Saturday, October 25, 2014

Consumer Critique: New Anne Geddes Books

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

I have always been a fan of Anne Geddes. Now, there are two new books and a baby journal out that capture the whimsical, cute, creative portraits of this talented photographer. The board books are great collections that will please babies and toddlers. Even some older kids might enjoy them - my five-year-old really liked looking at the baby pictures, and my seven-year-old tried to recreate some poses for my husband to photograph!

The baby journal is easy to use, plenty of space, and I liked the prompts. It didn't ask for a ton of information, but left things open-ended with enough space to share what parents want to share.

All three books are available at Amazon and would make excellent gifts for the mom-to-be in your life!

Fun Freetime: Beauty and the Beets

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

I've been a fan of VeggieTales since high school. Now my girls enjoy watching them, and I love that they pick up on sound family values.

There's a new film available now, Beauty and the Beet. It's a cute re-imagining loosely based on the classic fairytale, complete with family traveling band, a blizzard, and a grumpy hotel owner. While watching, kids learn about unconditional love.

My girls loved this DVD, including the songs - especially the songs. They also loved the wintery theme - they're big on Christmas! It's definitely worth checking out, especially if your kids have enjoyed the other VeggieTales movies.

Smart Safety: Bus Stop Safety

 I recently heard about SafeStop, an app that aims to help make kids who ride the bus safer. I had a chance to interview Keith Engelbert to learn more, as well as get some great safety tips.

What was the inspiration behind creating SafeStop?
Necessity is the mother of invention and we like to think of SafeStop as the mother of all school bus apps. SafeStop was inspired by the convergence of a number of factors impacting today’s families. First, is the increasing need for security in an uncertain world. Parents want to know where their children are at all times, and keeping them safe to and from school is SchoolWheels Direct’s first and most important priority. Second is the proliferation of wireless devices and the pervasive Internet of Things that puts limitless information in the palms of our hands. SafeStop is the first school bus tracking app developed for a mobile environment. It is easy to use, secure and can be deployed independent of a school districts’ back office routing technology.  We’re very excited about future enhancements that will provide parents and school districts with even more secure, detailed information.

What tips can parents give students for safety at the bus stop?
Back-to-school season is a busy time for parents and children but it is important that parents and guardians sit their children down and talk about safe behaviors in and around the school bus. Here are some important safety tips to discuss with your children.

  • Be on time for your school bus and never run after or next to a bus.
  • If the windows are down on a hot day, keep your head and arms inside the bus.
  • Stay away from the Danger Zones. Areas within 10 feet to the front, back and sides of a bus are considered the most dangerous spots.
  • If you drop something near the bus, never bend down or crawl under the bus to get it – ask your bus driver for help.
  • If you must cross the street, always do so in front of the bus. Make sure the red lights are flashing and walk in front of the crossing gate arm that extends in front of the school bus.
  • Pay attention. Listen and look both ways before stepping off the bus or crossing the street. Don’t let sweatshirt hoods or headphones block your vision or hearing.

How can kids stay safe getting to and from the bus stop?
Parents and community members play a critical role in keeping children safe on their way to and from the bus stop. Awareness is our primary message to parents and motorist this time of year. Drivers haven’t had to share the road with school buses for a few months so they’re not used to seeing the flashing red lights and stop arms swinging out. We need everyone to be aware that when those amber lights come on, the bus is going to stop and there are kids up ahead that may be crossing. SchoolWheels Direct offers the following safety tips for parents and motorists:

Safety Tips for Parents – 
  • If you drop off or pick up your child at school, do not park in a bus only zone.  It may cause a collision and adds unnecessary risk to the safety of kids walking through a danger zone area.
  • Check your child’s clothing and backpack to make sure there are no loose drawstrings or long straps that could get caught in the handrail or bus door.
  • Make sure your child gets to the bus stop on time. The beginning of the school year holds a greater risk of students rushing to make their bus, since many have to get up earlier than they’re used to.

Safety Tips for Motorists –
  • Stop at least 10 feet away from a school bus that has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
  • Vehicles traveling in the same direction as the bus are required to stop when the red lights are flashing. In most states, vehicles moving in the opposite direction are also required to stop, unless a concrete barrier divides the road.
  • Never pass a school bus on the right side, where children enter or exit.
  • Remember that school vehicles must stop at all railroad crossings, whether or not a train is approaching.

What can parents do to encourage their district to implement SafeStop?
SafeStop is now available to school districts, other school bus contractors and directly to parents.The requirements for deployment are minimal in most cases and we encourage interested parents to visit our website and share the link with their school district administrators and transportation directors. Our SchoolWheels Direct team is happy to visit interested school districts and parent groups, and can conduct online demonstrations of the service. Spreading the word about the flexibility and availability of the service is the first step.

Freebies - Speakaboos Interactive Halloween Story!

Speakaboos is the award-winning mobile education platform that makes it fun and exciting for children to read on digital devices.

Whether on the computer, iPad, iPhone, Nabi or Leapfrog devise you and your children will enjoy reading some of the spook-tacular, interactive stories like the FREE Halloween classic, Frankenstein

Don't get TRICKED, Speakaboos is the only literacy platform with stories featuring your kid's favorite characters like Angelina Ballerina, Thomas the Train, Sid the Science Kid and so many other original and classic tales in their all inclusive monthly subscription.

About Speakaboos
Speakaboos is an award-winning mobile education platform for early childhood literacy and language learning.  Our mission is to build lifelong readers. Speakaboos features the largest catalog of interactive stories and songs developed by experts and delivered to children across all digital platforms.  Speakaboos is distributed to thousands of children in homes, schools and libraries globally in strategic partnership with the world’s largest education, media and technology companies.

Sweepstakes: Post Sugar Bear Bobblehead

Post Golden Crisp is giving away 200 bobbleheads of their iconic cereal mascot, Sugar Bear! Entering is easy, just visit the Facebook app via to enter to win! Fans can enter daily to increase their chances of winning!

Sugar Bear has been keeping it cool and crisp for more than 50 years! Don't miss your chance to win this exclusive collectable! 

For official rules, please click here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Parenting Pointers: Five Ideas to Help End Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As parents, teachers and kids join hands to raise awareness about how to prevent bullying and how to respond when it occurs, Wear the Cape—a brand that gives back and aims to restore the power of kindness and good character with cool, inspirational products and its non-profit the kidkind foundation—today shared, “5 Ideas to Help Bring Bullying to an End.” Compliments of the organization’s resident expert on character education, Philip Brown, PhD, the list provides valuable tips for understanding and dealing with bullying.
1.  Bullying always involves more people than the bully and the victim.
Bullying is a social phenomenon and in order to stop it, everyone needs to be involved. In most bullying incidents, studies show that four or more additional peers are present[1]. Some assist by joining in the ridiculing or cheering on the bully from the sidelines, and others encourage the bully by showing signs of approval such as laughing or just watching and doing nothing. 
What to do? Parents and teachers need to encourage kids to play an active part in their school community by providing opportunities to be positive role models of good character, exemplifying the values that connect people rather than divide them. Service projects that engage children across age levels and peer groups break down self-made barriers, create conditions to develop positive peer cultures, and help kids become upstanders rather than bystanders when it comes to bullying.
2. Adults should prevent bullying behaviors, not model them.
Most parents and teachers don't want their children or students to be victims of bullying. However, the authority and power adults have and need to guide and protect can also be used destructively. Correcting bad behavior is necessary, but putting kids down and indicating that they are bad kids or mocking their failings is bullying behavior that kids pick up on as okay and will learn to use on other kids themselves.
What to do? Correct the behavior, not the whole child. There is a big difference between "You didn't do your homework, and we've talked about that before. What happened?" and "You don't listen to me! What kind of a student do you think you are?"
3. Bullying and conflict are not the same thing.
Conflict inevitably happens between people trying to get their needs met, and this can result in disagreement and hurt feelings. When people have strong disagreements, aggressive behavior and responses result that may appear similar to bullying. But there is an important difference. In situations of conflict, both parties have a degree of power, and there is a dispute over resources or decisions; there is no intention to victimize a person based on some characteristic such as their ethnicity or physical attributes. Another difference is that, for bullies, the reward is largely social – increased status, power, attention or revenge – not about an event or tangible reward. Kids are still learning how to navigate the complex world of friendships, which also leads to disagreements. Part of the growing-up process is learning how to solve these problems.
What to do?  Don't assume that every conflict requires identifying a bully and a victim. Conflict is a natural part of being human, and conflict resolution is a skill that children and adults alike need practice navigating with care and resourcefulness. Make sure your family and school teach and have learned basic conflict resolution skills.
4. To break bullying cycles or patterns, learn to talk compassionately.
Picture this: One student with a speech impediment is being belittled, teased, and often interrupted during his classwork. To address this pattern, his classroom teacher facilitates an intentional conversation designed to both break the pattern and help the children involved understand the impact of their behavior. In talking about being mean, the teacher also engages and reinforces the natural sense of empathy with which we are all born, but we all have to learn about and practice by being compassionate with different people in different contexts.
What to do? Compassionate communication helps in navigating interpersonal relationships. But if bullying behavior persists, intervention is called for: The victim will need specific support, and the perpetrator will require specific consequences.
5.  Give youth a voice and exercise your own voice, too.
Harassment, intimidation and bullying behaviors among children and youth are a peer phenomenon, and so kids are usually reluctant to talk with adults about it. Families and schools need to build in times and structures to help facilitate youth talking about their experiences, both positive and negative. Young people need to feel like they have an adult to whom they can turn if they are the target of bullying. They also need ways to feel safe expressing concerns about their peers’ bad behavior with adults and their peers.
What to do? Families and schools can create the conditions for youth voice by developing and reinforcing widely-shared, positive social norms (core ethical values), providing ways for all students to make valued contributions to the well-being of others, and implementing programs that regularly give youth a chance to speak their minds in a safe environment. Ask your kids how things are going at school, and stay tuned for signs of trouble with peers. Let them know directly and indirectly that they are not alone and that you are available to help them. Encourage them to be kind to others who are different than they are. Let teachers and school officials know that you support their bullying prevention efforts and programs, and hold them accountable for responding with care and appropriate consequences when bullying occurs.
“Identifying the problem and creating awareness is a huge first step toward successfully overcoming a widespread crisis like bullying,” said Leigh Ann Errico, CEO and founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. “Wear the Cape aims to help society take the next big step, showing kids that the power of kindness and good character is far greater than the temporary, negative rewards achieved with bullying behavior, as well as what doing the right thing looks like.”
Errico built Wear the Cape and established the foundation in 2013 after she came up short in her search for resources on kindness and character-building that would appeal to her own four children. Other parents clearly had faced the same challenge; Wear the Cape’s Facebook page already has over 1,100 “Likes”, all through organic growth. The idea for the brand was sparked when Errico observed that the chance to wear a cape—the organization’s logo—motivates children to act like heroes, or “Cape Kids,” in order to live up to the symbol of honor.
In partnership with Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation, Dr. Brown has embarked on a critical mission to help adults across the country support the development of character in our youth.

About Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation
Wear the Cape™ for all kidkind™ is the first global, mission-powered brand with the nerve to equate being kind with being cool. By coaching kids to be BETTER THAN THAT™, Wear the Cape breaks down barriers and brings people together—a world of new values prevails: It’s cool to be inclusive, tolerant and socially responsible. From its line of apparel and accessories, to its educational tools and its own non-profit the kidkind foundation, Wear the Cape sparks awareness and raises money to build heroes, a kid at a time. Wear the Cape’s products and resources are designed to create teachable moments between kids and the grown-ups they look up to with Hero Tags that tee up conversations about what it means to stand up and stand out; to stick up for the underdog; to do what’s right, not what’s easy. Wear the Cape donates 10% of its net profits directly to the kidkind foundation, and the rest is reinvested in the design and production of new products, as well as character-building educational materials for parents and teachers to help the kids they love. Wear the Cape’s work with communities and schools is helping mold everyday heroes that will create a kinder, better world for us all.

Sweepstakes: Keystone Resort

Keystone Resort has long been a place where families rule; from specialty family-friendly après ski offerings to mountaintop snow forts, the resort is a winter wonderland that allows kids and parents alike to truly enjoy their well-earned vacation together. This season, the resort is once again upping the ante when it comes to the family ski experience with the Ultimate Family Adventure package. A six-night stay with five-days of on and off-snow fun, the Ultimate Family Adventure includes unique touches for every member of the family, guaranteed to create memories that will be shared for a lifetime.

Whether honing their ski or snowboard skills at Keystone’s award-winning Camp Keystone kids ski and ride school, zooming down our multi-lane mountaintop tubing hill, enjoying daily Kidtopia events and activities or cleaning their plates at a one-of-a-kind dining experience at Der Fondue Chessel, the hardest part for kids will be leaving at the end of this ultimate adventure. With excitement around every turn and experiences catered to the young—and young at heart—Keystone is a winter wonderland they’ll be begging to return to.

And while the permanent smiles on the kids’ faces may be enough to make the trip a success, adults will also have plenty to grin about with luxurious and convenient accommodations, on-snow instruction from Keystone’s best pros and award-winning dining experiences in locations that are as breathtaking as the food is delicious.

Keystone is giving one lucky family the chance to win the Ultimate Family Adventure with a drawing occurring Oct. 30, 2014, just one day before the resort opens for the 2014-15 ski season. Nomination information and full details are available on the Keystone Resort Facebook page. Any family looking for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience may visit for full details, and book the package by calling 877-800-3258.

Keystone’s Ultimate Family Adventure includes:
  • Six nights lodging at The Springs condominiums  
  • Five-day lift tickets for two adults
  • Five-day Kids Ski Free lift tickets
  • Adult private one day ski/snowboard lesson
  • Children’s one-day Camp Keystone ski/snowboard lesson
  • Catered meal or grocery delivery provided by Peak Provisions
  • One-day Family Private Lesson
  • Family Activities:
  • Ice skating
  • Adventure Point tubing
  • One-hour dog sledding
  • EpicMix racing
  • Mountaintop snow cat tour
  • Ready, Paint, Fire pottery painting
  • Nordic
  • Center trail admission and rental  

    Family Meals:
  • Dinner at Der Fondue Chessel
  • Sleigh Ride Dinner
  • Alpenglow Stube Lunch
  • Dinner at the Bighorn Bistro

    Specialty Night Out:
  • Dinner at the Ski Tip Lodge restaurant for two adults with in-room child care 

Soul Sustenance: Overrated

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Overrated  by Eugene Cho challenges the way many Christians think. She poses the question, "Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?" I think many people are. It's the type of complacence that allows us to feel good because we packed sandwiches for the homeless one day, but resist taxes that are designed to help lift the truly poor out of poverty.

I have to admit, I thought I was pretty good at really wanting the world to change, but this book showed me how much farther I could go. The book is at the same time convicting and challenging; without being so preachy that it made me want to stop reading.

You can learn more at the website above, especially the five-day challenge. This book and the challenge just may give you the impetus you need to make some real change.

Giveaway: Their Name is Today

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World is a book applicable to any parent - or anyone who influences the lives of children. It speaks to many hot-button issues today: testing, academic pressure, marketing, limited access to play and nature, and more. A lot of what author Johann Christoph Arnold wrote resonated with me. I'm fortunately that my daughters are in an environment without a great deal of standardized testing, and my husband and I limit their commercial influence. Both of us value play - so this book was really preaching to the choir and strengthened my resolve to continue those patterns.

I have a chance to give away a copy of the book. To enter, leave a comment by October 31st with the most negative influence you believe society has on kids today, and how you try to minimize its effects.

Pet Pointers: Emergency Preparedness

In the midst of National Preparedness Month, I wanted to share with you the results of a recent Pet360, Inc. survey of more than 5,000 pet owners. The goal of the survey was to identify just how many pet owners are adequately prepared to face a disaster or emergency evacuation with their pets. Is the importance of pet emergency preparedness something you would be interested in sharing with your readers on?
Key findings of the survey include:
·         The Danger Is Real
o   13% have been through a disaster or emergency evacuation with their pets.
o   Of those who have been through either scenario, 12% were separated from their pets.
·         Housing Is a Concern
o   When asked what they would do if pets were not allowed in a disaster relief shelter, 75% said they would look for alternate housing. Finding a place to stay in the aftermath of a disaster; however, can be difficult.
·         Pet Owners Are Not Prepared
o   46% do not have an emergency plan in place for their pets.
o   Of those who do have a plan, only 40% practice it with their pets.
o   Less than 35% have an emergency kit for their pets.
o   63% do not have Pet Alert stickers in their windows.
In support of National Preparedness Month, Pet360 and Red Paw Emergency Relief Team have pulled together the Four P’s of Pet Preparedness:
1.    Plan ahead – Many local and state health and safety regulations do not allow pets to accompany their owners to disaster shelters (Philadelphia DOES allow pets in disaster shelters). Determine the best evacuation plan, including where to go and how to get your pets there safely. Follow this emergency planning checklist, and you’ll be well-prepared.
2.    Practice with your pets The first step of any pet evacuation plan is to quickly and safely remove your pet from harm’s way. Your pet may be inclined to run and hide when disaster strikes, so be sure to rehearse a "come" command with your dog and identify a reliable way to find your cat, maybe by opening a can of food. Also practice putting your cat in a carrier and getting your dog in and out of the car. The more you practice, the more comfortable they'll be. 
3.    Pack an emergency kit Assembling an emergency go-kit well in advance of a disaster will ensure nothing gets left behind. Your pet emergency kit should include first aid supplies, proof of ownership, vaccination history, and at least one of your pet’s favorite toys or blankets. Not sure what else to pack? Check out Pet360's top 10 pet emergency kit items.
4.    Protect your pets when they’re home alone – Disasters can strike when you’re not home. Display a Pet Alert sticker on your front door or window to let first responders know how many pets are inside. Remember to include your veterinarian’s contact information.