Category Archives: Learning & Education

Holiday Adventures with The Cat in the Hat + Giveaway #GiftIdea

"Here we go go go go, on an adventure! The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away. Go go go go, on an adventure. We're flying with the Cat in the Hat today!" Enter today to #win two Cat in the Hat holiday features from NCircle Entertainment and enjoy some fun filled adventures with the ever classic Cat in the Hat! #giveaway #giftidea #HolidayGiftGuide

~Thank you to NCircle Entertainment for providing product for my review. Opinions are still 100% my own.~

One of my favorite things about the holidays are all of the Christmas themed movies. From the old school animated cartoons, to modern movies and even episodes of TV shows. I love them all! In fact, I’m no stranger to watching Home Alone during the summer.

This year, NCircle Entertainment is helping us expand our holiday movie collection by adding a few children’s favorites, including a handful of holiday adventures with The Cat in the Hat. How classic is that?

"Here we go go go go, on an adventure! The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away. Go go go go, on an adventure. We're flying with the Cat in the Hat today!" Enter today to #win two Cat in the Hat holiday features from NCircle Entertainment and enjoy some fun filled adventures with the ever classic Cat in the Hat! #giveaway #giftidea #HolidayGiftGuide

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas! and The Cat in the Hat: Told from the Cold offer almost two hours of combined fun filled holiday entertainment. And of course, it wouldn’t be The Cat in the Hat without appearances from Fish, Sally and Nick, and Thing 1 and Thing 2. Oh, and don’t let me forget The Thinga-Ma-Jigger. We can’t go on any holiday adventures with The Cat in the Hat if we don’t have The Thinga-Ma-Jigger!

Here we go go go go,

on an adventure!

The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away.

Go go go go,

on an adventure.

We’re flying with The Cat in the Hat today!

"Here we go go go go, on an adventure! The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away. Go go go go, on an adventure. We're flying with the Cat in the Hat today!" Enter today to #win two Cat in the Hat holiday features from NCircle Entertainment and enjoy some fun filled adventures with the ever classic Cat in the Hat! #giveaway #giftidea #HolidayGiftGuide

Yesterday the kids and I sat down to enjoy our new holiday features and then took a break for some coloring. Not only does NCircle Entertainment provide DVDs, but they also offer tons of educational activities, including coloring pages, mazes, word puzzles, matching and spot the difference activities and even fun online games. It’s all-around “Entertainment that Educates!”

"Here we go go go go, on an adventure! The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away. Go go go go, on an adventure. We're flying with the Cat in the Hat today!" Enter today to #win two Cat in the Hat holiday features from NCircle Entertainment and enjoy some fun filled adventures with the ever classic Cat in the Hat! #giveaway #giftidea #HolidayGiftGuide

"Here we go go go go, on an adventure! The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away. Go go go go, on an adventure. We're flying with the Cat in the Hat today!" Enter today to #win two Cat in the Hat holiday features from NCircle Entertainment and enjoy some fun filled adventures with the ever classic Cat in the Hat! #giveaway #giftidea #HolidayGiftGuide

Since we’d been watching some holiday adventures with The Cat in the Hat, I thought it was only fitting that we each work on a coloring page that featured The Thinga-Ma-Jigger and all of our favorite characters. It was very easy to print the coloring pages right from NCircle Entertainment’s website and we all had a great time expressing our creative side.

My kids and I had quite the day with The Cat in the Hat and your family can too! NCircle Entertainment is giving 1 lucky Making Time reader their very own copies of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas! and The Cat in the Hat: Told from the Cold! Simply enter using the giveaway form below. And don’t forget to check out all the fun little extra activities and games NCircle Entertainment has to offer!

Making Time 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Buy The Cat in the Hat now!

When I was a kid I could always count on my mom (or Santa) to fill my stocking to the brim with all kinds of treats and goodies, and DVDs make perfect stocking stuffers! If you want to ensure your child gets to enjoy these holiday adventures with The Cat in the Hat, or browse some other holiday titles, simply visit NCircle Entertainment.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas! – $8.99

The Cat in the Hat: Told in the Cold – $5.99

"Here we go go go go, on an adventure! The Thinga-Ma-Jigger is up and away. Go go go go, on an adventure. We're flying with the Cat in the Hat today!" Enter today to #win two Cat in the Hat holiday features from NCircle Entertainment and enjoy some fun filled adventures with the ever classic Cat in the Hat! #giveaway #giftidea #HolidayGiftGuide

Does your family enjoy taking adventures with The Cat in the Hat?

Connect with In this new DVD, Autumn Journey: Guess How Much I Love You, your children will follow Little Nutbrown Hare and his friends on 6 autumn adventures. Enter now for a chance to win your very own copy! #giveawayWebsite / Facebook / Twitter

This giveaway is open to US Residents, ages 18+ and ends on December 21, 2016 at 11:59 pm est.  Random winner will be notified via email and must respond within 24 hours or prize will be forfeited. Sponsor is responsible for prize fulfillment.

 

*I received samples free of charge from NCircle Entertainment as part of their Brand Ambassadorship.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand. Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand.  Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.

Balancing Fun and Learning with Balance Beans

Balance Beans is a game for ages 5+ that teaches kids logic and problem solving, as well as basic physics, all while they have fun balancing beans on a seesaw. @ThinkFun #balancebeans #game

My son is at an age now where he’s starting to get more into hands on fun (thank goodness I can get him away from video games), and learning why and how things work. And when I can find something that offers him hands on fun and learning, but doesn’t require some type of homemade explosion in the kitchen or a mess in general, it’s a win-win for me.

This is exactly what Balance Beans from ThinkFun offers. Balance Beans is a one player game for ages 5+ that promotes logic and problem solving, and teaches a basic physics principle – the further away weight is from the center of balance, the more downward force it exerts.

Imagine carrying a bag of groceries. Would you prefer to carry the bag with your arm extended outward at shoulder height, or would you prefer to carry the bag close to the body and center of balance? The obvious answer is close to the body and center of balance, well, unless you’re some type of super human or have some amazing muscle strength. It’s harder to carry a bag of groceries with your arm extended outward at shoulder height because there’s more downward force acting on the bag. Balance Beans teaches my son the same principle, but in a fun way.

Balance Beans is a game for ages 5+ that teaches kids logic and problem solving, as well as basic physics, all while they have fun balancing beans on a seesaw. @ThinkFun #balancebeans #game

Game components:

  • Seesaw for balancing.
  • 3 red beans – single bean, double bean, triple bean.
  • 2 orange single beans.
  • 2 yellow double beans.
  • 2 blue triple beans.
  • 40 challenge cards – Easy to Super Hard (including solutions).

How to play:

  1. Simply set up the seesaw and select a challenge card.
  2. Place the red beans on the seesaw as indicated on the challenge card. The red beans are stationary and once placed on the seesaw, cannot be moved until you’ve solved that particular balancing challenge.
  3. Using the orange/yellow/blue beans as indicated on the challenge card, balance the seesaw. These beans can be placed on any empty space available and once placed can be moved around. You can only use the specific beans indicated on the challenge card and must use them all.
  4. Balancing the seesaw completes the challenge and you’ve won! Try a new challenge card until you’ve completed them all.

Balance Beans is a game for ages 5+ that teaches kids logic and problem solving, as well as basic physics, all while they have fun balancing beans on a seesaw. @ThinkFun #balancebeans #game

Balance Beans is a game for ages 5+ that teaches kids logic and problem solving, as well as basic physics, all while they have fun balancing beans on a seesaw. @ThinkFun #balancebeans #game

Balance Beans is a game for ages 5+ that teaches kids logic and problem solving, as well as basic physics, all while they have fun balancing beans on a seesaw. @ThinkFun #balancebeans #game

My son couldn’t wait to open his new Balance Beans game, and once he figured out how it worked, he became a balancing machine. Of course, he wants me to watch him successfully complete his balancing challenges, so every day this week I’ve made time to share in his fun and learning.

He has been using trial and error to balance the seesaw and complete each challenge card, but there is also a math to it. He’s not quite ready for that though (he’s only 4 – it’s never too young to start learning, right?!). The harder the challenge is, the more math and reasoning skills come into play. The challenge cards are numbered 1-40 and are also labeled Easy, Medium, Hard and Super Hard (10 of each level).

 

For now I’m enjoying watching him learn how force and balance work together with some of the easy and medium challenges, and know that with time he’ll learn the algebra behind it as well. He’s also having a fun time free-styling without the challenge cards!

Think you could complete the Super Hard balancing challenges?

Connect with ThinkFun:

Shop / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

*Available at Target and Amazon for $17.99.

*This post contains an affiliate link. I received a sample of this product to provide an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand.  Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand.  Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.

New Reading Surprises with The Story Box

If you can’t tell yet, I’ve recently become a huge fan of monthly subscription boxes. And guess what, my kids have too! They love getting new surprises in the mail each month, especially if it’s a cool package to open, and I love the joy and excitement on their faces when they open a new box.

Their latest subscription box addition is from The Story Box and every month they each get a new book that’s fit for their age. We make time almost on a daily basis to sit down and explore the characters and adventures that what await inside their books. Let’s just say their reading collection has grown at such a rapid pace that the book shelf I made them a few months ago just isn’t big enough anymore.

The Story Box provides your children with 2 new story books to explore each month. Subscribe today and save $6 off your first order! #subscriptionbox

The Story Box has 3 different box options to choose from, but they all include a parent guide and 2 books that are curated by a speech-language pathologist.

  • Board Books Package – for children ages 0 to 2.5 years.
  • Picture Books Package – for children ages 2.5 to 6 years.
  • Family Package – for families with children in both age ranges.

Since I have a 1 year old (as of tomorrow!) and a 4 year old, I chose the Family Package. The selections in our August box included a  board book entitled Sheep Go To Sleep, and a picture book entitled Shark’s Big Surprise.

The Story Box provides your children with 2 new story books to explore each month. Subscribe today and save $6 off your first order! #subscriptionbox

My kids were super excited to see they got some new stories to read and couldn’t wait to get into them. Yesterday was pretty gloomy and rainy, which actually cooled down the weather a little bit. So after the rain stopped, we headed to our bench outside to enjoy the nice, cool evening and spend some time experiencing their new books.

The Story Box provides your children with 2 new story books to explore each month. Subscribe today and save $6 off your first order! #subscriptionbox

And these aren’t just your ordinary run of the mill books. There’s so much to enjoy about them. For starters, the board books are perfect for my toddler because she can’t tear them up. She has an interest in ripping things apart – tissue, magazines, and even her brothers books. She’s already destroyed a handful of his books. So it’s a big plus we can enjoy a book with her that she can’t demolish.

The Story Box provides your children with 2 new story books to explore each month. Subscribe today and save $6 off your first order! #subscriptionbox

As for the picture books for my son, I love that they come with suggested challenges that I, as the parent, can challenge and help my son with. For example, one of the suggestions included on the parent guide for Shark’s Big Surprise was to talk with my son about the sound each animal makes in the story and then do a small recall activity to see if he could match the sound with its animal. So not only is my son getting to experience a new world and story with the book, but I can also help develop his mind and language with the help of the parent guide.

Subscribe to The Story Box + Savings Code!

Ready to subscribe for your little one(s)? Simply visit The Story Box and choose which box best fits your child’s age. Use promo code TAKESIX and save $6 off your first order! Then you just have to wait in anticipation for your box to arrive! This month’s shipment is scheduled for September 21st.

And before I forget, a portion of each subscription fee is used to purchase books and other educational materials to benefit children with disabilities and children from low-income families. What a great way to not only help your child expand their mind, but help other children as well!

Which box option fits your child’s age?

Connect with The Story Box:

Shop / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

*This post contains an affiliate link and I may receive compensation in exchange for this post.  I also received a sample free of charge.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand.  Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand.  Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.

Super Cool Last Minute Backpacks for School

It's not too late to get a super cool backpack in time for your child to head back to school! #backtoschool #b2s #schoolsupplies #backpack

If your child hasn’t gone back to school yet, I’m sure it’s literally right around the corner.  Schools in my area start on August 22nd, so this is the kids’ last weekend of the summer.  And if you’re like many other parents, you may not quite be done with back to school shopping.

  • Meet the new teacher(s) – check!
  • New shoes – check!
  • New clothes/uniforms – check!
  • After school snacks – check!
  • Home essentials for after school messes – check!
  • School supplies – check!
  • Box Tops clipped – check!
  • Backpack – oh no! I forgot!

Got everything covered except a new backpack?  Never fear, Amazon is here to save the day!  If you have Amazon Prime, you can get free 2 day shipping on any of these super cool backpacks and have it in time for the first day of school.  Plus, if you shop Amazon through Ebates you can earn 5.5% cash back!

Make a little time to sit down with your child and have them choose their favorite today!

Which backpack would your child like?

*This post contains affiliate links.  I did not receive samples of these items in exchange for this post.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brands or sellers.  Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brands/sellers.  Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.

Making Time for School Prep: Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

August is here and the countdown to the first day of school has officially started.  You probably have one of two types of kiddos at this point.  Those who are ready to go back to school, or those who want summer to last forever.

Regardless of what point your child is at, this super fun Race to the 1st Day of School will help get him ready to go.  It’s an easy craft and makes sure your child is ready for his first day.  With accomplishing everything from packing his backpack, picking out his first day outfit, and even collecting Box Tops for Education along the race course, he’ll have his engine revved when the big day arrives.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

Have you forgotten about collecting Box Tops this summer?  Don’t worry because there are plenty of daily essentials available at Walmart that have DOUBLE BOX TOPS!  Stock up on select Kleenex multi-packs, Viva paper towels and Scott bath tissue at Walmart, and earn double Box Tops.

There’s no better time to stock up on these everyday household essentials!  And since school is starting you’re going to need them anyways.  Knock on wood, but it’s almost cold season and you’ll likely get lots of use out of those Kleenex.  And just imagine all the kids who will be in and out of the home to work on after school group projects.  Not to mention the sleepovers and hangout sessions.  Talk about a ton of messes and bathroom usage!  You’ll go through all the paper towels and bath tissue before you even know it.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

New to Box Tops like we are and don’t really know what they’re about?  Box Tops for Education has been helping schools across the nation acquire books, computers, playground equipment and so much more, since 1996.  Box Tops can be found on a large variety of products, just like some of these select Kleenex, Viva and Scott products at Walmart.

In fact, if you look in your pantry right now I’ll bet you’ll find at least 1 Box Top, if not multiple!  All you have to do is clip them and submit them to your child’s school.  Each Box Top is worth $0.10 (double with these particular Kleenex, Viva and Scott products) and the school can use that money to purchase the things it needs.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

It’s a win-win for everyone!  You stock up on the daily essentials you need at home and your child’s school gets extra money to help purchase items that make his educational experience that much better and fulfilling.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

So how about that super fun Race to the 1st Day of School?  I put together this cute little “race track” for my son to use throughout the week right before school starts.  It’s basically a 7 day countdown and each day there’s a reminder for him that’s related to preparing for the first day of school.

As he moves through the race course, I’ve “hidden” Box Tops along the route that he can collect for his school.  I took these Box Tops right off the daily essentials I purchased from Walmart.  Not only that, but we even used some of the products to help create our race track.

Race to the 1st Day of School

Want to make your own Race to the 1st Day of School?  Here’s what we did.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

1. Design your race car.

What’s a race without a race car?  I gave my son an empty Scott bath tissue roll, some paint and a paintbrush, some stickers and 4 water bottle caps for wheels, and let him have creative freedom to design his race car.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

He did his thing and started by painting his race car.  He was pretty excited about his race car so it was pins and needles for him as he waited for the paint to dry.  Next he added a few stickers, and then I helped him glue his wheels on.  We even added a spoiler and front bumper using a cupcake wrapper.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

2. Create a race track.

While my son was designing his race car, I got to work on creating a race track for him to race his car on.  All I used was a poster board, some paint, stickers, crayons and a black Sharpie marker.  I started simple with a road and then created 7 stops for the race.  It’s a race and in this case, a 7 day countdown to the first day of school.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

At each stop there’s a reminder or task for him to complete, all of which help prepare him for his first day of school.  You could easily do more than 7 days, but I’m really hoping to get his little engine revved during the week right before school starts.

  • 7 days to go: Buy your favorite after school snacks!
  • 6 more days: Purchase all of your school supplies!
  • 5 days left: Pack your backpack!
  • 4 days more: Have you gone shopping for cool new clothes?
  • 3 days away: Pick out your 1st day outfit!
  • 2 days to boot: Do you remember where your classroom is?
  • 1 day and done: Enjoy your last day of summer!

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

After I had all the basics down, I started adding little details with drawings and stickers.  And let’s not forget about collecting Box Tops!  I took the double Box Tops from my Kleenex multi-pack and used a simple dot of glue to place them throughout the track.

As my son races through the week and makes his daily reminder stops, he can get into the habit of collecting Box Tops for his school by collecting the ones I’ve placed throughout the race.  Since I used just a small drop of glue, they’re super easy to pull off the poster board and it doesn’t ruin the Box Tops.  Can you find the hidden Box Tops?

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

3. Design a schoolhouse.

Last, but not least, your child needs to have a finish line and prize.  And what would that be for the Race to the 1st Day of School?  It’s the first day of school, of course!  If you haven’t already, add a finish line to the race course.  I had already added mine, but then using a Kleenex box, which was already super cool and colorful by itself, I added a little more flare and designed a welcoming schoolhouse.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

I created a banner of sorts welcoming kids to the first day of school and glued it onto the Kleenex box.  I then used stickers that I had on hand that just so happened to be very fitting for the finish of the race.  With phrases like “Way to go!” and “Have a blast!,” the stickers I had were perfect for finishing a race and heading into the first day of school.

Race to the 1st Day of School feat. Box Tops for Education #EarnDoubleAtWalmart

My son is really excited about the first day of school and has been playing with his race track since we made it.  He just couldn’t wait even though school doesn’t start here until August 22nd.  He’ll definitely be prepared when the big day finally rolls around, double Box Tops for Education in hand and more!

How are you sending your kids back to school with Double Box Tops from Walmart?

*Thank you to Kleenex, Viva and Scott for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to get prepared for Back to School. This is a sponsored post in which I will receive compensation.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand.  Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand.  Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.

Making Time for a Learning LeapStart with LeapFrog + #Giveaway

~As a LeapFrog Mom Ambassador, I receive products, promotional items and educational material to use and share as I see fit. However, any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience.~

The new #LeapStart from #LeapFrog is a great tool for teaching everything from reading, writing and STEM, to emotional, social and life skills. And it's all tailored to kids ages 2-7! #LeapAhead #LeapFrogMomSquad

There’s nothing I love more than hearing my son having fun, while personally knowing he’s learning simultaneously.  This time it’s the new LeapStart from LeapFrog that has his brain gears on the go.  Yeap, LeapFrog is at it again with their creative and innovative learning and educational tools for kids.

The newest addition, LeapStart, is an all-in-one interactive early learning system for kids ages 2-7, that covers a variety of topics, including shapes, colors, math, the alphabet, reading, writing, STEM, and even geography and space science.  But what I think makes LeapStart extra special is that not only does it touch on school subjects, but it also helps develop your child’s social, emotional and life skills.  That’s not something a lot of other learning and educational toys can teach, and it’s important that our children start learning such skills early on.

So, you know what it teaches, but how does LeapStart work?  Well, LeapStart systems are a large electronic book-like device that you open, place a LeapStart Activity Book in the center, and use a stylus pen to interact with the Activity Book.

The new #LeapStart from #LeapFrog is a great tool for teaching everything from reading, writing and STEM, to emotional, social and life skills. And it's all tailored to kids ages 2-7! #LeapAhead #LeapFrogMomSquad

Each Activity Book is packed full of 30+ fun games and challenges.  There are 16 books in the LeapStart collection, 4 for each educational level, ranging between Preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st grade.  On every page there’s a new type of interaction in which your child uses the stylus pen to interact with the book and in return the book talks and sings aloud, telling your child what to do.

Whether your child is tracing numbers, learning compound words, or exploring outer space, they’re having fun all at the same time while using their LeapStart interactive system.

Check out this video of the LeapStart in action!

 

My son loves “playing” with his LeapStart, but he doesn’t realize he’s learning at the same time.  Shhh – if you don’t tell, I won’t tell.  One of the things I like about the LeapStart system is how it prompts him to start over or try again when he makes an error.  It doesn’t alert him in a negative manner that he was wrong or did something incorrectly, but just asks him to try again.  The positive reinforcement, practice and repetition is the perfect combination for successful learning.

The new #LeapStart from #LeapFrog is a great tool for teaching everything from reading, writing and STEM, to emotional, social and life skills. And it's all tailored to kids ages 2-7! #LeapAhead #LeapFrogMomSquad

To take learning a step further, LeapStart is available in 2 different systems, LeapStart Jr. and LeapStart Sr., each of which is designed with different ages, skills, and educational levels in mind.  Review the details of each one to determine which system best fits your child’s needs.  For reference, my son has the LeapStart Sr.

LeapStart Jr.

The new #LeapStart from #LeapFrog is a great tool for teaching everything from reading, writing and STEM, to emotional, social and life skills. And it's all tailored to kids ages 2-7! #LeapAhead #LeapFrogMomSquad

 

  • Recommended for ages 2-4
  • Includes Preschool & Pre-K sampler book
  • Easy to hold stylus for little hands
  • Easy grip handle for convenient carrying
  • Works with all LeapStart Activity Books

LeapStart Sr.

The new #LeapStart from #LeapFrog is a great tool for teaching everything from reading, writing and STEM, to emotional, social and life skills. And it's all tailored to kids ages 2-7! #LeapAhead #LeapFrogMomSquad

 

  • Recommended for ages 5-7
  • Includes Kindergarten and 1st Grade sampler book
  • Stylus designed to support proper writing grip
  • Storage pocket for carrying extra activity book
  • Works with all LeapStart Activity Books

 

 

And guess what!  LeapFrog has provided me with an extra LeapStart to give away to one lucky reader.  Woohoo!  Be sure to enter below and you could win a LeapStart prize pack consisting of a LeapStart Sr. ($39.99), Kids’ World Atlas Activity Book ($12.99) and Superhero Vocabulary Activity Book ($12.99)!

Connect with LeapFrog: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Shop LeapStart Jr.

Shop LeapStart Sr.

This giveaway is open to US Residents, ages 18+ and ends on August 5, 2016 at 11:59 pm est.  Random winner will be notified via email and must respond within 24 hours or prize will be forfeited.
*This post contains affiliate links.  In exchange for an honest review, I received a sample free of charge from LeapFrog as part of the LeapFrog Mom Squad.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand.  Unlike other giveaways, the giveaway item(s) were provided to me and therefore, I am responsible for fulfillment of the prize.  Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand.  Please see this blog’s full policies and disclosure here.

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children’s Museum

The Miami Children's Museum is a great place for your kids to roam free and have fun learning, while everyone enjoys a little family time!

I try my best to get my kids out of the house as much as possible, but being a working at home mom, I could definitely do better.  My 4 year old son is turning into a video game junkie and my 8 month old daughter is crawling now, so she gets into everything.

This past Friday I decided we were getting out of this house and we were going to have some fun, and everything else that needed to be done simply had to wait.  It just so happened to be the third Friday of the month and that meant free entry at the Miami Children’s Museum!

Thanks to Target (my most favorite store in all the world), the Miami Children’s Museum hosts a Target Free Third Friday every month!  From 3 pm to 9 pm, parking and admission is completely free for all ages.  And let me tell you – it’s super easy to have a fun-filled six hours at the MCM.

I cannot even begin to describe all the different exhibits the MCM has, so I’m going to share some of my son’s favorites, starting with the fire truck.  It’s the first place he goes every time we visit.  He gets to dress up like a firefighter, climb into a recreated fire truck, and use it’s huge steering wheel and simulation feature as if he were actually driving the truck.  There’s even a fire pole for the kids to slide down!

Making Time for Fun & Learning Miami Children's Museum

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

Another one of my son’s favorite exhibits is “The Sea and Me” room.  Inside this room there’s a large boat the kids can climb up on and fish right from the deck.  There are a handful of magnetic fishing poles they use to catch fish in the sea below.

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

Our next stop is the “Sketch Aquarium.”  I have to admit, this thing is pretty cool and even I get involved in this one.  You start by coloring your very own sea creature (shark, squid, seahorse, fish, or sea turtle) and then you electronically scan it into the simulator.  Wait just a few seconds and your sea creature magically appears in the virtual aquarium.

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

I mean, how cool is that?!   My son will stand and play with this interactive aquarium for at least 30 minutes, and watch his sea creature repeatedly swim across it.  That’s his shark there with his name across the top.

Next, we head upstairs for some more fun!  Our first stop on the second floor is the water boats.  At this exhibit, children have the opportunity to show off their driving skills by driving boats around the bay.  With a large steering wheel and a forward/reverse bar, it definitely takes some decent driving skills to keep from crashing.

If you can’t tell yet, my son loves anything that has to do with water.

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

A newer exhibit at the MCM is The Health and Wellness Center.  It provides kids with the opportunity to test their physical and mental strength through various physical training tasks and interactive challenges.

Making Time for Fun & Learning: Miami Children's Museum

My son couldn’t help but play a little game of matching to test his memory skills.  This is the first time we’ve had a chance to walk through this exhibit, but it quickly became one to remember.

This doesn’t even begin to make a dent in the various exhibits at the Miami Children’s Museum.  I could literally spend all day there with my kids, just as I can spend all day telling you about each and every exhibit.

If you’re ever in the Miami area and are looking for something that’s family-friendly, you should definitely check out the MCM.  Even better if you happen to be in town the third Friday of the month and can get free entry for the entire family.  It’s definitely something that we’ve marked our calendars for and will visit each and every third Friday of the month!

Which exhibit do you think your kids would enjoy?

Making Time for Education: 4 Things I Learned From VPK Registration

Making Time for Education: 4 Things I Learned From VPK Registration

Okay…I am in dire need of a breather right about now.  Do you know how stressful registering your 4 year old for VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten) for the upcoming school year is?  I mean, honestly!

This is our first child to be entering school and up until now he has stayed home with me.  As a working stay at home mom, we really haven’t had a need for him to be in a daycare or school setting.  But now that he’s old enough for a pre-kindergarten program, we thought it would be a good idea to get him signed up so that he could start preparing for kindergarten by having a more structured and set schedule.

And not only that, but he could use some regular socialization with other kids his age.  We go to the park and he also plays soccer 3 days per week, but he literally craves socialization with other children.  So, a pre-kindergarten program it is!  Plus, I get a few hours a day to myself.  Well, myself and the baby, but it’s still a break nonetheless.

The registration process has been – well – a tiresome one.  Here are four things I’ve learned through the long-going process of getting our son signed up.

1.  Do not wait!

I debated putting this towards the end of my list because it makes more sense chronologically, but in my opinion it’s the most important.  So if you don’t read anything else, I want you to read this one!

Do not wait to start the pre-K registration process!

Do not wait!  I cannot stress this enough!  It’s the end of the current school year and I had noticed while driving around that schools were advertising registration for kindergarten for the next school year.  Does this mean I need to start looking now at registering my son for pre-kindergarten, or is that something that’s done a few weeks before the start of the new school year?  Is the process for pre-K different from kindergarten?

I had no idea!  Being that this is our first child to enter school, we had absolutely no clue how any of the process worked.  Once I did my research and figured out the basics, but still not knowing if different places would have different requirements, I started calling schools to find out what I needed to do to get my son registered.

Me:  Hi, I’m calling to get some information on the process for registering my son for your pre-K program for the upcoming school year.

School Admin:  I would be happy to give you the information, but our pre-K class is already full and there are 24 children on the waiting list.

What?!  Already?!  So I thought to myself – okay, I’ll just go down our list of preferred schools.  They certainly can’t all be full, right?  Needless to say, there were very few options to choose from when it came down to it because classes were already full.  Most places only offer one pre-K class and they fill up quickly.  So again, I can’t stress it enough – DO NOT WAIT!

2.  Be Prepared.

Being prepared is also something that came in handy.  What I learned as far as requirements in Florida, is that I had to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for my son.  To get the certificate I had to submit proof of residency and also proof of age (my son’s birth certificate).  After the provided documentation was reviewed, I received and was able to print the COE.

When ready to register for pre-K, come prepared with all required documentation.

Wherever we decided we wanted our son to attend a pre-K program, we had to show administration the COE as proof that he was of appropriate age and that the state had approved for him to enroll in a pre-K program.  When we did make our final decision on where to enroll our son, I had the COE in hand and was prepared to complete his registration that same day.

Some locations only required the COE for registration, but to register for the pre-K class at an elementary school, there were additional requirements such as two proofs of residency and the child’s immunization and health records.

3.  Not all pre-K programs are created equal.

There’s actually a few things that go into this.  First, I want to point out that there is a difference between a pre-kindergarten program at an actual elementary school and a VPK program at a pre-school/learning center type of location.  I’m not talking about a difference as far as curriculum and what the children learn, but more so in what’s offered and how long your child is there each day.

School associated pre-K classes run like a full day of school.  Here in Florida, children in the pre-K class at an elementary school start their day at 8:20 am and end their day at 1:50 pm.

However, many pre-school and learning centers in Florida offer all 4 year old’s a free three hour voluntary pre-K (VPK) program, and the times those three hours vary according to location.  From calling around, I spoke to some places who did the free three hour VPK program from 9 am to 12 pm, and there was one in particular that offered the same program from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Not all pre-K programs are created equal, so be sure to ask lots of questions.

And not only is this a difference between school associated and learning center associated programs, but even the same learning center in different locations can offer different things.

For example, we have a learning center that has two locations that are both within decent driving distance from our home.  One of them does not offer the free VPK program because the administrator doesn’t believe three hours per day is enough time to prepare children for kindergarten.  So that particular location only offers a full day and you have to pay tuition, basically.  So there is no free three hour VPK program there.

But on the flip side, the other location does offer the free VPK program and instead of just three hours, they offer up to six hours.  We were told we could take our son in as early as 7 am and no later than 9 am because that’s when the core learning begins, and the free portion ends at 1 pm.  This is the same learning center as I just mentioned, but simply a different location.  Not only that, but this other location provides the kids with breakfast, snack and lunch; whereas many places that offer the free three hour VPK program do not include any meals or snacks.

So just know that all pre-kindergarten programs are not created equal.

4.   First-hand research goes a long way.

This should probably be a no-brainer, especially considering you’re leaving your child with complete strangers for an extended period of time.  At least for us, since our son is always home with me, leaving him with strangers and in a completely different environment is very new to both him and us.

When finding the perfect pre-K program, first-hand research goes a long way.

We knew from the jump that we wanted to visit any place that we were even considering registering him at.  We want to make sure the environment is clean and nicely kept, and that the staff/teachers are nice and courteous.  We set up appointments to stop by and tour a few different places, and this was also a great time to catch up on any minor details and ask any questions we had about the program or the school.  I’ll definitely say there were some that after touring, were completely taken off our list of possibilities.

And one of the things we looked for while doing tours, was how our son acted and reacted to different things like the actual environment, the staff/teachers on site, the other kids already attending (since we toured during school hours), etc.  There was one place in particular that my son didn’t want to leave, so we took that as a sign that he’d probably enjoy being there.

In the end, we found what we believe to be a great learning center that has a very productive VPK program.  I just wish we had started looking much sooner than we actually did.  If we had, I think we would have been able to visit and tour many more places and would have had more options to choose from.  Now that we’ve gone through the experience once and learned everything we need to, it should be smooth sailing for our other children when they’re ready for pre-K.

Have you started VPK registration for your child?

Making Time for Easter Surprises with LeapFrog

Making Time for Easter Surprises with LeapFrog

Holy cow, Easter has just snuck up on me this year!  Please tell me I’m not the only one.  I haven’t purchased one single piece of Easter candy or vacuumed up one single piece of stringy straw filling, much less even thought about what to put in my kids’ Easter baskets.

I usually have the hardest time figuring out what substantial item(s) I’m going to put in their baskets, but with the help of LeapFrog, this year I don’t have that problem.

If you need a little last minute help like me, here is the answer you’ve been looking for:

LeapFrog Easter Gift Guide

With choices for both younger and older kids, you’re sure to find something your child will enjoy.

LeapFrog Easter Gift Guide for Younger Kids

  1. LeapFrog My Pal Scout – $15.99
  2. LeapFrog AlphaPup – $24.34
  3. LeapFrog Number Lovin’ Oven – $14.77
  4. LeapFrog Shapes And Sharing Picnic Basket– $18.99
  5. LeapFrog Scout’s Learning Lights Remote – $9.35

LeapFrog Easter Gift Guide for Older Kids

  1. LeapFrog LeapTV Educational Gaming System – $32.99
  2. LeapFrog Epic 7″ Android-based Kids Tablet 16GB, Green – $116.15
  3. LeapTV Blaze and the Monster Machines Educational, Active Video Game – $19.99
  4. LeapFrog Blaze & The Monster Machines Imagicard Learning Game for LeapFrog Tablets – $24.99
  5. LeapFrog Word Whammer – $15.50

The prices I have listed here are all current prices on Amazon, but be aware that they can change at any time.  And can I just OH.MY.GOODNESS to the LeapTV price!  It’s only $32.99!!!!

I’ve decided I’m going to get my son some new games for his LeapTV and my daughter would absolutely love Scout’s Learning Lights Remote.

Which of these would your kiddo enjoy in their Easter basket?

*This post may contain affiliate links.  This is not a sponsored post, however, I am a LeapFrog Mom Ambassador.  My opinions are 100% my own and in no way influenced by the brand.  Any claims or statistics should be confirmed with the brand.  Please see this blog’s full policies, disclosure, and disclaimer here.

 

Making Time for Reading

March is National Reading Month

We’re halfway through National Reading Month and I want to share how we promote reading with our kids.  I want to start by saying that we have not always been on a strict reading plan, so to speak, with our son.

But I’ve noticed that he doesn’t seem to be quite at the same level as his peers.  My son is just 4 years old, but when we visit the park or somewhere there may be other children his age, I notice that they seem to be more articulate with their speech and vocabulary.

I’ve wondered if it’s because he’s never been in a daycare or preschool setting, and around other kids his age for at least a few hours every day.  I’m a working at home mom, so he’s always stayed home with me.  And sure, that could be part of the problem, but it’s certainly not all of it.

What I realized is that it’s partly my own fault that my son isn’t exactly on point with his speech and vocabulary.  Of course, this saddens me, but I can’t put the blame anywhere else.  I realized that I, myself, needed to help my son and reading to him was the solution.

Just in the last 2 months we have implemented a new rule.  Our son is not allowed to play any video games until he does 20-30 minutes of reading each day (we need to cut back his electronic time anyways).  I cannot express how  much of a change I have seen in his speech and vocabulary in just the last 2 months.

It’s amazing at how quickly children learn and not just that, but truly how effective reading to our children can be.  He has already become more age appropriate as far as being able to repeat stories to me.

Making Time for Reading

Of course it’s usually after I’ve read them to him a handful of times, and I know he’s definitely using the pictures to help him along the way, but that’s age appropriate for a 4 year old.  I mean, I’m not expecting him to be able to sit and tell me what each word on the page is, but we do work on that too.

Not only do we read every day, but as we’re doing that I’m trying to teach him word recognition along with letter/sound recognition so that he can put different letter sounds together to determine a word.  These are the types of things taught in school, but if I can give him a head start, well then why not?

And at this point with as much reading as we do, I’m sure my 6  month old is going to be jabbering away very shortly.  She’s already made it known that she’ll be a blabber mouth with the noise she makes as it is, but I know that getting her involved now will only increase her speech and vocabulary at an early age.

I even think back to when I was a kid and over the summer while my mother was working during the day, we always stayed at our grandmother’s house.  And boy, grandma MADE us read, haha.  She’d take us to the public library once or twice a month and we’d get to pick out what books we wanted to read.  Then we’d head back to her house and get to it.  Looking back, I thank her for that.  And now as an adult with my own children, I realize how important reading really is.

So, in celebration of National Reading Month, I challenge you to sit down and spend some time reading to your child tonight.  Even if it’s just 10-15 minutes, that’s better than nothing.

Do you implement reading rules for your kids?