Musicians come and go, especially in the temperamental kid biz, but when a band has been around the block, we can effortlessly turn on their tunes and know we won’t be disappointed. One such kid rock band with staying power is Milkshake and the band’s latest concoction, Got a Minute?, is worth more than a listen. Like most seasoned musicians, Milkshake’s sound has matured over the years, but this release reflects a well-rounded sound to suit a myriad of different tastes. From the jammin’ “We Just Wanna Have Fun,” to the more mellow “Starry, Starry Night,” the band exudes a self- assurance that allows them to bounce back and forth between pop rock, to country, without missing a beat. With more than 30 tracks on this comprehensive CD, Milkshake covers a lot of musical ground and rightfully owns up to its eclectic style. On a recent day spent towing kids around on various errands, spot-on songs like “Look Out Window” punched up some otherwise mundane chores. “Rainy Day Dance Party” may just be on our play list this spring when inclement weather keeps us indoors. Giving us plenty of food for thought, Milkshake is a listening treat worth indulging in.
In a Nutshell: Drink in the sound of rockin’ kid band that just won’t quit. Milkshake’s fifth CD takes the cake!
Day Two of spring break and the sun has finally reared its head (what kind of spring is this, anyway?). But with a soggy backyard to contend with, playing outdoors had to be postponed. And after my couch cushions found their way onto the floor one too many times for my liking, we decided to break out a new board game. Lucky for me (and my nerves), it was a real crowd-pleaser–and with an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, that’s no small feat. Peaceable Kingdom’s Stack Up! is aimed at preschool-level game play, but can easily be stepped up a notch for older kids (read: good for mixed-age groups). The premise is simple: build a tower of 12 colorful blocks by landing on the corresponding color spots on the game board without having it topple over. But along the way, beware of the Stack Smasher who may get to the end before your tower is complete, at which point your building will come smashing down (everyone loved lending a hand in the demolition). You can up the ante by using wooden stack sticks to transport blocks to the game board; shaky hands are not wanted! Wacky challenge cards like singing “Happy Birthday” or hopping on one foot as you play provide a breather for patience-tested tots, while allowing grown-up players to get up and stretch (yup, sitting too long isn’t good for any age). My girls and I had a blast playing three back-to-back rounds of Stack Up!, which is easy to get the hang of and perfect for short attention spans.
In a Nutshell: Basic building blocks, they’re not. This game lets preschoolers show off their building skills, as they test their patience skills (instead of testing yours).
Yesterday, my 8-year-old pulled out her Easy Bake Oven and decided to whip up a batch of mini marshmallow treats taken from a recipe she had downloaded from her Nintendo DS (this is one multitasking kid). While I permit her to use her Easy Bake on her own, her little sister doesn’t have it so “easy.” The 4-year-old isn’t ready yet to handle independent baking, outside of some measuring and pouring of ingredients (even that’s done under Mom’s watchful eye). But she does enjoy making pretend food and playing in her make-believe kitchen, so who am I to discourage her budding culinary skills? And because my preschooler loves crafts just as much as the next kid (if not more), we were psyched to combine two of her passions: “cooking” with Play-Doh. A perfectionist even at playtime, she tears up pictures when they don’t measure up to her “standards;” you can only imagine how hot it gets in the kitchen when her pretend cookies have the “wrong” number of sprinkles! Well, I may not be able to keep her from melting down over such imperfections, but I can set her up with the coolest cooking compound to hit the shelves this season. Play-Doh Plus offers a lighter, more fluffy texture to kids’ creations, lending itself wonderfully to make-believe cookies, cakes and pies. Because it’s so light to the touch, little fingers will be able to add the perfect-sized dollop to their tasty treats just like a pastry chef might. Don’t worry, though; Play-Doh Plus still has that signature scent that takes me back to my own pre-mommy days of crafting and cooking, when a batch of cookies never burned and all that mattered was having an active imagination. A perfect Easter basket stuffer, Play-Doh Plus adds a little spice to a sweet time.
In a Nutshell: Lighter than air, Play-Doh Plus is the piece de resistance of the play sculpting line.
Ever imagine what you might look like if you were animated? What if you could sing, too? Well, if you happened to be Laurie Berkner, you’d soon get your chance. Beginning this Monday, March 25, the well-known children’s indie musician will celebrate her latest incarnation as the star of Sing It, Laurie!, her own very own animated TV show on the Sprout network. No stranger to performing for TV audiences, Laurie gained a strong following on Nick Jr. and can now add a new network to her growing fan base. In this new series, Laurie’s unmistakable voice will be adopted by a little girl who uses her music and songs to better understand the world around her. Episode themes will include dressing up, having a party and making artwork–classic childhood moments that are bound to be more entertaining when set to music. Sprout will also be rounding out its musical afternoons with videos from other popular children’s artists, along with a music microsite on SproutOnline where kids can play interactive games. The afternoon music block is from 12-4 pm EST.
In a Nutshell: Rock along with Laurie Berkner as she jumps from the stage to the small screen in a new animated series on Sprout.
My kids have a serious case of cabin fever. After a lousy winter and a slow start to spring, they’ll take any partly sunny day above 40 degrees to play outside. Case in point: my 4-year-old blowing bubbles last week, while wearing her heavy coat, gloves and a hat. As I write this post, snow flurries are swirling around and there’s no foreseeable end to this extended winter. Well, even if the calendar and the weather can’t agree, we’re still thinking spring and keeping an eye out for outdoor toys sure to herald signs of warmer weather ahead. Our latest find is the coolest sidewalk chalk of the season: RoseArt’s Surprise Inside Sidewalk Chalk. Think of it as the chalk that keeps on giving, long after your resident artists’ renderings have faded away. We got our hands on a package and my girls got to work. Each set contains seven colored pieces (plenty for a small group of friends or siblings) in a different theme: a skull, sun, flower or starfish (guaranteed to please even the most tortured artists). As the chalk gets used up, the lucky kid who grabbed the center piece of chalk will be treated to a special treat: one of 20 collectible figurines. For all of our Passover peeps, think of it as a new take on a game of hiding the matzah. And for those looking for some fun Easter basket stuffers, Surprise Inside Sidewalk Chalk is bunny-approved.
In a Nutshell: Keep your eyes on the prize with a new kind of sidewalk chalk with an added element of fun.
My girls adore Beanie Ballz (if you happen to live under a rock, they are a round version of the plush dolls that have been taking toy/gift stores by storm for the past decade). Their favorites are the pint-sized plush that double as key chains, and my older daughter alternates which ones she carries around on her backpack. So when I was at Toy Fair last month, I wasn’t surprised to see the Ty booth (makers of Beanie products) hopping with activity…but little did I know, there was another plush ball maker in town with an added twist. ShtankOut is a scented collectible toy that attaches to anywhere that might benefit from a little nosegay: kids’ lockers, backpacks, closets and gym bags. Each key chain plush personality is paired with its own fruity scent: Smiley (passion fruit), Kicks (Cherry), Funny Face (lemon), Aspen Pup (orange) and Miracle Monkey (blueberry). Designed for ages 3 and up, these fun novelty items are becoming a fast favorite of boys and girls alike, and make a great Easter basket stuffer. Added bonus: Proceeds from ShtankOut sales will benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association for finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (the founders’ 10-year-old son is suffering from this disease). We’re happy to do our part and get the word out; know that your purchase will do something more than bringing a smile to your own child’s life.
In a Nutshell: A collectible toy that doubles as an air freshner. We smell a hit.
What kid doesn’t doesn’t long to be big? When I was little, I envied my older sister who got to stay out late and wear Bonne Bell Lipsmackers (lips that smelled like 7-up…alright!). I remembered my dad telling me not to rush my life away, and thought he was a bit mad (today I can only look back and smile at my naivete and his sage advice). As my own daughters try to push the envelope–the older one begging for her own iPod and the younger one crying over the fact that I won’t let her wear one of those stick-on tattoos–I refuse their demands with my own version of “’cause I said so,” while I smile knowingly at their inherent need to spread their wings. For now, we can still settle down with a good book that understands that familiar tug of a child wishing to be all grown-up. Oh So Tiny Bunny is just that book, and its timeless message resonates with readers big and small. Author David Kirk, best known for his Miss Spider line of children’s books, brings a sense of whimsy to his creatures, and this bunny is no exception. With each page, we see Oh So testing his boundaries, as he steps out into the great unknown with his sense of adventure to guide him. Sure, a world of carrots as big as railroad cars and lettuce fields as wide as oceans sound delightful theoretically…but when he soon realized that life on a grand scale isn’t always so…grand, our hero happily returns to the life that had more meaning than he realized. In a world of grande lattes and super-sized meals, we sometimes forget that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. A delightful springtime read, Oh So Tiny Bunny ends with a telltale message for your favorite little bunnies.
In a Nutshell: Who says size matters? This charming story salutes the child who yearns to be all grown-up, but who still has a lot of dreaming left to do.
With Easter only two weeks away, we’ve been searching high and low for basket stuffers that aren’t so run-of-the-mill. Sure, we love our share of Peeps and chocolate eggs, but our resident chief rabbit is finding it more difficult over the years to please those discriminating bunnies. This year, we’ve stumbled upon an updated classic that we think will be a hit with boys and girls alike: Treat Street’s Funny Bunny, a wind-up mini plastic rabbit that “poops” out jelly beans (we kid you not). Yeah, we know most parents aren’t big on promoting bathroom humor, but one turn of this rabbit’s rear-end and you won’t be able to contain those giggles. The expression on that bunny’s face may just rival your kid’s–or your own. We can’t wait to see our kids’ faces on Easter Sunday morning.
In a Nutshell: Move over, chocolate Easter bunny, and make room for a bunny who’s small in stature, but big on laughs.
These days, it’s hard to find a kids’ product that can’t be personalized. From toothpaste dispensers to potty seats, your child can proudly claim her ownership on just about anything and everything. Some experts are chalking this up to a material-obsessed culture, with anyone and everyone wanting to flaunt their goods, while others think it’s a savvy way to help kids take pride in themselves (and would we go so far as to add take better care of their belongings and pick up after themselves? Yeah, let’s not push it.) No matter the reason behind the trend, we’re firm believers that it’s not only the little ones who need to cultivate a positive self-image, but the more impressionable tween crowd as well. I’m seeing it more and more with my third grader who is becoming more aware of her appearance. Sure, we may still butt heads with her clothing choices on occasion, but I’d like to think that things like personal hygiene and basic grooming shouldn’t be cause for debate. Maybe that’s why new products like Smoobee are resonating with both tween shoppers and their moms. If you have a young daughter, you know how grueling the morning routine can get, especially when it comes to brushing hair. Smoobee is designed to take the agony out of that experience with its snag-free bristles. What’s more, girls can add some style to their brushes with decorative stickers that affix to the wooden handle. Hey, maybe if your daughter makes her Smoobee her own, there will be less of a struggle to comb through those unruly tresses. Helping her with her math homework without WW III breaking out? Good luck with that one…
In a Nutshell: Get the knots outs with a hip hairbrush that girls can decorate.
Whenever it was time to feed my baby daughters, I was never without my Boppy. The donut-shaped nursing support pillow that made a name for itself as a must-have baby shower gift, this product got quite a bit of mileage over the years. But because I did not take it along with me whenever I left the house (Lord knows how much other baby gear I had to lug around!), I always felt the substitutes lacked the same comfort that this mommy security-type blanket offered; couch pillows and folded-over comforters just didn’t do the trick. So when I heard about the mom-invented Comfy Cradle, I knew this mompreneur was onto something. Designed by an Ohio mother of two who realized there must be a better way to hold her baby while nursing, this mini support pillow is the ideal solution. Unlike a throw pillow or blanket that won’t stay in place, the Comfy Cradle wraps around your arm and is secured via Velcro, ensuring that the support stays put even if your baby wiggles around. The best part? Once you have finished feeding, you can easily transfer your baby into her crib without disturbing her (a big plus if she conks out while feeding). Available in a variety of fun prints and patterns, the Comfy Cradle is made from a machine-washable cotton and a hypoallergenic filling. It’s just slowly rolling out into stores, but is also available on the Comfy Cradle Web site. We think it’s bound to be a baby-shower hit.
In a Nutshell: “Oh my aching….arm?” If you’re feeding your baby and using the Comfy Cradle, chances are you’ll never have to utter those words ever again.