Category: Cool Stuff for Kids

“He Named Me Malala”: Global Broadcast TV Premiere

If you’re home tomorrow night (Monday, February 29, 2016), be sure to tune in to the National Geographic Channel at 8 pm EST/PST or 7 pm CST. The channel, in partnership with Fox Searchlight Pictures, will present the exclusive global broadcast television premiere of Academy Award-winner Davis Guggenheim’s feature documentary “He Named Me Malala,” an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai. Malala was shot and severely wounded by the Taliban while returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in October 2012.

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He Named Me Malala” will air commercial free on National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo MUNDO in the U.S., with a global rollout planned within a week in 171 countries and 45 languages.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance screener of “He Named Me Malala.” Keith and I were left speechless by the film, which offers an intimate look into Malala’s life before and after the attack. Malala was only 15 at the time of the shooting, when she and her father were singled out for advocating for girls’ education. Malala miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that invests in and advocates for girls’ secondary education.

The film explores both the extraordinary aspects of Malala’s life, such as giving speeches at the United Nations and hobnobbing with politicians, to her typical teenage activities of joking around at home with her parents and brothers and blushing over cute boys. I was so inspired by the strength, bravery, and passion of this otherwise normal teenage girl, who proudly woke up each morning and went to school despite constant threats against her life. The film also explores Malala’s close relationship with her father, who instilled the importance of education and advocacy in her from a young age.

I was particularly struck by the video clips of Malala when she was little—probably around the same age as my daughter, Lily. Seeing those videos of a young Malala laughing and playing with her dad reminded me that Lily is no different than the 60 million girls worldwide who cannot go to school. Lily is simply fortunate to grow up in a place where education for women is valued and encouraged. She is fortunate to grow up in a family who will have the means to send her to college when she is older. But so many girls around the world who are just like her—girls who love to play and tease their brothers and hug their daddies—don’t have access to education.

But you can help Malala make education accessible to girls worldwide. The National Geographic Channel and 21st Century Fox, in partnership with the Malala Fund, have launched a social initiative to raise awareness for girls’ right to education. Facebook fans can show their support and stand #withMalala by transforming their profile picture into a yearbook photo that includes animation that dissolves female users’ photos from the page. Facebook users can visit supportmalala.com to get started. For every person who participates, $1 will be donated to the Malala Fund.

A $1 donation will also be made to the Malala Fund for every tweet using the hashtag #withMalala through March 10, for a total donation of up to $50,000.

So if you stand #withMalala, watch the powerful documentary and show your support on Facebook and Twitter! Teachers can also access free education resources, discussion and curriculum guides, and more at education.nationalgeographic.org/malala.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Review Wire Media for 20th Century Fox. I received information to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

 

Give the Gift of Books All Year Long

Monthly box subscriptions for kids are all the rage these days, and they come in all kinds of themes to suit any interest—Kiwi Crate for kids who love to craft, Little Passports for geography lovers, Brick Loot for little builders. (Check out my review of Brick Loot here!)

Recently, we had the chance to try out a subscription box that suits my little book lovers perfectly—Bookroo. Each month, Bookroo will send your child three board books or two picture books—whatever you choose.

My kids love books and love to have me read to them. Now that the twins are 4.5, they’re also learning to read themselves. So I feel we can never have too many books in the house.

The problem is, when given the chance to choose books for themselves at the bookstore or library, they almost always go for the Star Wars or superhero books. While that’s perfectly fine—I firmly believe that kids should be allowed to read whatever they choose—I do want to make sure their reading selections are varied. So I always pick a book or two on my own. Once I read it to them, they usually end up loving it, and have actually found some of their favorite books this way.

So I was really excited to give Bookroo a try and to see what books we would get. I signed up for the box that would send two picture books. When it arrived, the boys were really excited to see their names on it and to open it. And when they did, I was super impressed! The hardcover books were individually wrapped with pretty paper and tied with twine. It was like receiving a present directly from a loved one.

Bookroo books

I was even more pleased with the selections we received: “Ribbit!” by Rodrigo Folgueira and “Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover” by David Melling. Both books are colorful and beautifully illustrated, and the kids were laughing out loud at the stories!

“Ribbit!” is about a lovable pink pig who tries to make friends with other animals by “ribbiting” like a frog and tweeting like a bird, much to the animals’ bewilderment. “Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover” is the third book in a series about a bear named Douglas. In it, Douglas gets invited to Rabbit’s sleepover, but ends up inviting too many of his animal friends to go with him. With too many animals and not enough space, how will anyone ever get to sleep? Douglas finds the perfect hilarious solution.

Bookroo picture books

I enjoyed the books as much as the boys did. So did Lily, who is 16 months old. They will make great additions to the kids’ library.

But what if we had already owned one or both of the books that came in our subscription box? All we would have had to do was email Bookroo a picture of us giving the book to someone else and we’d receive $5 off our next box.

So if you are looking for a gift for a child who loves books, or you just want to discover new books for your own child, give Bookroo a try! It comes in a 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month subscription. The price ranges from $15.99 per month for a 12-month subscription to $17.99 per month for a 1-month subscription. Shipping and handling to the U.S. is $5 per month. Plus, use this link to purchase your subscription and you’ll receive $5 off. It’s a coupon just for Double Duty Twins readers!

If you decide to try Bookroo, leave a comment here and let me know what you think! Happy reading!

Disclosure: I received a discounted Bookroo box to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

Check Out These Adorable and Stylish Baby Shades!

Remember when my family and I lived in California? And remember how I couldn’t stop talking about how much I loved every warm, sun-soaked moment?

I did—and so did my twins. But protecting their little eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays was a struggle. It stressed me out. After all, pediatric optometrists warn that lifetime UV damage starts in early childhood, with retinal damage from the sun having its greatest impact in kids under 10 years old.

We bought the boys all sorts of fun little toddler shades. But no matter what we did, their shades could not seem to survive very long. They always seemed to end up mangled at the bottom of the beach bag, crushed under the double stroller in the trunk of the car, or destroyed by grubby little hands that managed to find them even when I thought I had put them in a safe place. Eventually we gave up, tired of constantly spending money on toddler shades that were just going to break anyway, and just tried to improvise by shielding their eyes as best we could with sun hats and baseball caps.

Recently, I received an email offering me the opportunity to try ro•sham•bo baby shades. These stylish, Italian-made sunglasses come in many fun designs named after ’90s icons, like “Kelly Kapowski pink” and  “Zack Morris blue.” (Where are all my “Saved By the Bell” fans?) They block 100% of the sun’s UVA/B rays and are BPA- and pthalate-free. They’re also a favorite of celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Jamie King.

But here’s the part of the email that intrigued me the most: “Designed specifically for babies and children’s use, abuse, and love of putting things in their mouths, ro•sham•bo are so durable that they can be bent, stretched, pulled, and stepped on (they have even been run over and survived!) and bounce right back to shape.”

Um—yeah right, I thought. They haven’t met my Lily, who shares her big brothers’—ahem—curiosity. But this video of the shades being manhandled and surviving was quite convincing:

 

I wrote back and said I would love to try the shades. I received two adorable pairs—one in “Breakfast @ Tiff’s teal” and one in “Simpsons yellow.” Lily seemed to prefer the teal ones, and so did I. So, even though it’s winter here in Northern Virginia, we bundled up and took them with us to the playground on a warmer day. She looked super adorable in them! She also wanted to wear her brother’s blue puffer vest—a little fashionista in training. Here’s Lily modeling her cool new ro•sham•bo shades:

Toddler wearing teal shades
See? Adorable! (Please excuse the crumb on her chin!) Since that day at the park, we’ve had gloomy days followed by the mega blizzard now known as #Snowzilla16, so Lily hasn’t had much opportunity to sport her shades out and about. However, I have allowed her to play with them to her little heart’s content, and so far, they really have held up! She even chewed on them a couple of times. I’m really surprised that there aren’t any scratches yet.

Now, the question is: Will Lily keep them on for longer stretches at the pool, the park, and the beach this summer? I think she will. The lightweight arms bend gently inward to help keep the shades on a baby’s head. And because they’re so soft, they seem to be a lot more comfortable than stiffer shades. I know because I tried them on. (No, I will not post a picture of that!)

ro•sham•bo baby shades fit babies and toddlers ages 0 to 2 and up, depending on the size of the child’s head. And, get this: They come in adult and kids’ sizes, too! I’m seriously considering getting teal ones for myself and the boys so we can all match. (I doubt I’ll get Keith to go along with it.)

To purchase your own ro•sham•bo baby or adult shades, head to roshambobaby.com. Baby shades sell for $20 per pair and adult shades cost $35 per pair. Buy three pairs and enter the coupon code Family10 to get 10 percent off your order. Purchase four or more pairs and enter the code Family15 to get 15 percent off your order. Then, feel great about your purchase: The company donates a portion of all proceeds to autism research!

Now, let’s hope summer gets here quickly!

Disclosure: I received two complimentary pairs of ro•sham•bo baby shades to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

Build STEM Skills With Brackitz!

At 4.5 years old, my twins love building toys. LEGO bricks, Magna-Tiles, Lincoln Logs, and Tegu blocks are regularly strewn all over my family room. As annoying as that can be (we’ve all experienced the misery of stepping on a stray LEGO brick), I love the fact that Matt and Nate are learning invaluable STEM and problem-solving skills—and using their imaginations— while they build. To me, a little mess is a small price to pay to mold the minds of my future engineers or architects.

Naturally, I thought I knew about all of the building toys out there. But then I learned about Brackitz. Brackitz are durable, open-ended blocks that enable children of all ages to build any imaginable structure in any size. Naturally, I was eager to let the boys give Brackitz a try.

We received a Brackitz Inventor 28-Piece Set to try in exchange for our honest opinion. With so few pieces, I thought the boys would get bored quickly. But I was pleasantly surprised by how long they were able to entertain themselves. I was also impressed with how many different creations they were able to come up with.

The kids were eager to build as soon as I opened the box. Even Lily got in on the fun!

IMG_0335Matt was super excited about the 4-way connectors, so the first thing he did was make an X!

IMG_0342Nate made an airplane.

IMG_0344And then of course, Matt had to build an even cooler airplane, while Nate turned the remaining pieces into a “giraffe that’s eating popcorn.”

IMG_0354These photos were taken last week, and the kids have played with their Brackitz every day since then, creating all sorts of vehicles and other crazy gadgets. It’s really interesting to see how creative they have gotten and all the combinations they’ve been able to dream up with only 28 pieces. The 4-way and 3-way connectors really increase the building possibilities, and there are even little motion connectors that let you add moving parts to your creations, such as spinning propellers.

The Brackitz Inventor 28-Piece Set currently retails for $19.95 on Amazon. You can also get 50-piece, 100-piece, and even 200-piece sets. I definitely see a larger set in our future, as well as many Brackitz birthday gifts for the boys’ friends.

If you’ve got a little builder, give Brackitz a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

Holiday Gift Idea: Sands Alive! Glow

If you’ve got a preschool-age or older child on your holiday shopping list, I’ve got the perfect gift idea for you—Sands Alive! Glow from Play Visions. I was first introduced to this awesome product at Sweet Suite over the summer. Shortly after that, the company sent us a set to test, and the boys and I have been having a blast with it ever since.

ChizComm_PlayVisions_SandsAliveGlow

The first time we tried it, my 6-year-old niece was here as well, and she had an equally great time playing with it. It kept them busy for literally hours!

Boys playing with Sands Alive! Glow

Girl playing with Sands Alive! Glow

Sands Alive! Glow is moldable sand that’s incredibly soft and fun to squeeze. (Remember those squishy stress balls you’d keep on your desk at work? It’s got the same effect!) But the difference between this sand and others is that this sand glows in the dark! It comes with a UV pen light so you can write glowing messages on it, and the UV LED eyeglasses make it continually glow. What kid doesn’t like things that glow in the dark?

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Here are some more things that make Sands Alive! Glow awesome:

  • It’s not sticky or grainy and it stays together well, so it’s not too messy and it’s easy to clean up. Plus, it comes with a play tray to contain it, so you never even have to place it on your table if you don’t want to.
  • It never dries out! That means that if your child forgets to clean it up and it stays out overnight, it will be just fine the next morning.
  • It’s bacteria free.
  • It’s affordable! The Starter Set, which comes with one pound of sand, the UV pen light and eyeglasses, and the play tray is currently selling for less than $25 on Amazon.
  • The Toy Insider selected it as their 2015 Award Winner for The Toy Insider Top Holiday Toys.

You can’t ask for much more than a toy that is safe, provides hours of fun, stimulates kids’ creativity, and is easy to clean and affordable. We’ve already given it as a gift to some of Matt and Nate’s friends and will continue to do. Try it out for yourself, and let me know what you think if you do!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Sands Alive! Glow Starter Set to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

GIVEAWAY: Win A Copy of “The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish”

If you’re a parent, then you probably know who the grumpiest fish ever is—the Pout-Pout Fish, who swam into our hearts in March 2008 in a book of the same name. That book has been in heavy rotation in our house ever since the twins were big enough to request it, and it’s one of our favorites.

Since the debut of The Pout-Pout Fish, author Deborah Diesen and illustrator Dan Hanna have teamed up to release several more titles in the New York Times best-selling series, including The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School, The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark, and more. In total, there are more than 2.5 million copies of the books in print.

In September, the latest book in the series hit stores, and it’s perfect for the holiday season!

Not Very Merry Cover

In the book, The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish, Mr. Fish is down in the dumps over holiday shopping. He is so consumed with buying the perfect gift for each of his friends that he forgets the true meaning of the holidays. Just like the other books in the series, this one is full of catchy, repetitive rhymes that kids love:

“A gift should be big,
And a gift should be bright.
And a gift should be perfect—
Guaranteed to bring delight.
And a gift should have meaning,
Plus a bit of bling-zing,
So I’ll shop till I drop

For each just-right thing.”

When Mr. Fish—with his signature Pout-Pout Fish frown—comes up empty-handed, Miss Shimmer intervenes with a plan to make homemade gifts. He soon learns that it’s not about busting the budget or gifting the season’s hottest item, but giving from the heart. Together they experience the joy that comes from giving and sharing—the merriest gifts of all.

We received a copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish for our review, and the boys and I are loving it! The illustrations are beautiful, and it’s a nice break from all the Santa- and Rudolph-heavy books in our holiday rotation.

The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish is published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux Books for Young Readers, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, and is geared toward kids ages 2 to 6. It is available for purchase at a wide range of retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

But before you purchase a copy, enter my giveaway to win a free one! Macmillan will send a copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish to one lucky Double Duty Twins reader just in time for the holiday season! All U.S. residents are eligible to win.

To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post and let me know who you’ll give the book to if you win. But hurry—the contest ends at midnight on Tuesday, November 24, 2015! I will pick one winner at random on November 25.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish to facilitate this review and giveaway. All opinions are my own!

Lily’s “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” First Birthday Party

As hard as it is to believe, our little Lily turned one year old on September 5. We celebrated with a pink and gold “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” themed party in our backyard with about 50 guests, 20 of whom were kids. Yes, I may be crazy, but the party was a ton of fun. Everyone—especially Lily—had a blast!

Here are photo highlights from the party. Most of the photos, including the gorgeous first portrait of the birthday star herself, were taken by children and lifestyle photographer Daniel Marino of Marino Photography (http://danmarinophoto.com). Lily’s outfit and headband were made by Etsy shop Princess Cute Boutique:

Baby in first birthday outfit
We set up a canopy over the backyard patio and hung gold stars of various sizes from it. We also put gold stars on the sliding glass doors behind the food table, as well as an adorable “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” banner from Party Made Pretty:

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star banner
I ordered Star Fantasy Napkins from The Stationery Studio and had them personalized to say “Our little star Lily.” If you’re not familiar with The Stationery Studio, you should check out the site! With over 22,000 products to choose from, The Stationery Studio is the online leader in personalized stationery and gifts. Its large celebrity fan base includes Kim Kardashian West, Elizabeth Banks, Bethenny Frankel, and Julie Bowen.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star napkins

I couldn’t resist these glittery gold star straws from Etsy shop Fabulous Little Party:

Pink and gold star straws

For food, I kept it simple with catering from Wegman’s. Everything from the sandwiches to the sushi to the chicken bites was delicious! For the kids, my sister-in-law used cookie cutters to make star-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and topped them with awesome gold star cupcake toppers from Etsy shop Below Blink:

Star-shaped sandwiches

Of course I made a giant bowl of sangria, which was a huge hit. The stickers on the water bottles matched the invitations and thank-you cards from Etsy shop Ooh La Llew:

First birthday sign
Entertainment was a bit tricky because there were so many kids of different ages. Luckily I happen to be friends with an amazing woman and party entertainer who goes by the name of Miss Mollie, and sometimes Mollie the Clown! Miss Mollie did face painting, parachute play, and balloon creations for all of Lily’s little friends, and the kids were absolutely thrilled. I highly recommend Miss Mollie for kids’ events. If you’re in the Northern Virginia area and have kids ages 0 to 5, you can check her out yourself every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 10:45 a.m. at PB & Jack in Fairfax.

Children standing under a parachute at a birthday party

Kids standing around a parachute at a birthday party

A party entertainer makes balloon creations.

At the end of the party, everyone moved inside for cake and dessert. Rachel from Dazzle Cakes, LLC made a delicious and gorgeous star cake that everyone loved. She’s based out of Burke, Virginia. My best friend Christine from SugarSisters made equally beautiful and yummy Rice Krispie treats that doubled as favors. SugarSisters makes incredible candy tables and treats for events and is based out of Staten Island, New York. I also picked up some star cookies from Costco and, for a homemade touch, made pie-crust star crackers. In the background of the last photo, you’ll see the banner I made with Lily’s monthly photos:

Star themed birthday cake

Star-shaped Rice Krispie treats

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star themed dessert table

First birthday party dessert table

The highlight of the party was singing “Happy Birthday to Lily” and then watching her tear into the special cupcake Rachel made just for her. It was her first cupcake ever, and it’s safe to say she loved it!

Baby in 1st birthday hat clapping

First birthday cake smash

I know the party was a bit over the top, but it was so much fun and completely worth it. Thank you to all of our family and friends who came to help us celebrate our little star, Lily!

Disclosure: I received complimentary products from The Stationery Studio to use at the party and include in this post. My high opinion of the products is completely my own!