Feb 11

5 Ways to Keep Your Kid Happy in the Car

Baby traveling in car seatIf your child enjoys riding in their car seat, count your blessings. Since the day we brought our son home from the hospital, he has screamed, cried and protested loudly to being strapped into his car seat and driven anywhere. After months of ear piercing arguments and a few weeks of downing anti anxiety pills, we decided to try out a few suggestions that friends insisted worked on their kids.


This has pretty much has kept me from checking into a hospital. After figuring out which DVD’s our son liked, we set up a DVD player on the headrest of the backseat. The first few times, he wiggled and yelled, but after a ride or two with this ultimate distraction, he started to actually enjoy himself. We recommend purchasing 5 or 6 DVD’s to rotate so your child doesn’t get bored and don’t forget to buy a DVD player with a remote or you’ll end up pulling a back muscle trying to reach the play button.


My son loves nothing more than to watch himself in the mirror, not to mention, if you hang it just right, they can see you too. This was helpful from the ages of 2 to 8 months and to this day he can’t pass by a mirror without smiling.

Talking Story Books

We have determined that our son despises his car seat for two reasons. 1) He hates being confined and 2) It’s lonely and boring staring at the back seat for more than 5 minutes. We found a few books that would actually read the story to him as he turned the pages and this really fascinated him and kept him occupied for hours on end.

Favorite Foods

This is a given, but vital! I wouldn’t dare put my child into his car seat without a handful of ritz crackers. Not only does this keep him busy, but it makes him happy as he rides around with mom.

Digital (and Ever Changing) Photo Frames

This may sound a little ritzy, but it is super cheap and my son loves watching pictures of himself and his family as we run errands. Like the DVD player, we hung the 8 X 10 frame, purchased at Wal-Mart for $40, loaded 200 pictures into the memory card and hit play. It keeps him company and has helped him recognize family members that he doesn’t see everyday.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s been researching both the highest paying jobs and the worst paid jobs on the market. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photo Credit:


Dec 10

Gifting an iPhone? Load ’em Up with 5 Essential Apps for Parents

1. Feel Like a Local Wherever You Go: Mom Maps (Free!)

Whether you have a full-day to plan, an hour to kill before or after an appointment or need a place to get the wiggles out in unfamiliar territory, Mom Maps comes to your aid by helping you find kid-friendly places wherever you go using your phone’s GPS. Best yet, reviews and photos from other parents give you the inside scoop. OK, so I’m a bit biased as as the mom behind this app, but I invite you download it and give it a try. A brand new version of Mom Maps is now available: 26,000 kid-friendly places, 27 metro areas and new features including photos and sharing via Facebook and email. Download it!

2. Help for Medical Emergencies from Birth to One year: Baby MedBasics ($1.99)

When that late night fever hits or you’re away from home when a medical emergency arises, this app is an essential for everyone from parents to babysitters. The Baby MedBasics app contains lifesaving information that will help you move from panic to action. Download it.

3. Keep it Organized and Keep Your Sanity: Evernote (free!)

Evernote is all about wrangling the tidalwave of everyday details we encounter, can you relate parents? Jot down notes, make a voice or photo note on the go, and tag, categorize and sync it all to your desktop. Stay organized and keep it easy peasy. Download it.

4. Find a Bathroom When You Need One: Sit or Squat (free!)

We’ve all been there…  the code red bathroom alert. This app does just one thing — helps you find the nearest bathroom using your phone’s GPS (and find out how decent or dire the “amenities” are). Even if you only need this one only once in a blue moon, you’ll thank your lucky stars you’ve got this one at the ready. Download it.

5. Kid-Friendly Web Browsing: MobiCip Safe Browser ($4.99)

It’s tough enough to find the right balance of technology and digital media in today’s family life. When you add in the possibility of  children viewing inappropriate content, the stakes really get even higher. Browse the web with Mobicip Safe Browser using the age-appropriate filters, and breathe just a bit easier. Download it.

More, more, more! These five apps are a fabulous starting point for any parent, babysitter or caregiver, but when you’re ready to delve deeper, we recommend these resources for navigating the often daunting world of kid and family-friendly apps. They make it a snap to find the good stuff!

  • Moms with Apps — This collective of parent-app developers has created a wide variety of family-friendly apps. Lots of educational, creative and story apps for the kids. Handy apps for parents to manage day-to-day, everything from where to go for kid-freindly fun to . Visit moms with Apps every Friday for FREE apps

  • The iPhone Mom – Reviews and advice for moms by a mom. Handy info and tips whether you have a toddler, preschooler and elementary schooler and beyond.

  • Crazy Mike’s Apps“: Just a regular guy with a mission to share the good, bad, and the ugly for iPhone, iPad and Droid. Check out the iPhone Kids Apps section

  • Check out our previous Kids Play Guide blog post: “Mobile Apps: Essential Links and Resources for Families

Dec 10

Featured Mapper: Big Blue Trunk

So how did we find the more than 26,000 kid-friendly places mapped in our Mom Maps iPhone app? We’ve been building  a vibrant community of parent Mappers who love to share their favorite picks and places for family travel, outdoor and indoor play, learning places, family dining and more. We’d like to introduce you to Big Blue Trunk, a great new online community and resource for family travel.

* * * * *

On Big Blue Trunk, you can find family travel articles with practical tips and expert advice on destinations ranging from estinations ranging from Carmel, Yosemite and Tahoe in Northern California to New York City and Hawaii. Big Blue Trunk also features reviews on hotels, restaurants, things to do and products.

We’re proud to team up with Big Blue Trunk to map some of their favorite kid-friendly destinations. So now you can take their family travel picks and recommendations “on the go” using the Mom Maps iPhone app (or browse kid-friendly places online at www.kidsplayguide.com.)

Follow Big Blue Trunk

Dec 10

Good Day Sacramento and Good Family Fun!

We’ve just added Sacramento!

A big thank you to Julissa Ortiz and the whole crew at  Good Day Sacramento for inviting me to share Mom Maps on air last week. It was so exciting to see the enthusiastic response from local moms and dads. After the segment aired, Good Day Sacramento invited parents to share their favorite local kid-friendly places on their Facebook page. With more than 50 comments, we have been busy making sure everything gets mapped in Mom Maps so you can find these picks next time you make the trip to California’s capitol.

While in Sacramento, we had a great time visiting the ArtBeast Studio. What a fabulous place for kids to explore a whole range of classes and drop-in creative activities. If I lived in Sacramento, I know this would be a favorite for my family. Mom Mapper Shayla and her daughter Kali came along and took this great video.  Little Kali even had the chance to make her  very first painting! (And do check out Shayla’s blog, Me Turned Mom.)

Sacramento is just the latest city to be added to Mom Maps. We now support 27 metro areas and we’re adding more each week with the help of our growing community of moms and dads who love to share their favorite places for kid-friendly fun as well as the many parent bloggers and family travel experts who contribute to our app. It’s a truly collaborative effort. Together we’ve mapped more than 26,000 kid spots and captured thousands of reviews for parents, by parents. Mom Maps has come a long way since I created this app when my family moved to San Francisco and I was inspired to create a tool to find cool things to do with my two year old.

Thanks to the many Sacramento parents who provided their picks and feedback on their favorite kid spots….  and to you, for joining with me to create this great resource for families!

Happy Holidays,

Jill Seman, Founder, Mom Maps


Download the Mom Maps iPhone app and take all of our kid-friendly picks for Sacramento (and more than 25 other metro areas) on the go, or search online at www.kidsplayguide.com.

Nov 10

Get Outside! Tip Sheet for Kid-Friendly, Cold Weather Fun

Photo by Tony the Misfit (Flickr Creative Commons)

Even when the weather turns cold and wet, there’s no end to the activities and places you can explore with kids. You can, of course, opt for staying warm and toasty by browsing our growing list of indoor play areas on the Mom Maps iPhone app or on the Kids Play Guide website. (Also be sure to check out our recent post: “Kid-Friendly Fun on Rainy or Cold Days: Our Favorite Places to Get the Wiggles Out“.).

If, however, your family is up for braving the elements, this just might be the time to discover a new place to explore. Our community of mom and dad mappers has made it easy to find kid-friendly places for outdoor fun in your area and on the road. Browse the “Parks” and “Playground” categories on our iPhone App or website, and you’re sure to find a great new family destination.

To add to the fun, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite links and resources for winter and cold weather activities. Now bundle up, get outside and play!

  • From The Grass Stain Guru: Try a fall color walk or check out some other ideas from her Fall Play video
  • Try these winter nature activities for kids on eHow
  • Download this free Winter Activity Guide from Nature Rocks, chock full of games, activities and safety tips.
  • Our friend Erin (@AKontheGo) recently shared this great article from Wild Backpacker on Staying Warm While Backpacking the the Coldest Weather
  • Did you know? Winter can be the best time of year from some outdoor activities, like exploring tidepools. Here’s a good round up of theBest Tidepools for Kids in California from Trekaroo
  • If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area (where Mom Maps/Kids Play Guide is based), ready the rain shield for your stroller and find a great place to a walk on the Stroller Hikes website.
  • We like this list compiled by National Wildlife Foundation/Wildlife Promise on favorite Outdoor Blogs by Parents.
  • Our friends at Fun Orange County Parks have created the first and last resource you need for outdoor fun in Orange County from beaches to parks to playgrounds.
  • For all you Twitter fans, the #PlayOutdoors hashtag is one of our favorites for the best news on outdoor family fun, year round.


Take Our Skinny Scoop Poll: “When the weather turns cold, what activities get you outside with your kids?”

Nov 10

Kid-Friendly Fun on Rainy and Cold Days: Our Favorite Places to Get the Wiggles Out

Do you and your kids find yourselves climbing the walls when the weather gets rainy and cold? Getting the wiggles out while keeping your sanity in tact can be a tall order. So, we’ve compiled a list of fun, kid-friendly, indoor play places to run, climb and burn some energy — from Atlanta to Cinncinnati, Chicago, Seattle and points in between.

TIP: Find cold and rainy day fun using the kidsplayguide website or the Mom Maps iPhone app. Use our “Indoor Play Area”  or “Museum” categories or try search words such as: “indoor”, “bowling”, “library”, “gym”, “rink”. And…. check out our previous post on Cool Places, Mobile Apps (and more!) for Kids Who Love Science”, for more indoor fun ideas.

Mom Mapper Shalya recommends the “Eco Lake Aquarium and Science Center” in Burlington, VT for some cold day fun!

Atlanta Area

  • Hippo Hop Indoor Playground (Atlanta)  Jump and climb the day away at this inflatable play space.
  • Champion Kids (Marietta) – Indoor toddler (including kids with special needs) play place offering open play, classes, and parties.
  • DAC Kids Pirates Cove (Acworth)- Little pirates can captain a pirate ship, explore the underwater lair of an octopus or play, try the pirate-themed obstacle course. Priate’s Cove offers open play and parties.
  • Little Bears Indoor Playground – Specially designed for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and children with special needs. Lots to keep little hands and feet busy!
  • Coffee Park (Marietta): Indoor Play for the little one and a cup of joe for mom and dad.

Chicago Area

  • Kid City (Chicago, IL) – Drop in play where kids can explore a pretend city: grocery store, post office, home , movie theater, Reading corner, automobiles, and more. Parties too.
  • Family Grounds Cafe (Chicago, IL) – Indoor play area, storytelling, art, games and music activities. Gourmet coffee and espresso, sandwiches, soups, sweet treats and gelato.
  • Hobbitland Ltd. (Chicago, IL) – A bright spot for a cold day. Lots of wooden toys, play kitchen, dress up clothes, art projects, a blocked off area just for crawlers.
  • Fantasy Kingdom (Chicago, IL) – Themed play areas with kid-sized buildings to explore, costumes and other play activities.


  • Go and Play Cafe (Mason) – Indoor play for children ages 3-12 and a cafe for the adults.
  • Cherry Grove Lanes (Cincinnati) – Bowling, pool, darts to keep you entertained and (in warmer weather sand volleyball)
  • Recreation Outlet (Milford) – The folks at Recreation Outlet sell premium play equipment and have also created an indoor Play Zone where kids can run, jump and run in a showroom full of play structures, trampolines and basketball hoops. Check out their open play times or plan a birthday party.
  • Krohn Conservatory (Cincinnati) – Dream of sunnier days while perusing an acclaimed collection of more than 3,500 plant species from around the world.
  • Parky’s PlayBarn (Winton Woods) – An indoor, two-story, farm-theme, accessible playground with soft safety flooring. PlayBarn is designed for ages 2-12.


  • Kings Skate Country (Sacramento and Elk Grove) – Roller and inline skating lessons for all levels and open skate sessions, too.
  • Busy Bees Studio (Sacramento) – Classes, day camps, and parties where kids can do yoga, music, dance, fitness activities.
  • Explorit Science Center (Davis) – Hands-on science learnign and fun with interactive exhibits, a Discovery Room, and a Wet Lab.
  • Lasertag of Carmichael (Carmichael) – 2 story, 6,000 square foot laser tag area and arcade.

San Francisco Bay Area

  • SeeSaw (San Francisco, CA) –  A cozy, 800-square-feet play space stocked with toys, books, and games, good tunes are playing. Classes, Free Wi-Fi, and cafe!
  • Habitot (Berkeley, CA): Indoor play for infants through preschoolers. Drop in play, art studio, themed play areas. See Mom Mapper Shayla’s video from her visit to Habitot.
  • Peekadoodle Kids Club (San Francisco, CA): Classes for ages 0-5. Indoor play space features a Victorian house, a cable car, a grocer’s market, and a giant Golden Gate Bridge. A padded infant lounge and a cafe and boutique for mom and dad.
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito, CA) – Mixes indoor and outdoor interactive play. Places to crawl, make art and music, model trains, and interactive exhibits for hands on play. Cafe offering lunch and snack basics.
  • Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA) – Full of hundreds of hands-on exhibits that mix science and art.

Seattle Area

  • REI Seattle Store (Seattle, WA): The motherlode of gear—plus a mountain bike test trail, gear-testing stations, a 65-foot climbing wall and more hands-on fun
  • Lynnwood Bowl & Skate (Lynnwood, WA): The name says it all… a roller rink and 24 lanes await you.
  • Kidz Bounce (Issaqhah, WA): 12,000-square-foot indoor play space that features two play rooms and more than a dozen inflatables, including obstacle courses and 35-foot slide
  • Shankz Black Light Miniature Golf (Olympia, WA) – What kid wont love a little glowing 3-D mini golf in a jungle, underwater or prehistoric setting. Party room available as well.

Washington DC

  • Great Kids Village (Columbia and Silver Spring)- Drop in play time and day care, classes, cafe, and parties.
  • Adventure Park USA (New Market Maryland) – Arcade, Laser Tag, Indoor 4-level “Prospector Playground”, climbing wall and other attractions.

Other Everyday Places

… and don’t forget about some of the everyday places that can offer entertainment when the weather gets grim. Libraries get crowded on rainy days, but are free and fun.

And while shopping at our local IKEA recently, my 3 year old had a blast checking out the room vignettes, trying out ALL the chairs and testing out the kids toys scattered throughout the store. (They also have a supervised play area for preschoolers and older, where kids can play while you shop.) A nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt to cap off the visit, made for one happy camper! IKEA store finder.

Looking for more kid-friendly fun from parks, to playgrounds, museums to indoor play places and restaurants? Kids Play Guide has got you covered rain or shine! Click over to www.kidsplayguide.com and browse our growing list of more than 25,000 kid spots or take Mom Maps on the go with our iPhone app. It’s quick and easy to map and review your own favorites, too.

Nov 10

Video: Featured Kid-Friendly Place, Hapuna Beach (Big Island, Hawaii)

Kids Play Guide Mapper Stacie shares this video from a recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. This is one of the best (and only) big sandy beaches on the island. It’s on the Kohala Coast which home to many resorts (Hapuna Beach adjacent to the Hapuna Prince and Mauna Kea Hotels). Hapuna Beach has lots of amenities: big parking lot, lifeguard on duty, bathrooms, picnic areas, grills, snack shack.  It’s a great place for boogie boarding, although (beware!) the conditions can be rough at times. Overall, a great place to spend the day with the family.

In addition to mapping some of her favorite kid-friendly places on the Mom Maps iPhone app and Kids Play Guide website, Stacie writes a blog called “A Little Yumminess“, which covers family recipes and kid-friendly food adventures in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. And… if you’re interested in kid-friendly food on the Big Island, click here to view her “Big Island Food Adventure” video post.

Looking for more kid-friendly fun from parks, to playgrounds, museums to indoor play places and restaurants? Click over to www.kidsplayguide.com and browse our growing list of more than 25,000 kid spots or take Mom Maps on the go with our iPhone app. It’s quick and easy to map and review your own favorites, too.

Nov 10

Featured Mom Mapper: Road Trips for Families

So how did we find the more than 24,000 kid-friendly places mapped in our Mom Maps iPhone app? We’ve been building  a vibrant community of parent Mappers who love to share their favorite picks and places for outdoor and indoor play, learning places, family dining and more. We’d like to introduce you to Road Trips for Families, and in particular, their “Feed Me” and “Geocaching” editor, Julie Henning. Julie is also the creator of the the very handy Milwaukee Love Kids and Madison Loves Kids iPhone apps.

* * * * *

Road Trips for Families brings you travel information and advice from real families who love to hit the road every chance they get. It’s a great resource for planning your next family road trip because you’ll find expert itineraries, information on what’s along the way, gadgets — plus a whole lot more. Julie’s specialty is dining out with kids — and as a mother of three she can appreciate that this is no small task, especially when you’re on the road. You need convenience, clean bathrooms, and a place to burn off energy—not to mention prices that don’t break your travel budget on the first day. Julie loves to venture little off the beaten path to find and share unique, family-friendly restaurants that feed your appetite and your sense of adventure . She’s also a great resource for geocaching, “the nation’s high-tech treasure hunt”.

We’re proud to team up with Julie Henning and Road Trips for Families to map some of their favorite roadside attractions and kid-friendly destinations. So now you can take Road Trips for Families’ kid-friendly travel picks and recommendations “on the go” using the Mom Maps iPhone app (or browse online at www.kidsplayguide.com.)

Follow Julie and Road Trips for Families

  • www.roadtripsforfamilies.com
  • @RoadTripsEditor (Road Trips for Families on Twitter)
  • @roadtripsfeedme (Julie Henning on Twitter)
  • Facebook: Road Trips for Families
  • Find out more about Geocaching

Nov 10

Featured Video: Totland (Berkeley, CA)

Mom Mapper Shayla shares this video from a recent trip to the Totland Playground in North Berkeley, CA. Totland has the goods from sand to swings to lots of “donated” toddler toys — shade, water and tables aplenty, too. It’s totally fenced in which parents of wee ones will appreciate and pssst… we’ve heard it’s a good place for a park birthday party or play date.

Check out this video from Shayla of “Me Turned Mom“, where she blogs about parenting, cool stuff, and interesting places….. and find more kid-friendly places in Berkeley and beyond using the Mom Maps iPhone app, or by browsing www.kidsplayguide.com.

Now get out there and play!

Nov 10

Featured Mapper: Travel Mamas

So how did we find the more than 24,000 kid-friendly places mapped in our Mom Maps iPhone app? We’ve been building  a vibrant community of parent Mappers who love to share their favorite picks and places for outdoor and indoor play, learning places, family dining and more. We’d like to introduce you to Travel Mamas, a fantastic site for anyone who wants to travel with children…and stay sane!

* * * * *

Since 2009, Travel Mamas has been offering insightful tips and resources for family travel written for parents, by parents: from packing lists, to air travel and road trip tips, to destination guides covering the globe, and lots, lots more. Colleen, the original Travel Mama, began this endeavor when she found herself looking for “tell-it-like-it-is advice from real moms” while planning her own family travels. Not finding the kind of content she was looking for, she created the Travel Mamas website.

We’re proud to team up with Travel Mamas to map some of their favorite kid-friendly places. So now you can take the Travel Mamas’ kid-friendly travel picks and recommendations “on the go” using the Mom Maps iPhone app (or browse online at www.kidsplayguide.com.)

Follow Travel Mamas