10 Hotspots for the Holidays

10 Hotspots for the Holidays

We rounded up a list of our favorite holiday activities to enjoy by yourself or with your out of town family! 

New York Botanical Garden

New York Botanical Garden

  1. Cora Hartshorn Arboretum: December 16th or 17th - Take an annual hot chocolate hike around the arboretum grounds with your family and friends with a donation for $5 per person.https://hartshornarboretum.org/?event=3rd-annual-hot-chocolate-hike-weekend&event_date=2017-12-16

  2. Morris Museum: December 15th - Grab a tour of the train show with hands on activities for adults and children. http://morrismuseum.org/tot-tours/

  3. New York Botanical Garden: Until January 15th - Visit the gardens for a train show going through 150 landmarks, a skit, and bar car nights for adults over 21.

  4. Newark Museum: December 10th - Learn how to make Hanukkah food with a cooking demo by chef Leticia Moreinos Schwartz; December 17th - Move with a Kwanzaa dance tutorial;  December 21st - See a light themed acapella show and LED performance by robots. https://www.newarkmuseum.org/late-thursdays-december

  5. New York Hall of Science: Until January 15th; Create a well-renowned gingerbread house with the master chef Jon Lovitch. https://nysci.org/event/gingerbread-lane/

  6. Dyker Heights: Start Thanksgiving; See the famous lights by the town of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn that have some of the most lavish decorations. Most visit by themselves but there are bus tours as well to show the magical lights. http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/dyker-heights-christmas-lights/  

  7. Jewish Museum: December 10th - Celebrate Hanukkah with crafts, music, lights, and stories. Have a family day to learn the history of Hanukkah. http://thejewishmuseum.org/calendar/events/2017/12/10/hanukkah-family-day-121017  

  8. Skylands Stadium Light Show: Until December 30th, Catch the light show with gigantic displays of lights then head over to the winter wonderland in the Christmas Village for treats and performances until December 23rd. http://skylandsstadium.com/christmas-light-show/

  9. Turtle Back Zoo: From December 11th-January 1st; See the different lighted animals throughout the zoo and each week, there is a different theme in the month of December. The zoo is a local treasure that will be transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays. http://turtlebackzoo.com/events/holiday-light-spectacular-2/

  10. Adventure Aquarium: Until December 30th; Experience various activities in the famous aquarium from the tallest tree underwater to storytime to a dance party. This will be a fan favorite in every family. https://www.adventureaquarium.com/What-To-Do-In-New-Jersey/Special-Events/Christmas-Underwater


Dyker Heights Brooklyn

Dyker Heights Brooklyn

Adventure Aquarium, Camden

Adventure Aquarium, Camden

4 STEM-Inspired Halloween Costumes for Future Scientists

4 STEM-Inspired Halloween Costumes for Future Scientists

The weather’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing, and the smell of candy is lingering in the air. Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to incorporate learning with play! Are you still thinking about a costume for your kids? Check out the following STEM-inspired Halloween costumes:

Marie Curie

Curie - a Polish and French chemist who discovered radiation and the elements radium and polonium - is a famous female scientist and a phenomenal role model for young girls!

A long black dress, a messy bun and a beaker with blue liquid (or water mixed with blue food coloring) is all you need to complete this look.

Source: 5MinutesforMom.com 

Source: 5MinutesforMom.com 

A Rain Cloud

Let your little one be sunshine on a rainy day with this adorable rain cloud costume!

You can use clothes and rain boots from your child’s closet, then all that you will need to do is make the hat.

You can buy a cheap hat at a party store, spray the top of it with spray adhesive, stick clumps of polyester to form a big cloud, then create raindrops out of blue felt and stick it to the brim of the hat with a hot glue gun

For a step-by-step tutorial, see here.

Source: www.makeit-loveit.com 

Source: www.makeit-loveit.com 

Mad Scientist

Super easy and cute! A perfect costume for adults as well. 

Check out the tutorial here.

Source: www.raysofbliss.com 

Source: www.raysofbliss.com 

Astronaut, Earth and Moon

Great costumes for a group of kids or even grown-up star-struck astronomers! 

All you need are large lanterns, duct tape, spray paint, and craft paint.

Check out the full tutorial here.

Source: http://jkashton.blogspot.com.es/2011/11/halloween.html

Source: http://jkashton.blogspot.com.es/2011/11/halloween.html

Word to the wise - let your kids help you select and design the costume. If your child has sensory sensitivities, make sure the costume is comfortable and can easily be worn on top of regular clothes. Happy Halloween! 

5 Ways to De-Stress

5 Ways to De-Stress

5 Ways to De-Stress

Ah, if only life was as simple as it was in the good old days! Whether you’re cramming for a midterm, taking care of your kids, or you have 500 unread emails in your inbox at work, we all experience stress every so often. Here are 5 easy and effective ways to relieve yourself of that stress:

Breathe Deeply

According to Psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD., breathing deeply fights stress by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. It’s easy too! Simply sit up straight with your eyes closed and your hand on your stomach. As you inhale, feel your breath float from your stomach to the top of your head. Then, exhale and feel your breath float from the top of your head to your stomach. Repeat as needed.


Another excuse to watch your favorite sitcom or chat with your friend! Letting out a good laugh lowers cortisol - your body’s stress hormone - and elevates your endorphin levels which will boost your mood.

Move Your Body

Even less rigorous exercise, like yoga, stretches or a walk around the block, can release endorphins which will boost your mood. Stuck inside? Turn up the volume and have a dance party at home. Grab your family and friends if you need more motivation to get up and go!  

Connect with Others

Your close-knit group of friends and family members is one of the best cures to your stress. Talk to them in person or on the phone; connecting with others will be sure to get your mind off of your stress.


Sometimes, you just need to have fun! Put away your smartphone and take some time out of your busy schedule to meet with a friend, read a book, or play with magnetic tiles - whatever you deem to be the most fun! 




How Can We Help Hurricane Victims?

How Can We Help Hurricane Victims?

Since April 2017, areas around the Northern Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea have suffered devastating damage caused by hurricanes, with the recent category 5 Hurricane Maria causing severe damage to Puerto Rico. How can we help? 

Donation Ideas

Making a donation - in the form of money, food, clothing, or toys - may seem small but can be meaningful to the victims of these hurricanes. A group of friends could organize a lemonade stand, a car wash, a garage sale or a bake sale which gives its proceeds to the American Red Cross or to UNICEF. All you need are supplies for your fundraiser, community members who can chip in, and a way to donate online - either through PayPal or with a credit or debit card. Monetary donations are usually the most helpful donations, according to The United States Agency of International Development (USAID). Monetary donations do not come with shipping fees or delays and do not require management like material donations, such as clothing or toys.

Clothing and Toy Donations

Nevertheless, material donations could make a great impact as well. According to ABC News, the most needed items amongst Hurricane Harvey victims included the following: baby food, baby formula, diapers, medical supplies, wheelchairs, plus-sized clothes, baby and children’s clothes, and toiletries. This is a great opportunity to partner up with your children to go through clothes that no longer fit; donating good-condition clothes will teach your kids about the impact of charity. If you know how to stitch, you can even make a quilt out of old t-shirts. Check out this tutorial to learn how you can make a t-shirt quilt.

On the same note, donating used toys that kids or younger cousins no longer play with can also teach the impact of charity. If children hold onto their toys defensively, try asking them to choose 2-3 toys they are willing to donate, or stick with clothing that no longer fits them.

Getting involved with charity and community service teaches adults and young people alike how to better understand the concepts of compassion, community and charity. All of us – no matter how young or old – are part of a bigger community, and it’s on us to band together when members of our community are in need. We can make a difference when we work together! For more information, please visit the American Red Cross website or Time's list of charitable organizations: http://time.com/4964178/how-to-help-puerto-rico-donate-volunteer/





5 Ways That You Can Help Your Child Learn

5 Ways That You Can Help Your Child Learn


Do you want your child to excel academically and socially? We know you do, and so do we! According to Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, parents can spark a child’s enthusiasm and love for learning by showing support and interest in their child’s life at school. No matter how your child best receives information - whether it be through visual aids or through reading - an encouraging parent is always essential to a child’s life long love of learning. Here are five simple ways that you can support your child’s education:

Ask Questions

You may think back to your own experiences in school and recall how you retained information better when you reached a conclusion on your own. The same goes for your kids! Asking the right questions can help your children solve problems on their own and learn how to think critically. Instead of spoon-feeding your children when you give them homework help, try to ask them questions that will lead them towards the correct answer, such as, “What will happen if you do this…” or “If this didn’t work, what do you think might work better?”

Encourage Elaboration  

Don’t end the conversation with “good thinking” or “good job”. When your little genius expresses an opinion or a thought, ask “why do you think so?” Encourage your kids to dig deeper in search for why a fact might be true or why they might perceive something to be true. Margaret Spellings claims that a child who is not encouraged to talk may experience literacy difficulties in school; meanwhile, children who haven’t learned to listen may have trouble following directions or focusing in class. So, encourage your kids to share their views while being considerate to the views of those around them.

Let the Student Teach

Let your little one build the confidence to present information to an audience! If you allow your children to explain their school material to you, then they will be better able to absorb the material since they are forced to articulate why 2+2=4 or how a triangle differs from a square for instance. This tactic will also help them strengthen their public speaking skills and confidence.

Acknowledge a Job Well Done

What did you seek most from your parents when you were young? Praise, right? This is no different for your kids! Children seek to be praised by their role models, especially mom and dad, so be generous with praise and compliments, but be particular about how you offer praise. “I can tell that you’ve been studying!”, “You worked so hard on that project!”, or “Look how many different materials and colors you used!” are great compliments to give after your children’s homework hour or day at school. Praise hard work and effort rather than telling a child they are so smart or “good job.” When parents praise hard work, children continue to apply themselves in the hopes that you will compliment them on their effort again.

Make Learning Fun!

Turn learning and doing homework into an activity. You can do this by playing teacher-student, by using props, or by simply reading and thinking together when children get stuck or need some guidance. Language like, "This is tricky but I know together we can figure it out!" is very encouraging to children, especially those that get frustrated easily. These words help children work through hard problems - first on their own, and then with some guidance if they need it. Margaret Spelling encourages parents to make learning as enjoyable as possible for kids. So, take out your counting kits, storytelling skills, and magnetic tiles! And of course, make sure kids are well fueled with a heathy after school snack and some creative play time or exercise before sitting down for homework. 



For the Busy Parent: 10 Ways to Spend More Time with Your Family

From waking up, getting the kids ready for school, packing lunches, dropping the kids off, grocery shopping, working and whatever else your hectic schedule entails, it can be difficult to find time to wind down and spend quality time with your family. How can a busy mom or dad pack quality time into such a tight schedule? Here are 10 fun and small ways that families can create big, lasting memories:

  1. Eat Breakfast or Dinner Together - Sitting around the dinner table helps children and parents become a part of each other’s meaningful conversations. Try to ask open ended questions about how their day went, what excited them that day, what stressed them out, what they’re passionate about, and more. Something that I’ve found that works is to ask each child for his or her “rose” and “thorn” of the day - you may be surprised by how much detail they provide!
  2. Take a Walk - Walking around the neighborhood with your family gives you the time to talk about deeper topics: passions, worries, fears. This will help your kids open up to you, build trust, and even get some exercise!
  3. Leave a Message - Maybe you had to arrive at work early and couldn’t see your kids off to school. Leave a sweet note! Wish them luck on their day at school, and they will see how much you value their time and love them. A Post-It note and a pen are all you need!
  4. Read Together - Dedicate ½ an hour of your day to sitting down and reading a story together. Let your child choose the book and be open to discussing their plotlines. Starting a discussion will allow you and your child to share ideas with each other.
  5. Bring your Child to School or Practice - A drive to school or to soccer practice is another quick yet meaningful way to spend time as a family. Sing along to your favorite songs in the car or cheer your kids on at the game; either will contribute to a lasting bond within your family.
  6. Plan a Day Out - Does your schedule free up on the weekends? Try to take a trip to the playground or to your favorite play space, that way you can have a day of fun with the family!
  7. Tell Family Stories - Tell your kids about funny memories from your own childhood, show them an embarrassing yearbook photo, show them how to cook a family recipe, and share with them a part of your culture. Doing so will bring the family together and may even create a family tradition.
  8. Get to Know Your Child’s Friends - Host a playdate or ask your child to invite a friend for a day out. Being a part of your child’s social circle will allow you to build trust and love.
  9. Homework Help - Sit down with your child as they complete their homework to answer any questions, support them, and help them create healthy study habits. Let them choose when to their homework - we suggest some time before dinner.
  10. Play Together!  Take your favorite board games or magnetic tiles out of the closet, and spend some time talking, learning, and having fun!

5 Tips for a Successful Playdate

Sometimes, playdates don’t always go as planned.  

Like the time my son’s five-year-old friend wanted to spend the whole time in our garage with my husband’s leaf blower and tractor. It was a long hour and a half.

Luckily, I’ve learned the secret recipe for a successful playdate.  Here are the five ingredients you’ll need to host the perfect playdate:

  1. Choose Wisely. Some friends just aren’t the best fit. Help your child choose a friend who’s a good social and intellectual match for your child - don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for some recommendations if you need help. Also, one-on-one playdates work better than groups.

  2. Keep it short and sweet. There is such a thing as too long of a playdate. We learned that very quickly in our tiny NYC apartment. A playdate that lasts 1-1½ hours is the perfect amount of time to play, eat, run around, do some art and say goodbye. Any more than that, and it might go downhill from there.

  3. Choose a good time. Many children are tired after school. Try a weekend morning instead, when children are chipper and more likely to be flexible and cooperative.

  4. Add structure and some exercise. Some children could play for hours without any structure or parent regulation. Others need a little more guidance. Some great playdate activities include:

If you’re adventurous, you can also try: a cooking activity like make your own pizza (Trader’s Joe’s sells pre-made dough) or make your own play doh (How to Make Playdough | Homemade Playdough Recipes). Don’t forget to get out the ya-ya’s with some outdoor team games like freeze tag, kickball or soccer!

5.  Put away prized possessions and know when to intervene.  Before a playdate, ask your child if there are any “special toys” they would like to put away. Always be within earshot, so if children start fighting, you know when to intervene and help children switch up the activities. When in doubt, fresh air always helps children cool off. So does a quiet story time coupled with a healthy snack. If sharing is tricky, sometimes a neutral spot like a playground, park, pond or an indoor play space can be the best bet!

Good luck with your playdate!

two children on a playdate


5 STEM-themed Things to Do with the Kids Before Summer Ends

When all of the parks are played in and all of the coloring pages are drawn on, where do we turn for new things to do with the kids? STEM is a good place to start!

With two active and curious boys (4 and 6) at home, I know that the kids can get a little restless towards the end of summer. They love to explore and go to new places, so I love STEM.

STEM activities offer new experiences, some learning, and fun for the parents, too. Here are some great options that all three of us love to do:

1. Invention Challenge: Make A Floating Boat

Build a floating boat!

Build a floating boat!

via Kids Fun Science

Perfect for siblings or for a playdate.

Materials: masking tape, aluminium foil, action figures or dolls, large plastic bin or inflatable pool


  1. Fill up a small bin with water or an inflatable pool (if the kids want, they can add blue paint or dye!).

  2. Give children aluminum foil and masking tape.

  3. Have them construct a boat that will float in the water.

  4. Gather some of their favorite action figures of different weights and sizes. My kids love experimenting to see how many figures can fit before the boat sinks.

STEM HINT: The wider the boat, the more weight it will be able to hold. If you have a scale, children can weigh the action figure to determine how much weight each boat can hold before it sinks.

2. Build a Tower!

Build a tower of boxes!

Build a tower of boxes!

via WikiHow


Kids naturally love to build. My boys love to learn about really, really tall buildings.

  1. Print out pictures of some incredibly tall towers, like the Freedom Tower in NYC or the megatall skyscraper Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Study them for inspiration!

  2. Help children gather different building materials such as soft foam blocks, magnetic tiles or even leftover cardboard boxes to make the tallest possible tower without it collapsing (make sure it’s also a safe height).

  3. If using cardboard boxes, kids will love to decorate the box using stickers, markers or paint.

3. You Pick Farms or Harvest from Your Own Garden!

A great way to explore nature AND get your kids to eat their veggies!

When we first moved out of the city two years ago, we built a small enclosed garden. It was a major effort to deer-proof it, but we have managed to safeguard a nice selection of cucumbers, green beans, snow peas and some tomatoes.

Kids love to water the plants, weed, measure the growth and of course, eat the vegetables. Here’s a plus: It’s amazing how much more willing my children are to eat vegetables when they can pick it directly from the garden.

If you live in the city or you don’t have space for a garden, try visiting one of NJ’s beautiful “You Pick” farms - Alstede Farms has a Peach Festival until August 13.

4. Visit a Nature Center or a National Park

Thomas Edison Factory - Activity for Kids

This photo of Thomas Edison National Historical Park is courtesy of National Park Service Digital Image Archives.

Something different than the beach, this one will be a breath of fresh air (figuratively and literally).

New Jersey has some great options all over. Here are some of the best:

  1. Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary in Short Hills, NJ: This is the perfect speed for the younger ones! You can see animals like snakes, fish, rabbits, and bees. There are also shaded trails for hiking, beautiful birds and programs for kids.

  2. Thomas Edison’s Factory and Residence in West Orange, NJ: See where Thomas Edison worked and lived. The older children will get a kick out of Edison’s many other inventions, including a phonograph and a talking doll. There are tours, walking paths, a greenhouse, and an electric car garage.

5. Take a Trip to NYC

via Batterypark.tv

Battery Park City

NYC is great for shopping and shows, but did you know that it is home to great STEM activities too?

  1. The Battery Park Conservancy offers free gardening classes in the summer for little ones.

  2. Take a walking tour or fly a kite at Tear Drop Park.

  3. Visit Rockefeller Park to experiment with water or see how many children it takes to push your friends on the group bicycle (bring water shoes and bathing suits).