YouTube Kids Luncheon at MILK Studios!

Last week I was invited to join YouTube at MILK Studios for an introductory lunch celebrating YouTube’s debut of YouTube Kids! The YouTube Kids app is designed with families in mind – an app designed from the ground up for kids. The app makes it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore, and is available for free on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S.

YouTube Kids App, NYC Lunch at MILK Studios | nyctalon.comYouTube Kids App, NYC Lunch at MILK Studios | nyctalon.com

My sister and I joined YouTube and other families to celebrate (and try out) the new app. My sister was so excited – we’re massive YouTube users (who isn’t?). Naturally, as a family with more than one blogger, media consumption is relatively high and for years safety on the internet has been a prominent topic of conversation for my family. So when I first found out about YouTube kids I was so glad – finally, a space that’s safe but not exclusionary! It means that your kids still have access to excellent YouTube content minus the content inappropriate for their age!

YouTube Kids App, NYC Lunch at MILK Studios | nyctalon.comYouTube Kids App, NYC Lunch

Between YouTube Cakepops and other treats, I was shown how the YouTube Kids app allows you to even set time limits on the app – and how the app notifies the user that the time allowance is running down by playing soft bedtime music. Pretty darn cool!

YouTube Kids App, NYC Lunch at MILK Studios | nyctalon.com

Here’s a quick rundown of the YouTube Kids parental controls:

Parental controls

We realize every family is different, so we’ve built options into the app that help you control the experience for your kids:

Timer: Let the app be the bad guy with a built-in timer that lets you limit kids’ screen time. The app alerts your child when the session is over, so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome. ;) )

Sound settings: Sometimes you need a little peace and quiet! You have an option to turn off background music and sound effects, so your kids can keep watching while you catch a breather.

Search settings: If you’d rather limit your children to just the pre-selected videos available on the home screen, you can turn off search.

Product feedback: Our goal is to improve YouTube Kids all the time, so we’ve included a space for you to give us your feedback.

We had such a great time, we loved seeing Elmo & Cookie Monster (I don’t care how old you get – Elmo & Cookie Monster are the icons of childhood!), and it was so lovely of YouTube to have us!

YouTube Kids App, NYC Lunch at MILK Studios | nyctalon.com

YouTube Kids is available for free here on Google Play and the App Store, and will soon be available on Kurio and nabi kids’ tablets!

Gingerbread Adventures & The Holiday Train Show at NYBG!

I’ve written about it before, but what I love about being a Mastercard® holder is that I get access to amazing experiences that really make me feel like a VIP. For example, this past Saturday we took advantage of the MasterCard® Budding Masters Gingerbread Adventures at NYBG (New York Botanical Garden) offer on their site. The $50 pricetag included the workshop for one adult and one child (5 years+), an all-garden pass, and access to the Holiday Train Show.

Priceless NY NYBG

Jules was really excited to go – at the beginning of the workshop she got to put together her own gingerbread house. She only put the frame together because it needed a chance to harden before they decorated them. While the ginger homes were drying they gave all the kids a bag of spices that are traditionally included in gingerbread. Then the kids had to identify them using their five senses, and sort them out based on which part of a plant they come from (i.e. seeds, roots, leaves, etc.). Then she was able to ground up her own mix of spices using mortar and pestle. Jule’s mixture included cloves, buckwheat, cinnamon, and ginger – it smelled amazing!

Grinding Spices

After that it was time to decorate the gingerbread houses! Jules put a variety of sweet treats on her’s. I may be a little biased, but her gingerbread house was rockin’ it! This was her creation:

Glueing the Gingerbread HouseGingerbread Home

Next stop was a visit to the Holiday Train Show! The Holiday Train show took place in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory where model trains travel through a replica of NYC – including amazing replicas of NY landmarks that are all made out of plant parts! The line to the train show can look pretty ridiculous, but it actually moves along pretty speedily.

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I loved this Mastercard® Priceless NY experience – it’s such a wonderful thing to do for the holidays with those that you love! In case you were wondering, this isn’t a sponsored post – as nice as it would have been if Mastercard® footed the bill on this one, haha! – this was a special treat for Jules.

If you’re interested in experiences like ours, I definitely recommend that you browse through the Mastercard® Priceless NY site – they always have a ton of cool experiences!

Justice League: Axis of Villians Review!

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I’m not going to pretend to know everything about the Justice League. I used to watch the cartoon series on Cartoon Network when I was a kid, and while I wasn’t as in to it as I was into say – The Powerpuff Girls, I did understand that the show had to do with hero’s putting down villians. The Justice League Axis of Villians game by Wonder Forge works around that same concept.

Axis of Villians

Each player chooses which hero he/she wants to be – so either Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or my personal favorite – Superman. The idea is that you stop the satellite from destroying the Justice League (and presumably earth) by capturing all the villians. If a villian reaches the satellite then one part of the satellite is damaged, when all four parts are damaged then the Justice League loses the game.

Axis of Villians Game Board

Initially I was a little perplexed by the directions, but as we actually got into the game I really understood how fun and simple it actually was. I really love how each hero has different “powers” and attacks villians in different ways – like Superman can roll the dice twice during a certain attack, but only once on others. The game is designed so well too, the graphics are fun and there is enough detail to be stimulating without being overwhelming.

Axis of Villians Game BoxSuperman Axis of Villians

The game is exclusively available at Target, and at the time this post goes live Target is actually having a pretty great Buy One Get One 50% off sale going on! I’ve linked it here if you’re interested. The game really makes an excellent gift for anyone 8+ who is into DC Comics, The Justice League, or even if they just really love a good strategy game – it’s loads of fun, promotes teamwork, and everybody really gets into it while playing!

I loved the Axis of Villians game so much, I’ve included it in my Holiday Gift Guide!

Be sure to stay tuned for more fun gift idea for everyone on your list, as well as a chance to win some fabulous gifts!

Eye Found It! Disney & Wonder Forge’s Most Magical Game

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I love Disney, and I have loved them ever since I was a little girl and was introduced to Disney princesses like Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Belle. However, my adoration wasn’t strictly reserved for Disney princesses – I also was a hardcore Winnie the Pooh lover. I had a stuffed Pooh bear that was my most favorite accessory! This holiday season, give your Disney fanatic the Disney Eye Found It! Hidden Picture Game from Wonder Forge – it feature’s everyone’s most favorite Disney characters and I promise, they’ll love it!

Eye Found It! Game Review

When I first looked at the game I thought that it would be sort of a competition between players to see who would get to Cinderella’s castle before the clock struck midnight. But actually, Wonder Forge and Disney really encourage team work with this game (although when we played it there was also a fair amount of competition too, haha!) and makes it possible that all the players can actually win.

Parts of the GameEye Found It! Board Game

The idea is is that everyone picks a player and on their turn spins the spinner. The arrow will land on one of four options – to move the clock forward either one hour or two hours, to advance a certain number of spaces indicated, or to search. If you spin search, you pick a card from the deck. Based on the color of the search wedge that you landed on (red or blue) you choose that color side of the card to use. Then you start the timer and ALL the players (teamwork!) help to look for the object shown on the card. Each time you find a hidden object, you’d place a little mouse marker on the object (to keep track) and when the sands in the hourglass timer run out you count up your markers and everyone advances that many spaces. The idea is that you make it to Cinderella’s castle before midnight – if you do, then you’re a winner! Make sense?

Disney's Eye Found It! from Wonderforge

For example if the card reads “barrels” then you would look for as many barrels in all the Disney scenes as you can find. Like their might be one in One Hundred Acre Wood, and one in the little town from Beauty and the Beast.

What really blew me away was the gorgeous colors and details that went into creating this game! It really is amazing to look at – and perfect for those who love a good seek and find! The board includes 12 “Disney Realms”, and stretches out at 6 feet long!

Look at that detail!

Disney Eye Found It! by Wonderforge

If I didn’t own it already, I would definitely buy this as a Christmas present. If you have a Disney fan in your family (and who doesn’t?), or want to introduce someone to the wonderful world of Disney, then this magical game would be right up their alley! Of all the games I’ve seen this season, this is one of my favorites, which is why I included it in The NYC Talon’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide!

Be sure to stay tuned for more fun gift idea for everyone on your list, as well as a chance to win some fabulous gifts!

Build-A-Bear Workshop Opens in FAO Schwarz in NYC!

Last Friday, my sister and I headed downtown to the newly opened Build-A-Bear Workshop at FAO Schwarz. I’ve actually never been to a Build-A-Bear before, so it was pretty exciting for me!

Build-A-Bear Workshop in FAO Schwartz in NYC

The Build-A-Bear Workshop in the FAO Schwarz store is actually their very first store-within-a-store, and is the only one in the US right now. Jules and I arrived early, before the ribbon cutting ceremony (check out pics from the ceremony here!) and were able to go through the complete experience.

Building a Bear

I love how interactive the whole experience was, and I feel like having the Workshop inside the legendary FAO Schwarz store adds a whole other layer of fun and really makes it a NYC destination experience not to be missed!

A Bear Named Sally

Jules ended up creating her very first Build-A-Bear, which she named Sally. She was able to add fun characteristics to Sally’s heart – for instance, she’s smart, strong, and loyal. Sally also has a beating heart and plays “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” whenever Jules squeezes her left arm.

I really love how Build-A-Bear included a lot of NYC themed exclusive animals and accessories!

NYC Build-A-Bear Workshop

I’m definitely planning on making my own Thor bear – although I’d definitely like to see a Loki costume too!

Thor Build-A-Bear

We love the new Build-A-Bear store and are already planning a return!

The Creativity Comeback with Creative Can!

Did you know that children’s creativity test scores have been declining since 1990? A study of Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking has measured a steady decline in creativity and we could be facing a creativity crisis. To combat lack of creativity, Creativity for Kids  has introduced the Creativity Can. What it is is relatively simple, it’s a free program designed to put simple materials into the hands of children and challenge them to imagine, create, and share.

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I love the idea of the Creativity Can – and recently I put Jules to create something magnificent and creative with a Creativity Can of her own! Here’s what she created:

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It’s Rembrandt! We went to the MET about a year ago to see a special exhibit featuring Rembrandt and his works – and this is what she masterfully pulled together.

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I think it bares a startling resemblance, lol!

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To check out the Creativity Can program, click here. To find out where the closest participating retailer is click here.

I think programs like the Creativity Can have a lot of potential – and I feel like encouraging creativity and using kinetic learning is a worthwhile goal. However I did notice that while I was searching for Creativity Can distributors in the NYC area, the distributors existed primarily in more affluent neighborhoods, as opposed to the areas of higher need. I would recommend that Creativity Can would extend their program to more areas – I feel like such a wonderful program could really be beneficial to many children who lack creative stimulation.

* Update: Creativity for Kids has let me know that Creativity for Kids is using its existing channels of specialty toy retailers to distribute the free can and that no purchase is necessary. This effort is just the first prong of a multi-year campaign to raise awareness about the drop in creativity, encourage a national discussion and search for a solution. Creativity for Kids is looking to further expand this effort.

Get Playful with the Y-Volution YGlider!

My family and I are serious park junkies, we love to pack up a few snacks, maybe even a picnic basket and head to our local park. We usually bring along a plethora of toys – everything from basketballs and tennis rackets to sidewalk chalk. Spring is my favorite time to head out doors and I distinctly remember when I was young that I loved to grab my scooter and let the budding greenery speed by as I hit the pavement like the little speed devil that I was.

Scooter for Little Kids
Scooters are probably the funnest toys out there, and I love that Y-Volution now has scooters for budding speedsters as young as three years old!

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I recently had a chance to test out the Y-Volution G2 YGlider for kids three and older and I was thrilled with the construction of the scooter! It designed to have a lean-to-steer mechanism, which means better control for your little one. I love how the YGlider fosters better balance, motor, and coordination skills! The two wheels in front help with better balance and support, plus the handles are cushioned rubber – which gives your little guy or girl the control they need.

Y Glider

With only two pieces, all you have to do is click in the handle bar and you’re off!

What I love about the YGlider is that it’s a unpack and play kind of product. You can put it together right out of the box – I took mine to the park in the box so I could get some great pictures to show you guys, and I was nervous when I realized I had left my mini travel screw driver and scissors at home. So I was super happy to discover that it really was incredibly simple to put together and wasn’t locked in the box like most toys (*cough, cough* Barbie) are. Also, the YGlider is incredibly light weight and I had no problem toting it around.

The Yvolution YGlider retails at around $59.99 at Toys R ‘Us and is worth every penny – having done some research I’d say that it’s definitely the coolest, most safe, practical, and fun scooter for little ones out there – I know my four year old nephew is going to love speeding on this scooter all Spring and Summer long!

Enter to win your own YGlider and other awesome toys in the Fabtastic Bloggers Spring into Play Giveaway here! Learn more about Y-Volution, the YGlider, and the other awesome scooters the Y-Volution makes here!

Disclaimer

Get a Hop on Easter Baskets with Wonderforge! And it’s also a Giveaway!

Every year, after Church on Easter Sunday, my family has our yearly Easter egg hunt and Easter basket handout. We’re a very competitive bunch and our Easter egg hunt is like the Laura Ashley equivalent of The Hunger Games. The same competitiveness rings true through any game we’re playing – our most favorite game right now is the Nickelodeon™ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ Clash Alley™ Strategy Board Game.

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I grew up with TMNT – so I was super excited to get my hands on this game! Although, Shawn (my little brother), didn’t grow up with the Ninja Turtles, he was absolutely in love with this strategy game. On a mission to rescue April, you battle mutants Kraang and Shredder – you get get to recover objects and even pick up pizza! But our favorite part of this game was the 3D aspect – it adds another “layer of fun” as Shawn put it.

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It comes unattached – so you have to set it up. I’m hopeless when it comes to putting things together, but even I managed this one really well (I’m proud to say). The object of the game is to be the first turtle to complete your mission by collection your mission tile and returning to your corner home space. You do this by rolling the three dice which tell you how much you can run, climb, and leap, and you can do those in any order with the goal being to get your mission tile. It’s so fun, and super easy to understand! We played a LOT of rounds, it’s pretty addictive, it’s like a fun combination of action, puzzle, and board game because you have to figure out what moves will work best for you. Very cool!

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Another game, perfect for your younger bunnies, is the Disney Easter Matching Game! It’s so adorable, and a perfect game for young Disney fans. Favorite Disney characters are featured including Mickey (naturally), Donald, Tinker Bell, Minnie Mouse, Belle, Daisy duck, Piglet, Phineas and Pherb, the green aliens from Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, Buzz and Woody, and more!
I’m gifting this one this Easter to my neice – who absolutely loves Disney! I love how this match game develops the memory of little ones; and thanks to Wonderforge is made out of recycled materials for a smaller footprint on our environment!

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The kind folks at Wonderforge are offering one lucky winner both the Nickelodeon™ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ Clash Alley™ Strategy Board Game and the Disney Easter Matching Game!

To Enter Please Leave One Comment Per Entry

Mandatory
1. Follow Wonderforge on twitter

2. Follow The NYC Talon on twitter

Optional
1. All of Wonderforge’s facebook followers get an extra entry! If you don’t follow Wonderforge on facebook yet, you can do so here!

2. Follow The NYC Talon on Pinterest

3. Retweet this tweet!

*Wonderforge provided me with product samples in order to facilitate a review. However, all opinions expressed here are my own. Giveaway open to 18+, US only. Starts 3/18 and closes on 3/26 at midnight EST.

Welcome to Hotel Transylvania!

This past week Shawn and Juliet (my little brother and sister, for those of you who don’t know) were one of the few lucky kids who were invited by The MOMs to attend an advance screening of fall’s new hottest family film- Hotel Transylvania! And at the end of the film, we were all treated to an exclusive Q&A with the voice of the bride of Frankenstein – Fran Drescher!

Yummy after-school snacks that were waiting for us at the screening :)

Now, I grew up with the nasal -er- dulcet tones of Fran Fine ringing in my ears. In fact, I didn’t even have to guess which character Fran was voicing- I knew it the minute the big-haired, blue-skinned, bride of Frankenstein appeared on the screen. And being the awesomest older sister ever, I’ve gladly shared and cultivated proper Fran Fine fans in Shawn and Juliet – that way they were equally excited when they heard they were going to get to meet her in person!

Eunice (Fran Drescher) hugs Mavis (Selena Gomez) with her father Dracula (Adam Sandler) watching in HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, an animated comedy from Sony Pictures Animation.

Now for the movie. Dracula, owner of Hotel Transylvania – a lavish resort dedicated to providing a safe haven to monsters- has invited all his monster friends (hello invisible man, Frankenstein, the blob, and other classic scaries) to celebrate his daughter Mabel’s 118th birthday. However, Dracula’s plans to keep Mavis safe from the human world go awry when the hotel is visited by Jonathan – a human, who’s unlike anything Dracula ever expected.

Johnnystein (Andy Samberg) and Mavis (Selena Gomez) with Dracula (Adam Sandler) looking on in HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, an animated comedy from Sony Pictures Animation.

I have to say, Hotel Transylvania is one of those adorable films that you just can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so you can add it to your home movie collection. It was like Father of the Bride met the Halloween section in Party City, and had a movie love child. It was cute, it was funny, it was heartfelt, and it was wildly entertaining. Shawn and Juliet loved it and are demanding to see it again when it hits theaters.

After the movie, we had a chance to talk to Fran. She was so nice (and yes the voice is real) – and had a lot to say about making Hotel Transylvania, as well as her Cancer Schmancer non-profit and the Trash Cancer movement- an initiative started by Cancer Schmancer designed to support people in cleaning their home of toxins and cancer-causing agents. I don’t know about toxins, but I was having The Nanny flashbacks involving Fran, Mr.Sheffield, Sylvia, Grandma Yetta, and Gracie.

Shawn, Juliet, and I had such a great time and absolutely LOVED Hotel Transylvania! We’re seriously going to go see it again- we all gave it a five star review, so be sure to head to your local theater and see it yourself – you’ll love it! Hotel Transylvania opens the weekend of September 28th.

*Disclosure: I was invited to the advanced screening of Hotel Transylvania by the lovely Melissa and Denise of The MOMs. No other compensation was provided.

Playing Football on Top of the World and Making it Epic : My Zamzee Review

This summer the whole family has spent a boatload of time being active outdoors. But getting out and about while the sun is blazing is never an easy task. In fact, most kids (and adults) would prefer to spend their time chilling in a room being blasted with air conditioner. But to get the kids- and by kids I mean my awesome younger sibs who will be hereafter known as Juliet and Shawn- excited about moving I turned to Zamzee!

What is Zamzee? The Zamzee is a meter that measures physical activity, and works with the website to monitor and provide kids with an interactive online experience that makes moving a fun and rewarding activity. Which basically means that your kids (or nieces, nephews, younger siblings, etc.) get a meter, join the Zamzee website, create a profile and avatar, wear their meter, track their progress, and can actually earn rewards towards cool prizes!

Juliet and Shawn were really excited about their Zamzee’s- and had a blast creating their avatar’s. Minutes after opening the package, we had their accounts successfully set up and their Zamzee’s fully running- which I was really pleased about. If you’ve ever struggled with removing a Barbie from her box on Christmas morning, or pulled out your hair over complicated packaging, start-up instructions, or a million get started steps, then you can understand how invaluable a really easy seamless set up is.

I really wish I had one of these as a kid! Juliet and Shawn insist all the time now for me to take them out to the library or park, and to sign them up for challenges, and upload their Zamz. They are determined to score something really cool from the Zamz store!

Zamzee was established in 2010 by HopeLab, a nonprofit research organization that uses the power and appeal of technology to improve the health of kids. The goal for Zamzee was to create a profitable business, while also achieving their social mission of getting kids and families moving more. Zamzee targets an audience of kids mainly between the ages of 9 to 15 – that rough spot where physical activity begins to decline, and kids are forming lifelong habits.

Click the image above for access to my Zamzee Britely book!

I really admire the idea of a company whose product is designed around an admirable social goal. I’ve found that the Zamzee’s appeal to the competitive and fun-seeking nature of kids. They want to run more, they want to go out, and they want to work towards their own goals. Here’s what Shawn and Juliet had to say about the Zamzee meters:

Juliet:

“I liked it because I got to customize my avatar, and when I exercise I’m working towards getting something. I also like that you can get awards and become “friends” with other kids on the Zamzee site- what can I say? I’m a social butterfly!”

Shawn:

“I like the rewards, it gives you something to work towards. I also like making Whamz whenever I upload my points- you can make really cool ones like ‘Football on top of the world and making it epic’.”

The Zamzee is definitely the most favorite accessory in my home right now. I would definitely recommend as a birthday, or Christmas present, or even as a tool to start getting your kids excited about moving!

For more information about the Zamzee, their history, and how it works – click here! You can also follow them on facebook or twitter. If you have any questions about the Zamzee or our experience with the Zamzee- feel free to leave a comment below, I promise I’ll answer ASAP!

Update: The super kind folks at Zamzee are now offering a discount code to my readers (that’s you!) that will take 25% off your Zamzee purchase on the website! Just use the code “LUVZZ2012″ at checkout!

*Disclaimer: I received two Zamzee’s to review. No other compensation was provided. My opinions are always my own, if I didn’t love it I would blog about it – for more info on that check out my PR tab above. Thank you!