Best in Show: Finds from the New York Baby Show

The other week, Josh and I spent the afternoon at the New York Baby Show at Pier 94 scouring the booths for the latest and greatest in baby gear. From well trusted names in car seats to gadgets helping to create smart nurseries, there were so many new products featured at the New York Baby Show.

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We searched high and low, snapped tons of pics, peeked into many booths and found a really great selection of gear from baby brands that we love, as well as products from new and upcoming companies!

Here are just a few of the many great products we spotted at this year’s New York Baby Show:

Pello

With is gorgeous textiles and poufy circular shape, Pello is described as a luxury newborn lounger. This new take on a pillow can be used for feeding or for a convenient way to help baby sit somewhat upright during his/her waking hours. When baby outgrows the newborn phase, this pillow looks ideal for helping to support during the sitting up and standing phases.IMG 2941 JPG 

Pello has a great selection of colors and fabrics. It can be found on Amazon and retails for $120.

Sage Spoonfuls

A longtime fan of Sage Spoonfuls, I love watching this baby feeding brand flourish. I’m so excited about the Happy Foodie stainless steel divided plate and lid. Plastic plates and feeding ware are among the first items to go in my house because they are the most used and abused. Our stainless steel lunchboxes have lasted 5+ years. 

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So, I can only imagine how well the Sage Spoonfuls Happy Foodie product line will do. Safe, non-toxic, BPA, lead and phthalate-free and easy to clean!

Britax Frontier

Since we first shopped for carseats 10 years ago, Britax has been one of my all time favorite baby brands. This is, yet, another brand that I’ve loved watching flourish and working with over the years. I was so excited to see the various new strollers and carseats on display, but what truly caught my eye was the Frontier booster.

 

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We are solidly in the booster phase with my preschooler, so boosters have been on the brain. This new fabric is chic and unique; combining safety with style is something that Britax does so well. And speaking of safety, the Britax Frontier’s Click Tight Technology makes car seat installation as easy as buckling a seatbelt. This technology is designed to be seamless, especially for families who travel frequently or need to switch seats regularly. Click Tight is a game changer!

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Volvo

And speaking of traveling, I loved that my dream car brand was at the New York Baby Show. I’ve been eyeing Volvo’s SUVs for quite some time. Sadly, the price tag hasn’t been in the budget.

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We decided that this specific Volvo was too small for our needs, what with our year-round sports, lake gear and coaching equipment.  Nevertheless, it’s fun getting a peek at my dream car at the Baby Show. Josh loved sitting in the driver’s seat and checking out the trunk. 

 

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With thanks to Momtrends, we enjoyed meeting up with fellow bloggers in the Blogger Lounge, as well as livestreamed our favorite finds from the show. My little guy loved having the chance to play! 

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Above all, we loved checking out all the awesome goodies and gear at the New York Baby Show. Stay tuned for more fun finds!

 

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Lunch Box Essentials: Best Snacks for Kids at Aldi

Since I just got back from grocery shopping at Aldi, I have snacks for kids and lunch box essentials on the brain. As we round the bases to the end of the year, lunchbox duties, at least in our house, start to get a bit routine. Always looking to jazz up the lunch box and snacks, I thought I’d round up some of our favorite snacks from our favorite grocery store.

BestSnacksforKidsfromAldi

If you’re not familiar with Aldi, they’re a thriving grocer that’s has been a long standing favorite in Europe. We love Aldi for their small footprint—typically 5 aisles—making grocery shopping a quick in-and-out errand. They’ve committed to refreshing their overall look and selection:

which includes an expanded selection of fresh and organic produce, rolling out Healthier Checklanes that offer smarter options at checkout, and continuing to grow its product lines to offer better-for-you options for families to enjoy, including more gluten-free options and a range of products free of additives, antibiotics and added hormones. 

Here are just a few of the many snacks from Aldi that are currently on our lunch box and after school snack rotation:

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White Cheddar Puffs

Aldi’s White Cheddar Puffs are a great cheesy snack that isn’t too filling. The fun flavor of the Simply Nature White Cheddar Puffs won the Product of the Year Awards, solidifying them as a favorite pick for lunch boxes. If you’re familiar with that ubiquitous “pirate snack,” then you’re familiar with this style of puff. No dyes or other artificial ingredients, you seriously can’t go wrong with Simply Nature’s White Cheddar Puffs.

 

Fresh Fruit

I love the inexpensive fresh fruit options at Aldi. From the $2 bananas to the $2 blueberries to the $3 organic apples, there’s always a colorful selection of fresh fruit that are perfect for snacks. Fresh fruit are the original snacks on the go, so you can’t go wrong when grabbing a bag of ripe tangerines!

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Mini Bear Grahams

Some of our absolute favorite items from Aldi are the great selection of pre-packaged snacks for lunch boxes. The Mini Bear Graham Snack Packs in honey are a great size for 2 kids’ lunch boxes for the week, with a few to spare for me to pop in my bag for when we’re on the go. The flavor is sweet, but not too sugary sweet. These mini crackers are perfectly sized for littles and bigs’ lunch boxes! 

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Happy Farms Cheese Snacks

We’re huge cheese eaters in our house, so I love knowing that our cheese from Aldi is free of unnecessary additives and hormones. The prepackaged cheese snacks are super easy to pop into lunch boxes for a quick bite. I love that there are several flavors beyond the usual mozzarella string cheese. 

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Vegetable Chips

Vegetable Chips is another staple in my weekly grocery trip. This blend of chips includes sweet potato, taro, batata and parsnips. A healthier alternative to regular potato chips, vegetable chips satisfy the crunchy salty cravings. As part of the Simply Nature brand, the vegetable chips are free from artificial ingredients and preservatives.

There are so many other awesome snacks and treats that are suitable for kids, so these are just a few from our favorites list. If you shop at Aldi, what are your favorites? 


Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. We love sharing the things we love. Thanks for supporting NKT!

Yowie Chocolate and Toy Surprises

If your kids spend any time on YouTube, then you must know that surprise eggs are quite the phenomenon. Actually, anything with a reveal effect is pretty significant for the kiddie YouTube viewers. 

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Yowie, which makes chocolate toy surprises, has a different take on this fun treat. Yowie are like egg-like chocolate surprises, but instead, they’re monster-shaped chocolates with toys instead. The difference with these toys is that they’re educational toys that teach kids about interesting animals, and in some cases how to help species who may be endangered. To boot, the chocolate is delicious!

Yowie will be at the Think and Fun’s Easter Egg Hunt & Bunny Fun on April 15. YOWIE aims to “Save The Natural World” by promoting wildlife conservation and educating children about ecology and endangered species. More info herehttp://www.yowiegroup.com
If you’re looking for a fun treat to include in your Easter baskets, be on the look out for Yowie treats!
 
Yowie was kind of enough to send us a pack of surprises and my guys had a fun time devouring them! All in a day’s work.

Full disclosure: Samples were provided to facilitate this review. No compensation was received. As always, all opinions are my own.

Best Toys for 1 Year Olds + Diapers.com Giveaway

Even on the heels of Toy Fair, we always have toys on our minds. With a friend’s baby turning 1 soon, I was inspired to create a round up of the best toys for 1 year olds. I scoured Diapers.com to curate some of our tried and true favorite toys for 1 year olds.

From ride-ons to classic toys to techy toys, I gathered our favorites based on play value, durability, accessibility and whether my kids or kids we know loved them!

From ride-ons to classic toys to techy toys, I gathered our favorites based on play value, durability, accessibility and whether my kids or kids we know loved them!

1. Manhattan Toy Snuggle Bunny Baby Doll

ManhattanToySnuggleBunnyNKTTransitioning from baby to toddler, one year olds start to change their play patterns. According to KidsHealth.org, babies go from shaking and throwing toys to understanding functions of objects as a toddler. At one year old, kids start to play pretend, so toys that allow for nurturing and modeling behavior is always a hit. Manhattan Toy makes a myriad of interactive and beautiful toys such as the Snuggle Bunny Baby Doll ($17.) This soft and cuddly doll makes for a perfect first baby doll.

2. Plan Toys Sort and Count

PlanToysSortandCountStacking and nesting toys help toddlers develop hand-eye coordination, as well as cognitive development, according to an article on Cnn.com Simple, open ended stacking toys such as PlanToys’ Sort and Count allows kids to sort and stack the various pieces. This abacus-looking toy is made of Plan Toys’ planwood, organic rubberwood, e-zero glue, water-based dyes, recycled and recyclable materials, soy and water-based ink.

3. VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker

VTechSittoStandWalkerMany toddlers are learning to walk and toddling around at a year old, so walkers make a fun gift. This VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker offers a lot of play value with its many learning tools and interactive electronic features. VTech is so great at the electronic learning toys, but they’re also masters at creating toys that grow with kids. This walker can be used for kids in a more stationary pattern, as well as for those who are cruising and walking.

4. Melissa and Doug Large Shapes Knob Puzzle

MelissaandDougKnobPuzzleAccording to Learning4kids, puzzles help toddlers with important skills such as cognitive, fine motor, hand and eye coordination, problem solving, social and self esteem. Wooden puzzles from Melissa and Doug provide fun play patterns for toddlers to co-play and enjoy independence. I love the knob puzzles for toddlers, to give them extra help grasping these chunky pieces. Classic puzzles are timeless and perfect for curious problem solvers.

5. B Toys Fish Splish Boat

BtoysSplishFishBoatGood bath toys are the best for toddlers! I love the colors and creativity that B Toys inspires. This fun boat that can be used in the bath has a number of fun features that help toddlers explore bathtime and the environment around them. From the fishing pole, fish, captain and little rudder, this cool boat helpstoddlers with imaginative play while getting cleaned up.

6. Step 2 Whisper Ride II

Step2WhisperRideIIAs the winter starts to fade to warmer spring and summery days, ride-on toys will be all the craze. Step 2 are pros at the ride-on and outdoor toys, and the Whisper Ride II is one of my all time favorites. This push car is perfect for going on strolls in the neighborhood without the restraints of a stroller. Toddlers can pretend to steer while driving their ride, all the while mom or dad navigates with the handle. The Whisper Ride features a seatbelt, small storage compartment and cup holders.

 

 

 

There are so many awesome toys for 1 year olds on Diapers.com, and these are just a small sampling of their selection. Do you have a favorite toddler toy? What makes you and your kid love it so much?

Giveaway

Want to grab a few new toys of your own? We have a $50 gift certificate to Diapers.com up for grabs. Tell me what your favorite toddler toy is and why! Share your comment below.

For even more entries, check out the giveaway below to win a  Diapers.com gift certificate. This giveaway will be open for a week, so be sure to enter!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Full disclosure: this is a sponsored post in partnership with Nakturnal, with a gift certificate as a prize. As always, all opinions on NKT are mine. Thank you for supporting The Next Kid Thing.

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!