5 Non-Material Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in General, Holidays, Toddler, Toddler Tips | Comments Off on 5 Non-Material Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids

ozark xmas

Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner and it’s the time of year when kids everywhere feel the wonder of the season and the anticipation of opening holiday gifts. Even as adults we can relate to the excitement and buildup kids feel before the holidays, with our own plans and expectations of how we’d like things to go. While the delight and wonder are what make the season so magical, I have yet to meet a parent who hasn’t, at least once, expressed disappointment that a much desired gift or activity was not received by her child with satisfaction and gratitude. It’s easy for children to buy into the buildup and glamor of the season, believing that a new video game, bicycle, or pair of boots will bring unending happiness as all the ads and commercials promise. It’s only natural that their reaction will not match that of the kids on TV who open the same gift—those kids are acting! We aren’t suggesting that you refrain from buying gifts, but before your family sets yourself up for the buildup and letdown that can so commonly happen during the holidays, consider giving some non-material gifts to your kids. By doing so they’ll learn that positive experiences are really what they’re searching for in all the toys and games they lust after. You’ll also be teaching them that the holidays are about sharing and connecting with others, not just getting more stuff. Read on for a few ideas for non-material gifts for kids.

  1. A Parent’s Wish List
    Your children love to feel that you’re proud of them, see potential in them, and that you know there are great things ahead for them. Write down a list of 10 hopes you have for your child for the coming year, and why you want those things for them. Make sure you pick non-material thing, for example “I hope you learn more about marine life in science class because you love whales so much”, or “I hope to take a family vacation with you and your brother somewhere with a beach and a forest”, “I hope to have a weekly game night with the whole family.” Keep your child’s age and personality in mind when writing and read the list together during your family holiday celebration.
  2. Family Yearbook
    While this gift does involve making something material, its focus is the enjoyment of your collected experiences together. Spend some time sorting through pictures and videos from the past year and put together a family yearbook of big events and funny things that happened. Choose major milestones to write about and sprinkle in hilarious moments, beautiful sights, and holidays. This is a great end-of-the year gift that will remind everyone in the family of how much you have to be thankful for and how much there is to look forward to as a family. You’ll love looking back at it in future years, too!
  3. Family Memberships
    One of the best experience gifts you can give your family is a membership to the local zoo, children’s museum, botanic gardens, or history museum. A year-long membership will set your family up for unlimited opportunities to spend time as a family learning together and enjoying new things.
  4. Classes
    Classes are another great way to gift an ongoing activity. Depending on your child’s age and interests, you could choose music and art classes, sports or gymnastics, language, or dance. Classes are a great way for kids to connect with others and learn more about their own interests and abilities.
  5. Holiday Events
    Choose an activity or two to do specifically during the holiday season like ice skating together, snowshoeing, seeing a ballet or play, and taking a carriage ride. By letting your kids know that the activities you’ve chosen are part of their set of gifts for the holidays, they can direct some of their excitement and wonder towards time with family, and will probably enjoy a day of fun more than the fleeting moment after opening a toy.

We hope that these ideas provide some inspirational ways to enjoy the holidays non-materially with your kids. What are your favorite gifts of experience?



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How to Make Baby’s First Christmas Stress-Free

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in General, Holidays, Toddler, Toddler Tips | Comments Off on How to Make Baby’s First Christmas Stress-Free

babys first christmas

Congratulations new parent, you made it to Christmas! If you celebrate Christmas, it’s probably a holiday you’ve been looking forward to spending with your first child for a long time. As you’ve learned by now, things don’t always go the way you expect or want them to now that you have a baby to tote around. There are naps and feedings to consider, your own sleep-deprived need to rest more, and conflicting requests from family about who gets to see baby and when. In order to make your first Christmas with baby as memorable and enjoyable as possible, we’ve provided a few stress-free alternatives to some pain-in-the-butt traditions. Remember—what works or doesn’t work this year doesn’t have to change forever.

Tradition: Visiting Santa
While a photo featuring your little one with the man in the red suit might be hard to resist, skip it—at least for baby’s first Christmas. Babies under 12 months (and sometimes even older toddlers) already feel anxious being held by strangers and family members they aren’t used to. Instead of waiting in a long, sweaty line only to experience a mega-meltdown when it’s finally your turn, wait until your child is older and understands what’s happening.

Stress-Free Alternative: Family photo for Christmas cards
Since a first-Christmas photo for holiday cards and ornaments is a must, spend an afternoon getting professional photos taken of your family and use these. When your child is older, he’ll appreciate the visual memory and seeing how “young” mom and dad looked—you will too! To make it extra fun for baby, choose a setting for your photos that includes a Christmas light display or magical, wintry location.

Tradition: Visiting multiple houses or traveling
While family and friends may have enjoyed your kid-free willingness to travel or visit more than one house on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, flying out of state, opening presents all day, squeezing in naps, and visiting multiple families with a new baby in tow is exhausting.

Stress-Free Alternative: Creating your new family’s tradition
Your new family is just as valid and important as the established units in your extended family. To make Christmas day as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, do what feels most comfortable this year—and don’t apologize. If your choice to stay home all day or go on a family vacation that includes just Mom, Dad, and Baby rocks everyone’s boat, you can re-consider next year. But the bottom line is that you have your own family now and can start making your own—enjoyable—family traditions.

Tradition: Cookie making marathon
Most new parents can attest to the fact that doing just about anything with a baby in the house is much tougher than when they were kid-free. Baking can be especially difficult because recipes require attention, measuring, and dealing with a hot oven. While your child will love decorating gingerbread men and sugar cookies in a year or two, she probably won’t appreciate all the time and trouble you take making treats this year, and you’ll end up exhausted with a mountain of sweets.

Stress-Free Alternative: Pre-made
If you can’t live without Christmas cookies, just buy some! There are so many small, local bakeries these days that you’d be hard-pressed not to find delicious, beautiful Christmas cookies to indulge in and share this season. Save yourself the time and trouble and let someone else do the work this year!

Tradition: Going crazy buying gifts
It’s so very tempting to shower your new baby with Christmas gifts, but he’ll probably be more interested in the Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper (and watching everyone else open!) this year than the gifts themselves. Plus, friends and relatives will be buying gifts for your little one, too. Your toddler will have a lot more self-awareness and motor skills next Christmas, so save your big bucks until then. Don’t worry—you’ll have plenty of Christmases as your child grows to splurge on mountains of gifts and big-ticket items.

Stress-Free Alternative: Keep the gifts simple, opt for keepsakes instead
Keepsakes, videos, and photo memories will outlast any toy. Instead of buying mountains of toys this year, invest in a special first-Christmas or customized stocking with your child’s name, photo gifts like ornaments and books, or a professionally edited video of your baby’s first Christmas. These are gifts that your whole family will enjoy year after year.



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A Simple Food Guide for Baby’s First Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in General, Holidays, Toddler, Toddler Tips | Comments Off on A Simple Food Guide for Baby’s First Thanksgiving

pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of year—and a busy one! With friends and relatives to see, dishes to make, and a house to prepare for guests (or travel plans to make if you aren’t the one hosting), planning a separate meal for your baby may be a step you’d rather skip. Fortunately, Thanksgiving dishes tend to be very friendly to tiny tummies, especially if you know which foods to avoid and which get the green light. Of course, you know your own baby best—if any of these foods is already on your OK list then offer away, and if there are foods you know your baby might not be ready for, avoid them even if we’ve given them the go-ahead. Read on for what to offer baby at her first Thanksgiving.

YES foods – Generally OK for most babies over 6-8 months

  1. Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are typically one of the first foods babies eat because they are easy on the digestion, tasty, and packed with nutrition. Make sure to scoop the marshmallows off the top if serving from a casserole and mash to a pureed consistency, taking care that they’re runny enough to swallow safely.
  2. Mashed Potatoes – As long as your child doesn’t have a dairy sensitivity or allergy, since most mashed potato dishes are made with butter and/or milk, offer away! Follow the same guidelines as sweet potatoes, making sure potatoes are easy to swallow and don’t contain big chunks.
  3. Green Beans – Green beans are a great choice as long as they’re cooked thoroughly and soft enough for toothless mouths to mash and swallow safely.

What do you have planned for baby’s first Thanksgiving meal?

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5 Positive Discipline Tools for Toddlers

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in General, Toddler, Toddler Tips | Comments Off on 5 Positive Discipline Tools for Toddlers

Positive Toddler

If you’ve ever been the parent of a toddler, you’ve likely had some tough moments attempting to discipline or control your child mid-meltdown. Parenting toddlers can be tough because they are old enough to know that they have some independence but are too young to communicate their needs and wants in a way that is clearly understandable. Pushing limits and navigating communication barriers are important developmental steps for toddlers. Yet stressful situations can arise when toddlers become frustrated with their inability to communicate and get their needs met. Below are 5 positive tools for disciplining your toddler and calming him before his frustration gets out of control.

  1. Remember: Connection, Not Control
    Contrary to a once-popular belief, discipline is about building the right relationship with your child, rather than attempting to control him. Attempts to control rarely work, especially with children in the toddler age group, and often lead to escalated feelings of anger and frustration for both parent and child. Simply by remembering that each moment, albeit difficult, is an opportunity to connect and get to know your child better you’re already on your way to becoming a more intuitive disciplinarian.
  1. Distract
    While it may seem like your child goes from zero to fit in five seconds flat, most kids experience stages of frustration or helplessness before melting down. Watch your child carefully and learn the more subtle ways he communicates that he’s feeling out of control so that you can intervene early and prevent a full on fit. When you notice the telltale signs, divert his attention to another activity that is less frustrating.
  1. Set Clear Limits
    Even though they will test them, toddlers need and want limits. Setting limits provides structure and security for your child, helping him feel safe while he explores and preventing him from feeling out of control as he familiarizes himself with new skills and knowledge. The limits you set may frustrate your child at first, but he’ll be better off learning and testing them within the safe context of your home before facing the outside world’s many rules and limitations.
  1. Guide Your Child
    When your child breaks a rule, offer an alternative. For example, if he hits the cat you can simply say, “Hitting the cat is not ok. Let me help you pet the cat gently instead.” Just saying “No” and leaving it at that won’t help your child progress.
  1. When All Else Fails, Stay Calm
    If, despite your best parenting efforts, your child starts throwing a mega-fit, take a moment before stepping in. Center yourself and take a deep breath. Speak quietly and calmly to your child and listen. Try to put yourself in his shoes to understand what he’s going through. Keeping your cool will help you get to the bottom of his frustration and diffuse the situation much quicker than yelling, which will only scare your child and raise your blood pressure.

The toddler years are undoubtedly challenging, but by creating a healthy disciplinary dynamic you and your toddler will enjoy your time together much more.


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To Use a Nightlight or Not to Use a Nightlight: That is the Question

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in General, Kids Room Decor, New Mom on the Block, Nursery, Toddler, Toddler Tips | Comments Off on To Use a Nightlight or Not to Use a Nightlight: That is the Question


Once your baby is transitioned into her own room you might start asking yourself if you should (or should not) be using a nightlight for your child during bedtime. You may worry that a light will keep her up and disturb her sleep – or perhaps your worry is just the opposite in that your little one will be scared to sleep in the dark. A good simple rule to follow is, if you’d like to use a nightlight then do so. Or if you feel that your baby seems more comfortable with a nightlight on then by all means have one. However, it’s important not to make assumptions right away that your child is scared of the dark. Small children – especially infants – are pretty much accustomed to dark environments due to the time they spent in the womb. I would recommend putting your baby to bed without a nightlight at first and see how it goes, if your baby seems uncomfortable in the darkness, then you could try adding a nightlight.

If child is a little older and does need the night light due to some developing fears of the dark or you may want some light in the room so you can see when you go in to check on them – it’s OK to do so. Research shows that nightmares can begin as early as two years old so when nightly fears develop, adding a night light could provide just the level of comfort your little one needs. It’s important to always be sure you understand why your child feels scared – addressing the core issue first is vital. If your child needs the night light for comfort then let them have it. If it means helping them feel safe and secure in their environment and promotes better sleep for all then it’s not a battle you need to bother having. Just remember if you do end up using a nightlight, be careful what watt bulb you buy. Aim for 4-7 watts, but no brighter to promote restful sleep.


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How to Choose the Perfect Color Palette for Your Baby’s Nursery

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in General, Kids Room Decor, Nursery, Toddler, Toddler Tips | Comments Off on How to Choose the Perfect Color Palette for Your Baby’s Nursery


Did you know that babies are able to perceive color from the time they are about 3 months old? It’s true! You may already know that certain sounds elicit particular emotional responses from your baby – in that same way different colors will produce different reactions. This may lead you to start asking questions about what color is best for your nursery and what colors will lead to enough stimulation for your child.

Don’t fret as these questions are very common among parents. There is tons of scientific evidence out there for your review as to all the ways color affects adults. Despite any scientific debate regarding infants it stands to reason that color at least has the potential to affect your baby as well. Why not take advantage of all the research out there and use it in your nursery? Use our quick review guide below for help in choosing the perfect color palette for your little one’s special room!

COOL – Think blue and green sections of the color wheel. If you need to make a cramped space feel more spacious and airy use lighter color shades which will be calming and soothing. Darker shades can be cold and depressing so think light! Blue promotes sleep which is good for any newborn (and parents!) – studies show it slows down the human nervous system and produces a calming effect which helps prepare the body for sleep. Green is also another calming tone that can bring feelings of tranquility and well-being. Be sure to accent your cool shades with hints of the warmer ones listed below!

WARM – Think red, yellow, and orange sections of the color wheel. These tones make larger rooms feel smaller and cozy which fosters feelings of comfort and relaxation for your baby. However, be sure to pick more earthy balanced tones as intense shades could overstimulate your little one. Bright vivid red is best as an accent color only and not to be used on walls. Use it only to add a burst of energy to a more neutral palette.

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