Stocking Stuffers For Kids

Today’s post is dedicated to stocking stuffers! I am always trying to find a balance with finding stocking stuffers that aren’t junky, but also aren’t super expensive either. Here’s a list of some things we have gifted our kids in the past and a few things we have planned for this year!

Mini packages of Legos As I mentioned in my gift guide, Legos are always a huge hit and you can never have enough. My kids always get one of the small packages in their stockings.

Play doh My little one especially loves play doh and can play with it for hours!

Playing cards My big kiddo has so much fun playing card games with his dad, but of course with kids, cards tend to go missing after awhile so he can always use an extra set.

Walkie Talkies My kids have been asking for a set to play with together, so they are each getting one in their stocking this year!

Remote Control Toys The kids received this remote control set last year and it’s a fun little toy! Another gift set where you can put one in each kid’s stocking.

Hot Wheels My kids probably have 100 of these, and they still don’t get old! They always get a couple in their stockings every year.

SmartWool Socks These socks are the absolute best and keep their feet toasty warm on the coldest days skiing or playing in the snow.

Rubiks Cube I’m gifting my older kiddo this in his stocking this year!

Magic 8 Ball Would be a fun gift for any kid.

Jello-O Play These look like a fun & edible activity to keep little ones busy on a cold winter day!

Hot cocoa packet with a candy cane A yummy gourmet cocoa with a candy cane is always a fun treat to find in a stocking.

iTunes Gift Card A gift card to put towards episodes of favorite TV shows or a new movie would be a no fail gift.

Fun flavored chapstick For the inevitably chapped winter lips.

Fun bath soap My kids go crazy for this foaming bath soap and have a blast playing with it.

Night Light This nightlight looks like the neatest thing ever and beats the days of putting stickers all over your ceiling like when I was a kid.

Slippers My boys have been asking for slippers for Christmas and this plaid set looks so grown up

Mini art set So cute for travel or taking to restaurants to keep kids busy

Joke book My eight year old loves telling jokes, so I know he is going to love this

Whoopie Cushions Another fun gift for silly kids

Fingerling I’m giving in to the hype and getting one for my 3 year old

Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks Perfect little set for travel or in restaurants

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Christmas Gift Guide for Kids

Today I’m writing up a gift guide for no-fail Christmas gifts for kids! There are so many gift guides out there, but I specifically wanted to share gifts we have purchased for our kids that have been huge hits and they are still playing with regularly years later. I am also including a few gifts we have purchased this year that I think are also going to be hits as well! I also read an article the other day that talked about “going back to basics” this year, and avoiding a lot of electronics/video games etc (you can read here). Not only do I agree with the article, but from my experience, my kids are happiest with educational gifts, and gifts that allow them to create and build. Most of my recommendations are simpler, non electronic gifts – and those that are electronic are educational!

Wooden Building Blocks I gave these to Evan for Christmas last year, and both of my kids still have a blast building towers with these!

Magnetic Tiles Another toy my kids love building towers and houses with! There’s also a more affordable version here and they have fantastic reviews!

Marble Run My kids literally spend hours creating different marble runs and they play with this a ton.

Osmo Starter Kit / Coding Game / Creative Set  We purchased these 3 Osmo games for Cole two years ago and he still plays with them all the time! His favorites are the Creative Set and Coding game. This is a really fantastic set and I can’t recommend it enough.

Legos You can never go wrong with Legos. Although we often buy our kids specific building sets, they always end up taking them apart and coming up with their own creations. We have a huge bin full of Legos!

Hot Wheels Tracks Our boys absolutely love playing with Hot Wheels (in fact that is their favorite stocking stuffer) so I can’t wait to surprise them with these fun tracks!

Ozobot Coding Set Cole’s school has these in their STREAM lab and we got an opportunity to try them out at his school’s STEM night a few months ago. My kids had an absolute blast playing with them, and it teaches kids how to code! We will be gifting this for Christmas this year.

Art Set also here Cole is a budding little artist and is always drawing something! I can’t wait to gift him this art set which has all the supplies he could ever need, and even includes a built in easel!

Don’t Step In It Game My kids absolutely love board games, and being boys of course they think poop is hysterical. It has been really cold here and we’ve been a bit cooped up, so I caved and bought them this game a week ago to play with now. We’ve played it several times and they absolutely love it. It’s a super simple game that even my three year old can play and enjoy.

Don’t Break the Ice Game My husband bought this for Evan a few weeks ago, not knowing it was one of his favorite games he plays at preschool! He caved and gave the kids this game early as well, and it’s a really fun, simple family game.

Take Apart Car My little one loves taking things apart, and whether its destructiveness or curiosity (hopefully the latter!), I felt like this would be a perfect toy for him this year!

Tool set Another perfect gift for my 3 year old who is obsessed with daddy’s tools and follows him around mimicking him when he’s doing stuff around the house.

Remote Control Car (that drives on walls??!) Curiosity got me on this one and we will be gifting this one this year! It has lots of positive reviews and figured it would be more entertaining than their typical remote control cars!

Funny Books – Plants vs Zombies / Dogman My 8 year old kiddo really likes funny things, and he can sit and read funny books for hours. He absolutely loves these two series!

Magic Tracks My husband got these for Evan last year and he’s obsessed. He will build all kind of track configurations & plays with this for hours!

Gizmo Pal Watch/Phone We bought this for Cole for his birthday a few months ago, and it was worth every penny. He wears it every single day and loves knowing that mom and dad are a phone call away should he need anything. It also has GPS tracking and has the ability to allow him to make recordings.

Magformers These are another really fun magnet building toy that allows kids to build not only fun shapes, but also neat cars as well!

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Family Christmas Pajama Picks

Family Christmas Pajama Picks

My Pajamas: Old Navy Top, Old Navy Bottoms, Old Navy Slippers  //  Kid’s Pajamas: Old Navy Tops, Target Bottoms (Only $5 and there are sizes for the whole family!)

I read an article the other day about traditions (you can read it here) and it talked about why silly traditions like Christmas pajamas actually matter. My kids absolutely love our tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve, which is always matching pajamas, and the article explains how traditions make us feel loved, connected, and create memories.

There are so many cute family pajamas to choose from this year, and I’m linking some of my favorites! There are also a lot of super affordable options as well starting at $5, and so many print options – from traditional to whimsical.

White & Red Plaid Pajamas

Plaid Union Suits

Rugby Stripe Pajamas (We wore these last year!)

Holiday Red Plaid Pajamas

Navy & Red Plaid Pajamas (I just ordered these!)

Gnome Pajamas

Christmas Light Pajamas

Deer Print Pajamas

Candy Cane Stripe Pajamas

Buffalo Check Pajamas

Penguin Pajamas (Toddler, Dad, Kid, Mom)

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Making Thanksgiving Fun For Kids

Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks, delicious food… and a whole lot of work and waiting! I know my littles can get restless waiting for the meal, so I like to come up with ways to keep them engaged and entertained. I’m making a list of some activities to help make the day a little more fun and make the waiting for the delicious meal go by a bit faster!

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Start the day with a fun breakfast

On Thanksgiving we always start our day with homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and this year I’ve decided to set my kids a fun breakfast place setting with a placemat they can color, a box of crayons, and a craft (I’m loving this turkey crown!). I had a few placemats printed at an office supply store on 11×17 cardstock for $0.30 each, but you could also print on standard size paper & use dessert plates. You can find the free placemat printables here and here.

Thanksgiving themed TV or video

We have a two TV traditions every Thanksgiving; The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Both just set the mood for the day and get us into the celebratory spirit! It’s also fun to watch educational videos to learn a bit more about how we came to celebrate Thanksgiving, and Scholastic has some great videos for kids!

02838788-08AC-48FF-B61F-E79649186E72Books, activities and games

Both of my kids love playing games, and so this year I printed this adorable Thanksgiving themed Bingo game which will be simple enough for even my 3 year old to participate independently! My older kiddo loves doing word searches/word scramble activities so I found a number of free printables on Pinterest I printed for him as well. You could also stop by the dollar store to grab a few activity/coloring books, puzzles, or simple games. Having a Thanksgiving book or two to read as well is always a fun family activity – our family loves There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey!

9C1F1898-E467-4203-B135-5E2AE4C5F0A0Get the kids in the kitchen

Each year I put my kids in charge of a side dish and it is their responsibility to make! It helps them feel like they are a part of creating the meal, and also I really feel that teaching kids to cook helps give them confidence! Cranberry sauce is simple enough for my 8 year old to make almost completely independently (with just a little supervision at the stove), and I also have him help me mix and stir dishes throughout the day. (The cranberry sauce recipe we love is here) My 3 year old just learned how to make butter at school so this is going to be his contribution, but this is something that would be fun for kids of all ages! (You can read about how to make butter here) I have also made a cute menu card (template) to put at each place setting to highlight their dishes as well!

Make the decor

I’ve seen so many darling ideas online for kids to help out and stay busy with making decor for the day. You could have them make a centerpiece, a decorative garland, a gratitude tree, or even just help with setting the table!

Traditions

When I told Cole it was time to start getting ready for Thanksgiving a few weeks back, the first thing he asked was could he make a wish with the wishbone again this year. Our family has a tradition of letting the kids make a wish with the wishbone, and although it is such a simple little thing, it is a tradition my kids always look forward to!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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How To Capture Better Photos Of Your Kids

How To Capture Better Photos Of Your Kids

Cole’s Shirt // Cole’s Jeans // Cole’s Shoes   —   Evan’s Shirt // Evan’s Jeans // Evan’s Shoes

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With the holidays quickly approaching, I know that many people are starting to plan their holiday cards so I wanted to do a quick post on how to capture better photos of your kids! As any parent knows, capturing photos of your kids is no easy feat. My kids most definitely do not enjoy having photos taken, but I have learned a few tips and tricks to guarantee getting at least a few good photos!

Equipment

My go to camera is my Nikon D7200 with either my Nikon 2.8 24-70 lens or my Nikon 1.8 50 mm lens. This camera is phenomenal and I can’t recommend it enough! That said, you can get good photos with whatever you have, even just an iPhone in the portrait setting!

Learn The Basics

When I had my first child, I knew that I wanted to learn at least the basics of photography, because I wanted to be able to capture good quality photos of him without having to depend on hiring a photographer regularly! As he grew I wanted to have lots of quality photographs and could capture the candid moments, but I knew absolutely nothing about photography & had no clue about how to shoot photos in anything other than auto. I was recommended the Scott Kelby series by a friend who is a fantastic photographer, and if you are looking to step up your photography game these are a MUST BUY. What makes these books so great is that he makes it so incredibly simple to understand and he also keeps it light & funny. I still go back and review these books from time to time, and always seem to pick up something new!

Lighting

This is probably the most important aspect of getting good photos. The absolute best time of day to shoot photos is during what is called the “golden hour” which is when the sun is setting during the last hour of the day. You will get beautiful backlighting and vibrant colors with no harsh lighting in the face. You can also shoot during the first hour of the day as the sun is coming up if you are more a morning person! If you absolutely cannot shoot pictures at any other time of the day than midday, do whatever you can to get out of the sun. Get into deep shade where there is no spotty light filtering through. Bright sunlight is super unflattering & causes harsh shadows to the face, as well as washes out all color. Another option would be shooting on an overcast day!

Posing and Smiling

Helping your older kids with posing will help make the photos look so much more natural (rather than standing stiffly with arms at their sides!). There tons of blogs & Pinterest ideas for poses (also go back to your Scott Kelby books!), and for boys I like hands in pockets and/or leaning against a fence or wall.  For the little ones I like sitting them down & just letting them kind of do what they want with their hands (leaves will keep them busy!) and try to capture their attention with something and make them laugh. It can be a real challenge getting a natural smile from kids, so I will often tell them a funny joke or instead of saying “cheese” I will have them say something super silly which makes them crack up! I also love capturing candids or photos while they are in motion. Pictures of kids throwing fall leaves or just playing and being silly are more fun & natural than overly posed photos! It is also much easier to capture candid photos when kids are having fun, rather than trying to get kids to cooperate & sit still for long periods of time in a pose. I do try to have a more relaxed approach to capturing photos and have an open mind about working with the kids rather than pushing them to do what I want. Trying to make the experience fun, and also giving the added bonus of promising them a special treat when you are done (bribes work!), makes capturing photos a little easier. And lastly, keep sessions short. I try to keep it to 20 minutes or less because that is really about the extent of the amount of time it is fun for the kids before they start to get bored.

Editing

If you are shooting with a DLSR, shooting in RAW format really makes things easier for you when it is time to go back and edit. I never worry about making sure my white balance setting on my camera is perfect while shooting, because it is so simple to fix in editing. Also, if you switch locations & need to capture a quick shot & haven’t adjusted your settings yet, shooting in RAW means you can adjust your exposure too & save a shot that may have been lost otherwise. I do use Lightroom & Photoshop, but I will say Photoshop has a pretty steep learning curve and there is still so much I have to learn even after using it for a few years now. Lightroom is a great place to start with simple edits, but if you are looking to make bigger adjustments you will want to learn Photoshop. I highly recommend purchasing a Photoshop Instructional Book which is how I learned, but there are also tons of Youtube tutorials out there as well.

I hope some of this information was helpful for you! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments for me!

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This is Halloween

This is Halloween

Last year’s Halloween costumes!

Sally Costume, Oogie Boogie Mask, Jack Skellington Costume, Devil Tail (Lock mask via Etsy – another option here)

I’m kind of a broken record about this, but I really love making the holidays magical for my kids and Halloween is no exception! Of course dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating is a must, and going dressed up as a family makes it even more fun. I loved our Nightmare Before Christmas costumes last year, and we are planning another family theme again this year. For the third year in a row, Cole has picked our family costume theme and I think he picked something super fun and different this year!

In the days and weeks leading up to the big night, there are so many activities we love that have become tradition for us. Going to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins, having a pumpkin carving night, family spooky movie nights (while wearing festive jammies!), and making Halloween treats are our favorite activities that make the fun last.

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What are your Halloween traditions?!

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Weekend Notes 10.27

Weekend Notes 10.27

Halloween festivities have been in full swing at our house over the past week, and we are trying to soak up as much of the Halloween spirit as we can. Halloween movie nights, costume making, and a Starbucks run for their holiday “Witch’s Brew” Frappuccinos (the kids loved them!) have been some of our highlights. We want to get in as much Halloween fun as we can this last weekend before the holiday, so we are planning on making a return to the pumpkin patch, carving our pumpkins, and making some Halloween treats.

This week Cole and I also had a mommy/son date and went to see the Broadway performance of The Lion King. They are on tour and as soon as I heard they were coming to Boise I grabbed tickets. I expected it to be good…I didn’t expect it to be as incredible as it was. Cole and I were just completely blown away at the costumes and the sets…it really was such a memorable night and I hope we get the opportunity to go again one day when Evan is a little older so he can experience it too!

Work out The findings of a study about the importance of cardiovascular exercise have been making the rounds online this week. Of course we all know that exercise is important for health, but the results of this study were quite frankly shocking. Researchers found that a sedentary lifestyle is worse for your health and life expectancy than SMOKING. Pretty surprising right?!

Last minute costumes The spookiest night of the year is just four days away! If you haven’t gotten your costume yet, here are some great last minute costume ideas.

Dupe jacket I’ve been eyeing this I.Am.Gia Pixie jacket that has been all over insta, and I was super excited to find an identical dupe that is literally 1/4 the price! I’m definitely going to be snagging this!

Boot bargain My absolute favorite and splurge worthy Stuart Weitzman boots are currently on sale for 45-50% off (which never happens!). Grab yourself a pair of Lowlands, Highlands, or this gorgeous knee high pair. While there are a lot of dupes for Stuart Weitzman boots, there is nothing quite like the real deal in terms of comfort and quality. They are well worth the splurge! (See all available styles on sale here)

Sales, sales, sales Some of the best sales this weekend:

Macy’s: 20% off lowest prices of the season sale with code DEALS

Saks Fifth Avenue: Up to 30% off select bedding, bath, and decorative home items

Lord & Taylor: Receive up to 50% off select styles with code LTDAYS

The Outnet: Take up to 50% off select styles

Old Navy: Receive up to 40% off select pants, jeans, outerwear, and tees

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