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2019 Holiday Gift Guide—Best Gift Ideas for KIDS!

Birth to Preschool

I have identified the following toys to be the best overall for little ones from birth to preschool. Please assess the age-appropriateness for your particular child as this can vary.

Each of these toys stimulates interaction prompting the child to engage and solve problems. All have been thoroughly tested and found to be safe—and declared to be super affordable!

1. Dump & Go Dump Truck

Child learns numbers as he or she drops a colorful rock into the top of this cheerful dump truck toy and watches it tumble into the bucket. A great early education toy for toddlers, this Vtech Dump & Go Dump Truck includes colorful buttons that play melodies plus phrases teach tools and colors. Intended for toddlers ages 6 months to 3 years old; 2 AAA batteries are included for demo; use new batteries for regular use.

2. Sassy Whimsical Wheel STEM Learning Toy

The spinning center pieces provide for visual tracking and strengthening of fine motor skills. The suction cup on the Sassy Whimsical Wheel STEM Learning Toy attaches to surfaces for frustration-free play.

3. Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

This beautiful interactive learning baby walker has a removable play panel. An early learning center, it has 5 piano keys that play music and encourage creativity; wheels work on carpeted and hard floors. Features 2 colorful spinning rollers, 3 shape sorters, and 3 light-up buttons that develop motor skills. Pretend telephone handset and mechanical elements enhance role-play fun; 2 AA batteries are included. Over 70 sing-along songs, music, sound effects, and fun phrases. VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker is meant for babies and toddlers 9 months to 3 years old.

 

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4. Turn and Learn Driver

Your little one will love pretending to drive using the steering wheel toy that causes the cute dog character to move back and forth. Press the 5 colorful buttons on the learning toy and your child will be introduced to different animals and vehicles; great early education toy
The fun Turn and Learn Driver encourages imaginative play with a traffic light, a signal lever that triggers fun sounds and music; gear shifter that pushes and pulls to introduce opposites
Baby driving toy Includes 3 play modes so your little toddler driver can learn in animal, driving and music mode. Makes a great gift for a 6-month to 2-year-old boy or girl; operates on 2 AA batteries that are included for demo purposes only, use new batteries for regular use.

5. Dinosaur Toys Set of 4

I just adore these dinosaurs! A great gift for preschool boys or girls. The Dinosaur Toys Playset includes four dinosaurs all on wheels. Encourages imaginative play for ages 24 months and older. So darn cute, too!

6. Lil’ Critters Moosical Beads

This musical baby toy features a variety of fabric textures for baby tactile development; cuddle up with the soft cuddly stuffed animal cow. This music toy has an easy to grasp bead ring; bead ring has light-up buttons, and a spinning square for fine motor skills development. Talking and singing stuffed toy for babies comes with 30+ playful songs, melodies, sounds and phrases; allows kids to have a musical good time. The size of the plush cow toy makes a great crib toy, or even a diaper bag toy for babies. For babies 0 to 24 months. 2 AAA batteries included for demo, use new batteries for regular use. Lil’ Critters Moosical Beads.

7. Mega Bloks Big Building Bag, 80-Piece Set

Set includes 80 building blocks for hours of play. Blocks are big and easy for little fingers to assemble. Mega Bloks Big Building Bag Encourages hands-on exploration as children imagine and create. Compatible with all Mega Bloks sets for endless building possibilities. Age 12 mos to 5 years.

8. Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Toy

This mesmerizing maze of safe, soft, continuous tubes is a perfect baby teething toy. Infant toy promotes clutching and two-handed play; middle cube contains a pleasing rattle sound. Multiple newborn toy award winner, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Blue Chip Award. Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Toy is safe; the teethable plastic loops are BPA free. Suitable for ages 0-24 months.

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Age 4 and Up

You may be familiar with Mike Rowe, the host of TV’s “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Got To Do It.” You may also be familiar with his new passion and challenge—to close the skills gap in this country, which is the reason millions of jobs in the U.S. are going unfilled. The skills gap is the chasm between millions of young people who are ready to enter the workforce and the skills they need but don’t have, to qualify for those jobs.

This fact begs the question: Who will be the electricians, mechanics, welders, plumbers and HVAC experts of tomorrow? Rowe is devoting his life to closing the skills gap by inspiring young people to learn how to do stuff, and how to do it well.

The next 8 recommended gifts for kids ages 4 through 8 or older would surely make Mike Rowe proud! These toys make taking things apart and putting them back together challenging and super fun.

They make growing a garden magical and spelling words correctly very satisfying—especially when you’re only 4 years old! But make no mistake, many of these toys will hit a bullseye with 5-to-8-year-olds, and older. It depends on the child! In fact, at least one is rated for ages 6 to 96!

9. Take Apart Toy Tool Truck

This fun and colorful electronic toy truck with tools includes 1 toy truck, 1 electric toy drill (with 2 detachable tool heads), 3 hand tools, 7 hexagonal/cross screws and nails, 1 truck driver, and 4 removable wheels. This colorful truck comes to life with front headlights, honking sounds, musical tunes (with an on/off button) and has a bump-and-go action to change directions when it hits another object or wall. Real working electric drill with interchangeable bits. So. Much. Fun!

10. LeapFrog Number Lovin’ Oven

The perfect recipe for number learning fun! From counting and cooking to serving and sharing, it’s preschool prep for little chefs—16 fun ingredients included! Easy take-and-go play—everything fits inside! Includes interactive oven, 4 pizza slices, 3 pieces of bread, 2 cupcakes, 1 fried egg, 1 skillet, 1 spatula, 1 baking tray, and 2 Plates. Nourish math learning: cut food into 2, 3 or 4 equal pieces. Delightful singing oven encourages counting, sharing, and vocabulary skills; 30+ phrases and songs. LeapFrog Number Lovin’ Oven offers a fun and interactive way to explore early number concepts including recognizing numbers, counting along and sharing. 24 months to 5 years.

11. 3-Letter Words

Learning to spell becomes fun and easy with 3 Letter Words. These colorful three letter puzzle card sets provide children with a great introduction to spelling and will help to expand their vocabulary. They learn to spell by associating the object with the word and correctly assembling the puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces are self-correcting so only the right spelling goes together! The set includes 20 puzzle sets. Great learning toy! For ages 4 and up.

12. Enchanted Fairy Garden Craft Kit

With a little creative magic, your child can grow his or her very own enchanted fairyland. This open-ended fairy craft kit lets your child embrace his or her creative side by making a unique creation that’s all their own. It contains everything you need—just add water! Enchanted Fairy Garden Craft Kit includes an 11″ diameter flower-shaped paintable potting dish, enchanted flower house, gemstones, flowers, butterflies, paint, potting mix and seeds that grow like magic. See your child’s creative side come to life as she paints and decorates her fairy garden. Learn about botany and the life cycle of plants as your child watches their fairy garden grow! This kit includes non-toxic materials. Ages 7 to 97.

13. Sparkle N’ Grow Butterfly Terrarium

Perfect for the budding botanist, an aspiring artist or both! This kit allows you to craft, plant, water and grow your own beautiful butterfly terrarium. Comes with everything you need! Kit includes plastic mason-style jar, decorative lid, potting mix, organic chia, and wheat grass seeds, craft accessories and a plant mister to keep your terrarium watered. Make your terrarium sparkle and shine with butterfly wings, sparkling stickers, feather butterflies, flowers and more! Create your own eco-system and learn about botany and the life cycle of plants. Your habitat will begin to grow in as little as 3-4 days. Ages 6 to 96.


Listen right here to today’s really short Podcast episode … 


14. Dinosaur Take Apart Toys With Tools

Love this construction, engineering STEM learning and toy-building playset for ages 3 – 12 years. The Dinosaur Take Apart Toys With Tools set includes 6 dinosaurs, 2 t-rex dinosaurs, 2 ceratopsid dinosaurs, and 2 brontosauruses, includes a set of 4 unique tools for assembly. Includes a total of 4 screwdrivers and a pack of 6 assembled dinosaurs, which can be taken apart and reassembled. Sturdy, quality made a perfect gift for all toddlers and young kids.

15. Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery Kit

Build over 300 exciting projects including an AM radio, burglar alarm and more. This kit contains more than 60 parts and requires 4 AA batteries, not included. Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery Kit won The National Parenting Center-Seal of Approval. Comes with a clear and concise illustrated Manual, which is also available online. No tools required. Age 8 and up.

16. Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks

Engineering Blocks are built to develop your child’s science, technology, engineering and math skills. Challenge your kids to build creative designs, trucks, transformers , helicopters, robots and more! This 101-Piece Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks is designed to support a child’s creativity as he or she grows. Age 3 through 6+ years.


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What Every Kid Needs to Know About Greed and Thankfulness

If you are committed to teaching your kids how the world operates, teach them about money. You can use financial principles to teach everything from math problems to social issues. That’s because money is about values, relationships, choices, and self-worth.

While teaching your kids important values to guide their lives is of the utmost importance, when all is said and done those values are more likely to be caught than taught.

You have to live what you teach. Walk the talk. Teach by example.

If there is one thing that will ruin your kids’ lives, it’s greed. Teach them while they’re young how to pull the plug on greed, and you will have prepared them in a very important way to not only survive but also thrive in the real world. You might want to start with this lesson:

Read more

5 Other Ways to Use a Slow Cooker that Have Nothing To Do with Food

They’re bulky and take up precious cabinet space, but we’ll never get rid of our slow cookers. They can be such a lifesaver those days when time is scarce and we just want to make a big batch of something deliciously comforting to get us through.

White vintage electric slow cooker aka Crock Pot

A slow cooker, aka Crock-Pot®, is one awesome household appliance for hands-off cooking. If you have one (a recent study says at least 80 percent of us do) you may know what a great time- and money-saver it is. Surprisingly, your slow cooker is good for other tasks that have nothing to do with eating.

For the projects that follow, you may want to find that old vintage slow cooker gathering dust in the garage so that you have one dedicated for non-food projects. Or pick up a second liner (inner pot) for your multi-cooker Instant Pot.

Re-make candles

We all have old candles that are lopsided or have holes burned through one side. Rather than toss them in the trash, toss them in the slow cooker instead.

Once melted, fish out the old wicks and gather your heatproof containers. Tie a weighted candle wick (you can find these at any craft store or online) on a pencil laid across the container’s rim and let the other end dangle into the empty container. Carefully ladle the melted wax into the container without disturbing the wick and allow to cool. There you go, new candles!

 

Lit candles in jars in both blue and white

Homemade soap

Looking for a great homemade gift idea? This could be it! Homemade soap is wonderful because you can customize your soap bars with the scents and ingredients you prefer.

While there are many recipes and instructions available online, you can skip the tedium with a clear melt and pour soap base. It’s detergent-free. An hour in the slow cooker plus essential oil (20 drops lavender essential oil would be an awesome choice) plus colorant and any variety of botanicals and you’ve made your own beautiful soap products.

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Caught Between Aging Parents and Adult Children

A lovely new assisted living complex is under construction close to where I live. As beautiful as this place is, it has become a daily reminder to me for how difficult it can be to talk to aging parents about their health and future needs.

Baby granddaughter walking with her grandparents on a nature path

If you’re 40 or older, you’re part of the Sandwich Generation, which refers to middle-aged individuals who feel pressured to support both aging parents and adult children. You likely fall into one of these categories:

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Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Your money is limited and time is short. Here is my best advice to make sure back-to-school clothes shopping doesn’t send you to the poorhouse.

Enthusiastic group of young kids in class sitting in a row at their desk raising their hands in the air to show the know the answer to a question

Set spending limits

Time to get real. How much money (not credit) do you have available for school clothes? Write it down.

Take an inventory

Sort through your kids’ clothes and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones they don’t wear due to wear and tear, or because they no longer fit. This gives you a clear idea of what you have, and what you need.

Sell the old to buy the new

If you have kids clothes that are in really good condition, sell them. Take them to a resale consignment shop to sell or use as trade items. Find a consignment store near you that specializes in kidswear. Really, if you never shopped consignment, prepare to be amazed. Expect to find gently worn and brand new clothes in current styles and colors for 50 to 75 percent off new retail. Read more

5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters.

This is true for a child managing a $5-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a $5,000-dollar-a-week salary.

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For the better part of my life, I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decisions.

Here are five good reasons to put kids on an allowance program:

1. Teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

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Back-to-School Clothes Shopping or How I Bought $207 in School Uniforms But Paid Only $87

It’s been a few years since I’ve endured back-to-school shopping, all-school fundraisers, and parent-teacher conferences. Still, for me, the end of summer brings a sweet sense of excitement over September’s promise of a clean slate.

I can only assume that having spent so many years in school myself and then doing it all over again with my kids—and now my grandsons—my inner clock is stuck on the school, not the calendar, year.

Gone are the days when back-to-school meant a new pair of shoes. Nowadays, that simple three-word phrase is tantamount to the first domino that starts a chain of reactions into clothes, backpacks, supplies, fundraisers, after-school care, sports, clubs, school parties, nutritious breakfasts, loads of laundry, carpools, mobile phones, parking passes, lunch bags, teacher gifts and on and on it goes.

The challenge for all of us is to find practical ways to save time and money every day in all areas that relate to our kids, school and family life.

MORE: Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Today, I want to share a story with you to demonstrate a way that you can get your kids’ clothes (yours, too!) and or school uniforms at huge savings—not from the thrift store and not the clothes your kids don’t want but they’re going to get, just because they’re on sale! I’m talking about the stores and style you and the kids love.

Here’s what happened: I asked my daughter-in-law if Eli (the cutest newly-minted fourth grader on earth) needed any school clothes. The answer was “Yes, please!” which gave me a wonderful reason to go shopping. Online. At home from my computer. Eli’s school requires uniforms—for the boys, it’s basic polo shirts and slacks.

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Values are More Often Caught than Taught—Plus a GIVEAWAY!

Bents, characteristics, abilities, and tendencies are the conduits through which you can pass your values to your kids. But exactly how do you make the pass? Though your life. The way you live.

Kids learn most effectively through observation and imitation. It’s the witness of our lives, more than anything we say, that is taken in slowly and cumulatively by our children.

Raising Financially Confident Kids Book sitting on a white shelf with basket of bright colored tulips

Children drink in everything around them. They see the way we act with others. They listen to everything we say. They observe the way we handle our money. They hear what we say on the phone and the way we deal with salespeople. Children compare what they see with what they are told and in the case of a clear conflict, they usually go with what they see.

There are many ways to communicate your values to your kids. There are formal lectures, specific talks, books and discussions on what has been read; reprimands, reminders, various kinds of discipline and punishment, and religious education with all of its related activities.

All of these ways of communicating with your kids do count for a great deal, but they cannot come close to your children observing their parents living out their values consistently, specifically, and diligently day in and out. That’s the surest way to pass on to your kids the values and principles they need to guide their lives—values that will take root in their hearts, not simply stick on the outside until they can get away from your authority. Truth be told, values are more often caught than taught.

 

It’s easy to get so hung up on the mundane side of parenting—cooking, cleaning, carpooling, taxi driving—that we forget about the single most important job parents have to do, which is to successfully pass on our values to our children. Read more