Fun and Easy Games for your Kid’s Party

Finding games that are quick, easy, and will be fun for everyone can be a challenge.  Something that is too long may be hard for the younger ones to keep track of.  Ones involving a lot of running may not work for guests with asthma – so how do you ever find games that are not only fun for everyone, but also easy to create? It isn’t a simple feat.  Here are a few ideas to make your foray into party planning just a little less hectic!

Obstacle course

This can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it.  Whether you set up a whole course in your backyard or use a series of chairs, ribbons, and clothes, you can make a team game that everyone can enjoy! Make sure that you have enough room for at least 2 teams.  If you have a large backyard, create one long course and do a relay style.  If not, do a game with a consistent relay style for each team member.  For example, the first team members have to run to a large paper roll, run around it three times, then put on a new pair of shoes.  Next person has to run to the paper roll, run around it three times, but put on a shirt!  Whatever you choose to do, this is a fun option that will let you get creative and have some fun while you are at it!

Easy Games for your Kid’s Party

Balloon relay races

This game is especially funny when older kids are doing it.  To play this game, you must run with a balloon between your legs to your teammate, and pass the balloon off to them for their leg.  Whoever completes this task to the finish line first, wins!

Pin the tail on the donkey

A classic, this one is a lot of fun for younger kiddos.  Using Velcro or tape, have the kids try to pin the tail onto the right spot on the donkey. The closest ones get a prize – everyone else gets candy!

A scavenger hunt!

This activity is a great way to use time. Create a hunt that will send them all over, and give you some time to either set up a new game, or kick back and relax for a little while!  Split the kids into two teams, and then give them a beginning clue list. As they move throughout the hints, give clues to each item.  All items should be following a certain theme, and should lead to an ultimate item, theme, or compilation.  This also allows you to use complete creativity and have some fun.  You can also let your child in on the fun – let them pick the theme, and have some say in how many clues there should be, etc. Even with the surprise of what you ultimately pick, they can know that it will be something everyone can enjoy!  Whatever you pick, these simple activities can make a good party great!

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How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy

Choosing toys for your kids presents some unique challenges. You want something stimulating and educational, and you want it to be age-appropriate. Here are some tips on how to choose and electronic educational toy.

Battery Power

There’s been a recent groundswell of support for non-mechanized toys for kids. The resurgence of wood blocks, plush toys and dolls might have you shying away from electronics. However, keep in mind that there are some truly incredible, electronic educational toys available today. And it’s not all about lights and bells: there are toys that provide great stimulation and entertainment for kids of all ages.

Age Appropriate

Most children’s toys come with an age recommendation to inform consumers of the ages for which the toy is appropriate. This is a great guide – particularly if you don’t have little ones at home – to provide a general idea of the suitability of the toy you’re choosing for its intended recipient. Keep in mind this age range recommendation is simply a guide. You’ll need to consider the individual preferences of the child in determining if the toy is appropriate for their age and developmental stage.

Electronic Educational Toy

Be Careful with Noise

For toys that produce sounds, opt for ones with multiple volume settings. Many will have a low and high volumes, making them better suited to kids who may be hearing impaired or have sensory issues that make loud noises unpleasant.

Multi-Function Toys

The best bet with electronic educational toys is something that can also be played with and enjoyed without the batteries. Examples include toy fire trucks or tractors, which can be played with as a push toy even if the lights and sounds are off.

Evaluate Three Areas

When choosing an electronic toy, consider its potential in three key areas: skill building, entertainment and promoting active play. Try to pick a toy that provides benefits in all three areas. The ideal toy should teach a new skill to the player, provide a fun and entertaining experience, and encourage active (rather than passive) play for the child.

Toy Preferences are Individual

There’s a reason today’s toy market is a multi-billion dollar industry: kids like many different kinds of toys. So, even though you’ve researched and chosen the perfect educational electronic toy, there’s a decent chance that the child won’t like it. Or, they may love it. It all depends on the individual interests and preferences of the child. To be safe, you may want to discuss ideas with your child’s teacher or day care provider. They may have observed the child playing with a specific type of electronic educational toy and can offer some ideas.

Electronic educational toys present the opportunity to engage children and make learning fun in new and exciting ways. Remember to look for toys which build skills, entertain the user, and provide for active play, problem solving or creativity. The result will be a great toy that captures the imagination and attention of your child and becomes a favorite toy at playtime.

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5 Great Bedtime Stories for Kids

The Power of Words

There is no doubt that stories can stay with us and shape our lives.  In fact, they can teach us how to live.  I grew up with books and stories, some of which linger in my mind to this day.  Here are 5 terrific bedtime stories for young children that could have an impact on them even decades from now.

The Frog Prince

Not only does our society place enormous value on physical appearance, it seems to begin this indoctrination at very young ages.  It is important to teach children that beauty is not everything, no matter what the media tries to make one believe.  A wonderful story to teach children that looks are not everything is the Brothers Grimm classic The Frog Prince.  This story also teaches the moral of keeping a promise.

Bedtime Stories for Kids

The Gift of the Magi

This beautiful story by O’Henry is appropriate for audiences of all ages with the timeless message it delivers.  A young and very poor married couple sell the only things they have of value to buy each other a perfect Christmas gift.  When they arrive home, the things they sold were related to the gifts they purchased for each other for those very items.  With utter simplicity this story personifies love and sacrifice.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

This parable is an excellent lesson to what might happen if one decides to lie.  In Aesop’s classic fable a shepherd boy decides to call out for help from his village as he falsely claims that a wolf is attacking his flock.  The boy raises a false alarm so many times that on the day a wolf actually does appear and attack the sheep, no one answers the boy’s cries for help.  This is a very effective cautionary tale which can be applied in several aspects of life.

Cinderella

Far beyond the Disney princess, this is another classic fairy tale with a strong message.  Turned into a servant and treated abysmally by her stepmother and stepsisters, the gentle and gracious Cinderella wins the heart of a prince and forgives those who wronged her for many years.  This story teaches us that grace and kindness are admirable qualities in a person and priceless qualities to have.  It also teaches us about strength and remaining a good person even under unfortunate circumstances.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

There is no doubt that the legends of Arthur and his knights are among the most well-known and well-loved in the world.  These tales of romance and chivalry have stood the test of time and still enthrall audiences both young and old.  These stories of heroes, chivalry, love, magic, and brotherhood are parables of the many faces of humanity.  The tales can also be used to teach some historical aspects and make learning enjoyable.

Other Sources

Please do not stop with these five stories but further explore the classic works of Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Aesop’s Fables, and Charles Perrault.  These beautiful works of literature are guaranteed to provide years of stories and scores of life lessons for young children.

No clue what to read to your kids?  Go back to tried and true classics for bedtime stories and bring timeless tales to life.  Give your kids a start to literature.

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Why Video Games for Kids Are a Good Idea

Video Games for Kids

Video games in moderation can be a very good idea for kids. Notice we mentioned moderation.

We’re not advocating hours of play nor do we think that violent games are appropriate, especially for younger children.

Motor Skills

We’ve all tried to play a video game with our kids and have had them beat the pants off us. Why? Their game playing has helped them hone their fine motor skills.

It’s that old eye/hand coordination thing that we had to master when we were kids ourselves. Video games help increase those skills in your kids – and they get to play at the same time.

Team Work

Besides sports, kids can learn the value of team work if they are playing with friends or even involved in an MMORPG. That’s a mouthful, huh? It stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game and it’s very popular.

Problem Solving Skills

Games that require kids to solve particular problems help with logic skills which will serve them well in the future. Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning to make choices and not being hemmed in by those choices. It’s okay to change your mind and a game that encourages kids to make different choices will elevate their confidence.

These kinds of logic skills will also help children when they get to the point in school where homework is online and may involve problem solving. College testing involves a lot of problem solving and video games can help get them in shape.

Keep the Console in a Public Place

One thing that will help give you some peace of mind is by keeping the computer console in a place where you can see it like the living or family room.

That way you will be able to see what they are playing and shut down anything you think isn’t age appropriate.

Strategy and Creativity

This section goes along with the prior section on problem solving. Certain video games can increase fact finding, critical thinking and creativity skills that will help your kids be better stewards of information in the age of everything online.

And from players often comes developers and programmers. Your child may turn out to be the next computer game revolutionary all because you allowed her to play games.

Women are now taking a much bigger role in game design and coding thanks to being influenced by video games at a young age.

Talk About It

If you’re concerned about your child’s video game playing, talk to them. Find out what they like about it and see if you can learn to play with them.

Understanding what draws them to a particular type of game will help you understand their motivation in wanting to play. It may be that they have formed some great alliances around the globe as a result of playing with other kids in Europe or Asia.

A recent study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics found that kids who play video games for about an hour a day are less hyperactive and much more social than those who did not play at all.

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Toy Safety

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Buying toys for kids is one of the perks of being a mom, but there are some basics that are important to remember when choosing toys for younger children. Toy safety is an important issue that everyone should be aware of. Finding the best playthings for your child begins with knowing which toys are appropriate for your child based on their age.

Labels and Examinations

Labels are a good resource for choosing age-appropriate toys for kids. Most companies today put an age indicator right on the box or tag. If you find something that doesn't indicate which age it has been designed for, however, you will need to examine the toy carefully. Anything with a sharp edge, loose parts, magnets or unsecured batteries are particularly dangerous for young children. Skip those toys in favor of safer options. You should also check stuffed animals and other soft toys carefully to ensure eyes and other features are secured properly before giving it to your young child.

Gifts and Secondhand Items

When your child receives a gift, it is important to make sure it is safe. Gifts from grandparents and others that you know well can be planned in advance if you discuss the importance of toy safety with those closest to you. You may want to show grandparents and others what to look for when making purchases for your child, or provide other caregivers with a safety checklist to make purchasing toys simpler. You can also share the tips found at Safe Kids, online at www.safekids.org.

Secondhand items should always be inspected carefully to ensure the toy is safe. Toys can become damaged through normal play. Anything with small or loose parts, for instance, should be discarded. It is normal for other parents to want to pass their secondhand toys on to someone else after their child has outgrown or no longer plays with them, but if you are uncomfortable with this type of gift it is perfectly fine to say no. If you do accept secondhand toys, make sure they are safe by checking the official recall list. You can learn more about toy recalls at the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, which can be found online at www.cpsc.gov. With some simple steps, you can prevent injuries and accidents caused by recalled or damaged products.

 

Mom Review: Castle Bounce House

bouncehouseI am writing this while listening to my children hop, jump and squeal.  It's a little distracting...but I can't complain.

I recently purchased a Castle Inflatable Bounce House w/ Slide (12' x 9') from Amazon.com and thought I would share my thoughts with you about this product.

We used it for the first time during our Father's Day BBQ.  My kids (5 & 6 and my *almost* seven year old nephew) played in it for at least an hour.  I used it again at my daughter's birthday party one week later.  All of the children (ages 3-7) had a great time.  The only downfall...they had to take turns because it is only large enough to hold 3-4 children at a time safely.

While I was afraid I would only use the bounce house for big events - my children have been using it at least twice per week.  On rainy days - we bring it indoors and on warmer days they pull it under the shade trees.

Set up for the bounce house is simple. In fact, my 6 year old daughter is able to drag it out of our backyard shed, plug it in and start it up.  It is also fairly light and easy to maneuver.  Just the other day I set it up in our basement when I wanted the kids to get some rainy-day exercise.

What I love most about this particular bounce house is that my children also use it as a playhouse.  They've draped blankets over the top to turn it into a "movie theater" and have loaded it full of stuffed animals to create an "animal hospital".

Overall, I am thrilled with this purchase.  I bought it for $249 at Amazon.com and have since seen lower prices on the internet.  It has been well worth the cost during the summer months and I expect that during the cold winter months it will be a great addition to the basement play area!

Mom Review: Too Cold to Play Outside? Try Wii Outdoor Challenge

I live in Montana and we are smack-dab in the middle of the coldest winter I've ever experienced here normally Montana is fairly mild...(mind you, I grew up in Minnesota so my definition of mild may be a bit skewed).

We had a weeklong stretch where the kids literally could not go outside due to frigid temps.  They were getting stir-crazy...and so was I.

That's what motivated me to purchase a Wii and Active Life Outdoor Challenge for Christmas - and since the weather didn't break...we opened it up early.

It was an instant hit with my kids (a four year old boy...and five year old girl).  The loved the jump-roping, log-jumping, outdoor trampoline & mine cart race.  I was literally giddy as I watched them run in place, jump and swing their arms & sweat!

We love the game so much that we spend each afternoon doing a family workout.  I do a 20 minute running, hurdle & jumping routine while the kids run in place & jump beside me.  After that, they challenge one another in a variety of games while I clean the house.

Pinch me.  I have a clean house...I am getting a quick workout...and I have exhausted kids at the end of the day.

Here is a promotional video for the game.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the game if you have it (comments section)...and if not - give it a try!  Trust me, it is well worth the $59.00 price tag!

Product Review: Smart Cycle by Fisher Price

If you haven't finished your holiday shopping yet (or if you like to procrastinate like me) I have another hot toy you'll want to add to Santa's wishlist.  My three year old son received the Fisher Price Smart Cycle on his third birthday from his grandparents.

I love this toy as much as he does for many reasons.

First, I am finally getting my household chores done.  Whenever I have a pile of laundry to tackle or a bathroom to clean I remind him that he needs to work on his racing skills.   "Jakey...did you beat 48 seconds yet?"  He gets his competitive streak from his mother. =)

I live in Montana where the winters can be brutal.  My kids usually only play outside once or twice per week when winter sets in.   Prior to the Smart Cycle my kids' winter fitness plan involved jumping on beds and tackling one another.  While I've never encouraged my kids to sit in front of the tv while playing video games...I am absolutely thrilled when they "cycle" in front of the tv and play video games.

Finally, the games are simple, inexpensive and educational.   I hate purchasing a product only to realize that I constantly  have to buy additional books, software, etc.. to upgrade it.   My son has had the Smart Cycle for two months now and he has yet to grow tired of the basic cartridge that the product comes with.  Initially I was concerned that the Smart Cycle was more of a racing program than an educational program.   Thankfully, it is both.  I love watching him pedal as fast as he can while he screams out letters of the alphabet.   "I need a C"...."I need a D"...etc.  His letter-recognition skills have improved dramatically since he started playing with this toy. 

My only problem with this product is that they didn't make one for grownups. 

If you want to learn more about the Smart Cycle features, check out this clip from You Tube.  If you have any specific questions about the product feel free to post it in the comments section and I will do my best to answer it. 

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Fantastic Online Drawing and Coloring Tool from Crayola: Digi-Color

crayoladigicolor 

When I am not blogging or writing I love to play with graphic design software and create "stuff".  The other day, my daughter was watching me draw some flowers using my Photoshop program. "PLEASE can I try it?" she begged. 

I let her try some of the brushes and tools, but the software was way too complicated for her to play with without my help.   I went to the Crayola.com website to print out some activity worksheets and saw this "digi-color" program.  It is AMAZING!  Within moments my four year old and I were fighting over it.  "Just a sec...Jenna - let me try the twistables".  =) 

You simply pick a Crayola product and color to your hearts' desire.  My daughter spent almost an hour playing on the site...and I jumped back on when she went to bed.  Beware...it is addictive!  =)

Check it out and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.