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Summer Fun for the Family: Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities

Don’t just encourage your kids to get off their gadgets and play outside on a regular basis… join them! Having some fun in the sun is good for everyone and an excellent way to bond with the kiddos. Check out the creative outdoor activities below and spend the day with your kids outside:

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Credit: Spoonful

Bubble Burst Paintings: It’s no secret that kids love bubbles. Add some color to their bubble blowing and they will be even more excited about them. Stir 2 tablespoons of tempura paint or 15 drops of food coloring into ½ cup of bubble solution. Tape a large piece of paper to a fence or between two trees and have your child bow the bubbles against it. Though this activity is more about the process then the finished artwork, kids will love watching the bubbles hit the paper and burst into vibrant circles and splatters.

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Credit: The Craft Nest

Hula Hoop Hideout: You and your kids can play games, read books or have a picnic in these Hula Hoop Hideouts that hang from trees. To make them, pin the top edge of a sheet to the hula hoop by folding a sheet over and pinning it to itself. Create a hanger to tie up the hideout by tying two long pieces of twine to opposite sides of the hula hoop. Decorate the hideout with tulle and ribbons, hang it from a tree branch, add blankets and pillows under your fort and your backyard oasis is complete. See here for more detailed instructions.

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Credit: One Perfect Day

Nature Crafts: Combine creativity with nature by using plants, pinecones, leaves and rocks to make artwork. You can decorate pinecones or rocks with glitter and paint or create leaf print paintings by inking a leaf with a sponge and pressing it onto paper in various colorful designs. Get as creative as you like with the help of Mother Nature’s art supplies.

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Credit: Glue Stick Blog

Ice Excavating: In this game, kids excavate small toys or objects from the ice with small tools. To play, put small toys or objects in a container such as a metal cake pan, fill it with water and freeze it. Once it’s solid, turn the container upside down and run warm water on the back to let the block of ice become loose. Give your kids their excavating tools and let them get cracking on the ice to free the toys.

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: SheScribe.com’s Kimberly Vetrano

Don’t let back to school shopping stress you out. Check out the below edition of our Back-to-School Q&A series with parenting expert and She Scribes blogger, Kimberly Vetrano, for her best back-to-school shopping tips and tricks.

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What items do you anticipate will be trendy this fall?

My kids don’t really go with trends. They have their own individual style. I would think the “must have” latest and greatest technology will be #1 on most kid’s lists. I also think there might be plenty of apps available that help with homework, setting goals and studying for tests that kids will want their parents to download and/or purchase for them.

What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?

Whenever possible, shop with each child individually or go shopping with your spouse, significant other, family member or friend and have them go with one child while you shop with the other. When we go back-to-school shopping, my husband takes my son to buy clothes and I take my daughter. When it comes to back-to-school supplies we can usually do that together because we just end up buying two of everything.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

Parents should avoid giving into their kids just for the sake of getting the shopping done quickly. My husband and I are both guilty of doing this. When we’ve had enough with shopping and just want to go home we tend to give in to our kids more than we should which ends up busting our budget. Avoid shopping with children (or adults) who are not in a good mood. It will only make everyone else get into a bad mood and make the shopping trip drag on. Avoid overdoing it. As much as you want to get all the shopping done ASAP, it’s not fair to little ones to be dragged all over the place for the sake of getting it done in one day. Spread out the shopping over a few weeks or several days whenever possible. You should avoid thinking that you MUST get all the supplies before school starts. It’s OK to go shopping for something after the first day of school. Your child is not going to start the school year off the wrong way if they don’t have every single supply on their list.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

Purchase things like flashcards and loose leaf paper at our local dollar store. It’s the same exact stuff you can purchase in big name office supply stores, but at a less expensive price. This is especially good during the year when the big name stores are not having sales. Why spend $3+ on a pack of flashcards when you can get the same amount for a $1? Take advantage of sales and stock up on supplies you’ll need throughout the year (paper, pencils, erasers…) so that you have them on hand when you need them. Repurpose supplies. For example, three ring binders can be very expensive. At the end of the year, collect all the binders from your kids (or child) and save the ones that are still in decent shape to use again the following school year. That also applies to things like page dividers (simply replace the paper that slides into the tabs), backpacks, book socks and writing instruments. Hand down supplies from an older sibling to a younger sibling, especially things like scientific calculators, which are very expensive. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for the supplies you need. They might have some left over from their child that they can give you. Don’t go crazy with clothes shopping. Kids end up wearing what they already have in their drawers/closets after a day or two when school starts.

How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back to school shopping?

Try and buy as many supplies from one location as possible. No one wants to spend their day going from store to store. Shop at the least busy times to avoid long lines. For younger children make sure they have something with them to keep them entertained so they are not bored (teens usually have their cellphones they can play with). Try and shop for supplies early in the back-to-school shopping season and spread out the days you go shopping. Don’t try and do all your shopping in one week. If you find you still need more supplies, wait a week before going to another store to buy more supplies. A marathon-shopping spree is not always a fun thing for young children. Make sure everyone is well fed and hydrated before heading out to go shopping. Bring snacks along for little ones. Be well rested and in a good mood (that applies to everyone). Trying to shop with a tired or cranky child (or parent) can burn you out very quickly.

How much time and money should families allocate?

This would have to do with your family’s budget. School supplies can cost a bundle if you are not careful. Look over the supply list and set a limit on what you would like to spend. Give your children a limit too. If you are shopping for backpacks give your child a limit so that they don’t ask for a $90 backpack. As for time, try and spend as little as possible. Shop at places where you can get most of your supplies in one place so you don’t have to run from store to store and waste time and gas. You don’t have to purchase EVERY item on the shopping list. You can wait and make purchases for when your child really needs it. Just make sure they have the basics before school starts. That is the important thing.

Are there any items that you recommend parents wait to buy and why?

Clothing. Purchase a back to school outfit and a few extras like socks, shoes and underwear. Then hold off purchasing more clothing for a few weeks when the prices go down. Here in New York it’s usually warm in September when our kids go back to school. They end up wearing their summer clothes a lot of the time. There is no point purchasing a lot of new clothes when they just end up wearing what they already have. Instead wait a month and take advantage of pre-winter sales. Purchase clothing out of season when it’s on clearance or deeply discounted. You can usually “guesstimate” what your child’s size will be in the next few months. When my kids were little we’d buy cold weather things in the spring and summer things in the fall.

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Kimberly and her family, along with her “mini-zoo,” reside in the suburbs of New York City. On her blog, She Scribes, she loves to cover a variety of topics. Her tag line is “A little bit of this, a little bit of that.” When she’s not blogging Kimberly can usually be found spending time with her family, watching movies or simply hanging out at a local park. For more updates from Kimberly, follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest or like She Scribes on Facebook.

YoLife Yogurt Maker: Make Your Own Yogurt at Home

 

Yogurt is a go-to snack option for many families due to it’s health benefits and kid appeal.  Yogurt with active cultures replenishes the good bacteria in your digestive track and can help relieve common digestive symptoms.  When you make your own yogurt at home you’ll know the exact ingredients making it even healthier.  The Yolife Yogurt Maker comes with everything you need to make your own yogurt in just 8-12 hours:

  • Seven 6 oz. glass jars with lids
  • Small cover with starting time indicator to remind you when your yogurt will be ready to eat
  • Big cover with time indicator

With the YoLife Yogurt Maker by Tribest Corporation, the leading provider of healthy lifestyle kitchen equipment, you’ll be able to make yogurt for your whole family in individual and family-sized servings.  The YoLife Yogurt maker retails for…..:

 

Challenge Your Mini Gamers this Video Game Day

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Credit: illgaming.in

Tomorrow is Video Game Day so be sure to take some time to celebrate with your kids with a few of our favorite games below:

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Credit: Parenting.com

PC:

-       World of Zoo: This game lets players create their own virtual zoos with more creativity than other zoo-simulator games on the market. In addition to the dozens of different species available to choose from, kids can change the colors and fur patterns as well as the shapes and sizes of animal’s body parts with the “animal editor.”

-       Nancy Drew: Let your kids put their deductive skills to the test with the Nancy Drew mystery games, where players scout out clues to solve the mystery. We like the Warnings at Waverly Academy edition, where players investigate a fancy-pants prep school and Nancy Drew must go under cover. Recommended for older kids.

-       Cake Mania 3: In this baking-themed adventure game, pastry chef Jill Evans is accidentally zapped through time and space. Players must help her return home by establishing bakeries around the world, helping Jill take orders, bake and ice cakes and keep customers happy.

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Credit: NYTimes, FrugalPhillyMom, LegoWikia.com

Wii / Xbox / PlayStation

-       Skylanders Swap Force: To play this Skylander-themed game, kids put real toy figurines onto a portal to morph the toy character into the adventure game. This version is special because the toys have swappable parts, so kids can recombine them into new and different superheroes. Recommended for kids ages 10-14.

-       Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Combining Legos with Marvel superheroes, this game lets kids play as the Lego version of their favorite Marvel hero or villain. The premise of the game is that when Doctor Doom and the evil Loki take down the Silver Surfer in space by shattering his board and Nick Fury and the Marvel heroes must gather up all the pieces.

-       Disney Infinity: With this Disney game, kids can mash together all their favorite Disney characters into one game. To play, kids introduce Disney characters into the virtual world by placing toy figurines onto a portal and choosing between 2 modes of play; a linear adventure with Disney characters inside their movie world or the option to create their own world and populate it with their favorite characters.

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: SHEfinds.com & MOMfinds.com’s Editorial Director: Jeanine Edwards

Looking for some expert advice on back-to-school shopping? Check out the first edition of TheFind’s Back-to-School shopping Q&A series with shopping and parenting expert Jeanine Edwards. Jeanine, Editorial Director at SHEfinds.com and MOMfinds.com, shares her insight on back to school shopping tips and fashion trends.

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What items do you anticipate will be trendy this fall?

Many of the fashion trends that are popular for adults will also be popular for kids. Think combat boots, distressed denim and boho styles for girls and cool graphic tees and hoodies for boys. Skip Hop backpacks are always popular for the preschool set during back to school and Skechers Twinkle Toes sneakers continue to be wildly popular among little girls.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

Don’t force your child to accompany you if they don’t want to. It will only make an already stressful situation more miserable. Don’t wait until the last-minute. Shopping under time constraints always makes the situation more stressful than it has to be. Remember you’re the one controlling the purse strings, not your child. Set a budget and stick to it—don’t let temper tantrums persuade you to spend more than you can.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

Coupons, coupons, coupons! Even if you never use coupons any other time of year, BTS coupons are usually worth the extra time and effort. Also, sign up for email alerts and follow the stores you’ll be shopping on Facebook and Twitter in the event they share exclusive deals there. Buy in bulk. There are certain items your kid will need throughout the year (think pencils, paper, etc.) so it pays to spend extra on a quantity that will last you so you don’t have to restock every few months. Don’t go crazy on items you’ll need to replace throughout the year. Items like shoes will need to be replaced at least once or twice during the school year. Don’t go crazy buying your child every style of shoes in his/her current size when you’ll only need to buy them again in a few months. Lastly, use cash-back sites like ebates.com. You’ll get a percentage of your money back when you shop through this site on retailers like The Children’s Place, Kohl’s and JCPenney.

How does online shopping aid in your back to school purchasing?

Well the obvious answer is it’s way less stressful. There are no crowds and your kid can pick and choose what he/she likes without being dragged through a crowded store. Online shopping can also offer savings. Some sites will offer coupon codes and promotions that aren’t available in stores. Lastly, we’ve found that the selection is typically more plentiful online. So, while you may have a hard time tracking down a specific item or size in a store, it will likely be easier to find online.

Are there any items that you recommend parents wait to buy and why?

It can be tempting to take advantage of all the school supply sales that happen in early August, but we recommend resisting the temptation to go all out. Sure, you can buy items you know you child will need (like pencils, loose leaf paper), but we always think it’s better to wait until to the first or second day of school to shop for supplies. Teachers often provide a comprehensive supply list so you know your child will actually need. Another thing you might consider waiting on is clothes and shoes. Because it’s still pretty warm for the first weeks of school, kids will probably be able to continue wearing summer clothes. Plus, by waiting until mid September/early October to shop for fall clothes, chances are some of it will be marked down to make room for the next season’s items.

How do you work out wish-list discrepancies with your kids?

First, it’s important to be honest with your children. Don’t promise to get them everything on their wish list if it’s not financially feasible. That being said, we like the idea of having kids earn wish list items. Not only will this reward good behavior, but it will also give you time to save up for pricier purchases.

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Visit SHEfinds.com and MOMfinds.com for more tips and trends like these and for more updates from Jeanine, follow her on twitter at @momfinds.

Top Toys of 2014

Want to get your child a fun toy that doesn’t require technology?  Check out Parenting’s below list for a few of the best tech-free toys of 2014.

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Credit: Parenting

Bright Starts Having a Ball Get Cookin’ Kitchen: With five food-themed balls, 10 different activities and over 50 melodies and sound effects, the Bright Starts Having a Ball Get Cookin’ Kitchen will most definitely keep your youngsters entertained. The set also comes with a book that encourages them to recognize foods, colors and letters. Recommended for kids 18 months and up.

Mini Micro 3-in-1 Scooter: The 3-in-1 scooter grows with your child from ages 1-5. The scooter comes with a ride-on seat for age 1, an O-bar for age 2 and a TBar for kids 3-5. The company also sells scooters for kids ages 3-5, 6-12 and 12- adult, so family members of all ages can ride right along with them.

Monster High Create-A-Monster Design Lab: With this Monster Design Lab, kids create a new monster to attend Monster High. They simply use body parts and a tattoo sheet to create a design, place it in the lab and when the light stops flashing a unique doll of your child’s design has been created. Recommended for kids 3 and up.

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Credit: Parenting

Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 32 Piece Set: These colorful tiles are a step up from the plain wood blocks you probably had as a kid. With the magnetic pieces, kids can create countless formations on a flat surface or in 3D designs and build skills like pattern and shape recognition. Recommended for kids 3 and up.

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine: The GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine engineering set comes with a book and all the parts your kids need to build with Goldie and leave them feeling like an engineer. It boosts their spatial skills, teaches them engineering principles and problem-solving skills and also lets them use their imagination to create a story. Recommended for kids 4-9.

Perplexus Maze Puzzle: This puzzle in a ball puts motor skills and hand-eye coordination to the test. Players pick a path and maneuver a small marble within the sphere through obstacles while shifting, twisting and working with gravity to reach the end. Recommended for kids 6 and up.

Elenco Snap Circuite Green – Alternative Energy Kit: This eco-friendly themed game teaches your kids about new energy sources by letting them build any of the 125 projects in the kit. They can create working electronic circuits with the included components like solar cell, LEDs, windmill, energy cell and hand crank. Recommended for kids age 8 and up.

How to Use TheFind to Decorate Your Kid’s Room

Looking to add some flare your kid’s room? Check out these décor ideas and utilize our search tips to track down all your decorating goodies on TheFind.

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Credit: HGTV

Frames: Frames are a fun and easy way to spice up your kid’s room with the added benefit of showing off favorite family photos or artwork. Adorning walls with frames in a gallery-style is a popular trend this year.

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Narrow By Brand or Store: Know of a brand or store that has the style you’re going for? TheFind can narrow your search results to only show items from your preferred brands or stores.

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Pillows: Pillows are another easy and affordable way to add flare to your kid’s bedroom. We recommend going with patterned fabrics in colorful designs to create a cheerful and unique feel to the room.

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Narrow By Color: Trying to keep with a certain color theme? TheFind’s narrow by color option lets you narrow your results to only pillows in your desired colors.

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Credit: HGTV

Art: Art doesn’t just have to be just for adults. Try adding  pom-poms, colorful paintings or wall decals that have kid- appropriate designs to give the room a bit more personality.

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Narrow By Theme or Size: Know what genre of painting you want? Narrow your paintings by themes such as modern, abstract or landscape. If you have a size in mind, utilize TheFind’s option to narrow results by size.

Buy & Track: Once you’ve found your items, simply purchase and track your online order ship dates, expected arrival time and return window.

PackIt: Insulated Lunch Bag Cooler Goes From Summer To School Year

Credit: PackIt

Get a jump on your school supply shopping this year and break in your new PackIt reusable lunch tote with picnic lunches this summer.  PackIt lunch bags have a freezable gel built into their lining to help keep food and drinks cold for up to 10 hours.  The bags are foldable for compact storage in the freezer overnight.  Just pull it out in the morning and get to packing! PackIt bags will come in handy during the summer then transition well right into the school year.  Say goodbye to messy ice packs and hello to sleek PackIt lunch bags.  Available in solid colors and a selection of trendy prints, each bag retails for around $20.

Boost Your Kid’s Brainpower with Board Games

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Credit: Parenting.com 

Board games are not only a fun family activity for kids, but they can also be a sneaky way to improve their performance in school. Check out the below games Parenting.com listed as the best entertaining options for teaching kids lessons in decision-making and strategic thinking.

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Credit: Toydoo, Parenting.com

-       Where is Sock Monkey?: This Sock Monkey themed game is a combination of Twenty Questions and Clue. Aimed towards preschoolers and young grade-schoolers, it gives your kids a lesson in deductive reasoning as well as a chance to race around the house. Though younger kids won’t be able to read the questions, they can figure them out from the pictures—a decoding strategy that is helpful for when they learn to read. The game also gives kids practice in asking questions, listening for answers, following directions and putting clues together.

-       Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It: This 6-foot-long preschool-friendly game, based on the Busytown books by Richard Scarry, is all about on cooperation. The game is ideal for teaching kids teamwork and reinforcing their ability to recognize and match objects, teaching them to be observant and letting them practice associating categories with people and actions.

-       I Spy Ready to Read: This board game, based on the I Spy books and geared for kids ages 4-6, is actually five games in one. The game helps kids practice their visual skills and letter recognition and, because it’s based on rhymes, your child becomes more aware of language structure by hearing the syllables in each word and sentence.

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Credit: Parenting.com

-       Animal Mastermind Towers: This kid-friendly version of the classic Mastermind board game is all about making and breaking codes, which is appealing to the more advanced thinking skills of children ages 5 – 7. Because kids are required to remember opponent’s answers, the game boosts memory as well as deductive skills. Plus, making up codes helps teach them strategy.

-       Rory’s Story Cubes: This game, recommended for kids 8 and up, is unique because it doesn’t involve winning. In the game, players base stories on abstract sketches, sparking their imagination and teaching them to write complex, entertaining stories. Kids will learn to create stories with beginnings, middles and endings and turn something abstract into something more concrete.

-       Scrabble: This classic, age-old game is loved by teachers for its educational benefits. Not only does it help kids with their reading, spelling and vocabulary – it also teaches them math, problem solving and strategy. Additionally, the game is great for boosting kids’ attention spans and long-term memory, ideal for good test-taking and study skills.

Healthy Baby, Happy Parents

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Keeping babies happy and healthy is no easy task, but these gadgets we spotted on BabyZone can make it easier:

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Credit: BabyZone

WhyCry Baby Crying Analyzer: Figuring out why your baby is crying can be challenging. The WhyCry Baby Monitor can help you figure it out by analyzing the pitch of your child’s cries to identify the source of their unhappiness, so you can quickly fix whatever is upsetting your little one.

Itzbeen Pocket Nanny Baby Care Timer: It can be difficult when your baby last napped, ate or had their diaper changed—especially when you’re a busy, sleep-deprived parent. The Itzbeen Pocket Baby Care Timer is your pocket-sized nanny, helping you to easily keep track of these basic needs.

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Credit: BabyZone

Earcheck Middle Ear Monitor: Ear infections are very common with young kids but it can be hard to determine if your child is really sick without a visit to the doctor. The Earcheck Middle Ear Monitor detects fluid in the middle ear to alert you of an infection, so you can know if a visit to the doctor is necessary.

AVA the Elephant Medicine Dispenser: Kids can be extremely stubborn when it comes to taking medicine. AVA the Elephant Medicine Dispenser helps it go down, with a dispenser that features a “trunk” medicine dropper. Simply fill the dropper with the correct dosage, press the button and AVA encourages you kids to swallow with a cheerful “One, two, three… open wide! Good job!”

SnoozeShade: Keep your baby protected from harmful UV rays on sunny day walks with the SnoozeShade. The shade’s breathable, lightweight fabric has UPF 50+ sun protection and the Plus version features a “lookout” window that can be zipped shut when it’s time for a nap. It fits conveniently over strollers, with a “Twin” version available for double strollers.