Reading Under the Stars with Scholastic #SummerReading

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

One month ago, my daughters both accepted the Summer Reading Challenge.  Now in its 8th year, the challenge is dedicated to stopping the “Summer Slide” and getting kids to read throughout the summer months when school is out. We have always had a dedicated reading time before bed, but now we are logging minutes for a cause.

I helped each girl create an online account and they began tracking their number of minutes read.  The goal?  To help Read for the World RecordThrough this program, Scholastic inspired more than 130,000 kids from 4,200 schools in all 50 States and 31 countries to set a new record for summer reading of 176 million-plus minutes in 2013 and this year kids are being challenged to break the record.  So far, kids around the globe have logged over 172,000,000 minutes making the 2014 goal within reach.

To help my girls log additional minutes, I decided to spice things up.  This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is “Reading Under the Stars” so I thought it would be fun to take the books outside for a change of scenery. Because this year’s theme is powered by EVEREADY, the maker of batteries and flashlights, to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading, we headed to the backyard with flashlights to add minutes to the record.

My daughters thought snuggling in a sleeping bag, enjoying the beautiful stars and snacking on some popcorn while reading their favorite books was a ton of fun!  In fact, it was so much fun that they have requested a “Reading Under the Stars” Slumber Party before school begins.  What a great way to encourage summer reading!

if your kids want to join in the summer fun?  Get more information at scholastic.com/summer and start contributing minutes to reach the 2014 challenge.  How do you encourage your child to read?

Stop the Summer Slide with Scholastic #SummerReading

When the last bell of the school year rings, my kids run in the front door, throw their school bags in the closet, dump their school shoes in the garbage and turn their brains to “off.”  I may be more than 20 years removed from my school days, but I remember the feeling well.  I think the decompressing phase of Summer is essential so I let the kids completely relax for one entire week.

But 9 times out of 10, I hear the words “I’m bored” before time runs out.

Fortunately, I have two girls who love to read.  So after the week of relaxation, they will usually suggest that we head to our local library and pick out some summer reading books.  Shhh….don’t tell them that they are actually learning and investing in their own futures.  Did you know that 3rd graders who don’t read on grade level are 4 times less likely to graduate by age 18 than proficient readers?  To avoid the “summer slide” and lapse in reading skills, my girls will be participating in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge  powered by EVEREADY®.

From now through September 5th, my girls can log their reading minutes (online or via smartphone) as they help Read for the World Record, enter sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes, and earn digital rewards when they complete weekly reading challenges. Through this program, Scholastic inspired more than 130,000 kids from 4,200 schools in all 50 States and 31 countries to set a new record for summer reading of 176 million-plus minutes in 2013 and this year kids are being challenged to break the record.

My daughter and I set up her account and she has already begun entering her minutes to contribute to the new record.  She loves that she can track her progress and earn badges for success.  In this digital world, anything “tech” inspires my daughter, too.  So, I downloaded the free Scholastic Reading Timer App which encourages reading every day allowing users to time reading minutes with an interactive stopwatch and track minutes on a weekly log. Plus, parents can check children’s reading activity in addition to browsing daily tips, articles and book lists. We also connected her account to her school so she will also be contributing towards minutes earned by her school.  The elementary school with the most minutes read will win a school visit from bestselling author/illustrator David Shannon!

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is “Reading Under the Stars.”  Next month, we will be hosting a party with some family and friends to read together while enjoying the outdoors.  Tune in and blast off with us!

Need more resources? Follow the Summer Reading Challenge Pinterest Board and check out #MondayMinutes on Twitter to see the progress towards breaking the record!

Summer Fun with KFC and Family Game Night

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by KFC.  However, opinions remain 100% mine.

During the school year, between studying, class projects, dance classes, and Girl Scouts sometimes I feel like my family and I are ships passing in the night.  Finding time to spend together can be virtually impossible, so I could not be more excited that my kids are out of school for the Summer!  And with my husband being a teacher and also out of school, we are lucky enough to have a whole summer of family time.  All of this quality time is wonderful, but finding a way to keep everyone entertained can be challenging.

Family Game Night is a great way to turn any ordinary weeknight into fun family memories.  Some of our favorite games to play together are Pictureka and Guess Who but we are always looking for new games to add to the lineup.  To help you get your game on, KFC is giving away one free I Spy game with every 12pc Tender Meal (or larger) complete with 2 large home-style sides and 4 flaky biscuits. And with bonus I Spy posters, we will have many nights of fun.

Have you played I Spy before? My kids absolutely love the game of finding hidden pictures (you can even play online at the KFC site) and allows us to interact during dinner instead of doing the typical “eat and run” on a busy school night.  Plus, with dinner taken care of, I don’t have to jump up to do the dishes! It’s a win win!

What games do you play on Family Game Night?

Explaining “The Question” #TheBabyTree

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy.  A sample was received to facilitate this review, however all opinions remain 100% mine.

I swear I just had two little babies in my house not that long ago.  I blinked and now I have two daughters who are growing up faster than I would like to admit.  But at ages 6 and 9, I have two very curious girls on my hands.  Up until now, I have been able to handle most questions that come my way, but recently the dreaded, “Mom, Where do babies come from?” has surfaced.

<insert blank stare here>

As a scientist, I am no stranger to research so I started looking for age appropriate ways to have this discussion with my girls.  I received the book, The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall to review and thought it would be a great way to break the ice.  About the book:

Sooner or later, every child will ask, Where do babies come from? Answering this question has never been this easy or entertaining! Join a curious little boy who asks everyone from his babysitter to the mailman, getting all sorts of funny answers along the way, before his parents gently set him straight.

The cute official book trailer shows a bit more of the book and offers a funny perspective from kids.  I just love the answers these kids come up with!

I sat with my 6 year old to read the beautifully illustrated book and took some time to answer her questions. Here’s a few highlights:

I think “The Baby Tree” is a great way to open the “Where do babies come from?” discussion with your 5-8 year olds.  It was fun and playful but gave truthful facts at the end of the book. You can find The Baby Tree on Amazon in both hardcover and for your Kindle.

“The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl” is Perfect for My Kindergartener

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

My favorite part of the day has to be bedtime with my daughters.  It’s a time to slow down and share stories about the day.  Often, my girls will open up about something that is bothering them during our quiet times and ask for help.  My youngest is a Kindergartener and with the school year coming to a close, she is nervous about her upcoming graduation and moving on to 1st grade.  It was fate that I received the new picture book by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton.

The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl! which was released on April 8th, is the sixth adventure in the series of Very Fairy Princess books.  About the book:

While her friends and family may not believe in fairies, Geraldine knows, deep down, that she is a VERY fairy princess.  In this new tale, the end of the school year is here, and Very Fairy Princess Gerry is getting ready to graduate! She always loves a celebration, but can’t help but feel a little sad as she empties her cubby, takes down her art projects, and says goodbye to her class pet, Houdini the hamster. She’s also a little nervous about leaving Miss Pym… what if her new teacher doesn’t let Gerry wear her wings and crown? Change can be hard, even for a fairy princess! Thankfully, she realizes that new things can bring their own sparkle.

For my daughter, this was a great way to bring up the topic of growing up and nervousness of facing new adventures.  At the end, much like Gerry, she realized that change can be good!  I am sure much more reassurance will be needed as the new school year begins, but the book allowed her to open up about her jitters.

Learn more about the series by checking out The Very Fairy Princess website.  Then, come back and enter to win all 6 picture books in the series!  Enter below:
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Inspire Innovation with GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank {Giveaway}

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

I am the proud Mama of two beautiful daughters.  They love pink.  They love dancing.  They love princess.  But that doesn’t mean that they can’t love math, Science and engineering.  I, too, was a pink-loving twinkle toes who grew up to achieve a Master of Science in Biology and I will encourage my daughters to chase their dreams as well.

Toys that teach and encourage imagination are tops on my list so I could not have been happier to review GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank.

GoldieBlox is a book and construction set series that aims to get girls building, close the gender gap in STEM fields and inspire the next generation of female engineers.

Each building set comes with a story which sets the scene for the construction.  My 9 year old took the reigns by reading the story first while my 6 year old sorted through the pieces.  Finally, the girls worked together to bring the story to life by actually building the scene.

In GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank, Nacho, Goldie’s dog, hates water and loves being dirty. After many tries to get Nacho clean, Goldie finally comes up with the perfect contraption – a dunk tank! As the story progresses, kids learn about hinges and levers while creating a dunk tank for Nacho to finally bathe in before they all head to the town carnival.

My daughters were able to assemble the set with no help from me.  It was great to see them working through problems together and conquering the task at hand.  But one of my favorite features is actually the box! What an ingenious idea to have all of the pieces actually snap into place so nothing gets lost. Plus, the pieces of each GoldieBlox set work in conjunction with others so the possibilities are endless.

If you are looking for a last minute addition to your child’s Easter basket, head to Target where you will find GoldieBlox sets for just $19.99.  Or, you can win GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank right here on Experimental Mommy.  Enter below:

 
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How to Draw Beaker from Muppet Labs {Printable}

I have some wonderful childhood memories of watching The Muppet Show with my family.  It was a show that made us smile, laugh, and chuckle…together.  By looking at the design on my blog, it should come as no surprise that Beaker from Muppet Labs is my all-time favorite Muppet and I am so happy to see that he makes another appearance in the soon-to-be release Muppets Most Wanted movie.

To build excitement about the movie, check out this great tutorial on how to draw your own Beaker!

Download the PDF Printable Here.

 

Who’s your favorite Muppet?  Don’t forget to head to the movie theater on March 21st to support your favorite character!

Barbie Hug N’ Heal Pet Doctor Review

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

My youngest daughter is a very compassionate soul. She always wants to engage in pretend play as a doctor, dentist, waitress, cook, teacher or vet…really any profession that serves people in order to make life better for them.  I love encouraging that side of her personality so when I was asked to review the Barbie Hug N’ Heal Pet Doctor, I knew it would be an instant hit.

Role play as a veterinarian in training with all the supplies to help take care of this soft plush pup with a glowing nose that tells her when he’s not feeling well. Perfect for ages 3 and up, the electronic puppy comes with a travel bag that features all kinds of accessories to interact with. Just press his paw to see how he’s feeling, then use all the included supplies to nurse him back to health! The kit includes a travel bag, thermometer, stethoscope, prescription pad and more.

First of all, the plush puppy is simply adorable.  It’s hard not to love the floppy ears!  My daughter instantly fell in love and couldn’t wait to make the puppy feel better.  Within seconds, the puppy began to sneeze and her nose glowed red.  My daughter quickly figure out that the puppy needs a tissue and put the provided accessory up to it’s nose.  She was shocked when the puppy actually blew her nose!  And she found it fun to give the puppy a shot and cheer them up with a bone.

The Barbie Hug N’ Heal Pet Doctor is now her “go-to” toy and my daughter takes it to school for show and tell every week.  You can find it for just $29.99 on Amazon.com and it would make a great Easter basket gift!

How to Throw a Barbie Birthday Party #TRUBarbieParty

If you could take a sneak peek back in my own bedroom when I was 8 years old, you would notice one certain over-arching theme….BARBIE.  Between the dolls, the dreamhouse, the car and the pool, I have to wonder how I managed to move through my own room (an now totally understand why my Mom always wanted me to clean it up).

With two daughters of my own, it is so fun to watch them delight in playing with their own Barbies just the way I did.  Do you know that 90% of kids living in the United States ages 3-10 have at least one Barbie of their very own?  That’s a LOT of dolls.  And Barbie has been quite busy with over 150 careers to date!  I love that my daughters can not only pretend that Barbie’s life is full of glamor, but they can create inspiring storylines where she can be a Doctor, a Vet or a teacher, to name a few.

It’s time to celebrate all of Barbie’s accomplishments (after all, “With Barbie, Anything is Possible).  March 9th is Barbie’s Birthday!  Want to help celebrate?  Here’s how to create your own Barbie Birthday Party:

1.  Start by making your own Barbie boxes as a great photo opp when your guests arrive.
2.  Get your guests runway ready with their own spa station for makeovers.
3.  Show off your fashion sense and strut your stuff on a DIY “pink carpet.”
4.  Treat the audience to popcorn/snacks while they watch the show!
5.  After the fashion show, treat your guests to a screening of the new DVD movie, “Barbie: The Pearl Princess” which will be  released on March 11, 2014.  In this film, Barbie learns the importance of leaving the world a better place than she found it.

Need even more ideas?  Join Toys “R” Us for a #TRUBarbieParty Twitter Party on March 11 at 2pm EST.  Simply follow @toysrus and the party hashtag to learn more fun tips on how to host a Barbie birthday party at home, full of party decorations, games, treats and tricks of the trade.  Plus they will feature a special Twitter Only offer!  I also found some great ideas on the Toys “R” Us Barbie Birthday Pinterest Board!

If your own daughter has a birthday coming up, Toys”R”Us, the go-to destination for all things Barbie, is having some great deals during her birthday celebration.  From March 9-March 15 to get a Free Barbie Purse Perfect Makeup Case with ANY Barbie doll, play set or accessory purchase of $30 or more (quantities are limited and this offer is for In Store purchases only).
Are you ready to wish Barbie a Happy Birthday?  In celebration, one Experimental Mommy reader will win a Barbie prize pack valued at $90 which includes the following:
  • Barbie The Pearl Princess DVD 
  • Barbie The Pearl Princess Lumina Doll 
  • Barbie The Pearl Princess Lumina and Prince Dolls 
  • Barbie The Pearl Princess Mermaid Co-Star Doll
  • Barbie The Pearl Princess Mermaid and Pet
  • Barbie The Pearl Princess Mermaid Style Coloring book and Crayons

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Taking a Stroll in the Simmons Kids Tour Buggy

This post was written by Andrea of Adventures in All Things Food.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

Getting around with a new baby and all their gear is tough enough, taking the stroller shouldn’t be. The Simmons Kids Tour Buggy Elite Stroller made getting my little one around much easier.

This model goes from infant to toddler with the option to convert into a baby carriage. I didn’t have the chance to try out that feature since my son is already sitting up easily at 9 months. I put the stroller together in the upright position. I appreciated the 5-point harness was easy for me to get on and off easily.

This model arrived unassembled in the box. No tools were required though and it even came with a convenient air pump to inflate the air-filled rear wheels. There is even a convenient pouch on the back of the stroller to store the pump for easy access.

Four wheels kept this stroller stable on the road and sidewalks. Shock absorption and swivel wheels made it very easy for me to steer and handle, even one-handed. The lightweight aluminum frames makes this stroller light and easy to manage. That left me free to hold hands with my older children, and that made us all happy.

There were a few features of this stroller that really set it apart for me.  The Simmons Kids Comfort Tech Tour Buggy Stroller has a very long handle which gave me the ability to take longer strides on our morning walks and would be very comfortable for a taller parent. It also has a large cargo basket underneath for all of our essentials. And probably the best feature of all was the rain cover that pulls out all the way over the baby to keep him dry on our rainy day walks. It also did a great job of keeping him out of the sun and had a convenient peek-a-boo flap.

Overall, I have loved taking the Comfort Tech Tour Buggy Stroller out for a spin. It is both baby and Mom approved.  You can find it online at Toys “R” Us for just $149.99.