Archives for December 2021

Welcome To Earth * Exciting Six-Part Documentary Exploring Far Reaches Of The Globe

It might seem humans have mapped every inch of our planet’s surface, but look closer and you’ll discover that there is still so much more to uncover — the age of exploration is far from over! Welcome to Earth, a Disney+ original series from National Geographic, follows two-time Academy Award® nominee Will Smith on an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world to explore Earth’s greatest wonders and reveal its most hidden secrets. Throughout the six-part limited series produced by visionary Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, Protozoa Pictures, Jane Root’s Nutopia and Westbrook Studios, Will is guided by elite explorers on an awe-inspiring journey, getting up close and personal with some of the most thrilling spectacles on the planet — from volcanoes that roar in silence to deserts that move beyond our perception to animal swarms with minds of their own. Combining breathtaking cinematography with Will’s boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, the blockbuster series is an exciting, multisensory ride through Earth’s most mind-bending portals.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “I loved Welcome To Earth, a six-part documentary featuring Will Smith traveling to the far reaches of the globe in search of Earth’s hidden secrets. It is exciting to watch Will find himself in places few have gone before, which forces him to conquer his fears as he embarks on life changing expeditions that alter his perception, and the viewer’s, of the world we live in.” See her full review below.  

Welcome To Earth
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

I loved Welcome To Earth, a six-part documentary featuring Will Smith traveling to the far reaches of the globe in search of Earth’s hidden secrets. It is exciting to watch Will find himself in places few have gone before, which forces him to conquer his fears as he embarks on life changing expeditions that alter his perception, and the viewer’s, of the world we live in.

Audiences will follow Will from the Nambia Desert to Norway, from Brazil into the depths of the ocean and to top of a volcano, as well as to other fascinating places. He witnesses the secrets of nature in hidden places that most people don’t often see or notice. Viewers will be both educated and enchanted by the wonders they encounter in each episode, especially since the different camera angles and tricks that capture the speed of movement give viewers images of these incredible sights.

My favorite scene is in the episode called “Descent Into Darkness” when Will Smith and Melissa Marquez (a marine biologist) travel by submarine 3000 feet below sea level to a mind-blowing place that looks like another world. They explore and learn about a variety of sea creatures that live in the Twilight and Midnight zones below the ocean. It’s fascinating to learn how the animals communicate using bioluminescence, the emission of light. And since a very small percentage of the ocean has been explored, Will’s below-the-sea trip is particularly meaningful and also quite terrifying. I also appreciate how each experience has expert guides. Many of them have faced challenges of their own which makes it even more interesting. It’s eye opening to hear from multiple people on what they’re passionate about and learn about their past. Ultimately, Will Smith is an incredible host who combines humor with education and is very enjoyable to watch.

The message in this series is that you need to face your fears in order to defeat them. You can’t let your fears stop you from pursuing your goals. Will gives the advice to “work with your fear not against it.” He is constantly pushing himself and testing his limits, too. There is some mild cursing that parents should be aware of.

I give Welcome To Earth 5 out of 5 stars. This documentary held my attention and got me excited to learn more about Earth. I recommend this to ages 11 to 17, as well as to adults. It releases on Disney+ December 8, 2021.

A Guide for Children and Contact Lenses

If your child has impaired eyesight and is in need of glasses, this can be a relatively simple solution, but what happens if your children do not get on with glasses? Whether this is because they might be sensitive to having things on their face, they might be particularly active, which means glasses could feel like nothing short of a nuisance, or for any other reason, depending on their age, contacts could be an alternative solution to correcting their eyesight.

While the same rules apply for adults as they do for children for contact lenses, there are a few things that should be considered when it comes to children using contacts.

Read this piece as a guide for children using contact lenses

 

Assess Your Kids Hygiene Levels

Hygiene is an absolutely crucial component to contact lens care, and without it, contacts are just too much of a risk to use.

Age will also be a factor in this, as older children will be able to understand hygiene much better than younger children and hopefully adhere to it better.

It is up to the parent to determine if their child can handle this responsibility, as it is vital to keeping infections and other problems at bay. You will also need to make sure they understand the risks associated with using contacts and the problems they could face if they do not adhere to strict hygiene measures. 

 

Consider Allergies

If your children suffer from allergies, they might not be the best candidate for contact lenses, especially if the allergies can be particularly harsh. Streaming and itchy eyes do not make for a friendly environment for contacts, and this much is true for adults too- but children might have a more difficult time dealing with these symptoms and keeping their contacts in place without dislodging them or putting their fingers in their eyes when they have not been washed.

If your child only suffers from mild allergy symptoms and is old enough to understand to take them out when allergies flare up, then under the supervision of an optician, they could give lenses a go. Allergies are not a deal-breaker for contacts as long as the hygiene and lens rules are consistently followed. UV protection contact lenses are a great daily option for the summer months, as they also protect from UV rays from the sun, which can damage the eyes.

Lenses to Correct Vision for Children

There are some contact lenses that have been designed specifically for children to slow down near-sightedness, which can be a technological breakthrough that many kids from age 8-12 could benefit from.

They are designed to be worn throughout the day and disposed of in the evening like regularly daily lenses, but are designed to slow down myopia while they are worn. This could be life-changing for children who not only hate wearing glasses but also have a rapid deterioration of sight, potentially helping to keep them from having to change their prescription regularly.

Holiday Book Gift Guide

The Kids’ Book of Sticker Love (Workman Publishing; $19.95; ages 7 and up).

A natural companion to The Kids’ Book of Paper Love, with 52,000 copies in print, The Kids’ Book of Sticker Love is jam-packed with tons of original ideas and crafty projects for kids to make. This book offers something new to discover on every page, from holographic stickers and origami finger puppets to tiny paper gift bags so kids can share their stickered creations with friends and family. It’s a treasure trove of screen-free, hands-on entertainment for kids of all ages, packed with every sticker project under the sun.

Find out more at https://www.workman.com/

Quarto Kids have the perfect books to educate and delight curious little minds. 

ABC What Can We Be? Coloring Book

Paperback | $6.99 | 9781600589836

Ages 3+

Discover a wonderful world full of career possibilities to color – from Astronaut to Zoologist and everything in between!

Perfect for teaching toddlers their ABCs and entertaining them with coloring, this bumper 80 page book shows there are no limits to what a kid can pursue.

Find out more at https://www.quarto.com/

PAINT BY STICKER KIDS: MERMAIDS & MAGIC

Another fun book from our friends at Workman Publishing!

 This one features 10 full-color images of fanciful creatures and magical artifacts that have captivated kids for generations.

Imaginations will take flight as children paint this magical universe, full of bright and beautiful beings and fantastical curios, one sticker at a time. Dive into the ocean with a magical mermaid and an adorable narwhal, then take to the skies with a majestic pegasus and a playful pixie. Glitter stickers are included throughout to double the fun and give these whimsical scenes even more sparkle.

PAINT BY STICKER is all the fun of arts and crafts without the mess. No paints or sticky glue to spill makes cleanup nonexistent. Plus, these perforated card stock pages make it easier than ever to remove the out-of-this-world art and share it with the whole family! Perfect for ages 5+.

With bouncy, delightful rhymes, Bridget Heos’ Santa Jaws celebrates Christmas under the sea. Every year, Santa Jaws delivers presents to his fellow sharks, spreading cheer wherever he goes. Elfin sharks make toys, horn sharks trim the Christmas kelp, and cookiecutter sharks make sure Santa doesn’t go hungry. Get ready for a ride on Santa’s sled (pulled, of course, by hammerheads) in this joyful holiday tale! I loved this story! It is published by our friends at https://us.macmillan.com/ but you can also find it on Amazon.com.

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to feature for the holidays. Cover images were also provided.

Books of the Week

Featuring illustrated tutorials for drawing dozens of animals, Ten-Step Drawing: Cats and Dogs break down each subject into ten simple steps. All you need to get started is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper!

Handy prompts help you learn to draw by encouraging you to express creative individuality, while helpful general drawing tips enable you to try out your drawing skills on other subjects not featured in the book. The projects feature instructions for graphite pencil, ink, and colored pencil, for a well-rounded introduction to drawing.

Learn to draw more than 50 cat and dog breeds, including American Shorthairs, Persians, Maine Coons, Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs, Great Danes, and many more!

The perfect references for your first steps as an aspiring artist, Ten Step Drawing: Cats and Dogs are sure to give you the courage to break out a pencil and paper and draw to your heart’s content! 

Designed especially for aspiring illustrators, doodlers, and art hobbyists, the fun and approachable books in the Ten-Step Drawing series encourage new artists to get acquainted with the basic principles of drawing so they can learn to create art with confidence. They are sure to encourage even the most reluctant artist to break out a sketchbook and doodle to their heart’s content. 

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books. Images were also provided.

Last Minute Gift Suggestions!

Can you believe that Christmas Eve is tomorrow? Here are some more of my favorite gift ideas!

Photo Credit: NAUSENI

Keep your feet warm and cozy with NAUSENI slippers. Every pair is handcrafted, the soles are Himalayan buffalo suede leather and the rest is 100% natural wool and felt. These sustainable, eco-friendly slippers are handmade by women in Nepal. They mold to your foot for the perfect fit. Choose from kid and adult sizes in a variety of colors: https://www.nauseni.org/ 

I love these! They are comfy!

Photo Credit: Cali Weights

Cali Weights are brand-new chic weighted bracelets that come in a ton of fun colors to help you look and feel your best. These versatile, durable, and stylish bracelets each weigh ¼ pound, and are meant to mix and match. Cali Weights come in a beautifully packaged case that is 100% recyclable, and each bracelet is made of high-density moldable iron and covered with hand-soft silicone that is water and sweatproof. Each case comes with four bracelets. You can wear four or more bracelets at a time to achieve your fitness goals, and they are available in three different sizes (small, medium, and large) to fit a variety of wrists. They are the perfect accessory to wear all day during school drop offs, Zoom calls, yoga and Pilates classes, spin, teaching, the gym… the options are endless. More information: www.caliweights.com.

Photo Credit: GLOBALANCE

GLOBALANCE– Keep lunch cold with sleek and functional GEL-COOL Bento Boxes. These BPA-free bento boxes keep food fresh and safe from hot weather with its built-in ice pack. It’s easy to use… just put the lid in the freezer the night before you plan to use, and then pack your lunch the next day. The bento box will keep your food cold for approximately four hours. Available in nine fun colors like milk white, berry blue, and sesame grey. Components except for the ice pack lid are dishwasher and microwave safe. Lunch ideas and more are available at https://loisthestore.com/collections/bento-boxes.

Good Banana isn’t just a fun thing to say, but they have the hottest kids’ gifts to give this holiday season. From snuggly soft weighted blankets to bed tents, yoga mats and stuffed animals in bright colors and themes like rainbow, dinosaur, donut, pizza and more! These high-quality, super soft products are made with the same design and care as adult products, but in fun kids’ colors and sizes. Check out the weighted blankets! These five-pound weighted blankets are made for kids (or kids at heart) 30 pounds and up. Complete your gift set with a kids-sized yoga mat in fun themes like kitty cat, llama, rainbow and panda… kids can use these mats to practice yoga, relax and more! There really is a gift for everyone… bubble machines, lap desks, loud mouths (plush toys that repeat whatever kids say), toy storage bags, doorway curtains, and gift cards… the possibilities are endless. More information: www.goodbanana.com and available on Amazon.

Photo Credit: Good Banana
Photo Credit: Good Banana

Butter Hub is a smarter butter dish. This kitchen must-have has four features that make it stand out from others on the market. Butter Hub’s magnetic lid (to hold a knife), extended feet (to keep butter mess off the table), scoop ramps and a scrape edge comes in seven colors to match any kitchen décor. With more than a 4.5 star rating, the simple look, lightweight, dishwasher safe and microwavable, BPA-free dish will keep your butter soft and ready for spreading! More information and available at: https://butterhub.com/ and Amazon.

Photo Credit: Butter Hub

Self Disclosure: I received free samples of the above products to facilitate this holiday featured post. Images were also provided.

Foodtastic * Disney’s New Food Show Filled With Whimsy And Larger Than Life Food Sculptures

Hosted by the multitalented, Emmy® award-winning actress Keke Palmer, Foodtasticis an immersive global competition series in which highly skilled artists create extravagant scene work and larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of food. From vegetables and butter to fruit and cheese, these everyday items are transformed into works of art. Each episode is rooted in iconic Disney IP and the food-based builds are an extension of that world. Flour Shop founder Amirah Kassem and NYC’s City Cakes founder chef Benny Rivera serve as food art experts on the series. 

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Foodtastic is Disney’s new food build competition show that is filled with whimsical storytelling, breathtaking set designs, out-of-this-world visual effects, and larger than life food sculptures with magic around each corner.” See her full review and interview with Keke Palmer below.

Foodtastic 

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11


What do you get when you give adults a pass to play with their food in the magical world of Disney? You get one Foodtastic show! Foodtastic is Disney’s new food build competition show that is filled with whimsical storytelling, breathtaking set designs, out-of-this-world visual effects, and larger than life food sculptures with magic around each corner.

Foodtastic is hosted by the multi-talented actress, Keke Palmer, who is also one of the executive producers. Each episode opens with Keke Palmer acting out a Disney-themed skit narrated by award-winning voice actor Anthony Mendez. Contestants must build scenes using food sculptures based on the skit. Flour Shop founder Amirah Kassem and NYC’s City Cakes founder chef Benny Rivera serve as the food artist experts and judges on the show. Contestants are judged on technique, realism and creativity. The winning team is awarded bragging rights and a gold Foodtastic pin.

Each episode has three teams consisting of highly talented food artists including architects, food sculptors and even a Guinness world record pumpkin carver. Disney left no stone unturned when it came to making this show magical. The set designs are vibrant and very realistic. Creative visual effects such as a red sun setting in the background of the Star Wars-themed episode are used to track the contestants’ time. The food artists are like kids in a candy store when they see all the food options they have to build their sculptures. The food designs are impressive and include anywhere from 55 different food ingredients for one sculpture, giant jawbreakers as giant donut sprinkles, wasps made out of hot peppers and even Ramen noodles as a massive ant hill. There are even plot twists that serve as extra challenges for the teams, where they may have to re-think their entire project to add a last-minute element, such as Micro Girl needing to be rescued. In that instance, they had to figure out how to add her and what type of food to use to make her. One of the best parts of the show is that all unused food is donated to the local food banks.

Disney is known for being magical and inspiring audiences around the world and Foodtastic is no different. It promotes teamwork, creativity, problem-solving skills and tapping into the magical world of Disney. The contestants really learn what it’s like to dream big, free your mind, believe in yourself and your team and just go for it. It’s sure to motivate generations of food artists.

I rate Foodtastic 5 out 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 5 to 18, kids at heart and adults. You can find Foodtastic on Disney+ starting Wednesday, December 15, 2021.

American Underdog * An Unlikely Story Of A Football Player Ascending To The Heights Of The Game

American Underdog tells the inspirational true story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), who went from a stock boy at a grocery store to a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion, and Hall of Fame quarterback. The film centers on Warner’s unique story and years of challenges and setbacks that could have derailed his aspirations to become an NFL player — but just when his dreams seemed all but out of reach, it is only with the support of his wife, Brenda (Anna Paquin) and the encouragement of his family, coaches, and teammates that Warner perseveres and finds the strength to show the world the champion that he already is. American Underdog is an uplifting story that demonstrates that anything is possible when you have faith, family and determination.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “American Underdog is based on a football player’s unlikely true story of ascending to the heights of the game. This biopic features moments of drama, comedy, romance, nostalgia, frustration and religious events that will touch your core.”  Eshaan M. adds, “A touching, inspiring real life story that will have you hooked, American Underdog is the sports film you want to be watching this Christmas! American Underdog teaches the virtues of perseverance and hard work. Kurt Warner didn’t get what he wanted the first time, so he worked his tail off and earned it. Sure, he was dejected when sent home from the Green Bay Packers after a day on the team. But he didn’t let it stop him. See their full reviews and Ethan’s interview with the director below.

American Underdog 
Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13


American Underdog is based on a football player’s unlikely true story of ascending to the heights of the game. This biopic features moments of drama, comedy, romance, nostalgia, frustration and religious events that will touch your core. 


This magnificent movie is about the legendary NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi) and his wife Brenda (Anna Paquin). This is the first faith and family film released by Lionsgate on Christmas Day. The movie depicts Warner’s journey from college all the way till he makes it to the NFL. During that journey, Warner meet his wife, goes through tough and challenging situations with Brenda and her sons, and he has to make a living—on top of all that, he struggles with being drafted into the NFL. My favorite part of this movie is the ending. Why? Because is a mixture of video showing real plays combined with scenes created for the movie. To see Kurt Warner executing his plays in real life gives the audience a sense of motivation and happiness, and sends the message that nothing is impossible when you have hope and faith.

The moral of this film is to never give up on your dreams, no matter how impossible they look or what it takes. Every time you fall, stand up. Every time you fail, try again. Have faith in yourself and in God, or the higher power, that you can achieve whatever you focus on or put your mind to.


I give American Underdog 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 10 to 18 plus adults. The movie releases in theaters on Christmas Day, December 25, 2021.

American Underdog

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

A touching, inspiring real life story that will have you hooked, American Underdog is the sports film you want to be watching this Christmas!

American Underdog follows NFL quarterback Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi) and his journey from bagging groceries, to the struggles of being an undrafted player, to playing arena football, to playing for the then, St. Louis Rams. While he’s experiencing ups and downs in his career, Warner also must balance his vacillating family life. It’s a saga for the ages, and it’s all true!

The production team of American Underdog led by Andrew and Jon Erwin don’t let a single detail go – the acting, music, cinematography and script of this film are all incredible. Zachary Levi owns his role as Kurt Warner, harmonizing the characteristic toughness of a NFL player with the emotions of a husband, son, dad and teammate. Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of head coach Richard Vermeil deserves a round of applause as well, and for a similar reason. It feels as if Quaid must have been a coach at one point. In his role as Vermeil, Quaid unrelentingly pushes Levi’s character, but encourages and supports him in equal measure.

American Underdog teaches the virtues of perseverance and hard work. Kurt Warner didn’t get what he wanted the first time, so he worked his tail off and earned it. Sure, he was dejected when sent home from the Green Bay Packers after a day on the team. But he didn’t let it stop him.

I give American Underdog 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to18, plus adults. American Underdog releases in theaters December 25, 2021.

Dragons: The Nine Realms * Fun, Action-Packed, Animated Series To Entertain Young Kids Everywhere

Set 1,300 years after the events of How To Train Your Dragon, dragons are now just a legend to the modern world. When a geological anomaly opens up an immense, miles-deep fissure in the Earth’s surface, scientists from all over the world gather at a new research facility to study the mysterious phenomenon. Soon a group of misfit kids, brought to the site by their parents, uncover the truth about dragons and where they’ve been hiding — a secret they must keep to themselves to protect what they’ve discovered. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Dragons: The Nine Realms is a fun, animated, action-packed and mystical kids TV series that will entertain young kids everywhere! Anyone who is a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon movie franchise and/or loves dragons and themes of friendship and uniqueness will enjoy watching the series, set 1,300 after the Dragon films…” See her full review and interview below.

Dragons: The Nine Realms
By Tiana S. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Dragons: The Nine Realms is a fun, animated, action-packed and mystical kids TV series that will entertain young kids everywhere! Anyone who is a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon movie franchise and/or loves dragons and themes of friendship and uniqueness will enjoy watching the series, set 1,300 after the Dragon films, Dragons: The Nine Realms features a group of kids: Tom Kullersen (Jeremy Shada), Jun Wong (Ashley Liao), D’Angelo Baker (Marcus Scribner) and Alex Gonzalez (Aimee Garcia) who form a group called The Dragon Club. The group starts after Tom breaks the rules and travels deep into Earth into a place called the Fissure and they end up befriending a dragon who is hiding there with other dragons. Now, it’s up to The Dragon Club to unite, protect the dragons from getting hurt and to save the dragons’ homes from being destroyed.

One of my favorite scenes in Dragons: The Nine Realms is when a sheep randomly shows up and tries to blow the cover of the kids who were trying to keep their dragons a secret. The sheep constantly tries to sneak up on them or make noise to blow their cover, so it is funny how the kids always have a “not again” moment but are still able to avoid the sheep. I also love how each character is unique, but they come together and have fun with each other like they are one of a kind. My favorite character is Alex Gonzalez because of her combination of personality traits.  She is really into electronics and anything that has to do with cameras or using advanced technology, and yet she also is willing to help out others and make friends. Alex will even break some rules, though she is very introverted and shy person at first, which seems to make her an unlikely rule-breaker.

The message of Dragons: The Nine Realms is to be yourself, take time to appreciate who you are and stand up for what you believe in. Coming together is a key theme: all the characters have different personalities and beliefs in this series, but they all come together in The Dragon Club and protect the dragons from their parents who may harm them with their experiments.

I rate Dragons: The Nine Realms 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 10. You can find Dragons: The Nine Realms streaming on Hulu and Peacock starting December 23, 2021.

Jeremy Shada, Ashley Liao, Marcus Scribner, Aimee Garcia, Julia Stiles,

May Wong voiced by Lauren Tom, Keston John, Pavar Snipe, Justina Machado, Angelique Cabral, D’arcy Carden, Carrie Keranen

Trailer: