Christmas Countdown – Last Minute Gift Ideas for Kids

We’re less than one week away from Christmas!  Are you done gift shopping yet?  Thankfully I’m almost done, I have just a few small stocking stuffer items left to get and then let the wrapping in Santa’s Workshop (aka our home office) begin! I’ve talked to a few friends who said they haven’t even started yet and are planning on a marathon shopping trip this weekend.  Talk about cutting it close!

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Holiday Gift Ideas – What To Give Your Child’s Teacher??

Are you like me this time of year? I’m always conflicted as to what to give my kidlets teachers for the holiday.

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To me, a child’s teacher is one of the most important people in their lives, aside from their family. And a good teacher will go that extra mile to make sure that a child gets a proper and fulfilling education. Both my kidlets have been fortunate to have such wonderful and deeply caring teachers. My kidlets love going to school because their teachers make it a fun, safe and inviting place to be! I want to show them just how much they are appreciated by the kidlets, The Hubs and I, but finding just the right gift is always so hard.

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‘Tis The Season To Be…..

The lyrics to “Deck the Halls” may say ‘Tis the season to be jolly - but to me, it’s more like  ‘Tis the season to be stressed!  I don’t know why, but I always feel so rushed this time of year, like everyone is on some mad dash to get to thru the holiday and onto the New Year.

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Family Friendly Video Games: LEGO Legends of CHIMA: Laval’s Journey Review

My son loves playing games – card ones, board ones and, of course, video ones.  After hounding The Hubs and I for more than a year, we him got a Nintendo 3DS XL for his birthday this past summer.  Between that hand-held system and our more traditional XBOX360, my boy is becoming quite the gamer.  However, since he’s only six, The Hubs and I are pretty picky when it comes to games we buy and let him play, making sure that they are age-appropriate.  Over the next few weeks I’ll feature reviews of family friendly games that we like and would also make good gifts for the younger video gamer on your holiday list.

First up is LEGO® Legends of CHIMA™: Laval’s Journey from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and based on the popular animated series.  We got a chance to review the Nintendo 3DS version.

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What’s On Your List? #HotToys13

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been a list-maker.  I’m sure it’s some sort of OCD manifestation, but I make lists for just about everything in my life — daily to-do lists, what phone calls I need to make, emails to send/reply to, errands I need to run, groceries to buy — you get the idea.  I think that my obsessive list behavior is rubbing off on my kidlets because they’ve already made out their Christmas lists.

THM_HotToys13_ListPage One of My Son’s Christmas List

I remember being my kidlets’ age and sitting at the kitchen table writing out my own Christmas wish list. I wrote out my list diligently, making sure to print neatly and clearly so Santa would have no question about what I wanted.  I can still remember the feeling of sheer joy when I was five and unwrapped my Dorothy Hamill Doll & Skating Rink  I loved that doll!

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Track Santa’s Journey From The North Pole To Your Ho-Ho-Home…

The biggest day of the year for Santa is quickly approaching! My kidlets are excited and have asked me tons of questions asking how Santa Claus delivers presents to all the little boys and girls all over the world in time for Christmas morning. How on Earth (literally) can he do it….and now I can show them!

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Google’s Santa Tracker site has all sorts of goodies for kids who wonder how Santa does it all! At the center of the site is a countdown clock that is ticking off the seconds to jolly old St. Nick’s scheduled departure on from the North Pole and begins his annual journey to deliver gifts around the world. Starting on Christmas Eve, you can log on and actually track Santa’s journey via a world map!

Until then, if you visit the site you can explore Santa’s village and even play several fun games that involve elves, sleighs and gifts.  The best part is that you can have an online chat with Santa Claus himself. He even makes personal phone call to any North American phone number between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm daily! He also can send personal messages on Google+ and email 24 hours a day. Just log onto www.sendacallfromsanta.com and you can be “in touch” with Santa.

Who knew that Santa was so hi-tech?! I guess with as many presents to wrap and deliver in one night he needs to be.

Now it’s your turn to share.  What will you be leaving out for Santa & his reindeer on Christmas Eve?

Yo Gabba Gabba! Music Is… Awesome! Vol 4. – Kid Music Review

As I’ve unfortunately watched, most children’s TV sucks for parents.   Either I find the characters too annoying or there’s way too much going on for me to follow along as a casual viewer.

One kid series I don’t mind watching is “Yo Gabba Gabba!”  The series does a fab job mixing live action, puppets, music and celebrities along with on-screen visuals that are reminiscent of retro video games and TV shows to create entertainment that’s fun for both kids and parents.

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Yes Kids, There Is A Santa Claus! He’ll Even Send You A Letter To Prove It!

Tis the season in our home.  Guess who dropped by and announced he’s staying through the holiday season?  Our Elf On The Shelf, Jelfie!

This is his second year with our family and the kidlets were really excited to see him.  This year he even sent the kidlets a welcome note.  He also let them know how happy he is to be with us once again and that he is under strict orders to report back all that he sees and hears to Santa so he can make accurately make his “Naughty” and “Nice” lists.

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Kid Lit: What To Read or Not To Read….That Is The Question

Every night we have a ritual in our home. The Hubs and I make sure to read at least one book to our kidlets (usually, it’s a lot more).  Sometimes it’s books they’ve brought home from their weekly trip to our local library or a book from their own collection.  It seems like I’ve read them all the kid lit classics — Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears, Curious George, The Pigeon books and Little Golden Books, just to name a few.

I always love it when one of my kidlets hands me a book, snuggles up to me and demands politely says “read me a story.”   There are some books I’ve read so often that I seem to know them by heart.  I breathe their rhymes, rhythms and repeats.  It’s a joy to see that my kidlets, aged 3 and 5, are starting to recognize them too and read along with me.

The Hubs and I love to read and we hope our kidlets will also be avid readers. We always encourage family to give the kids books instead of toys as gifts.  For my daughter’s birthday a few weeks back, my mother-in-law sent her three books that I’ve just fallen in love with myself.

They are BabyLit board books – a fun way to introduce young children to the classic literature of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and even Bram Stoker.   I don’t want to mislead you here. These are not real story books, but rather counting and color primer books.  However, they feature key elements from these classic stories combined with some simple text, that introduces young children to the characters, imagery and bit of the story they can understand.

A page from the Little Master Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet counting primer book

My daughter was given Little Master Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Little Miss Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and Little Miss Bronte’s Jayne Eyre for her birthday from her Granny B, she herself had seen them in a magazine and thought they were cute.

A Page from the Little Miss Bronte’s Jayne Eyre counting primer book

These small, compact un-rippable board books (a plus with little ones) feature gorgeous illustrations, wonderful colors and clever literary touches that made me smile.   I love how the colors used in these books actually communicate the moods of characters.   My daughter doesn’t bring just one of these books over to me to read with her, she brings all three with her because she likes them so much.

A page from Little Miss Austen’s Pride & Prejudice counting primer book

There aren’t too many books in this collection.  There’s a Little Master Stoker’s Dracula which would have been perfect for Halloween last week.  I see that there is a Little Master Dickens A Christmas Carol that maybe our Elf On The Shelf might leave for my kidlets one night during his upcoming holiday stay.   I hope that BabyLit will expand this series and expand to more classic literature and maybe tackle sounds, rhymes and even sentences.   Anything that encourages young people to read, I’m all for it!

Now it’s your turn to share.  What books do you like to read to your children?

Is This A Long Week, Or Is It Just Me?

One of the best parts of the holiday season is having plenty of time off work. Hubs & I are fortunate to have this week off to spend with the kids.  But is it just me, or does it seem that the days between Christmas and New Year’s seem to totally drag and last about a year?!

I didn’t always feel this way. In the good old days, when I was a carefree single gal or even when I was half of a DINK couple-Dual Income No Kids, I rolled out of bed, got dressed and went for brunch – the day was already half over. It seemed that I never had enough time to do all the things that I wanted to do.  That certainly changed when we had the kidlets and it seems that we never have enough activities to do.

When our son arrived and started going to daycare, we eased into a pretty set school/work schedule in our family.  Our son (and later, daughter) would hit the hay at sundown then get up literally at the crack of dawn with the roosters and be totally rearing to go, play and eat.  It wasn’t so bad during the week and even on weekends Hubs & I would take turns getting up with the kidlets while the other one got a few more hours of precious sleep. But during holiday time, we had, literally, rude awakening.

Since school/daycare is closed during the week between Christmas & New Years, it was up to Hubs and I to take the reigns.   We quickly discovered that we knew very little about what it took to amuse a baby/toddler for ten hours a day for at least a week. Especially at a time of year when it’s usually too cold to go outside most days (we live in NJ), and many places that cater to kids are shut down. We went online, scoured the local papers, and planned fun kid things to do as best we could.

We quickly learned that all activities, and you have to have plenty of them, could not last more than 20 minutes since anything longer than that gets boring. And we didn’t want to just plant them in front of the idiot box all day.  So by about 9 AM we’d be fresh out of ideas and head out to the mall, not to buy anything, but to people watch and window shop, which hopefully would be amusing enough until at least lunchtime. No matter how much we planned, it seemed like we never had enough activities to fill the day.  We often kept one eye on the clock hoping that bedtime would soon be upon us.

However, things have definitely gotten easier as the kids have grown up a bit. Best of all, in the past two weeks the kidlets’ sleep switches finally started working. They’re now getting up at 6:30 am instead of with the roosters, which is a luxury to Hubs and  me.   Plus now the kidlets are old enough to have actual playdates with their friends, take them to children’s museums and paint their own pottery. Our kidlets can now ride bikes, scooters, play with PlayDoh and now have the ability to sit through an entire Disney film from start to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, Hubs & I still have to plan lots of things to keep the kidlets amused and keep ourselves from going totally bonkers, but it is getting easier. Finally!

What is your favorite go-to activity with your kids during the long holiday season?