One of my very favorite parts of mom-ing is playing Easter Bunny each year. I love anticipating the Spring season and some fresh stuff to play with, I love the bright colors, and frankly, I love an opportunity to stage and arrange a good basket!
This year is double the fun with TWO baskets — and I’m starting early, since there’s a very good chance we could be IN the hospital having this baby come April 12. Just in case, I’m prepping everything ahead of time (I’ve even stuffed the four dozen eggs — army men and gummy bunnies for the win!) so that all my mom would have to do is set it all out (and capture pics for me!).
I swapped Crew’s old basket and borrowed the gold baskets (from Wal Mart a couple years ago) from our office. I’m already feeling the need to keep it even in appearance between the two of them! I bought my carrot eggs at Dollar Tree but found similar ones here (I like when they’re flat on the bottom so they can stand alone) and monogrammed them with my Cricut. The bubble machine and bubbles came from Target and I figured they can be enjoyed by both kiddos.
Is it just me or all the balloon animals on sticks having a moment? There are so many cute kits out there (most recently I spotted them in the Target dollar spot!) but only needing two, I opted to buy a mega pack of balloon sticks (because I WILL find other excuses to do balloon crafts!) and made the ears/bow ties out of cardstock to match their basket color themes. (I’ll have redraw the faces on fresh balloons as Easter gets closer, but this was a good practice run!) The items in each of their baskets are listed below. We aren’t sharing her name yet 😉 but their wooden name plaques are from this shop.
Crankity Brainteaser game | Mega Maze game | boomerang, silly string, misc. from Dollar Tree | refill film packs with sticker frames for the Instax | foam shaving cream (for the tub!) and sidewalk chalk from Target | warm weather pajamas
I am all. in. on the Amazon fashion trend — there are so many good finds…if you can find them! I noticed a gap (of course) in round-ups of cute stuff for the boys, so I wanted to share some favorite pieces my 4.5 year old is currently loving (as is his mom!).
The thickest, softest pajamas. We have these in several colors and they are Crew’s favorites. They come in a million shades for boys or girls, and run up to size 8.
Hope & Henry hooded sweater. I’ve been thrilled with the quality of this Amazon preppy brand – it reminds me of Janie & Jack, but with a smaller price tag. (This piece would be perfect for family photos!)
LOOK pull-on joggers. League Of Outstanding Kids is a J.Crew Crewcuts line exclusively for Amazon. We LOVE our Crewcuts; this line is equal in quality, but less expensive.
Amazon Essentials joggers. Just give us all the joggers – Crew is happy they’re soft and comfy, and I’m happy they’re easy-on and still a bit tailored for a cute outfit.
Morning Person tee.This was an impulse “add to cart” this summer and got a lot of smiles – I’m selective about all the wording out there, but this one passed for me. It does shrink a bit, so size up to begin.
Moon and Back pajamas. Another “made for Amazon” line, this time by the queen of pajamas, Hanna Andersson. I love that the size ranges would allow for siblings to match in the same patterns, and this coral stripe is definitely coming to our house.
The go-with-everything tennis shoe.I get annoyed with the splashy logos everywhere and sometimes you just want a low-profile basic shoe they can put with anything. I had seen these sneaks receive rave reviews so we tried for ourselves – I ordered two sizes uncertain of fit, and I would say they run large (we kept the smaller of the two sizes). Great quality at a great price.
Amazon Essentials zip-up.How cute would this fleece be with a monogram?! Comes in all the colors – would be fun in your favorite sports team or school uniform color, too! I love a mock neck in place of a hoodie – it seems just a tad more structured and put together.
The cutest tube socks.As the temps start to drop a tiny bit, these will be in heavy rotation with some chucks and shorts and a long-sleeve tee on top. I LOVE a little boy in tube socks! <3
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!
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!
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 kitthat 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 areKnock 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.
Just give me alllll the fall reads — I’m not sure who is more excited for the season, me or my mini!
Our current list of must-reads:
The Scariest Book Everhas the boldest, most “popping” illustrations that are so fun to look at. This was a big hit last year when he was only two, but loves it all over again this year at three, and it’s funny for the adults reading it, as well.
Gilbert the Ghost I’ll admit, is better loved by Crew than by me. But it’s not too spooky and gets at the moral of being inclusive.
No Such Thing is probably my favorite of this list — from the beginning the character doesn’t believe in ghosts and explains away all the weird things happening, only to find out maybe there IS such a thing, in the end.
How To Make Friends with A Ghostis a little wordy yet for Crew, so I shorten it as I read. He laughs out loud out the antics of befriending a ghost, and I love the idea that your ghost is “with you” from your youngest to your oldest days.
Thankfulis obviously a good read with the message of gratitude — I haven’t found many “Thanksgiving” books but of them, this is my favorite.
The Little Children’s Halloween Activity Bookis sure to keep Crew busy when we need a time-filler (restaurants, road trip, etc) and it’s nice to have something fresh in the mix, and relevant to the season. Always love Usborne’s activity items!
Vampirina Ballerina is one we checked out from the library to test run. I thought it was adorable, but based around a girl’s love of ballet, it didn’t hold Crew’s interest. I’d definitely recommend it for the girls, though!
Stumpkin is one I stumbled on at the bookstore the other day and will be going back to pick up. I’d never heard of it, but at first flip through, I love the story sentiments around the idea of being “perfect”.
Ghosts is another on our wish list — I try to add a new title or two each year, and this will likely be one of them!
I can’t tell you how much fun I have going through Crew’s closet each season. Maybe it’s the fact that kids literally get an ALL NEW wardrobe every year because they’ve grown, maybe it’s that everything is just cuter in little sizes…maybe it’s just that kids clothes are so much FUN! It was so hard to choose, but I kept it to five outfits (and one jammie set, of course!) using a bunch of my favorite pieces. Some items are purchased new this year, and some were bought ahead last year and are no longer available (NLA). I’ve linked exact products where I can, but at the very least, you hopefully come away with some fun *BOY* outfit ideas!
As a follow-up to my favorite toddler/preschooler-sized backpacks, I’m turning my attention to all things lunch-related as we enter the first week of the school year. We don’t often have to provide a lunch yet, but as we approach kindergarten (say whaaa?!) I’m paying attention to my oh-so-smart mama friends who have all the best recommendations. I do pack my own lunch for work frequently, and have used a similar style lunch box and the silicone cups to keep things separate. And some of these things make lunches at home with littles that much more fun to prepare.
We love this set of cutters — that includes sandwich cutters (who wants crust, anyway?!) little ones that are fun for fruit and cheese slices.
Genius move by parents everywhere to use these little silicone cups to keep foods separate within lunches. (I personally like them to hold almonds and other stuff I want to stay “crunchy” on top of my salads until I’m ready to eat.)
I love the idea of Bento boxes for kids because they hate when stuff “touches” — I like the price point of this box, and as my neighbor so smartly pointed out — you can afford to purchase a week’s worth, pack and stack them all in one night in the fridge, and have ZERO to do all week long.
We’ve been using this stainless water bottle since shortly after Crew was off bottles. They are indestructible and great at keeping cold drinks cold (perfect for all-day summer outings). I’m picky about water bottles because they MUST be easy to clean — this one is my winner.
I love the idea of these pre-printed lunchbox notes! They don’t make much sense until your kiddos are at a reading age, but I love the idea that they don’t require as much time to prepare, but still offer a touchpoint of “I’m thinking about you!” during their school day.
And if you’re looking for some lunch-packing inspiration, here are a couple of my favorite sources:
Lunchbox brand, Lunchbots, has a great Instagram feed full of ideas