Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Little Lexicographer - Creating a Pretend Dictionary

My kindergartener has a love of words or, more accurately, a love of made-up words. She's not able to sit down and write words by sounding them out yet, but lately she's shown a lot of interest in arranging letters together to form pretend words. After she finishes writing her string of letters, she asks, "Mommy, what does this say?" We sound the word out together and laugh. She originally created a lot of words with only consonants, until I explained to her that all words usually contain vowels between the consonants. Our pretend word play turned into a simple lesson about vowels and consonants, and I provided her with a list of the vowels to use as a reference when making up words.

Here are a few of her made-up dictionary entries:

Eef: a type of lettuce that looks like a leaf

Amomilis: a kind of fruit that looks like a blueberry that grows on a pink bush. They are smaller than your pinky. If you drop one, it will disappear.

Coymix: type of food you need to mix. Need to make sure it doesn't have too much sugar because it might get very tall and all messy. It's a different kind of cake that has nuts in it.

Cobwixu: type of animal like a giraffe but it doesn't have any spots.

Hewtus: kind of flower, but if you try to pick it, it might stink you. Has a very stinky smell.

My daughter drew accompanying illustrations for each of her entries. Below I've included a few of her completed pages with illustration.

Most kids I know find dictionaries fascinating. Every home library should include include at least one printed dictionary, preferably more. Yesterday, I read an article in the Washington post titled, "Internet may phase out printed Oxford Dictionary." (Today the Oxford University Press issued a statement contradicting all the online buzz that they plan to stop printing the dictionary.) I use online dictionaries quite often when trying to find the correct spelling or meaning of a word, but I've never referenced the OED, print or online. However, we do own a massively large, one volume Webster's Third New International Dictionary and even though it is not as complete as the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary, it is still very fun to browse though and use as reference. Last year we referred to the print dictionary several times when trying to think of an object that my daughter could take for her "starts with the letter -" weekly show and tell. My daughter also likes to look at all the words in her own copy of The Sesame Street Dictionary and view all the interesting color illustrations. Maybe we have a future lexicographer in the family.

Do you have a dictionary loving kid in your home? If so, you should encourage them to try creating a pretend dictionary of their own!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Adventures of Otto - Ready to Read Series by David Milgrim - For Early Readers

My daughter is just in the very beginning stages of reading. She knows all her letter sounds and can identify a few sight words. This past month we started checking out early reader books from the library. Her favorite series so far is the Adventures of Otto Series by David Milgrim. These simple "Ready-to-Read" books are listed as Pre-Level 1 and are for kids that are just starting to learn to read.

The series consists of five books published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (we wish there were more):
See Otto (2002)
Ride Otto Ride! (2002)
See Pip Point (2003)
Swing Otto Swing (2004)
See Santa Nap (2004)

My daughter loves these books because the illustrations are humorous and enormously engaging, unlike some other books meant for beginning readers. The main character, a cute little robot named Otto, goes on various silly adventures sure to generate some laughs. With simple words and sentences, lots of repetition and text written in a large font, this series is perfect for emergent readers. Best of all, the books appeal to both boys and girls. Some of the other "beginning readers" frustrated my daughter because they were too difficult for her reading level, but the books in this series are short and feature only a few words per page. Her favorite is Swing Otto Swing where Otto tries to swing on vines with his monkey friends, Flip and Flop. The books have boosted her confidence level, and I'm sure within a few months she'll be advancing to some of the more difficult early readers. If you have a beginning reader, I highly recommend this series. Sadly, it seems they are currently out-of-print, so you'll need to buy used or look for them at your local library.

Related links:

Inspired by Otto, we've been listening to some robotic music. My kids recently discovered the song "Mechanical Man" by Bent Bolt and the Nuts while listening to the kids' channel on Sirius Satellite Radio. The song is an oldie but it still is pretty darn amusing. Here's an interesting YouTube video featuring a guy pretending to be the Mechanical Man. Next time we read Otto, we'll have to try using our best robotic voices!

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Molding Farm Animals with the Moon Dough Barn - Product Review

Exploration through tactile play is an important part of childhood. My kids especially love it when I bring out the play dough. They roll and shape it into interesting forms and like the way it feels when they squish and knead it between their fingers. Playing with dough improves motor skills and encourages creativity.

Recently, thanks to an opportunity provided by Team Mom, we had the chance to try a new kind of moldable dough called Moon Dough. It is a very lightweight, dry and crumbly dough that easily compresses into shapes. And, according to the manufacturer, it never dries out, is hypo-allergenic, and is wheat-free.

We received the Moon Dough Barn product to test and review. The large plastic barn is actually a crank driven toy that molds the dough into four different animal shapes: cow, sheep, horse or chicken. The barn requires some minor assembly before kids can play with it.

Besides the main barn pieces, the set comes with the following items:
3 packages of Colored Moon Dough, Removable Barn Silo, Fence Mold, Hay Bale Mold, Small Play Mat, Instruction Guide

The lightweight dough is a very different product to work with than your typical play dough and feels really interesting to squish and compress. My kids had fun trying to form the Moon Dough into balls, placing it into the hay and bale molds and liked crumbling it into bits. They also really, really enjoyed pressing the dough into the top compartment of the barn and turning the crank to create the various animals one by one. Oftentimes they were in such a hurry to make an animal that they didn't put enough dough into the mold compartment and didn't fully compress it before cranking so they would end up with half-formed animals.

This is a fairly messy activity so I decided to let the kids play with the dough outside to simplify clean up. The dough does end up everywhere because it is so lightweight and it tracks easily. I think that adult supervision is necessary for kids who use this product. Care needs to be taken if you don't want the different dough colors to mix. In my opinion the play mat is a little on the small size (the manufacturer suggests covering the play surface with a plastic sheet or disposable table cloth). If my kids played with it indoors, I think I'd invest in a large shallow tub or tray to help contain the play.

What I really like about this toy is that it gives me the opportunity to talk to my kids about the science and processes of molding. (Yes, the mechanical engineer side of me really loves mechanical toys. I worked for a company that specialized in blow and extrusion molding, so molding toys are especially intriguing to me.) While it seems like magic, the barn is actually a machine that molds figures. Molding is an interesting manufacturing process to discuss with kids because many toys are made using molding techniques. Also, from a creativity standpoint, the product offers unlimited possibilities for creative, messy play. For instance, how many other toys provide you with the opportunity to make a snowman in the summer?

Thanks to Moon Dough and Team Mom for this review opportunity and for providing a play set for my family to review. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Moon Dough products are available for purchase at many retailers. We've even seen them at our local K-Mart. For more information, visit http://www.moondough.com/

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (8/27/10)

Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

My giveaways:
Backpack filled with new DINOSAUR TRAIN products/books - Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick - Picture Book Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann - Picture Book Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
The 39 Clues: Book 1 and Book 2 Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
DINOSAUR TRAIN: Dinosaurs Under The Sea DVD Giveaway Ends 9/6/10

Other book giveaways:
Tolivers to Texas - Book Giveaway Ends 9/5/10
Using Decimals to Plan our Vacation
From One Mommy to Another - Book Giveaway Ends 9/22/10
Little One Books single product of your choice
On the Lap - Book Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
On the Night Your Were Born by Nancy Tillman
Imagine Childhood - Book Giveaway Ends 9/2/10
Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing (middle grade)
Mommy's Memorandum - Book Giveaway Ends 9/3/10
$25 Gift Certificate to spend on LittleOneBooks.com
Go Graham Go! - Book Giveaway Ends 9/9/10
Wubbzy Goes to School DVD and School Surprise Wubbzy book
And then there were 4 - Book Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
You Can Cook cookbook by Annabel Karmel
Where the Best Books Are - Book Giveaway Ends 9/2/10
Scumble by Ingrid Law (middle grade)
Rookery Ramblings - Book Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
Tasha Tudor Day Giveaway: old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream maker AND a copy of Tasha Tudor's Cookbook
Teaching Authors - Book Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
Number One Kid and Big Whopper by Esther Hershenhorn (ages 6-9)
Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves - Book Giveaway Ends 8/29/10
We Like Kindergarten
From the Mixed Up Files - Book Giveaway Ends ??
What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb (middle grade)
Bookworm's Dinner - Book Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Imagination Soup - Book Giveaway Ends 9/5/10
Bears! Bears! Bears! by Bob Barner
Reviewed By Mom - Book Giveaway Ends 9/2/10
Little Chimp's Big Day by Lisa Schroeder
Clara Gillow Clark - Book Giveaway Ends 9/1/10
One Square Inch by Claudia Mills (middle grade)
?The World of Peach Tree Publishers - Book Giveaway Ends 9/7/10
Three Scoops and a Fig by Sara Laux Akin, a set of cookie cutters and a fabulous new kitchen apron

TOO PICKLEY! online party August 23-28, 2010 at http://www.jeanreidy.com/Partypage.html - free gifts & door prizes plus Grand Prize for teachers/librarians

Fill the Backpack back to school giveaways (August 16th to September 17th) - 8 different bloggers, $300 worth of items in each giveaway (includes Rose Art products, LeapFrog, Silver Dolphin books and more!)
The Centsible Life Ends 9/3
Detroit Mommies Ends 9/3
Just Precious Ends 8/31
Savvy Sassy Moms Ends 9/5
It’s Jessica’s Life Ends 8/31
Tech Savvy Mama Ends 9/5


Check out the Curriculum Clean-Out Link-up at Homeschool Creations. Many book giveaways there to browse. (Too many for me to list again!)

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka book giveaways (middle grade):
Karin's Book Nook Ends 9/6/10
Read House Books Ends 9/10/10
Booking Mama - Ends 9/6/10
The Children's Book Review - Ends 9/20/10
There's a Book - Ends 9/11/10

Reminder: Make sure to check out all the stops along the The 39 Clues blog countdown tour and enter the giveaways (middle grade):
July 23: Techmamas; July 27: Brimful Curiosities; July 30: Susan Heim on Parenting; August 4: Manic Mommies; August 9: HighTechDad; August 12: Tree, Root, and Twig; August 18: The Children's Book Review; August 23: Robyn's Online World; August 25: On Our Minds @Scholastic; August 31: 5 Minutes for Mom.

Have a children's book you are giving away on your blog? Let me know! I'll spread the word here!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Flavorful Low-sodium Family Meals with Mrs. Dash

When picking recipes to make, I always try to choose those with lower salt content. Often, if a recipe does list salt, I usually won't add it (except when I'm making recipes involving yeast). My husband does have heart related health concerns so we try to make healthy choices in the kitchen. Thank goodness for herbs and spices. I love to use them when I cook. They help add flavor and make meals more appealing. One seasoning I reach for again and again is Mrs. Dash Original Blend. I always keep a bottle of this salt-free, natural seasoning in my spice cabinet so I can spice up many of our meals. It is MSG free and contains 14 different herbs and spices. We use it as a salt replacement, and I especially like to use the seasoning on vegetables, in soup and on chicken and fish.

One of my favorite vegetable side dishes to make is Green Bean and Mushroom Medley from All Recipes. I make it quite often, instead of the typical French Onion Green Bean Casserole. However, instead of using salt, the seasoned salt and the garlic salt, I use Mrs. Dash Original Blend and a minced fresh garlic. Here's my modified recipe:

Green Bean and Mushroom Medley


* 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
* 2 carrots, cut into thick strips
* 2-3 tablespoons butter (can substitute olive oil)
* 1 onion, sliced
* 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
* 1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash
* 1-2 cloves garlic minced
* 1/4 teaspoon white pepper


1. Place green beans and carrots in 1 inch of boiling water. Cover, and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and mushrooms until almost tender. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in green beans, carrots, salt, seasoned salt, garlic salt, and white pepper. Cover, and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.

The the Mrs. Dash® website (http://www.mrsdash.com) includes many other recipes (mostly low sodium) you can easily browse. There's even Video Recipes and Cooking Videos to watch online.

Did you know that there are 15 flavors of Mrs. Dash® Salt-Free Seasoning Blends? They include Original Blend, Garlic & Herb, Table Blend, Extra Spicy, Onion & Herb, Lemon Pepper, Italian Medley, Tomato Basil Garlic, Southwest Chipotle, Steak Grilling Blend, Chicken Grilling Blend, Mesquite Grilling Blend and Hamburger Grilling Blend. Which are your favorite ones to use?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the Mrs. Dash and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Potty Animals by Hope Vestergaard - Book Review and stART project

Germs lurk and bad habits are hard to break. When it comes to teaching proper bathroom etiquette, it's best to start early and remind, remind, remind. This week we're headed to kindergarten orientation with my daughter. One of the only reasons that I'm not really looking forward to the school year is the increased risk of colds and illnesses. This year I'm planning to make a side trip to the bathroom with my daughter on orientation day to familiarize her with the restroom and remind her of the importance of hand washing and other bathroom protocol. And, we've found the perfect book to help us remember all the rules of the bathroom.

"They don't mean to be messy. They haven't got a clue. Let's meet some potty animals and tell them what to do."
Potty Animals: What to Know When You've Gotta Go! by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by Valeria Petrone; Sterling Publishing (June 2010); ISBN 9781402759963; 32 pages;
Book Source: Review copy provided by publisher

Potty animals. Every daycare, preschool and kindergarten teacher has seen their fair share of them. I'm sure you've even seen them yourself. Maybe even in your home. What kind of animals am I talking about? Those kids that refuse to wash their hands, flush the toilet and, time after time, display poor bathroom hygiene. Hope Vestergaard provides a humorous yet instructive book for all those little potty animals. Sycamore Preschool is full of animals that forget their bathroom manners. Wilber doesn't wash his hands, Wilma waits too long, Freddie forgets to flush and Georgie doesn't wipe. In rhyming verses, Vestergaard writes of all sorts of bathroom woes and gently provides tips on the right way to handle bathroom visits. An easy and fun read aloud, the verses even prompt kids to help remind the characters of the potty rules. Hopefully when kids use the bathroom, they'll remember and try to avoid the bad behaviors of the potty animals.

This is not a potty training book, but a book for kids on bathroom manners. Somehow Vestergaard manages to cover this important topic in a fun and tasteful way without sounding preachy. She's a veteran early childhood teacher so she's had plenty of experience with the subject matter. And it's pretty hard not to laugh at Petrone's bold illustrations of the cartoon animal characters as they break the rules. The poor male elephant teacher has his hands full in this zoo of a preschool! The toilet paper letters in the title on the cover are a cute, eye catching touch. My daughter just loves to look at the pictures (she likes the girl raccoon in the pink dress), and I've noticed that she doesn't rush around quite as much in the bathroom and thinks about the rules covered. Read the book to remind kids of proper bathroom etiquette and maybe they won't end up looking like they were raised in a barn. It's a perfect back-to-school read for all young children, and I highly recommend this helpful, humorous bathroom basics book. Teachers of young children will especially appreciate the book.

Related links:

Hope Vestergaard - Author Website
Potty Animals Bathroom Poster [pdf]

❖❖❖❖❖❖ stART Craft - Potty Rules Chart ❖❖❖❖❖❖

We made our own chart to hang on our bathroom door for our book craft project this week. I drew a big picture of a toilet and let my daughter decorate it. (I didn't think my husband would approve of coloring on our toilet, otherwise I might have let her decorate the real thing.) The chart includes some the rules covered in the book: Flush, Wash Hands, Wipe, Plan, No Mess, Close Lid, Don't Wait

I also printed out a train potty training chart for my son to color from childavenue.com. I'm going to start potty training him next month. Wish me luck. Sometimes potty animals can be stubborn as well as forgetful.

preschool corner

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Hope Is the Word hosts a Read Aloud Thursday link-up as well. Homeschool Creations hosts the weekly Preschool Corner link-up, a place to share activities for preschool and 5K.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Day Out With Thomas

One of my son's favorite activities is playing with his set of wooden track and trains. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine so we drove to Union, Illinois this past weekend and attended the Day Out With Thomas Event at the Illinois Railway Museum. Everyone had fun riding the train, even Grandpa and Grandma. And I was surprised at the number of cars and trains on display. We didn't have time to look at them all. Here are a few pictures from our trip.

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom or Seven Clown Circus.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A few art contests for kids

We've returned from our weekend travels. Now I'm trying to reorganize our house in preparation for the start of school. So no review posts for a few days. However, here are a couple fun art / design / drawing contests that sound like fun to enter. They should keep the kids busy:

Lands' End Every Tee Tells A Story Art Contest -
For kids ages 4 to 11. Submit a drawing based on the theme of “Arctic Exploration” for a chance to have your design featured in the next Lands’ End Graphic Tee collection. Equally awesome and another great reason to submit a drawing -- For every entry received, Lands’ End will donate $1 to fund art-related classroom projects at public schools throughout the nation via its partnership with DonorsChoose.org – up to $10,000. Get creating - the contest ends Septemember 7th. For more information visit http://www.landsend.com/thehub/dads/index.html. Be sure to check out the rules and use the official entry form.

Chronicle Books Taro Gomi's Oodles of Doodles Creativity Contest
For all ages. Scribble, Doodle and Draw! In celebration of the newest Taro Gomi books, Chronicle Books is holding an art contest. See the website for full details: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/tarogomi. The contest ends October 31st, 2010. The grand prize (5 available) consists of a Taro Gomi art print, a Faber-Castell Ultimate Sketching and Drawing Gift Set, and full collection of Chronicle's Taro Gomi books and gifts.

Rebekah Joy Plett Painting Contest -
No painting involved here. Just put on your creativity hats. Submit your idea and let the artist know in 10 words or less what she should paint next. Details at: http://rebekahjoyplett.blogspot.com/2010/08/painting-contest.html Ends September 1st.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (8/20/10)

Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

My giveaways:
Backpack filled with new DINOSAUR TRAIN products/books - Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick - Picture Book Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann - Picture Book Giveaway Ends 8/30/10
The 39 Clues: Book 1 and Book 2 Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
DINOSAUR TRAIN: Dinosaurs Under The Sea DVD Giveaway Ends 9/6/10

Other book giveaways:
Mom to Bed by 8 - Book Giveaway Ends 9/8/10
Ruby's School Walk
Coupon Geek - Book Giveaway Ends 8/22/10
$20 Amazon gift certificate
Mama Monkemee - Book Giveaway Ends 9/3/10
Indestructibles book set
Bookscoops - Book Giveaway Ends 8/26/10
Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman illustrated by Scott Magoon
Becoming Sarah - Book Giveaway Ends 8/22/10
Just Like Us! or Just Like Me! series books by Jess Stockham
Cynsations - Book Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson (scroll to bottom of post for info)
Momma in Flip Flops2 - Book Giveaway Ends 8/24/10
Ruby's School Walk by Kathryn White
Fabulous Family Reviews - Book Giveaway Ends 9/3/10
Yo Gabba Gabba Book & DVD
The Book Smugglers - Book Giveaway Ends 8/21/10
ARC of The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (middle grade)
From the Mixed Up Files - Book Giveaway Ends 8/21/10
Advanced Reading Copy of Scumble by Ingrid Law (middle grade)
From the Mixed Up Files - Book Giveaway Ends 8/31/10
Karma Bites, Shooting Kabul and Goddess Girls #3: Aphrodite the Beauty (middle grade)

Simon & Schuster Sweepstakes: Love Karen Katz? Enter this sweepstakes for your chance to win some of her books! http://www.simonandschuster.com/sweepstakes/the-karen-katz-sweepstakes

For Homeschoolers: Win a complete Oak Meadow grade level package of your choice, including all curriculum materials and readers (excluding the craft kit) at http://simplehomeschool.net/oak-meadow-giveaway-back-to-school-week/ (Ends 8/21)

Dinosaur Train Backpack Giveaways (include books) featuring products based on the PBS Dinosaur Train series:
Momma Findings Ends 9/2/10
Keeper of the Cheerios Ends 8/31/10
Firefly Blog - Ends 8/20/10
Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife - Ends 9/4/10
Energizer Bunny's Mommy Reports - Ends 9/4/10
Flying Giggles and Lollipops - Ends 8/27/10
Grammy Janet's Place - Ends 8/27
Toronto Teacher Mom - Ends 8/28/10
and Twins make 5 - Ends 9/9/10
Ice Fairy's Treasure Chest - Ends 9/1
Susan Heim on Parenting - Ends 8/29/10

Bob Book Giveaways:
Sheilacakes Ends 9/4/10
Chalk Talk: A Kindergarten Blog Ends 8/27/10
Raising Itty-Bitty Bookworms - Ends 8/28/10
Mom Start - Ends 8/30/10
Growing Up Mo' Reviews - Ends 8/27/10
Mommy Perks - Ends 8/30
Ladybug Soup - Ends 8/27

Have a children's book you are giving away on your blog? Let me know! I'll spread the word here!

DINOSAUR TRAIN: Dinosaurs Under The Sea - DVD Giveaway

Did your kids miss the new DINOSAUR TRAIN "Under the Sea" special this morning on PBS? Don't worry, the shows from the special are all on the new Dinosaurs Under The Sea DVD that is releasing August 24th. One lucky Brimful Curiosities reader will win a copy. Read on for our review of the new sea adventures!

As you know from our DINOSAUR TRAIN backpack giveaway post yesterday, my family enjoys watching the DINOSAUR TRAIN series on PBS. My kids love exploring the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic time periods with Buddy and the Pteranodon family as they travel on the Dinosaur Train. In the new "Under the Sea" episodes, the dinosaurs travel in a glass tunnel to different under water stations and learn about marine creatures. We had the chance to preview four of the new under water episodes:

• "Elmer Elasmosaurus" - The Dinosaur Train’s new Aquacar gets its first passenger when the Pteranodon family helps transport Elmer back to his home in the ocean. This long-necked, giant marine reptile is a deep-sea diver with a special talent for holding his breath. (Cretaceous time period)
• "Carla Cretoxyrhina" - On their underwater excursion, the Pteranodon family meets up with a young shark named Carla Cretoxyrhina and her father. Both sharks turn out to be much nicer than their reputations suggest. Kids learn that the prehistoric Cretoxyrhina is similar to the great white shark. (Cretaceous time period)
• "The Amazing Michelinoceras Brothers" - Buddy and his family continue their underwater adventure by traveling deep underwater on the Dinosaur Train to view two backwards-bounding brothers named Max and Mitch Michelinoceras. (Triassic time period)
• "Paulie Pliosaurus" - The Pteranodon family view the "T. rex of the Ocean," a marine reptile called Paulie Pliosaurus, one of the largest-ever marine predators known. The group gets to meet his very large mother as well. (Jurassic time period)

Cowabunga! These ocean themed episodes feature a fun and catchy beach music song sung by the conductor and my kids love to sing along. Before watching the episodes we had never heard of these prehistoric creatures of the ocean. The kids especially enjoyed watching the shark episode and my daughter was surprised that the shark species has been around for such a long time. They also loved comparing Buddy to Paulie Pliosaurus, the "T-Rex of the Ocean." Later on we researched the Pliosaurus and learned that a large plesiosaur fossil measuring 50 feet was discovered a couple of years ago on an Arctic island. That's the beauty of DINOSAUR TRAIN - it appeals to a wide audience. Younger kids can watch the show and check out the corresponding website, while older dinosaur-loving kids can further research and learn more about the dinosaurs and creatures introduced in the episodes.

DINOSAUR TRAIN: Dinosaurs Under The Sea DVD contains the four episodes mentioned above plus four others (eight total) and runs 120 minutes.
• Elmer Elasmosaurus
• Carla Cretoxyrhina
• The Amazing Michelinoceras Brothers
• Paulie Pliosaurus
• Elmer Visits the Desert
• Shiny’s Sea Shells
• Jess Hesperornis
• The Old Spinosaurus and the Sea

The Jim Henson Company has kindly offered to give away a copy of the new DINOSAUR TRAIN: Dinosaurs Under The Sea DVD to (1) Brimful Curiosities reader.

To enter, leave any comment relevant to this post.
• For contact purposes, if you are a non-blogger or your email is not accessible in your blog profile, please leave a valid email address within the comment section.
• Contest is open to US Only
• Contest ends on Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 11:59 PM CST.
• Winner will be chosen at random and sent an email notification.
Three ways to gain extra entries (Maximum total entries is 4; please leave a separate comment for each entry):
1st extra entry: Blog about this contest then post your link in the comment section.
2nd extra entry: Follow me on twitter (iambrimful) and tweet about the contest.
3rd extra entry: Follow Me! or subscribe by email or RSS reader

Thanks to The Jim Henson Company for sending us a review screener DVD of the Dinosaur Train: "Under the Sea" special for review purposes. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Get Ready For Kindergarten Month" with Dinosaur Train - GIVEAWAY

We're nearly finished filling my daughter's backpack with all the supplies she'll need for kindergarten. (The last item we need to find is a pack of feathers. Wonder what they'll use that for?) For the most part, I'm confident she's prepared. She can write her name, knows all her letters and numbers, and is just starting to read on her own.

Choo! Choo! Chomp! Even though I coordinate our school's science fair, science is a subject that we haven't spent a lot of time on yet at home. However, my daughter has learned a few things through watching shows like The Jim Henson Company's Dinosaur Train on PBS. The show encourages basic scientific thinking and skills as well as discussing various dinosaurs, life science, natural history and paleontology. Both my kids like watching Buddy the Tyrannosaurus Rex travel on the dinosaur train with his adoptive Pteranodon family. Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous - I can barely say those words but thanks to the show my children can easily recite them along with spouting out other interesting dinosaur facts.

The PBS website also contains a lot of wonderful content useful in helping to prepare pre-schoolers for school. Several fun scientific activities can be found on the DINOSAUR TRAIN website for parents and teachers http://www.pbs.org/parents/dinosaurtrain/activities/ or http://www.pbs.org/teachers/dinosaurtrain/lessonplans/. Here are a few but make sure to click on the links above for more:

Several new DINOSAUR TRAIN themed products are hitting the shelves this fall, including a few children's books! Here is a preview of a few of the new items available for purchase at major retailers (product descriptions from publishers/manufacturers):


Buddy has spent his whole life in a pteranodon nest. He knows he's not a pteranodon, but he's not sure what he is. When his family decides to visit a new stop on the DINOSAUR TRAIN, Buddy finally learns the truth. He's a T-rex! This simple storybook is the perfect introduction to the world of DINOSAUR TRAIN! Ages 3 and up; Grosset & Dunlap

Triceratops for Lunch (DINOSAUR TRAIN) -
A Little Golden Book about DINOSAUR TRAIN! The Triceratops are coming over for lunch. Do you serve them plants or fish? That's what Buddy and his dinosaur siblings need to figure out before Tank and Trudie Triceratops arrive at the train station. This Little Golden Book retells an episode of the new PBS Kids animated series Dinosaur Train. It explains to young readers the difference between herbivores and carnivores—so that the next time you're dining with a dino, you'll know what to expect! Ages 2-5 ; Golden Books

Other Merchandise:

Take 'N' Play Anywhere™ Go Fishing™ Magnetic Activity (Patch Products) -
Now kids can help Buddy and his family catch fish, practice hand-eye coordination and matching skills. Take ‘N’ Play Anywhere activities feature big magnetic pieces that are easy for kids to use and hard for kids to lose! Ages 4 and up

Learning Curve Dinosaur Train Collectible 3-Packs -
These 3-packs feature three detailed DINOSAUR TRAIN character figures and a special collector card and are available in the following sets: Mrs. Pteranodon, Shiny & Derek; Mr. Pteranodon, Don & Velma; Boris, Annie & Pete; Dolores, Ollie & Oren. Ages 3 and up

Dinosaur Train™: All Aboard Game (Pressman Toy Corp) - Join Buddy and his friends on the DINOSAUR TRAIN! Choose a character – Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, Don, Cory, Tank or Mr. Conductor – and try to move the fastest along the tracks. Speed through the three dinosaur eras: Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous along the beautiful scenery. The first player to reach the nest area in the center of the board wins. Ages 4 and up

Dino Train T-Rex Backpack from Accessories 22 -
The DINOSAUR TRAIN 16” backpack features Buddy the T-Rex, adjustable padded shoulder straps and 3 easy zippered compartments and side pockets for markers, pencils. The glossy Buddy appliqué makes Buddy virtually come alive on both the blue and brown styles. This is a definite back-to-school must have for any DINOSAUR TRAIN fan!

While we haven't had the chance to view these products personally, I'm excited about the opportunity to offer some of the products in a giveaway. One (1) Brimful Curiosities reader will win a DINOSAUR TRAIN themed backpack full of new DINOSAUR TRAIN products, just in time to celebrate back-to-school time and kindergarten month!

To enter, leave any comment relevant to this post.
• For contact purposes, if you are a non-blogger or your email is not accessible in your blog profile, please leave a valid email address within the comment section.
• Contest is open to US Only
• Contest ends on Monday, August 30th, 2010 at 11:59 PM CST.
• Winner will be chosen at random and sent an email notification.
Three ways to gain extra entries (Maximum total entries is 4; please leave a separate comment for each entry):
1st extra entry: Blog about this contest then post your link in the comment section.
2nd extra entry: Follow me on twitter (iambrimful) and tweet about the contest.
3rd extra entry: Follow Me! or subscribe by email or RSS reader

I did not receive any products or any other compensation in exchange for writing this blog post. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Chicago trip

A few images from our recent trip to Chicago. We visited the Children's Museum (free on Thursday nights) at Navy Pier and also Shedd Aquarium. The kids especially loved walking along the lake, seeing the city at night and watching the animals in the Fantasea aquatic show at Shedd.

Intrigued by the Caribbean Reef exhibit at Shedd

Chicago View from Shedd Aquarium

Catching Butterfly Shadows at the Children's Museum

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom or Seven Clown Circus.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kids' Picks - August 2010 (The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz & A Particular Cow by Mem Fox)

Here are two of our favorite reads from this month. For more August kids' picks, visit 5 Minutes for Books.

Daughter's Pick (Kindergarten)

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett; Candlewick Press (February 2010); ISBN 9780763636746; 128 pages

The Night Fairy is a fascinating, imaginative and spellbinding story about a small night fairy named Flory who makes the most of a difficult situation by using her survival instincts. She loses her wings when a bat mistakes her for a moth and she ends up falling into a giantess's garden. Resourceful, though sometimes selfish, Flory quickly learns how to cope in her new environment. With themes of friendship and forgiveness, the book beams brightly. Schlitz has a wonderful way with words and the fanciful illustrations by Barrett pair perfectly with this imaginative read. The full color pictures are so gorgeous and detailed, and my daughter spent a lot of time looking at them. I'd highly recommend the book to children interested in fairies and woodland animals. I read the book aloud to my 5 year old daughter and she loved it, especially the part featuring the hummingbird, though she did find the spider a little scary and felt sad when the fairy lost her wings. Most of the plot is slightly suspenseful so it might not be the right choice for very sensitive, younger readers. However, the book is perfect for provoking discussions on nature, bravery, friendships and survival in the animal world. I like the book so much I plan to purchase a copy for our home library.

Son's Pick (Toddler)

A Particular Cow by Mem Fox, illustrated by Terry Denton; Harcourt Children's (September 2006); ISBN 9780152002503; 40 pages

We see plenty of cows around our area, so it isn't surprising both my kids loved Mem Fox's A Particular Cow picture book. They must like the way the word "particular" sounds, too, because it appears on nearly every page spread. In this very silly and humorous book, one particular cow goes on particular walk on particular Saturday morning. A series of ridiculous, particular events occur after the cow gets a pair of bloomers caught on her head. Bloomers - not a word one usually finds in a picture book, but that is part of the charm of this read! Many of the involved characters make funny comments along the way and the comments are shown in word balloons. Denton's cartoonish illustrations greatly add to the hilarity. I found the book really fun to read aloud and we've read it nearly daily since we picked it up at the library. Simply and particularly silly!

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Post - The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson

Today, I'm thrilled to host another guest post on Brimful Curiosities! Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson, co-authors of the soon-to-be released middle grade fantasy, The Familiars, discuss possible alternative career paths. Luckily they seem to be well on their way to successful careers as writers.


Guest Post: “If we weren’t writers, we would be…”

Andrew: If I wasn’t writing novels and films, I probably would be a sportscaster, or working behind the scenes in sports broadcasting. You might be familiar with Bob Costas, who sits on the sidelines calling the action at Super Bowls or the Olympics. But there’s also a guy sitting off-camera next to him, giving him all sorts of stats and information that he parrots on air. I could have been that guy. It’s kind of a thankless life, traveling on the road to different cities for games every night, surrounded by dudes who love sports. I love sports, but not the way these guys do. My passion was for telling stories, and thankfully I was able to make a living as a writer. This way, I can watch ESPN before I go to bed, and that’s more than enough for me.

Adam: Since space pirate is unrealistic and probably not going to happen, I think if I wasn’t an author and screenwriter, I would be a video game designer. While gaming is not the same kind of traditional storytelling as writing books or films, rich narratives can be told through hopping, role playing, and even puzzle games. Plus it would be an easy way to get paid for my childhood obsession with arcades and home computing. Fortunately, for both Andrew and myself, these career back-up plans remained just that. But who knows, if things had been different, perhaps gamers would be playing “The Familiars” on their Nintendo Wiis or Playstations. Or maybe Bob Costas would be wondering if Lebron James was a real life wizard, and not a king.

ADAM JAY EPSTEIN spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while ANDREW JACOBSON grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing for film and television together ever since. The Familiars is their first book.

One day, Adam asked Andrew, “Are you familiar with what a familiar is?” And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors’ shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together, sitting opposite each other.

Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, their daughters, Penny and Olive, and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.

THE FAMILIARS will be produced for film by Sam Raimi and Sony Animation.


Thanks, Adam and Andrew! I've read the excerpt online of The Familiars and can't wait to read the entire story. I secretly wish I had my own magical animal companion. My cat doesn't seem to have any magical abilities other than the ability to disappear completely from sight whenever we host visitors in our home.

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson; HarperCollins (September 2010); ISBN 9780061961083; 368 pages

You can learn more about The Familiars at www.thefamiliars.com.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dora turns 10! - Dora's Big Birthday Adventure DVD Review and a list of 2010 Dora DVD releases

We celebrated Dora the Explorer's birthday at Walmart yesterday by eating some yummy birthday cupcakes. Today, Nickelodeon is airing a special birthday episode of Dora and everyone can celebrate her big day -- she's 10! The episode airs at 8PM ET.

Before this year I guess I never questioned Dora's age. Her character has been an ongoing favorite of both my son and daughter. In my kids' minds, she has always existed. Dora clothes, Dora backpack, Dora DUPLO -- we own plenty of Dora merchandise that I purchased mostly at garage sales. The kids love pretending to explore along with Dora and they really like to make up their own pretend Dora adventures.

Along the way, Dora has personally saved the day for me a few times. Today, on her special day, I thought I'd share a couple of our real life Dora adventures:

1st Brimful home episode - "Dora and the bath mat" - My mother-in-law stays with us from time to time. Once, when my daughter was a toddler, she took a shower, removed the plain suction cup bath mat and lightly placed the map with the suction cups facing up so the bath mat could dry out. Neither my husband or I realized that the bathmat was the wrong way and we tried to place my daughter on it for a bath. My daughter screamed and screamed after touching the strange suction cups and refused to go near the tub after this unfortunate incident. Luckily, after a little while and thanks to a new and fancy Dora bath mat, we finally coaxed her into the tub.

2nd Brimful home episode - "Dora and the hospital visit" - Late one night this past spring, my toddler son woke up crying and frantically pulling at his PJs. I turned his bedroom light on, took off his sleeper and it shocked me when I discovered that his entire body was swollen, red and covered in hives. I freaked out a little, called the nurse on call and ended up taking him to the hospital. For some reason Dora popped into my mind on the trip there (probably because I was overly tired and delirious). Anyway, to calm my son and myself, I made up a little Dora game. I told him we were on an adventure like Dora. First we passed the starry sky, then drove up to the big building and finally visited the doctor so that he could help solve the hives mystery. Amazingly, my son breezed through all the tests without becoming upset and even enjoyed the pretend Dora game. I let the nurses in on the secret and they played along, too. We never found out what caused the hives, but I'll always remember the part Dora played in helping to keep both of us calm.


A new Dora DVD titled Dora's Big Birthday Adventure (released August 03, 2010) contains the birthday episode that will be on TV tonight along with two other episodes. All three episodes feature the Wizzles and Wizzle World and form the Magic Storybook Trilogy.

"Dora's Big Birthday Adventure" - Dora is preparing to celebrate her birthday with her friends and family but a twisting wind blows Dora and Boots into the Magic Storybook and the Wizzle World. Dora ends up with a wishing crystal and must take it to the Wishing Wizzle before she can return home. Hmm, sounds a little familiar...what follows is a plot relatively similar to The Wizard of Oz. There's a mean witch (La Bruja) with flying monkey helpers, a nice Snow Princess, a star studded road, and even a scarecrow. To find to the Wishing Wizzle Dora must first find her way through Sea Snake Lake, The Dancing Forest and go over the RAINBOW. Along the way she looks into the wishing crystal and her memories of her family and friends (shown as hazy flash backs to previous episodes) help propel her over the obstacles. My children especially enjoyed the birthday celebration at the end of the show.

"Dora Helps the Birthday Wizzle" - In this episode about birthday wishes, the Birthday Wizzle is celebrating his own birthday. As he prepares to make his own birthday wish come true, a strong wind blows his wishing wand out of the storybook. Dora catches and works to return the wand to the Birthday Wizzle before the candles on his cake burn out. She goes through the Unicorn Forest and Dinosaur Caves and ends up on Wizzle Mountain. There's a Birthday Express train in this episode that appealed to my toddler son.

"Wizzle Wishes" - A little Wizzle happily holds a bag of four wishing stars, but a strong wind blows the wishes right out of his bag and the storybook. He follows them out of the book, and Dora helps him try to capture the wishing stars so that he can wish his way back home. They follow the path through a flowery garden and nutty forest all the way to the wishing well.

The new birthday episode is enjoyable to watch because it includes all the characters from previous Dora episodes. My daughter was happy to see the Piggies. The DVD cover we received includes a big pop up flap and a sticker sheet so that kids can actively join in the birthday fun. My kids also enjoyed counting the ten candles on the cake displayed on the cover. The Nickelodeon website contains even more Dora birthday activities, games and printables including a Dora Wishing Crystal Necklace, Dora Forest Puppet Theater and even a Big Birthday Adventure Game.


In case you're itching to celebrate the big day with some more Dora DVDs, I've compiled a list of new 2010 Dora DVD releases created by Nickelodeon Home Entertainment and distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment:

Dora The Explorer: Let's Explore! Dora's Greatest Adventures - (Released 2/2/2010)
This DVD is packed full with eight all time favorite episodes:
"Lost Map"; "Hide and Go Seek"; "Journey to the Purple Planet"; "Rescue, Rescue, Rescue!"; "Star Catcher"; "Star Mountain"; Boots to the Rescue"; "Swiper the Explorer"

Offering the most bang for your buck, this DVD features 198 minutes of Dora episodes. Favorite episode here is "Journey to the Purple Planet" with the aliens and the spaceship.

Dora the Explorer: Explore the Earth - (Released 4/13/2010)
Released in time for Earth Day, this DVD explores four Earth themed episodes:
"Mixed Up Seasons"; "To the South Pole"; "Save Diego" and "Beaches"

My daughter, a huge penguin lover, loves "To the South Pole" because Dora and Diego rescue a penguin. (DVD runs 99 minutes)

Nick Jr. Favorites - 2010 Compilation DVDs that include a Dora episode

Nick Jr Favorites: Go Green - (Released 3/30/2010)
Another Earth themed released, this compilation DVD covers some "green" episodes:
Dora the Explorer – "Bugga Bugga"; Go, Diego, Go! – "Manatee’s Mermaid Rescue!"; The Wonder Pets! – "Save the Tree" / "Save the Elephant"; Yo Gabba Gabba! – "Green"; Blue’s Clues – "What Does Blue Want to Make out of Recycled Things?"; Ni Hao, Kai-lan – "The Place Where We All Live"

The Dora "Bugga Bugga" (from Season 1) isn't a favorite here, but my kids did go a little ga-ga over the Yo Gabba Gabba! episode about taking care of flowers, plans and animals.

Nick Jr Favorites: The First Day of School - (Released 7/13/2010)
The school themed Nick Jr. TV episodes on this 122 minute DVD include:
Dora the Explorer – "First Day of School"; Go, Diego, Go! – "Linda the Librarian"; Blue’s Clues: "Blues Takes You to School"; Wonder Pets – "Off to School" / "Save the Pangaroo"; Ni Hao, Kai-Lan – "Lulu Day"

The Dora "First Day of School" episode is from Season 5 in the television series. Dora accompanies Tico and Boots on an adventure as they travel to school.

Nick Jr Favorites: Happy Halloween - (Releasing 8/24/2010)
Costumes. Candy. Trick-or-treating. All the episodes have Halloween themes:
Dora the Explorer - "Boo!"; Go Diego, Go! - "Freddie the Fruit Bat Saves Halloween!"; Wonder Pets! - "Save the Bat" / "Save the Acting Donkey"; Yo Gabba Gabba - "Halloween"; Blue's Clues - "What is Blue Afraid of?"; Ni Hao, Kai-lan – "Ni Hao, Halloween"

I don't understand what the appeal is (maybe the dressing up aspect or maybe the candy?), but my kids can watch Halloween themed DVDs all year round. When I asked my daughter to pick her favorite DVD from this post, this is the one she chose! It runs 149 spooky minutes.

(DVD Source: review copies provided for free for review purposes by Paramount Home Entertainment and Nickelodeon. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)