Join the Kidsguide Culture Club!

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Kidsguide magazine has started a very fun program to inspire families to get out there and experience cultural activities for kids in Orange County.

Did you know that most every top cultural venue in Southern California offers different festivals, ticket deals, and special programs for kids?

Kidsguide found so many family-friendly cultural activities for kids in Orange County they started the Kidsguide Culture Club just in time for summer exploration.

How to sign up for the Kidsguide Culture Club

Send your name, age, email and mailing address to editor@kidsguidemagazine.com and you will receive a member magnet and special notifications on cultural deals throughout the summer.

Get cultured & be entered to win a prize!

Take your kids to at least three cultural activities by the end of summer 2013. You can pick from the list of activities in this editorial or visit these sections of the Kidsguide directory: Arts & CraftsMuseumsMusicTheater Arts.

Email Kidsguide where you have been  (include a photo for fun) and you will be entered to win prizes like a party at Kitchen Den Bar or Pretend City, tickets to cultural performances, Pretend City tickets and gift certificates to Dave & Buster’s.

You can also check out these special deals just for Culture Club members.

I think this is the cutest idea and a great way to not only expose your children to cultural experiences in Orange County, but also have an incentive to do so.  Thanks Kidsguide for sharing this program!

 Kidsguide magazine is a free resource guide to local activities and services in and around Southern California for kids, teens and families. In addition to print issues, kidsguidemagazine.com offers daily blog posts, a lively calendar of events and a comprehensive directory of local services for families. Sign up for their weekly e-letter, The Buzzz, and you’ll get a calendar of fun events sent to your inbox every Thursday.  www.kidsguidemagazine.com

Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope you have a very special day celebrating with your beautiful families. Enjoy every minute – you deserve it. XO

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Lil Swimmers, Inc. – OC Swim Lessons for Kids

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Isn’t it great when your kids try something new and love it? That was my experience when one of our Sponsors, Lil Swimmers, Inc., a company specializing in South OC swim lessons for kidsinvited my little ones to try a lesson in Laguna Niguel. They are also offering Tiny Oranges readers a free trial swim lesson as well, details below!

My daughter Georgia is 4 years old and has never taken a swim lesson before (I know, I’m a little late to the party, but please don’t judge!). So, when I pulled up to Michelle’s home to take our first swim lesson I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

Luckily, Michelle, the owner and instructor of Lil Swimmers, Inc. was patient and caring with my newbie and helped get her acclimated with the water.

Within 15 minutes she was floating unassisted. Disclaimer: she was probably floating on her own for only a couple of seconds, but I was still wildly impressed!

After my lesson I asked Michelle a few questions that I thought would be helpful for anyone looking for a great place to take their kids in South OC for swim lessons.

Interview with Owner/Swim Instructor,
Michelle of Lil Swimmers  

I see from your website FAQ’s that the Red Cross suggests starting lessons no earlier than 6 months. What age do you recommend parents start swim lessons? Do you have a favorite age to teach?

The Red Cross suggests 6 months, but at that age the class is a parent and me class, it’s all about getting comfortable in the water and educating parents on ways to hold their children in the water to help facilitate future learning.  It’s a fantastic building block but by no means required. 

The real learning to swim without assistance takes place around 15-18 months.

For any family with a pool or water on their property, I strongly suggest starting swim lessons by this age.  Having a pool at my home, my own kids were in the water as early as 4 months and safe enough for me to sit on the edge and watch them play by 18 to 20 months.

My favorite age is probably 18-24 months; they’re so cute and their personalities are really forming. Even though they are still so young, they are also very capable. And I just love their little voices!

Older children are great for different reasons; with the big kids I’m able to explain things to them and know that they’re getting it. I love seeing the quick progress of their strokes and observing the bonds formed with fellow swimmers.

You offer both private and group lessons, what would you say are the benefits and challenges (if any) to both options?

Private lessons are great because the child learns quicker, but they are expensive.  And the child doesn’t get to watch and learn from a peer.  They also don’t get to play as much when they are by themselves.  What’s great, is that our semi private lessons only have 2 children sharing 30 minutes.  I feel parents get the best of both worlds!

What can parents do to help their kids learn to love and respect the water?

Start at bath time, don’t be shy about getting your child’s face wet in the bath.  One of the biggest challenges instructors face with new students is that the child doesn’t like to get their faces wet.

The more comfortable they are with this simple step, the better.  Another easy thing parents can do is to discuss the lessons and the instructor in a positive way. Hearing how proud their parents are, really encourages the kids.

What made you want to become a swim instructor?

I became a swim instructor because of my love of the outdoors, the water, and kids.

When my husband and I moved into our home, I was not working.  He encouraged me to find something that I could be passionate about instead of just looking for available jobs.  He kept telling me to do what I love instead of looking for a position to fill. 

As a child, I lived in the water.  We had a pool and water skied as a family.  Teaching lessons started out as more of a hobby.  Luckily, I was good at it and really enjoyed the kids and their families.  Once I had my own kids, I had a better understanding of the importance of water safety and the service that I was providing.  I have made great friends with many of the parents that I’ve met.  I feel so fortunate to have my work.

I love that answer! There’s nothing better than making a living at something you love. Kudos to your husband for being so encouraging. Okay, last question. I love the calm, balanced approach you have to teaching kids to swim. Do you have any go to tricks you use if the child is struggling with nerves in the water?

For any kids struggling with nerves, be calm and consistent.  They need to feel secure, and I do that by using gentle words and by holding them in a way that makes them feel that you are in control and that you will take care of them.

Often, I see instructors try to make the kids happy by trying to make them laugh or distract them.  I don’t think that is the right approach.  They are terrified for their lives and it should be acknowledged.  They need to know that the person in charge is confident and trustworthy.

Our instructors tell the children exactly what’s going to happen and when, so that the child quickly learns what the expectations are.  There are no surprises. Once they are comfortable, then everyone has more fun!

Michelle, thanks so much for your sharing your answers with us. I’ve learned a lot about your teaching style and I think our readers have too.

Free Trial for Tiny Oranges Readers

Now for the best part. Michelle has generously offered all Tiny Oranges readers a free trial swim lesson at Lil Swimmers if you call now through June 30th, 2013 and mention this post!

www.oclilswimmers.com

South Orange County Swim Lessons
Laguna Niguel

949.337.8458

Michelle Coulston
oclilswimmers {at} gmail.com

[Disclosure: Lil Swimmers, Inc. is a Tiny Oranges Sponsor and I received a complimentary lesson to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!]

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Tips on Visiting Catalina Island with Kids?

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My family is heading to Catalina Island with our kids for a little getaway and I was hoping to get your tips on visiting Catalina Island with kids. Can you help me on the questions below?

The trip came about through an email I got about a special blogger contest a company called Catalina Island Vacation Rentals was running a couple months back. I thought, HOW FUN, so I entered and a couple weeks after I got another email that we had won!

Catalina Island Vacation Rentals rents nearly 200 privately owned condos and houses in Hamilton Cove and in Avalon; such a perfect set up for families.

We get to stay in a two bedroom condo with a community pool.  I love the idea of staying in a condo with all the amenities of home ~ most especially a kitchen and two separate bedrooms so we can put the kids down to bed and my husband and I can stay up later.

We are super excited for our trip. For anyone that has been recently, can you comment with any tips on the below?

Questions…

Do you have any favorite kid-friendly restaurants in Catalina?

Any tips on things we should see/do with the kids?

How do you suggest we get around? Taxi? Rent a golf cart?

Anything in particular we should bring?

Thanks mamas for your advice! We are very excited!

[Disclosure: I won a two night stay and ferry transportation from Catalina Island Vacation Rentals. Photo credits above via Catalina Island Vacation Rentals website.]

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Kid Friendly Green Smoothies

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This post is all about how to make kid friendly green smoothies. Key word being “kid friendly!”

These blended, frozen drinks are definitely my “go-to” whenever I want to give Eli and Georgia something that’s quick, healthy and drama-free.

Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes for a nutritious and tasty green smoothie that I hope your kids (and you!) will love. I’ve even included some simple tips on how to make green smoothies kid friendly. They’ll forget they’re drinking kale in no time!

Green Smoothie Recipe aka “Little Greenie”

1 cup packed kale (discard stems and tear into pieces)
1/2 banana
1/2 cup mangos (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon raw honey (or agave nectar)
3/4 cup orange juice

Blend until smooth, serves 2

*Coconut water is a great alternative to orange juice and makes the drink that much more tropical. My kids prefer the taste with orange juice because it adds sweetness, but I opt for mine with coconut water. If you’re using fresh fruit just add a few ice cubes to your blender.

How to Make Kid Friendly Green Smoothies

Add a Little Flair
Fancy straws are a big hit in my house, especially with my four-year old daughter. I got the ones above at Target and I only break them out when I have something I really want them to drink. With these straws, my nutritious green smoothie instantly becomes a special treat. You can also try floating fruit on the top or serving them in a new, fun glass.

Give it a Name
I called this one “Little Greenie”. I got the name from one of our favorite books, I Love You Stinky Face. In the book, the imaginative son turns into all sorts of undesirable creatures and questions his mom about her unconditional love. When he pretends to turn into a Green Alien from Mars she reassures him she will still love him, feed him green grasshoppers, and call him “Little Greenie”.

Sweeten It!
Pineapple and orange juice both add sweetness to your smoothie and soften any bitter taste of the greens. Bananas also help neutralize and sweeten bitter flavors. A touch of agave, raw honey, vanilla extract and cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder will also do the trick.

Make your Green Smoothie Purple
If all else fails just change the color of the smoothie. Red and purple fruit will take the green out of your smoothie without draining it of its nutrients. Fruits such as red grapes, cherries, raspberries, or blueberries work wonders. The recipe below is a must try for any kid (or adult) that has an aversion to green food/drink.

Purple Smoothie Recipe aka “Berrylicious”

2 cups frozen fruit (I usually go with a blend of berries)
Blueberry greek yogurt
1 banana
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
2 splashes of milk

Blend until smooth, serves 2

If you’re looking for more tips on how to adjust the flavor or consistency of your smoothie click here. Vitamix’s website has all the answers on easy smoothie fixes.

Enjoy!

 

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Adorable Birthday Keepsakes for Kids

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I am one of those moms who absolutely loves birthday keepsakes for kids (you don’t even want to know how many “keepsake boxes” I have stacked in both of my kids’ closets).  And every birthday my babies celebrate, I let myself indulge in being extra sentimental by creating a handful of adorable birthday keepsakes to commemorate their special day.

Framed Birthday Picture with Personal Messages

Each year, I buy I large matted picture frame (with plenty of room for writing) and pick a recent picture of my birthday kid.  I decorate the matte with a few stickers from their party theme (so we can always remember what they loved at that age).  Then, I have each party guest write a little birthday message on the matte…once complete, I hang it in my munchkin’s room all year…so they will always know how loved they are.

Birthday Books

My daughter looks forward to this every year and now that she’s five, she’s really into it. I take all of their birthday party pictures and make a scrapbook…including the invitation, stickers, any important party “flair,” and of course, lots of pictures!  I have always made traditional scrapbooks, but I just recently made one on Shutterfly, and it turned out beautifully!

Both kids love looking at it all year-long, and know it’s one of their presents from mama.

More Cute Birthday Keepsakes I Want To Try

—  A hardback children’s book (of your choice) that your party guests can write in…little messages to the birthday kid.  Very practical and adorable!  One of my friends did this for her one-year-old’s birthday party, and I loved it.

—  A letter journal – buy a cute little (blank) journal for your child.  Each year, write them a letter – talk about their year, what they accomplished, favorite trips, cool memories, etc.  You can read your letter to your kiddo, or just quietly tuck it away.  Then, give it to them on their 18th birthday – tear!

—  “A year-in-the-life” – pick a handful of your favorite pictures from the year…preferably from holidays you celebrated, first/last days of school, vacations, and so forth.  Pictures that show how much they’ve grown.  I usually jump onto Costco or Shutterfly (but you could choose ANY online picture company!) and make a picture collage of your child, including their age…frame it and hang it!

—  One of my friends spends hours every year making a beautiful picture slideshow of her kiddo’s year, complete with music.  The videos are always absolutely precious!  I have yet to do this for my babies, but really am going to make an effort to do so this year.

I’m always on the lookout for great birthday keepsakes for kids. Please join the conversation in the comments below and let me know about
your traditions and favorite keepsakes!

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