If you have artsy kids like I do, you're always trying to find unique and engaging gifts for Christmas and birthdays that are right up their alley. Today's wish list is a round-up ten of my favorite gifts for creative kids, for all age ranges…and only one of them is electronic.
1. Leap Frog Leap Pad Ultra
In green or Pink. The kid’s learning and creativity pad that has plusses that don’t come with ipads like: pre-installed kids apps, storytelling and language lessons, and the protection of a closed network for the device’s internet access. $149 Best for ages 4 - 6.
2. Crayola Melt N Mold Factory
Turn old broken crayons into new multi-colored shaped crayons. Dear Santa, I totally want this. Ages 6 - 8. $49 - $65.
3. Crayon Rocks
Easy to hold to strengthen grip for small fingers. Non-toxic, all natural soy wax. $9.25. Ages 3 and up.
4. imagine i CAN Activity Kids Sets
Find sets like ShapeStack, FingerPaintFun, KnittingBeginnings, SewSwet, CheeseChase has kids make, decorate, create and play games all self-contained in cute lunchbox type container. $5-$20 Ages 3 and up
5. Kid Constructions Inc
A giant cardboard dragon, princess carriage, or bulldozer ready for your kid to color it and then wear it. Ages 4 and up. $19.99
6. Aha! Concepts UnBlocks
These unique wooden blocks have tracks on two sides, so they can not only stack, but link together for gravity-defying structures and sculptures. $18 for a small set up to $70 for large set.
7. Converse All Star Blank Canvas Sneakers Customize with fabric Paint, hot glue gun, acrylics, you name it. Available in low-top and high-top styles. $49.99 sizes 4 to 13.Kid Constructions Inc Dragon. A giant cardboard dragon ready to color it and then wear it. Ages 4 and up. $31 - $54 exclusively at Utrecht Art Supplies.
8. Fat Brain Toys SquigzThese are unique rubber building blocks with suction cups. Great on a table or in the bathtub Ages 3 and up $24.95.
9. Rainbow Loom Cra-Z-Loom Bracelet MakerThe Shimmer & Sparkle set is part of this trend that is sweeping the nation. You'll find this item at the top of every crafty kid’s list. $22.99 and up Ages 6 and up.
10. P’kolino Multi-Solution Puzzle
Lets your toddler create a wooden a solution with many different possibilities to explore pattern, shape, and color over and over again 2-sided puzzles pieces, and pieces that can swap in and out of other puzzles in the series. $19.99 Ages 2 and up.
For art project ideas, follow my Kids Art Project Pinterest Board.
This weekend, Dallas Summer Musicals presents "Lord of the Rings" on the super big screen accompanied by The Dallas Pops orchestra live, and you better believe I'll be there. My husband will be there. My kids will be there. Because who doesn't love Frodo. And Legolas. *drool*
It doesn't get much better than hobbits, elves, dwarves and a live orchestra, does it?
You can come too my nerdling friends. There are performances Friday night, the 8th, as well as Saturday and Sunday. Get tickets here. It'll be at the Music Hall in Fair Park – where all the Dallas Summer Musicals are held. They are so kind to host my family for this unique musical event.
FYI, I might have been a dwarf in this play in 7th grade.
Also, I might still be reminded of that fact by certain people on a regular basis.
However, I still think it was awesome to be in Lord of the Rings. In middle school. In the 70s. A dwarf. (Yes, it wasn't much of a stretch for me to be a dwarf in 7th grade.)
As awesome as it was, it is not as awesome as seeing Howard Shore's award-winning score performed live while the movie itself plays on a screen as big as an outdoor drive-in theater. Because here's your chance to show your kids how relevant and amazing orchestral music is. You have a kid in elementary school band?
"Hey, that could be your job in 15 years. Playing that violin for hobbits, yo."
That should inspire them to keep practicing, huh?
Also, I'm looking forward to the rest of the Dallas Summer Musicals 2013-2014 season.
Mommy's Wish List Disclosure: I am honored to be a guest of Dallas Summer Musicals at a performance of this show, so that I would be able to tell you all about it.
There is a tiny Luchador in the back seat of my car.
Sometimes though, he is not a Luchador, he is a cowboy. Or an artist. He's asleep and snoring. Or singing Eric Hutchinson songs. He's a major league baseball player. Or just a major league pain in the butt.
But while he is trapped in the back seat of my car, he is mine, all mine. A captive audience. He is not distracted by Skylander videos, footballs, or his little herd of playmates. It is the perfect opportunity for me to capture his attention, and his heart, every day.
I have never thought of drive time with my kids as wasted time. On the contrary, having their undivided attention gives me the chance to get to know them. And I take every opportunity to use that time to take what I learn from them and turn it into conversation, connection, and common ground.
Use Your Back Seat Wisely
The back seat of your car is not just a place the kids ride when you haul them from here to there. It's a place they eat, change clothes for soccer practice, learn new words, and tell you about their day. Don't ride in silence...talk, think, problem-solve, tell stories. Here are five ways I have used the back seat of my car as a classroom on wheels:
1. Tell a shared story: Start a made up story with your little one...then ask them to add to it. Then you add to what they've said, and so on, back and forth. You might be surprised how creative they get, especially when you ask them questions as you go like "Oh! And then what happened?" or "No way! What did he do next?" This exercise helps them learn sequence, dialogue, story arc, descriptive language, and quick thinking.
2. Listen to the classical music station on your radio: One of my kid's favorite things to do is listen to a song on the classical music station in Dallas, WRR, and then we describe what's happening in the song based on what it sounds like. This exercise gets them thinking abstractly, and helps them see the connection and meaning between action and thought. Prompt them while you're listening with thoughts like "Did you hear that – sounds like they're being chased! Who do you think is chasing them?" or "That sounds like a volcano erupting to me! What does it sound like to you?".
3. Ask them about their day: And don't give up after the perfunctory "Fine" is muttered. Ask specifically "What did you do in science today?" and continue asking about projects, events, or subjects that they talked about yesterday. When they know that you really want to know about, and care about, what they do all day long they are much more inclined to share. As time goes by with this exercise, it'll be them asking you how YOUR day went. Make sure to praise specific things they did well with...and not just getting a good grade. My highest praise goes to Luka for demonstrating "watching out for everyone littler than you."
4. Point out new things as you drive: We like to point out clouds that look like broccoli. Trees that look like robots. Bird poop on the window that looks like a sailboat. This visual exercise gets kids' brains thinking conceptually...connecting things that are seemingly unrelated. This connecting process is the basis for creative problem solving, so teaching them to think this way (ie THIS is like THAT) will make it easier for them to creative solve problems on homework, and in life, as they get older.
5. Learn about your community: Luka was born with a map of Dallas in his head, I swear. Just like his dad, the city planner. Luka can tell me where to turn when I get lost. Say the names of the streets as you pass them. Point out the grocery store, the library, the gas station, and every friend's house as you pass them. Tell a story of something that happened to you at each place like "Oh, I remember the time when..." or "I just saw Toby's mom at that store yesterday!" The more they think about the world around them, and not just their tiny little ego-centric bubble, the more of a community-minded citizen they'll become.
My best back seat trick
I recently shared with a friend one of the techniques I have been using for getting Luka's attention, and affection. If you've been reading this blog since 2008, then you know that he has been more than a handful. If you live in my neighborhood, I've probably cried on your shoulder more than a few times in the past seven years.
After a few years of miserable living with this child, I stopped trying to control his behavior, stopped telling him what to do or not do. I just started telling him "You're sweet. You're kind. You're smart. I love you." Every day. That's it. No "Pick up your toys." or "Do what I say" or "Stop throwing that sippy cup at my head." There were no conditions to being told that he was sweet, kind, smart, and loved.
And after awhile, he started to become just what I was telling him over and over that he was. Sweet. Kind. Smart. Lovable. Once he knew that I thought this of him no matter what he did, he started listening to me. Really listening. And then asking my opinion. And then trying to please me. It took a long time, and a lot of afternoon rides in the car where I simply told him how sweet, kind, and smart he was, while we played one of the games I mentioned above.
Now I always look forward to driving Luka here and there. It's one more opportunity to continue to build the bond I have with him. To push the little Luchador's thinking in a new direction. And to decide what the bird poop on the window looks like today, together.
How do you make the most of your time in the car?
The Chevy Traverse
This advice is brought to you by the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, with seating for up to eight and a five-star safety rating. Our crossover was #TraverseTested for everything from last minute road trips to daily carpooling, so you know it¹s the perfect ride to get you and your family back to school in style.
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Mommy's Wish List Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Chevrolet via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Chevrolet.
One of the things that makes shopping at Sam's Club so much fun is cruising around the store when they're doing a recipe and sampling demo of some sort, and stuffing your face. Not only is it a great way to entertain your kid in the shopping cart, there's lunch done. Plus, I get ideas for what to serve at home for school-night dinners (which I have no time or inclination to make by the way) and weekends (when I am on strike from motherhood).
I have more important things to do than cook, y'all. Sheesh.
And I have priorities. Which rarely, if ever, include cooking. Eating – well that's a different matter altogether. So when I find something I can make that, ahem, Luka will eat, and it only takes me 30 minutes and three brain cells or less, I'm all over it. After all, I'm trying to figure out how to make dinner AND do my super fun job that I never want to come home from at night, high school and elementary school, my husband's city meetings, soccer practice, t-ball practice, art classes, UIL Math, driving lessons, and all the general craziness here.
Who has time to think about what to make for dinner?
Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips are HUGE.
My Secret Weapon: Dip
We all know that when you serve a kid food with a dip, you've turned food into a sport. There's eating with hands. There's dunking. There's interactivity. Which all point to food being eaten. So I get pretty creative with dipping sauces being served with just about every meal.
When I found this recipe for a Zesty Chili Sauce from Sam's Club, I thought it sounded like a winner. Since practically everything we make here in Texas has chili powder in it, I was sure the sports-obsessed boys (large and small) in my house would love this with their Iowa Hawkeye Football watching and Tyson Chicken Strips (their usual favorite football dinner) all football season long. This could go into the permanent meal plan for football night, along with some of my other favorite football food.
Ready for dinner!
I got the simple ingredients: Tone's Chili Powder ($5.28 for a giant 20oz bottle) and the Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips ($11.88 for a big 3lb bag) at Sam's Club. The other ingredients I already had on hand. I do love things I can whip up using stuff I've already got, don't you?
Also, Quinn can make this. I love when teenagers can make their own food. And their brother's. And leave me out of it completely.
Chicken Dippers (with Zesty Chili Sauce) Recipe (serves 6)
Prep time: 15 minutes – although I find that when adding things to sour cream to make a dip, it's best to do it the night before and let it sit in the fridge over night. Then, the flavors soak into the sour cream better.
1 tsp Tone's Chili Powder
1 cup sour cream (I used Daisy brand)
1 bag of Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips
Optional Ingredients I added:
Celery and carrots and cherry tomatoes to dip too!
Preheat your oven to heat up and crisp the Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips. Once the oven is ready, put in however many you think will serve your large or small crowd. Remember, these chicken strips are each the size of a chicken breast! While they're cooking simply blend 1 tsp Tone's Chili Powder with a cup of sour cream. Put it in the refrigerator to chill while your Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips cook.
I served the dip to each person individually, sprinkling shredded cheddar on top. And for the non-vegetable averse people (not Luka) I added some carrots, celery sticks, and tomatoes on the side, because this Zesty Chili Dipping Sauce is great with crunchy veggies too.
Now those males can all watch their Hawkeyes football in Chicken-Strip-Bliss while I go to an art gallery opening. It's an easy meal for a busy parent!
In-Store Cooking and Tasting Demos
Coming up this month and next, they'll be several opportunities to taste this recipe and others. They're sharing lots of quick and easy recipes to make your life easier on school nights, weekends, or whenever you don't feeling like spending your whole evening fulfilling your societal role as meal provider for the shorties in your house. (And that's me every day)
Demo Schedule at Sam's Club:
September 17: Italian Style Fish & Pasta
September 19: Smoked Sausage Pasta OR Quick ‘N’ Easy Chicken Parmesan
September 24: Chicken dippers
If you don't have a Sam's Club membership, you can always print a one-day pass here, so you can check out one of these fun and tasty in-store demos at Sam's Club yourself. I wouldn't want you to miss out. And, by the way, go on a Saturday because the samples are aplenty all over the store.
Keep up with Sam's Club on twitter here.
Like Sam's Club on Facebook here.
Mommy's Wish List Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ #CBias #SocialFabric All opinions are my own.
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