Holiday Toy Guide for the Kid Who Doesn’t Need Toys

I know…the title is a bit contradictory – but hear me out.

We have family members who would love to give our boys a gift this Christmas. And I have to admit, I don’t want to take that away from them. I want them to be able to give our boys something special – it may even be something our boys grow to fondly remember years down the road.

I’m the first to threaten to throw the next toy through my door straight into our donation bin – but I’ve decided to be a bit flexible this time of year.

We’re raising our boys with important morals and values. We’re raising them to understand the true meaning behind this magical holiday season and all that comes with it. With that being said, I’ve put together a list of vetted toys that I will allow to enter our home.

If you’re looking for a list to pass along, this may suit your criteria the way that it suits mine.

Music

The Melissa and Doug Learn-to-Play Piano.

We’re huge fans of music in our home, and our living room often transforms into a dance floor. When I was a kid, my favourite Christmas gift and past time was playing the piano. This colorful upright piano features 25 keys and two full octaves. The littlest musicians will enjoy exploring concepts of high and low notes, loud and soft. More experienced “maestros” can follow the color-coded songbook to learn nine child-friendly favorites!

Learn-to-Play Piano

Melissa and Doug Band-in-a-Box

Again, music. I’m supportive of all things music in the home (as long as it’s not drums). I think it’s a wonderful way for our kids to express themselves – and this Band in a Box musical instrument set has everything preschoolers need to form a kids’ marching band, launch a solo career, or just enjoy exploring music and sounds! The set includes a tambourine, cymbals, maracas, clacker, tone blocks, and a triangle, plus a sturdy wooden storage crate. Strike up the band and spark a lifelong love of music with this unique wooden set of wooden instruments.

Band-in-a-Box - Clap! Clang! Tap!

Imaginary Play

Melissa and Doug Let’s Play House! 

Okay – can you tell that I love Melissa and Doug yet? Their toys are durable and made from wood and designed to spark imagination and wonder. They’re really some of my favourites. This adorable little cleaning set is one of the top items on our list. Our two-year-old loves to help me clean and while I have no problem handing him the vacuum, there are some chores that should be left for mum and dad. This six-piece play set gives kids all the housekeeping tools they need to keep it clean! Sized just for kids and built to last, the broom, mop, duster, dust pan, and hand brush are comfortable to use and easy to store–just hang them from the sturdy cords onto the included stand for neat, compact storage. (The dust pan can also snap onto any of the handles.) Natural-wood handles add durability and a classic look; bright pops of color keeps lots of fun in the mix!

Let's Play House! Dust! Sweep! Mop!

Developmental

Lace & Trace Pets 

Perfect for developing fine motor skills (and super affordable), this wooden set contains five sturdy, double-sided lacing panels, plus five color-coordinated laces! Develop hand-eye coordination and attention skills with this great activity.

Lace & Trace Pets

Construction Building Set 

Again, our two-year-old really loves to figure out how things work. He’s in this phase where he likes to take things apart and put them back together again. To keep him from taking a door off of its frame, we’ve put this construction set on our wish list. With 48 wooden pieces (including nuts, bolts, drilled bars to connect, and a child-size screwdriver), this classic building set gives kids all they need to tinker and build! Printed right on the sturdy storage box are building plans for a crane, motorcycle, airplane, and race car to get the fun started. With some imagination and a few creative twists and turns, kids can make hundreds more amazing structures, too! Any time kids play with this durable set, they’ll be building fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination. Included extension activities guide parents to educational activities that also build early math skills.

Construction Building Set in a Box

Outdoor

Okay – this one is pricey – but if some family members wanted to go in on this together, this would be our top gift. All I ever wanted as a kid was one of those electric ride on cars – they were the coolest. Should someone feel inclined, we’re in LOVE with this double ride on (with seat belts) Peg Preggo Polaris.

The all-new Polaris Ranger RZR 900 is the perfect riding vehicle for kids who want to have fun! They’ll drive around the yard in their own RZR, hauling everything imaginable in their large sport bed with tie-down anchors. Foot pedal with automatic brakes. The 2-speed shifter with reverse allows them to drive at 2½ or 5 mph on grass, dirt or hard surfaces. Parents will appreciate the adjustable bucket seats and the 5 mph lockout that prevents beginners from going too fast. 1

Radio Flyer Wagon

With two boys and a lot of crap to haul around, we asked for this red Radio Flyer Wagon last year and have been in love. It’s perfect for bringing to parks, picnics, and even for a spin around the block.  We really love the protective cover to keep the boys safe from the sun, and the storage compartment under the seats make it easy to pack snacks and drinks.

he Radio Flyer Deluxe All-Terrain Family Wagon is designed with air tires for a smooth ride, and a UV blocking canopy for sun protection. With features that make it a very versatile wagon, there is endless fun. The 5 seating and storage options include: 1. seating for two, 2. flatbed, 3. covered storage & ride, 4. activity surface, and 5. XL storage & ride. The wagon also features seatbelts for safety, child and adult cup holders, and a fold-over handle for easy storage.

Radio Flyer Deluxe All-Terrain Family Wagon Ride On, Red

 

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The Upside of Down

Some of you may not know I have a job outside of wiping butts and boogers.

It’s true, there’s a life outside of cutting cheese into hearts and having an audience watch you pee.

During naps and after bedtimes, sometimes at three in the morning, I work on a magazine that I’m the editor of.

I’m also writing a book… And I work as a freelance writer putting together nifty little articles for some of your favourite spaces on the internet.

If you asked me when I became a mom if I could handle doing the working-mom-thing, the answer would’ve been no.

If you asked me when I actually went back to work after my first born, I would’ve broken down and cried in your arms.

At the time, it wasn’t right for me – but neither was the job.

I’ve been spending my entire life trying to find my place.

Navigating this big old world, trying to define myself, and redefine myself, and redefine myself once more as the world tells me I need to be more like “her”, more like “them”, more like that “mom”.

I’ve lost myself so many times trying to find the place I thought I had to be or be the person I thought I should be, that I completely lost sight of who I was and what I wanted.

The truth is, I love being home with my babies – but I also love being Anneliese. An ambitious, creative woman with a passion to better this world.

And what’s even more? I’m a better mom when I get to be that woman.

Working all hours of the night on my passions and all hours of the day on my babies can drain my soul sometimes – but it also lights a fire within me.

It pushes me closer towards the woman I always wanted to be.

When you start shushing the noise and start listening to your soul, your life comes alive.

And who would’ve thought I would’ve learned all that in a pit of darkness?

But sometimes, there’s an upside to down.

Moms Need Attention, Too

After my boys were born, there were appointments.

To check their latch.

To check their weight.

To check their hearing.

To check the colour of their skin for signs of jaundice.

There were appointments.

There were regular pokes and prods.

Their well-being was front and centre.

I’d say, when it comes to our health-care system, they were well taken care of.

Then there was me.

A first-time mom without a clue.

Engorged, bleeding, and stitched up.

Sent home with some painkillers and stool softeners.

Thrown into motherhood with the expectation my instincts would kick in.

That I would know how to handle colic and late night feedings.

That breastfeeding would come as nature intended.

That my husband would sense my spiral into depression.

That I would know how to live in my new and very foreign body.

That this stomach wouldn’t make me feel hideous.

And my mind wouldn’t make me feel less than they deserved.

No one poked me.

No one proded.

No one checked my stitches, my healing, or my sanity until eight weeks postpartum.

And even then, it was a pat on the back and I was sent on my way.

Our world forgets about mothers.

We slip through the cracks.

We become background noise.

And in that, we learn our role… our place in our family unit… to always come last.

Folks, we can’t put mothers last.

Our babies need us.

To be healthy.

To know that we are worthy.

To know that Motherhood, while natural, can sometimes feel like the least natural role in our life.

And that deserves attention.

That mothers deserve attention.

We need our world to fuss over us the way they fuss over ten fresh fingers and ten fresh toes.

We need to be seen.

We need to be heard.

We need someone to not only ask if we’re okay but to check time and time again, just to be sure.

We’re not just a uterus.

We’re not just a lifeline to a new and precious soul.

We’re mothers.

And we need someone to make sure we’re ok, too.

 

This post first appeared on Grown Up Glamour by Anneliese Lawton.

#CraftMom

Does anyone else try to do the “fun mom” thing?

You know what I’m talking about.

Paint. Crayons. Glitter. Water. Sand. Play-doh.

That sort of stuff?

It always seems like a good idea. You think to yourself:

“Today. Yes! Today, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna be that mom. I’m gonna craft this shit out of this day.”

And you confidently strut to the craft closet, or bucket, or nook, and pull out all those cool goodies you picked up at the store after being inspired by a bomb caterpillar made out of nothing more than an egg carton and pipe cleaners.

Easy peasy.

Or, omgosh. You can paint a giant mural. Your little Picaso can put his tiny, sticky, crayon craving hands to good use.

Yes.

This day is gonna be so fun.

#craftmom

So you roll out a big and I mean BIG sheet of paper for your kid to colour all over. He can’t miss it. The floor will be saved.

And some water to paint with because it’s not messy.

Woo! Super fun.

Then your kid pours the entire bucket of water on his head.

Still colours on your floors.

Eats the crayon.

And leaves you with a giant friggen mess to clean up.

You wonder where the heck it all went wrong.

Was it the water? The crayons? The attempt to be #craftmom?

Somewhere it all went astray.

You vow to never to be #craftmom again.

Then lo and behold, one rainy Tuesday….

Just Wait

There were a lot of things I was afraid of when expecting our second baby. A lot of things.

The things I read and people I spoke with with told me to “just wait”. That life would change and never be the same.

That I’d be stretched thin. That my husband and I would pass like ships in the night. That I might lose myself.

Things I read and people I met also told me this when I was expecting my first.

And each time I anticipated the arrival of my baby with anxiety and questions. So many questions.

Then my baby arrived and every fear was put to rest. For a little while at least.

You see, what some people warn you about and say is true.

Some days will be hard, some days will be long, some nights will be longer.

There will be a day where it feels like the honeymoon phase has ended and this baby thing isn’t what you signed up for at all.

There will be a day where you lose your temper with your husband. A day where you feel lost. A day where you feel lonely. A day where you miss your freedom and thin waist. A day where you want to throw your hands up and leave.

And it’ll be hard for that day, or that week and you’ll think “they were right”. And maybe during that day or that week you’ll come across a new parent and tell them to “just wait” for what’s to come.

I was tempted to do that today. To take to my platform and complain about this week. This absolutely trying and horrible week.

But as an “experienced” parent (and I use that loosely), I know if I “just wait” we’ll eventually turn a corner. I know if I “just wait” my sick and clingy toddler will soon start giggling and playing. I know if I “just wait” I’ll grow more patient with my husband. I know if I “just wait” we’ll make it out of this parenting lull and there will be periods of beautiful things.

So, to the parents afraid of what’s to come, and to the parents meeting their match of what-is. Just wait. The clouds will break.

I’m Going to Have My Hands Full? I Had No Idea.

This piece was originally posted on Her View From Home

That’s it. It’s time to call you out.

Yes, you. The person who feels the need to interject their commentary on strangers in the grocery store, post office and yes, even in a public bathroom.

I’ve met you before – about a year ago – when my belly was busting at the seams and my ankles were overflowing from my shoes. You were astounded by my size and convinced there wasn’t a baby, but in fact a toddler swimming around my womb. And if I recall correctly, you rubbed my belly…just to be sure. Thanks again for that 😉

Now here we are again, a year later. My belly not quite big enough to draw your attention, but my situation appealing nonetheless.

You see us – me (pregnant belly and all), my husband and my one-year-old son – and instead of smiling at our beautiful (and exhausted) young family, you share a critical piece of information we may not be able to live without:

You know, you’re going to have your hands full.  Smirk, smirk. Giggle, giggle. 

It’s cute. It’s innocent. It drives me batty (that’s not the hormones talking).

I’m not quick on my feet to come up with a witty-response to your well-meaning comment. That’s why I’m taking it here – to the internet – to rant in all my glory.

Look, I get it. We’re going to be busy and I’m terrified. But, that whole having a newborn thing? I’ve done it. I know exactly how hard it will be and exactly what to expect. I may not know how to manage a baby on the boob while keeping my toddler Picasso off my walls or change a wet diaper while my older one decides my grandmother’s antique bowl is a potty… but we’ll figure it out, just like we did the first time around.

I love when you approach me and comment on how beautiful my son is or how my pregnant glow reminds you of a Christmas display. I’m not screaming, “Stranger danger!” when you come my way. But I’m not sure what the criteria is for the other type of comments. Is it seeing a parent with one misbehaving child? A family with two, three, heck, four kids? How many kids does it take to demonstrate a mastery in the art of multi-kid-tasking? (When I figure it out, I’ll let you know).

Whatever it is, please just try to smile and nod the next time you feel a parent is downright doomed (we kind of feel that way already and it’s always the last thing we want to hear).

************************************************************

Now, to the parents. I know you’ve heard this before. Hit me with your best comebacks!

Mompreneur in the Spotlight: The Oakville Parent

Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to Carrie for this week’s Mompreneur in the Spotlight segment. Carrie, a mom of two, left her corporate job and launched The Oakville Parent in 2016. She began her business with the intention of helping moms, their families and their children find resources, services and programs in their communities, and from there, it’s continued to blossom. Check out her inspiring interview below!

Tell us who you are.

My name is Carrie and I’m happy to introduce you to The Oakville Parent!

I moved from Toronto about 5 years ago with my husband and eldest daughter. Not knowing too much about this lovely community on the lake, we quickly settled into our life here and have grown to love Oakville.  We recently added a 2nd daughter to our family and I began The Oakville Parent in late 2016.

In my previous “Corporate Life” I worked in digital media sales working with a number of national brands in Toronto and Montreal. I always knew I wanted to start a business, something I could build from the ground up and shape myself. The Oakville Parent is very much a passion project.

What inspired you to start The Oakville Parent?

I love writing and I wanted to create an online space local moms and families could visit that would inform, inspire and connect them with local resources and lifestyle content.

The Oakville Parent is less than a year old and still very much in its development stage. What I started out with, content and goal-wise has changed over the last several months as I learn what resonates with the community I’ve built.

Tell us about your business.

What began as an Instagram feed documenting my travels around Oakville with my eldest daughter grew into an online destination for families and business owners to discover, connect and experience local. I love the creative side of the business, building the website, writing content, developing its social footprint; I enjoy working with other business owners and often encourage guest writers to come on board.

What has the response been from the community?

I’m a big supporter of collaborating and working to lift others. When I first launched, I quickly
learnt who my supporters were and those who immediately labeled my brand as competition, however misplaced that may have been. Over the last several months with traffic to the website and followers continuing to grow I’ve discovered that what I’m offering both businesses and the community is something unique which is what I’m really striving to accomplish.

How do you manage your time effectively (both with your kids and with your work)?

With a lot of help. My oldest is in school full time while my youngest attends preschool a few mornings a week. Family helps fill in the gaps and thank God for nap time!

What’s the most difficult thing about growing your brand?

Time. When I worked in the corporate world, time felt more on my side. I was in an office full time where my whole day was devoted to my work. Now, with two young children I need to balance work with family needs.

What would you say is The Oakville Parent’s biggest achievement?

Offering unique, customizable solutions for local companies to connect with the community that follows The Oakville Parent.

In my opinion the traditional banner ad, the button ad, simply posting a company’s upcoming sale on your Facebook page, is an uninspiring promotional tactic. You need to dig deeper and help a company/brand tell their story – one of the main reasons I launched my “People of Oakville” series was to provide for a platform in which business owners could share their message in a more meaningful way.

What role has social media played in growing your brand? What other marketing tactics do you use?

To date, it’s been everything. Instagram is personally my favourite social platform and I think that’s reflected in my following and engagement. What I love most about social media is learning about new companies and discovering like-minded individuals and of course, all the beautiful images I scroll through. I also use email marketing and cross promote with many industry experts and guest contributors to grow my reach and brand awareness.

What tips would you give to moms wanting to leave their corporate job to launch their empire?

Plan ahead and ensure everyone in your corner (e.g. partner) is on side.  Work out a reasonable start-up budget for what you’re willing to put into the business to get you going and choose your marketing expenditures wisely. Good luck Mamas!