Kumon Blog Hop – Kumon Poetry Challenge in Celebration of Earth Day – Win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card

If you read my blog, you’ll know I don’t do a lot of giveaways or contest. But, for St. Patrick’s Day, I had dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen for quite awhile (old day care friends), and both families were raving about Kumon, the world’s largest after-school academic enrichment program. We haven’t used Kumon, but the two families both talked about how much the program had helped their kids and also that the program encouraged good citizenship. The parents volunteered that the program really gave their kids great focus and confidence.

In any event, the following Monday, I received an email from a PR person representing Kumon asking me to participate in a blog hop to promote Kumon’s poetry contest in honor of Earth Day on Facebook. Well, after having two friends recommend the program, and wanting to be part of Earth Day (even though I’m quite cynical and grinchy about it), I said I would participate in the blog hop.

Why a blog hop? Well, the concept behind a blog hop is to introduce everybody to new bloggers and/or new ideas. Kumon has chosen some green bloggers and we are all talking a bit about Earth Day, favorite green tips and other green ideas. Yesterday, Katy from Non Toxic Kids posted a poem! (go Katy). Tomorrow’s blog hop is hosted by Sommer at Green and Clean Mom.

To be honest, I have a hard time getting excited about Earth Day because it seems that there is a lot of greenwashing. But this year, I’m trying because my kids are excited about Earth Day. We’re planning on participating in a local volunteer clean up this Saturday (official Earth Day). We’ve been talking about how we can reduce our use of plastic and recycle more. All year, we’ve been trying to do waste free lunches, and my kids seem to be finally getting why I give them foods from bulk containers into reusable individual containers instead of packing single serve foods. FINALLY! (And, plus, it is way cheaper.) Today in the car on the way home, we talked about whether people will become extince and what the Earthy will look like in 20  years or 50 years or 100 years.

Well, to celebrate Earth Day, Kumon is sponsoring a contest for our kids.  It is a Poetry Challenge in celebration of Earth Day. Kumon encourages students to be good citizens and stewards of the Earth, and Kumon is asking students to tell it how and why the students take care of the Earth, in a poem. The poem should be 200 words or fewer and should celebrate Earth Day.  The poem should be in one of four forms – haiku, limerick, acrostic or free form. Parents submit their child’s poem about nature through Facebook. Each child has a chance to win $500 and an all-expenses paid trip to New York City with a visit to Kumon North America. There will be 6 winners! Please read the contest details.

And,  you have a chance to win a $25 gift certificate (preferably in electronic form to reduce plastic) donated by Kumon. Just leave a comment on this post below and you’ll be entered to win. Winner will be chosen randomly on May 8, 2012 and notified via email (so make sure you leave your email when you comment).

#ecowed Twitter party – Spring Cleaning: Creating a Toxicant Free Home

I’m so excited for this week’s #ecowed Twitter party! We will be talking Spring Cleaning: Creating a Toxicant Free Home with our sponsor ecomom and some very special extra guests, including mother-daughter team Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell from Celebrate Green, Lisa Frack and Senior Scientist Becky Sutton from the Environmental Working Group, and Beth Greer from Super Natural Mom.

Spring always makes we want to clean, organize and start fresh. This #ecowed party will focus on how to undertake that spring cleaning and create a toxicant free home. Tweet with me @thesmartmama and our sponsor @ecomom and @ecomomkimberly to learn some tricks and tips for creating that toxicant free home and be sure to share your own tips.

Also, Social Media Manager Lisa Frack and Senior Scientist Becky Sutton from the EWG are also joining us with their expertise. Make sure you follow @ewgtoxics to learn from Lisa and Becky. And, go check out EWG’s 10 tips for non toxic spring cleaning.

Beth Greer, holistic health educator, radio talk show host, and certified Build It Green professional will also be joining us. She is also the author of Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home, and Planet–One Room at a Time. Make sure you follow her at @supernaturalhome.

And, finally, we’ve got Lynn and Corey, authors of Celebrate Green. Make sure you follow @celebrategreen on Twitter.

Don’t forget to enter ecomom’s $75,000 Healthy Home Makeover contest and check out ecomom’s blog with daily giveaways.

We will have great advice for going non toxic and prizes to boot. That’s right – we’ve got three $25 gift certificates to the ecomom website and a grand prize $100 gift certificate to ecomom. Prizes will be randomly drawn from those who join us during the #ecowed Twitter party using the #ecowed hashtag. Get an extra entry by leaving a comment on this post about how you create a toxicant free home or a question you have about creating a healthy home.

So join us at 7 pm Pacific on Wednesday, April 20, 2011, using the #ecowed hashtag. If you aren’t sure how to join a Twitter party, just read about it here. And if you want some tips for reducing toxic chemical exposure, don’t forget you can always check out my book – Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure

Melissa & Doug Folding Princess Castle – Review and Giveaway

Well, it is that time of year. I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are asking for everything for Christmas that they see advertised. And almost all of them are plastic and commercially branded. Not particularly inspiring for imaginative play and not particularly earth friendly.

So, when I was approached to do a review of the Melissa and Doug Folding Princess Castle, I was thrilled. (So, yes, I was sent a free castle and doll set for review in the interest of full disclosure.) My daughter has been asking for a pink plastic Barbie castle, and I much preferred non-branded wood. So I accepted. The castle arrived, and it is PERFECT. My princess loves the painted pink accents and the castle’s flexibility. It includes two removable turrets, flying buttresses, and a working drawbridge.

My daughter loves it, and plays with it almost every night. At Thanksgiving, some of my daughter’s cousins joined us, and they were just as entranced with the Folding Princess Castle. Melissa and Doug also generously sent my the Royal Family Wooden Doll Set to review. The girls, my daughter included, love these as well. You should check out all of the Melissa and Doug Toy Castles.

The drawbacks – the drawbridge is a little difficult for my 5 year old doll to manipulate because it is stiff. And, my daughter thinks the painted features on the female royal family members is “too clown like.” Also, just expressed regret that the clothes cannot be removed from the royal family. 

From an environmental perspective, I do like that the castle and dolls are all wood. And, in my XRF testing experience, I haven’t had any lead or cadmium show up for Melissa and Doug Toys. I also love that the toys aren’t branded – I can escape the Disney Princesses or Barbie or any of the others for a little bit.

My daughter is so pleased with the castle, I’ve purchased for her the Princess Castle Furniture set to add to the castle for Christmas. You can check out all of the Melissa and Doug Toy Castles and accessories.

Now, bonus for my readers. I get to give away a Folding Princess Castle or Folding Medieval Castle (value $99 each – you get to pick ONE). It will be a random draw from comments. In the interest of trying (though no promises) to make this for Xmas, the contest is open until 11:59 pm on December 14, 2010. Leave a comment below with which you would prefer if you won. Winner to be notified by email.

If you want a bonus entry, follow Melissa and Doug on Twitter and let me know that you did or already do in a separate comment.

A Schleich Mommy Party & Giveaway

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I rarely do reviews. But when I was asked if I wanted to participate in  Schleich mommy party by MomSelect, I said yes. I’ll explain why in a second, but before I do, I want to disclose that I participated through MomSelect and Schleich generously donated a Party Pack to the party, which included many figurines to the party, as well as coloring sheets, keyrings with tiny pig figurines, and a Shadow Rock playset.

Okay, so why did I agree even though pushing product is inconsistent with my green message? Because my kids love the Schleich figures and playsets, and I love the imaginative play that they engage in when playing with Schleich. I love that the products aren’t tied to a move or cartoon character. Simple as that.

The Schleich figures are plastic, so they aren’t as environmentally-friendly as some toys. But they are free of hormone-disrupting phthalates and have been since 2000. Also, they paints they use are free of lead, and of the 200 or so figures I have personally tested using XRF, I haven’t detected lead.

Schleich has figures to satisfy and please almost any child. My son loved the dinosaurs when he was younger. My horse crazy daughter of course loves the realistic horses.

So I agreed to host a Schleich mommy party. While I had though 10 kids were showing up, I ended up with 22, so I didn’t get a lot of pictures at the beginning as I tried to regroup and make sure I had enough for everybody.

My daughter’s friends (mostly 4, 5 and 6) loved the horses and farm and wild animals the most.  Schleich provided some horses, some wild animals and some domestic farm animals. They spent almost 2 hours happily playing a variety of games – from having the animals act like a family, to going to the vet, to having school lessons.

My son’s friends (mostly 7 and 8) gravitated towards the Bayala figures, and set up a very intricate “war” scene with my son’s soldiers on one side and the Bayala figures on the other. From what I could tell, it seem to be derived from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Since the party, my daughter has expressed quiet an interest in the gentler Bayala figures, particularly the unicorns and pink/purple fairies. We saw the Schleich display at Target, and she asked for every gentle Bayala figure for Christmas. And she wants the Elf boat and Floral Umbrella she saw in the Schleich catalog.

So, what can I say? With the Switch Witch coming on 10/31, and the holiday season fast approaching, the Schleich figures are a great option to encourage imaginative play. The Bayala figures allow for imaginative play that fits in with contemporary cartoons/movies but doesn’t box kids in to a set storyline. The farm animals and wild animals are great for any child. There are vehicles and people and almost anything you can imagine. The price point is consistent with how well the figures last and how detailed they are.

And, best of all, you can win a figure just by leaving a comment below. I’ll randomly pick from the coments left a winner on November 11. The contest is open until 11:59 pm on November 10, 2010 (Pacific time). The winner can pick from the category of a farm animal or wild animal or Bayala figure (just one figure – I select what it is from the category). Open to US and Canadian residents only.