Travel and Dining Entertainment for Young Kids

Like many of you, we have both some air and car travel planned for the summer months, and I’ve been adding to my secret stash of goodies for keeping our almost 4 and a half-year-old busy. Today I’m sharing my list of some favorites I’d recommend again and again as well as some ideas from past travel during the toddler years. (You can also file these under “restaurant friendly” — not too noisy/large/messy and perfect for when you have to sit in one spot for a while – I keep a couple of these in my trunk for whenever we end up out to eat, and rotate them out regularly.)

Depending on your mode of travel, I love these decks of ideas for car and airplane time. Go through them and all pick, or draw a mystery card – either way, these are full of fun ideas that are appropriate for either environment. I would say these can be adapted for younger ages, but truly are for the 4 and up crowd.

We bought the Dog Pile version of this game ( a little older age range) and figured we can all work on it together as a family, but this younger version, Haystax, (recommended age says 6+ but Crew can totally do this) is the same concept on a simpler level, and again, if your littles need help, it’s fun to do it together. Everything packs up neatly into the little box it came in so it’s nice and portable.

The Water Wow tablets are all over every “must have” list for traveling with kids, but I’ve learned I prefer the Color Blast version with the marker, instead of the little paintbrush thing you have to refill (inevitably, we run out of water in the car mid-trip, or we get on the plane and realize we never filled it up post-security). That said, they only make these deluxe pads with the magnifying glass with that water style of pen so I’ll just have to get over it. I like the added element of search/find (something Crew is very into right now) coupled with coloring, but we only have to pack one item for both activities. As for the younger kiddos, the regular tablets have been a hit with Crew since he was a little past two.

Melissa and Doug definitely has the “busy activity” category down to a science. The latest thing Crew has been into when we get out art stuff is any kind of tape, so of course, M&D makes a tape activity book. The book was larger than I anticipated, especially when opened flat, so it may be more of an “on-the-floor-of-the-airport” item or for when we reach our destination, but I’ll report back!

I’m a closet math nerd, so I’m all over any excuse to turn math into play. This Tiny Polka Dot game is essentially a deck of cards, but SO versatile in that there are MANY different games to play with them, based on your child’s age, starting at age 3 up to adult. Crew loves any game because it means he has our full attention (ha!) so while we haven’t used this one yet, I’m anticipating it to be a hit several times over.

And finally, I switch out stuff in our busy bags. There are round-ups of ideas all over Pinterest (like this one) and we’ve used these every. single. time. we travel since Crew was about two. The clear bags are easy for kids to see and decide what they want WITHOUT dumping everything, and you can swap out the activities based on your child’s age or interest. You can put them on jump rings to make a “book” of bags — and for multiple kids you could ring together their individual bags to keep things separate but still organized. (I like that when on rings, in turbulence, they don’t all go flying in different directions!)

Our go-to versions have been beads and pipe cleaners (it used to be just about the motor skill of stringing them on when he was younger, now it’s all about creating his own patterns.) I also used some felt to create all the elements of a cupcake, similar to this post. But to take it a step further, I made illustrated “orders” on index cards so Crew could “fill” each person’s order by assembling whatever is pictured (three sprinkles, two cherry, pink frosting, etc). Other past favorites: the window clings from the dollar section (stick them all over the car window, airplane tray, etc!), a simple pad of paper and crayons, and colorful pom poms and a pair of kid tweezers – the activity was simply to practice picking them up and transporting them to whatever was around – an empty cup, a spare busy bag, etc. Sometimes the best activities are the simplest ones!

I’d be remiss to not mention to pack all. the. snacks. I used to throw them in my bags haphazardly and I’ve found sanity in using Crew’s lunchbox so that he can help himself unassisted and I’m not constantly passing stuff. Game changer! W also overdose on suckers, both for takeoff / cabin pressure for those little ears and also because, frankly, they last and keep little mouths quiet and busy! It IS vacation, right? 😉 Happy travels!

Summer Reading List for Preschoolers

We wrapped up Crew’s time in the 3-4 preschool room with conferences last night, and one of my favorite bits of feedback to hear was how MUCH this kid loves books. As we make the move up to Pre-K (as in pre-kindergarten, yes, I’m in major denial!) I’ve rounded up some favorite current titles and some that are on the to-read list for the coming summer months!

Jabari Jumps has been on our bookshelf for a while, but it has surfaced again now that swimming season is here, with all its moments of bravery.

Brick was recommended by a fellow blogger, and I love the introductory level to different types of architecture, and the idea that “home” looks different around the world.

Crew is trying so hard to grasp telling time right now, so after flipping through What’s the Time, Clockodile? recently at our local toystore, I’m definitely heading back to pick it up. The clock hands actually move and the book itself is large and well-constructed.

We all love this new addition, Iggy Peck, Architect. The rhyming text is fun and witty, and relays a positive message about following your interests. The companion activity book would be so fun in another year or so!

I’ve seen this title floating around Instagram on some of my favorite book accounts, and I love that A Boy Like You appears to be breaking down the stereotypical “tough guy” approach to what it means to be a boy. Perfectly timed for this phase when Crew is truly developing from a toddler/preschooler to full-blown kiddo.

We are ALL about the Pigeon books (Mo Willems is the best!) so the minute I heard about the latest title, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School, I pre-ordered it pronto. (Releases July 2nd!)

After purchasing The Night Before Christmas by the same author/artist, I had to have America the Beautiful in time for the 4th of July last year. These are, hands down, THE most beautiful pop-up books you will ever see. And a great introduction to the lyrics of the classic patriotic tune.

I’ve been longing to start teaching Crew how to follow a recipe, beyond our simple chopping tasks and our go-to chocolate chip cookies. I love that cooking introduces him to math basics and logic and sequence — but it’s been hard to find a cookbook with recipes that fit the fine motor skills of someone under the age of eight. Enter Kid Chef Junior (their other Kid Chef titles for older kids look awesome, too!) Bring on the summer cooking projects!

And finally, our first read-aloud chapter book! Starting with the ultimate classic, Charlotte’s Web. Everyone says that 4-5 is the sweet spot to begin reading simple chapter books aloud. I’m anxious to see what he thinks of the story!

Want more Crew-approved book lists? Check out our list for Age Three and a Half, our list for Age Three, and our list for Toddlers (12-24 months).


Patriotic Poundcake (Kid Chef Friendly!)

I’m no cook, but I do love a pretty dish – especially when it’s dessert. Whether it’s Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or just any old summer day, you must try this simple treat. I love it as a way to include kiddos in the kitchen — they can wash and chop fruit, scoop Cool Whip, and of course cut stars out of the poundcake!

You don’t even need directions or an ingredients list — just slice up a frozen Sara Lee poundcake (and cut into stars!), add sliced red and blue berries (I used strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries), and add a tub of Cool Whip. Light and refreshing and oh-so-patriotic-summer!

Our Finished Basement

When we built our home four years ago, we had an idea of what we wanted to do with our basement level, but we weren’t in a huge hurry with so many above-ground decisions to make in the meantime. Page drew out a rough idea and our builder framed it for us, and stocked it with drywall. And that was how it sat for a year or so. Slowly, we’ve been moving it forward over the last couple of years.

We’ve been using this lower level so much now that it’s complete, starting with our living room. The leather couches moved down here (finally!) and they are perfect for family movie nights. I love that we kept it light and neutral down here (paint is Sherwin Williams “City Loft”, trim is SW “Extra White”) since our only natural light comes down the stairwell from a window, and from the two egress panes on one end of the house.

The play area is as getting as much use as ever (and the Ikea Algot toy closet has paid for itself in spades!). You can see more of the toy closet and the inside of the playhouse here.

Crew’s under-the-stairs playhouse is one of my favorite projects to date!

We tried to maximize the daylight by going with glass doors to the gym. Page picked this wall color (SW Oceanside) and I admit I was skeptical at first, but I love the change of energy and mood when you walk in here (which I need to do more often than I am right now. Ha!)

This black metal plaque from Magnolia is my favorite detail in here.

Here’s a quick peek at the guest bedroom and bathroom that I wrote more about in previous posts.

The last pieces of the puzzle were the bar and golf simulator. We bought stock cabinets which I painted (SW “Cascade”) and we built the counter from butcher block stained Carbon Gray by Varathane. We debated adding a dishwasher down here but after so much up-and-down in our last basement bar with dirty glasses and snack bowls, we opted to include one this time around. We did vinyl flooring because of the nature of basements -it’s from Home Depot and the color is Weathered Wood.

Page used remnant pieces from the counters to create floating shelves and found the hardware on eBay. The faucet and cabinet hardware all came from Amazon.

The golf simulator is by SkyTrak and Page installed it himself. We had to walk on many, many 1-foot squares of turf before he found “The One” 🙂

I love how all the textures and tones came together in this area. The stone isn’t the exact material we have upstairs, but it’s so darn close and carries the vibe from upstairs down to this lower level.

And I’d be remiss in not pointing out the barn door we had built as a solution to the noise of both the simulator and if we want to watch a movie down here after Crew goes to bed. It’s hard to convey in photos but this thing is massive. You have to love a talented trim carpeter – this is perfectly cut at the bottom to hug up and around the skirt trim that comes down our stairs for a sealed closure.

Another favorite little detail is the angled corner step down into the simulator. I will never forget showing up late ONE TIME to our builder meeting and noticing they had marked a sunken foundation. I knew exactly what had been decided without me – ha!

Thanks for following along. I’m so happy to have this big project checked off our list, and we’re finding so much validation in how frequently we are using the space!

Living Room Tour

In case you missed it, Life in Yellow is now 29th and Delight and I’m jumping right back in with a tour of our updated main living area! After finishing our lower level, we moved the existing furniture downstairs to make way for some furniture we scored on Black Friday. I love the way this space has come together over the last year and we’ve spent a lot of family time in here playing games on the coffee table and snuggling on the sofa.


Rug | Sectional | Armchair | White Pillows | Pink Tassel Pillows | Throw | Coffee Table | C End Table | Bar Stools

Thanks for taking a peek – I’m excited to share more of what we’ve been up to around here the past few months!

Kondo everything…and the little break that resulted.

iphone app color coding organization | 29thanddelight.com

Chalk it up to the the new year, Netflix, or the mass hysteria that is Marie, but the Kondo bug bit me, like so many others. I’ve been purging and organizing (something I’ve always loved to do anyway!) and coupled with the hot topic of minimalism at every turn, I’ve been assessing what’s important — not just the stuff, but the way we spend our time, our money, our energy. As a result, the minimalism mentality has spilled over into my tech life — I’ve unsubscribed from dozens of email lists, deleted 1/3 of the apps on my phone (side bar — I highly recommend the above-pictured color coding of your apps, if you’re visual like me!), and in a rather unplanned but awesomely needed move, I removed myself from most of social media.

Just weeks ago, I was managing multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts for the blog, my photography business, and my own personal accounts. I found that I was constantly picking up my phone and when I did it was often in a feeling of “what do I need to address now”. Not bringing me joy. Right? So for the time being, this break has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve changed my perspective on things being perfect or lovely enough to snap a photo and share on Instagram, and in general, I spend less time around my phone or mindlessly scrolling content. I vacillated on whether or not to “announce” the break, but that felt a little egotistical — like I assumed someone might miss me. As it turned out, I probably should have said something, judging by the emails that found their way to my inbox from perfect strangers wanting to simply know if all was well. (Thank you, by the way — you can’t tell me the world isn’t good – people you’ve never met, just checking up on you?!)  So here is my delayed explanation and assurance that YES, all is well.

There are moments I want to snap a pic or post a thought to the world, but for now, I’m fighting those occasional urges, and enjoying some time essentially cocooning a little, and prioritizing. It’s a complex and somehow very simple time right now — there are lots of happy things going on in our world and I do want to share them sometime. There is also a lot of emotion right now, tied up in the ending of a decade-long career with an employer and my team and we disband in April and all go our separate ways — coupled with figuring out what I want my “way” to be. The radio silence on the blog and social media wasn’t really planned, and it’s not forever…but in this season of a new year, a new career landscape, and frankly, a little finding of myself  — it’s so needed and I’m thankful to anyone still reading along and waiting patiently.

Wishing you all *joy* 😉





Gift Guide for 4 Year Olds: Favorite Toys and Books

About once a year, I love to share what Crew is especially into as far as books and toys and activities. I LOVE a good gift guide from others whose kids are a step ahead of us to plan for future gift ideas — or to learn what’s hot in an age group I’m less familiar with and need to buy for. Fresh off of Christmas and a fourth birthday just after, we’ve had a very fun (and frankly, needed!) replenishment of new and more age advanced things to do. I love the variety of things Crew is interested in right now — it made it especially fun to shop for him this year (yes, there was still a garbage truck on the list, but at least it wasn’t ALL trucks!). He received a little of everything – action-based, STEM, literary, artsy, musical. Without further adieu, here are the things that are topping our list right now:

This Hape marble run set was gifted to Crew for his birthday. I later learned you can buy other sets and add on, but for now, this is plenty to play with and you can assemble and reassemble it in a few different configurations. We had one of these (plastic) once upon a time and it wasn’t sturdy enough and thus frustrating. Wood, Hape-quality is the way to go on this one. I have visions of saving it for my grandchildren to come play with someday!

The pricetag on the Osmo Creative Kit gave me pause initially — would he like it enough to justify it? I hadn’t heard from anyone firsthand about it. (Click the link and view the demo video to get the full effect!) This kit works with an iPad or Kindle to interact with your child’s drawings. Crew likes to draw but it’s not how he spends his days on end…until maybe now! He LOVES the interaction piece and the challenge to draw different things. I’m not kidding when I say the first time he sat down with this, because it could be completely self-guided, he logged easily an hour-plus and many hours since then. I love that we’re using the iPad for something OTHER than YouTube (eye roll) and I can actually see his wheels turning and his fine motor skills improving. Part of the price of this kit is the base that allows the tablet to work with these kits; once you have that, the other kits can be ordered WITHOUT a base, bringing the cost down a bit. I definitely would consider this pizza kit that allows the child to prepare pizza orders and count back change (again! watch the video to see how it works!), in another year or so.

These remote control bumper cars have been a HUGE hit. More than just an RC car, when one hits the others side button just right, the driver goes flying, to Crew’s giggling delight. They are a bit hard to control for a four year old, but it doesn’t seem to matter, because with two going at once, it’s chaos anyway 🙂

Crew had spotted this piano mat many times over in the Target toy aisle (he loved the beats created by pressing the buttons, but it was still in the box, so he didn’t even understand the extent of what it did) It has been a big hit from both a music standpoint and a winter indoors energy-burner! I notice the price on this on Amazon fluctuates — so check both spots! There are tons of games to play on this mat, from prancing around and tapping out a song, to make silly noises, to creating different beats, or just chasing around hopscotch-style while different music notes light up.

The Instax Mini in our house actually belongs to me (polaroids make great party favors at get-togethers!) but as I’m trying to cultivate some interest in photography with Crew, I’ve been letting him carry it around more and more, and the price point isn’t much more than other “kids cameras” on the market. It’s awesome for making photography tactile at this age and it creates some instant gratification to have a physical picture to look at that he made himself. He quickly understood the idea that the film is not unlimited like digital photography, so he’s learning to stop and think about what he wants to take a picture of, and he understands that when the 10 pictures run out, they’re gone. I’m rationing the film with him but already thinking ahead to Easter basket and future stockings — packs of film would be something he’d get VERY excited about!

Crew was SO INTO The Story Orchestra Nutcracker (featuring, of course, Tchaikovsky’s work) over Christmastime that I had to buy another title to get us past the season, so I went with Four Seasons in One Day (featuring the work of Vivaldi). The little snippets of famous classical music are just the right length for his attention span, and the interactive buttons keep it even more engaging. He loves to to pick out his favorites exclaiming that they sound scary or spooky or silly. There’s only one other title in this series so far, but I’m hoping they create more! We LOVE books and some of the newest additions that have received rave reviews are Knock Knock, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, Cookies! (the latest in a fun interactive cooking series we’re big fans of), and 3, 2, 1 Blast Off (a fantastic book about the solar system that doesn’t get too wordy or technical like most, for the littlest outer space enthusiasts).

Happy gifting — four is already shaping up to be SUCH a fun age!

Post may contain affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.





Sugar Cookie Decorating Tips & Supplies

In recent years, I’ve gotten pretty into the decorated cookie craze. I love any artsy project, but these happen to work year-round for a sweet treat and they are wonderful to gift. It’s a relatively inexpensive hobby and the cost is your time, not so much money — I’d guess I have MAYBE a hundred bucks in ALL my supplies I’ve collected over the past several years. (Okay, that’s assuming you already have basic baking stuff on hand like a mixer and cookie sheets.)

Today, I wanted to share my favorite tips and tools for decorating (full disclosure: I’m not a professional baker, I just do this for fun!) as well as my favorite icing and dough recipe (after many, MANY rounds of trial and error!).

BAKING THE COOKIES

Let’s start with the cookie. I love THIS recipe for my sugar cookies – the shape you cut out won’t bloat or expand much, what you see is what you’ll get! I follow it exactly, and to her point, I’ve frozen the dough before when I make extra batches, but do let it come ALL the way to room temp before you start working with it. By far, it works best to whip it up and use it right then without storing/cooling time.

I keep a stash of cutters in our pantry (they double as sandwich cutters for Crew’s lunches, too). I have holiday-specific ones, but a favorite year-round set has been this alphabet set as Crew wants to spell his name or it’s fun to gift someone a little set of cookies that spell out “JOY” or “LOVE” or “BOO” depending on the time of the year.

You can roll your dough out on your floured counter, (I use a regular wooden rolling pin, nothing fancy) but Page specifically cut a giant piece of pine to perfectly fit one half of our island and sanded it super smooth. We originally wanted it for rolling out pasta dough, but it doubles as my cookie surface now. At the recommendation of the chef we learned to make pasta from, we picked up a large drywall trowel that we only use in the kitchen to scrape off caked-on dough and extra flour when we’re done (genius). My exact cookie sheets are no longer available but these are identical (the textured surface makes it nearly impossible to end up with stuck-on cookies) and to keep them nice, I only use them for baked goods (we have separate baking sheets for pizza, snacks, and anything else). Of course, use ALL the flour when cutting out your cookies – I dip my cutters in it, and keep it liberally sprinkled everywhere, rubbing it onto the surface, the dough, and the rolling pin every so often.

MAKING AND COLORING THE ICING

I won’t lie — baking the cookies is the easy part, but I also thinks it’s the less fun. Now you get to be creative! I first learned some basic techniques in a local bakery cookie class. I went home and practiced, and have evolved how I do the next part, so I’ll share both ways below. First, you need some royal icing. Again, after MANY different tested recipes, I like THIS recipe because it dries firm enough to stack your cookies, but not rock hard like so many versions (you want them to look AND taste good!). They have the slightest shine to them when they dry, and there’s no egg white like some, so you don’t have to worry about them sitting out.

After you’ve whipped up your batch of frosting, divide it into bowls, depending on how many colors you want to use. (I use Pinterest all the time to get inspo on color palette, and I pick out a handful of cutters I know I want to use, and determine my colors accordingly.) Your icing, well covered, has a shelf life of about a month, so I’ve gotten in the habit of mixing each color directly in a food storage container with a lid, so I can keep any leftovers if I want to. I’ve tried a few kinds of food coloring and have come to love these the best. Tip: you will need WAY more red and black compared to the others to get a true red or black, so I buy the bigger bottles of those colors. It was a game-changer to learn that to get an even wider color palette, you can add ivory food coloring to your pure-white icing to get a whole bunch of softer colors.

Piping and Flooding

This is how I originally learned to frost and it’s how I frosted the IOWA cookies, above. For this technique you’ll need icing bags and a basic icing tip and couplers for each bag/color you plan to use (this video can explain how to to put your tip on your icing bag better than I can explain in writing.) You can play around with different tips, but I always go back to the no.3 as my sweet spot. You’ll also need a few squeeze bottles (I’ve used and like both this style and these).

For each color of icing you’ve made, you’re going to divide it in half. Spatula half of it as-is (thick) into an icing bag and tie it off with a rubber band or I do like these to hold them closed. With the remaining half of each color, add a few drops of water and remix, SLOWLY adding more water until the icing is the consistency of runny glue. Once you have that, pour it into a squeeze bottle. NOTE: I once did this out of order and split up my icing BEFORE I’d colored it — you want to color it first so it’s consistent and matches perfectly. Huge headache to try and do this after you’ve split it up!

Start with your piping icing (in the bag) and outline your cookie or the portion of the cookie you want in that color. It should be nice and stiff and hold its outline shape. Take your matching flooding (squeeze bottle) icing and outline JUST inside your piped icing, getting as cloooose as possible even overlapping a tiny bit without going outside your line. Once you’ve done a full outline, just squeeze all over “flooding” and filling in your outline. It feels extra, but this tool is INVALUABLE in popping any air bubbles you might get while flooding before they dry.

All-At-Once

I did the piping and flooding method for a long time and still sometimes do if I need super precise detail. But in the batch above, as a time and clean-up saver, I’ve also tried for ONE icing color consistency just a tad thicker than the glue and as my hands have gotten steadier, I just pipe the thick-flooding as my outline and fill right in from there. This definitely takes practice and if it’s even the slightest bit too watery, it’s a hot mess (and no I hadn’t yet popped air bubbles in the shot above ha!). But I mention this option for anyone wanting to try!

To finish it off, I love some sprinkles or simply dragging toothpicks through the icing to make pretty designs. There are zillions of YouTube videos on simple decorating techniques once you’ve got the basic icing down. A favorite sprinkle look (seen in the footballs above) is a clear piping gel design, then sprinkle a sugar on top and shake off the excess.

Happy decorating and of COURSE be sure to taste test throughout the process! 😉