Proud to Be Your Parent


It’s almost Mother’s Day! A day for families to stop and appreciate all that the mother’s in their lives do for them each and every day. But, for many mothers, it’s a day to spend reflecting on just what a privilege it is to be a parent, to celebrate the special little humans that we’re so honored to raise, and to say thank you to your kids for letting us be their moms. After all, life is a two-way street.

We sat down with a few of the moms on the EI team, including product developers Janene Russell and Betina Cochran; our publicist, Melissa Smuzynski; our content creator, Amy Opheim; and, of course, our very own Nancy Balter, of Nancy B’s Science Club fame, to get a sense of what they love most about being moms. Here’s what they said:

Janene Russell – Product Development Manager


EI’s newest mom, Janene, says being a mom to 13-month-old James makes her feel complete. Having never known how much she needed him – how much they need each other – Janene loves creating first time moments for James and says that watching her son react to new things makes her feel like she’s seeing the world with fresh lenses. Janene strives to provide a nurturing environment that fosters confidence and kindness in James. In turn, James inspires Janene to be spontaneous and playful. Sounds like a win-win to us!

Betina Cochran – Director of Product Development


Mother of 16-year-old Mariah and 8-year-old Ari, Betina considers parenting her daughter-son duo to be an absolute privilege. She finds influencing the development of another human being to be one of the most rewarding parts of being a mom. That, and all the silliness! Although Betina believes helping to educate her kids – both intellectually and emotionally – is her number one responsibility as a mom, her kids love her for the warmth and physical affection she shows them every day. Her daughter praises Betina as open-minded, saying she feels she can share anything with her mom. Now THAT’S parenting success!

Amy Opheim – Content Creator


Amy considers helping her 10-year-old daughter, Emma, appreciate and nurture the unique combination of gifts that makes her truly special to be her most important job as a mom. Having emphasized kindness – both to herself and to others – as the foundation of Emma’s upbringing, Amy felt like a parenting success when Emma’s teacher shared that Emma was truly a “friend to all.” Emma appreciates that Amy is on her team and always has her back. She knows she can turn to her mom, no matter what, for support, guidance, comfort, and love. Likewise, parenting Emma has provided Amy with a sense of purpose and a liberating perspective on what’s truly important in life.

Melissa Smuzynski – Publicist


In her own, words, Melissa says, “Being a mom is hard. It’s harder than any job I’ve ever held. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, and yet it’s the single most rewarding aspect of my life. The insane, indescribable, unconditional love a mother has for her child is beyond any words I could eloquently craft. I’ll just say nothing else compares to it.” Melissa strives to raise 2-year-old Avery Lane to be kind and loving, respectful, compassionate, generous, and accepting – no short order! But it’s all worth it when little Avery asks for kisses at night-night and tells Melissa “I love you Mommy”. In those moments, Melissa feels she is doing something right and all the “wrongs” of her day just disappear.

Nancy Balter – Founder, Nancy B’s Science Club


If you ask Nancy how being a mom makes her feel, she suggests Googling the word “emotions” for the full list. The former teacher, lifelong scientists, and current science product manager feels her biggest responsibility – and privilege – is helping 8-year-old Eric and 6-year-old Clara become independent and happy people capable of navigating the world. An epic undertaking, sure, but so worth it. Nancy loves watching her kids grow, change, and mature and feels especially good when they come to her with their problems and trust that she’s always able to help them. Says Nancy, “It’s a joy to be a part of this process.” And the spontaneous hugs don’t hurt, either.

Advice from the moms at EI:

Janene – Always have snacks with you, buy zip up pajamas, and find time for spontaneous play!

Betina – Listen, read, learn, but always trust your instincts.

Amy – When your child calls for you in the middle of the night, ALWAYS hit the potty on your way to their room. You never know how long you’ll be in there!

Melissa – Accept your children for who they are. Every child is different, so fall in love with those qualities that make them unique. And don’t sweat the small stuff. Things will get broken, things will get messy; in the end… they’re just things.

Nancy – Take all of the advice you receive with a grain of salt! People give SO MUCH advice to new moms and it’s overwhelming. Comically, some of it is conflicting. Sadly, some of it comes off as judgmental (e.g., Don’t be a helicopter mom. Don’t be a tiger mom.) There is no harm in listening, but don’t let it make you crazy. Parenting is a more of a dance between the parent and child than I anticipated. My children are different, and so the way I interact with them is different. This is why one-size-fits-all parenting advice cannot work.

What do YOU love most about being a mom? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share your best parenting advice for the newbies out there!

Inventor’s Cube Comes Full Circle!

Here at EI we work with some pretty incredible inventors. Some specialize in board games, some in gadgets, and some, like Howard Fleischer, blend the two into best-selling games like our 2016 release, RiddleCube™.

This combination card game, fidget gadget, and creativity cube might seem like the perfect blend of modern day entertainment – and it is! But it’s also got roots that go all the way back to Howard’s earliest days as an inventor. You see, the game is actually a relaunch of one of his very first inventions – the Polygonzo Stretch Toy (we like RiddleCube better – you?). He created the original prototype – out of straws! – as a student in Paris in the 1980’s.

Other than being made of flexible plastic instead of straws, the concept hasn’t changed much over the last 35 years. But Howard’s ability to get meetings with the top toy manufacturers has come a long way since his days on the Champs Elysees. As president and founder of RoyaltyPros, inventor Howard is now also a top licensing agent, negotiating deals with big time companies including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Hasbro, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, SpinMaster, and, yes, Educational Insights, among others. It helps to know five languages and nearly everyone in the toy, game, candy, publishing, entertainment, and licensing worlds.

We love that Howard brought RiddleCube to us. We can’t get enough of the twisting, turning, bending, shape-shifting action – and neither can consumers. This award-winning take on traditional games is one of our best-sellers. And it’s not hard to see why. Great for inspiring a bit of creativity and more than a few giggles and grins, RiddleCube is truly a game like no other.

RiddleCube includes 4 flexible cubes, 100 double-sided challenge cards, a timer, a card case, and a game guide. Players flip a card and the timer, then race to see who can contort their cube into the image named on the card first. For more information – or to order your own RiddleCube Game – Click Here

Go Outside and Play!

Go Outside and Play

A brief history of some of our favorite outdoor playthings.

Whether due to inclement winter weather or endless hours of electronics, we’ve all spent more than enough time inside this year. But spring has sprung and it’s time to get outside and play! If you feel a little rusty, don’t worry – the play experts at EI have put together a crash course on some of the classic outdoor playthings you may have forgotten about during your hibernation. From hula hoops to hopscotch, we present a brief history, along with some little-known facts, about your favorite outdoor playthings. Did your fave make our list?


Riding Bikes – Bikes have been around since the early 1800’s. Invented by the Germans and named by the French, the first bicycle had no pedals – riders sat on a seat and pushed the bike along with their feet. Necessity was the mother of this invention, as many horses, a common mode of transportation before the bike, were dying of starvation due wide-spread crop failure.


Skateboarding – Turns out Marty McFly wasn’t far off! The skateboard actually owes its popularity to surfing – skating on a board with roller skates underneath was a way to “surf the sidewalk” when there were no waves. The first skateboards were made and sold in L.A. by a surf shop owner who ordered skate wheels and attached them to wooden boards.


Pogo Stick – The first batch of wooden pogos to hit U.S. soil rotted on the ship ride over, so Gimbles Department Store asked a local toy designer to create a more durable jumping stick. Popularity of his version sky rocked after being featured in the Ziegfeld Follies and today’s Xpogo athletes reach heights of 10 feet and perform incredible stunts at professional pogo events like Pogopalooza.


Hula Hoop – Although modern-day toy manufacturer Wham-O is credited with launching the hula hoop in the U.S., its history goes a bit further back. To ancient Greece, actually. There’s evidence that the Greeks used hula hoops to work their abs. We’re not that surprised. They did bring us the Olympics…


Hopscotch (and it’s very best buddy, Sidewalk Chalk) – Speaking of ancient civilizations, it is thought that we can thank the Romans for hopscotch! This classic game of tossing and hopping was first recorded as “Scotch Hoppers” and is still played by children around the world (Cuban kids know the game as Pon). The first hopscotch squares were etched out using tiles, coal, or chalk, all of which became scarce during WWII. Now street painters use colored chalk and even 3-D glasses to bring amazing works of art to life.

The fact that some of our favorite playthings have been around for several centuries isn’t that surprising. After all, people have been playing outside since the dawn of time, so we’ve had plenty of time to perfect it! You can find additional outdoor play ideas on our Pinterest board. What’s your family’s favorite way to play?

Little Free Library Book


When I retired from my job as Director of Product Development for Educational Insights one of my first goals was to open a library. On October 9, 2016 I did just that, hosting a grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, book-themed crafts, games, and food for my neighbors. Dozens of them turned out to bring and exchange books.

The library, a bright blue structure built by my husband from recycled wood, features a roof shingled with discarded CDs and vintage campaign buttons. Stacks of books are stenciled on the library’s sides. Located in my front yard in Manhattan Beach, California, it is a branch of the Little Free Library, an organization that promotes miniature residential libraries in communities world-wide based on the principle “take a book, return a book.” The library has something for everyone, from picture books to popular fiction, even some cookbooks.

I keep my library stocked with contributions from the friends and neighbors and by attending local library book sales where books withdrawn from circulation are offered to the public at bargain prices. Most recently, I picked up a grocery bag filled with hardcover children’s books for five dollars! The sales are a great resource for quality books for my Little Free Library and benefit the public libraries financially as well as make room for their newer titles. Occasionally, I post a notice on our local “free cycle” group and find a bag of books on my front steps.

I love being a library steward and seeing what my neighbors choose and leave in return. Popular adult fiction gets picked up the most. Children’s books about dinosaurs are also very popular. Two gorgeous, coffee-table photo books about Alaska have been the most interesting contribution so far.

I’m always in “steward mode.” I keep a box of books in my car trunk ready to “book bomb” the occasional library I come across in another community, and I research the location of free libraries on the organization’s website map when my husband and I take day trips. Other people have done such inventive things, from café-like touches including benches and tables to mascots like stuffed animals.

Another benefit of being a steward – if someone leaves a book in the library that looks interesting, I get to borrow it first!

Marcia Gresko is the former Director of Product Development for Educational Insights where she worked for 18 years. She is a published children’s book author and a former teacher. In addition to being a Little Free Library steward, she volunteers with a creative writing program in Los Angeles and at the museum of a local municipality. She is training to become a docent at a historical home in Los Angeles.

International Book Giving Day — Share your love of books!

Organized and supported by groups of book enthusiasts, including bloggers, authors, illustrators, teachers, and librarians, February 14th  is International Book Giving Day. The celebration, started in 2012, aims to increase children’s access to and enthusiasm for books. Coinciding with Valentine’s day, a day dedicated to LOVE, why not share your love of books:

  • GIFT a book to your child and/or encourage your child to gift a book to a friend. Below are some simple, inexpensive ways to make handmade books.
  • LEAVE a book in a waiting room (at the doctor, dentist, train or bus station) for someone else.
  • DONATE a gently used book to a library, school, hospital, or shelter.





  • A long piece of paper (or several sheets of paper glued or taped together) approximately 8” x 24” (Craft paper or paper cut from a grocery bag gives a fun antique look to your scroll.)
  • 2 Dowels, chopsticks, or paper towel roll tubes
  • Tape or glue
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • ribbon or string

Make It

Tape or glue the dowels to the ends of the paper. Make sure the paper is centered on the dowels. Roll the paper around them so that it is covering the dowels completely and tape or glue again. Lay the scroll on a flat surface to work. Have your child create an original story or dictate a story they already know. Leave room for illustrations. Depending on the length of the scroll, your child may need several days to fill it. When it is done, roll the scroll in to the center from both sides. Lightly tie a piece or ribbon or string around the scroll to secure it.




  • 3 (or more) pieces of copier or construction paper
  • 2 pieces of yarn, ribbon, or string
  • hole punch
  • markers, crayons, or colored pencils

Make It

  1. Stack the pieces of paper together so that each consecutive piece is about 1” higher than the sheet behind it creating “steps.”
  2. Holding the papers together, fold the top down and align the edges so that all but the top step or cover are even. Crease along the fold.
  3. Punch a hole on each end of the top fold, thread the yarn through the holes, and tie a double knot.
  4. Have your child hold the step book either vertically or horizontally, then write and illustrate the story.

Step books make fun counting books, how-to books, all-about-me books, and more.




  • A long, narrow piece of paper (or several sheets taped together) about 6” x 30”
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 2 Pieces of cardboard
  • 2 Rubber bands, ribbon, or string

Make It

  1. Use the ruler to measure and mark 5”-6” intervals along the top and bottom of the paper. Draw a line between each pair of markings to create a fold line.
  2. Starting at one end of the paper, fold it along the first line. Use the back of the scissors to score the fold so that it is crisp and sharp.
  3. Fold the opposite way along the second fold line and score again. Continue this process, alternating the fold direction. When you reach the end, the paper will look like an accordion.
  4. Cut the cardboard pieces so that they are a little larger than the pages of the book. Glue the cardboard covers to the first and last pages.
  5. Encourage your child to use both sides of the book to write and illustrate a story.
  6. Have your child decorate the covers with markers, crayons, photographs, stickers, or pictures cut from magazines then add the title and name of the author.
  7. Secure the book with the rubber bands, ribbon, or string.

The accordion style adds some pizazz to alphabet books, counting books, books with a sequence of steps or events, and more. You can even make your accordion book in a fun shape! Because they stand up easily, they make great books for displays too.




  • 3 (or more) lunch-size paper bags
  • construction paper or card stock
  • glue
  • stapler
  • scissors
  • ribbon
  • markers, crayons, colored pencils

Make It

  1. Stack the paper bags on top of each other with the openings at the same end. Fold the stack in half and staple along the fold to secure. This will create a book with three “secret pockets.” (if you want alternate pages to have pockets, stack the bags with the ends in alternating directions.)
  2. Cover the staples with decorative tape or paper.
  3. Cut the card stock into rectangles approximately 3.5” x 4” to fit inside the pockets.
  4. Glue or staple a loop of ribbon to the narrow end of the rectangles, creating a pull tab.
  5. Have your child write and illustrate a story, including the pages hidden in the pockets.

Pocket books are great for question-and-answer style books like riddles, surprise-type books with notes or hints about the ending, and even gift books with little treasures such as a small sheet of stickers or gel clings – perfect for a birthday!


What to write about:

Original stories are great, but so is having young children retell a story in their own words, building an understanding of story structure. Retell:

  • Fairy tales
  • Mother Goose rhymes
  • Poems
  • Songs

For short pieces, like rhymes and poems, you can dedicate a page to each or fill a whole book with a single favorite, dedicating one or two lines per page.

How to Illustrate Your Books

Original artwork can be hand drawn with markers, crayons, and colored pencils or created in simple ways your child can learn. Try:

  • Collage with small magazine pictures
  • Rubber stamps
  • Potato prints
  • Thumbprints
  • Cut or torn paper shapes
  • Stencils
  • Stickers

NO MATTER HOW YOU CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL BOOK GIVING DAY, SHARING YOUR LOVE OF BOOKS IS A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING! And if your child enjoyed the book-making crafts, continue winning book + craft combination with Once Upon A Craft, the Educational Insights series of book and craft products that pairs favorite folk and fairy tales with mess-free, hands-on craft experiences based on the stories from making a mosaic to creating a crown and more.

Once Upon a Craft