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17 Ways to Ring in 2017 with Kids!

12.27.16

Whether this is your first year as a parent, or you’re praised among your friends as a true vet, us moms and dads know the startling truth – holidays with kids are just different, especially on New Year's Eve.

If your kids aren't passed out by 10:30 p.m., then they're probably ringing in the New Year with major meltdowns, having all of your kid-free friends mentally scratching your family off of next year’s invite list. Or perhaps you can’t find a babysitter, so you're heading to a restaurant with your adventurous toddler. Trust us, don't even go there.

Instead, check out these 17 unique options that will make 2017 the year you are rockstars in your kids’ eyes! 

1.       Happy Noon Year Celebrations!

Depending on age, your kids may or may not make it to midnight - hey, parents might not either - but having a happy noon year makes them feel special and lets them celebrate in a special way. You can do one at home, or check your local play gyms and libraries for festivities. I guarantee there’s one in your area! If you can’t find one, or just don’t feel like loading up the kids you can totally host your own – crafts, snacks and confetti for the win!

2.       Get Dolled Up

Once upon a time, and pre-kids, you spent days picking out your perfect NYE outfit.  Now, IF you make it out of the house, you throw on jeans, boots and a sweater. Whether you’re staying in or going out, make the kids feel special by having everyone put on their fanciest clothes and strutting their stuff – even if it’s just around the living room.  

3.       Toast the New Year with a Mocktail

Let the kids celebrate! After they’ve gotten all dolled up, give them something to toast with! You’ll be hearing “Cheers!” all night. You could always get a few bottles of sparkling apple cider, or milk and cookies, but this is way more fun! We found this awesome recipe on Today’s Parent you can use. Then you can poll the family and give it a fancy name, dress it up in your fanciest glass plastic ware and toast to 2017!

 

4.       Watch Fireworks

Make NYE super special for your kids by seeing New Year’s Eve fireworks. Most likely your nearest large city will be hosting a fireworks show celebrating the New Year (a few hours early). Bring a cozy blanket, sparklers and a mug of hot cocoa and let the fireworks light up the night!

5.       Go Ice Skating

Grab the family and head to your local rink for a few laps around the ice. Do some research before you go, they may even be having their own NYE celebrations, and your family can join in on the fun!

6.       NYE Family Fun Run

The family that runs together, stays together right?! Check out your local family boards for fun runs that are usually about a mile, but also have other fun activities for the whole family. Kids love it because they are active and usually get medals or trophies and parents love it because they get a jump on that New Year’s fitness resolution!

7.       First Night in your City

Celebrate the last day of the year with your entire family at First Night – a community celebration of the New Year in cities all over the country! Do a quick search, and you’re sure to find options for great family friendly NYE parties in your area! There are so many free events around your city all day that are great for kids! If not First Night, try the museums and other local performances.

8.       Watch the Ball Drop

There really is nothing quite as iconic of NYE as watching the ball drop in NYC. Most of us break into a cold sweat at the thought of taking our kids to see it live, but you can always tune in from the comfort of your own home! Some cities may even host their own version.  Check around to see what rendition of the ball drop your city might have.

9.       Have a Dance Party

You’ve elected to be at home for the official turn of the calendar, and that may be the smartest plan, but you can still party! Invite your kids to the best dance party – in your living room. After all, it’s what the best YouTube videos are made of. Show your kids that you still know how to get down with your bad self – don’t say that, they’ll know you aren’t cool. But you can let each person pick a song and create your own rockin’ NYE family playlist!

10.   Year in Review Scavenger Hunt

I’m a sucker for a good scavenger hunt, doing one with my kids makes it even better, and incorporating our family pictures and memories into it – WINNING! No Time for Flashcards has this awesome idea of printing out a bunch of your family pictures from the year and hiding them all over the house. Your kids will have a blast with this indoor “Easter egg” hunt! They not only have to find all the pictures, but then they must put them in chronological order! We absolutely love this one!

11.   Make a Family Fort

Most older kids resist the urge to get to bed before midnight, but still end up snoozing throughout the night! Grab the pillows, sleeping bags, stuffed animals, snacks, a few good DVDs and each other’s company will make the night a NYE to remember.

12.   New Year's Eve Bingo

Here’s another fun activity to keep the kids entertained and happy on NYE. NYE Bingo is great if you just have your family, or are hosting a bunch of families! Round up anyone who wants to play and be sure to have enough cards printed ahead of time. Playdough to Plato has some cute free printables for your NYE bingo game. Have them call out “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” when they’ve won!

 

13.   Year in Review Slideshow

Remember before iPhoto when you had to hire a professional to create a video slideshow of all your pictures? Well now anyone with a smartphone can download an app and make a high quality year in review video. If you are a faithful poster to Facebook, you can also gather the family around the computer to watch your “Year in Review” video.

14.   Cook Something Together

I’m obsessed with everything you can do with crescent rolls. They are so easy and delicious! Whether you’ve got the next Master Chef Junior, or if you’re an expert at ordering take-out, this festive appetizer from Pillsbury will get the whole family in the kitchen this NYE!

15.    Write Family NY Resolutions

It’s hard to believe another year is ending, and it seems to go by even faster when you have kids.  We try to have no regrets, as parents, but we all end up having them.  The New Year feels like a fresh slate. The entire family can learn a lot about self-disciple and the value of making goals by making it a family activity some time on NYE. Here are some tips from Parents magazine on helping guide your kids.

16.   Countdown Banner

The Crafting Chicks show us the coolest banner that can help your family countdown to 2017 hourly.  Each hour, the kids will have engaging activities to pass the time as the clock ticks to midnight!

17.   DIY Balloon Drop

Your kids want to feel like they’re in Times Square too! Although, they have no idea what Times Square is, nor the mania of being there on NYE. You can still give your kids that quick excitement and celebration of their very own “BALLoon Drop”. You can go the easy route and just throw some balloons in the air, or if your inner Martha Stewart is feeling crafty this week, check this out from The Daily Meal

Tags: UNITED STATES CALIFORNIA PENNSYLVANIA NEW YORK GEORGIA MARYLAND BALTIMORE TEXAS LOS ANGELES DALLAS CHICAGO WASHINGTON DC ILLINOIS HOLIDAYS FAMILY WINTER NEW YEARS EVE KIDS PARENTS CERTIFIKID TIPS

And Then There Were Two: Groupon & CertifiKID - The Last Remaining Daily Deal Sites

10.26.16

Our CEO and Founder, Jamie Ratner, reacts to Groupon's pending acquisition of LivingSocial and what that means for CertifiKID: 

Yesterday’s big news really hit home. Groupon acquired LivingSocial, its major competitor in the daily deal space. When I launched CertifiKID more than six years ago, there were scores of daily deal sites popping up every day, all pushing to be serious players in the industry dominated by the two behemoths – Groupon and LivingSocial. LivingSocial was DC-based, as is CertifiKID, so they were always our biggest competitor on the local level, even though we were focused on the family niche and they were focused mainly on restaurants and spas.  After our launch and early success, Living Social then started a family edition and further increased their offerings.  

As time went on, there was a feeding frenzy in the daily deal space, with companies – big and small – getting acquired, consolidating, evolving, dissolving, or just burning out on a daily basis.  When the dust settled, there were essentially three players left selling daily deals: Groupon, LivingSocial and CertifiKID.  Now with this acquisition, only CertifiKID is left standing alongside Groupon.  

Of course, it goes without saying that comparing Groupon and CertifiKID is not comparing apples to apples. Groupon is a publicly traded company, present in more than two dozen locations around the globe. It generates hundreds of millions in sales and has raised hundreds of millions in venture capital (VC) financing.  Plus, it has hundreds of employees. Despite these staggering numbers, Groupon has never been consistently profitable and appears to be in a constant state of transition.

On the other hand, CertifiKID has been profitable since its second month of operation and has grown by 20% or more every year, without the assistance of any VC financing. It employs a team of less than 15 people, all parents working from home. We now have more than 1 million mom and dad subscribers across the US. 

The CertifiKID recipe has shown that daily deal websites can be successful and thrive, while others fail. How did we do it?  With the right ingredients. Here they are:

1) CertifiKID has a niche – focusing exclusively on families – making us a trusted resource for parents, not just a daily deal site. Our customers and business partners know exactly what to expect each day from CertifiKID -- family, family, family -- while Groupon and LivingSocial have been all over the map, trying to be everything for everyone. 

2) CertifiKID expands carefully and strategically, with a "slow but steady" approach.  Groupon and Living Social – and many other copycats – were in a race to have a presence in as many cities as possible all over the US and around the world. This led to high overhead and a huge drain of resources and capital. I couldn’t tell you the number of 20-somethings looking for a job with CertifiKID after they were laid off by Groupon or Living Social and expecting a six figure salary.

3) CertifiKID invests time and energy in our merchant relationships, treating each one like a valuable partner and long-term relationship. Because Groupon's offerings are so broad and voluminous, it appears they just try to make as much money as they can on each deal and then move on to the next business opportunity. This bottom-line driven approach has never been our idea of good business. My team values the merchants we partner with, often having been regular customers with their own families before approaching them to be featured on CertifiKID. 

4) CertifiKID prides itself on phenomenal customer service, striving to respond to inquiries literally within minutes (including at night and on the weekends). We are also transparent when it comes to the terms and conditions of our deals. This has proven to be a key success factor with our subscriber base of parents. Moms and dads expect you to be up front and never put them in the position of dragging their 4-year-old to an event when admission is only for kids over five. Alternatively, Groupon and LivingSocial regularly leave out key details because they're focused on keeping their deal write-ups short and pithy, instead of giving customers the information they need to make informed purchases. As a result, I all too often hear people complaining about their customer experience with Groupon and LivingSocial. They might have huge email lists, but they don't have the engaged and loyal customer base we do. 

5) LivingSocial pooped out (as my daughter puts it) and took their eye off the ball (as my son puts it). Every day, my team and I continue to bring to CertifiKID the same passion and energy to our core mission that we had from day one when developing the CertifiKID concept at my family's kitchen table. We are committed to giving our mom and dad customers the best opportunities to try new things and spend time together at prices they can afford. It’s just that simple.

I will watch with great interest to see what Groupon does next after this acquisition. It will be fascinating to see what it means for the daily deal space, what it means for the Greater Washington DC area, and what it means for all of Living Social’s customers and merchants. 

What will it mean for CertifiKID? My sense and hope is it will mean more opportunities for us locally and nationally, which will lead to more opportunities for our customers and business partners.

In this period of change and volatility in the daily deals space, I am so proud of CertifiKID’s stability and consistency.  We have had a profound impact on so many families, helping them save big on things they want and need, but maybe couldn’t afford or didn’t have the time or access to discover. I am especially proud of our team members, who bring new ideas, innovations and value to our CertifiKID community each day.

Here's to a bright future for CertifiKID, our partners, and our customers. Thank you for your continued support.

- Jamie

Tags: Groupon LivingSocial "daily deals" deals CertifiKID "Jamie Ratner" "LivingSocial acquisition" "Groupon acquisition"

CertifiKid Field Report: ABCmouse.com

10.22.16

The brain of a little one is an amazing thing. Think about it--in the first five years they go from not being able to hold up their heads to walking, talking, and having pretty strong opinions. Any parent who’s tried to get a three year old to eat something they don’t want to, knows this all too well. Taking full advantage of those brain-forming years is so important.

One of our team members recently took the subscription-based educational website ABCmouse.com for a test drive. Here is their CertifiKID Field Report:

What Makes It Unique?

With its bold colors and music, ABCmouse.com is visually engaging for little eyes and ears. The educational aspects come in the form of games and stories so kids don’t feel like they’re sitting down and “working” on their letters or colors.

When a child completes a task they earn points that they can then use to “buy” things in the pretend online store. I felt like this was a unique way to tie skill-building into the concept of accomplishment and reward.

The website is structured in a way that allows your child to move around in skill sets so that they always feel engaged. For example, storytime was fun for a while, but now they want to color. It’s a nice feature for keeping them interested in what they’re doing. Some of the site highlights are the learning zoo and books that are interactive.

They aren’t just learning to read when they’re on the site, they are picking up early keyboard and online navigation skills. That’s a big plus in my book!

Is It Easy to Use?

Yes and no. Younger kids, or those that haven’t had much exposure to computers or tablets may need you to be nearby to help guide them. Once they get the hang of it though they should be good to go.

ABCmouse.com Is Great for...

I think that the prime age group for this site is between 2 and 6 years. Some of the games and activities could be a bit rudimentary for older kids or those who are already early readers. My daughter struggled with reading at the Kindergarten level.

ABCmouse.com is perfect for her because she doesn’t feel like it’s a “Baby Place” which makes her enjoy the learning aspects. Honestly, I’m convinced she just thinks it’s a game.

If you have a child struggling with reading this could be the site for you. The same thing goes if you have a very young child that shows interest in learning beyond numbers and colors.

UPDATE:

After this CertifiKID Field Report was submitted, our CEO decided to sign her family up for ABCmouse.com. This is what they reported:

When I asked my kids why they loved ABCmouse.com (and they did) they said; “It feels like going to Chuck E. Cheese. You play games then get tickets to buy things for your character.” I felt like I was the winner here, my kids were working hard at learning and thought it was all fun and games!

My kids are fairly good with a computer. ABCmouse.com was very easy for them to use. The graphics are great and there are almost endless options for them to explore so it’s never boring. Having that huge selection of things for them to do made me feel like I was really getting my money’s worth from the subscription.

~ Jamie (CertifiKID founding mom and CEO)
 

CertifiKID Field Report: Educational Play with Square Panda

08.05.16

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." ~ Fred (Mr.) Rogers

Here at CertifiKID we subscribe to the Mr. Rogers philosophy. Whether it's outdoors in nature, exploring at a museum or helping history come to life by getting out and seeing where its happened, play is important. After all, raising kids is an EDventure (educational adventure), right?

When we got word that a new learning tool was out that uses an iPad coupled with smart letters to teach early reading skills, we were excited to learn more about Square Panda. It seemed like such a great way to get more out of screen time.

There were some big questions, though. Would it be entertaining enough to draw the kids away from mindlessly flinging digital birds at green pigs? Would kids really learn and have fun at the same time? Was it going to be one of those things they played with once and were done?

Right away one thing stood out about Square Panda. It isn’t just an app. It's an accessory for your iPad with actual physical letters that are read by a Smart Playset. Combining a tactile experience with adaptive software that identifies how your child learns really sets Square Panda apart. Would kids be excited to see the letters literally come to life? Um... we were, and we’re grownups (most days!).

Another ingenious aspect of Square Panda is its ability to learn what your child's individual learning style is. It's a learning tool that learns! As it picks up on your child's preferences it then serves them tailored games and activities from a huge library of cloud-based programing that keeps your child challenged and engaged.

For this Field Report we enlisted some expert help from within the CertifiKID community. Beth B. is CertifiKID subscriber and mother of three. Her oldest is seven and she has a set of adorable three-year-old twins as well. Beth also happens to be a first grade teacher, which makes her especially suited to the task of putting Square Panda to the test.

After several weeks of fun and play, here is what Beth reported back to Team CertifiKID:

"Square panda is interactive, fun, colorful and very appealing to toddlers. It's great for identifying letters and sounds as well as reading readiness! My 3 year olds love it. They love the hands on aspect of it. I observed them repeating the letters and sounds and words. They love knocking down the bowling pin "guys" and then searching for the letter they need. It's great to have vowels and consonants in different colors. As an educator I'm highly impressed with this!!!!"

Lending more clout to Square Panda as a learning tool that combines play with adaptive education is the fact that Andre Agassi -parent, tennis legend and founder of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education- was so impressed by the product that he both invested in it and joined the company board of directors. Agassi's foundation was built on the belief that, “With education there is hope,” a mantra that is a perfect fit for Square Panda as well.

Want to know more about how Square Panda works? Check out this video.

Play and learn on CertifiKID families!

Tags: CertifiKID Field Reports, learning, education, square panda

Fun Places to Find Pokémon

07.15.16

Gotta catch 'em all, do ya? I get it. The whole Pokémon Go thing is sweeping the globe and while there have a few scary stories surrounding the phenomenon, seeing kids - families even - getting outside, exploring, being active and having fun is pretty darn cool.  Heck, my kids and I were out in the park until almost dark yesterday evening and we met three families we'd never have known save for this fad.

I think the key to making sure that Pokémon Go doesn't just become another way for kids to get too much screen time is to plan your Poké-Time. Pokéstops can be found in some really cool places. Planning an outing at say a museum or park can include both Pokémon Go and other sorts of fun.

Catch 'em all on the National Mall

The Smithsonian museums are attracting Pokémon faster than any lure even a level twenty player could place. Double your fun and exploration by segmenting your time. The Air and Space museum is a bustling Pokémon Gym with lots to catch, even rare ones. It's also one seriously awesome museum for kids who are into STEM, SCI-fi, airplanes, space... okay, it's just plain amazing. Spend the first part of your visit catching all the Pokémon you can, grabbing eggs and leveling up. Then learn about Lindbergh, check out the lunar landing module, or even 'land' a jet fighter on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Top it all off with some ice cream on the lawn outside - yep, there are Pokémon there too!

Get some insider tips from Sergeant Nadia Tyler of Smithsonian Security. She's a huge fan, expert catcher and has some great insights on ways to make the real world connect to the Pokémon universe in this article. Some good advice from the National Park Service, "Remember to be respectful when you play and avoid looking for Pokémon at memorials."

Make Errands Fun!

While it would be great to spend your entire day with the kids just doing the Pokémon and playing thing at some point they're going to need to eat, go to the dentist, be clothed and all that junk. Ugh, errands. Do the kids get we loathe running around and getting things done as much as they do? We're allergic to fun, right. Pokémon to the rescue. Pull out the app in the cereal isle. Is there a Squrittle popping out behind the Pops? Pikachu has to get his teeth cleaned too. Look for the Pokémon in the mundane and before you know it your list is all checked off and you had fun doing it! 

Check The Map

As they say, there's an app for that and in this case the app is a map that tracks where to find a treasure trove of Pokémon. Curbed has come up with a nifty community mapping program that allows players to drop a pin in the map when they find Poké Stops, Gyms and more. Users are even leaving tips on which characters were found where. Brilliant!

photo courtesy of the National Park Service via Facebook

Where To Look

Here is a short list of some rumored Pokémon hot spots in CertifiKID cities: 

Washington, DC - National Mall, Capitol Hill, National Harbor waterfront, National Zoo

Baltimore - National Aquarium, Fells Point, Fort McHenry, Maryland Zoo

New York City - Nintendo World Store (obvi), Central Park Zoo, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Battery Park

Atlanta - CNN, Centennial Olympic Park, World of Coca Cola (rumor has it there are tons of rare ones near here)

Chicago - Millennium Park,  Navy Pier, The Bean

Dallas - Reunion Tower, Dallas World Aquarium, Nasher Center

Philadelphia - Independence Hall (the whole complex is a Pokéstop), Reading Terminal Market, Franklin Institute,

Pittsburgh - National Aviary, Carnegie Art Museum, Pittsburgh Zoo, Botanical Gardens

San Francisco - Golden Gate Park, Exploratorium, Ghiradelli Square

Los Angeles - Jumbo's Clown Room, Santa Monica Pier, Barnsdall Art Park, Union Station 

Tip: libraries and historical sites seem to be favorite places for Pokéstops. 

Have fun out there CertifiKID families and good luck catching them all! 

~ Lara

Team CertifiKID, Mom of 4, Level:8, Gym:Valor

 

Reminder: Enjoy playing safely. Always be aware of your surroundings and follow the guidelines that pop up every time you open the app.

Tags: just for fun

5 Great Ways to Enjoy Watermelon!

07.08.16

The laid back pace and sunny days of summer are great but if we're being honest one of the best things has got to be, watermelon!

What's better than a cool, juicy slice of this sweet treat when the day has been long an hot? Not much. Then again... just when you thought watermelon couldn't get any better we go out and find these amazing, creative and tasty ways to enjoy Nature's summer candy!

Watermelon Lemonade

photo courtesy of Cooking Classy

This recipe comes from Jacly of Cooking Classy. She writes, "I’m not ever big on drinks because I’d rather get my sugar from a decadent dessert but this is my new exception! It is totally irresistible and the watermelon and lemon flavor combination pairs perfectly together." And we're in total agreement. It's a refreshing twist that is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon, a fancy get-together or a casual backyard BBQ. You can find the full recipe here.

Speaking of BBQ... want to blow away your taste buds and best buds at your next cookout? Here is the way to do it.

Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce

photo courtesy of The Fit Fork

Yep, you heard that. Spicy. Watermelon. BBQ. Sauce. Drooling already, aren't ya? We must all give thanks to Jennifer of The Fit Fork who not only brings us this mouthwatering recipe for the awesome sauce to beat all sauces, but whom also pairs it with a juicy brisket and wraps all that wonderful up in a taco.

Our advice is to make this is BIG batches (here is the recipe) then can it and have summer all year long!

Watermelon Ice Cubes

This one is so simple you're going to be shocked you never thought of it. In fact it's so easy we don't even need a photo for it. Slice a melon into two inch think rounds. Cut around rind between the white and red flesh. Then cut a grid of one inch wide squares. Pull the rind off. Place cubes on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. BOOM, watermelon ice cubes!

Sour Watermelon Gummies

photo courtesy of Meatified

Um, Meatified may we make a suggestion? How about you change the name of your blog to OMGawdified? These gummies are as cute as they are cool and even tastier by two. Sour Patch Kids... meet the curb. The recipe is easier than you think. It might take a try or two to get the amazing results Rachel did but fear not even the mistakes taste great. Find the full recipe here.

Watermelon Sorbet

photo courtesy of Cincy Shopper

Summer gets busy. Sometimes at the end of the day all you want is a little something refreshing and easy. Jen at Cincy Shopper gives the perfect sweet solution with her four ingredient watermelon sorbet. You got that right, just 4 ingredients. We can't keep this one in the freezer very long, it's that tasty. Luckily it's also that easy. Give Jen's famous recipe a try here.

Filed under Just For Fun

Tags: recipes, summer fun

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