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May
31
2011
May 31, 2011

Product review: Green Eggs and Ham: Speedy Diner! game

Rating: 5/5 stars (or 5 giant platters of green eggs and ham, please!)

Copyright© 2011 ThingsThatWedo.com. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve never been a big fan of board games, even as a child. But, as a parent, I realize how beneficial board games can be for children. Playing board games is a time to bond as a family, your child gets to practice turn taking, learns how to self-regulate (e.g. to wait patiently for her turn despite the urge to go right NOW), as well as a host of other skills.


Objective of the game: What are you doing Sam-I-Am?

This is why the Green Eggs and Ham: Speedy Diner! game gets top marks in my book.  The premise of the game is simple: Sam-I-am has opened up a new diner/restaurant. Customers order food from the menu and the faster you deliver the food, the more coins you’ll get in the end.


Children’s game product review: What happens at your diner, Sam-I-Am?

There are a lot of game pieces: a big chef hat, small and sturdy game coins, double sided food shapes, a large plastic menu (battery operated requires 3 AA), a bunch of circle menu cards, 3 customers ready at their individual tables, and a coin sheet to keep track of all the coins you’ve earned.

Before the game starts, choose one circle food ordering card and insert it into the menu. Do it carefully though, or it will jam. Here’s where the fun begins. The chef holds the battery operated musical menu. Once on, fast music plays to encourage the chef to read quickly and get those orders out! Push the side bar to advance to the next food order but be careful because if you push too many times, you’ll go miss your food order! (aha, this teaches precise and calculated movements for your children while going quickly!)

Now, who are serving? There are 3 customers: fox, goat, and mouse sitting at their own tables. They can be placed anywhere on the floor. Decide where you want them to sit because, the farther away they are, the more running you’ll have to do if you want to serve the food fast to earn more coins!

What is tricky though is that sometimes, your customers will want to switch meals with each other or they will want you to remove certain shapes or colours from their tables. You also need really good eyes because the food cards are double sided so you may have to flip them to find the right foods.

Occasionally, as you’re playing, the musical menu will yell out ‘bug bonus, bug bonus!’ and when you hear that, you’ll need to take a close look at what foods your customers have. If there are any bugs, you get extra coins!

The musical menu will let you know when you’re done serving all the customers. And how will you know if you did it all correctly? Aha! Answers are revealed once you flip over the hidden flap. Depending on how fast you were, the musical menu will either tell you to get 1 coin, 2 or 3 coins for each correct final answer (e.g. Goat has only a yellow cracker, fox has a red sandwich, and mouse has pink tea).


Sam-I-Am, will I come back to your diner?

As you can see from my game review on Green Eggs and Ham: Speedy Diner! that this game has a lot of potential. In the beginning, it may be hard for your child to comprehend all the different instructions so you can start small (e.g. just following the food orders and not worrying about the coins).  When my daughter and I first started playing this game, we put the customers close together, focused on getting the food to the right customer, and sadly, we didn’t even notice the hidden answer flap until weeks later so we had to guess if we were right or wrong!


Oh, there is much to learn from your diner game, Sam-I-Am!

Over time though, your child really gets to use his/her working memory (ie. holding and juggling a lot of information in his/her brain) especially when the menu tells them to switch meals or that a certain customer no longer wants a certain shaped food item (e.g. Fox doesn’t want anything round).

As they get better at this game, you can also up the challenge by putting the customers farther away or in awkward locations. They also have to remember to flip cards over if they can’t find the food item they’re looking for! During this game, they get to practice their colours, pre-reading skills, exerting confidence in projecting food orders, team building skills since chef and waiters have to work together to win the coins, and of course, basic math skills when they have to count out how many coins they’ve earned.

I also like that this game is open enough that it can be played in different ways. Players can take turns calling out food orders, it doesn’t have to be just the chef that does it.

My one and only critique about this game is that the pink and purple are too similar in shade to be helpful to a child just learning their colours. Both are quite faded (very pastel) making it hard to distinguish them easily. I would have preferred more obvious colours. Also, the circle menu cards aren’t easy to insert into the musical menu. Any preschooler trying to stick the card in by themselves may quickly get frustrated or they may end up jamming the card in while also being frustrated. Thus, best to let an adult facilitate with this until the child has mastered the technique of inserting the card ‘just so’.

All in all, Green and Eggs: Speedy Diner! is a great game with longevity that involves not only your big brain but all those other big body muscles (since your brain is a muscle too!). Green and Eggs: Speedy Diner! is a great party game for your child or as a birthday gift for any young child but do note there are small pieces so watch for choking hazards if you have a wee one!

May
30
2011
May 30, 2011

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Is your child a picky eater or one that has food jags? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then your child certainly doesn’t have a food jag because any parent who has a child with food jags will know this term all too well. Here at ThingsThatWeDo.com, I want to let you all know that if you feel like you’re at your wits end because your child won’t eat anything other than his/her favourite meal, I want you to know that one day, the food jag will disappear and all of a sudden your child will be trying things you never imagined.

Now, let me preface this by saying I’m not a doctor so I don’t know for sure if your child has food jags or if my kid diagnostically had a food jag. I write a opinionated blog under the name of ThingsThatWeDo.com (and I repeat this as often as I can to avoid nasty others from merely grabbing my content to place elsewhere) and all I can tell you is that around the time my daughter was a toddler, she went from a kid that liked most foods to one that liked very few. She’s always loved her carbs (and still does) but next thing you know, she’s turning down foods she’s had since she was a baby.

How quickly does the memory fade because I just tried to recall the list of foods that she wouldn’t eat back then and I can’t because now she eats almost everything under the sun. All I remember is that as parents, we felt frustrated and worried that she wouldn’t be getting all the nutrients that she needed to grow. She also stopped eating lunch at daycare, how’s that for nerve wracking? Luckily, she would polish off snack at daycare because there was always a plain carb like crackers or breadsticks that she’d eat. The staff were never worried because she wasn’t exactly a tiny kid and always had a healthy and substantial dinner despite not wanting to eating many things.

So, as parents, we tried to keep our heads afloat and not get too depressed by remembering that she was eating healthy even if it her meals weren’t as varied as we’d like them to be. We kept pairing the new foods (or the foods she’d dropped off her ‘I like’ list) to the familiar foods and hoped one day she’d go back to them.

My daughter went through phases. I remember asking her why she didn’t eat at daycare on a day that they served rice because we eat rice at home. Her answer, “it smells bland.” Yep, that’s what she said so what can I say? There was a time she’d polish off an entire pint of blueberries and to this day, she still doesn’t like them! Once upon a time, she couldn’t stand strawberries and now she devours them. What can I say?

Fast forward and she’s now 5 years old and willing to have at least one bite of new foods before making a decision on whether she wants to continue eating it or not. Some of her answers when trying new foods:

“I love it! I want more!”

“Yum…I’m going to eat all of it!”

“I like it but I don’t to eat it right now.”

“Ugh! I don’t like that at all!” (and lunges for her milk to wash the flavour away)

The long and short of it is, if you have a child with food jags or is just going through a phase of wanting only to eat certain foods, at least you now know that there can be a light at the other end of that food tunnel.

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May
29
2011
May 29, 2011

Official website:http://www.kashi.ca/en/products/Cereals.aspx

Let’s talk breakfast cereals for a moment. Some days, our family has cereal in the morning for breakfast but I make a point of reading labels when I go to the grocery store because I can’t stand the idea of putting excess unnecessary and unnatural ingredients in my body all in the name of convenience. My daughter and I always read the labels together so she’s quite aware that mommy won’t buy anything that has BHT in it. So, I was more than pleased when I came across the Kashi Organic Cinnamon Harvest cereal. I read the labels and was absolutely floored when I read the ingredient list: organic whole grain wheat, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cinnamon, natural flavour. That’s IT. WOW. So, I bought it.

 


Product review: What happened?

Honestly, is it possible for Kashi to make a cereal that is a) organic and b) with only 4 ingredients?? We opened the box for breakfast the next day. Kashi Organic Cinnamon Harvest cereal looks like rectangular spun strands of wheat similar to other more common sugar laced brands of whole wheat and I have to tell you, it tasted really really good. They’re bite size for adults but if they’d be 2 bites for your child.

The Kashi Organic Cinnamon Harvest cereal was really crunchy, had a hint of sweetness without being too sweet, definitely tasted like cinnamon, and definitely DID NOT taste like cardboard. It tasted really really natural. It left no odd aftertaste and my daughter loved it too. She also enjoys eating them without milk as a crunchy snack. Sometimes, we’ll just pack them up in a little re-sealable bag as a travel snack which is a pretty healthy option (goes really well with applesauce on the go). She calls the Kashi Organic Cinnamon Harvest cereal her “cinnamon rectangles”.  Note though: if you eat them dry, they can get a little messy since the strands of wheat do come apart after the first bite.


Verdict:

Yes, I am definitely buying Kashi Organic Cinnamon Harvest cereal and I may even be tempted now to try some of their other cereals. Honestly, I am impressed by how fresh and natural the cereal tastes. If you’ve never compared your cereal labels before, now would be a really good time. I mean, if Kashi can make this cereal taste so good and fresh without using BHT in their lining to maintain product freshness, you have to wonder why other companies use that chemical for their cereals. This one is a no brainer: healthy, lots of fibre, and tastes good. Need I say more?

Note: the Kashi website talks about all their products but their cereals page isn’t designed very well. When you go to the cereals page, it only displays 3 types of cereals. You have to click on this little brown circle and drag it across the screen to see their entire line of cereals. Keep that in mind if you decide to visit their website.

May
28
2011
May 28, 2011

This product review is a little different from the other product reviews I’ve done which are usually about one product or one event. I decided to do a little comparison between the adult dental flossers and children’s dental flossers.

From a very young age, I’ve been cleaning my child’s teeth, first with that little silicone slip-on finger tooth brush followed by the many different child size toothbrushes. As she got older, I started using children’s dental flossers to reach those ‘hard to reach’ places where you KNOW plaque is building up despite my best attempts to get of them. Now, I usually only buy the children’s dental flossers when they’re on sale and my supply was starting to deplete and there was no sale in sight so I decided to pick up a pack of adult dental flossers after I carefully looked them over.

left: adult dental flosser; right: kids dental flosser

The photo on the left shows the two different flossers I’ve used, the pink seahorse is obviously the children’s dental flosser and the plain white one, well that’s the adult flosser (I guess adults don’t deserve cutesy shapes).


Product review and comparison: What happened?

First off, there is a significant difference in price. On sale, my children’s dental flossers were under a dollar a pack of 30. At full price though, they were just shy of $3.00 if not more depending on the brands I saw. The adult flossers for a pack of 90 were under $3.00. Of course, prices vary depending on where you live but it makes sense that you’d get charged more for the cutesy children’s dental flossers than the plain old generic adult flossers.

Another obvious difference: the colours and shapes. The pink seahorse is only one of three designs within my pack of 30 while the adult pack is just purely all white, all 90 of them.


Adult Dental Flosser vs. Children’s Dental Flosser: who reigns supreme?

Now, let’s talk about which one was more effective. I have to be honest with you and tell you that I was initially apprehensive about using the adult dental flossers on my wee kid’s mouth since there is a noticeable difference in size between the two flossers shown. However, I found the adult flosser REALLY REALLY easy to use and much more effective.

The adult dental flosser is more streamlined which allowed me to angle it to remove plaque buildup especially in the back molars. The pointy tip is also functional (not for stabbing, thank you! Bathroom safety is key) but for me to scrap off unwanted bits of food or pick my kid’s teeth if I need to. It reminds me of one of those dentist tools (I know you know what I’m referring to!).

With the children’s dental flossers, I found the shapes to actually get in my way. It’s harder for me to maneuver the sea horse shape complete with frills the way I need to to remove plaque because I end up jabbing my kid in the mouth which is NOT a good mommy thing to do. Now, I hold nothing against the company that made these children dental flossers because I have used them for the past 2 years but really, there needs to be more thought put into these things.


Verdict:

What do I plan on doing in the future? I am definitely going to stick with these adult dental flossers that I found. Really truly, the just work better at removing the plaque and stuck on food from my kid’s teeth.

Now, I’m not saying all adult dental flossers are supreme to their kid size cutesy counterparts because I’m sure there are some equally awesome kiddy dental flossers that I just haven’t stumbled across yet and there are probably some equally poor adult dental flossers. What I am saying though is that as a parent of a cute kid, your options may be more than you first thought and at a fraction of the cost!

May
27
2011
May 27, 2011

I’m a pretty positive person. I believe in greeting people with a smile and making sure I make the most count of every minute. My kid comes first, always. But, some days I am just exhausted absolutely undeniably exhausted for one reason or another. No matter how hard I try, every little thing starts to irritate me.

You know, this is when the beauty of coffee shows its true colours. Suddenly, those grey clouds above look like they’re sprouting rainbows. Now, I don’t drink galloons of coffee everyday. I used to drink one coffee at home during breakfast and then I’d pick up another one before I got into the office. But, lately, I realized that wasn’t very efficient use of my caffeine intake since by lunch, I might want another one. It also isn’t very kind on the wallet if I kept up this lifestyle choice. So, I decided to switch it up a bit.

I kept the morning coffee at breakfast because that’s the morning wake-me-up call. I skip the coffee on my way to work which is just as well because I can show up to work earlier than my usual stroll-in-with-coffee-time. By lunchtime, if I want one, then I might go out and get coffee number 2. Otherwise, I don’t even notice that I’ve missed it and it’s already time for home!

But no matter what: coffee number 1 in the morning is sacred because sometimes, you just need a cup of coffee.

No wonder this Friday is so beautiful!

May
26
2011
May 26, 2011

Official website: http://www.playfoam.com/

By now, almost every parent is familiar with playdough whether you get the store bought version or you make your own. I personally love playdough for children because it’s open-ended and children can learn so much while they use it. Well, on a recent trip to our local science centre, my daughter spotted this box of Playfoam and really really wanted it. She’d used it a few times at daycare but didn’t have any at home so I thought, why not? We bought it, took it home, and opened it.

Product review: What happened?

The box we got has 6 different colours but after visiting the website, I quickly discover that packs of playfoam come in different sizes and with a wide array of colours. Out of all the colours, my kid chooses to open the pack of white playfoam. Now, I have to admit, it’s my first time feeling the playfoam and I don’t quite know what to expect.

I was oddly surprised: it feels sticky but because they’re little foam balls, it’s also incredibly light in weight. If I had the same dollop of playdough, it would be significantly heavier. You can squish it as you please and the little foam balls don’t all break apart like playdough would when it gets dry and crumbly. We were able to make a ton of different shapes or just use it like a giant stress ball. You can even combine the different colours and use them together. One thing you can’t do is blend the colours like you can with playdough. No matter what you do, you’ll still individual foam balls with their existing colours.


Verdict:

Would I buy playfoam again? Yes, but I do think you have to be careful with it. I think it’s a great activity for children older than 3 years old (if not older) for the pure fact that it is made out of foam which can pose a choking hazard for young children. Playfoam on their website also claims to be non-toxic, has no phthalates, or latex which are all great but again, just be cautious if using it with young children or children who just love to put things in their mouths. I’m also pretty sure I’ve seen knock off playfoam at different stores so I would be extra cautious with the chemicals/ingredients that are used to make the imitation product.

Another thing: I think it’s great that you can use the same playfoam over and over again because it doesn’t dry out but I have to tell you, that initial white chunk of playfoam we started off with looked like mud by the time we were done playing with it. Because the playfoam is sticky, it will pick up every little piece of dirt and grime on your kid’s hands so I’m not sure I’d really keep it and re-use the playfoam over a long period of time. Generally speaking, I make my own playdough and then toss it out after about a week or so. The cost of the playfoam may make it harder for you to dispose of it after a week so monitor those playful pieces for excessive junk buildup.

On the other hand, I also think it’s a great new medium for older children to explore. It’s definitely feels different and has a different type of playability than older sculpting media.

May
25
2011
May 25, 2011
Posted in: Thoughts

As a busy parent, your brain is already overloaded with all the things that should have been done yesterday.

Well, depending on where you live, the term ‘hump Wednesday’ may be familiar to you. The notion of ‘let’s just get passed Wednesday and before you know it, it will be Friday’ really hit home for me today. I find myself asking, ‘Where’s Friday?’

Some Wednesdays are trying but today, I am exhausted, mentally exhausted and thus, I always remind myself: make sure I give my kid the best of me on these days because she keeps me going…full steam ahead.

Now, hurry up Friday!

 

May
25
2011
May 25, 2011

Do you ever get bored of eating the same old thing for breakfast? I do, believe me, I do but sometimes I decide to be innovative and try new foods for breakfast, just to see how it would work out. Well, let me introduce you to Luisa’s Delicioso Layered Fiesta Dip. Now, for the record, I’m perfectly aware that this is designed to be a ‘let me dip my nacho into this dip’ kind of dip. But, I decided to take this to the next creative level and did the ‘let me see if this will taste good for breakfast on toasted pita/bread/something’. I purchased the mild dip it at my local grocery store.


Product review: What happened?

The day after I purchased it, I ate it for breakfast on top of a well toasted bagel (notice the similarities to the friendly nacho chip?). I scooped a good helping out of the container and made sure to include each layer onto my bagel.

First thing I noticed is that the lid is incredibly hard to open which is a good thing, I guess, because it means your food is securely stuck inside the tub. But, it doesn’t exactly speed up morning breakfast especially when my hands are still asleep (just like the rest of my body).

Next thing I noticed was the sprinkled cheese on top – it was sparse and aside from adding a different colour to the dip, it did nothing for the dip. There was so little sprinkled cheese that from a gimmick perspective, you could call it another ‘layer’ in your dip but really, it was more like an afterthought.

As for flavour, I certainly welcomed it to my breakfast meal as something new that even had a little protein given its bean layer.  But, I’ve made better layered dips myself back in the day when I had more time to spare and I’ve tasted other brands that are more robust in flavour and I don’t just mean in terms of heat. The complexities of the dip that I would have expected given that it is a layered dip were noticeably absent.

Verdict:

Would I buy Luisa’s Delicioso Layered Fiesta Dip again? Probably not. For starters, it was an imported product. I admit it, I read the label wrong. I read a local address but it turns out that the local address imports the dip. So, then I have to ask myself: is it really that good that it’s worth the time and distance on the road to get to my home? No.

It also wasn’t exactly affordable. I’m not sure how much it will be at your local grocery store but for the price I paid, I expected more flavour and depth in the dip beyond the heat/spicy tingle.  Honestly, I don’t think it would have even made a difference if I had paired the dip with nacho chips.

How can I best describe it? I told my husband that after eating it, I felt like I had eaten nothing. There just wasn’t a lingering memory of it for me and when food is forgettable, that can’t be a good thing.

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