Friday, August 7, 2020

Amazing Apps: Infantio

 Having a baby at home is never easy, but it’s never been harder than it is now. With a pandemic raging outside, gone are the days of mommy and me music classes, stroller fitness, infant swim, and story time.  Instead, cautious parents are spending their time at home with their little ones, looking every which way for activities to safely engage and occupy their babies. 

And many of them are finding infantio! Designed to stimulate infants’ minds from the get-go, this series of high-contrast animations capitalizes on the fact that babies are born with an innate expectation of how the physical world behaves, as well as the capacity to keep track of quantities and perform basic arithmetic. Simple puzzles, patterns, counting exercises, and mechanics demonstrations are designed to captivate the tiniest thinkers – without overstimulating them.

infantio’s animations include age-appropriate patterns and puzzles as well as physics and math demonstrations. An included session timer helps parents track and manage screen time, while a soothe mode pairs the animations with calming, classical music to help babies – and their parents! – unwind and relax. 

Learn more in this interview.

Why was infantio created?

I originally set out to create something that would engage my infant daughter long enough to put her down for a minute or two without feeling guilty for rotting her brain in front of a screen! But as I got into the project, I dove into the latest research on infant cognition and used it to create animations that stimulate and activate her tiny mind. The purpose of infantio is to engage and occupy infants, while using that time to enrich their minds by demonstrating key principles and concepts in an age-appropriate way.

What sets it apart from other apps designed for toddlers and young kids?

Infantio is designed specifically for infants, using the latest infant cognition research to design animations that resonate with that age. For example, infantio animations are created using a realistic physics engine, because research has shown that infants as young as three months of age have an understanding and expectation of the behavior of the physical world – so they will be able to relate what they see on-screen with what they see in the world. Moreover, each animation is not just visual noise – as is very common with infant apps – but instead illustrates a principle that the infant would recognize in the real world – in categories like puzzles, movements, counting, patterns and more. For example, many studies have shown that infants have an innate ability to perform simple counting and arithmetic – so we modeled our counting animations on the techniques used in these studies. infantio animations are also optimized for infant perception – using high-contrast black and white shapes (since babies are born color-blind and with blurry vision) and incorporating red, the first color infants see around three months of age. In addition, infantio's minimalist design avoids overstimulation and minimizes the risk of screen addiction down the line.

How can parents use apps like this in ways that enrich their child's development?

infantio is all about responsibly and effectively using technology to enrich child development. We recommend using infantio as part of a comprehensive cognitive development regimen. Screen time should be limited for children, and not used as substitute for other types activity – so it's best to use it to maximum benefit to stimulate budding minds – and infantio accomplishes that!
Help parents everywhere keep their babies busy – and learning! – by spreading the word about infantio, available for free in the App Store and streaming on

Roofing and Curb Appeal


Website Spotlight: iVoterGuide

 State primaries and local races around the nation are especially significant this election year, and iVoterGuide is helping to ensure that voters everywhere are informed before they head to the polls. 

“Regardless of how they cast their votes, Americans want accurate, well-researched information and trusted guidance in order to remove all uncertainty from the most important part of voting—making the right choice,” said iVoterGuide President Debbie Wuthnow. “The greatest threat to our republic is not delayed election results or even fraud, but ill-informed voters. Now more than ever, Americans need readable, honest, comprehensive facts about candidates and issues, such as our trusted voting guidance provides through just a couple of clicks.”

  • Voter guide in Minnesota that gives a report on candidates, information on voting (in-person or by mail), sample ballots and other crucial information.
  • From election dates to voter registration deadlines and polling locations, iVoterGuide has resources to help turn out 2.2 million voters across all 50 states in the 2020 primary and general elections in order to restore the principles of limited government, free enterprise and traditional American values. iVoterGuide is distributed through gold partners such as American Family Association Action and Family Research Council Action.
  • Providing the most comprehensive, educational information on nearly every race in the country, iVoterGuide has researched over 24,000 candidates in more than 11,000 races and offers sample ballots, voting information and candidate evaluations.  Learn more at


For more information on iVoterGuide, visit  or follow iVoterGuide on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Enriching Education: Work from Home and Homeschooling Tips from Lisa Collum

Whether you’re making the switch to distance learning by choice or necessity, one thing is certain--you can always use a little extra support. Lisa Collum, author, educator, school owner and mother of four, is a motivational leader on a mission to make your quarantine schooling as effective as possible. For over a decade she’s been helping kids get a grip on writing through public and virtual teaching, the launch of her own private school, and her creation of Top Score Writing, Inc.--a nationally utilized writing curriculum for 2nd-12th grades.

As an educator and mompreneur, Lisa is a wealth of information and would be an invaluable resource concerning:
  • How to make working from home while homeschooling work for you
  • How to keep kids safe in the social distancing classroom
  • How to create your own backyard classroom
  • How to keep kids engaged in school at home
  • How to inspire a love for writing
  • How to build your confidence as a homeschool teacher

I had a chance to interview her to learn more.

How can parents balance work and their kids' education if their children are learning from home?
The most important thing you can do is create a schedule. Set times for breakfast, reading lessons, math lessons, lunch, science lessons, writing lessons, etc. When planning to work from home and scheduling out the day, think about the whole day. Online school usually does not take as long as a regular school day. Most kids are done within 3-4 hours (depending on the grade level). Even with breaks built in throughout the day, most kids will be done working by 12pm or 1pm each day. That still leaves another 6-8 hours before bedtime. If we think about the whole day, we can build a schedule and routines from morning until late evening. For working parents, the afternoon hours after the school day is completed can be difficult and quite hectic if the kids have nothing to do. My suggestion is to schedule out the entire day. Once you have the schedule set, post it up in the house somewhere just like it is posted somewhere in the classroom. Refer to it throughout the day and make sure you "train" your kids on the different times and what activities they should be doing. This will make life easier for the parents AND the kids!

What benefit does a backyard classroom provide and how can parents set one up?
Backyard classrooms are great because they allow for kids to have a change of environment while still learning. In school, students are usually required to work in the classroom at a desk. With backyard classrooms, students can work in various areas. They can lay a blanket down and read under a tree, they can complete math work on the front or back porch, they can complete science lessons outside with nature using real life applications, or can simply write in their daily journals while sitting comfortably on patio furniture. Changing the environment is important for kids so they are not confined to a desk and are able to move around freely while enjoying the outdoors. To set this up, designate areas outside for various subjects and activities. Have tables, blankets and chairs ready as needed. Encourage outside time, hands-on activities, and lots of movement.

How can parents keep kids engaged in education without the physical presence of their class?
Depending on the age, use the same systems that are used in the classroom such as sticker charts, classroom clip charts and checklists. Parents can easily create small sticker charts for younger kids. For kids a little older, make a clip chart that allows kids to be able to move up and down for staying on track and completing tasks. Checklists are great because it allows students to be accountable. They know exactly what needs to be done each day and can mark it off as they complete it.

For the social interaction part, set up Zoom meetings with friends. When you set up these meetings, try to have games prepared or themes for them. Most kids get on Zoom and don’t say much, but they will participate if there is a game. For theme days, you can have them dress up. For example, you could have a princess theme day for girls and a superhero theme day for boys.

Also, try to incorporate working together on class homework and assignments. Get a friend or two and set up a Zoom time for them to come together and complete their assignments. This works well for older kids too. They all need the social interaction and the feeling of being part of a “class.”

What are things parents can do if their kids are getting their distance learning work done and still have a lot of hours in the day?
Create center activities around the house. Set up a small board with various “centers” such as arts and crafts, screen time, outside play, board games, exercise, chores, dinner, etc. Next, assign times for each center such as 1:00pm-1:30pm arts and crafts, 1:30pm-2:00pm screen time, 2:00pm-2:30pm outside play, and so on. Then just set up the center area before the start of the day and have all the supplies ready. For instance, set up an arts and crafts area with baskets of supplies. That way the kids will know each day for arts and crafts time they work at that area and will already have all the supplies ready to use. If you set up 6-8 centers that will last about 30 minutes each, your kids will be busy for another 3-4 hours after they have completed their schoolwork! This is all part of establishing a routine. If they know where to go and when, it makes for a more productive day.

To learn more, visit or follow her IG @lisacollumceo.


Lisa Collum is an author, educator, and mother of four on a mission to empower parents to give their children the education they deserve. She is the owner and operator of Coastal Middle and High School in Florida and the creator of Top Score Writing, Inc.--the ONE and ONLY writing curriculum for grades 2-12 specifically designed to prepare students for the state writing assessment.

Book Nook: The Adventures of Molly Smith

Melinda Shabani may still be a child, but she has achieved more than most could in a lifetime. She was one of six children recognized by Prince Harry at the WellChild Awards, and was a 2019 TruLittle Entrepreneur Hero.


But most importantly, she achieved all of this while battling a genetic family disorder that, while invisible, brings many unique challenges to Melinda’s life.


In her new book, ‘The Adventures of Molly Smith’, Melinda takes inspiration from her own life to tell a vital and entertaining story about special family needs.




The Adventures of Molly Smith is a fictional storybook written by an inspirational young author. It is not only suitable for your children, but for you too, as you learn how to make positive changes in your life.


Molly Smith is a young girl who has big aspirations of owning her own business. A chance meeting with Prince Harry changes her life forever.


“Melinda is a very special, extremely gifted young girl who has overcome her health struggles to thrive as a celebrated young entrepreneur and author,” explains Mana Shabani. “She wanted to use the book to address our family medical condition, and for it to be a source of comfort and empowerment for others. It worked! In fact, it even caught the attention of legendary Bollywood director Jagame Thandhiram.”


Continuing, “Our entire family lives a very high-risk life, but we all choose to live as healthily as possible so we can be a good example for those around us. Melinda exceeds this goal, by becoming one of the most inspirational children in the country! We’d encourage everyone to buy a copy of this book, as it shares a very important message that all ages will resonate with.”


‘The Adventures of Molly Smith’ is available now:


Purchase the author’s first book, ‘Friendship Guide’, here:


Official website:

Fun Freetime: iHeartRadio Saturday Morning Dance Party Presented by Lil' Critters

lc dance party.png

Opportunity: Enter below for the chance to be featured in iHeartRadio’s Saturday Morning Dance party! On Saturday August 22 and August 29, the all new family friendly event will be taking place for children across the US!


Introducing the iHeartRadio’s Saturday Morning Dance Party Presented by L’il Critters, America’s #1 Kid’s Gummy Vitamin Brand.


Click here to enter:


WHATThe winner will be featured in iHeartRadio’s Saturday Morning Dance Party on Saturday, August 22 at 11:00am ET! Limit to one (1) entry per person/email address/household per day during the Sweepstakes Period. Winner will be chosen on or about August 11th. 


Bonus Entry: Follow @lilcrittersgummies on Instagram.


No Purchase Necessary to enter or win. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Entry period starts 8/4/2020 and ends on 8/10/2020 at 11:59pm ET. Official sweepstakes rules can be found here.


WHO: The dance parties will feature music from Mellodees, a musically driven entertainment platform committed to connecting with children and parents through engaging content and fresh sounds entertainment platform committed to connecting with children and parents through engaging content and fresh sounds, with music produced by superstar artist and producer, MarshmelloThe episodes will feature L’il Critters’ Cody The Bear and Melodees’ animated character, Dee, as children and families across the country groove to exclusive renditions of classic children songs from Marshmello’s Melodees including “ABC’s Song” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Twinkle Twinkle” and “Wheels On The Bus.”

WHEN:The two-week special will stream on Saturday, August 22 and 29 at 11am EST


WHERE: The dance parties will take place on iHeartRadio’s Facebook Page.

Area Attractions: WonderWorks Syracuse

On August 7, 2020, the Canyon Climb ropes course and WonderWorks laser tag arena will be opening to the public. This is following a 5-month closure due to COVID-19. Though these two attractions have been given clearance to open, the rest of the WonderWorks facility will not be open at this time.


Canyon Climb Adventure is a three-story ropes course that features over 80 obstacles, including swinging steps, lily pads, a tremor bridge, and more. Participants must be at least 42” tall to participate. Closed shoes are required, and no skirts or dresses are permitted.


Laser Tag gives everyone the ability to strap on a vest and venture into a black-lit maze, competing in a fast-paced and action-packed friendly competition. This is fun for the whole family.


Tickets for both can be purchased online or at the WonderWorks box office. The current hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am to 7 pm.


WonderWorks is taking special COVID-19 safety precautions, which include social distancing between parties, hand sanitizer stations throughout, face covering requirements, and additional cleaning procedures for the equipment. For a full list of COVID-19 safety measures, visit:




2 Destiny USA Drive Syracuse, NY





Canyon Climb ropes course takes family fun to new heights right in the heart of Destiny USA. Standing over 70 feet tall, visitors will explore three levels of ropes with over 80 different obstacles to overcome. Conquer your fears and get an adrenaline rush at the top of the World’s Largest Suspended Indoor Ropes Course. Canyon Climb is located on the third level of the Canyon section of Destiny USA. Tickets can be purchased at the WonderWorks box office. For more information, visit and follow @WonderWorksDestiny on Facebook, @WonderWorksDUSA on Twitter, and @WonderWorks_dusa on Instagram.

Parenting Pointers: Dog-days of Summer Pool Cleaning Tips

By Pool Troopers


Summer heat has more of an impact on your pool than you may guess, so here are our best summer cleaning tips to avoid problems like cloudy water or algae.


Mind the equipment

When the weather is hot, it’s very important that your pool equipment is operating efficiently. Your main pool pump should be running at least 10-12 hours per day, and if you have a salt system or a variable speed pump running at lower rpms, it should run even longer. Be sure to keep your filter backwashed and cleaned regularly to make sure it's operating correctly.


Keep the algae at bay

Most algae is caused by low sanitizer (chlorine) levels. It is much easier to prevent them than to treat them. This is why you need to maintain your chemical levels and check them at least weekly and brush the pool regularly.


Dry and store you pool cover

A pool cover left in the sun can become easily damaged. Algae and moss thrive in warm and wet environments, and a vinyl or plastic cover that’s left in the sun can easily be torn. Covers should be dried off and left in a cool, dark and dry place.


Remove debris frequently

More summertime swimmers add dirt and debris to the water; check and clean your hair and lint pot in your filtration pump and the skimmer basket weekly. Blooming trees and plants can drop flora and pollen into your pool, so skim your pool at least once weekly with a net. Remove debris that has fallen to the bottom of your pool with a brush, deep leaf net or a pool vacuum—or hire a service you trust!


Shock the water more often

Test your pool water’s chemistry twice a week and treat accordingly. Pay special attention after a very hot day or a period of heavy pool usage. Ensure a steady flow of chlorine into the pool--and extra chlorine may be needed if you notice cloudy or hazy water or algae is present in the pool. Reduce pH levels and shock the pool. After cleaning up the mess, service the filter and rebalance your water’s pH.


Maintain pool equipment as needed

Since pool equipment is used much more frequently, it’s important to make sure that it’s always in good condition and has been properly serviced. The operation of your heaters, vacuums, pumps and filtration systems should be checked before being put to use full-time.


Hire a maintenance professional

If you’re too busy or unable to perform the extra necessary care, consider hiring a professional to provide extra maintenance in the summer months. A little extra help is all that’s necessary to keep your pool in great shape during the summer.


Regular preventative measures and pool maintenance will ensure that your swimming pool can be enjoyed by friends and family all summer long.

Retailers and Restaurants Requiring Masks

In an effort to keep you informed and prepared, RetailMeNot has prepared a running list below of retailers, restaurants and gyms requiring shoppers to wear face coverings. 

Stores Requiring Face Masks

Walmart Requires Face Masks
  • Albertsons: The grocery company, which also owns Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Randalls, United Supermarkets and Star Market, requires all shoppers to wear face masks starting July 21.
  • ALDI: The grocer requires shoppers to wear face masks at all its stores as of July 27. If you’re unable to wear a mask, opt for home deliveries and curbside pickup. 
  • American Eagle: The fashion retailer requires customers to wear masks in its stores and provides masks to shoppers without one.
  • Apple: The iPhone and iPad seller announced May 17 that it would require face masks and temperature checks for those coming to its stores that are open.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond: As of July 24, Bed Bath & Beyond will require all customers to wear a face covering.
  • Best Buy: Starting July 15, the electronics retailer requires customers to wear face masks, with small children and those unable to wear a mask for health reasons exempt from the policy.
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club: As of July 20, shoppers must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose while shopping, with children under 2 exempt.
  • Circle K: The convenience store requires customers to wear face masks in its stores starting July 20.
  • Costco: Back in early May, Costco mandated workers and customers wear masks at its stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, exempting small children and those with medical conditions that preclude wearing a mask. 
  • CVS: The pharmacy requires all customers to wear face coverings at its stores, starting July 20.
  • Dierbergs Markets: This Midwest grocery chain mandates that customers wear masks as of July 20, excluding those under the age of 9 and those with medical conditions that prevent them from covering their faces. 
  • GameStop: The retailer asks that all customers wear face coverings when shopping in its stores as of July 27. Customers without masks can shop online and use curbside pickup.
  • Gap: Starting August 1, North America Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Intermix and Janie and Jack stores require shoppers to wear masks.  Small children and those with an underlying medical condition are exempt.
  • H-E-B: Starting July 1, all customers in stores must wear face masks.
  • Home Depot: Starting July 22, Home Depot enforces that shoppers wear masks or facial coverings inside its U.S. stores. Social distancing “captains” and store associates can provide masks to anyone without one, the company said.
  • JCPenney: The retailer requires customers wear face masks at its stores across the U.S. as of July 27
  • Kohl’s: As of July 20, Kohl’s requires customers to wear a face mask in its stores.
  • Kroger: As of July 22, you must wear a face covering when shopping at this grocery chain. Small children are exempt, and those who can’t comply due to a medical condition have alternatives, such as face shields or pickup or delivery services. 
  • Lowe’s: As of July 20, Lowe’s requires shoppers to wear face masks at its stores across the U.S. It will even provide masks for free, while supplies last.
  • Macy’s: Shoppers must wear face masks in Macy’s stores as of July 22. 
  • Menards: The regional hardware chain Menards is requiring all guests to wear masks in its stores.
  • MeijerAs of July 20, Meijer mandates face masks at super centers and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
  • Office Depot: Effective July 20, customers are required to wear face coverings while shopping at any Office Depot and OfficeMax store.
  • PetSmartAll shoppers must wear face masks in PetSmart stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
  • Publix: The supermarket chain requires all customers to wear face coverings as of July 21, exempting small children and those with medical conditions who are unable to wear masks.
  • Sam’s Club: The wholesale club requires customers to wear masks as July 20, with associates posted at entrances to offer free masks.
  • Schnuck Markets: The grocer requires masks as of July 20 at its locations in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. Young children and those with medical conditions and unable to wear a face covering are excluded from the rule.
  • Staples: Effective July 27, face coverings are now required for all associates and customers entering a Staples, unless exempt due to age or medical condition.
  • Target: The popular store requires all shoppers, except small children and those with underlying health conditions, to wear masks as of August 1.
  • T.J.Maxx: Starting July 30, all guests in stores must wear face coverings.
  • Trader Joe’s: The supermarket requires shoppers to wear face masks, but exempts small children and those unable due to a medical condition.
  • Verizon: All customers are required to wear cloth face coverings inside stores.
  • Walmart: All shoppers must wear a face covering as of July 20 at Walmart’s U.S. stores. Walmart “health ambassadors” in black polo shirts are stationed at entrances to help enforce the policy, Walmart says.
  • Whole Foods Market: All grocery customers must wear face masks as of July 20, with masks provided at entrances for those without them.
  • Winn-Dixie: Winn-Dixie’s parent company, Southeastern Grocers, requires shoppers to wear masks at its stores as of July 27. 
  • World Market: Face coverings are required in order to enter stores.

Restaurants Requiring Face Masks

Chipotle Requires Face Masks
  • Cheddar’s: All Darden-owned chains require face masks when not seated at your table.
  • Chipotle: All diners must wear masks or facial coverings in Chipotle restaurants.
  • Dunkin’: Starting August 5, all guests must wear a face mask while inside Dunkin’ locations. “For anyone who is unable to wear a face covering because of a medical condition or disability, we encourage you to utilize some of the other ways to grab your Dunkin’ favorites, including Dunkin’ delivery, curbside pickup or pick-up at our drive-thru,” says Dunkin’.
  • Longhorn Steakhouse: Owned by Olive Garden parent company, Darden, Longhorn Steakhouse also requires guests to wear masks when they aren’t at their tables. Curbside pickup is an option, though, too.
  • McDonald’s: On July 24, McDonald’s announced it would require customers to wear masks in its restaurants starting August 1.
  • Noodles & Company: Effective July 22, Noodles & Company posted an update on its website announcing it would require all customers to wear face coverings in company-owned locations.
  • Olive Garden: The Italian eatery asks that all guests wear face masks when not seated at their table.
  • Panera: On July 15, Panera updated its coronavirus safety policy to require guests to wear masks in its cafes. “Masks are required at all times, except while seated and eating or drinking. If any customer does not have or want to wear a mask for any reason, we will happily serve them via Panera Curbside, Delivery or Drive-Thru.”
  • Shake Shack: Masks are required for all guests, team members and delivery couriers. (Except when eating and drinking!)
  • Starbucks: The coffee shop is enforcing masks at company-owned U.S. stores starting July 15. Customers without masks can order at a drive-thru, curbside pickup or have Starbucks delivered.

Gyms Requiring Face Masks

Planet Fitness Requires Face Masks

Planet Fitness: All gym members must wear masks while inside Planet Fitness clubs starting August 1.