15 Ways to Unplug for Screen-Free Week! #Screenfreewk

Categories: News


Are you unplugging this week? (Besides, of course, your momentary glance at this screen to get some great ideas — we’ll give you a pass, just this once.) Here are 20 screen-free activities to keep the kids engaged and having fun.

1. Go stargazing! On a clear night, go outside and see if you can identify any of the spring constellations. Here are just a few that should be visible because they are highest in the sky this time of year: Leo, Virgo, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Cassiopeia. The star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, is also known as the “little king” or “lion’s hear” (Cor Leonis). –from Camp Out by Lynn Brunelle (page 188)

2. Write with sunlight! Use a magnifying glass to focus sunlight onto a soft piece of wood, like pine (don’t forget to wear sunglasses), and gradually move the beam of light over the wood to burn a message or a picture. –from Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Michael J. Caduto (page 88)

3. Free associate. Play this noncompetitive word game in which one person says a word, then next person calls out a word associated with that first word, the third person calls out a words associated with the second, and so on (example: love, tennis, court, supreme, Diana Ross…). At the end, see if you can recall it in reverse! –from The Games Bible by Leigh Anderson (page 105)

4. Make a “Life-Size Me”! Cut a piece of butcher paper about 12 inches longer than your child’s height. Place it on the floor, have your child lie on top of it, and trace your child’s outline. Your child can use crayons and markers to fill in the details — clothes, expressions, and any other add-ons! –from Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner (page 142)

5. Make utensil-free fruit salad and take it on a picnic. Cut up approximately 1-inch chunks of fruits like cantaloupe, pineapple, pear, apple, banana, add some whole fruits like strawberries, grapes, and pitted cherries and slide them onto bamboo skewers. Yum! –from The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman (page 295)

6. Play the ABCs of groceries! Write the letters A through Z on index cards. Shuffle them up, and place the deck face down on the floor. Your children can take turns rolling a pair of dice and selecting a card. If you roll a 4, and turn over the B card, you call out 4 grocery items that start with the letter B: beans, bananas, bread, and beets! –from Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner (page 295)

7. Make a simple rock sculpture. Collect some fist-sized flat rocks at the beach or park or in your backyard. Sort them by color or size or shape. Arrange them in a spiral or pile ’em high! Make a stone fairy house or construct a miniature Stonehenge. –from Camp Out by Lynn Brunelle (page 264)

8. Have a cookbook scavenger hunt! Select a cookbook that includes the categories “Main Dishes” and “Desserts” (use rubber bands to close off the other portions of the book). Have your child pick a recipe, announce the category, and reveal the ingredients to you one by one. You get to take a guess after each ingredient. –from Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner (page 274)

9. Plant a tree. Did you know that one billion pounds of carbon dioxide would be taken out of the atmosphere if every family planted just one tree? Keep a pair of binoculars handy — as the tree grows over the next months and years, you might spy some visitors: birds, squirrels, tree frogs. –from Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Michael J. Caduto (page 68)

10. Take a hike! Lace up an old pair of shoes (don’t break in those brand new boots now, or it’s blister city!) and a fresh pair of socks. Pack a layer (it often gets colder in the shade of trees and at higher altitudes when there’s more wind and less to block it), some snacks and water, a compass and map, sunscreen (and hat, and sunglasses) and insect repellent, and a basic first aid kit. And don’t forget to pack your camera, so you can show off the sights when you get back! –from Summer: A User’s Guide by  Suzanne Brown (page 86)

11. Make chocolate covered pretzels. (You can’t say that this isn’t better than TV!) Melt a 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips, open a 10-ounce bag of pretzel rods, and put any number of the following toppings on small plates: chopped nuts, colored sprinkles, sweetened flaked coconut, crushed cookies, miniature M&Ms or other tiny chocolate candies. Dip the pretzel rod about two-thirds of the way in the chocolate, then roll the pretzel rod in a topping and place them on a baking sheet until the chocolate hardens. (Variation: Dip strawberries instead!) –from The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman (page 293)

12. Build a clubhouse. This one’s obviously a bit more involved, but start with the plans — let your children brainstorm and draw the sorts of features they’d like. Write up a shopping list together, then take a trip to the local lumber yard and pick out the materials. Go ahead and build your dream house — square the foundation, set the cornerstones, and construct walls and windows. When it’s finished, draft rules, keep an activity log, and throw a clubhouse warming party! –from Keep Out by Lee Mothes

13. Run in a back-to-back race. Here’s another game to get people moving (and not too fast…). Have kids pair off back to back and link their arms at the elbows. Then it’s a race to the finish line! –from The Games Bible by Leigh Anderson (page 321)

14. Play toddler basketball. If your kids aren’t quite 7 feet tall yet, just grab a laundry basket or other small tub and a soft, medium-sized ball. Hold the basket at toddler height — and don’t forget that part of your job as basket tender is moving the basket to help catch the ball! –from Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner (page 54)

15. Play red light, green light. A perennial favorite, and one to really stop people in their tracks (ha!): One person is “it” and turns his/her back on the rest, who line up about 25 paces behind. “It” calls out “green light!” signaling the other players to advance, then whirls around and yells “red light!” to indicate a stop. If “It” catches anyone still moving, he or she is sent back to the starting line. First one to reach “It” wins! –from The Games Bible by Leigh Anderson (page 321)

What do you plan to do to unplug? And if you haven’t taken the screen-free pledge this week, head over to the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood to sign up! Let us know in the comments what you’re doing to unplug, and you could win a copy of one of the books mentioned above.

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Live By the Book: The Mom 100 Cookbook

Categories: Cookbooks, Live By the Book, News

Following close on the heels wheels of The Truck Food Cookbook, this week’s Live By the Book style guide takes us all back to school, with The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket by Katie Workman. It’s only fair, now that the kids are back into their routine, that Mom gets to hit the books, too. Call it the textbook for the kitchen, the cheat sheet for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, Katie lays out a curriculum that can be adapted to any scenario (bake sale brownies due tomorrow?; in-laws coming for dinner? have the remnants of an elegant cheese plate languishing in the back of the fridge?) that delivers delicious dish after delicious dish that even the pickiest eaters can get down with. Here’s this week’s style syllabus to get you pumped to prepare meals for the kiddos…

Live by the Book: The Mom 100 Cookbook

…including Match & Munch puzzle piece sandwiches (for finicky, no-crust sandwich aficionados!), a lasagna tray to please everyone at the table (just like Katie’s “fork-in-the-road” recipes!), a split decision pie pan that allows for multiple flavors, two peas in a pod salt and pepper shakers (just sprinkle to taste!)…. Do I detect a theme? As it turns out, you can please them all. (And you’ve got a trophy to prove it.)

And hey, if not, at least you can defend yourself — with a tray of Fudgy One-Pot Brownies!

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Your Wednesday Cute: #Olympics Edition!!

Categories: Cookbooks, Cooking, Family, Features, Humor, Kids, News, Pets, Video, Wednesday Cute

Olympics! Olympics Olympics Olympics!! Aaaaaahhhh London 2012!!!

If you’re anything like us, your every waking moment over the past week has been consumed by thoughts of the Olympics: the races! the medals! Her Majesty skydiving! But you might have missed this: an adorable short film by Amael Isnard and Leo Bridle in which the vermin—ahem, excuse me, urban animals of London carry their own tiny Olympic torch through the streets. It’ll make you see rats in a different light (i.e. a cute one). (Via The Mary Sue)

  • Excuse us, CNN, but why are you asking if the Olympic mascots are “cute or creepy”? Wenlock and Mandeville—yes, those are their names—were forged out of steel and rainbows. STEEL AND RAINBOWS, people! We all know the answer to their question is “absolutely adorable.” And if you don’t think a big-headed alien-type-thing can be cute, we implore you to watch E.T. immediately.
  • Over at her blog, Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook, writes about making food for two young boys who aren’t always that easy to please (and what kids are?). But this week the tables turned, when her son Jack and his friend Aaron made breakfast for the whole family—specifically, popovers. This blog post has the double-whammy of cute kids and adorable little puffed breakfast pastries. Yum!

What with the rumor-mongering and mud-slinging that’s so prevalent in contemporary politics, we wouldn’t be surprised if all this election talk was getting you down. Luckily we have the solution: Kid President! This little POTUS knows what’s what, and he can also seriously cut a rug. Plus, he’s wise beyond his years: “If it doesn’t make the world better, don’t do it.” You’ve got our vote, Kid President!

  •  On the one hand, this story about bears in Bearsville invading a home multiple times while the owners were out is scary. It’s sad that their kitchen was ransacked, although fortunately nobody was hurt. On the other hand, you adorable silly bears!! We know you probably got confused because you live in Bearsville, NY, but that’s not your house!! (Via Stephen Colbert)
  • If we’re going to blog about cute things we might as well include this link to a piece on the origin of the word “cute.” It even has a totally cute graph.

We’re suckers for a cute animal video, and goats rank SUPER high on the hierarchy of animal adorability. Need proof? This tiny goat is doing parkouroff her friend’s back.

—Avery, who’s off to practice some parkour

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A Cookbook to Satisfy All the Picky Eaters in Your Family (Including You)

Categories: Cookbooks, Family, Kids, News, Video

The Mom 100 CookbookI wish we’d had Katie Workman’s The Mom 100 Cookbook when I was growing up.

When I was a kid, there was very little I wouldn’t eat. Broccoli? Bring it on. Oysters? Okay! Something foreign and unidentifiable? Sure, I’ll try anything once. I didn’t often complain about what was put on my plate—and that’s why I’m my parents’ favorite.

My sister, on the other hand—aaargh. Every night was a battle of the wills as my mom plied my sister to eat and the girl just flat-out refused. If it were up to her, Meredith would’ve eaten fish sticks and mac and cheese for every meal of her childhood. And sure, I guess there’s something sort of appealing about that (no…no, there’s not), but it’s just not a viable option—not in terms of health (hello, vegetables?!) and not in terms of practicality, either. Because what mom has the time and the energy to whip up a healthy, tasty meal for not only herself (and potentially a spouse), but also a handful of kids all clamoring for different variations on the same old bland kids’ dinners? No mom, that’s who!

Enter Katie Workman, chef extraordinaire and savior to moms everywhere. With The Mom 100 Cookbook, Katie has assembled a hundred recipes that are guaranteed to please everyone in your family, from the budding gourmands to the pickiest of picky eaters. Every recipe is healthy and delicious, and the excellent “Fork in the Road” feature highlights ways in which moms can cater to kids of all levels of food-adventurousness.

Katie recently spoke with a few local moms about their most common cooking predicaments. How many of these have you experienced? (I’ll admit it: Even I don’t love fish.)


The Mom 100 Cookbook comes out on April 3 of this year. You can preorder copies now.

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