Brace yourselves: Today, I took both of my girls to the beach and we managed to return home with everything we brought, along with some sand, of course. Armed with lunch, towels and a ton of beach toys, we were ready for a day of sun and fun….and for me, rescuing the requisite pail or hovel that always manages to tumble into a nearby stream that the girls love to play in, and inevitably wind up in the saltwater. (Can’t you just hear the cries of “Get it! Get it!”? I know they will haunt me in my dreams tonight.) At a moment when my daughters were play contentedly, I happened to look up and see a blue shovel floating by–one that didn’t belong to us. Because we were the only ones at the beach this day, I imagine it must have drifted over from a neighboring beach. Chasing after the shovel as it bobbed in the waves, I was able to retrieve it and passed it over to its new owners. The shovel was in perfectly good condition, but it got me to thinking about how many lost pails and shovels end up elsewhere over the course of a summer. Perhaps this very thought occurred to the makers of Zoe b Biodegradable Beach Toys. Developed by a mom looking to better environment for the future of her own family, this line of buckets, cups, geometric cut-outs and shovels are made from corn sugar. That means they’re designed to break down naturally over the course of a few years, as opposed to ordinary plastic, which can take hundreds. My girls don’t know–or care–what BPA means, but they do know what’s fun. How nice that we can all be satisfied from a great day at the beach.
In a Nutshell: Biodegradable beach toys? Now you can do your part to protect the planet simply by building a sandcastle.
One thing my girls love about warm weather? Outdoor art! Because I’m a spoilsport about doing messy crafting inside during the rest of the year, summertime means free rein on paints, Play-Doh and more once we can spend the better part of the day in backyard. One cool crafting compound that we’ve been psyched to get our hands on–literally–is WABA Fun’s Bubber. As much fun to say as it is to play, this stuff looks and feels like a confectionery from our local soda shop. Light as air, yet infinitely more colorful, it’s a welcome relief from the sticky clay that always manages to find a new home under little fingernails. I like that it works just as well making little balls, as it does making more elaborate sculptures. Bubber sticks to itself, so clean-up is easier than you’d expect. And because I’m always on the lookout for things both my girls, ages 7 and 3, can do together–especially now that school is out and we’re spending a lot of time under the same roof–I’m adding this compound to our list of outdoor crafting activities. Bubber is non-toxic, non-allergenic and best for ages 3 and up.
In a Nutshell: For those who think Play-Doh is passe, it’s time to break out the Bubber.
How many adorable baby outfits have been ruined by strained peas that didn’t quite make it into your little one’s mouth? Don’t blame your finicky eater–or your less-than-stellar spoon-feeding skills. It’s those bibs that don’t exactly cover as much terrain they should. We’re partial to DaBib, a generously sized catch-all bib that keeps baby food off your baby, especially when it doesn’t quite make it into her tightly closed mouth. What makes this bib different from your basic ones is its soft collar that catches leaks and drips before they become a stain. The stay-put collar also prevents your little one from trying to yank the bib off over her head…and you know what that’s like. DaBib comes in two styles: DaHugs, a terrycloth bib for infants, and DaGiggles, a waterproof model for babies who have started eating solid food. With both versions, you’re sure to be prepared for strained peas…and beyond.
In a Nutshell: A bib that looks pretty and keeps your baby’s food off her pretty dress? We’re sold.
I must confess: In my younger days, I was a closet geologist. One summer on break from middle school, I became infatuated–no, make that obsessed–with all kinds of rocks and minerals. After a stint as a nature camp counselor, I could proudly rattle off the difference between sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. I knew my quartz from my graphite, and eventually became a collector of many treasured finds. And no, it wasn’t because I was hoping to score a big, fat diamond someday. Now, I get to impart my learned wisdom (or whatever is left of it) to my daughters. Since studying rocks is hardly considered “sexy,” I love when I can stumble upon a educational product that can get my own juices flowing and, in turn, get my 7-year-old excited about science. The Everyday Uses Rock & Card Set is a wonderfully packaged, all-in-one-kit designed to teach your budding geologist about how certain substances play an important role in our lives. It comes with 12 rocks and minerals, along with 12 double-sided cards that feature kid-friendly facts. In our house, a lump of coal may have been designated for those on Santa’s naughty list, but did you know that it’s used mainly in making electricity? Those who really want to flex their muscles can study substances like malachite, bauxite and dolomite..feeling like a genius yet? I know I’m enjoying revisiting my youth…rock on!
In a Nutshell: Rock nerds unite: here’s a great reason to dust off your old shoebox of backyard finds, and share your knowledge.
My youngest niece is about to celebrate her 13th birthday and, much to my sister’s delight (or is that a tear in her eye?), it marks the last big party for her baby who’s all grown up. While my niece and her pals never grow tired of a summertime sleepover, it always nice to jazz up the festivities a bit. Adding a modern twist to a classic kid favorite–and one that’s even sure to satisfy the attention of the tech-centered tween crowd–is Crayola’s Glow Chalk. This is not your mom’s sidewalk chalk, but rather a special kind that illuminates any driveway etching and street curb designs you can dream up. What I like about Glow Chalk is that it gets kids involved in the concoction, as well as the creativity. Party guests can help by mixing together the colored chalk powder, special glow activator (the stuff that makes the magic happen) and water. Then pour chalk into the mold tray and wait 30 minutes for it to set. After pizza and cake, and once the sun has set, make like Monet (or whoever your favorite artist may be) and get busy! This stuff really makes amateur artwork come to life…or should we say light? For an extra treat, take a photo of your friends’ masterpieces and e-mail it to them as a fun way to remember your awesome night.
In a Nutshell: Catching fireflies is yesterday’s summertime treat; After-dark outdoor activities are seen in a whole new light with this glow-in-the-dark sidewalk chalk.
My daughter is at the age where crafts rule. Each year for her birthday, we decide on an art activity that ties into her party’s theme. This year, we made ball and paddles with a carnival motif, and the year before that, it was sand art for a beach scavenger hunt. When she turned 5, we did an around the world party, and the kids made their own kaleidoscopes…but sadly, they (the kaleidoscopes, not the kids) fell apart before the party was even over. So much for investing in party store supplies; you get what you pay for, as the saying goes. One kaleidoscope kit that does not disappoint is the new one from Creativity for Kids. Whereas other models have flimsy materials at best, this one has a sturdy tube and awesome decorative supplies to make it your own. But what really stood out for us is the fact that you can add whatever combination of contents you like: from colorful beads and fabric flowers, to mosaic pieces and shiny sequins. And if you get bored with the view, simply unscrew the lid of the refillable cup and change the materials to whatever you like. If only we could change our perspective on life this easily!…
In a Nutshell: Serious crafters will appreciate a kit that is both creative as it is colorful. Make Your Own Kaleidoscope is appropriate for ages 5 and up.
Lots of traveling moms I know complain about how annoying it can be to schlepp their kid’s car seat through the airport. I don’t envy them; the few times we’ve done it, my husband’s wrist looked like he was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re planning to fly the friendly skies anytime this summer, you won’t have to struggle with the bulk of a cumbersome seat, thanks to the new Britax Car Seat Travel Bag. Designed to fit most standard car seats, this sturdy bag features carry handles and padded shoulder straps, so you can carry it backpack-style. Or, if you’re so inclined, use the built-in wheels and pull it behind you. Worried that you’ll lose your gear at the baggage claim? A handy luggage tag lets you proudly ID this bag as your own. The other passengers will surely be envious of your smart packing. And now Dear Old Dad won’t have to kill himself maneuvering Junior’s through Terminal B. The Britax Car Seat Travel Bag will be available in July.
In a Nutshell: Excessive baggage is never fun, unless it means smoother traveling. This car seat bag will take you from plane to automobile faster than that attendant at the Hertz car rental window will.
Never underestimate the power of media. When my 7-year-old was looking at DVDs to borrow from our public library’s children’s department, she wondered aloud, “You think they have Justin Bieber’s ‘Never Say Never?'” (Why, won’t SpongeBob do anymore?…) For those kids who need their Bieber fix comes a product we didn’t think possible: a line of singing Justin Bieber toothbrushes (yep, you read that right) that sound like the boy himself. I’m all for getting my kids to brush regularly, but this product really takes the cake–and brushes away the potential for cavities. Each song includes two Bieber songs, specifically designated for daytime and nighttime brushes: “Baby,” “U Smile,” “Love Me” and “Somebody to Love.” Whichever tune strikes your mood is, of course, up to you. Aside from the toothbrushes, there’s also a microphone-shaped flosser and a travel kit. Closet Bieber fans need not hide out in Duane-Reade; there are adult-sized toothbrushes, too. What will they think of next? Well, we’re waiting for the haircare line (natch). The Brush Buddies Justin Bieber line will be available in early July.
In a Nutshell: Oral health just got a whole lot hipper with a line of toothbrushes that sing like Justin Bieber. And my spin brush just became oh-so-5-minutes ago…
Getting my daughter to write thank you notes isn’t an easy feat and from what I hear, it only gets more challenging with age. But short of bribing her–hey, I had to write my fair share of thank yous when I was a kid, and we just did what we were told–I wondered if there wasn’t a way to make this chore a little less arduous. Well, score one for Smens scented pens. These are the grown-up cousin of Smencils, an equally refreshing line of colored pencils that make practicing ABCs a treat for little noses. Each pack contains 10 uniquely named pens with cool monikers like Aloha and Banana Fo Fana. We can’t decide what we like best about Smens: the fact that they are made from recycled newspaper, or that they are individually wrapped in their own biodegradable plastic tube. Eco-friendliness aside, when it come to expressing thanks for that bathrobe from Grandma, the nose knows…
In a Nutshell: Say “Aloha” to a writing instrument that’s a real treat for the senses. We smell a hit with Smens.
On a humid and sticky day, I know the last thing my bike-riding daughter wants is a “hot hat,” as she puts it, but we insist that she wear her helmet…or else. Donning a helmet while biking is no laughing matter, but as is true for many of those trying parenting moments, a little humor can make a big difference. Perhaps this was the thinking behind the creatively designed bike helmets from Raskullz (the name alone is worth a smile). Their 3-D helmets, sporting a motley crew of wacky characters, are probably the coolest thing in head gear we’ve seen in a long time. Be it the Go-Rilla, Shark Attax or Brainy Bunny (shown here), each helmet is made from a soft rubber material that’s as comfortable as it is fun to wear. Now, when it’s time to go for a spin around the block, your kid may actually grab his helmet before you have to beg and plead with him to do so. Just put that energy in reserve for the next parenting battle…like no screen time until your room is clean!
In a Nutshell: Summertime means safety on the sidewalks and the streets. With these whimsical bike helmets on your child’s head, safe biking becomes a no-brainer.