Category Archives: Shopping

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.

 

 

Personalized Holiday Gifts from Zazzle

I found a site where you truly can find something for everyone this holiday season. Zazzle is the ultimate site for personalized gifts. I’m not just talking about monogramming, although the monogramming possibilities are endless. I’m talking about full customization of clothing, accessories, stationery, housewares, etc.

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I received a $50 credit from Zazzle so I could try it out and review my experience. My only complaint is that it was unbelievably difficult to decide what to get because I wanted all of it! Once I decided to get something for each of my three kids, I had so much fun customizing every aspect of my three projects. And I surprisingly spent only the $50 I received!

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For my son, I chose a Harry Potter-inspired t-shirt with the Hogwarts Four Houses Crest on it. When I saw there was an entire category for Harry Potter gifts, I knew I would find something for him there.

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The Harry Potter shirt came with helpful apparel care instructions.

Then I was delighted to further customize the shirt by choosing from THIRTY colors. I knew he’d love maroon, because it’s the color if his favorite house, Griffindoor.

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For my girls, I created personalized prints to hang on the wall in the room they share. I started by browsing the artists’ graphic creations and samples. When I chose a picture I liked, the sample only included a single initial. But when I began customizing the one I liked, I discovered that I could add text, chose different colors and fonts, and move the graphic around on the paper.

I knew exactly what was in this smartly packaged Zazzle box!
I knew exactly what was in this smartly packaged Zazzle box!

It turned out to be absolutely perfect. I chose something that looks sweet and girly, but also sophisticated and timeless. I envision the girls keeping these prints forever as a cherished decoration from their childhood room.

A quick browse on Zazzle may turn into a creative explosion and completion of your holiday gift list, so check it out. Also, if you’re a designer, a maker, or a promoter of products, you can go to Zazzle and sell your wares.

Look out for my Holiday Gift Guide coming shortly. Zazzle will be a featured source for holiday gifts, for sure!