Summer is finally here! And we’re ready to get the fun started. Check out our latest Summer Fun & Travel Guide filled with amazing products for you and your kids to enjoy. It includes over 90 NAPPA Award winning products that have been tested and evaluated. It features water toys for fun in the sun, games and puzzles to challenge your mind, books for summer reading, music for a rockin’ playlist and travel gear for comfort on the go. Check it out for everything you need this summer!
We’re ready to spring into some fun with these latest NAPPA Award-winning toys!
Winner’s Stable Doll and Horse Set
Take the reins and ride into exciting adventures with this spirited duo from Winner’s Stable! This doll and horse set is a beautiful start to any horse collection. Each doll stands 5 inches tall and is accompanied by her beautifully accessorized horse companion. This dazzling duo has matching styling that highlights their inseparable bond. They even have poseable features, allowing kids to move them into fun action poses. $9.99, ages 3+.
My Plush Hess Truck: 2021 Cement Mixer
This endearing green plushie truck, safe for all ages, will evoke awwws instantly. Youngsters eyes will widen, just like the truck’s friendly eyes, when they give a squeeze and are rewarded with the super soft fabric, two different songs and flashing lights. The plush truck offers 10 total flashing lights, a mute mode, 15-minute timed night-light, plush fabric with a soft filling and a child safe padded internal battery enclosure. $29.99, ages birth-6.
Blue’s Clues & You! Peek-A-Blue
Step by step and clue by clue – it’s Blue’s Clues & You! Kids will love playing peek-a-boo with Peek-A-Blue. Standing 10 inches tall, this animated plush Blue is made with super soft fabrics and features Blue’s signature paw print. Squeeze Blue’s belly and she will bark and raise her ears. This Peek-A-Blue plush will help your little clue-finder use their mind, take a step at a time, and do anything that they want to do. $24.99, ages 3+.
SNAPSIES MIX AND MATCH SURPRISE
SNAPSIES™ are Funko’s exciting new capsule collectibles with a whole world of fun inside! Collect animal characters like unicorns, llamas, goats, and dragons — each with their own distinct personalities, looks, and accessories that you can customize for endless combinations! Funko’s snap technology lets you play your way! Mix and match, create in a snap! Which Snapsies surprise will you get? $9.99, ages 6-11.
X-Shot Dino Attack – Dino Striker
Take down the ferocious prehistoric predators with the all-new X-Shot Dino Attack Dino Striker. Face the Dino invasion with this Dino Striker foam dart blaster that features an auto-rotating 6-dart barrel to annihilate incoming predators with extreme accuracy from up to 90ft/27m away. The additional 6-dart storage supplies foam flingers with maximum firepower. Join the included Dino eggs together, place them down and then blast them away before they hatch! Set includes blaster, 2 dino egg targets and 16 foam darts. $8.99, ages 8+.
Toca Life Subscription Box
Toca Life Box is a subscription box that brings quality, creative play to kids who love surprises! You’ll receive a new box each month filled with crafts, pranks, games and LOTS of unexpected surprises. Every box celebrates the power of play with creative activities and DIYs that are full of fun and silliness. $19, ages: 6-11.
For more award-winning toys visit nappaawards.com
We’re so excited to bring you our latest NAPPA Award winners just for babies!
An eco-friendly diaper brand with a 1-for-1 charity model, Believe Diapers is set to change the course of diaper need by donating one diaper to a U.S. family in need for every Believe Diaper purchased. Embracing core values of generosity, purity and responsibility, their mission is to provide parents with diapers that are good for babies and kind to the environment, while helping those in need. $24.99, birth-3.
MEMEENO Belly Band
MEMEENO Belly Band is made with 100% organic cotton front and back with an infill of super soft polyester fleece. It is all you need to keep baby’s tummy warm. For some babies, the band also has the added benefit of helping to soothe tummy aches, gas and general fussiness. It’s self-heating, the triple layer band warms itself using your baby’s own body temperature to soothe and calm. $26.99, ages birth-1 year.
Earth Mama’s A Little Something For Baby
Earth Mama’s Little Something for Baby is a bundle of travel-sized organic herbal favorites in 100% recyclable cardboard packaging. Safe for newborns, you’ll be set for baby with mini-sized versions of Earth Mama’s most-loved products, including Organic Diaper Balm, Sweet Orange Castile Baby Wash and Lotion, Calendula Baby Oil and Organic Baby Face Nose & Cheek Balm. Unboxing this will make moms feel more ready for baby, because honestly safe herbal skincare is truly a gift. $25.99
Niki’s Natural Wipes
Niki’s Natural Wipes are natural baby wipes infused with organic Coconut Oil and Manuka Honey essence. As first time parents, Dr. Durka and Suthan Naganayagam experienced first hand diaper rashes and irritations with their first son, Niki, leading them to create their own brand of all natural baby wipes. With backgrounds in healthcare, science and technology, they spent many long nights researching organic substances and were able to develop the wipes which have earned one of the highest certifications from the Environmental Working Group (EWG™). $29.95/ 4-pack, ages birth+.
The Nuby Teethe-eez super soft silicone teether’s unique textured design provides comfort to baby’s delicate gums. It is 100% BPA free, and provides stimulus to the lips and tongue and assists in the eruption of teeth by gently massaging infant’s gums. Plus, it includes a hygienic case that is great for on-the-go and is BPA free. $4.99, ages birth+.
The Lulla Owl by RoroCare Inc. is a soother and sleep companion for the smallest babies and also great on the go. Soft, small and lightweight, the Lulla Owl has no plush filling, making it an especially safe option for hospitals and the most sensitive babies. With 24h sounds of natural heartbeat and breathing, the Lulla Owl offers continuous comfort and support.
For more award-winning products visit nappaawards.com
While every day is a great day to show your love and appreciation for your kids, Valentine’s Day gives all of us a wonderful opportunity to express our feelings — and nothing says love more than kindness. At NAPPA Awards, we are celebrating kindness and positivity all year long by showcasing books, music and other great products that will bring joy and connection to your family and remind us that we need to be kind to ourselves, to each other, to our community and to our world.
Best for Mom
Let’s start with all the moms who always put everyone else first. We know this past year has not been easy, parenting through a pandemic, that’s why we love KindNotes. These beautiful jars of 31 handcrafted messages, enclosed in mini decorative envelopes, combine the charm of handwritten notes with positive affirmations perfect for a little pick-me up. Comes in a variety of designs and themes and can be customized. Starting at $34.95, kindnotes.com
And we think every mom deserves some quiet time to reflect and recharge. MamaZen Mindful Parenting App provides the perfect space to relieve stress, fatigue and anxiety using a combination of meditation, hypnotherapy and mindfulness . The 150 brief audio sessions (5-15 min) cover common topics among moms. 30-day free trial, then $14.99/month, mamazen.com
Spread Kindness Through Music
We know you’re going to love these recent NAPPA Award winners as much as we do. Music is such a wonderful source of well-being and the messages of kindness in these songs are universal and great for all ages.
Make it Happen!
Cheery, charming and energetic songs celebrate the simple joys of life, while also delivering positive messages of empowerment, courage and strength. Packed with lyrical wisdom centering on creating meaningful relationships and experiences. $9.99, staceypeasley.com
Thank You, Mister Rogers – Music & Memories
A heartfelt tribute album featuring classic songs performed by award winning artists. Highlights include the spirited Latin rhythms on Jaci Velasquez’s playful take of “You Can Never Go Down The Drain,” Jon Secada’s Spanish interpretation of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” and actress/singer Rita Wilson, whose husband Tom Hanks wonderfully portrayed Fred Rogers in the movie, provides a tender rendition of “Sometimes People Are Good.” $10.95, thankyoumisterrogers.com
A Mind of Your Own
Featuring Nashville-based songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, a Brooklyn-based, fiddle-playing child psychiatrist and an array of acclaimed Americana performers in a captivating and upbeat debut album filled with songs and skits touching on a variety of topics—making new friends, coping with failure, learning a new language, dealing with emotions and bullying. Invites listeners to think deeply on feelings and emotions that come with growing up, while focusing on resilience. $14.98, folkways.si.edu
Words to Inspire
Find a cozy nook and start reading together. Beautiful illustrations and words will inspire you to be in awe of nature and all the creatures around us. There is so much to be thankful for if we just take a look around and really notice.
Good Morning, Good Morning
The lyrical wordplay encourages children to explore their surroundings and notice the subtle sensations within their bodies, all while helping them develop their daily mindfulness practice. Written and illustrated by women of color and featuring diverse characters. $12, ages birth-4, bounlesblooms.com
The Mighty River
Celebrates the community we share through nature and the diverse animals and plants that call the river home. Includes beautiful illustrations, a wide array of information, ideas on how to protect our waterways and space to draw and describe river animals and scenes. $15, ages 2-8, years, beautifulworldbooks.com
A curated collection of children’s stories celebrating the timeless power of kindness to make the world a gentler, safer and even more loving place by author and highly-respected folklorist, Margaret Read MacDonald. $16.95, ages 6-10, augusthouse.com
The Book of Cultures
A 120-page picture book for young readers to discover the world, embrace its diversity and go on adventures near and far, all from the comfort of their home. Featuring 30 stories with buddies from different countries, followed by a 2-page activity snapshot on each culture. $35, ages 4-9, worldwidebuddies.com
To teach our kids about their big feelings is a true gift. Sit together, talk and use these creative and colorful cards to enhance your child’s social emotional learning.
The Little Yogi Deck: Simple Yoga Practices to Help Kids Move Through Big Emotions
A colorful card deck featuring 48 simple yoga and mindfulness practices to help kids work through big emotions on and off the mat. Eight color-coded categories include anger, worry, excitement, sadness, joy, jealousy, shame and peace. Includes a practice booklet. $19.95, ages 5+, Shambhala.com
Mindful Moments: Guided Exercises and Mantras for Kids
Easy-to-follow guided exercises blending mindfulness meditation and empowering affirmations to build emotional intelligence and encourage kids to tap into the present moment and their unique strengths. Includes mindful tips booklet. $30, ages 2+, boundlessblooms.world
It is through play that kids learn about life. Give them a world filled with imagination, kindness, love and generosity.
Poppy the Kindness Unicorn & Pawley Bear
Join Poppy and Pawley on their journey filled with friendship, kindness, and lots of fun as they spread kindness through Sharewood Forest. $34.99, ages 3+, plushible.com
Care Bears: Love-A-Lot Bear
A group of huggable BFFs living that sweet caring life. Perfect for unlimited bear hugs and ready for you to take on your adventures of sharing and caring. Comes with a collectible Care Coin to spark on conversation and action on everyday acts of kindness. $14.99, ages 4+, Walmart.com
Sharewood Forest Friends
Enter a magical world filled with friendship and sharing. Each friend comes with an adorable outfit, pajama set and reusable packaging that unfolds into a unique playscape, where kindness grows as large as the mighty oak and spreads like wildflowers. $34.99, ages 2-4, sharewoodfriends.com
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
During these uncertain times, it’s important to find creative and safe fun for your family. However, after so many months of pandemic conditions, it’s easy to run out of ideas. Our family found one more source of fun by creating a cozy outdoor Hollywood experience in the comfort of our backyard.
Here is a safe way to host your own backyard movie night and turn any outdoor space, no matter what size, into a home theater. Cover all your bases with the following products and suggestions. Your kids will enjoy it so much, you might even be able to sneak in a documentary!
Assemble the equipment
The most important technical element for your outdoor theater is the projector, on which you can spend anywhere from $69 to $1,600.
A projector is a more effective outdoor viewing device than your TV, since your television is likely too small. It also needs to be plugged into a wall outlet and can be difficult to move outside and keep stable in an outdoor setting. Make sure you choose a projector of the proper size. You want one small enough that you’ll be able to move it outside.
Other important considerations when choosing your projector include its resolution, brightness and speakers. Many projectors take a high-resolution image and compress it into a lower quality one. If you want true HD content, you should choose a higher-end projector. Another factor in picture quality is brightness. The brighter your projector, the brighter and clearer the image that will appear on your screen. Keep in mind that the farther away the projector is from the wall, the larger the image will appear on screen.
Another important basic element is the media player, with prices ranging from $24.99- $1,099. If your Wi-Fi signal reaches your backyard, you can use a media player the size of a thumb drive that will just plug directly into your projector. If your Wi-Fi signal can’t reach your yard, you can try downloading movies and playing them directly from your laptop. You will likely need an HDMI adapter to connect the laptop to the projector. You can also play your movies on a DVD or Blu-ray player. You’ll just need to buy the proper cables to connect your media player to the projector.
The next technical element is your screen. At the low end cost of the spectrum, hanging a bright white sheet (costing as little as $11) is pretty much the easiest and most affordable solution. Just tie a wire or sturdy rope between two poles, trees or other structural supports, and use two clips to hang the sheet. Finish off by securing the sheet to the ground with some weighted objects to avoid it blowing in the wind and—viola!
At the more expensive end of the spectrum, purchasing an actual screen with a sturdy frame and ground stakes will give you the clearest image out of whatever projector you choose. These can cost as much as $600. You can also get a large blowup screen, but you are going to have to do some blowup work before each movie.
The final basic elements include speakers and extension power cords. Many projectors have speakers built in, but they won’t provide the best or loudest sound quality. For the noise to really travel, you’ll want to use the projector’s analog output and either a 3.5-mm-to-3.5-mm stereo cable or a 3.5-mm-to-RCA cable to connect a soundbar or a Bluetooth speaker, which can cost from around $40 to $1,750. You will also likely need an extension cord for your outdoor theater unless you luck out and you have an outlet close to where your projector will go. Cords and cables can cost $12-$65.
When shopping for our home theater equipment, we set price alerts for what we needed on www.price.com. We splurged on picture and sound and wound up using a white sheet to start our endeavor.
Setting up some good lighting will help create a welcoming ambiance for your outdoor theater. Use string lights, lanterns and flameless LED candles to add atmosphere. These are ideal since you want your lighting to be dim enough that you can keep the screen in clear view.
You can also provide glowsticks to amp up the fun factor for your kids. Consider setting up walkway lights or supplying flashlights to help keep everyone from stepping on any of the equipment.
Amp up the lounge factor
Give yourself and the kids something to lounge around on for the evening. Folding chairs and camping chairs work well if you’re arranging the seating on a hard surface. If you’ve got plastic chairs, consider draping them with something like plush towels. You could also set out blankets, pillows and beanbags on the grass. Whatever you’ve got for seating, you just want it to be a comfortable environment since you’ll be seated for a couple of hours.
To really elevate everyone’s comfort level, simply add a basket of blankets, because warm blankets will go a million miles. This is a great way to make your outdoor theater feel special. We splurge on UGG blankets. Just give everyone their own blanket, and I promise you’ll hear no complaints. If necessary, provide citronella candles and bug repellant to keep insect visitors at bay.
Have fun with food
A makeshift concession stand is the cherry on top of your theater under the stars. Serve all the traditional refreshments to make it feel like a real movie theater: individual bags of popcorn, candy and sodas. Add a fun little place to put them, such as an old wheelbarrow, just to make the food stand out.
And there you have it. With a little investment of cash and creativity, your family is ready for lights, camera, action!
Margot Black is a storyteller with more than 15 years of experience, an L.A.-based traveler, wife and mom.
Want to make cooking with your family easier and more fun? Set yourself up like a restaurant kitchen, says Peter Tulaney, L.A. dad of two and head chef and founder of The WEHO Sausage Co.
Tulaney, who spent 10 years as a child psychologist, started making sausage at home after receiving a Kitchen Aid standing mixer (with sausage attachments) as a gift. He shared his creations with friends and began getting requests to cater parties and other events, creating a side business that stole his heart.
After almost two years, he made the change. “The difference between my daily routine as a clinician and having a party with someone was too much to ignore,” says Tulaney. “So, I decided that I would take a couple years to become a better food person and start to break down my practice.” And that’s just what he did. Tulaney left psychology, leased space in a commercial kitchen in Downtown L.A. and launched WEHO as a full-time catering business.
The company grew, catering events and corporate lunches before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to business as usual. WEHO went from 15-20 weekly catering deliveries to zero.
Fortunately, Tulaney had other irons in the fire. He had been in talks with Citizen Public Market, the Culver City food hall that opened its doors in November. While the sausage is still processed in the Downtown kitchen, the food served at the market is all made on site. They are open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for takeout. The menu includes sandwiches with hamburger, sausage (pork, chicken and lamb) and veggie patties, fries, salads and charcuterie. There are also dishes for weekend brunch.
With a day’s notice, you can also order packs of uncooked, frozen sausage patties (which Tulaney points out can be broken up and used loose) for pickup at Citizen Public Market or the WEHO facility Downtown. It’s exactly what you’d use in this recipe, which Tulaney says harkens back to his childhood. “I’m from Bay Ridge Brooklyn, and my mom cooked every single meal that I ate growing up,” he says. “This is just the style of food we ate.” Everyone loves pasta and the dish is inexpensive and quick to make. “The whole thing, start to finish, takes place in less than 20 minutes and that includes boiling water,” says Tulaney.
As a chef, former child psychologist and father to daughters ages 5 and 7, Tulaney says cooking with kids can be fun for all if it’s well organized. “The way a commercial kitchen operates is not hard to reproduce if you’re doing it with your family,” he says, explaining that restaurant kitchens have an executive chef, some support chefs and some prep chefs. “Those jobs are broken down into levels of responsibility and technique and understanding, and you can do the exact same things with your kids if you choose age-appropriate tasks for them to do. My little one can crack eggs, and my older one is able to use a measuring cup.”
He has written this recipe to take advantage of this division of labor.
It’s also pretty flexible. “If you don’t like broccolini or broccoli rabe, you can use florets or you can use cauliflower or you could use cherry tomatoes or you could use red onion,” Tulaney says. Just put a pot of water on the stove and follow the rest of the instructions while it comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, and you’ll have dinner within half an hour.
Penne Pasta with Sausage and Broccolini from WEHO Sausage Co.
4 cups dried penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces loose Italian pork sausage (preferably from WEHO Sausage Co.)
1 bunch broccolini, washed and trimmed
4 cloves garlic
1 lemon, cut in half
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Adults: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot and add a handy pinch of salt. Start this first – the trick is to finish everything else while the water is coming to a boil.
Kids: Measure out 4 cups of dry penne pasta and put it off to the side, so it is ready when the water is boiling.
Adults: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan (the largest one you have, as it will have to hold everything). Add the ground sausage. With a wooden spoon, break up sausage into small pieces and stir until nice and brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Kids: Break open a head of garlic and chose the 4 biggest cloves. The bold may even attempt to peel the garlic, discarding any skins.
Adults: When the sausage is brown, transfer it to a bowl, keeping as much of the oil (and flavor from the sausage) as possible in the pan. We will not be adding any more.
Kids: With adult supervision, add the garlic cloves to the oil in the pan. (If you like garlic a lot, an adult can chop the garlic first.) Move the garlic around with the wooden spoon until some color forms on the garlic, then drop in all of the broccolini. Add a tiny pinch of salt (since the oil is already flavored with the sausage). Carefully squeeze every last drop of juice from the lemon right on top of the broccolini and cover the pan.
Adults and kids: By this time the water should be boiling. Add the dried pasta to the water. Stir the broccolini a bit.
Adults: Add the browned sausage back into the sauté pan. Strain the pasta, reserving very little water in the pasta pot. Add the strained pasta directly into the sauté pan and stir.
Serve with the Parmesan cheese.
One of our favorite childhood memories is looking through toy catalogs and circling the ones we loved and hoped would arrive wrapped with a big bow. Flipping through the pages and dreaming about each item was a big part of the whole holiday experience – the anticipation of something wonderful. We want to give you that feeling again with our Jingle Holiday Gift Guide. We have been busy all year testing and evaluating to bring you this wonderful collection featuring more than 250 award-winning toys, games, books, family music and other unique finds. NAPPA Awards has been celebrating the best in family products for 30 years. This year’s selection includes products with positive messages of kindness, inclusion and community – products that celebrate diversity and uniqueness. This year, watching those smiles on our kids’ faces when they rip open their holiday gifts will be even more special. Happy Gifting!
Here’s what you’ll find inside:
- Gifts with a Positive Message
- Unique finds, including items perfect for those who love cozy and warm
- Toys to spark imagination
- Products that are all about creativity
- Outdoor Fun
- Book, music and games
Samantha Barnes used to teach cooking classes to kids all over L.A., offering after-school enrichment programs, summer camps and weekend parties through her company Kitchen Kid. Years before the coronavirus pandemic, she decided to bring her lessons into home kitchens instead. “Really, the most important place to learn to cook is your home, and it’s a really powerful activity for families to do together,” Barnes says. Seven years ago, she created Raddish Kids, a cooking club that ships monthly kits and recipes to families across the country.
Barnes is a former middle-school teacher with a 10½-year-old daughter (a vegetarian and baking enthusiast) and an 8½-year-old son (lover of sloppy Joes and banana bread), so she’s got some great tips for bringing kids into the kitchen. Her first is not to try to hurry your cooking projects. “Make sure you have enough time,” she says. “Cooking takes time, and when you’re baking it takes even longer.”
Another great tip is to let kids practice essential skills before you tackle a recipe. “It took me years before I’d let my kids measure into muffin cups, because half the batter would be in between the cups,” admits Barnes, whose kids help her test Raddish recipes. She suggests filling a liquid measuring cup with water and letting your kids get a feel for pouring with that before you tackle this cupcake recipe. “Once you get that skill, you can do cupcakes and muffins and all sorts of things,” she says. You can also let your kids put on oven mitts and practice moving pans in and out of a cold oven to give them confidence.
To keep kitchen mess to a minimum, put a sheet of wax paper over your counter before the kids measure ingredients. Wrap up with a big sink full of soapy water and let your kids scrub the dishes.
For families that might be missing some of their usual holiday traditions this season, Barnes recommends creating a new food tradition. “Food is so inextricably linked with memory, that’s a great way for kids to develop their own personal food story for when they are older and have their own family,” she says. Barnes will be enjoying the usual Christmas Eve raclette (similar to a fondue), Christmas Day posole and New Year’s Eve “fancy food” hors d’oeuvres with her family. Maybe your kids would like baking these adorable cupcakes. “When they are put together,” she says, “it really does look like a cute little mug of hot cocoa.”
Hot Cocoa Cupcakes from Raddish Kids
For the cupcakes
¾ cup flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping
¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7-ounce jar marshmallow fluff
2 tablespoons milk
12 mini candy canes
¾ cup mini marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Crack the egg into a large bowl. Throw away the shells and wash your hands.
Add the sugar, oil, milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the egg. Whisk until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth.
Transfer the batter to a liquid measuring cup and fill the muffin cups evenly with batter.
Bake the cupcakes for 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make marshmallow frosting. With an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until creamy.
Add the full jar of marshmallow fluff and 2 tablespoons of milk. Beat the frosting until it is smooth.
Use a butter knife to spread frosting on top of each cupcake.
Top the frosted cupcakes with mini marshmallows.
Set one candy cane on the side of each cupcake to create a “handle.” Taste and share!