Holiday Gift Idea: Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber

This post was written by guest author, Linzy of Crawfish Tales. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa is getting ready to check the list twice and pack the sleigh! If you are like me you want to shop early or solely online to avoid the craziness that is about to happen at every store in the city. Not even running to the grocery is safe!

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I am struggling with what Santa is going to bring this year. I don’t want more “stuff” and it would be great if there is a gift both my daughters can enjoy.  I recently got the opportunity to test out the Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber and I think this might be the gift for several reasons.

  1. The elves won’t have to work overtime to get it set up! Putting it together is a snap and one person can do it after bedtime no problem. Plus there is a great assembly video on their website that can help guide you.
  2. It is an outdoor physical (non-electronic) activity. Total win for mom! So that means instead of being zombies in front of the TV they can be outside climbing on something instead of my furniture.
  3. It is designed for safety. Lil’ Monkey had the safety of your kids in mind when they created this product. The dimensions and height are designed for smaller kids which means it is lower to the ground and the bars are closer together. Plus it is made from sturdy plastic tubes instead of bars that are softer.
  4. This is not permanent. I don’t like the things that don’t move in the yard like a large play set or trampoline. I know we need to reclaim space in the backyard from time to time for a bounce house for birthday parties for example. So this is a great solution because it can be moved around the yard.
  5. You can buy this product in several places. I know people are passionate about Amazon and Target and you can find it in both places.
  6. Lastly, you are not just buying a playset. You are buying hours and days of fun. Because when the kids don’t have a playmate or are looking to take the set to another level, there is an app! The Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber app provides activity for your child through virtual fun!

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The climber is recommended for ages 3-6 with a height of 118 cm and a width of 170 but my nearly one year old can reach the bars and gets equally excited about it.

And, I haven’t tried this yet but I would bet that it would be equally as easy to set this up in an indoor playroom if it is cold or rainy outside. So if you are looking for something to add to the list for Santa, check out the Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber.

Santa Tip: I ordered mine from Amazon. It comes in a nondescript brown box so no one will know what it contains.

Bow-Tiger: Multi Purpose Toy Storage Bag

This post was written by Linzy from Crawfish Tales. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

We are a house divided when it comes to LEGO. My husband grew up with them and to him they are as much of a part of childhood as cartoons and popsicles. I however don’t feel the same way. Over here in mom camp, I see a mess, more parts to lose and tiny pieces the baby can put in her mouth.

So the boxes upon boxes of LEGO toys that my mother in law has saved from when my husband was little have remained safely at her house…until last month. Now my husband’s inner child has been coming out to play with his old LEGO sets. He is having so much fun building with our five year old that I admit that I am enjoying watching them play together.

However since we have a eight month old baby, I have been strict about them playing with the tiny LEGO pieces in the playroom and only after the little one has gone to bed. Although the baby is little she is fast and could get a piece in her mouth before any of us noticed.

It was really ironic timing that Bow-Tiger reached out to offer me to review the Multi Purpose Toy Storage Bag. In the midst of LEGO invasion of our house, I was trying to figure out how to keep the clean-up process of all those tiny pieces to a minimum.

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Bow-Tiger describes it as a magic activity mat that becomes a bag instantly. Instead of wasting time on finding every little piece just pull the cord and you’re done. It does absolutely that.

It is a very large mat, I tried the 60” product that provides plenty play surface and easily pulls shut. It even has two shoulder straps that make it easy to carry around. My five year hold has worn it as a back pack when she wanted to bring the Bow Tiger bag with us when we went out of town.

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We use it as a LEGO storage bag but it also works well for dolls and all the tiny clothes and accessories. Because it is so easy to clean, it is great for the park or beach because it pulls together quickly. Just throw the beach toys on it and clean up is done!

I am a huge fan and we now use this product in our house almost nightly. This would make a great birthday gift and I know the mother would be thankful to get something like this among the oodles of toys at a birthday party.

You can find the Multi Purpose Toy Storage Bag on Amazon which is available in turquoise and bordeaux. Three sizes are available as well: 20 inch, 40 inch or 60 inch. Right now the 20 inch is on sale for less than $12 and has free shipping and the large one is around $35. That is more than a reasonable price not to have to pick up LEGOs every night!

To get your started, one Experimental Mommy reader will win a Bow-Tiger Multi Purpose Storage Bag right here! Enter below:
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Wrapping Up Our Scholastic #SummerReading

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

Well, it’s over.  The swimsuits have been stored and the bedtimes are getting earlier. The first school bell has officially rung and my two littles have entered a new year of learning. We took the summer to spend lots of quality time together as a family and learn about geography, culture and history through travel. Because both girls had to complete a summer reading list as part of a school requirement, I credit the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge for encouraging them to surpass the required reading and learn to truly enjoy it.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.20.10 PMBecause the girls went above and beyond, I asked them to submit a “5-word book review” for each of 5 favorite summer reading books. Here they are in no particular order:

All of the time my girls spent reading was logged into the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge powered by Energizer in order to help achieve a World Record!  Did you know that kids across the Nation have read over 208 million minutes so far this Summer? What an accomplishment!

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Need more inspiration? Energizer® and Scholastic are partnering to create the “Power the Possibilities” campaign which gives moms the tools they need to unlock their child’s talents. Parents can buy any specially marked pack of Energizer® brand batteries to scratch for a chance to win one of thousands of prizes that will power discovery and learning during the Energizer Instant Win Game. Prizes include a family trip to New York City, a Scholastic Study Corner Makeover, a tablet with Scholastic apps, a library of Scholastic books and more!

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These prizes definitely will help avoid the Summer Brain Drain that parents dread. Plus, Scholastic also has some fun games such as the Innovation Machine Game which inspire fun and creative writing as well as videos from Maggie McGuire that will teach you how to make reading a priority for your child.

Don’t miss out on any tips or promotions by following @Scholastic on Twitter and liking the Energizer® Bunny on Facebook! What are you doing to prevent Summer Drain Brain?

Celebrating Dr. Seuss New Release with Carnival #SeussAtSea

If you follow this blog at all, it is no secret that my favorite family vacation is cruising Carnival. In fact, I spent my 40th birthday aboard the Carnival Dream which can only be described as magical (but heavenly works, too). Since we live in a Carnival port city, we jump at every chance we get to partner with the company and last weekend was no exception.

During our last cruise on the Dream, we took our kids to the Seuss at Sea brunch and were amazed at the attention to detail. Dr. Seuss himself would have been impressed. So, we were thrilled to hear that Carnival Cruise Line and its partner Dr. Seuss Enterprises recently teamed up with the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to celebrate the first release of a Dr. Seuss book in 25 years, “What Pet Should I Get?”

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We boarded the Carnival Dream and headed straight to the Encore Lounge to hear a special book reading by local celebrity and animal rescue supporter, Angela Hill. The kids were invited on stage to meet characters from beloved Dr. Seuss books including Thing 1 and Thing 2, to learn about how to care for a pet, and to meet some special puppies up for adoption. Following the reading, we were treated to the Seuss at Sea brunch which is absolutely spectacular.

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In conjunction with the event, Carnival is making a $10,000 donation to the Louisiana SPCA which is just another reason to love this company. While we didn’t leave with a new pet, it did open up the discussion at home about what type of pet would suit our family when the time comes. Dog? Cat? Fish? What kind of pet do you have?

Getting Closer to Our Scholastic #SummerReading Goal!

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

So, this is it. The very last week of summer. Can you hear the collective tears of my kids? Our summer has been full of fun and even a few learning opportunities so none of us are ready to see it go. But I am happy to report that my girls have kept up their reading skills through the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.

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My oldest has become hooked on Harry Potter (yes, I know we are late to the game on this one) and I love watching her get excited about turning every page. Not to be outdone by her sister, my youngest is reading her very first chapter books and has read multiple Judy Moody books over the past few weeks….even on vacation! I am so proud that they both have made a significant contribution to breaking the world record for summer reading!

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If you want to get your child involved, there’s still time! Simply sign up for Scholastic’s “Power Up & Read” challenge powered by Energizer and start reading. It doesn’t matter if your child is reading independently or together with you, you can build momentum by joining in the #MondayMinutesGoal. Here’s how it works:

  • Each Monday, Scholastic will announce the #MondayMinutesGoal which is the goal for the number of minutes for kids to read together in one week.
  • Encourage your child to read alone or with you in order to contribute to the goal.
  • Have your child log their minutes in the Summer Reading Challenge website or on a piece of paper.
  • Take a picture of your child proudly displaying their minutes read.
  • Share the picture on social media using #MondayMinutesGoal and #SummerReading

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Need more inspiration? Parents can enter a weekly sweepstakes to win a “Power Up & Read Kit” 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.  And to make sure you stay on track, make sure to check out Scholastic’s Resource page, too!

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.01.21 PMSince my girls have done such a great job with this program, I want another child to be just as successful. One of my lucky readers will win the Innovation Book prize pack below:

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  • The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Extreme Science Careers
  • Extreme Experiments
  • Plus Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge materials including reading logs, pledges, bookmarks, and more!

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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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