Picture This! Meet the Design Minds Behind Our Newest Hot Dots Storybooks!

Bringing Famous Fables to Life

Hi there! It’s Jessie, one of the EI designers, here to share another behind the scenes peek at how one of my favorite EI products came together, just in time for the holidays!

I love working on our Hot Dots® Jr. Storybook sets—in fact, I’ve collaborated on three sets now. Each storybook requires a strong team of contributors, including a writer, an editor, a graphic designer/art director (that’s me!), and an illustrator.

It’s the designer’s job to find and direct the perfect illustrator to make each story come to life. I love this part because I get the chance to review the work of some of the best artists around the world! I look at artist’s agency websites, illustrator books like Workbook and Directory of Illustration, and the stash of artists I earmark throughout the year because I loved their work.

Illustration Books

After lots of looking, I decided to use Alistar, an Italian artist who had illustrated several other Hot Dots Jr. books, to illustrate The Tortoise and the Hare. I love working with Alistar because she’s so creative! In working with Alistar, I also learned a lot about her hometown of Pesaro, Italy. When I found out she’s an Airbnb host, I vowed to visit one day!

Tortoise and Hare

I chose another veteran EI illustrator to work on the The Ant and the Grasshopper. New Yorker Julissa Mora also worked on Magic Moves® Jammin’ Gym and RainbowJam™ illustrations, and I knew she was the right choice for this book when she began posting a series of ant sketches on her Instagram feed! I just love the way she depicted the ant as a tea-drinking, flower-wearing girl who enjoys her cozy fireplace and organized pantry.

Ant and Grasshopper


When I saw Argentinean artist Monica Gutierrez’s work, I knew she was the perfect artist to illustrate The Lion and the Mouse. Her animals are extremely emotional and her nature scenes include such interesting textures and bright colors. Her portrayal of the animals of the African Sahara really brought the story to life!

Lion and Mouse

Filipino artist Jomike Tejido had an incredibly impressive resume—he’s an architect, toy designer, fine artist, AND a children’s book author and illustrator. Now he can add fashion designer to his long list of accomplishments. We had so much fun collaborating on the mice’s outfits for The City Mouse and the Country Mouse!

City Mouse


The relationship between the art director and the illustrator is highly collaborative. I leave the parameters fairly open at the beginning,simply providing the manuscript and a template indicating where non-illustrated elements will go, like the Hot Dots activity questions and answers. Once I receive the artists’ initial sketches, I review them and share them with the product team. Then I note our combined comments in a single scan and send it back to the artist, so he or she has super clear direction.

Once the sketches are approved, the next step is “color roughs”, where we see all of the components of a layout and the artist’s color intentions. I once again share with the team and make comments so the artists can make final tweaks and send back high-resolution, print-ready files.


Once all of the Hot Dots Jr. Famous Fables illustrations were complete, I personally designed the book covers and package,and reviewed and approved the factory press-proofs to make sure everything looked perfect and all of the Hot Dots activities worked correctly.

Famouse Fables

There it is! That’s how our Hot Dots Jr. Famous Fables came to life. I sincerely loved working with each of the four artists and hope that children and parents everywhere enjoy these beautifully illustrated books!




Too Many Toys? 7 Simple Ways Give the Gift of Togetherness This Holiday Season

Piles of gifts under the tree or around the menorah are an integral part of many families’ holiday traditions, and watching your kids unwrap the “best toy ever” is truly priceless. But too much of a good thing can be a bit overwhelming for everyone. This year, why not encourage your family to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays by giving the gift of togetherness? Give the together time gift ideas below a try, and share your memorable moments with us on Facebook or Instagram. We’re guessing you’ll have just as much fun and make even more meaningful (and lasting!) memories than with traditional gifts.

  1. Story Time – Encourage each family member to choose a book (maybe their own favorite story?) for your child.Make sure to find some quiet time during your holiday visit for each gift-giver to read their story to your child. Consider snapping a photo of the two of them together and pasting it into the inside cover of the book, with an inscription that reads “Together time with ______” with the holiday and year.

Reading Book


  1. Baking Bag – Gather the recipes for your family’s favorite holiday sweets, print them out, and pack them into a bag with a child-sized apron and a few fun cookie cutters. Encourage the best baker in your group to spend some time in the kitchen with your kiddos, whipping up some good old-fashioned family fun.



  1. Cinema Magic – Surprise your little one with a new DVD or digital movie for their collection, maybe an old classic or the latest animatedrelease. Box it up with a bag of popcorn and a cuddly new blanket and pick a night to spend together, just the two of you.

Cinema Magic


  1. Craft Corner – Gift the gift of creativity with a set of arts and crafts supplies. From Popsicle sticks and pom-poms to modeling clay and pipe cleaners, new materials will inspire your little one to get crafty and your holiday visitors can join in the fun!

The Gift of Creativity


  1. Take a Trip – Consider forgoing individual gifts and blowing your holiday budget on travel instead! Whether a weekend away at a nearby hotel or a more exotic vacation, a trip provides endless opportunities to spend quality time together, as a family.


Take a Trip


  1. Tickets – If your extended family is local, encourage them to give experiences, rather than tangible gifts. Your kids will cherish a day with their grandparents at the zoo or children’s museum and your parents will have a blast, too.

Zoo Trip



  1. Coupon Book – Some of the most special things can’t be bought. If your dad is a lifelong fisherman, ask him to gift your little one a day on the water with him. If your sister-in-law loves to sew, set up an afternoon for the two of them to spend stitching a doll pillow or simple skirt. From a coupon for a cousin sleepover to a day searching for sea glass with Grandpa, these gifts may just be the most meaningful your child receives this holiday.

sewing together



Getting a Move on Men’s Health – November’s Change It Up! Contribution


Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime; nearly 230,000 men will be diagnosed in America this year alone.

Thankfully, the Movember Foundation is there for those men and their partners, raising awareness and funding programs focusing on prostate cancer as well as testicular cancer. The group, which is dedicated to creating positive change for men’s health, is one of the world’s largest non-government funders of prostate cancer research.

Says Adam Garone, CEO and Co-Founder of Movember, “Movember works together with our Men’s Health Partners globally to ensure men living with prostate cancer have the care and treatment they need to be physically and mentally well. We provide support for men, their partners, caregivers and families on this journey through a range of funded programs.”

EI’s eCommerce and Marketing Strategist, Steven Kim, chose the Movember Foundation to receive EI’s charitable contribution in the month of November. Steven also took the Movember pledge, to grow a moustache and exercise every day in November.

For more information on the Movember Foundation, to take the Movember pledge, or to make your own charitable contribution, visit: http://www.movember.com

Creating a Gratitude Jar Share Your Attitude of Gratitude!

What’s an attitude of gratitude, you ask? It’s the consistent expression of thanks for all of the good in your life, and the benefits are endless! From improving mental and physical health, to getting a better night’s sleep,to maintaining lasting friendships, making gratitude a part of your everyday routine can truly change your life for the better.Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach your children about the power of thankfulness, and a gratitude jar is an easy, visual way to get started. Follow these four steps and instill an attitude of gratitude in your family today!

CreativeFamily Thankful JarImage courtesy of CreativeFamilyFun.net

Step 1—Gather your physical materials
You’ll need a large, clean jar (Mason-sized is perfect) for each member of your family, a pretty ribbon for each jar, a pad of paper, and a pair of scissors. Tie the ribbon around the jars as a reminder that you are fully “tied” (committed) to an attitude of gratitude.

Step 2—Gather your family
Whether first thing in the morning, just after dinner, or right before bed, expressing gratitude together and making the expression of gratitude a part of your entire family’s daily routine will help the practice stick.

Step 3—Gather your mental materials
Each family member should spend just a moment thinking about three things they’re grateful for each day. Those things could be as basicas a roof over your heads, enough food on the table, or a steady job to pay the bills. Or they could be specific, like a special outing with Mom, a really great soccer practice, or feeling healthy again after a cold. Each family member writes each of these items on individual slips of paper, folds the paper in half, and drops them into their jars.

Step 4—Look to the jar
When things are going well, look to the jars! See how full they are of wonderful things and feel thankful for all that you have! When times are tough, pull a few slips of paper out of the jars and read them to remind yourselves of how much you have to be grateful for, what wonderful things you have in your life, and all of the gifts that you’re given each and every day.

Thankful JarImage courtesy of CreativeFamilyFun.net

Have you tried teaching your children gratitude? Share what’s worked for you and how it’s benefited your kids in the comments below!




15 Fun, Family-Friendly Activities To Add More Meaning to Thanksgiving

Kids Help on Thanksgiving

Between cooking and cleaning, airport pick-ups, and last-minute runs to the store, kids can get lost in the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving Day! Since Thanksgiving is meant to celebrate family, friends, and all of the other people and things we’re grateful for, we’ve pulled together some fun ways to involve kids in Thanksgiving prep! This Thanksgiving, let your kids:

Help in the Kitchen!

Holiday cooking can be more fun with kids! Pull a chair to the sink or counter and let your kids help prepare your Thanksgiving Day feast. Depending on their age, kids can:

  • Wash fruits and veggies in a colander
  • Snap the ends off of green beans
  • Peel potatoes and carrots
  • Mash potatoes
  • Roll out pie crust

Kids Helping


Add a home-made touch to your turkey table with crafts your kids create. Set up a craft station (away from the kitchen!) and check out these Thanksgiving crafts for kids to make:

  • Glitter leaves table runner—Send the kids out to collect fall leaves of all sizes. Brush one side of a leaf with Elmer’s glue and place it, glue side down, in a tray of glitter. Glue the leaves, glitter-side-up, to a festive, fall-colored ribbon and snake it across your Thanksgiving table.
  • Turkey place cards—Kids trace their hands on construction paper and decorate them like turkeys with markers, glue-on feathers, and googly eyes. Cut them out,write the name of someone attending your Thanksgiving meal in the center, and you’ve got the perfect place cards!
  • Paper bag Pilgrims centerpiece—Provide paper lunch bags, construction paper shapes (rectangles, squares, circles, triangles), glue, and markers—and let your kids decorate their bags like Pilgrims! (Don’t forget the ubiquitous cockel hat!)


Set the Table!

While placing your best china may be a bit TOO MUCH responsibility, kids can:

  • Put napkins in napkin rings and set them on the table.
  • Place silverware with the help of this simple rhyme: The fork’s all alone on the left side of the plate. The knife stops the spoon from meeting his date!
  • Place glasses and bread plates. Have your kids make the “okay” sign with both hands and show them that the left hand makes the letter “b”, so the bread plate sits to the left of the dinner plate; the right hand makes the letter “d”, so that’s where the drinks go!


Entertain Younger Kids!

Older kids crave responsibility—putting them in charge of your younger guests is a great way to make everyone happy. Set up a play area and let your big kids:


Do your kids have any special jobs on Thanksgiving Day? Let us know in the comments below!