Sunday, December 5, 2010

2010's Best Holiday Gifts: Línea Descubriendo

Here come the holidays and like most of you, I have been scouring the web for the perfect gifts for my children. This year, we are avoiding frivolous and mindless toys in favor of those that are beneficial to our kid's overall development. I am focusing on educational products that improve literacy, creativity, and/or other valuable skills.

At the top of my recommendation list is Línea Descubriendo by Witty Planet. This exceptional line of products for children was created in Argentina and has been embrace by many Latin American countries for its educational properties. And now, for the first time, it is available in the United States. (Yay!)

I had a chance to review some of their products, including one of their DVDs - Descubriendo mi Cuerpo - last month and they were an INSTANT hit with my children. The DVD, especially, quickly became my children's current favorite, and they have been singing and dancing to the songs ever since. The video is divided up into segments about the different body parts and how to care for them. The original songs are full of information about each topic along with images of real children preparing to take a bath, playing in the bubbles, brushing their hair, etc. The songs are separated by short skits involving the cast of puppets from Línea Descubriendo, including its host, Bubba (pronounced BOO-bah). This adorable monkey had my kids in stitches a number of times with his silly antics and facial expressions.

The DVD is more than just a video, though, and includes interactive games, which both of my kids really enjoy. I was really happy with this product, and the way that it supplemented my kid's Spanish curriculum perfectly.

A lot of thought has gone into this line of products - and it shows. Developed by professionals in childhood development, Línea Descubriendo invites children to learn through play, song, and dance. Their goal is to stimulate a child’s curiosity, interest in learning, and communication skills. The entire line was developed by keeping in mind children's visual preferences and pedagogical requirements for early childhood. Even the puppets were developed by Roberto Docampo, Director of the Puppetry School at the San Martin Theater, in Argentina.

You can see a sample of Descubriendo mi Cuerpo here.

If you are a fan of the Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby lines, and are trying to raise your children bilingually, then you will absolutely LOVE Línea Descubriendo. But though it is similar to these American products, that is only on the surface. As you explore the products you will discover a much richer Spanish-only line with songs that are original pieces, specific to the topic, with additional information about each subject.

If you'd like to examine the line a little more thoroughly, take a look at their adorable, interactive site, El Mundo de Bubba, for additional games, art, and much, much more. You won't be disappointed.

To go ahead and order your own Línea Descubriendo products, visit Witty Planet. Their website is available in both English and Spanish. Don't forget to type in the promo code LATINBABY for an additional 10% off your purchase!

Disclosure: I was compensated for this review. However, the opinions expressed in this post are sincere and true. Mi Cielito Lindo will not endorse products that it does not approve of or that we feel will not interest our readers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A New Adventure

Things have been very quiet here on this blog. I have been busy focusing on our sister blog, the Latin Baby Book Club. But what has taken up most of my time lately, has been a new adventure with my children: homeschooling.

The decision to homeschool was a difficult one for me because I had no desire to teach. Unfortunately, the county in which we live has been officially labeled a "failed school district". So for now, because our children's education is so terribly important to us, I have chosen to go the route that seems best for them at this time.

When I began this journey last year, I was frustrated to discover a limited amount of materials and resources available for bilingual or bicultural families. Occasionally, I stumble upon some great resources through my work on the LBBC, but it really has taken a lot of digging to find good information.

As you know from reading this blog, the education of our Latino children is very important to me. I firmly believe in supporting other familias who are dedicated to helping their children excel in school. As I've stated before, parents must take an active role in their child's learning in order for that child to succeed.

So as a result, my latest gift to share with all of you is my new blog, Mommy Maestra, which I officially launch today. The goal of this blog is not how to teach your children Spanish (there are already plenty of blogs and websites for that), but rather to share with you ideas and educational resources in English and Spanish that are available for those of you raising bilingual children.

Regardless of whether or not you are homeschooling your children, I hope that you will find information and ideas that help you to encourage their love of learning or to supplement their education. No one will care more for your children than you will. So take their futures seriously and get involved now!

I hope you will visit me over at Mommy Maestra and share your thoughts and ideas.

Con mucho cariño,


Friday, June 11, 2010

Call to Action! Support an Author

Attention, Amigos:

Author José-Luis Orozco needs your help! His wonderful music CD (and book), "Diez Deditos", has been nominated for a Nickelodeon Parents' Picks Award in the Best Kids' Music CD category. In order to make it to the finals, we need as many votes as possible to support his nomination.

Diez Deditos was a Latin Baby Book Club Libro del Mes/Book of the Month back in March of 2009. To read the review, click here. You can also visit his web site for more information.

Orozco is the author of many books and CDs, including: Diez Deditos and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs, Fiestas A Year of Latin American Songs and Celebrations, Navidad y Pancho Claus, and Arrullos: Lullabies in Spanish, but he has SO many more.

We need to get the most votes possible by Sunday, June 13. Corre la voz!!

Please go here to vote and share this with all of your friends and family.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sea World Helps Familias reConnect with $5 Kid Tickets

Summer is almost here and many familias are looking for fun and educational things to do together.  Here's a little tip for those of you wanting to try something different - and do a good deed at the same time! SeaWorld parks are rolling out an offer that comes at the perfect time for vacations and allows families the chance to make a real difference for wildlife conservation.

Now through December 31, with each full-paid, SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego or San Antonio single-day, adult admission purchased online, any child age 12 and under gets a $5.00 admission (a savings of $65-$75!!), all of which goes to fund non-profit organizations that are working right now on wildlife conservation projects. Families can even choose which wildlife conservation effort receives their donation.

"This offer makes it easy for families and friends to reconnect during a vacation, a getaway or even just a day trip to one of our parks," said Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. "At SeaWorld, families experience amazing up-close animal connections that can't be found any place else. And we believe a greater respect for the world we share follows a visit to one of our parks."

And with so much new to do at all of the SeaWorld parks, there's never been a better time to visit.

In Orlando, SeaWorld fans can brave Manta, an all-new flying roller coaster and the only one of its kind in the world. It's a seamless blend of up-close animal encounters with a head-first, face-down thrill ride that's sure to top the must-see lists again this summer.

At SeaWorld San Antonio, the park takes animal and human interaction to a new level with the premier of "Azul: Lure of the Sea," a spectacular new show featuring high divers, synchronized swimmers, aerialists,
bungee artists, animal trainers and, of course, acrobatic Pacific white-sided dolphins and graceful beluga whales.

There's also something new on the horizon at SeaWorld San Diego: a breakthrough theatrical spectacular that unites sea and sky as it showcases majestic animals and spirited performers. "Blue Horizons" -- featuring energetic bottlenose dolphins, majestic pilot whales, a colorful array of exotic birds and amazing human performers. It is scheduled to open May 29, 2010.

"We know the economy's been tough for everyone, but more than ever before, everyone needs to spend time together," Atchison said. "We think families also will have fun deciding which wildlife conservation project gets their donation, too. It's a wonderful way for kids to learn about the work that goes on to save animals in the wild."

For important details on this offer and to buy tickets, go to

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Celebrate Día with the LBBC

All this month, our sister site, the Latin Baby Book Club will be celebrating El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Day of the Child, Book Day with daily posts on literacy and diversity within the Latino culture.

In addition to their regular reviews of bilingual and bicultural books like those seen here, they have and will be discussing many resources for Spanish and English-speaking parents and educators. These resources are great for developing a child's or student's literacy skills.

Various professionals in the Latino children's literature field have also contributed, including authors Pat Mora, Samantha R Vamos, René Colato Laínez, and Amy Costales.

Parents and teachers will also enjoy the many giveaways scheduled for this month. Educational videos and toys like the bilingual alphabet puzzle by Ingenio Toys, as well as bilingual and bicultural books like A Gift of Gracias by Julia Alvarez will be given away throughout the month.

Don't miss out on all the fun!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quality Educational Preschool Spanish!

It is good to know that all the discussion over the Latino drop-out rate and the paucity of Latinos going to college is beginning to result in some serious focus on Latino children and early education. A trumpet has been sounded and bilingual schools, while still fighting discrimination and misunderstanding, are starting to be recognized for their many benefits. Bilingual teachers are being recognized for their important role and some are even being treated as heroes. More and more companies are turning their attention to creating products and services for bilingual and Spanish-speaking families... and new ones are emerging with overwhelming success.

One of these is V-me, the largest and most widely distributed block of world-class educational pre-school content in Spanish TV from international leaders in quality, including Sesame Workshop, Thirteen/WNET, LazyTown Entertainment and Cromosoma.

This month, V-me began airing PEEP and the Big Wide World, on the Spanish-language network Monday through Friday from 9:15-9:30am. The Emmy Award-winning animated science series, bring its animated stories, science, and the wonders of everyday life for the first time to Spanish-speaking and bilingual preschoolers.

It is produced by WGBH and 9 Story Entertainment in association with TVOntario and Discovery Kids. Given WGBH Boston’s pioneering legacy in the production of children’s programming, this new partnership strengthens V-me’s commitment to education, information and quality entertainment for Latino families.

Young viewers join Peep, a newly-hatched chicken, Chirp, a smart and sassy robin, and an endearingly, egotistical duck named Quack on all their wide-eyed adventures—from discovering shadows, to investigating mysterious tracks, to learning about gravity. Underlying the series is a comprehensive science curriculum that uses humor, entertaining plotlines, and lovable characters to engage viewers in a way that allows them to learn about science without even realizing it. Each episode contains one animated PEEP story that highlights a specific science concept and one live-action video that presents real kids playing and experimenting with this same concept in their own “big wide worlds.”

“PEEP is a wonderful vehicle for fostering early science exploration and understanding, presenting science in a way that tickles the fancy and funny bones of our young preschool audience. We are thrilled that V-me—which represents the best educational preschool programming on Spanish TV—is adding PEEP to their children’s lineup and introducing the characters and real world science concepts of the series to Latino families,” says executive producer, Kate Taylor.

“On the educational landscape, there are tremendous gaps for Latinos and science, and research has demonstrated that PEEP effectively brings meaningful science experiences to preschoolers,” said Guillermo Sierra, Vice President of Programming at V-me. “By bringing Peep to V-me, we are able to expose our young viewers to science exploration early and foster an understanding that lasts them a lifetime.”

A Spanish section of the PEEP and the Big Wide World Web site is also being launched at Here, families can access numerous animated PEEP stories and their related live-action videos featuring real kids playing at home and outdoors. Additional online resources in Spanish provide Latino parents and caregivers with ideas for fun, educational hands-on activities that extend their child’s science learning beyond the show.

Our amigas over at Spanglish Baby are giving away SIX baskets full of PEEP Goodies. So head on over and throw in your comments for a chance to win!

Who knows, by introducing your child to science early, you may be molding the next José Moreno Hernández or Elsa Salazar Cade.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Literacy Developing Products for Babies and Toddlers

As we’ve mentioned, literacy begins at birth. Babies are full of wonder and are carefully exploring the world around them from the moment that they open their eyes. Shapes and sounds are being absorbed and categorized, filed away to help them begin speaking, learning, and - eventually - reading. Play is essential to a child’s development. Babies and children learn about concepts and relationships through play.

I’ve listed below some products that are very useful for Latino parents looking to develop their child’s love of learning and literacy. Not only do these products develop letter recognition, but they also develop fine motor skills. I’ve already mentioned a few of these on this blog, but it is nice to have them all in one post related to this topic. To purchase any of these products, simply click on the name of the product to be directed to the appropriate website.

A Spanish language set comprised of 28 blocks that provide 4 complete alphabets, 3 sets of numerals, and 28 different animal pictures. The set includes the Spanish letters "CH", "Ñ", and "LL". Made from Michigan basswood, brightly colored with child-safe inks, and handcrafted with attention to detail. The blocks are a generous1 ¾” (44mm) cubed a perfect size for small hands!

Spanish ABC Puzzle Blocks

From Learning Resources. "Help children learn the Spanish alphabet (A through Z, plus ch, ll and n) with these two-piece wooden puzzles. Each kid-friendly puzzle features a fun picture of something beginning with a given letter and unique die cuts that match the shape of that letter. The wooden storage box with a plastic lid contains 29 two-piece solid wood puzzle blocks measuring 2" x 3.75" each. Box measures approximately 12" x 4.5"." To purchase your set, click here.

Easy Alphabet/¡Abecedario fácil!

This set is SO MUCH FUN! Packaged in a sturdy keepsake box with a magnetic closure, Easy Alphabet is made up of 27 cards plus a guide for parents. The guide is in both English and Spanish and describes different ways in which to use the cards with your child. An excellent product for developing your child’s early literacy skills, this set is geared for children ages 1 year and older. Even better, it grows with your child as you’ll see by the different activities listed in the parent’s guide. Like the board books described above, these cards are nice and thick with rounded corners. As an additional bonus, parents can visit to find free audio files and extra activities to supplement these products.

Entertaining, educational book introduces Spanish-speaking preschoolers and English-speaking youngsters to the 28 letters of the Spanish alphabet and almost 225 everyday Spanish words. Each letter is accompanied by illustrations of common objects whose names begin with that letter. A low-priced, entertaining and effective introduction to Spanish language skills.

29 Spanish Alphabet Mini-books

Easy-to-make reproducible books that promote literacy build letter and sound recognition. Just reproduce, fold, and snip! Students practice handwriting, begin letter collections, and make personalized Spanish word banks.

Spanish Alphabet Big Book

PreK and up. Reinforce letter recognition, spelling, sounds, and beginning words with this unique pocket chart that uses color coded letters and pictures. Easy-to-clean nylon chart features three clear pocket rows for card displays. Measures 28 1/4"W x 37 3/4"H.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Literature on Latino Education Practices

Latino parents and educators may find the following books to be great resources for learning how to get involved in their children's education. Click on the title to read more reviews or to purchase your copy.

Involving Latino Families in Schools: Raising Student Achievement Through Home-School Partnerships by Concha Delgado Gaitan to be a wonderful resource. The book has received excellent reviews and is highly recommended. This updated edition of Setting Our Sights outlines the five stages for equity reform, while clearly explaining research findings and offering practical tools and examples.

Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms: A Guide for K-6 Teachers by Concha Delgado Gaitan. The author shows how teachers honoring real culture can transform the context and content within their classrooms while creating learning settings that challenge students academically.

Quality Education for Latinos and Latinas: Print and Oral Skills for All Students, K-College by Rita Portales and Marco Portales. As educators and legislators across the country debate how to improve public schools, the most vital factor often disappears from the equation--the relationship between the teacher and the student. According to veteran educators Rita and Marco Portales, this relationship is the central issue in the education of students, especially Latino/a students who often face serious barriers to school success because of the legacy of racism, insufficient English-language skills, and cultural differences with the educational establishment. To break down these barriers and help Latino/a students acquire a quality education, the Portaleses focus attention on the teacher-student relationship and offer a proven method that teachers can use to strengthen the print and oral skills of their students. They begin by analyzing the reasons why schools too often fail to educate Latino/a students, using eloquent comments from young Latinos/as and their parents to confirm how important the teacher-student relationship is to the student's success. Then they show how all educational stakeholders--teachers, administrators, state education agencies, legislators, and parents--can work together to facilitate the teacher-student relationship and improve student education. By demonstrating how teachers can improve students' reading, critical thinking, writing, and oral communication skills across the curriculum, they argue that learning can be made more relevant for students, keeping their interest levels high while preparing them for academically competitive colleges.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Educating our Latino Children

For years, this blog has been encouraging the education of our Latino children. Exposing them new experiences, ideas and opportunities is not only our right as citizens of this amazing country, but it is our responsibility as good parents.

Our job begins at the moment of conception; our bodies are no longer our own and we owe it to our children to eat right, exercise, and get regular check-ups. When our babies are born we must be prepared to provide them with more than just love. We have to arm ourselves with the knowledge on how to care for them physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. We become consumed with cuddling, feeding, cleaning, doctor's visits, changing, sleeping, and much, much more. We have to become walking dictionaries, artists, nurses, coaches, nutritionists, mathematicians, scientists, fashionistas, mechanics, and audience.

For most Latinas, caring for a baby is second-nature. It's somehow programmed into our genes. Sure there are areas that many of us need to work harder at - like doctor's visits, vaccinations, and nutrition - but for the most part, we are superwomen.

But then the baby years end. And thus begins one area where Latinos are lagging just a bit behind. Latino children are the least likely to be enrolled in Pre-K or Kindergarten. That's not necessarily a bad thing in itself - provided that parents are working hard at home to prepare their children for school. The problem is that  many parents are not aware of  the myriad of ways to introduce their children to literacy, math, colors, shapes, critical thinking, and so much more. There is a growing number of web sites to introduce parents to these concepts, but few Latino parents have access to (or even knowledge of) these sites. For many, the language barrier is a major issue. So the goal of Mi Cielito Lindo for the next six months will be to share many of the resources in English and Spanish for parents seeking to raise curious, intelligent, compassionate, and logical children.

To successfully raise children who enjoy learning and commit to completing a college education, parents must be involved EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.  We are our children's support system and we must learn to encourage, help, explain, cheer and listen. Our child's success is dependent upon us. The alternative is not acceptable.

Along these lines, I am also extremely pleased to pass on that Univision has joined with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch Es El Momento, a national campaign to improve academic achievement among K-12 Hispanic students. Special emphasis is being placed on increasing the number of Latino high school graduates and college preparation.

In the words of Melinda French Gates, "A great education is not an honor or privilege—it’s a fundamental civil right. This partnership with Univision will not only inspire Hispanic students and their parents and community to aspire to a college education, it will give them access to the information and tools they need to make their dream a reality. Education is the best way to expand opportunity for all. We can’t think of a better partner to work with on Es El Momento than Univision, which shares this belief in the power of education."

4-H Programs Embrace Hispanic Youth in Illinois

Hola 4-H and Hispanic Teen Leaders Spanish-Speaking Clubs, Meet Fridays, 5:30 pm beginning March 5

There is a new 4-H opportunity especially designed for Hispanic families or students interested in advancing their Spanish. It's open to all youth with programs split between Hola 4-H for members ages 5 – 12 and Hispanic Teen Leaders for ages 13 – 18. The activities focus on citizenship, leadership and life skills. Fun activities, games and snacks, community service opportunities and more at each meeting. The first meeting is free, then the new member fee is $20 per year or free for existing 4-H club members. To join contact Jaime Aguilera at (309) 756-9978 Ext 16 or online at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Te Quiero, Bebé...

New from Latin Baby: The "Te quiero" Mini-blanket. A super soft little blanket made of microfibers that works well for car seats and strollers. A hand-embroidered felt heart is appliquéd to the lower right hand corner. Measures approximately 15" x 15". The perfect size for a toddler "lovey" blanket as well.

The pattern for making your own blanket is available for purchase as well.

For more information, visit the Latin Baby website.
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