken poop: Though it’s supposedly great for your grass, it is there as it is with any pet.
  • chickens peck and scratch: If your yard is 100% awesome and perfect, mulch spread out of flower beds may bug you. Our yard? We hardly noticed.
  • HOA rules: Your housing development or neighborhood or county may have rules about keeping backyard chickens.


Check out all of our backyard chicken photos:


Huge thanks to Tyler from Rent a Coop for making our backyard chicken experience so easy.  He rolled on up with our coop and the two sweetest hens around, bringing everything we needed for the whole four weeks.  I had not a clue that we’d love Kiki and Jennifer as much as we did. The experience was so much fun for us all, and we really hope to do it again this spring.

Tyler quickly and patiently answered my wide range of insane texts: They’re not laying eggs! What’s wrong?  (It’s okay–it takes them a day or two to get comfortable–), and he worked around our schedule for drop-off and pick-up.

He didn’t flinch when he came to pick them up and there were 50 kids and adults in the house and yard or when Cora followed him to his van, peeking through the coop window yelling, Bye, Kiki and Jennifer!!! We love you and we will miss yooooooou!!

Cool fact: Tyler makes the coops–as in constructs them himself with recycled materials, and it’s easy to move (you’ll move it around your yard every few days), and it’s predator proof.

Check them out on their Rent a Coop site.  Follow them on their facebook page.  Follow them on twitter and instagram–and bug them like I do to share more photos of their hens.

backyard chickens sept

Let’s just pretend Owen’s wearing matching shoes. . .

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com


GIVEAWAY: One 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school.

Do you want to win your own 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school??Yes, yes you do.

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, October 11, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the DC Metro only; our friends from Rent a Coop can only send their chickens so far, you know. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 10/13/13.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.


fyi: This is an unsponsored post, but our family was given the opportunity to try our hand at raising backyard chickens for four weeks in exchange for sharing a bit about Rent a Coop.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little chicken-loving littles.

Affiliate links are used in this post.

the rainbow loom: 5 reasons kids need it and parents love it

rainbow loom why kids need it and parents love it

 post contains affiliate links

rainbow loom why kids need it and parents love it



We are loving–and I mean loving–the Rainbow Loom. We’re bracelet-making, ring-wearing, tiny-rubber-band toting fools. And when I say we love the Rainbow Loom, I mean we love it.

Like we want to marry it love it.

Though I could count more than a dozen reasons why your kids need the Rainbow Loom and why parents love this silly little thing, I know we’re all busy.

But more importantly? I know we’ve all got bracelets to make. And even if you don’t have THE Rainbow Loom, you can still make Rainbow Loom bracelets without the loom.

Here’s how: How to Make Rainbow Loom bracelets without the Rainbow Loom.

So why do your kids need the Rainbow Loom?

Why will you, as a parent, love it? Five reasons.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The Rainbow Loom–5 Reasons Kids Need it and Parents Love it:

First of all, what is the Rainbow Loom?

It’s a simple plastic ‘loom’ on which people strategically place tiny rubber bands, connecting them, twisting them, and looping them into bracelets, necklaces, rings–you name it.

Secondly, how do you make Rainbow Loom bracelets? There are an insane number of ways to make bracelets without the loom and on the loom, and the RainbowLoom.com site has a boatload of instructional videos.

rainbow loom bracelets with and without loom

The cool thing is that you don’t necessarily need the Rainbow Loom to make Rainbow Loom bracelets. Cora and Owen don’t use the loom quite yet; they are perfectly content creating ‘Rainbow Loom’ bracelets and rings simply by looping and connecting them by hand. Maddy, on the other hand, loves the loom itself and can really rock it out. Why do I say kids actually need the Rainbow Loom and parents will love it? Here’s why:   rainbow loom math skill building teachmama.com 1.  Math Skill-Building. Serious, hands-on math skill-building with each and every bracelet made. We’re talking pattern-making. Two colors, three colors, whatever the number, it doesn’t matter. Kids will begin to pick up on patterns if they haven’t already. Throw a little: Heeeeey! I love this bracelet you made, Cora. The blue-green ABAB pattern is rockin’! And look at Owen’s mix-up of ABBCABBC. . . into the mix, and your kids will start to see real-life connections to what they’re learning at school. rainbow loom why kids should have it   rainbow loom why kids should have it   And there’s shape-recognition.  My kids lean heavily on the instructional videos on the Rainbow Loom site, so before I knew it, they were talking about making the ‘double rhombus’  or the ‘crossed hexagon’ bracelets. My heart skipped a beat, and I wanted to dance. We haven’t talked shapes like this since way back with our Super Sweet Shape Snacks. Woot.  Bring on ‘da math.


rainbow loom reading skill building teachmama.com 2. Reading Skill-Building.  Reading informational text is not only a component of the Common Core–it’s an integral life skill.  Whether it’s recipe-reading, map-reading, newspaper reading, or book reading, kids need to be able to read informational texts. rainbow loom why kids should have it The Rainbow Loom Instruction Manual is a super starting point for kids for doing some serious instructional reading because it’s high-interest, it’s hands-on, and it’s clearly written and formatted. Photos. Step-by-step instructions.  Great combo. Kids are reading and re-reading to gain understanding. They’re following steps and managing a task. Seriously.


rainbow loom fine motor skill building teachmama.com 3.  Fine-Motor Skill-Building. Whether your kids are making Rainbow Loom bracelets without the loom (like Cora and Owen do) or with the loom (like Maddy does), it doesn’t matter. It’s all working those teeny little muscles in arms and hands and fingers that help kiddos with all of those super-important skills like mastering the tripod grip (proper grip on pencil).   rainbow loom fine motor skill building   rainbow loom why kids should have it From the organizing of the bands to attaching, looping, and knotting, it’s all working those fine motor skills. And even those kids for whom doing it by hand is difficult, they can still rock out the little Rainbow Loom tool–it all works. It all counts.


rainbow loom relationship building teachmama.com 4.  Relationship-Building.  This weekend, the kids were in small groups all over the pool deck making Rainbow Loom bracelets. Hanging out, teaching each other how to do it, chatting, and enjoying time together. rainbow loom why kids should have it   rainbow loom why kids should have it My kids have been helping each other make bracelets. They’re forging bonds with each other and with other people in sharing what they know about making these bracelets and in sharing the bracelets themselves. But all over the pool for the last few weeks, kids have been hanging out together, teaching each other how to make different types of bracelets and really–amazing the adults.


rainbow loom confidence building teachmama.com 5.  Confidence-Building.  Maddy had to start and re-start eleven times before mastering the ‘Triple Single’ bracelet. Eleven. Times. I have yet to master any of the bracelets other than the basic loop that Owen and Cora use. It’s hard. But manageable. And it takes patience. rainbow loom why kids should have it   cora hands and bracelets   rainbow loom for learning I overheard Maddy’s girlfriends talking one night last week, and one gal said, It feels so great to be able to start and finish something that looks so good, you know? You just feel so proud of yourself after you finish one of these. And she’s right.  It’s like the old friendship bracelets of the ’80’s. But with a 21st century twist. Owen sticks with ring-making, but he loves making them. Cora was on cloud nine yesterday because one of the ‘big boys’ at the pool asked her to make one for him.  She didn’t, but she was still flattered. This weekend, kids were in groups all around our pool, teaching each other. Helping each other. It’s awesome. And for our little entrepreneurs, who knows what Rainbow Loom bracelets could lead to?

Really. That’s it. This mama digs anything that sneaks a little learning into our every day. And for me, Rainbow Loom is a big win. Five times over. What do you think? Rainbow Loom craze hit your family yet?   Ready to get started but don’t have the loom yet? Check out How to Make Rainbow Loom Bracelets Without the Loom! Already loving the Rainbow Loom but want a few cool ideas for bracelet-making? Check out 9 Band Bracelets for Kids to Make from my friends at Kids’ Activities Blog fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means that if you’re into getting your kids set up with Rainbow Loom bracelets and want to use these links, awesome. We get a itsy-bitsy, teeny, tiny cut and every little bit helps!

new fire safety law in maryland (and smoke alarm giveaway)

new fire safety law in maryland

post contains affiliate links



new fire safety law in maryland

Did you know that this summer Maryland fire safety laws have changed and that most likely you are affected?

Me neither.

Here’s the law:

As of July 1, 2013, homeowners with battery-powered smoke alarms must update to long-life sealed-in battery smoke alarms. This law applies to homes with alarms more than 10 years old. Additionally, homes will be required to install smoke alarms in all sleeping areas. Sealed-in battery alarms may be used in those locations if the home currently has hardwired alarms.

Did you know that?   Right. Me neither.

So let’s get you at least one of these new long-life sealed-in battery smoke alarms stat.  I’m giving away one to one lucky teachmama reader, thanks to Kidde. And though  you’ll need to pick up a few more to keep your home safe, at least it’s a start.

Right? Right.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • New Fire Safety Law in Maryland (and Smoke Alarm Giveaway): I’m sharing this because really I had no clue. And as a newspaper reading family, I like to think we’re on top of the latest.

At least a little bit.

So when the good folks at Kidde clued me in, I thought it was a message well worth sharing.

Do you…

  • Live in a home that uses battery-powered smoke alarms?
  • Ever forget to replace the batteries in your smoke alarm?
  • Have smoke alarms installed only in hallways and not in every bedroom?
  • Know the last time you replaced your smoke alarm?
  • Was it more than 10 years ago?
  • Do you plan to renovate your home or move to a new residence?

If you answered “Yes” to these questions, check your fire safety equipment today.  Seriously. Do it.


As of July 1, 2013, Maryland law requires homeowners to replace existing battery-operated smoke alarms with ones containing a 10-year sealed battery. These long-life alarms will provide continuous power for a decade, meaning you never have to remember to replace batteries.

The law also states that smoke alarms shall be upgraded in all existing residential dwellings to include at least one alarm on each floor, including basements, as well as in each sleeping area.

I had heard that you should have one on each floor–but in each sleeping area?  We totally don’t.

More facts worth sharing:

  • Two-thirds of all home fire deaths in America occur in homes with either no smoke alarm or no working alarm, mainly due to missing or disconnected batteries.
  • In Maryland, 39 home fire fatalities have been reported from January to June, 2013.
  • In 2012, nearly half (46%) of Maryland fire fatalities occurred in homes without smoke alarms or with inoperable alarms.
  • Approximately 800,000 Maryland residences rely on battery-powered smoke alarms.
  • 60% of U.S. homeowners have left a smoke alarm without a working battery.
  • Fire experts recommend installing smoke alarms on each floor and in sleeping areas. Three out of four homeowners don’t know the proper locations for installation.
  • Fire experts recommend replacing smoke alarms every 10 years. Industry surveys show one in four homes – those built prior to 2002 – have never replaced their alarms.
  • After 10 years, a smoke alarm’s efficiency may be compromised with accumulated dust, insects, airborne contaminants and aging electrical circuitry.

The benefits:

  • Proven to provide protection for 10 years, homeowners no longer have to remember to replace batteries or be hassled by low battery chirps.
  • Sealing the batteries into the unit’s housing and circuitry makes these alarms tamper resistant.
  • For safety, the alarm will sound an end-of-life warning, letting the owner know it’s time to replace the alarm.

Supporters of this technology:

Find the Kidde Worry-Free smoke alarms at Home Depot.


WORRYFREE group shot flat

GIVEAWAY: One Kidde Worry-Free Smoke Alarm

Do you want to win your own Kidde Worry-Free Smoke Alarm?Yes, yes you do.

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, September 13, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 9/13/13.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.


fyi: This is an unsponsored post, sharing a message I feel strongly about from an organization I can firmly stand behind.  I did receive my own Kidde Worry Free 10 year Smoke Alarm as a ‘thank you’ for sharing this public service announcement.

As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little loves. Affiliate links are used in this post.

3 reasons all kids must see Disney’s Planes

3 reasons all kids must see disney's planes

3 reasons all kids must see disney's planesOur Owen was a Cars fan from the time he could crawl.

He toddled around with McQueen and Mater in his chubby little hands, and when he turned three, he yelled loud and clear, Speed. I am SPEED! as he zoomed around on his brand-new McQueen bike.

We read Cars books, played Cars games, watched the Cars movie, he rocked Cars bedspread, and he wore Cars shirts.

When Cars 2 was released, we raced into the theaters, and though the story was a bit above my kids’ heads, they loved it anyway.

So when I was given the opportunity to catch a preview of Disney’s Planes–a new 3D film from the creators of Cars— you better believe we jumped at the chance. And really?

I think it’s a movie that all kids should see.  Bold, right?

I hope it becomes for other little guys what Cars was for my Owen. Because the movie rocked.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Three Reasons All Kids Must See Disney’s Planes:  Essentially, Planes follows a little crop duster  named Dusty who has really huge dreams of doing more than he’s made for.  Dusty wants to compete in an around-the-world air race, and in order to make it, he needs to work super-hard and overcome some pretty big fears.

Why should all kids see this film? Three reasons:


"PLANES" (Pictured) DUSTY. ©2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

1.  The main character is awesome. Where Lightening McQueen was a little too confident and sassy for my taste, Planes’ star, Dusty is humble, big-hearted, and kind.  All the while, though, he’s brave and willing to work hard.

From the start, viewers can clearly tell that Dusty is a nice guy. He’s kind. He’s helpful. And when he races with the big dogs, he doesn’t think twice about lending a hand to a competitor in need.

I like that.

Dusty thinks big (of course a tiny crop duster can win an around-the-world race, silly!), and in doing so, he faces one of his biggest fears: heights.   I think more kids need to see a good guy working hard to accomplish a dream. Makes me want to dance.




2.  There’s tons of friendship, kindness, and looooove. And I mean it. And kids need to see more of it as often as possible, if you ask me.

Dusty and Chug are buddies who support each other from beginning to end. Dottie’s smarts and fix-it abilities support everyone.  Roper helps Skipper with just about everything.  Skipper helps Dusty with training and to become a better racer.  Everyone comes to Mexico to support Dusty in the final leg of the race.

When Dusty falls, every other competitor finds some special way of helping him to rebuild and get back on his feet.

And one of the more comical parts involves El Chupacabra trying to win the heart of beautiful and sweet Canadian Rochelle.   Sure, there’s some taunting from Ripslinger toward Dusty, and Ned and Zed are the two troublesome sidekicks, but it didn’t take over the movie.

In the end, happiness and friendship prevail.  Woo-hoo!





3.  The story is simple–but big.  Great, basic story: little guy wants to do big things. Simple as that.

And sure, there are a few bumps along the way, but essentially, kids will get the gist. They’ll be able to follow the story and will be able to recall some basic beginning, middle, and end elements.

Though they may miss some small details, it’s okay–they’ll understand the story.  And hopefully, because of its simplicity, they’ll be able to be like Dusty more often than not when it comes to helping siblings, friends, and family, or when they face a challenge.

The 3D? Very easy for kids. Nothing totally in your face and frightening. We discussed afterward that the 3D was actually nice–easy on the eyes and not as intense as other 3D films the kids and I have seen.

Should you talk about some of the gender and ethnic stereotypes with your kids? Yes! It’s all worth talking about and using as teachable moments. I truly believe it.


Download Race to the Finish! Activities

Really? I am a happy-movie kinda gal, so Planes was right up my alley.  The minimal scary scenes make it seem like there’s very little need to cover eyes in the theater or fast-forward once it comes to video.  Only once when Dusty faces a stormy sea and sinks to the bottom, it’s a little tense, but he’s rescued quickly. Phew.

Love, love, love that Disney has provided a handful of awesome Planes resources for kids to bring the Planes love on home.

Do check out:

Quick Planes trailer:

It was a super-fun, totally cool new-f0r-us activity this week.   A great way to begin August!

Out today in the theaters–make it a Planes weekend for you, too, and let me know what you think!


fyi: Promo photos courtesy of Walt Disney Social Media. This is an unsponsored post. My family and I attended an advance screening of Planes as a part of Disney press reviewers.  As always, my opinion is my own, influenced only by my three little movie-goers and longtime Disney fan family.

try someting new: fishing with kids

try something new fishing

Maybe every other family in the world has tried fishing, but ours has not.try something new fishing

That is, until this week.

Now? We’re like total fishermen. Fishers of men.

Fisherwomen. Fisherkids. Give us a rod, a worm, and we’re in it. Big time.

This week, the kids and I tried something totally new-for-us, completely exciting, and really . . . simple.

We fished.

I went fishing with kids. Fifteen kids to be exact.  And a bunch of moms. 

I’m not that crazy.

But when you’re baiting and casting and waiting and reeling, fifteen kids seems more like a hundred.  It’s all good. It was a super summertime activity.

Along with a group of fun friends, we took a county class at a local park, and together we learned how to fish.

And the really crazy thing is that I had no idea that this beautiful park and lake even existed (less than ten minutes from my home) or that these cool family-friendly courses even existed or that if you have a small group and want to form your own class, you can simply call and form your own.

try something new fishing

baby turtle — came to check out the newbie fisherpeople

I’m betting that it’s the same in most areas, and all it takes is a look at the local recreation department’s website.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Try Something New– Fishing With Kids: Really, I had no idea that our county parks and recreation department even offered courses like this. If I did, I would have started this madness a while ago.

My girlfriend called and arranged this adventure, and it involved paddle boating and a private fishing lesson for fifteen.

try something new fishing

Our instructor taught us how to cut the worm for hooks. . .

try something new fishing

 . . . and then carefully unlatch the hook before casting.

We learned about how to bait the hook, how to cast, and then how to reel our catch in.

But most importantly, we learned that fishing takes a whole lot of patience.

try something new fishing

try something new fishing

But after a while, we got lucky!

Some of us did, anyway. Maddy, Owen, and Cora came close to grabbing one, but didn’t score a catch.

Our friends did, though, and they told us how pokey the fish scales felt–and how surprised they were that they weren’t smooth and slippery.


try something new fishing

try something new fishing

It. Was. Awesome.

No, I’m not a fan of the worm part, I’ll be honest. But fishing for the first time with my kids–and their buddies–was a lot of fun.

It reminded me a few things:

  • that there are so many incredible learning opportunities so close to home;
  • that it is so important it is to spend time with other moms and kids;
  • that there are a boatload of hidden treasures right under our noses;
  • that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone every now and again;

try something new fishing

  • that learning new skills is good for the soul (casting? it was hard for me, I’ll admit. . . );
  • that engaging in family activities that require patience is muy importante in our immediate gratification lifestyle;
  • that being outside in a beautiful location makes us all so happy and refreshed.

And really? That’s it.

Super fun new-for-us summertime learning in a totally new-for-us location.

Want a few new activities for your family to try?  Check out our New For Us Friday posts and follow our neat-o, fun, new things for us to try board!

And tell me in the comments–have you tried fishing? How’d it go for you?

try something new with kids: coconut

try something new coconut

try something new coconutWe’re big fans of mixing up the fun and learning over here, always trying a little something new each week.

We’ve done restaurants, foods, crafts, games, vacations, and more. It’s always fun, and while it keeps Maddy, Owen, and Cora on the hunt for new and exciting things to try, it also keeps their minds open for trying new things.

What I haven’t realized is that even if we tried something new a year or two ago, it’s worth revisiting again.

Like the coconut.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Try Something New With Your Kids–Coconut:  We rocked the coconut years ago. I mean years ago.

Check it out: New for us Friday–Going Coconutty!

Written on July 17, 2009–four years ago. And my kids had little to no memory of it.

So when we were at the grocery store this past weekend and saw the coconuts sitting there smiling at us from the shelf, Maddy said, Mom! Hey! Let’s get a coconut and try it out!

I said, Maddy, we already did that–I’m sure you remember, don’t you? It was so hard to open and we had to watch YouTube videos about it. Remember?

She didn’t.

And neither did Owen.

And neither did Cora.

try something new -- coconut


try something new -- coconut

So of course we bought the coconut because really? If my kids were doing these cool things and weren’t remembering, then by all means, we’ll rock a Coconuts 2.0.

And Coconuts 3.0 if we must.

The crazy thing? I had no recollection of how to properly open a coconut. So it was really a smart idea for our family to do a coconut-do-over. Clearly we needed it.

We checked out my previous post on How to Open a Coconut to refresh our memories. We watched the videos, looked at the photos, and then got to work.

try something new -- coconut

This whole thing? Dangerous.

try something new -- coconut

Keep your kids away if you are a smart parent. . .

try something new -- coconut

. . . not like me who left them to run in and answer the phone.

The whole coconut-opening process was not easy. I tried everything on the video, but I could. Not. Open. The. Coconut.

Poking a hole and getting the coconut water out was easy.

It was finding the ‘equator’ and cracking it in half that was difficult.

Phone rang. Like a good mama, I ran in to get it. (Our air conditioning was broken! It could have been the repair person!) I left Maddy with the hammer and the feisty coconut.

try something new -- coconut

My determined girl.

try something new -- coconut

Putting the coconut on the ground and hammering it seemed to have been the ticket.

Or a really, really strong 9 year old. . .

try something new -- coconut

Maddy did it.

While on the phone with the HVAC guy (I swear it was him!), I heard: MOMMY!! I DID IT! I DID IT! I DIDDDDD IT! MOOOOOOM!!!how to get your kids to try new foods

I ran outside, hoping to God that she didn’t bust her finger or break the porch, and I found the cracked coconut and a super-happy Maddy.

All I had to do was put it on the ground, hit it hard, and it cracked! Wooo-hooo!!!!

We tried the coconut (once again), and we determined that we had the same tastebuds after four years: we were not fans of the coconut meat. At all.

But we worked hard, tried it, and now–hopefully–my kids will remember.  And if anyone has a suggestion for opening a coconut with ease, please do share. I’d love to learn.

Not that we’re going to try coconuts again anytime soon, but in another four years, who knows. . . just a little learning on the fly, on a hot summer afternoon.

Want a few more ways to get kids to try new foods?  Click on Get Your Kids to Try New Foods for some inspiration!   Or check out our neat-o, fun, NEW things for us to try pinterest board!

classic toys with an educational spin: melissa & doug at toy fair 2013

melissa doug toy fair

melissa doug toy fair I practically just walked in the door from spending several days in New York City for one of the world’s largest toy events—Toy Fair.

And though my feet are sore and my brain is swimming with buzzing, moving, brightly colored puzzles, lovies, games and more–of every shape and size–the teacher in me really spent time seeking toys that had some sort of educational or creative thinking spin.

I saw a whole lot of classic toys ramped up–a lot of classic toys 2.0–so that kids got a bit more when playing. And this mama loved the extra educational value packed into most of what I saw.

So boy did I find what I was looking for.

The majority of my time was spent hanging with the good folks from Melissa & Doug, and I’m thrilled about what they’ve got coming this year.

What I found at Melissa & Doug were about 200 fab new products, but three things in particular caught my eye: classic toys with an educational spin.  I loved the Skill Builder line, the expanded Craft & Create — line, and the new K’s Kids baby line.

M & D media breakfast

Photo bombed by Doug at the Media Breakfast: Valerie, Doug, Anna of Melissa & Doug, and me

Thrilled to share a teeny bit of the ocean of excitement from Toy Fair 2013, the Melissa & Doug highlights for this New For Us Friday.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Classic Toys With an Educational Spin–Melissa & Doug at Toy Fair 2013: Though I do look forward to taking a closer look at these products once they’re out for the public to purchase, my overview during a few days at Toy Fair did provide me with a smart look into the awesome that is sure to be 2013 and toys.

toy fair melissa & doug

Skill Builders: Tons of Melissa & Doug products could be considered ‘skill builders’ for dozens of reasons, but these new ones they’ve got coming? They made me want to dance.

Sort! Match! Attach! Nuts & Bolts Boards bring together puzzle challenge with fine-motor skill boost.  I know that kiddos will love to tackle this set for the pure fun of it, but I am sure that the sneaky learning that parents can incorporate into play will give them more bang for their buck.

toy fair melissa & doug skill builders

toy fair melissa & doug clock

toy fair melissa & doug

Clocks! Totally love the Turn & Tell Clock, which marries the analog and digital and makes learning how to tell time (so tricky!) a wee bit easier and a lot more fun for our little ones. This sturdy play clock has multicolored hands, numbers and a segmented color disk to help with ‘quarter past’ and ‘half past’ and double-sided time cards for practice. Love. It. Totallyneedtohaveit.

The Add-a-Fish Penguin Balance was also so cute–a penguin with outstretched arms who is trying desperately to keep the fish in his hands balanced and equal, I could see this used at home or in the classroom.

toy fair melissa & doug first calendar

The whole Creative Classroom line was expanded to include some really awesome pattern and sequencing cards and some storytelling sets; these come in the wooden boxes and have a similar feel to some of the wooden manipulatives, but these were a whole new ballgame.  It seemed that a lot of the media who I showed around our booth were really into these sets because the games offered not only a hands-on learning experience that children could use independently, but they also provided a world of learning in terms of storytelling, listening and speaking, sequencing, and specific skill-building: phonological awareness (even some identifying sounds in isolation games!), math, social studies, science, and more.  Very cool.

melissa talks about classic toys

My First Calendar? So want it. Similar to the layout of the Magnetic Responsibility Chart, My First Calendar is perfect for schools or home. I would love to have Maddy, Owen, and Cora update the calendar before or after we read the newspaper each morning at breakfast because it covers the month, day, year, date, weather, even today’s feelings. YES.

toy fair melissa & doug k's kids

toy fair melissa & doug k's kids

Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Toys: These toys promote skill-building in babies!  Love.  I especially adored the Pop Blocs Crocodile, but all of these products were really fabulous. This line was created to engage our tiniest ones in multi-sensory play, touch, sight, sound, and even smell.  Though they may seem like simple baby toys, but these toys actually grow with the child by providing learning and play through multiple stages of development.

toy fair melissa & doug melissa

Melissa, sharing news about the K’s Kids line

The soft Pull-Back Vehicles really pull back and zoom! The Pop Blocs Crocodile is a set of four blocks that fit inside a crocodile, and depending on the number of blocks used, the croc is either short (with no blocks) or really, really long (with all four). The Musical Pull Behive is a sweet musical pull toy–sure there are many out there, but the sweet face on this bee and the quality of the piece are really worth checking, and I can totally see my tree littles having loved the Hungry Pelican–a plush toy that you can actually ‘feed’ with smaller ones.

toy fair melissa & doug craft create

Craft & Create Line: The entire Craft & Create line has been expanded (woot!) and I’m really loving what Melissa & Doug will be sharing in 2013. totally loved these because they are sets that include an idea book and all of the supplies kids need to create a cool final product.

One of the things that Melissa explained during the week was that she always wanted to create craft sets that allowed her kids to end up with something. She wanted to provide kids with something that was engaging and fun and then have, in their hands, a final product they could be proud of.  And totally in line with her goal are the crafty products for 2013.

toy fair melissa & doug

melissa and craft lines

They’ll be sharing sets like Felt Friends Stickers, Face Painting, and Mixed Metal Jewelry among others–and I’m really looking forward to these. Love that they encourage kids to follow directions and offer choices for them to make along the way.  And the final product? What’s not to love?

More on the crafty front are Magical Masterpieces, some really awesome Peel n’ Press sets, and stickers galore.  We’re huge fans of all of the paint and stickers over here, so I look forward to sharing more as they are put out on the shelves!

 We were thrilled to host a Media Breakfast on Tuesday morning, complete with a tour given by Melissa. Please check out our photos:


media breakfast

Val, Sherry of Babypop, Silke of Mama Latina en Philly, and me

media breakfast

Val, Natalie of Twiniversity, and me

media breakfast

Lance and Matt of NYC Dads Group, lots of stuffed animals, and me

media breakfast

the whole media breakfast she-bang shoved into a teeny photo with Melissa & Doug

And that’s it–only the beginning of course, but such an incredible whirlwind of toys that are really. Worth. Our. Time.

It’s really exciting, and I’m sure that the parents and teachers in our worlds will be dancing in their classrooms (or living rooms) when these toys emerge later this year.

melissa and doug ba logo



fyi: This was written as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program, but as always, all opinions are my own. Huge and happy thanks to Melissa & Doug for inviting me to attend Toy Fair with them and for making it a whole lot of fun to do so!

Please forgive me that many of the links here go directly to the Melissa & Doug site and not the individual products; I know it’s frustrating. However, many of the products are so new that the aren’t even up on the website yet! Will keep you updated!

high school basketball games: why families should go

high school basketball games

high school basketball game with kidsTotally new-for-us this last month was something that I wish we would have done sooner, but I think our kids are finally at just-the-right age.

Just like the ole days (at least for me!) we spent a recent, wintery Friday night in a brightly-lit high school gymnasium, rockin’ it out at a high school basketball game.

And it was a total blast.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora had so much fun that we all want to return sooner rather than later, and the following week we even hit a local college’s gymnastics competition. We’re addicted to local sports.

And it’s not a bad thing.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • High School Basketball Games–Why Families Should Go:  There are probably a good dozen or so reasons why families should take some time out to support local sports, but I whittled it down to three.

high school basketball games with kids

 1. The Teamwork. There’s some serious teamwork going on at high school basketball games–or at least there should be.

And even if you’re not watching a stellar team full of future NCAA or NBA stars, a good coach should run a team tightly, with a whole lot of cheering and support for each other.

Most teams now have chants or little team-building rituals that are great for our little guys to see.  It not only gives them something to aim for down the road (Wouldn’t it be awesome if I were part of a team like that?!), but it gives them something to talk to the ‘big guys’ about next time they see them in the neighborhood.


high school basketball games

2.  The ‘Big’ Kids. C’mon, guys, really, there’s no reason to fear ‘big kids’ — and I’m not even saying that because I was a high school English teacher.

Big As parents of young children, I’m realizing first-hand how important it is to find responsible, creative, fun ‘big kids’ as role models for my own ‘little ones’.  Part of the reason that Maddy, Owen, and Cora all love their summertime swim team is because of their coaches–who just happen to be local high school and middle school kids.

And to see those very same ‘big kids’ shooting hoops on the high school court–or cheering or dancing or playing in the band–is so totally beyond cool for them.


high school basketball games for families

3.  The Excitement.  Especially now, later in the season, these games are surprisingly exciting. And I’m not even that big of a sports gal.

But when it comes down to the semi-finals and finals–add two ‘rival’ teams from across town–there is a buzz in the air.  There’s usually a mostly-full gymnasium, and often schools even bring out the band or dance squad.

It’s really cool.  Loud, yes–but cool–and so exciting for our little ones to see.


Are there more reasons we should support local sports? Ohmygosh yes! But these are just a few off the top of my head.  Should parents be on the watch for some crazy outfits, some nuts language, and maybe some on-the-court arguments? Yep.

But isn’t that life? Talk about some perfect ‘teachable’ moments about topics that might not otherwise arise in the safety of your own home, right?

So google your local high school, check the basketball schedule, and head on out there! Stretch bedtime for one night, and enjoy watching the stars in your kiddos’ eyes.  Buy ’em some popcorn and Skittles, and they’ll talk about it for weeks to come.

And then? Try the less-popular sports, a debate match, or a drama production.  The sky’s the limit.

Just enjoy the family time and the new-for-you fun!