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.

 

Glubble.com – Safe and Fun Website Browsing for Kids

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I am not sure if this is a good thing or not, but my kiddos like the computer as much as I do.  My four year old daughter loves online drawing sites and coloring pages and my son is a big fan of "Handy Manny".

While I love to let them play educational and creative games on the internet, I am always afraid that they will run into a site that I don't want them to see.  Not to mention all of the annoying little pop-up ads that seem to be strategically placed for accidental clicks.

I found this site Glubble.com a few months ago and was reminded of it the other day when my son was having a hard time navigating between two sites he loves to play on.   It is a Firefox add-on (meaning you can only use it if you also use the Firefox browser...which I also highly recommend).  Once you install it you create "tabs" for each of your children and small icons called "glubbles" with many of the most popular children's educational and game websites.

What I love most about the site is that it keeps my children from exploring elsewhere on the internet because everything else is password protected by the parent. 

You can also customize the homepage for each of your children.  I filled my daughter's site with Polly Pockets, Girl Scouts  and American Girl type sites while my son gets Bob the Builder and Lego games.  You can also choose age-appropriate sites.

I almost purchased the Fisher Price Easy Link Launchpad for my kids but I wasn't anxious to have yet another toy piled on top of my laptop, desktop, printer, and drawing software.  This has been a much better option for so many reasons.  (Did I mention that it is free too)?

Free Downloadable Stationery & Invitations from Hallmark.com

I was just visiting the Hallmark.com online gift store to look for a few last-minute holiday gifts and ended up getting a little gift of my own!

Check out these fantastic stationery pages and invitations.  Would you believe that they are totally free?  You simply download the template from Hallmark.com and print them out on your home computer. 

Here are just a few samples.  They have dozens of great kids birthday invitations, adult birthday invitations, initial notecards, greeting cards and more.

Enjoy!

 

Mix & Match Initial Notes TemplateDisney Princesses Template Festive Party Cocktails Border Blue and Brown Polka Dots Batman Begins Template 

Simple Educational Games for Kids: MyNoggin.com

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I never thought I would sign up for a subscription game service for kids.  With all of the wonderful (and free) sites like Starfall.com, PBSKids.com and NickJr.com why would anyone want to spend money on a website subscription?

Well, it suddenly made sense to me yesterday.  I allow my daughter to use the computer for about an hour or so in the mornings and again in the afternoon. The other day, she was wrapped up in a wonderful drawing program on "BillyBearforKids.com".  I thought it would be the perfect time for me to get some housework done.

Within moments I hear her yelling from the kitchen..."Mommy, I clicked on the wrong button".

Whaddaya know...she was suddenly watching a toy advertisement (as if she doesn't get enough of those on Saturday mornings).  It happened again at least three times.

I was reminded of a conversation with my cousin who told me about MyNoggin.com.  She said that her son loves the educational games and has been excelling as a result.  She also told me about the parent section where you can track your child's progress.

I gave it a try and was hooked immediately.   There are no ads and the website is so simple to navigate that even my three year old doesn't struggle.  I also love that you can customize the games based upon your child's age.  For instance, I logged my four year old daughter in as a Kindergartner and my three year old as a preschooler.  They both are adequately challenged by the games, but they are not too difficult either.

The subscriptions are very reasonable.  Plus, you get a free 7 day trial. 

Here are the rates...
$9.95 per month monthly (no commitment)
$7.95 per month with a 6-month commitment
$5.95 per month with a 12-month commitment

The site is appropriate for kids from preschool through age six and you can enter as many children per household as necessary.

Free Holiday Printables and More from Organized Christmas.com

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I spent a few minutes yesterday scribbling down my shopping list and holiday to-dos on the back of a toy receipt.   Later that afternoon, I searched my purse, my van and a half-dozen bags for my  makeshift "planner".  I never found it and with my luck, I'll probably need to return the item that was paired with the receipt.  Ugh.

I am determined to make this Holiday season less stressful so I spent much of the morning looking for a "system" of sorts.  I want to plan my meals, my gift-giving, my cleaning and my cookie making (okay...cookie *purchasing*). 

This appropriately-titled website (Organized Christmas.com) is absolutely perfect. They offer free printables, charts, checklists and even a "step-by-step" system for planning your holiday giving and cleaning that doesn't involve writing shopping & to-do lists on the back of receipts. 

They even have "gifts in a jar" ideas, holiday gifts and crafts and a message board.

Check it out...and enjoy!

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Website Review: GoGoShopper.com – Coupon Codes for Holiday Steals & Deals

I've bookmarked about a dozen "deal" sites this holiday season in an attempt to get the best deals possible on my gifts, gadgets....and a few household items I am hoping to replace this season.  I recently discovered this site and it has quickly become one of my favorites.

GoGoShopper.com offers coupon codes for many of the major retailers I shop with weekly.  They have codes for Target, Kohls, Buy.com, JCPenny - just to name a few.  What I love most about this particular site is that you simply scroll through the stores and offers and choose the ones you want. 

You don't need to register and you won't get constant email "updates" (unless you subscribe to the feed). 

It doesn't offer a lot of bells and whistles...but who wants them, right?  Most of us simply want to shop...and get great deals!

Here is just a sample of a few of the coupon codes they are currently offering...

Now it is your turn to share.  Drop us a line in the comments section and let us know all about the great deals you've found using coupon codes.

Website Review: Scrapblog.com

I am in the midst of a memory crisis.  My daughter is nearly five years old and I *still* have not created a scrapbook for her.   (I am pretty sure social services will be paying me a visit soon).

I tried the traditional scrapbooking thing early on and it was a disaster.  A single page (often showcasing a single photo) would take an hour to complete (I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to artsy stuff).  With two toddlers running around, it was difficult (and often impossible) to work on a page without globs of jelly or random crayon scribblings ending up on it.

While I've become anti-scrapbook, I am obviously not anti-writing.  I started a blog for my kids a year or so ago where I can quickly and easily post a photo and share a story.  While it isn't pretty, it does the trick.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to find this site Scrapblog.com that combines the "pretty" of traditional scrapbooks with the simplicity of "dragging & dropping", photo uploading, and blogging. 

You can create and share your projects online for free.   It appears that there will be the option of purchasing a photo album or DVD soon shortly.  That's the option I am most excited about. 

I am also a design-junky so I've been pretty picky in my search to find a company that offers digital scrapbooking.  I am loving the stickers, backgrounds and all-around classy look of this site and the pages. 

Finally, I am still stunned at how easy the site is to use and navigate.  You don't need to upload anything.  You simply create your entire album online.  You can crop your photos, adjust them, transfer images from sites like flickr.com and add text in an unlimited number of colors and fonts. 

This is by far the most simplistic and fun digital scrapbooking site I've found thus far. 

Pay them a visit and share your creations with us! 

Here's a page I created in less than 5 minutes.  Nothing fancy...but I wanted to focus on the photos. 

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Avoid Potentially Toxic Toys from China and Support Work at Home Parents

I've always been a big fan of supporting work at home moms.  One of my favorite places to shop is Etsy.com.  Normally, I purchase unique gifts there for friends and family members.  They have wonderful purses, artwork, jewelry and accessories that are always well-made, unique and adorable. 

In light of all of the recent recalls, I am going to be purchasing some of my kids' toys on Etsy this year.  

If you are looking for some safe toys and gifts for your kids this Holiday season, consider supporting some of my favorite crafters on Etsy.

Here's a preview of a few of the wonderful things you can find there for kids...

Princess Cape or Superhero Kids Capes Custom

 

 

 

 

 

Custom Superhero Cape

madam butterfly / TAG-A-LONG BLANKET (TM) tag blankie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Tag Blankie

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Childrens' Color Book

BeartyBouts the Nightmare Snatcher Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightmare Snatcher Monster Journal

Spinning Top .. Handcrafted Wooden Childrens Toy

Handcrafted Wooden Spinning Top

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Coloring Book and Crayon Caddy

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Promote Your Business and Dress up Your Holiday Gifts & Packages with Moo Mini Cards

Okay - I love these so much it hurts.  I was just playing with my Flickr account trying to come up with a service that will print out some holiday cards for me. 

As always...I started to wander around a bit and found these...

A selection of MiniCards and their plastic box

At first, I thought that they would make fantastic business cards for my design business addiction.  And then, I saw these ideas....

Gift wrappingThe personal touchCards for crafting 

For those of you that have a home-business, these are a unique (and inexpensive) alternative to the classic business card.

For SAHMS - create some for your kids and hand them out when you are planning a playdate.

For everyone...don't these make the cutest gift tags?

Alright...back to my normally scheduled surfing. =)

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I’ve Never Felt So *Mature* – My Real Age Test Wake Up Call

Have you ever taken the Real Age test?  If not, you should.   I have been watching Oprah's recent series about anti-aging and wondered what my real age would be. 

Before taking the test, I assumed that my real age would actually be younger than my physical age (33 1/2).   I am happy, healthy - I have a great family and I take relatively good care of myself (at least that's what I thought).

I started to cringe when I read questions such as...

"how many servings of fish do you eat per week?" - Do bites of my kids' fish-sticks count?

"do you take a multi-vitamin?" - an occasional Flintstones chewable when I am out of candy may not cut it.

"how much do you exercise?"- chasing  preschoolers apparently doesn't cut it for a cardio workout.  Grrrr...

"how many hours of sleep do you get each night?"   - Hmmmm...CONSISTENT, uninterrupted sleep?  What's that?

"do you eat a wholesome breakfast?"  - I am guessing that 3 cups of coffee and a handful of dry cheerios wouldn't be considered "wholesome". 

Needless to say, I didn't exactly pass the test with flying colors.  In fact, I ended up scoring nearly three years above my age.  Grrrr.  

What I loved most about the test is that you get a solution with the results.   Of course, I am not crazy about starting a workout program, eating fish (blech) and cutting down on the chocolate bars and red wine but I really feel like I owe it to my kids to be the most alert, youthful and energetic mom possible.

My goal is to become 26 again by the end of the year.   (26 was a *really* good age for me). =)

How about you?  Take the Real Age test and let us know your results!

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