Category Archives: Reviews

Holiday Gift Guide 2016

We have three children ages 1, 4, and 8. So, I’ve kept my eyes open for the best new toys and gifts for a range of ages. I attended a number of toy events, including the Toy Insider HoliDay of Play and Blogger Bash Sweet Suite, where I learned about new toys from product representatives and even tested many of the coolest toys you’re going to see in the stores this holiday season. Here’s a list of my favorites – a list that I should just forward straight to Santa!

For Our 1-Year-Old Girl

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We are big fans of Learning Resources toys. Each one is designed to build children’s education-related skills. The Ocean Wonders: Build & Spin is a set of interchangeable gears and colorful play pieces.
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Our 1-year-old already enjoys moving the pieces around and turning the gears by herself.

I know my 1-year-old will love playing with the Go Go Smart Friends castle, and I’m sure my 4-year-old will be happy to join her. Collectible Go Go Smart Friends interact with the castle and ride-on unicorn when placed on MagicPoint locations triggering phrases, music, lights, and motion.

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The Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe is an interactive desk that comes with five colorful pages for exploring letters, numbers, music, and colors.

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Expansion Packs for the Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe

A 1-year-old really only needs a cardboard box to have fun on Christmas morning, so decor is a great gift idea for little ones. I ordered these beautiful prints from Zazzle. A click on the image will bring you to my review of Zazzle.

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For Our 4-Year-Old Girl

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Judging by the number of Elena of Avalor costumes this Halloween, she is a big favorite for 2016. This Elena doll sings “My Time” from the Disney Junior TV series.
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I’m so glad to see some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) toys for younger kids this year. The Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set is for kids ages 5 and up. Kids can build a maze, then program the mouse according to the principles of coding to find the cheese.
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We tried out another early STEM toy from Learning Resources, the STEM Sink or Float Activity Set. My almost 5-year-old started grasping physics concepts like buoyancy and density using activity cards, weights, and a raft.
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The DigiArt Creative Easel teaches kids how to write with a magic pen and interactive board. It also allows can be used as a traditional easel with its dry-erase board, chalkboard, and paper-hanging drawing board.
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All the Shimmer and Shine merchandise! The Nick Jr. show is a favorite in our house, so I know the girls would be thrilled to play with these new toys.
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Shopkins now have a home for your little ones to decorate called, Happy Places.
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Each Gemlin has a name and personality and can be threaded with other Gemlins to make a charm bracelet.
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Magic Mee Mees come from different lands, such as, Seetsland and Berryland. They respond when fed special “food” and interact with other Mee Mees.
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We’re super-excited about this! Shopkins Kinstructions are buildable sets that are compatible with Legos. The Shopkins that come in these sets can be taken apart and mixed/matched.

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PJ Masks merchandise is out, and it’s everything the kids have been asking for. Collectible figures, Headquarters playset, costumes, and of course, masks!

For Our 8-Year-Old Boy

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My son’s number one Christmas list wish! We watched the popular ABC TV series, and now he wants the Hexbug Battlebots Arena to watch robots battle in real life.
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The Thames and Kosmos Magic sets teach kids how to perform magic tricks and help develop presentation skills, confidence, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and reading skills.
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A new line from the makers of Shopkins, the Grossery Gang, is even luring the boys into the market. They’re gross and squishy, and my son loves them!
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Crayola Art with Edge coloring books, pencils and markers elevate coloring to a level that is fun and exciting for pre-teens, teens, and adults.
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The Bosebuild Speaker Cube allows people ages 8 and up to build and customize a durable, high-performance bluetooth speaker. It is an exciting STEM gift that my son would love, but it’s a big out of Santa’s budget at $149.
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The Meccano Mecasaur is a super STEM toy that kids can build and program. Then the Mecasaur interacts with you, responding to petting, answering yes/ no questions, stomping around, and roaring. Click on the picture to see our review of the Mecasaur’s predecessor, the Meccanoid.
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Our son is going to psyched about the Skypaper Paper Plane Launcher. He’s into origami and paper planes already, so super charging his creations and shooting them in the air takes it to another level.
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Remember hearing about 3D printers that were only used by scientists and the super-rich, because of the crazy price tag? The 3D Doodler Essentials Pen Set is made for kids ages 8+ and it costs $49.99!
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My son is a big fan of the Harry Potter book series, so he was thrilled to receive this cool Hogwarts t-shirt. I chose the shirt from tons of Harry Potter gift items on the Zazzle website. Click on the picture for more info.

For the Family

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Protect the Pride Lands is a unique game that is perfect for getting the family together on game night. All players work together to get Kion to the top of Pride Rock.
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The Nabi Elev-8 is the best tablet for a family with young kids because it combines superior technology, quality and learning features. Click on the picture for a review and video of the Nabi Elev-8 tablet.

Ready, Set, Woof! is a super-engaging board game for kids ages 3-5. It promotes important skills like recognition, concentration, memory, sharing, and turn-taking.

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We also tried out the Brownie Match game, another great family game that’s best for kids ages 3-6. It’s great for developing skills like memory, matching, number recognition, fine motor, sharing, and turn-taking.
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We also tried out the Brownie Match game, another great family game that’s best for kids ages 3-6. It’s great for developing skills like memory, matching, number recognition, fine motor, sharing, and turn-taking.

I’m sure you already know all about Kidz Bop, the group of young singers who perform G-rated versions of all the best new pop songs. We eagerly await every new album, so we were excited to receive a copy of Kidz Bop 33 and their new Christmas album.

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Best Tablet for Kids: Nabi Elev-8 Tablet

We strictly minimize the amount of screen time our kids have because (1) we want them to be doing other activities like reading, playing, and running around, and (2) because most video content on tv and tablets is either inappropriate or just devoid of educational enrichment. When we were sent the Nabi Elev-8 tablet to review, we were hopeful that it would meet our needs. It did not disappoint.

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The Elev-8 comes with 30-days free of Nabi Pass, unlimited good-for-the-brain movies, music, apps, TV, ebooks, learning, games and videos. The tablet is hugged by an attractive red silicone bumper sleeve for safety. Of course, the Elev-8 has easy-to-use parental controls, too.

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The Elev-8 is loaded with a comprehensive learning system called Wings, which is aligned with Common Core Standards and customized for kids in Pre-K through 6th grade. Each child can create a profile with his or her own avatar and take pre-assessments so each learning program is individualized. Kids earn Nabi coins for every lesson completed. Parents can then check children’s progress with a summary and recommendations.

Perhaps my favorite thing about a Nabi tablet is the little card included in the packaging that reads, “Nabi Cares.” It guides the consumer to the Nabi support team online and by phone. I haven’t needed to contact the support team at Nabi Cares, but I found that the website is loaded with information making operation of the tablet as easy as possible.

Check out our video reviews of the Nabi Elev-8.

 

 

We’re Finding Ways to Fight Zika at Home – GIVEAWAY

I’m sure you’re as freaked out about the Zika virus as I am, especially now that it has reached America. Zika virus has been transmitted mostly by mosquito bite and can be passed from mother to fetus, causing birth defects including microcephaly. It also can cause fever, rash; and, in people with vulnerable immune systems, it can result in serious illness.

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We are always avoiding mosquito bites in our family, because they cause us to have huge welts on our bodies that are itchy and painful. With the spread of this virus, I’m even more motivated to shield my family from mosquitos. I’m definitely not planning on becoming pregnant in the next few years, but I still worry about our family contracting the Zika virus and becoming ill.

So, here are the ways we are limiting our risk of Zika exposure.

Mosquito Repellent: I have long been opposed to chemicals, like DEET, for protection against mosquitos. My new philosophy is “use what you’ve got.” However, I still can’t bring myself to spray that stuff on my children every night in the summer! I’m definitely not spraying it on my 1-year-old! (I tried one night and could only bring myself to spray the bottom of her stroller.)

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So, I rely on natural wearable mosquito repellent. I used a particular brand, Para’Kito all last summer, and I’m using it again this summer. I received a Para’Kito Refillable Band free for the purpose of review. Enter below for your chance to win one of your own!

We often wear the Para'Kito band on our ankles because it's a mosquito's favorite spot.
We often wear the Para’Kito band on our ankles because it’s a mosquito’s favorite spot.

Para’Kito’s wearable products contain a refill pellet in a snug mesh pocket. Each pellet remains effective for 15 days and they are even waterproof. The pellet’s natural oils (citronella, rosemary, geranium, mint, clove, and peppermint) fill the air around the body, masking bodily scents that attract mosquitos. My favorite thing about Para’Kito products are DEET-free, buzz-free, and smell so good.

Where's my Para'Kito?!
Where’s my Para’Kito?!

Travel: Not to worry! We don’t have any imminent travel plans. We spend most of our travel money on a beach club in the summer, so I don’t have to worry about our exposure in any exotic locales.

Air conditioning: Check! I have no problem shutting the windows and turning on the A/C at the first sign of warm humidity. And my A/C-hating husband can’t complain because…we are protecting ourselves from sneaky mosquitos.

Clothing: This took some conscious actions on my part. Putting the kids in pants, socks, and shoes when they are about to play outside in warm, humid weather feels counterintuitive, but we’re making it work. After a couple of arguments about wearing Crocs and shorts at dusk, they’re starting to anticipate my new dress code.

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Holiday Gift Guide: STEM and Learning Toys

My favorite kind of toy is one that teaches my 3-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son something new, especially ones that encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning.

I received some toys to review and picked up a few from the store already. These are some of our family’s favorites. Some of the toys below have links to their full reviews, and I plan to continue reviewing and linking…so check back!

Tiggly Learning Apps and Toys

$29.95

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Each Tiggly set includes toys that interact with your Apple or Android devices. I’m a big fan of these sets because they are highly engaging and teach and reinforce academic skills. See my review for more details and for demonstration videos.

IQ Fit and IQ Twist

Age 6+; $9.99 and $11.99

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These are great stocking stuffers for kids AND adults. See my review for more details and demonstration videos.

Goldie Blox: Blox + Bits

Age 6+;  $9.99 and up

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Goldie Blox are super STEM toys created to inspire girls to have fun with construction and engineering. There are loads of sets with fun and interesting characters and challenges at all price points. We had a lot of fun trying the teeny stocking-stuffer-size Blox + Bits.

Gyrobot

Age 8+; $44.95

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Gyrobot made a bunch of “Best Toy” lists last year. What I love most about this STEM toy is that, along with the fun of constructing robots with the set, kids are learning about gyroscopes and how they’re used in many technological tools we use everyday.

Riddle Cube

Age 8+;  $19.99

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Players race each other to put their riddle cubes together according to puzzle cards. Too tricky for little ones, but great for exercising spatial-relations in big kids and adults.

Check out more in the School Psych Mom Series:

Holiday Gift Guide: Family Favorites

Holiday Gift Guide: Preschool Learning Toys

Holiday Gift Guide Series: Family Favorites

It’s November and that means Christmas is right around the corner! I’ve already started shopping for my 7-year-old and 3-year-old for the holidays, how about you?

I received some toys to review and picked up a few from the store already. These are some of our family’s favorites.

Crayola Color Alive

Age 4+; $5.99

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Download the free app to make your kids’ creations come alive. This was a hit for both my 3-year-old and my 7-year-old.

Eye Found It: Hidden Picture Game

Age 4+; $20

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Eye Found It is a great game for the whole family. Kids love to find their favorite characters in the Disney and Pixar themed editions.

Sky Rover Helicopter

Age 8+; $45

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The Sky Rover comes with remote control AND headset for voice command! My son thinks it’s so cool to wear the headset and pretend to be ground control. He could play for hours if we let him!

Glow Show

Age 5+; $20

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The Glow Show sticker launcher is pure fun. Kids can launch glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling and walls.

Lite Brite

Age 4+; $25

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This was a purchase driven by nostalgia. I loved Lite Brite as a kid and now I’m playing it with my kids. Now the templates are reusable; remember when they were paper?

Hex Bug Inchworm

Age 8+;  $19.99 (with remote control)

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We love Hex Bug toys and we always have fun with remote control toys, so the Inchworm is a win-win!

Quixels

Age 4+; $9.99 and up

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Basically Beados for boys, Qixels are little plastic pieces that stick to each other when wet. My son loves that they come in designs that resemble popular icons from Minecraft and Ninjago. This little Qixel package is a great stocking stuffer!

Check out more in the School Psych Mom Series:

Holiday Gift Guide: STEM and Learning Toys

Holiday Gift Guide: Preschool Learning Toys

WaterWipes: Chemical-Free Baby Wipes

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

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My kids all have sensitive skin from head-to-toe. As newborns, I tried hard to use wet cloths or soft paper towels with every diaper change. You can imagine how impractical that was, but it didn’t irritate their bottoms. I had to use conventional “sensitive” wipes for convenience sometimes, and they all quickly developed diaper rash. Even as they grew and developed tougher skin, they still couldn’t handle regular use of conventional wipes.

My 5-month-old is eating solid food now, so we have big messes to clean up during mealtime, too. Her face is just as sensitive as her bottom, and frequent use of conventional wipes is way too harsh. Her skin becomes red immediately, and with repeated use, it becomes dry and irritated.

I still use wipes for my big kids when they have messy faces. They become less sensitive as they grow up, but I still find that the fewer the ingredients, the kinder they are to their skin.

I always bought “sensitive” wipes for my kids, but still noticed the super-long ingredient list, even from natural brand wipes. I remember wondering, “Why can’t they just make wipes that are wet, without all that other stuff.”  That’s why I’m so excited that someone finally did it with WaterWipes.

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We’ve been using WaterWipes for a few weeks and they are super-gentle, but strong and durable. I’m so glad to have the convenience of wet wipes that I can use over and over on my baby without irritating her skin. Plus, I have peace of mind knowing that I’m not exposing my family to harmful chemicals every day.

Now, I keep packages of WaterWipes on the changing table, in the kitchen, and in my diaper bag. Each package has a resealable opening making them good for travel as well as for use around the house.

WaterWipes is a chemical free baby wipe that contains only two ingredients, 99.9% purified water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. Due to the lack of chemical preservatives in Waterwipes,  the package will keep for up to 15 months before it is opened. Once you open your WaterWipes package, it’s recommended that you use the pack within 1 month.

IMG_9527Unlike some other wipe brands, WaterWipes are not interfolded. This allows for the sterile environment within the package to be maintained. For the same reason, it’s recommended that you don’t relocate the wipes in an alternate container.

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I found my WaterWipes at Stop and Shop near the other baby wipes in the baby aisle. I’m so glad I can grab them at Stop and Shop because it’s the place I go for all my everyday groceries and baby needs.  Find out where to buy Waterwipes near you.

Baby Mantra: Natural Baby Skincare Review and Giveaway

I received this product for the purpose of this review, however, I am not compensated for writing or obligated to write anything specific. These are my own opinions and they have not been influenced in any way by Baby Mantra.

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Enter to win all these Baby Mantra products below!

When it comes to anything that comes in contact with my kids’ bodies, I always look for natural products made by companies with environmentally responsible practices. Not only do I want to minimize my kids’ exposure to chemicals and other harmful ingredients, but my family all have sensitive skin and need allergy-tested products. That’s why I’ve been loving my new collection of Baby Mantra products.

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Happy baby after bath!

My kids share my dry, fair, and sensitive skin. Even many products marketed for babies and sensitive skin either dry out our skin or make us break out in a painful or itchy rash. The Baby Mantra products were friendly to our skin and left it soft and smelling heavenly.

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We both have super-sensitive skin.

About Baby Mantra

Baby Mantra’s earth-friendly range of extremely gentle personal care products for children (newborn to 8 years old) are made with all-natural skincare ingredients. Baby Mantra products have been certified by the Natural Products Association (NPA), are gluten-free, allergy-tested and cruelty-free.

You can find Baby Mantra products across the country at stores like Albertsons, Jewel Osco, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Babies ‘R Us, and Meijer. We recommend using the store locator on the company’s website to find a store nearest you. In addition, Baby Mantra can be found online on websites such as Amazon.com, Babiesrus.com,, Drugstore.com, Walgreens.com, and Diapers.com.

Be sure to follow and like Baby Mantra on Facebook for coupons and other offers.

Visit Baby Mantra for a $2.50 coupon!

ENTER TO WIN!

1.  3-in-1 Bubble Bath, Shampoo & Wash

2. Calming Lotion

3. Newborn Shampoo & Wash

4. Diaper Rash Ointment

5. Calming Massage Oil

6. Detangling Conditioner

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Learning Apps Review: Tiggly Words and Tiggly Math

We received the following products for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

Our family is pretty excited about the Tiggly toys and apps. My 3-year-old daughter tried out Tiggly Words and my 7-year-old son tried Tiggly Math; see them both in action below.

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Ever since I introduced the kids to these toys, they both often ask for a chance to play. Instead of denying them the screen time they desperately desire, I’m glad to let them enjoy these games.

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The toys are interactive, engaging, and relevant to their curriculum at school. The toys are great for kids with different strengths and weaknesses and are great for building reading and math skills.

Tiggly Words (Ages 4-8)

Tiggly Math (Ages 3-7)

There’s also a Tiggly Shapes toy for ages 2-5.

The Tiggly Learning Systems include interactive toys, 3 free apps, and a carrying pouch. The systems are compatible with all generations of iPad and iPad mini (except iPad 1), and leading android devices (Samsung, Kurio). Each system retails for $29.95.

Educators! There are Tiggly systems for the whole classroom, too. Check it out!

YSL Pur Couture VoxBox Unboxing

I received two Yves Saint Laurent Pur Couture lip colors for free from Influenster for testing purposes.

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YSL Pur Couture Lip Color

My Yves Saint Laurent VoxBox included two Rouge Pur Couture lipsticks (#9 Rose Stiletto and #19 Fuchsia). #19 Fuchsia is way to bright for me and my complexion. #9 Rose Stiletto is a little darker than I’m used to, because I’m so fair and I prefer not to wear any lipstick at all. But I love it! It’s soft and smooth and the color is beautiful. It even has a lovely rose smell. It’s a luxurious lipstick.

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Yves Saint Laurent VoxBox Unboxing

Sign up to get your VoxBox at Influenster.com.

Long Island Apple and Pumpkin Picking at Harbes Farm

Today, we  truly had the best Fall visit to the pumpkin patch and orchard at Harbes Farm in Riverhead, Long Island. Despite the fact that it’s a beautiful Saturday during Columbus weekend, we had a fun and stress-less trip at Harbes.

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Harbes is Huge

We only visited the Riverhead location (there also are Harbes locations in  Mattituck and Jamesport). Here, we were able to do every single Fall activity on our list.

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We were disappointed with ourselves for arriving a half hour after it opened (at 10:30), but, with so many attractions,we had no problem with crowds. By what felt like a miracle, there still was plenty of parking when we arrived, and the lines didn’t appear until about 1 p.m.

At Harbes, there are enough activities to fill the day, all without a bouncy castle in sight!

Apple Picking

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Pay by the person ($8); each person gets a bag to fill. There are 24 varieties of apples in 15 acres, so there are plenty to pick. This was such a memorable experience for the kids.

Pumpkin Picking

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Pick your pumpkins off the vine and find all shapes sizes colors and varieties in the 4-acre patch.

Wine Tasting

What? Taste and purchase wine produced at the Harbes farm by the glass or bottle. This is an unusual but delightful little perk that makes a trip to the farm a fun adult activity.

Candle Making

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Dozens of different scented wax powders are lined up to guests to use to customize their own candles. My kids made their own and they’re so proud of their creations.

Apple Cider Donuts

Holy mole, these are the most amazing donuts I’ve ever tasted. Don’t bother with sticky messy candied apples. Have a donut and a roasted corn cob, and you’ll be good until dinner. It hit the spot for us!

Hayride

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Must do. Nice and quick so the line wasnever too long.

Robin Hood Corn Maze

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Adventure through the corn maze and even grab equipment in the maze to help Robin Hood defeat the Sheriff’s Companion.  At night there’s a Spooky Maze that sounds like a blast.

I’m so glad to have found a one-stop farm for Fall activities. Where do you go to pick your pumpkins?