• The Smart Walnut Archive

    As I watched a cascade of wet leaves swirling around outside my window earlier this morning, it dawned on me: Thanksgiving is next week. If you find yourself staring mindlessly at grocery store displays of cranberry sauce and canned pumpkins, you’re not alone. It seems like so many people are walking around in a daze, feeling like they’d much rather fast-forward past the holidays this year. A strange time though it may be, I can’t imagine skipping the one day of the year when families and friends come together to celebrate and give thanks for all they already have. Pardon the expression, but forgoing Thanksgiving would seem to be un-American…and that’s definitely not the message I want to share with my kids. For those of [&hellip

    Read More...

    I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. I had asked Santa for the Barbie Dream House, but instead received a Barbie Townhouse. I wasn’t entirely disappointed that I didn’t get exactly what I had written in my letter to him, but more because the house didn’t seem to work as I thought it should. The elevator didn’t go up without banging from side to side, and my dolls kept falling out. Some of the furnishings weren’t three-dimensional, but instead were printed onto the walls (seriously, how’s a girl supposed to hang up her sparkly evening gown without a real closet?). That might have been the very year that I began to lose interest in playing dolls, but looking back, I don’t begrudge Barbie for [&hellip

    Read More...

    If you have a theater kid, then you must know all about Hamilton. In our house, it’s the perennial soundtrack that my 12-year-old lives and breathes–and she hasn’t even seen the show…yet. While it can be a bit much sometimes, it’s great to see how this musical theater obsession can easily pique a child’s interest in U.S. history. Such is the thinking over at Cobblestone magazine which is hosting the Rap Into History Challenge. To determine what other figures in American history might inspire future Broadway lyricists, Cobblestone is inviting kids ages 9-12 to create and submit original raps that intrigue them. Selections will be judged by a panel of Broadway producers and Cobblestone editors, and winning selections will be featured online and in print. [&hellip

    Read More...

    TGIF! With the first week of school under our belts, the weekend can’t come soon enough. After figuring out how to make umpteen binders fit in one backpack without busting the seams, working out the kinks in an illogical bus route and filling out all that bloody paperwork, I’m ready to head back to the beach and pretend that it’s still summer vacation! No one ever said navigating the long and winding road of parenthood would be easy, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had some sort of road map to get you over some of those bumps all the way? Since that won’t be happening anytime soon, we think we’ve found a handy ‘cheat sheet’ of sorts that can cover some of that [&hellip

    Read More...

    Blame it on Jaws. Ever since that blockbuster hit movie theaters back in the summer of 1975, it spooked novice and seasoned swimmers alike and made otherwise confident boaters look over their shoulders a little bit more often. Even 40 years later, the eerie music still freaks me out every now and then while swimming. So it’s no wonder sharks in general have gotten a bad rap, and why so many beachgoers stay ashore when they think they might have spotted the telltale fin emerging from the water. Seeking to remedy this comes Please Be Nice to Sharks, a full-color children’s book that celebrates this ocean creature by zeroing in on the different species and their individual characteristics. Right from the start, readers will learn [&hellip

    Read More...

    As much as I hate to admit it, summer is quickly drawing to a close. If you happen to live in a place where school has already started, then you know the sting of those first few weeks: Everyone is desperately trying to get back into the swing of things, and you promised yourself you would start off the new school year without yelling. (OK, so promises are made to be broken.) But seriously, we know how hard it can be to motivate your kids to get to the bus on time, do their homework and get to bed…just so they can wake up and start all over again. To give my girls a little boost, we ease into the whole homework cycle by making [&hellip

    Read More...

    Have you noticed it is getting darker, earlier? As summer reaches its half-way mark and the daylight hours are slowly dwindling, nighttime seems to set in sooner than we’d like. Anxious to take advantage of those lovely nights before they’re out of our grasp, my husband and I happily sat down to dinner al fresco last Friday night…only to be greeted by some unwelcome guests. Enter the ever-pesky mosquitoes (what would summer be without them?). Because we were determined to eat without having them ruin our meal, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to try out the new Stinger All-Natural Mosquito Repellent Lantern. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary outdoor light you’d have on your deck or patio. But underneath its [&hellip

    Read More...

    This week, my fifth grader experienced her first bout of writer’s block…something that every good student must contend with at some point in their academic career–and one I know all too well. She was attempting to write a speech for school, but couldn’t quite get started. How do you motivate a kid who’d rather be doing anything but sit still? Perhaps that’s why Poppy’s Best Paper struck a chord with us. At a time in the year when kids have had just about enough of school work, this story follows the tale of a confident young rabbit who is certain she can crank out the best paper in her class, without even trying. But this smugness suddenly turns sour once Poppy, back at home, takes [&hellip

    Read More...

    Homework is a real drag. And at this point in the school year, with the warmer weather beckoning kids outdoors, it’s getting even harder to sit still and get that work out of the way and done! In the spirit of finding innovative (read: inexpensive) ways to entice my newly minted 7-year-old to breeze through her math problems, I presented her with Wild Animal Scented Erasers and boy, did she perk up. These soft erasers are designed in colorful animal shapes–purple gorilla, blue elephant and green frog–and sit atop an easy-to-grip decorative holder. With 5 refills in each pack, your kid can make as many mistakes as she pleases. And don’t be surprised if some of them are intentional; one whiff of those erasing animals, [&hellip

    Read More...

    There are few things I love more than getting my hands on a new book, especially kids’ books. (And if you happen to be an avid reader of this blog, you’ll understand this completely). The heavenly scent of freshly printed pages gets me every time (no e-readers for me, thank you very much), and the opportunity to dive head first into a new world is incredibly compelling. Books for kids have an important job to do, as far as I’m concerned: They must not only hold their attention, but stimulate their mind and capture their imagination. This season, I’m delighted to find two great picture books that tap into this love of learning with the great outdoors. Bug Detective is the bible for all things [&hellip

    Read More...