June 20th, 2017

A Reminder About Water Safety

A Reminder About Water Safety

It’s summer, kids are out of school, and lots of people are looking to cool off in the water, whether it’s in their own pool, a community pool, lake, the ocean, or whatever.

I’d just like to take a moment to remind everyone to keep things safe for your family in and around the water. We had a minor scare ourselves a few years ago, and the only reason it was minor is because I was paying attention when my youngest fell into my inlaws pool. Still really scary, even though I had her out of the water almost as fast as she fell into it.

Our situation was kind of classic. I was following her as she kicked a ball around the pool. Not right along the edge, but the yard isn’t so big that she could kick the ball well away from it, so I was keeping a sharp eye on the activity. When the ball went straight into the pool on one kick, she ran after it without hesitation and fell in.

My husband, in the shallow end of the pool, did not hear the splash as our daughter fell in. He did hear my scream, and swam over just in case I didn’t get her right away, and was able to help comfort the both of us as I held a rather terrified little girl. She was only under water for a moment because I had been right there watching her.

Still, I think about how easily things could have gone wrong. One of the other kids could have distracted me at the wrong moment, completely innocently. I had scolded my oldest for splashing water at me just minutes before, in fact, telling her I was not to be distracted from watching her younger sister.

This accident had quite an impact on my youngest. She had been excessively bold around the pool before she fell in. Immediately after, she wouldn’t go near the pool without an escort, which honestly was a good thing. I had often said that she needed more watching than my older kids, and after this accident, many family members finally agreed with me.

It took years for her to get over the fear of water she had from this fall. Her first swim lessons were a Mommy & Me type, and she screamed so much they almost kicked us out of the class because she was scaring the other kids.

Her first classes alone the following year went only a little better. She still didn’t want to put her face in the water at all, and really didn’t want to be in class. I kept her in classes because friends and family members do have pools, making them a necessity for her safety.

These days, she doesn’t swim as well as her siblings did at the same age, but she does swim. We don’t have the same amount of pool access we did back when she had her accident – my inlaws have moved into a smaller house that doesn’t have a pool.

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

One of the big things to remember is that drowning doesn’t look like drowning. It’s much quieter than movies would have you think.

We also had a close call with my oldest once, a competent swimmer at the time. I noticed she was in distress and alerted my husband, who was right by her. He thought she was fine until I yelled at him, and then he helped her out. She had gotten a cramp in her side and just couldn’t move almost at all. He was upset that she hadn’t called out until I explained to him why she couldn’t. She was in tears, but otherwise fine afterward, and took a break from swimming until she felt better later in the day. No big deal in the end, but if I hadn’t noticed and hadn’t read an article on what drowning looks like fairly recently before that, it could have been bad.

Keep Your Family Safe Around the Pool or Other Bodies of Water

PoolSafety.gov says that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4. That’s awful, and so many drownings and other submersion accidents can be avoided if an adult is paying attention.

The usual advice is to have an adult watching the kids in the pool at all times, and that’s an excellent idea. I would add that having one adult paying attention to each younger swimmer or child too young to swim well probably wouldn’t hurt either. I can watch all three of my kids swimming, now that they can all swim, but it was difficult to watch all of them back when my youngest couldn’t swim on her own.

PoolSafety.gov has some other simple pool safety measures you should consider if you have a pool in your yard. It’s vital that kids who live in a home with a pool learn to swim, for example. I enroll my kids at least once every summer in swimming lessons as soon as they’re old enough, and continue until they’ve gone through all the levels. It’s not a guarantee that they won’t drown, but since they have both friends and relatives who have backyard pools, it’s a basic safety measure I consider very much worth adding to my summer budget.

If possible, also consider having a separate fence around the pool, so young children cannot easily get into the pool even if they’re in the yard. A pool fence is not a guarantee kids won’t sneak into the pool area, but it slows them down. A pool alarm may also be a good idea. In general, anything you can do to keep the kids away from the pool without adults, or to alert adults if anyone goes into it, is a good idea. Just don’t trust any solution entirely, as kids are sneaky sometimes.

I feel so fortunate that our accident was so minor. My daughter was scared, not hurt, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

June 14th, 2017

20 Free Or Cheap Activities For Families During The Summer

When the kids get out of school for the summer, you want to be sure they do more than sit about at home watching one screen or another. The trouble is that things add up really fast if you have to spend much money on them. It’s a big help to know in advance what free and cheap activities are available in your area for your family.

I write various summer activities on our calendar if they take place on a given day or week. This makes it easier to remember what’s coming up. I tell the kids it’s their job to check the calendar and make sure I remember the things they really want to do.

Go Play With Friends

I’m putting this one first because this doesn’t happen enough for my kids or many of their friends. They’re so busy with organized activities, that they don’t often get to just go play with friends. Some of the issue for my kids is that none of their friends are in the neighborhood, and there are very few kids in the neighborhood at all.

Don’t plan everything your kids are going to do this summer. Let them make plans with friends or decide to head over to a friend’s house to see if they can play.

Movies In The Park

Many communities do free movies in the park once a week or so during the summer. These are usually free. The city we live in does them on Wednesday nights in the park, and the same movie on Thursday nights at the pool. I prefer the park, as it’s easier to let the kids run around. Check your city’s website to find out what happens in your area. The movies start once it’s dark enough for everyone to see the screen clearly.

You may need to get there early to get a good seat, and you will probably need to bring your own blanket or chairs to sit on. If it gets cool in your area on summer nights after the sun goes down, bring jackets or blankets to keep warm. Younger children may fall asleep if the movies run much past their bedtimes.

I also make sure to post on my kids’ class Facebook page when we’re going to a movie at the park, because it’s a great way to meet up with friends over the summer. Other parents don’t have to promise to go, but the kids have so much fun seeing which friends show up for each movie. They’ll share snacks, play until the movie starts, and snuggle up if it’s cool after the sun sets.

Cheap Movies At The Movie Theater

A lot of movie theaters now run children’s movies during the summer for a low price. They’re generally in the morning, and tickets should be about $1-2. The movie selection varies from fairly recent children’s movies to older selections such as The Wizard of Oz. Check your local theater’s website to see if they have any to offer and for ticket prices.

Summer Concerts

Communities may also do summer concerts in the park. Once again, you should be able to find out about these on your city’s website. As they don’t need to wait for darkness to begin, these may not run as late as movies in the park.

Summer Reading Programs

Many libraries offer summer reading programs to encourage kids and teens to read. They may offer prizes, and there may be special activities and crafts at the library as well. Check with your local library to learn what they offer.

Barnes and Noble offers kids a free book if they read at least eight books and record them in the Reading Journal. The free books the kids can choose from are listed on the journal.

Kids Bowl Free

If there’s a bowling alley in your area, they may participate in the Kids Bowl Free program. Check the website to find out. You will probably need to pay for shoe rental, but kid can have up to two free games a day.

Splash Pads

Many kids love to play in the water on hot summer days. When you don’t have a pool of your own, and the community pool admission adds up too fast, a splash pad can be a fun option. Water shoots up or sprays down on the kids from various items.

Some splash pads are free to use, while others charge admission.

Summer Food Service Program

No Kid Hungry is a program which serves free lunches to kids 18 years and under at approved sites during the summer. There’s no paperwork required – just show up. Any child can use this program, regardless of financial need, although the hope is that kids who get free or reduced lunch at school during the school year can make it to these sites so they continue to get free lunches during the summer.

To find a site, you can visit the program page on the USDA site, or text FOOD to 877877. Check to see what time each location serves lunch.

Local Playgrounds

Are there any playgrounds near you? Your kids may have a lot of fun playing at them. As they get older, encourage them to range more widely so they get more independent, and consider when they’re old enough to go to a park without you. Kids need to develop independence, and this is one way they will enjoy doing so when it’s appropriate for their age and your area.

Ride Bikes

Riding bikes is a great physical activity for the whole family. You can ride around your neighborhood, around local parks, or run quick errands on a bike. Once again, let them ride around on their own when they’re old enough, responsible enough, and you’re comfortable that your area is safe enough.

Go Geocaching

You can use a GPS enabled device, such as your smartphone, to find geocaches in your area or anywhere you go. You share your finds with the geocache community, and can make your own caches.

Free Admission Days At Museums

While admission to many museums can add up quickly, many offer free days, or are even free regularly. The California Science Center, for example, always has free admission, although there is a fee for parking, movies and special events. There’s still a lot to do there for free.

Check the websites of any museums you would like to go to and see when their free days are.

If you have an EBT card, you may be able to find museums in your area which participate in Museums For All, which gives free or discounted admission to families in the EBT program. Fees can currently range from free to $3 for museums participating in this program.

Work On A Skill Or Project

Each of my kids picks a skill or project each summer they want to work on. This gives me something to tell them to do any time I hear the words “I’m bored.” Mostly they want to make videos for YouTube, and I have rules for them about whether they can show faces, use real names, etc. They also have looked at improving artistic skills, learning to solder and much more.

Home Depot Kids Workshops

Home Depot offers workshops for kids to build small projects. The kits change each week and are free. You may be able to register online, but drop ins are usually welcome so long as there are enough kits. Classes are the first Saturday of each month. Parents must remain with their children. They also have workshops for adults, so if you see something you would like to learn, sign up for it.

Summer Code-A-Thon

Tynker offers a Summer Code-A-Thon to kids with free memberships to their site. It’s a 10 week program with a new project every week. Kids get certificates for completing projects, and the top projects each week get a t-shirt. Child accounts must have a connected parent account to participate.

YouthSpark Programs At Microsoft Stores

If there’s a Microsoft store in your area, your kids may be able to participate in free YouthSpark courses. Activities vary by the ages of your children. Parents must remain in the store for the duration of the event – these are not drop off classes.

Apple Camp

If you have an Apple store in your area, you may be able to sign your kids up for Apple Camp. It’s for ages 8-12, and is three 90 minute sessions. Kids choose their track from what is offered, and spend their time at the camp working on their project.

Use Educational Websites And Learning Games

If you want to work on academics over the summer, make sure it’s fun for your kids. They do forget a lot of what they learn over the summer, making it important to help them use their skills during their break, but this time should be a break.

There are fun sites for kids to keep working on their math skills, for example. My youngest loves The Prodigy Game. It’s a lot more fun for her than the math sites they use through school, although their accounts for those may be available over the summer as well. The basic account for The Prodigy Game is free, but don’t be surprised if your child wants a paid membership to access the extras.

Volunteer

Some places will allow families to volunteer with their children. My kids and I volunteer year round at a local animal shelter, for example. While many animal shelters only allow older kids to volunteer, you may be able to find places you can volunteer with your kids by checking VolunteerMatch.

Be Bored

There’s nothing wrong with kids being bored sometimes. That’s what will help them learn to come up with ideas on their own.

For more ideas, I did 30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During The Summer a few years ago.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 7th, 2017

Are You Encouraging Your Daughters To Be Adventurous?

I came across an interested TED Talk the other day, about how to raise brave girls. The solution is pretty obvious – encourage adventure.

There are a lot of good points, especially about how we tend to make it harder for girls to be adventurous. Think about how often you caution your daughter or hear other parents caution their girls about how they’re playing. Then consider these quotes from the TED Talk.

So how do we become brave? Well, here’s the good news. Bravery is learned, and like anything learned, it just needs to be practiced. So first, we have to take a deep breath and encourage our girls to skateboard, climb trees and clamber around on that playground fire pole.

Second, we have to stop cautioning our girls willy-nilly. So notice next time you say, “Watch out, you’re going to get hurt,” or, “Don’t do that, it’s dangerous.” And remember that often what you’re really telling her is that she shouldn’t be pushing herself, that she’s really not good enough, that she should be afraid.

Third, we women have to start practicing bravery, too. We cannot teach our girls until we teach ourselves. So here’s another thing: fear and exhilaration feel very similar — the shaky hands, the heightened heart rate, the nervous tension, and I’m betting that for many of you the last time you thought you were scared out of your wits, you may have been feeling mostly exhilaration, and now you’ve missed an opportunity. So practice.

The best way to get your daughters to be more adventurous is to take them on adventures. My kids all love climbing rocks, for example. So far they don’t go on very challenging climbs, but they do love the kind of rocks they can just scramble up. Joshua Tree has some favorite areas for them to climb around. They reach some pretty good heights, sometimes to where they have to be told how to get down.

Each of my kids has gone through a time where they were scared to climb up the rocks. That includes my son – he’s the cautious type by nature, but has learned to enjoy a bit of rock climbing.

My youngest daughter finally got more comfortable climbing around on our most recent trip. She was so proud when she finally climbed up what her siblings regarded as a pretty simple rock. To her, it was a scary, steep slope.

This isn’t to say appropriate caution isn’t warranted. We went hiking recently at Whitewater Preserve, and the kids wanted to go wading in the river. The river is neither wide nor deep as these things go, but my husband mad sure the kids all knew to consider how they played in it, because it doesn’t take deep water to sweep you off your feet. Once they each had a feel for it, they played as suited them. It’s a very rocky river, so getting knocked over could be quite painful or even result in a serious injury.

This was our first visit there, and the general consensus was that next time, they’ll wear clothes that are better for getting soaking wet in.

The other great thing about raising more adventurous kids is that they’ll willingly leave the electronics behind for an outdoor adventure. That’s good for everyone.

Brave kids turn into brave adults who can follow their dreams. That’s something most parents want for their sons and their daughters.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

March 27th, 2017

60 Non-Candy Ideas To Include In Your Kids’ Easter Baskets

Easter candy is one of my weaknesses. There’s so much fun stuff that you can’t find the rest of the year. When I make up Easter baskets for my family, it’s too easy to have way too much candy involved. Still, I always make sure to include some good non-candy stuff. I know I’ve gotten it right when the kids are more excited by the non-candy items than by the candy.

I do very little Easter theming in my baskets. Having an Easter theme always raises the question of whether things will be used the rest of the year. Sure, they might wear the bunny shirt throughout the year, but then again they might not. I recommend that you aim for things your kids will like regardless of how recent Easter was.

I also avoid the really cheap plasticy stuff. It’s good for a day or so, but most will end up in the trash all too soon. It’s better to get less stuff that is better quality.

1. Geeky Shirts

My kids love geeky shirts, and I have a lot of fun finding new ones for them. Teepublic is my favorite resource, although I sometimes find interesting shirts on Amazon or in local stores.

Think about what your kids like. Mine love Harry Potter, cats, science, computers, Doctor Who, Disney and other such things. It’s pretty easy to find shirts on Teepublic that they’ll love.

Think about what your kids love when considering adding a shirt to their Easter basket. You want something they’ll be ecstatic about, not meh. Consider whether they have fandoms, love sports or something else, and pick out just the right one.

2. Electric Toothbrush

This one only works once in a while. The very first time I gifted my kids with an electric toothbrush was in their Christmas stockings several years ago. It was hilarious, because they seemed happier about those than almost anything else. I figured with all the candy associated with the holiday, a better toothbrush would be a good thing.

If your kids already have electric toothbrushes, disregard this one. It works best on kids who have never or rarely had an electric toothbrush, especially if they’re on the young side. It’s just really funny when it works.

3. Water Balloons

It’s spring, the weather probably isn’t quite right for a water balloon fight, but it’s coming up. I like to encourage outdoor play along with all the treats.

You can get the Bunch O Balloons or just regular water balloons. I snagged a big pack of Bunch O Balloons at Costco early on, because you never know when they’ll disappear from there. Bunch O Balloons don’t hold the water in as well as regular, tied off water balloons, but they are easier to fill up. They do a bit better, in my experience, if you fill them over a bucket with water in it.

If you want to make regular water balloons easier, get a water balloon pumping station or at least a water balloon nozzle for your hose. Make the balloons easier to fill for your own sake.

4. Squirt Gun

If the mess of water balloons is too much, squirt guns may be a better choice to get those kids outside and soaking wet. You can go anywhere from the little cheapy ones that only shoot a short distance, up to the great big Super Soakers. You may need to get one for yourself for self defense.

5. Bubbles

When the kids are little, bubbles are a big hit. If you want to go fancy, get a bubble machine. You’ll get less spillage if you tell the kids not to touch it as they chase the bubbles. Bubble machines are also a huge hit at birthday parties for young kids – they’ll entertain themselves a long time so long as you keep the machine full of bubble mix.

6. Sidewalk Chalk

Encourage your kids’ creativity and get them outside. That’s what’s so great about sidewalk chalk. They get dirty, your sidewalk, patio or driveway will have strange markings on them for a time, but the kids will have had fun.

7. Movies

What movies would your kids love to own? Are they out on Blu-Ray or DVD?

8. Movie Tickets

If there’s something out they really want to go see in the theaters, movie tickets make a great outing, whether it’s a parent and child outing for the younger kids, or a chance to be more independent for an older child or teen.

9. Gift Cards

You know there’s something your kids would love to get using a gift card. It might have to do with iTunes, Xbox, Starbucks or something else entirely, but the right gift card will make any kids happy.

10. Money

We usually put coins inside plastic eggs as a part of the egg hunt. We get rid of the loose change that has built up through the year, the kids get money. Works all around.

11. Books

Think about the books you would like to read to your kids or that they would like to have read to them, depending on their ages. Fiction, non-fiction, comic books – what will make them happy and get them reading.

12. Video Games

Most kids love video games. There’s a limit on how much they should play them, but kids will gladly push those limits. Video games fit very nicely in Easter baskets, of course.

One of my kids’ favorites is Family Game Night 3. I like it because they talk and laugh with each other while playing, rather like they do when playing a real board game.

13. Crayons

If your kids are like mine, they have too many crayons. If yours could use some new ones or you want to do melted crayon art with them, a box of crayons can be a nice addition to the Easter basket.

14. Markers

How fast do your kids go through markers? Hopefully they quickly reach the point where the lids usually go on tight enough. Pick the right type for their ages and likelihood of drawing on the walls.

15. Paints

Paints can be great for any age range if your kids are artistic. Cheap ones for the younger kids, then better quality as they get older.

16. Smencils

My kids’ school sells Smencils regularly in fundraisers. The kids go crazy for them. It’s amazing what a little scent can do for an otherwise plain pencil. They’re also available as colored pencils.

17. Colored Pencils

With the popularity of coloring books for all ages, colored pencils have become very popular. Your basic Crayola colored pencils are good for younger kids, but consider Prismacolor and other higher quality brands as your kids get older.

18. Scissors

A good pair of age appropriate scissors is a great choice for any child. You don’t have to stick with plain scissors if your child likes to get creative with them. Take a look at the paper edger scissors.

19. Glitter Glue

Give your kids the fun of glitter with less mess. The dollar store by us carries glitter glue regularly. The color choice ranges from great to “that’s what’s left,” so buy it when you see the right colors.

20. Glue Gun

As kids get older, a small glue gun can help the do more challenging projects. The dollar store by us carries small glue guns, and they work just fine. This is only for kids who are old enough and responsible enough to handle something that can give a pretty good burn and/or make an awful mess.

21. Modeling Clay

Modeling clay is great for your budding sculptor. Be ready for a mess, and don’t forget to include some tools to make their sculptures even better.

22. Craft Kits

Age appropriate craft kits can be a lot of fun. Watch your local craft store for good sales, especially if you get coupons from their app or in the mail. I once had a combination that gave me a total of about 75% off my entire purchase. I should have bought more, as extra craft kits would have done well for friend birthday presents.

23. Beads

Beads are great for making jewelry or decorations. Include supplies to make jewelry or wire to bend into shapes for decorations.

24. Perler Beads

Perler beads are great fun for kids, although they can be a bit tiring for parents until the kids are old enough to iron their creations on their own. You can find lots of patterns online so that your kids can make lots of things from Perler beads. We once did Minecraft themed creations for a birthday party in Perler beads.

25. Spirograph

There are some nice, small Spirograph kits as well as the bigger sets. Either way, they can be both fun and frustrating.

26. Etch A Sketch

Etch A Sketch is one of the great solutions for letting your child draw without making a mess. Nothing to lose except the whole thing, and easy to carry along.

27. Magnadoodle

When kids are too young to handle an Etch A Sketch well, Magnadoodle type toys work well.

28. Small Musical Instruments

How much noise can you stand? If you’re pretty tolerant of noisy children, consider a small musical instrument such as a harmonica. They’re an easy introduction to music.

29. Mad Libs

Mad Libs are lots of fun once your kids are old enough to understand what nouns, adverbs, verb, adjectives and such are. They have so many books out now. We appealed to my oldest daughter’s geeky side with a Doctor Who Mad Libs last year.

30. Sand Toys

Whether you have a sandbox at home or only play in the sand when you happen to make it to the beach, sand toys are a big hit with younger kids.

31. Stuffed Animals

OK, your kids probably have too many of these. They’ll probably still love any you give to them. If you want to change it up a little, go with a cold virus or other Giant Microbe. It’s fun to play “catch a cold.”

32. Rubik’s Cube

My son has recently become obsessed with Rubik’s Cube and similar toys. You can sometimes find basic cubes (offbrand, of course), at dollar stores. One by us even had a cylinder variety.

33. Play Dough

When your kids are at the play dough age, they almost always want more. It dries up or gets mixed up so easily. There are simple recipes if you want to make your own, but it’s pretty cheap if you just want to buy it.

34. Bath Toys

Bath time is so much more fun with a few bath toys. Just make sure there’s still room for your kid in the tub.

35. Bath Bombs

As kids get older, bath toys just won’t do. A bath bomb on the other hand, may be greeted with delight. You can even make them at home if you like.

36. Card Games

What card games are you missing that your kids might enjoy? They’re a good way to spend more time together as a family.

37. Legos

A small Lego set may fit well in an Easter basket. It’s easy to get too expensive, as Legos add up fast, but sometimes you find that perfect set.

38. Outdoor Games

Take a look at all the outdoor games you can find on Amazon or your local stores. Something is bound to appeal to you without costing a fortune.

39. Jump Rope

A good jump rope isn’t just for jumping rope. Many a child will use one for a tail as well.

40. Bouncy Ball

Cheap yet beloved, your kids may drive you up the wall with bouncy balls, and more up the wall if it gets away down the street. Be sure you have a good place for your kids to play with these.

41. Sports Gear

Do your kids like sports? Which ones? Could they use some more equipment? Even a spare ball can be nice to have.

42. Kite

Kites can be basic and cheap or a bit pricey. Either way they’re fun. I find them at the dollar store sometimes, but other times basic kites can be had for a few dollars.

43. Quadcopter/Drone

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a small quadcopter or drone. Keep it simple and age/skill appropriate. Most kids will be really, really excited to get one. The one in the picture is what my kids have, and it’s a decent little machine. The main problem is that one of the cats thinks it is prey. Then again, she also thinks a fairly big remote control car is prey. The problem may be with the cat. She’s small.

44. RC Car

Remote control anything is usually a big hit with kids.

45. Matchbox Cars

I can’t tell you how many of these were given to my son back when he was obsessed with Matchbox cars. He had a lot of them. Every new one was greeted with delight.

46. Slinky

Slinky is a lot of fun to play with for kids, so the real question comes down to how you, as a parent, feel about untangling them. It will happen. Plastic is usually much easier than metal to untangle.

47. Polished Rocks

I find polished rocks on eBay. Considering the rocks kids will bring home as “treasures,” giving them some rocks that are actually special works really well. I used some once to fill “dragon eggs” for a birthday party. Small ones are good for little kids; older ones may appreciate something big enough to display in a collection on their shelf.

49. Yo-Yo

If your children have ever been to a school assembly where they have the yo-yo people come around, they may well have begged for one already. Once they know that neat tricks can be done with yo-yos, they’re interested.

50. Jewelry

A bit of jewelry is fun to give. Little kids will love just about any brightly colored item you give them, while older ones may have some preferences.

51. Small Plants

If your child likes plants, find something they can keep in their room. You might have to water it for them, but at least you don’t have to clean its litterbox.

52. Gardening Tools & Seeds

For the child who is more interested in gardening, get some basic tools and seeds, and give them a garden space of their own. My youngest is currently growing marigolds from seeds, as they’re her favorite flowers.

53. Fairy Garden Supplies

Fairy gardens are pretty popular, so there are lots of supplies out there to add to a garden.

54. Hair Accessories

Many little girls love having pretty hair accessories. They can be a huge help in keeping their hair out of their face, and possibly a little neater.

55. Nail Polish

Even my oldest daughter, who loathes makeup, will get into the nail polish sometimes. Pick out some fun colors.

56. Chapstick

Chapstick can help with dry lips, plus it’s easy to find flavors or containers kids like. Consider the SPF as well – lips need protection from the sun just like the rest of your skin.

57. Sunglasses

Do your kids lose their sunglasses like mine do? Good quality sunglasses can help your eyes avoid damage from the sun. Don’t go super cheap – make sure those eye will benefit from the sunglasses.

58. Hat

Kids can be tricky about hats. You really have to find one they will want to wear. They are great for protecting the face from the sun, and that’s a good thing with summer coming up. Get the kids started early on the hat habit.

59. Spherification Kit

A spherification kit is going in my kids’ basket this year, or maybe right in front since it’s for the whole family. They’ve been very curious about how those balls at the frozen yogurt shop are made, so I decided it would be fun to give it a go at home.

60. Healthy Snacks

Some healthy snacks are seen as treats by kids. What do yours love that they don’t get too often? Pretzels, raisins, granola bars, freeze dried fruit? There are many good options out there.

Whatever you get for your kids’ Easter baskets, make sure that it’s age and personality appropriate. You want them to be happy with what you buy for them.

Don’t go overboard on the Easter baskets. Make it fun, but what do your kids really need anyhow? I try to lean toward a combination of fun, practical items (the shirts, they’d be disappointed if I skipped the shirts), and things that will get them active or working on a hobby they enjoy.

What did I miss? What do your kids love to find in their Easter baskets that isn’t candy?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 23rd, 2016

10 Great Games To Play As A Family

10 Great Games To Play As A Family

Playing board or card games is a good way to get everyone off screens and having fun as a family. It’s a good way to get talking about what everyone has been doing. Weather doesn’t matter, and friends can join in too. Games can build skills or just be for fun.

If it’s too hard to keep people off their phones or tablets, you can add in your own special rules, such as “lose a turn” or other in-game penalty for the person who can’t leave their device alone. Sometimes these rules can be as hard on the parents as the kids.

What you play depends in large part on the age of the players. You wouldn’t play Cards Against Humanity with your kids in elementary school, and you probably wouldn’t make your teenage kids play Chutes n Ladders unless they have a much younger sibling. Here are some general suggestions that we enjoy.

Googly Eyes

All my kids, from my second grader to my teenager, love to play Googly Eyes. You roll the dice and move to a square to see which lenses you use – easy, medium or hard. You draw a card to see what you have to draw, and put on glasses that make it harder to see while you draw. Your teammates have to guess what you’re drawing. If they guess right, you roll and move again. Plenty of silliness ensues, and you get to blame the glasses for how badly you drew.

With younger kids, we sometimes go easy on the timer, or declare that everyone uses the easy lenses in the goggles.

Monopoly

The classics still work. Monopoly can be a little challenging for the youngest kids, but many will enjoy it well enough with some help. If not, give it a couple years and try again. I like the traditional version better than the electronic banking version – I think a part of the game is dealing with the money directly.

Make sure you have plenty of time to play Monopoly. As you probably know, it’s not a short game. We leave it set up overnight sometimes, which is risky with cats in the house.

You can change things up if you buy one of the many Monopoly variations, such as Star Wars or Jurassic World. The basic idea is the same, but the properties are different and there can be new rules.

Sorry

The only bad part about Sorry is how seriously younger kids can take it sometimes. It can help to make sure that the older kids don’t target the youngest one too often. Don’t ignore the youngest either – they need to learn that it’s all a part of the game to have someone target them with a Sorry card at an inconvenient time. Sorry is great when you want a game that won’t take too long.

Uno

Uno is easy enough for even fairly young kids to play, although they won’t get the strategies very well until they’re older. Uno is highly portable, which is why we like to take it camping.

I usually have two decks combined for game play rather than use a single deck. Shuffling is a bit harder, but you don’t have to do it as often and you can have more people in the game.

Give Me The Brain

Give Me The Brain is one of several games my husband picked up during his college years from Cheapass Games. While some of our favorites, such as Bitin’ Off Hedz, are not currently available, some are.

In this game, you are zombies working in a fast food restaurant with one brain to share among you to get things done. It uses cards and a 6 sided die to determine what you’re going to do. You have to finish your work to win, but you need the brain to do that.

Doctor Lucky

Our version. It’s a bit old.

It’s a little complex for young kids, but a lot of fun as they get older.

Kill Doctor Lucky

The goal of Kill Doctor Lucky is clear from its name. You and they other players are competing to see who can kill Doctor Lucky first. The problem is that he is as lucky as his name implies. Once again, this one is best played with older kids, but you’ll have a lot of fun as you do. There will be laughter.

Quirkle

In Quirkle, you make patterns using the color coded blocks to make lines that are the same color or the same shape and earn points. It’s easy enough for ages 6 and up, but fun long past that age. The later part of the game gets complex for younger kids, but you can help them or cut the game short. There’s enough strategy that it won’t bore the adults, always a plus when playing with young children.

Be careful about letting kids play with the squares at other times. That’s how pieces wander off, and you know how hard they are to find later. Not that we’ve dealt with that. Nope. Well, not on this particular game. Might’ve happened to several other games of ours.

Mad Libs

Mad Libs have been around for a very long time and have an incredible number of variations. You can find Mad Libs books for various shows and movies your family enjoys, as well as the traditional ones. As soon as your kids understand what adjectives, adverbs, verb and nouns are, they’ll probably enjoy playing this. There’s also a Mad Libs app if you want it to be even more portable. The basic app is free, but you have to buy story packs. It may involve using a device, but at least it can still be social.

The Game Of Life

My kids love to play The Game Of Life. The careers have changed from what they were when I was a kids, which is a good thing. Some people don’t like the action cards, but it’s fun overall. Expect your kids to roll their eyes if you go all Marvin and say “Life. Don’t talk to me about life,” especially if they get the reference.

Battleship

Battleship may be for only two people, but it’s a lot of fun, and sometimes it’s nice having a one on one game. We had a little bad luck with our first copy of Battleship – half the ships went missing early, we think due to a younger friend of the kids, but it’s hard to be sure. It’s a nice strategy game that doesn’t take too long to play. As with Monopoly, there is a Star Wars version.

What games do you and your family like to play together?

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