Monday, March 31, 2008

Eager engines and exciting escapades

Looking for a quick, economical, get-away that's child-friendly? Well, look no farther than the Island of Sodor.
Ok. So its not really travel. But this Thomas & Friends dvd, Engines and Escapades will keep any little train fanatics at your house busy long enough for you to get away to use the bathroom by yourself or raid your secret chocolate stash. What's not to love about that?
In this most recent dvd (priced at $9.99 on Amazon), we meet up with all of the regulars. But we also get to know a new character -- a very helpful and cheerful truck named Madge.
This dvd features six episodes -- Duncan Does It All, Sir Handel in Charge, Cool Truckings, Ding-a-Ling, Skarloey Storms Through and Wash Behind your Buffers. Since our local PBS station no longer features daily episodes of Thomas, these episodes were a big treat.
Thomas isn't a main character in most of these stories, but I don't think that will keep kiddos from watching. In fact, as a parent, it was nice to see some of the other characters featured. This gave way for new lessons to be learned. For example, Thomas doesn't have much of an ego but Sir Handel does. In the second story, Sir Handel is asked to find an engine to complete a certain task. Sir Handel becomes so enamoured with the idea of bossing the other engines around, he loses sight of his objective. Fortunately, he realizes his error before any big problems occur. (Have you ever encountered a "Sir Handel" in the work place? I bet you have!)
The lesson behind each episode is a great opportunity to open up a dialogue between caregiver and child. Its very interesting to see what message a child comes away with. What has been equally as fascinating has been how Seth's interpretation of the lesson has changed as he's gotten older.
Another great thing about the dvd, as well as most other Thomas & Friends episodes, is the different vocabulary children are exposed to. How often would a child hear the terms "buffer" or or "narrow gauge engine" otherwise?
All-in-all, a great dvd for the little transportation buff in your life.
This review was written on behalf of Parent Bloggers Network.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Space case -- Why we love The Zula Patrol

Anyone who reads this blog knows off my son's unyielding obsession with space-related subjects. He knows how many moons Saturn has, what the planet Mercury is made of and isn't shy about expressing his opinion on how Pluto should really be considered a planet instead of a star.

So its a no brainer that he'd be interested in The Zula Patrol's new dvd, "Explore Space!" (We had great luck with the last dvd.)

After a particularly rambunctious playdate, Seth and I sat down to watch the dvd which includes episodes: The Probe Who Came to Dinner, Forget-Me-Naut, Moons Mayhem, and Three Ringed Gorga. Frankly this dvd could be the worst in the history of children's programming but I'd still happily watch it because I'm just that sick of hearing about/watching Star Wars.

But Zula Patrol's newest endeavor was a big hit with Seth. (And the writers didn't even need to incorporate light sabers chopping off arms or space ships blowing up!) The characters are fun and quirky. The story lines are outrageous yet entertaining. And I love the way the writers breakdown various science concepts into information that can be understood by youngesters in kindergarten to second grade.

One of my favorite aspects of the dvd was the conversations different episodes sparked. When "Dark Truder" tries to steal all of the moons of our solar system, we talked about what kind of moon Seth would be. (In that episode we learn about how moons within the solar system vary in size, shape, color and temperature.) In another episode (Forget-Me-Naut) we talked about gravity and tried to figure out how astronaunts eat (and poop) in a state of weightlessness.

Oh and if you or the kids in your life get a chance to watch this dvd don't forget the special features (aka the music video and space adventure game)!

This review was written on behalf of the Parent Bloggers Network.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I don't know HOW Bob the Builder won a contract of this size, but the dude must have some serious presentation AND construction skills -- he's in charge of "Building Bobland Bay", an entire TOWN along the sea! And while he and his crew are building Bobland Bay, they are having all sorts of fun adventures (and a few misadventures) along the way.

My son, who will be six years old in three months, has always been a Bob the Builder fan. I've always loved Bob's "YES WE CAN" attitude. So when given an opportunity to a review this dvd, I jumped at the chance. Seth and I did what we love to do when we review movies together. We plugged it into the dvd player in the master bedroom, snuggled up and started watching.

Seth enjoyed the series of six episodes. (One of the things I love about Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine is the fact that their dvd's typically have several short episodes. And you can always use that as an incentive -- "if you brush your teeth and put on jammies right now, you'll have time to watch two episodes of Bob.")

But the questions I wanted answered was, "How did Bob get a contract like that? What were some of the unique challenges of the project? How did he address those issues? And above all else, did he complete the project on time and under budget?" (I used to do public relations for large, international engineering/architectural/construction management firm. I can't HELP but wonder these things, ok?)

The old gang and even some newer characters have been added (at least since we were watching on a regular basis years ago). And there's even a few entertaining episodes where a director visits the crew. (Don't worry, Bob and his gang don't become "Hollywood sell-outs".)

All in all, a pretty cute dvd for little Bob the Builder fans. Easter is coming up. If you, a grandparent or aunt/uncle are in the market for a sugar-free gift, this would make a great one -- appealing kids of varying ages -- from toddlers to early elementary students.

Oh and also? Seth also became very interested in the Fireman Sam episodes. (They are included in the Special Features.) I thought they were weird but Seth loved them!

This review was written on behalf of the Parent Bloggers Network.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adventure, animals and the alphabet!

Barney has had a very busy year. Not only was a 20th anniversary dvd recently launched but another project -- Animal ABC's -- is also now on store shelves.

In this most recent dvd, Barney and the group endeavor to find animals that start with every letter of the alphabet. From "A is for ant" to "Z is for zebra", Barney and the gang sing as well as dance their way through the alphabet.

Barney's biggest little fans will get a chance to watch footage of each animal featured as well as learn tidbits about the various animals.

As usual there's lots of upbeat, cheery music incorporated throughout. Most little ears will recognize quite a few of the songs, as many are taken from typical episodes. (There are also quite a few popular childhood songs thrown in the mix as well.) But don't worry, Barney's also brings some new singing material to the scene. And odds are good little Barney fanatics will be inspired, at least a few times throughout the video, to dance along. (Elephant dance, anyone?)

Some of the scenes are placed in the familiar park. But the producers have done a good job of incorporating some great scenes in the real outdoors. There's even a dance number where a big group of parents and kids participate.

This is a 56 minute video. So if you loathe Barney, be prepared for some eye rolling. (The "Mary had a little lamb" rap was a bit much for me.)

Seth was not very interested in watching the dvd. But he did enjoy the segment on the letter "D". He loved watching the various dogs in the segment so much, he asked to see it twice. (Oh, and he also liked the X-ray fish. Those were pretty cool.) But in his defense, he's a few months shy of six. Although he loved Barney in his toddler and preschool years, his interest (like most kids his age) has faded quite a bit.

For those people who don't like to give candy for Easter, this dvd would make a great gift alternative. And I could see this being a sanity saver on those long car rides or flights -- Just don't forget the portable dvd player! And if you aren't a big Barney fan? This would still make a great gift to give the little ones -- it could be added to a grandparent's, or another caretaker's (child) entertainment collection.

The review was written on behalf of the Parent Bloggers Network.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

BreakfastBreaks -- a friend to families on the go

"Mom! We got a package," my son says excitedly. "Open it up!"

I open quickly because I know that odds are, the treasure found inside? Is for him. That's usually the case.

Yesterday's box was no exception. Behold, BreakfastBreaks!

"Ooohhhh cool," says my rambunctious kiddo as he grabs the box from my hands.

Before I can even start in on a "chill out and mind your manners" lecture, he's opened the box and is happily inserting a straw into the fruit drink. His fingers move fast. Next, he's peeling back the top of the Cherrios lid. A second later, he is asking for milk. (I wish his teacher could see his fine motor skills at this moment!)

"So buddy, what'cha think?"

"Awesome," he says, scooping Cherrios into his mouth, sans milk.


Each package of BreakfastBreaks contains a Fruit & Grain cereal bar, a juice box, a small container of dry cereal, a spoon and a moist wipe. (Dry cereal, juice box and cereal bar flavors vary with each pack.)

While these food staples are often found in pantries across America, BreakfastBreaks packages them in a thin box with a convenient yet sturdy handle that's the perfect size for little hands. If a family doesn't have time for a sit-down breakfast, this is a great alternative. The items can be eaten on the way to whatever destination. (Unless you feel like your child HAS to have milk with their cereal. In that case, think twice before eating in the car. Combining kids, milk, vehicles and road conditions are typically not such a great idea. Milk can spill and take it from me, that stuff makes your car smell NASTY! Especially in the warmer months.)

Course, the box easily fits into a backpack and could be used for a child's lunch. (Just don't forget the milk money.) You could also take these with you on road trips or plane trips. Plus? They are great for hungry hooligans who are in need of an after-school snack. (Which was our case yesterday.)

Oh and if you've got a small child who can eat finger foods? This is a great little something to put in the diaper bag while you're out running errands or shopping with the wee one.

Clean-up is a snap, since every container/bowl can be thrown away.

In short? BreakfastBreaks was a big hit - at least in our bustling household.

This review was written on behalf of Mom Central.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

In the Motherhood Starts Second Season

I rarely watch tv. That's because a situational comedy that's fresh and funny -- not tired and trite -- is a tough find these days. What many sitcom writers don't realize is that great ideas are just a click away. With so many moms living out loud, there's always a plethora of funny antics and shenanigans in the mom-o-sphere.

But last year some wise person DID start looking to the mom-o-sphere. Their plan, "In the Motherhood" is simple. We supply the stories. Professional screenwriters develop the characters and story lines. The final product? Some pretty funny (and highly-entertaining) webisodes.

The site has a featured topic like "child's worst meltdown" or "funniest mother-in-law childcare advice." Moms write their stories in paragraph form. The on-line mom community votes and nominates the best entries. And viola! Your story could be brought to life! But at least this time, that horrifying/humiliating/unbelievable moment isn't happening to YOU again.

The hilarious Leah Remini and Chelsea Handler are back. This year Jenny McCarthy joins the cast as Handler's "perfect" sister.

Based on this little clippity-clip, this second season's shaping up to be just as hysterical as the first.

The first season of In the Motherhood was a big hit. The creators did a fabulous job of creating characters that are REAL. Remini, Handler, and McCarthy's characters are feisty, fun, witty, sometimes snarky, and smart. These are the kind of women I hang out with. Most women will seem themselves or their friends and relatives in the characters portrayed -- be it the sister, mother-in-law or the mom in the grocery you try to avoid.