Metro Mama & Metro Baby

By Yasmin Jorge

Before kids, I was a disciplined working professional. Today I have two beautiful toddlers, ages four and two, and try to be a loving and disciplined Mom. Maybe it’s the times we live in? Maybe it’s my competitive neighborhood?! Whatever my motivation, that means I have enrolled my kids in pre-k programs.

That said, I was a bit stressed about the official “Summer” homework my son had to complete in preparation for his full-day program this September – 90+ pages of coloring in the lines, tracing, connecting dots, cutting, etc. I think he’s getting comfortable holding crayons properly…

But wait, Summer’s not over! And while I know most New Yorkers are type A’s (Moms too), we still want our kids to have fun, even while learning. Here are some terrific products I tested with my kids on those lazy hot days (in central air conditioning):

Since we’re avid readers, we were thrilled to find out about Innovative Kids, a 10-year old company dedicated to providing hands-on, minds-on products, such as books, games, and toys, that promote reading and learning to kids globally. Their offerings are truly unique, fun and gorgeous to look at.

We started with various Green Start™ Books and Book Tower and enjoyed them a lot. The gentle, nonfiction content in each board book inspires children to love and respect the natural world. The parent spread at the back of each book shows how easy it is to practice and teach Earth-friendly habits right at home. The three books we read focused on baby animals found around the world; various types of fruits and vegetables grown in a garden; and how we experience the five senses everyday.

Green Start Book Tower: Little Animal Books were especially appealing to my 21-month old as she could comfortably hold them in her hands and easily turn the pages by herself. The tower consists of ten chunky stackable block books featuring fun rhyming mini-stories about favorite animals including the alligator, elephant, giraffe, kangaroo, koala, lion, monkey, panda, penguin, and turtle. When we were finished reading, we slipped them back into the tote-along tower. Or I could just take a few with me in my diaper bag to read-on-the-go.

Overall, the Green Start Books are visually and verbally stimulating. The images and stories kept my children’s attention. I heard that dreaded but good “Let’s read it again Mommy,” like three times! I was also impressed that the books are made from 98% recycled materials and are SO sturdy, even against the small but destructive hands and teeth of excited toddlers!

My older son is interested in animals and insects, so the Little Pirate™ Books were right up his alley. These books make science fun and easy for kids as they join Little Pirate on an adventure. Young readers learn how to observe, hypothesize, experiment and draw conclusions as they view photographs mixed with colorful illustrations, lift flaps for answers, and work gatefolds. We read What’s In The Egg, and throughout the story, my son was asked to guess what will hatch from various eggs. He remained excited to find out all about the egg inhabitants and their different kinds of nests. Now he peruses the attractive hardcover, a nice size at 8 ¾ x 8 ½ , while having his meals. And I’m happy to report that he is remembering the answers and asking more nature-related questions. If only I had all the answers!

The final product we tried from Innovative Kids was the Groovy Tube Book. Packed with collectible miniatures in a resealable snap-top tube, these best selling kits teach kids about their favorite animals in a truly unique and integrated way – there’s the 24-page fact books, game boards, quiz cards, and 15+ miniature animals in each kit.

We specifically enjoyed the Dino-Might! Groovy Tube Book. My son is focused with dinosaurs these days, so I wanted to indulge his inner paleontologist. Dad got involved with playing the Dino Dig game, where players are scientists trying to reach their trucks with the most dinosaurs to take back to their museums. The player who gathers the most dinosaurs wins the game. The amount of dinosaurs a scientist acquires depends on how many quiz cards he answers correctly and where he lands on the game board. In addition to the game, a colorful Fact Book provides lots of fascinating information about dinosaurs, such as what they ate, how their bodies were constructed, fossils, when they lived, what happened to them, and more. The 16 mini-toy dinos let my son pretend play adventures and had the name of each dinosaur printed on its’ belly. The Dino-Might Groovy Tube Book is a fun way to further develop my son’s interest in dinosaurs. We’ll be using this product for years to come.

Visit http://www.innovativekids.com for all details about these wonderful books and more, or call toll-free at 1-800-759-0190. Lastly, I wanted to mention, Innovative Kids started in a NYC studio apartment by a hopeful and inspired couple, Shari Kaufman and Michael Levins. Love that! I remember that time well, before marriage, kids and moving.

We had a grand time watching (again and again) Wow! Wow! Wubbzy’s latest adventures in the newly launched DVD, Wubbzy Goes To School. My kids are huge fans of the Nick Jr. preschool TV series, so I was thrilled to find this new release on the topic first on my mind. The DVD is around 70 minutes total, and contains six engaging and hilarious episodes that erase children’s anxieties about heading off to school and making new friends. For example, there is a charming episode, Who Needs School, that finds Wubbzy nervous about her first day of school and decides she can learn all she needs to know on her own. When things don’t work out as expected and Wubbzy has nobody to play with, she realizes that school is a great place. In another episode, New Kid On The Block, Wubbzy learns that meeting and accepting new friends can be a big and difficult job. When Murphy, a huge new student, joins the class, Wubbzy finds that good friends can come in all shapes and sizes. These were my son’s two favorite episodes, though he loved everything about this DVD.

My daughter was quite interested in the colorful and fanciful shaped cast of characters – the cute bendy-tailed yellow Wubbzy of course, and her equally quirky pals, Widget, Walden, and Daizy. That new friend, Murphy, resembled a five-gallon bottle of grape juice!

Additional episodes are Gotta Dance, Wubbzy the Star, You Gotta Have Art and Magic Tricks. Cool bonus features include Meet Wubbzy’s Schoolmates photo gallery, coloring and activity sheets, and videos with catchy tunes that made my kids get up and dance.

The Wubbzy Goes To School DVD retails nationwide wherever DVDs are sold and on Amazon.com (search Wow! Wow! Wubbzy). Wubbzy fans can visit http://www.wubbzy.com for complete details on this lovable character. The DVD is produced by Bolder Media, Inc. in association with Starz Media, LLC.

EXPO Washable Dry Erase Markers from EXPO is a perfect solution for budding artists who want to color, but will go out of the lines . . . and paint themselves and whoever’s close by, including a sibling and the family dogs, the minute you turn away. That’s because they are formulated to easily wash from skin, most washable fabrics, carpets and car upholstery.

These markers are available in three- and six-packs of bold, bright colors including orange, green, blue, pink, yellow and purple. They are chunky and easy to hold too. They work on a variety of whiteboard and non-porous surfaces making them extremely earth friendly.

They are also kid-safe, consisting of low odor, certified non-toxic ink. EXPO Markers were a winner in my home – the kids got to color guilt-free, and Mom was more at ease knowing she could wash away most trouble, if necessary.

EXPO Markers are available nationwide at most major office supply and variety retailers, such as Staples, Office Depot and Target. To find a store near you, visit http://www.expomarkers.com. The site also provides complete washing instructions and descriptions of other EXPO products.

So that’s it for our Summer lessons at home and off to Pre-K! We tried some terrific and affordable products and hope you’ll try them too – They entertained my son and daughter and helped them learn.

Originally published September 2010
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