Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Toy List 2016

It's December 5th and if you're like me, you are frantically shopping for your kids, family, teachers, babysitters, work friends, etc.  Of course my go-to is Amazon and Prime Now.  Why fight the crowds when you can shop from home in your PJ's while sipping your coffee.

And as a play therapist, people are always asking me for toy recommendations.  I am going to post my usual recommendations for imaginative play, since play therapy is anti: electronic, gadget, and media driven toys.  We like to encourage pretend play that is child-driven.  That means, no Disney characters or Super Heroes.  We can have capes, masks, and dolls but they are generic so that the child can act out exactly what they want and use their imagination.

But, as for trendy toys, my girls have their lists and I mean it is a front and back list from top to bottom :)  So far, the hottest toys on their lists are: Hug Time Poppy, American Girl Dolls and accessories (basically the whole catalog), Paw Patrol, Lion Guard toys, Bootsie the Cat (some Furreal thing), a scooter and a doll house. Because the doll house they got 2 years ago apparently isn't big enough (even though it's 4 feet tall!).  And about 40 more things they circled in the catalogs.

This is why I have decided to hold a toy drive for my 6 year old's Girl Scout Troop, to help our area local family shelter.  My kids need a lesson on the spirit of Christmas and too many toys.

So, with that being said, I recommend having a mix of the trendy, 'hot toys' and regular old-fashioned creative toys. If you only have toys from a movie or cartoon, it would greatly limit a child's creativity and self-expression.

It's kind of like having a stack of plain white paper and crayons or markers and seeing the great masterpieces they create!  Versus having a stack of coloring books where your child just sits and fills in pictures with color.  Not going to really make you jump up and say, 'wow, look what you created!'

So, as I have listed on here before, I am going to list a few faves that are good all around creative toys to have that will last a long time.  And no, some are not cheap, but again they will last until your child goes off to college, okay, maybe not, but they will last a super long time.  Happy shopping!

1. Blocks  
Blocks are huge.  EVERY single play therapy session I have, a child will build something with blocks and it almost brings me to tears at times to see how a quiet sheltered child, will all of a sudden create a huge masterpiece of a 'building' out of blocks.  I love seeing what can become of a plain old brown piece of wood!

Here is a good set at a great price (49.99$)Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks With Wooden Storage Tray (60 pcs)

2. Doll Houses
Now, for those moms of boys out there, I know you are a little apprehensive about buying a doll house for your son.  But the super gender neutral ones are great, and there are a lot out there now that are 'green' looking.  And your boys can use different 'characters' to play with in their house, and not dolls.  The less is more philosophy is best for the doll house, that way children can use even more of their imagination!

These are great wooden doll houses:
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Furnished Dollhouse

Hape - All Seasons Wooden Doll House, Furnished (115$ and comes all furnished)

3.  Dress-Up Gear   My 1st Career Gear Assortment Suit (37.99$)
4.  Kitchen Play

What home doesn't have a kitchen?  Children love to act out what they already have at home and kitchens are a huge hit.  Boys are chefs too and love to pretend they are washing dishes, cooking and grilling like their dad.  This one is a good gender neutral color as well and fits in small spaces.
KidKraft Vintage Kitchen - White  (95$)

5.  Doctor Kit 
I know I have blogged about these before, but they are still one of the all time faves of my clients.  Kids LOVE using these doctor kits and my daughter still plays with hers a whole year later. 

6. Art Supplies

This kit is a good starter kit.  For 25$, it comes with paper, markers, crayons and pencils
Crayola Inspiration Art Case: Art Tools, 140 Pieces, Crayons, Colored Pencils, Washable Markers, Paper, Portable Storage

7.  All purpose figures
Safari Ltd People TOOB With 7 Everyday Heroes Figurine Toys, Including Construction Worker, Policeman, Mailman, Pilot, Chef, Fireman, and Veterinarian (14$).

These are good generic people figures for kids to play with and act out.  They can use them in the doll house, with block play or with any type of imaginative play.

8. Animal Figures
These animals have a mix of calm, sweet ones to aggressive types.  It's always good to have a mix, so children can act out 'anger' vs. 'happy' feelings and sometimes they prefer using animals rather than people to act out feelings.
Animals Figure,54 Piece Mini Jungle Animals Toys Set,Zoo World Realistic Wild Vinyl Pastic Animal Learning Resource Party Favors Toys For Boys Kids Toddlers Forest Small Farm Animals Toys Playset  (11$)

So that's a good start if you want to foster that creativity this holiday season!
What are you planning on getting your kids for Christmas/Hanukkah this year?  
Monday, September 26, 2016

The Power of Parents

I have been busy, busy, busy packing and purging for our upcoming move next month to a new house.  As I was going through some of my old counseling notes, I came across a quote from a seminar I attended on 'Parenting' and it really jumped out at me.  I mean, super super powerful.

"What My Mom Thinks About Me,  Is Who I Am"


My brain starting turning it's wheels and with all of the stress of school starting back up this month, the after school activities, the rush of getting out the door every morning, bedtime routines, dinner plans, homework (yes 1st grade homework), piano lessons, Nutcracker auditions....I stopped to think, "what message am I sending my child while doing all of these tasks on a daily basis?"

When we walk out the door on the way to school and my kids forget something and we have to rush back inside to get it, am I conveying the message, "Sometimes we forget things, and it's okay. It's tough to have to remember everything we have to do each day" and give them a hug?  Or I am sighing and asking them to hurry up?  Sending the message that they 'made a mistake' or 'aren't doing something right?'

When they struggle with their reading or math homework, am I conveying, "You are working so hard, you should be so proud of yourself!"??

As a parent, when we get frustrated (and we all do it often ahem), what message are we sending our kids? That we are annoyed with them, they can't figure out things for themselves, frustrated they have disobeyed us, etc?

But we can't always be the super-happy-everything-is-perfect-all-day-long parents. We all have our moments of being tired, stretched to our limits and at times we feel like servants to our kids' demands.  There are some days that if I hear ,"Mom!!" one more time I am going to lose it.

So I am just trying to keep in check how I act and how it affects my kids. I may not be perfect all day long, but I always remember that as a parent:      We get second chances. 

If we snap at our kids or say something we wish we didn't mean, apologize.  Tell them you are sorry and that you were (tired, hungry, frustrated, etc.).  They will learn we all make mistakes, even parents, and it's not the end of the world.  Even if you feel like the day was awful and you want a do-over, at the end of the day tell them how proud you are of them, give a few positive statements on their accomplishments they made, hug them and tell them you love them every day!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back to School

Can you believe the summer is almost over??  I feel like it just started, and we had all of this free lazy time to do what we wanted and not wake up and rush out of the house.  But now it's time to get ready to go back to school. Whaat?

And if you are like me and procrastinate, then you are just in time for my list of supplies for kids. Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Lunch Boxes.  Gone are the days of the metal pails and thermos containers that you could pick up at any grocery store.  Ha, I still have my old Pigs In Space Muppets lunchbox.  Such a classic and so hard to purge that one.

But now lunch boxes have gone all fancy with Bento boxes and BPA free plastics.  It's seriously ridiculous and expensive, but I have jumped on it and love the PlanetBox brand of stainless steel.

Planet Box:

My favorite is the Rover, but you can click here and look at all the sizes and options.  It holds EVERYTHING!  You know, like that stick of string cheese that you can't find room for anywhere and don't know where to put it?

And I love how you get a choice of background magnets to put in it.

Now the not so fun part, it's 55.99$ and that does NOT include the lunch box bag that it goes inside. You don't have to order the 14$ lunchbox, but it is a large shape and most store-bought zipper lunch bags don't hold it.  But it will last forever and you HAVE to check out this link of tons of ideas of what to put inside for lunches. Right now they are having a Back to School Special, 10% off using code: 3Box10!!

Yumbox:  This is my second favorite and love that it is spill proof. So when I pack baby carrots, I know I can pour in the ranch dressing in the little bowl and it won't spill out of it.  These you can get on Amazon for 29.99$.

2. Backpacks:
This is a somewhat easy one. I just ask my kids what they want on their backpacks and we find them usually on Amazon.  This year my girls wanted Frozen and Paw Patrol.  I also make sure there are cup holders on each side for their water bottles and separate compartments for pens and supplies. Click here for the whole Nickelodeon supply of backpacks.

Here is the one we ordered that comes with a lunchbox and pencils:

And for your Disney kids, here are a few including Lion Guard, Frozen and the new Elena show.

And of course, there is always the classic Pottery Barn Kids backpacks.  The Mackenzie style have adjustable straps, some with rollers, and are made water-resistant.  You can also order in 4 different sizes.

You can also personalize them with your child's name. My favorite, but did not win over my child (maybe I can still order and secretly stash it away), was the unicorn one! Love me some unicorns!

3) Water Bottles:
My favorite ones are the Thermos brand because they keep their water cold all day! Almost as good as Corksicle and Yeti brands for grown-ups.  You can order on Amazon from 12$-17$ depending on which one you choose.  They have about 40 different ones to pick:

4) School Supplies: 
This was my favorite part of back to school. Going shopping for school supplies!! I still remember going to Target and picking everything out. I was obsessed. But alas Amazon has come along and you can now purchase grade packs for everything you need online.  This one below is for 1st and 2nd grade:

But if you are going to Target, right now they are having a special where you get 5$ back if you spend 30$, and a 10$ gift card if you spend 100$.

My favorite supply this year are the smelly crayons from Mr. Sketch! 9.99$ on Amazon :)

5)  Back to School Sign. We ordered this one last year for my Kinder girl and love it! Etsy does such a great job with so many choices.

6)  Books: My favorite "The Night Before" series has them for preschool, kinder, and 1st grade

I also love First Day Jitters for 6.99$ which you can use for ANY grade or age.

7) Planners:  Now this can be for your older student, and it is a MUST for all moms. I used to love my school planners as a kid. (If only it helped me actually earn straight A's, ha!).  But I loved choosing mine each year and would spend hours in the stores trying to find the best one. Hello Container Store 1991!  And yes, I still use my iPhone calendars but also love my paper Erin Condren one.  If you haven't jumped on this brand yet, you are missing out!  Click here and see all of the options, cover choices, etc.

Well, that's it for this year. Now I need to start ordering!
Monday, June 13, 2016

Dallas Summer Kid Activities

Summer is almost here!  That means no school, ice cream and snow cones, summer camps, and finding ways to pass the lazy days of summer.  Now that my kids are a little older, I have come across a pretty good list of places to help beat the heat in Dallas too.  

Outside Fun
  • Ridgewood Recreation Center remodeled their splash park a year ago and it's lots of fun for kids to run around without the hassle of a pool!  There is also a playground next to it for fun before or after swim:

  • Arboretum picnics in the morning (before it gets too hot)

  • Top Golf  for putt-putt

  • Playgrounds that have padded surfaces with some shade are Scottish Rite Hospital's playground and Coffee Park at Hillcrest and Northwest Highway.  We had our daughter's 2nd birthday party at Scottish Rite awhile back and loved it!

  • Klyde Warren park downtown also has a lot to offer, including splash areas for kids to run around, food trucks and a park. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try to take the Trolleydown there too. 

  • Cry baby movies at the Angelika recommended for babies under 6 months on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1:30pm.
  • Alamo Drafthouse also has summer movies for kids in the mornings. This summer they have Curious George, The Iron Giant, and Willie Wonka (2005). Check out their site for more details here.
  • Studio Movie Grill has Summer Kid Movies Mon-Friday at 11am for 1$ kids and 2$ adults, check the schedule here.  They will have How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek, etc.
Indoor Playgrounds
  • Pump-it-Up on Forest Lane has open gym play Monday-Fridays from 10-11:30am and from 12-1:30pm.  7$ first child, 5$ additional child.  You can now reserve a spot online! Check out their Online Registration here.
  • JumpStreet indoor trampoline park has open jump from 10am-9pm Monday-Sunday and is 4$ if under 4 and 8$ from ages 4-7.
  • The Perot Museum has an area on the lower level for children under age 5 to play and run around in, with water play, climbing structures and art activities.  Just beware the museum and parking gets crowded in the summer with kids out of school!
  • Walnut Hill Rec Center on Walnut Hill and Midway Rd. has open play/gym for children through age 4, Monday through Fridays from 10:30-11:45am for 5$. Express Cheer Open Gym
  • CooCoos.  Ok, so technically this place is in Plano and I haven't been yet, but CooCoos is a huge indoor bounce house type place. 8$ for children 4 and older and 5$ for 3 and under, open daily from 10-6pm. 6505 W Park Blvd.
  • Lake Highlands Rec Center now also has a great indoor playground for our littles from ages 0-5. It's 3$ for open play, Wildcat Fun Zone operates weekdays from 9-10:30am, 11-12:30pm, 3-4:30pm, and 5-6:30pm.

  • Indoor Playgrounds at Galleria Mall and Willowbend Mall.  I prefer going to the Galleria one in the mornings when it's not as hot (it's on the top floor) and not as crowded :)

  • The Treefort at Watermark Church has a great indoor play area. Check out the daily schedule of open hours here (scroll down).

  • We also love going to the Fair Park Aquarium. It's small so it's not too crowded, parking is free and kids of all ages love it! Plus it's air conditioned :) 8$ for adults and 6$ for kids 3+

Libraries and Storytimes
  • Reunion Tower has storytimes on Wednesdays this summer from 11am-11:30am on the GeoDeck! There are crafts and storytime. Discounted admission, 8$ for kids 4-12 and adults 14$. Details here.
  • Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Park also has storytime on Tuesdays at 10:30am
  • Northpark Bookmarks Baby Bounce and Tickles for Toddlers. Check out their calendar for weekly times: 
  • Tuesdays at Whole Foods Park Ln has storytime and crafting at 10am! We love going here for the free snacks too!
  • Pottery Barn Kids off Knox also has a Tuesday storytime at 11am
  • Storytimes at Lochwood Library on Fridays at 10:30m or Skillman Library at 10:30am on Thursdays.  Also Highland Park Library has them daily at 10am, click on link here.  The Preston-Royal location also has a different activity each Tuesday at 10:30am from music classes, to storytimes.
  • For fun weekend storytimes, visit the Half Price Bookstore on Sundays at 3pm for children under age 10.
  • Richardson Public Library I've heard has the best area for kids with an aquarium, lots of stocked kids books and a train table. Check out their schedule for storytimes though as you have to register beforehand here.
    • Best indoor restaurant playground is at the Chick-Fil-A at Southwestern and Central Expy, and Hillcrest Ave because it's not as crowded!
    • Bake and Play/ Lakewood Salon at Mockingbird and Abrams is a great indoor play area for kids.  Complete with dress-up clothes for girls and boys, playscapes, train tables, doll houses and food to feed your youngster!  It's 8$ per child, but if you buy a 10 pass punch card, it's 5$ a child. Don't forget socks for you and your kids!

    • Monster Yogurt in Casa Linda is also a great way to cool off the summer with a froyo AND an indoor playground!  Check out their site here.

    • Sno snowcones!  The best way to beat the heat, just wish it had indoor playground. But they have the best all natural flavors made in house! Meadow and I-75.

    Hope this list helps fill up your Summer fun! If there are any other places I've forgotten, post in the comments below. Happy Summer!