Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quick Stick SafetyTats

Okay. I have a lot to say about this product, so buckle in. But if you're not interested in reading all the way to the bottom of this post, just know this: I LOVE THESE TATTOOS! I will be buying them in the future. SafetyTat is a great product.

Quick Stick SafetyTats are cute adhesive tattoos you can put on your child and personalize with your cell phone number in case they get lost.

They apply without water, are hypoallergenic and skin safe, are waterproof, and can last (according to the website) for up to two weeks. They come with a special pen to write your phone number on it, or you can get Original SafetyTats customized with your information. (I didn't try the Original SafetyTat, which applies with water and lasts 1-5 days, more like a traditional kids' tattoo.)

I tested these out on both Jack and Quinn, as they are my wanderers. I applied them on their forearms, but you could put one pretty much anywhere and just teach your child to point to it if they are lost. Jack was extremely proud of his and showed it to everyone he could find. (Which is why it's not recommended that you write your child's name on the tatttoo.) Quinn liked his as well.

The two of them each wore one to a Washington Nationals baseball game, which seemed like a pretty good place to have identifying information on my little nomads.

Frankly, Jack should be a sales rep for SafetyTat. I think he helped sell many tattoos at the baseball game and on the Metro.

SafetyTat claims that more than 2000 kids get lost in the U.S. every day. They say that 90% of families will experience losing a child in a public place. I'm horrified to say so, but I lost Quinn once at the mall. It was the most terrifying five minutes of my life. And that was only five minutes in a mall. Can you imagine losing a four-year-old at Nationals Stadium?

SafetyTats won't keep your child from getting lost, and they won't guarantee a safe return, but they might help get your child back faster if they do wander off. And isn't that worth a couple of bucks?

I think these tattoos would be perfect for a vacation because they last so long. Jack has been wearing the same Quick Stick SafetyTat for eight days and, yes, it's a little the worse for wear, but it's still legible and could be read in an emergency. These tattoos stay on through baths, soap, swimming pools, and pretty much anything except peeling them off (kind of like a bandaid).

Sticking strong after a shower!

One of the other great things about this company is all the varieties of tattoos they offer. With different colors and cute pictures featuring everything from dinosaurs and puppies to butterflies and giraffes, you will be able to find one your child loves. They even have tattoos designed to be cool enough for older kids and tweens. (Not all of these styles are available in the Quick Stick variety.)

SafetyTats offers many specialized tattoos, including some in Spanish, medical alert tattoos, tattoos detailing allergies, and special needs tattoos, including tattoos that say, "I have Autism" or "I have non-verbal Autism" or just "non-verbal please call."

I'll be buying more of these SafetyTats not only for our day-to-day outings, but for our vacation in August. My biggest problem with my imminent SafetyTat order is that it is going to be hard to choose which design to pick.

Enjoy them if you decide to buy them, and I genuinely hope that they never get put to use in an emergency by you.

Honesty Clause: SafetyTat sent me two three-packs of Quick Stick SafetyTats to try out at no charge. I used one pack and sort of grudgingly gave one set away to a friend of mine who wants to try them out at Disneyworld. Quick Stick SafetyTats sell at $7.99 for four, $9.95 for six, and $19.95 for 18.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Super Why Educational Activities

It is not a secret that I've always sort of credited Super Why with teaching Jack to read when he was four years old.

Part of his early reading, I think, has to do with the way his brain works, but his spontaneous (and untaught by me) reading coincided with rampant Super Why viewing. Jack is a very visual learner, and I think the show helped him "see" how to read. (I also don't think that all the reading and lap cuddling we did with him hurt.)

It turns out that I may not be so off base in my assertion about Super Why. It turns out that a couple of studies have shown that children reap tangible literacy benefits from Super Why. I'm not saying that you should park your kid in front of the TV and expect them to turn into brainiacs, but if your young child is going to watch TV, you could certainly do worse than this very fun show.

I went to a presentation a while back
featuring Angela Santomero, the creator, executive producer, and head writer of Super Why (she's also the woman behind Blue's Clues) and I was actually really surprised at the amount of thought that goes into making PBS Kids' shows. She walked us through the process that goes into each episode and how they consider a reading curriculum and how kids learn when they're putting together their stories. It was fascinating. And it inspired trust in me.

PBS sent us home from the presentation with a backpack full of goodies, including materials they use at five-day Super Why Reading Camps that local PBS stations host for kids. You can find all these materials if you scroll down a little on this website page. They're set up so you can have a few activities each day, resulting in some improved literacy skills by week's end.

My kids and I spent a day last week doing some of the activities, and we had a great time. All three of my kids were eager to participate, which is unusual for them. The activities are fun, and centered around Super Why's Three Little Pigs episode (also available on this page), but definitely reinforce reading skills related to specific sounds and letters.

I think our favorite was an activity that had my kids taping letters to things in the room that started with certain letters.

Jack had the cutting honors.

"I" was for, well, it was for "I".
And that Star Wars toy evidently starts with an "A". All three kids agreed.

"B" stands for Brain.
"B" also stands for Blurry, but I liked the concept, so you get the blurry photo.

There were many other activities and worksheets, all of which were fun and engaging.

We got a Super Why puzzle with hidden words inside it when we attended the presentation. Sam found all the words.

What I'm trying to say here is that if your kid is going to watch TV and you have access to PBS Kids, give Super Why a try. It's probably better for your kid than other, non-educational shows. For a little extra reinforcement, check out some of the online activities as well. Additional Super Why activities are available here.

Honesty Clause: When we left the Super Why presentation and luncheon, each attendee received a backpack filled with materials and some other fun stuff. Honestly though, mostly what I came away from that luncheon with was trust in the PBS Kids people.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chiquita Smoothies

There are two things I'd like to share with you that relate to my family and smoothies.

(1) My six-year-old, Jack, does NOT voluntarily consume fruit. If he were to find a raisin in an oatmeal cookie, he would spit it out. He eats around raisins in his Raisin Bran. He refuses to eat melon, apples, citrus, and everything else we've tried. He will drink juice. Usually. Without his daily vitamin (and maybe with?), he is not meeting his nutritional needs for fruit.

(2) Even though my pediatrician suggested making smoothies for Jack, I am very lazy and have never been successful in consistently remembering to mix together fruit, ice, yogurt, or whatever else is involved in smoothie making. Fortunately, Jack seems resistant to scurvy.

Well. Along come new Chiquita Smoothies, with their full serving of fruit and 100% DV Vitamin C in each 8-ounce serving. They are fat free too, with only 120 calories a serving. See?

That takes care of part of problem number one. But what about problem number two? You need exactly three things to make these smoothies: the smoothie itself, a blender, and the ability to make ice. The smoothie is a frozen concentrate that you mix with a 1/2 can of water and two cans of ice. Then blend.

And even though the can says there are three servings inside, it makes a whole lot of smoothie—enough to feed an entire playgroup AND a happy mom and dad too. Trust me.

So they have fruit content and are fast and easy to make, but how do they taste? The smoothies are fruity and tart, not creamy like some people might prefer, but they taste really good. They come in four flavors: Mixed Berry, Peach Mango, Strawberry Banana, and Banana Colada. Strawberry Banana was my favorite. My husband sucked down a lot of the Mixed Berry.

But what about Jack? What about Mr. No Fruit? I'll tell you this: he was willing to taste it, and that's a big deal for him. He even came back for a second taste, leading me to believe that if I keep making them that he will eventually come to enjoy them. In fact, when he was trying our second batch (the Strawberry Banana), he said, "It tastes like candy!" I think that's a good sign. I'm going to keep making these and keep him sampling them.

And even though he already eats plenty of fruit, my youngest was probably our household's biggest smoothie fan!

Find coupons, recipes, and a contest to win a trip to Jamaica for a family of four on the Chiquita Smoothies website.

Honesty Clause: The Chiquita people told me they were going to send me some stuff about smoothies. I kind of expected a recipe card about how to mix Chiquita bananas and ice. Instead, they sent an almost comical amount of items including several of their smoothies, as well as an Oster blender with a smoothie "Blend N'Go" cup in which to make them. Plus they sent cups and tiny spoons. And napkins. So there you have it: full disclosure. Chiquita Smoothies retail for about $2.69 a can.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Memento & Memento Mori

Stimey is watching Memento. It has been years since she first saw this movie. And while nothing can be quite the same as the slow reveal of a first-time viewing of this Christopher Nolan movie, seeing a second viewing nearly a decade later comes close. Good stuff. Stimey is also reading the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan that was the basis for the movie.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ring-O Flamingo by Gamewright

"Do you want to hear what time it is? Flinging time!"

So said my son as we started our eighth game in a row of Ring-O Flamingo by Gamewright, henceforth known as The Greatest Game Ever Invented.

This game was ridiculously silly fun. Each player gets 12 rings and uses a launchpad to flip rings onto the playing board. The goal is to drop rings around the flamingos without getting any on the alligators.

It is such a simple concept, but so fun. It is intended for players ages six and up, but I bet a younger kid could give it a try too. Frankly, they couldn't have done more poorly than I did. Both my six- and seven-year-olds scored many points before I was able to flip a ring over any of the targets. And even then, my first ringer was an alligator. Oh no! Minus 2 points!

Of course, I also exacted revenge by flipping rings at my opponents instead of the board. My far more mature children only aimed at the targets. Maybe that's why they scored more points than I did.

This game was a lot of fun. The flamingos and alligators are adorable and the rings are made out of sturdy plastic. Even vigorous bending by the six-year-old didn't result in any permanent damage.

I've played a few Gamewright games by now and I have to say that I think they are incredible. They are made from quality materials and are adorable, hilarious, and a lot of fun. As I look through their product line, I see lots of games that I covet. I've been a big believer in Cranium games for a long time, but I think that Gamewright definitely rivals them for fun, ease, and entertainment.

Plus, many of Gamewright's toys teach skills. Ring-O Flamingo The Greatest Game Ever Invented teaches hand-eye coordination, sorting, and adding and subtracting.

This game is all kinds up fun. Each game is short, but it doesn't get boring replaying it. Older kids could even play a series of games with the winner being the first to 50 points, thus teaching them how to add bigger numbers.

Honesty Clause: I received a review copy of Ring-O Flamingo at no charge. It retails for $25.99.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weight Watchers Entertaining Ideas (& More!)

You may have noticed that I review a fair amount of Weight Watchers-related goods here at Things and Stuff Reviews. This is partly because their lovely PR people are willing to send me review samples to test. But it is also because I think that Weight Watchers is truly a quality organization that does a lot of good for a lot of people.

I have struggled with my weight for a long time. I've written about it elsewhere, so I won't bore you with that here, but suffice it to say that the times that I have been successful at losing weight, it has been because of Weight Watchers. With that in mind, I recently rejoined a meeting and have been attending meetings and following the program. I look forward to the time when I will be able to write about reaching my goal weight. It's going to happen. It will take a while, but it's going to happen.

One of the (many) challenges of a weight-loss regimen is entertaining dinner guests. Finding dinner company-ready foods and dishes that won't break your (or your guests') healthy diet can be tough. Weight Watchers teamed up with lifestyle expert Susie Coelho, who produced a video about how to use Weight Watchers foods in an elegant way.

I've chosen to join Weight Watchers and attend meetings because that is what helps me lose weight. Evidently I operate well with the added stresses of peer pressure. But if you're looking for some tools to help you without joining, here are some options.

Weight Watchers has a Facebook group you can join. I'm not on Facebook, so I honestly can't tell you anything about it, but I thought I would toss the information out there.

They also have a snack widget that can offer lighter suggestions for the fatty foods you really want to eat.

I'd love to hear if you have any good ideas for being successful with Weight Watchers. I'm currently using their eTools that let me track my meals online. Plus, they tell me that they're coming out with an iPhone app soon that will let me do it on my phone. However, they do have options for tracking on smartphones. The Weight Watchers website has forums, meal ideas, and nutrition information that is extremely valuable if you are trying to lose weight. Much of it is for members only, but if you are serious about losing weight, I think the membership fee is well worth it.

Honesty Clause: Most recently I was sent a box of Weight Watchers lemon cakes for review. I joined Weight Watchers by myself and for myself. I pay my monthly pass fee out of my own pocket.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Feed the Kitty by Gamewright

Let me ask you a few questions. How many gajillion times have you played Candyland? Who here wishes they could get away with never playing it again? How many of you have kids who LOOOOOOOVE it?

Who is looking for a fun, new alternative game that small children can play?

If you raised your hand to any of those questions, you're going to want to read this. I'm trying out several new games for Gamewright, and one of them is Feed the Kitty, a great game for 2-5 players ages four and older.

I pulled out this game to play with my three kids, ages 4, 6, and almost 8, when their two cousins were visiting. Even though the game is supposed to be for ages four and older, our 3 1/2-year-old buddy was able to pick up the game and play by himself really easily.

It is such a simple game that it is almost surprising that it is so fun. Basically, kids roll two dice and based on the roll, they either keep their little wooden mouse stash, pass mice to another player, or feed the kitty by putting their mice in the center bowl. You win when you are the last person with mice left.

A really nice feature of this fast-moving game is that when you run out of mice, you are not necessarily out of the game because the player to your right might have to give you a mouse if they roll an arrow on their dice. This eliminated pouting if someone lost all their mice, because there was a good chance that someone else would pass them a mouse soon and they'd be back in the game.

Feed the Kitty has won several awards and teaches visual discrimination and counting, but more importantly, it's a lot of fun. We played a bunch of games the first night we got it out, and my kids pulled the game out first thing the next morning to play a game before school.

I also liked that even though it is clearly intended for younger kids, even my oldest had a great time playing.

The game itself is adorable and would be a great reasonably priced gift for a birthday party.

Honesty Clause: I received a review sample of the game at no charge. Feed the Kitty retails for $11.99. You can find a Gamewright retailer on their website. Stay tuned for upcoming reviews of more of Gamewright's fabulous kids' games.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wooleycat's Musical Theater

For maybe two years, every night after dinner my kids, my husband, and I would retire to the living room, put on a CD and DANCE! Some of our music staples were the Black Eyed Peas, the Grateful Dead, and disco. It was great fun and good exercise, but it was not a soothing before-bed activity. Sometimes our kids ended up too riled up to go to bed easily.

Those of you that are smarter than us (most of you), who are looking for more age-appropriate music, or who want a fun, quiet way to enjoy bedtime, should take a look at and a listen to Wooleycat's Musical Theater.

Wooleycat's Musical Theater is a sweet book/CD combo by Dennis Hysom and Christine Walker that combines mellow, funny songs with a colorful, silly book. Some of the songs are soothing, some are energetic, but they were all fun.

I first put in the CD while I was babysitting a 2 1/2-year-old girl and sat down with her to read the book. The ten rhymes in the book consist of the song lyrics from the CD. The songs are inventive takes on classic nursery rhymes.

For instance, you may know Hickory Dickory Dock, but have you heard of Hickory, the Hang-Gliding Mouse? Same concept, different words, and waaaaay funnier pictures.

The little girl loved the pictures in the book. She flipped through and exclaimed over all the cute animals and funny things they did. Then my six-year-old son got a hold of the book. He eventually squeezed our little friend off the couch and sat reading the book in time to the music.

He read the entire book and listened to the entire CD. He loved it.

This would be a great before-bed book to read and then to leave the CD softly playing as your child falls asleep. You can hear samples of the songs on the Wooleycat website. Also at the website, you can play a virtual piano to make up your own melody. All kinds of fun.

Wooleycat songs, books, and video have won many parenting and childhood awards. If your kids are into silly music and fun books, this might be for them.

Honesty Clause: I received a review copy for free. Also, Hysom and Walker (the book/music creators), who are married, have a son named Quinn (like I do!), so I liked them even before I put the CD in the stereo. The Wooleycat Musical Theater book and CD retails for $18.95.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

Stimey is reading Pride and Prejudice. Stimey WAS reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (The Classic Regency Romance—Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!), but then decided that the adaptation might be more fun if she read the actual book first. Also, she thinks that the fact that she never read the original means that some high school English teacher somewhere failed her.