On Small Wins and Fostering Confidence in Kids

With a little flashlight clutched in his hand, I catch my six-year-old staying up past his bedtime, sounding out words in a book that is far beyond his reading level.  The same scenario plays out nearly every single night.  He wants more than anything to master the first book in a popular series that his big sister devoured.  While I so admire his determination, I recognize his increasing frustration  – and am reminded of the importance of age-appropriateness during these crucial years where independence and everyday wins help to shape confidence.

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We’re coming off of a much needed slow and lovely weekend.  The kids stayed in their PJs for a good portion of the morning, and I surprised the boy with early holiday gifts from our friends at LEGO Juniors, specifically designed to set younger kids (ages 4-7) up for success, with fun building sets that are perfectly matched to the building skills of their age and stage.

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“LOOK WHAT I MADE!!” my little-guy gushed while leaping off an art table chair onto the hardwood floor to drive his LEGO Juniors Police Helicopter Chase set across the wooden panels.  Miraculously, it survived the commotion in one piece, and his confidence soared while flipping open the front of the chopper – to act out his “guy” containing the robber while saving all the money for the “good people.”  I couldn’t believe how fast the set came together and appreciated the intuitive design that allowed my six-year-old to give it a go right out of the box – with a fun, pre-made piece to encourage the building process.

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The excitement continued the following morning with the LEGO Juniors Family House Set.  This bigger set came with separately numbered bags filled with pieces, allowing my little guy to find the right bricks for specific areas.

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I adored staring at his sweet concentration face while the house was constructed with the ideal synergy of age-appropriate challenges and creative play.  And if your child is anything like mine – they’ll be thrilled with this set’s inclusion of a toilet bowl!

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In childhood, it’s not the big milestones (like riding a bike for the first time, or scoring a goal) that solely build earned confidence and self-worth; it’s the everyday simple wins that help to foster perseverance, resilience, and the never-give-up-spirit that murmurs over and over again ” I can do it”.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2016 + AMEX Giveaway!

Looking for the perfect holiday gift? From gifts for kids (both big and little) to presents for her and him too – our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide has gift suggestions for everyone on your list.  Check out our pre-tested favorites for Christmas and Hanukkah gifting and scroll down to enter to win an American Express gift card giveaway to purchase something special from our curated lists. Happy gifting!

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  • For Kids

WowWee CHiP: Want to wow your kid this holiday?  This intelligent, and trainable robotic toy dog responds via touch, the included SmartBand, and the free ChiP app. Just like a real dog, he’ll follow his owner around and even play fetch and automatically return to his SmartBed when he needs to recharge.

Yvolution Y Glider Deluxe Scooter: This fun three-wheeled scooter is perfect for beginners. Suitable for ages three and up – little kids will love zipping around on this fun scooter – and the “learn to steer” design will help younger children master riding in no time.

IncrediBuilds Deluxe Books and Model Sets: Fuel their creativity with a 3D wood model set and thrilling hardcover books.  Kids will love the building and reading combo, available in favorite themes like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Fantastic Beasts and more

BOSEbuild Speaker Cube: Big Kids now have the chance to build their own blue tooth speaker with fun, vibrant lights, and customization covers. They’ll learn all about speaker components (like, coil, magnet, and paper) while making the adults in the family jealous with Bose-quality sound.

Razor RipStik Electric Caster Board: Thrill-seeking big kids (ages 9 and up) will enjoy cruising around on Razor’s RipStik Electric featuring powerful 100-watt technology and a kick start in-wheel hub driven motor that pushes speeds up to 10 mph.  Just remember to include a helmet!

LeapFrog Count Along Cash Register: Packed with tons of learning fun for little kids – this cute singing cash register has plenty of numbers, counting and role play skills in store.

WowWee COJI: This incredible, intuitive coding robot toy helps to develop STEM skills through emoji language (that kids love!).  Kids will have fun playing games that reinforce memory and problem-solving skills while having their own cool robotic toy.

Lakeshore Slot & Build Texture Shapes: You can never go wrong with a gift from Lakeshore, and these flexible, imagination-igniting building shapes are ideal for little hands.  Tots will have endless fun while exploring and creating with unique textured shapes.

Yo-kai Model Zero: Yo-kai fans will have fun projecting short character animations onto surfaces while rocking this fun, bright watch that plays tribes songs, summoning sounds, and Yo-kai names.

Kamik Boots: Give them the gift of staying warm and dry for snow play and sledding!  Kamik always has high quality, stylish, durable options to keep kids feet toasty while having fun.

Skylanders Imaginators: This fun toy-to-life video game allows players to create their own characters, called Imaginators.  This gift is sure to be a hit for the gaming kid and is available for PlayStation 5, Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Xbox One.

Thames & Kosmos Crystal Growing: Gift the gift of growing dozens of dazzling crystals while learning all about their structure and geometry. This great kit allows kids to mold plaster shapes and use dyes to grow a rainbow of custom colors.

LeapFrog Lean & Groove Musical MatImpress the toddler in your life with this fun interactive musical mat that encourages movement and play – while reinforcing gross motor skills, music, rhythm, and numbers.

Lakeshore Young Scientist Chemistry Lab: Encourage your budding scientist with this incredible hands-on lab that allows children to brew up mind-blowing projects –  like glowing ice spheres, jelly worms and more. Kids will learn all about chemical reactions with over 20 chemistry tools and detailed instructions.

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  • For Her

Citizen L Circle Of Time: Give her the gift of time-keeping with this stunning, timeless watch powered by Ec0-Drive technology (light!) which never requires a battery change.

Adidas Superstar 80s Shoes: Nearly every outfit can be styled with Adidas Superstar sneakers, and these are elevated with a flashy, textured metal shell toe.

May Designs Custom Planner: Give her the gift of organization with a lovely paper planner that can be personalized in every way.

Luminara Flameless Candles: She’ll love having a bunch of real flame effect candles in her home without the hazard and hassle of having to light real candles. Luminara’s battery operated flameless candles will bring coziness, glamor, and comfort to any space.

Nerium AD Skincare: Nerium AD Age Defying Night and Day Creams are back on our list this year because they continue to provide visible results!

  • For Him

Wolverine Boots: For they guy who needs serious durability – Wolverine dura shocks provide serious comfort with every step to power through any job.

Hanes FreshIQ:  Tuck favorite everyday basics like socks, T-shirts, and underwear into his stocking with built-in advanced odor protection technology that attacks odor-causing bacteria in clothing  – to help him feel fresh all day.

Tifosi Optics Sunglasses: The sports enthusiast will love the functionality, comfort, and fit of Tifosi’s sleek and lightweight frame styles made from polycarbonate materials providing 100 percent UVA/UVB protection.

The Real Deal Brazil Gravata Tablet Case: He’ll appreciate the Eco-friendliness and cool look of this durable tablet case handmade in a remote small town in rural equatorial Brazil from recycled tarps.

WIN IT! Enter to win a $100 American Express Gift Card for your holiday shopping! Simple entry via the Rafflecopter below – U.S. only. Best of luck and Happy gifting! 

Update: Giveaway closed.

Special thank you to Time To Play Magazine, The Toy Insider, and all of the companies partnering with Marino Bambinos. Some affiliate links are included.  

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Melody Ellison: American Girl’s Important New Civil Rights Doll + Giveaway

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If you’re a fan of American Girl, you most likely heard about the recent debut of their new historical doll, Melody Ellison.  We’re beyond excited to share about Melody, an African American nine-year-old fictional character, living in Detroit in the mid-1960s – as well as the importance she carries for young girls everywhere.

The doll is beyond adorable and so is her 1960’s clothing and accessories – but most importantly, Melody’s story and accompanying BeForever book: No Ordinary Sound: A Melody Classic, helps young readers to contextualize issues of racism, perseverance, justice, optimism and equality during the civil rights movement – and in ways that apply to the present day.  Melody’s compelling story shares all about her penchant for singing and Motown music; inspiration gleaned from Martin Luther King, Jr., and the courage it takes to lift her voice to make a difference.

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“A message that I hope readers take away from Melody’s story is to think about themselves in terms of their community and what they can do to help- to change- their community. There’s always something that we can do to help change our world for the better.  I hope Melody’s books inspire conversations between young people and adults who have been part of the civil rights movement.” – Denis Lewis Patrick, Author of the Melody series

As a parent, I appreciate that I can depend on American Girl to approach crucial topics with cultural and historical accuracy.  Melody’s story is the product of over two years of work in which American Girl implemented an esteemed six-member advisory board including the late Horace Julian Bond, a leader in the civil rights movement.

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Melody Ellison is an incredible addition to American Girl’s BeForever collection encouraging girls to lift their voices in support of positive social change.

Cheers to American Girl for this doll! She’s important, and our favorite.

Win It! American Girl is generously giving away one Melody Ellison doll and book to a lucky MB reader. If you’re U.S. based, enter via the widget below. Best of luck and thank you for visiting.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Children’s Toys That Need To Be Broken Right Now

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While we often share things that we love, our latest story over on MODE focuses on things that we have grown to strongly dislike – the worst and most annoying children’s toys that need to be broken right now.  From insufferable, noisy, horrid and unsafe toys to mind-numbing things that create nothing but an epic mess.  Check out our full list of intolerable toys and perhaps use this list as a reference for gifting to children of parents that you despise.  While my own kids would have major beef with this list, as several of their current favorites have been deemed serious offenders – do let us know if you have anything to add.  And at all costs avoid letting these toys take residence in your precious home.

Check out Children's Toys That Need to Be Broken Right Now

by Monica Marino at Mode

This post is sponsored by MODE.

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American Girl Wellie Wishers (+Giveaway)

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Introducing the WellieWishers!  American Girl’s new line of adorable dolls geared for the 5 to 7 set.

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Ashlyn // Camille // Willa // Kendall // Emerson

Yesterday morning, I hightailed it to 5th Avenue, bright and early before NYC flagship-store opening to meet with the American Girl team, Momtrends, and iconic American Girl author Valerie Tripp to have a first look at the collection.

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The WellieWishers dolls and corresponding book collection carry teachable messages that are synonymous with the American Girl brand.  As described by Author Valerie Tripp, this group of five friends celebrates stories of compassion, empathy and hope – while helping young girls see themselves in the shoes (get it Wellies!) of others.  The WellieWishes are designed to be messy, curious, jolly and imaginative, in relatable and realistic ways.  With messages of perseverance and tolerance, these fun and silly girls model what it means to be a good friend.

American-Girl-Author-Valerie-TrippIconic American Girl Author, Valerie Tripp

At $60 per doll the 14.5 inch WellieWishers dolls come at a lower price than the 18 inch American Girl dolls.  Super sweet – with a toy, clothing and accessory line, we adore the fun collection of Wellies and printed socks for girls, their relatable and authentic message, and of course the new doll options available to American Girl fans.

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Win It!  One Marino Bambinos reader will win a WellieWishers doll of choice (Ashlyn, Camille, Willa, Kendall or Emerson)To enter, visit the giveaway widget below. U.S. only and best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Special thanks to Momtrends for having us at the #mtwelliewishers event! Sample provided.  

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Dolls Undone: Check Out These Incredible Doll Transformations

From the changing shape of Barbie to gender-neutrality in the toy isle, big toy companies continue to take great strides towards representation of a wide group of people in the toy arena, but there is still work to be done.  This story shares glimpses of the creatives who took matters into their own hands to radically transform dolls into something different than their intended design.  We’ve rounded up incredibly reimagined dolls, morphed into empowering, strong, real-life heroines, adventures and otherwise representation-lacking toys. Here you’ll find dolls representing Malala Yousafzai, Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo and so much more.  Check out our latest story for MODE – it’s a delight to imagine children playing with any of these remarkable dolls.

Check out Dolls Undone: Beautifully Transformed Dolls

by Monica Marino at Mode

The post is sponsored by MODE.

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