Choosing Halloween Costumes for Babies and Toddlers

Each year when the fall season rolls around, I look forward to three things. Cooler temperatures, fall festivities and planning my kid’s Halloween costumes! Figuring out Halloween costumes for babies or toddlers is my favorite. As a parent, you’re in charge of coming up with the baby costume for Halloween, head to toe. But there are definitely considerations before you buy or make your toddler or baby their costume. I’m sharing dozens of ideas on choosing the best Halloween costumes for toddlers and babies!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Halloween Costumes for Babies and Toddlers

These are all the baby costume tips, whether you choose to make your own Halloween costume, buy a costume online or at the store or simply put a costume together from the closet. First I’ll give you a ton of ideas on how to choose the best toddler or baby costume for your kiddo. Then keep reading for the practical tips on purchasing costumes, making your own and how to do Halloween on a budget with your baby!

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.


What Are the Best Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids?

While your preschooler and elementary aged kids are going to have strong opinions about their Halloween costumes, your baby and toddler have no choice in the matter. They’ll wear whatever you choose for them!

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

My cousin’s daughter as Tinkerbell and her son as Peter Pan (Photo Credit: Marianne Pendleton)

What Costume Are YOU Going to Wear for Halloween?

If you have already planned your own Halloween costume, consider choosing a coordinating costume for your little one. There are so many wonderful family Halloween costume ideas out there. Just look to your favorite Disney movies or story books and purchase or make costumes in a theme for each person in the group.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget. #Halloween #Babies #Toddlers #Fall #Costumes #DressUp

Family Halloween Costume Ideas:

  • Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
  • Toy Story characters – Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Rex, Hamm, Barbie
  • Scooby Doo characters – Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, Velma
  • Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Daisy, Pluto
  • Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga & Roo, Owl, Christopher Robin
  • Monsters Inc – Sully, Mike & Boo
  • Super Hero family (everyone choose a different super hero character)
Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Captain Hook and the rest of the crew! (Photo Credit: Becca Robins)

  • Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Michael, John, Lost Boys
  • Inside Out characters – Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, Fear, Riley, Bing Bong
  • Star Wars characters – Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Stormtrooper, Yoda, Chewbacca, Ewok
  • Wizard of Oz characters – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Wicked Witch, Good Witch
  • My friend Tania at LolaLambchops has the cutest family costume for 101 Dalmatians you just have to see!

If the entire family isn’t on board, another option is to create a baby costume that goes with an older sibling’s Halloween ensemble. I created this 10-minute scarecrow costume for my toddler the year that his older sister dressed like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. A pair of overalls, plaid shirt, a floppy hat and a few random strands of raffia completed the look.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Cute Halloween Costumes for Babies

Babies and toddlers are just so cute, so why not put your little sweetie in an adorable Halloween costume too? There are many gender neutral Halloween costumes for baby girls and boys. These choices in particular are perfect for hand-me-downs and may be easier to resell for next Halloween as well. Consider adding feminine details, like a bow for your daughter’s hair to distinguish her as a girl, if you wish.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

My cousin’s son, the lion.

  • Wild Animal (like a bear, skunk, tiger, leopard, elephant, etc)
  • Farm Animal (like a bunny, pig, lamb)
  • Family Pet (like a dog and cat)
  • Skeleton Bones
  • Pirate
  • Incredibles character
  • Bugs or Insects (butterfly, ladybug, spider)
  • Pumpkin


  • Career (Doctor, Firefighter, Police Officer, etc)
  • Ghost
  • Chef
  • Fruits/Veggies/Foods
  • Cat in the Hat/Thing One & Thing Two
  • Sports Athlete (think baseball, football, soccer player)
  • Dinosaur
Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

My cousin’s son, the Ladybug

DIY Halloween Costumes for Babies

If you have a creative streak, definitely consider sewing or putting together your own baby costume. Make your own Halloween costume for baby and you can customize the look, fabrics, style and most importantly, the cost.

If you need more tips on sewing your own Halloween costumes, I have 100+ tips and ideas for making budget Halloween costumes.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Baby Halloween Costumes Straight from the Closet

Another great way to save money on your toddler’s Halloween costume is to choose items right from their closet. Put together and paired with some accessories, you can make your own adorable costume on a budget.

  • Clown – choose the most colorful and most bold patterns.
  • Little Rascals character – wear short pants, overalls, and newsboy cap.
  • Mickey Mouse – black tee and leggings with a pair of red shorts. Add on a mouse-ears hood, instructions here!
  • Cowboy/Cowgirl – pull out the denim, boots and a red banana.
  • Bath Baby – dress in baby bathrobe then add a shower cap & rubber ducky.
  • Puppy Dog – dressed in black, white or brown. Glue felt ears onto a beanie cap.
  • Princess – dress her up in her fanciest outfit and top with a tiny crown.
  • Scarecrow – just like my son in the photo here, I put him in overalls, plaid shirt and a floppy hat, then added strips of raffia.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Funny Halloween Costumes for Babies

I’m not a fan of snarky or costumes for kids that are based on adult themes. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t think it’s cute to have your baby dressed in a costume that’s pushing the boundaries of taste (no matter if it makes people laugh). However funny costume ideas for babies and toddlers that give everyone the giggles is what makes Halloween great for all. Here are a few funny costumes for babies and toddlers this Halloween.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

  • Garden Gnome
  • Old Man or Old Lady
  • Oompa Loompa from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
  • Generational (like from the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s)
  • Sumo wrestler
  • Alien (like Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.)
  • Fitness instructor, complete with tiny legwarmers & water bottle
  • Muppets characters (like my cousin’s kids, dressed like Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear!)
Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

My cousin’s kids as Kermit and Fozzy from the Muppets! (Photo Credit: Marianne Pendleton)


Tips for Buying Halloween Costumes for a Baby

Before you run out and buy your baby Halloween costume, first check out these tips in regards to practicality, convenience and comfort.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Adorable Halloween costumes, but are they appropriate for babies or toddlers?

Practicality & Age-Appropriateness

There are some considerations to be made for practicality and age-appropriateness before buying your baby or toddler costume. The costume you purchase for your infant or newborn is going to be different than what you’d get for your older toddler. The stores don’t always keep these things in mind and often carry a variety of sizes. It’s up to you to inspect and make sure they’re appropriate for your child. Following the age recommendation on the packaging is also important when it comes to small pieces that may be a choking hazard.

  • Costumes with over-sized wings or plastic pieces may not be practical for babies & small toddlers. Consider how you’ll be able to safely hold your child in your arms with these costume attachments.
  • A costume with feet (like footie pajamas) is only practical for babies who aren’t walking. Toddlers will need to wear their own shoes so make sure they’ll be able to wear a costume with their shoes.
  • Costumes with long pant legs that slip over the shoes or longer skirts may be tripping hazards for your toddler. Have your child try the costume on and hem it up to a better length.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Fabric Choice

Breatheability is important when choosing a Halloween costume for baby or toddlers. Some fabrics, including polyesters and metallics trap in heat, causing excessive sweating. Cotton, stretch knit, lycra and fleece are generally safer choices and will be more comfortable for your little one.

Many Halloween costumes for children have been treated with fire resistant material. If you’re making your own Halloween costumes, the fabrics are probably NOT treated in such a way. Be sure that baby stays far away from the bonfire, candles or fireplace when wearing their homemade costume.

Babies and some toddlers are going to put the fabric in their mouth, particularly around the sleeves or neckline. Ensure that the fabric is safe for chewing on and won’t flake off in their mouth. Certain metallic fabrics are highly suspect for use on babies or toddlers who will put it in their mouth. Use care with tulle fabrics, like what is used on a tutu. This fabric tears easily so watch that your baby doesn’t rip off a piece with their teeth.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Diaper Changes

This is one thing that is so important and we tend to forget! Make sure the costume is easy to remove and replace for diaper changes. A bodysuit like this Snow White version from ShopDisney has inseam snaps for diaper access.

Car Seats & Strollers

A very small baby is probably going to spend most of trick or treating riding in the stroller! For babies who need to be buckled into their car seat or stroller, does the costume allow for this? Long bunting style costumes may hinder you from being able to properly buckle the safety belt.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

Sweet baby elephant (Photo Credit: Marianne Pendleton)

Temperature

Yes, those adorable fuzzy animal costumes are sooo cute but if you live in a warm weather climate that’s still toasty in late October, these cozy costumes are probably best to skip. If you live in a cooler climate, consider layering to keep baby warm. Light layers like leggings or tights, or long sleeves tees under a thin costume can add a layer of warmth.

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget.

What is your favorite baby costume idea? Share in the comments!

Choosing the right Halloween costumes for babies and toddlers is one of the most fun parts of childhood! Here are the tips on picking the best costume that's appropriate, cute and comfortable for your little one! Dozens of ideas, including family costumes, Disney and how to make your own on a budget. #Halloween #Babies #Toddlers #Fall #Costumes #DressUp


Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Budgeting for back to school? Yeah, aren’t we all! I have a first grader this year, which means he’ll now need a backpack. And I also have two new high schoolers this year! Both have had the same backpacks since third grade (wow!) and need upgrades. And of course the added expenses of new shoes, school supplies and replacing outgrown clothing. But do we really need to buy ALL of those new things? Check out my tips for assessing what you have and how I’m budgeting for back to school time!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

This post was originally published August 6th, 2014

Budgeting for Back to School

The stores have us in the mid-set that “back to school” means freshly sharpened pencils, crisp new clothes and brand new shoes. There must be a snazzy new backpack, bright new spiral bound notebooks and never-used crayons. All the kids in the ads look like there is no better place to be than at school, decked out head-in-toe in shiny new stuff!

Sure, new stuff might soften the landing a bit for kids who are reluctant and cranky about starting the new school year. But what if you don’t need anything new this year? What if the school stuff they were just using back in June is still fine and acceptable for September?

I think all kids love getting brand new stuff but it’s certainly not always necessary, especially if what they have is still in usable condition. Why waste money buying or replacing items that are truly good and usable just because it’s what you’ve “always done” or because the stores are having a sale!

Here are my top tips on how not to get sucked into the Back to School buying trap!

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

Assess What You Already Have

Put your credit card back in your wallet. Before you run out and buy a bunch of new stuff, you need to figure out what things are essentials and what things can be skipped this year. You’ll do this by assessing what you already have and determining what you truly need to replace.

BACKPACKS & LUNCH BAGS

  • Inspect the current backpack. Are straps, zippers and hooks all in good working order? Sometimes all the backpack needs is a good washing! During the year, I have my kids completely clean out their backpacks every two weeks and we toss them into the laundry. Upkeep is important during the entire year to keep items in good working condition. If the backpack is truly broken or has an un-repairable rip or tear, then it’s time to toss and buy new.
  • Consider purchasing a quality backpack that will get your student through multiple years and has a guarantee. I bought my son’s backpack from L.L. Bean before he started 3rd grade. That backpack got him all the way through to the 8th grade! (And you have to know how rough boys are with their stuff!) We’re only replacing it because he needs a larger version.
  • My daughter also has a backpack from L.L. Bean and the hanging strap frayed towards the end of the year. I was able to exchange for a brand new one! L.L. Bean has a great return policy and stands by their products, replacing even if it’s been used. Buy the best you can afford and don’t waste money buying something cheap that you’ll have to replace mid-year.
  • Lunch bags should be washed every week during the school year to keep them sanitary and in good condition. Treat stains right away to avoid them setting in. If the hook & loop closure, zipper or snaps are broken off and can’t be repaired or there is a funky smell that doesn’t dissipate with washing, it’s time to buy a new one.
Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

My son started third grade with this backpack and used it all the way to 8th grade!

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

  • Every page used up in the spiral notebook? Okay, time to buy a new one. Only half the pages used? Rip out the used pages and finish up with it before buying another.
  • Broken crayons or paper peeled off? Relegate them to the arts and crafts bin at home or toss them out. Gently used crayons that still work just fine? Keep ’em and there is no need to buy a new box. Same goes for pencils, pens, glue, glue sticks and erasers! If they are still in usable condition then just keep using them.
  • Folders with rips can be repaired and reinforced along the spine with a strip of colorful duct tape. Decorate the fronts with markers or Washi Tape.
  • Plastic pencil boxes often just need a cleaning (run it through the dishwasher after wiping it out). A good scrubbing with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser will bring it back to like-new condition. Colorful stickers decorating the top will make it “new to you”.

Read More: Motivation for School to Keep Kids (and Moms!) On Track

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

CLOTHES

  • Pants with blown-out knees beyond repair or that are now high-water length should either be tossed into the rag bin or delegated to donation. Tees and sweaters with unfixable holes, unsightly stains or that are too short at the waist or sleeves face the same fate. Socks that are too small, have holes or that are heavily stained make good cleaning rags. Underpants that are too tight or have stretched out elastic should be thrown out.
  • Based on what is still in the closet and drawers, assess the need for additional items at that point. Kids probably don’t need more than 7 of each daily wear item (one for each day of the week), so 7 long sleeved tees, 7 short sleeved, 7 pairs of pants, etc. My kids do have more than this, just for the sake of variety. However kids don’t really need in excess (it also helps to streamline the morning dressing routine when they have less to choose from!) I rarely buy my kids brand new clothes at the store any more unless it’s something like a Christmas or birthday gift. When I buy new items, I shop either Gymboree because they have high quality clothes that resist stains (and great sales throughout the year). I buy gently used clothing at the local thrift store or online at ThredUp.

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

SHOES

  • Shoes with holes or completely worn out soles should be thrown out. Put decent but dirty shoes into the washing machine or the sink for a scrubbing. Finish by cleaning up the rubber with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to bring them back to life. Replace frayed or stained shoe laces with bright new ones.
  • It’s tempting to buy cheap shoes when your kid’s feet are growing! I recommend buying high quality shoes that will last until your child outgrows them. I have personally had great luck with Pediped shoes. My daughter wore her pair almost every school day for a year. I was able to toss them into the wash every other week and only when they were getting tight did they develop a small hole in the sole. I definitely recommend paying a little more for one or two fantastic pairs of shoes (rather than 5 or 10 pairs of cheap and poorly made shoes that will need constant replacing).

Read More: Kid’s Back to School Clothing Hacks and Budget Tips

Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Discuss Budgeting for Back to School With Your Kids

If your kids are accustomed to getting brand new stuff every year but this year they don’t truly need anything, you’ll need to address this with them upfront. Kids are going to expect the regular back-to-school shopping extravaganza and if it’s not going to happen this could set them up for disappointment. You’re going to have some very disgruntled kids going back to school with “the same old stuff”.

  • Involve your kids in the assessing process. Discuss how the closet full of clothes still fit,  are in good shape & will be acceptable for them right now.
  • Allow kids to decorate last year’s pencil boxes or folders with fun washi tape, Duct Tape or stickers.
  • Attach a fun key chain or fob to the zipper pull to freshen up last year’s backpack or hoodie.
  • Compromise by purchasing one new (or “new to them”) outfit for the first day of school and to wear for school pictures.

Read More: 12 Secrets to Successful and Stress-free School Mornings

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.

Divert The Focus Off of “Getting New Stuff”

Get back to the heart of what going back to school is all about and take the focus off the need for new stuff by starting new family traditions that don’t include buying new stuff.

  • Take pictures of your new student.
  • Cook a special first day breakfast or dinner.
  • Greet them with balloons on the front door when they get home.
  • Create a first day interview that you can save in your memory box.
  • Serve a special dessert.

Read More: 5 Ways to Make the First Day of School Extra Special

Just make the day special for them! Here’s to new adventures…even while wearing last school year’s shoes!


In what ways are you budgeting for back to school? 

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have. #BacktoSchool #budget #Kids #School #Fall #Budget #SavingMoney

 

 

 

Must-Have Vacation Travel Products for Toddlers, Kids and Parents

Have the right travel products can truly make your vacation that much smoother! Some of these travel products are always going to be inside your luggage, like t-shirts and shoes. Other items you might not have ever considered – but once you use these unique travel accessories, you’ll wonder how you vacationed without them! I’ve also included airplane travel packing ideas for toddlers. So grab your travel bag and let’s see what travel products for toddlers, kids and grown-ups you could use on your next trip.

I have received complimentary product of some of these items to facilitate this post. No other compensation has been made and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Comfortable Vacation Tees

A cozy cotton t-shirt is a vacation must-have for everyone in the family. And if you’re headed on a “magical” vacation, like my family just did, these tees from the Polka Dot Pixie Shop are perfect for packing! Soft and comfortable, they were perfect for summertime in Orlando. I absolutely loved the creative designs and so did everyone else who saw them. I was stopped so many times in the Disney parks, asking where I got my shirts!

Many of the styles and designs are unisex (so that means I can snag my teenage son’s Jungle Cruise shirt whenever I want!) And each design is sold in a wide variety of sizes so it’s ideal if you like to do matching shirts on vacation.

DISCOUNT CODE: Use coupon code PIXIE at Polka Dot Pixie Shop for 15% off any order.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Hello Vacation! T-shirt by Polka Dot Pixie Shop

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

This tee from Polka Dot Pixie Shop is perfect for Disney’s Animal Kingdom (see the Hidden Mickey?)

See this post for more ideas on what to wear to Disney parks!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves (including Disney-inspired tees!) for your next trip. #Disney #Travel #TravelwithKids #FamilyTravel #Vacation #Tshirts

Sleep Mask for Sweet Nights

We decided to keep our family on West coast time when we traveled to Florida. This meant staying up till midnight and sleeping in until 9 am most days in an effort to maintain their usual sleeping and waking times. My body instinctively wakes up as soon the sun shines into the room, so a well-fitting sleep mask is a vacation must-have.

This Brave Era Sleep Mask is 100% silk and hypoallergenic. It’s very comfortable and blocks out all ambient light in the room. I always sleep so much better when I slip on my sleep mask before falling asleep. Brave Era also offers silk travel sheets for the ultimate in vacation luxury!

Comfortable Camera Strap (With a Surprise!)

I’ve had the same Canon DSLR for years and it’s had the most uncomfortable strap ever. It would dig into the back of my neck so much I never wanted to take my camera anywhere. Wow, am I glad to have found Wrapped Creations comfy camera strap! She carries a variety of designs, including more Disney-themed straps like my Toy Story Land-inspired version!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

The Wrapped Creations camera strap was so comfortable to wear all day

Simply attach the strap to your camera and it’s sooo much easier to carry a heavy DSLR. No more painful neck as the strap is made of soft fabric. And my favorite part? The hidden zippered compartment where you could store your cell phone, cash, cards or passport! I received so many comments on this unique travel accessory. In fact, while I was waiting with my daughter in line to see Goofy, someone asked me about the strap and they ordered themselves one immediately from their phone!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

The hidden pouch on the camera strap from Wrapped Creations

Cross-Body Bag That Holds it All

When I’m traveling I want to be hands-free. With 4 kids I usually have my hands full enough, I don’t need to be holding onto my purse too! That’s why I prefer a cross-body purse and Baggallini are my favorite. I’ve had several versions over the years because they are so great even for everyday use. Right now I’m loving the Baggallini Everything Bag because it has a designated flap pocket for my cell phone. Roomy enough to hold your boarding pass and travel itinerary but with many individual zippered compartments to hold things like sunscreen and lipstick.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip. #Travel #TravelTips #TravelPacking #Packing #TravelAccessories

Comfortable Shoes for All Types of Weather

Pediped shoes are the go-to for my little ones on a daily basis. Since we were planning on lots of water play during our trip I was delighted to see that pediped has water shoes as well. Turns out visiting Orlando during Hurricane Season meant that we got a LOT more rain than we’d ever expected! Fortunately all of the pediped shoes that my kids wore during our trip were comfortable and dried quickly.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Pediped shoes have no “breaking-in period” so my kids were able to wear their brand-new shoes into the parks without any complaints about sore feet. Plus they are SO cute! Check out the pediped Outlet for discounts, then use code THANKYOU18 for an additional $10 off!

Here are more tips on choosing the best shoes for Disney!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Pediped shoes went easily from water to sidewalk

Travel Products for Toddlers Offers Safe Freedom

We have a “runner” in the family. When we took our family trip to Palm Springs, each time opened up the hotel room door, our toddler would shoot down the hall and run out of sight. I knew that when we traveled to Disney World I needed something that would keep her close but still allow some necessary freedom. Skip Hop backpack with harness for the win!!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

When traveling at the airport, I filled it with travel entertainment (more details on that in the next section). When we were in the parks, I put in a diaper, pack of wipes and disposable bibs for dining. My toddler liked having the choice of sitting in her stroller or wearing the Skip Hop backpack (she’d hand us the harness strap and say, “Hold my tail”!)

It was the perfect compromise for letting our toddler walk but still keeping her within arms reach. Skip Hop has an entire line of Zoo collection with whimsical travel accessories, including luggage and meal sets.

Entertaining Travel Products for Toddlers

The last time I’d traveled with my daughter on a plane she’d just turned one year old. Her “in-air” entertainment consisted of a teething toy before nursing to sleep. Now that she’s two I knew I’d need a bag of tricks to keep her occupied on the 5 hour flight. It appears that I packed all the right things because there was no boredom and zero tantrums on the flight! I was aiming for inexpensive and lightweight. Here’s what travel products for toddlers I packed inside her backpack.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Plastic Zoo Animal Figures – I brought a bag of these and divvied them up between my two littlest kids. Since there were so many of them and they were so inexpensive, I wasn’t worried if a camel fell on the plane floor. The kids loved lining them up on the tray table and “feeding” their animals Southwest Airlines pretzels!

Lacing Cards – My just-turned two year old might have been a little young for these but I was surprised by how long she played with them.

Disney Moana’s Necklace – This was a last-minute addition to my daughter’s travel accessories and I’m so glad I brought it. The necklace glowed when opened. She played with it frequently on the plane, showed it off to fellow travelers and used it on the trip as well.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Imagine Ink Magic Ink Coloring Book – These travel-sized “coloring books” include just one marker that does it all! No-mess, my toddler was able to scribble to her heart’s content onto the pages of the Magic Ink book with miraculously colorful results.

Stickers – My toddler happily peeled and stuck stickers for a long time. Don’t forget to bring paper or a coloring book to put the stickers in.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves (including these items that are toddler must-haves!) for your next trip. #Travel #TravelwithKids #FamilyTravel #Vacation #Toddler #ToddlerTravel

12 Secrets to Successful and Stress-free School Mornings

What are your feelings about school mornings? Maybe you and the kids are “morning people” and everyone jumps out of bed on time. But if you’re reading this, probably not! Your mornings are likely stressful and rushed. Start your day on school mornings without the stress with these 12 tips with ideas for a happier daily morning routine.

Making School Mornings Easier

I have the morning routine down pat! It wasn’t always that way…in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping, scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes, hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise! Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school…boy, was I a groggy mess!

This is an update of a post originally published on August 28th, 2014.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

12 Tips for Stress-free School Mornings

I decided I didn’t want to spend my mornings stressed out, yelling or running late. Once my kids were school age and ready for school, I implemented these secrets to successful school mornings. I’m here to tell you that having a morning routine is key to household happiness. Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. Read on for my tips to streamline your morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process. Ask me how many times my kids have been late to school and I will proudly tell you NEVER!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

1. Prep for School Mornings the Night Before

Mornings don’t start in the morning, they start the night before! Prepare as much as you can the day and night before. This way school mornings are started off in a calm manner. There isn’t any wild rushing around in search of things or trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time. Here are 7 ways that you can streamline the morning routine by prepping the night before.

2. Plan Outfits Head to Toe

Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I’ve planned my next-day wardrobe the evening before. My son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he’s dressed. But when pressed for time, some kids will have trouble choosing their outfits for the day. They may also choose weather-inappropriate things (like a sweater when it’s going to be 90 degrees!)

I work with my kids to plan outfits for the week and stack them inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. All the kids have to do in the morning is grab the next outfit and get dressed.

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

A hanging organizer for outfits.

I don’t stop wardrobe planning with the kids. Every night I decide what I’m going to wear and set it aside in my closet. I pull out my jewelry and set it on my dresser so in the morning I don’t even second guess myself, I just grab and go. Have your kids help choose their outfits on Sunday night and gather all parts (socks, underpants, accessories) so they have them together.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!


3. Everything Has a Place

No mad dash looking for anything in the morning because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before and get them in a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness! Bedrooms are tidied up and toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before.

I recommend having designated hooks and/or storage bins for school morning items. I love using a label maker so there’s no confusion on where things go.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

Backpacks – Every afternoon after school, backpacks should be cleared out. Then return all paperwork, permission slips, library books and homework to the backpack in the evening so it’s ready to grab in the morning.

Shoes – Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door.

Hair – Hair styling products like hairbrush, de-tangling spray and elastics/bows should be together so it’s easy to style in the morning. We keep all hair styling items in a bin under the bathroom sink so we can pull it all out and put it away fast.

Jackets – Jackets are on their own hook next to the backpacks.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

4. Lunches Made in Bunches

Buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags. Again individual bins are great for storage! Have separate bins for the fridge and another for the cupboards to hold school lunch items. I store cold snacks in a bin in the fridge (like cheese cubes, melon slices or carrot sticks). Dry snacks are in a bin in the cupboard (like chips and crackers, granola bars or a cookie).

The only thing I make the morning-of is the sandwich. Everything else has already been prepped so in the morning all I do is grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal.


Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

5. Set the Stage for Sleep

Sometimes I have to remind my husband that a tickle-fest right before bedtime is not going to get our kindergartner in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, reading in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower and lavender essential oil in the diffuser right before bed can also help kids relax. Read more about using essential oils in the bedtime routine.

We turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. The pace is slow and calm and our kids know what to expect, even the toddler (don’t try to skip story time!). Keeping the nightly routine the same every evening can help sleep come quickly and have kids sleeping all night in their own beds.

6. A Reasonable Bedtime

According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 6 am Monday through Friday so that means they should be going to bed no later than 8:00 pm.

With a toddler, first grader and high school aged kids in our house, we have everyone in bed around the same time each night. Bedtime is between 7:45 to 8:15 pm and no later than 9 pm on the weekends. We aim for consistency on the bedtime and the kids show the consistency in their behavior and attitudes. They hop right out of bed in the morning, aren’t groggy in the afternoons and are sleepy enough in the evenings that they put themselves to bed on time each night.

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

7. Put Yourself to Bed at a Decent Time, Too!

I’m the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed and I finally find time to myself I find myself puttering around doing nothing, reading too many Facebook posts and starting projects that really shouldn’t be started at 10:36 pm. And then I’m kicking myself in the morning when I don’t want to get up!

I’ve pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time, one that gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I’m feeling better, waking easily and am not “hitting the wall” at 2 o’clock each day any more.

8. A Restful Room is Conducive to Sleep 

A slightly cool room, comfy bedding, white noise (like a fan), darkness, and a soothing scent (like lavender) can all invite refreshing sleep. On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out.

I’ve trained my kids not to require a nightlight because if the lights are on, they are more likely to have their eyes open. If it’s very dark in the room then what’s the point of having your eyes open, there is nothing to look at…close your eyes and go to sleep!

I have more sleeping tips here from TravelingMom.


Good Morning Sunshine!

After a peaceful evening the night before and a good night’s rest, your kids will be in a better position to have a happy school morning routine. Here are my tips for nailing the morning routine and getting the kids out the door on time.

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

9. Awakening to an Alarm Clock 

If you have kids who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with an alarm clock. Looking back, if I’d used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!) I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth. The alarm clock only goes off once unless you use the snooze button. But I’ve never taught my kids what the snooze button is (they assume that the clock goes off once and that’s it…tricky me!)

If you don’t get up you’re going to be late, easy as that. When MOM is waking you, as a kid you know that she’ll keep coming back in as many times as it takes and eventually the kids and mom are trained in the wrong direction!

Are a habitual snoozer? Try to break yourself out of the habit. It’s not good quality sleep anyway. Get up right away and either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won’t be tempted to crawl back in!


10. The Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast

We never leave the house without breakfast. I’m surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don’t eat breakfast in the morning. I can’t imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach. Leave plenty of time in the morning routine to fit in a good breakfast.

I get up early enough to prepare a quick and balanced breakfast for me and the kids. This could be scrambled eggs, toast and a slice of melon. Fruit smoothies with juice, milk or soy milk are a hit. Homemade oatmeal with diced apples and cinnamon is often requested. Or if we are more rushed, a simple bowl of cereal and a banana.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

I like a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit, agave and a sprinkling of granola. I often take mine “to-go” and eat it when I get to work. Sometimes the night before I will make banana or apple nut muffins to include with breakfast.

On weekends when I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I make extras and freeze them to heat up for breakfasts during the week. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

11. Final Brushing Call: Teeth, Hair and Out the Door!

I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair because mayhem and delays tend to ensue when they attempt to share the sink! I usually give my daughter’s hair a quick style and maybe pop in a bow. We keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and detangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), we allow extra time by getting up earlier.

Give kids the 10 minute and 5 minute countdown. Ten minutes before you need them out of the house, call it out. Then repeat at 5 minutes till. We keep shoes and backpacks on a shelf in the garage so the kids grab their lunches off the counter on their way out and within a few minutes we’re in the car and on our way.

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

12. It’s Early…Know Your Limits

Don’t try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by requesting that beds be made before we leave the house. My older kids also take turns emptying the dishwasher and reloading with the breakfast dishes. If complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts are making your kids miss the bus, save them for the weekends when you have more time.

Do you have a slow-poke? Consider a timer. I’ve also been known to set the timer for my daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl; when it dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task.

If you keep finding yourself running late, set the morning alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time…there’s no harm in arriving early. Only you know where to draw the line so set the limits for your kids and it will set them up for morning success!

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings! #School #BacktoSchool #Kids #Morning

 

 

50+ Cheap and Free Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids

Just one more week until I’ll have all four of my kids home for the summer. I need a bag-of-tricks ready to keep them occupied, entertained and to avoid the dreaded, “I’m BORED”. I’ve come up with a few summer staycation ideas that I know my kids will love and remember! Sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation. The ultimate summer-on-a-budget staycation is easy on the wallet and still full of fun. It just takes a little creativity and planning.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, without any added cost to you, thanks! Updated and republished from a May 25, 2016 post

Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids

Sleeping in. No homework. Warm weather and a wide open calendar! Summer at home with the kids can be a lot of fun. I’m excited about being able to relax but also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week! My plan is to get the kids on board and schedule special at-home events on the calendar. Some of these summer staycation ideas could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to.

Tons of Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas!

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

1. Arts & Crafts Show

Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where the kids can get messy and creative.

  • Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons. Or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
  • Give everyone a Sketch Book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
  • Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or Glass Paint to decorate.
  • Make sculptures out of craft Pipe Cleaners.
  • Decorate a plain box and transform it into a keepsake box (see this post with instructions on how to make a Memento Box)

Back-To-School DIY Disney-Style Storage Box is Perfect for Storing School Supplies or Disney mementos!

  • Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
  • Using clean paint brushes and bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
  • Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
  • Pull out inexpensive Washable Watercolors and paint a scene from your backyard.
  • Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
  • Read these ideas for how to make two patriotic-themed crafts.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and Mod Podge the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
  • Make paper bag puppet and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
  • On Friday, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
Art night for a staycation with the kids {Saving up for Disney}

Oh sure, honey, it looks JUST like me!

2. Under the Big Top

After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw.  Lots of great ideas here to get you off the couch!

  • Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
  • A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
  • See who can keep multiple Hula Hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!)
  • Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Use Face Paint Crayons to paint each child’s face like a circus animal
  • Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn

3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors

  • Plant seeds into cardboard egg crates with soil. Water gently and watch them grow.
  • Take an early morning “sunrise walk”. This is especially great if you live where it’s very hot once the sun rises.
  • Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees. You could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
  • Take a walk with Flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
  • If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
  • Simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!
Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

Enjoying the sunshine with a fishing pole

4. Get Wet 

  • If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring snacks!)
  • Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
  • High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
  • Wash the car. There is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight!
  • Set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water. Kids get wet & lawn gets watered…win!
  • I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind. However sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking.
  • Little ones love to play with the watering can. Fill it up and let them water the flowers (and themselves!)

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

5. A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room

  • Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
  • Borrow movies from the library. If the library doesn’t have the movie you want, put in a request & they’ll contact you when it’s available.
  • Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
  • Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!

6. Backyard Carnival 

Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!

  • Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
  • Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
  • Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
  • Pull out the face paint for added fun!
  • Have a mini-pie eating contest.
  • Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.

7. Sweet Treats

If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.

  • A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
  • Find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
  • Make a delectable over-the-top recipe from Pinterest. Did you “nail it” or was it a Pinterest “fail”?
  • Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
  • Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
  • Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime

8. Build a Fort City

When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!

  • Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making inside.
  • Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
  • If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
  • If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
  • A quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!

9. Board Game Bonanza

One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.

  • Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
  • Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
  • Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
  • Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.

MMHasbro7


10. Host An Elegant Evening

  • Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
  • Have a pre-party pampering, including painted nails or mud-mask facials.
  • Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
  • Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
  • Serve up a Shirley Temple (7-up or Sprite with cherry juice) in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!

Looking for cheap, free and FUN ways to entertain your kids at home during their summer vacation? There are dozens of ideas that kids of all ages will love with these ultimate boredom-busting summer staycation ideas. #SummerBreak #Staycation, #FreeforKids #Summer #CraftsforKids #GamesforKids #CheapVacation #Summertime


6 Things to Do With a Toddler

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I received product and compensation from Mead Johnson Nutrition to create this post written by me. All experiences and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of Mead Johnson Nutrition. You can contact Mead Johnson Nutrition with product related questions or comments toll free at 1-800-BABY-123 (1-800-222-9123).

My third baby was my little “surprise”. Several years ago I was “lucky” enough to be laid off of my full time job. The same month, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. That’s the surprise! It all worked out for the best because now, for the first time, I’ve been able to be home with one of my children. I’m just delighted to spend time teaching her and learning everything about her. Toddlers have such fun personalities with their adorable voices, at times-indecipherable language and all that boundless energy! You know, even the little tantrums don’t bother me (too much!)

Things to Do With a Toddler

It’s been a great few years and I love how we’ve been able to connect, play and grow alongside my toddler. However there are some days when I just don’t know what to do with her! I want her to learn through communication and age-appropriate activities but it can be a challenge to know just what a toddler will enjoy. My daughter has only just turned two, so she still needs lots of supervision and parental guidance with everything. How can you keep your toddler healthy inside and out? I’ve come up with a few simple crafts, exercise activities, brain-building games and ideas for proper toddler nutrition.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

1. Creative Play & Crafts for Toddlers

Many toddlers will insist that you either play with them or at least remain with them while they’re playing. Encourage the use of toys that are “open-ended”. Classic toys like wooden blocks, vehicles, colored silk cloths and stacking cups let toddlers play creatively and in their own unique way. Here are a few suggestions for creative play and crafts to offer your toddler.

  • Finger Painting with Pudding – If your toddler keeps trying to lick off the paint, try using pudding to paint with instead. I set this up outside where I can rinse off the concrete when my daughter is done painting.
  • Indoor Tent – Set up an easy “tent” by draping a towel over two chairs or angling pillows to create a crawl space. Don’t be surprised if destroying the tent each time you set it up becomes the game!
  • Magic Mirror – Sit side by side facing a mirror and make faces. See if your toddler can mimic your expressions.
  • Sponge Stamping – Soak sponges of various sizes with water and show your toddler how to stamp them on the ground outside to leave a wet impression.
Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

Clay is a classic for toddler’s creative, open-ended play.

2. Fun Indoor Physical Exercise for Toddlers

Toddlers absolutely need physical exercise every day. If you can’t get outdoors or to the park, try these indoor exercise ideas with your toddler to help them strengthen their muscles and improve coordination.

  • Balloon Toss – Blow up a balloon and show your toddler how to tap the balloon gently with the palm of their hand to keep it in the air.
  • Stretching – The slow movements of stretching are easy for little ones to learn. Put on some peaceful music and use kid-friendly connotations like “melt to the floor like ice cream”.
  • Dance Party – Play some kid-friendly songs like the “Hokey Pokey” and “Ring Around the Rosy”. Instructional songs like these that teach the lyrics along with movements are ideal. Make up silly moves like, “wiggle like a dog after bath time” or “waddle like a penguin”.
  • Marching Band – Grab an old pot and a wooden spoon to beat out the rhythm. Teach your toddler how to march and clap and then how to synchronize both movements together.
  • Balance Beam – Tape a piece of blue painters tape on the floor and show your toddler how to walk on the line.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

3. Brain-Building Learning Games for Toddlers

Your little one probably isn’t quite ready for board games with lots of rules. Try these basic learning games that help your toddler make brain-building connections.

  • Basket Toss – Use a laundry basket and balled up socks to create a tossing game to improve coordination.
  • Bean Bag Balance – Show your toddler how to balance a bean bag on the back of their hand, their elbow, top of their foot or her head.
  • In and Out – One of my toddler’s favorite things to do is empty the kitchen drawer that holds her sipper cups and flatware. Give your toddler some kid-friendly general use items (like cleaned-out bottles in a variety of sizes with the caps removed) and a small box to let him load and unload.
  • Sing Along – Encourage toddlers to learn lyrics and sing along to a rhythm (you’re going to have to sing along yourself to facilitate this!)

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

4. Toddler Story Time

Turn off the device and television in favor of story books and snuggles. Toddler story time is a great segue between playtime and nap time. Sometimes the books that toddlers love aren’t the ones that you’re usually drawn to! If you’re bored of reading the same books over and over, head for the library to borrow new stories.

5. Restful Time for Toddlers

As much as they might protest, a proper rest and nap time is so important. Not only for your toddler but for you as well! Toddlers that have a nap schedule just seem to have better nighttime sleeping habits too.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

Start by cleaning up toys, indicating to your toddler that playtime is over. I offer a sipper cup with Enfagrow® Toddler Next Step™ and my toddler will sit on my lap while I read, and she drinks. Once I feel her relaxing, I’ll segue into singing some of her favorite songs and she’s ready to sleep. If she’s resistant to lying down in her crib, we’ll often go for a walk in the stroller instead, which usually helps her to nod off.

I’ve been flexible on the nap time lately, noticing that my toddler hasn’t been tired or doesn’t sleep as long with an earlier nap time. I’ve adjusted my nap schedule, pushing it back 90 minutes and finding that she’s falling asleep easier and sleeping longer. It’s all about watching and knowing your own child and what works for them.

Looking for fun things to do with a toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

6. Ensuring Proper Toddler Nutrition

Toddlers are fickle little people, especially when it comes to what they eat. One day they love peas and can’t get enough of them. The next day they’d rather toss peas on the floor than eat them! It can be frustrating and worrisome; when you’re concerned your toddler isn’t getting proper nutrients. My just-turned-two-year old is already a picky eater and I worry she’s not getting enough nutrition from the little amount of food she eats.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

85% of brain growth happens in the first three years of life, so help ensure your toddler is getting important DHA to help nourish this brain growth. Experts recommend that toddlers have 70-100 mg/day of DHA to support early brain and eye development, but most toddlers only get 25% of the recommended amount of DHA, leaving a gap in their nutrition. The main source for DHA is fish and unfortunately many toddlers refuse to eat fish. Most of the foods that appeal to toddlers (like cereal, cheese, bananas, regular milk, chicken nuggets, mac & cheese) have 0 mg of DHA.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

I was excited to find out about Enfagrow® Toddler Next Step™. Enfagrow Toddler is a milk-based drink ideal for kids aged 1-3 years. It has DHA and complements a toddler’s diet to help ensure good nutrition for their changing needs and tastes. I had no idea that there was a product available that has DHA for toddlers! And my little girl absolutely loves the Enfagrow Toddler, she sips it right up!

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

Enfagrow Toddler is available in a convenient 32 fl oz. liquid bottle and 32 oz. powder can. Visit Enfagrow.com to learn more about Enfagrow Toddler, to receive coupons and to request free samples.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD

This is sponsored by Enfagrow® Toddler Next Step™.

16 Ways to Surprise Your Kids (and Tips for When a Surprise Goes Bad)

SURPRISE!! You’re plotting and planning out the perfect way to surprise your kids. Maybe it’s a surprise party with all his friends for a milestone birthday. Or you’re surprising a kid with their first cell phone. I bet it’s a surprise Disney vacation!! That’s always fun, right? Ehh, maybe? Kids can be surprisingly sensitive and emotional about things that aren’t a part of their usual routine. As I’m sure you already know, sometimes the slightest thing can set off a kid’s mood. And that goes for surprises, no matter how amazing that surprise is. Surprises can make some kids cry. Or get mad. Or even be embarrassed or disappointed.

I have the tested and tried tips to surprise your kids, how to handle things when a surprise goes bad and some simply sweet ways to surprise your children.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way (without any additional cost to you). Thank you!

The Good and Bad of Surprising Kids

Last week, my daughter’s junior high school teacher sent me an email to let me know that my daughter would be receiving an award. My first question back to the teacher was, “Did you tell her she’s getting the award? We can’t make it a surprise”.

See, I’ve learned over the years that my daughter isn’t the kind of kid who enjoys surprises. Getting called up in front of her classmates to stand on stage and have the teacher offer a glowing review? That would be akin to facing the firing squad for this easily-embarrassed 14-year old. Several years back her 6th grade teacher insisted on surprising her with an award and the poor child stood in front of her schoolmates, crying openly. The teacher felt badly. And now we know: surprises just aren’t the best idea for this child.

Is there ever a good time to surprise kids? Should certain surprises be allowed? Is it a rite of passage to surprise kids and let them deal with it, even if it might upset them?

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Is a surprise birthday party ever a good idea?

WHY Do You Want to Surprise Your Child?

Whether is a surprise trip or a birthday surprise party, the temptation to plan a huge SURPRISE for kids is strong! The question you need to ask is “Why”? If you think that the surprise adds to the celebration, then go forward (after reading the rest of the cautions in this post!). But if the surprise is just your way of sharing the information then the actual event should stand on its own. Don’t diminish the celebration by tacking on the surprise beginning unless it’s adding that-much-more to the emotional punch. And if you think that your child can appropriately handle the surprise as well.

Who’s In On the Surprise?

Secret keeping. Little white lies. Sneaking. It can be hard to keep a surprise a secret. More often than not, the person getting surprised starts getting an uneasy feeling that something fishy is going on. If your surprise relies on being overly sneaky or telling your child a lie, you may want to rethink the surprise plan. No child wants that awkward feeling when the truth is revealed. And many kids won’t appreciate that you planned something special without them. They may have hurt feelings knowing that you were keeping secrets with their teacher/grandparent/friends behind their back. It won’t matter to them the reasoning, they may be upset all the same.

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

A surprise trip to the beach after church was a welcome respite.

Know Your Child Before You Plan a Surprise

My 6-year old son is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. I could surprise him with just about anything and he’d go joyfully right along with it. I’ve surprised him with a Disneyland trip and he was just delighted. But not every kid is like that.

In fact, most kids (and some adults) are the opposite. Many kids need ample time to process before an event. Only you truly know your child and how they will react to a surprise. There’s no point in planning what’s supposed to be a FUN event and then having the initial reaction put a damper on the celebration.

Easing Kids Into Surprises

Not sure how your child will react to a surprise? Start small with little surprises and see how it goes. Little changes in the regular routine can help your kids to be more flexible. Try something like, “Today we’re doing something different! We’re doing/going to….” and then surprise them with something that’s unusual for your normal schedule. Make it something that your kid usually enjoys, like the park, library, movies, play date, picnic, baking cupcakes, etc. See how your child reacts to the change in routine and you’ll be able to gauge how they’ll react to a bigger surprise.

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Everyone’s in the car, but the destination is a surprise!

Surprises That Involve Friends

The very essence of a surprise is the reaction that it ensues. The reaction from your child after a surprise could be a squeal of excitement. It could also be embarrassment or overwhelming emotions that can’t be contained. And no child wants to cry in front of their friends.

What to Do Instead

While a surprise birthday party with your child’s entire class might sound like a blast to you, this may be incredibly overwhelming for your kid. Instead of a surprise, involve your child in the planning process so they have more control over the events. If you REALLY want to create a surprise that includes friends, choose carefully. Invite only one or two very close friends that are more like family.

Some kids even feel awkward opening gifts in front of their friends. The uncomfortable feeling of not knowing “What’s inside?!” and then having to gauge a proper response in front of a crowd can make some kids upset. Consider opening gifts after the party if your child can’t handle the surprise element of opening gifts in front of their friends.

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Disneyland or Walt Disney World Surprise

Living just 90 minutes from Disneyland, I’ve had my share of Disneyland surprise vacations. I have a vivid memory of my parents surprising us with a Disney day instead of going to school. I was about ten years old and the surprise was great! I’ve also surprised my son on his birthday with a Disneyland trip. We go to Disney frequently so he was familiar and excited about the day trip. And I think that’s the key. He’d been to Disneyland before so the place, events, rides, etc wasn’t a surprise; just the fact that we were going was the surprise. But once I surprised him with the day’s plans, he was thrilled because he knew what to expect when we got there.

My friend and fellow blogger Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth suggests that parents Don’t Do a Surprise Disneyland Trip. Jessica brings up some great points, including my favorite – Kids should be involved in the Disney vacation planning. I’m totally against making your very first Disney vacation a complete surprise. I always cringe when I hear about parents taking their kids to the airport and getting on a plane to Disney when the kids don’t know where they’re headed. If your kids have been before a surprise may go over better because they know what to expect. But if it’s your first time, I recommend letting kids get involved in the planning before the trip.

A surprise birthday Disneyland trip for my son’s 5th birthday. It went over well because he’s been to Disneyland before.

Disney Vacation Surprise Twists

You can still make the vacation a surprise, if it’s handled in a delicate way. There are tons of cute ways to surprise the kids at home, several months ahead of your trip. If you’re planning a Disney vacation, I recommend ordering the Disney Video Planning Guide (it’s FREE!). Watch it together as a family and plan your trip.

CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE DISNEY VACATION PLANNING VIDEO

Then check out these other tips:

Is surprising your kids with a Disney vacation ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids! #Disney #Surprise #TravelwithKids #DisneyWorld #Disneyland #FamilyTravel #TravelPlanning #Positiveparenting



Time to Let the News Soak In

Don’t think that you can’t EVER surprise your kids! Surprises are ultimately changes in what’s expected. Kids absolutely need to learn how to be flexible, how to roll-with-the-punches and how to adjust to change. But there are ways of doing a surprise that honors your child’s personality, doesn’t embarrass them and also builds their trust in you.

Make a Surprise Announcement

Instead of making the surprise happen right then and there, make the announcement the surprise. Avoid putting kids “on the spot” by making surprise announcements at home without an audience.

To Video or Not?

I know you may want to video the surprise but we all know kids act weird when we turn on the camera! Consider hiding the camera to show them the video later (and only share if you have their consent).

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Surprise, we bought you a new bike!

Allow Time Between the Announcement and the Event

Processing thoughts and feelings can take some kids time. Personally for my kids, I try to inform them several months before a trip. This allows us to discuss the plans over and over, to talk about our activities, meals and schedule. Fortunately we’ve never had any travel meltdowns and I know that pre-vacation prep is a big part of that reason. When we know what to expect, we can relax and know what’s going to happen next.

When a Surprise Goes Bad

So what happens if a surprise goes badly? Your son screamed when you surprised him with the announcement that he’s going to be a big brother. Maybe your preschooler cried when you said you were going to Disneyland? And your daughter had a total meltdown when you threw her a surprise birthday party.

Resist the urge to admonish a child for their poor reaction. It can be difficult to contain our own disappointment when things do go as we planned! But your child doesn’t want to hear about how much your trip costs, how much work you put into the surprise, etc etc. They just need your reassurance.

A silent hug goes a long way towards comforting your child. Consider pulling them away to a quiet area where they can process and calm down. Later, you can discuss what happened and talk about why you wanted to surprise them.

Fun Ways to Surprise Your Kids

Little surprises are a wonderful way to show love and playfulness. These simple and sweet surprises will surely delight all children.

  • Host a board game night
  • Serve breakfast in bed
  • Put loose change inside the pocket of their jacket
  • Get out the art/craft supplies on a whim
  • Print out favorite photos of you and your kids and tape them onto their bedroom wall
  • Send them a letter in the mail
  • Cook their favorite dinner without telling them
  • Make a treat for after-dinner dessert

Pistachio pudding is a special surprise treat for my kiddo

  • Have a spontaneous dance party! Put on music and just start moving.
  • Serve their after school snack on a fancy plate
  • Take the kids to the park after school instead of heading straight home
  • Leave a note next to their plate
  • Build a fort in the living room to greet them when they wake up on a weekend
  • Create a treasure hunt at home for a small prize
  • Build a reading nook (a pile of pillows in a corner with a stack of books will suffice)
  • Rent a new movie to surprise them with on a Friday night

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids! #Surprise #PositiveParenting #Family #Kids #Parenting #SpecialNeeds

 

Restaurant Hacks for Kids That Make Eating Out Easier

Eating out with kids can be an ordeal. You just want an enjoyable meal but often feel rushed and busy cutting food, entertaining the kids and wiping up messy faces (all while trying to eat a hot meal yourself!) What if you have a picky eater and have to pack food that they’ll actually eat? Then there’s the potential for mess. A BIG mess. Is it better just to eat at home? I like to eat out, especially when traveling, but sometimes I dread it with all the kids! Here are my travel dining hacks for kids, including products that can make eating out with kids easier!

I received free product for several of the items mentioned in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Please note that I include affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you.

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

How to Take Young Kids to a Restaurant – Travel Dining Hacks for Kids

To be fully honest, when we’re at home we don’t really eat out in restaurants very often. Restaurant dining with kids is reserved for times when we’re traveling and far from our kitchen. Being able to enjoy a special meal out is something we don’t do often, but absoutely plan for when we travel. Since we have a toddler, kindergartener and two teens, I have a bag of tricks to keep them entertained and happy until the food arrives! (Hint: This doesn’t have to include electronic devices, keep reading!) I’ve included my travel dining hacks for kids with lots of tips on eating out as well as the must have travel items for babies, big kids and toddlers when restaurant dining is in your plans.

Choosing the Best Restaurants for Kids

Sure, you can take your kid to just about any restaurant you want, but do you really want to? I know I don’t want to eat in a fancy place with my noisy toddler and feel like I’m needing to shush her every 2 seconds when she uses her “outside” voice indoors! Personally when I’m eating in a restaurant with my kids I choose a place that might be just a bit more noisy and more on the casual side.

Before you step inside, check out the ambiance and weigh whether you think it’s a good place for your kiddos. Second, peek at the menu. If there’s something there that your kids will eat, then proceed! If you have a picky eater in the family, see my post with practical dining tips for at home or on the road.

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

What to Order Kids in a Restaurant?

When we go out to eat (which isn’t very often), we usually encourage the kids to order something they don’t usually eat at home. Why get buttered spaghetti noodles when you can order steak and baked potato with all the fixings?!

My middle son always orders chicken nuggets and fries because we simply don’t feed him that at home. For him, that’s his special restaurant meal. I’m not going to spend dinner out arguing with him to try something new, especially if I may get push back. Restaurant dining isn’t the time to pressure your kids. And if nuggets and fries is something he’ll eat (and usually finish!) then that’s what I let him order!

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

Give ’em what they want! If ordering nuggets & fries will get them to eat, then so be it!

1. Table Covers Keep Food From Touching Dirty Tables

If you’ve been eating out with kids before, you know that the food doesn’t always stay on the plate. In fact, if given a plate of food my two-year old will immediately dump all the contents directly onto the table! Instead of giving your toddler an entire plate to herself, dole out a few pieces here and there to minimize mess. I use disposable table covers so I know her food stays away from germs.

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

The moment right before the pizza hit the table – thank goodness for the disposable table cover!

2. Portable High Chair for Babies and Toddlers

Dirty restaurant highchair? Skip toting around the bulky cover and consider the Totseat Chair Harness. Quickly convert a regular chair into a secure seat for babies on the go.

3. Drink Up! Kid’s Travel Cups That Are Easy to Clean

My baby daughter used to make the biggest mess when she tried to drink out of a cup. She never grasped how to drink out of a bottle and drinking from a sippy cup had been equally challenging. Fortunately she learned how to drink out of a straw very early on. But that still didn’t minimize the mess (she tended to let whatever she doesn’t swallow dribble down her chin!)

When we went on vacation, I brought along a set of Silikids Siliskin Silicone Sippy Tops. These silicone tops stretch over your own cup, turning it into a child-friendly sipper. While in the hotel room, I was able to convert a small drinking glass into a sippy cup for milk. And when taking her in the stroller, I placed a Siliskin Sippy Top onto a plastic cup filled with water.

The Siliskin Sippy Top has tiny holes that do not leak out liquid. The child has to gently bite on the top and suck to drink. This made it much less of a mess because my daughter only took in what she was swallowing. I really liked having these on-the-go to convert any cup into a sipper. They are dishwasher and microwave safe, though I just washed by hand in the hotel bathroom sink.

I also have the Silikids Siliskin Silicone Straw Cup. I’ve always been hesitant to purchase sippy cups with straws because of the cleaning aspect (tiny parts are challenging to get totally clean, even in the dishwasher).

This cup is only three simple parts and all can be boiled in water to sanitize. The straw is really quite big for my toddler daughter to use but my preschooler drinks from it perfectly (and I don’t have to worry about spills in the car).

4. Entertaining Ideas for Baby

I’ve taken my baby on a few trips by myself, including traveling alone to Walt Disney World. If you don’t have extra hands, make sure to pack a few things that will make your dining experience more enjoyable. A few toys for entertaining baby and a clever strap that keeps the bottle or sippy cup from falling to the floor.

If your baby is in the loud screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs phase request a seat on the patio where the extra noise may be better absorbed. If Disney is your destination, check out this post with additional tips for dining with a baby.

5. Keep ‘Em Clean with Disposable Bibs

Other than taking extra clothes with you (always a good idea anyway, I guess), a bib is the best way to keep clothes clean when eating out with kids. A disposable bib is even better! Pop it on, fold in the bottom to catch any food that falls and then toss it when done with the meal. So much better than toting around crusty clothes!

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

Disposable bibs are a must in my travel bag!

6. Best Travel Snack Ideas for Kids

Despite your best efforts for choosing kid-friendly restaurants, some kids just won’t eat. Consider packing in a few of their favorite snacks that you know they’ll eat. I like the b. box Snack Pack. There are two separate compartments. And it comes with a child-sized utensil that snaps in to the lid!

In between meals or while on the road, try the Munchkin Snack Catcher. I use it in the car with my toddler and big kids! You can fill it up with an age-appropriate snack (fishy crackers for little ones, trail mix for older kids). This really helps to minimize spills and mess in the car when they drop it (because you know they will!)If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

7. Kid’s Restaurant Busy Bag (Aka: The Device-Free Dinner)

We went to a restaurant a few years ago and before my kids were even in their seats they were each handed an electronic tablet to play games. We weren’t even asked by the waitress if it was okay. Our kids don’t use devices at home so naturally it was a special occasion. Was the wait for the meal really quiet? Yep. They had their noses pressed against the screens the entire time, silently playing their individual games.

There are times that having the devices come in handy during travel (like on a boring road trip). But for me personally, I’m not a fan of having electronics at the dinner table. We let our kids play with them at this particular restaurant for about ten minutes before removing them and asking the waitress to take them away. My husband and I enjoy chatting with our kids together and while it was certainly quiet, it didn’t connect us as a family to have the kids playing games alone. However do what you have to do – if the kids are bickering and all you want is 10 quiet minutes, then maybe letting the kids use a device is what you need to do.

Waiting for food to arrive can make young diners impatient. Some restaurants will offer paper and crayons but not all. Consider having a restaurant “busy bag” to occupy kids. The contents inside the bag can be items that the entire family would enjoy. Supply a grab-bag of goodies to keep kids entertained while you wait. Here are a few mess-free ideas for different age ranges, from babies to big kids! Grown ups, set your phones down and pick up one of these family favorites.


If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families! #Restaurant #TravelWithKids #FamilyTravel #EatingOut #Dining

How to Encourage Creativity in Kids

When I was growing up in the 70s, art supplies were always made available to me at home. I had tons of drawing paper, colored construction paper and crayons. I remember raiding my mom’s stock of paper lunch bags so I could make puppets and put on a show. You should have seen the mess in my bedroom! My desk was always littered with art supplies and the floor was sprinkled with bits of cut paper, colored pencil shavings and crayon wrappers. I was a creative slob, for sure. But I was too busy with my art to clean up – I had things to draw, projects to make, art to get on paper!

Last week I was helping my kindergartner craft a Valentine’s box for school. I helped him cover a cereal box with construction paper and we talked about the design he wanted. He wanted to make his box look like a hotel and have windows that opened to reveal a heart inside. I made the first one and then was called away by one of my other kids. This boy knows his way around scissors and a glue stick, so I left him to complete the project. And he handily did so, making several other hearts and windows himself. He was beaming when he showed me his completed project!

Unlike my cluttered bedroom in the 70s, my kids don’t have a space inside the house for art. The six of us live in a very small home so my kids have a desk in the garage for projects. And I definitely make sure that we have a nice supply of art tools at their use. It’s important to me that my kids stay creative. My creativity is definitely a big part of the fabric of my personality!

Why is It Important to Encourage Creativity in Kids?

Art allows for healthy exploration. Kids can safely experiment with art supplies in a way that results in a satisfying end product. Art allows children to have emotional freedom as a way of expressing personality, thoughts and feelings.

Figure out what kind of creative outlet is best for your child. Does you child enjoy the textile feeling of paint on canvas or chalk on textured paper? Or does your kid like building with LEGOS or K’Nex as their method of creativity? What about photography, writing, modeling clay or sewing? There’s a creative thing for each child and it’s fun to experiment with everything to help them find their niche.

I’m sharing 7 ways you can encourage creativity in your kids.

Looking for fun ways to encourage creativity in kids? These 7 ideas allow for freedom of expression in inexpensive and easy ways!

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I was compensated for this post.

1. Encourage Messes (and Reasonable Clean Up!)

A mess is often the result of creative expression. Getting messy is often how kids get deeply into the creative process (think fingerpaint, glitter and glue!) A mess is okay and kids should feel comfortable with getting messy while creating. When hindered by worry about getting messy, children won’t be as creative so make sure they know it’s okay to get a little messy.

Obviously you’ll need to set up an area for messy art making. Use art drop cloth on the floor, washable table coverings, wear old clothing and use easy-to-clean art supplies. If your child loves LEGO building have an area that they can work on projects without having to put everything away each day.

When art time is over, kids should be made clear on the clean up aspect. Kids of all ages should be able to assist with cleaning up their mess. Even a toddler can learn how to swish paintbrushes in clean water to wash off the extra paint.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

2. Replace Screens with Art Supplies

There are only so many hours in the day. Would you rather your child’s hours be filled with aimless internet games and TV shows or brain-stimulating creative activities? Limit screen time and encourage art and creativity instead. Consider being a good example as well by setting down your phone and picking up a pencil or paint brush!

Looking for fun ways to encourage creativity in kids? These 7 ideas allow for freedom of expression in inexpensive and easy ways!

3. Dress the Colors of the Rainbow

                                               

Allowing your child to choose their own clothing and accessories is a way for them to express creativity! Clothing that is comfortable, colorful and fun allows kids to express their personality in what they wear. Gymboree is encouraging kids to “follow your art” with clothing that is inspired by creativity. These bright and playful springtime outfits have so much style. And the high quality and great price you can always expect from Gymboree. Click through to see what’s on sale and find out how to get free shipping on your Gymboree order.

                              

 

4. Give them the Artistic Resources

Having the proper tools on hand is essential to the creative process. Go through the supplies you already have and see what your child could use creatively. Bits of fabric, scrapbook paper and ribbon might not look like enough to you, but for a child they could make their own greeting cards with these supplies.

Organize the basics like glue sticks, crayons, colored pencils, scissors and craft paper into storage bins for easy access. Extra items like watercolor paint, gel pens, modeling clay and paint brushes can go into additional bins.

Visit Crayola for special savings on all the best art supplies you need for your crafts!Looking for fun ways to encourage creativity in kids? These 7 ideas allow for freedom of expression in inexpensive and easy ways!

5. It’s About the Process, Not the End Result

For toddlers and younger children, art is not about the final result. They couldn’t care less if their artwork looks like it went through a tornado – they’re PROUD of it!! And you should be too. For little kids, creativity is about the process. It’s in the touching and textiles. It’s in the fine motor skills of holding a crayon, drawing a line or cutting with scissors. Don’t worry about what their project looks like because your young kids don’t care.

Looking for fun ways to encourage creativity in kids? These 7 ideas allow for freedom of expression in inexpensive and easy ways!

6. Put Art on Display

While your littest ones don’t really care about the end result, you can believe that older kids who put lots of attention into the process want the best results! And that means your attention to what they’ve created. So if they’ve written a poem, painted a picture, or even just glued cotton balls to a piece of construction paper, put that art on display!

Find a clever way to show off your children’s artistic abilities, even if it’s a magnet on the fridge. I love the idea of a clothesline with rotating art work. We had this wire with tiny magnets in my daughter’s room so she could change things out as she wished. Save a few favorites in a bin each year (don’t forget to write the date on it somewhere!)

Looking for fun ways to encourage creativity in kids? These 7 ideas allow for freedom of expression in inexpensive and easy ways!

7. There Are No “Mistakes” in Art

One of the best rules of thumb to keep in mind when encouraging creativity in children – Art doesn’t have MISTAKES. Kids should feel comfortable creating what they feel without repercussion of doing it “wrong”. No helicopter parenting here. Even if you don’t like what your kids are making or you feel like they could be doing it another way, it’s important in this case to hold your tongue. Being creative is UNIQUE. Let your children be creative without your input, offering only encouragement and praise. You’ll see how their creativity will bloom!

Looking for fun ways to encourage creativity in kids? These 7 ideas allow for freedom of expression in inexpensive and easy ways!

7 Inexpensive and Lovable Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids

Kids really do get into the Valentine’s Day spirit of love and friendship. Maybe it’s the classroom Valentine’s card exchange at school. Maybe it’s the warm and fuzzy feeling woven throughout the month. But more likely it’s the sweet candy and treats! Okay, let’s give children a little more credit. While the school parties and special desserts are fun, I think that kids just naturally love to LOVE. And Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to express that.

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids

I’m sharing some fun Valentine’s ideas for your kids. These 7 ideas will give you inexpensive and lovable ways to share the holiday with your kids. And so not to leave out the littles, I’ve included Valentine’s Day ideas for toddlers, too. There are also some real, memorable ways to create a deeper connection with your kids (with this holiday as the reason to begin a step in that direction).

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

My son was SO proud of his handmade Valentine! I have it in my keepsake box 🙂

1. Family Card Exchange

So the kids have already exchanged cards and treats with friends at school. Creating homemade cards for family members is a great way to show off creativity and love (especially for little siblings that don’t yet go to school). No need to be perfect, just let the feelings fly.

A simple construction paper card with a sweet sentiment inside is so meaningful. A new box of customized Crayola crayons will encourage the creativity! Draw a picture or paste a photo inside for an added touch. These are the memories to hold in your heart forever. I still cherish the handmade card that my son made for me so many years ago.

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

2. Valentine’s Day Breakfast

No need to go crazy – even just doing one thing out of the ordinary will make it a special meal to kick start Valentine’s Day. Doughnuts are always a welcome treat in my book! Sprinkle chocolate chips on the pancake batter in the shape of a heart. Add red food coloring to a glass of milk to make a “pink drink”. I love this idea of cutting fruit into heart shapes for the ultimate Valentine’s Day fruit salad!

Click the image to see more on Pinterest! 

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

Watermelon Heart Salad from A Designer Life

3. Perform a Loving Act

Just like kids love to give presents at Christmas, they enjoy the giving of their affections on Valentine’s Day as well. This is a great time to show your kids different ways of loving. We can show our love for all people with service, including volunteering to help others. Start with your church or ask in your local community for ways that your children can help.

Here’s a super cute loving act that kids would enjoy – making a Valentine’s Day birdfeeder to hang in a tree. Bet the birdies would love it!

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Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely. Valentine’s Day Birdfeeders from Wine and Glue

4. A Lovable Outfit or Accessory

Let kids wear their heart on their sleeve (literally!)

ShopDisney has some adorable Valentine’s Day tees. There are also sweet love-themed accessories that can be worn all-year round, like these cute socks and Mickey & Minnie Love Alex and Ani bangles (perfect for tween and teen girls!)

Before I had a million kids, I used to make them a special shirt for every holiday! They really loved wearing their handcrafted creations. If you have a sewing machine and basic skills, you can put together this adorable Valentine’s Day heart tee in about two hours. Click through for the DIY tutorial.

5. Valentine’s Homemade Crafts

Take the time to sit down and create something together with your kids this season. Okay, so I haven’t gotten into the make-your-own slime thing but I know that kids LOVE it! There are lots of other crafty things you can do with the kids during Valentine’s. This paper heart wreath is adorable (and what kid doesn’t love to wield the stapler!) Best part? Totally mess-free!!

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Paper Heart Wreath tutorial from hello, Wonderful

6. Read a Loving Story Together

My littlest kids especially love to snuggle with mom and dad to read stories. Those are special memories for sure.

A Valentine’s Day themed book (like our favorite, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch) is a great bedtime read-aloud for young elementary.

My baby daughter thinks that this book, Disney Baby I Love You This Much! is the best.

Tweens and teens may love having a journal for writing down their thoughts (since actually expressing them outloud might prove to be too challenging!) There’s a plain version (JAM Paper Notebook with Elastic Band) and also one with an embossed heart (Writing Journal with Gold Heart).

7. Give Your Child the Gift of YOU

Ever read about the The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts? There are additional books in this series that help you to love children and teens more deeply. I can’t think of a better Valentine’s gift from a parent to a child than your time, your attention and a deeper and more connected love!

Looking for a few more ideas? You might like this post about Cheap Ideas for Valentine’s Day!

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.