Try some of these fun, creative indoor activities to bring a little sunshine to any day.
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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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There may be more public education options for your child than you think.
For many California families, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a renewed focus on the education that their child receives. Class schedules varied, children were at home for months and daily learning transitioned from the classroom to the computer screen.
As we emerge from the pandemic, parents can apply lessons learned to reimagine how the public schools in their community can best serve their child. Some parents found that their kids needed additional support in certain subjects or that their school doesn’t offer varied courses to help keep them engaged and challenged. Others saw their kids thrive and enjoy learning at home.
Parents learned that there are options in how their child can succeed academically. There is no reason not to try something new if your child might have a better chance to thrive. For decades, California has provided a wide range of public educational opportunities which may have been left unexamined because parents didn’t know about all the options.
In each community, there are at least a few public educational options for your kids: district public schools, which include magnet schools, and charters which are also always public schools. All of these public schools are subject to the same basic requirements and requirements set forth by the state and local education agencies. And there is never a cost to attend any public school
District public schools are what we have all understood as the “neighborhood school.” They are free and open to all students living in their boundaries. They’re managed by the locally elected school board and funded by state and local property taxes. Your home address determines the school your child attends and quality of education they receive. Magnet public schools are also part of the district school system, but have a specific curricular focus, such as STEM or vocational paths and are open to all children living in that school district. Placement in these schools is often competitive and can be based on past academic performance, an audition and/or scores on an entrance exam.
Charter public schools are another type of public school. Like district schools, they are free to attend. Unlike district schools, they are open to all students, regardless of zip code. These community schools are created by educators who have the flexibility to design instructional models that put students first and deliver a high-quality education. Charter public schools are often established in low-income or underserved communities, in direct response to a desire for additional public education opportunities. A charter public school may also focus on specialized learning like a magnet school, but it will not set prerequisites or require testing. Charter schools accept all students regardless of previous academic performance.
In the LAUSD, Black charter school students are academically outperforming their peers attending district schools in English Language Arts and Math based on the state’s Distance from Standard metric. Black and Latinx students attending charter high schools are more likely to have completed college readiness courses (A-G curriculum) than their peers at district schools.
The flexibility and adaptability of a charter public school provides educators the freedom from bureaucracy to design an education that can help your child succeed in college, career, and life.
Every child deserve access to a great public education, and California’s 1,300 public charter public schools are continually innovating and evolving to provide parents with more options to make that happen. If you’ve not considered all your public school options, a charter school might be a great fit for your child.
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.
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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We’re so excited to chat with husband and wife duo Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis about their love of Los Angeles, blending their music and acting careers with parenting, raising their kids bilingually, and their new picture book. Paletero Man is a vibrant debut picture book celebrating the strength of community and inclusivity (on-sale June 1 from HarperCollins Children’s Books). This bilingual read-aloud book is based on Lucky’s Los Angeles diverse neighborhood and Latinx culture.
The Lucky Band (by Diaz and Gaddis) are among the top artists in family music. For more than a decade, their songs and performances have celebrated diversity and inclusion, blending cultures seamlessly through song. Among their many awards and nominations, they won an Emmy Award for their kids’ variety show, “Lishy Lou and Lucky Too,” and Latin GRAMMYs for two of their family music albums: ¡Fantastico! (2013) and ¡Buenos Diaz! (2019).
Read more about this dynamic duo HERE
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As a parent of a soon-to-be driver, you’re probably worried that even after your teen earns a learner’s permit and passes the driving exam, he or she will not be as concerned about safety as you are. Before you hand over the keys, make sure they follow these sensible rules.
In a traditional classroom driver’s education course, the material is often presented in a way that’s dry and uninteresting. Your teen is probably either trying to stay awake because the class is scheduled before school or anxious to leave the building since it’s scheduled at the end of the school day.
Driver education courses are also available online or on mobile apps, and they allow students to learn at their own pace at a time that’s most convenient for them. If your teen already has a license, it still may be a good idea to download the app. Your teenager can periodically check in to learn about new rules or test current knowledge. The driver’s education course on the Zutobi app is neither dry nor boring. It’s built like a game to keep students challenged and motivated to learn more. In a state like California, where the learner’s manual is dense and hard to get through, Zutobi offers bite-sized lessons and practice tests that make it easier to learn what it actually takes to pass the California permit test.
New drivers often don’t understand how difficult it is to stop suddenly, and that maintaining a proper following distance can give them the space they need to hit the brakes without crashing into the car in front of them.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) echoed the concern about following too closely, stating that teenagers are less likely than adults to leave enough space between their car and the one in front of them. Besides not being able to stop quickly, tailgating (as this behavior is termed) can also:
The safe distance rule-of thumb is to leave two seconds of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
In 75% of severe car crashes where a teenager was driving, the crash occurred because the teen made a critical driving error. In over half of those crashes, the teen was:
Remind teens that their focus must always remain on operating the vehicle, and that they should always be prepared for road conditions that may lead to losing control of the car.
A poll conducted by AAA showed that 94% of teenage drivers understood the dangers of texting and driving. Unfortunately, despite knowing it’s a bad idea, 35% still text and drive. When teens use their phone to either talk or text while driving, they’re four times more likely than adults to cause a fatal crash.
Nearly one-quarter of teen drivers involved in a fatal car crash were distracted by their phones. Most probably think they can easily respond to a text without missing a beat. However, the time it takes to answer a text is equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour!
One of the critical errors mentioned above was driving too fast for road conditions. Some drivers use the number on the speed limit sign to calculate how far above that speed they can drive without getting pulled over. But the speed limit number posted is actually the maximum speed you’re permitted to drive.
In any case, the speed limit doesn’t take into account road conditions which may make it necessary to slow down. Driving isn’t a game where you see how much you can get away with. Lives are at risk, and there will be times when you’ll have to slow down your vehicle for safety reasons.
Some drivers assume it won’t be a problem if they fail to use their turn signals. They figure they can sneak into the next lane before the driver behind has to use the brake. Others believe it’s not a big deal if they don’t indicate when they’re planning to turn. But in each of these circumstances, the driver is making a lot of assumptions about the other drivers on the road.
The Society of Automotive Engineers reports that drivers who don’t signal cause 2 million accidents each year. It doesn’t take much of an effort to use your signal, and it’s a courtesy to all other drivers on the road to warn them of the actions you plan to take.
Your car’s mirrors can tell you so much about what’s going on behind or on either side of your vehicle. If you plan to change lanes, you’ll need that information to gauge when it’s safe to do so. You should check your mirrors every 3-5 seconds before and after you change lanes.
Even from a parked position, you should check your back and side mirrors to know when it’s okay to pull away from the curb. Using your mirrors properly is a skill that must be practiced, as is knowing how to adjust them.
While driving, you should be looking far enough ahead of your vehicle to be prepared for conditions ahead. As stated earlier, you may not have time to react if you’re forced to make a sudden stop. Scanning ahead to notice that cars are at a standstill will give you enough time to slow down and avoid rear-ending the car in front of you.
Aim to scan one-quarter mile ahead of you when driving on the highway and about two blocks ahead when you’re driving in the city or suburbs.
Not mentioned above are some other important rules to remember, such as what you should do if traffic lights are not working or what those flashing traffic lights mean. Eventually, the rules become second nature, but it may take some time to learn all that’s needed to drive with skill.
Remind your teen that driving is a privilege. It offers a great deal of freedom, but demands an equal amount of responsibility. It’s a tradeoff that’s well worth it. Just make sure that your teen is knowledgeable about driving risks and is committed to respecting the rules that make all of us safer on the road.
Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.
What did you feel when you heard your child would finally be able to return to school after months of studying from home?
If you’re like most parents, there’s a good chance you felt relieved to be done with online learning, but if that was followed by anxiety, uncertainty, and even disappointment. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Depending on where you live and what schools are in your area, you may be wondering if returning to school really is the best option.
For many parents, homeschooling during the pandemic brought hidden education challenges into clear view. From falling behind in reading to not being challenged in math to struggling with unchecked issues like bullying, thousands of students are being underserved by school systems that just aren’t set up to meet the needs of every individual.
In some areas, known as “school deserts,” there simply aren’t any schools that you can count on to set students up for success.
If you feel like you’re living in a school desert, or if you don’t have access to the kind of school that you know your child needs to thrive, you don’t have to settle. You don’t have to move to a new district or send your kids off to boarding school either!
Instead, you can bring your dream school to your own neighborhood.
Microschools are home-based schools, typically made up of 6-8 similar-aged students from a small group of families. Unlike a homeschool, students are led by a real, in-person teacher, and lessons take place in a social group setting–much like a traditional classroom but with a much lower teacher-student ratio.
You may have heard of “learning pods” or microschools over the past year, but did you know that this way of learning wasn’t just developed in the face of the pandemic?
Inspired by the concept of the one-room school house, my team has been working to give families everywhere the ability to learn from great teachers, in small classes. Our company, SchoolHouse, matches groups of families with teachers and provides the tools to create a real school, at home.
Parents can work closely with the teacher to customize the curriculum to meet the students’ needs, interests, and values. This means if you always wanted to send your child to a Montessori school, integrate time in nature, or add lessons in religion, arts or advanced sciences, now you can.
The true magic of microschools is in the personalized attention that teachers provide when they don’t have to teach 15-30 students at once.
This should come as no surprise. The power of small class sizes was first popularized by educational researcher Benjamin Bloom who found that reducing class size creates dramatically better learning outcomes. Bloom’s research showed that with one on one attention, an average student could perform above 98% of the control class.
In line with this, SchoolHouse has seen remarkable results in students so far, including those who have learning deficiencies, behavioral issues or are simply bored in traditional school settings and need to be challenged.
Because teachers move at the pace of the students rather than catering to the mandates of the school administration, we’ve found students typically progress through materials 50-100% faster than they would in a regular school. This leaves more time for teachers to work through a challenge one student may be having, or go further in-depth on topics of interest.
Brian Tobal is a former teacher turned educational technologist who is obsessed with ensuring quality and improving learning outcomes for students. He started his career as a science and technology teacher at the Harlem Children’s Zone, then worked as an educational researcher and has spent the last 10 years building a dozen different learning apps and over 50 educational programs for schools, universities and the enterprise. You can follow him at @briantobal on Twitter.
When your child hits a certain age, you might think that they’re ready for summer camp or sleepaway camp. However, being ready for camp isn’t as clear as reaching an age. Many kids start summer camp when they’re 8 to 10 years old. Other kids aren’t ready until they’re 11 or 12. To figure out if your child is ready for summer camp, take a look at their maturity level and personality by asking yourself these questions below.
Independence is a big factor when determining if your child is ready. At summer camp, and especially sleepaway camp, your child must be independent enough to do things like brush their teeth, shower or bathe, dress themselves and navigate most of their daily routine on their own. Camp counselors may remind campers about their personal hygiene, but it’s most important that kids already know how to do this.
Being self-reliant and mature enough to go to camp goes beyond personal hygiene. If an issue comes up, it’s best if your child knows how to ask an adult at camp for help. Has your child had successful sleepovers at friends’ homes? Have they had successful experiences with babysitters? Going to camp does teach kids independence, so if you’re unsure that they’re ready, look at the other signs.
For most children, going to summer camp or sleepaway camp is an opportunity to experience new things. Is your child ready to handle it with confidence?
Your child will likely participate in many activities that they haven’t tried before, from archery and sailing to pottery and ceramics. If your child reacts positively when being introduced to brand new things, they’re likely ready for camp.
Confidence is also necessary for making friends and adapting to new surroundings. Think about your child’s previous experiences with meeting unfamiliar kids, meeting new teachers, or exploring new classrooms. Were they excited, or were they upset and tried to avoid the situation? Going to camp can help nudge your child out of their comfort zone, but it’s best that they welcome new things and activities with open arms, at least for the most part.
Camp life is filled with schedules, planned activities, and rules. Does your child follow instructions well? Do they listen, remember directions and follow through on what they’re told? If your child has a stubborn streak or still has tantrums when they’re told what to do, they may not be ready yet.
While kids are not expected to be perfect at camp, remember that many camp rules are designed for child safety. When they’re not followed, the consequences can be disastrous. Your child should be willing to follow instructions given by adults, whether that’s going to bed at a certain time, moving on to a new activity, or remembering to do something for safety’s sake.
Here’s a sign as clear as day that your child is ready for camp: they’re asking you to go! Maybe they’ve never experienced camp before and they’ve heard about it from their friends at school. Or maybe your child has been to day camps and is ready for a new adventure at an overnight camp. In either case, if they’re asking to go, that’s a very good sign that they’re ready for it.
When you’ve determined that your child is ready, ask yourself what you want them to learn at camp. Many summer camps and sleepaway camps are tailored toward certain activities, educational subjects or adventures.
For example, if you and your child are interested in coding and computers, an academic camp that focuses on that can be really fun for them. If you want your child to spend more time outdoors and moving around, an adventure camp with hiking, canoeing and survival skills is a good option. Is your child a budding creative type? Check out the arts summer camps that focus on theater, dance, art or writing.
If your child isn’t quite ready for overnight camps yet, try sending them to summer camps during the day as a trial run. Summer@Stratford infuses a STEAM curriculum into an enriching, fun summer camp experience. Summer@Stratford has designed subject-based, engaging camp experiences for preschoolers and kindergarteners, elementary-age kids, and middle schoolers. Learn more about Stratford summer camp programs by visiting www.stratfordschools.com/summer.
Little Kitchen Academy, the first-of-its-kind, Montessori-inspired cooking academy for kids ages 3 through teen, will open its inaugural U.S. location at Westfield Century City this summer.
Little Kitchen Academy is the realization of a long-held dream of Montessori-trained culinary expert and visionary, Felicity Curin who co-founded the organization with her husband, global brand and franchise expert and entrepreneur Brian Curin (Cold Stone Creamery, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Flip Flop Shops), and social impact investor and entrepreneur Praveen Varshney. Founded to provide a safe, inspiring and empowering space for students to develop and refine their senses and acquire both important practical life skills and confidence, the L.A. location will serve as the flagship training facility for the brand which will be expanding globally.
“We are delighted to bring this “from scratch” concept to the United States and to the Los Angeles community,” said Brian Curin, CEO and Co-Founder of Little Kitchen Academy. “Our Montessori-inspired approach empowers students to learn the practical life skills needed to succeed not just in the kitchen, but in school, and in life.”
Adds Felicity Curin, President, COO and Co-Founder of Little Kitchen Academy, “It has been remarkably gratifying to help foster and witness the growth and self-confidence of our students at every age level, and we are excited to share this transformational journey to independence and discovery with families in Los Angeles and beyond.”
Due to open its doors on the two-year anniversary of the launch of the first Little Kitchen Academy in Vancouver, BC, the 1,505-square-foot Westfield Century City location will feature the same modern, innovative, signature LKA design, complete with a hand washing center, 10 individual cooking stations (a.k.a. Little Kitchens) that are physically distanced appropriately. Each Little Kitchen will be equipped with its own oven, induction cooktop, sink, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, prep table, mixer and all the equipment and utensils needed to make the “from scratch” creations including vegetable peelers, rolling pins, measuring spoons, and colanders, which are meticulously kept, cleaned, and commercially sanitized between each class.
Learning begins as soon as students enter the “for student chefs only” environment, where they are acquainted with and practice proper hand washing. Each instructor and student dons an LKA chef coat by ChefWorks and a fitted pair of BIRKENSTOCK chef shoes (two of several global brand partners) to begin their personalized cooking journey.
The new location will feature items from each of the Little Kitchen Academy strategic partnerships, ensuring the ability to offer an authentic, sustainable experience. These include the ChopValue community table composed of 33,000+ recycled chopsticks where students will enjoy their creations at the close of every lesson once current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted (until that time, students will dine safely at their individual workstations), Emeco chairs made of recycled plastic bottles, and an eye-catching living food wall powered by AeroGarden, for students to grow and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs for use in their creations. Additional global brand partners include Welcome Industries, which provides educational cooking tools, including measuring cups shaped like fractions to make cooking and learning math engaging and fun, and Brand Ambassador Iron Chef Cat Cora, a world-renowned chef, best-selling author, restaurateur, philanthropist and mother of six.
“As a Los Angeles native, chef and mother, I’m thrilled to welcome Little Kitchen Academy to Southern California where local families and children can experience joy, love, and learning in the kitchen,” says Iron Chef Cat Cora, Advisory Board Member, Honorary Head of Recipe Development, and Brand Ambassador of Little Kitchen Academy. “I believe passionately in Little Kitchen Academy’s mission and have had the rewarding experience of witnessing first-hand the growth of children as they harness their natural sense of wonder and curiosity on the road to self-reliance.”
LKA’s Montessori-inspired environment is organized to support the growth and development of each child. Instructors show the students how to safely use tools, but step back to closely observe the independent work, only stepping in when safety is a concern. This approach enables students to learn at their own pace while they acquire practical life skills that foster independence, confidence, and socialization. LKA further empowers students to make better food choices, to apply age-appropriate math and science skills in real-world settings, and embrace practices such as recycling, composting, and the concept of philanthropy in order to make positive, socially conscious contributions to the world through its recently announced global philanthropic initiative “How Can I Help,” which empowers students to learn about giving back and making a difference by putting the choice in their hands to support one of four notable causes.
Sessions of three-hour classes run year-round, are organized by age group for up to 10 students per session (ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and 13+ years old) and are overseen by three instructors per class. The curriculum focuses on seasonal, locally grown and organic produce and ingredients, and students enjoy the fruits of their labor for a “scratch to consumption” experience.
In May 2020, Little Kitchen Academy announced its plans to open more than 400 global locations by 2025 and is currently seeking like-minded multi-unit franchisees and development partners based exclusively in AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MS, NC, OR, TX, WA, WI. Internationally, LKA is focused on expanding further into Canada, as well as Australia, India, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, MENA region, Singapore, Spain, and the U.K.
L.A. — we have missed you and are thrilled to see you come back. As more of our favorite spots begin to reopen, we will bring you the latest on reservations, safety measures, new features and exhibits and everything you need to know before you begin rediscovering our L.A. all over again.
As L.A County progressively opens, The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories at Santa Monica Place is excited to open up its kitchens for in-person private party cooking and baking classes beginning May 1. Food fanatics are invited to uncover their culinary skills and prepare scrumptious dishes led by a renowned Gourmandise chef in a safe limited capacity environment.
The state-of-the art commercial style kitchens are diligently sanitized and offer a well-ventilated space for guests to enjoy a hands-on cooking experience at a safe distance. Up to 12 friends or family members (half kitchen capacity) are welcome to take part in a private class and choose a three-course meal or decadent dessert from the School’s specialty menu. Reservations for each 1 1/2 – 2 1/2-hour class are available now and can be booked online at www.thegourmandiseschool.com/private-events on the date of your choice.
By Elena Epstein
There is something so restorative about spring. Every new flower bud, every new bloom sparks a deep sense of renewal and hope within us. Nature is where I find peace, where I go to pause, to breath, to reflect, to just be.
Last spring, the pandemic shut down all of our spectacular gardens. But this year we can once again experience some of L.A.’s most spectacular must-see blooms on display now.
Per COVID-19 guidelines, masks and physical distancing are currently required, and tickets must be reserved in advance. Check individual websites for the most up-to-date information.
Show-stoppers: The “Pink Cloud” cherry trees are planted in the Japanese Garden, near the entrance to the Zen Courtyard. Early March is the best time to take a walk along the path under the delicate pink blossoms. And later in the month, don’t miss the wisteria, popping with purple blossoms in several locations, including the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden. You’ll find the most dramatic display is a massive vine of Wisteria floribunda (“Macrobotrys”) covering a long faux bois trellis overlooking the historic Japanese Garden.
Tickets and info: huntington.org
Show-stoppers: More than 30,000 tulip bulbs that are planted each year in the Promenade area will produce a breathtaking assortment of tulips in different colors and varieties. The theme for March will is “Birds & Nests.” Art displays throughout the gardens and in the Center Circle will celebrate both. And the popular “Tomatomania!” will be back this year from March 26-28 with a COVID-19 safe format, but still full of tomato and pepper seedlings.
Tickets and info: descansogardens.org.
Show-stoppers: Trumpet trees producing brilliant hot-pink blooms provide a spectacular canopy display. As you stroll these grounds, you’ll most likely also see the added flare of color from the resident peacocks. During your visit, don’t miss the orange poppies in the Crescent Farm, where a variety of drought tolerant plants, shrubs and orchard trees are planted.
Tickets and info: arboretum.org
We love showcasing local kids doing good in the community. Meet Variety Kids4Kids, a branch of Variety the Children’s Charity of Southern California. Variety Kids4Kids is a newly organized non-profit made up of 6 kids ranging in age from 11-16. Its mission is simple — help small organizations in a big way and help other kids in the community.
The first fundraiser began this month and ends in May. The goal is to raise money to purchase needed supplies for a designated LAUSD school in South Los Angeles. Variety Kids4Kids held its first event this month as well. Keeping to a safe protocol, members of Variety Kids4Kids, Young Variety of SoCal and members of Variety SoCal sorted new clothes that were donated from various companies. The clothes were matched into outfits, labeled and bagged for individual children ages ranging from 0-16. The clothes will be delivered to various organizations supporting the needs of low income families in Los Angeles.
La Jolla’s Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is now welcoming guests back into the Hall of Fishes, as well as the museum side of the aquarium.
Several of the experiences that were added to the aquarium when it was operating outdoors-only will remain to encourage social distancing and give guests more to explore. These include the new tropical touch experience, the Growing Up Seahorse activity, and the small animal nursery, all on Smargon Court near Shark Shores.
Their newest exhibit, the Marine Protected Area Touch Experience, where guests can get hands-on with juvenile sharks and rays, as well as other local species, also remains open on Preuss Tide Pool Plaza.
For more information on what you need to know before you visit, check out the aquarium’s Know Before You Visit Page. The most important detail to note is that advanced reservations for a specific date and time are now required for all guests, even members.
By Elena Epstein
Prep Time: 2 mins Cook Time: 2 mins
1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.
The Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard Program will resume this summer with COVID-19 safety protocols. Registration for new applicants will begin April 1.
The program, offered through the Los County Fire Department, is designed for children ages 9 through 17 in Los Angeles County with a focus to teaching water safety, swimming, body surfing, surfing, physical conditioning, competition skills, first aid, lifesaving rescue techniques, CPR, and use of professional lifesaving equipment.
Safety precautions include:
Returning participants can expect to receive an e-mail from the Junior Lifeguard Program to begin registration starting today. New applications will be available through the LA County Fire Department website starting Thursday, April 1, 2021.
For more information visit fire.lacounty.gov
By Elena Epstein
We have definitely missed this wonderful gem in our city and are so excited to tell you the Natural History Museum’s outdoor Butterfly Pavilion is opening once again.
General public tickets go on sale on March 18. A limited number of guests will be allowed inside the Pavilion during each reservation time slot to allow for physical distancing and ensure a safe environment. Members and other guests are required to reserve all tickets in advance for the Butterfly Pavilion, as well as parking in the NHM Car Park.
Once there, enter through the North Entrance and enjoy a stroll through the Nature Gardens on the way to the Butterfly Pavilion. This springtime exhibition features hundreds of butterflies and colorful native plants.
For more information and tickets visit nhmlac.org
“Where were you this time last year?” I’ve been hearing that question a lot. As the world reflects on the one-year mark since a global pandemic was declared, we can’t help but look back at the last 12 months. Even so, the “where-were-you” question is hard to answer because the anxiety and the uncertainty didn’t just happen in one instant. It was many moments building on each other and then a sudden halt.
In late February last year I was in New York, attending the International Toy Fair at the Javits Convention Center, what would become the last large convention held in 2020. Hundreds of people from around the world gathered in one spot. We joked about not shaking hands, but we did anyway. I carried an extra bottle of hand sanitizer, but everything else was pretty normal — three days of going from booth to booth to see the latest toys and games by day and eating at bustling Manhattan restaurants by night. My husband and I went to see “The Tina Turner Musical” on Broadway one evening and visited cousins in New Jersey. We then hopped on a plane to Tampa for the annual Parenting Media Association’s Conference and Awards Banquet. We sat in group seminars, went out to dinner together and hugged everyone goodbye. On the plane ride back to L.A., the passenger in front of me had a deep-chested cough throughout the flight. I assumed she was getting over a bad cold.
The coronavirus was in the news, but it felt removed from us and our daily lives. The shift came quickly after. Back in our L.A. Parent offices, we started getting press alerts on large events being canceled. Our office talk became focused on the empty shelves at Target, Trader Joe’s and Ralphs.
Our editor was the first to get the press alert about Disneyland and California Adventure closing. She read it out loud as we gathered in the hallway in disbelief.
Within days, L.A. and the rest of the world would come to a screeching halt. Our L.A. Parent team quickly turned their living rooms, kitchens and garages into offices. I didn’t realize just how suddenly we had left our offices until I returned months later to see all the calendars frozen in time: March 2020. Our editor’s soft golden shawl was still draped on the back of her chair, empty coffee mugs waited on the counter in the break room. Files and books sat on desks. Our editorial notes on summer camp stories were scribbled on the idea wall. With my phone, I took some videos and photos of our office on that first visit back. Watch this short video and you’ll see our empty, quiet offices suspended in time.
While we tried to figure out our own personal challenges of taking care of elderly parents, spouses’ job losses, kids falling behind on school work, we also dove into what we do best – bringing the stories of our community to life. Parents were struggling with anxiety, job insecurities, loss of loved ones, co-parenting in a pandemic, managing disabilities and learning differences during distance learning. Our focus became very clear: stand in community with the families of L.A.
Here’s what we learned in the process. What unites us is so much stronger than what divides us. With every article on local volunteers and change makers like Rob Evans who is leading the charge towards diversity and inclusion in L.A.’s independent schools, we were reminded of the strength of our community. Our cover story with Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts inspired us to look at “disappointment as an opportunity…how can I learn from this or how can I help others.”
We turned to the experts and asked “are the kids OK?” We talked about mental health, dealing with uncertainty, accessing support groups, helping our kids retain their social skills, creating a feel-good schedule, and the best ways to stay optimistic and look for the silver linings.
Distance learning was a challenge for all families. Our education coverage focused on resources on how parents can help with the COVID Slide, virtual kids programming at local museums, and L.A. public libraries offering personalized online support for students. We wrote about local teens using quarantine to teach others, enrichment programs gone virtual, how to keep young athletes in shape from home and the heartbreak and hope of the Class of 2020.
In the past year, our community experts and the diverse voices of families, writers, artists and advocates helped us to begin the conversations with our kids about race. We will continue to showcase these stories throughout this year and beyond. These stories are our L.A. stories.
Throughout this year, we encouraged our readers to not cancel joy and to continue to have fun with their kids with game nights, bike rides, hikes, new puppies, home cooking, gardening and perhaps taking a socially-distance road trip in an RV, like our editor did for the first time. A year in, I know I speak for all of us at L.A. Parent when I say: L.A. – we’re in awe of your strength and resilience. Despite all the losses and uncertainties, we continue to carry on with hope.
It’s all about mystical creatures of the sea as Ventura Harbor Village celebrates its annual March Mermaid Month.
From dawn to dusk, visitors can dive in and experience a special art installed mermaid photo booth, a MUST SEA mermaid moment that comes to life with a seashell art with colorful seashells on Ventura Harbor Village’s Promenade where visitors can take sparkly photos and also chalk artists, a mermaid wave, bubbles, and more!
Other special seaside offerings including themed mermaid/man merchandise, original artwork, eats and treats, fresh seafood and savory fish offerings from Ventura Harbor Villages restaurants, and a host of month-long specials from locally owned retailers and attractions.
Ventura Harbor offers tons of waterfront patio dining options and outdoor walking paths. You can also take a Whale Watching excursion or rent a Swan Peddle Boat.
Ventura Harbor Village is located at 1583 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura. For more information, visit VenturaHarborVillage.com
A little physical activity goes a long way. It’s no secret your children will sleep better after jumping on a trampoline or taking time out to dance. It’s also no secret how much fun they’ll have while doing it. Making time for movement is important for a child’s overall health and sense of well-being. That’s why there are programs out there devoted to helping each and every child, despite their level of ability, stay active in fun and fantastic ways.
We sought out tips from a few local fitness programs to help you keep your children moving. Each facility has COVID restrictions in place, and those vary from virtual sessions to one-on-one sessions (with face coverings) and outdoor activities.
Embracing the full spectrum
Helping children with learning and physical differences to experience the benefits fitness offers is what drove Dina Kimmel to found We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym For All Kids. As the mother of an autistic son, Kimmel saw the immense benefits that consistent movement afforded her child. She witnessed her son, after six months of regular activity, sleeping and eating better than he had previously. “We need to make sure our kids get movement not only for their physical health but for their mental health,” she says.
We Rock The Spectrum uses many different techniques to get your child’s body moving. “We assess each kiddo, so no two kids in any of our facilities have the same fitness plans,” Kimmel says. Their specialized equipment includes trampolines, various swings and even a zip line.
Kimmel says for those children who thrive with less instruction and more movement, it’s all about the dancing. “It’s really fun. We call it ‘fun fitness!’” she says.
We Rock the Spectrum has been open 10 years and has locations throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
Regarding health precautions, Kimmel says the staff is diligent about face masks, face shields and gloves, and inform clients of their sanitizing processes and temperature taking. “We’ve been doing classes online,” she says. “We’re open one family at a time and now we’re open for private facility rentals. And we’ve also been able to be open for the special needs community and doing low-capacity open play.”
Making enjoyment abound at Leaps-n-Boundz in Los Angeles is one way co-owner Eric Amundson is keeping “fitness fun and motivating.” Amundson says he and his business partner started hosting workout sessions at a park in 2007, “and the business grew from there.”
The programs at Leaps-n-Boundz are sensory-based, which means that all of their curricula contain a movement component. Amundson says this is important for many of his clients who need daily sensory input to help them with regulation.
All of the participants have different sensory needs and different movement goals. To meet these needs, Leaps-n-Boundz offers many methods of movement, some of which include gymnastics, sports and aquatic activities. “When you don’t move your body, it’s harder to stay alert and focused,” Amundson says.
“Right now, we do one-on-one sessions outdoors in the yard or in the park where we’re able to maintain social distance,” Amundson says of the gym’s safety measures. “We’re masked and we also offer a Zoom option.” The pool is now open to limited capacity.
The body loves to move
While exercise is something many people bemoan, our bodies actually love it, says Dr. Teri Todd, Ph.D., associate professor and director of clinical operations for the Center of Achievement at California State University, Northridge. “The physiology of the body loves to be active. Then, we have the mental and physical health benefits coming from that.”
The Center of Achievement through Adapted Physical Activity at California State University Northridge has been providing internationally recognized adapted fitness programs for people with disabilities since 1971. The Center serves special needs children as young as age three and creates a positive environment for the entire family. “One of the rewarding aspects is seeing the parents supporting each other. That’s another component of the program,” says Tanya Bennett-Payne, clinic manager of operations.
The center offers three different programs within its children’s adapted fitness program and the first is therapeutic exercise. This employs techniques such as stretching and, if appropriate, using one of the facility’s warm water treatment pools as a therapeutic modality. The next is a focus on fundamental motor skills, including running, jumping and catching. The third takes those motor skills and puts them into game play. “What we try to do is to teach those basic skills so children feel competent,” Todd says. “Giving children that basic skill goes a long way to them enjoying being active.”
As of late February, the center was only offering video conferencing.
New meaning to horse play
For kids who enjoy being active outside and find spending time with animals helpful, Let’s Ride Therapy in Tujunga incorporates both. “When they go into that natural arena and meet and greet the horses, they come out completely different,” founder Ann Marriner says of the special needs children who are her clients. “They want to ride. They want to do everything.”
Let’s Ride is one of many equine therapy programs in our city. Others include Dream Catcher of Los Angeles Therapeutic Riding Centers in Long Beach, Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship in Chatsworth, Shadow Hills Riding Club, Ahead With Horses in Shadow Hills, Special Equestrian Riding in Chatsworth, and Special Spirit Inc. in Sunland-Tujunga.
According to The Centers For Disease Control, riding and working around horses have been shown to increase balance, self-confidence and self-esteem.” Marriner says learning to ride and spending time with horses teaches children “responsibility, teamwork and how to work with animals and people.”
Sessions take place outside and masks must be worn, are not required while riding. Groups are limited to 3 riders and must stay six feet apart.
Building confidence, basking in smiles
Learning to work with your own body is another way to feel empowered. This is why ZOOZ Fitness, started in 2015 in Encino, removes any and all barriers to your child’s workout needs.
With an easily accessible space and individualized workout plans. “We want to focus on the skills that are going to help in life,” says Jake Weiner, founder and CEO of ZOOZ Fitness. These include pushing, pulling, balance work and single-sided movements.
The culture at ZOOZ centers on team effort, and Weiner says this approach creates a noticeable confidence in his athletes, “Week to week, we see them open up a little more. There are bright smiles and laughter,” he says.
And this confidence often folds into other areas such as relationships and school work. “When you learn how to channel your body physically, you’re that much better prepared to handle everything else,” Weiner says.
To keep exercisers safe, the indoor gym is still closed. “We do outdoor and in-person with masks and social distancing,” Weiner says. Zoom or any video platform is available for private and small-group options.
The benefits that physical movement offers need not be underestimated. “It not only stimulates your brain, but it also releases endorphins that can increase your mood,” says Amundson. This belief in the positive benefits that fitness offers is what drives the owners, instructors and administrators of these facilities to educate and support families with kids of all abilities.
Tonilyn Hornung is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, son, many furry friends, and never enough closet space.
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy immune system is to focus on eating foods packed with the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
“There is no magic immune-boosting pill or food, but a well-balanced eating plan that includes a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups will help give your body the nutrients it needs to support your immune system,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Wesley McWhorter, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to embrace their individuality and add a healthy twist to foods you already love.
March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to put a a healthy spin on our daily eating habits.
“We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes, so it only makes sense that our food choices will reflect that individuality,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Roxana Ehsani, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Las Vegas, Nev. “It’s possible for anyone to incorporate the foods you love into a healthy lifestyle.”
“Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the remaining quarters of your plate with whole grains and protein foods, such as lean meat, skinless poultry, seafood or beans,” Ehsani says. “With each meal, eat calcium-rich foods and drinks such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.”
As of March 1, visitors can pick up an entry pass at the park gate or use an Annual Pass.
Note – some restrictions are still in place and some services are not available. Please also see the FAQ page for more information about visiting the park HERE
The Fresno Yosemite International Airport also annouced that beginning April 25, Southwest Airlines will offer daily, non-stop flights from Las Vegas and Denver. The improved access to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks is welcome news for fans of the region.
Upcoming events include the Yosemite Renaissance, which was founded 36 years ago to “motivate artists to develop diverse interpretations of Yosemite and its varied landscapes.” This annual art exhibition will open at the Yosemite Gateway Art Center in Oakhurst and run from March 19 through May 30, 2021. These powerful works will travel to Kings Art Center, Carnegie Arts Center, and onward to the Yosemite Museum in October. For more information on Yosemite Renaissance click HERE.
For more information on Yosemite and Madera County, click HERE.
Catherine McCord, co-founder of One Potato and the founder of the popular Weelicious brand and mom of three has made it her mission to create easy yet tasty meal options for families. Author of three cookbooks, including “Smoothie Project,” she says she likes crafting Mexican-inspired recipes because many of them are vegetarian (or easily can be adapted to be vegetarian) and are always packed with flavor.
With this recipe, families can feel good about eating the whole pan, she says, since it’s packed with veggies!
Vegetarian Sheet Pan Nachos
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2½ cups milk
2 cups Mexican cheese or a mix of Monterrey jack, mozzarella and cheddar
1 teaspoon nacho, taco or fajita seasoning
1 16-ounce bag tortilla chips
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 tomato, seeded and diced
½ cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole, or 1 ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 lime, cut into wedges
Pickled onions (recipe below)
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan on low to medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until it thickens, creating a roux, about 1-2 minutes. Add about ½-cup milk, whisking continuously until milk is absorbed, and then add remaining milk. Continue cooking and stirring until bubbles start to appear.
Add cheese and taco seasoning to the roux and stir until mixture is melted and combined. Place the chips on a ½-sheet pan. Top chips with the nacho cheese mixture followed by beans, bell pepper, corn, tomatoes and guacamole, pickled onions and lime. You can also top with optional ingredients.
For a taste of Japan, we visit Little Tokyo’s Azay for a recipe for futomaki, a type of maki sushi (thick-roll sushi) that is the most classic sushi roll in Japan. Chef Akira Hirose loves it because it is delicious, can travel well, is a great way to use vegetables and is very flexible in terms of what you can put inside. It’s also very filling.
The endless combination of ingredients make it versatile and very presentable once cut and plated. Traditional makes recommend seven fillings because it is believed to be derived from the Seven Deities of Good Fortune.
Japanese people enjoy eating a Futomaki whole on the day before the first day of spring (also known as Setsubun). A person will eat a whole roll in silence while facing a special direction for the most luck.
Tip: Similar to a burrito, there will be a limit to how much/many ingredients you can put inside the roll until it starts to break and lose shape. Adjust accordingly and have fun!
1 piece Nori seaweed (4- by 8-inch triangles)
1 cup short grain rice, cooked
¼ cup sushi rice vinegar
1 egg (cook with ½ tsp sugar and cut)
5 pieces shitake mushroom (simmer and cut)
3 cucumber slices (1/3-inch slices)
0.25 package of Kanpyo gourd strips
2 tbsp Sakura Denbu Seasoned Codfish Flakes
2 pieces Unagi Eel (cooked and sliced) (optional)
5 stems Mitsuba Japanese Parsley (option)
These are typically the ingredients used for futomaki in Japan. If you do not have access to some of ingredients, that is fine. There are many variations of futomaki, and improvising to what meets your palate is encouraged. Make sure all ingredients going inside the roll are long and narrow and can align with the roll.
Preparing the ingredients going inside the roll will take the bulk of the time. There will be instances that you may purchase in which these items are already prepared and will just need to be sliced into 1/3inch strips.
Cook short grain rice. While the rice is still hot, sprinkle the sushi rice vinegar while lightly mixing the rice with a rice paddle and cooling it with a fan.
Beat the eggs and add ½-tsp of sugar. Cook flat like a thin pancake and slice into 1/3-inch strips.
Shitake Mushroom and Kanpyo
Simmer shiitake mushroom and kanpyo in a saucepan with 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp mirin rice wine and 1 tbsp soy sauce for 20-30 minutes. Drain and slice into 1/3-inch strips shiitake. Drain kanpyo. Cool.
Slice into 1/3-inch strips.
This one is ready made in the package.
Making the Roll
Gather all ingredients. Place a bamboo sushi mat on a working surface and lightly and evenly spread the sushi rice on the nori seaweed. Leave a ½-inch of seaweed uncovered. This should be on the side furthest from where you are starting to roll the futomaki.
Line up ingredients closely and horizontally across the rice and closest to you. Do not go past half way to the other side. Carefully roll the sushi mat while keeping the ingredients inside when you roll. Make sure it is roll tightly so that it stays together.
Once rolled, feel free to cut and enjoy!
The kitchen of my childhood was filled with fragrances of dill, mint, fenugreek and tarragon. Long after immigrating from Iran to L.A., my mom, aunts and cousins continued to scour the Persian market and the farmer’s market for the freshest herbs, gathering bunches in the kitchen to wash, chop and have ready for our favorite stews, rice dishes or to simply enjoy alongside feta cheese and walnuts for a quick snack or appetizer.
The essence of Persian cooking is in many ways the delicate combination of just the right herbs. These handful of herbs (sabzi) make up the staple of Persian cooking: dill, mint, Italian parsley, cilantro, chives, tarragon and fenugreek. The taste and indelible aroma of these herbs is a celebration of nature – harmony and renewal woven together – which is why Nowruz, a two-week celebration of Persian New Year, always begins on the first day of spring— a season of new beginnings.
One of my favorite herb-filled dishes is Kookoo Sabzi, and I turned to one of my favorite cookbook authors and L.A. moms, Naz Deravian, who shared this wonderful recipe from her book “Bottom of the Pot” (Flatiron Books).
The bunches upon bunches of green herbs that take over our kitchen table on a regular basis are mixed here with a few eggs and spices for a fragrant, fresh and vibrant Kookoo Sabzi. Use this recipe as a guide for all the greens and spices that can be thrown in.
This kookoo is prepared traditionally on the stovetop, which is the best way to brown the outside, but you can also place the pan or an oven-safe dish in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes until set and broil for a couple of minutes to brown the top. If you prep the greens ahead of time, like the night before, then you can whip up a batch quickly and without much fuss.
You can serve Kookoo Sabzi any which way you like. Serve warm or at room temperature for a light lunch or dinner alongside some plain rice and yogurt, wrap in a piece of lavash or sangak bread with some sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and a few nuts, cut in smaller bite-size pieces for an appetizer spread, or serve with all the sides for brunch.
Kookoo Sabzi – Persian Fresh Herb Frittata
Serves 6 to 8
1 bunch parsley, tough stems trimmed
1 bunch cilantro, tough stems trimmed
1 large bunch dill, tough stems trimmed
1 bunch swiss chard or 1 bunch spinach, stems removed
1 bunch green onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
1/3 cup barberries, picked through, soaked for 10 minutes and drained, or 1/3 cup dried cranberries, or a combination thereof
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek, or a few fresh leaves, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, or 1 sprig fresh tarragon, leaves chopped (optional)
1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground Damask rose petals
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
6 to 8 large eggs, as needed
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
Working in batches, finely pulse the greens in a food processor until finely chopped but not mushy. Alternately, use a sharp knife and large cutting board. Set the greens in a large bowl. Finely chop the green onion. You can do this in the food processor but take care: green onion quickly turns mushy. Add the green onion and the rest of the ingredients except for the eggs and the oil to the green herbs and give a stir to combine. Add 6 eggs and mix well to combine. The batter should have the consistency of thick yogurt or soft-serve ice cream. If it doesn’t, add more eggs one at a time and combine.
In a large (10-inch or 12-inch) nonstick frying pan with a lid, heat 1/3 cup olive oil over medium heat, add the batter and spread evenly. Cook the kookoo until the oil starts to bubble along the sides, about 3 minutes. Cover and cook until the kookoo starts to set, and the bottom is browned, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cut the kookoo evenly into 4 large pieces. Using a wide spatula, flip each piece over one at a time. You can also set a dish beside you, take one piece of kookoo out to make room, flip the other pieces and place the other piece back in. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil in between all the cuts, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Cut the kookoo into desired pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.
To bake the kookoo in the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350. Place oven rack in the center. Pour 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a 9×13-inch oven safe dish. Swirl the oil around to cover and up the sides. Heat the oil in the oven for 1 minute. Pour the batter in and spread evenly. Bake until just set, about 30 minutes. Cut into thirds and drizzle the remaining oil in between the cuts. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
As spring sprinkles our imaginations with hopes for a healthier world – one in which we can gather together again – we turn to one of our favorite things: food. Our restaurants, cafes, food trucks and even our own kitchens are the arteries that have kept us connected to each other in L.A. – and around the world.
In this column, we share three recipes that represent just a smidgen of the diverse cultures that make L.A. pop with flavor and love, ingenuity and excitement.
When we become parents, getting used to a healthy dose of uncertainty and adventure is part of the game. And the YouTube show The King of Random encourages families to intentionally let “random” happen to enhance your sense of wonder with everyday items such as hairspray, Legos and even candy.
The King of Random (aka TKOR) describes itself as a place where curiosity, creativity and experimentation meet. “We’re all about learning how things work, doing cool projects and sharing our discoveries with you,” says co-founder Janae Thomas. “We’ll blow things up, get our hands dirty, and all learn something new every day.”
After watching a few of TKOR’s videos — “Which Hairspray Makes the Best Flamethrower?,” “Making Hamburger-Sized Skittles” — we sat down over Zoom to speak with Thompson (mom to four curious boys) and co-host Grace Dirig to get an inside look at the origins of the show and how parents of kids of different ages can use these TKOR videos to keep things exciting at home.
Dirig says the show is a mix of hosts, scientists and artists coming together to form a “big brain” to explore why and how things work. TKOR was the brainchild of Thompson’s late husband Grant Thompson, who started doing experiments in the couple’s garage around 2008 and filming trials from start to finish.
Check out our Zoom chat with Janae Thompson and Dirig here.
Jamie Price and Julie Campistrom have created an app to bring us stressed-out parents some relief. These Santa Monica moms co-founded MyLife meditation app to offer simple tips for mindful parenting, as well as programs for the whole family and even educators.
In the app’s “Mindful Parent/Mindful Child” program, users participate in activities that guide them through a variety of exercises to remain present and grounded, including purposeful breathwork and tips to navigate power struggles within your family.
Price, mom to a toddler girl, first started MyLife to create more mindfulness curriculum for inner-city teens, and the app still offers an exclusive program for schools. Campistrom, who has a 10-year-old son, balances remote school, running the company and is a big believer in squeezing in tiny bits of mindfulness into her family’s day.
Here, they share a few reasons why starting a family mindfulness practice is essential.
Campistrom: I wish parents knew that taking just a few minutes a day for yourself to practice mindfulness (self-care is something parents always put last on the list of to-dos) can really have a transformative effect on your perspective and your ability to be a more patient/present parent. Sometimes we become fatalistic and think change is out of reach, but it’s incredible what 10 to 15 minutes for yourself — to give your mind a break —can do.
Price: I totally agree with Julie on this one. With just a few minutes a day of checking in, I am in a much better position to truly connect with my child. I become aware of what I am bringing, mentally and emotionally, to our interaction, and more easily recognize when I need to take a second to calm or ground myself. Then I can be more intentional about how I relate to my child. There is a closeness and trust that comes from spending time and giving my daughter my full focus.
Campistrom: I try to do it every morning for 10 to 15 minutes. I will either do a check in with the MyLife app and select one of the recommended tracks, or pick some of my favorite activities like “Relax, Ground & Clear” or “Counting Breaths.” But right now, I’m using our Mindful Parent/Mindful Child journey and loving it. My two favorite activities from it so far are “Feeling like a Super Hero” and “Letting Go without Giving Up.”
Price: I used to have time for a formal meditation practice every morning. But that went out the window with the birth of my daughter. She is much younger than Julie’s son and far less independent. At this point, my personal practice is more relaxed. I will grab 5 – 10 minutes whenever I can throughout the day. My favorite thing to do is to step outside and breathe deeply, taking in the natural world through all of my senses. Stopping to get quiet and just listen to the sounds around me is also really helpful.
Price: How vulnerable it makes you. How any hurt your child feels translates immediately to your own hurt, and how you have to fight the urge to make everything OK for them, because ultimately you’re there to help them figure it out, rather than figuring it out for them.
Campistrom: Ditto! And not just when they are hurt. I have to resist the urge to jump in for her all the time, as opposed to allowing her the time and space to explore and problem solve for herself.
Price: Seriously, the snuggles. That’s the best. And the unabashed joy. She reminds me to feel delight and appreciation for the simplest things all the time.
Campistrom: The wonders and surprises of how your child evolves, how their personality affirms itself. I am always amazed at how my son’s evolution is always a few steps ahead of where I think it is. And the unconditional love your child brings out in you as a parent.
Price: “Love no matter what.” No matter what is happening, if she is acting out or having a meltdown, I try to be loving vs. reactive. I can be loving and firm at the same time. I have to work on this all the time!
Campistrom: “What’s the worst that can happen?” It has helped me take risks and embrace change. Visualizing the failure is a way to put specifics against the fear you have of it.
Campistrom: We are fortunate in L.A. to live in a city full of nature, yet I feel we still sometimes lose sight of that nature, because of the “big city” effect. Staying present, connected with nature, and being able to step away from the hustle and bustle through those mindful moments is really important.
Price: I think Julie is pointing to a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the good things we have available to us, whatever they may be. It’s easy to take things for granted. I know I am much happier, and a much better example for my child, when I slow down and take in the good things with appreciation.
Campistrom: Climbing in Joshua Tree or at the beach.
Price: At the beach, for sure.
For more on MyLife meditation app, visit my.life.
By Elena Epstein
Our favorite comfort food turned green for St. Patrick’s Day — with no dye! Recipe from wellness entrepreneur and cookbook author Catherine McCord, co-founder of meal delivery service One Potato and the founder of the popular Weelicious brand.
Prep Time: 10 mins Cook Time: 30 mins
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Cook pasta in salted water for about 3 minutes less than package directions call for, until al dente. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water and strain.
3. While the pasta is cooking. Place the milk and spinach in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
4. In a large pot melt the butter and then add the flour, whisking continuously over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes to make a roux. Slowly whisk in the milk mixture and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce is gently bubbling and starting to thicken.
6. Add reserved pasta water and cheese and whisk until melted. Stir in the pasta, salt, broccoli and peas.
7. Transfer to a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and the pasta is set.
How about a bright green smoothie not just St. Patrick’s Day? Check out the recipe HERE!
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.” – Andres Tapic
We live in an increasingly diverse world where our children encounter people of varying races, cultures and abilities. As parents, teaching our children about diversity and inclusion is paramount as we focus on raising tolerant, accepting, and empathetic children.
How do you guide your child to grow to be a diverse, inclusive, and compassionate individual? Here are three ways where you, as a parent, can teach your child to have a positive attitude and approach.
1. Be a Role Model. Parents have so much influence on their children’s view of the world and ways of thinking, especially in matters related to how they treat other people and how they make decisions. Parents should message to children at an early age that diversity is not just a nice-to-have, feel-good goal but is a smart goal. Multiple studies of group dynamics in schools and in business have demonstrated the business value of assembling teams composed of people who have different perspectives, different ways of looking at problems and different life experiences to contribute to the collective intelligence of the group. Groups that are more diverse make smarter decisions than homogenous groups. There are deep and long-lasting benefits that inclusion policies and practices can bring to team dynamics, to organizations and to interactions among children in the classroom and on the playground.
2. Explain Differences, Don’t Ignore Them. When developing curriculum and programming related to diversity and inclusion, my three go-to resources are Facing History and Ourselves, the Teaching Tolerance organization, and Common Sense Media. Facing History uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate, and they do this by creating rich and rigorous histories of past injustices, of discrimination based on sex, religion, national origin and race – injustices fueled by unaddressed nationalism, racism and prejudice. Included in every lesson package are prompts and exercises that lead to reflection on the sustained damage produced by the injustices. Facing History has many resources for parents seeking to reinforce the values of acceptance and inclusion within diverse communities – the value of getting to know people different from ourselves.
Along these lines, my favorite resource for parents (and teachers) is Beyond the Golden Rule, published by Teaching Tolerance. The 50-page book is free and downloadable. It features advice and resources for parents of toddlers, teenagers and all ages in between. From the Teaching Tolerance website: “Whether you are the parent of a 3-year-old who is curious about why a friend’s skin is brown, the parent of a 9-year-old who has been called a slur because of his religion, or the parent of a 15-year-old who snubs those outside of her social clique at school, this book is designed to help you teach your children to honor the differences in themselves and in others — and to reject prejudice and intolerance.”
3. Use Children’s Books to Explore Differences. Finally, Common Sense Media maintains a wonderful list of books that promote diversity and inclusion for children of all ages – again, toddlers to teens. Among my favorites are A Snowy Day and Last Stop on Market Street, both read aloud books; New Kid, a marvelous graphic novel; Maniac Magee; Stella by Starlight; Wishtree; and American Born Chinese. What these books have in common is that they promote values of diversity and inclusion in memorable stories about interesting characters — stories that show rather than tell, thus grounding abstract concepts like inclusion in examples of real people having authentic experiences and processing genuine feelings.
It’s tempting to try to be completely politically correct when talking about diversity and inclusion, as children are naturally curious about the world around them. When we help children understand these differences, they’ll be one step closer to respecting and celebrating the differences in all people, cultures and experiences and how those differences ultimately can bring the joy of living into our world.
Stratford School has three locations in Los Angeles County with a focus on infusing a strong liberal arts curriculum with STEAM inspired learning. For more information visit stratfordschools.com
While every day is a great day to show your love and appreciation for your kids, Valentine’s Day gives all of us a wonderful opportunity to express our feelings — and nothing says love more than kindness. With the help of our friends at NAPPA Awards, we are celebrating kindness and positivity all year long by showcasing books, music and other great products that will bring joy and connection to your family and remind us that we need to be kind to ourselves, to each other, to our community and to our world.
Let’s start with all the moms who always put everyone else first. We know this past year has not been easy, parenting through a pandemic, that’s why we love KindNotes. These beautiful jars of 31 handcrafted messages, enclosed in mini decorative envelopes, combine the charm of handwritten notes with positive affirmations perfect for a little pick-me up. Comes in a variety of designs and themes and can be customized. Starting at $34.95, kindnotes.com
And we think every mom deserves some quiet time to reflect and recharge. MamaZen Mindful Parenting App provides the perfect space to relieve stress, fatigue and anxiety using a combination of meditation, hypnotherapy and mindfulness . The 150 brief audio sessions (5-15 min) cover common topics among moms. 30-day free trial, then $14.99/month, mamazen.com
We know you’re going to love these recent NAPPA Award winners as much as we do. Music is such a wonderful source of well-being and the messages of kindness in these songs are universal and great for all ages.
Cheery, charming and energetic songs celebrate the simple joys of life, while also delivering positive messages of empowerment, courage and strength. Packed with lyrical wisdom centering on creating meaningful relationships and experiences. $9.99, staceypeasley.com
A heartfelt tribute album featuring classic songs performed by award winning artists. Highlights include the spirited Latin rhythms on Jaci Velasquez’s playful take of “You Can Never Go Down The Drain,” Jon Secada’s Spanish interpretation of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” and actress/singer Rita Wilson, whose husband Tom Hanks wonderfully portrayed Fred Rogers in the movie, provides a tender rendition of “Sometimes People Are Good.” $10.95, thankyoumisterrogers.com
Featuring Nashville-based songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, a Brooklyn-based, fiddle-playing child psychiatrist and an array of acclaimed Americana performers in a captivating and upbeat debut album filled with songs and skits touching on a variety of topics—making new friends, coping with failure, learning a new language, dealing with emotions and bullying. Invites listeners to think deeply on feelings and emotions that come with growing up, while focusing on resilience. $14.98, folkways.si.edu
Find a cozy nook and start reading together. Beautiful illustrations and words will inspire you to be in awe of nature and all the creatures around us. There is so much to be thankful for if we just take a look around and really notice.
The lyrical wordplay encourages children to explore their surroundings and notice the subtle sensations within their bodies, all while helping them develop their daily mindfulness practice. Written and illustrated by women of color and featuring diverse characters. $12, ages birth-4, bounlesblooms.com
Celebrates the community we share through nature and the diverse animals and plants that call the river home. Includes beautiful illustrations, a wide array of information, ideas on how to protect our waterways and space to draw and describe river animals and scenes. $15, ages 2-8, years, beautifulworldbooks.com
A curated collection of children’s stories celebrating the timeless power of kindness to make the world a gentler, safer and even more loving place by author and highly-respected folklorist, Margaret Read MacDonald. $16.95, ages 6-10, augusthouse.com
A 120-page picture book for young readers to discover the world, embrace its diversity and go on adventures near and far, all from the comfort of their home. Featuring 30 stories with buddies from different countries, followed by a 2-page activity snapshot on each culture. $35, ages 4-9, worldwidebuddies.com
To teach our kids about their big feelings is a true gift. Sit together, talk and use these creative and colorful cards to enhance your child’s social emotional learning.
A colorful card deck featuring 48 simple yoga and mindfulness practices to help kids work through big emotions on and off the mat. Eight color-coded categories include anger, worry, excitement, sadness, joy, jealousy, shame and peace. Includes a practice booklet. $19.95, ages 5+, Shambhala.com
Easy-to-follow guided exercises blending mindfulness meditation and empowering affirmations to build emotional intelligence and encourage kids to tap into the present moment and their unique strengths. Includes mindful tips booklet. $30, ages 2+, boundlessblooms.world
It is through play that kids learn about life. Give them a world filled with imagination, kindness, love and generosity.
Join Poppy and Pawley on their journey filled with friendship, kindness, and lots of fun as they spread kindness through Sharewood Forest. $34.99, ages 3+, plushible.com
A group of huggable BFFs living that sweet caring life. Perfect for unlimited bear hugs and ready for you to take on your adventures of sharing and caring. Comes with a collectible Care Coin to spark on conversation and action on everyday acts of kindness. $14.99, ages 4+, Walmart.com
Enter a magical world filled with friendship and sharing. Each friend comes with an adorable outfit, pajama set and reusable packaging that unfolds into a unique playscape, where kindness grows as large as the mighty oak and spreads like wildflowers. $34.99, ages 2-4, sharewoodfriends.com
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
Join the Autry Museum for a fun craft. This beginner virtual class will walk you through creating a Sunset Mug Cozy. Using the Autry’s collection as inspiration, this series of video tutorials teaches the relaxing and creative craft of crochet. Julie Kadoi takes you through the steps to make a range of projects; all tied to objects, images, and designs in the museum.
This beginner’s tutorial is: Sunset Mug Cozy.
Click HERE to get started.
By Elena Epstein
Our L.A. Parent team just came back from Toy Fair in New York and one thing we learned for sure is that you are never too old to play with toys.
The International Toy Fair, produced by The Toy Association, is an annual gathering of more than 1,000 toy and game manufacturers, big and small, that takes over the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City during President’s Day weekend.
What’s new and exciting for 2019? Lots! The fascination with surprise toys and unboxing will take on a whole new level as kids must now dig through or unwrap several layers to find the treasure. Better slime, putty and sand are coming to enhance imaginative play. The trend for STEM and STEAM-related toys continues to grow to help prepare and inspire kids for the future.
And many nostalgic toys of the 90s, such as Pretty Pretty Princess and Playmate’s Aladdin Genie featuring phrases from Disney’s classic 1993 release, are making a comeback. 2019 will also see beloved characters tied to much anticipated movie releases such as Toy Story 4 and Frozen.
Llamas are the it animal of the year. We saw them everywhere.
“Parents and kids today are looking for toys and games that are fun, engaging, and keep them coming back for more, but that also enrich the play value to help build lifelong skills,” said Ken Seiter, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association.
We also noticed a lot of products that could be enjoyed as a family. Kimberly Mosley, President of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), says that there is a growing trend towards products that encourage play across the lifespan such as board games and puzzles. Another trend Mosley highlights is toys that encourage movement and activity in kids.
Here are just a few samples of the many fun things coming in 2019! We’ll be showcasing the best of the best throughout the year in our We Love It column and for even more reviews of award-winning toys and games, check out NAPPAawards.com.
By Christina Elston
Rebecca Bernard wants your family to go to camp. Together. And bring your passports. Bernard is founder and chief culture officer at FamilyGo, a company offering group travel curated for kids, parents and even grandparents to enjoy together.
Bernard calls her program a “camp on the road.” Groups of families visit a destination, and the children are immersed in local camp programs from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. – giving the adults a chance to explore. Families reconnect at the end of the day. Upcoming trips depart for Costa Rica in June and Spain in July.
The trips are about two-weeks long, a fit for many working parents’ vacation schedules, so parents don’t miss out. “There’s a part of us as parents that wants to play, too,” Bernard says.
But there is plenty of learning as well. In Spain, children and parents alike will have the chance to take language courses and enjoy experiential learning excursions. Bernard says this gives parents a chance to see their kids absorbing a bit of the world, which you miss if you’re just dropping them off in the morning and picking them up at the end of the day. As you ponder your summer, she has three questions for you to consider: “What inspires you? What interests you? How can we change our environment?”
Learn more about FamilyGo and upcoming trips at www.familygoglobal.com.
By Elena Epstein
For several mornings, Lisa Storaker, a campus supervisor at Mountainview Elementary School in Saugus, noticed a second-grader leaning against the wall near the playground watching the action around her, but not participating. Storaker became concerned.
“I started chatting with her to get to know her better,” says the mom of five, who has been a campus supervisor for the Saugus Union School District for five years. “I asked her what she does after school and about her siblings. It turns out she comes from a large family, and mornings before class are her only alone time. She wasn’t being excluded. She just wanted to have some time to herself.”
As a campus supervisor, Storaker is on the front lines of helping children navigate the social and emotional learning that takes place daily on school playgrounds. This time away from the structured classroom environment is crucial for developing critical life skills such teamwork, friendship, communication and conflict resolution.
Acknowledging the importance of unstructured playtime, the district implemented a “mindful leading” training program for campus supervisors. Recess can be fraught with cliques, bullying, fighting and hurt feelings. The workshops address these common issues and provide strategies to help ensure students have a positive playground experience.
Eighty-four campus supervisors from 15 elementary schools participated in the four-part training program led by author and parent educator Roma Khetarpal, founder and CEO of Tools of Growth, an organization devoted to helping kids “Be Happy, Think Positive, and Do Good.” The Santa Clarita resident is also the author of the award-winning book, “The Perfect Parent.”
“Our campus supervisors really get to know the kids as they grow from kindergarteners to sixth graders,” says Isa De Armas, Ed.D, director of curriculum and instruction for the district. “This type of training gives them more tools to use to open up discussions and break through strong emotions.”
During the training, Khetarpal reminded the campus supervisors of their unique role in helping children feel safe and secure. Topics ranged from emotional intelligence to responding instead of reacting and being present. “Go down to their level, ask open-ended questions and really listen to them. Let them finish their sentences,” advised Khetarpal. She also emphasized the power of words, reminding her audience to move away from phrases such as “How many times have I told you?” to harness the teaching moment that has presented itself.
One of Khetarpal’s main messages is, “When you’re right, practice being kind first.”
“Being an adult does not mean we are superior to children,” says Khetarpal. “We shouldn’t be in a position of dictatorship, but rather a position of directorship.”
Campus supervisors say the workshop tools are working. One supervisor took the time to delve into the motivation of a kindergartener who caused havoc at lunch every day by spitting juice on kids around him. The child is now a yard helper, ending the juice fights. Julie Huff, a supervisor at Emblem Academy, says she now asks open-ended questions of her 14-year-old daughter, and has loved the discussions that have resulted. Several supervisors have found the technique of taking a few deep breaths before addressing an emotionally charged situation a simple, but extremely effective, tool.
“As educators, we always have to work harder and be more intentional when in a challenging situation,” says district superintendent Joan Lucid, Ed.D. “Our campus supervisors play a significant role in our children’s lives, and it can be very challenging. But the kids who are having the hardest time are the ones who will remember the special adult in their lives who didn’t give up on them.”
by Monica Holloway
For many families with loved ones on the autism spectrum the idea of a long journey can be daunting. Here are some suggestions from the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (www.sath.org), a nonprofit educational organization, for making travel with those with special needs as streamlined as possible.
Prepare your child with a rehearsal. If you are flying, contact the airport and inquire about visiting in advance of your trip. Let your child experience the hectic, unknown atmosphere of the airport and even enjoy watching the planes take off and land. At home you can role-play by waiting in lines, removing shoes for security, and sitting where instructed.
Pick out a “Travel Toy.” Sometimes it’s helpful to allow your child to pick out a toy to carry on the trip. If they do this ahead of time, they can carry it at (and near) home in preparation for the journey. It can sometimes help to feel that they are taking “a piece of home” with them.
Write a social story. Providing visuals can help your child understand the details and routine of the trip. Include drawings of some of the things you saw at the airport or look up photos of items online. Print these out and paste them into your story so that there will be plenty of visuals. Your child can look at this Travel Journal many times before the trip. Here is a sample social story from the “Everyday Adventures” autism blog.
Make a special-needs checklist. To make the trip easier, pack allergy-friendly, favorite snacks, any medication that might be needed, headphones to block unwanted noise, and any other favorite items – such as books, a portable DVD player, or handheld gaming systems – that can help keep your child happy and engaged.
Call TSA Cares at 855-787-2227 prior to arrival. Call about 72 hours prior to flying with individuals with disabilities. They can answer questions about what to expect and can coordinate with security checkpoint support as needed.
Display the diagnosis. Have your child wear a bracelet, sticker, washable tattoo or other form of ID at all times that includes the child’s name, diagnosis, your name and number. Airports can be very busy, and this will serve as an important tool if your child wanders.
Don’t forget about the destination! Prepare your child not just for the trip, but also for the destination. Show him or her photos or read stories about the location. Explain that you will be sleeping in a new place and that some routines will change temporarily.
I know that it can feel overwhelming to plan a vacation with a family member with special needs, but with preparation, organization, and enthusiasm, a family journey can be, not only possible, but fun too!
Monica Holloway is the bestselling author of Cowboy & Wills, a Mother’s Choice Awards Gold recipient, and the critically-acclaimed author of the memoir Driving With Dead People. Holloway lives with her son and husband in California. http://www.monicaholloway.com/https://twitter.com/monica_holloway
by Christina Elston
Paul Curtis’s favorite childhood book was The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. He read it in fifth grade, and there is a particular reason that it stayed with him. “It was the first book that I think I really pictured in my mind, and I can still see those images fairly vividly that I created in fifth grade,” Curtis says.
Curtis, the Lower School Reading Chair at The Westmark School in Encino, says imagery can be key to helping struggling readers enjoy a story.
If you notice that your child is getting frustrated with reading, Curtis suggests reading to them. And while you do, talk with them about what they think the characters in the story look like, help them act out parts of the story, or let them color a picture about the story. This engages your child’s sense of dynamic imagery, which could be quite strong even though they struggle with the text on the page. When your child understands that they can still comprehend and enjoy a story, even though they have trouble decoding the words, they’re more likely to want to spend time with books.
It can help if children with special needs or a learning disability understand that, according to Curtis, “their brain is functioning in a different way.” You can have this conversation with your child in an age-appropriate way, and focus on the positive (i.e. and that’s exciting, because you think differently).
At home, let your child take ownership of their reading and choose their own books, and keep the pressure off. “At home, it really is creating that environment where there is no pressure,” says Curtis, who advises parents to resist the urge to correct mistakes when a child is reading for pleasure. Instead, step back and let your child enjoy.
Finding books for struggling readers is a delicate balance between reading level and interest, especially as children get older. The books they are interested in might be a real struggle for them to read. “That’s where reading to the student can come in handy,” Curtis says. Have your child make a list of things they are interested in, and seek out books about those topics at a variety of reading levels. Your child’s teacher can help you choose some books at your child’s reading fluency level, for your child to read independently for practice. And you can reward them by reading aloud to them those at the higher level.
Recently, many of Curtis’s students at Westmark were interested in reading The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. The school contacted families and suggested that parents reward their children for doing school-assigned reading by reading the book aloud.
If your student is getting reading intervention at school or through another program, Curtis advises against pushing them to read too much at home. “You don’t want to burn that student out,” he says. “It really pushes the student away from reading, and that’s the last thing you want.”
But do support a child who chooses to read for pleasure – no matter what the format. A graphic novel or comic might give your child less practice with text, but still builds their relationship with reading. “At least they’re picking up something,” Curtis says.
Tablet computers and other technology can even make reading easier. Westmark uses iPads in a variety of ways, adjusting the background color to make text easier to read, reducing the number of words on each screen for students who are intimidated by seeing too many at once, and using a text-to-speech option so that students can get help with words they are stuck on. Older students can record themselves reading passages out loud, then follow along with the audio and then catch their own mistakes. This takes the parent and the teacher out of the equation and lets the student be independent.
All of these strategies can work together to help build a positive relationship between your child and reading. “I think that the relationship with reading is the most important aspect of a student improving,” says Curtis. “It’s really about the joy of reading.”
The ultimate goal? Building fond memories of a favorite book that will last a lifetime.
by Christina Elston
When Steve Everett talks about the sport of power soccer, played in power wheelchairs, he makes it sound fun. “We have these guards on the front of our chairs. They almost look like snow plows,” he says, “and when we spin in a circle, that’s how we can generate a lot of power in kicking the ball. It’s called a spin kick.”
The game is played four-on-four, on regulation basketball courts with goals instead of nets. The speed of the chairs is regulated for fairness and safety, and players can officially be as young as 5 – though most start around age 8. Men and women, kids and adults, play on the same teams.
Everett is captain of the SoCal Vaqueros Power Soccer Club out of Glendale and is Western Regional Director of the U.S. Power Soccer Association (www.powersoccerusa.org). He wants to get more players, and parents, involved, “just like AYSO parents.”
What do kids get out of Power Soccer and similar sports?
One of the greatest things about wheelchair sports is that you get to learn wheelchair skills, and you also learn people skills and teamwork. You start learning from these other participants some of the things that they know how to do. Daily life stuff. How to transfer to a car. The difficulties in navigating an airport to fly to a tournament.
What’s in it for parents?
When a child is born with a disability, or acquires one, I think there’s a tendency to not really want to allow them to explore possibilities. This lets you get around other parents that maybe had those feelings, but have learned to trust and allow their children to get involved in what life has in store for them.
What is your favorite power soccer moment?
There was this kid named Jamie. He was 9 or 10 and he had cerebral palsy, and he had joined a new team that was playing in a tournament, and basically getting shut out against more-experienced teams. Eventually, they were scheduled to play us.
We scored several goals early on, and the game was basically over. I had a talk with my teammates about letting this other team have a little more room to move the ball, so they could have a chance to experience the game. And I asked my coach to put me into the goal. The opposing team began moving the ball, and I saw the ball come toward the goal, and I saw Jamie following it. I blocked the ball, but hit it toward him, and he scored a goal. He almost climbed out of his wheelchair. You would have thought he’d just won the World Cup. He was screaming, “I scored a goal! I scored a goal!” And he threw his arms up in the air and clearly wanted to high-five somebody. I was the only one around. I was the goalie he’d just scored against, but I put my hand up and high-fived him. It was one of the most touching moments I’ve had as an athlete. Then I turned away because I was starting to get a little emotional, and I looked up and I saw the referee standing there, and he had tears in his eyes.
For more information, email Everett at email@example.com.
by Elena Epstein
Priest has a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and several years of experience working with families. She attended conferences on “Social Thinking,” a concept pioneered by speech language pathologist Michelle Winner, and shared her interest in the approach with Tabachnick, who then completed mentorship and clinical internship training with Winner at the Center for Social Thinking in San Jose.
“Kelly and I kept talking about all these ideas we had and we realized that together we could do so much more,” recalls Tabachnick. They launched Social Foundations in 2006 in a small space in Culver City, which they outgrew in the first five months. They outgrew their second office in Santa Monica eight months later.
Now operating from locations in Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks, Tabachnick and Priest – along with three therapists and one assistant – have a growing practice focused on providing kids with practical tools to better understand social cues, interact in groups and develop friendships. Some of their students are on the autism spectrum, others have learning differences and some have no specific diagnosis, but face many social challenges.
“Social learning is about building insight and awareness of yourself and of others around you,” says Priest. “A lot of the kids we see are not even aware that their behavior is affecting other people’s feelings.”
Through interactive play and group projects the students begin to better understand collaboration and consideration for others’ perspectives. By using specific words and phrases such as “because” or “let’s try this” to explain their thinking and actions, they become better advocates for themselves.
Priest and Tabachnick get great satisfaction when their students receive an invitation to a party or a sleepover. “It’s so rewarding when parents tell us their kids are finally making real friends,” says Priest.
“Our goal is for our students to have typical childhood experiences … go on camping trips, be in a play, join a sports team,” adds Tabachnick.
Elena Epstein is L.A. Parent’s Director of Content.
by Elaine Hall
I’m scared of dentists. Well, not the dentist himself (my brother is a dentist in San Diego), but I am scared of sitting in that chair, opening my mouth and not knowing what pain I am about to endure. Just thinking about the sound of the drill, the feel of the needle and the look of those shiny tools can keep me awake many nights before my appointment. Imagine how much more intense this experience is for children who have autism, ADHD, Cerebral palsy and other sensitivities!
Our first few years taking our son to the dentist were not without challenge. We had to hold him tightly in our laps and sedate him, and would often leave traumatized. We began using these seven keys, and things go very well now!
Key One: Be relaxed. We are the barometers for our kids’ internal lives. If you are OK with this experience, your child will be more relaxed. As you can imagine, I fail miserably with this, so I always bring a friend or coach who doesn’t share my angst about dental syringes. Most important, find a dentist who stays calm and doesn’t rush. Eileen Roseman, a special education teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, recommends Judith Pabst, DDS, in West Hills (pediatricdentistryandorthodontics.com) as “kind, gentle, and extremely patient.” Rosemen says even the office staff is calming and reassuring. The Autism Speaks website has a searchable list of resources, including dentists: http://www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide/state/CA
Key Two: Be non-judgmental and acknowledge your child’s fears. Instead of saying, “Don’t be afraid,” or “There’s nothing to worry about,” acknowledge your child’s concerns and help him or her understand what is going on. My brother, Bob Goldenberg, DDS, says he is scrupulously honest with all of his patients, and doesn’t treat a child with a disability any differently than anyone else. He finds ways to communicate with his patients, accepts what goes on for them, and treats them accordingly. If a child is too upset, or the dental procedure might cause too much pain, he will suggest sedation.
Key Three: Be aware of your child’s sensory triggers. Even a waiting room can be a turn-off to our kids. San Fernando Valley mom Navah Paskowitz says her son Edwin’s first dental experience involved a loud waiting room, with lots of children playing in a closed environment. The overstimulation caused him to have a meltdown even before they met the dentist. She now takes Edwin to Bruce Vafa, DDS, of Beverly Hills (www.smileangels.com), who has a quiet area available and is completely tuned in to her son’s special needs.
Key 4: Be open to your child’s interests and to what brings them comfort. Parent advocate Lori Guthrie says her son Matt had a more successful dental experience when he got to listen to his favorite musical artist, Jimmy Buffet, on headphones and was placed near a window so he could look outside at an interesting scene while the dentist worked on his teeth.
Key 5: Include your child in all aspects of dental hygiene and awareness and begin treatment at a very early age. The American Dental Association recommends all children have their first dental visit by their first birthday. We showed our son photos and video of bad, ugly teeth and gums to help him understand the importance of brushing and flossing. We model proper technique and help him break brushing into manageable steps, practice each step, then put it all together. He gets to choose which toothpaste he wants to use (we tried several until he found the exact taste and smell he preferred). We taught him to set a timer so that he knows how long to brush his teeth. Each morning, he comes in and smiles triumphantly at how well and long he brushed his teeth
Key Six: Practice going to the dentist before you ever go. Read about dentists, look at equipment online and watch videos. Pediatric dentist Bernard Gross, DDS, of Santa Monica, believes in creating a positive relationship and shared positive experiences before doing dental work on his clients. Our first appointment took place in his lobby. We looked at the fish tank, read magazines, then went home. At the next appointment, we walked with Dr. Gross into the middle of the dental clinic, examined the chairs, and went home. For the third appointment, we sat in the dental chair for about 30 seconds, Dr. Gross looked in my son’s mouth, and we left. Finally, on the fourth visit, it was time for Dr. Gross to clean my son’s teeth. He had created a positive, trusting relationship and my son opened his mouth without difficulty. These memories carried over into my son’s adult life. The first time he went to see Santa Monica dentist Kari Sakuri, DDS, he walked confidently to the dentist’s chair, opened his mouth when asked, and when she was finished, he signed “more, more, more!”
Key 7: Celebrate! During your child’s visit, focus on a toy or event they will receive afterward. When you are through, let them know how proud you are of their courage. Make sure they take the reward most dental offices offer after a visit. My son knew that I was more traumatized than he was. Instead of choosing a toy for himself, he chose a little doll and gave it to me!!! He has overcome his fear of the dentist. Hopefully, one day, I’ll conquer mine.
Elaine Hall is a motivational speaker, inclusion activist, and founder of The Miracle Project Theater Program and the Rehearsing for Life ™ Social Skills Program. She was profiled in the HBO film, AUTISM: The Musical, is the author of “Now I See the Moon” and co-author of “Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Making Miracles in the Classroom.” Elaine produced and starred in the DVD series Unlocking Autism: Seven Keys to Being Miracle Minded for medical professionals. Elaine consults with parents, professionals, religious and medical groups, and camps to foster inclusion.
by Dawn Barnes
Sending children back to school is exciting. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of worry. Bullying is in the news more than ever and mothers are rightfully concerned about the safety of their children. Mothers of children with special needs may hold even deeper concerns about how their child will be treated at school.
The heartbreaking news is that children with special needs find themselves targeted by bullies more often than other children. The reason is simple – bullies don’t generally seek out challenges. They seek out easy targets. If a child is awkward, has low muscle tone, has trouble making eye contact, doesn’t speak up, or has few friends, a bully will likely be emboldened to harass that child.
The good news is that, when it comes to bullies, a little preparation can go a long way in offering some measure of protection. And no, I’m not talking about learning to punch and kick! The fact is, the most powerful form of protection comes from learning how to prevent bullies from attacking, not fighting bullies once they’ve attacked.
So, what can you do to help prevent bullies from targeting your child? Here are four important tips to keep in mind when discussing the issue of bullies. Teach your child to:
MAKE EYE CONTACT. Looking down at the ground, or looking away when being spoken to, signals insecurity and fear. For children with special needs, making eye contact may be especially difficult, but reinforcing the good habit of looking at someone when speaking and listening is worth the extra effort.
SPEAK UP. Delivering a strong message with your voice not only scares away bullies, it also draws attention. Teaching a child to speak up and say, “Stop,” “Don’t touch me,” or “I don’t like that,” makes it clear to everyone, including bullies, that boundaries are being set or broken.
STAND STRONG. Raising your hands and planting one foot in front of the other adds a physical boundary to go along with a strong voice. In combination, your child will be creating a personal “bubble” that most bullies will not try to enter. I would like to add that standing strong goes hand in hand with walking tall. Keeping the head up, taking full steps, and letting the arms swing naturally sends a signal to everyone that you are comfortable in your own skin.
SMILE AND SAY HELLO. In my experience, smiling works to ward off bullies in two ways. First, smiling projects confidence, which is Kryptonite for most bullies. Second, smiling and saying “hello” to classmates leads to making new friends. Bullies would rather pick on a schoolmate who is isolated, a loner, than one who is surrounded by friends.
Of course, the real key is to turn these tips into habits. And the only way to do that is with regular practice. But you don’t have to frighten your child and lead them to believe they’re going to get “beat up” at school to rehearse prevention techniques.
Remember, the same habits that scare away bullies also attract more friends. Keep that in mind and you’ll not only look forward to practicing, you might even enjoy it!
Practice shaking hands and having your child introduce himself or herself with a smile. Practice walking tall and proud. Offer a reward when your child looks you in the eye when speaking and listening. Pick up a pillow and slowly walk towards your child’s “bubble,” coaching them to scare you away with a “big voice” when you get too close. Or maybe even bump you away if you don’t stop. I have found that teaching children how to deal with bullies and make friends is a wonderful bonding experience.
To be clear, I’m not saying preventing bullies from bothering your child is easy. It may take a good deal of practice to turn these tips into habits, which begs the question: what should you do if your child is being bullied in the meantime?
First, I strongly advise that you contact the school immediately. Bullying is almost never an isolated incident. Bullying is a repeated behavior that will continue if it is not called out. To break the routine, you should fully expect the officials at your school to contact the bully and the bully’s parents to let them know what is happening. It is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for your child. Even better, the school may be able to offer counseling to the families involved. Make no mistake, speaking up is good for children and for parents.
If a bully continues to harass your child, I also recommend coaching your child to look for an escape. Find a grown-up, find a teacher, find a door, or find you. Fighting – win or lose – can lead to injuries. Sadly, many martial arts programs encourage being “tough” and launching into physical self-defense techniques right away. While I believe there is absolutely a time and place for fighting back, I also believe fighting should be presented as the very last resort.
What is the right time and place for fighting back? If you can’t prevent trouble through eye contact, speaking up, standing strong, smiling, making friends, and looking for an escape, it may be necessary to use your body to keep a bully at bay. But there is no magic move. When it comes to keeping your child safe from bullies, the only magic move is preparation. Make the time to discuss the issue regularly and practice the tips discussed here and you should rest easy that you’ve done everything you can to keep your child safe.
Bullies are a part of every child’s life. Learning how to deal with bullies should be a part of every child’s life, too.
Dawn Barnes has been teaching children martial arts for more than 25 years. She currently operates seven Dawn Barnes Karate Kids schools in the L.A. area. For more information, please visit www.karatekids.net.
by Melanie Gaball
Financial planning is important for parents, but for those who have a child with special needs the complexities of funding a lifetime of care can be overwhelming and emotional. While many parents are still dealing with the acceptance of their child’s diagnosis, developing a financial road map for their family’s life may not be something they’re ready to face.
When a child first receives a special-needs diagnosis, parents want to believe things will get better. Whether they hope for a cure or think their child will grow out of it, they often postpone long-term financial planning. However, in most cases, children with special needs grow up to be adults with special needs and parents should begin the financial preparation as early as possible.
1) Parents must consider what will happen to their child when they are gone.
“Typical parents never want to outlive their child, but a parent with a special-needs child wants to outlive their child by one day, because they know that no one will take as good of care of their child as they will,” says Todd B. Daniel, Special Care Planner for Mass Mutual.
Parents should begin planning for their child’s financial future as soon as possible. With improvements in health care, people with special needs can live long, full lives.
“The life expectancy of a child with down syndrome used to be 19, now it’s in the 50s,” says Scott Macdonald, Senior Vice President and Certified Special Needs Advisor for Merrill Lynch. “It is important to start planning early for the different milestones ahead and how they will be funded.”
2) Set up a special-needs trust to coordinate with government funding.
A person who is collecting disability benefits cannot have more than $2,000 in personal assets. In order for parents and relatives to put money away for a child’s future, and still allow that child to keep receiving government aid, they should work with an attorney to set up a special-needs trust, says Daniel.
“A special-needs attorney is crucial. The titling of assets must be done correctly and put into the special- needs trust, so that it doesn’t go to the government,” Macdonald says.
Parents can fund the trust in a number of ways. They can get money from extended family, do a monthly deposit or use life insurance.
“Using life insurance is the most inexpensive way to do it,” says Daniel. “Parents can use their assets for the things they need now, and buy the insurance to fund the trust, so when and if they pass then the million dollar life insurance policy goes into the account and now their child has money to spend for the rest of their life.”
3) Establish trustees and caregivers.
“A lot of times parents will say that one of the child’s siblings will be the caregiver if they pass, but they really need to make sure that the sibling is OK with that. It might not be fair to assume that the 17-year-old sister is going to spend the rest of her life taking care of her sibling, unless she wants to,” Daniel says.
Sometimes the caregiver and the trustee can be the same person, but it may be better to assign the roles to different family members, Daniel says.
Some parents may not want a family member managing the special-needs trust. If not, they can set up a trusteeship where a professional, such as a California Fiduciary, runs the trust, Macdonald says.
Creating a Letter of Intent is also an important step in the planning process. A Letter of Intent allows parents to disclose the needs of their child to future caregivers, says Daniel.
“A Letter of Intent is one of the best things a parent can start doing,” says Macdonald. “It is a non-binding, non-legal road map for their child (describing) where they will go when they are gone, what they like to do, what they like to eat, and even what the parents hopes and dreams are for their child.”
A great way to do the Letter of Intent is to make a video of and about your child, says Macdonald.
4) Use all available resources.
For those who cannot afford a lawyer and want to seek legal help, Daniel suggests using Bet Tzedek, a non-profit organization that provides free legal advice and representation to low-income residents of Los Angeles.
Macdonald suggests working with a team of experts including a benefits counselor, specialized attorneys, a specialized financial planner, a California Fiduciary and caregivers.
“Parents should be able to focus on being loving and caring to their children and they shouldn’t have to be budgeting and monitoring finances all of the time,” Macdonald says. “They should also use support groups where they can talk to others about their experiences. They need to know they are not alone.”
by Christina Elston
If you’re the parent of young children, you’ve no doubt had to remind them not to stare, point or talk too loudly about some difference they have noticed in someone else – the man who is so tall he has to duck to get through doorways, the child in the wheelchair, the lady with brilliant orange hair. Or maybe you are the parent of a child with special needs, coping with how others react to the differences in your son or daughter.
Either way, Jacob’s Eye Patch is a book you can use.
Jacob Shaw is a 9-year-old boy who wears an eye patch to correct strabismus (crossed eyes). Beth Kobliner Shaw is his mom – and an author and financial advisor. Together, they wrotethis bright and engaging picture book (out this fall from Simon & Schuster and illustrated by the award-winning Jules Feiffer) about how we deal with the somethings that make us all different.
In the story, Jacob is in a hurry to get to the science store to buy the last light-up globe on the shelf. As he walks along with his family, people keep stopping them to ask questions about Jacob’s eye patch. Normally, he wouldn’t mind. He knows it makes people curious. But today is different. He’s afraid that if they take too long, the globe will be gone.
Jacob’s story reminds us that sometimes people want to talk about their differences, and sometimes they don’t. And the kind, lighthearted way his whole family approaches curiosity from strangers offers a nice example of how to deal with interactions that could otherwise be uncomfortable.
by Julie Kertes
In a small Israeli town more than 20 years ago, a mother gave up her newborn baby when she discovered he had Down syndrome. She told family and friends that the baby had died, but her misfortune became another family’s blessing.
The baby, whose name today is Michael, found a family in Ft. Collins, Colorado who truly loved him. And the woman who became his mother, Kathryn U. Hulings, tells his story in “Life with a Superhero: Raising Michael Who Has Down Syndrome” (UNT Press, $29.95).
Chock full of heartfelt and hilarious anecdotes about the day-to-day antics in the Hulings household – which also includes Hulings’ husband Jim and four biological children – the book follows Hulings’ journey of raising a son with Down syndrome from infancy through young adulthood. This includes Michael’s escapades on foot and the many times he went missing – as a toddler escaping the synagogue grounds and making a mad dash toward the busy street, through his teen years when he would just get up and go anywhere in the wee hours of the morning.
Hulings is funny, irreverent and drops an occasional four-letter word, but she writes with honesty and bravery. And each memory or milestone she recounts, whether about Michael on the loose or Michael in love, leaves the reader nervous and anxious, breathing a sigh of relief or cheering out loud. She describes her family’s compassion and love for each other, how they tackled school policies and community embarrassment, puberty and heartache. She also shares a few out-of-the-box parenting techniques that will motivate readers to grab a pen and take notes.
Whether or not you have a child with special needs, you will find “Life with a Superhero” engaging, inspiring and uplifting. Michael’s an extraordinary kid with an extraordinary story – and a family to match.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
Larchmont Boulevard, which runs between Melrose Avenue and 3rd Street, has long stood in as “Main Street USA” for the surrounding communities of Hancock Park and Windsor Square. Independently owned shops and restaurants still outnumber major chains, and every other person seems to be accompanied by a friendly, well-trained dog on a leash. The atmosphere is civilized and laid-back, offering a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of nearby Hollywood.
Founded as an offshoot of longstanding neighborhood institution Landis General Store, Landis’ Labyrinth (140 and 144 N. Larchmont Blvd.; 323-465-7998; www.landislabyrinth.blogspot.com) now has an identity all its own. The shop is divided between two separate storefronts, one specializing in games, classic toys and kitschy items that will appeal to older kids and their parents, and another promoting developmental toys for younger children.
Venerable independent bookshop Chevalier’s (126 N. Larchmont Blvd.; 323-465-1334; www.chevaliersbooks.blogspot.com) has a small room devoted entirely to carefully chosen children’s books, with reading chairs and tables for tykes to settle in.
A pizza joint is always a safe bet for lunch with kids, although the thin-crust NYC-style pies at Village Pizzeria (131 N. Larchmont Blvd.; 323-465-5566; www.villagepizzeria.net) are hardly run-of-the-mill. Tasty toppings such as breaded eggplant, pesto, garlic and spinach (the Veggie II) will appeal to adults, and everyone will flip over the garlic rolls.
Upscale children’s store Flicka (204 N. Larchmont Blvd.; 323-466-5822) features a play area to keep young tots busy while Mom shops for European-label kids’ clothing, costumes and accessories in a pleasant, bright and airy boutique environment.
Bricks & Scones (403 N Larchmont Blvd.; 323-463-0811; www.bricksandscones.com) may attract laptop-toting adults with its free WiFi and excellent coffee and pastries, but the coffee shop’s carpeted spiral staircase, interesting rooms to explore and spacious shaded patio create a welcoming environment for kids as well.
Also Worth a Look…
• From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Sunday, families, foodies and chefs from Hancock Park and beyond congregate at the Larchmont Farmers Market (209 N. Larchmont Blvd.), more manageable than the sprawling Sunday Hollywood market but with an incredible selection of fresh produce, handmade pastas and prepared foods.
• A New Age-y vibe, and all-vegan/mostly macrobiotic menu sets Café Gratitude (639 N. Larchmont Blvd.; 323-580-6383; www.cafegratitudela.com) a world apart from most family-friendly restaurants. Kids will love the “cheesy” quinoa made with cashew mozzarella and apple slices with almond butter.
• The carefully chosen selection of secondhand clothes, toys and gear at children’s resale boutique BlueBird (652 N. Larchmont Blvd.; 323-466-0408; www.bluebirdlakids.com) is a godsend to parents on a budget.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
Tucked among the towering buildings of Century City, the Westfield shopping center was designed with family fun in mind, while the cultural institutions of nearby UCLA provide a high-minded counterbalance to all that frivolity.
Westfield Century City shopping center (10250 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310/277-3898; www.westfield.com/ centurycity) has cornered the market on catering to kids. A large, netted outdoor climbing structure keeps kids thoroughly (and safely) entertained while parents enjoy the chance to get off their feet and take a break from shopping. And every Wednesday afternoon, the shopping center hosts free Play Dates during which kids can make seasonal arts and crafts.
Conveniently located right next to the Westfield’s awesome outdoor play structure is Giggles N’ Hugs family restaurant and play place (10250 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-553-HUGS; www.gigglesnhugs.com), a dream come true for any parent who can’t get their kids to sit still through dinner. Children are encouraged to run around, enjoying the restaurant’s play areas and live entertainment, while grown-ups get the oh-so-rare opportunity to dine in relative peace.
If your kids love pizza (a safe bet), they’ll surely dig 800 Degrees (10889 Lindbrook Dr.; 424-239-5010; www.800degreespizza.com), an artisanal pizza parlor where guests can see their customized Neapolitan style pie crafted before their eyes. Older kids will also be fascinated by the high-tech soda dispenser, which allows them to create just about any carbonated concoction they can dream up.
UCLA’s Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd.; 310-443-7000; www.hammer.ucla.edu) regularly features interactive, kid-friendly exhibits. What’s more, the Hammer Kids program offers regular Sunday afternoon art projects, Family Days and movie screenings.
Boasting half a dozen universally accessible play areas and structures, Aiden’s Place playground at the Westwood Recreation Center (1350 S. Sepulveda Blvd.; www.laparks.org) can keep kids of all ages entertained for hours. The huge surrounding park also features playing fields, grassy hills and plenty of shade trees.
Also Worth a Look…
The UCLA campus is another great place to visit with kids (hopefully giving them an early appreciation for the college life). The Mildred E Mathias Botanical Garden (777 Tiverton Dr.; www.botgard.ucla.edu) is a shaded, bucolic place to wander with little ones, while the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden (on Charles E. Young Dr. East) makes a superb picnicking spot.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
The harbor city of San Pedro is loaded with hidden treasures. An excellent aquarium, whale watching excursions, a permanent craft fair, a historic battleship and more neat discoveries are in store for families willing to journey to one of the world’s busiest ports.
This is the time of year to go whale watching, as Pacific gray whales migrate from January through mid-April. You might be lucky enough to spot whales, dolphins and sea lions from the shore at Point Vicente Interpretive Center (31501 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes; 310-377-5370), or you can book a whale watching cruise through L.A. Harbor Sportfishing (1150 Nagoya Way; 310-547-9916; www.laharborsportfishing.com).
San Pedro’s Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (3720 Stephen M. White Dr.; 310-548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org) is easy to overlook when compared with the flashier Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, but it’s absolutely worth a visit. The Frank Gehry-designed marine life center in Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park offers a close and comprehensive look at local sea life, featuring plenty of hands-on exhibits to get kids excited. Best of all, admission is affordable at just $5 for adults and $1 for children and seniors.
If you love handmade treats and artisanal goods, you’ll be happy to find them year-round at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles (112 E. 22nd St. #10; 310-732-1270; www.craftedportla.com). Clothing designers, bakers, jewelry makers, woodworkers and other crafty types peddle their wares in the cool industrial warehouse market space every weekend, and parking and admission are free.
Enjoy a killer view with your brunch, lunch or dinner at 22nd Street Landing (141 W. 22nd St.; 310-548-4400; www.22ndstlandingrestaurant.com). This classic restaurant overlooking the marina serves fresh seafood, of course, and fish and chips and pasta for the kids. Grab a table on the upstairs deck to enjoy the sights of the marina, including sea lions, pelicans and fishing boats heading out to sea.
Built in 1940 and designated the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” due to her big guns, speed and longevity, Battleship Iowa (250 S. Harbor Blvd.; 877-446-9261; www.pacificbattleship.com) is an impressive relic, to be sure. The ship boasted more than 50 years of service and was known for its state-of-the-art naval technology, along with creature comforts to accommodate presidents including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Ticket prices to board and tour the ship range from $10 to $18.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
Just a half-hour’s drive north of Los Angeles, Santa Clarita has in recent years become a popular place for young families to settle down, and with good reason. Boasting beautiful natural surroundings, excellent schools and all the comforts and conveniences of the city, the greater Santa Clarita area that includes the communities of Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, Saugus, Newhall and Canyon Country offers an enticing blend of rural and suburban – and even the thrills of Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Old Town Newhall(www.otna.org) is in the midst of a rebirth. The town was founded in 1878 to serve the railroad being built (now the site of a Metrolink station), and is being reinvented as a charming destination for families, with playhouses, art centers, restaurants and museums.
There’s much to discover at William S. Hart Park and Museum (24151 Newhall Ave.; 661-259-0855; www.hartmuseum.org). The grounds are home to a petting zoo, a herd of bison, a historic ranch house, hiking trails, and the museum itself, which is housed in the beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival mansion where silent cowboy film star William S. Hart lived.
Next door to Hart Park is Heritage Junction (24101 Newhall Ave.; 661-254-1275; www.scvhs.org), where kids can see historic buildings such as the Saugus Train Station, Mitchell Schoolhouse Adobe and Ramona Chapel, saved from demolition by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society as evidence of what life was like in the Old West. The site is also home to Engine 1629, a train engine dating back to 1900 that was bought by Western actor Gene Autry, who later donated it to the historical society.
Family-owned Lombardi Ranch (29527 Bouquet Canyon Rd.; 661-296-8697; www.lombardiranch.com) in Saugus has been selling pumpkins since 1968. The working ranch and farm is open from late summer to mid-November, hosting school field trips and selling fresh produce.
Six Flags Magic Mountain (26101 Magic Mountain Parkway; 661-255-4100; www.sixflags.com/MagicMountain) may be home to some of the most nerve-rattling rollercoasters in SoCal, but it’s not just for thrill seekers. Younger kids (and queasy parents) can enjoy tamer rides in Bugs Bunny World and Whistlestop Park, which offer plenty of entertaining options for the under-42-inches crowd. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park is located right next door and is a must-visit during the hot summer months.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
The quiet community of Montrose is nestled near the intersection of the 210 and 2 freeways, just west of La Cañada-Flintridge. It’s farther north than some Angelenos are used to venturing, but well worth a weekend day trip, particularly on Sunday mornings when the popular Harvest Market and Marketplace takes over the city’s main drag, Honolulu Avenue.
Locals love Paradis (2323 Honolulu Ave.; 818-248-1004; www.paradis-icecream.com) for its made-fresh-daily ice cream, made strictly from whole-food ingredients. The company hails from Denmark and its Montrose location is one of only two shops currently operating stateside.
The Harvest Market and Marketplace from 9a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays on the 2200 block of Honolulu is so much more than a shopping affair. Pony rides, bounce houses and plenty of prepared foods and treats complement the array of fruit and veggie stalls, making it a lively community meeting spot.
With its hand-painted murals, cozy reading nooks and expertly chosen selection of children’s and YA books (many signed by the authors), Once Upon a Time Bookstore (2207 Honolulu Ave.; 818-248-9668; www.shoponceuponatime.com) represents everything a children’s bookstore should be. Come by to enjoy an author reading, join a book group, or while away the afternoon.
Every Montrose-area parent I spoke with had good things to say about Tom’s Toys (2281 Honolulu Ave.; 818-249-2178). The large store is positively packed with every game, toy and puzzle you can imagine, and the indoor coin-operated Batmobile and helicopter rides provide even more fun for little ones.
Just a stone’s throw from Montrose in tony La Cañada-Flintridge is Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge; 818-949-4200; www.descansogardens.org). An afternoon spent wandering its flower gardens and shady glades can be magical, and kids will delight in the Enchanted Railroad that runs Tuesday and Friday mornings, and all day during weekends.
Mayors Discovery Park (1800 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada-Flintridge) is a haven for parents with very young children. Quiet and uncrowded, the completely enclosed green space has a big sandbox, a pretty sea life-themed water feature, and grassy hills for frolicking.
Erin Mahoney Harris is a mom of two and frequent contributor to L.A. Parent.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
Toluca Lake is nestled between Studio City, North Hollywood and Burbank, offering convenient access to the nearby television and movie studios while maintaining a relatively quiet vibe. Distinctive restaurants and shops, classic architecture and close proximity to many of the San Fernando Valley’s best family attractions make it a great place to raise – or visit with – kids.
It doesn’t get more American classic than Toluca Lake’s landmark Bob’s Big Boy (4211 Riverside Dr.; 818-843-9334; www.bobs.net), the oldest remaining Bob’s in the U.S. Built in 1949, the restaurant boasts distinctive retro coffee shop architecture with an asymmetrical shape, curving picture windows and dramatic neon signage. The burger-and-fries-dominated menu is a kid magnet. Make sure to order a milkshake or vanilla Coke and take a picture with the giant namesake statue out front.
If you’re interested in a more modern and refined dining experience, travel a few blocks West to Sweetsalt Food Shop (10218 Riverside Dr.; 818-509-7790; www.sweetsaltfood.com). The menu features healthy and sophisticated salads and sandwiches to please adult palates, as well as kid-friendly offerings such as grilled cheese – not to mention cookies, cakes and other seductively sugary treats.
While Gelato Bar (4342 ½ Tujunga Ave.; 818-487-1717; www.gelatobar-la.com) isn’t technically located in Toluca Lake, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away in Tujunga Village, and well worth the short trip. The extensive array of flavors changes daily, but you can always count on delicious classics such as chocolate and vanilla, as well as light and fruity sorbets. Enjoy a scoop or two in the colorful, bistro-style shop and then take the kids out to burn off the sugar high.
Around the corner from Gelato Bar, Woodbridge Park (11240 Moorpark St.; 818-769-4415), one of the Valley’s most pleasant playgrounds, is surrounded by leafy trees, wide lawns and meandering jogging paths. Separate areas for young tots and older kids ensure age-appropriate play for all ages, while shaded benches make it a pleasant place to picnic or sit back and enjoy the sight of your kids at play.
The northern entrance to L.A.’s biggest playground, Griffith Park, is just a couple of miles from downtown Toluca Lake. And while Valley families are likely to head to the Travel Town Railroad Museum, they’ll find more thrills just next door at L.A. Live Steamers (5202 Zoo Dr.; 323-662-8030; www.lals.org). The nonprofit attraction run by train enthusiasts is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays and offers rides atop 1/8th scale model trains. They run faster than you’d expect, traveling on elaborate tracks across shady meadows, through Old West towns and tunnels, and over steel and truss bridges. The unique experience will plaster a grin across any kid’s (or grown-up’s) face, all for a suggested $3 donation.
Erin Mahoney Harris is a mom of two and L.A. Parent columnist.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
The well-heeled South Bay community of Manhattan Beach combines the laid-back vibe of a seaside town with the upscale dining and shopping of Beverly Hills. Every summer, its beautiful sandy beaches host the Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournament and the International Surf Festival. In addition to surfers and pro athletes, the city is home to lots of families, which means there’s plenty of stuff to do with the kids on a warm summer day.
There’s no question about the most popular meal of the day at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (1305 Highland Ave.; 310-545-5177; www.unclebills.net), a neighborhood favorite that has a line out the door on weekends and serves decadent breakfast dishes like thick-sliced cinnamon raisin French toast and waffles stuffed with crumbled bacon.
Hidden just outside Manhattan Beach city limits, on an industrial street in El Segundo, is Scooter’s Jungle (606 Hawaii St.; 888-516-1983; www.scootersjungle.com), an incredible find for any parent looking for a place to play. Enormous inflatable slides, elaborate climbing structures and bounce houses galore make this a popular birthday party spot. Open play days fill up quickly, especially during school vacation, so it’s best to arrive early.
With its quaint roundhouse structure and pretty turquoise accents, the Manhattan Beach pier (2 Manhattan Beach Blvd.) is a charming landmark and popular fishing destination, while down below is prime seashell-hunting territory. The Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium (310-379-8117; www.roundhouseaquarium.org) at the end of the pier is free to the public and open weekdays after 3 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to sunset on weekends.
Neighborhood ice cream parlor and candy shop Manhattan Beach Creamery (1120 Manhattan Ave.; 310-372-1155; www.mbcreamery.com) serves handmade scoops in intriguing flavors like Strawberry Goat Cheese and Maple Bacon Crunch, as well as plenty traditional options that appeal to a kid’s palate. The selection changes daily and seasonally, with 28 choices at any given time.
One of the South Bay’s largest and most popular outdoor play areas, Polliwog Park (corner of Redondo Ave. and Manhattan Beach Blvd.; 310-802-5410; www.ci.manhattan-beach.ca.us) encompasses 18 acres and is home to a picturesque pond, rose garden, amphitheater, and multiple playgrounds with structures appropriate for all ages. Sloping green lawns and shade trees make it a great picnicking destination, and gazebos can be reserved for birthday parties and special events.
by Ellen Byron
Car magnets bearing the simple message, “Be Kind,” have sparked a lot of curiosity in the San Fernando Valley. They’re the latest brainchild of the Embrace Kindness Mission, a unique program created by parents and supported by the administration and faculty of North Hollywood’s Laurel Hall School, a private school affiliated with Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
The parents who founded the initiative say the program was inspired by “negative peer relationships” and bullying among students. Instead of just telling kids what not to do, they thought, why not inspire them to “be kind” to others, replacing negative behavior with positive?
When the parents shared their idea with school principal Kathleen Haworth, she instantly jumped on board. “As a principal, you get pitches for programs that will be the answer to all your social issues and bullying problems,” Haworth explains. “I feel this has a spiritual component that aligns itself with the philosophy of the school and the church, which has been very supportive.”
Embrace Kindness, launched in November 2012, outlines a plan for each school year. In September, students, parents and faculty are encouraged to sign a “Commit to Kindness” banner featuring the Mission’s distinctive logo. Teachers receive a laminated list that features monthly themes and vocabulary words for discussion. February’s theme is “love” and the vocabulary word is “generosity.” Students are encouraged to make posters, which are displayed throughout the school, promoting the theme.
The school’s Associated Student Body also helps promote the kindness message. And for a couple of days each school year, everyone on campus is encouraged to wear light blue to symbolize peace and remind everyone to be kind.
The Embrace Kindness Mission also incorporates appropriate national movements, such as Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, No Name-Calling Week, and Mix It Up at Lunch Day. Last year an anonymous parent donated enough “Be Kind” buttons to outfit the entire Laurel Hall community, and this year the school’s parent-teacher organizations paid for each family to receive a “Be Kind” car magnet to help spread message of kindness into the community.
While the mission is only in its second year, parents can already cite examples of how Embrace Kindness has influenced students. One mom says her 7-year-old daughter received a note on her desk during RAK week that read, “You are a nice girl and I love you.” Another says the kids in her son’s class – without any prompting – made an effort to include a shy new student and to sit with him at lunch. One teacher had her third grade class make posters that said, “Who’s Going to RAK You?” and it really caught the attention of the middle-school kids.
Haworth acknowledges that no anti-bullying program is foolproof and there’s still work to be done at Laurel Hall, but says the Embrace Kindness Mission has already had an impact on the school community. “I was Christmas shopping at Fashion Square and I must have seen about 10 ‘Be Kind’ car magnets,” she says. “I look at those magnets and think, Wow, I’m principal of the school that created this. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
The Embrace Kindness Mission is growing into a movement as other schools contact Laurel Hall to find out how they can create a similar program. Some websites recommended by the Laurel Hall Embrace Kindness Mission are:
If you or your school would like additional information, contact Laurel Hall School at 818-763-5434.
by Elena Epstein
Samantha Kurtzman-Counter was enjoying a successful career as a television and film producer and director when she became a mom. “I thought I would return to work within three weeks of having my son,” she says. “But, once Jack was born, I quickly realized I was lucky if I had a chance to wash my hair.”
She took a couple of years off work and then teamed up with an old high school friend, former TV executive Abbie Schiller, to start The Mother Company, which produces the award-winning “Ruby’s Studio” series of books, apps, shows and activities.
The three-year-old company’s mission, “to help parents raise good people,” is evident in the titles of their products, which focus on children’s social and emotional issues: “The Feelings Show,” “A Little Book About Friendship,” “Sally Simon Simmons’ Super Frustrating Day,” and “Casey Caterpillar Feels Left Out.” I recently chatted with Kurtzman-Counter about the company’s latest release, “The Safety Show,” shaped with the help of children’s safety expert Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After Inc.
Tell us about the mission behind “The Safety Show.”
We wanted to create something that was engaging and fun for kids and parents to watch together that would empower them to talk about scary situations without the ick factor. Often times, parents want to talk about safety, but they’re not sure how to without causing fear in their kids.
How can parents help their children feel empowered when it comes to safety?
The most important thing we can do for our kids is give them the language and the concept of trusting their own feelings. We have to allow our kids to honor their gut feelings. If they’re not comfortable participating in an activity they’re not sure about, or hugging someone, that’s OK. In “The Safety Show,” we talk about trusting your “uh-oh feelings.”
One of the hardest topics for parents to talk about is inappropriate touching. How do you address that topic in the show?
We want to give kids as young as 2 or 3 years old a simple phrase they can understand and use. “I’m the boss of my body,” is used throughout the show and we also produced a music video just on this topic. It’s so important for kids to know from an early age that no one – not another child, not an adult, even an adult they know – should touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. We often tell our kids to not talk to strangers or go anywhere with a stranger. But, the reality is, 90 percent of child abuse occurs by someone the child knows. That’s why it’s so important to allow our children to trust that “uh-oh” feeling.
For more information on The Mother Company, visit www.themotherco.com.
Elena Epstein is Director of Content & Strategic Partnerships at L.A. Parent.