Celebrating Summer Success with Scholastic #SummerReading

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Scholastic and Energizer. All opinions remain 100% mine.

I can hardly believe we have been out of school for one whole month now.  In the last thirty days, we have allowed the girls to have very little structure and enjoy the lazy days of Summer but to my surprise they have both continued their silent reading time before bed without any prompting from my husband and I.

Eventually, I will have to start them practicing Math skills but I love the fact that we are avoiding the summer slide with the help of the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.  Now in it’s 9th year, this free online program in partnership with ENERGIZER® is challenging kids to “Power Up & Read.”

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Since signing up for the program 30 days ago, my daughters have read 3 chapter books each and request to return to the library on a weekly basis. I think one of the reasons I have seen an increased enthusiasm for reading is because they are allowed to choose books that match their own interests rather than an assigned book for school. According to the Kids & Family Reading Report, 5th edition, 91% of kids (ages 6-17) say that their favorite books are the ones they pick out themselves. Of course, the fact that they can log their own minutes (online or via mobile) into the Scholastic website in order to help break last year’s world record of 304,749,861 minutes certainly helps, too! So far, kids around the country have logged 120,209,618 minutes of reading since the program begin on May 4th.

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Are you looking to avoid the summer slide, too? It’s not too late to sign up for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge (did I mention it’s free?)! Not sure where to start? Parents can download free resources, including printables and book lists for kids of all ages. And the fun is not only for kids! Parents can enter weekly sweepstakes to win a “Power Up & Read Kit” and watch videos about summer reading activities to keep you “innovative” all summer long. The prize pack includes: Scholastic tote bag, water bottle, a copy of Reading Unbound by Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith, $10 gift certificate to Scholastic Store Online, Energizer® brand batteries, Scholastic books, and more. Learn more at the Energizer Instant Win website.

In addition to helping to break the record, kids can also enter monthly sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes, and earn digital rewards when they complete weekly reading challenges. A new feature this year is that kids can unlock 12 original short stories (exclusively for this year’s challenge) from favorite children’s authors and access never-before-seen videos from the authors!

So many reasons to join the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge but the best one is that my kids ASKED to join again this year. Now that is a Summer Success!

Building Up My Budding Engineers with GoldieBlox

I have never been scared of a little hard work. Tackling a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Minor in Chemistry, I plowed full steam ahead to Graduate School. After graduating with a Master of Science in Biology, I landed my dream job in a Government laboratory.  As I worked my way up the career ladder, I got married and had two beautiful daughters.  Life was great.

And then it happened.  Budget cuts.  And with the budget, went my job.

My daughters saw me at the lowest point of my life as I struggled to figure out what was next for me and how I would support my family.  I took a job as a Secretary in order to get my foot in the door of a place that I could see a future.  At age 40, I was starting over, dusting myself off and climbing the ladder….again.  Two years later, the hard work and determination paid off and I am better than ever.

I am hoping that my two daughters will take something away from watching me climb the ladder not once but twice in a male dominated field. From not giving up and believing in myself, I was able to transform my situation and I hope I made them proud. But more importantly, I hope that I have showed them how to have pride in yourself and not let circumstance define your self worth.  Look fear in the face and create your own destiny!

Needless to say, I am a huge supporter of getting my girls involved in science and math activities. Solving problems can make you feel powerful and GoldieBlox helps them achieve that feeling while having fun.

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math, girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8.  Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys’ toys.” GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. We aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.

My girls got to try their hand at the GoldieBlox and The Builder’s Survival Kit which retails for $59.99. With over 190 piece, GoldieBlox Diary of Inventions tells a story with included prompts for girls to complete Goldie’s projects along the way. My older daughter tackled the Go-Cart while my younger worked on Nacho’s Dog House. Both were all smiles as they completed their task and couldn’t wait to show off the finished product. As a Mom, I loved watching my daughters disconnect from their electronics and not only take an interest in Goldie’s storyline, but enjoy the hands on problem solving as they worked together to find the correct pieces needed for the projects.

GoldieBlox would make a great Easter gift, birthday present or Summer activity for your budding engineer or scientist.  Use code Spring2015-9f63aetc to get 20% off your GoldieBlox purchase before April 5th!  Want to win a GoldieBlox Action Figure and Builder’s Starter Kit of your own? Enter below:

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: 50 Years and Still Glowing #Rudolph50

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. All opinions remain 100% honest.

There really is no feeling in the World like the Christmas Spirit.  While it is important to us educate our girls about the true meaning of the holiday and lead by example, the traditions of the Season add to the excitement. Decorating, caroling and sitting my the fire with hot chocolate are a few of my family’s favorites.

But for every year as long as I can remember, we have gone to my Aunt’s home on Christmas Eve to celebrate surrounded by family and friends.  About half way through the party, we always hear a knock at the door and Santa arrives to hand out gifts for everyone young and old alike.  On the ride home, we would have to cross the Mississippi River and pass through downtown New Orleans.  My parents always told us to look in the sky and try to spot Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  As you can imagine, driving through a City provided many opportunities for us to debate whether the flashing red light is a skyscraper or indeed Rudolph.

Now that I have kids of my own, we still attend my Aunt’s Christmas Eve party and I have passed down the tradition of trying to spot Rudolph on the ride home.  Can you believe that 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” making it the longest-running and highest rated holiday TV special of all time?

To celebrate the anniversary, there will be a major tie-in with the U.S. Postal Service, tribute promos from CBS, a collector’s edition DVD with new bonus material, a new stage musical, theme park and in-mall entertainment and of course a social media campaign using #ShineBright which will celebrate uniqueness in association with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

Throughout the holiday season, I substitute our usual bedtime stories with seasonal classics.  In honor of the 50th anniversary, I am excited to have 6 new Rudolph-themed books from Square Fish, an imprint of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.  The new books encompass several different formats including a novel, a classic storybook, a picture book, a slide-and-find, a “My Reader” and our favorite, the lift-the-flap board books. There is something for every level of reader to enjoy including the following titles:

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Classic Story (Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition for ages 4-8)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Slide and Find (Board Book for ages 2-4)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Life-the-Flap (Board Book for ages 2-4)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Rudolph Saves the Day (Paperback picture book for ages 3-7)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: My Reader (Level 2 Paperback Reader for ages 5-7)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Island of Misfit Toys (Middle-Grade Graphic Novel for ages 7-12)

If you are ready to start a new tradition in your home, enter below for a chance to win all 6 of the Rudolph books mentioned above!

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Under the Tree: Animalz by ReTrak

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

Last year, Santa decided that it would be a very Merry Tech-y Christmas and both my girls found iPad Minis under the tree.  They could not have been more thankful and those gifts are still their favorite almost a year later.  But now that they are older, the trend this year seems to be all about the accessories.  From fashion cases to fun backgrounds, my girls are finding new ways to make their iPads as unique as their personalities.

Neither girl likes earbuds that go inside the ear, so we have had a hard time finding quality headphones that are to their liking, safe, and affordable.  And I think every tween Mom will agree that headphones are a necessity! Fortunately, my daughters each received a pair of ReTrak Animalz Children’s Headphones to give a try.

Animalz by Retrak headphones are a fun, furry accessory for family road trips, airplane rides and casual listening. Designed for little ears with volume-limiting technology and a retractable cord for tangle-free travel and storage, Animalz are available in six fun fabric animal designs.

Furry headphones that are comfortable on the head AND look like stuffed animals….SCORE! The girls love the “cool” and fun look of the Bunny and the Panda (but the bear, dog and monkey headphones are equally as awesome).  Plus, it’s my job to make sure my little one’s ears are protected so I love that the Animalz’ volume limiter sets the maximum volume at 85 decibels.

 

But, my absolute favorite feature?  The retractable cable! No more meltdowns caused by tangled and broken cords makes my heart sing and officially puts this item on my “Best Gift for Tween Girls” list.  Looking for more gift ideas, check out my daughters’ blog for a tween girl gift guide.

Quality Time with My Girl and Mega Bloks Barbie™ Build ‘n Play #FabMansion

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

The cold weather is rolling in and with it was come sinus problems for my youngest daughter.  Unfortunately, she had to stay home from school with my Dad (who graciously offered to babysit).  In an effort to find an activity that they would both enjoy doing together, I pulled out the Mega Bloks Barbie™ Build ‘n Play Fab Mansion. Perfect…it’s quiet, it’s stationary, it’s creative and it’s fun!

You’re the designer with the Build ’n Play Fab Mansion by Mega Bloks Barbie™. Snappy modular rooms make it easy to build and decorate the perfect mansion for your Barbie™ and Skipper™ mini fashion figures. Design your dream house and arrange the rooms any way you want. Build the bed with beautiful canopy, put the big screen in just the right spot, and set up the perfect vanity for lots of fashion fun! When you’re done building and arranging the mansion, relax under the big umbrella on the patio, take a bubbly bath, or kick back for a super fun movie party with Barbie™ and Skipper™ mini fashion figures!

My Dad, being a retired civil engineer, loves to build things and his granddaughter is definitely following in his footsteps.  I left them alone, headed to work and was stunned to see the entire mansion completed when I returned.  My Dad said the picture instructions made it very easy for my 6 year old daughter (a beginning reader) to take the lead on the project.  My daughter said she loved decorating with the included stickers and making Barbie cook hotdogs on the patio for lunch!

Both my Dad and my daughter loved spending quality time together away from the television and electronics.  In fact, my Dad said he thinks he had more fun than expected and now he knows exactly what to get my daughter for Christmas.  The Mega Bloks Barbie Build ‘n Play Fab Mansion retails for $39.99, but one lucky reader will win one right here (U.S. only)! Enter below:
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Overcoming Math Madness with Go Math Academy #HMHAcademy

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  All opinions remain 100% mine.

If you ask my oldest daughter to name her favorite subject in school, she would name anything and everything that came to her mind before math.  To put it lightly, she is not a fan.  School has been in session for one month now and I can’t remember a day when it hasn’t been a struggle to get her to tackle her math homework. You can forget about extra worksheets to study for a test.  The struggle is frustrating.

There has to be a better way.  And I was hoping Go Math Academy would be it.

Go Math! Academy™ is an online, at-home learning program based on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s enormously successful GO Math!™ textbook curriculum, used by over 7 million kids worldwide. Go Math! Academy offers thousands of math practice problems, hundreds or help videos, and plenty of games and rewards to make learning fun!

After setting up an account and adding my daughter (you can add any child from grade K-6), I was excited to learn that she actually uses Go Math Academy in school and apparently she loves using it.  So she actually gave ME a tour of the website and it’s capabilities.

First, your child can choose between a journey into the Jungle World or the Sky World. As I suspected, Lily jumped at Sky World and we were given a list of topics to choose from.  Given that she had an upcoming test on multiplication facts, she choose to take a journey into that module.

Lily was then faced with a series of questions that were very similar to what she has been doing on the endless worksheets but somehow there was no complaining while completing these problems. Relief!  Go Math Academy allows the student to check their answer and make corrections while offering words of encouragement.

But, I think my favorite feature is that some problems have helpful video tutorials (which are even good for parents).  After completing a journey, your child receives their score and they can move on to another topic.  Surprisingly, my daughter actually asked to do another journey.  Like asked to do more math.  What?!  I’m officially in love.

Go Math! Academy is available in your choice of three payment plans (access for up to 5 children):

  • Monthly: $9.99/month
  • 6-months: $49.99 ($8.33/month) – a 17% savings
  •  1-year: $79.99 ($6.67/month) – a 33% savings

The price is well worth the countless hours I am saving by eliminating the math drama in my home.  Learn more by following Go Math Academy on Twitter and Facebook.

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot Book Series {Video Review}

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

I am fortunate that both of my daughters love to read.  The only problem is that they go through books so quickly that we are constantly looking for more reading material to send to school for silent reading time.  But, I think we have found a winning new series, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot by Dave Pilkey (author of the popular Captain Underpants).  About the series:

Ricky Ricotta is a little mouse with BIG problems! Every day he is picked on by the neighborhood bullies. He lives in Squeakyville with his mother and father, and being an only mouse, he is often lonely. That is until SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS! A giant flying robot enters Ricky’s life and an unlikely friendship is born! Together, Ricky and his Robot must save the planet from a galaxy bursting with bad guys!

My daughter finished book 1 and loved it! From the minute you open the book, you know it’s going to be different because it is in FULL COLOR.  With features like mini-comic strips and flip-o-grams, the illustrations really are part of the story and grab your attention.  Get a better look and check out what we thought in the video below:

Learn about other great books for your young readers by following  Scholastic and ScholasticTeach on Twitter!  What are your kids reading these days?

Planes Upholstered Chair from Delta Children {Giveaway}

How many times have your kids seen Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue this Summer?  I’ve been hearing great things about it, but we unfortunately haven’t made the trip to the movie theater.  But from walking the aisles at just about any store, I can tell it is wildly popular with all of the merchandising available.

Do you have a “Planes” obsessed child in your home? I have one Planes Upholstered Chair from Delta Children (available at Walmart) to giveaway to one lucky reader (ARV $50).  About the product:

This great new Planes Upholstered Chair is the perfect chair for your little one. Planes Upholstered Chair, the soothing chair provides a perfect spot for your little Pilot to watch his favorite shows and relax after a long day. The upholstered chair is built with a sturdy durable frame making it the perfect chair for studying and relaxing.

Enter below for a chance to win!

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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!