Becoming a new mom is one of the most special times of our lives and we want to help celebrate all new moms this Mother’s Day. Here are a few of our NAPPA Award-winning picks. For more gift inspiration, visit nappaawards.com
February is typically the month of toys for me – a sneak peek into all the fun, imaginative and educational products making their debut. Pre-pandemic, I would be just coming back from New York and the North American International Toy Fair at the Javits Center.
For the second year, Toy Fair New York went virtual, but I still had a wonderful peek into what’s new and exciting in the world of play this year. The hottest trends will focus on sustainability and social justice themes. In addition, we’ll see a continued focus on sensory exploration, creativity and STEAM.
Living through a world-wide pandemic has taught us many lessons. One important one is how critical it is for families to connect through fun and play. The stress of these past two years has had a tremendous impact on young kids. Play is more important than ever to provide a creative outlet and an escape from daily stressors.
Trends range from role-play toys and fashion & food play, to artistic and building toys that inspire young content creators to customize their own play experiences. Many of these toys also tap into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & math) learning.
From Magformers, we saw the Wow Plus Set with more than 30 different magnetic vehicles with magnetic shapes, wheels and a racing driver character. Kids can follow along with the idea cards to create or build their own vision. With Thames & Kosmos new Candy Vending Machine, the focus is not just on the end result, but on the process it takes to get there. With these kits, children will create a working toy vending machine that relies on the laws of physics and mechanical engineering to dispense prizes and sort coins properly.
Parents and children can immerse themselves in a world full of imagination with Bababoo and Friends® through their unique combination of books, stories and whimsical wooden toys that make stories come to life, like the colorful Little Castle Stacking Toy that encourages children to build diverse, imaginative structures.
With Cry Babies First Emotions, kids can explore more expressions and feelings. This baby doll makes more than 65 realistic facial expressions and baby sounds. With CreateOn’s Daniel Tiger: So Many Feelings Magna-Tiles children can play and explore their feelings through the magnetic building set, which helps young learners master interactive play.
Most of us are longing for more adventure, and whether we head to a new spot for a family getaway or make new discoveries close to home you’ll find lots of travel-themed toys and games.
Kids will love to head out anywhere in their cool shoes custom-designed by Sticky Chic. These temporary tattoos for shoes will add a flair to their footwear. Adhesive peels away for a new design.
For adventures close to home, Globber’s NL-205 series delivers 2-wheel scooters for older kids and teens with big wheels so kids can get to their destination faster. The patented folding system allows for easy storage. Mobo’s 20-inch bike is perfect for taking a cruise around the park, the beach or the neighborhood. Includes a basket so kids can carry essential toys and other items everywhere they go.
For some imaginative travel, climb aboard Green Toys Stack & Sort Train, a one-stop shop for practicing motor skills, color matching, counting, sorting and categorization. This super-safe first train has no screws or metal axles, and the whole set is dishwasher safe. Made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic with no BPA, phthalates or PVC. Young explorers will also love LeapFrog’s Touch & Learn World Map. Features 200 interactive touch points and 1000+ fun facts about oceans and continents, natural wonders, countries, languages, animals and landmarks.
Play with a Mission
Toy trends range from sustainability and the protection of endangered species to social justice issues, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, Wild Republic’s Message from the Planet plush animals leverage trending pop art graphics to give voice to the voiceless. They are 100% eco-friendly from tail to nose. The line includes a fun selection of animals including a shark, turtle, whale, elephant, giraffe, a rhinoceros, a kangaroo with joey and a koala bear.
There is so much fun coming this season. Check out nappaawards.com as we reveal the best for 2022 in the coming months.
Try some of these fun, creative indoor activities to bring a little sunshine to any day.
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It’s not summer without a great playlist to listen to. Here is a curated list of some of the best, uplifting albums and music to bring joy to kids all summer long.
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The warm weather is finally here, so it’s officially time to be outside. Kick off summer and cool down with these fun water toys your baby and toddlers will love.
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Summertime is a busy time, filled with lots of activities. These products will allow the adventures to keep going, while making sure that your kids stay safe and clean.
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The kids might be home from school all summer, but mom still needs time for some pampering. These products are a great way to unwind and be ready for a great day ahead.
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Whether you’re taking trip or just out and about, you can make your adventure a bit easier with these great products that provide a helping hand along the way.
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Ideas for maximizing mental breaks kids can take in between learning tasks
With children on devices for extended periods throughout the day learning at home, it is essential for them to disengage from devices and take intentional brain breaks. It’s also important to find ways to calm minds before and after school. Creative outlets can be an effective way to prepare for the day ahead, as well as provide a meaningful and blissful way to end the day. Here are a few ideas to provide their brain a necessary time out and all while having some fun!
1. Play with Play Dough!
Try making your own play dough — and playing with it! There is something so calming about making a batch of play dough and then having the opportunity to do what you want with it. You can discover the therapeutic qualities that come from rolling it, pounding it, making designs and yes, you can even make peanut butter play dough and eat it! You are never too old to play with play dough! For those with nut allergies you can use this great recipe with flour at https://www.iheartnaptime.net/play-dough-recipe/
Peanut Butter Play Dough Recipe
- 3½ cups peanut butter
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 3½ cups honey
- Cream together; the confectioners’ sugar and peanut butter. Beat in the honey and fold in the mixture. You can freeze it until you are ready to use it if you wish.
2. Dance Party!
Turn on your favorite age appropriate tunes and let loose! Spotify, Amazon Music and XM Radio all have good kid friendly options. Mom/Dad, don’t forget to join in. Nothing turns a mood around faster than a good beat and some silly dance moves.
3. Take a Mindfulness Break!
Fablefy.com is chock full of books, printables and videos. You can quickly access all 114 videos on their YouTube channel: Fablefy – The Whole Child. Practice a quick body scan, balloon breaths to ease anxiety. They have activities for young children, teens and adults. Shilpi Mahajan, the founder, is an inspiration.
4. Plan Family Evening Events!
Yes, Mom and Dad are trying to work during the day, and so are the children. This makes coming together as a family even more significant in the evening. Plan a family magic night. Make an invitation with paper and markers and pass out your invites to your family. Come up with a couple of magic tricks that you will show them at the event. You can invite other family members to show their magical talent as well. If magic isn’t your thing, you can do the same thing with family comedy night. You can tell all of your favorite jokes. For an added treat, Zoom in grandparents to share the show and laugh along with you!
5. Indulge Your Creative Side!
If you are looking for a longer break, a guided Art Date with Miss Kate is just what you need. She has a wonderful YouTube channel called PeaceLoveArt with 53 videos that are perfect for students K-8, or anyone who wants to try something new.
6. Dive into a Book!
Looking for an escape from your daily life? Jump into someone else’s for a chapter or two. There are so many great options for picture books, graphic novels, chapter books and novels these days. Want to check out a publisher that specifically lifts up educators? Look at EduMatch Books! They have some fantastic books that are perfect for an escape but also teach a lesson. Some great titles from EduMatch include One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak, Play? Yay! Baby Talk by Breann Fennell, Fur Friends Forever by LaTezeon Humphrey Balentine, and the I’m Sorry Story by Melody McAllister. (Also, be on the lookout for a graphic novel called The Lab Coat Kids: Monster in the Hall coming out this fall by Melissa Sidebotham and Jennifer Reagan.)
7. Get Outside and Play!
Feel the sun on your face. Play with the hose. Make a mud pie. For a good socially distant but social activity, go for a bike ride with friends! Wear your mask. You will get exercise, be able to chat, laugh and interact with people without getting too close.
8. Channel your Inner Chef!
Try being creative in the kitchen. Write down some recipe ideas you have. Ask Mom and Dad if you can pick up the ingredients the next time you go to the grocery store. When you create a recipe you like, you can write it on a recipe card and add it to your recipe collection. Have recipe swaps with other friends.
9. Help your Community!
Write letters and/or draw pictures for the local senior living center. If you can knit or crochet, you can make some blankets and pillows for the local animal shelter or home for community members in need.
10. Try Scrapbooking!
Pictures are not only fun to take and capture memories that last a lifetime, but they are fun to arrange in unique and colorful ways. You can be creative with fun captions that explain what was happening in the picture. You can draw or cut paper for creative backgrounds. Ask Mom and Dad if you can have pictures to get creative with. Be sure to get your parents’ permission before using any photos for scrapbooking.
At first glance, brain breaks might just seem like a fun distraction for kids. This is definitely true, yet these are also so much more! Regular brain breaks help your child’s mind reset, so they have more mental energy to learn.
Next time your child is working, watch how much they can benefit from these activities and perhaps these will inspire them come up with even more creative activities on their own. And don’t forget to take creative brain breaks during your work time too.
To learn more about Stratford School, visit us online at stratfordschools.com.
Summer is officially here. As much fun as it is to play outside, it is also important to nourish our brains with amazing literature. The July Book Corner features a novel for middle-schoolers, an action-packed comic and two children’s books for the little ones. They highlight topics like adventure, accepting yourself and dealing with new emotions. Dive into these stories and be transported to an original world in each one.
Pirate Penguin Vs Ninja Chicken: Macaroni & Bees!?!
By Ray Friesen
“Pirate Penguin Vs Ninja Chicken: Macaroni & Bees!?!” by Ray Friesen takes you on a ridiculous adventure that is funnier than ever. Your favorite two birds are back to bring a pile of random comics on topics like werewolf shampoo, frivolous time travel and anti-gravity popcorn. Maybe not important for everyday life, but they sure are exciting to read. You’ll also learn about the long-lost origin story of Pirate Penguin and finally see the ultimate fight to decide who will win the friendship once and for all. Not only is this book fun to read, but it also is full of interaction. It turns into 8 different types of hats to express your true style.
Dungeon Academy: No Humans Allowed
By Madeleine Roux, Illustrated by Tim Probert
This novel is perfect for your middle school, adrenaline enthusiast. Written by New York Times Best Selling Author Madeleine Roux, “Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Academy: No Humans Allowed” transports readers to the Academy where hundreds of monsters study vigorously to get ready for the dark world that awaits. Zelli disguises herself as a Minotaur because she is what monsters fear the most – a human. When she embarks on an adventure to discover her true heritage, Zelli befriends a group of misfit monsters that change the course of her life forever. Join them all on this journey where your child will learn to embrace who they are, accept others’ differences and discover that making mistakes is okay too.
Three Paws and the Secret Cave
By Karen Struck
Join Boots, the 3-legged Grizzly bear, on his adventures through the Alaskan wilderness in “Three Paws and the Secret Cave” by Karen Struck. His mountain goat friend Scarlet needs his help when she is not able to find Grandfather Cappy for over two days. Cappy is a best friend to Boots and taught Scarlet the joys of nature and life. When they finally find him in a secret cave, they realize he is nearing the end of his physical journey on earth. In this book, Scarlet, Boots and all their friends learn how to commemorate life and what it means to honor someone after their passing. It opens up the discussion to talk about heavy topics like grief and teaches young kids the importance of celebrating each new day as a gift.
A Pixie Day! The Adventures of Georgiana
By Gregory Scott Sanders, Illustrated by Marina Garcia Navarro
Georgiana Buttercup notices a unique feeling early one morning. Is it her Pixie Day? Will she finally get to experience magic? She talks to her mother, sister (who already had her Pixie Day) and friends to try to find her special powers. “A Pixie Day! The Adventures of Georgiana” by Gregory Scott Sanders takes you on a journey of self-discovery. Georgiana becomes discouraged when she realizes that she might not have any pixie dust. But, with the help of some special friends, she learns magical feelings can come in all different ways. Follow along on her adventure to see if her dream of a Pixie Day has finally come.
For more book suggestions, check out June’s Book Corner Guide, which is all about pride, courage and understanding
Summer is finally here! Our friends at NAPPA Awards have all your summer must-haves covered in their annual Summer Fun & Travel Guide filled with amazing products for you and your kids. The guide includes over 90 NAPPA Award-winning products that have been tested and evaluated. It features water toys for fun in the sun, games and puzzles to challenge your mind, books for summer reading, music for a rockin’ playlist and travel gear for comfort on the go.
NAPPA Awards is a family-focused brand with a mission to “showcase the best toys, learning tools, games, books, music, baby, family and home products.” It has been serving families for more than 31 years.
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Podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years. Rightly so, as they are entertaining, easy to listen to and can be made for any age group. With so many options out there, it is sometimes hard to choose which ones to listen to. GoKidGo introduces an innovative approach with scripted podcasts full of adventurous, fictional stories for kids ages 6 – 12. Kids will love listening to these tales each week.
GoKidGo has created a first-of-its-kind universe of repeating characters and storylines. This podcast features new daily episodes from acclaimed children’s author R.L. Stine (Goosebumps) and New York Times bestselling children’s author Patrick Carman. Amazing talent like Danny Pudi, Ariel Winter and Richard Kind star in each show. GoKidGo has engineered a world for kids that is engaging, creative and entertaining for the entire family.
Top shows to check out:
Bobby Wonder: Bobby, voiced by Danny Pudi (Community), just found out he’s an alien that has superpowers. With Mighty Mila trying to make everyone in Pflugerville miserable, Bobby needs to figure out how to stop her. Luckily, protecting his hometown is a little easier with Grabstack, his constant companion, at his side.
Lucy Wow: Lucy Wow, voiced by Michaela Dietz (Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, PBS’s Barney & Friends), is a brilliant 11-year-old dreamer, builder and force of nature who is driven by the question “what if?”. The best thing Lucy ever built is her mechanical goat, Kapow. Help them design cool new inventions and solve wacky mysteries. Some might be epic…others epic fails.
R.L. Stine’s Story Club: Starring Ariel Winter from Modern Family and from the haunted mind of R.L. Stine, the creator of Goosebumps, this series will make you laugh and scream with its bizarre tales. Let the mysteries begin.
GoKidGo is a great alternative for screen time and designed to engage your child’s bright imagination. It’s the best entertainment for kids and a great resource for parents. Streaming on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere else podcasts live. Visit gokidgo.com for more information.
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During our recent getaway to Torrey Pines, I’m not sure how often my husband and I simultaneously said, “I’m so glad we did this.” If I had to guess, maybe 653 times. With each step, each view of the ocean and each gorgeous tree sighting, we felt a sense of awe. The combination of all the natural beauty, plus the fact that this was our first trip staying in a hotel since last March, created lots of feel-good vibes. Like most people, our days over the last year and a half have been pretty routine: work, cook, walk, clean, work some more and repeat.
We needed a getaway. But we worried that we would feel strange and anxious sleeping in a hotel room and eating in restaurants again. We decided to venture out close to home with a mini-vacay the week after Memorial Day weekend. We picked Torrey Pines (30 minutes north of downtown San Diego) because we wanted less city and more nature, in addition to feeling pampered and safe. Once we arrived at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, our worries dissipated as the staff welcomed us with warmth and a genuine desire to make sure our stay was as comfortable as possible.
The Lodge — perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and home to one of the most celebrated golf courses in the country — is a perfect summer retreat. During our visit, workers were busy setting up for the U.S. Open, which took place there in mid-June.
What this Craftsman-style resort does best is combine old-world elegance and luxury with rugged natural beauty. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by staff in kilted Scottish dress, and the hotel’s rich wood accents and roaring fireplace will feel like a cozy, rustic country house. As you walk through the glass doors, you’re greeted with a stunning SoCal scene — the glistening ocean, hang gliders soaring in the sky and golfers teeing off.
Families looking for outdoor fun or parents looking for a weekend away from the kids will love the surrounding beaches and protected forest, as well as the hotel’s pool, spa, croquet lawn, complimentary electric bikes and, of course, golf.
Right next to The Lodge is the Torrey Pines State Reserve, where you can hike eight miles of gorgeous ocean-view trails, which range from easy to advance. You can also join one of the resort’s twice-daily hour-and-a-half nature walks. This 1,750 acres of unspoiled land is home to the nation’s rarest pine tree, the pinus torreyana, plus wildflowers, native plants and dramatic overlooks of the ocean. Picnicking and camping are not allowed.
After a day of hiking and exploring, come back to the hotel for a swim in the pool, a relaxing shower with custom-formulated bath treats — rosemary and sage shampoo and conditioner and lemongrass and sage body lotion and gel help you bring nature’s vibes inside — and then savor a wonderful dinner at A.R. Valentien, where every dish is a celebration of local flavors with an emphasis on farm-to-table ingredients. The Lodge also offers a more casual dining alternative, including breakfast and lunch at The Grill.
Torrey Pines is a 10-minute drive to La Jolla Village, lined with local restaurants with charming outdoor spaces and shops, including Warwick’s, a family-owned independent bookstore operating since 1896. We enjoyed an outdoor dinner under heat lamps at Piatti’s on Avenida De La Playa. The herbed cauliflower cakes with roasted pepper aioli is a must! You can also grab some food and find a shady spot at the beautiful Scripps Park just above La Jolla Cove. With views of the ocean, it’s perfect for family Frisbee, picnic and cartwheels on the grass.
La Jolla is also home to Birch Aquarium, part of the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where you can view colorful marine life such as seahorses and sea dragons, giant kelp forest, leopard sharks and moray eels. You and the kids can get hands-on with sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers and lobsters at the Preuss Tide Pool Plaza. Check its website for up-to-date reservation requirements.
Ten minutes north of La Jolla Village is UTC Westfield, an outdoor shopping and dining area with free live music by local San Diego musicians from noon – 2 p.m. Thursday-Sunday in Palm Plaza, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday at The Pointe. The center also features lots of outdoor seating, fountains and eating options, including Hanna’s Creamery Café offering homemade ice cream, caramel and chocolate apples and other sweet treats. If it’s savory you’re after, enjoy a burger and fries at the Shake Shack.
After a relaxing and fun few days exploring Torrey Pines and La Jolla, my husband and I pulled into our driveway and looked at each other, repeating our mantra for the past three days: “I’m so glad we did this.”
If you’re short on time when you go, I highly recommend at least including these not-to-be-missed activities in your plans:
- Hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve
- Play a game of croquet on The Lodge’s Arroyo Terrace overlooking the golf course
- Have dinner at A.R. Valentien
- Play Frisbee at La Jolla Shores Park
- Stroll through La Jolla Village and enjoy the charming boutiques, bookstores, restaurants and ice cream shops
- Pet sharks at Birch Aquarium
Elena Epstein is Creative Director of L.A. Parent.
SoCal theme parks welcome us back with safety guidelines, yes, but also exciting new features
Editor’s Note: This is your summer survival and fun guide to our SoCal theme parks in this new world. We include new rides and areas and what to expect for them (depending on your kids’ ages); tasty new bites, restaurants and drinks, such as some plant-based items at Star Wars Land; insider tips, such as hotel and packages at Legoland, the trading of mini-figures, collecting pop badges and keeping an eye out for Mr. Gold for a free ticket and budget-friendly ideas.
Theme parks around Southern California are all abuzz this summer, and this isn’t just because they have reopened after being shut down for more than a year. While reopenings are something on their own to celebrate, our beloved SoCal parks have exciting news to share, including new worlds, new attractions and new foods to try. As with everything post-pandemic, a theme park visit entails safety protocols, extra research and a good dose of patience. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Most parks have the latest COVID-19-related restrictions and information available online. Familiarize yourself with new protocols so you don’t have any surprises. Not everything is opening up at once and restrictions apply to some rides and not others, so expect select rides to be closed for a time. Online reservations, in addition to an online ticket purchase, may be required. (Parking reservations can usually be made online as well.) Cash transactions have gone the way of the dodo, as have paper maps. Download a park’s app to get information on wayfinding, wait times, attractions and dining options. Trust us: You want to make sure you’ve downloaded the app before you arrive at the park. We recently witnessed several frustrated families hitting roadblocks (e.g. ordering food) because they had not downloaded the app. Finally, strollers or wheelchairs may not be available to rent, so plan accordingly.
Parks ask that all guests adhere to social-distancing guidelines, limit party size to three households, purchase tickets and make advance reservations, mask up if not vaccinated and stay away when sick. Temperature checks and hand sanitizing may be required for entry to parks and at specific rides.
And now for the fun.
Fans of the “The Lego Movie” franchise will find the largest expansion of Legoland California Resort to date — the Lego Movie World — cause for celebration. This eye-catching rendition of the brick world of the movies features six new attractions: the Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi Carousel, Benny’s Playship play structure, Unikitty’s Disco Drop, Emmet’s Super Suite apartment walk-through (with character meet-and-greets), Build Watevra You Wa’Na Build Lego station and a screen-simulated triple decker flying couch ride called Emmet’s Flying Adventure.
The new Everything is Ramen restaurant and Cloud Cuckoo Crepes stand will be ready for your appetite when you finish exploring. Still hungry? Don’t forget the old favorite — Legoland’s famous Granny’s Apple Fries (gluten free!) on Castle Hill next to the Hideaways play area.
Check with the park to see if the mini-figure trading and pop badges programs have been reestablished. If so, your kids can bring their own mini figures to trade at various spots throughout the park, and they should keep their eyes peeled for a worker wearing a pop badge pin featuring Mr. Gold. Trade it in for a prize worth talking about at the front gates.
If you didn’t include a waterpark admission with your ticket, cool down on hot days at the Splash Battle ride where you’ll likely get wet with spray guns or check out the adjacent splash pad, Swabbie’s Deck.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm had its 100-year anniversary last summer, but since no one was able to visit, the park is celebrating this summer for the whole season with “A Knott’s Family Reunion,” which will run through the end of August. This festive celebration is a tribute to the Knott family’s legacy of bringing family and friends together in a rich assortment of old-fashioned fun.
Amid the nostalgia, new memories can be made at the new rendition of an old favorite, Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair. The 4D interactive dark ride takes riders — equipped with jelly blasters —through the Boysenberry Pie Factory, Frog Forest, Fortune Teller Camp, Thunder Cave, Weird Woods and County Fair with the hope of recovering the stolen boysenberry pies from Crafty Coyote, as well as competing for the highest score.
Disneyland and California Adventure Park
First Star Wars got its day in the sun, and now it’s time for the Avengers to shine. June marked the grand opening of the Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort inside Disney California Adventure Park. This brand-new land is set to recruit and train the next generation of heroes, starting with an interactive escapade called “WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure.” Accessories for this ride and other areas, including WEB Tech and Spider-Bots, can be purchased at gift shops for a custom experience of the park.
Also on offer is the ability for guests of all ages to dabble in their superhero dreams by training with Black Panther and Wakanda’s elite guards, the Dora Milaje. Family and friends can team up to fight alongside the Avengers and their allies and encounter heroes (and villains, too). If all that fighting gets you hungry, Quantum pretzels and a Pingo Doce beverage are some of the new foods on offer. Families may want to tackle the mega-sized shareable Pym-ini sandwich, made with a little help from Pym Particles, at Pym Test Kitchen. We devoured the Not so Little Chicken Sandwich, a gigantic fried chicken breast teased with teriyaki and red chili sauces sitting “inside” a teeny brioche bun.
At Disneyland, the Jungle Cruise has been updated with new characters from around the world, reimagined with the same heart and spirit of the classic ride. For fans, a gift shop has been added at the end with a jungle full of merchandise to peruse.
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags offers fun for the whole family, especially those with thrill seekers in tow. Younger kids will love the Looney Tunes-themed rides such as Yosemite Sam’s Flight School (airplane ride) and Pepe Le Pew’s Tea Party (twirling cups). Teens and tweens, or those ready for the thrill of a wild roller coaster, have a bevy of rides to choose from, including the most recent addition, West Coast Racers, the world’s first single-track, quadruple-launch racing coaster. The ride was inspired by the work of Southern California’s own custom car shop, West Coast Customs. You’ll find the ride in The Underground area of the park, which also includes new dining and retail locations.
In addition to season passes, Six Flags Magic Mountain offers various levels of membership that come with the perks of a season pass and more at a low monthly price. Depending on the level of membership, offers include unlimited soda drinks, food and merchandise discounts, free parking and even line-skipping privileges.
If the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” or world-renowned studio tour isn’t luring you back to Universal Studios Hollywood, perhaps the park’s newest attractions will. Both “The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!” and “Jurassic World –The Ride” feature innovations that fans of each movie will love. If you are curious what your pets do at home when you are not there, head over to Pets Place, where 64 animated figures, including Max, Snowball, Gidget, Chloe and Duke, come to life using hyper-realistic projections. Inside the ride’s corridors, guests can explore dachshund Buddy’s apartment, Snowball owner Molly’s living room, as well as Max and Duke’s apartment. If dinosaurs rock your boat, “Jurassic World – The Ride” will wow with highly realistic dinos that can’t be described as cute: Indominus rex in a battle with Tyrannosaurus rex. But scary might be your thing.
If the summer days start to get too hot, don’t forget the various water parks adjacent to the theme parks, including Legoland Water Park, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and Knott’s Soak City. Whatever theme park and attractions you choose this summer, we can all agree: it feels good to be back in action.
Elisa Parhad is a travel and lifestyle writer and photographer based in L.A. Her work has appeared in L.A. Parent, the Los Angeles Times, Delta Sky magazine and Faces, and she is the author of the board book “Los Angeles Is…”
Instead of shuttering their doors completely, these businesses kept up the fun by offering outdoor options
What an absolute ride this school year was! Congratulations to us all for pulling through. Now, with the arrival of summer, we could all use some relaxing family fun in our reopened city. I don’t know about your family, but my kids are ready to dive right in and make up for lost time. Ever the cautious parent, however, I began a search for fun activities that we could safely do as a family as we reemerge into society.
Check out a few of my favorites that we’ll be frequenting all summer, especially because they offer outdoor options. If L.A. is anything, it’s creative. From pop-up shops to pedestrian-friendly makeovers, our city has welcomed us back with open arms.
Family fun in Playa Vista
Playa Vista has long been a great community for families to enjoy the various parks, restaurants and shops. Recently, local officials have gone the extra mile to provide additional space for outdoor games and lounging.
The newly car-free center section of the shopping area Runway Playa Vista now serves as a pedestrian’s paradise. Restaurants have spilled onto the sidewalks, additional seating has been added and there are a few tables of games such as air hockey and ping pong to keep families entertained.
The game tables are right outside the Micro Kickboard Pop-Up Shop. In order to get the pieces to play the games, pop into the Micro Kickboard scooter store and give your ID in exchange for the pieces.
While you’re there, be sure to check out their scooters. They have something for everyone, ranging from tiny scooters for babies to adult sizes. And you can try out the scooters on their indoor test tracks for some added amusement. Getting my girls out of there was a struggle!
Shorty Yoga has mastered the art of what so many businesses have had to do as a result of the pandemic: pivot. The unique aspect of Shorty’s is that it’s a kids-only yoga studio. While the indoor studio was temporarily closed, the instructors found a way to make yoga for kids fun and safe by offering virtual classes, private classes and in-person, “shorty pods” at families’ homes. These pods consist of gathering two to four children in an outdoor space for some socially distanced stretching.
Founder Donna Delshad says, “We had to get our Shorties outside to have some fun, interact with their peers and feel good, all while staying safe from COVID.”
Drive-in at the park
My family has done just about all of the “Netflix and chill” we could handle. We were thrilledto find that L.A. County Parks’ “Drive In at the Park” included Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area as one of the new locations. I’m not ashamed to admit that our favorite part is probably the food trucks. We also love inviting our friends to meet up so the kids can play in an outdoor space while wearing their masks and observing social distancing.
The movie showings are Friday and Saturday nights and they start at dusk, but you can arrive as early as 6:45 p.m. to set up and “pregame.” Parents, trust me on this one: pick a day, book your tickets via ticketfairy.com and watch as your kids delight in this centrally located experience.
Village Well Books & Coffee
Bookstores are my family’s happy place. Village Well Books & Coffee is a gorgeous spot with bright vibrant colors everywhere from the books to the art to the furniture and fixtures around the store. One of my favorite aspects is the diversity of their titles. The children’s literature section represents a melting pot of cultures.
Owner Jennifer Caspar knew what she was doing by adding the café, which features coffees and teas, smoothies, pastries, breakfast burritos, sandwiches and more. You can dine outside on the bright colorful tables and chairs while enjoying the view of downtown Culver City.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Located in Playa Vista inside the new Free Market is Jeni’s Ice Cream. Jeni’s has locations throughout L.A. and in various cities around the country. The new Playa Vista location was our family’s first Jeni’s experience, and we are sold.
I especially loved that you have the option of getting a single scoop or two half scoops. The outdoor space at Jeni’s has plenty of tables and room for running around.
Speaking of yummy treats, you don’t have to travel to New Orleans to get a taste of beignets this summer. The Beignet Box has all your delectable desires right in their super cute café, located in the heart of Studio City.
There are traditional beignets, mini beignets and (my older daughter’s favorite) the beignet sundae. This beignet with ice cream, caramel, chocolate and whipped cream is a party in your mouth. We left covered in powdered sugar from all the damage we did. They also have ample outdoor space to socially distance and still maintain a great view of the goings-on of the ever-bustling Ventura Boulevard.
So, welcome back in a bigger way this summer, L.A. My family will continue to take precautions, and I have a feeling that being outdoors more for eating and entertainment will be a part of our future for a long time to come.
Jill Carter is an attorney, writer and mother of two in L.A.
As parents we all know how hungry kids are when they come out of the pool or arrive home from day camp. And on days when they are at home, it can be equally tough to keep up with their requests for snacks and favorite treats like ice cream and Popsicles on hot days. Do you ever feel like you are out of ideas for what to make or buy when considering health at the same time?
Unfortunately, most of the snacks and products marketed towards children have deceptive claims on the packaging. They may say “whole grain” or “made with fruit” or “rich in calcium,” making parents think they are getting something with added nutritional value, whereas many of these are actually full of hidden sugars or sweeteners and other unwanted ingredients such as refined seed oils or artificial colors. These include many granola bars, crackers, chips, yogurts, fruit ice bars and fruit snacks. One granola bar alone often has 3 teaspoons of added sugar in it, which is half of the daily maximum suggested for kids ages 2-18. And, that’s not to count the low-calorie sweeteners that are now often hidden in products marketed to kids.
For example, look closely at the label of the popular Outshine frozen fruit bars that say “no sugar added.” The strawberry version of these bars has three types of low-calorie sweeteners in it (sorbitol, sucralose, and Ace K) as well as two types of hidden sugars (polydextrose and maltodextrin) and 2 types of fruit juice concentrates, which we also consider to be added sugar because the fiber has been removed, making them quickly absorbed by the body. As we explain in our book “Sugarproof,” forms of sugars that are high in fructose such as fruit juice concentrates can contribute to gastrointestinal issues and increase risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) disease because the liver converts fructose to fat.
As an easy solution to buying these type of fruit bars, make your own simple bars by blending your favorite summer fruits and freezing them into popsicle moulds. Using whole fruit instead of juice retains the fiber which helps slows the absorption of the sugar. Or simply cut pieces of watermelon and freeze them, leaving the rind on to use as a handle, making a natural one ingredient fruit bar that is healthy and affordable at the same time.
For other easy homemade snacks, we love slices of cucumber sprinkled with Japanese furikake seasoning, which is a mix of seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, and sea salt. Kids seem to like the crunchiness this adds to snacks. Always look for a brand that does not have added sugar or MSG in it. Or, for parents that have some time, try our easy recipe for Crispy Chickpea Snacks from “Sugarproof.” You can vary the seasonings (we are currently loving garam masala) and they make for a super flavorful, high-fiber, inexpensive snack.
For pre-packaged options you can rely on when you don’t have time to make something, try any type of raw or roasted nuts (ideally without refined oils), mini size Lara bars, Skout bars, crackers that are made without refined flours and do not have seed oils such as Mary’s Gone Crackers, Flackers, Wasa Crisp Breads, or Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps. Instead of potato chips or popcorn that contain added sugar and/or refined seed oils, try a popcorn like Lesser Evil Himalayan Gold or Terra Chips Plantain Sea Salt. Look for brands made with coconut oil or olive oil. Protein snacks such as New Primal Meat Sticks or Babybel cheese are also convenient and do not contain added sugars.
With these tips, you can keep up with your children’s summer snack appetites and preserve and promote their health at the same time.
Bio: Dr. Michael Goran, Ph.D. is a professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Scientific Advisor for popular brand, Yumi Baby Food. Dr. Emily Ventura is an expert in nutrition education and recipe development. They are both are co-authors of pioneering new book, “SUGARPROOF: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk and What You Can Do” (Avery/Penguin Random House). This book busts myths about the various types of sugars and sweeteners, helps families identify sneaky sources of sugar in their diets and suggests realistic, family-based solutions to reduce sugar consumption and protect kids. To purchase the book or for more information, visit www.sugarproofkids.com
Pride is celebrated during the month of June to honor the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, which was a pivotal moment in LGBTQ liberation. This is a time of celebration with parades and concerts to show support for the community. It is also a time to educate and promote acceptance of people for just being themselves. This roundup celebrates Pride by featuring songs and books for kids to explore. It also serves as a support system, providing resources to encourage LGBTQ youth and inform their allies.
It’s OK to Be Me (A Mi Me Gusta Ser Yo)
Peruvian American Musician Twinkle is back with her 4th single that promotes inclusivity during Pride Month. This song encourages kids to be confident in their individuality. Twinkle is the “Lady Gaga for kids” and wants everyone to know that they are perfect the way they are. This single drops on June 25th and will be available to stream on all platforms. Available to listen to in English or Spanish.
Getting Back Up: A Story of Resilience, Self-Acceptance and Success
Named a “Must Read” by Entertainment Weekly, Harma Hartouni shares his coming-out story and hardships to show teens how they can learn to grow from their own life events. Now happily married with 3 beautiful children, Hartouni hopes to give back to the LGBTQ community by sharing tips for coming out and advice for parents on how they can support their kids. This book is truly inspirational and shows genuine resilience. $14.95, amazon.com
Pride on the Peninsula
Terranea Resort is a hidden gem in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. This month it is partnering with South Bay LGBTQ Center to celebrate the LGBTQ community. Terranea invites everyone to partake in this joyfulness with a special two-night stay offer. It includes a $100 resort credit and free daily parking on stays through June 30th with the promo code: PRIDE. Guests will also have the chance to donate to the South Bay LGBTQ Center, showing continuous support. terranea.com
Beverly Center will honor the LGBTQ community by lighting up the building exterior with PRIDE-inspired, rainbow colors every night in June. This features the launch of the Bubble Spectacular, where a sea of rainbow bubbles will float into the skylight every Saturday and Sunday. The Beverly Center will also be collecting funds to donate to key LGBTQ organizations including Trans Youth Equality Foundation. beverlycenter.com
Hope in a Box & Born This Way Foundation National Storytelling Contest
To celebrate LGBTQ-inclusive literature, these nonprofits teamed up to invite students from across the country to share how LGBTQ stories have inspired them. Local 11th-grade student, Alexandra Paolucci, from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School has been chosen as one of the winners. Her inspiring story talks about the importance of LGBTQ literature to teens like herself and is available to read at Born This Way Foundation’s storytelling platform. changekindness.org
Pride Story Creation Zones
Join Creation Zone to share Pride stories that will feature a cast of talented LGBTQIA+ Story Pirates. Takes place on Friday, June 25th at 4pm PT on Zoom. The creativity never has to end in this fun, special event that celebrates the closing of Pride Month. Free, zoom.us
SaMo Pride Art Walk
Santa Monica is excited to announce the “Rainbow Road Art Walk” which will be on display June 4 – 30. Curated in partnership with Allies in Arts, the rainbow-lit art walk exclusively features the creations of local LGBTQ visual artists, with a dynamic collection of murals, photo installations, interactive and multimedia works. smpride.com
How Life Is: Queer Youth Animated
View a special 10-episode short film series to celebrate Pride Month and amplify the stories of LGBTQ youth and allies. The films cover the challenges these kids navigate such as coming out, blended families, relationships, peer acceptance, homophobia, parity and more. Episodes are already streaming on YouTube and IGTV, with new ones released every Tuesday throughout June. youtube.com
Cedars-Sinai Pediatric, Adolescent Gender Wellness Clinic
Just in time for Pride Month, Cedars-Sinai has opened a clinic for children and adolescents under age 18 who are experiencing gender dysphoria. The clinic is run by Paria Hassouri, MD, who is a pediatrician specializing in gender wellness. As a parent to a transgender child, Dr. Hassouri wants to ensure everyone can receive the proper care. Please visit the link for more information and for helpful tips for parents to learn how to best support their children. cedars-sinai.org
The Happy Planner
Celebrate Pride with this special edition collection from The Happy Planner. Features a 12-month planner, stickers and bookmarks (all sold separately), to encourage everyone to stay true to themselves and choose love. 25% of net profits from this capsule will go to The Out Foundation and NQTTCN, which focus on mental and physical health for the LGBTQ community. thehappyplanner.com
Please visit the L.A. Parent Calendar for more information on these events.
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th as a day that honors African American freedom across the United States. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation passing on January 1, 1863, it was not until this day in 1865 that slavery ended in this country. Juneteenth is not only a day of celebration, but also a day of learning. This roundup includes fun, instructional programs, songs and events around Los Angeles to honor and understand this important holiday.
Get right with the history of emancipation and learn about how the US Colored Troops led the charge to the emancipation of all Black Americans in 1865. Co-written by Fyütch and the Alphabet Rockers, this song debunks the idea that the Emancipation Proclamation freed those who were enslaved. Take a joy ride and learn with this new anthem of Black liberation. spotify.com
Brotherhood Crusade Hosts Juneteenth Celebration
Honor Juneteenth with the Brotherhood Crusade on Friday, June 18th at 10:30am PT at the Crete Academy. This event will be filled with exciting health and wellness activities. Also providing families with food baskets, backpacks, school supplies, COVID testing and COVID vaccinations. Masks Required. Free, brotherhoodcrusade.org
Parenting for Liberation: A Guide to Raising Black Children
Celebrate this book’s one year birthday as we honor Juneteenth. Event includes a light brunch and a Q&A discussion with Cassandra Lane and book author Trina Greene Brown. Takes place on Saturday, June 19th at 11am PT at The Secret House of Ivy. An awesome opportunity to connect with Black parents & caregivers who are committed to liberation. Masks Required. $50.00, flipcause.com
Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration
Bring awareness to the history behind Juneteenth this Saturday at 9am PT in Loma Alta Park. This event will center around the “Empowering Black and African American Families” conversation series, which includes a freedom walk, a resource fair and panels discussing the health and wellness of black communities. There will also be live performances featuring JJ Fad and DJ Arabian Prince. Please RSVP to secure a special Juneteenth T-shirt and a spot in the Freedom Day walk. Free, Eventbrite.com
Juneteenth and Pride Story Creation Zones
Commemorate Juneteenth with a special edition of the Story Creation Zone with the incredible Black Story Pirates on June 18th at 4pm PT! Kids can suggest for the cast to perform a hilarious improv comedy show or read orginial stories and creations about this historical day. Join again on June 25th for the Pride Story Creation Zone that will feature a cast of talented LGBTQIA+ Story Pirates. The creativity never has to end in these fun, special events. Free, storypirates.com
All One Tribe Virtual Concert
Pay tribute to Juneteenth with this virtual concert that celebrates the release of a new album by 1 Tribe Collective. Its focus is to amplify Black voices in family music. Takes place on June 19th at 11am PT. The family-friendly event will include performances, music video features and interviews with artists. Perfect for all ages this summer and beyond. Album is currently available for pre-save on Spotify and Apple Music. Free, 1tribecollective.com
Healdsburg Jazz Festival Weekend
Healdsburg is a world-class culinary destination ripe with new summer experiences located in the beautiful Sonoma County. Visit this weekend, June 17 – 20, for the 23rd annual Jazz Festival. It will be the first Juneteenth Celebration sponsored by the Foley Family Charitable Foundation featuring artists including “The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol and her Trio,” “MJ’s Brass Boppers” and “Josh Jones Latin Jazz Ensemble.” Healdsburgjazz.org
Soundtrack for a Revolution
Join in on a special screening of a film about the deep connection and history between Black freedom movements and the music that is born from them. The showing takes place on Thursday, June 17th at 3:30pm PT. Grab your snacks and meet us to celebrate Juneteenth. Free, zoom.us
LA County Library: Juneteenth
Come out to the LA County Library this weekend to learn about the history of Juneteenth and celebrate its important legacy. Featuring a Smarty Pants Storytime on Friday, June 18th at 11am for 2 – 5-year-olds to celebrate with songs and rhymes. Continue the joy on Saturday, June 19th at 2pm as storyteller and educator, Binnie Tate Wilkin, engages in reflections of Juneteenth history. Please visit the website to register and for a full list of books to commemorate the day. lacountylibrary.org
Please visit the L.A. Parent Calendar for more information on these events.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This spring, the Omega Sci-Fi Awards hosted its 6th annual live show featuring emerging science-fiction writing talent, including the work of local high school students through The Tomorrow Prize. The nonprofit program was founded in 2014 by Sci-Fest L.A., which aims to recognize and encourage emerging sci-fi writers, and Light Bringer Project, a Pasadena-based nonprofit arts and education organization.
L.A. Parent was a proud co-sponsor of The Tomorrow Prize, and we are happy to publish this year’s winning story, “Star Sailor,” by Pasadena High School student Gwendolyn Lopez.
She is a luminous writer with a mind that shines as bright as the stars. “I never thought that my little idea about a space explorer would make it this far,” Gwendolyn says, “and I’m so honored to be the first place winner of the Tomorrow Prize!” She introduces original ideas about the future and exploration, transporting readers to another world. “Writing ‘Star Sailor’ was challenging,” she says, “but it was also really fun to mix old ideas of exploration with futuristic outer space. I also loved writing out the personalities of the radio and protagonist.” This piece is incredibly thought-provoking and truly captures the talent of the best in L.A.
On the sunrise of a day long ago, a sailor stared at a sea of glittering tears.
It was a different world. Stars, galaxies—they were all a thing of the future. There was only the salt of the water, the bite of the breeze. And a man, standing at the edge of his world, as eager as the needle of the compass he clutched in his right hand.
I imagine myself as that sailor now, immortalized on the page of a school textbook, as reluctant to yield as the mysteries surrounding him. Both of us with our own seas to sail, except mine is made of the void. Both of us in ships. His is firm, blessed by flora. Mine reeks of metal and oxidizers.
Both of us, alone.
My ship rattles, shaking me back to reality. The cockpit I’m sitting in is dark, with the lights turned down low. A permanent chill fills the air.
A pebble thrust against the universe. That’s me. My similarities with the ancient sailor start to fade, leaving a bitter aftertaste. At least he had a destination—all I have is this stolen hunk of a ship, a cracked photograph of my family, and a dwindling supply of oxygen.
I sigh. It sounds like a thunderstorm in the cramped ship, with only the engine’s whir and the beeping of my location tracker accompanying me.
Beep, beep. I have now entered the Holmberg V system.
Boop, boop. Now I’m in Messier 68.
It’s a faulty thing, a piece of junk. Either that, or what everyone’s been telling me is true.
The universe has already been discovered.
I slouch in my chair. The windshield of my ship is displayed in front of me, showing a view that hasn’t changed in the past month of flying through space. Deep, endless black. No shadows. No light. If I look at it for too long, I start to think it’ll swallow me whole.
I’m not sure when I doze off, but when the location tracker on my ship’s dashboard starts to beep, I instantly jolt up. The sound is different, not a mellow indicator reciting names I already know. Instead, it’s a harsh, blaring alarm. Meaning there’s something new out there, something that isn’t on the star maps.
Heart beating fast, I edge myself forward, leaning so that I can read the small, evenly printed text displayed by the spaceship’s AI.
The name printed out on the dashboard isn’t one I recognize. That’s because there isn’t any name at all.
Foreign celestial body detected, the spaceship AI says in its mechanical voice.
My hands fly over the dashboard, and the spaceship’s AI redirects itself toward the disturbance. I feel like a swarm of bees. My breath is shaky, laced with excitement. This could be it—I’ve finally spotted land from the crow’s nest. The thrill of discovery, glory, and riches! It could all be mine.
My ship slides me out of curved spacetime as smoothly as it guided me in. The universe snaps into focus. I’m met with a simple star system—a G2V star, surrounded by planets ambling around its gravitational pull. I stare in awe as the location tracker beeps away their names, one after the other. I don’t care. There’s something here that doesn’t belong, and for now it’s the only thing that matters.
My ship slows down in front of a blue-green planet, then dips down into its atmosphere. My surroundings shine blue—all seen through a pair of red sunglasses as my ship burns through the ozone layer. When it all clears up, I get my first real look at Foreign Celestial Body.
My stomach does a flip when I spot buildings dotted across the planet’s landscape.
Civilization—meaning intelligent life! At this rate, my portrait will surely be framed alongside the greats!
The ship lands, and I’m bursting at the seams. As quickly as possible, I throw open the doors and let sunlight stream inside. Finally, here I am—standing on a new world!
I’m greeted by a small village. Houses, neatly positioned next to each other, covered with moss and trees and greenery. The people must like plants.
“Hello?” I call out. My voice seems to echo through the village. I clear my throat. “Is anybody there?”
No answer. A bird titters from a tree branch.
“Where am I?” I shout. As a response, the leaves sway in the wind.
The walls of the houses are dirty. Their insides are empty, abandoned.
I’ve wandered into a ghost town.
After a long search, I’ve found nothing. I’m about to head back to my ship and search someplace else when I hear a voice.
My head snaps back, searching for the direction it came from. A rodent scampers in front of me. Wind whistles through the branches above me. And I hear it again.
“Is somebody there?”
“I am!” I call out.
A person! I run toward the voice, who keeps calling out the same words, and eventually I find myself in a house that looks like all the others. Deserted, empty. Except for the voice which gives it life.
But as quickly as the excitement came, it seeps away. There is no life in this house. The voice I’d mistaken for alive was just a beaten up, vintage radio laying on a shelf coated with dust.
“This place is useless,” I mutter.
“Wait!” the radio cries out. I look at it with wide eyes. Did an old, abandoned piece of junk just… talk to me?
“I’m hallucinating,” I say.
“You’re not,” the radio points out. I take three steps closer, lifting it in my hands. The radio is normal. Ancient. Except for the fact that it’s talking to me.
“Who—” I cut myself off. “What are you?”
“I’m an AI. The first one.” The radio pauses. Like it’s contemplating. “No one’s visited me in millenia. Why have you come back to Earth?”
“Earth?” My voice takes a sharp edge. “Visited you?”
“Oh.” The radio suddenly sounds small. “You aren’t here for me.”
“Of course I’m not.” I set the radio back down. My hands are covered with dust, and I wipe them on my trousers. “I’m an explorer,” I declare. “I came because I’m sick of being no one. People told me I was crazy, to go looking for something. Well, now look! An entire planet. Not on the star maps. And it’s all mine.”
The radio is quiet for a long time. “You’re wrong.”
“There is always something to explore,” says the radio softly. “You don’t need a planet, or thousands of light years, to be somebody.”
My words dry up in my throat. It feels like the radio is fixing me with a stare, even though that’s impossible. Radios don’t have voices. And they definitely don’t have eyes.
“Do you know why there’s no one here?” the radio asks.
I blink. That wasn’t what I was expecting.
“Everyone left. They spread out their wings, flew across the universe. Into its nooks and crannies, into places no one had seen before. And so when the fossil fuels of this planet shriveled up, they packed up their things and passed the reins back to Mother Nature.” The radio hums a soft tune. It sounds familiar. “As it should be.”
“But who’s ‘they’?”
“Humanity, of course.” My mouth opens wide in shock. The radio chuckles. “Did your teachers skip that lesson in history class?”
“That’s stupid,” I say. “Why would humans stay on just one planet? Why not just wormhole over to another star system? Why—” I gesture at the abandoned houses, at the grass and the birds singing duets in the trees. “Why this?”
“This is where it started,” the radio says. “This is where it ends. But not for you. Not for everyone else. For you, it’s a new beginning.”
I slam my foot against the ground in frustration. “But this was supposed to be my planet. My discovery. You can’t just take that away from me.”
“Look all you want. You’ll find nothing.”
I turn my back on the radio and leave.
The sea of my home planet reminds me of the sun. It is bright. Cheerful. Liquid laughter, rather than tears.
The scars of outer space slowly fade away, and I find my way home. The radio was right. There was nothing left for me on the mysterious planet of Earth. Nothing that hadn’t been done already.
Sleeplessness invades my nights. I can’t stop thinking about that lonely AI on planet Earth. Humming that sad, familiar tune to itself. Waiting for a visitor who will never come.
To cope, I start to sail. On the ocean, instead of the unforgiving void. It’s fun. Terrifying. Being given control without the safety net of spaceship AI. I become my own sailor, one of a new world.
One of my world.
The sun sets. I look up at the map of my future. And it is completely blank, left there for me to fill out.
Gwendolyn Lopez is a sophomore at Pasadena High School. She is trilingual and speaks English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Outside of school, Gwendolyn enjoys reading, looking at cloud patterns in the sky, and writing fiction that has sci-fi or fantasy elements. Her short story, “Star Sailor,” was inspired by the 16th-century explorers in her history textbook and the mysteries of outer space.
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When my family moved from Florida to Southern California as a young child, I felt a renewed sense of community because there were more people here who looked like me, who ate the same food, spoke the same language and were living a shared immigrant experience. However, as I got older, that bubble burst and I had to confront that although I moved to a more diverse area, there were still people who were never going to accept me.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent discriminatory behavior was a game-changer to many Americans of Asian descent who were unfairly targeted and sometimes violently confronted due to the virus’ origins. Today, even as the country has started to open back up, Asian Americans here and across the country are reckoning with the aftermath of a new strain of hate that we can no longer ignore. For generations, we’ve been the ‘model minority’ or been led to believe we had to conform and turn the other cheek in the face of racism against us. That survival strategy is no longer viable and needs to stop so the hate against us will come to an end
Because of childhood bullies, I grew up being ashamed of my own culture, and only learned in adulthood that the beauty of America lies in its cultural diversity. As parents, we need to show our kids that beauty at an early age. With that being said, I want to encourage other parents to let their kids explore non-Western cultures at an early age by trying different foods together, immersing them in second-language classes, watching movies made outside of Hollywood, and reading children’s books by non-Western authors.
My husband and I are currently teaching our son, Atlas, English, Chinese, and Vietnamese. We celebrated Lunar New Year with him dressed in traditional Chinese attire. Unlike me, he will not grow up ashamed of his culture. If we want others to accept him, we as parents must teach him to first love and accept himself.
It’s also not just our parenting style, but also the influence and guidance of others, such as teachers, neighbors, friends and strangers, that will help him and others like him grow into a thoughtful and generous person who treats others with kindness and respect. We want to take this time to shed light on what we’ve experienced so that others who are in his life and the lives of others in his generation know how to respond to micro-aggressions and bullying when they see them. We want to ensure that our children here in the Los Angeles area and across the country can enjoy a childhood that is free of shame, insensitivity or exclusion. A lot of these feelings are a part of growing up, of course, but we as parents know that we can always do our part to help our kids treat other children better and foster an atmosphere of cultural acceptance and mutual respect.
I’m often angered, even enraged, when I see so many people of Asian descent being treated with such unprovoked intolerance and non-sensical prejudice because of COVID. The hatred that has arisen from the fear of the pandemic also allowed me the chance to talk to other people in a way that I didn’t think was possible a couple years ago. It’s been refreshing to speak to other parents during this very difficult time in our collective pandemic experience and share our fears and uncertainty. We found that we’re on the same side and all want to protect each other and our children. This speaking and sharing with other parents also filled me with hope. I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of support these past months from all parts of the city that have made me feel we can turn a corner and stop discrimination against people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. If we can all treat each other with compassion and respect and help raise our children with the passion for change I’m witnessing now, I will be most grateful and relieved. I believe this is possible – especially after seeing how other parents in our community have rallied and supported me, my family, and my culture.
Dr. Dagny Zhu is an Asian American ophthalmologist and practice owner based in Rowland Heights who is a first-generation Chinese immigrant. She is an accomplished eye surgeon who has experienced hate and discrimination against AAPI people both personally and professionally. Even though AAPI Heritage Month has come to an end, which is held every year in May, Dr. Zhu wants parents to know how to speak to kids on anti-Asian hate with a story of how she and her husband (also a first-generation immigrant) are raising their son.