Just before the holidays, I managed to catch up with an old friend. After updating each other on our families’ lives, she told me about her toddler son who wasn’t speaking and talking like other kids similar in age. After having him evaluated, she learned that he was speech delayed and began taking the proper steps to get him the extra help he needed. Oddly enough, we had just learned of a new speech/language service specifically designed to help parents like my friend work with their child and boost their verbal development. The beauty of Language Launchers‘ subscription-based service for ages 0-2 is that it gets mailed directly to your home, and you can use it at your own pace with your child. We got our hands on The Babble Box, a shipment of the first three months of the Babbling with Babies series. As is true with each month’s delivery, the box was well-stocked with a variety of toys and learning aids that help develop a child’s growing speech. Whether they are centered on early conversation, reading or music, each carefully chosen item has an intended purpose. And don’t feel you’ve been left alone in the dark; each mailing contains plenty of helpful tips and suggestions for cultivating your baby’s love of language. Each month’s mailing is an incentive to maintain that momentum and encourage more together time. What a wonderful way to start the new year.
In a Nutshell: Let the learning begin! For the parent looking for ways to nurture their child, but not sure how to begin, Language Launchers does the homework for you.
Now that all the gifts have been unwrapped and all the guests have gone home, we finally get a chance to catch our breath and enjoy my favorite part of the post-holiday madness: sitting down with a hot cup of tea and looking at all the presents we so hurriedly tore open (and just as quickly dropped) so we could ask “what’s next?” In the flurry of activity that is Christmas Day, now I can actually take the time to see what my kids received and pore over their every detail. I must admit that the books they acquire are among my favorite gifts, both to give and to receive. I gave my mom the new Capturing Camelot book, since she is a die-hard Kennedy fan. And both of my girls were treated to series they love: The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That for the little one and the latest Dork Diaries titles for my 8-year-old. One book that didn’t make it under the tree, but landed on my desk in the days before the holiday rush is worth mentioning. How Long Can a Fly Fly? seeks to satisfy the most inquisitive observer of nature, from my bird-loving mom, to my butterfly-loving 4-year-old. Because it seems my kids are always asking me questions I don’t quite have the answer to, this handy “tell-all” offers me a little cheat sheet, so to speak, which means I wind up telling fewer fibs. (Who knew one little paperback would help me with my New Year’s resolution, too?) From how to bring more butterflies into our garden, to why my husband and younger daughter get more insect bites than my older daughter and I do, this book helps us to better understand the big, wide world in which we live. And that’s one gift that keeps on giving.
In a Nutshell: If your New Year’s resolution is to learn something new every day, this insightful book of 175 answers will help you get started.
The clock is ticking, and you still haven’t found the perfect gift for your perfect kid. Wouldn’t it be nice to surprise them with something that Santa might not be able to fit in his sleigh, but that will guarantee many hours of active play? Even better than that, how about a gift that ties into your own New Year’s resolution (yet again) to get more exercise together as a family? Enter the Baby Jock Edition by FirstBIKE. It’s a lightweight bike that vows to get your kid up and riding, sans the training wheels. And did we mention there are no pedals either? The idea is to enable kids ages 2-5 to balance themselves from the very start, without fretting over pedaling their feet fast enough. (If you’ve been “blessed” with a child who thinks about everything, this may be the worry-free way for them to bike.) And for those who are fast on their feet, you’ll appreciate the adjustable hand breaks and specially designed handlebars that prevent sharp turns. We were easily won over by the straightforward assembly and sleek design. Baby Jock Edition by FirstBIKE makes gift-giving as easy as, well, riding a bike.
In a Nutshell: Let the good times roll with a kiddie bike that gets preschoolers up and moving.
My 4-year-old loves her stuffed animals like Frosty treasures his magic hat. Sure, they don’t make her shout “Happy Birthday” when she jumps out of bed every morning and “comes to life.” But she does dress them up, carry them around and treat them like gold. And why shouldn’t she? These indispensable buddies provide her lots of comfort, especially on those days when she’s not feeling so great. No wonder then that Thermal-Aid Zoo is a hit with kids in need of a little TLC. A ice pack/heating pad cleverly disguised in the likenesses of a cuddly koala bear, elephant, hippo, monkey and rabbit, these plush pals are more than just a playtime companion. When your little one is feverish, pop one of them in the freezer and see how it brings their temperature waaaay down (sure beats a wet washcloth). And if your little guy has bumped his knee one too many times on that pesky coffee table, a quick zap in the microwave of one of these animals and he’ll be whooping with delight before you know it. Made from natural cotton, this kiddie product contains a heating/cooling element made of specially engineered corn (yup, this group is definitely green). In this season of colds/flu, bumps and bruises, the Thermal-Aid Zoo is the best medicine you can give your child. No spoonful of sugar necessary.
In a Nutshell: A stuffed animal that doubles as a feel-better friend. Makes a great stocking stuffer.
Right about now, you’re probably wrapping up (pun intended) your holiday shopping and hunting for anything that might qualify as a stocking stuffer. In my house, that can mean anything from a new toothbrush, to chocolate-covered Santas (can’t have one without the other, you know!). If you’re looking for a something a little more inventive, but just as festive, consider the crowd-pleasing, sugar-free favorite of kids everywhere: stickers, of course. I’m still amazed at just how far these small treats can go. Sure they still give them out at preschool for putting away the blocks at clean-up time, and they’re a must for the potty-training crowd. But even the tough-to-please grade schoolers can still appreciate a cool sticker every now and then. This holiday season, we’re stuck on the scratch-and-sniff sticker line from Peaceable Kingdom–particularly the marshmallow and red cinnamon sets. One whiff of these instantly conjures up thoughts of hot cocoa, homemade cookies and all those other holiday delicacies your kids will want to sink their teeth into. Lucky for them Santa put a toothbrush in there, too…
In a Nutshell: We love a stocking stuffer that works for big and little kids, boys and girls alike. Smells good, too. Peaceable Kingdom stickers can be found at your local toy shop, gift boutique or bookstore.
Still looking for that special something for your college roommate’s new baby? Yes, you’re still a procrastinator (things haven’t changed much) and it doesn’t help matters that she lives across the country. When an overnight-delivery of onesies just won’t cut it, consider the latest mail-order gift subscription service that we’ve stumbled upon this season. Taking the agony out of shopping and shipping, littlefox does the work for you. Spearheaded by two sisters who researched and hand-picked a selection of eco-friendly baby products and packaged them together in a recyclable cardboard box (yup, even the packaging is green) for a monthly mail-order subscription. From feeding accessories and adorable clothing, to developmental toys and other great finds, their picks are ones you’d only find if you spent hours scouring the Web (and right about now, time is more than precious). We got a peek at this month’s products, which include adorable hat and a handheld wooden toy that’s perfect to pull out when you’re standing on those long lines. But thanks to littlefox, that won’t be at the post office.
In a Nutshell: Right about now, who couldn’t use a personal shopper? Here’s the perfect baby gift that practically sells–and sends–itself.
gift that keeps on giving
Who doesn’t love getting gifts for a new baby? If you’re a new or expectant mom ready to welcome a new arrival in the new year, have we got the contest for you! Maclaren’s ‘Tis the Season holiday giveaway is offering select new merchandise on the next few weeks on its Facebook page. Today’s featured contest, ending at 11:59 p.m. EST: 4 Universal Organizers to contain all your stroller accessory needs. Next Tuesday, December 18th, 4 Footmuffs will be given away and on Thursday, December 20th, you’ll be given the chance to win one of 4 Quintessentials Stylesets. Mark your calendars and good luck!
Today while grocery shopping, I saw the cutest kid sitting in her mom’s shopping cart, happily munching a breakfast treat. It didn’t matter that there were more crumbs on her cheeks than in her mouth; only at that age can you still get away with looking absolutely adorable, even with food smeared all over your face. It reminds me of a photo we have of my younger daughter, who proudly “wears” rice cereal after her first feeding. Remember the games your mom would play to get you to eat your food? (Well, she needed to trick you somehow into consuming that awful-tasting stuff!). My mom cried “open air” as a spoonful dove into our mouths. For me, it was a choo-choo train riding down the tracks, and into the tunnel of my girls’ gaping mouths. No matter what clever trick you employed as a new mom, you never envisioned a utensil that could help your newly minted self-feeder get the job done. Introducing the Beaba 360 Spoon. Its rotating handle ensures that the spoon stays horizontal, reducing the chance of spills. As your child grows, the handle can be locked into place, paving the way as she advances to a standard-sized spoon. Less mess means more in her tummy and fewer clean-ups for you. Just don’t plan on giving up that airplane game anytime soon (works wonders for medicine, too)…
In a Nutshell: Call it a “smart spoon,” if you will. This utensil lets self-feeders show off their skills, minus the frustration.
No matter how old I was, I could always count on one thing on Christmas morning: my stocking stuffed with the Lifesavers Storybook. How I couldn’t wait to savor the flavor of all those rolls of Spearomint, Five Flavors and butterscotch (well, maybe the butterscotch I could live without). Now as a mom, my annual tradition is to fill my kids’ stockings and Easter baskets with new toothbrushes (I know, I’m a real killjoy). Seriously though, it doesn’t hurt to balance out all those sugary sweets we’ve been indulging in since Halloween. And the dentist does recommend replacing your toothbrush every few months or so. My 4-year-old has her heart set on a Yo Gabba Gabba brush that sings to her as she brushes, but I’m guessing the 8-year-old won’t be as mesmerized by that colorful cast. A group like One Direction might be more her speed. If you happen to know any fans of the famous boy band, you’ll surely want to get your hands on the One Direction toothbrush, joining the ranks of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. At the touch of a button, The One Direction toothbrush will play two songs, “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing,” for dentist-recommended 2 minutes of brushing. Now your resident 1 D fan will have all the incentive she needs to brush morning and night. When the Talking Walnut got wind of this new product, we could hardly contain our excitement. Even though it won’t be available until January, you can pre-order it now at Brush Buddies.com. Just consider it a New Year’s gift from the boys.
In a Nutshell: Light up your tween’s world like nobody else, and check out her mega-watt smile with this rockin’ toothbrush. ‘Nuff said.
My daughters have reached the age where they’re starting to play with some of the same toys. The 4-year-old loves her Calico Critters, and her 8-year-old sister is willing to join in the fun…even if she does turn the furry friends into aliens (that still counts as playing, right?). What becomes more of a challenge is when my little one tries desperately to keep up with her big sister’s gaming sessions. While I’m not a huge fan of handheld entertainment (why rely on a machine when you can be using your imagination?), that’s becoming a more difficult pill to swallow as the kids get older. So when we can find some electronic games that tap into their creative sides, then I’m all for a little screen time. Now with 2 girls vying for the same toy, things can get a little tricky. Seemed like a good excuse to check out this holiday season’s most sought-after gifts: the LeapPad 2 and LeapsterGS. Since my older daughter has both the original LeapPad and the Leapster Explorer, I was curious to see just how LeapFrog could expand on their game play and make it worth the price of admission, so to speak. First off, the LeapPad 2 is packed with plenty of apps that let kids play, draw and take pictures…but it’s much faster this time around. That means game downloads don’t feel like you are waiting “for-ever” (that’s the 8-year-old talking). Plus, now there are 2 cameras, including one that is front-facing so kids can now take pictures of themselves. This added capability thrills my older daughter, and allows me a reprieve from playing amateur photographer. And because all her LeapPad games are backwards-compatible, they still work with the newer model–something we can always appreciate. Since my 4-year-old has inherited her sister’s Leapster Explorer, she’s been hoping Santa will treat her to the LeapsterGS. Even though she’s at the beginning of the suggested target age range (4-9), she’s already familiar with the handheld game commands and comfortable with following the straightforward directions. What’s really appealing for active kids is the built-in motion sensor that lets little bodies join in on the fun, as they tilt, shake and twist the GS along with the game. While some apps may be a little more advanced, like the math-focused Escape of the Sillies, it’s encouraging to know she’ll be able to move up to that level of game play as she grows.
In a Nutshell: Kids pining for the latest gaming devices? The latest models from LeapFrog offer plenty of bang for the buck, and equal amounts of entertainment and education.