Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parents - Get Outdoors with Kids...3 Fun Summer Activities

The dreaded summer vacation is closer than you think. The kids will be out of school and home ALL DAY!!! Dun-dah-dah-duh...uh oh, something must be done. Well lets turn off the TV and video games and go outside. Being out in the fresh air exploring nature, being physical performing activities like running, jumping and climbing are great for kids and don't require money just time set aside. I wonder...what activities are you folks going to do with your kids this summer? I can think of many activities us parents can do with their children to pass a summer day but I thought maybe I'll just talk about a few of my favorites to start the discussion.

1) Pick Fresh Berries
Us berry picking with family 2 summers ago. My hubby is in the lead.
This activity has become a summer tradition for our family. Devon and I love to take our family, including our nieces in July and August to pick Blueberries and Raspberries. We do this absolutely 100% free! Where we live, the berries grow abundantly on the trees planted in the local State Park. The State Park is free to enjoy, so we pack up the kids take a ride about 15 minutes with buckets or plastic shopping bags from the supermarket and pick as much as we can until the kids get tired. We like to take our fruit home and bake pies, cakes & muffins, use in pancakes and waffles or make jellies.

Its also possible to find farm orchards in a search engine that have many types of fruit growing across many acres. You can take the family on an outing to pick different kinds of fruit you can purchase extremely cheaply by the pound. These establishments vary as to what types of admission they charge, if any.

2) Nature Walks
 I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania where we have a lot of nature all around us everyday to enjoy. However being raised as a city girl in Queens, New York, you sort of had to commute to nature. But the commute was worth it. New York has incredible State Parks and City parks. In Queens I had access to Cunningham Park within walking distance or Flushing Meadow Park, the home of the famous Atlasphere. I also enjoyed Prospect Park in Brooklyn and of course, Central Park in Manhattan.

As kids we were always fascinated by all kinds of bugs, shiny rocks and colorful shells. My kids are the same way today too; They go outside and come home with pockets full of rocks, dead flowers and various forms litter. Simple outdoor science experiments involving basic observation and discussion can really liven up a walk in the park with a kid. Take along fun accessories such as binoculars or a magnifying glass. You can find all sorts of interesting things like feathers from birds, frogs, interesting bugs and colorful leaves to discuss. Its a great way to spark a child's interest in science and introduce them to problem solving and critical thinking. Most importantly it will be a chance for quality time with your best little buddy.

3) Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts and kids are a perfect combo. This is a game you as a parent can have complete control of. You can design your own simple scavenger hunt with things at home involving basic instructions for kids to follow like "find something yellow"; create themed scavenger hunts using fun concepts like a pirate hunt or a summer fun beach hunt.

We get the kids together and do scavenger hunts and give prizes to the kids. We laugh a lot and it is huge fun for all of us. it makes the kids think and breaking them up into teams encourages them to play nicely together. Playing outdoors gives the kids more space to run around but your scavenger hunt can take place inside on rainy or extra cold days.

Have ideas to share for kids outdoor summer activities? Write comments to DuckyFace blog.

Monday, April 30, 2012

3 Easy Ways to Have a Pizza Party at Home with the Kids

The only thing kids love more than eating pizza is making pizza. Rolling the dough, sprinkling the cheese and picking toppings transform your hungry guppies into giggling mini chefs who are tickled by the DIY activity. Pizza making is great because its an activity that each of you can do separately but together and requires very little assistance for the assembly portion. Parents should of course ALWAYS supervise children using kitchen appliances.

All that being said, sometimes the kids aren't the's us. When I promise my kids a good time I want to deliver fool-proof results. Hey Dad, is it your turn to supervise the natives and have no idea what to do to keep everybody happily occupied at once? Mom maybe you are better at making reservations than dinner that doesn't come out of a box in a cellophane wrapped paper bowl? It's cool, I understand, there is no wagging finger at DuckyFace only assist. Take myself for example, I get plenty of compliments on my cooking skills but I am not sure that I am ready to handle making an authentic pizza crust.  That being said, I've never given a pizza party that flopped. Let me share with you 3 Easy Ways to Make Pizza with your Kids that I use to make pizza with my family. You choose your own toppings, I'll give you three different options and rate the level of ease. Before getting started, make sure everyone has clean hands, you've gathered your sauce and toppings and preheat the oven if required. 

English Muffin Pizzas: This is by far the easiest method. You pretty much just
cut the English muffin in half, add your sauce and toppings. You can make 2 pizzas from one English muffin. To "cook" the pizza is easy - microwave, toaster oven, oven or broiler until the cheese is melted. You can make tons of theese quickly have a great pizza party and just watch those little pizzas get gobbled up as soon as they come out the oven! Level of ease on this one is VERY EASY.

Pre-made crusts: Found in the bread section of your market, what a cool time saver! The taste is more like that of more like authentic crusts right out of a Pizzeria. They are already cooked and also need to be heated to melt the cheese. Pre-made pizza crusts can be found also with different seasonings added to the crust. You can buy these crusts with different seasonings for your little chefs with sophisticated palettes. I have purchased a pack of these crusts for $1.00 in the grocery section of my local dollar store and they are always there. My toddler loved did the cat. This one also is VERY EASY.

Pre-Made Dough: Now, let me clarify the difference between pre-made dough and pre-made crust.  Pre-made crust is already cooked. Pre-made dough is raw dough that you need to form with a rolling pin into the size and shape you prefer to use as bases for your pizza. You allow the dough to cook along with the toppings using this method. I've purchased pre-made dough from my neighborhood pizzeria and the supermarket both in the freezer aisle and refrigerated aisle where you find those pop open cans of biscuits. There are actually pizza crusts that come in those pop open cans as well. I remember buying them from my grocer for $1.45. But here is a 2 for one can actually use those biscuits in the can as crusts. Either way after assembling your pizzas and putting them in the oven, they should be ready to serve in about 25 minutes. All in all, a bit more difficult, takes a bit more time due to preparation  because you have to manipulate the dough and waiting for it to be ready to cool and eat. Still the level of ease for this one is EASY.

OK Moms & Dads, there you are: 3 easy ways to make pizza at home with the kids. Enjoy your pizza party!

Have ideas to share for having pizza parties with the kids at home? Write comments to DuckyFace blog.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Top 10 Coolest TV Kids' Show Monsters of All Time

Everybody loves monsters right? I guess so, but I remember being a kid in my bed at night trying to fall asleep being afraid of monsters under my bed and vampires in my closet that would get me after I fell asleep. My dad would come and check because I'd beg him to the point of nausea - under the bed too. then tell me the coast was clear. I would be scared, still skeptical but I felt better. Despite all that preschool drama, some of my favorite shows were full of wisecracking monsters who were like friends that I'd sing the ABC song with everyday.

That is truly one of the reasons I enjoy being a parent. I get to revisit my childhood everyday and re-appreciate many simple things that I'd forgotten were fun. I am sure it is partly nostalgia, but I realize I still like those old TV shows and I can still identify with the characters. Today there are bucket loads more TV viewing options for kids on TV that redefine cool. Shows with diverse music, messages and languages, cool graphics and fun new monsters. As a mom & active Auntie, I sit and watch with the kids. I learn with them too, I know the kids' faves and I have some favorites of my own. Sometimes though, I like to venture back to some of the shows that were big "in my day". Guess what? The kids really dig some of those as much as what's new today. It just goes to show that classic is just plain classic and singing monsters never get old.

It took me a minute to realize that I had already spent way too much time in my own head debating the question. I asked a few different people got some of the same answers and some other "yeah I forgot about that one" type answers. It's been a fun exercise in connecting with my inner pixie so I thought I'd ask and see what do you guys think?.  Who are the top 10 coolest TV monsters of all time- past present and future? Here is my list in no particular order, with some picks from my cohorts who weighed in:

1.Animal From the Muppet Show:
I used to love him. Thought he was soooo cool because he looked wild and he played the drums. Animal has the most swag on the list for sure. I always felt at the end of the episode that I didn't get enough of him, that I wished he'd had more scenes...

2.The Fraggles: I was not crazy about Fraggle Rock but it was cool. I have friends and cousins that were Fraggles crazy. There was nothing like it on TV at the time, they used to rock out on the songs and had the teamwork thing going on. I definitely give The Fraggles their props and without a doubt, they have to be on the list.

3.Gargoyles: You didn't just think i meant monsters for little kids right? If Gargoyles was on TV right now, there would be no typing. Who wouldn't want to have a Gargoyle to take you flying through the night sky of your city or be your guardian to save you when you get in trouble. I wish I had one now to growl at my managers when they tell me to do something at work I don't feel like doing or to slap the lottery people around for not picking my numbers.

4.YO! Gabba Gabba: This list is in no particular order but ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME knows that I am a YGG fan. My house is full of YGG stuff: vids, books & coloring books, toys, you name it! I cannot decide which one is my favorite. When Muno's family comes to visit it is one of my favorite episodes; Brobee sings the hits like "Party in my Tummy", Toodee is sassy little cat-dragon with an attitude, she is always telling you what she doesn't feel like doing and giving Hi-5s; you gotta love sweet little Foofa. She is so cute...and pink...and happy...and she loves pretty flowers and animals. I always feel that life can't get any better when i am watching YGG and holding my...I mean my son's, YGG boombox radio singing and dancing to all our favorite songs.

5. Alf: He was an alien but I think it should be on the list. Alf was the man-alien. It was one of the best shows on TV for any age group, downright funny. I don't know why it was funny that he liked to eat cats but it was.

6. Pterri from Pee Wee's Playhouse: I never watched Pee-Wee's Playhouse much but no denying it is a show that will live on forever as a cult classic. That Chairey was kinda monsterish too but Pterri got the votes from folks who weighed in on the question. Pterri was one of Pee Wee's buddies, a child-like talking Pteranodon that was scared of everything. Welcome to the List Pterri.

7. Cookie Monster: Cookie Monster is the reason that this list can be in no particular order. Cookie Monster was my favorite on Sesame Street. Cookie is still one of the most beloved characters after being a TV staple FOREVER. Oscar was mean but Cookie Monster, with his googly eyes, scruffy voice and big blue furry physique, was the true gangster of Sesame Street, eating his way through not just cookies but whatever letters, numbers or random items got in his way. When I think about it, Cookie Monster was something like Sesame Street's equivalent to Bruhman from the sitcom "Martin" (who is still also all the way funny). But really, I think Cookie monster personifies what I said earlier about singing monsters never getting old because he looks fabulous. Cookie hasn't aged a day in 30 years!
8. Oscar v.Grover: I listed Oscar alone initially. I always used to laugh when Oscar would be a meanie to the rest of the Sesame Street gang. All the other characters are sooo nice, friendly and ever helpful he always made for a hilarious contrast. Oscar didn't like anybody then and he still doesn't today. Grover now totally opposite. Grover is friendly, a super-hero even. He goes by Super Grover when he is on super hero duty and helps everyone who lives on Sesame Street. Grover is slapstick in contrast and full of personality. Grover was definitely the pre-cursor to Elmo which makes Elmo more like Grover 2.0. Call me a softy but I couldn't pick between the two. Who is your pick?
9. Elmo: Speaking of Elmo...Elmo is like King of Monster mountain. Elmo is getting mo' money mo' money and mo' money. Show me a kid between the ages of 0 and infinity that doesn't dig Elmo and I will in turn show you someone who is likely to shoot up a Post Office. Elmo is cute, hangs with all the celebs who visit Sesame Street and is the host of his very own spin-off show, Elmo's World. I don't believe any of the other characters ever got a full-fledged spin-off. I too, am a big fan of Elmo. Actually, while watching an Elmo DVD that featured Elmo's dad I was pleasantly surprised to discover Elmo's Daddy talks like Fats Waller. Could Elmo be an undercover brother?

10. Pikachu. Arguable the bestest of all the Pokemon, a Pikachu is a kids best friend. The character Ash from Pokemon had a yellow Pikachu - apparently they come in other colors - as his mascot and it was cuddly cute...and deadly. Pikachu shot electricity from it's rear end often dealing a damaging blow during a heated monster battle to the bad guy at the right time. Pokemon is a whole MAJOR phenomenon and the little monsters have stats, evolutionary charts, special moves and breeding cycles. Pikachu's stats say a bunch of nerdy stuff that I don't understand yet I find the whole hoopla very interesting. However, I did read that Pikachu levels up with high friendship. Is it any wonder that all the little children love Pikachus and all the Pikachus love the little children?...THE END.

Want to comment on the Top 10 TV Monsters of All Time? Write comments to DuckyFace blog.

3 Great Books for Cheap Fun Easy Crafts

When you have three kids you are always looking for inexpensive ways to have fun with the kids. I'm a work at home mom so I get to spend lots of time with my kids. My daughters are just babies but I love to craft with my son and my nieces, it helps to teach them all types of skills and builds confidence. I had been looking for some good crafting ideas to add to my arsenal of mommy tools so I went in search of a good book. I was simultaneously delighted and intimidated to find numerous choices online.

I always have rough time choosing when I have too many choices. I am a bad chooser if there ever was one. So since I couldn't pick just one I decided I would pick up three that all had a little something different to offer. There were a couple others that caught my eye and made it to my wish list. I'll let you know about those later on after I have picked them up and was able to try them out a bit. Lets keep it sweet and simple for now and talk about the three kids craft books I couldn't resist.

face painting book
  • Easy Face Painting I specifically thought about face painting because we'd recently gone to a fifth birthday party that featured face painting clowns. It was a big hit with both kids and parents alike. So I LUCKILY, came across this book, Easy Face Painting. It has simple cheek designs like a lady bug or a spider. Full face designs and holiday inspired designs.  There are color photos and step by step instructions.This book also gives information to readers about how to use face painting to make a little extra money on the side as a business. I do not want to do face painting to make money but I thought it was cool idea and very interesting that they put the information out there.

  • Biggest Ever Mask Making Book for Kids Can I tell you that I couldn't buy this book fast enough. I was more excited than my kid! I couldn't wait to get started. All of the choices were so much fun. There are 30 different masks in the book but the twist is that they give you 7 different ways to decorate each one so you can create many different designs. I loved the animal masks which comes in a separate book for free as a gift. My little boy is really into animals so he really got a kick out of making his animal mask. There are also awesome masks for holidays and special occasions which is also given in another book by the same author absolutely free! I would have spent cash money to buy any of them separately so I feel like I should get extra mommy points for this one. 

  • 50 Development Ideas for Kids  This one has to be my fave so far. This is like summer camp in a box without the box. There are lots of really imaginative activites like making treasure maps and fun stuff like pizza making but with whole wheat crust, so it's healthy-ish and fun too...that's definitely a plus. Another major kudo for this book is that for the project type crafts you can use household items you already have in your home. There is a recipe for homemade playdough. This is really cool its got a little bit of everything. I can pull this book out for all sorts of occasions. Love it!