A Breath of Fresh Air: December’s Change It Up! Contribution


Change it Up - December

Imagine feeling short of breath, even when you were resting. That breathless feeling, along with a dry cough, aching muscles and fatigue, are just some of the symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis. The term Fibrosis means scarring and Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) indicates scarring in the lungs. In the case of people suffering from PF, scar tissue builds up in the walls of the air sacs of the lungs, restricting the oxygenation of their blood and making it difficult to breathe, walk, or exercise.

Although there is no known cure, there is hope for those suffering from PF via The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. The Foundation is the leading source of information on PF and aims to increase pulmonary fibrosis awareness, provide enhanced patient support, and increase research funding. Their signature programs include the PFF Care Center Network, PFF Patient Registry, PFF Patient Communication Center,and the PFF Ambassador Program, the PFF Summit, disease education materials, and an international network of support groups and online communities.

EI Production Artist Ramon Padilla has been personally affected by this difficult disease. His mother-in-law suffered and ultimately succumbed to PF in 2010, and he selected The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation as the recipient of the EI team’s charitable donation for the month of December in her memory. We’re proud to support Ramon’s choice and hope you’ll join us in contributing to The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

For more information on The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation or to make your own charitable contribution, visit: www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org

Little Miss Manners: Teaching the Fine Art of Thank You

“Please” and “thank you” were probably among your child’s very first words and they’re definitely three of the most important words in the English language. “Thank you” comes into play big time during the holidays, with so many gifts and kindnesses to acknowledge. Whether for a delicious, home-cooked meal or a brand new bike, saying “thank you” goes a long way, especially during the holidays. Read on for some simple ways to teach your kids the etiquette of expressing thanks.

Opening Gift

Verbal Thanks

Gratitude comes naturally for most kids when they receive something they genuinely appreciate, but you may need to remind them that it’s the thought that counts before they dive into the stack of gifts under the tree. Have a quick conversation about how wonderful it is for someone to have thought about your child, making a special trip to shop for something they think your child might like, and spending their hard-earned money to purchase that gift, even if it’s not exactly what your child would have chosen. Whether it’s your kiddo’s cup of tea or not, the thought is truly what matters. If they seem to understand, you can also remind your child that many gifts can be exchanged if need be. Teach—and practice!—the three steps below before gift time:

  1. Look at the tag and say the name of the gift giver out loud: “Oh, this is for me, from Grandma Irene!” If there’s a card included, open and read the card before opening the gift.
  1. Open the gift and hold it up for all to see.
  1. If the gift giver is in the room, look her in the eye and say a sincere thank you—or, better yet, get up and give her a hug.

Are the abstract conversations getting you nowhere? Try a heart-tugging video!

In this vid, a kindly kid has mastered the art of gratitude, hugging and thanking his parents for the cutting board they pranked him with before giving him the birthday gift he really wanted. You don’t have to speak Spanish to understand the sincere gratitude he feels for the gift—any gift!

YouTube / baizer zac – via Iframely


Written Thanks

Thank you notes are an excellent practice and are expected by many older family members. Getting your child into the habit of sending a written thank you, within a week of receiving a gift, will instill a life-long habit that will serve them well (think future job interviews). Plus, research shows that an attitude of gratitude has countless mental and physical benefits, so it’s good for everyone! Thank you notes are a must, and you can make thank you notes a little easier anda lot more fun with these simple steps:

  1. Gather your supplies ahead of time. Paper, pens (a playful pen like our Puppet-on-a-Pen™ can make writing anything more fun!), crayons, markers, and stickers can make thank you notes feel more like an art project.
  1. Be sincere. If your child didn’t love the gift, he doesn’t need to say he did. Help him find another aspect to praise—how thoughtful the gift giver was to think of him, how much he enjoyed unwrapping the gift, how much time it must have taken to make the gift (in the case of a hand-made present).
  1. Add some color. Whether your child is writing her own thank you note, or you’re transcribing a younger child’s words, custom artwork adds a bit of flair to any note. A hand-drawn picture of your child using the gift, or of your family gathered around the menorah or Christmas tree, adds a special touch to any thank you.

Traveling with Kids This Holiday? 13 Thrilling Ideas to Help You Keep Your “Bon Voyage” a “Calm Voyage”

Travel Tips

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile this holiday, transporting kids anywhere can be tricky. In addition to bringing along new books, movies, and apps, we’ve got you covered with 13 fabulous traveling activities for kids en route. Consider packing some of the following in your carry on:

  1. New coloring book and crayons—With so many coloring books for older kids (and adults!), it’s easy to find the perfect book for every kid—just be sure to give each child their own set of crayons to avoid arguments. A pencil box is great for storing supplies on the road.
  1. Playfoam®Keep the creativity rolling with no-mess Playfoam! This squishy, squashy substance is perfect for sculpting on the go! It never dries out so the fun never ends, andpsst: it won’t stick to the car seat or airplane carpet!


  1. Fill in the Blank Stories—Found at your local book and toy stores (or you can even make your own, custom versions tying in to your trip!), fill in the blank stories are good for some serious giggles. You ask your child for a series of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, then insert them on the blanks and read their slapstick story aloud. These are fun for ALL ages (and educational, too. Shhh…).
  1. Card games—Think small and light, like The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel™ Card Game for little ones or Rhyme Out™ for whole-family fun.

Sneaky Snacky Card GameRhyme Out

  1. Puppets—From DIY finger puppets to our Puppet-on-a-Stick™ Monsters, Dinosaurs, or Rainbow Prancers™, puppets are the perfect prop for travel play. Act out some of the things you’ll be doing at Grandma’s or Santa’s trip down the chimney.

Dino Puppets

  1. Family photo album—Bring along some pix of the relatives you’ll be seeing on your travels and share your favorite stories about each one.
  1. Art supplies—Pack a bag of supplies including pipe cleaners, beads, blank notebooks, cut-out collage images, glue sticks, and markers and watch the creativity soar.
  1. Stickers—Sheets of themed stickers are perfect for storytelling! Encourage your child to place a few, then draw the rest of her story.
  1. Origami—Older kids love origami. Pack a how-to book and some paper for some fabulous folding fun.
  1. Small puzzle—Too many pieces and some will get lost, but little kids love assembling small puzzles on the plane, over and over again. You can even purchase a puzzle mat to help contain the pieces and roll partially-finished puzzles up for later.
  1. New journal—Who doesn’t love a new journal? Younger kids can draw pictures of their travels while older kids can keep track of their trip, feelings, and inner most thoughts.
  1. Cereal Jewelry—You’ll need snacks…why not make them wearable? Bring some floss and your favorite “O” shaped cereal, and teach your kids to string their O’s before they eat them!
  1. Quiet toys—Speaking of string, stitch some fun into your ride with quiet, independent toys like our String Along Lacing Kit.String Along Lacing Kit

What’s your best travel tip? Comment below to let us know and don’t forget to share this post with any friends who are traveling with little ones this season.

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