Our blog is regularly updated by our staff and a host of guest writers. Our goals are to entertain and inform you on topics that are relevant to our age group. Of course, we write about books, music and video, but we also want to share our personal stories about our own parenting or caregiving experiences and some insights on being a grandparent.

A timeless story about love

March 20th, 2013

A true classic, The Runaway Bunny was first published in 1942 and has never been out-of-print. Generations of little ones have been enchanted by the magic of the story and the simple but captivating drawings.

The story is focused on a mother’s love and her little one’s need for independence. The pictures are hand-drawn and alter between small black-and-white sketches and much larger colored illustrations. Words are found only on the black-and-white pages so the pages with the color pictures will encourage your child to use their imagination.

The pictures are a portrayal of what the little bunny and his mother are seeing together. There is repetition in the dialogue between the little bunny and his mother that helps support an understanding of the story.

My young grandkids love this book. It’s a great springtime read that gets them excited about new beginnings. We went to the zoo this past weekend and visited the area where you can interact with the animals. They loved petting the sheep and making faces at the cows, but their favorite was stroking and cooing over the young bunny families.

What is your little one’s favorite springtime book?

–Joan

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: A Little Help from My Friends DVD Giveaway

December 20th, 2012

Teach kids about the importance of friendship with the Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! DVD. Giveaway ends December 30, 2012.

About Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: A Little Help from My Friends 

Wow! Wow! Wobbzy is an Emmy-winning educational series designed for Preschool aged children – but that doesn’t mean their older siblings, parents, and grandparents won’t also love this adorable video. It has six episodes with two bonus episodes, each with an important life lesson for your child, and fun songs to help with retention. The songs are frequent and quite catchy – you’ll find yourself singing along with your child!

In the title episode, A Little Help From Your Friends, Wubbzy’s friends end up helping him with each task he is performing – even though he doesn’t ask for help.  Wubbzy says ‘thank you’ but isn’t very happy; he wants to do something all by himself. After taking on the large project of making a cake for his friends – and making an exceptionally large mess – Wubbzy learns that accepting help from his friends is not only okay, but often makes things much easier and faster. Help your child understand the lessons in each episode by asking questions about how the lesson may be relevant to his or her life or situation. For instance, has your child ever put off their chores and dealt with bigger consequences, like Woobzy does in Clean Sweep? Has your child every tried to be something or someone they are not, like Walden does in Mr. Cool, only to learn it’s much easier to just be themselves?

Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Our Favorite Holiday Books

December 19th, 2012

There are few things better in life than snuggling up on a cold winter’s night and sharing a book or two with a child. Take a few minutes to escape to a magical world through the pages of a book and you may even find yourself feeling like a kid again. Grab some blankets, make a cup of hot cocoa and select your favorite books for a memory-making night with your little one.

Need some suggestions for new books? Here are a few of our favorite holiday titles:

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers – Age 4 and up 

Show your little one this ageless classic in an easy-to-understand story, so that they can learn the enchantment of The Nutcracker and graduate when they’re ready to the longer versions and the ballet. Susan Jeffers has succeeding in simplifying the story so a child can truly follow along and understand. This book reads like a fairy tale where Marie is the ‘princess’, the Nutcracker is certainly the prince, and Fritz and the Rat King are the antagonists. Right away, your child will notice the texture on the cover, as Marie’s hair is heavily sprinkled with glitter. The pictures inside are drawn and painted in a plentiful array of colors and shading, with Marie’s eyes detailed to the point of seeming real. Each page is filled with activity and details, from the giant Christmas tree flushed with ornaments, to the delectable details of the Land of Sweets, so be prepared to read slow and allow your little one time to fully take in each page.

 Read our full review here.
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The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden – Age 5 and up

“This is a story about wishing,” begins The Story of Holly & Ivy, and it is the wishes of several people that come together one Christmas morning for a miracle. Ivy is a orphan longing for a doll and a grandmother to love. Mrs. Jones is a police officer’s wife longing for a little girl to love. Holly is a Christmas doll longing for a little girl to play with her. Each two-page spread contains at least a page of text allowing for wonderfully detailed descriptions and a more complete story. The illustrations are also wonderfully detailed and realistic scenes from an old English town.

Read our full review here.

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Merry Christmas, Curious George! by Catherine Hapka and H.A. and Margret Rey – Age 4 and up

Everyone’s favorite primate is back with more monkey mayhem in this holiday edition. What starts as a simple trip to the tree farm with the Man in the Yellow Hat quickly turns into an adventure for Curious George when two hospital workers cut down the tree he was in and take the tree (with George still hanging on to it) back to the hospital. Preschool-age children will fall in love with George all over again as he decorates the tree with the best of intentions and yet finds himself in trouble with the hospital staff. Like all Curious George books, there’s a happy ending and everyone has a good chuckle. The illustrations are classic and sure to elicit a few laughs along the way.

Read our full review here.

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The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson – Age 3 and up

Lauren Thompson’s The Christmas Magic is a story that takes a new look at a familiar character. It follows Santa’s preparations for Christmas, as he holds himself with a quiet dignity and waits for the Christmas magic to carry his sleigh away. The illustrations are beautiful and unique, and the story will likely become one of your holiday favorites.

Read our full review here.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – Age 4 and up

No holiday book collection is complete without the classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! This story of Whoville and its Grinch with a heart two sizes too small has been entertaining children since 1957. The illustrations are typical Suess-style sketches, primarily in black and white with just two shades of orange sprinkled in for emphasis, leaving plenty of room for young imaginations to take over. The unique Seussical rhyming patterns and repetition in words are the focus of the book and ideal for getting children interested and involved in reading. They will soon learn the repetition and be able to pipe in and ‘read along.’

 Read our full review here.

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What’s your favorite holiday book? How many of these titles have you read? Which books haven’t you read but would like to read?

Tell us in a blog comment for a chance to win a set of Veggie Tales DVDs during our December Blog Comment Contest. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on January 1, 2013 and notified via email. Good luck!

Holiday Crafts for Preschoolers

December 18th, 2012

I can’t begin to tell you how many holiday arts and crafts projects I have created over the years as a nanny. Although I spend countless hours throughout the year helping small hands make timeless artwork, there’s something special about the holiday projects. Kids can create a special gift for Mom or Dad or create an ornament that will hang on the branches of their Christmas tree for years to come.

Salt Dough Handprint Ornaments

One of my personal favorites, while not necessarily a holiday project, makes a wonderful keepsake for little ones to give to their parents. Create lasting memories of childhood with these easy-to-make dough handprints and capture the beauty of tiny hands forever. You can even make this into an ornament to hang on the tree!

Need a recipe for the dough? Check out AllRecipes.com. Then gently take the child’s hand with fingers spread wide and press it into the dough. Bake at 325 degrees until hard (about an hour), cool and then decorate with paint, glitter or other art supplies.

For other fun holiday ideas, check out our Pinterest board: Winter/Christmas Ideas.

–Abby

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What’s your favorite holiday craft to make with your kids?

Share in a blog comment for a chance to win a set of Veggie Tales DVDs. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on January 1, 2012 and notified via email. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

The Berenstain Bears: Fun Family Adventures Giveaway

December 13th, 2012

Do you remember reading the Berenstain Bears as a child? Now your kids can enjoy the adventures of the lovable bear family in video form! We are giving away a DVD copy of Berenstain Bears: Fun Family Adventures. Giveaway ends December 17, 2012.

About Berenstain Bears: Fun Family Adventures

This collection of episodes from the Berenstain Bears contains six different tales. Despite the fact that the heroes of the show are bears, all of them focus on activities and situations that kids will relate to. The show demonstrates the value of family and displays creativity which makes the stories a lot of fun.

The conflicts addressed in these episodes will touch on some themes that will be familiar to your little one, such as spending time with grandparents or mom going to work. The bears demonstrate that change is a part of everyday life, and they suggest ways that will help kids understand the situations that are taking place around them.

Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Seeing the Holidays Through the Eyes of a Child

December 10th, 2012

The holiday season is one of the best times of the year to be a nanny. Since I don’t have kids myself (unless you count my two dogs, who often act like children), it’s a joy to be able to witness the excitement of the season through a child’s eyes. It’s easy as an adult to get swept up in the stress of buying gifts and planning parties but spending time with kids allows me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the holidays.

Yesterday I watched 4-year-old Lilah for the first time while her parents spent the afternoon Christmas shopping. Despite only just meeting me, Lilah quickly warmed up and enjoyed playing tour guide as she showed me the hiding spots of her “Elf y Girl.” I’ve only recently heard of “Elf on a Shelf” but I love the concept of it. As I understand it, the elf hides in a different spot every night and the child searches the house each morning. On the day that I visited, the elf chose to perch on top of a 4-foot-tall toy giraffe.

Showing off the Christmas tree ornaments is another favorite activity of the kids that I babysit. Everyone has a favorite ornament, whether it’s sentimental or simply pretty. Some kids love their handmade candy cane reindeers, others love the extra glittery snowflakes but there’s always a story behind the favorite and I love to hear about it.

–Abby

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What’s your (or your child’s)  favorite ornament? Do you have an “Elf on the Shelf” at your house?

Tell us in a blog comment for a chance to win a set of Veggie Tales DVDs in our December Blog Comment Contest. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on January 1, 2013 and notified via email. Good luck!

 

The Best of Elmo DVD Giveaway

December 6th, 2012

It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t love Elmo. Surprise your little one this holiday season with a special stocking stuffer DVD: The Best of Elmo. Enter by December 10, 2012 for your chance to win!

About The Best of Elmo

Sesame Street is one of those classics from your own childhood that is still just as popular today. If your child loves Sesame Street, and Elmo in particular, this video will bring a smile to their face every time. The primary motif throughout the video is ‘imagination’. Elmo shows his friends colored pictures and explains how he used his imagination to draw them, and how imagination can bring them to life. Each picture inspires a song and dance, which vary from tap dancing to rapping. The subjects of the songs include numbers, body parts, sounds in nature, the different between heavy and light, and the fun of imagination – of course! Elmo also interacts with guests like Julie Roberts, Whoopie Goldberg, and Sesame Street stars like Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleufagus.

Your child will love to clap, dance, and sing along. Ernie teaches Elmo the name of all the parts on his face, which your little one can point to along with Ernie; mouth, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, cheek and chin, “each in its place, and they’re all part of one fine face.” There are lots of lessons for your child in this video. For example, Elmo shares with each of his friends by letting them keep their favorite picture of the ones Elmo drew – even his last picture. Elmo also shares his song with Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleufagus. Elmo even touches on a more serious topic with guest Whoopie Goldburg, by complementing her on how her skin color and hair are very different from his own, but also very beautiful. Whoopie and Elmo agree that they like their differences and wouldn’t want to trade even if they could because they are happy with the way they look. This is a great lesson of loving one’s self and accepting others.

Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s All About Tradition

December 5th, 2012

This past weekend was one of the best in a long time, and it was all thanks to simple traditions. My family set up our Christmas tree, which is one of my all-time favorite family events. Despite the fact that my husband and I are not religious, we continue celebrating Christmas each year due to the traditions and memories around it. We both grew up in Christian homes and had parents who created warm, loving memories around this major holiday. Decorating the tree was a favorite for us both, so we’ve chosen to continue this, blending our families’ methods and creating a few of our own to pass on to our daughter.

I have always insisted on setting the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, barely able to even wait that long to start the fun of the anticipation of the holiday. My husband always rolled his eyes at my childlike excitement, but he always indulged me and hauled the tree out of the storage unit for me as soon as the turkey leftovers were put away.

We would then proceed to debate over white versus colored light; he was in favor of all white lights, saying it was more “classy.” I like the colored lights because it’s more “classic” – at least in my family. After the first two years of debates, we agreed to switch each year. Same with garland; I like it, he doesn’t, so every other year it goes on the tree. We used to put the ornaments on one at a time, talking about the story behind each one and explaining why it should be located on the tree wherever we’d put it. It was a several hour-long process that usually involved a glass of Bailey’s and milk or a couple glasses of wine.

This year, things were different. It is technically our daughter’s second Christmas, but considering that she was only three weeks old last year, we’re counting this as her first ‘real’ Christmas, as she actually notices and cares what’s going on around her this time.

We were a few days late getting the tree up due to other life events going on, but we did still manage to get it up in the Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t mind one bit being a couple of days ‘late’, as we had still spend the whole weekend together as a family and had a great time.

We’ve had a fake tree the past six years, and as we were putting it together we both agreed that this would be our last year going the faux route. Even though a real tree will be a challenge with a toddler and two dogs, the authenticity and feeling of a real tree is worth it. We want our daughter to experience picking out her own tree, and then enjoying the smell of it every day for a month, and participating in the clean up of it. What a wonderful way to help celebrate and fully appreciate the hard work that goes into such an ornate decoration.

Once the tree was up, we had it wrapped up in lights and garland within ten minutes. Easily a record. The speed was partially due to trying to get it all up before out daughter became too entangled in it, but also because there was no debating over whose year it was. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it was my husband’s year for his white lights, but he didn’t even hesitate to grab the colors and start stringing them.

“She likes the colors,” he said smiling and nodding toward our daughter who was fascinated with a string of colored lights already plugged in. I smiled back and started unpacking the ornaments.

We only had about half an hour to get the ornaments up, as it was nearing our daughter’s dinnertime, but half an hour ended up being just perfect. We picked out the breakable ornaments, or those with sharper edges, and hung them high, while adorning the bottom limbs with the soft and sturdier decorations. It only took about ten minutes. We spent the remaining twenty watching her explore the tree, pulling at the ornaments set low for her, and smiling with her when she found the ones that jingle. It was the best tree decorating time we’d ever had as a family.

I am already excited to continue the tree-gazing tradition with my daughter, as she and I always get up a few hours earlier than the rest of the house. We usually rock and read in the living room before some quiet play and breakfast. For the next month, however, we’ll be snuggling up in the den and admiring the tree together, just as my mom did with me. I know I am more excited about it than her this year, but I’m hoping this will become a tradition she loves as much as I have all these years.

–Audra

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What was your baby’s first Christmas like?

Share your experience in a blog comment for a chance to win a set of Veggie Tales DVDs in our December Blog Comment Contest.

One lucky winner will be randomly selected on January 1, 2012 and notified via email. Good luck!

 

 

A Season of Fun

December 3rd, 2012

Now that it’s officially December, I’m ready to embrace the spirit of the holidays. I know Christmas decorations have been on display in the stores since September but I tune out any mention of it until after Halloween and Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, please!

As I get ready to decorate the house for the holidays, I thought I’d share a few of the Christmas festivities that I’m most looking forward to this year.

*Hosting a Holiday Party – This year will be my first official holiday party. I’ve been busy researching fun treats and drinks on Pinterest (check out our Christmas/Winter board for some ideas) and wonder how people made these important decisions in the days before Pinterest. Since the party is semi-formal, I’ve also been searching for a new holiday dress for myself and even bought a pretty snowflake dress for my pug. Yes, even my dog will partake in the festivities.

*Visiting the Happiest Place on Earth - Since moving to San Diego two years ago, I’ve made it a tradition to visit Disneyland each December with my boyfriend to enjoy the holiday decorations and take photos with the characters in their festive outfits. Disneyland is magical all year but there’s an extra touch of beauty and fantasy at Christmas.

*Sharing the Season with My Pups – While I had a five-month-old Italian mastiff last Christmas, we didn’t add the pug to the family until January. I’m thrilled to share the holidays with both my dogs this year. In fact, we’ll be spending a lot of time together as we, along with my boyfriend, make the 1,200+ mile journey by car from San Diego to Seattle. But at least we don’t have to board the dogs over the holidays.

*Seeing Family and Friends - Along our journey north, we’re going to stop in Sacramento to visit my boyfriend’s dad, Salem to see his mom and Seattle, where my family and friends live. Although it’s sure to be a whirlwind trip, we’re hoping to see as many people as we can!

–Abby

 

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What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

Tell us in a blog comment for a chance to win a three Veggie Tales DVDs during our December Blog Comment Contest. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on January 1, 2013 and notified via email. Good luck!

 

 

Winter Memories From Childhood

November 28th, 2012

When I think of winter, I think of my childhood. Although I was lucky enough to grow up in the Pacific Northwest, where we experience all four seasons to their fullest, winter was always my favorite. There’s no one reason why, but an amalgamation of the experiences that came with cold and snowy months.

My hometown used to get several feet of snow every year, so I have plenty of memories of building snowmen and snow forts. The forts were my favorite, as my brothers would spend hours carving out these giant dens and tunnels, and when they were finally tired and went inside to play, my best friend Sarah and I would sneak in and play ‘house’. Oh, what my brothers would have done if they knew their snowball fight army layers doubled as play kitchens and laundry rooms where we fed and cared for our ‘snow babies’ (mini snowmen we made).

The snow didn’t usually come until after Thanksgiving, but I remember one year when, just after dark, the biggest flakes I’d ever seen started falling from the sky. They were so big and fluffy that when we could stick our tongues out and have just one or two land on it, trap it in our mouth, and actually taste the few drops of water it melted into. My parents let us flail around in the front yard, giggling and catching snowflakes until we were thoroughly soaked. That year, Thanksgiving dinner smelled better than ever through my red frozen nose. That memory returns to me every Thanksgiving evening, just as the sun goes down.

I also loved the two weeks we got off of school for the holidays. Both of my parents worked at that point, so my oldest brother babysat our middle brother and me. We spent hours every day using the Christmas tree as a pretend world, where our Lego men explored alongside the ornaments that came to life in our minds. I wish I had pictures of the Lego forts we built and propped up in the tree in the crooks of the branches.

My oldest brother also showed us how Mom and Dad used the kind of Scotch tape that you could unstick without ripping the paper – if you went slow enough. My brother and I never had the patience for it, but we’d watch in wonder as our older brother meticulously opened carefully selected presents to peek at them, and then put the paper and tape back exactly as it was. He started using his special skill to get us to do things for him, offering to help us peek at one of our presents in return for us doing his chores. Our parents never suspected we were peekers!

These are just a few of the fun memories I have of my childhood in the winter, and they bring me happiness every year when they come flooding back. I am excited to share them with my daughter as she gets older, as well as watch her create memories of her own.

– Audra

Photo courtesy of  _rockinfree/Flickr

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What is your favorite childhood Christmas or winter memory?

Tell us in a blog comment for a chance to win a set of Juno DVDs for kids. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on December 1, 2012 and notified via email. Good luck!

 

 

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