Best STEM Toys and Kits

With a kid who is obsessed with computers and coding, STEM toys and kits are at the top of our list this year. We’ve had the chance to tinker with various STEM toys. Here are just a few of the many fun toys and kits that have piqued our interest. As of today, these great gifts are still available at select major retailers.

 

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1. LittleBits

Rule Your Room Kit

It’s no secret that the Maker Movement has been trending and gaining popularity with our budding coders and programmers. LittleBits has created several unique and award-winning STEM kits where kids can create tangible items for themselves. The Rule Your Room Kit contains various bits where kids can create unique inventions like a moving collage for their room. These kits teach coding, electricity, engineering, as well as encourage creativity and confidence. LittleBits has several other kits worth looking into, too! These are among my favorite STEM kits in the very big toy space right now!

2. BoseBuild Speaker

The BoseBuild Speaker is an incredible kit that allows kids to build and create their own Bose Bluetooth speaker. With this kit, they learn the basic fundamentals of sound, magnets, electromagnetivity and technology. Bose is well known in the sound space, so this kit fits their durable and reputable product line. This kit is a great parent-kid bonding activity, and one that delivers a really incredible product and usable tween staple.

3. HexBugs Vex Robotics Snap Shot

This is another really great kit that embraces building, creativity, engineering and math. HexBug Vex Robotics allows kids to create a functioning Snap Shot Shooter with easy to connect snapping pieces. My older guy who is HUGE into Nerf absolutely loves this kit. It took him a bit to get started, but once he got going, he loved the end product. We’re looking forward to creating more cool creations!

4. SnapCircuits

SnapCircuits is a classic toy that teaches kids the ins and outs of electricity and conductiviy. I believe my older brother had a toy similar to this from Radio Shack. The best thing these kits have going for them are the fact that they’re timeless toys that teach the fundatmentals of building and electricity.

5. Kano

Kano is a cool computer kit that the kids learn how to build. Perfect for budding techies, this kit allows kids to get their hands on the parts and pieces that make computers work. The kit includes Raspberry Pi 3, case, speaker, wireless keyboard, memory, HDMI and power cables, coding challenges, stickers and lots of appsKano has kits for the computers and a kit for the screen, both of which are in the $150 range.

6. Magformers

Magformers are among the most played-with toys in my home. They’re great for learning the fundamentals of building and creating objects with shapes. My little guy loves to create houses with squares and triangles or little jails for the Joker with triangles. Some of the best aspects of Magformers is that they’re compact, easy to clean because they stick together and they provide hours of open-ended play.

7. LakeShore Survive the Quake Engineering Kit

My kids love the premise behind this kit. It’s another great toy for kids who are interested in building, and for those who love a little bit of element of surprise. Lakeshore Learning always gets it right when it comes to fun and engaging toys that incorporate learning—even when the kids don’t realize it!

Back to School Must Haves from Momtrends’ Back to School Bash

 

We’re still very much in summer mode, however, when it comes to trend spotting and scouting the best kids’ products, we’re always looking ahead. Last week, together with many of my blogger friends, we descended upon Momtrends’ Back to School Bash to check out some of the coolest gear and gadgets for Back to School.

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Joules

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I had the chance to meet British clothing brand, Joules at the Momtrends’ Back to School Bash. This brand makes beautiful, classic yet modern clothes with bold prints. The girls’ styles were age-appropriate, yet super stylish. The boys’ looks were polished, classic and fun. I loved the boots and outerwear and the vibrant colors that make these pieces stand out!

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Aidan, my friend Alicia from Mommy Delicious’ son, modeling some looks from Joules.

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Paula’s Choice

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Always on the hunt for new skincare lines that work for me, it was great meeting Paula’s Choice. While Paula’s Choice makes a variety of products designed for different skin types, I particularly loved learning about their Clear line which is designed for oily and acne-prone skin. Paula’s Choice products are intended not to be irritating, so there are no fragrances or dyes or anything that could be harmful to your skin.

 

Vamousse

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photo credit: Momtrends

Having kids in school, there’s no doubt that at one point you’ll be faced with sick kids and possibly receiving a note from the school nurse that someone in your child’s class may be infected with lice. That dreaded letter has found its way to my son’s backpack this year more times than I could count. Lucky us, products like Vamousse are designed to be effective yet non-toxic. At any given time, I always have a Vamousse treatment kit in my arsenal, knowing that lice infestations can happen at any time with 2 boys in school. I also like that they have Lice Defense Daily Shampoo as well as Lice Elimination Powder. And, yay me! I won a cool Amazon gift card from Vamousse at the event. Thanks for being a sponsor!

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Thanks to Vamousse, we were treated to a braid bar from Glam Squad. I had a great time getting my hair braided and catching up with Julie Cole, one of the founders of Mabel’s Labels! 

Chewbeads

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Known for their teething-friendly accessories, Chewbeads were onhand at the Momtrends Back to School Bash to showcase their new line of JuniorBeads. Perfect as accessories for kids, these necklaces, bracelets and pendants are made with silicone and can double as sensory tools. My younger guy has special needs and low tone, and we often have to exercise his jaw muscles with chewing on things, so these pendants would be perfect for him. Have a kid who bites their nails or needs some sort of sensory tool? JuniorBeads would be ideal for them. I love the necklaces, shark tooth pendant and that military tag!

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Mabel’s Labels

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One of my family’s must-haves year-round, Mabel’s Labels showcased several new designs, combo pack and a cool new school years memory book. I’m eyeing the limited edition zombie design for my tween who has outgrown the cutesy designs. The School Years Memory book is a perfect solution for parents who want to collect special certificates, awards and occasional artwork. I love the oversized size that can actually fit the giant posters that the kids bring home. The price is right around $30, making this affordable and an absolute necessity when organizing for the school year. 

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Nalgene

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As a lunchbox enthusiast and gadget nerd, I absolutely loved learning about Nalgene’s new Lunchbox Buddy. This durable and versatile lunchbox is made with the same material that makes Nalgene so popular. I love that these lunch boxes are simple and rugged; the box itself can be thrown in the dishwasher and the outer case can be thrown in the washing machine—perfect my messy kids! And something that I never knew: all Nalgene products have a lifetime warranty. How’s that for awesome? I truly respect brands, especially ones that accommodate kids, that can stand behind their own reliability.

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Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen

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In between school, sports, volunteering and all of the other demands of life, some days, we need an easy dinner solution. (ok, most days) Thank goodness for Earth’s Best. Earth’s Best has an extensive line of frozen foods that are geared to families. These products are void of all the bad ingredients, but packed with flavor and portability to boot. I loved tasting the different flavors, with the mini meatballs and pepperoni stuffed bites as my favorites. I will be adding Organic Fruit Cups into our lunch box rotation for when cheap fruit is no longer an option!

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Sister brand, Ella’s Kitchen has been a mainstay in our pantry since Littles started eating solids. I love the delicious flavors they offer for baby foods, and their Nibbly Fingers are the best for babes and toddlers. I loved learning about their smoothies, which I’ve been including in my preschooler’s summer school lunch box. Those things are a hit!

 

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Keen

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Keen, known for their awesome sandals, was featuring highlights from their fall lineup. I’m eyeing several boots and hightops from my guy. I adored the sparkly hightops for girls, only wishing they came in my size. I appreciate that this brand is known for their casual and rugged look and feel, which is ideal for school-aged kids.

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Wall Pops

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Wall Pops offers a great selection of wall coverings that can be used as decor or as functional tools that are helpful for staying organized or informed. Always a fan of the oversized calendars, I love that they have maps and dry erase wall pops that make our school days seamless. We like using Wall Pops as calendars and as an unobtrusive way of reminding us what to do and when! My friends and I loved hanging out in the photo booth, thanks to Wall Pops!

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A big thank you to Momtrends for having me once again at the Back to School Bash. As always, I loved checking out the awesome trends for fall, as well as hanging out with my girls!

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Full disclosure: I received a generous swag bag and won a gift card at this event. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

 

 

35 Awesome Finds From Target’s New Kids’ Decor Line Pillowfort

Later this month, Target is rolling out a stylish line for kids called Pillowfort. This new decor collection from the forward-thinking retailer embraces personality and whimsy, while touting affordability. Target is describing Pillowfort as a stylish decor line that appeals to kids and parents alike.

There’s so much awesome in Target’s Pillowfort decor collection, but here’s what we’re most excited about:

 

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While business publications are focusing on the gender neutrality of Pillowfort, I’m simply calling this bedroom collection: fun and fantastic for every taste. And how cute and catchy is the name? Pillowfort.

I made countless pillow forts with my brothers and cousins in my bright yellow mix-matched room. I love how this mix-matched style is on trend 30 years later.

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Designed entirely in-house by Target’s Design and Development Team, Pillowfort has an emphasis on statement pieces that are meant to grow with kids, with cool bedding and décor that can be mixed-and-matched as style evolves.

Target’s senior vice president of product design and development, Julie Guggemos describes Pillowfort as “cute enough for a three year old, and cool enough for a ten year old.”

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I just love that Pillowfort is suitable for babies to tweens. I’m all about furniture and decor that grows with the kids. Remember that Dream as Big as the Sea Whale Printable that I created last year? How sweet would it look in a nautical room with Pillowfort accents.

Though the collection exudes a style of its own, I think Pillowfort looks like Jonathan Adler meets Pottery Barn Kid meets your favorite kid deisgn Pinterest board.

 

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With hues of gray, mint, coral, indigo and scarlet, Pillowfort has so many pieces that I’m ready to add to my shopping cart now. The mid-century inspired pieces to animal prints to adventure designs, Pillowfort really has something for every taste. From the bulldog lamp, to the whale shelf to the sweet tent to the bear sheets, everything in Pillowfort is Pinterest-worthy and most certainly the Next Kid Things. Forget the kids, I’m getting several items from Pillowfort for myself.

The Pillowfort collection arrives in stores and on Target.com Feb. 21, with furniture arriving this summer. Prices will range from $4.99 – $59.99 for bedding and décor, and $39.99 – $599.99 for furniture.

And because I can’t get enough of this sweet collection, click on the photo of the arrows to check out the entire line:

The Next Kid Thing: Target Pillowfort

What’s your favorite piece in this collection? My 8 year old is obsessed with the teepee! My 4 year old wants the panda pillow. Me? I’ll take the bulldog lamp!

Best Family Cruises for 2016

 

Many families are in the midst of planning their calendars for the year, including vacations. Since we’re all about families on NKT, I wanted to find out more about the best family cruises. A few weeks ago, along with several fellow bloggers, my friends Audrey and Vera invited me to attend the Cruise Lines International Association media event where I had the chance to meet with various cruise lines. 

According to CLIA, 24 million passengers are expected to sail on a cruise in 2016. Despite that staggering statistic, not every cruise line is the same. As with any vacation, some cruises are geared to the luxe category, some to the more moderate passengers and others appeal to budget passengers. Some ships are oversized, others are smaller vessels that offer a more intimate experience. And as you can imagine, some cruises are suitable for families while other cruises are more appropriate for mature passengers (i.e., not kid-friendly).

There are so many cruise lines worldwide, so based on accessibility, affordability and amenities, here’s what we think are among the best family cruises for 2016.

 

1.  Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival is known for being affordable and accessible with 24 ships operating 3 to 16-day cruises to exotic locales such as The Bahamas, Caribbean, Europe, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Carnival has a brand new ship, the Carnival Vista set to debut in May this year. The Carnival Vista boasts a long list of features, but these certainly caught my eye: the first-ever IMAX theatre at sea; the SkyCourse and SkyRide for sports fans is a sports mecca and zip bike course and Carnival Waterworks, a water park with fun features, including a raft slide for two.

 

Vista

 

2.  Disney Cruise Line

Disney touts their cruises as combining the magic of Disney with ocean travel. As a family who adores Disney and the idea of cruising, admittedly, a Disney Cruise has been on our must-do list for a few years now. This year, in fact, Disney Cruise Lines will be sailing out of NYC. 

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The Disney Magic will feature sailings from New York to the Bahamas and will include a visit to Walt Disney World Resort, plus a Park Hopper ticket and round-trip transportation between the ship and the resort. All New York to Bahamas voyages also include a stop at Castaway Cay. From their theaters that feature live musicals to spas for the adults to the cool activities with Disney-centric stories, Disney Cruise Lines seems like an idyllic cruise vacation for families in mind.

 

3. Norwegian Cruise Line

Known for their Freestyle Cruising ships, NCL has a relaxed, yet chic vibe to their ships. Their newer ships feature water parks and amazing Nickelodeon themed kids’ clubs. I love the idea of their Splash Academy, which is a youth program geared to 3-12 year olds.


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They even have a cool teen program called Entourage which is ideal for 13-17 year olds. The ships feature Group Sitting which is perfect when you’re hoping for adult time while in port or in the evenings. We were aboard the Getaway for a tour and press event just two years ago when it first arrived to NYC.

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We had a great taste of this fun ship, needless to say! NCL just makes it easy for families to have fun at sea.

 

4. Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is another cruise that has been on our must-do list. With ships that feature activities such as 3-D screens, rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and surfing simulators, RCCL appeals to families who love adventure and fun activities at sea. Their Adventure Ocean Youth Program has activities for kids to 17.

 

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Their Royal Babies and Tot Nurseries offers childcare and actives for the littles cruisers. RCCL goes to 230 destination through the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, the Panama Canal, Asia, Australia and New Zealand and South America. The cruise line also has 2 private destinations: CocoCay, which is a private island in the Bahamas and Labadee, a beach locale on the coast of Haiti.

 

5. Princess Cruises

A well known cruise line and part of the Carnival Corporation, Princess Cruises has a fleet of 18 ships. People may know Princess Cruises from their starring role on The Love Boat in the 70s. In modern days, Princess Cruises focuses on innovation and high caliber entertainment and amenities aboard their ships. I recently had the chance to get a taste of some of their offerings at a media event last fall.IMG 8973 Princess Cruises and Discovery have teamed up to offer some really cool experiences. From Stargazing experiences to Animal Planet shore excursions to my favorite, Shark Week at Sea, Princess and Discovery are tapping into pop culture and educational avenues with their new partnership. 

 

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Having covered the cruise industry in my previous magazine editor life, cruises hold a special place in my heart. As a parent who appreciates adventure and practicality, I love the idea of cruising for families. I love the inclusiveness and not having to drive anywhere after you board the ship. I appreciate that on these floating cities there’s something for everyone. So, if you wanted to vacation with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, you could do so. From food to fashion to kids’ clubs to water parks, there’s truly something for everyone aboard a family cruise.

 

Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore at Liberty Science Center + giveaway

 Just before all the holiday chaos started, we were invited to explore the Dora and Diego exhibit at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ.

 

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There’s so much we love about LSC, but the educational and interactive exhibits rank pretty high up on our list.

At our most recent trip to LSC we had the chance to explore the Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore! exhibit. If there was ever an exhibit that adequately examines the curious nature of toddlers and preschoolers, Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is it.  The exhibit features Nickelodeon favorites, Dora and Diego, along with their buddies, Boots, Map, Backpack, Isa, Tico and Swiper.

This exhibit was created by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with Nickelodeon and will be at LSC until January 24th.


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Like the popular Nickelodeon shows from which this exhibit is based, Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is an exhibit that encourages adventure, curiosity and how to solve problems while engaging Spanish speaking skills for preschoolers.

Highlights from the exhibit include:

The Purple Planet – Kids can climb inside and slide down on the surface of the whimsical Purple Planet

 

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Rocket Ship – Dora and friends need a ride to the Purple Planet. At the Rocket Ship, kids can suit up, pilot the ship and play memory with planets. 

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Constellations – Kids can learn about stars and identify the patterns made out of stars by inserting star shapes to light-up a constellation

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Isa’s Flowery Garden – At the Flowery Garden, Dora’s friend Isa the Iguana helps kids learn the beauty of flowers, plants, and animals. At Isa’s Garden, kids can pick flowers, interact with bird, butterflie, and insect puppets

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 Tico’s Tree and Car – Tico the squirrel needs help picking nuts from the tree for a family picnic. Kids can play along with Swiper to swipe the nuts and watch as they shoot up and over to fill Tico’s basket. Kids can help Tico fill up his car with nuts so he can begin his journey.

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 Pirate Ship – In the Pirate Ship, kids can band together with Pirate Piggies crew and dress like a pirate and sail the ship and share the treasure treasure. 

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Animal Rescue Center – Kids get a hands-on opportunity to care and help (stuffed) rainforest animals in Diego’s Animal Rescue Center. Kids can be an animal rescuer like Diego, as well as diagnose and help treat critters with the Scanner bed, First-Aid Station and fluff their fur at the Care Station. 

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Rainforest Maze – At the rainforest, kids can locate rainforest animals and swing across the Bobo Brothers’ monkey bars, crawl through a fallen tree, climb across Jaguar Mountain, and jump or hop across the River Rocks.

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Though the exhibit is geared to the younger set, both my preschooler and grade schooler enjoyed Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore. The many interactive features, games and activities kept my kids engaged for well over an hour and a half.

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 At the Rocket Ship, both kids loved role-playing and pretending to blast off. Tico’s Tree and Car was a fun activity for both kids, especially my preschooler who was excited to pick nuts and fuel up himself. At the Rainforest Maze, my 8 year old enjoyed climbing and helping his little brother jump and swing around. The Animal Rescue Center was another favorite for my boys, where they were able to partner up and play vet together. I loved listening to my older son read the little signs and share interesting information throughout this super fun experience.

 

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Dora and Diego—Let’s Explore is a fantastic interactive exhibit that’s ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, but engaging for the entire family. LSC has been one of my family’s absolute favorite museums in NJ since my older son was an infant. There’s always something for everyone in the family to enjoy. It does get crowded on the weekends and at peak times, but it’s always a lot of fun. And as winter limits family activities, what better way to spend a cold day with family than exploring at LSC.

 

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With that in mind, in conjunction with What’s Down in Town, we’re giving away a family 4-pack of tickets to the Liberty Science Center that includes admission to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition gallery. This giveaway will end on Friday to give you a chance to enjoy LSC over the long weekend! Please enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

In order to facilitate this review, we received complimentary admission to LSC. Promotional tickets were provided for giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

Top Toys of 2015

From Toy Fair in February to recent holiday media events, I’ve been scouting toys and trends all year for The Next Kid Thing. I have several lists in the works, but before the biggest shopping day of the year kicks off, I wanted to share some of the coolest toys that I think might be the big sellers this season.

I put this list together based on the play value, my kids’ reaction, price point as well as accessibility. I’ve been checking out the toys’ popularity online and in person and have compiled, what I think, might be some of the hottest sellers this season. Some obvious picks did not make my list because the supply is more accessible or the price is out of reach for many people.

Keep an eye out for more of our picks. Until then, I present The Next Kid Thing Top Toys for 2015.

 

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1. Sit-to-Stand Ultimate Alphabet Train

 This is the latest version of Vtech’s popular Alphabet Train. The multi-phase toy is intuitive and is perfect for tots who are sitting, toddling or already on the go. I love that this toy grows with kids and offers so many different types of educational play and function. On sale, I’ve spotted this great toy in the $40 range.

 

2. Bright Beats Dance and Move Beatbo

Beatbo first caught my eye at Toy Fair because of its bright and simple aesthetic. Beatbo dances, sings and has engaging educational games, perfect for curious toddlers. Beatbo can be found at major retailers for $35.

 

3. Paw Patrol Interactive Mission Chase

 Chase has all kinds of features, making him quite the hot commodity. Chase is bigger in size and has cool details for making missions easier. Paw Patrol toys, in general, are popular, so make sure to pick up Chase before he becomes hard to find later in the season. This Chase is #1 on my little guy’s list.

 

4. Paw Patrol Patroller

This Paw Patroller vehicle holds 3 vehicles when closed and several more when opened, making it an ideal gift for Paw Patrol mega-fans. This cool vehicle has multiple functions and landed on several top toys’ lists, and will certainly be another popular toy this season. Head’s up: Target currently has a 20% off Promo on toys. Head to their site to take advantage of this deal.

 

5. Shopkins

Just like it’s been all year, expect anything Shopkins to be super popular this holiday season. Right now, playsets and blind bags are in stock, but expect anything Shopkins to be a must-have for kids who appreciate these super cute collectibles. I love this Ice Cream Truck!

 

6. Clever Keet

Little Live Pets have been a favorite for animal lovers, and Clever Keet is no exception. This clever guy can chat and respond to your voice. He dances and even rides his little cart. 

7. American Girl Grace Thomas

The 2015 Girl of the Year Grace Thomas encourages savvy kids to pursue big ideas and embrace the business world. Available for only one year, the Grace collection includes an18-inch Grace doll featuring long dark-brown hair and blue eyes, plus several French-inspired outfits, accessories, and toys that reflect her interests, such as the premium French Bakery Set with more than 60 pieces.

8. Girl Scouts Cookie Oven

The very cool Girl Scouts Cookie Oven is making quite the buzz this holiday season. With this fantastic toy, kids can bake their favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors at home while learning how to bake. 

9. Interactive R2-D2

With the upcoming release of the latest installment of Star Wars: the Force Awakens, it’s no surprise that Star Wars toys will be among the hottest toys this season. One toy that made our list of hot toys is Thinkways’ Interactive R2-D2. He projects images, turns his head while he talks, is voice-activated, among other cool features. With over 1000 programmable action combos, this smart toy will be a favorite for kids and adults alike.

10. BB-8 Sphero

BB-8 Sphero has been a hot Star Wars item since Force Friday earlier this year. This interactive droid is app-enabled and has voice-recognition, and has been dubbed the coolest Star Wars Toy by various outlets. Another toy that’s expected to be a popular multi-generational gift, this guy might be hard to find later in the season.

11. Lego Dimensions

Lego Dimensions joins the market as the latest toy to life video game. But this time, this video game has the clout of its beloved Lego franchise and characters to back up its foray onto consoles. From fun characters from the Lego Movie to classic superhero and cartoon figures, Lego Dimensions is already popular for kids and families. Since spotting it at the Kidz Vuz Back to School party, this game is #1 on my older guy’s list!
Head’s up: Lego Dimensions is featured on Target’s Cartwheel for 35% off for two more days, which makes it around $65. Combine this with an additional 5% off if you have Target RedCard. To compare: Toys R’ Us has Lego Dimensions on sale for $64.99 on Black Friday at 7am. 

12. LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum

LeapFrog’s latest LeapPad Platinum has some of the coolest features yet. It features a faster processor and crisp screen. In addition to the popular LeapFrog games and easy-to-navigate interface, the LeapPad Platinum features the unique and cutting-edge ImagiCard technology. My preschooler is obsessed with ImagiCard and I appreciate how reinforces counting, colors, alphabet, as well as tactile manipulation.

As of today, all of these toys are available in stores and online. Be sure to take advantage of pre-Black Friday sales and coupons which are proving to be cheaper than schlepping out to stores in the wee hours later this week.

Stay tuned for more gift ideas with all of my NKT Holiday Gift Guides!

 

 

Fun with Educational Insights: Crowded Waters and Hot Dots Tots

When it comes to fun new toys, we’re always game to check them out. Educational Insights sent us a few toys a few weeks ago and we’ve been having fun with them.

Hot Dots Tots

I was first introduced to Hot Dots Tots at Toy Fair a few years ago and I was immediately smitten. These interactive books come in a variety of themes and are ideal for early and beginner readers.

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We received the Animals version of Hot Dots Tots, which was suited my toddler perfectly. Elliott, The Musical Teaching Bear, makes these fun book engaging and fun to navigate. The reading tool, Elliott, is powered by 2 AAA batteries, which are inserted in the head and secured with a plate that is screwed in.

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I liked how the book asks questions and encourages problem-solving and reinforces healthy reading habits for young and eager readers.  My 3 year old loves reading conventional books, so was very intrigued when using Elliot with his Hot Dots Tots books. We can’t wait to get more books to build our library.

Crowded Waters

As Shark Week and Sharknado fanatics, we were thrilled to have a chance to play with Crowded Waters.

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This strategy game is ideal for older kids who are able to insert logic and strategy into gameplay. The board game has a board that mimics the sea with spaces to insert game pieces. Players get to choose their color and then go on to strategize their path to stay afloat in the game.

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Admittedly, this game was hard to understand at first, but once we re-read the instructions, we caught on. I like that this game makes kids think, but isn’t an intensive game where kids may lose interest. This is definitely a new mainstay for game night!

Full disclosure: I received the games to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are mine.

 

 

Going Back to School with Target

The other week, I had the pleasure of attending a back to school event hosted by Target. The event highlighted great back to school gear and cool new styles that the retailer is featuring this season.

 

As a lunchbox fanatic, I was thrilled that model, actress and mom of 3, Camila Alves was onhand to personally share lunchbox tips!

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For those of you in the throes of back to school shopping, Target had several tips to offer that I’d love to share:

School supplies
DIY notebooks, markers, stickers and washi tape to add a personal touch

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One of the biggest trends in back to school supplies is personalization. Graphics are always awesome, but kids can truly make their gear unique with vibrant stickers and washi tape.

Backpacks & lunch bags
Target has some cool new gear that’s worth checking out. The Eco-friendly Embark Backpacks, Embark Crush Resistant Lunch Bags and Circo Light up Backpacks


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While I love and am now carrying around the Embark Crush Resistant Lunch Bag as my kids’ drink container these last few days of summer, it was that light up backpack from Circo that really caught my eye!

 

 

 

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I love that it can be switched on and off, unlike those flashing sneakers that always blind me. I thought this was a cool feature that could double as a safety feature when out at night!

Lunch items
Market Pantry and Simply Balanced products to make back-to-school snacks easy peasy.

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Truth be told, one of the main reasons almost everything I own is bought at Target is because I can get all of my shopping done under one roof! And that goes for lunch box supplies. I appreciate that Target has organic and inexpensive drinks and snacks to fill the kids’ lunch boxes. Even better, Camila shared several amazing recipes to make back-to-school snacks even more delicious!

 

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Kids’ Fashion
From Stevie’s Shoes to the new stretchy denim assortment to plaid—lots of plaid, Target has all of the best trends in stock at reasonable prices.

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Styles from my teenage years are back: moto boots, mixed patterns and plaid consumed me in the early 90s, so it’s fun to see them back on racks as my kids start school. I loved that Target had talented kid dancers at the event showcasing the stretchy jeans. With two very active boys and one who would rather see my kids in clothing other than athletic gear, I appreciate jeans and styles for active kids!

 

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And leave it up to Target to make school shopping totally seamless. Target’s new tool: School List Assist. The tool, which is in beta, is a curated assortment of the most common K-8 supplies on the list making it quick and easy for guests to find what they need. With a few clicks, you can purchase the supplies you might need and pick them up in store or have them shipped to home. For those of us who are still traveling and soaking up every last minute of summer, School List Assist sounds like it’s key in the time managment assistance department!

 

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Be sure to check out your local for the latest deals for back to school gear and supplies. And don’t forget to match and stack deals with your Cartwheel App!

SwimToday and Dara Torres Promote Swimming as #FunnestSport

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of joining an informative media event at the Asphalt Green for SwimToday, hosted by our friends at MomTrends. SwimToday is a joint, industry effort created to promote and grow participation in the sport of swimming. The campaign is led by USA Swimming, Arena USA, Speedo USA and TYR Sport.

Dubbed the #FunnestSport, this campaign hopes to highlight the many benefits of swimming as a sport. SwimToday and MomTrends brought together influencers to listen to Ambassador and Olympic Gold Medalist, Dara Torres, and hear several swim moms share their kids’ experience as swimmers. 

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Before Dara shared her experience, I enjoyed learning some benefits of swimming as shared by SwimToday:

·       It’s closer than you think – 62 percent of families live within 10 minutes of a pool; 52 percent of households with combined income of $50,000 or less report they have access to a pool nearby

·       Everyone participates – Swimming is inclusive, there are no benchwarmers (nor benches)

·       Swimming is a team sport – Only 16 percent of non-swimming parents view swimming as a team sport but parents of swimmers associate the sport with teamwork more than any other sport

·       Suit up and go – Only a swimsuit, cap and goggles are necessary to get started

·       Life skills – Swimming increases self-confidence, self-esteem, time management, goal-setting and social development

·       Easy to learn – 76 percent of parents said the ease of learning to swim was high

·       Low risk of injuryNo contact makes for a safer environment

·       Swimming = total body fitness– Burn 650 calories in an hour – more than walking, biking or team sports

·       Sport for life – Once you learn to swim, you can enjoy no matter your age

·       Swimming is FUN – Parents confirm that swimming is the #FunnestSport

I appreciated the swim moms’ different perspectives about their children’s involvement as swimmers. For some, their kids love for swimming began as tots, for others, swimming opened brand new avenues and camaraderies. I enjoyed how the moms shared how swimming rounded out their kids altogether.

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Dara Torres shared how her career as a swimmer didn’t always go swimmingly. In fact, there was a time she said that she didn’t always come in first. Since her youth, however, she said she worked hard and never gave up. She was constantly reinventing herself and striving to do more as a swimmer. I loved listening to her speak as a swim mom and how her career has molded her outlook as a parent. She was so down to earth and well-spoken. I think we could’ve listened to her talk longer, had there not been any time restraints.

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Since we live at a lake, I’m proud to be a current swim mom. My older guy enjoys being active and participating in sports, and swimming is one of those sports that we’ve just recently added to our summer schedule.

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Unlike the contact sports that he prefers, swimming is a challenge because it’s still new to him and he’s constantly competing against himself in addition to participating as a team. As the other swim moms mentioned at the SwimToday event, swimming competitively allows the kids to develop special bonds with teammates. It gives kids a chance to challenge themselves and learn how to better themselves with every lap. At 7 years old, my guy isn’t the strongest swimmer, but I appreciate his willingness to try hard and to pull through for his team.

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I see us continuing to be a swimming family, especially now knowing that my younger guy loves the water. For someone who’s had so many challenges, being in the water seems to make him feel invincible. It didn’t take much for SwimToday to convince me that swimming is the #FunnestSport. We are pretty lucky to live by the water and are able to enjoy swimming almost every day in the summer!

To learn more about SwimToday and the #FunnestSport, be sure to check them out on Facebook. Head to SwimToday.org to find a swim club near you.

 
 

Join Tommee Tippee For a Twitter Party 6/18

Our friends over at Tommee Tippee are holding a Twitter Party on Thursday, June 18 1-2pm! Tommee Tippee will be chatting all about what parents are doing this summer with the kid lets. If you aren’t already following Tommee Tippee, be sure to check them out at @tommeetippee_NA and I’m at @jenrab.

I hope to join in, so if you participate, be sure to say hi. We have a busy summer planned already, I can’t wait to get the show on the road! 2 more days of school!

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Full disclosure: this is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.