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Holiday Gift Guide: Preschoolers

It should be easy to pick out a great gift for the kids on your list, but more often than not, they are the most difficult to shop for.  You want to get them something that they will enjoy and actually use.  You also know that they already have a room full of toys, and don’t really need another action figure, doll, or stuffed animal.

Preschoolers will tell you exactly what they want for Christmas, but the issue here is how do you impress a preschooler without subjecting Mom and Dad to an avalanch of toys with tiny little pieces that are bound to get lost or broken? Here are a few great ideas for the preschooler on your list.

Blocks: The market is overrun with options for blocks, especially for preschoolers.  Our absolute favorite are Magna Tiles.  The fact that these have magnets, which allow the tiles to stick together, make it easy for kids to build large, fairly durable creations.  These have been tried and tested in our classrooms.  They are a favorite that kids play with for hours, and the fact that they introduce basic magnetic properties doesn’t hurt either!

magna tiles


Gross motor play: No one will deny that preschoolers have tons of energy.  Here are two great gifts that will help channel some of that energy (and they can both be used indoors).  The first is the Gymnic Hop 55 Ball.  You probably recognize this from your own childhood, kids still love these, and they are a great way to encourage large muscle development, balance, and body awareness.  The second is the Pacific Play Tent I See You Tunnel.  Kids love these for imaginary play, and this one is perfect because parents can see their children the entire time that they are in the tunnel.  They can be  a space for kids to hang out quietly, or part of a larger obstacle course to wear them out!




Fine motor skills: Practicing those skills that will strengthen finger muscles and prepare kids for writing and cutting (Kindergarten readiness!) can be a lot of fun.  to make writing more fun considering gifting them with a set or two of Crayola Twistables.  These come in crayon and colored pencil versions, and will get kids excited about drawing, while helping them practice holding a pencil, the real plus here is that there is no sharpening necessary, just twist the end to reveal more lead.  Another great way to encourage fine motor skills is beading. We love B. Pop-Arty Beads for a couple of reasons, first they don’t require string so kids won’t get frustrated when all of their beads fall off the string, and second, they are much less likely to go rolling all over your floor! Plus, who can resist these fun patterns?!



Dramatic Play: We don’t know a single preschooler who doesn’t like to pretend they are cooking.  The best play food can be found at Ikea, these felt sets are so much fun that adults will want to play too! They also have great pots and pans, ceramic dishes, and baking sets specifically for kids.  The best part is that they are so reasonably priced that you can easy give two or three different sets without breaking the bank.  These are great for the kids who has everything, or the child that you don’t know very well, because they are sure to be a hit!


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Games: Preschoolers are just getting old enough to play by the rules, classic games are a great way to encourage some fun that the whole family can enjoy together! Some of our favorites are Don’t Break the Ice, Ants in the Pants, Barrel of Monkeys, and Memory, you can find all of these on Amazon.



We hope this gives you some new ideas for the preschoolers on your list.  Share your ideas in the comments!


Holiday Gift Guide: Toddlers

It should be easy to pick out a great gift for the kids on your list, but more often than not, they are the most difficult to shop for.  You want to get them something that they will enjoy and actually use.  You also know that they already have a room full of toys, and don’t really need another action figure, doll, or stuffed animal.

Today’s gift guide is for toddlers. Toddlers are tons of fun to shop for.  They are finally beginning to understand toys, and they show a clear preference for what they like and do not like.  They have tons of personality, which will help steer you towards gifts that they will enjoy.  On the other hand, toddlers rarely use toys in the way that adults expect they will.  The best gifts for toddlers are items that can be appropriately used in a variety of ways, and that will encourage creative play. 

Wooden blocks and pieces: We love wooden blocks for a couple of reasons; they are very durable, they are aesthetically pleasing, not only to kids but also to adults, which is a big plus because they will end up all over your house, and they are generally more multipurpose than plastic blocks, which can often only be used or arranged one way.  Some of our favorite sets include the Imaginarium Wooden Block set (available on Amazon in a few different size options) and the Stack-a-Spool set from Mama May I on Etsy.



Sensory Play: If you are looking for a single activity that will keep a toddler busy for at least an hour then we have two words for you: Sand Box.  Toddlers LOVE sand play, it has some kind of magnetic force that draws them in.  Now yes, it can be messy, and We wouldn’t suggest putting it in the house, but here are a couple of options.  This Step2 sandbox has a lid (a must for keeping sand in and critters and rain out!), and is fairly unassuming in it’s natural tones and $50 on Amazon, it’s an inexpensive option. If you are looking for something that you can use indoors, and possibly switch the contents fairly often, try this Inflatable Sensory Tray by S&S.  The huge plus with the inflatable tray is that it can be deflated and put away without taking up too much space. 



Dramatic Play: Dress up is a favorite activity for toddlers, and you can gift them with some really great play items that don’t cost a fortune or take up a ton of space.  After Halloween be sure to check clearance racks for costumes, and kids’ resale stores are a great place to look too.  little ones can make a lot of play happen with just a few inexpensive items – a feather boa, some bandanas, a cape, a simple DIY tutu, or a child-sized cowboy hat are all great ideas that can be found at nearly any big box store.  If you want something a little more personalized try iCROWNyou on Etsy for amazing animal masks and personalized crowns and magical capes on Etsy for personalized super hero capes. 




Music: Toddlers love to make noise, we probably don’t need to tell you this! In order to keep mom and dad from loosing their minds, we recommend staying away from the plastic instruments that blink and beep, and seem to play that same song over and over and over… If you know a toddler who really truly loves music, then invest in their passion, gift them with a smaller versions of real musical instruments.  The Melissa and Doug Beginner Band Set is a great option for introducing children to instruments. we also love the Melissa and Doug Learn to Play Piano (We pretty much love everything by Melissa and Doug).




We hope this gives you some great ideas for your favorite toddler, let us know what other items you’ll be purchasing in the comments! Tomorrow we’ll have a gift guide for preschoolers. 

Holiday Gift Guide: Infants

It should be easy to pick out a great gift for the kids on your list, but more often than not, they are the most difficult to shop for.  You want to get them something that they will enjoy and actually use.  You also know that they already have a room full of toys, and don’t really need another action figure, doll, or stuffed animal.

Today’s gift guide is specifically designed for infants.  They pose their own special gift buying issues. In many cases, moms of infants have all of the necessities, they received them at baby showers, along with more blankets and clothes than they will ever know what to do with.  It can also be difficult to buy toys for infants, and the selection is not always wide – how many car seat toys, stuffed animals, stacking cups, and teething rings does one child need?  Infants also grow out of things very quickly, so what can you get them that they will enjoy and be able to use for years to come?

Board books: These are a great option because when they are very young mom and dad can read to them, and as they grow the books are sturdy enough for the child to hold and look at on their own.  They will also stand up to being chewed, dropped from high chairs, and being stepped on.  Some of our favorites are the Diaper David Collection by David Shannon  (3 for $8.99 on Amazon) and the BabyLit Books $8.99 each on Amazon).

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Blocks: our favorite blocks for infants are Fisher Price Peek-a-Blocks.  These are great for little hands and offer a wealth of tactile, visual, and auditory experiences. These are also blocks that will grow with children – the youngest infants can use them as shakers or rattles, and visually explore one block at a time, while older children can use them to repeatedly build and knock down towers.  Each set contains 5 blocks, they are available from Fisher Price for $10 per set.



Cars: Infants love anything with wheels.  We are huge fans of wooden vehicles, like this one from Smiling Tree Toys on Etsy.  When looking for wooden toys there are a few things to remember, first make sure that any edges are rounded, and that the toys have been well sanded to remove any rough patches and possible splinters, you also want to make sure the finish is safe because it will end up in baby’s mouth.  Plastic cars are also a great option.  We love Tonka’s Chuck and Friends, they come in different sizes for different ages, and are brightly colored.

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Music and movement: Babies to to wiggle to music, so make it even more fun by gift them with streamer rings that they can shake and wave.  You can make your own, or buy these from BBs for Babies on Etsy.  Our favorite CDs for kids are not necessarily for kids, which means that parents will enjoy them too! The Piano Guys do instrumental covers of pop favorites, perfect for dancing, but also great for naptime.



Check back with us tomorrow for a Toddler Gift Guide, and feel free to share your favorite infant gifts in the comments!


Reggio Monday: Holiday Ideas


The holiday season is the perfect time to infuse some Reggio inspired practices into your home.  The Reggio Emilia Approach is all about encouraging children to explore the world around them, and to learn from what fascinates them.  Every child loves winter holidays, and for the entire month of December, the holiday spirit can be seen everywhere.  This is also a time of year when children are full of questions.  You will hear everything from “How does Santa come in our house if we don’t have a chimney?” to “What do reindeer like to eat? And even “How did they get those lights all the way at the top of that tree?”

These kinds of questions are perfect for encouraging critical thinking skills, and further research.  Ask your child what they think you could do to make sure that Santa can get in the house, and where they think they could look to find out what reindeer eat.  Their answers might surprise you, and they might even start a new tradition of their own.

It is also important to encourage children to explore their surroundings and interact with new items.  There are always going to be some things that you are afraid to let the children play with – maybe the glass nativity set is a family heirloom, or the tree topper is one that you bought on a trip to Italy.  Find other ways for children to explore these things.  They could take photos of them with your camera, or draw a picture of them.  You could also find similar substitutes that they could interact with, pick up a nativity set at a garage sale, or get a tree topper at a craft store that the children can decorate.

The holidays are also a time of year when children say the best things! Make sure to document these quotes, questions, and conversations.  They will make great additions to holiday photo books and scrapbooks and lasting memories for years to come.

Avoiding Thanksgiving Meltdowns

Thanksgiving is supposed to be time to relax and enjoy family, time to take a few minutes to recognize the blessings in our life.  You aren’t alone if your annual Thanksgiving celebration is anything less than stressful and overwhelming.  There is food that needs prepared, family members to please, extra furniture to set up, grocery shopping to do, not to mention arranging schedules to make sure that you are present at every family celebration.  In all of this, kids often get less to their own devices, and end up making messes that need cleaned up, and arguments that need solved.  By taking a few minutes to prepare simple activities to keep the kids busy, you can check one worry off your list! Here are some ideas and resources that you can use to entertain children – big and small – and bring some peace to the holiday.

    1. Thanksgiving pre-k pack and expansion pack from Over the Big Moon.  Download and print these packs – it will take 10 minutes and your children will be busy for hours.  There are puzzles, tracing sheets, coloring pages, patterning pages, sorting activities, writing practice, letter sound and vocabulary cards.  You may have to do some cutting, but if you have an older child ask them to do this for you. Place all of the pages in a gallon Ziploc bag with a couple of pencils and a box of crayons 
      and you are all set!


  1. Coloring sheets that double as a placemat.  Our favorite Thanksgiving placemats are from paper and glitter.  Print enough of these for all of the kids at your celebration, and a few extras in case the adults want to join in too.Image
  2. This genius idea comes from TomKat Studio.  Set out small containers of nuts, dried fruits, and candy with bags or containers.  Ask each child to create their own Thanksgiving Harvest Mix, which they can snack on before the meal.  This will keep them out of the kitchen, and you won’t have to answer “can we eat yet?” over and over again.Image
  3. If you are hosting the celebration, gather a collection of Thanksgiving related books from your local library.  The children will enjoy the books, and older relatives will have just as much fun reading to them.
  4. Find ways to involve the children in preparing for the big day.  They can help set the table, ask guests what they would like to drink, put away coats when guests arrive, remove foil and plastic wrap from dishes and platters, refill bowls of snack mix, and make sure there are napkins in strategic places throughout the house.  Giving children a job will make them feel like they have a role to play, and will take your attention off of small tasks so that you can focus on preparing the meal and entertaining your guests. 

Happy Halloween

We hope you are all enjoying Halloween! If you are looking for something to do tonight because of changes in trick or treat plans, try this Mummy Pizza for dinner.  It is super easy and the kids can help!Image

Top 10 Fun Sensory Activities to do at Home


1. Water Play: taking a bath, washing babies or Legos in the sink with soap wash clothes and water.

2. Shaving Cream: you can do this on a cookie sheet or even during bath time put some on the surround of the bathtub. You can make it bathtub paints by using a muffin tin, put shaving cream in each and then mix a drop of food coloring in each, add a paint brush and they are ready to be Picasso in the tub.

3. Play Dough here are a couple of our favorite recipes, add more to it by just adding a drop of lavender oil or even add a little sand for texture.

4. Sensory Walk: I love taking sensory walks this time of year, go outside and listen, look, touch, taste (edibles only) and smell. Then talk about each of the items.

5. Cloud Dough: mix about 4 cups of flour to ½ cup of oil and mix, put it a plastic tub with spoons, measuring cups and you have fun for hours

6. Sensory Bottles: clean out small old pop/water/juice bottles and add water, food coloring and a little vegetable oil, popcorn kernels, water glitter and oil, beans or whatever you can fit in the bottle. Take a glue gun and put some in the cap and screw it on quickly.

7. Remove a Sense: use a blindfold to focus on using other senses as they move around the room

8. Walk inside and outside with no socks on

9. Dirt Play/Sand/Mud Pies: go outside and give your child old pie tins spoons and cups and their imagination will run wild.

10. Colored Rice or Noodles: super easy a little planning ahead for a lot of fun: you will need 1 large bag of rice cheaper the better, you can use either vinegar or rubbing alcohol, food coloring, gallon bags, and a cookie sheet or two. I put two cups of rice in each bag along with 1 tsp. of rubbing alcohol. Then add a generous amount of food coloring mixing colors if needed to get the right color. Seal the bag and shake, squish, and smoosh until all the color is distributed evenly. The smell of the alcohol/vinegar goes away once it is fully dried. Another variation of this is to cook the noodles with a couple tablespoons of vinegar and food coloring and drain it let it cool and then let the children explore.