2014 Chicago Toy & Game Fair {Family Pass Giveaway}

You know how much we love games and great toys. We’re always on the hunt for something new and happy when we rediscover old favorites.  Last winter, while falling down the rabbit hole that is the internet, I came across the website for the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. An entire weekend dedicated to showcasing the best toys and games from around the globe? A chance to play and meet the inventors and makers of some of our favorite games and toys? Where do I sign up?!

2014 Chicago Toy & Game Fair Family Pass Giveaway

Well …. that was the only glitch. I had just missed the 2013 Chicago Toy & Game Fair by a few weeks. You better believe I marked the date in my calendar for this year! The 2014 Chicago Toy & Game Fair takes place next weekend, November 22-23 at the Navy Pier. We’re making a fun family weekend out of it, and we hope you can meet us there, too. What are we looking forward to the most? It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are a few things were super-pumped to do:

  • Visit the Mayfair Games booth, maker of one of our favorite games of all-time: Settlers of Catan. Mike’s currently on the wait list, but he’s crossing both fingers and all his toes that he can get a seat in the Catan tournament. He’d love a chance to win a spot in the Catan World Championship (I’m not even kidding).
  • Check out the Air Hogs and Spy Gear stuff at the Spin Master booth.
  • See what’s new with the company that makes our favorite scooters, Razor.
  • Tell the folks at Educational Insights how much we love Kanoodle and how we named it one of our favorite games for travel.
  • Play around with a Perplexus. I recently saw it on a holiday gift guide for kids and I think Eli would love it.

There are lots of other events besides browsing the booths, including workshops for Girl and Boy Scouts (FYI, Scouts are admitted for free if they show their credentials), the Young Inventor Challenge, and a Star Wars Luncheon.

In case you can’t tell, we’re pretty excited! We’d love to see you there, so we’re giving away a Family Weekend Pass. It’s good for free entry into the Toy & Game Fair for your entire family. To enter, just use the Rafflecopter widget below! Giveaway ends Tuesday, November 18 at 11:59 PM EST. Winner will have 24 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Winner will receive the family pass via email. If you don’t win, we’d still love for you to come! Visit this link for ticket info and a $2 off coupon to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Starting from Scratch: Empowering Kids in the Kitchen {Book Review & Giveaway}

Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know About Food and Cooking book

Somewhere around the 10-year mark, kids hit a phase where the sleepover is the end-all, be-all of social plans. I’m not sure if it’s this way with boys, but with Elena rarely does a weekend go by when we aren’t met with a request to schlep her to someone’s house or have a friend here for a sleepover.

I remember this being a thing when I was her age, too. Some of my fondest memories of these overnights involved the “cooking” my friends and I would do when we were together. I remember assembling quesadillas, making chocolate chip cookies that somehow never ended up in the oven, and sleepily throwing together Bisquick muffins or pancakes in the morning. Our mothers must’ve been saints, because I’m sure we were loud and incredibly messy.

We’ve got the loud and messy nailed down for this generation’s sleepovers, but you know where they’re not getting messy? In the kitchen. I’ve written before about my struggle to get my kids interested in cooking. The bug has finally bitten Elena, and while it hasn’t seemed to translate into kitchen sessions with her friends, I’m happy about it. I’m also willing to do whatever it takes to nurture that desire.

Teaching kids to cook via The Risky Kids

A book came my way the other day that I think has the potential to do just that for a new generation of cooks. Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking is a new book from author and journalist Sarah Elton. Sarah wanted to write a book that would empower kids with the knowledge they need in order to cook a meal. And empower it does. The book is a great bridge between books that could seem childish to a budding cook, such as Mollie Katzen’s Pretend Soup , and books that could overwhelm them, such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything . Both books are wonderful, and I recommend them for every kitchen. However Elton’s book is perfect for the beginning, older cook.

Kids in the kitchen

It’s not a cookbook, although there are a handful of recipes. Instead it is a resource for knowledge and inspiration. It explores the science of food and cooking. It teaches the important steps in cooking that go beyond the recipe: what tools you need, how to grocery shop, how to prep, measure and substitute ingredients, how to make sense of a recipe, and understand cooking terms. Instead of asking you to follow an exact recipe every time, she challenges readers to learn the building blocks of meals (base, protein and vegetable, plus toppings) and riff on it from there, with suggestions for tried and true flavor pairings.

I also love that she realizes how our paranoia about dangers in the kitchen are crippling our kids’ desires to learn the necessary skill of feeding themselves. She says,

“While we obsess about safety in North America, when I was on a research trip in France, I found that people there believed you just needed to teach kids how to be safe. I was at a chef’s school where they offered kids’ classes and saw a long line of sharp knives hanging on the wall. I commented to the man who ran the program about the risk of putting sharp instruments into small hands. He looked at me, perplexed, ‘Well, we wait until they are old enough!’ he said, ‘They have to be at least six-years-old!'”

I can see this book fitting just as well in the hands of a 10-year-old as I can in the hands of a high school or college graduate. Whether you’re looking to find a book that will satisfy a kid who is curious about the kitchen or a book that will gently and wisely educate someone completely new to the cooking experience, Starting from Scratch will be both a valuable resource and an inspiration to cook for yourself and those you love.

Would you like to see for yourself? I have a copy of the soon-to-be-published book to give away to one lucky reader. Here’s what you need to do to enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me the first thing you learned to cook as a child.

2. Earn an additional entry for following The Risky Kids on Pinterest. In order for your entry to count, please leave a comment below letting me know you follow us.

3. Earn an additional entry for being a subscriber. Not a subscriber yet? It’s easy! You can subscribe to get your Risky Kid updates via email or RSS. Leave a comment below letting me know you subscribed!

The giveaway will end Sunday, March 9 at 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Remember, in order for your entries to count you must leave a separate comment for each entry. Thanks, and good luck!



The New Playscape at The Children’s Museum {Ticket Giveaway!}

This giveaway is now closed.  Congrats to our winner, Kelly!

The Children’s Museum has long been an Indianapolis treasure, both to its residents and the many visitors that come through its doors year after year. I’ve been going to the Museum since I was a child, and I’ve watched it grow and change over the years, from a small museum to the top-rated institution it is today. It’s consistently rated as one of the top 10 children’s museums in the United States.

One of the things The Children’s Museum does so very well is cater to all different age groups. Whether you’re visiting with toddlers or teens, you’ll find exhibits that make everyone happy. For years my own family’s visits have always included a trip to Playscape.

This special gallery is designed for the youngest of visitors (ages 5 and under), and sometimes we spent nearly our entire visit just in Playscape! We weren’t the only ones, and the Playscape gallery got A LOT of love, so much so that it was in need of renovation.

Well, the wait is finally over and just last month the new Playscape gallery was unveiled! Eli and I had a chance to preview the Playscape just before it opened, and to say that I was blown away would be the understatement of the year.

Pond Climber in the brand new Playscape at The Children's Museum. Such a beautiful space!

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Playscape is that it is full of beautiful, natural light. Gone is the dark, small space I remember. The new Playscape gallery design was inspired by the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, which considers the environment to be the third teacher (along with home and school). The floor to ceiling windows, along with the natural colors and environmental design theme, make it feel as if you’re playing in the trees.

Several elements that are integral to children’s play are present in the new Playscape. The favorites from the old Playscape are here, but redone beautifully.

There’s sand play, with typical sand features along with a zen-like rotating turntable. I want one of these in my home – it was so soothing!

Embedly Powered

There’s water play in “The Creek”, complete with a waterfall you can walk under.

Water play. Playscape at the Children's Museum

But my favorite is the addition of the Lilypad Climber. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s just challenging enough for little arms and legs.

Lilypad Climber. Children's Museum Indianapolis

Other areas include an Art Studio, a Music Studio, and a special enclosed area for babies and toddlers.

Art Studio. Playscape, Children's Museum

Eli loved it all, but he was especially enamored with the Reaction Contraption, a Rube Goldberg inspired feature. With so many variations and ways to manipulate the balls, tracks and ramps, he could’ve easily spent the whole evening in this one spot alone.

Reaction Contraption in Playscape. Children's Museum Indianapolis

I’m a little wistful that my children are above the age range for the Playscape gallery, but I’m thrilled for the new generation of children that will get to experience it themselves. I have so many wonderful memories spent learning and playing together with my children in the Playscape as toddlers and preschoolers.

Thanks to the generosity of The Children’s Museum, I have 2 tickets to give away so that you can begin making your own precious memories with your little ones! The tickets are for Children’s Museum Admission (valued at $18.50 each), which not allows access to the Playscape Gallery as well as all the other wonderful exhibits in the museum.  You can earn up to four entries by following these instructions:

  • Leave a comment telling me which Children’s Museum exhibit you’re most looking forward to sharing with your family.
  • Tweet and/or share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.  Leave separate comments for each telling me that you did so for them to count as entries.
  • Let me know if you like The Risky Kids on Facebook.  Leave a comment letting me know you like us!
Giveaway will end Thursday, September 26th at 11:59 pm EST.  Winner will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.   Good luck!