5 Easy Ways to Keep Them Sharp After School (& On Weekends!)

For curious kids, the end of the school day doesn’t mean learning is over. Feed those hungry minds with a few simple after-school games and activities that help enhance hand-eye coordination, concentration and creative problem-solving. They take just minutes to set up and have the added bonus of being totally fun. Scroll down for a few ideas.

photo credit: amanda timpton via flickr

1. Pinecone Weather Experiment

This one has the added bonus of getting them outside for materials walk! It’s pretty simple, too. Just gather a few pinecones and set them out in the evening. Have the kids observe the pinecones, and guess if they will look the same or different in the morning. Do they think cool air will affect them? What about humidity? Then check them in the morning. What’s happening? Pinecones open and close based on the humidity of the air. When the air is drier, they open more so the seeds can travel away on the wind. Check out this pinecone weather experiment on Science-Sparks. For even more, super-easy scientific fun, check out our 15 sidewalk science ideas you can do today.

photo: No Time for Flashcards

2. Shoot & Add Nerf Gun Math

Did someone say nerf guns and water play? This idea from No Time for Flashcards is the perfect combo of kinesthetic activity and learning, and you can tailor it to your kid’s skill levels. Get all the info here. And for even more active math games, check out our favorite dozen here.

photo: newkidscenter.com 

3. Memory Games: What’s Missing?

DIY a little memory by adding objects to a tray and giving kids a few seconds to study the objects, like the one pictured here fromnewkidscenter.com. Have them go in the other room or close their eyes while you remove one object, then give them 10 seconds to figure out what object is missing. You can add as many items as the drawer holds or keep it simple with 5 or 6. If memory is your game, be sure to peruse our collection of memory-themed ideas to keep those sparks flying.

 photo: Peter Roberts via flickr

4. Build a House of Cards

This one works on fine motor skills, patience and can be a great use for that deck of cards where a few are “somehow” missing. You’ll want to start on flat surface like a table or hardwood floors. If you need a step-by-step tutorial on how to do it, find one here. You gently place and lean cards against each other until the tower is complete. For more instant-entertainment with 3 props or less, visit this link.

5. Create a Color Wheel

Sharpen their right brains, too, by teaching kiddos about the color wheel, spectrum and primary colors. It won’t take long for them to be mixing up their own shades of green or purple when they memorize the formula. A color wheel helps kids to learn about contrasting colors and opposites, too. Color theory at your kitchen table! Get the complete how-to here.

How do you keep those little minds active? Tell us your favorite easy activity in a comment below! 


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Target’s Hitting the Mark With Their New Sensory-Friendly Line of Kids’ Clothes

Target’s Hitting the Mark With Their New Sensory-Friendly Line of Kids’ Clothes

Those scratchy tags and itchy fabrics on some kids’ clothes are sure annoying. But to a child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) or a sensory processing disorder, uncomfortable clothes are more than irritating — they’re torture! Well, Target’s new line of sensory-friendly children’s clothing is coming to the rescue. The retail giant’s Cat & Jack kids’ line is expanding with limited edition pieces. And they’re made specifically for kids with sensory issues.

photo: Target.com

Designer Stacey Monsen is known for her plus-sized creations that are part of Target’s AVA & VIV line. The fashion guru and mama saw a need to create clothing that catered towards kids with sensory sensitivities. So why did this designer for the grown-up set suddenly break into the world of kids’ clothes?

Monsen’s 7-year-old daughter is autistic. Finding clothes that fit and felt good was a major challenge. To top it off, when the fashion-forward mom was able to find clothes that met her daughter’s needs, they weren’t exactly…well, stylish. And so, Cat & Jack’s new line was born. Or at least conceived.

The designer, and a few of her colleagues, created their own volunteer-based team and began researching sensory-friendly clothes for kids. What they came up with may not seem ground-breaking. But to the children who will wear them, these clothes are everything.

photo: Target.com

The Target team didn’t stop there, they met with their guests (the parents of children with sensory issues) and organizations such as Pageant of Hope, Mind Body Solutions and the National Federation of the Blind Minnesota. After getting input, the design team created their first pieces. The special-edition line now includes items such as tag-less and embellishment-free tees and leggings that fit over diapers for older children.

Sorry, right now the line isn’t available in the stores. But you can find it online at Target.com, with sizes that range from 2T-5T (for younger kids) and XS-XL (for big kids).

What do you think about Target’s new sensory-friendly line? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 

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This New Book about a Trailblazing Woman Rocks for So Many Reasons

In 1966, women didn’t run. At least, they didn’t run on record and they definitely didn’t compete in marathons. But Bobbi Gibb changed all that. Because she ran anyway! She broke the rules and made history, and now you can share her story with your own little marathoners with a recently-released, beautifully illustrated picture book. Read on to learn more about Bobbi and how to get your copy of The Girl Who Ran.

Girls Don’t Run?!?

When Bobbi Gibb saw the Boston Marathon, she knew it was a race she wanted to run. So she trained hard. But when the time came, and she applied for entry, she was denied. “Girls don’t run, girls can’t run,” they told her. So she proved them wrong. How? Well, she hid in the bushes a few yards from the starting line, pulled a black hoodie over her head so no one would recognize her, and after several hundred runners began the race she jumped in! And not only did Bobbi run the race, she finished it in 3 hours and 20 minutes, unofficially. That’s just one hour behind the winner and ahead of half the male runners. So it turns, out, she could run after all.

Yes, You Can!!!

That day changed history. Bobbi—who today is a runner, attorney, athlete, author, speaker, mother and scientist—defied the rules that said she couldn’t and paved the way for women athletes, and women everywhere, to change their own path. For kids from all ages and stage, this book tells the story in a relatable way, and will inspire kids to never, ever believe that you can’t. Always believe that you can!

The Girl Who Ran

Published recently by Compendium, this hardcover book—written by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, and illustrated by Susanna Chapman—tells the story from Bobbi’s perspective. Kids will learn that not only is it okay to defy the norm to do what is right, that when you do, others support you: Bobbi’s fellow runners cheered her on all the way. This book makes an excellent gift for children of ANY gender. They will find comfort, inspiration and a serious fire lit after reading it. The ultimate message: Oh, yes, you can! Check out the publisher’s interview with Bobbi Gibb below.

Get your copy here.
Hardcover, $16.95
Ages: 5-10 and up (we think it’s really all ages!)

Was there a time when you broke the rules to do the right thing? Tell us in a comment below! 

—Amber Guetebier

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Skinny Cow’s New High Protein Ice Cream Will Make You Want to Serve It for Dinner

Skinny Cow’s New High Protein Ice Cream Will Make You Want to Serve It for Dinner

photo: Skinny Cow

Don’t you sometimes just wish you could skip the meal prep and just pop open a pint of ice cream for dinner? Well, now it’s not such a terrible idea (just don’t let your kids see you!) as long as you’re dining on Skinny Cow’s new line of “enlightened” ice cream. The diet-friendly dessert company’s newest creation is low-fat and contains a whopping 22 grams of protein (that’s as much protein as is in a single hamburger) per pint-sized serving, according to this article on Delish.

There are four different flavors —  Mint Chip Mashup, Oh Fudge Cookie, Oh My! Vanilla Bean and Fudgetastic Java — and they all contain about 350 calories per package (compare that to Ben & Jerry’s nearly 1,000 calories per pint!).

So, yes, you can eat the whole pint!

For some mysterious reason, the new ice cream isn’t yet listed on the Skinny Cow website, but you can expect to see it on the shelves soon at stores including Publix, Hannaford, Target and Kroger, Delish said.

Guilt-free desserts are nothing new for Skinny Cow (hence the name). The company, a part of Nestle USA, already has a pretty good hold on the low-cal frozen desserts market with their killer low-fat popsicles, ice cream cones, candy and ice cream sandwiches.

What’s your favorite kind of low-cal ice cream? Tell us in the comments below. 

Related article:
The Most Popular Ice Cream in America Is Also Low-Cal!

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How to Enjoy Burning Man with Kids

Exposing your kids to different experiences, cultures and art has always been a top priority. Feel the same? Then think outside the box for your next adventure. Burning Man—the annual gathering in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert happening August 27-September 4—is a great opportunity to expose your kids to nature, creativity, culture and self-expression.

Long-time Burner Mom Harley K. Dubois and Cory Mervis (Lady Merv) graciously gave us their advice and insights on life on the playa with kids. We’ve updated our list of 10 insider tips to make your Burning Man 2017 a fun-filled success with your Burner babes. And, if you need more visuals to what life is like on the Playa with kids, check out these beautiful photos of families enjoying Burning Man together.

1. The Family Experience
Bringing along the kids will lend an entirely different experience. This is the reality, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t have an amazing time! When deciding what mode of transportation to bring consider that the distances in the desert are great and can be too much for little legs to walk or pedal on their own. Get crafty and decorate your bike trailer but don’t forget to rig up plenty of shade for them to ride in style. When considering your outings, early mornings and late afternoons are best to beat the heat and the larger crowds. Nighttime noise can be an issue for light sleepers, so consider camping further back. The airport can also be a great base camp for kids. It’s quiet at night and can be a source of endless daytime entertainment for aviation loving kids.

photo: Siberfi via Flickr

2.  Repeat After Me: No Lost Children
Lights, sound, big art, so much to see! Adventurous ones may have a tendency to wander off so be sure to affix a wristband (the kind they can’t pull off) with your name, kids name, camp name, and location. Check out My Precious Kid for a good selection of inexpensive ID bracelets. Cell phone service is unreliable at best so if you do become separated, be sure to contact a Black Rock City Ranger immediately. Misplaced children are taken very seriously and once a child is reported misplaced all enforcement staff are put on alert until the child is located. For the older kids, identify an easy meeting spot in case you get separated. Choose somewhere central and well know so others can help your child locate it as well. Playa Info (6 o’clock and Center Camp) can be a great place to meet since they are trained to help in situations like these.

photo “Mini Man” in Kidsvile courtesy of Mickey Sattler (his daughter is in the heart-shaped tie-dyed shirt!) 

3.  So Much More Than Halloween
Just because it’s not Halloween doesn’t mean that you can’t dress up. Have a little fun and get them into the moop-free costume spirit, people will love it! Just remember that kids in costumes (whether you’re in the desert or not) are always a hit so people will want to photograph your sweetheart and give them treats – be prepared! Official media photographers can be identified by their laminates and if you are uncomfortable with anyone taking a picture of your child, be vocal.

A special thanks to Coyote and his fam for this photo (and the one at top)

4. Dust Storm Diligence
Ski or swim masks are the best and cheapest dust protection for the eyes. Consider “goggle training,” meaning get the kiddos used to the goggles by wearing them a few minutes each day. Bandannas make good air filters but the best place to be during a storm is inside. Carry the What, Where, When with you and if you find yourself stranded away from your camp during an extended one, find a kid-friendly activity (marked with the kids symbol) with a shade structure to hang out in until it passes.

photo of “Story time” courtesy of Mickey Sattler

5. Skip the Kiddie Pools
Kid pools are a mess! If you are prepared to drain and wash the pools daily you will be all set, but the first dust storm makes the mini pools brown and unappealing.  If you must, bring the kiddie pools out as treat and be mentally prepared to have it as a one time special moment.

6. Pack Familiar Toys and Bedding
Whether it’s a stuffed animal, special blanket, or sippy cup, be sure to pack a familiar object from home to make your kid more comfortable out in this unfamiliar territory. It gets cold in the high desert at night so you may want to pick up a cozy sleeping bag and let them get used to it in the weeks leading up to the event.


photo: Siberfi via Flickr

7. Combat the Dry Desert Sun and Heat
It’s the desert and with that comes plenty of sun, dust, sand, dry heat, and cracking skin galore. Little ones can be especially prone to playa foot so try and keep thin socks on their feet and be sure to clean off every night with Vinegar wash, which neutralizes the alkaline dust and restores Ph balance. (Bring a spray bottle for easy access and portability.) Pharmaceutical almond oil and Olive oil are great natural moisturizers. If your baby has super sensitive skin pack some Bag Balm for diaper rash – it’s the stuff bicycle riders use for long trips. Also a must are wide brimmed hats, sunglasses with a strap, plenty of bandanas (dust mask and cool rag), leggings, vented hat, and tons of sunscreen. Pint sized sun umbrellas can also be a fun way for little ones to keep cool and in the shade.

Other tips: Pack clear fragrance-free moisturizer and some q-tips. If your kid gets a nose bleed or the dreaded “playa-taters” (nose buggers), blow their noses in a moist fragrance-free towelette and then run the moisturizer inside the nostril before sleep.

8. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This may be a no-brainer but be sure to keep you and your kids hydrated. Water is always good but the high altitude can also wreck havoc on the electrolyte balance of tiny systems. Consider mixing up the hydration routine with low sugar sports drinks or unflavored Pedialyte. The occasional salty snack or the favorite Burning Man staple, bacon (for the meat-eaters) can also help with salt loss. The first sign of dehydration is actually crankiness, so be aware and catch it early. Squirt guns and small hydration packs can be fun for older kids.

photo courtesy of The_WB via Creative Commons

9. Get Connected With Others
Black Rocks Kids (Kidsville), Burning Moms, Alternative Energy Zone, and the official Kids Survival Guide – there are lots of support groups and community resources out there to educate and support families on the playa. Kidsville also has it’s own early burn which lets the little ones have their own fun if you opt to skip the main event. Consider going with another like minded family. You will have in-camp entertainment for your kids as well as options for trading off night time duty so you can still get out and have some adult fun.

10. Enjoy the Moment
Your kiddos are going to get dirty, dusty, cranky, and everything in between – there’s no way around that so give up your “perfect picture” and try to enjoy the family experience. Harley comments, “I was much more stressed about my child being out there than she was. She did great! I had bags under my eyes. Just relax and enjoy the moment. You are creating an experience for your child that will validate their imagination, inspire creativity, and give them confidence.”

Jade and Cake at Burning Man, photo courtesy of playapixie

Here’s some more advice for Burner parents with older/school-aged kids from Burning Man veteran Dawn:

– Instill basic safety/well-being skills religiously. Our three biggest rules: never leave camp or us without checking in with parents first, never leave camp without your camelback with water, goggles, & dust mask, and never ever enter any enclosed space without an adult we know & trust. Obviously also teach them your camp address, landmarks to get home, and what Rangers look like.

– Have a secret code for checking out their level of comfort with strange situations. We used green/yellow/red (where green is “no problem at all,” yellow is “I’m uncomfortable or uncertain, but willing to see how it pans out; keep checking in,” and red is “get me out of here”). For example, ask your kiddo “what do you think of that yellow art car?” “What yellow art car? I only see a green one.” Having a code means you can check in on them in a group without having to potentially embarrass them, but following up with them after the fact is always a good idea too.

We want to hear from you Burner parents! What are your experiences bringing your kids out on the Playa and are there any insider tips that we’ve missed?

—Erin Lem and Drea Lester

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6 New Albums to Put into Rotation This Fall

Shake up the carpool with a few new musical tracks this fall. After all, you’ll be logging a lot more hours in the family ride now that the school year has started—why shouldn’t your playlist rock? You can jam out to a modern version of classic beats, calm the backseat beasts with mellow tunes or create a version of carpool karaoke that would make James Corden proud. We found six albums that offer a little bit of everything, scroll down to see them all.

1. Made in LA – Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band 
This LA-based, Grammy-award winning family band has released an ode to their hometown. With the dance-inducing Made in LA, that’s filled with shout outs to local sports teams and other cultural icons to the hip-hop infused Magic Believers, it’s an energetic addition to your playlist. We also love Los Ninos, and aptly named, Traffic. Look for guest appearances from other well-known and loved local musicians such as Mista Cookie Jar, Choo Choo Soul, and Todd McHatton.

Available at luckydiazmusic.com/made-in-la, $15.

2. Mozartistic – Secret Agent 23 Skiddo 
Coming off a 2017 Grammy win for Best Children’s Album, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo joins forces with respected pianist Orion Weiss, DJ Marley Carroll and the entire cast of the Asheville Symphony on Mozartistic. This five-track digital release seamlessly blends classic symphony music with the groovy drums beats of hip-hop, to give your kids an updated lesson on the classics. After debuting at the Asheville Amadeus Festival in the spring of 2017, the EP spent several weeks atop the SiriusXM Kids Place Live charts.

Available for download on iTunes.com, $6.45 or amazon.com, $4.95.3. Lead Belly, Baby! – Dan Zanes & Friends 
Celebrate an American musical icon with Dan Zanes’s newest album, Lead Belly, Baby! This 15-track album presents a fresh take on the legendary folk musician’s (who was a huge inspiration to Zanes as a kid) sound. Expect to hear classic songs like Rock Island Line and Skip to My Lou, that, with the help of a few friends—including Billy Bragg, Aloe Blacc, and Public Enemy’s Chuck D to name a few—have a slightly modern feel.

Available at folkways.edu/danzanes/leadbellybaby, $14.98

4. Brighter Side – Gustafery Yellowgold
Musician and animator Morgan Taylor brings back your friendly neighborhood alien Gustafer Yellowgold. On his eighth studio album, Gustafery is waxing on about everything from his current life in Minnesota to his years spent growing up on the sun (you’ll hear the difference in his “Earth songs” vs. his “Sun songs”). The album is filled with mellow, sit-back-and-relax tunes that’ll chill out your backseat when things get a little wild.

Available for pre-order at amazon.com, $10.

5. Rise Shine #Woke – Alphabet Rockers
Bay Area-based Alphabet Rocker’s latest release (Sept. 1st, 2017), Rise Shine #Woke wants to get kids and parents moving and thinking all at once. They manage to address challenging questions of race, morality, and issues of social justice in a creative, inspiring manner. From Questions, which challenges listeners to dig deep inside their own hearts to the Outkast-inspired Nitro and the dancehall sounds of Stand Up for You, the sampling, beats, and lyrics come together to create a stellar album that’ll get your family talking about the hard stuff (after you’ve had the ultimate dance party, of course!). Look for collabs with Choo Choo Soul and hip hop producer Chief Xcel of Blackalicious. 

Available for pre-order at alphabetrockers.bandcamp.com/riseshinewoke, $15.

6. I Believe In You – Dolly Parton
Hold onto your hats, and get your big hair ready! In what is her 50th year of making music, world renowned entertainer Dolly Parton is releasing her first ever children’s album. Filled with fun songs such as A Friend Like You, You Can Do It and Imagination, all of which was written by Dolly, I Believe In You is the perfect way to introduce your little ones to an American musical legend. The digital version will be released on September 29th, 2017, with the physical album to follow on October 13th, 2017. And, the coolest part? All proceeds from the sale of I Believe In You will be donated to Dolly’s early literacy nonprofit organization, Imagination Library.

Which one will make its way to your family playlist? Share with us in a Comment below!

— Gabby Cullen

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Awesome Activities for Every Kind of Kid

Your child’s imagination can take them from building site to fairyland in less than a second so why not be prepared? Whether your kiddo is an athlete, architect or master chef, we’ve found activities and projects to suit all personalities or whims. Scroll down to find your next afternoon of adventure.

photo: Michelle DuPois via Rust and Sunshine

For Your Lil’ Builders

If your living room is a small-scale construction zone almost all the time, you’ve got a clever little contractor in your midst. Foster that love of the big build with some epic cardboard box creations that are huge on imagination and low on price. The next time you go for a walk, print out this architectural scavenger hunt for some structure spotting. Looking for more? Check out these creative building materials that actually aren’t LEGO based.

photo: Still Parenting

For the Crafty Kid

Creative types love to get their hands messy, and we mean literally. From finger-painting to coloring to creating a life-sized masterpiece, there’s nothing they don’t love. Try this stained glass window from Still Parenting for a colorful room display made out of glue, food coloring and empty picture frames. Short on supplies? Check out this collection of ones you can easily make at home.

photo: Eugene Kim via flickr 

For the Bookworm

Got a reader in your house? Why not help them make their own story with one of these six different activities geared at getting kids writing. Or try some DIY poetry with a set of fill-in-the-blank Mad Libs you can print out at home. And check out our list of 100 books to read before you turn 12 to keep their love of books going.

photo: clappstar via Flickr

For Exploring Types

With these kiddos, road trips can be a blast but so can a simple trip to the grocery store, thanks to their natural sense of adventure. If they aren’t already whipping out their compass and directing you, we suggest a kid-approved tutorial in how to read a map. Once they’ve got that mastered, they can orchestrate a little vaycay in your own backyard with our guide to playing tourist in your own town. Put their skills (and yours) to the test and see who knows their geography best with a “name that state” printable to do at home.

photo: A Healthier Michigan via Flickr 

For Your Athlete

From playground to playtime, little athletes can make anything an obstacle course. Keep your little American Ninja Warriors fueled with power snacks so yummy you’ll want to throw a few into your bag, too. Make sure your active kid sleeps well by playing some bedtime games to wear them down.

photo: Crafty Morning

For Nature Lovers

Their pockets are forever full of “treasures” they’ve collected (you’ve learned to check them before tossing them in the washing machine) and you have to beg them to come inside for dinner/bedtime. Embrace their natural side with an adorable owl leaf project like the one here from Crafty Morning. For even more fun leaf projects, click here.

Photo: Schooling a Monkey

For the Curious Scientist

Mixing baking soda and vinegar is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to home science that any kid will love. Here are 20 science projects you can try today. And while you’re getting your ready for some epic experimenting, read up on these seven female scientists any kid can look up to.

photo: yoshiyasu nishikawa via Flickr

For Your Master Chef, Jr.

When slicing homemade playdough with a butter knife just isn’t enough, let the kids in on the kitchen action. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got a few easy tips to make them culinary pros in no time. Which is great, because these 3-ingredient recipes are so simple your top chefs can whip up dinner tonight!

What are your favorite activities based on your child’s personality (or mood)? 

—Amber Guetebier

featured image guilherme jofili via Flickr 

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Best Reading Apps for Kids

Expert kid-friendly app developer Tinybop brings young readers and writers Me—a digital diary that encourages creativity and open-ended writing, which in turn helps to reinforce reading skills. Kids get a chance to tell their own stories through words, pictures, and recordings as they answer hundreds of questions about their fave foods, animals, and people. The app is also a great family conversation starter!

Available on iTunes, $2.99.

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This New LEGO Reality Series Will Determine the Greatest Master Builders of All

photo: Channel 4 via Twitter

If your kids (or you) have ever ogled the handiwork of some impressive LEGO sculptures and wondered just how they got built, then LEGO Masters is the new reality show for you.

Contestants in the new U.K. television series LEGO Masters will compete in weekly LEGO building challenges to determine exactly who is the best Master Builder of all. The eight team pairs of all ages, including 9-year-old best friends, a mom and son, a dad and son, young female cousins, and university engineering students, will be competing in the debut reality series. Each week the teams face a different themed-building challenge, like nature, movement, and a LEGO feast. The final head-to-head battle of the top two remaining teams will require them to build a master-work measuring 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet and using 500,000 LEGO bricks.

The concept is so ingenious it’s hard to understand why it took this long to hit airwaves. Unfortunately for US fans the wait might be even longer, as the series is currently set to air on Channel 4 in the U.K. with no word on an American broadcast. With so many successful British adaptations for US television, however, it’s only a matter of time before it gets reworked and debuted here, so keep your remotes ready.

Would your own mini master builders love this show? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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