A Thomas and Friends Birthday Party!

Your son is a few months away from turning five and you haven’t finalized plans for his first official “friend party.” What can you plan to insure that he and his friends never forget this birthday? Invite his favorite character, Thomas the Train!

If you are handy in the kitchen, you can impress everyone with a creative Thomas the Train cake. If baking’s not your strong suit, most large bakeries can make a cake for you. For the rest of the food, keep it simple. Kids are really only interested in the cake, aren’t they? And what about party favors? Instead of buying disposable party supplies, consider buying a brand new Thomas and Friends dinnerware set for each party guest. They can use them for food or just take them home to keep!

Keep things fun for everyone by keeping the kids busy and moving. Visit the Thomas and Friends website for a few great games and activities like a version of “Simon Says” featuring Sir Topham Hatt and, for older kids, a Thomas-themed game of Twenty Questions.

If you haven’t yet found the perfect gift, there are about a million Thomas toys to choose from. You might take this opportunity to add a few more train cars to his toy train set or go for something new with a Thomas and Friends Dieselworks Playset.

No matter what you plan for the party, your birthday boy and his guests are sure to have fun because one of their favorite characters will be there!

 

Family Road Trip Survival, 101: Bring Music.

It’s road trip season! And anyone who has attempted a long-distance drive with children in the car knows that it can be difficult to keep everyone happy in such close quarters. Some parents will use on-board DVD players to keep kids happy. Some kids will entertain themselves with books or games. Some older children can bring their own headphones and listen to their own mp3 player. But, what about the kids who want to be entertained by you? We have one easy solution: bring music.

Every car these days has a stereo system. And, with a simple stereo system, you can solve a multitude of road trip difficulties. Pack a few CDs of both your and your child’s favorites and pull them out when things get hard. You’ll be thankful you brought them along!

Some ideas:

When you’re entering the “Are we there yet?” phase of the trip, pull out something interactive like the Martha Speaks read-a-long audio CD or one of your child’s favorite Thomas and Friends stories on CD. As they follow along in their book, the time will pass more quickly.

When it’s time for Mom and Dad to control the tunes, you can always count on some classic rock to satisfy most of the family. Bring your favorite Beatles album or homemade mix of hits and even your teenage daughter might take off her headphones to listen in.

After lunch, when bellies are full and everyone is happy, you can let the kids take the reins. Preschool and elementary school-aged kids might like singing along to their favorite songs from Yo Gabba Gabba!. For the whole family, try something from Dan Zanes. (Even parents can enjoy him!)

For naptime, consider bringing a classical guitar or strings CD to soothe your baby or toddler. Pop it in when you can tell he’s getting sleepy, tune down the rest of the car noise (stop chatting), and let it work its magic!

Whether you’re venturing out on your first family road trip, or are seasoned long-distance travel veterans, music is a surefire way to ease the stress, make the time go faster, and offer a painless ride for everyone! So, stock up before you leave home!

Who Inspired That Cartoon?

We know our kids’ favorite cartoon or storybook characters. We can list their names, tell their jokes, possibly even remember what they are usually wearing. But, do we know what inspired these lovable characters? Some of us might assume that the illustrated object of our child’s affection was created in a darkened computer studio somewhere in Hollywood, where children are simply test subjects and demographics. This might be the case for some children’s media, but a little research shows that many of today most loved characters were created for or inspired by real boys and girls just like our own.

Some examples:

Olivia the Pig- This rambunctious piglet makes mischief and fun everywhere she goes. Her creator, Ian Falconer, created the character as a gift for his brand new baby niece. The book was eventually picked up by a publishing house that had been impressed by Falconer’s work with The New Yorker. Today, Olivia is the star of various picture books, board books and gifts. Olivia toys can be purchased at many toy stores across the nation and she has her own animated television show on Nick Jr.!

Charlie and Lola- This is yet another television show adapted from popular children’s picture books. The characters are Charlie and his younger sister, Lola. Much of the stories surround the duo’s relationship and the everyday scenarios that most brothers and sisters encounter. The author, Lauren Child, was inspired to create the series of books after meeting a young, inquisitive stranger on a train in Denmark!

Thomas the Train- Although not based on an actual child, this very popular character comes from a series of train stories told, originally, from father to son at bedtime. Those stories—published as The Railway Series books—were developed into a British television show that eventually made its way through various adaptations and into the Thomas and Friends series that we all know and love.

 

It appears that inspiration is all around us! It might only be a matter of time until your lovable child becomes the next star of his own television series!

Let PBS Help Your Kids Learn All Summer

Summer is finally here and I’m sure your kids are very excited! After countless hours spent studying math, science, and reading during the past nine months, that final school bell signifies freedom to them. The sun is out, the pool is open, and it’s time to stop learning, right? Wrong! Summer doesn’t necessarily mean the learning ends; it simply means that parents may have to find creative ways to keep their kids’ minds turned “on” while still allowing them their much-needed vacation from school. Thankfully, our good friends at Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) are already on the task, providing multiple television shows that will engage your children in fun while educating them, too. The programs that PBS Kids provides, both on television and their kid-friendly website, will provide both entertainment and a quality education for your children on these days off.

Some of our favorite PBS Kids programming:

Sid the Science Kid- This show is perfect for preschoolers and early elementary school children who have a natural curiosity and interest in science and discovery. The show follows a funny preschooler named Sid as he searches for answers to questions such as, “Where did the water go?”

Super Why!- Does your child need a little extra help developing their literacy skills? Or maybe your child simply loves books! The PBS show Super Why! follows four young storybook characters as they use their special literacy powers to solve a problem in a different story.

Dinosaur Train- This is the perfect educational programming for children who love dinosaurs, trains, or both! In Dinosaur Train, we meet a family of dinosaurs who have adopted a dinosaur of a different species as one of their own. Together, the family travels on the Dinosaur Train to visit and learn about other species of dinosaurs.

A note to parents: Be proactive about educating your children, even when school is out of session! PBS provides an excellent online resource for parents where you can find information about their programming, lessons and projects related to the shows themselves, and general ideas for continuing your child’s education year-round.