THINGS MY KID DIGS

Reviews, stuff my kid (or other kids) digs

DooDad of the Day: 4 New Back-to-School Apps

September 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

4 new apps for kids - Designer Daddy

Unless you live in a cave — and even some caves have decent Wi-Fi — your kids will very likely get hooked on video games. Just accept the fact that your phone and tablet will never, ever be smudge-free again. Here are a few new apps to educate, entertain and occupy the wee ones in your family. I’m calling these “back-to-school apps,” but they could just as easily be called “prep-for-school” or just “not-annoying-or-violent” apps.

And unless noted, none of these include in-app purchases, and all are ad-free. Also, not a single SpongeBob. Apps tested by me and and my expert panel of one 4-and-a-half-year-old.

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Designer Daddy apps - Cookie Monster's Challenge

COOKIE MONSTER’S CHALLENGE

This deliciously fun app is the first mobile team-up between kiddie powerhouses PBS Kids and Sesame Street. It launches just in time for Sesame Street’s 45th (!) season, which premiers September 15 on PBS Kids (check your local listings).

While the graphics and interface are clean and simple (as they should be), don’t be fooled into thinking this is a simple — or short — activity. In fact it’s pretty elaborate. Epic, even. There are 10 mini games that focus on skills vital to the pre-k crowd – like memory, following directions and self control. There are 9 levels, each one ever-so-slightly more challenging to keep your little ones on their adorable toes. The final payoff is a Rube Goldberg-esque cookie-making contraption that requires completion of all 9 levels for Cookie Monster to finally get his cookies. I’m not sure how he survives the anticipation!

But Cookie keeps his composure, as did my son… completing each level, finishing each piece of the cookie machine, and feeling pretty darn excited with each accomplishment.

C is for cookie, but we give Cookie Monster’s Challenge an A.

Preview / buy on iTunes  •  Ages 3-5    iPad only    $2.99

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Halloween Treats: Spooky S’mores

September 3, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

For my son’s very first class party, I made the rookie mistake of not pouncing on the snack sign-up sheet. It was for his preschool Halloween party, and by the time I got around to volunteering, all that remained was the dreaded “other” category.

But I’m always up for a creative challenge. So I retreated to my laboratory, pulled together some randomly yummy ingredients, and SPOOKY S’MORES were born! Mwaaa-ha-ha-haaaa!

Halloween Treat: Spooky S'mores

I got weird & wacky with the snacks for my very first class party

But wait — aren’t s’mores supposed to be toasted? Technically, yes. But I wasn’t about to bring an open flame into a classroom full of three- and four-year olds. At least not at my very first party. Trust me — they’re plenty yummy without being heated, and certainly messy enough in this form. However, I may try them another time with pre-toasted marshmallows. That could make for some very cool melted eyes/zombie effects…

They’re super simple to make, and you can even employ the help of your kids. Just make sure they (and you) have a healthy snack beforehand, or be prepared to lose quite a few ingredients in the process of putting them together.

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DooDad of the Day: R2D2 Lunch Bag

August 18, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Anyone getting back-to-school sale burnout? This stellar Star Wars R2D2 lunch bag is your only hope to alleviate that — and to send your kid off to school in geeky style!

STAR WARS R2D2 LUNCH BAG WITH LIGHTS & SOUND

This is the droid you’re looking for… for lunch!

Designer Daddy - DooDad of the Day - R2D2 Lunchbox

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Perfect First Concert: The Laurie Berkner Band

August 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

Jon and I met up with Grandma and Grandpa last week for what turned out to be the perfect first concert for my almost five-year old.

I knew a little about The Laurie Berkner Band already, as they had a couple of videos in rotation on Nick, Jr back when Jon was a wee bit wee-er. But I’d resisted delving into the world of kindie music too deeply, and consequently didn’t know much beyond those songs. So when Grandma alerted me to Laurie’s show and asked if we wanted to go, I figured I might as well check it out. I hit up THE dad blogger to know for kindie music hook-ups (Jeff Bogle of Out With The Kids), and he indeed hooked us up. VIP passes, meet the band, floor seats, the works. Juice boxes on me, Jeff!

We set out on the road (it was about an hour drive) and popped in the band’s Best Of CD, and Jon seemed to get into it right away. Lots of fun, folk and country-tinged, kid-friendly tunes about putting animals on your head and eating rutabaga and fish brushing their teeth. It really helped make the horrendous traffic a bit more bearable, and we got there just in time for a quick chat with Laurie and her band backstage!

Laurie Berkner Band - Designer Daddy

We’re with the band.

Laurie, Susie, Brady and Bobby were very gracious. Jon warmed up to them pretty quickly and in no time was talking Animal with Bobby the drummer. We chatted for about 10 minutes, during which I talked to Laurie about one of their videos we’d seen a lot on Nick Jr., and how much it meant to our family. “My Family” is a sweet, simple tune about how families are made up of all kinds of people, and “when you’re in my heart, you’re in my family.” The video alternates footage of the band with clips of families of all colors, ages and numbers. And tucked in with all the others is a two dad family, kids hoisted on their shoulders, dancing and holding hands. I remember being touched and encouraged every time I saw it, enjoying seeing our family represented and hopeful for our son’s future in his ever-evolving world. And it was such a pleasure to tell Laurie so in person.

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‘Good Good Trouble’ Great Great for Kids Kids!

July 22, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

Jon and I recently embarked on an exciting father/son tropical adventure — to see a brand new family play, Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island!

Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island poster - live theatre

This was only Jon’s second live theatre experience, and this one was a bit more complex than the first. So I wasn’t completely sure how it would play out.

HA! Get it? PLAY out?!?

My apologies for the silly digression, but this show was chock full of fun, color, music and loads of silliness, along with a subtle message about “making family where you find it.” And did I mention the silliness?

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Stage Fright: My Child’s First Time at the Theater

February 9, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, THINGS MY KID DIGS

A couple of months ago we took JJ to his first live theater experience, and something odd happened. A friend who works at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in DC suggested we check out a kids’ holiday show being produced by Arts on the Horizon, part of Atlas’ Theatre for the Very Young season. While JJ had gotten through his first full movie theater showing, we’d yet to expose him to any live theater. The Washington area has a wealth of options for kid-friendly programming, we just weren’t sure our little ball of energy was ready for them. Or they for him.

But the show was called Drumming With Dishes: Holiday Edition, so it sounded like it would be nice and loud and chaotic. Great to mask the likely din created by a crowd of rowdy preschoolers, but requiring earplugs and Advil for us weary parents.

The day arrived, JJ seemingly excited for this new adventure. Our drive was a good 40 minutes. We parked across the street from the theater and JJ and I went on ahead while Papa paid for parking. Yet as we started to cross, my usually outgoing son started stalling. He said he didn’t want to go, that he in fact wanted to go home. What-the-huh?

We stopped on the sidewalk a block away and I asked why. “I just not want to go!” was his pouty reply. I tried walking with him a few more steps and his fear and resistance only increased. I’m not sure if he was scared of the unknown experience or unfamiliar neighborhood, or if the planets were misaligned just so. Whatever the cause, I was determined to find a way to make this happen.

Papa caught up and I explained the situation. He and JJ stayed outside while I went in to scope things out. I made my way through the lobby, weaving through groups of kids, parents, babies and grandparents. As I picked up our tickets, I overheard an employee say they’d be leading everyone to a play area before the show began. Good thinking — they’d done this before.

I went back out and the three of us forged back in. As we got inside the door, I explained we were going to a playroom. No response. As we walked down the hall, following a herd of other families, we stopped so he could bang on a timpani drum. Meh. As we got near to the playroom, I saw a door open to where our performance would be. I asked the attendant if we could peek inside. We took a quick look into the black box theater, but I could tell my little ‘fraidy tot wasn’t interested.

The playroom was a neighboring black box, with rows of seats against the back wall and a collection of toys and baskets of books in a corner. We sat down in the front row of chairs, I got some books for JJ, then went to the bathroom. When I returned, Papa and JJ were on the back row of chairs, looking through a book, while all of the other kids ran around. This was going to be interesting, I thought.

lap

A first-time theater-goer timidly watches from afar.

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Wry Baby Super Sale & Super-er Giveaway

December 5, 2013 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Early on during my dad-dom, one of my favorite places to find cute/cool/clever stuff for the kiddo was Wry Baby. I even got to interview their head creative honcho and fellow designer daddy, David Sapp. The only downside is that JJ has outgrown all of their super fly get-ups — but that doesn’t mean I can’t share the wonderfulness of Wry Baby with the rest of the world!

So just in time for holiday shopping, Designer Daddy is hooking you up with info on a SUPER SALE and an even SUPER-ER GIVEAWAY! Deets on both below…

THE SUPER SNAPSUIT™ SALE!.

wrybaby_one_day_sale

ALL of Wry Baby’s snappy Snapsuits* are half off, so hurry and snap up a sackful!
Great for:
baby showers
stocking stuffers
dressing babies

One Day Only 50% OFF All Snapsuits  |  December 6, 2013  |  wrybaby.com

Begins December 6 at 12:01 am, ends December 6 at 11:59pm. Offer good for in-stock Snapsuits and Super Snapsuits only. Sorry, no rain checks or backorders.

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THE SUPER-ER SWAG GIVEAWAY!
Bypass the over-crowded, non-cool baby superstores this year… Designer Daddy is giving away a pile of FREE AWESOME STUFF! This Wry Baby Swag-A-Palooza prize package includes the following primo items:
A: Born to Be Prom King Snapsuit
B: Born to Be Prom Queen Snapsuit
C: Attack of the 50ft. Baby Stacking Blocks (baby not included)
D: Mysterio Predicts Your Child’s Future T-shirt
E: Bathe Like A Pirate Washcloth Set
Total prize package value in excess of 100 smackeroos!

wrybaby-combo-1

Do the little Rafflecopter thingie below for your chance(s) to win ALL THE STUFF and make your kiddo the hippest/happiest on the block — nay, the world! Contest runs December 5-9, 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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*In case you’re wondering, Snapsuits™ are indeed similar to Onesies.® The difference? Onesies® are a registered trademark of Gerber®. So good for Wry Baby — because nobody wants their baby getting sued.

Saving the Day with Superhero Lunch Notes

November 14, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, THINGS MY KID DIGS
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click to super-size!

My son started preschool this year, and I wanted to do something special for his first day. I’m no master chef (and he’s a notoriously picky eater) so a super fancy/fun/creative lunch was out of the question. And he already had his Spider-Man backpack and Superman lunch bag and Batman t-shirt — so he was set accessory-wise. Yet I wanted to do something truly, uniquely* Designer Daddy-ish to celebrate this milestone.

That first morning was pretty hectic, as it was a new schedule for all of us. Between making breakfast and getting JJ dressed and brushed and toothbrushed and backpacked, all I ended up having time to do was write “Daddy Hearts U,” on a Post-It note, added a quick doodle of The Flash and snuck it into his lunch bag. I pictured him discovering it at school, being reminded of his dear, old Dad, and bragging to all his new toddler pals how cool I am. Or more likely how cool The Flash is.

the first note

the first note

He loved it. And so the next day I did another, thinking I would do one each day of his first week and leave it at that. However, if you’ve ever had a preschooler, you know how THAT turned out. Toddlers are not known for their flexibility with a routine.

3

So here we are… 68 or so days later, and I’m still getting up a few minutes early each day to make JJ a note. But I gotta admit, I’m having a blast. It’s a great way for me to hone both my doodling and pun-making skills. It’s also been pretty cool having JJ’s teachers tell me how thoughtful and creative I am. But really — and not to get too heavy here — it’s all about my legacy. I’m never going to be my son’s sports idol. I don’t have vast carpentry or mechanical or bronco-busting skills to pass down to him. What I have is my love of superheroes and my talent for doodling. This is my way to instill in him a love of those things, and to keep being his superhero for as long as possible. Or until all my Sharpies run out.

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You can view all 68 (and counting) superhero lunch notes on Instagram. I’ll also be mixing them in on Facebook and Twitter, so be sure and let me know where you see them, and which are your favorites!

*While I haven’t found anyone else doing this particular thing, I would be remiss if I didn’t give props to David Laferriere, whose awesome series of sandwich bag doodles definitely inspired me.

Frightful Family Fun at Kings Dominion

October 20, 2013 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

The last time I was at Kings Dominion was about a dozen years ago. I recall the faded Hanna-Barbera characters on the parking lot signs, a Nickelodeon play area for the kiddies, and a whole section devoted to the “Wayne’s World” movies. Having not been a parent then (and never a “Wayne’s World” fan) I assumed that was my final visit.

But then I got an offer for the whole family to check out King’s Dominion’s Planet Spooky Halloween shindig, and decided it was time to give it another try.

We met up with blogger pal Oren and his family and jumped right in to experience as much Planet Spooky as we could cram into a day.

SPOILER ALERT: Planet Spooky is really Planet Snoopy tarted up with all manner of Halloween goodies. In addition to the 18 rides normally found in the “world’s largest Planet Snoopy play area,” (There’s more than one? Who knew?) it features a pumpkin painting patch, petting zoo, foam pit, pedal tractors, a hay maze, live shows and more. We either participated in or passed by every one of those  except the “and more”… Unless the “and more” was winning a stuffed Rasta monkey while playing whack-a-mole. In which case we did do it all.

Here are the highlights, in pictures (and a few more words).

woodstock

Spinnin’ and smilin’

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Arrrgh! Pirate Day is Herrrre!

September 19, 2013 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, THINGS MY KID DIGS

I’ve been saving these photos fer a very special day, mateys… In case you don’t have the internet (and I’m hoping you do, so’s you can read this here post) today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Here’s the whole fam, in full-ish pirate regalia.

Pirate Day

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