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CertifiKID Field Report: Lucky Strike Bethesda

09.15.17

Lucky Strike Bethesda Bowling

Planning a group outing that appeals equally to kids and adults can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. When we came across Lucky Strike Bethesda, we knew it was the perfect venue for our next Team CertifiKID family event.

Conveniently located on the first level of Westfield Montgomery Mall, Lucky Strike Bethesda is part upscale sports bar, part swanky bowling venue. With funky lighting, posh décor, music pumping, and a menu filled with both inventive ‘pub grub’ and a long list of craft brews and specialty cocktails, this is not your grandparents’ bowling alley.

Lucky Strike Bethesda is smartly designed with the chic gastropub up front and the dimly lit, glowing alleys tucked away in back. They have managed to strike the perfect balance between cool adult hang out and multi-generational family fun all in one pretty sweet looking venue.

Lucky Strike Bethesda Bowling

When we arrived, Lucky Strike Bethesda's welcoming staff escorted us back to our private party area with our own lanes, seating and dining areas. The kids headed straight for the bowling balls, while the adults settled into cushy leather sofas. With big TVs stationed at every lane, Lucky Strike Bethesda makes it easy for adults to sit back and chill while the kids have a blast bowling. And guard rails for the littles means no gutter balls or tears! #winning

Lucky Strike Bethesda also offers a lot of fun little extras you don't see at your average bowling alley. There's an area for corn hole and various board games strategically placed throughout, offering a nice alternative when you tire of bowling or while waiting on your next turn.

Lucky Strike Bethesda Bowling

Also markedly different from your typical bowling alley fare of rubbery hamburgers and hot dogs, Lucky Strike Bethesda's "Gastro Kitchen" offers everything from slightly dressed up pub standards like chips & guac, pretzel sticks, and wings to creative salads, sandwiches and pastas; brick oven pizzas; large plates featuring seafood, chicken and meat options; and even several different kinds of sushi. They also have your standard mac & cheese and yes, hot dogs, for the kiddos.

Our group opted for a variety of finger foods, sliders and pizzas, and of course the kid-favorite, "crispy chicken bites" (aka chicken nuggets). From the looks of the empty platters at the end of the evening, I'd say we all thoroughly enjoyed the food. And for dessert, LUCKY Charms marshmallow treats. A definite hit with the kids! They also allow you to bring in your own cake, if you'd like.

Lucky Strike Bethesda Bowling

Thanks to Lucky Strike Bethesda, this was our best Team CertifiKID family event yet! They took care of all of the details, made sure we received top notch service throughout the event, and the venue provided the perfect mix of relaxing adult entertainment and high energy kid fun we were seeking. We highly recommend Lucky Strike Bethesda for a fun outing with family or friends, or for your next private event. They will work with you to create the perfect party package to fit whatever you are looking for - kid or adult birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, bachelor/ette parties, fundraisers, corporate events and more.

Lucky Strike Bethesda Bowling

This post is sponsored by Lucky Strike Bethesda. However, we only promote businesses that we genuinely believe in and think will appeal to CertifiKID subscribers.

Tags: family fun bowling lucky strike washington dc maryland montgomery county bethesda birthday party

CertifiKID Field Report: Greenlight® - The Debit Card for Kids

08.30.17

This is a photo of my son's shorts about to go in the washer, an all too familiar weekly scene in our laundry room. I don't even want to know how much cash he's lost around town (**insert facepalm here**). Despite all our teaching about financial responsibility and money management (yes, he owns a wallet!), we needed some help. When I heard about Greenlight, I was excited to give it a try.

Greenlight is a debit card just for kids that parents can fund and manage in real-time right from an app on their phone. There are a couple of things that impressed me right away about Greenlight compared to other options we considered: (1) There is no minimum age requirement (Our credit union wouldn't issue a debit card or even a low-limit credit card to our son until he turns 16.) and (2) Greenlight allows you to view and control accounts and spending limits for up to five kids all in one place for one low monthly fee, which is super convenient and cost effective for families with multiple kids like us. Even better, with this CertifiKID deal, your first month is FREE and you even receive $20 to spend just for trying it out!

We decided to get Greenlight cards for all three of our kids, ages 8, 13 and 15. Setting up our Greenlight account was quick and easy - no burdensome paperwork to fill out or credit check required. Everything is done right on your phone through the app. All I needed was my mobile phone number and other basic identifying information to get started, and the account number for a valid debit card to fund my kids' cards. If you want your child to be able to view and manage their account on their own phone, you need to enter their mobile phone number as well and download the app on their phone.  

About a week after setting up our Greenlight account, the kids' cards arrived in the mail. It was an exciting day!

Things we love about Greenlight so far:

Permission-Based Spending

Greenlight allows you to set both general spending limits, as well spending limits for categories (e.g., gas or restaurants) and even specific stores. For instance, you can fund your child's card with $25 to spend wherever they choose and/or $25 they can spend only on gas or only at Target. How great is that? We set up automatic pay for our kids' weekly allowances (more on that below), which is their "Spend Anywhere" money. We also funded each of our sons' cards with money they can spend only at our neighborhood grocery store. Thanks to Greenlight, we can send them on errands to pick up groceries without having to dig up cash or worry about them losing it somewhere along the way!

During a recent trip to Busch Gardens, our boys went off on their own with their Greenlight cards funded with money they could spend only at the park. We received a notification on our phones every time they made a purchase and could see how much money they had left throughout the day. When they ran low, we were able to immediately transfer money to their accounts right from our phones instead of having to meet up with them to hand over cash. Greenlight even let us specify that any change be automatically refunded to our Parent's Wallet at the end of the day.

 

Automatic Allowance
Greenlight allows you to pay allowances automatically on a weekly or monthly schedule - no more remembering to hit the ATM or cleaning out your own wallet on pay day. This is also a great visible way for kids to see progress toward a goal if they are saving up for something special, as they watch their Spend Anywhere money grow with each deposit.

Built-in Budgeting
Greenlight has already proven helpful in getting our children, especially our two oldest, to better appreciate and adhere to a budget. It's easy for them to see exactly where their money is going and how much they've spent. If like mine, your kids are constantly coming to you begging for money to meet their friends at Chipotle, or Starbucks, or Chick-Fil-A, Greenlight makes it easy to set a monthly budget for food purchases by funding their cards a set amount that can be spent only at restaurants. Once our oldest is driving, I anticipate using Greenlight to set a monthly gas budget, too. 

Peace of Mind
If your child's Greenlight card is ever lost, misplaced, or stolen, it can immediately be shut off from either your or your child's phone. No more keeping track of loose bills or worrying about cash falling out of your child's pockets or backpack (or going through the wash!). It's also great not having to worry if I've sent the kids with enough money when they go off on their own. I can transfer money to their accounts any time right from my phone. And if they are ever short, they can request additional money right from the app. Greenlight even integrates with Apple Pay, so kids with iPhones who forget their cards at home can still pay for purchases at participating stores.

Excited about trying Greenlight for your family? With this CertifiKID offer, try Greenlight FREE for 30 days and receive $20 in your account. After your trial ends, pay just $4.99 per month for your whole family.

~ Kim

This post is sponsored by Greenlight®. However, we only promote businesses that we genuinely believe in and think will appeal to CertifiKID subscribers.

Tags: kids parents finances saving spending debit financial responsibility money management

CertifiKID Field Report: LePort Montessori Schools

08.22.17

As soon as you walk on to the campus of LePort Montessori School in Reston, you can tell this is a special place. Your eyes are immediately drawn to their large, open natural playground built right into the landscape of the school, nestled within the shade of mature trees of all different species. While I don't suggest judging a school merely by its playground, in this case, it is indeed a reflection of what is fundamental to both Montessori education in general and LePort themselves.

Like most parents, I had a vague understanding that Montessori has something to do with more broadly structured, student-directed learning. My visit to LePort Montessori Reston taught me that authentic Montessori education is nothing like I imagined. Based on an extensive body of research on how kids learn best, LePort Montessori empowers children with the autonomy to explore and deeply engage with learning in a comfortable, family-like community, but within the structure of a sequential, challenging curriculum. LePort produces independent, self-assured, creative thinkers who actually love learning! Who doesn't want that kind of education for their children?

At the core of the Montessori method and LePort's educational approach is compelling research on the importance of unstructured, child-directed play in promoting healthy physical, cognitive and emotional development. Through play, children engage with and learn about the world around them, conquer physical challenges, use their imaginations, learn to think creatively and problem solve, and develop physical and emotional strength, competency and self esteem. 

Research has shown that not only do children need play, their bodies and minds crave outdoor play, something that is sadly in short supply these days as children spend more and more time indoors and on electronic devices. Frequent exposure to an enriching, natural environment with rocks, trees, running water and a wide variety of sensory experiences and physical challenges - just like we all experienced as kids! - is vital to healthy development. You know those trendy outdoor preschools and nature-immersive classes that are popping up all over these days? None of this is new to Montessori. They have incorporated nature-based play and learning in their teaching for over 100 years.

That brings me back to that amazing natural playground I mentioned earlier. While the playgrounds at all of LePort's locations are designed as nature-immersive, LePort Montessori Reston's new natural playground is special; something LePort intends to implement across all locations over time. Unlike traditional playgrounds with fixed equipment and artificial materials that children grow bored with over time, natural playgrounds are, by design, always changing, presenting new experiences and stimuli daily. Each element is designed to be used in conjunction with nature itself - rocks, leaves, sticks, sand, mud, water - to provide boundless experiences for children to explore, imagine, and create.

In keeping with the Montessori ideal of child-directed learning, LePort Montessori Reston students chose the elements that they wanted on their playground. There are boulders to climb and explore, which double as seats for an outdoor classroom experience; a labyrinth and walking paths for quiet reflection, meditation and stress release; deep sand pits for digging, pouring, sifting, scooping and measuring; outdoor musical implements for creative stimulation and self-expression; and sheltered nooks to climb in and hide away. A water sluice provides endless possibilities! Whether children want to simply feel the sensation of the cool water running through their fingers, clean their daily treasures, or make some squishy mud to play with, they can do it here. And I'd be remiss not to mention a kid favorite - the climbing wall!

While there is much more to a school than its playground, LePort's commitment to bringing sensory-rich outdoor play and nature-based learning to their schools sets them apart not just from traditional preschools, but from other Montessori schools as well. If you are looking for an authentic, high quality Montessori education for your child, LePort Montessori currently operates 21 schools, including six Northern Virginia locations serving infants through 6th graders in Aldie, Ashburn (Broadlands), Chantilly, Fairfax, Herndon and Reston. While school starts this week, LePort welcomes students year round and will meet your child wherever they are in their educational journey. Contact the LePort Montessori School nearest you for more information or to enroll your child.

This post is sponsored by LePort Montessori. However, we only promote businesses that we genuinely believe in and think will appeal to CertifiKID subscribers.

Tags: kids child school education Montessori Northern Virginia learning play development nature natural playground outdoor

CertifiKID Field Report: Ibotta - Easy Couponing for Busy Families

08.08.17

We are big fans of businesses that save our CertifiKID families either time or money. When we come across a product or service that claims to do BOTH of these things, we get pretty darn excited. Enter Ibotta.

Ibotta is a free mobile coupon app that allows shoppers to earn cash rebates on select products from hundreds of popular retailers like Target, Walmart, Amazon, Kohl's, and just about any grocery store you can think of -- all with just a few clicks. I love to save money, but as a busy full-time working mom of three, I'm both too busy and frankly, too lazy to put much effort into couponing or scouring the depths of the Web for promo codes or deals. When I heard about Ibotta, I was excited to give it a try.

Downloading the app was fast and easy. And with this CertifiKID offer, I scored a $10 welcome bonus just for verifying my first purchase! YES! I was under the impression that Ibotta was just for grocery store coupons, so I was immediately pleasantly surprised by the long list and variety of retailers -- everything from restaurants and convenience stores to travel websites, clothing stores and major online retailers. For instance, Ibotta interfaces with Amazon to offer cash back on all sorts of things. You simply tap the offer you are interested in and Ibotta automatically redirects you to Amazon to make your purchase. Within 24 hours, you receive cash credit in your Ibotta account -- it's literally that easy. 

 

I wanted to give Ibotta a thorough test drive, so I readied my grocery list and hit the app to check for rebates. Searching for items is easy - simply select your store and browse by category, or type a specific product or brand in the search box. Click on the item to add to your rebate list (sometimes this requires performing a simple task, such as viewing an ad). You can view your items at any time by clicking "My Rebates" on the bottom tool bar. I found a few items to add to my list and went shopping.

Sometimes Ibotta even introduces you to a product you didn't even know existed. Ben & Jerry's Pint Slices, #YouCompleteMe

ben & jerry's ice cream pint slices ibotta certifikid

After purchase, all you do is click "Redeem" on the bottom tool bar and select the store where you purchased your items. Ibotta leads you through either taking a picture of your receipt or scanning the receipt's QR code, depending on the retailer, and automatically matches up your purchases with your rebates. Within 24 hours, your cash magically appears in your Ibotta account. Even better, for some stores, Ibotta provides the capability to link your loyalty card to your account. Your rebates are automatically submitted to Ibotta upon using your loyalty card at checkout, eliminating the need for a receipt.

  

Once you reach $20 in rebates, you can transfer the cash directly to your PayPal or Venmo account right from the app. You can also cash out with a variety of gift cards, including Starbucks, Best Buy, Amazon, Sephora and more! How awesome is that? 

Too busy to hit the stores? Ibotta even offers cash back on purchases you make on other mobile apps initiated through Ibotta. Whether you need to book a trip or grab dinner for the family, Ibotta makes it easy with deals on top apps, including Amazon, Hotels.com, Delivery.com and many more.

Ibotta makes couponing super easy for non-couponers like me. Now that I know how simple it is to use, I will definitely be checking Ibotta first before heading to the grocery store ... or any of my favorite stores on their list. Sign up now and claim your $10 welcome bonus!

This post is sponsored by Ibotta. However, we only promote businesses that we genuinely believe in and think will appeal to CertifiKID subscribers.

Tags: families savings coupons deals free rebates ibotta

Top 10 Summer Boredom Busters [That are Totally #OnTrend]

06.26.17

School is out and the lazy days of summer are in full swing. Doesn't it feel amazing to sleep in until 9 a.m. every day and relax with cup of coffee in hand while the kids entertain themselves for hours?

On the off chance that's not quite how your summer is going, we've put together a list of super cool activities to keep the kiddos busy this summer and that dreaded "Mooooommmm, I'm bored!" chant at bay...at least temporarily.  

1. Paint Rocks and Spread Kindness
It all started with one rock and a few kind words. It's grown into a full-fledged grassroots kindness movement. The idea is super simple: (1) collect rocks; (2) paint them however you like; (3) write encouraging, kind or inspirational messages on them, and (4) drop them around town for others to find. How's that for a perfect kid-friendly activity that doubles as a service project? Visit The Kindness Rocks Project for details and complete "how to" instructions. Be sure to add the #TheKindessRocksProject to the back of each rock you drop to keep track of your kindness. Your kids will love this one!

2. Get Slimy - 31 Different Ways
Do-it-yourself slime took the school-aged crowd by storm this year and there's no sign of this trend letting up anytime soon. My kids keep coming up with more and more interesting slime concoctions. I love how excited they get about something that doesn't involve an electronic device and that there's even some science involved. #Winning Check out DIY Projects for Teens for 31 Most Awesome DIY Slime Recipes that will keep them happily slime-ing all summer long. 

3. Keep Them Spinning
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that fidget spinner toys are all the rage right now. If, like me, you're tired of your kids begging for the latest and greatest model/color/shape/design, why not channel that enthusiasm into a summer spinner DIY challenge? Check out Lemon Lime Adventures for Totally Rad DIY Fidget Spinners That Will Make Your Little Makers Go Nuts, including a LEGO® model. Red Ted Art also has a cool Ninja Fidget Spinner DIY model made out of only paper.

4. Let's Get Cookin'
Research suggests that kids who are involved in planning and preparing meals are more likely to eat a wider variety of foods and make healthier food choices. Food Network has a section on their website devoted to getting kids involved in the kitchen, including kid-friendly kitchen tasks, tips and recipes. If you're not quite ready to turn dinner prep over to your littles, there's lots of simple fun treats you can whip up with your kids this summer. We love these Too-Cute Frozen Banana Animal Pops.

5. Catch the Summer Reading Bug!
Summer has long been the perfect time to cozy up with a good book. These days, there are lots of great public and private programs that make summer reading even more fun, exciting and rewarding. The DC Public Library's Build a Better World Summer Reading challenge encourages all readers, including adults, to read books with cool prizes, including Chipotle kid's meal coupons and even tickets to a Washington Nationals baseball game! Check your local public library for similar programs. Barnes & Noble, Chuck E Cheese's, Scholastic and Sylvan also offer rewards programs that will get your kids excited about reading this summer.

6. Score with a Summer Bucket List
Having a list of go-to activities at your fingertips for those inevitable "I'm bored" moments is a great idea. Check out this super cute Summer Bucket List craft and activity ideas from The Home Teacher. Get the kids involved in brainstorming and write down all of your 'bucket list' activities on Popsicle sticks. Kids get a kick out of pulling a new exciting adventure out of the bucket with every stick! 

7. Go on a Real Life Treasure Hunt!
Letterboxing
is a great outdoor family activity that involves following clues in search of real life hidden treasure boxes that contain a unique stamp and notebook to log box visitors. You can look up letterbox locations and clues on letterboxing.org. You will be amazed at how many there are near you. If you want to take your treasure hunt high tech, try geogaching. Use your phone or handheld GPS device to navigate to the "cache," which includes a logbook and perhaps some trinkets to trade. A new adventure awaits you with every hunt! 

8. Check out a Cheap (or FREE!) Flick
Summer and movies go hand in hand, but taking the whole family to a movie can be a pricey endeavor. Luckily, many movie theaters offer cheap (or even free) family-friendly movies for kids and families during select days of the week during the summer, usually in the morning hours. Check out The Balance for a full list of participating theaters for 2017.

9. Go High Tech for FREE at Apple Camp
The price tag for summer camps, especially science and technology camps, can cause sticker shock for many families. Select Apple stores offer free camp sessions where kids 8 to 12 can expand their digital creativity by making their own movies, composing musical stories, or coding games and robots. Click here to find the Apple Camp nearest you.

10. Get Cultured
Summer is a great time to expand horizons and learn something new. Check out this list of the Best Free Language Learning Websites and get the whole family learning a new language together. Practice at the grocery store with your little ones by taking turns naming the fruits and veggies. Label objects around the house with post-it notes and make a game of quizzing each other. Celebrate your progress at the end of the summer with a themed dinner and see how long you can make it through the meal without speaking English!

And don't forget to check CertifiKID for great savings on summer camps, local family fun, and family-friendly day trips and getaways! New deals are added daily, so be sure to sign up to receive our daily family friendly deals

CertifiKID Field Report: Music & Arts

06.08.17

Thinking about music lessons for your child, but unsure about adding yet another activity to your already hectic schedule? Whether you think you have the next Beethoven or Hendrix on your hands, or simply want to introduce your child to music, there are many benefits of music lessons that go well beyond learning how to play an instrument. Research has found that music instruction improves academic skills and test scores, increases IQ, develops discipline and organizational skills, boosts self esteem and encourages creativity and self-expression - just to name a few!

Now that we've convinced you to get your kids into music, you may be wondering where to start. All music teachers and lesson studios are not created equal. It can be challenging to find the right instructor for your child or your schedule. Luckily, we have done the leg work and research for you!

Music & Arts is the single largest provider of music lessons in the nation. They have 65 years of music lesson experience and teach over 1.5 million lessons each year! No matter where you're located, there's bound to be a Music & Arts Lesson Studio near you

What sets Music & Arts apart is their team of highly quality, hand picked instructors and customized lesson approach - no one-size-fits-all lessons here! When you partner with them for your child's music education, you will receive a university-trained, background-checked instructor that is particularly suited and qualified to teach the age, musical genre, learning style and ability level of your student. And Music & Arts instructors make learning FUN and EXCITING because they are all passionate about what they do.

Music & Arts specializes in helping busy families fit music education into their schedules with flexible lesson times and a family-friendly studio environment. Parents are always welcome to sit in on their child's lessons and encouraged to communicate with instructors about their student's progress and lesson plans. And BONUS, students also enjoy membership benefits like 10% off accessories and 20% off sheet music and books in Music & Arts retail stores.

For the entire weekend on July 14th - 16th, 2017, Music & Arts is opening up the doors to every store location* and inviting students, parents, musicians and educators to check out their Lesson Studio. This National Open House Lesson Event will include open mic performances, free beginner guitar lessons and free consultations with instructors. This is a great way to check out Music & Arts first hand with no obligation. You can RSVP for this free event here.

If you're still on the fence about whether lessons at Music & Arts is for right for your family, watch this video to learn more.

*Excludes non-lesson locations: San Antonio, TX; Mamaroneck, NY; Paramus, NJ; Monroe, NY and Olympia, WA.

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