I’m always on the lookout for different toys for my boys. I keep a running list in my Amazon shopping cart of different ideas and then when a birthday or Christmas rolls around I scour through pages of pages of different ideas and make my selections. Some toys have come recommended from family or friends, and some toys were seen on a website or magazine. I’ve had several people ask to see my amazon shopping cart – so I thought I’d pull a few fan favorites and some potential favorites I have my eyes on.
Magformers: This is a staple at our house and I’m not sure we can ever have enough. There on the pricey side but it’s a toy that is passed down from kid to kid and we’ve not had one piece break.
Plasma car: One was not enough and the next year another one showed up on Christmas morning.
Karaoke machine: We gave this to Hallie last year and she loved it – but more than anyone I hear Bennett’s little voice echoing through the house and even Cannon has started picking up the mic.
Automoblox: These are wooden cars that can be taken apart and interchanged with other cars. My sister-in-law had them and my boys loved them.
Citiblocs: These are the most basic blocks that we originally found at Costco one holiday season and they get played with a lot. They build with them, they create tracks with them – really whatever one imagines.
Ratuki: This has to be one of the most simple of simple card games but the kids love it. Our friend, who worked in the toy department at Kohls, introduced us to it and the kids enjoy playing with us and each other. What’s nice is it doesn’t require supervision.
Boogie board: this was purchased on a whim for a long road trip (two years ago) and it has been used consistently since then. Think magna doodle – but better. We take it in the car, to church, to the doctor’s office. It doesn’t make any sounds and our younger ones have proved that it’s indestructible!
How to Draw Animals book: My kids love to draw and this is a book they can start learning from really young. It uses basic shapes to make different animals and it makes them feel like they’re artists!
Penny Board: This is a great little skateboard for great little legs and feet and yet I see adults riding on them all the time. It’s made of plastic but it has great wheels and it’s easy to maneuver.
Perler Beads: Also referred to as “Melty beads” in our house. This is not a new toy, but this craft never gets old. The kids love making patterns and animals over and over again and every piece seems to be unique. We have the kids do this activity in a large sheet pan so the beads are contained for the most part.
Sensory Balls: these are great for little hands and yet as they get holder they’ll have just as much throwing them at each other!
Tickle Monster: This has to be one of the kids favorite books and it comes complete with “Monster Gloves” to make the tickling even more fun!
Sometimes you come across products that you just can’t help but be freakishly excited about all the while thinking – “Why in the world did I not think of this?”
I spent the summer battling cup clutter; on every single counter. The kids each have their own camelback which worked decently, but they were homeless and always ended up haphazardly on every counter. And then a kid wouldn’t be able to find one and they needed a drink so bad, so they grabbed a new cup and wouldn’t you know it the other one mysteriously appeared. The cups multiplied like rabbits! I’ve never wanted an indoor drinking fountain so bad.
Towards the end of the summer I started to look for some solutions online. Many involved magnets which I didn’t love and I was never able to pull the trigger.
When visiting our friends in Colorado a few weeks ago, they had these fancy schmancy cups hanging on their fridge. I watched as her kids would take a cup off the fridge, drink out of it and put it right back. They were the Puj Phillup Cups. It was exactly what I was looking for and I immediately pulled it up on Amazon and made my purchase.
Now for my disclaimer: They’re not cheap…but they have made my life easier and that’s worth something! They come in four colors in either a one, two or four pack. The cups hang from a little nub that is mounted to the surface using a very strong adhesive. I hung mine vertically so that Cannon is only able to reach his cup and Bennett is only able to reach his.
A major disadvantage: The little loop on the cup isn’t very strong and Cannon broke his the very first time he was pulling off his cup. At his age he pulls down, not off, which led to the break, but it still hangs fine. My friend had one cup that had the same loop broken which is evident of the toddler in her house.
We’ve used them for a month now and I’m shocked at how much I’ve loved them for how simple the concept is. Only one cup has been misplaced and that was Cannon’s cup – we’re still training him on making sure it makes it back to its home. But it’s working for us. And the upper rack of my dishwasher has never had more free space!
Traveling with kids can be complicated, stressful and expensive. When we were making plans for our Colorado fall break we were very mindful of the activities we chose to do as a family. The hard part with young kids is they are complete wild cards during every activity. They might do great and be happy the entire time and make it an enjoyable experience. On the flip side they could be miserable and make it not worth it.
So when we look at costs associated with activities there is always a cost benefit analysis. We could go to a great museum that cost the family $20 per adult and $15 per kid – roughly $100 for our family, and we could have one or two little ones that an hour in are restless and cranky and require a quick exit. It’s not worth the money. I know it’s just a stage and eventually we’ll get to those museums and enjoy it to our heart’s content. But that’s not the stage we’re in now and both Steve and I are pretty realistic about what the younger kids can handle and what pushes our stress level past enjoyment.
Denver (and surrounding areas) has plenty to offer with minimal cost which is perfect for young families such as ours. Here’s a few activities we all enjoyed together.
Hammond’s Candy Factory tour
This is a free tour for all ages. We watched a short 9 minute video on the history of the company and then they took us back to the area where we could watch what was being made. This kept all the kids interest, including Cannon’s. They specialize in hard candies and watching the candy canes being made was really interesting. I think the entire tour was 30-45 minutes. The only meltdown was walking out of the tour into the candy filled store where the kids each got to choose a candy – such tough decisions!
Flat Irons/Chautauqua Park
We stayed north of Denver for a few nights with our friends just outside of Boulder. If you have not been to Boulder – it’s a must see. It’s beautiful and unique in so many ways and has so much personality. We explored Chautauqua Park and hiked to the base of the Flat Irons. Cannon was carried in a backpack but Bennett walked the whole way himself and he was so excited to be “climbing the mountain.” They have several trails that were easy enough for our young family to maneuver and the views were amazing.
I’ve heard a lot about frisbee golf from my brother who lives in Denver (or frolf as he so lovingly calls it). They’ve got so many courses dedicated to frolf (which is free – you just have to have the frisbees) and we checked out one of them. Frolf is fun. I was skeptical, but after I beat everyone I was a believer!
Denver Mint Tour
We got lucky on this one. I wasn’t aware, but Mint tour tickets are tough to come by (they are free tickets) and you must have a reservation. They open tickets a month in advance and they said they typically are gone within a couple hours. We checked several days and finally found a time slot that had opened up due to a cancellation. We prepped the kids with what we were doing and what they could expect on the tour. Steve and I were both pleasantly surprised with how well they all did and how long they stayed interested. The talking portion of the tour was only about 10-15 minutes – the rest of the time was self guided and observing of coins being made. We made extra effort to keep the kids interest by talking through and explaining every step of the process. So glad we were able to snag tickets.
Castlewood State Park – South of Denver
This wasn’t free – but $8 for our carload is worth checking out. We hiked about two miles through a canyon – stopping to explore whenever the kids felt the urge. A backpack for Cannon would’ve been handy on this hike – but we didn’t have it so he walked and walked. Halfway through his little legs couldn’t handle the rough terrain so he was carried the rest of the way. Like most of the scenery we had seen in Denver – this area was beautiful and unique. We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed it sitting amongst the boulders.
National Center for Atmospheric Research
This is a free museum/exhibit in Boulder. It’s not very large and doesn’t take more than an hour or two to explore but it’s hands on exploration of weather and environment. The kids could touch and feel everything and they learned about the environment around them. There’s also a hike that has exploration points that we didn’t take advantage of because it was getting too close to lunch time but it looked interesting as well. It was a great morning activity that was free of charge.
One area we didn’t end up making it to was the Rocky Mountain National Park – which would’ve been free with Hallie’s park pass. We decided with all the driving we had already done, another 2 1/2 hour roundtrip excursion wasn’t in our cards. The cost-benefit analysis again!
After visiting Denver I get why it is consistently ranked in the top 10 most fit/active cities in the US. They have outdoor activities everywhere and everyone seems to participate in one way or another. We explored and played, they had beautiful parks and trails we took advantage of, we spent more time outside in one week than we had in the previous two or three months!
Our playroom was once littered with art supplies. I love that my kids like to create but finding broken crayons and glue without tops was driving me crazy. Every couple days, I would have the kids round up all the supplies and put them back in their place in the playroom. Just hours after cleaning, I would walk in and find art supplies everywhere. I realized it wasn’t really the older kids who were creating the mess – its the monster one year old we have running around that seems to make messes wherever goes. The only way to solve the problem was to remove the art supplies but make them very accessible.
Introducing the Ikea art cart that resides in my office closet.
I purchased a cart on wheels from Ikea. This allows the cart to be mobile and can travel to and from the playroom when needed.
Also from Ikea I purchased two sets of white magazine holders. These hold the coloring books, workbooks and clipboards. The clipboards were purchased for another project that I never completed and the kids kept sneaking them to color on. They are a staple on the art cart.
The bottom two layers are filled with quart-sized canning jars. Hallie meticulously sorted out all the supplies and organized them into different jars. Crayons, colored pencils, twistable pencils, twistable crayons, pencils and pens, scissors, markers, glue sticks, glue, whiteboard markers…and more. Everything they need for a art project or school assignment. Sometimes, they don’t need the whole cart and they leave it in the closet and take the jars they need. Hallie will take a jar to her room to color and return it later.
It’s been over 6 months and the supplies have remained relatively organized. There have been a few casualties including when the cart was left in the playroom by accident and a certain toddler dumped out the jars. But the kids have been great about making sure it gets put away since then.
The best part is anytime they’re looking for a supply – they know exactly where to look. It’s also easy to see what we’re running low on – which doesn’t happen to be gluesticks, we’ve got two jars full!
A while back, I saw a Walmart ad that peaked my interest. It advertised a water-balloon fight where the water balloons appeared to be filled with paint. There was a link at the end of the ad for more information. It was good advertising because I clicked.
The balloons were in fact not paint filled. They were filled with a mixture of cornstarch/water/food coloring. I couldn’t actually imagine having my kids throw those at each other but it would be fun to create pinatas out of them.
Filling the balloons was not difficult, but it took some time. I made the mixture and put it in a bottle with a squeeze top in order to fill them.
Once filled, they hung from a line using a binder clip.
The kids took turns with the bat – swinging their best swing.
The first try Hunter had he totally missed the balloon. I was laughing as I clicked through the pictures because he had closed his eyes for the entire swing. He tried his hardest to keep his eyes open the second go around!
I had filled enough balloons that each kid could have several turns and Cannon could throw a couple. When the kids were done there was one lonely balloon left in the bowl. We all agreed it was Steve’s turn. He swung for the fences and me and my camera were standing a little too close (I was used to the kids swings and my dry zone was relatively close).
I was covered.
The kids were all begging me to fill more balloons so they could have a couple more turns and so they could see Daddy make it rain paint even more. The key is teaching them how to fill them!