Distract Your Preschooler With PBS Kids Apps

Disclosure: I was invited to an event put on by PBS Kids and WGBH Boston. I did receive a gift bag, though I’m going to giveaway some of the contents to a lucky reader…

Maybe there are people out there who have never given their phone to their child to keep them quiet. I applaud you all. But for the rest of us, well, it happens. And we want to have a “safe” source for games and apps to keep them from wandering through the Wild West that is Youtube.

True Mom Confessions from Don't Mind the Mess

 We need technology for our kids. Our kids want to have fun. And thank goodness PBS Kids means I have programs I can give them where I don’t worry about frying their brains.

Graham and I went to an event by PBS Kids to talk about some of their new apps and games. They want to tie in the shows and characters kids enjoy to appropriate learning content for their age group. In particular they want to boost math performance by helping parents at home. 

I’m not trained in child development. I have no idea what my kid is supposed to be learning about at particular ages and how best to teach it to them. An app designed by people who have studied the way kids learn best is exactly what I need.

So obviously you have your tv guides and your app stores to find stuff for your kids. What you may not know about is the PBS Kids Lab, funded by an educational grant to help teach kids. The lab has resources you can use on a computer or mobile device. (I recommend hitting the “All Games” link and searching by age.)

These really are age-appropriate games. Graham tried out one of the offerings for younger kids: Bubble Pop with Curious George. This is a counting game that uses your microphone so a child can clap or speak to pop a bubble. 

Playing Curious George Bubble Pop

 

Photo provided by event photographer
Photo provided by event photographer

Another one Graham enjoyed is Meerkat Jubilee from The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! It’s a path-building game that wasn’t too advanced for little kiddos. It gives them choices for which piece to use along the way in a trail from start to finish. Good for kids who aren’t quite ready for mazes yet.

Meerkat Jubilee Game

 

A Mobile app Graham enjoyed was Classic in the Jurassic from Dinosaur Train. It had bridges. Graham loves bridges. I had a hard time getting him away from it.

My personal favorite for the little ones is the Play and Learn app, which is free. And it’s really for PARENTS as much as for kids. (Some apps are paid, others are free. Everything in the lab is free.) What I love about this is that it’s an app that you can use for no-screen activities for those of you who may try to avoid passing off the tech to entertain the littles. It’s also based around places you normally go. So say you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. You pull up the app on your phone, hit grocery store, and there you have a short game your child can play plus a list of activities divided by your child’s age. From everything to how to talk to your baby about what they see around them to having your toddler learn words at the checkout to rhyming and measuring games for preschoolers. 

If you’re one of those parents who tries to avoid the screen for your kid if at all possible, this app is a great way for you to keep your kid engaged when you are feeling a little low on creativity. (Or patience.)

Definitely take a look at what’s available in the lab and search PBS Kids in the app store to find more for your tablet or phone. I am definitely going to be recommending some of these apps to my son’s teacher. I think these are the kinds of apps they’d love for the pre-K kids that can also tie in to at-home learning.

And don’t worry, there are also plenty of games and apps for kids age 6-8 with shows like Wild Kratts and Martha Speaks

PBS Kids was generous enough to give us redemption codes for some of their paid apps and I couldn’t keep them all to myself. (Though Graham insisted on the Dinosaur Train All Aboard app. Sorry.)

I’m giving away redemption codes for the following apps:

Receive one entry by leaving 1 comment about your child’s favorite PBS Kids show or character.

 Official Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. Up to one entry per household according to the directions set out in this post. Limited to entrants over 18 in the United States. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on Wednesday, May 1st at 6 pm Eastern Time. One winner will be chosen. The winner will receive the aforementioned app codes. Prize has value of approximately $10. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be selected using the “And the Winner Is” plugin. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours to receive their prize. If a winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by Don’t Mind the Mess, codes will be distributed via email. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited.

Good luck!

Run the Rainbow, Eat the Rainbow

This post is in conjunction with New Balance & Chop Chop Magazine, who are giving away some super awesome stuff so keep reading!

We’ve just had a little streak of warm weather and it’s life-changing. Last year I was happy to hole up in the winter since I started it hugely pregnant and ended it with a tiny baby. But this year it seemed like winter lasted forever and I’m looking for some brightness in my life.

I am guilty of not getting the kids out for exercise very much during the winter. But now that there’s nice weather on the way, we’re going to be making a lot more playground trips. I’ve even started taking the midday walks with the stroller that I’ve been talking about for months.

Do you remember the pink shoes? Well they’re not getting quite as much use this spring. There is a new favorite shoe in this house and it is the Rainbow Shoe.

NB Rainbow

When I showed Graham these shoes on the computer he instructed, “Buy them for me while I’m at school, okay?” His rainbow shoes are now the supreme shoes in the house. He also doesn’t complain so much about them not being tight enough, since the velcro attaches to a lace that tightens. (LOVE THAT. For bigger kids the shoes have just plain laces.)

When he got his shoes right before we left for Texas he put them on and declared them “snazzy.” I have no idea where he heard that word. The next morning at the airport, the woman behind the counter told him his shoes were “snazzy” and that settled the issue. They are some snazzy, awesome rainbow shoes. They’re also for-real athletic shoes, which is a good thing because they’re getting some good use.

new balance collage
The shoes get a workout on a warm day at the Zoo playground.

The rainbow shoes are part of a partnership with ChopChop Magazine, the food magazine for kids called Run the Rainbow, Eat the Rainbow. Even though Graham is only 3, we’re working to get him enjoying exercise and healthy food. (He’ll be starting soccer in a few weeks and we really need to have enough healthy foods to overcome his love of donuts.)

Encouraging different colors of fruits and veggies is a simple lesson in nutrition that’s easy for kids to catch on to. A rainbow plate has a variety of nutrients and flavors. Definitely better than the plates of beige our kids prefer so often. I am always impressed with how ChopChop finds ways to interest kids in food using all their senses.

DSC_0002

ChopChop’s Eat the Rainbow recipe is for fruit skewers using grapes, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe and raspberries. Very tasty. But for my Bug I decided to give him a rainbow lunch since one of his favorite foods comes in a variety of colors.

I’m lucky my kid is a veggie eater. He likes crunch and it’s been our saving grace to get him to try more things. I never really thought much about texture before but it’s a big deal for him. Once we got him on crunchy vegetables he’s now moved on to “leaves” (aka raw spinach or greens) and many others.

I try to pack him veggies with sauce (ranch dressing) almost every day for lunch and he’s usually pretty good about eating them. He was really pumped when I told him today he had a rainbow lunch.

peppers collage

 

As a bonus there were plenty of peppers left over, so I’ll be making rainbow jambalaya in the next couple days. I never would’ve thought to let my kid munch on peppers, but I highly recommend you give it a try. The bright colors are a great incentive.

Another way to do a rainbow veggie plate is to try red peppers, orange carrots, yellow cherub tomatoes (one of Graham’s favorites) and green broccoli. Serve that instead of your next veggie side dish and see if you get a few more bites than usual.

And now for some cool stuff! Not one but TWO giveaways!

New Balance and ChopChop are running a giveaway where you can win a subscription to ChopChop, a pair of the New Balance Rainbow 890v3 shoes and a $400 gift card for groceries. The contest runs through May and you can go here to enter.

new balance giveaway graphic

Plus right here on the blog I’m giving away a pair of New Balance 890v3 Rainbow shoes and a ChopChop subscription to one lucky person! The shoes are available in infant, preschool and grade school sizes. Infant sizes have the velcro and go up to a size 10.

To enter simply leave a comment on this post.

You can earn a bonus entry by tweeting: “Win @newbalance shoes and a year of @chopchopmag in the Run the Rainbow Eat the Rainbow Giveaway with @jessicaesquire! http://ow.ly/jVBRH ” Make sure you leave a second comment with the address of your tweet. (To get that, go to your twitter profile and click the time stamp on the tweet.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. Up to two entries per household according to the directions set out in the post. Limited to entrants over 18 in the United States. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on Tuesday, Aprl 16th at 6 pm Eastern Time. One winner will be chosen. The winner will receive a pair of New Balance Rainbow 890v3 shoes and a subscription to ChopChop Magazine. Prize has value of approximately $60. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be selected using the “And the Winner Is” plugin. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours to receive their prize. If a winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by New Balance and Chop Chop Magazine. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited.

Disclosure: I received a pair of New Balance Rainbow 890v3 shoes in exchange for promoting the Run the Rainbow Eat the Rainbow contest. 

 

Friday Reads Giveaway!

So obviously I haven’t been around much this week.

Put the blame on my molars and my sinuses, which are apparently all up in each other’s business, so the cold that has been plaguing me for the last couple of weeks started causing the kind of pain in my teeth and jaw that made childbirth sound pleasant, if only because at least it would be over soon and you’d get a baby in the end. Thankfully, now we’ve figured out the problem and I’m no longer taking the kinds of painkillers that make blogging (and parenting and driving and such) precarious.

Being back in my right mind, I’d like to thank you all for your patience (because I know you were all DYING at my lack of posts) and reward you with a little giveaway of some hot upcoming releases from the wonderful folks at Random House.

This stack can all be yours! It features last week’s rave review, The Dinner, which is, according to me, as dark and twisty as Gone Girl except it comes with a dose of European flair.

Also: The Village by Nikita Lalwani, a July release that’s a really remarkable and thoughtful piece of fiction about a British documentary team filming an open prison in India. I’ve read this one and will have a glowing review this summer.

And also: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver, a debut novel that is a super sharp legal thriller. It’s compared, rightly, to Before I Go to Sleep, which it definitely reminded me of. And has a biting tone that’s very reminiscent of Lionel Schriver. The fact that I found the same comparisons while reading it that the publisher used to market it tells you just how accurate they are.

And lastly: The Boleyn King by Laura Anderson. Historical fiction out there (I know the Tudor period is hot right now) that imagines what would’ve happened if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a son.

Do not worry, even though I’ve read most of these, I didn’t read these copies. They are fresh and untouched with that fancy new book smell.

There’s something for everyone here, and those of you who read everything will probably gobble up every last one.

So: rules: let’s keep it simple. One comment = one entry. The end. 🙂 In your comment tell me what you’ve been reading lately. All the fine print is below.

Thanks to Random House for this lovely stack of books. I admit, the box actually came with FIVE books but I am totally keeping one for myself.

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. Up to one entry per household according to the directions set out in the post. Limited to entrants over 18 in the United States. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on Wednesday, February 27th at 6 pm Eastern Time. One winner will be chosen. The winner will receive the four advance copies shown in the post. Prize has no resale value. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be selected using the “And the Winner Is” plugin. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours to receive their prize. If a winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by Don’t Mind the Mess and will be shipped within 6 weeks. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited.

Standing Out in the Crowd With Mabel’s Labels

Disclosure: We were provided with a set of Mabel’s Labels to review. This post contains affiliate links.

Graham is 3. He’s okay with letters but words are certainly not his forte. And when it comes to his name, all he really has down pat is that it starts with the letter G.

He attends a school with uniforms, all the kids in similar colors of shirts and pants.

Everything needed to be labeled, and I wanted labels that Graham could understand as well as an adult that may be helping him.

So we turned to Mabel’s Labels. Maybe it’s because of our location, but I’ve heard nothing but raves about them since we moved here.

If you haven’t heard of them before, Mabel’s Labels has pretty much any kind of label you’re looking for. Labels for school supplies, clothes, and even shoes! What’s great about them for a kid like Graham is that his labels have a distinctive design that he recognizes, so he always knows what’s his.

For Graham, we chose a school bus design. I’ve talked before about how obsessed he is with the school bus. And it helps him remember that the items we’re labeling are all “school” items. These little black tags go on his clothes. I’ve found they stick just as well to clothing with tags as clothing without tags. They’ve also made several rounds through the wash and are no worse for wear.

The shoe labels are great. He’s already wearing down the soles of his new school shoes and the print on the inside is almost gone. But the labels have absolutely no signs of wear.

 

I also love these preschool shoe labels that help kids tell their left shoe from their right. (I admit, I sometimes need help with this, too. I hate it when Graham’s running around and I suddenly realize I’ve put his shoes on the wrong feet.)

I am willing to bet Graham isn’t the only kid with the Thomas the Tank Engine lunch box. These bag tags are great to hang on zippers of backpacks and similar items.

When you order labels you have TONS of designs to choose from. You can use their pre-existing color schemes or choose a color of your own.

We got a combo, which all came with Graham’s name and a school bus design, but still had a variety of colors. I like that there are plenty of BOY and plenty of GIRL but also a good number of neutral designs and colors that can please pretty much any kid.

I played around with the website to show you how different styles come out in their cool combo sets.

(I love the little whales. So adorable.)

This is the Basic Kit, you can see the larger shoe labels and bag tags, the small square-ish clothes labels (Tag Mates) and the long, skinny labels (Skinny Minis) for pretty much anything. The Skinny Minis are microwave and dishwasher safe. I’ve been putting them on anything Graham takes to school or out of the house. Like his favorite train, James, and the tupperwares I use for his school snacks.

The Basic Kit comes with 8 Shoe Labels, 2 Bag Tags, 24 Skinny Minis and 42 Tag Mates. For most kids that’ll have you covered for the entire school year, if not more. (Note, the preschool shoe labels are not included in the kits. Those have to be ordered separately.) You can get an even larger kit with the Big Kaboodle.

I’m glad we had these because I honestly wouldn’t have known what to do. Especially since a lot of Graham’s shirts don’t have a tag for me to write on, I worry about the writing bleeding through the shirt. And in a classroom full of little kids, the last thing I want his teachers to have to worry about is whose stuff is whose.

The Basic Kit is $34.95. For me that’s a little pricey, but they are 100% satisfaction guaranteed so I feel a lot better about the cost when I know that. I’ve heard raves about their customer service, too. So I’m happy working with them. They are a great resource for school or camp. And they don’t just have to be stuff for kids. Their FAQ page has lots of great info on it. Like how you can just put your last name on your labels if you want your kids to be able to share stuff.

They also do school fundraisers so if you’re looking for something different this year (we just got ours, pre-made cookie dough: wah-wahhhhh) these are a fun option.

And now, for one lucky reader, Mabel’s Labels is giving away a Basic Kit for you, your kid, your dog, your husband, your whatever! You can customize it however you’d like.

To enter:

1. You MUST leave a comment. Tell me which of the designs you would choose.

2. After your first comment, you can get an extra entry if you “Like” Don’t Mind the Mess on Facebook. Please leave another comment telling me so.

3. After your first comment, you can get an extra entry if you “Like” Mabel’s Labels on Facebook. Please leave a comment telling me so.

That’s up to 3 entries each!

This contest will close on Monday, October 8th at 6pm Eastern time.

Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. Up to three entries per household according to the directions set out in the post. Limited to entrants over 18 in the United States and Canada. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on Monday, October 8th at 6 pm Eastern Time. One winner will be chosen. The winner will receive a Basic Kit from Mabel’s Labels. Prize valued at approximately $34.95. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be selected using the “And the Winner Is” plugin. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours to receive their prize. If a winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by Mabel’s Labels. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited.

Disclosure: I received a Back-to-School Combo from Mabel’s Labels for this reviewI sought them out because I thought they’d be a great product as we were starting school.

Read to Your Little One with Hello Magazine

Update: Congrats to Allison, the winner of the subscription to Highlights Hello Magazine! If you didn’t win, you can still subscribe here.

I saw a lot of stuff at BlogHer, but when I was finished there was one thing I knew I was getting behind 100%. And that’s Hello magazine from Highlights. Yes, you remember Highlights? Looking for hidden pictures in doctor’s offices while you were a kid?

Well, they’re still around. And I hadn’t realized they have more than one magazine. In addition to the magazine you already know and love, there’s also High Five for kids 2-6 and now they’re launching Hello, for ages 0-2.

You are probably thinking, Why does my baby need a magazine?

Well, you get books for your baby, right? They are probably board books, like we have. I recently bought a whole bunch for Tessa. Why did I buy books when I already bought a bunch for Graham when he was little? Because board books, despite their initial sturdiness, can be surprisingly… well… unsturdy. Graham’s Goodnight, Moon no longer has a back cover. His Mouse Paint is bent. And those aren’t even books he read particularly often. His Thumper’s Fluffy Tail, which he reads in bed each night, is missing its spine and will soon be so spent that we’ll have to find another book to read. (Or get another Thumper.)

So when I saw Hello, I was immediately enchanted. It’s about the same size as a small board book, though it’s taller than it is wide. It doesn’t have board-book-style binding, so it can’t be bent. And it doesn’t have regular pages, so it can’t be ripped. The pages are soft and easy to turn and surprisingly durable. It’ll hold up to a toddler hurling it across the room as well as getting its corners thrust into baby’s mouth. (It’s printed with a non-toxic ink and the paper is washable. Nice, right? Oh, and it comes in an envelope so it’ll be nice and clean. They’re really thinking about everything.)

As far as durability, I was sold. Then, of course, there’s the content. If you want a peek, head over to the Hello page and click the “Look inside” link on the cover. You’ll see some of what it has to offer. Our copy has a short story, a rhyme, a song and even a Hidden Pictures that’s easy enough for little ones. The stories and pictures were things young children would recognize: animals, families, a nursery with baby toys. I also really like how the book has suggestions for parents about why a piece is included and how you can read it to your child.

The one thing that usually deters me from magazines is the price, but with Hello you won’t be tossing your magazines when you’re done. You can add them to your bookshelf. A year’s subscription is $34.44, which costs about as much as two board books. Yup, you can get two board books or you can 12 issues of Hello. You can transfer to another magazine if your child outgrows your subscription, though Graham, who’s 3 and not reading yet, still enjoys Hello quite a lot.

I’ve taken to putting my copy in my purse. It’s much more portable than a regular book and I pull it out when we’re sitting and waiting to give Graham something to do. He likes being able to flip through it himself, since he often won’t let me read to him. And I’m going to start leaving it in Tessa’s PacknPlay, too, now that she can sit up and reaches for toys.

It’s a great answer for parents who don’t want to read THE SAME BOOK EVERY NIGHT FOR ETERNITY and also don’t want to spend a lot of money on board books. I love the library, but boy are the kids books at the library beat up and it’s hard to manage them with a toddler or a preschooler without doing more damage. So yeah, I’m pretty in love with Hello.

I know you will be, too, so I’m giving away a FREE 1-year subscription! Just leave a comment telling me who will be enjoying Hello magazine if you win. (Oh, and you folks in Canada, this one’s open to you, too, eh?)

Never fear, if you don’t get a free subscription, just head on over and sign up. The first issue comes out in December. (Pssst, grandparents and aunts and uncles: GREAT CHRISTMAS PRESENT.) Good luck!!

Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. One entry per household. Limited to entrants over 18 in the US and Canada. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on Monday, September 17th at 6 pm Eastern Time. One winner will be chosen. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be selected using the “And the Winner Is” plugin. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 24 hours to receive their prize. If a winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by Highlights Magazine. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Hello to review. I also won a free subscription to Hello which I am totally keeping because I want it. 🙂