Category / For the Kiddos

Gift Guide for 4 Year Olds: Favorite Toys and Books

About once a year, I love to share what Crew is especially into as far as books and toys and activities. I LOVE a good gift guide from others whose kids are a step ahead of us to plan for future gift ideas — or to learn what’s hot in an age group I’m less familiar with and need to buy for. Fresh off of Christmas and a fourth birthday just after, we’ve had a very fun (and frankly, needed!) replenishment of new and more age advanced things to do. I love the variety of things Crew is interested in right now — it made it especially fun to shop for him this year (yes, there was still a garbage truck on the list, but at least it wasn’t ALL trucks!). He received a little of everything – action-based, STEM, literary, artsy, musical. Without further adieu, here are the things that are topping our list right now:

This Hape marble run set was gifted to Crew for his birthday. I later learned you can buy other sets and add on, but for now, this is plenty to play with and you can assemble and reassemble it in a few different configurations. We had one of these (plastic) once upon a time and it wasn’t sturdy enough and thus frustrating. Wood, Hape-quality is the way to go on this one. I have visions of saving it for my grandchildren to come play with someday!

The pricetag on the Osmo Creative Kit gave me pause initially — would he like it enough to justify it? I hadn’t heard from anyone firsthand about it. (Click the link and view the demo video to get the full effect!) This kit works with an iPad or Kindle to interact with your child’s drawings. Crew likes to draw but it’s not how he spends his days on end…until maybe now! He LOVES the interaction piece and the challenge to draw different things. I’m not kidding when I say the first time he sat down with this, because it could be completely self-guided, he logged easily an hour-plus and many hours since then. I love that we’re using the iPad for something OTHER than YouTube (eye roll) and I can actually see his wheels turning and his fine motor skills improving. Part of the price of this kit is the base that allows the tablet to work with these kits; once you have that, the other kits can be ordered WITHOUT a base, bringing the cost down a bit. I definitely would consider this pizza kit that allows the child to prepare pizza orders and count back change (again! watch the video to see how it works!), in another year or so.

These remote control bumper cars have been a HUGE hit. More than just an RC car, when one hits the others side button just right, the driver goes flying, to Crew’s giggling delight. They are a bit hard to control for a four year old, but it doesn’t seem to matter, because with two going at once, it’s chaos anyway 🙂

Crew had spotted this piano mat many times over in the Target toy aisle (he loved the beats created by pressing the buttons, but it was still in the box, so he didn’t even understand the extent of what it did) It has been a big hit from both a music standpoint and a winter indoors energy-burner! I notice the price on this on Amazon fluctuates — so check both spots! There are tons of games to play on this mat, from prancing around and tapping out a song, to make silly noises, to creating different beats, or just chasing around hopscotch-style while different music notes light up.

The Instax Mini in our house actually belongs to me (polaroids make great party favors at get-togethers!) but as I’m trying to cultivate some interest in photography with Crew, I’ve been letting him carry it around more and more, and the price point isn’t much more than other “kids cameras” on the market. It’s awesome for making photography tactile at this age and it creates some instant gratification to have a physical picture to look at that he made himself. He quickly understood the idea that the film is not unlimited like digital photography, so he’s learning to stop and think about what he wants to take a picture of, and he understands that when the 10 pictures run out, they’re gone. I’m rationing the film with him but already thinking ahead to Easter basket and future stockings — packs of film would be something he’d get VERY excited about!

Crew was SO INTO The Story Orchestra Nutcracker (featuring, of course, Tchaikovsky’s work) over Christmastime that I had to buy another title to get us past the season, so I went with Four Seasons in One Day (featuring the work of Vivaldi). The little snippets of famous classical music are just the right length for his attention span, and the interactive buttons keep it even more engaging. He loves to to pick out his favorites exclaiming that they sound scary or spooky or silly. There’s only one other title in this series so far, but I’m hoping they create more! We LOVE books and some of the newest additions that have received rave reviews are Knock Knock, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, Cookies! (the latest in a fun interactive cooking series we’re big fans of), and 3, 2, 1 Blast Off (a fantastic book about the solar system that doesn’t get too wordy or technical like most, for the littlest outer space enthusiasts).

Happy gifting — four is already shaping up to be SUCH a fun age!

Post may contain affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.

Fangirl Favorites: October

Back with my latest and random as ever round-up of stuff we love around here this month (and beyond!). I say it every time — but I so value the opinions of others rather than having to trial and error myself. It’s nice to just know when something comes highly recommended!

Lolleez throat pops — Cold season has hit our house hard, and with it comes all the sore throats. I love that unlike lozenges, these pops on a stick don’t pose the same choking hazard. They are Crew-approved and when I sampled one myself, I was pleasantly surprised they taste nothing like medicine, and DID help ease my sore throat.

Cookies interactive book — I’ve blogged about this Cook In A Book series multiple times and for good reason. Crew continues to LOVE these books and pulls them off the shelf regularly. They just released the newest title, and Santa is stashing it for a stocking stuffer.

Bota Box Wine — Yet another example of why you need cool friends to keep you in the loop. When we hosted a casual friends and kids dinner, a couple brought along this Pinot Noir. I’ve always been a box wine snob…until now. Page only liked it, but I thought it was really good (perfectly light and NOT sweet like other box reds I’ve tried), and especially for the price (about $20), it blew my mind you got the equivalent of four bottles. For a special occasion I’d defer to something else, but for a regular weeknight glass (or two), I’m all about keeping this one on tap.

BeautyCounter Overnight Resurfacing Peel — (No, I don’t sell BC – just love this item!) I am selective about my “splurgier” facial products, but this one has been worth its money and then some. While I haven’t seen as much lightening of age spots as I hoped to, my skin FEELS so much better and my makeup glides on in a way it never did before. I love no-fuss application stuff, and this one couldn’t be easier. Just slap one pump’s worth over your freshly washed face at night, and wait a minute or two before applying your moisturizer. I noticed a difference in my skin’s texture after the very first night.

Huckberry boots — Page added these to his shoe lineup last year and I’ve admittedly stolen them now and again for a quick jaunt out to the garage or the mailbox — and now I think I need my own pair. SO soft and warm and cozy — I’m a fan of anything that feels like slippers but can pass as a real shoe.

Diamond Dazzle Stick — These will be stocking stuffers for every gal on my list this year. I’m so bad about cleaning my ring on the regular at home, I like this little to-go stick so if I’m killing time in traffic or waiting at an appointment, I can do a quick shine. Would be a fun gift for a new bride or bride-to-be!

As always, comment here with the things you’re loving! I’m all about adding to cart based on your recommendations 🙂

Fangirl Favorites: September

  1. I have to begin with this ridiculously well priced set of chairs. You can buy them individually or in sets of two and four — I needed two for the current project of turning my “office” (previously the nursery) into more of a creative art room space. We’ve been sitting on them for weeks now and still love them!
  2. I was gifted this planner and would have never otherwise looked twice at it. I’ve never been a planner girl, but this is slowly changing my life (yes, dramatic). I am the classic “too many ideas, not enough time” and this planner has totally helped me break down big goals into actionable (realistic) chunks and I’m seeing so much progress two months in on so many of my big goals. There’s a monthly, weekly and daily component but there’s so much room for interpretation and to use it as it best works for you.
  3. We ALL love this lavender wash, but it’s particularly great for winding Crew down at bedtime. It’s very reasonably priced for a giant bottle and we’re maybe a third of the way through ours, which I bought at the beginning of the summer.
  4. It’s soup season and Page is the biggest fan. He ordered this thermos as a way to pack his Trader Joes tomato and roasted red pepper soup (have you tried it? SOOO good!) for the office.
  5. I should preface that I am NOT a cookbook purchaser. I rely heavily on my Pinterest boards and a handful of friends and family recipes that I keep in a binder. But Healthyish captivated from cover to cover and every single recipe I’ve tried out of here is so ridiculously good and full of flavor, without being overly complex. And while I can feel good about it being pretty good for me, the recipes aren’t SO stringent that it feels like “diet food”.
  6. I always notice that my skin acts up during the change of the seasons. I’ve been giving myself a little extra TLC with this hot cloth cleansing balm. I’m a HUGE fan of the one made by Beautycounter, but the price tag is just too hefty to justify on an ongoing basis. I’ve found this one to be very similar and paired with a set of muslin washcloths I can give myself a little facial while in the shower. (These two products together also make a great gift!)
  7. My mom finds the greatest stuff and this one nailed his obsession with food prep pretend play. Kiddos can “serve” different flavors of juice (his favorite part is using the menu to take our orders) into glasses and add ice cubes with this drink dispenser toy. Sounds so simple, but it’s provided HOURS of entertainment. In fact it’s been such a hit, I think we might add this set to expand his menu. And as always, we love Melissa & Doug toys for their long lasting durability – they’re the toys that get saved and packed away for my grandkids someday. 🙂

Fall Book List

Just give me alllll the fall reads — I’m not sure who is more excited for the season, me or my mini!

Our current list of must-reads:

The Scariest Book Ever has the boldest, most “popping” illustrations that are so fun to look at. This was a big hit last year when he was only two, but loves it all over again this year at three, and it’s funny for the adults reading it, as well.

Gilbert the Ghost I’ll admit, is better loved by Crew than by me. But it’s not too spooky and gets at the moral of being inclusive.

No Such Thing  is probably my favorite of this list — from the beginning the character doesn’t believe in ghosts and explains away all the weird things happening, only to find out maybe there IS such a thing, in the end.

How To Make Friends with A Ghost is a little wordy yet for Crew, so I shorten it as I read. He laughs out loud out the antics of befriending a ghost, and I love the idea that your ghost is “with you” from your youngest to your oldest days.

Thankful is obviously a good read with the message of gratitude — I haven’t found many “Thanksgiving” books but of them, this is my favorite.

The Little Children’s Halloween Activity Book is sure to keep Crew busy when we need a time-filler (restaurants, road trip, etc) and it’s nice to have something fresh in the mix, and relevant to the season. Always love Usborne’s activity items!

Vampirina Ballerina is one we checked out from the library to test run. I thought it was adorable, but based around a girl’s love of ballet, it didn’t hold Crew’s interest. I’d definitely recommend it for the girls, though!

Stumpkin is one I stumbled on at the bookstore the other day and will be going back to pick up. I’d never heard of it, but at first flip through, I love the story sentiments around the idea of being “perfect”.

Ghosts is another on our wish list — I try to add a new title or two each year, and this will likely be one of them!

Which titles did I miss???

5 Boy Outfits for Fall

I can’t tell you how much fun I have going through Crew’s closet each season. Maybe it’s the fact that kids literally get an ALL NEW wardrobe every year because they’ve grown, maybe it’s that everything is just cuter in little sizes…maybe it’s just that kids clothes are so much FUN! It was so hard to choose, but I kept it to five outfits (and one jammie set, of course!) using a bunch of my favorite pieces. Some items are purchased new this year, and some were bought ahead last year and are no longer available (NLA). I’ve linked exact products where I can, but at the very least, you hopefully come away with some fun *BOY* outfit ideas!

chambray shirt | cranberry tee (Target NLA) | numbers joggers | shoes | beanie (Etsy NLA)

velvet blazer (Target NLA) | pie tee | (SandiLake NLA) | pull-on jeans (Hudson NLA) | saddle shoes (similar)

sweater (Hanna Andersson NLA)| long sleeved tee | striped joggers | olive boots

FriYAY tee | yellow tee | pull-on jeans | Hunter boots

plaid buttondown | navy sweater | olive harem pants | moccasins

PSM tee | jammies

Fangirl Favorites: August

It’s no secret I spend too much time finding all the things that need to come exist in my house. But I so appreciate reading from other blogs about finds that they’ve tried and LOVED — it takes the guesswork and review reading out of the purchase process for me!

I’m inspired to start sharing things we’re loving (and expand beyond just Crew stuff!) on a regular basis. Only stuff I’m a total fangirl of makes the cut!

Without further adieu…

  1. I’ve started more than one conversation with friends lately like this…”Did I already tell you about my air fryer obsession? I did?” because we’re that into it. I’m not a “more is more” in the kitchen — I hate multiple little appliances specific to tasks, all of which require cleaning, organizing, and storage space. But this one is worth all of the above. Originally to simply heat up (quickly! no preheating required) “kid food” like chicken nuggets and fish sticks (without the mushiness that comes with the microwave), I quickly made the leap into using it for myself to health-ify some favorites like french fries (it captures extra grease in the pan at the bottom – calories saved!). You can be as healthy (hello sweet potato fries and kale chips!) or as unhealthy (ummm the most EPIC donuts made from biscuit dough) as you like. 😉 But either way, this little gadget is changing the way we eat.
  2. YOU. GUYS. I was recently gifted a pair of these faux leather magical butter-pants, aka Spanx leggings. Until now I had only purchased undergarments from this brand, known for sucking it in and smoothing it out in all the right places. Be prepared for heavy rotation of these in my feed!
  3. Page and I both ordered a pair of Goodr running sunglasses after they were recommended by friends. I had never heard of them and expected them to be much more than their $25 price point. Amazing for going to the pool and working out – they really DON’T slip, and without the normal “pinch your nose to stay in place” technique of the others I’ve tried in the past. Plus, you have to love the hilarious names of each style.
  4. I jumped on the natural deodorant bandwagon earlier this year and never looked back. While I still love the scent of the Ursa Major I wrote about here, as summer has heated up, I feel like it’s starting to fall short on the sweatiest of days. Enter my brilliant blogger friend Ivy of Wake Up for Makeup. (Seriously, whatever she talks about, I just go buy without hesitation. She’s a genius about anything beauty/body products.) I immediately noticed better and longer-lasting coverage with this Smarty Pits brand (and love the subtle eucalyptus/mint scent!).
  5. Usborne magic painting books are the easiest, cleanest, way to get your kids into art. Crew loves to use a paintbrush more than any other art medium, but if I’m only half paying attention, I can’t risk leaving him with open jars of tempera everywhere. He LOVES this book (other themes available) and it’s also so easy to throw in my bag for a restaurant — all you need is a glass of water from the server.
  6. I feel like it’s so hard to find bath toys for kids beyond the age of about 18 months. Crew can keep himself busy in the tub until the water turns cold if he has some good entertainment. He is ALL about food service lately (see more evidence below!) so I had to give this bubble ice cream machine a go. Worth every penny, all you need to supply is some bubble bath.
  7. Continuing the theme, despite only visiting a couple ever, Crew became ALL about the food truck, I think because it combines his love of all things on wheels, and the ability to cook up orders for people. He still plays with his little kitchen on a regular basis, but this food truck tent has been such a fun new spin and a new way to use all the play food we’ve accumulated. He literally plays with it at some point every day and he’s learning to assign prices to things. I must say, I’ve never had a better make believe $100 slice of pizza.
  8. Last Crew toy/food reference ha! My parents gave him this ice cream set to go WITH the food truck, of course. Melissa and Doug can do no wrong anyway, but this set of play food is particularly fun because of magnets inside to help grip/release the scoops and build double decker cones. I know some kids can totally take or leave the whole play food thing, but for our guy, this set is worth its weight in gold.
  9. You have to swoon a little when your hubby gets a random Amazon gift card…and promptly spends it on an item from your wish list. <3 36 Hours showed up to my surprise and I’m obsessed. I do still love a physical book when I know I will reference it again and again, and this one is so pretty sitting out on a table. Organized by region of the country, it documents how to spend 36 hours in all the best spots across the USA and Canada. Road trip planning is in full swing!
  10. Perhaps saving the very best for last…also known as Page’s fathers day gift that has become just as much mine as his ha! This cold brew coffee maker has taken up permanent residence in our fridge and until the snow flies, it’s not going anywhere. Our coffee pro friend was the first to inform us that iced coffee is NOT the same as cold brew, and that the latter is the ONLY way to go. You can absolutely taste the difference, and we’ve since learned that cold brew is much less acidic than regular hot brewed coffee, so an extra win. Keep in mind it’s extra concentrated — I usually do a third of a glass with brew, a third milk, a third water, and add ice. Sip and enjoy the ecstasy.

There you have it, the top ten things that are changing our lives around here! 🙂 Have something you can’t live without?! Shoot me a link – I’m ALWAYS all ears to hear what others are all about!

The Best Lunch-Packing Products

As a follow-up to my favorite toddler/preschooler-sized backpacks, I’m turning my attention to all things lunch-related as we enter the first week of the school year. We don’t often have to provide a lunch yet, but as we approach kindergarten (say whaaa?!) I’m paying attention to my oh-so-smart mama friends who have all the best recommendations. I do pack my own lunch for work frequently, and have used a similar style lunch box and the silicone cups to keep things separate. And some of these things make lunches at home with littles that much more fun to prepare.

  1. We love this set of cutters — that includes sandwich cutters (who wants crust, anyway?!) little ones that are fun for fruit and cheese slices.
  2. Genius move by parents everywhere to use these little silicone cups to keep foods separate within lunches. (I personally like them to hold almonds and other stuff I want to stay “crunchy” on top of my salads until I’m ready to eat.)
  3. I love the idea of Bento boxes for kids because they hate when stuff “touches” — I like the price point of this box, and as my neighbor so smartly pointed out — you can afford to purchase a week’s worth, pack and stack them all in one night in the fridge, and have ZERO to do all week long.
  4. We’ve been using this stainless water bottle since shortly after Crew was off bottles. They are indestructible and great at keeping cold drinks cold (perfect for all-day summer outings). I’m picky about water bottles because they MUST be easy to clean — this one is my winner.
  5. I love the idea of these pre-printed lunchbox notes! They don’t make much sense until your kiddos are at a reading age, but I love the idea that they don’t require as much time to prepare, but still offer a touchpoint of “I’m thinking about you!” during their school day.

And if you’re looking for some lunch-packing inspiration, here are a couple of my favorite sources:

  • Lunchbox brand, Lunchbots, has a great Instagram feed full of ideas
  • My friend, Lisa, shares her healthy and creative ideas over at Love You Lunches

Favorite Backpacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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It’s that back-to-school time of year and there are SO many cute backpacks out there — but so many are HUGE and nearly impossible for the littlest of students to carry.

Today I’m sharing my favorites for the “pint size” packs — so many of these come in additional colors and prints, and BONUS, they’re all available on Amazon! 😉

Post contains affiliate links.