27 November 2009

Getting Kids into the GIVING Spirit

As a online and brick & mortar store owner, I have my kids around LOTs of retail items, and mostly toys, no less. I will say, for the most part, they are very good about knowing what is OK to play with and what is for sale, and NOT OK to play with.

I do struggle, however, with how to teach my 3 and 6 year old boys the importance of giving back. So, I did what any good parent does, and researched to create my strategy.

A few of our ideas:
  • We like to give each kids a (very modest) budget for 'checking off' those on the list closest to them. We encourage them to either pool their money for that special item, or use it to buy craft/art supplies to make their gifts. Framed artwork, special school projects, handwritten poems or letters always mean so much more (and sentimentally worth more) than anything purchased for any amount of money.
  • Volunteer as a family for money collections, donate your time at a food bank or soup kitchen. Show kids that these can be fun and rewarding ways to 'give'.
  • Have kids help pick out a "Heifer International"(or similar organization) gift or other gift that keeps on giving (that is, donates a certain percentage to a good cause)
  • Have a discussion about all of the things (maybe some that we take for granted) you have as a family or as an individual, and help kids recognize that 'having' isn't only about material things.
Here are a few great articles that shine light on how to enlighten kids on the art and rewards of 'giving'. (and there are endless articles)
As adults I feel it's important to practice restraint and NOT to purchase everything on your child's 'wish list' whether you can afford to or not.

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20 November 2009

Visiting the National Parks... where to go (or NOT)

There are nearly 400 National Parks in the United States, and they provide a great way to save money and give the kids a great travel experience (yes even as the cold weather approaches).

Most popular - do you have a guess? Grand Canyon? Yellowstone? No, it's the Great Smokies National Park in TN/NC SEE MORE. With over 800 miles of hiking trails. however, you will still be able to get away from others if you choose!

Check out some of the less visited (but equally spectacular) in a pictoral Slide show (this is wehre we'd rather go, personally!)

Search ALL National Parks here: National Park Links

And, don't forget, KidsTravelHappy.com is always ready with suggestions to keep little (and NOT so little) ones busy on that next road trip.
Take your kids once a year (or more, of course) to this great network of protected lands, which the US can take credit for establishing. You'll find yourself enjoying it as much as the kids (and, perhaps more)
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13 November 2009

12 Days Of November Savings

Who wants to wait for the 12 days of Christmas? Or, the 8 nights of Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice etc..?

We have decided that starting November 14th we'll feature one of our 80+ brands and put it on sale for that one day. Everything from that manufacturer is 25% off (even includes items that may already be on sale, but note that a minimum purchase of $25 required to received discount).

HOW? Just enter 12daysNOV into the coupon code box at checkout, and if your items qualify, you will receive the discount. What brands are we going to feature? Even we aren't sure.
Check the home page each day!

Happy Shopping!

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06 November 2009

Thanksgiving Traditions, Travel, Kids

It's not so many weeks away, less than 3, when most of us will either be hosting or be 'hosted' (that is, the guest/customer) at some sort of Thanksgiving gathering. I, personally, always enjoy the festivities, or, more importantly, my kids love to get together with their cousins and be silly.

I wonder, however, although the family aspect of the gathering is always recognized, how do we teach children, at their age appropriate level, the meaning for the holiday? As my 6-year old son understands, it is a gathering to commemorate the celebration of the success of the first settler's survival of their first winter, and the harvest that following fall. He knows that Pilgrims and native Indians were involved, but that's about where it ends. And, for 6-years old, that's pretty good. Curious about what we could do as a family to add a bit more appreciate to the holiday, I started thinking about a few things we could begin this year.

Here are my suggestions (pre-thanksgiving)
  1. have kids make seating tags, this is a fun, easy craft, and helps kids learn/know names of everyone attending: Try to get a 'headshot' of each attendee and make a label with the person on it. This is especially fun if the photos are 'not quite perfect'.
  2. check out these sites for other ideas:
For Thanksgiving Day
  1. have kids make up the 'kid table' with seating assignments
  2. kids can do the 'adult' table too, as they have fun making everyone sit wherever they want.
  3. start dinner with a brief reminder of why we celebrate Thanksgiving Day (it's good to let kids know this is not JUST about food & football, but have a basic understanding about the reason for the food)
  4. then, go around the table and have each person name one thing they are thankful for (our rule, cannot re-state what someone before you has said!)
  5. eat up and enjoy the company
For those who go out to eat, and may need quiet activities for the kids to enjoy at the table, here are our top picks. Also be sure to check out our new category "Restaurant Fun", with 100's of ideas. Here are some of our faves!
  • Doodles to Go: Just in time for any type of travel or vacation, this book of doodles will keep young travelers busy. Whether they're waiting at the airport, stuck in the backseat of the family car, or just taking some downtime on a camping trip, young artists will find endless hours of creative fun in this how-to book. For ages 9 and up
  • Scramble Squares: the 9 piece brainteaser puzzle - They're Not Just For Kids! Challenging educational puzzles with powerful graphics keep boys, girls, and adults captivated for hours! Perfect for all of your travel delay passing needs (or rainy day, or restaurant table/food waiting and more!)
  • Dinner Games: Keep your little ones focused on the family meal with this collection of 51 dinner games to play while you eat! These quick, simple games, like Fruity Feeling, Rainbow Dinner and Magic Spoon, break up dinnertime routine and add fun to family meals. No game board or game pieces required - just food and family. Kids learn expressive language, the five senses, creative thinking, social skills and more. The games even encourage kids to eat their veggies and finish their milk! Beginner version is for families with kids ages 3 to 6, ORIGINAL is for families with older kids.
  • Find-It Games: This is a brightly colored contained adventure. It contains 48 hidden items for you to find, conveniently listed on the top of the game. The items found in this sealed container are geared toward kids. SPIN IT, TWIST IT, SHAKE IT! Be the first to find the hidden Penny, Marble, Balloon, Letters of the Alphabet, or …? This game is enjoyed by adults as well as children. It is great travel game, terrific learning center activity, or is fun played as a timed game with others. The Kids version comes with red plastic ends, giving the games an exciting, colorful look. The game comes boxed and contains a tear off tally pad to check off as you find each item. Skills used: deductive reasoning, object identification, early reading/ letter recognition, as well as patience!
  • 3D Slide Puzzles: The perfect take anywhere puzzle! Within each 4" x 4" tray are eight puzzle pieces that glide into place - with a bit of finesse - to form a colorful raised image of the EARTH. Challenging enough to entertain for hours. Be sure to check out all of the designs. Kids young and old will enjoy these puzzles.
  • Bananagrams: The multi-award winning game that will drive you BANANAS! Described as the "Best Travel Game Out There". Fast and Fun, requires NO pencil, paper or board. Educational and great family game. Appropriate for beginning spellers or New York Times crossword regulars! Comes in funky Banana 'bag' ready to go anywhere.
The bottom line? We find that if we engage the kids in one way or another, we're all happier!
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