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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Set up a family room camp site

tent.jpgI just love this clever idea I ran across in Family Fun's book My Great Idea, a collection of their best ideas from readers. One mom came up with a novel way to get her kids reading over the summer by setting up a Reading Tent. She set up a small tent in the family room and furnished it with bean bag chairs, oversized pillows and quilts and flashlights.

When the kids were ready to read she also threw in the added incentive of a bowl of popcorn or some other favorite snack. "The only rule of the Reading Tent is once you enter, no talking allowed ... the tent has been a success, the kids' reading charts for summer are now full."

As for "real" camping, in hot humid Florida this is a great alternative to fighting the mosquitoes and humidity. Instead of a reading tent, you could offer up a famly room camp site as a reward for reading a certain number of books or for a certain number of minutes.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Author: Say yes to toy guns, bombs and bad guys

gaspkids.jpgI have a love of contrarian authors so I was eager to see what the author of It's OK Not to Share had to say. It's a new book by Heather Shumaker, a journalist who writes about parenting and has long advocated free unstructured play in homes and schools.

The book, subtitled "Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids," has provocative chapter titles like "Let Kids Hit and Kick" (substitute targets are OK; people never); "Go Ahead: Let Him Hate the Baby!"; and "Kids Don't Have to Say Sorry" (Better to focus on taking action to make things right and eventually they'll say "sorry" and really mean it)

The one that caught my eye was titled "Bombs, Guns, and Bad Guys Allowed." She acknowledged that weapon play scares adults so much that many families and classrooms ban it. But she argues that shooting and swashbuckling is an unstoppable energy that needs to be respected.

I've always felt that way, too, but I have to admit that the horror of the massacre at the Batman movie in Colorado makes me flinch to read that.

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The challenge: Best deals for schools supplies in one stop

back2school.jpgIf it seems like summer is just getting going, better check the calendar. School starts in a month. Already, ads push sales on paper and pencils, crayons and notebooks and the tax-free shopping holiday is Aug. 3-5.

As our colleague Susan Thurston reports here, the average household is expected to spend about $300 on back-to-school supplies, according to a recent survey by ICSC-Goldman Sachs. That’s up for nearly half of the respondents, after years of scaling back. But which stores have the best deals? Who has the best selection?

She writes:
To find out, I visited Walmart, Staples and Walgreens, stores I thought would have everything on my list. I wanted to avoid multiple stops.
I used a 2012-13 school supply list for third-graders at Tampa’s Roosevelt Elementary School. While not every school has put out its list, Roosevelt’s seems pretty typical of what parents should expect for that age. It doesn’t include must-have backpacks or classroom items often requested by individual teachers.

Here's what she found:

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Some of our favorite Tampa Bay libraries

legolibrary.jpgMore than halfway through summer, a lot of parents are starting to run out of ways to entertain the kids, or at least running out of affordable ones. With that in mind we turn to the humble local library. An air-conditioned space full of helpmates who are eager to pique your kid’s curiosity and often willing to bring in steel drums to do it.

Gone are the days of shushing little ones. Libraries these days have perks like digitized music in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties that let you download three free tunes per week through Freegal. You’ll also find toddler play time, computer classes for seniors, language lessons, family history workshops and demonstrations by puppeteers, artists and musicians.  

It’s impossible to list all the bay area libraries and their cool events, but here’s a look at a few of our favorites. Check your local library’s website for a lot more. Here's the ones we have visited and loved (and some of their upcoming events):

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

beachpool_2.jpgThe heat is melting our wallets, or is it kids demanding to be entertained? Luckily, we've got some budget-friendly alternatives, such as fun pool parties, free Bucs training camp days, a silly circus and more in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with your kids:

There’s pirate booty hidden in the water for children ages 10 and under to find at Splash’s Treasure Hunt at the Highland Family Aquatic Center in Largo on Saturday. All ages can take advantage of a special four-hour swim session and visit with Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita pirates. There will be free hot dogs and Chick-fil-A sandwiches while supplies last, chair massages and lots of door prizes. Cost is $3 with a Largo recreation card and $5 without. It starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3018. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

beachpool_2.jpgThe heat is melting our wallets, or is it kids demanding to be entertained? Luckily, we've got some budget-friendly alternatives, such as fun pool parties, free Bucs training camp days, a silly circus and more in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with your kids:

There’s pirate booty hidden in the water for children ages 10 and under to find at Splash’s Treasure Hunt at the Highland Family Aquatic Center in Largo on Saturday. All ages can take advantage of a special four-hour swim session and visit with Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita pirates. There will be free hot dogs and Chick-fil-A sandwiches while supplies last, chair massages and lots of door prizes. Cost is $3 with a Largo recreation card and $5 without. It starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3018. …

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'Weekly Reader' to cease -- killed by testing fervor?

weeklyreader.jpgWeekly Reader was my first news magazine. It was where I learned the nickname for the Vice President is "Veep" and it is perhaps best known for its presidential poll of students, which proved uncannily accurate having been wrong only once since 1956. I always looked forward to the Friday afternoon break when our Weekly Reader arrived and we could read about current events or a science story. It's new owner, Scholastic (it used to be a Readers Digest property) confirmed this week that the current events magazine for kids will not be returning from summer vacation.

And guess what may have killed it? Tests like the FCAT.

Neal Goff, who was president of Weekly Reader from 2005 to 2010, told the New York Times that while it is tempting to see the close of Weekly Reader as another example of a shrinking print audience, he pointed to the focus on teaching to the test that has made anything other than math and reading extraneous. “There has been a general loss of teaching kids about current events,” he said. “That is something that has been squeezed out of the classroom.” …

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Are cell phones really all that bad in school?

iphone.jpgI was intrigued by this post from our friends on the Gradebook blog about a Hillsborough School Board workshop where one member said out loud what I've been thinking for awhile now:

Speaking at a board workshop on Hillsborough's  technology needs, Griffin said the district might be overlooking the reality that many students feel comfortable doing research, sharing information and - essentially - learning with the help of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. She added of course that they need to learn etiquette so she was not advocating a free-for-all. Think of the cost savings if kids could bring their own ipads or use their own phones to look something up.

I think she has a point. As long as they aren't texting in class or using them when they aren't supposed to, I really don't see what's so bad about say, letting kids use them freely during lunchtime in the cafeteria. And by having students bring their own devices from home, it frees up the school's computers for other kids.  It's kind of amazing how many kids have smartphones these days. By tying them into lessons it might help kids be more motivated and interested in the activity. …

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5 worst fast food kid meals

happy_meal_0429.jpgWell we knew this stuff wasn't health food, but the  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says those kiddie meals at fast food places are not just cheap and fast, they are loaded with sugar and sodium, and really offer very little nutritional value. And this is AFTER the top fast-food chains including McDonald’s and Burger King announced plans to make kids meals healthier. Nearly a year after those announcements, nutrition experts with the PCRM evaluated kids meals from these and other fast-food restaurants and found that many are still loaded with fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

"Passing off unhealthful foods as 'healthy' is especially troubling at a time when 16.9 million American children and adolescents are obese," the report said.

Here's their 5 worst offenders:

Chick-fil-A Kids Grilled Nuggets Kids Meal  The nutritional shocker is that it contains the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac.

McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal Contains more sodium than 13 orders of McDonald’s kids fries.

Sonic Kids’ Jr. Burger Meal Contains more sugar than two Twinkies.

Burger King Hamburger Kids Meal Contains almost as much cholesterol as six slices of pork bacon. …

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Super Why springs from TV to stage

superwhy.jpgSuper Why, the top-rated PBS series for preschoolers jumps from the screen to the stage this week for a one-night show in Tampa on Saturday.

The show, which the New York Times hailed as “brilliantly clever” as a reading lesson, centers on the title character “Whyatt,” of Storybrook Village. With the help of his Super Reader friends Pig, Red Riding Hood and Princess Pea, the group enters story books to find clues to solve a problem, earning letters along the way that eventually spell out the answer to the problem such as “Ask first” or “Clean up” or “Keep trying.” In the live show, audiences are expected to shout out answers, sing along, dance — anything but sit quietly in their seats.

The show is here for one night only, 5 p.m. on Saturday at Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Tickets are $23.50-$39.50 (813) 229-7827.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Super Why springs from TV to stage

superwhy.jpgSuper Why, the top-rated PBS series for preschoolers jumps from the screen to the stage this week for a one-night show in Tampa on Saturday.

The show, which the New York Times hailed as “brilliantly clever” as a reading lesson, centers on the title character “Whyatt,” of Storybrook Village. With the help of his Super Reader friends Pig, Red Riding Hood and Princess Pea, the group enters story books to find clues to solve a problem, earning letters along the way that eventually spell out the answer to the problem such as “Ask first” or “Clean up” or “Keep trying.” In the live show, audiences are expected to shout out answers, sing along, dance — anything but sit quietly in their seats.

The show is here for one night only, 5 p.m. on Saturday at Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Tickets are $23.50-$39.50 (813) 229-7827.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Summer night savings at aquarium

fish.jpgYour wallet is sweating. Dollar bills just burst in flames. Even your credit cards melted together, forming a spork. Let’s face it, Florida summers are tough. But the Florida Aquarium in Tampa greets these dog days with half-off admission after 5 p.m. and extended hours until 8 p.m. on select nights.

Summer Savings Nights also features an exclusive performance by the new Florida Aquarium Mermaids. If the educational displays don’t satisfy the young ones, there’s always the Explore A Shore water adventure (which closes at dusk). Admission is normally $21.95, $18.95 for seniors 60+, $16.95 for kids 3-12. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000.

--Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

zoo.jpgIt's midsummer, and it's tiime for someone to give Momma a break! Luckily we have lots of helpers, from $5 day at the zoo, to cool movies in the park to a cool art show in the blessed air-conditioning. And all of them are budget friendly. Read on for more free and cheap things to do with kids this week:

Everyone gets into Lowry Park Zoo for $5 on Sunday. They do this a couple times a year, so you better get there early because you’re not the only one who thinks this is an awesome deal. Wear breathable clothes and water shoes so you can cool off in the zoo’s splash zone when the heats gets too tough to take. The zoo is open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa.

Air conditioning opened up Florida, and is the reason it’s now so populated. It was also the impetus 24 years ago to start the Cool Art Show, running on Saturday and Sunday at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. Now featuring about 80 artists, it runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days . 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Free parking and admission. No pets.  …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

zoo.jpgIt's midsummer, and it's tiime for someone to give Momma a break! Luckily we have lots of helpers, from $5 day at the zoo, to cool movies in the park to a cool art show in the blessed air-conditioning. And all of them are budget friendly. Read on for more free and cheap things to do with kids this week:

Everyone gets into Lowry Park Zoo for $5 on Sunday. They do this a couple times a year, so you better get there early because you’re not the only one who thinks this is an awesome deal. Wear breathable clothes and water shoes so you can cool off in the zoo’s splash zone when the heats gets too tough to take. The zoo is open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa.

Air conditioning opened up Florida, and is the reason it’s now so populated. It was also the impetus 24 years ago to start the Cool Art Show, running on Saturday and Sunday at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. Now featuring about 80 artists, it runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days . 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Free parking and admission. No pets.  …

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Samsung uses 3D game for movie commercial

samsung.jpgSamsung is going beyond the typical movie trailers and commercials that occupy the audience before the movie begins, and created a CD Cinema Game playing before select movies. Granted, this is just part of the huge media blitz the company is rolling out for its new Galaxy S III phone, but it's a lot better than a dancing popcorn bucket.

The campaign includes a first-of-its-kind 3D interactive crowd motion game. The theaters are equipped with motion sensor technology. In the game, the audience has to work together with their hands in the air to make two phones (which appear to be “hovering” in the ether from the 3D screen) to touch to share content. This is their way of demonstrating the key new feature of the phone, where users can share content with each other simply by tapping the phones.

You can go here to find where it's playing at your local movie theaters.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma
 

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