Thursday, October 18, 2018

It is Fall... Time for Apple and Pumpkin Picking

My favorite activity in the Fall is apple and pumpkin picking at a farm.  We go to a large working farm, Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ.  If you are thinking of taking your grandchildren on this kind of an outing, do your homework and consider their age and how much outdoor activity will work for them.

My grandson is 9 years old and we choose Alstede because it is a good fit for older kids.  There is the giant haystack, a long hayride, apple, pumpkin and fruit/vegetable picking, a corn maze, a place for lunch, homemade ice cream stand, farm store and more.  If you are bringing a small child you may want to visit a smaller place with a playground for young children and a nearby pumpkin patch. 

This is a perfect grandparent and grandchild outing.  If your grown kids remember doing this when they were young they will probably also enjoy the day.  My daughter certainly does.

Our Day in Pictures

The day starts with my grandson climbing the giant haystack to the top...

Now we are ready for the tractor ride out to the fields...

First stop is apple picking and we fill my "Grandma is my name Spoiling is my game" bag...
My daughter and grandson both enjoyed choosing their favorite pumpkins...

And finally we are ready to hop back on the tractor ride to head home.  Everyone is still smiling which says everything about how much we enjoyed the day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Take Me Out to the Ballgame - NJ Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium

There is no better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a baseball game.  My nine year old grandson and I had a grand time at the last home game of the NJ Jackals that play at Yogi Berra Stadium at Montclair State University.  Wow, what a night!  Yes, this blog article is a little late –  the game was a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share the experience and encourage grandparents to consider this kind of local activity.  The stadium was very accessible, the cost was reasonable and the size and layout of the stadium allowed the kids freedoms and experience that they would not have in a major league stadium.

First of all the stadium was beautiful and immaculately clean.  Since it was on a “Fan Appreciation” night the hot dogs and sodas were $2 each.  It was a perfect weather night, and we got there early to take advantage of this super bargain.  We sat at the tables overlooking the stadium and got to see both team players warming up.  Then we bought popcorn and went to our first row seats overlooking first base.  We got the see every player who got to first base and those who tried and didn’t quite make it.  We also got an up close look at the first base coaches talking with the mostly young players.

But here was the best feature of this location.  The stadium's only bullpen that both teams use was just to the right of us and above it was a big grassy knoll.  Kids gathered there and once in a while the pitchers threw a ball up onto the field and the kids scrambled to catch one of these balls.  My grandson got a ball that popped up near first base.  What a souvenier to bring home.

And then there was more!  Since it was the last home game of the season there was a fireworks display that was fantastic!  Lighting up the sky after the seventh inning it was just a spectacular almost ending to the evening.
This night out at the ball game was great fun and a super value.  I can’t wait to do it again next year.  I recommend you check out one of these  league baseball teams for a old fashioned fun evening.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Summer Family Vacation at the Jersey Shore

There is a rule that if you live in New Jersey you MUST take a vacation at the Jersey shore in the summer.  I am very diligent about following this rule.  I have an almost religious fervor about the shore I must admit.  It raises my spirit, reduces my blood pressure, takes my mind to places of wonder, reflection and peace, and then it turns me on my heels and is just all out fun!.  I challenge you to find another place on earth that delivers all that.
So how does it deliver all that?  Here is a sample day.  We stay at a hotel with a pool just a block away from the boardwalk.  Each morning I walk the back way through the closed amusement park, up to the boardwalk and buy coffee and muffins for my husband at me at the Ocean City Coffee Company.  We sit outside at the hotel and enjoy the "Ocean City Roast Blend."  
Next I am off to the beach.  I walk the beach long distances in both directions – occasionally getting wet enough to cool off a bit. This is when I let my mind just wonder and wander.  It is both peaceful and exhilarating as I contemplate the waves one moment and enjoy all the activity at the shore's edge the next.   
The beach is crowded but it just seems right. There is enough room for all of us. In between walks I sit on the beach and take it all in…

Grandparents walking with grandchildren getting ready to keep a watchful eye as they go in the water

Strong looking lifeguards on duty….

Building sand forts, sitting at the water’s edge, strolling, wading, and jumping the waves…all within feet of each other…

Back at poolside my grandson never tires of jumping in the deep end…

And takes a moment to pose for the camera with Mom…

There are numerous opportunities to play miniature golf on the boardwalk.  I think this one is “Goofy Golf.”

After dinner it is time to hit the boardwalk -Wonderland Pier - and do the rides.  Grandma buys a big book of tickets and we are off to the races.

This one is a favorite….

Zach says that it is tradition to do the Crazy Submarine and so this is the last one of the night.  I thought riding the carousel together was the tradition but he skipped out on that one.

I don’t know how I missed taking a picture of both of us having a Kohr’s Frozen Custard but that is how we finish every night on the Boardwalk.

Of course there is the night that I have to myself on the boardwalk.  Yes, I shop, and sit and watch the waves at night and just enjoy taking it all in.  
Then I randomly chose to sit a few minutes facing the boardwalk and captured one of my favorite things about Ocean City, NJ.  This is a dry family resort town and it attracts a multigenerational crowd.  I am really into the multigenerational experience.  I look up and on my left is Fralinger’s.  They have been selling salt water taffy on the boardwalk since 1885.  

On my right are two newcomers to the boardwalk – a virtual reality and escape room experience.  I just sit and enjoy how both of these worlds over a century apart live so peacefully next to each other.

No matter where I travel in the world, this is always my favorite place to vacation.  What is your favorite place to vacation with family?  Please let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Toys with Educational Value

Summer is a special time for both adults and kids to kick back and relax.  But with all the extra free time parents and grandparents will be looking for some non-screen time toys.  Here are some great options with summer themes that the kids will enjoy and the bonus is that they have educational value.  You don’t have to tell the kids that.

All of the pictures here were taken by me at Toy Fair in February - no stock professional pictures.  Some were just in prototype stage then so they may be slightly different than these pictures. And indeed some of the pictures are less than perfect.  I saw thousands of toys and took over a thousand pictures and this is the best of what I saw. Most of the products are new on the market since May or later and are available on Amazon now.

I have listed something for every age listed from youngest to oldest.

VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Take Flight Airport

The VTech Go!Go! Smart Wheels sets are established favorites for toddlers and pre-school age children.  This airport set has six SmartPoint™ locations teaching letters, sounds, music and more. There are over 120 responses that include phrases, music and sound effects. The tracks can be used with other Go! Go! Smart Wheels® playsets and other smart wheel vehicles can be used with this set.  Note that this set only comes with the smart wheels airplane and does not include other vehicles. Taking your first airplane trip - check this out for sure.

LeapFrog Shapes And Sharing Picnic Basket

Toddlers love to play with play food.  This colorful picnic basket features picnic food and also serves as a dual shape sorter on the basket and on both plates.

Insect Lore Very Hungry Caterpillar Growing Kit

Young children may have experienced an Insect Lore Caterpillar set at school.  This is a new set with the Eric Carle Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.  The growing instructions and theme book feature the fabled character and will make this butterfly set extra enjoyable.  This is a new product just on the market now.

LEGO Minecraft Farm Cottage

Minecraft has super popular video and online games.  They also develop planning and strategic skills and are considered a top educational game.  The LEGO Minecraft line provides the opportunity to move seamlessly from the computer games to the hands on building.  There is a whole line of LEGO Minecraft sets.  I chose this one because it is brand new and has a summer theme.

PLAYMOBIL® Aquarium Shop Building Set

This set features an interactive pool which includes crabs and starfish and which can be filled with water can also be used as a box to store small parts. The shop sells working octopus water sprayers, souvenirs, and food and drink. Playmobil sets always encourage creative play and are made extremely well.  They are the kind of toys handed down for generations.  This new set has a summer theme and caught my eye at Toy Fair in February when I saw this prototype.

Learning Resources Beaker Creatures Bio-Home Toy

This is actually a collectible science toy – and we know that kids love collectibles.  How cool is this. Each pack comes with two Beaker Creatures collectibles: one that’s ready to identify, and one that’s encased within a mysterious Reactor Pod. After dropping the pod in water and triggering its colorful bubbling reaction, kids can use the included classification cards to count up their creatures’ physical characteristics and determine which of the 35 Beaker Creatures they’ve discovered. The set includes one Bio-Home, a habitat whose top also doubles as a magnifier that helps kids take a closer look and two double-sided mini-posters. Each poster has one side which features a quiz filled with amazing real-world science facts, while the other features images of the creatures.  There is a wider line of Beaker Creature toys also available.

Ravensburger Sneaker Underwater Design 108 Piece 3D Puzzle

Ravensburger has made this 3-D puzzle in various designs and its newest design features an underwater scene.  I made this puzzle featuring a flag design with my grandson a couple of years ago and he loved it.  You can use the finished product as a pencil container.

National Geographic Kids Absolute Expert: Dolphins

If you know a child who is interested in dolphins or you have a vacation planned where you may see dophins this is a perfect book for a child of any age – grown up ones too. You will learn everything you have ever wanted to know about them in this book. It features exclusive content from a National Geographic explorer currently in the field.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Out and About with the Grandkids This Summer

When the grandkids visit this summer you definitely want to plan some activities that will be fun for everyone.  Here are some ideas – some don’t cost a penny and others can break the bank.  Last week I wrote about things to do at home and this article is about getting out there for a little action.

Summer Concerts

Many towns have free summer outdoor concerts in a local park or town square.  In our small town we have Wednesday night concerts in the town square.  People bring their beach chairs and blankets and the kids have plenty of space to run around, dance and enjoy. Night is not over - walk down to The Towne Scoop for an ice cream cone.  But you will have to wait – there will be a crowd.  There are also lots of summer concerts further away that aren’t free but can feature marquee names.  You can be a cool grandparent by bringing older kids to see someone they would like to see.  I remember bringing my middle school age son to a Smashing Pumpkins concert.  Lots of brownie points for that one.

Local or County Fairs

These events provide opportunities for rides, games, fun food, entertainment and being with other kids.

Water Parks

Water Parks are becoming more popular everywhere and they are  a perfect place to beat the heat of summer.  You can find a shady place to sit and watch the grandkids slide, jump swim and have a great time.

The Zoo

Younger children especially enjoy a day at the zoo.  But don’t choose a day that is too hot. 

Baseball Game

Nothing shouts summer like a baseball game.  It doesn’t have to be major league.  There are lots of  summer professional leagues that provide a low key inexpensive night out at a baseball game.  I have been checking out the New Jersey Jackals schedule at the Yogi Berra stadium near where I live.

Miniature Golf

Miniature golf is a traditional way to have some intergenerational fun. It is not too strenuous but still lots of fun.

Something Educational

Many museums have special programs during the summer and a visit is a good time to learn about something new – or more in depth – and enjoy the air conditioning.  If the museum has a planetarium show that’s a nice extra.

Something Cultural

I live in northern New Jersey and I am seriously considering taking my 9 year old grandson to his first Broadway show.  Does your grandchild play an instrument – perhaps a symphony orchestra performance. 

At the beach in Ocean City NJ

Something Different

At the LEGO Discovery Center
Do you live in a different state than your grandchildren.  Then there are probably some interesting things to do near where you live that they don’t get to visit when they are home.  I am lucky that my grandchildren live nearby but since I live in New Jersey, I would be making sure my grandkids experienced the Jersey Shore if they didn’t live near the coast.

What are your plans to share with the grandkids this summer.? Please share with us in the comments - it may inspire other readers.  Parents - what would you like to see the grandparents do?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What To Do with Grandkids in Summer

It is the first day of summer and many grandparents will be seeing more of their grandchildren in summer.  Maybe it will be an out of state weeklong visit.  Some grandparents host grandparent camp for all their grandchildren to get together.  Others do more out of school babysitting while parents are working.  Whatever the reason, you should have a plan.

I am going to write several posts on this subject and this is the first one.  How about spending some time with the kids doing thing you did or their parents did as kids. This post is about things to do at home. Here are a few ideas and please share your own in the comments.

Lemonade Stand
My kids loved having a lemonade stand set at the end of our driveway.  Today arranging for the proceeds to go to charity is a popular way to also develop understanding of charitable giving.

Sprinkler party
Nothing beats a sprinkler party on a hot summer day.  Besides cooling off, all that running around means getting exercise and using up energy.  Always a favorite.

Water Balloons
Fill up a container for each team to throw water balloons at each other.  This is great fun for older kids.

Games with Chalk
Turn your driveway into a game using a piece of chalk and something to use as a "landie."  The Crayola Chalk Grab and Go games at Amazon are easy inexpensive aids to set up your own games.  That is what I used in this picture.  My grandson also liked the obstacle course set - good for about age 5.  When we were kids the neighborhood shoemaker kept us in supply of old shoe heel soles he had discarded.

Outdoor Arts and Crafts and Art Show
Gather up stuff you have already.... markers, felt, cloth, ribbons, buttons, whatever and set up an outdoor arts and craft table.  Consider following up with an Art Show with the items on display.

Put on a Talent Show

When I was a kid and all the kids in the neighborhood participated in an end of summer talent show.  The parents and other neighbors came and we served lemonade and cookies.  This cute Pretend and Play set can add a professional tone to such an event.  This is a great idea if you are hosting grandparent camp for a week and is something they can work on each day and present to parents at the end.

Learn a skill

What a great time to develop skills and talents.  Can you teach a grandchild to bake, sew, knit or build a birdhouse?  Just a few ideas for starters.

Outdoor old fashioned games

How about playing marbles, ball and jacks, hula hoops, etc.

Cardboard Boxes or Buildings
When I was a kid, if someone in the neighborhood had an appliance being delivered in a cardboard box we would gather round to claim the box and it would provide hours of fun.  Today you can order an cardboard house or pirate ship for the kids to decorate.  I got this one to review and it was in our garage in the winter but provided outdoor play for years...yes years for our grandson.  He didn't want to part with it but it finally said "Enough already - let me go!  And it was completely recyclable.  I highly recommend these.

Read  summer  themed books
I have seasonal books that I pull out year after year even when a child is "too old for them."  Kids love this annual ritual and remember the book from year to year and want to see it again.  I am such a traditionalist by heart and I especially enjoy this with books.

This article could go on forever but I hope it might inspire you about what you might do.  These ideas may seem fresh and new to the grandkids rather than dusted off from the past.  

Please share your ideas and things you do with your grandkids in the comments.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Is it a stroller? Is it a tricycle? It’s a SmarTrike!!

I was very impressed when I saw the SmarTrike at Toy Fair NY.  It is very versatile, smart looking, has great maneuverability, is easy to assemble and folds for storage and travel.  Is it a stroller?  Is it a tricycle?  It is a combination with 7 different ways to use it.

Since my younger grandchildren are one and two years old, I even have test drivers.  And so I am delighted to have received at SmarTrike 600 as a sample to review.

My Grandson's maiden voyage with the SmarTrike in my kitchen - "Let's Go!"
Important -  there are various models and this is specifically a review of the 600 model.

Storage - The SmarTrike comes in a bag and it is very storable.  This is an excellent feature if you have limited living space, taking it on a plane trip or a road trip with a full car.  It is also a handy feature if you use it like my neighbor  - only when out of town grandkids visit. You can store it with the handle up or down.

Versatility - This picture illustrates that there are 7 different positions that it can be used for with babies/toddlers ranging from 9 months old to 3 years old. It is much more than a stroller and is very easily adjusted to various positions including a trike that a toddler can pedal with or without an extended back bar so an adult can push it.  At first a child can use the pedals and steering but they are controlled by an adult.  As the child gets older, it is easy to change this feature so that the child is steering. This is one of my favorite features.  Please note that the SmarTrike is not for babies younger than 9 months old.

Maneuverability and Comfort – If you have tried a variety of strollers and  adult controlled tricycles you know the importance of and that there is great variety in maneuverability.  I was very impressed with steering and easy maneuverability of the SmarTrike.  In fact SmarTrike has a patent on its touch steering system.   There are also shock absorbers for a smooth ride.
My granddaughter's look says "Smooth Ride."
Ease of Assembly – The SmarTrike is easy to assemble into its various positions and does not require a lot of tools.  It is mostly snap in.  This is all fine when making one time adjustments to the next level.  However, folding it to the storage position requires removing the front wheel and more complicated than you want for folding it up to put in a car for everyday use.  I can’t recommend it for that purpose.  There is no chance that I am removing a front wheel and folding this to put it in my car to bring to the park and then assembling it again and disassembling it when going home.  Just not happening.  We took it apart several times and put it back together.  Very doable, but not for frequent transitions.

Style – The SmarTrike is smart looking.  It comes in grey and red.  The grey and  black model that I tested has a very modern, sleek look.  There is a 3 compartment fabric cup holder near the parent handle and a zippered storage bag with the same grey material closer to the wheels. Both the one and two year old seemed to really like the handle bars.

Cost – The  retail price is very reasonable for this product. Considering its features and style I think it is quite a bargain.  If you are a grandparent the good news is that it has all these various positions good for different ages and you can forego multiple purchases.  

Availability – The SmarTrike is available at  Amazon.  You can check their website for a physical location near you.  Although WalMart is listed, the WalMart website only lists earlier versions.  There is substantial difference in models so be sure you are getting the model you want.

This review is my honest opinion.  I did receive a SmarTrike for review but this is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated for this review.