An Expert Answers My Questions About Choosing Educational Toys & Games

(Disclosure: This interview is sponsored by LeapFrog and I am receiving some of their products in exchange for posting. Thoughts are my own.)

The Holiday gift giving season is coming up and if you are anything like me you are overwhelmed by the choices of educational toys and games on the shelves. I had a chance to ask some of my top questions when it comes to this topic and get them answered by Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos. Jody is the math and science development expert of LeapFrog’s Learning Team where she works on products across all platforms to teach math and science concepts in developmentally appropriate ways using research-based techniques. Before joining LeapFrog, she was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, a researcher and instructor, and a math textbook author. She is also the proud mother of two boys.

Here were the questions I asked her:

  • How are the age ranges on toys/games/apps decided?
  • How would you suggest dealing with younger siblings wanting older siblings games/toys that are not made for them?
  • What should parents look for when buying toys for preschoolers?
  • What Leapfrog toys do you think will be hot this Christmas season?

Check out her answers to my questions below:

If you can’t view the video, here is a direct link: more details about the LeapPad Ultra mentioned in the video here.

P.S. Stay tuned this weekend for an awesome LeapPad prize pack giveaway!!

2013 Toys“R”Us Holiday Hot Toy List

As much as I want to deny it, Christmas will be here soon. For those of you who like to shop early I have the 2013 Toys”R”Us Holiday Hot Toy List. I’m excited to be working with Toys”R”Us this Holiday season and will be reviewing some of these hot toys! Here is the list representing the top new toys of the year in each age group:

THE 2013 #TRUHotToyList

Baby’s First Christmas
Grow with Me Activity Gym & Ball Pit
from Infantino®
Little ones will “have a ball” with this action-packed, grow-with-me activity gym, which has pop-up mesh sides so it can convert into a ball pit. Featuring an adorable sea turtle shape, the set is complete with 4 plush toys children will fall in love with, as well as 4 colorful balls. No batteries required. Ages 0 years and up.

13 Months to 2 Years
Laugh & Learn Crawl Around Car
from Fisher-Price®
Baby can take the driver’s seat with this fun-filled learning vehicle and let the adventures begin. With different play modes, little ones can get a head start on learning everything from their ABC’s to colors. This cruising machine can also help tiny tots develop gross motor skills as it encourages crawling. 3 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 6 months to 3 years.

Rollin’ Tunes Zebra from Fisher-Price®
The more baby rolls, the more fun they’ll have with this interactive Zebra, which is sure to become any baby’s best pal. The music grows louder as little ones keep rollin’ along and fun phrases keep the ride exciting. 3 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 12 months to 3 years.

2 to 4 Years
Big Hugs Elmo
from Hasbro®
Little ones are sure to fall in love with the first feature Elmo toy that can hug them back. When kids give their red, furry friend a hug, the interactive plush moves his arms to return the love. This cuddly, 22-inch lifelike Elmo has flexible arms and a soft head, plays 3 fun songs, features more than 50 animated sounds and phrases, and encourages pretend play. When little ones are ready for naptime, Elmo will even sing a lullaby and make sleeping sound effects to help soothe them to sleep. 4 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 18 months to 4 years.

Despicable Me 2 Minion Dave, Agnes and Gru Collector’s Edition Figures from Thinkway Toys
The quirky and lovable characters of Despicable Me 2 are here to make the holidays bright. These highly detailed Minion Dave (9-inch), Agnes (11-inch) and Gru (14-inch) interactive figures (sold separately) feature moving heads, eyes and mouths. Sure to ignite bouts of laughter, each character recites at least 30 phrases from the comical movie in their original voices and each responds to sound for back-and-forth conversation. 3 “AAA” batteries required for Agnes (not included). 4 “AA” batteries required for Minion Dave (not included). 3 “AA” batteries required for Gru (not included). Ages 4 to 12 years.

Disney Planes Wing Control Dusty Crophopper Remote Control Plane from Mattel®
It’s time to tilt and fly. Kids can have high-flying fun recreating the action seen in the Disney movie Planes, with this RC vehicle that offers role-play remote control, making the plane move as they do. This plane is fully equipped with sounds and phrases that amp up the action for a thrilling air venture. 2 “AAA” and 4”AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 3 years and up.

Doc McStuffins Deluxe Get Better Check-Up Center from Just Play
Kids will have all the tools they need with this set to enjoy imaginative play as they heal toys and give checkups just like Doc McStuffins. When the included Lambie is placed on the check-up table, tiny caretakers will delight in lights and sounds. Plus, future physicians will enjoy using the electronic Big Book of Boo Boos to make a diagnosis, slide in play x-rays to activate lights and sounds, use the cell phone for “chats” with Hallie and more. Kids can also use the portable scale to check their patient’s weight and take the ouches away with bandage stickers from the dispenser on the clinic door. This exclusive set includes 14 bonus pieces, including Doc’s child-size lab coat and new First Aid Kit with fun accessories, perfect for on-the-go checkups. 3 “AA” batteries required for Check-Up Center. 2 “AA” batteries required for play cell phone (not included). Ages 3 years and up (not included). This item will become available in October.

Imaginarium Mountain Rock Train Table from Toys“R”Us®
This wooden train table set delivers big play value for little ones with over 100 pieces and 23 feet of track, plus, lights and sounds bring playtime to life. Mini conductors can take the 8 included trains on a journey through 5 play destinations. From the two-tower bridge and two-level mountain pass, to the working swivel crane, train station and 4-door roundhouse turntable, kids will enjoy hours of train play. Plus, this ultimate set is compatible with other select wooden train sets and features a large storage drawer, so kids’ collections can continue to grow. 2 “AAA” batteries required (not included). Ages 3 years and up.

Imaginext® Batcave from Fisher-Price®
Kids will love helping Batman and his sidekick Robin with this secret command center equipped with superhero gadgetry, including a Batcomputer, secret walkways, a Batwing, elevator, jail and more. Turn the included Batman and Robin figures on any of the 3 activation disks to make cool things happen throughout. Plus, young superheroes can use the included launcher to blast projectiles at approaching intruders. And, when Batman needs to race into Gotham City, kids can place him on his Batcycle and send him off. To bring the fun of this Batcave to life, a complimentary, downloadable iPhone® Imaginext Batcave app is available. No batteries required. Ages 3 years and up.

My Little Pony Feature Princess Twilight Sparkle Pony from Hasbro®
Now, the magic of Equestria is in kids’ hands with this interactive pony. With one touch of her cutie mark, she will move her head and blink her eyes as she awakens. Brush her mane and Twilight Sparkle will hum songs and speak whimsical phrases as she’s being pampered. Plus, her iridescent turquoise wings and unicorn horn illuminate with a touch, creating enchanting patterns of light, and kids can push her along and watch as her wings flutter. 4 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 3 years and up.

Sofia the First Royal Talking Vanity from JAKKS Pacific®
Princesses in training can get ready for a royal dance with this gorgeous vanity inspired by Sofia the First. Standing over 3 feet tall, this vanity features 6 princess lessons from Sofia and lots of hidden surprises including a jewelry box that appears with a push of a magical button, hidden animal friends and a storage drawer to store trinkets. The vanity features 8 beauty accessories to complete the play including two perfume bottles, a comb, lipstick, necklace and a mini tiara. The set also comes with a complimentary magical lesson card to use with the Talking Magical Amulet, (sold separately). 3 “AA” batteries required. Ages 3 years and up. This item will become available in October.

You & Me Tub & Toot Doll from Toys“R”Us®
Little ones will love to splish splash in the bath with this Toys“R”Us-exclusive doll. Simply by lifting the interactive doll’s left hand while bathing, kids will be in for a fun surprise, as she giggles and babbles away. 3 “AA” batteries required (included). Ages 2 years and up.

5 to 7 Years
Battroborg 3-in-1 Battle Arena
from TOMY®
Let the battle begin! This one-of-a-kind set offers kids action-packed play using motion-controlled battling robots. The newest innovation in robot gaming technology, this set features Nunchaku motion controllers, allowing players to control the action in the ring by maneuvering robots to match their own motions. With 3 competitive game modes, competitors will enjoy head-to-head Battroborg battle, can practice their moves with training drones or master the art of combat against a self-propelled Battroborg robot. Includes 2 robots, 2 Nunchaku motion controllers, arena, 4 training drones, 2 sticker sheets and 2 face sheets. 8 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 6 years and up.

Boom Boom Balloon Game from Spin Master
Pressure mounts with each roll of the dice as players take their turn to poke the balloon. With every roll, the balloon stretches, squishes and strains, wondering if the next poke will make it pop. There are 12 silly-faced balloons inside the box and players can contact Spin Master to order additional balloons. No Batteries Required. Ages 8 years and up.

Disney Infinity from Disney Interactive
The worlds of Disney and Pixar collide for the first time ever with this all-new gaming platform. Integrating collectible figures featuring beloved characters from movies like Monsters, Inc.Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibleswith an immersive video game experience, players can bring their favorite characters to life in the virtual world by placing the figures on a Disney Infinity base, which transports them into the game. Players have two gaming options to choose from, including “Toy Box,” a mode where players can build and customize their own unique environments, and a story-driven experience, “Play Set,” which allows players to solve challenging puzzles, battle enemies and explore iconic Disney locations. The game launched with an initial line of 18 collectible interactive figures and 21 Power Discs that unlock special in-game powers, gadgets, vehicles and more. No batteries required. Ages 6 years and up (figures). Ages 10 years and up (game).

Flutterbye Flying Fairy from Spin Master
Children can experience the magic of real fairy flight with these enchanting Flutterbye Fairies. After magically rising and gracefully flying across the sky, guided simply by kids’ hands, she will rest on her display stand. 6 “AA” batteries required. Ages 5 years and up.

FurReal Friends® Cuddles My Giggly Monkey Pet from Hasbro®
Youngsters will go bananas over this interactive, giggly monkey. With over 100 realistic sounds and phrases, from laugh-out-loud silly to super sweet, responds to many classic play patterns like feeding, diaper changing, cuddling, tickling, swinging, and being rocked to sleep. She’ll move her mouth when children feed her from a banana-shaped bottle, and is ready for playtime, saying “whee,” when swung upside down. After a long day of play, this lovable pet will slowly close her eyes and start to snooze when rocked to sleep. Comes with a bottle, pink bow and removable diaper. 4 “C” batteries required (not included). Ages 4 years and up.

InnoTab® 3S Exclusive Bundle from VTech®
Kids can learn, create and connect with the latest generation of the popular InnoTab learning tablet. Complete with Wi-Fi, this tablet opens up a world of interactive game play and educational fun. Included games teach reading, math, social studies, science and much more. Plus, children can play videos and music, take pictures and share their creations and messages by connecting to other InnoTab 3S tablets and smart phones through VTech Kid Connect. Equipped with a kid-safe browser, children can view pre-approved websites and connect to the Learning Lodge for hundreds of software cartridges and downloads for more learning fun. Also includes a rechargeable battery pack and AC adapter, plus a bonus folio case and headphones. Ages 3 to 9 years.

LeapPad Ultra from LeapFrog®
Built especially for little learners, this kid-tough tablet features a 7-inch hi-res touch screen, Wi-Fi with LeapSearch, LeapFrog’s kid-safe browser created with Zui and access to a library of more than 800 fun and educator-approved apps, games, eBooks, videos, music and more. The tablet includes 11 apps, 8GB of storage and a built-in rechargeable battery so the learning fun never ends. Front and back cameras and video recorders allow kids to take pictures and video, while the Photo Fun Ultra app provides cool picture effects. No batteries required. Ages 4 to 9 years.

Magic Jinn from Hasbro®
Children of all ages will love outsmarting this magical mind reader. All it takes is a touch of Jinn’s nose to begin, and through a series of questions, the intuitive creature will try to guess which animal kids have on their mind as they answer with “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t know” or “Maybe.” No one can tell what he’ll say next! 3 “AAA” batteries required (not included). Ages 6 years and up.

Skylanders SWAP Force from Activision Publishing, Inc
Skylanders is “mixing it up” with the newest game in the award-winning, top-selling franchise. This one-of-a-kind game builds upon the success of the franchise’s signature gameplay and collectible toy experience, adding an all-new dimension to the “toys to life” innovation. The game introduces a compelling play pattern – dynamic swapability – that lets gamers transform 16 SWAP Force inter-action figures into more than 250 unique characters by swapping the top and bottom halves of the toys. Fans also can play with their entire collection of more than 100 characters fromSkylanders Spyro’s Adventure® and Skylanders GiantsTM. No batteries required. Ages 10 years and up. This item will become available on October 13 on Nintendo Wii™, Wii U™, 3DS™,  Xbox 360™ and Xbox One™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system.

tabeo e2 from Toys“R”Us®
The next generation of tabeo, this all-new Android™ Jelly Bean 4.2 Wi-Fi tablet was created especially for kids. This unique 8-inch tablet is bigger, better and faster, featuring lightning fast performance to handle even the most action-packed games, sharper graphics, advanced parental controls, expanded storage and so much more. This tablet comes complete with high-impact screen protection, dual-facing cameras, an tabeo App Store packed with thousands of free, kid-friendly applications, plus dozens of preloaded premium apps. With included fan-favorite kids’ apps like Need for Speed™ Most WantedBejeweled® 2The Game of LifeTemple Run 2Fruit NinjaCrayola DigiTools Effects,Cartoon NetworkWWE and Playrific, children will enjoy hours of entertainment, fun and education. Available in a blue, pink or clear protective case, the Bluetooth™ enabled device also features an extensive ecosystem of products, including speakers, docking stations and licensed accessories. No batteries required. Ages 6 to 11 years. Available for pre-order now at

The Ugglys from Moose Toys
Introducing the ugliest dogs around. These farting, burping, barking and growling interactive electronic pets are ready to start trouble with kids of all ages. In addition to making over 30 rude, repulsive and hilarious noises, each mischievous mutt with an attitude can be “tuned” to further amuse kids big and small. Using a button on each pup’s collar, kids can warp the sounds of their mischievous friends to disgust or delight. And, when the Ugglys are left alone, they’ll snore away until it’s time to play. 3 “AAA” batteries required (not included). Ages 5 years and up.

The Zelfs™ from Moose Toys
Collectors – big and small – will love this group of whimsical and quirky dolls. Each Zelf has its own unique persona and Zelf power represented by a Zelmark. The dolls also have matching charms and hair accessories that kids can use to style and tame their Zelfs’ colorful and spike-tacular hair. Imaginations will go wild, during endless hours of hair-raising play with these super cute characters available in 3 collectible sizes. No batteries required. Ages 5 years and up.

8 to 11 Years
Crayola® Melt N’ Mold Factory
from Crayola®
Look forward to creating unique, multicolored crayons and rings with this one-of-a-kind craft kit. Add a custom combination of colorful crayon bits to the melting tray, then turn it on and watch crayons melt together. With an included crayon and ring mold, pint-sized Picassos can pour the melted wax to transform crayons into custom multicolor creations – no two crayons or rings are the same. Includes melting tray, 24 crayons, 2 molds and 1 mold holder. No batteries required. Ages 8 years and up.

Ever After High Royal & Rebel Dolls from Mattel®
Ever After High introduces the children of famous fairytale characters. These 4 spellbinding teenage dolls will choose to either follow their parents’ footsteps or discover their own happily ever after. With Apple White, Raven Queen, Briar Beauty and Madeline Hatter (each sold separately), kids will love discovering the untold stories of the “Royals” and “Rebels.” No batteries required. Ages 6 years and up. These items will become available in November.

Kurio® 10s from Techno Source
Following up the best-selling, award-winning Kurio 7, this all-new, Android™ 4.2 (Jellybean) Wi-Fi enabled device truly takes family tablets to the next level with a new design, faster Quad Core processor and a larger, high definition 10.1” IPS touch screen. Great for games, movies and family fun, this exclusive tablet combines the advanced features kids expect from a cutting-edge tablet with Kurio’s unique, built-in parental control features that allow parents to set up customized profiles perfectly suited for each member of the family. Parents can adjust Internet access to ensure kids surf the web safely, manage applications by profile and even set detailed time limits by day of the week. Kurio 10s comes preloaded with more than 60 educational games and apps out of the box, and families can access hundreds of thousands more free apps through the Kurio Store and the most popular Android app stores. Available in black with an included blue protective bumper. Micro USB power adapter included. Ages 3 years and up.

LEGO Legends of Chima The Lion CHI Temple from LEGO®
LEGO lovers can engage in an epic battle for the CHI at the majestic temple with this 1,258 piece set. Kids can create different tribes with the 7 included figures and their weapons, as they fight to reach the CHI orb, or embrace the challenge to restore peace to Chima in a battle at The Lion CHI Temple. No batteries required. Ages 8 years and up.

MEGA® Bloks Call of Duty® Heavy Armor Outpost from MEGA® Brands
Kids will love recreating scenes from the wildly popular video game series with this 685-piece set. The main battle tank measures 12” (L) x 5” (W) x 4” (H) and comes with a large, rotating turret and tracks that really spin. This direct-fire, heavy-armored vehicle is nearly unstoppable during play combat. The buildable, improvised outpost and the camouflage mesh canopy can attach to the heavy tank to offer troops protection from hostile targets or weather conditions. The included Captain John Price and his team of 2 special ops troopers are highly detailed with extreme pose ability, and come with authentic interchangeable accessories and weapons that allow for mission-specific customization. No batteries required. Ages 14 years and up.

Monster 500 Toxic Terror Trap Playset from Toys“R”Us®
Unleash the fiendish fury! Kids and kids at heart will enjoy the twisting, toxic, monster action this ghoulish, exclusive playset has to offer. With one included character, Evil Clownevil, daredevils can smash through the doors of the freaky factory and topple the toxic, terrorizing monster, while avoiding being gobbled by the mutant gator all at the same time. Then, cars can be placed on the elevator before the hazmat mutant brings each vehicle up again. For additional fun, playset includes one Monster 500 trading card, which can be used to unlock a creepy character in the Monster 500 app available on Android and iOS. 3 “AA” batteries required (not included). Ages 4 years and up. This item will become available in October.

Playstation®4 (PS4) from Sony®
This next generation computer entertainment system combines rich content, fan-favorite apps and immersive gameplay with powerful graphics, speed, intelligent personalization, social capabilities and innovative second-screen features. PS4 places the focus on gamers, enabling them to play when, where and how they want. The bundle includes the console, DUALSHOCK®4 wireless controller, HDMI cable, power cable, wired mono headset and USB charging cable. No batteries required. Ages 6 years and up. This item will become available on November 15.

Shimmer N’ Sparkle Cra-Z-Loom Bracelet Maker from Cra-Z-Art®
The hottest craze to hit kids’ wrists this year, Cra-Z-Loom is the ultimate rubber band accessory maker with over 600 included mixed-color rubber bands. Children of all ages will enjoy designing colorful rubber band bracelets, rings, belts, pendants and more, including single, double or triple loop rubber band combinations. Ultimate fashionistas can use their imaginations and enjoy hours of totally trendy bracelet and accessory making fun. No batteries required. Ages 6 years and up.

Xbox™ One from Microsoft®
Introducing the all-in-one entertainment system. Where the best games and your favorite movies, music, sports and live TV come together in one place. Xbox One games look and feel incredibly real, with cinematic gameplay that rivals Hollywood. Watch TV or chat with friends on Skype while you play. With Xbox One, you can snap two things side-by-side on your TV, and switch from one to another instantly. Users can also watch movies and play games in HD with a Blu-ray playerAnd, with Xbox Live Gold membership (sold separately) users can access online multiplayer, Skype and additional features for the family. The starter kit includes console, Kinectsensor, wireless controller, HDMI cable and chat headset. Advanced TV hardware required. Games, add-ons and media content sold separately. No batteries required (console). 2 “AA” batteries required (wireless controller) (included). Ages 6 years and up. This item will become available November 22.

Y Fliker™ Carver Scooter from Yvolution
Kids are in for a smooth ride with this all-new, three-wheeled, all body-powered scooter featuring FLEX technology. Using the same motions as downhill skiing, riders only need to move their hips and legs from side to side to get going and keep moving. Thanks to the patented FLEX technology, kids can perform cool carving actions and master even the tightest turns. To put mom’s mind at ease, padded handgrips and a quick-response hand brake ensure every ride is a safe ride. No Batteries Required. Ages 5 years and up (C1 Model). Ages 7 years and up (C3 Model).

Zoomer from Spin Master
The perfect, playful family pet, this robotic dog will quickly steal kids’ hearts. Just like a real dog, children will be responsible for teaching him everything a puppy needs to know – and sometimes forgets. With life-like expressions and voice activated commands, this dog can learn dozens of tricks including laying, rolling, sitting and more. He even follows kids’ movements with his cute puppy eyes. Families can download the free iOS or Android app to learn everything there is to know about training this silly, interactive dog. No batteries required. Ages 5 years and up.

Big Kids
Crazy Cart
from Razor
Kids will love this ultimate drifting machine, which will allow them to drive, spin or drift like a pro. With the unique ability to drive forward, reverse, sideways, diagonally and spin in place, riders can cruise around like a go cart or lift the Drift Bar to kick it into Crazy Cart mode. Crazy drifts. Crazy spins. Crazy FUN! 2 “12V” battery system (included). Ages 9 years and up (up to 140 pounds).

**For those of you with children who have Special Needs make sure to check out the Toys”R”Us toy guide for differently-abled kids. You can find that here. Big thanks to Toys”R”Us for creating the awesome guide!**

GeoSafari Jr. Animal Eye Viewers For Kids {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received a set of Animal Eye Viewers to review. All thoughts are my own.)

Have a child who is really into animals? Or maybe one who wants to know everything about everything? If so, they will love GeoSafari Jr.’s Animal Eye Viewers from Educational Insights!

These viewers let them see the world through an animal’s eyes. Three viewers come in the box: shark, insect, and a chameleon.

Did you know that sharks can see what’s behind them? Your child can get a 360 degree view with rear-view mirrors, central blind spot, and an ocean-blue tint! They will think they are swimming in the ocean.

Did you know that instects can detect movement faster than we can? Your child will see dozens of mini-images with this pixelated view of the world. For even more fun, have them run around “bzzzz”ing like a bee!

Did you know that chameleons can look in two different directions at once? Your child can look through the viewers that have two independently rotating eyeballs.

The shark was Jacob’s favorite animal eye viewer. He had a lot of fun walking around outside while looking through them and was looking at everything up close. He even wore them to the school bus to show his bus driver because he thought they were so cool!

Want to find more fun ways to use the viewers? Download free play-and-learn activities online.


One reader will win a set of 3 Animal Eye Viewers courtesy of Educational Insights


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which animal you think your child/grandchild would like the most

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends October 20, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over to enter. Open to US and Canadian residents.

50 Ways To Say You’re Awesome {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book but all thoughts are my own.) 

Recent studies have shown that just saying “thank you” is proven to boost health and happiness —promoting a stronger immune system, lowering blood pressure, even helping you sleep. And besides being good for you, saying thanks just got easier with 50 Ways to Say You’re Awesome, a creative and fun way to tell the people in your life that you care.

The book is filled with cheeky mad-libs style notecards you can full in, pull out and give to your loved one, parent, BFF or friendly barista. It also includes 50 ways to put your thanks into action. How about:

·         Tucking a note into your sweetheart’s coat pocket as a romantic surprise?

·         Framing your favorite note and placing it in your workspace for everyday inspiration?

·         Rolling the note into miniature cones and filling them with candy for a favorite friend?

I love this book because it gives people a quick way to show their appreciation by using old-school communication methods: written and face-to-face! Too often those methods are forgotten and messages come via text message, Facebook and email. I found a variety of messages in there for many people in my life and loved how colorful the pages were. I also liked that the book contained pages with writing prompts.


One reader will win a copy of the book 50 Ways to Say You’re Awesome


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me who in your life you think is awesome

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends October 15, 2013 at 11:59pm Central Time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book but all thoughts are my own.)

Free Grandparent’s Day Printable

To help celebrate Grandparent’s Day this year Paper Coterie has created the perfect free printable. With an area for your child’s artwork and a fill in the blank portion, this year’s gift will be one from the heart. Just download, print, and have your children create a one of a kind keepsake.

Head on over to Paper Coterie’s website to download this cute printable!

Make A Plate Art Project Kits For Kids

I’ve just been given the opportunity to review the Make A Plate Art Project and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I will be posting about my experience when I receive the kit.

If you want to make one as well, my readers save 30% on their Prepaid Art Plate Kit (that’s a savings of over $5!) – USE PROMO CODE: USFAMILY at

Makit has been in business for over 40 years. Make A Plate kits allow children to let their creativity soar in crafting a lasting gift for Mom, Dad, Grandparent or teacher. All Make A Plates are nontoxic, BPA-Free, dishwasher safe and proudly made in the USA.

Personalized Gifts From Personal Creations

There’s nothing more special than a personalized gift that I know was created just for me. Personal Creations has hundreds of gifts for everyone and I loved exploring their website for some gifts for my family members. Here are some great gift ideas from their online store:




I got a bookshelf for Lucas with his name embroidered on it. It was easy to assemble and made from brightly colored, sturdy canvas so I think it will last until he outgrows it. I like that it has his name on it but i wish that the name was up a little higher because the lower half is hard to see.

Still need some Christmas items? Personal Creations has those too! You can get personalized stockings, matching pajamas, and personalized ornaments.

(Disclosure: I received a gift card but all thoughts are my own.)

Once Upon A TreeHouse {Cute Gift Ideas}

If you have a little girl in your life (or even a little boy who likes dolls) you are in for a treat! Once Upon A TreeHouse makes dolls, doll clothing, doll houses and doll house furniture. Along with being really cute they are great quality toys made out of wood and eco-friendly. Here are some of my favorite items on their site:



Adorable right?! Makes me want to have a little girl so I could buy one of everything :)

I received one of the dollhouse dolls to review. I loved that you could tell this wasn’t some cheap plastic doll. The materials were high quality down to the little wooden shoes the doll wore. I loved that the clothes all had velcro on them so that they are easy for little hands to get on and off. The one thing I’d maybe change would be the hair. I like how soft it is but it seems like it would become really frizzy easily.

You can find out more about Once Upon A TreeHouse and see all of the items they have here.

(Disclosure: I received a doll to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Daily Whisper Inspirational Messages For Women {Review}

Some days I feel great about myself and some days, like many women, I have a lot of negative thoughts about myself run through my mind. I should have reached out to that friend earlier. I should exercise more so I can be skinnier. I should not work and give my kids more time. I should have done more from my to-do list today.

All of the things that go through my head bring me down and make me doubt the job I’m doing on a daily basis as a woman and as a mom. The truth is, yes there is always areas I can improve on but I’m really doing the best I can with the time and energy I have.

That’s why I like these Daily Whisper Inspirational Message cards. They are little business card sized messages with beautiful colors that keep me thinking positively and encourage me daily. They neutralize negative beliefs and unhealthy self talk.

One of my favorite cards talks specifically to women who work. As a mom who works from home this is constantly an area where I have a lot of negative self-talk and question myself a lot. Is this the best thing for my family? Am I giving my kids enough time? Most of the time these questions are insinuated by society and by others and not necessarily something brought on by me.

I have been a stay at home mom. I have been a working mom. Now I’m a work at home mom and I am so blessed to be able to do what I do on a daily basis and I think what I am doing is best for my family. This card reminds me that this is a journey that I am on and my family and I are on it together. It’s also a daily reminder to express to my family how much I love them and am thankful for them.


Daily Whisper Inspirational Cards are also now available for teens and children. Each set focuses on the unique challenges faced at these different life stages. The cards can be bought online here.

(Disclosure: I received a set of cards to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Hershey’s Holiday Candy {Prize Pack Giveaway}

Every Christmas morning when I was a child we’d go downstairs and the first thing we’d do was open our stockings to see what kind of chocolates Santa had left. I was always hoping that my stocking would be filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because they are my favorite candy. I also found a lot of Hershey’s Kisses candies in my stocking. I enjoyed eating many of my chocolates while I waited for my dad to cook breakfast.

This year Hershey’s has a new product that I’m hoping “Santa” will put in my stocking. It’s called the Snap-Apart Snowman and it breaks apart into four neat pieces so it’s easy to eat {and share if you want}.

I also love the big Hershey’s kiss that looks like a Santa hat. Those big ones are always fun to put in my love’s stocking :)


One reader will win a Hershey’s Holiday candy prize pack similar to mine


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me which Hershey’s candy is your favorite

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like Hershey’s on Facebook

4) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

5) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right hand corner)

Giveaway ends December 28, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I received the Hershey’s products pictured above but all thoughts are my own.)

Zoo 3D Awesome Animal Kingdom Book Review

Have an animal lover in your life? I think I have the perfect gift idea for them! The editors of TIME For Kids magazine have put together a fun book called Zoo 3D Awesome Animal Kingdom. This book is full of 3D photos of animals. The book comes with 2 pairs of 3D glasses so kids can look at the animals as the creatures seem to leap, crawl, fly, slither, swim, and stampede off the pages. The book is packed with close to 100 large-scale, state-of-the art photos taken by master 3D photographer, David Klutho.

I put some glasses on and checked out the book myself. The animals and insects all look so real! The tarantula was all hairy and it looked like if I touched it I would feel the little hairs prickling my fingers. I also liked that the book had information about the different workers that the children might find at the Zoo working with the animals.

After I was done looking at it I gave it to Jacob. It was funny watching him try to reach out and touch the animals. He normally doesn’t like anything on his face or head due to his sensory issues but he left the glasses on the whole time he was looking at the pictures.

You can find more details about the book here.

This book can be bought from Amazon among other stores. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can get it for $13.57 which is a great deal for this book. With free two day shipping it should be at your doorstep before Christmas!

(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review but all thoughts are my own.)

The City Ruffle Shawl- A Perfect Gift For The On-The-Go Mom

Busy moms know that when you are on the go you want to be stylish and comfortable at the same time. I also like to wear layers so I can easily change what I’m wearing to work for the temperature in the room. The City Ruffle Shawl from AprilMarin is perfect for my every day life.

I love that there are so many ways to wear it. I can dress it up with some jewelry or dress it down with a tank top and some comfy boots. It can be worn several different ways which is fun. I received one in black and have been wearing it over my shoulders to keep warm while I work.

This accessory is one size fits all and comes in a variety of different colors. I love the one pictured above and think it would brighten a room with it’s pretty color. Another feature is that it’s machine washable which is great because that means washing it is not a hastle.

The City Ruffle Shawl retails for $89. You can find more images of the shawl and a link to purchase one here.

(Disclosure: I received a City Ruffle Shawl to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Stocking Stuffer & Gift Ideas For Boys From Hasbro

You probably know Hasbro makes great games but did you also know that they make some amazing toys, too? Jacob is all about super heroes lately and a lot of the toys on his Christmas list were made by Hasbro and I didn’t even know it! Check out these stocking stuffer and gift ideas from Hasbro!

Stocking Stuffers
  • MARVEL THE AVENGERS 3.75″ HEROES ASSORTMENT: The Ultimate Super Hero action collection features IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THOR, HULK, BLACK WIDOW and HAWKEYE.  Kids and collectors will want to assemble the whole team from Hasbro’s line of THE AVENGERS 3.75″ Action Figures.
  • ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS Mystery Bags: For the ultimate Holiday surprise, pick up ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS Mystery Bags, which offer two figures from the collection in each bag.

For the Movie Buff
  • THE AVENGERS HERO MASKS: Every Super Hero needs an awesome mask! Now kids (and parents!) can pretend to be Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with these masks based on the blockbuster hit, The Avengers.  Choose from IRON MAN, HULK, THOR AND CAPTAIN AMERICA!
  • THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN HERO FX GLOVE: Kids will feel like SPIDER-MAN when they put on this fun electronic role-play glove.  Sensors in the “web shooting compartment” will sense motion and respond with web shooting sound effects.

Kid at Heart
  • TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS ACTION FIGURES:  The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS DELUXE Assortment features Transformers characters and designs from throughout the history of the TRANSFORMERS brand.  The assortment includes OPTIMUS PRIME, JAZZ and SHOCKWAVE.
  • TRANSFORMERS KRE-O allows builders to construct both the robot and vehicle mode of their favorite Transformers characters with the same set of bricks!

You can find more gift ideas from Hasbro in their Gift Guide here.

(Disclosure: Hasbro sent me gifts for my boys from the Gift Guide but thoughts are my own.)

Five Green Gifts Under $25

Still looking for a gift for that Eco-conscious friend or family member? The Green Bride Guide, the nation’s leading resource for eco-friendly wedding ideas, product and services, offers five great green gift ideas for under $25.


Price: $24.95 for a set of four

Description: This set of four coasters is handmade from the branch of a fallen maple tree, making them a unique and eco-friendly gift or decor piece. The coasters are kept as natural as possible. The bark has been removed and each one has been sanded smooth on all sides. Each coaster is finished with 2 coats of water based polyurethane that is traditionally used to seal hardwood floors. You will receive the 4 coasters that will look very similar to the photo.

2)    Hand & Foot Care Gift Set: Refresh

Price: $20.00

Description: Want to give someone a special gift? Give them the gift of touch. What better way to give a memorable gift than by giving someone a neck and shoulder massage, a hand or foot massage, maybe a mani-pedi, or all the above. Incorporate a little aromatherapy and you have the perfect formula for putting them into a state of bliss. This little Hand & Foot Care aromatherapy gift set keeps hands and feet in tip-top shape and smelling great.


Price: $16

Description: Liven up your kitchen this holiday season with this gorgeous set of whimsical beechwood bird kitchen utensils. These sensational spoons are laser-engraved to ensure the images will not fade, they won’t scratch or damage non-stick cookware, and they do not impart any flavor.


Price: $25

Description: These amazing eco friendly rings are created from the antique glass reclaimed throughout the wooded habitats in the Pennsylvania Amish Country.   The glass from vintage mason jars are hand cut and fired, producing tons of beautiful seed bubbles in the glass, then and mounted on a sterling plated platinum ring. The silver back reflects the light through the pretty transparent glass giving the look of a constant glow. Band is fully adjustable to fit everyone with a comfortable fit.


Price: $25

Description: Indonesian artistry is showcased in the opalescent mother of pearl with Pearlescent Salt and Pepper Shakers. These elegant serving accessories includes one of nature’s most beautiful offerings from a fully sustainable source.


I received one of the beachwood bird kitchen utensils to review. The detailing on the spoon is beautiful and I like that the image won’t fade. The quality of this wood is really nice and the spoon is very sturdy. I also really like that it won’t scratch my expensive pans.

(Disclosure: I received a product for review but all thoughts are my own.)


A Last Minute Gift Idea From Global Giving

GlobalGiving, a virtual marketplace for philanthropy, allows anyone with an internet connection to support more than 1,000 pre-screened charities in the U.S. and around the world. These are groups providing real-world solutions to help educate children, feed the hungry, build houses and infrastructure, protect our environment, empower women (and men), rescue animals, and support active military and veterans – just to name a few.

The best part? You can support this extensive network of impactful charities with a simple gift card that your friends and family will love this holiday season. For as little as $10, you can make things easy on yourself and purchase a gift card that everyone on your gift list will enjoy – from your kids to your Uncle to the mailman – and give them the complete freedom to choose a cause they wish to support. Plus, it’s the gift that keeps on giving long after the holidays with regular updates from those on the ground on how your donation is making a difference.

I was given a gift card to donate to a project of my choice. I have a handful of causes that I’m passionate about so I looked at all of my choices. I decided to donate my money to Develop Africa, Inc. which goes to providing mosquito nets and medication in Sierra Leone. Here’s a little bit about the cause:

Proven insecticide-treated nets save lives by protecting them from mosquito bites and the killer disease of malaria. Project also provides preventive anti-malaria tablets to Sierra Leoneans. The nets are useful particularly for protecting vulnerable children who are less resistant to the malaria. Additionally, when people fall sick, there is considerable lost time and loss of productivity for all members of the family. By providing a net, you are helping to support economic development.

Want to donate to a good cause in honor of someone you love or purchase a gift card to give to someone? You can do so here.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. The gift card I received went right to the project I supported.)


Gift Ideas From The ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’ Book Series

The Chicken Soup For The Soul series of books has been around for a while. I remember listening to my mom read them to us when we were a child. I still enjoy reading them now as an adult. Chicken Soup For The Soul has almost 200 titles, with new ones being written often. Here are some of the newest books that someone you know may love to receive for Christmas:

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Finding My Faith Chicken Soup for the Soul: Finding My Faith, 101 Inspirational Stories about Life, Belief, and Spiritual Renewal

Everyone’s faith story is different. People of all faiths share their personal experiences in this inspiring collection of amazing stories about the number of ways people discover, or rediscover, their faith — whether it’s Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or any other religion. These inspirational and powerful stories will touch the hearts and souls of readers.


Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas, A Special Collection of Joyful Holiday Stories

Share the magic and joy of Christmas. You’ll love these heartwarming, inspirational, and fun stories of Christmas miracles, family reunions, charity, the wonder of children, the joy of giving, and family and religious traditions. Most of these stories originally appeared in a limited edition book called Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Christmas that was sold exclusively by Barnes & Noble in 2010.


Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey, 101 Stories about the Players Who Love the Game and the Families that Cheer Them On

Hockey fans and hockey families will love the 101 exciting and inspiring stories in this collection about playing, living, and loving hockey! This collection of stories from everyday hockey players and fans, as well as revealing personal stories from NHLers and hockey insiders will delight anyone who enjoys hockey, whether it’s in the backyard, in school, or at the professional level.


Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That! Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can’t Believe My Cat Did That! 101 Stories about the Crazy Antics of Our Feline Friends

We all rejoice in the simple absurdities, funny habits, and crazy antics of our cats. They make us smile every day, but sometimes they really outdo themselves. You will love reading all the heartwarming, inspirational, and hysterical stories in this book. We know after reading the stories you’ll say, “I can’t believe a cat did that!”


Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That! Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That! 101 Stories about the Crazy Antics of Our Canine Friends

We all rejoice in the simple absurdities, funny habits, and crazy antics of our dogs. They make us smile every day, but sometimes they really outdo themselves. You will love reading all the heartwarming, inspirational, and hysterical stories in this book. We know after reading the stories you’ll say, “I can’t believe a dog did that!”

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey, Surviving and Thriving During and After Your Diagnosis and Treatment

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School. The stories in this book from women with breast cancer and their family members, along with the up-to-date medical information provided, will give you inspiration, strength and hope. This book will educate and comfort you and will serve as a support group from diagnosis through treatment to rehabilitation and recovery.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Great Health Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Great Health, Use Your Mind to Promote Your Own Healing and Wellness

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Jeff Brown of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Brown unlocks the mysteries of the mind/body connection and shows you how you can feel better and really be better by using your mind and thinking positively. The great stories will show you how other people have used positive thinking to affect their physical and mental well-being.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life! 101 Inspirational Stories about Fun, Family and Wedded Bliss

Marriage is a wonderful institution, and in this fresh collection of stories, husbands and wives share their personal, funny, and quirky stories from the trenches. This book will inspire and delight readers with its entertaining and heartwarming stories about fun, family, and wedded bliss. Whether newly married or married for years and years, readers will find laughter and inspiration in these 101 stories of love, romance, fun, and making it work.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost Your Brain Power! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Boost Your Brain Power! Redesign & Energize Your Brain at Any Age

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Marie Pasinski of Harvard Medical School. Many people would like to enhance their brainpower and are looking for help to do just that. Others are retraining their brains after traumatic injuries or strokes. Others are looking for ways to keep their brains young and dynamic. This book will fascinate you with stories and useful information on how to improve your own brain.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain! How to Handle Flare-ups, Injuries, and Everyday Back Health

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School. Many people suffer from back pain. The lucky ones have occasional flare-ups and the unlucky ones have chronic issues. This book is filled with great advice on how to care for your back, recover from injuries, improve your mobility, handle pain, manage chronic problems, and maintain a positive attitude.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress, Manage Your Problems, Big and Small, Every Day

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Jeff Brown of Harvard Medical School. We all have stress in our lives. What differentiates us is how we handle it. The combination of these stories, from people who have learned how to manage stress, and Dr. Brown’s practical advice, will have you wondering what you were worried about! Who knew there were so many easy ways to manage your stress?

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body! Weight Loss and Fitness for Women Over 50

Inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and accessible leading-edge medical information from Dr. Suzanne Koven of Harvard Medical School. Women over 50 fight menopause, creaky joints, busy lives, and other factors that interfere with their quests for weight control and fitness. These advice-filled stories from women over 50 who have figured out how to get fit are combined with Dr. Koven’s practical advice and medical information. You won’t have any more excuses!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride, 101 Stories of Love, Laughter and Family

The wedding day, and each day leading up to it, is a special and exciting time. In this collection of 101 heartwarming and hilarious stories, brides and grooms, families and friends share their memories of the big day. With stories about everything from the proposal, to the planning, to actual wedding day events, the honeymoon, and all the joys and frustrations in between, this book will delight and encourage any bride or newlywed. A great gift for bridal showers, engagements, and weddings!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stay-at-Home Moms Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stay-at-Home Moms, 101 Inspirational Stories for Mothers about Hard Work and Happy Families

With stories by famous moms, including Jane Green, Melora Hardin, Liz Lange, Jodi Picoult, and Jill Kargman, and stories from other moms who elected to stay at home or work from home. Every stay-at-home and work-from-home mom will view this book as having been written just for her! A reissue of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms, this book contains 101 great stories from mothers who have made the choice to stay home or work from home while raising their families. These multi-tasking, high-performing women have become today’s power mom. This is perfect for book groups as it contains a reader guide.Originally issued as Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers, 101 Stories of Love, Sacrifice and Bonding

Do you have a family member who requires constant care? You are not alone. This collection offers support and encouragement in its 101 stories for family caregivers of all ages, including the “sandwich” generation caring for a family member while raising their children. With stories by those on the receiving end of the care too. These stories of love, sacrifice, and lessons will inspire and uplift family members making sacrifices to make sure their loved ones are well cared for, whether in their own homes or elsewhere.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters, 101 Inspirational and Entertaining Stories about That Special Bond

Mothers and daughters. They are, at the same time, very similar and completely unique. This relationship — through birth, childhood, teen years, adulthood, grandchildren, aging, and every step in between — can be the best, the hardest, and the sweetest. Moms and daughters will laugh, cry, and find inspiration in this collection of entertaining, poignant, and heartwarming stories that remind them of their shared love, appreciation and special bond. A great gift for Mother’s Day.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven, 101 Stories Miraculous Stories of Signs from Beyond, Amazing Connections, and Love that Doesn’t Die

When our loved ones leave this world, our connection with them does not end. Death takes away their physical presence, but not their spirits, and we often sense them after they have gone. Sometimes when we see or hear from them, they give us signs and messages. Sometimes they speak to us in dreams or they appear in different forms. The stories in this book, both religious and secular, will amaze you, giving you new knowledge, insight and awareness about the connection and communication we have with those who have passed on or those who have experienced dying and coming back.


My mom also reviewed ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul: Food and Love’ in the Spring. You can find the review here.

All of these books can be purchased at

(Disclosure: I received copies of most of these books. All info about books and images of books are courtesy of Chicken Soup For The Soul.)

Ability Path’s Holiday Gift Guide For Children With Special Needs

I’m excited to share the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide For Children With Special Needs put together by Ability Path. The guide features gift ideas from many bloggers, including a suggestion from me. If you have a child with Special Needs on your “to buy for” list you have to check this guide out.

You can find the Holiday Gift Guide here. Enjoy! :)


Hickory Farms: Great Gifts & Charitable Giving

How’s the Christmas shopping going? Have a hard to buy for person on your list? Everyone has to eat so I think that a gift basket from Hickory Farms would be a great gift to give them this year. They have a variety of products from sausage & cheese to fruits & nuts to sweets & cookies that are perfect for any budget.

Hickory Farms has been around for over 60 years. Their Hickory Farms Signature Summer Sausage was recently rated the #1 Summer Sausage in America, winning the Masters of Taste Gold Medal for Superior Taste, in 2011. You can be assured that when you purchase something from Hickory Farms you will get quality and value for your money.

Hickory Farms is also a company that gives back.  Hickory Farms has eight products that they offer free shipping to military APO and FPO addresses, including the “Home for the Holidays” gift basket. Hickory Farms has a partnership with Share Our Strength (SOS), a leading national nonprofit organization that works to stamp out childhood hunger.  For each Party Planner gift box sold this holiday season, Hickory Farms will donate $5 to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. To date Hickory Farms and its customers have donated $1.9 million. They have also has a partnership with Operation Gratitude – a national nonprofit that creates care packages for military men and women and their families.

I’m happy to support a company that supports others and puts together such fantastic gift baskets. You can read my review of the Pack and Go Picnic Tote that we received last month. We really enjoyed all of the delicious treats that were in it.

(Disclosure: Compensation and products for review were provided by Hickory Farms via MomTrends. I received a free sample of the product for the purpose of this review and to facilitate a giveaway.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Hickory Farms.)

Energizer Toy Cash {Giveaway}

Christmas morning will be here before we know it and with that comes battery operated toys and gadgets in many households. Just a reminder to not forget to have extra batteries on hand because the last thing you want is an excited child with a new toy who can’t play with it because there are no batteries to be found. This year, Energizer has new batteries called Energizer MAX batteries. With Energizer MAX batteries with Power Seal Technology you can have the confidence in knowing you will have power when you need it most throughout the holidays and beyond. These new batteries hold their power for up to 10 years on shelf!

To make things even better, when you purchase specially marked packages of Energizer MAX batteries with Power Seal Technology, you can get up to $8 in Toy Cash™ (via prepaid MasterCard® or PayPal™). More money for Christmas gifts? Yes, please! (Find more details about the Toy Cash here.)


One reader will win two specially marked 4-packs of Energizer MAX batteries with Power Seal Technology containing the special Toy Cash codes.  The winner can choose from AA and AAA Energizer MAX batteries.


1) Leave a comment telling me what battery operated item in your house uses the most batteries

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

4) Like Energizer on Facebook

5) Enter another one of my giveaways or comment on another post

Giveaway ends January 1, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+  only. Winner will need to have access to internet connection to redeem the Toy Cash codes.

(Disclosure: I received batteries and a gift card from Energizer but all thoughts are my own.)

Cluck ‘N’ Chuck Children’s Game Review

Whenever we get the boys together with their two cousins it’s pure chaos. Good chaos but chaos nonetheless. I’ve found that having an activity for them to do gets them to sit still for a bit {instead of making sandwiches of each other which you may remember from my Thanksgiving post…}

This year I came armed to the party with a brand new game I had received called Cluck ‘N’ Chuck. Here’s a little about the game:

Cluck ‘N’ Chuck is a game that’s bursting with fun – and chickens! This game for two to four players will leave kids in hysterics as they try to contain runaway chickens. Roll the die to see which chickens you can chuck into the coop. But move quickly before the coop jumps up and they all fly out! It’s a race to see who can round up their chickens first in this rowdy cluck-cluck game! For ages 4 and up.

My nephew playing the game.

When it was time to play the game the kids all sat down in front of me and patiently waited for me to get all of the pieces out. I liked that there wasn’t much to do to get the game set up which was nice. To start the children all counted out chickens and lined them up in front of themselves. I pushed the coop down and they then took turns rolling the dice and putting the correct color chicken on top of the coop. During this game they practiced their colors and turn taking. Once the internal timer on the coop was up, the coop popped up and sent the chickens flying. It was so funny to see the children’s faces the first time it popped up and I loved listening to them giggle each time it happened.

This game retails for $16.99 and if you have preschoolers I think they will love this game.

{Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of this game but all thoughts are my own.}

Making A Difference With World Vision {Giveaway}

Looking for ways to make a difference this season? Here are three good ways to do so, courtesy of World Vision:

•Volunteer Virtually: Not everyone is able to physically volunteer, but you can volunteer virtually by donating food kits online through World Vision. Each ‘kit’ contains enough food to feed a family of five for one day ($16 per kit).

• Give a Meaningful Gift: World Vision’s Gift Catalog has hundreds of gifts such as goats, fresh water wells, and life- saving medicines that can be given in the name of a family member, teacher, co-worker or child and help one of more than 825,000 people around the world who benefit from gift catalog items. Gifts range in price from $16 to $39,000, and there are more than 250 items online to choose from. After purchasing a Gift Catalog item, the person whose name the gift was given in, can receive a special card describing the gift and its impact.

•Teach Generosity: Help children understand the importance of generosity and giving to others. World Vision’s Gift Catalog can be a helpful educational tool. The Pendleton family, of Colorado, adopted their son from Kazakhstan. When he saw the Mongolian Ger in the catalog, he immediately wanted to buy one for people in his homeland. “I didn’t know how to explain to a 10-year-old that $1,862 is a lot of money, so I didn’t,” said mom Amy. “And sure enough, he raised it all!”

I shared how my four year old created a “giving list” from the World Vision catalog. You can read that post here.



One of my readers will win an Artisan Beaded Necklace from World Vision


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me how you give back to others

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Subscribe to this blog via email or RSS {look in the upper right hand corner}

4) Comment on another blog post

Giveaway ends December 23, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I received a scarf from World Vision but this is a cause that’s important to me and all thoughts are my own.)

ROSS Dress For Less {Giveaway}

I headed to ROSS Dress For Less yesterday because I wanted to check out their selection of toys, men’s coats, and kitchen items. ROSS is great because they have everything I need for my home and family at prices that are 20-60% off of retail. They’ve just opened up new stores in the Chicago area including Darien, DeKalb, Geneva, Gurnee, and Niles.

I ended up finding some brand name train toys that are normally around $50 for just $20 each, super hero toys at over 50% off, a good quality laptop case for $8, and a cute brand name purse that was less than $50 and normally sells for $130 {my Christmas gift to myself}! After seeing the prices at ROSS Dress For Less I think I will be going there first every time I need a gift or something for my home.


One reader will win a $25 gift card to ROSS Dress For Less


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me what you’d shop for at ROSS Dress For Less

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Subscribe to this blog via email or RSS {look in the upper right corner}

4) Comment on another post and leave a comment below letting me know you did

Giveaway ends December 27, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I received a gift card to shop at ROSS Dress For Less but all thoughts are my own.)

Holiday Happiness With Nivea

I am so happy to be almost done with Christmas shopping. The only things I have left on my list are to buy stocking stuffers and teacher gifts. These are also the two hardest items on my shopping list so it makes sense that I’ve saved them for last. I looked online at the Holiday e-gift guide from Party Blu Prints that had some good ideas for stocking stuffers, gifts that everyone will love, and tips for entertaining during the holidays.

I came across Nivea lotion in the gift guide and thought about how it would work for both stocking stuffers and could be part of a teacher’s gift. I thought about putting together a basket full of relaxing gifts for the teachers with a little note on the lotion that said, “Thanks for making my preschool experience a ‘smooth’ ride”. Sinisa thought it was pretty corny so I’ll have to keep thinking about the saying but I headed to Walmart to pick up some lotion in the meantime.

There were so many great Nivea items to choose from. I even found out they have a men’s line which will be great for Sinisa’s stocking this year. I ended up deciding on the Nivea Smooth Sensation Daily Lotion because I liked that it has Shea Butter. This lotion also keeps working for 24 hours which is great for busy women like moms and teachers. It’s important to keep skin hydrated all winter long but I think that this season is so busy that it’s not always something that’s added to our to-do lists like it should be. I thought the Nivea lotion would be great with a gift card to Starbucks because I don’t think there’s anything better than pampering yourself while drinking coffee.

{Hey, don’t judge! This momma needs some time to relax, too!}

So the teacher’s gifts were mostly figured out. I think I’ll add a little homemade ornament and a card from the boys and then the  gift will be complete. Now it was time to concentrate on stocking stuffers. I made a list of toiletries, snacks, and other little items that would fit in the stockings. The large lotion I got would fit and be a good stocking stuffer in the adult stockings but I also found a tiny tin of Nivea creme that would work wonderful as well.

Apparently someone else thought it would make a good stocking stuffer, too….Look who stole my Nivea!

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®  and Nivea #CBias #SocialFabric #HolidayGuide )

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee {Giveaway}

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee, one of the trusted partners of Healthy Child Healthy World, provides completely safe and natural body care solutions for newborns – from head-to-toe. Burt’s Bees has been offering distinctive earth-friendly, natural personal care products for over 25 years.

Know a new mom? Here’s a great gift idea for her! With this Keepsake box, she can cherish her little one’s natural “firsts” with a supply of beloved Burt’s Bees Baby Bee best-sellers made with soothing ingredients to pamper baby’s delicate skin. When the keepsake box is empty, she can fill it with photos and mementos of her baby’s first sweet moments and cherish them for years to come.  

The Burt’s Bees Sweet Memories Keepsake Photo Box contains: Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash, Baby Bee Nourishing Original Lotion, Baby Bee Diaper Ointment, Baby Bee Nourishing Body Oil and Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap.


THREE readers will each win Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash


{Do any of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right hand corner)

Giveaway ends December 19, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.)

$50 Gift Card To Shabby Apple {Giveaway}

I’ve seen posts about Shabby Apple all over the internet for years and was so excited when they contacted me about hosting a giveaway because they have some seriously cute things! I figured I’d show you some of the adorable clothes and accessories that they have on their website….



They have items for the little princesses, too!



Get 10% off at Shabby Apple with the discount code “makingtimeformommy10off”. This coupon expires 12/26/2012.


One lucky reader will win a $50 gift card to Shabby Apple.


Like Shabby Apple on Facebook and leave a comment below letting me know you did.


{After you do the mandatory entry you can gain extra entries by doing any of the following and leaving a separate comment for each one that you do.}

1) Share this giveaway on a social network

2) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

3) Tell me which item you’d purchase from Shabby Apple if you win

4) Subscribe to this blog via email {look in upper right corner}

Giveaway ends December 19, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

Green Gift Ideas From VivaTerra

VivaTerra is a popular contemporary eco-living brand that sells exquisite, eco, artisan products from all over the world ­ always with a sense of luxury, and a splash of Zen. It is the trusted brand that consumers count on for socially responsible and organically sourced products for the home. Every product is made from recycled or environmentally friendly materials ­ many of which are exclusive to VivaTerra.

Right now VivaTerra is having a Home For The Holidays event where every day, Monday through Friday, a great item is 50% off for 24 hours. This online event runs through December 14th. Here’s an example of some of the past daily specials so that you can get an idea of the gift ideas available from VivaTerra:



and here’s a sneak peak at Monday’s item which will be 50% off:

I hope you will check out the website and the great gift ideas that VivaTerra has. Remember to stop by on the weekdays to see the newest daily deal :)

(Disclosure: I received a set of dishes from VivaTerra that I will be reviewing in the future.)

Hickory Farms Gift Set Giveaway

For more than 60 years Hickory Farms gifts have been a classic holiday tradition that brings family and friends together. They also make great gifts for those hard to shop for friends and family members. Hickory Farms products can be purchased online at, in 700 holiday stores and kiosks across North America, and in select retailers.

My family was sent a Hickory Farms Pack & Go Picnic Tote. A week later and we only have some of the Peanut Brittle left. Sinisa loved the summer sausage and cheese that came in the box. I loved the Peppermint cookies and the mini melt away mints. The boys enjoyed the Holiday pretzels and loved the festive sprinkles that covered them.


One reader will win a Hickory Farms Pack & Go Picnic Tote that includes the following:

-Signature Beef Summer Sausage
-Turkey Summer Sausage
-Farmhouse Cheddar
-Holiday Pretzels
-Peanut Brittle
-Dark Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
-White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
-Mini Melt Away Mints
-Olive Oil & Rosemary Crackers


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which Hickory Farms product is your favorite

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Subscribe to this blog via email {look in upper right hand corner}

4) Leave a comment on another one of my blog posts

Giveaway ends December 2, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: Compensation and products for review were provided by Hickory Farms via MomTrends. I received a free sample of the product for the purpose of this review and to facilitate a giveaway.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Hickory Farms.)

Marvel’s The Avengers Hero Mask Review & Giveaway

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Do you have a little Super Hero in your life? Hasbro’s Hero Masks would make the perfect gift! We received the Captain America Hero Mask to review. The mask itself is made of a hard plastic like material so it’s sturdy and not going to get easily broken by the little guys. The inside part of the mask has a rubbery goggle like eyepiece so it’s comfortable to wear. The adjustable straps that go around the back of the head are made with quality velcro and make the mask one size fits all for children of all ages. The boys love wearing their mask as they play and it’s funny to go watch them check themselves out in the mirror when they are wearing it to see what they look like as Captain America.


One reader will win a Hero Mask from Hasbro


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which Super Hero is your child/grandchild’s favorite

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like Hasbro Game Night on Facebook

4) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

Giveaway ends November 20, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: We received a mask to review but all thoughts are my own. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

Autographed ‘The Boxcar Children’ Holiday Gift Set {Giveaway}

There are few presents that will bring a youngster a lifetime full of pleasure than giving the gift reading. With over 100 titles and 50 million copies in print,  The Boxcar Children®  series by Gertrude Chandler has raised generations of readers — many of whom credit their love for reading to this modern classic.  Perfect to read out loud or for the independent reader, the adventures of 4 siblings surviving brilliantly on their wits and skills has proven to be timeless.

The first book in the series, originally published in 1942, introduces the reader to four children who have lost their parents at a young age and, rather than going to live with their unsavory grandfather, decide to strike out on their own.  In their travels they come across an abandoned boxcar and decide to make this their home.  Short, simple chapters and illustrated throughout, The Boxcar Children encounter adventures and unravel mysteries — all the while demonstrating practical wisdom, resourcefulness and an enduring commitment to one another.  Charming, exciting and heartwarming, this is a series that stands the test of time.  In fact, this Fall marks the 70th anniversary of The Boxcar Children and the publisher is celebrating in a big way by publishing a PREQUEL to the series by Newbery award-winning author Patricia MacLaughlan!  
One reader will win a gift box set of the first four books in the Boxcar Children’s series including The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island ,The Yellow House Mystery and Mystery Ranch AND a hardcover copy of the series prequel The Boxcar Children® Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm SIGNED by the author, Newbery award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan. The ARV for this giveaway is $48.98.  

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do.)

1) Tell me who you want to win this gift set for

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like the Boxcar Children on Facebook

4) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

5) Follow the Boxcar Children on Twitter

6) Follow me on Twitter

Giveaway ends December 1, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US and Canada only.

(Disclosure:  I am receiving a set of these books for my family but no other compensation was received.)

Trunki Kid’s Suitcase From Melissa & Doug {Giveaway}

I told you all about Melissa & Doug’s Top Twenty List the other day and promised a giveaway of one of the great gift items on there. It was hard to make up my mind as to which one to giveaway but I really love the one I chose and I hope you will too!


Blue Trunki Suitcase from Melissa & Doug

This is a great suitcase for traveling on long trips or just weekends at Grandma’s. It has wheels so children can ride it while the parent pulls them around. There are also additional stickers that can be purchased so children can personalize it themselves.


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me who you want to win the Trunki for

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

4) Follow me on Pinterest

5) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends November 25, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I received a product for posting about Melissa & Doug’s toy list. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway

The holidays are just around the corner, so you know what that means….time for the Melissa & Doug “Terrific Twenty” list! This list compiles the “best of the best” holiday gifts for the 2012 holiday season, and I’m excited to share it here with you!

To celebrate, Melissa & Doug are having a “20 Days of Terrific Twenty” Giveaway on their Facebook page! Every day they’ll be giving away one item from their Terrific Twenty list to at least one of their lucky Facebook fans!

Be on the lookout for a giveaway here at Making Time For Mommy because I’m giving one of these terrific items away soon! :)

(Disclosure: I received an item from this list for posting this information.)

Gift Idea For Foodies {Giveaway}

HerbNZest’s Holiday Trio Gift Set makes a tasty and useful present for foodies and cooking novices alike! Created by mom of two and food lover, Deboleena Dutta and made right here in the USA, HerbNZest’s all natural and vegan condiments are simple enough to build everyday meals around, exciting enough to showcase on special occasions, and yummy enough to enjoy straight out of the jar (suggested uses included on each label and easy recipes are available online). Each gourmet condiment is made in micro-batches to maintain the flavor, goodness, and quality of the ingredients. Moreover, they are healthier with low sugar and salt content and only olive oil.

 The Holiday Trio Gift Set includes gift packaging, recipe cards and one jar each of:

•  Chipotle Cranberry-Orange Relish – Cranberries, apples, and oranges are cooked with chipotle and other spices to create a zesty and tangy relish with a hint of smokiness.

•  Caramelized Apple Champagne Mustard – A spicy brown mustard with sweet undertone from hand-caramelized apples and onions and a well-rounded rich flavor fromchampagne.

•  Fennel Saffron Pumpkin Butter – Pumpkin Purée, spices, and extra-virgin olive oil are blended in with fragrant saffron and sweet fennel seeds to create an exotic and aromatic savory butter.


Buy It: $16 for the 5 oz-jars or $25 for the 8 oz-jars. Both sizes include gift packaging and recipe cards. Products are available for purchase online or at select Whole Foods and other fine retailers.

Win It: One reader will win the HerbNZest holiday set and HGTV TV star Monica Pedersen’s new gorgeous coffee table bookMake It Beautiful – Designs and Ideas for Entertaining at Home. Monica’s book also makes a thoughtful gift for all those DIY party-throwing divas out there.   Total value of gifts is more than $50!


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Let me know who this would be a perfect gift for

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

4) Like HerbNZest on Facebook

5) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

6) Follow @HerbNZest on Twitter

7) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right corner)

8) Leave a comment on another post

Giveaway ends on November 11, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I have not tried these products and I was not compensated for posting this giveaway. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

Joy Filled Days With One Thousand Gifts {Dayspring Gift Set Giveaway}

Working full-time from home with two preschoolers has me constantly on the go. I spend most of my days working, fingers flying across my laptop with breaks in between tasks to referee fights over toys, check on dinner in the crockpot, give hugs, switch over the laundry, and every other task that a working mom is responsible for. When I do get a few minutes to just sit, I’m always thinking about the next task on my to-do list or surveying the mess in my tv room wondering what I should pick up first. I’m reminding the boys to use indoor voices and to please keep their fingers out of their noses. In all the busyness it’s easy to miss the blessings in life if I don’t seek them out.

Ann Voskamp is a beautiful writer who wrote a book that I love called One Thousand Gifts in which she shows people how they can find joy. There is a line of gift items out that correspond with the book and I was lucky enough to receive two of them. Both items help me find joy in the littlest of things. The Inspirational Dayspring Daybrightener is a flip calendar that has a daily thought on each page. The Reflections From One Thousand Gifts book contains some of Voskamp’s photography and passages from her New York Times bestseller.

Even better than receiving them myself is the fact that Dayspring wants to bless one lucky Making Time For Mommy reader with a One Thousand Gifts set of their own! These items make beautiful gifts as well.


Tell me one thing you are thankful for in your life!

For an extra entry, share this giveaway on a social network and leave a comment telling me you did so.

Giveaway ends November 10, 2012 at 11:59pm. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I received items from Dayspring but all thoughts are my own.)

Red Envelope Gifts

Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday and I am so excited to give her her birthday gift! I shopped at Red Envelope which is a website that sells unique and personalized gifts. A couple years ago I was introduced to the site and found myself a cute earring tree. Since then I’ve found lots of great gifts. I ordered my mom some pretty white sapphire earrings.

These earrings feature three small white sapphire stones that hang down from a sterling-silver earring. I thought they were beautiful and the stones are larger than I thought they’d be. I think my mom is going to love them!

Here are some of the other gifts I considered buying her:



Want to find unique gifts for your loved ones? Red Envelope has new gifts out just in time for Christmas! The site is nicely organized and it’s easy to shop by occasion or by type of gift you want to buy.

(Disclosure: I received a gift code in order to complete this review but all thoughts are my own.)

10 Teacher Gifts For The First Day Of School

Here are 10 of my favorite gift ideas for teachers I’ve found online:

1) A loaf of homemade bread w/ a special note

“May this preschool year be like this loaf of bread….

so very delicious you barely notice the crummy parts.”


2) Lotions with labels that say:

“I hope your school year goes smoothly”

{Find the printable labels at Oops, I Craft My Pants}


3) Packs on pencils with a tag that says:

“You are the “write” teacher for me”

{Find the printable tags at Itsy Bitsy Paper}


4) Calculator with a cute note that says:

“According to my calculations this is going to be a great year!”

{Find the printable at eighteen25}


5) Adorable oreo pops in a pencil vase

{Find the tutorial at Amanda’s Parties To Go}


6) Starbucks Via Coffee Packs with notes that say:

“Something to get you back into the grind”

{Find this at Jacolyn Murphy}


7) Container of Andes mints with a note that says:

“You were ‘mint’ to be my teacher”

{Find this and other foodie gifts at Brown Paper Packages}


8) First Day Of School Survival Kit

{Find all the details at Bee In Our Bonnet}


9) Bin full of teacher must-haves

{Details at Corner House Blog}


10) School Supply Cake

{A Pumpkin & A Princess has a fabulous one!}

UncommonGoods Unique Gifts {$50 Gift Card Giveaway}

Do you have people in your life who are hard to shop for? I do, so I’m so glad that sites like UncommonGoods exist. This site has so many unique gift ideas that it makes it easy to find the perfect gift for everyone. I recently received some products for men including a wrench bottle opener, stone drink chillers, and a scented candle.

The wrench bottle opener has been a great item to have in the kitchen. It was heavy in my hand and I could tell that it was made of high quality materials. I liked that it had a long handle and was easy to grip.

This “On The Rocks” set would make a wonderful gift. It’s a set of six solid granite drink chillers with two cups. They are easy to use. They just need to be put in the freezer for a couple hours and then can be used in place of ice cubes. These stones are great for keeping drinks like whiskey and other spirits cold because they don’t melt and water down the drinks. Once they are used they just get rinsed off and put back in the freezer for the next use.

The last item I tried out was their scented candles for men. Instead of vanilla and pumpkin, these candles have scents like “pizza”, “fresh cut grass” and “sawdust”. I only had a chance to smell the pizza one but I was not a fan of it. I thought the smell was overpowering even before it was lit.

Some of my favorite items on the site:

For Kids: Foreign Language Blocks


For The Kitchen: Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Presses


For Mom: Necklace


One reader will win a $50 gift certificate to UncommonGoods


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each that you do}

1) Tell me what you’d get from UncommonGoods if you won

2) Like UncommonGoods on Facebook

3) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

4) Tweet: “Find great gifts for men at UncommonGoods”

5) Follow UncommonGoods on Pinterest

6) Follow Making Time For Mommy on Pinterest

7) Share this giveaway on a social network

8) Enter another one of my giveaways (found here)

Giveaway ends July 15, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US Only.

(Disclosure: I received products from UncommonGoods but all opinions are my own. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas {Courtesy of}

Still looking for the perfect gift for mom? I know some of you will be frantically shopping tomorrow to find the right gift so that’s why I am really excited to share these gift ideas {that you can purchase some of online tonight}.

All moms deserve a meal out of the house for Mother’s Day, that’s why gift cards make such great gifts. But rather than arming her with simply a gift card and an “I love you” mom, why not do it in style? The Dish team put their imaginations to the test and came up a few fun and affordable ways to surprise mom with a Gift Card.

Gardening Supplies

Flower pot – $5

Gardening gloves – $6

Chalkboard sign – $1

Hose sprayer – $7

Seeds – $1

$50 Gift Card – $20

Mom’s Favorite Dessert

Strawberry cake from the local grocery store – $7

$50 Gift Card – $20

Colorful Flower Bundle

Bouquet of Spring Flowers – $15

Vase – $6 (or reuse a vase you have at home)

$100 Gift Card – $40

Keep in mind, gift cards are available in denominations of $25, $50 and $100, starting at just $10, so you can replace any of the ones shown above with the gift card that matches your budget. If you are shopping for mom last-minute, be sure to use’s e-Gift Card service in denominations of denominations of $25 for $10, $50 for $20, $75 for $30, $100 for $40 and even $250 for $100 and $500 for $200.

(Disclosure: I occasionally receive compensation in the form of gift cards and products for posts. However, the opinions I share are solely my own.)

Photo Gift Ideas For Moms & Grandmas

Mother’s Day is coming up and photo gifts are a great gift idea for any mom or grandma. I love anything with Jake and Luke’s faces on it and I know that my mom, their grandma, does as well! I wanted to share a few of my favorite products from Shutterfly:

iPhone Cover


Canvas Print


Desktop Plaque


Tote Bag


Photo Bracelet

If you are a mom, which of these would you want to receive?

Enter to win a $30 gift certificate to Shutterfly HERE {Ends 4/22/12}

Find Shutterfly online: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

(Disclosure: All thoughts are my own. I am receiving a gift certificate for posting about Shutterfly but I am giving it away to a reader.)

Gift Guide Inspired By Parents Magazine

I get lots of great ideas for crafts and recipes from magazines so I thought it would be fun to put a gift guide together inspired by all the great things I saw in this month’s issue of Parents magazine. Some are companies featured in the magazine and some are similar to ones featured.


Ruffled Bloomers By Ruffled Butts


Rockstar Bundle By Carters


Rocker by Sprout Kids


Tutu Outfit From Cutie Pa Tutus


Superhero Costume By BabyPop


Girls 3-in-1 Jacket


Insulated Jacket by Spyder


Personalized Necklace From The Vintage Pearl


Want even more gift ideas? Check out my Google+ story!

(Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #CBias. All thoughts are my own and I was not compensated by the companies I mentioned or offered any products in exchange for including them in this gift guide.)

More Gifts In A Jar {But You Can’t Eat These!}

Earlier I shared 12 edible gifts in a jar and now I want to share some ideas for other gift jars I don’t recommend eating. Click on the pictures to be taken to the posts:

Craft Jar


Sewing Kit Jar


Poured Mason Jar Candles


Monogram Jars


Everything In A Jar


Homemade Sugar Scrubs


Apron In A Jar


Bath Fizzies

Edible Gifts In A Jar {12 Gift Ideas!}

Here are some more great gift ideas. This time they are all edible and all given in a jar. Makes me want to go out and buy a bunch of Mason jars! {Find 8 non-edible gifts in a jar here}

Hot Cocoa In A Mason Jar


Pie In A Jar


Granola In A Jar


Cupcakes In Jars


Friendship Soup Mix In A Jar


Peppermint Stick Cocoa


Layered Dip In A Jar


Cowgirl Cookies


Brownie In A Jar


Pumpkin Butter In A Jar


Cookie Dough In A Jar


Appleesauce In A Jar


Find more great gifts in a jar ideas here!

7 Handmade Ornaments {Great Gift Ideas}

Need a gift for a teacher, grandma, or a friend? How about a handmade ornament? Check out these ornaments I’ve found online. {Click the pictures to be taken to the posts}

Personalized Christmas Ornaments


Felt Christmas Ornament


Recycled Christmas Card Ornaments


Button Ornament


Scrabble Ornaments


Cookie Cutter Ornaments


Picture Block Ornaments

Best Toys For Kids {2011}

Looking for some gift ideas?

Here’s the “Best Toys For Kids” list from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association:

Active Play

Freestyle Spooner Board
by Spooner Inc.
For ages 3+
Using the Spooner Board, riders of all abilities can pretend they are catching a wave, riding the slopes, or burning up the asphalt without leaving the comfort of the family room. Designed for beginners, kids 3 can simulate spins, twists, slides, and wobbles, while getting a workout, stabilizing their core and improving their balance and coordination.

Z-Curve Bow
by Zing
For ages 8+
The ultimate foam arrow shooter for high tech archery, Zing’s Z-Curve Bow uses safe, soft arrows that can soar 100 feet! Set includes bow, two long-range arrows with holder, and a stick-anywhere Zartz-tip dart for accurate target practice.

Classic Play (0-7 Yrs)

Teaching Cash Register
by Learning Resources
For ages 3+
Cha-ching!! Playing store comes to life with this talking, interactive cash register that rewards transactions with lights, sounds and voice messages. Holds actual-size money and includes a built-in scanner, scale, coin slot and volume control. Engaging play helps kids practice basic math skills and recognition of coins and bills. Requires 3 C batteries, not included.

Classic Play (8 Yrs+)

Potholder Kit
by Harrisville Designs
For ages 6+
Children love to weave, especially with this easy metal loom from Harrisville that helps kids understand spatial relationships while developing fine motor control and builds self esteem. It’s a great way to produce something useful. Make handmade items to sell at fundraising events or to give as gifts!

Constructive Play

by Ohio Art/Kawada
For ages 8+
You don’t have to be an engineer to build with nanoblock from Ohio Art! Watch in amazement as 3-D buildings are erected with micro-sized building blocks. With assorted size and colored pieces, create a detailed replica of France’s Eiffel Tower, India’s Taj Mahal and others that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand.

Tegu Blocks
by Tegu
Tegu angle blocks from Tegu allow geometric building possibilities for gravity-defying play! Constructive play reaches new heights with the Explorer Set, which includes 40 blocks in seven shapes and a booklet of building ideas—all packaged in a beautifully designed box large and rigid enough to store the blocks for many years to come.

Creative Arts Play

Happily Ever After Jewelry Box
by The Orb Factory
For ages 5+
Bring a little Happily Ever After to any girls’ room with this beautiful new jewelry box from The Orb Factory. The whimsical tale of a Princess and her Frog Prince is illustrated all around this sparkling box. Follow the numbered legend and mosaic over 750 sparkling tiles and jewels… and watch this magical story spring to life!

Safety Pin Bracelets
by Klutz
For ages 8+
Super-simple, fully illustrated step-by-step directions by Klutz for Safety Pin Bracelets shows how anyone can craft an entire collection of brilliantly sparkling jewelry out of garden-variety safety pins. The book includes 12 unique bracelet designs. You pick the colors and patterns so each bracelet is uniquely you.

Early Play 0-3 Year

Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench
by Hape
For ages 12 months and up
This sturdy wooden toy from Hape gives babies lots of ways to have fun with sounds. They can pound the balls with the hammer to make them roll down the xylophone, making a beautiful scale of musical sounds or pull out the xylophone and tap directly on the keys to make an original tune!

Pic ‘N’ Pop
by International Playthings
For ages 18 months and up
Pic N Pop by Tomy gets children moving! With the click of the button, kids launch a ball from the chute, then roll over the ball and magically pick it up! With five balls, you can use this indoors and outdoors.

Game Play (3-7 Years)

Fast Track
by Blue Orange Games
For ages 3 to 7
Ready, aim, score! With Fastrack from Blue Orange Games, the action is non-stop and the fun is plentiful. Using the elastic cord, be quick and aim well. Be the first to send all of the disks zooming across the other side. WARNING: you may find it difficult to stop playing!

Perplexus Rookie
by Plasmart
For ages 4+
6.5 Inches in diameter, the Perplexus Rookie by Plasmart is filled with layers of detailed maze structures. It’s a brainteaser puzzle with facets kids and adults find both fascinating and mind-bending. Flip, twist and turn the sphere to solve the puzzle. Easy to play but challenging to complete. Great for improving eye-hand coordination and spatial relationships.

Game Play (8 Years+)

by Thinkfun Inc.
For ages 12+
Exercise your brain with PathWords from ThinkFun, the exciting new game that combines the best of Tetris® and Word Search! Place the puzzle pieces onto the selected challenge so the letters under each piece spell a word. With 40 challenges from beginner to expert, PathWords appeals to word game lovers AND puzzle game fanatics.

by Blue Orange Games
For ages 8+
You won’t believe how many laughs are packed into the game of Trigger Blue Orange Games. Players answer “true” or “false” to statements as quickly as possible by slapping the target. Right hand is true and left hand is false. With humorous statements in a fast pace atmosphere, the game is always full of surprises.

Pretend (Doll Play)

Tidoo Raspberry
by Corolle
For ages 18 months and up
Designed for bathtime fun, Corolle’s 12-inch Tidoo Raspberry doll is soft, posable and so light it floats! Filled with polystyrene “beads” that dry quickly, Tidoo is a favorite playmate out of the tub, too. Tidoo’s eyes open and close so Tidoo can take a nap — just like a real baby!

Baby Stella Playtime Potty (doll not included)
by Manhattan Toy
For ages 12 months and up
Teach Baby Stella how to use the big potty with the Manhattan Toy Playtime Potty chair! This charming little toilet can be a helpful tool in the potty training process. It encourages your little one to be a “big kid” and encourages social and emotional development through nurturing the Baby Stella doll. (Doll sold separately.)

Pretend (Fantasy Play)

Falcon Knights’ Castle
by Playmobil
For ages 4 to 10
Activate traps and prepare the knights to guard the Falcon Knights’ Castle from intruders. The castle comes with a drawbridge, breakout wall, drop-down ladder, and a trap door. The set also includes four Falcon Knights, horse, functional cannon, and many other accessories to provide hours of entertainment.

Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden
by Creativity for Kids
For ages 7+
Color and bake these Shrinky Dinks from Creativity for Kids and transform a pop-up garden into a fun fairy hide-away. 50 pre-cut Shrinky Dinks come ready to color and shrink. Decorate the playscape with 3-D fairies, flowers, forest friends and sparkling glitter glue accents. Includes Faber-Castell Colored EcoPencils and a sharpener.

Pretend (Role Play)

Calico Critter Caravan Family Camper
by International Playthings
For ages 3+
Calico Critter families can spend happy vacations together travelling in their very own Caravan Camper from International Playthings! Includes over 35 accessories: round table, plates, cups, utensils, pots, pan, sleeping bags, maps, “board games”, iron, soap, towel & much more!

Healthy Gourmet Salad for Green Eaters
by Hape
For ages 3+
Imaginative play gets nourished when children create a tasty salad with these vibrant wood vegetables. This 36-piece set from Hape includes the bowl, the vegetables, and dressing—oil, vinegar, and pepper—plus utensils for tossing up some healthy play.

Scientific Play

Big Bag of Science
by Be Amazing
For ages 8+
This giant kit by Be Amazing whets the appetites of budding young scientists. With more than 70 hands-on science activities, it guarantees hours and hours of science fun. Make water disappear or flow uphill! Create a soda geyser or grow fake snow! Science is fun with activities using chemistry, physic, magnetism, weather, biology, geology, and flight.

Remote Control Machines
by Thames and Kosmos
For ages 8+
Use this exciting Thames & Kosmos kit to build your own motorized machines, then control them with a unique six-button infrared remote. Control three different motors simultaneously, moving each of them forward or in reverse, with easy-to-activate touch sensors. Includes 3 motors, remote control unit, battery holder, and building blocks.

(Disclosure: I received many of these toys at an event I went to at Building Blocks Toy Store but was not compensated or asked to post this list.)

Handmade Gift Ideas {For Women}

A great way to save money on gifts is to make them. I wanted to share a few tutorials for some wonderful handmade gift ideas for women that I found around the web this week {click on the pictures to be taken to the posts}:

Jersey Knit Bracelets


Makeup Roll


Custom Silhouette Pillow


Homemade Sugar Scrub


Gathered Clutch


Beaded Bracelet


Dollar Store Gloves With Buttons


Decorative Candles

Toddler Gift Ideas (Learning Toys)

After reading this post at 1plus1plus1equals1 where Carisa gives Christmas gift ideas for toddlers, I put a list together for Jacob and Lucas and here are ten of the items on it:

Also, I love this Melissa and Doug Shopping cart and it’s available in my Open Sky shop!!!

This post is linked up to Oh Amanda’s Top 10 Tuesday post.

(Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links.)