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  • Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All
    Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All

    Kids, husbands, and wives all reap huge benefits when couples commit to share equally as breadwinners and caregivers.  Mothers work without guilt, fathers bond with their kids, and children blossom with the attention of two involved parents. - Amazon Review

  • The Iron Giant
    The Iron Giant

    An animated film set in the shadows of the space race.  A robot lands in a small town and is befriended by a boy and an beatnick...great flick!

  • The Robot Alphabet
    The Robot Alphabet

    A toddler's robot ABC book (in Kindle version, for the on-to-go family)!

  • Robot Dreams
    Robot Dreams

    "Graphic novel about a dog and a robot shows us in poignant detail how powerful and fragile relationships are."

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    Mom Chores vs. Dad Chores: are you stereotypical?

    By Jill Simeone-

    Lisa Belkin, who writes the PARENTS blog on the Huffington Post, has a great article this week about parents sharing household work, who does what, whether stereotypes still persist, and how kids read gender roles. 

    Here's a quick excerpt:

    Sure, there are some individuals who match stereotype. And yes, broadly measured, it is still accurate that mothers are still more likely to do "mother" things (work part-time, earn less money, perform a larger percentage of childcare and housekeeping tasks). But while those things are true, they are not as true as they used to be, and in so many instances they have nothing to do with your truth. I'm betting that, without much effort, you can think of parents -- probably even in your own home -- who are a scramble of expected and unexpected traits. And if you can't come up with an example from your own circle, I am happy to introduce you to any number of single parents or same-sex couples who are the ultimate proof that division of parenting labor (and parenting halos and demerits) are not determined by gender.

    Reading Lisa Belin's post this morning, I was reminded of a comment my 4 year old made only last night:  "Daddy doesn't know how to cook."  It surprised both me and my husband, since he managed a restaurant for several years and is actually a good cook.

    Since having kids, though, we've divided up the household chores...and cooking (when it happens) ends up on my list.  Taking out the trash and putting in the ACs are on his list.  Which works fine for us.  We really share the household work pretty equally and this isn't a source of conflict for us.

    But my daughter's comment and this article have made me think about how our household chores are read by our kids...and what gender roles we are modeling to them.   I don't really want to trade cooking for trash duty, but I will be more careful to involve the girls in helping each of they get a sense of family responsibility.  This way, they'll learn basic competence in taking out the trash or cooking, even if they don't like it.  Raising independent kids, to me, means teaching them a broad range of life skills, so they can survive on their own or figure out how to share chores with a partner some day.

    Here's a Cozy Owl household duties quiz, to see how your family divvies up the duties.  In your home, which parent...

    • Makes school lunches
    • Pays the bills
    • Makes sure the kids bathe regularly
    • Assembles new bikes
    • Is in charge of buying gifts for relatives
    • Mows the lawn
    • Drives the car on a family trip
    • Puts away clean laundry
    • Checks homework
    • Takes out trash
    • Plans summer camps or activities for kids

    Piano for Little Kids: there's an app for that!

    By Jill Simeone -

    Andrew Ingkavet, the most sought-after music teacher in Brooklyn (and, I'm proud to add, the Cozy Owl Music Contributor), has just released a fabulous educational music app for young kids: Play Piano for Kids, Volume I.

    The app, available in the iBookstore for $.99 and for use on the iPad, is really great because it targets very young and pre-literate kids and teaches them to play simple songs on the piano.  Andrew uses a color coding system that makes reading music really simple and intuitive for the early learner.

    Play Piano for Kids includes videos of young children playing the songs (so your little one can see how it's done), as well as really helpful teaching notes for parents (so you can fake your way through the lesson if you --like me-- lost your flute in the 4th grade and haven't touched an instrument since). 

    As a parent who has sat through many of my daughters' piano lessons, I am incredibly impressed with how well this app captures the warm, fun  and encouraging feel of lessons with a digital medium.

    If you are wondering about the benefits of music instruction for little kids, there's a ton of research out there showing that early exposure to music has a wide range of developmental benefits, including:  development of abstract reasoning skills, later success in science and complex math, and spatial-temporal intelligence.

    So go check out the app, forward it to your friends, and if you love it like I do, be sure to leave a glowing review.  That's how good apps float to the top of the list at the Apple Store.  Plus...I want to make sure we get to see Volume II. 

    Happy playing!




    Kindergarteners love fine art too!

    By Jill Simeone -

    My mother and her team partner, Gail, taught primary school for almost 40 years (each!), and over and over they've been told by their former students that the greatest mark they left on their lives was teaching them to appreciate art and music history.  (I suppose teaching a thousand kids to read was a big deal too.)

    This books asks the young artist to sketch herself in van Gogh's hat & coat.

    My Mom & Gail designed a program they called "Notes & Strokes", which led early learners through several of the major works of art history and classical music.  By the end of the year, the kids were talking about Picasso's blue period and humming Beethoven's Fifth.  What was most interesting about the program, and what really engaged the young minds, was that the children actually danced and played to the music, and had the chance to make their own works of art inspired by the masters.  My Mom and Gail found a way to scale some truly profound masterpieces, so they could be loved and absorbed by very young kids.

    Getting into her "green period"!

    Inspired by their program, we have been talking a lot about portraiture in our house lately.  We've been looking at some great works and trying our hands at making portraits and self-portraits.  We even went to Met and sketched.

    Looking at art and drawing pictures at the Met.

    The next five days have a forecast of rain (at least in NYC), so why not pull out those pastels and your old art history books and share some art love with your little ones?  It's a ton of fun!

    A portrait of Mommy.



    Robot Birthday Party: fun for a girl & a boy....

    By Jill Simeone -

    Yup, those are donut legs!I love throwing parties.  I think it's in my DNA. 

    My parents always organized tons of events in our home when I was a kid, and planned surprise-filled birthday parties for us.  I remember big pink heart-shaped cakes (I was born in February), pizza-making parties and scavenger hunts.  I definitely grew up believing in the value of celebration.

    Now, as a mom, I love it when spring comes...birthday season for my kids!

    But kids' birthdays are a mixed bag.  I've seen lots of tears.  And lots of BORED parents.  And tons of money and energy being thrown at activities & themes that miss the mark.  So in planning my kids' parties, I have tried to re-cast the kiddy party into a new formula that is successful (and FUN) for everyone involved.  We've had some really fun parties, so here are the take-aways that I think make kids' parties work...and some pics from the most recent:  A Robot Party!

    1.  The Theme -  I like to pick a theme that not only my child will relate to...but that all the kids (boys & girls, younger and older) will enjoy.  Though I have girls, I steer clear of princess-type themes.  Not only are princesses boring to talk about, but the little boy guests (and every adult) will be turned off.  Same is true of "typical" boy themes.  My daughter turns herself into a robot!I also don't pick her "favorite thing" right that moment...because that will invariably change before the party.  Instead, I pick something for us to explore and delve into as we plan the party.  This year, for my younger daughter, we decided to have a robot party. 

    2. The Lead Up - For the theme to have relevance, it is important that the kids "get" robots.  To do that, we spent the month before the party learning all about robots.  We got robot books, watched robot movies, made homemade robots, and did robot dances.  It was a TON of fun.  By the time the party rolled around...robots were a BIG DEAL, and really resonated with my daughter, even though she was only turning four.

    3. Planning Activities - I like to plan activities that are:

    • Not adult led...this allows the kids to play freely.  Little kids have more fun with less structure.  Give them crafts, toys, building sets & manipulables...and perhaps some examples of how to use them...then let them explore & create!
    • Accessible across a range of ages - I always invite the whole family, so there are younger and older siblings.  If the activities are open-ended, then both big and little kids will find age-appropriate ways to make fun.
    • Don't invite crazy behavior -  Crafts are great.  Dress-up is great.  Dress up with swords...not so much.

    A ROBOT LAB with fun wind-up robots proves fun for 3 generations!4. Make the Party Fun for Adults - I'm interested in seeing and entertaining my adult friends (the parents) at the party as much as my kids' I make sure that the parties always have good food, wine and other adult beverages, and that the cake is delicious. If the activities are child-centered and not adult-led, you'll have plenty of time to chat, too.

    Make your own robot!5. Piñatas! - I lived in Mexico for a while, and in Mexico the piñata is such a focal point of a kid's birthday celebration that a child's birthday party is actually called a "piñata"!  I love piñatas because they act as a great "wrap-up" activity. 

    For little kids, I convert the piñata into a pull string pinata (a bunch of ribbons taped to the bottom, and one ribbon attached to a trap door at the bottom). 

    I don't make up goody bags....but instead decorate brown paper lunch bags with the theme of the party and hand them out to the kids once the piñata breaks.   They use the paper bags to collect their loot...and this ends up much more exciting and engaging than a typical favor bag! 

    Happy Roboting!

    Lots of craft supplies to encourage creative expression across a range of ages.




    Springtime in Brooklyn: walks, crafts and a story to celebrate the season

    By Jill Simeone -

    Photo: Jill Simeone, Spring in Brooklyn, 2012Living in Brooklyn, we walk a lot.   My kids tend to complain about walking ...even a I always try to keep a running discussion going about what we observe on our trips around town, certainly to edify, but also to distract them from the 12 block walk home.

    And these last few days, what we've been talking about is SPRING!

    No matter how mild the winter (and this one was mild for us), nothing is more joyous than the sight of pink blooms on the magnolia tree...the first trumpet of spring!

    I am a terrible gardener, but somehow over the years I've acquired in my head the names of all of those little flowers that pop up in March and April...grape hyacinths and forsythia and narcissus... and the kids and I have a treasure hunt to see what is in bloom in each neighbor's front garden.

    After returning home from one of these great spring walks, my daughter commented that it was probably time to take the snowflakes and hearts down from our windows and work on some spring art projects.

    Good point.

    A quick survey of the internet revealed a bunch of really beautiful flower crafts...none of which were executable by little kids.  Several of them would have been a stretch for me.  Since the goal was having fun around the theme of spring, I opted for a simple project that both a 3 and a 5 year old could enjoy ...and we could hang in the window to admire and share.


    So this is what we came up with...spring paper flowers painted on 2 sides.   And a great springtime story.  What are you doing to celebrate spring this year?

    Photo: Jill Simeone - Flower craft project

    Spring Flower Craft Project:


    Construction paper in spring colors


    Watercolor paints & water


    Glue sticks

    Newspaper (for the floor)


    In advance of the project, I sketched a bunch of 5 petal flowers free-hand on construction paper.  They should be about the size of your hand, and all a bit different in shape and size. 

    I also sketched some circles (small and large) that will be used for the center of the flowers.  You'll need 2 circles for each flower.

    Depending on the level of your child's fine motor skills, invite him to participate in cutting out the flowers and circles. 

    My younger child was frustrated after one flower, my older child enjoyed the challenging scissor work a bit longer.  On the side, I cut out a bunch of the flower shapes and circles, so the cutting wouldn't impede the fun of the main event.

    Next, we all sat on the floor and painted brighly colored circles on the petals.  Once the flowers dried, I flipped them over and we painted circles on the other side, too.  Finally, we glued paper circles in the middle of the flowers (both sides).  The whole project took less than a half hour.

    These look great in the window from both inside and out!  The painted parts of the petals have taken on an almost-translucent quality, and they look really pretty in the sun!


    Spring Story Time

    What better way to wrap up a spring walk and craft activity....than a snuggle with a spring story book?

    Here is our favorite spring story book this week:

    And Then It's Spring, by Julie Fogliano, Erin Stead - Illustrator


    "A first-time author and the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011) team up in this beautiful ode to a patient gardener." --Booklist, Starred