Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

From the Growing Up Disney Family

We wish you a

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Disney Imagicademy Activity Books

Tink is now 6 years old and in first grade.  She loves to color, is very creative and is becoming quite a good reader.  I gave her the Disney Imagicademy Science Activity book and it's only a slight exaggeration to say her reaction was just short of what it would have been if I had presented her with a puppy.  

There are two activity books in the Imagicademy collection.  The first is about science and features a Frozen theme.  The second is all about animals and features Mickey and friends.  Each kit comes with supplies to go along with the activities such as colored pencils, stickers, glow pen, rainbow glasses and more.  I love that each book comes with its own zipper pouch to hold the supplies.  A blue bag came with the science kit and a red bag accompanied the animal kit.  Everything has a place and there is no arguing over which bag belongs to which child.  The books are really well made with nice paper, beautiful colors and lots of detail.  The activity pages range from coloring to puzzles to experiments to "mad lib"-type stories.

Tink has worked on her book every chance she could since she got it.  I've had to take it away for bedtime and hurry her in the morning to get ready for school because she was busy with her Imagicademy book.  She has enjoyed the puzzles and we are looking forward to time this weekend to complete some of the experiments.  Earlier this week, the girls and I did a few of the "Mad Lib" type activities as our bedtime stories.  

Disney Imagicademy activity book, Frozen gift
Supplies are in the box on the right and it comes off cleanly from the book.
Disney Imagicademy activity book, Frozen gift
Full listing of supplies
Inside the front cover
The pouch clips on to the rings so it won't get lost!
60 page activity book covering all sorts of basic scientific concepts
Disney Imagicademy activity book, Mickey Mouse book
The roller stamp and glow pen were huge hits with my kids.
Disney Imagicademy activity book back cover
Back cover
Inside front cover
That smart pouch again
60 pages of fun activities and animal facts
Tink especially likes the spray bottle for experiments and the rainbow glasses.
Minnie got the animal book.  We have been working on her book together since she is not reading yet.
Animatedly telling us about the rainbows she was seeing
Minnie loves the glow pen.  I like the "Did You Know?" bubbles that share cool animal facts.
Pluto footprint roller in 4 colors here being used to match each animal to its home
Mickey and friends colored pencils came with the animal book.  The science book has Frozen characters on the pencils.
Tink wanted to show you her snowflakes.  For some reason she grabbed a black marker that was not part of the kit to do this page.  It now lives in the blue supply pouch.  

The Disney Imagicademy books would make a terrific Christmas gift for elementary school children. I could also see this as a great activity during the school break to keep the kiddos busy and learning.   It would certainly buy you some wrapping time.  Or take one with you on a road trip since the supplies are well contained.  There are plenty of pages with a good variety of activities.  

Thank you to Wonder Forge for letting us review their activity books.  I think it's Tink's current favorite review that I've done.  Disclosure  You can get your own books at Target.  They are currently $16.99 online but I'm pretty sure I saw them on sale for $14.99 at my local store this week. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Disney Imagicademy Storymation Studio Stop Motion Movie Kit

So, how is everyone?  We have been busy with Thanksgiving and school events, as well as some personal business that required a week's travel and quite a bit of my brain space these days.  I hope you are doing well and having fun getting ready for Christmas.  

The kind people at Wonder Forge sent me more cool games to share with you and I am really excited about this line of products.  Wonder Forge is a part of the Disney Imagicademy line of toys, games and books available at Target.  Imagicademy toys fall into that great category where Disney, fun, creativity and education overlap.  Here's a link to Imagicademy at Target.   

The first set I'll be sharing with you is the Disney Imagicademy Storymation Studio Stop Motion Movie Kit. (Whew, long name.)   I don't have cute pictures of my kids playing with this yet because I've wanted to wait until we could really take the time to enjoy it and things have been super busy here lately.  However, my own assessment of this is that I cannot wait to play with this kit.  I plan on wrapping it and putting it under the tree and then letting the girls open it before Christmas during their break from school.  When I was a child, my grandfather would allow my cousin and me to play with his video camera.  We created all sorts of movies and wonderful memories.  I think this kit will help my girls do the same.  

Disney Imagicademy, Stop Motion Movie Kit

This kit works with your smartphone or tablet to capture individual images and then turn them into your own Disney-themed movie.  You'll need to download the free Storymation Studio app.  I know it is on the Apple App Store.  If you use another device, double check your own app store to make sure it's compatible.  I like the adjustable stand that comes with the kit.  It will keep the device in place for consistent shots which will really improve the image quality.  The kids take the picture by clapping so you don't get camera shake.  Great idea, Wonder Forge.  

Disney Imagicademy, Stop Motion Movie Kit

The white portion of the case holds the stages and backgrounds.  Eight of those are included.  The red part of the case has molds for the modeling clay.  I'm totally going to put a Baymax helmet on Mickey.  

A really good instruction guide is the first thing you see upon opening the box.  Follow along and you'll soon be making movies and having a blast.

Here's what's inside the box.  The white package at the back of the photo is the pack of backgrounds, stages, and cardboard cut-out characters.  

Disney Imagicademy, Stop Motion Movie Kit, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse

The Mickey and Minnie figures are poseable so you can make minor changes and then put the images together to create the illusion of movement.  

I think this is a really great kit and I am looking forward to playing with it along with my kids.  It's rated for 4 and up.  I think my 4-year-old will like it but my 6-year-old's attention span is better and she will love this.  I'd say this would be an awesome gift for children in the 6-10 age range.  

The Disney Imagicademy Storymation Studio Stop Motion Movie Kit is currently available at Target for $29.99 and they are offering free shipping.  My local store was well-stocked with Imagicademy merchandise.  

Disney Imagicademy display at Target

Thank you to Wonder Forge for providing this toy for my review.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pictopia Picture-Trivia Game, Star Wars Edition

My pals over at Wonder Forge sent me the latest from their Pictopia line.  I reviewed the Disney trivia version of Pictopia last year.  We have really enjoyed the game and it's truly one for the whole family.  Now Wonder Forge has a trivia game made especially for Star Wars fans.

Star Wars Pictopia, The Force Awakens gift

Star Wars Pictopia features 1000 questions from the Star Wars feature films, as well as the Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.  

Star Wars Pictopia, board game about Star Wars

Like the original Pictopia, the Star Wars edition's answers are all based on pictures.  Fans of the series are going to love these images of favorite characters, vessels and places.  

Players wager on each question based on how much you think you know about the images on the card in play.  Instead of a traditional flat game board, Star Wars Pictopia has a vertical board and you move across as you earn points.  I like this twist on the standard game.  

Pictopia games are suggested for ages 7 and up.  I agree with that for the strategy portion of the game but younger Star Wars fans will enjoy answering the questions even if they don't understand exactly how the game is played.  With the Disney version, we partner up the kids with an adult so the little ones can still be a part of the game.  

If you are looking for a gift for the Star Wars fan in your life, this would be a fun addition to their collection.  It's available at Target.  As I write this, the cost is $24.99 and they are currently offering free shipping.

Thank you to Wonder Forge for sending this game for my review. Disclosure

Monday, November 2, 2015

Spot It! Miles from Tomorrowland Game Review

I think the Spot It! line of games from Blue Orange Games is so much fun that I am thrilled to be sharing another one with you.  I have previously reviewed Spot It! Words Disney Princess and Spot It! Disney Frozen Numbers and Shapes.  Today we have Spot it! Disney Miles from Tomorrowland.  

If for some reason you haven't seen Miles from Tomorrowland yet, it's a really cute new show on Disney Junior.  Miles and his sister Loretta live on the Stellosphere, their spaceship, with their mom (the captain) and dad (the pilot and scientist.)  The family goes on missions throughout the galaxy on behalf of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Disney Parks fans will recognize that name from  the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park.

Miles from Tomorrowland, Blue Orange Games, Spot It, Disney game

Like the other Spot It! games, this one comes in a durable tin which provides convenient storage for the cards at home but also makes this a great game for on the go.  Toss this (or any Spot It! game) in your bag and you can entertain your kiddos while waiting at a restaurant, the airport, big sister's dance class, etc.

Miles from Tomorrowland, Blue Orange Games, Spot It, Disney game

This game is recommended for ages 3 and up.  The Miles from Tomorrowland version comes with more cards than some of the others so you can have up to eight players joining in on the fun.  

Miles from Tomorrowland, Blue Orange Games, Spot It, Disney game

With any two cards in this set, there is always a match.  To play Spot It! Disney Miles from Tomorrowland, you are looking for a match with numbers, letters or characters/objects from the show.  Even though my girls are fans of the show, we did have to briefly study the object names included with the instructions. 

Miles from Tomorrowland, Blue Orange Games, Spot It, Disney game

There are three official variations on the game but the basic idea is always to be the first person to find a match between two cards currently in play.  It's a simple concept but some matches can be challenging, which keeps it fun.  

My youngest daughter is four and in preschool.  Minnie enjoys playing the Spot It! games with me.  It's a good chance for us to get in the floor and spend time together.  She gets to practice identifying letters and numbers but Minnie is having too much fun for it to feel like homework.  Admittedly, we do eventually go away from the official rules but anyone who has played games with preschoolers knows that's just how it goes.  It's fun when she makes up her own rules too.

Thank you to Blue Orange Games for sending us this game to play and review for our readers.  It's an enjoyable, educational game with a fun Disney twist.  Disclosure

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Photo Flashback: Disney World Vacation October 2015

This Photo Flashback goes all the way back to the first week of October, 2015.... about 2 weeks ago.
The entire Growing Up Disney Family spent a week at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge,  Kidani Village.  This is a sampling of the over 750 pictures I took on this trip... I promise I won't post all of them.

We will be doing a review of Kidani Village, tell you all about MNSSHP, Remy's Hide and Squeek, and Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival.  We will also do some restaurant reviews and post more pictures from this trip over the next few weeks.

Walt Disney World
The View from our balcony at Kidani Village was fantastic.

Walt Disney World
Sculpture at the base of the Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom Park.

Walt Disney World
Lamp Post at the Magic Kingdom decked out for MNSSHP

Walt Disney World
Fantastic Fireworks at MNSSHP!

Mulch Sweat and Shears
On a sad note. This was taken on the last week of Mulch Sweat & Shears appearing at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
We will miss your Bandscaping.

Thanks for stopping by

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Strollers: To Rent or Bring Your Own...Our Experience with Amusement Park Rentals

We returned from Walt Disney World about a week ago.  It was a great trip.  My girls are 4 and 6 and the little one has finally passed the magical 40 inch tall mark, allowing Minnie to try Soarin' and Star Tours.  She hated them both but that's another story.

Growing Up Disney, stroller rental at Disney World
My four plus my mom.  That's her own scooter but Amusement Park Rentals has similar models available for rent.

I knew we still needed a stroller for Walt Disney World.  Since I now have a preschooler and a first grader, we rarely use a stroller anymore.  The zoo here is huge and a great place for a picnic so I take a stroller with us on those outings to carry Minnie and our stuff but otherwise, my collection of strollers is parked and awaiting Craigslist.  I wear a Fitbit and my step count was over 100,000 for the week at Disney World without any dedicated exercise time.  That's a lot of walking for an adult and a ton for a child.  Yes, Tink is too old for a stroller at home but WDW is a whole different game.  

If you need a stroller for vacation, you have several options:
1. take your own
2. rent from Disney
3. rent offsite

Let's look at each of these options.  First, bringing your own stroller.  We have done this many times and it is nice when it works out.  On past trips, we have always packed our own stroller when driving.  When flying, I have lugged either a single or double stroller down the jetway for gate check (free.)  I don't want my strollers getting dirty under the plane so I always put them in a travel bag (sadly, another cost.)  And this works fine if you have enough connection time between flights since you have to wait for the stroller to be brought back up.

The second stroller option is renting from Disney however I don't really consider this a viable option in most cases.  The Disney strollers are hard plastic and expensive.  The current daily rates for Disney strollers are $15 for a single and $31 for a double.  If you pay in advance for a length of stay pass, then you save a few dollars per day.  At these rates, I can't see this being a good idea for more than one day.  I have a friend whose youngest children were 3 and 7 on their last trip.  The 7-year-old was a very independent boy who wanted nothing to do with a stroller and didn't need one for most of the trip.  However one day he was very tired and whiny and my friend said the rental fee at the park was totally worth it.  Disney strollers are available right inside each park and have to be returned before you leave that park so you'll have to carry your tired child back to the bus or parking lot.  If you park hop, you return the stroller as you exit park #1 and show your receipt to pick up a stroller at park #2.

The third option is renting a stroller from an offsite vendor.   You don't have to use space in your vehicle for a stroller or worry about the airlines damaging your stroller.  Rental is a great idea if you don't have a stroller anymore or if you need a larger one than you normally use.  The offsite rental companies also offer the models that work best at the parks.  I used one of my own on one trip and was ready to trash it by the time I walked down Main Street once.  It worked fine at home but wasn't a good choice at WDW.  I wished I had rented on that vacation.   Renting a stroller also means you don't have to haul a stroller around the airport or wait on it to come back to you.  On this last trip, we didn't have long layovers and our flight home out of Orlando was delayed.  We made our connecting flight but it was tight and we just might have missed it if we had to wait on a stroller.

I was given a free rental stroller from Amusement Park Rentals on this trip and it was fabulous.  They rent single and double City Mini GTs and BOB Revolution strollers.  We have taken our own double BOB to Disney before and it was great inside the parks.  It's bulky on the buses but a good option for RunDisney types or if you are driving to the parks.  I've used double City Minis in both GT and original models.  Of all these, the City Mini GT was our favorite.  It is the beefed up version of the original with a little more headroom, better tires and an adjustable handlebar.  My husband did most of the stroller pushing and carrying.  He was happy with how small the stroller folded for the bus, how easy it was to maneuver even when loaded with 90 pounds of little girls, and the adjustable handlebar was a really nice feature so he didn't have to bend over while pushing the stroller.  A parent console is included and provides a good place for a couple of cups and a storage spot for napkins, hand sanitizer, etc.  The oversized canopies were wonderful protection from sun and rain.  The seats have a nearly flat recline and my girls happily napped while we were out and about.
Silly husband plus tired girls leaving Magic Kingdom and heading for the bus.  The back of the seat is mesh for ventilation and has a pull-down cover if the weather calls for it.

Up late and happy at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Being able to have both girls corralled in the big crowds was wonderful.

children napping in a stroller at Disney World
The kiddos napped while I enjoyed some loaded mac n' cheese from the Food and Wine Festival. 

We had our stroller for a week.  A 7 day rental of a City Mini GT from Amusement Park Rentals is $80.00 and you can add insurance for $25.00 for a total of $105.00.  A 7 day length-of-stay rental of a stroller from Walt Disney World is $189.00.  So you save a bundle with an offsite rental and have a much more comfortable and convenient stroller.

Amusement Park Rental's website is easy to use and the CEO, James Zimbardi, prides himself on excellent customer service.  On the site you can rent single and double strollers as well as practically anything else you could need to outfit your hotel room or vacation home for taking care of a baby or small children.  They offer high chairs, cribs, pack and plays, car seats and more.  If you have someone in your group with a mobility issue, Amusement Park Rentals can help with a scooter or wheelchair during your stay.  They even have cornhole boards and volleyball nets if you are having a big gathering.  When you reserve whatever you need from their long list of items, you'll set a meeting time.  James or a member of his team will deliver your rented items and make sure you know how to use them.  The stroller we used was really clean and in good shape.  By the way, if you bring your own stroller and it gets really dirty, Amusement Park Rentals also offers a stroller cleaning service and you get one of their strollers while they clean yours.

City Mini Double, rental stroller at Disney

Disney stroller rental, City Mini Double folded
This stroller is so easy to fold.  Just take everything out and pull up on the handles in the seats.  This narrow fold works great on Disney transportation.

Amusement Park Rentals puts the family's name on the card on the basket as well as the tag hanging from the handle.  We add a yellow luggage handle cover to the stroller to help us spot it in stroller parking.

The stroller folds small enough to fit between the bed and the wall, saving on precious floor space.

I got a call from James the day before we arrived in Orlando to confirm our meeting time and he checked in with me on the morning of pick-up to make sure our estimated time worked with our Magical Express schedule.  He was very prompt and you can't miss the van.  I was glad to be able to meet James at the beginning of our trip and to say thank you at the end of the week.

Amusement Park Rentals van

I can definitely recommend Amusement Park Rentals for stroller rental during your Walt Disney World vacation.  I thank them for allowing us to use a stroller for the purposes of this review.  These are my honest thoughts on the stroller and the rental service.  Full Disclosure