Cultivating Creativity with LEGO® Friends


The sorts of things that Lucia creates and collect illustrate details of her heart and six-year-old imagination.  The coveted acorn collection that lives in a carefully decorated shoe box under her bed, the tin-foil people brought to life, and the structures thoughtfully constructed for her beloved props, continue to show me glimpses of her inner world.

I’d like to believe that our time spent alone in unstructured play provides a sense of security in having her mama completely present and receptive.

And it is in these moments of togetherness that I find her most open.

legos and girls

We’re big fans of toys that promote open-ended play and have been longtime hoarders of  LEGO® sets of all kinds.  Lucia was excited to welcome a LEGO® Friends Heartlake Juice Bar set into her LEGO® collection and I knew it would provide a fun mother/daughter activity.  She still seeks a bit of help with these sorts of sets and I always glean parenting lessons when playing alongside her.  When I serve as her sounding board and watch her work out her challenges on her own – her confidence and sense of accomplishment soars.

Legos for girls

She was rightfully proud of her creation and we were both proud of her persistence.  

girls legos

One of the things that I love most about LEGO® play is that it employs a creative means of combining logic and reasoning with innate playfulness and imagination.  This specific type of play helps to build mathematical, spatial, and fine motor skills as creations are limitless.  And I don’t think that I’ll ever get enough of construction building, destructing, rebuilding and storytelling.

Lucia was determined to make Heartlake Juice Bar fully functional:

juicing

She even rolled out the bar to serve her special carrot/apple juice with the assistance of her LEGO® Friends.

bar 1Lego Friends set00lego

I’m excited to share that with a shared vision of unleashing confidence through accomplishment, LEGO® Friends has teamed up with Girls on the Run® (GOTR), a physical activity-based positive youth development program to inspire girls everywhere to achieve their limitless potential.  Girls are using LEGO® Friends bricks and elements to tell stories, embrace their differences and find strength in their connectedness.

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

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Easter Gifting with Hasbro

We’re getting ready to celebrate all of the goodness that comes with Easter.  Our mantle is adorned with our homemade decorative eggs and we can’t wait to spend time with family.  The Easter Bunny that ventures over to our house happens to keep things pretty low key.  Plastic Eggs are filled with bunny crackers and trinkets and a small treat.  The kiddos are always happy to find one gift in their baskets and Hasbro has so many great moderately priced kiddo-pleasing options.  Here are my top piks for my kids and their cousins in the $3.99 – $14.99 price range:

Hasbro Gifts1. Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Boots Beam Box Heatwave the Fire-Bot Game Pack $6.99 // 2. Play-Doh Case Of Colors $4.99 // 3. My Little Pony Fantastic Flutters Princess Twilight Sparkle Play Figure $8.99 // 4. Marvel Avengers Assemble Capitan America Figure $5.00 // 5. Littlest Pet Shop Favorite Pets Deer and Baby $3.99 // 6.  Furby Furbling Creature (Zig Zag) $14.00

Wishing a beautiful Easter to all who celebrate!

Special thanks to Hasbro for sending products.  Opinions, as always, are my own.

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My Top Holiday Gifts For Kids & A LeapPad Ultra {Giveaway}

We’ve been busy rounding up our top holiday picks for children!  I’ve met with brands at toy shows here in the city, and put my own toy testers to work at home.  My gift guide reflects some new products that we are excited about, a few of our favorite well-loved toys and one powerful gift that I hope everyone will consider giving.  There is also an exciting giveaway!

UntitledPicMonkey Collage

1)  LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra Learning Tablet:  This learning tablet has topped the “hot toy” lists this season for several reasons.  With a 7-Inch hi-resolution screen, kid-safe Wi-Fi (with parental controls), and 8 GB of memory – this kid tablet feels and functions like one built for adults.  My kids have been enjoying the 11 included apps, the front-and-back cameras, and the ability to text message each other.  Mama loves the built-in rechargeable battery and the fact that we can play our “old” games on it (it works with LeapFrog’s library of 800+ apps, games, eBooks, videos, music and more).  I have three words for those thinking of purchasing an adult tablet for a child: Leapfrog. Won’t. Break.  Purchase the LeapPad Ultra at LeapFrog.com for $149.99.

2)  Goldie Blox and the Parade Float: I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a toy designed to inspire the next generation of female engineers! Lucia has been having incredible fun creating structures while building her problem-solving skills.  She has constructed all of the projects in the included book and made many of her own vehicles.  This is absolutely my go-to birthday party gift for Lucia’s female friends.  This product retails for $19.99 and is currently sold out on the Goldie Blox website. I did find some Goldie Blox products on amazon.com (but be prepared to pay higher prices).

3)  Paper Culture Memory Game:  This eco-friendly memory game is unlike any other because it is personalized!  A photo can be selected for each of the game pieces (hello grandparents, pets and those special baby photos!!).  I can’t wait to create one for my nephew and my own kiddos.  Best of all – Paper Culture plants a tree with every order.  Order it at Paper Culture for $24.99.

4)  31″ Giant Darth Vader If you have an action figure lover, I imagine that he/she will be thrilled with one of JAKKS Pacific’s GIANT iconic superheros.  I can’t wait to see the look on my son’s face when he meets the biggest Darth that he has ever seen.  Find it at ToysRUs for $34.99.

5)  Shimmer n Sparkle Cra-Z-Loom Rubber Band Bracelet Maker.  This is the one toy that my 6 year-old is asking for this year.  In addition to the bracelet maker it includes 600 latex-free assorted-color rubber bands, The “S” hook special weaving tools and an illustrated booklet.  Find it on sale at ToysRUs for $11.99.

6)  Safari LTD figuresThese hand painted educational toys make perfect stocking stuffers.   I especially like their safariology science collection including solar system figures and life cycle replicas.  Find them at Michaels.

7)  Deluxe Pixie Party Fashion DollsA recent trip to Disney World renewed my daughter’s fairy interests.  What’s cooler than seeing Tinkerbell fly?  These dolls have an updated look and are sure to please the doll lover.  Find them at Walmart for $16.99.

8)  Hape Toys All Seasons House (Furnished) Toy SetOf all the toys that my kids have played with over the years, they have gotten the most use out of toy houses and farms.   I happen to love this open wooden design (complete with parts). Find it at Hayneedle, currently on sale for $180.

9)  Hugg-A-Planet Planet PillowAs parents, I think it’s important to raise global citizens with an understanding of different cultures and communities.  I bought this pillow shortly after having my first child, and it has functioned as a pillow, a ball and an educational tool.  For the record, the kids also have a real globe, and it’s been glued back to its stand more times than I can count! Find this one for $30 at one of our favorite NYC stores, Piccolini.

10)  Rainbow in My Room by Uncle MiltonMy husband purchased this amazing rainbow projector for Christmas last year.  It has become a magical part of the kids’ bedtime routine as it projects a colorful rainbow on their bedroom wall.  Best of all, it has an auto shut-off.  Find it at Barnes & Noble for $24.95.

11)  Marble Sparks Twas The Mouse Who Saved ChristmasWe reviewed this book last year, and pulling it out again this year made me realize how special it is.  Books are fantastic gifts and personalization makes it a meaningful present to give.  Order it from Marble Sparks for $29.95.

12)  Modern-Twist New York Placemat and Markers Coloring Set:  I really like this Big-Apple themed 100% recyclable reusable place mat.  With kid-safe dry erase markers, it’s sure to offer hours of coloring fun.  Find it at Barneys for $25.

13)  Oxfam America Unwrapped Gifts: Last but not least is my favorite gift of all – a gift that does great good.  Oxfam is a nonprofit organization committed to creating lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and injustice.  We have previously given Oxfam and Heifer International gifts in family members names, and believe that giving gifts that do good is an integral part of the Holidays.  These gifts are also a great way to instill the gift of giving in young children.  From school meal programs to mosquito nets, chickens and even midwife training – these gifts give support to Oxfam worldwide programs in over 90 Countries.  Kids can help select gifts for family members via the web.  Perhaps scale back on the toy purchases to give Oxfam gifts to children too.  Visit the Oxfam website for more information (these lasting gifts begin at only $18).

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Win It:  I’m happy to share that I’ve teamed up with LeapFrog to giveaway one of the hottest toys of the season – their award winning LeapPad Ultra.  LeapFrog is one of the first brands that I started working with and I’m thrilled that someone will start off the new year with the ultimate kids’ learning tablet.
LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra Giveaway
To enter:
UPDATE:  Congratulations to winner Linda C!
  • Simply leave a comment below.
  • A third entry will be given to Marino Bambinos followers on twitter.
Please leave a separate comment telling me how you follow (three comments total).  A winner will be selected via random.org on December 26th, and the prize will ship in the new year.  Please note that this contest is open to US only.  Happy Holidays and my best to you all!
Special thanks to Time To Play and The Big Toy Book for having me at their holiday toy shows.  Samples of items 1 – 7 were provided.  Item 11 was reviewed last year.  As always, opinions are strictly my own.
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Celebrating Cabbage Path Kids 30th Anniversary

Thirty years ago my mother began her day at an absurdly early hour to stand in a line at our local Toys “R” Us to purchase the most coveted toy of the season: a Cabbage Patch Kid.  Her recollection of the 1983 pre-holiday Cabbage Patch Kid craze is quite amusing.  A stranger approached my mother asking “are you one of us?” and then tried to link arms in hopes of forming a human chain to keep the hoards of women arriving on charter buses away from the front of the toy store line.  My mother managed to make her way inside the store, was given one ticket to purchase a Cabbage Patch Kid and was told to run.  My mother said that her sister (my Tia Isa) went through something similar in Florida to purchase one for my brother.  Needles to say, my brother and I were extremely happy on Christmas morning, and Margot Lilly immediately became one of my most beloved childhood toys.

When my family was invited to celebrate Cabbage Patch Kids 30th Anniversary at the Eventi Hotel in NYC, my husband and I were so excited to expose our kids to something that was so reminiscent of our own childhoods.  It was truly the ultimate Cabbage Patch Kid experience.  Children were greeted with care-bags to fill with trinkets for their soon-to-be-adopted Cabbage Patch Kids, before walking through a gallery showcasing 30 years of Cabbage Patch Kids.  They were then greeting by a “nurse” in classic CPK logo scrubs to help adopt their very own Cabbage Patch Kid.   Lucia and Adrian were thrilled with their new Celebration Kids and patiently waited to officially meet them and an opening station:

cabbage patch kids 30th anniversary

We then moved through several stations of fun activities.  The kids took an oath of promise to care for their Cabbage Patch Kids (the cutest thing ever!).  They also learned how to change diapers, and went through an official birth certificate station, a story telling area, and hair and stick-on gem station.  Guests had the chance to take photos with a giant cabbage patch kid (my son was a bit terrified, and I don’t blame him!), and have photos taken on a cabbage couch.  They even had the chance to adopt a Cabbage Patch Kids Cutie, a small version of  the doll donning a sweet animal costume.  My favorite part came when the chorus of excited little ones sang Happy Birthday to the Cabbage Patch Kids.

Cabbage Patch Kids 30th Anniversary #CPK30th

An air of nostalgia definitely swept the room.  Although some things have changed, (the yarn hair has been replaced with synthetic hair with funky streaks) so much is still the same.  The updated version still comes with adoption papers, a birth certificate, the same outie-belly button and the iconic powder fresh scent.

Cabbage Patch Kids 30th Anniversary #CPK30th #CabbagePatchKids30th

For more information, please visit www.cabbagepatchkids.com

 Although my children were provided with Cabbage Patch Kids products at the event, I was not obligated to write this post.  All opinions are strictly my own.

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The Best Toy Ever: Dirt

We are extremely grateful to have the chance to test out some amazing products and are always happy to share our favorites.  One amazing toy has topped our list for years:

Dirt! Glorious Dirt!

dirt play

Since we don’t have a backyard of our own, we are always on the hunt for a good dirt pile.  Luckily there having been some stellar pickings to choose from in our neighborhood over the years.

playing in dirt

My husband and I love watching the adventurous spirits and creativity provoked by a good old dirt pile.  We also appreciate being able to sit at a distance away and converse among ourselves for hours.

why playing in dirt is good for kids

I also like to believe that the bambini’s exposure to dirt helps to strengthen their little immune systems.

What are some of your favorite free toys?

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