Category / Shopping

Favorite Things: Age 3

Whenever I’m shopping for kids of other ages or genders, I’m always hunting for a gift guide to get me thinking. Even as Crew gets older, I’m checking out gift guides for the age group just above his, to help keep the ideas fresh. Crew has been LOVING the same few items lately, so I thought it made sense to do a round-up as we approach the half mark (what?!) of age three:

  • This set of upper and lower case letter puzzles has gotten SO. MUCH. USE. It’s without a doubt the number one thing Crew has been playing with as of late. He gets such a thrill out of being quizzed (and quizzing us) and matching up the “big and littles” of each letter. He also has made a game out of one of us racing him to see who can put the letters in their puzzle, first. The listing we bought is now unavailable, but the dimensions, price point, even the font style on this set are identical.
  • All the grabbers. Claws. Robot arms. Whatever you want to call them, I can’t really articulate what it is about these, but each one is more exciting than the next. Crew loves the coordination exercise of trying to pick up toys with them (bonus motivation to clean up!) and the ones that have animal heads like this dinosaur that can “chomp” are extra cool.
  • The Cook In A Book series is one I’ve blogged before (we have all three titles!), but they continue to be SUCH a hit.
  • I bought a couple of these Tiny Tonkas for a trip last year as something small to carry-on and knew the garage door “things inside other things” would be a big hit. Turns out we’ve been collecting them every since. They’ve become a (well played with!) collection and the garages all hook together to form a super garage for all the vehicles — which coincidentally are also the perfect size for running through the many garbage trucks he plays with.
  • Memory is a favorite game. It began with a set he picked out in the dollar section, and then after so. many. rounds. I’ve added a couple different sets to our stash, just to switch it up. Most recently, we acquired this magnetic set for some upcoming travels, but it’s also come in handy at restaurants.
  • Boys just need to MOVE. This scooter came from the Easter Bunny and it’s been a great energy burner and challenge in balancing, coordination, and learning how to brake. It’s a great “first” scooter because of the sturdy two-front-wheels design. He can focus on just figuring it out without fear of falling over.
  • Anything that shoots darts, squirts water (great for the bath!), or launches little foam rockets — all a gold star in this guy’s book. Between the thrill of cause and effect, and mastering aim at a target (often, our ceiling fans!) these have all been favorites. (Tip: If you go the stomp rocket route, go with the “Jr.” model for this age group, so they can actually have enough force to make it work!)
  • Not a “toy” but might as well be — this pancake pen was part of his Valentine loot, and it combines a couple of loves — making letters/spelling his name, and making pancakes. (PS — I love to gift the pancake pen with the above-mentioned Pancakes book, together!)

Anything to add? I’m always on the hunt for a new favorite!

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5 Little Things I’m Doing to Improve My (and My Family’s) Health

Between the start of the year (resolution/goals mindset) and the coming of Spring (well, someday! we are due more SNOW this week!), I’ve been more health/goal minded and craving some changes and healthier habits in my (and my family’s) day-to-day routines. I’ve found I have more success implementing smaller changes, a couple at a time, than trying to overhaul, getting overwhelmed (or distracted) and undoing any good I’ve done, altogether.

I’m no expert, and I don’t sell or represent any brands mentioned, but I’m feeling really good about these five little things I’m making the rule instead of the exception in my everyday:

1. packing my lunches
I’ve been trying to be more intentional about including more fruits and veggies and proteins, and not buying my lunches out (which adds up quickly) on workdays. It truly is easier to dedicate a half hour or so on Sunday nights to portion out some lunches for the next three days. I find it easiest to just eat the same thing, times three, and change it up from week to week rather than daily. I quickly realized I was burning through ziploc bags, so I ordered myself one of the Lunchbots tins (mine is the “trio large”) and I LOVE how easy it is to pack, rinse, and re-use from one day to the next. (Also — if you follow the Lunchbots instagram account, it’s full of fresh snack/meal ideas for packing adult and kid lunches, alike!)

2. switching to natural deodorant
Over Christmas, a friend mentioned loving this brand of natural deodorant and I made a mental note. Then, after another friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, she mentioned making the switch to a natural deodorant, and I was inspired to do the same. Ursa Major happened to be the first brand I tried and I’ve been VERY pleased. I haven’t had much in the way of “detox symptoms” that some people talk about, but I think it’s also probably easier to make the switch now before the heat season comes. I also just think this particular brand is THAT good and worth the money. I’m kind of  obsessed with it and love the smell and tingly sensation. It feels so fresh and I love knowing everything in it is SAFE. (Also — if your skin is sensitive to baking soda — common in natural deodorants — they also make a “no B.S.” version here.)

3. throwing out our vegetable oil (and peanut oil and canola oil)
A friend of mine is a nutritionist and I’ve been stalking – er, following – all her delicious recipes and posts here. When she mentioned getting vegetable oils out of your life, I was intrigued and googled a bit further. This article is a great read on why to make the switch, if you need further convincing! And this change was SO easy to do. I simply tossed what we had, bought an olive oil spray in place of Pam for nonstick uses, and the mega jar of Coconut Oil home from Costco for anything else that would normally call for oil. I find myself checking labels a bit more for instances of these oils, but I’m not overly crazy about it. Again, it’s about small steps and implementing changes at reasonable rates.

4. experimenting with natural household products 
I’ve admittedly found it a bit “hippie” in the past, but after so many new options on the market and constant new research to support them, I’ve taken a new interest in the products I bring into my home. I recently played around on the Think Dirty app to score some items we’re already using. Some passed with flying colors…and others failed miserably. So I feel like I have a good list of places to start using up and replacing sooner than later. I’ve always been rather intentional about choosing natural products when it comes to Crew, but even in that arena, as we’ve moved away from the “baby phase” it gets easier to slip up. I’ve recently purchased this body wash for his bathtime and love it (we did the lavender scent, but they’re all delicious). We also switched to Trader Joes all natural laundry detergent (loooove the smell). Easy swaps, little changes.

I’ve also been playing more and more with essential oils (I’m not loyal to any one brand, but do your research to make sure you are buying 100% pure, therapeutic grade and no filler stuff). I ditched dryer sheets long ago and now add a few oil drops to my wool dryer balls and incorporating them into rollerballs (I’m using these) and a couple DIY cleaners, linen sprays, and more (in these bottles). I’m still learning and experimenting, but I’m particularly interested in using them for allergy relief as that season approaches.

5. drinking apple cider vinegar 
This is not a new one for me, but I fall out of the habit and am being intentional about reincorporating it. I’ve been trying to cut back on alcohol, so instead of taking a glass of wine to my nightly Netflix wind-down, I pour a big glass of ice water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. A run-down of the many benefits of incorporating this (easy peasy) habit into water you are already drinking can be found here.

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5 Boy Outfits for Spring

I’m on a mission to share some quarterly boy outfit inspo, starting with SPRING!

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Shirt by CrewCuts // Boots by Hunter // Shorts by Target // Knee Socks by Etsy

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Sweatshirt and Trunks by Janie & Jack // Sunnies by Gap // Shoes by Old Navy

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Cardigan by The Little Spoons // Tee by CrewCuts // Shorts by Target // Shoes by Gap

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Shirt by Children’s Place // Shorts by Rockets of Awesome // Shoes by Nike

5 boy outfits for spring | www.lifeinyellow.com

Jammies & Kiddo Blanket by June & January

Can’t wait to do this again soon for summer 🙂

Favorite Places to Shop and Top 3 Tips for Dressing Boys

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

cardigan Beau Hudson // tee Jean & June // jeans Hudson // boots Hunter

 

There’s no question if you’re into kid fashion, it’s easier to hunt down original stuff for the girls than for the boys. So far, we’ve managed to stay away from character clothing (yes, I’m THAT non-fun mom), and I’ve never been one to do the cliche “little slugger” type stuff. And…I can only do so much Under Armour. Beyond those categories, it can SEEM like there’s not much to choose from for the boys. But boy mama fashionistas, you know better!

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com  

shirt Janie & Jack // suspenders Little Mister // olive chinos Oshkosh

 

Embrace the hunt, because it IS a hunt — and look in unexpected places…and LIVE UP the fact that most little boys (unlike girls, accordingly to my friends who have them) don’t CARE what you put them in — so pick what you like! As a boy mom who loves fashion, (and married a guy who happens to love it as well), I truly believe that dressing boys really IS just as much fun, if you’re willing to look a little harder. I a believer that a sense of style is NOT something reserved only for the female half of the population and I take personal pride in the fact that Crew (as much as a three year old can), LIKES clothing and notices what people wear!

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

shirt Gymboree // linen blazer Janie & Jack // carrot pin Etsy

 

I get asked a lot where I shop for Crew, and thought it made sense to compile my list all at once and share it out. (You’ll see I don’t stick to one style — we go from classic and preppy to whimsical and wordy!) While I certainly do pick up something from Target and Carters from time to time, I don’t often have much luck, and while I definitely buy Gap and Old Navy items (they consistently nail cuteness!), I only do so much there, too, because EVERYONE is wearing the same thing (again, so few resources — means boy moms are all going to the same spots!).

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

shirt Gap // shorts Gymboree // sandals Target

 

Ultimately, I do most of my shopping online to get outside the bubble of what Des Moines has to offer. Below is a list of the stores/brands I have purchased from and would recommend to my best girlfriends, because of the high quality, sense of style, expansive selection, or some combination of the three. (Note that several of these are Etsy shops or small independent brands — I love to support small businesses in this arena!)

 

My top 3 tips when it comes to shopping for boys:

1. Shop the sale racks. Most people buy kids clothes based on growth spurts and needs for the current season. I like to shop the sales for the following year(s) and not just to save money, and to be able to fit more pieces of higher-quality kidswear into my budget, but doing so also reduces the chance that you’ll see the same item everywhere if he’s not wearing it the season it was released. (Nothing worse than paying good money for a cute item only to see it everywhere and it becomes less special!) Additional tip: when shopping at a retailer with both store locations AND online space, look for the items that are “online exclusives” — you’ll be less likely to see these around, because they aren’t in the stores.

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

shirt Ralph Lauren // shorts Gymboree // pink Converse Von Maur

2. Shop the girls’ section. Yep, you read that right. If the (already much larger!) girl department gets to offer dinosaur jammies and other “traditionally boy” things for little ladies, then I say the boy department gets to borrow right back. One of my favorite looks ever on Crew was the spring/Easter season this year when he rocked some pink Converse tennis shoes. Paired with a linen blazer, or a Polo button-down and some chino shorts, or any other decidedly “boy” pieces, the pink shoes made a fun statement (and he loved them!). Another favorite girl department item I’ve bought three years in a row? H&M black fleece-lined leggings (they technically show up in both departments) — the skinny look works on boys when paired with a cool sweatshirt and tennis shoes, and they’re comfy for napping, stay up on skinny waists, and are warm for Iowa winters!

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

coat Old Navy // sweater Childrens Place // bow tie Etsy // shorts Beaufort Bonnet // saddle shoes Amazon

3. Shop small/local. Because they have to set themselves apart, local/small online shops get some of the BEST stuff that blows the big box-store styles out of the water. Their entire business is childrenswear, so they do it WELL. Yes, the price point is typically higher, but so is the QUALITY and the ORIGINALITY – two things that rank high in my book. Plus, you’re supporting small businesses who often make their purchasing/creation decisions based on their first-hand experience with their own kiddos — the same ones you’re supporting by choosing to spend your dollars there.

tips + resources for dressing boys | www.lifeinyellow.com

navy and gray layered tees Old Navy // yellow chinos Old Navy

Above are some of my favorite outfits from the past year or so, from all seasons (if items are still available, I’ve linked them below each photo). I’m excited to start pulling together quarterly posts with seasonal outfit ideas for boys, if you’re looking for some “look book” inspiration! Stay tuned later this week — I’m starting with looks for SPRING!

Easter for the Boys

1. Dinosaur egg bath bombs

Crew got some bath bombs in his stocking for Christmas and is so into them. He’s also big on dinosaurs so these were perfect (and I get to put some “eggs” in his basket). I’ve also found these at Wal-Mart next to the kiddo bubble bath.

2. Rifle Paper Co. Tie + Pocket square

I’m a sucker for the Rifle Paper Co. florals, and now that they make fabrics, I’m in heaven. I was pretty sure Page would love this tie for himself, and after checking with him to be sure, he was all over the pocket square, too. Crew thinks anything Dad does is the coolest, so this was a fun way to make the most of that in their Easter get-ups.

3. Too Many Carrots

Crew was gifted A Long Winter’s Nap for his birthday, and while Crew loved the story, I fell in love with the artwork, and had to know what else the author had written. This title was too perfect for this holiday.

4. Bunnies on Bicycles jammies

You know I love some Hanna jams. I loved this pattern in that it wasn’t overly Easter — but more Springtime and reminds us of getting outside again soon! These will certainly last us all summer into the hotter months when long jammies are just too warm at night.

5. Chalk Bombs

With the excitement of getting outside more, I think Crew will like this fun spin on traditional sidewalk chalk. I originally thought you could only use them once and then done, but when I figured out you can throw them again and again to make “explosions” of chalk art, I was sold.

6. Bunny slingshot

I thought this was so clever, and while I can’t link to it, you can find it in your Target dollar spot ($3). I also like that the “ammo” (aka bunny tail) won’t do too much damage around my house!

7. Pink knee highs

When it comes to dressing boys, I hate to feel limited and like to think outside the box. I’m also a huge believer in boys wearing pink, and that either gender can shop outside his/her department! Last year I put Crew in some pink Converse with his Easter ensemble, and the shoes were a hit with him all season long after that. This year, I started with the socks of all things, after coming across June & January’s unisex socks — finally something in a fun color that doesn’t have a frilly edge or girlie pattern to it. These will let us get one more wear out of the saddle shoes he wore with his Christmas outfit, too!

The “Crew”Neck — Personalized Patch Kid Sweatshirt

You don’t have to look far to see the patch trend is everywhere — and particularly big in kid’s clothing. One piece of  this trend goes a long way for me, but I thought it would be such a fun way to capture everything that makes Crew, CREW right now, at age 3.

He LOVES to spot the letter C everywhere, and 3 is his current favorite number, so those were easy places to start. But it was when I was able to find a garbage truck patch on Etsy,  that I knew this project was a must-do.

 

 

I pinned a few example pieces to get a feel for arrangement and relative sizes of patches. I ended up ordering this  sweatshirt, as Crew isn’t super big on zip-ups right now (he thinks anything with a zipper is for going outside only, he has yet to understand the heavenly-ness of a hoodie!) and I didn’t want this piece to be limited to outerwear.

The C patch and the 3 patch came from Amazon, everything else was from a variety of sellers on Etsy, although Ebay is a great resource as well if you’re looking for something super-specific. For a 4T sweatshirt, I’d keep the patches smaller, around 1-1/2″ average size. I actually started with a much bigger slice of pizza (admittedly, I wasn’t paying close attention to  the size description) and ended up swapping for something smaller.

When you’re shopping for your patches, I’d recommend varying the sizes and colors and shapes of the patches — I opted to start with a focal point (I knew I wanted the letter jacket “C” to be prominent) — and then built everything else around that. It SEEMS random to throw them all on there, but it took me a few minutes of arranging to get everything to “work” on here and keep it balanced.

Yes, this was a project for my enjoyment, but I’m happy my model is thrilled with it, too.

Crew’s Reading List (the 3 year old version)

I’m so thrilled that Crew LOVES a good reading session, and is starting to “read” books back to us as well. I think this age is particularly fun for books, because the stories become more elaborate, and the illustrations more like works of art. Characters, plot, morals of the story all begin to exist. Questions are explained. Concepts are broken down. Real discussions start to evolve after the close of the cover.

You can actually see those little wheels turning and growing.

While there are what seem like zillions of titles in rotation right now (and several borrowed regulars from the library as well!), I’m doing a run-down today of some serious favorites. As I compiled this list, I realized we’ve only picked out about half of these — the others have been gifts from family and friends. We lucky to have a bunch of book lovers in our “village”!

Dragons Love Tacos — (and the sequel, Dragons Love Tacos 2) I’ve actually had to hide these books from time to time. They’re adorable, but Page and I both hit a point where we just. couldn’t. read. them. anymore. Dragons and dinosaurs go hand in hand for Crew I think, and the idea that they breathe fire is highly interesting to him. Read with a little extra drama for fun points. 😉

My First Mazes — Not a story, but a worthwhile mention. All about the mazes, I’ve been a big fan of this one and this one, both of which progressively get harder as the child works through the pages. Similarly, this one gifted by our neighbor follows the same process, but I like that it offers a little more context as far as what happens when the maze is complete (i.e. get the car to the garage) and then asks a follow-up question. Yes, there are some apps that offer mazes, but Crew seems to prefer the pen and paper and I think there’s value in working on both pen control and having that tactile experience. We can’t buy these fast enough before he’s through them!

First Math — I’m a self-proclaimed math nerd and Crew is right at that point where he can identify numbers and count objects but is ready for a little more. This super visual, lift-a-flap approach helps him work through when you have 2 of something and 3 of something else…and then reveal the answer. I tend to prefer the more “workbook” type content from Usborne as opposed to the stories. At the suggestion of a rep, I also brought home Take Away which has a slide and find approach to subtraction. It’s a little beyond him at the moment, but will be great in a few more months!

After the Fall — I could not love the concept behind this book more. This is the story of what happened after Humpty Dumpty got back up again. And the author is a Caldecott winner. Enough said, right?

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight — Crew is very into dinosaurs, so when my mom found this book for Christmas, I knew it would be a hit. There is a whole series of “How Do Dinosaurs Say…” and each version there is a glossary of the types of dinosaurs in the front/back cover, so you can identify them as you go through the pages.

Cook In A Book series — we currently have Pizza and Pancakes (and Tacos is arriving for Valentines Day). Crew LOVES to cook, real or make believe, and is super interested in units of measurement (“how many do I go to, Mom?”) so something that can walk him through the same recipe time and again is right up his alley. I think these are such cleverly designed books — spinning a wheels lets the sauce suddenly “appear” spooned onto the crust, tabs allow kids to “pour” ingredients into a bowl, you set the dial on the oven, you flip the pancake onto a plate, etc.

A Loud Winter’s Nap — Fun to have books about winter, but not specifically holiday. This was gifted to Crew for his birthday and my favorite part is the gorgeous illustrations. The lesson is about a change in perspective (“tortoises don’t like winter!”) and it hits on lots of things that are big in our world this season — snowball fights, sledding, etc.

I Stink — we actually bought the board book of this story when Crew first discovered his love for garbage trucks (around 18 months) and if I’m being honest, the ridiculous language drove me a little crazy. So many adjectives and sound effects. It’s a mouthful to read aloud. And yet, when we received it again in full format at his birthday this year, and have since rented the companion DVD from the library, I see just HOW into the overdone verbiage Crew is, and I’ve come full circle. Also, the full version references a few times “crew” as in the garbagemen, and someone is downright DELIGHTED thinking it’s written just for him.

All of the Elephant & Piggie books — we own some and borrow others from the library — this duo is a big hit in our house. I purchased the first couple to prep Crew (and okay, Page, too) after I bought tickets to see “We Are In A Play!” at our local childrens theatre. I love that the books navigate lessons that are tricky (waiting is hard, sharing, etc) and the simple illustrations and emphasis on words/character dialogue is a great primer to focusing on the language to follow along with the story as opposed to spelling it out in elaborate pictures.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site — we’ve had this one for a year now, but it’s still a regular favorite. Aside from the fact he loves to name all the construction vehicles, the rhythmic writing is kind of lulling and by the end of the book, it really does have a wind-down effect for bedtime.

Machines At Work — I remember my own brothers being obsessed with this title. We are almost beyond it in terms of the simple writing, but Crew is still in love with identifying the machines, and prefers to be the one who “reads” (recites) it back to us.

My Very Own Name — Some family friends gifted this personalized book that incorporates a rhyming story with a letter-by-letter building of his first and last name. Crew loved from the start hearing himself referred to in the story, and identifying the animals throughout, which are cataloged in the back for reference. As he’s gotten better about identifying letters and spelling beyond his first name, he is SO. PROUD. to correctly predict each next letter. Awesome gift idea!

Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook — my aunt’s background as a librarian means ANYthing she recommends is sure to be a success. She gifted this title to us and it’s one of my favorites to read because of the humor. It also doesn’t feel like any other style of childrens story I’ve read in terms of the “handbook” approach to a topic.

I ALWAYS love hearing others’ must-read lists, so hit me up with them 🙂 Happy reading!

You can read my list of toddler book recommendations here.

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