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Insider Tips on Indoor Family Fun in Washington D.C. (and beyond!)

07.16.15

Just because the weather isn't playing nice doesn't mean you have to put off having fun with the family. With that in mind, Team CertifiKid set out with our families to find the best places to take the fun indoors. From "top secret" spy missions to high flying fun, we found tons of ways to make any day awesome.

International Spy Museum (Washington DC)

In a city best known for world-class free museums, you might wonder why you'd want to pay to play, right? To be honest, we wondered the same thing. A single visit to this one of a kind, interactive, and truly unique museum answered that for us... it is AWESOME for all ages!

Randi - Director of Business Development (daughter age 8, son age 5)

My kids loved doing the scavenger hunt as we navigated our way through the museum. It adds an extra element of fun!

Insider Tip: Remember to bring a pen, pencil or crayon for each kid! They will give you the scavenger hunt to do you'll need something to write with too!

Lara - Director of Marketing & Creative Development (daughters ages 16 and 9, son age 10)

We loved the mix of historical and pop culture. Everything from James Bond to Aldrich Ames. There are so many things to see and discover that you could go back again and again and not find everything! To be honest, I liked this place so much that I'd even go without my kids just to enjoy it for myself.

Insider Tip: Push buttons and turn knobs. There are even secret passage ways to discover. Choose your cover identity wisely, you'll need to be able "play" the part.

Rockin' Jump (Gaithersburg, MD)

Raise your hand if the 8 year old you would have been stoked to have an entire room covered in trampolines. Yeah, your kids are gonna love that too. It gets even better at Rockin' Jump though because it is an entire building filled with jumping awesome. If you can dodge a ball, you can dodge one on a trampoline! Flip and flop into giant airbags to test out those acrobatic skills, or just jump, jump, jump till you can't jump anymore.

Randi - Director of Business Development (daughter age 8, son age 5)

We had a blast at Rockin' Jump! It was so much fun, and great exercise for all of us. The kids could jump for hours, and I could go for most of the time. :) It was a really great activity to take a break from the heat. I'd recommend to go during the week and go when they first open so you can have less of a crowd.
 
Insider Tip: We had the whole place to ourselves at first on a Tuesday morning at 11:00. Don't forget to bring your Rockin' socks if you already have a pair - saves you $2 on buying a new pair when you get there. 

 

Monkey Joe's (Sterling, VA)

This place is perfect for those days when the kids need to expend some of that endless energy they have. Monkey Joe's is packed with bounce houses, and fun ways to play. There is a separate play area for the smaller kiddos and even some comfy seating for grownups

Nikki - Account Executive (two sons ages 1 and 5)

We love to do Monkey Joe's and then go to the V Brewhouse. They have a patio with couches and surprisingly kid friendly brunch menu and it is only about a mile from Monkey Joe's.

Insider Tip: Don't forget the socks! Monkey Joe's requires the kiddos to wear them.

Adventure Park USA (New Market, MD)

Adventure Park USA is Maryland's largest family entertainment center. They’ve got mini-golf to a rock climbing wall, plus lots of fun rides. Yes, the bulk of the fun is outdoor, but there is a great arcade and other indoor fun to be found. The entire place as a fun Western theme and is great for younger kids as well as tweens, even teens.

Amie - Director of Operations (daughter 4, son 4 months)

Adventure Park is a hidden gem right in our backyard. It's all the fun of a big time amusement park without the crowds and long lines.

Insider Tip: Go check out the NEW rollercoaster they added this year!

The Pottery Cove (Catonsville, MD)

This adorable little pottery painting studio offers over 150 different ways to unleash your inner "Maker." You can create almost anything, and don't have to be an awesome artist to have fun. A day spent painting is fun for everyone. The best part though is coming back to pick up your finished work and seeing it transformed from a dusty looking piece of pale pottery into something truly unique.

Jamie - Founder and CEO (son age 7, daughter age 6)

What I love about pottery painting is that it's something fun to do with your kids and/or with your friends. Our team got together with our kids celebrate the arrival of Amie's new baby. It was a blast for all of us and we've got these great pieces of finished art to keep as really cool party gift!

Insider Tip: Leave some extra time for exploring the small businesses around the area where The Pottery Cove is. There is a great little candy shop, an antique store, and even a bread company on the same block.

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Our CEO Brings You The Inside Scoop From The 2015 Toy Fair In NYC

02.23.15

One of the things I love most about running CertifiKid, is finding new things my kids will love - and yours too. It’s like I get to be a kid all over again. I certainly felt like one this past weekend when I attended the 2015 Toy Fair in New York City.


Just imagine over 400,000 square feet filled with TOYS! I know, right? WOW! I had a blast getting an insider’s look at the latest and greatest toys, gadgets, and gizmos that will hit store shelves in the coming year. To say my kids were excited to see pictures and hear about the amazing things I uncovered, is putting it mildly. I may have just won the Coolest Mom Ever award.

 


There were certainly clear trends that stood out. For example, Beanie Boos were the BIG plush toy craze. These big-eyed versions of what you and I might know better by the name, Beanie Baby, were everywhere. Ironically my kids are totally obsessed with them already. I’m not sure what it is about them that sets them apart from other plush toys - maybe it’s those eyes? - but everyone seems to be into them.


Gru and his crew of minions were EVERYWHERE. Made me excited for the release of Despicable Me 3 this summer. I was surprised to see that FROZEN wasn’t so big. Maybe it’s finally feeling the chill of overexposure? Ha ha.


The Engineers Have It!

Building Toys like LEGO, Magna Tiles, and others of their sort, were all over. Kits with all the gears, pulleys, and levers your child needs to build his or her own contraptions are as limitless as their imaginations. The industry is catching on with the popularity of these types of toys and there will be nearly endless options on the market soon.  


Cracker Jack Tattoos are so Last Year

The place was packed with tattoos of all sorts, everywhere. And not just on arms. The sheer volume of new products avaiable are likely to make temporary tattoos a trend with options for nails, skin and even clothes. Parents, guard your upholstery!

 


I loved seeing that there was a fairly sizeable contingent of back-to-basics toys (like wood toys and blocks) and Eco Friendly stuff. Though I would have expected to see more. Maybe these won’t be as popular as I may have expected.


As a parent, I was super excited to see that educational play took center stage. Science was certainly the star of the show among this toy genre. From kits that guide kids of all age groups through fun - age appropriate - experiments to exploration projects you can do together, this segment of the toy world is poised to make a BIG BANG with families! Or at least that’s my theory.


Blame it all on our obsession with Pinterest

DIY craft kits are HUGE! What I love about these types of toys is they provide guided activities, and all the supplies you need to help grow creativity, all while keeping kids busy. I can think of tons of reasons to have a bunch of these on-hand all year long; party activities, playdates, gifts, rainy, snowy and summer days too.

 


It seems that scooters are the next hot item to get kids outdoors, active and moving. There were more than a handful fun of companies peddling their version of these little people movers. What I was shocked NOT to see, was a ton of sports related items. There were some, but I went in certainly expecting to see a lot more. Could it be that so many of our kids go to sports themed camps, and/or play in organized leagues, that there isn't really as big a market for these toys at home?


Welcome Back Family Game Night!

There were oodles of options in the board game market. There is going to be literally something for everyone. Who knew there were so many board games? I guess Monopoly isn’t exactly enjoying a monopoly, eh?


Apps Are Where It’s At: Or At Least They’re Everywhere

I found it really intriguing that everything from building to plush toys, coloring books to readers, seemed to have its own app. Some of these were great and gave an obvious added value to the product. Others, not so much. I’m sort of on the fence about apps as add-ons to toys that would traditionally be non-screentime playthings. How about you?

 

 


Surprised and Excited

One thing that really surprised me was the small amount of “pinky girly stuff.” In years past there seemed to be an endless supply of pinked-up toys. Paint it pink, it’s for a girl. That seemed to be the norm in years past when it came to marketing to girls. Don’t get me wrong, there were dolls and all the frills that go with them, there just weren’t a ton of these type of things. Manufacturers seem to be spending a lot more time on turning out thoughtfully designed toys for girls. Bravo!


3D printing is coming and I’m SO excited! This technology is nothing short of mind-blowing. Once confined to laboratories and the tech industry - mostly due to costs and complicated operation (it literally took a Rocket Scientist to use one) - 3D printing is now becoming more widely available for PLAY!


Leading the way are companies like PieceMaker which offers a “DIY” 3D printing kiosk where kids, and kids-at-heart, can design and print their own toys. Yes. Print. Toys. Mind blown, huh? The technology has also found its way into creative toy kits, as printing the moving parts is far faster and more economical than traditional manufacturing.

 


I was thrilled to find our friends from local, award-winning, and generally amazing ThinkFun in this catagory. 3D printing technology is at the core of their BRAND NEW (coming in April 2015) Maker Studio Construction Sets. I love the blending of high and low tech in this toy that is sure to take its place alongside the other cutting edge toys that Bill and Andrea have developed.


I can’t wait to start bringing you some of these innovative and amazing new toys and products. 2015 is going to be an epic year here on our CertifiKid playground! What toy do you think your kids would love? 

 

~ Jamie 

CertifiKid CEO & Founding Mom 

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Filed under Just For Fun, Certifikid News

Moms Who Rock: Deb Johns, CEO of SCOUT

04.16.14
Deb Johns - The Creative Mom and Mind Behind SCOUT

As the song goes, "She Works Hard for the Money." Now, Donna Summer may have been singing about a freewheeling single gal there, but the sentiment is doubly true when that gal answers to “Mommy”.


Working moms have evolved from the lines of cheesy, chart-topping 80s pop tunes to head up some of the most successful businesses on the planet, all while managing to make sure boo-boos are still kissed and holiday traditions remain intact.  How do we do it?  Myriad ways, naturally...but organization is a key common denominator.  To keep all the tools of their trades together and close to hand, the smart working mom employs a SCOUT, of course.


Ingeniously designed, insanely durable and downright fashionable, SCOUT bags make the scene on the shoulders of savvy and stylish moms from the pool to the carpool, grocery stores to gyms, beaches, and even boardrooms. We recently had the chance to chat with Deb Johns, Co-Founder and mom of four, who sits in the pilot's seat of the juggernaut that is SCOUT by Bungalow. She gave us a peek into the genius behind the brand, the family she designs it around and her philosophy on style.   


Inspired by a chic Helmut Lang carryall spotted at store in Milan, the first SCOUT bag was made from Deb’s realization that women and families around the world wanted a tote bag that perfectly blended fashion and function; and, if it came at a better price than its high-fashion counterpart, the bag would likely sell out.


She was right.


For so many, SCOUT bags are more than a conveyance for personal belongings, they are an obsession. Why do you think that is?


They solve an equation, allowing the person who uses them to get use from them while still expressing their fashion sense. We work hard to make sure that our products fit a need, deliver great bang for your buck and make you happy.


Yo Deb” -SCOUT’s blog- is like the fashion equivalent of a cupcake. The perfect bite of decadent indulgence, without overdoing it. Do you write all of it? Where does the inspiration come from?


It’s the “meat” of our fashion side. Four times a week we get to prove we really know our fashion stuff, that we aren’t just following trends, we have a pulse on helping set them. I don’t write all of it, even though I have years of experience in the fashion business . What’s cool is I’m surrounded by a team of young, brilliant, savvy, and fashion-forward folks. They contribute to “Yo Deb,” helping form the collective voice of the blog.

 


Naming the baby. SCOUT bags have the best names ever. What is your process for this?


Two times a year the whole team gathers and we have a, “Naming Day”. Everyone just tosses out ideas. It’s a creative process, but yes… it’s fun. We look for names that fit the look of the bag, have a nod to Pop Culture, and are interesting. (Interviewer's note: “Oh Buck It” and “Pocket Rocket”... Best. Names. Ever.)


What one item can Deb Johns not do without?


Patricia Underwood headband. After having three boys in three years, then a daughter, I needed something that simplified my life and my look. I added to that a Prada fanny pack for the gear. The logic behind that was, “Really, who is going to come up to your waist and steal something from you?” Plus, it’s the ultimate hands-free option. They’ve both become my signature pieces. In fact, I had a girl at one of my kid’s schools come up and tell me, “Nobody can rock a headband and a fanny pack like you can.” They filled a need when the kids were small, and still do. Useful quality never goes out of style.  


What one thing do you insist somebody other than you always do?


Throw things out. I’m a Pack Rat, I can’t bring myself to get rid of things. It’s served me well though, all the shoes and clothes you see in our catalog photos are either mine, or belonged to someone in our family.


So many companies talk a good talk about giving back, but for you it is very real, and very personal. Can you share a bit about Go Bo Fund?


At age 11, our son Bo was diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoma. It’s tough to see your child go through something like this. We knew though that in certain respects we were lucky. Other kids going through this, with parents who didn’t have the means, couldn’t to be there every night with their child. Some lived further away and couldn’t stay, others had jobs that they had to go to in order to sustain their household. We witnessed so much need. We asked the hospital if there was was something to help them. There really wasn’t. We also saw that, even beyond his illness, our little guy was missing his life, lacking in joyful moments that children imbody.


We wanted to help and to instantly empower Bo to get his joy back. So we wrote a letter and sent it out to 12,000 people, friends, family, etc, asking them to donate funds to help these other families. And the money rolled in, with each new donation Bo would get so excited, it really gave him back that spark. In the end, that generosity amounted to between  $50,000 - 60,000.


The Go Bo Fund has now raised nearly half a million dollars and provides financial assistance to families to help bridge the gap between what health care insurance covers, and what it does not. Which is a lot! It’s helps provide everything from groceries, rent and in-home care, to tutors and in the sad event that battle is lost, has stepped in to help cover funeral costs.


Bo, now a Senior at Lehigh University,  writes about his own story at 10 Years of Going.


Lay some wisdom on those aspiring entrepreneurs out there. What is your best piece of business advice?


Embrace what you are and who you are. Now move on to something more important. Everything else will follow that, because authenticity translates in items, friends, and philosophy. There aren’t that many new ideas out there. But if you see a SCOUT bag and you know it.. it’s because we’ve stuck true to who we are, we are authentic.


You’ll be celebrating SCOUT’s 10th birthday this year. Looking back what would you say now about the journey?  


You’ve come a long way baby. When I left New York and moved to the DC area I used to call it the, “Anti Fashion Capital of America”. That’s changed so much. Fashion lives just about everywhere now, and SCOUT has found a home because we solve the equation - fashion, function and affordable- for not just this area, but the new lifestyle. We’ve become a more mobile and nomadic people, the need to keep the style in our lifestyle has evolved with us. SCOUT will continue to innovate and grow with our community and our customers.

 


With a force like Deb behind the logo, is it any wonder that SCOUT is one amazing product and brand? We think not. Come check it out for yourself, we’ve got a deal for you.

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Imagine the Places Your Business will Go: So Much More than We Imagined

02.28.14

Our first live event for family-focused business owners, "Imagine the Places Your Business will Go," held on February 24, 2014, ended up being so much more than we imaged it would be.

Hundreds of entrepreneurs gleaned advice and inspiration from speakers that included; Andrea Barthello and Bill Ritchie, Co-Founders of ThinkFun, a global toy company; Jill Smokler, the New York Times Best Selling Author and mom behind the blog Scary Mommy; Eric Knaus, better Known as The Great Zucchini; Ben Johns, President of SCOUT by Bungalow, the wildly popular lifestyle brand; and Jamie Ratner our founder and CEO here at CertifiKid.

Sponsors provided products, talents and support for the event, making it a truly unique experience. Sign design and printing was provided by Speedpro Imaging of Silver Spring, stage and meeting area decor was artfully created by Tru-B-Loons Events.

Attendees got to show their fun side at XoXo Photobooth Photography & Events.

 

  

Everyone was treated to sweet suprises from Tasty Image, Baked by Yael and Carmen's Italian Ice & Cafe. Networking was held over a gourmet lunch featuring the famed sandwiches from The Bean Bag Deli & Catering, which were given some extra pop from a side of PopChips.

Aha! Concepts and Dottie Millwater Photography documented it all for us, and we thank them for sharing.

Thank you to everyone who atteneded and supported this this event! It was all we imagined and so much more!

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Five Ways to Make Time for Everything this Fall

08.29.13

Like the mystery of the one missing sock --you know you put six pairs in the washer, counted twelve single socks as you loaded the dryer and yet only five pairs make it out-- where time goes is a puzzle.


Didn’t Summer just start? Aren’t we supposed to be at the beach, not in the carpool line? Wake up on Saturday morning and before you know it, it’s time to set your Monday alarm clock.


Time really flies when you're raising kids.*  


Until someone gets that Time-Turner from Professor Dumbledore (shout out to our Potter Parents out there!) we need to find ways to make the most of the time we have! These are a few tips to help make the most of the tick-tock of the clock;

  • Pick Your Memories. Fall is farm season. Hayrides, petting zoos and apples await at farms just outside the city limits. Our team has handpicked some great farm deals.  Be sure to check "All Deals" in your city, we add more all the time.

  • Change Your Point of View. See your hometown from a whole new perspective with a sightseeing tour on the water or from a double decker bus. Being a tourist in your town can be an easy adventure. Looking for the latest tours in your town? Check "All Deals" again!

  • Unplug. This might be easier said than done for most of us, but give it a try. No internet connection can be the best way to make that family connection.

  • Escape. Sure summer is the season of vacations, but Fall is far better for avoiding crowds and saving the budget. A mini-vacay, not far away, can really make those weekend hours last.

  • Reconnect. We dig our offspring. They are among the coolest kids we know… obviously. Spending time with them is a blast! Let’s face it though, sometimes you just want to hang out with the grownups. Do it. Really. Time for you is important too.


“What we need, is more time.” ~Albus Dumbledore

Have advice or ideas on more ways to make the most out of time with your family? Let us know!

 

*accept for the time you spend waiting in the pick-up line at school, in waiting rooms or waiting for them to clean up their rooms!

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Welcome to the CertifiKid Family, FamilyFINDS!

02.13.13
Welcome to the Family!

Do you remember how excited you were when you brought home your new baby? How many hours did you spend thinking about all the amazing things that little one had ahead of them. Though we’d never suggest that starting a new chapter in business could ever measure up to the sheer joy of new life, we can say that we are feeling a lot of excitement these days!

This week we announced the arrival of a new member of the CertifiKid family as
Chicago-based FamilyFINDS became part of CertifiKid.  While we are totally stoked to be creating a coast-to-coast powerhouse in the family-focused daily deal market, we are even more excited to get the chance to be part of these Chicago and LA communities and connect with even more parents and business owners.

Because of you, our hometown community, we have been recognized by CNBC, The Washington Post, and Washingtonian Magazine as one of the best deal websites for parents, while consistently outpacing our top competitors here at home. We are proud to be able to say that we’re here to stay, even in a daily deal landscape where many continue to re-shape themselves or shutter their doors.

In 2012, we innovated the market by becoming the first deal site to focus on deals for the families of children with Special Needs in our community. We will be taking our community-based, flexible, selective and personalized way of doing things to the Los Angeles and Chicago metro areas and upping our game with great national deals as well.

A little bit about FamilyFINDS - they burst onto the family-focused deal scene in December of 2010 with $5.75 million dollars in funding backed by the talents of Internet industry veterans who founded and ran several successful consumer businesses valued at over $1 billion, including the founder of FamilyFun magazine, who also ran the Disney Internet Group, and the founder of LowerMyBills.com (acquired by Experian). Since opening their doors, FamilyFINDS has established a brand reputation and following that has garnered it hundreds of thousands of loyal customers within the communities of major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles and its current headquarters in Chicago.

“We are so delighted to pass the baton to CertifiKid for the benefit of our loyal subscribers,” said Lindsay Cohen, FamilyFINDS CEO. “CertifiKid is a fantastic team of parents (like our subscribers and me) who will carry on the invaluable work of offering terrific values on the products and services families want and need, but in their own special and winning way.”

This acquisition has grown the CertifiKid family, enabling us to build relationships between businesses - big and small, local and national - and families of all shapes, sizes and needs.

We are kicking off this new chapter by offering unbeatable deals from popular vendors here at home and in our new home markets: Adventure Park USA in the DC and Baltimore markets; Disney on Ice, The Paintbrush and Language Stars in Chicago; and  
Rockstar Salon, Wildlife Learning Center and Fun and Fit Gymnastics in Los Angeles.

We’ve even got a little “buzz” to share with you from the Washington Post Capital Buzz!

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Filed under Certifikid News , Business, DC/MD/VA

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