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8 Fun (and Cheap!) Halloween Candy Alternatives for Trick-or-Treaters

LED Finger Lights

Every year at about this time I start keeping my eye out for alternatives to give our neighborhood trick-or-treaters instead of candy. I’m not opposed to candy, but since most kids are going to end up with more than enough, I figure I could just as well spend that money on something unique. In the past that’s meant items like mini play doh (Costco), party bubbles (Target), and last year’s pack of miniature crayons (Michaels). This year I just placed an order on Amazon for LED Finger Lights. I’ve purchased them before on a flash deal. They’re pretty fun. Besides using them for these Valentine cards earlier this year, we’ve taken them camping and on trips, but even recently I’ve seen the kids playing with them around the house. This time I paid $11.99 (free shipping with Prime) for 80, making them less than 15¢ a piece. This is fairly comparative for what I would pay for certain snack-size candy bars anyway.

While I was looking around I spotted other possibilities for fun and/or useful alternatives. Here are some of my favorites (all free shipping with Prime), but be sure to check out your local dollar, party, and toy stores if you don’t want to buy online (or see my previous Cheap Halloween Alternatives post for more ideas).

foam toy glider kit

Foam Glider Assortment 12¢ each (Pack of 72) for $8.65. I almost decided to do these, they look so neat. Maybe next year!

neon zoo erasers bulk

Neon Zoo Animal Pencil Top Erasers 4¢ each (144 pc) for $6.17.

glowing bouncing balls

Glow-In-The-Dark Bouncing Balls 9¢ each (144 pc) for $13.45.

friendship bracelets bulk

Nylon Friendship Rope Bracelets 7¢ each (72) for $5.25

mini insect erasers

Mini Insect Erasers 4¢ each (144pc) for $5.52

rhinestone party rings
Colorful Rhinestone Rings
8¢ each (72pc) for $5.85

vinyl paratroopers
Vinyl Paratroopers Assortment
12¢ each (72pc) for $8.99

 


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Chloe & Leo’s Vintage Play Kitchen

kids vintage play kitchen

I’ve mentioned the kids’ play kitchen many times here on the blog. Because of that I thought I’d post some photos of  this special “toy” that’s provided countless hours of play and learning, and also as a record for my kids to look back on someday.

play kitchen, melissa and doug sweet treat towerPlenty of room for storage, which makes clean up easy (though never organized like this).
play kitchen, sink detailThe “sink” is cleverly made with a tupperware style plastic container

First of all, the play kitchen was a gift from David’s parents. I believe they had seen it at a colleague’s home and offered to buy it. Eventually it became theirs, and then later they drove it all the way out here (to Portland) from Colorado on the back of their pick-up. I don’t know much else about it, but even before it became ours, it looked very well-loved, yet still sturdy. It has a handmade quality to it, but may have been put together from a kit, for all I know. The previous owners passed down several pieces of play food and dinnerware. More pieces were added later, mostly as gifts (like that Melissa & Doug Sweet Treat Tower puzzle that the kids got for Easter, in lieu of candy). Once, after cleaning it all up for the umpteenth time, I decided to put half of it away, mostly the mis-matched odds and ends. They still played with it just as much.

play kitchen, side view Side view. It sits between the kitchen and the dining area.
play kitchen, stove and oven detailThe oven handle says “Hamilton MFG Co” and the stove dials are record player knobs.
play kitchen, nursery rhyme detail, there was an old woman who lived in a shoe...There are decals all over depicting scenes from nursery rhymes. This one is “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…”

To be completely honest, I remember David and I hesitating when we first saw it. It isn’t really how we see our “style,” and takes up a chunk of space. However, I admit that its play value has completely exceeded our expectations. I am so grateful now to my in-laws foresight. I have grown to love it as much as the kids, and now see it as charming and important part of their history, to be cherished and remembered.


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A Healthy Abundance vs. Too Many Toys

Fisher Price Little People Toy Cars on a shelf

Abundance requires simplicity — because in order to have abundance in one area, you must reduce something else. You can either use your toy budget to buy a roomful of random toys or you can decide to focus on investing in only two or three open-ended toys: say, wooden blocks, a wooden dollhouse, LEGO.
— from Camp Creek Blog, Project Based Homeschooling

Yesterday, I read a post called Parenting with abundance and simplicity. The timing could not have been better. I had just spent hours organizing and sorting the kids toys that morning – a task always fraught with indecision, nostalgia and little hands trying to undo the progress I’m trying to make. I only have enough energy and motivation to do this every once in a while, so when I decide to do it, I make it count. Some things are perfectly clear, like how all the stuffed animals have a designated bin Chloe’s room, all the small junk toys (party favors, happy meal, or dollar store stuff) goes in a “travel” bin (since I don’t care if they get lost) and all play tools and most vehicles go in Leo’s room. This is not to say, for example, that Chloe doesn’t play with the trucks, it’s just that she almost never does, but she’s free to play with them whenever she wants.

One of the toys that has gotten the most cooperative play in our house from both kids is the play kitchen. You may have seen it in the background of other photographs because it is near the dining table and family room. The concept written in the Parenting with abundance and simplicity post clearly reflects what I’ve seen in the kids’ creative play: That because we have an “abundance” of play dishes and pots and foodstuffs, there is almost never a reason to fight over anything. They are content to play together. The kids have tea parties, pretend to make dinner, feed each other… it is a pleasure to watch. They get really involved and I can almost see their little brains at work while they concentrate on their self-directed tasks. It’s usually quite peaceful… until Leo decides it is more fun to throw plastic fruit across the room (or at each other). Or it’s time to clean up. Even then it’s fairly easy because its fine with me as long as everything generally makes it back into the cabinets.

The Abundance concept makes me realize something else… Chloe and Leo often fight over the blocks. We have four different types (duplo, classic wooden, mega blocs and a generic brand – not including Legos). I always thought it was cool that we had a variety, and rotate bringing them each down for play. But what if we had double of just one or two sets? Would the kids play longer and possibly collaboratively? Would Chloe complain because she is out of a certain color before she is finished implementing her idea? Would she stop trying to steal them away from her brother causing him to then knock down her structure in frustration? Also, now that I am thinking about it, Chloe usually says she’s ‘finished’ once she’s used up all the blocks. So what if there were a lot more blocks to use? Would she then spend twice as long and be twice as involved in her project as she currently is? For example, the photos in the previous post were taken when she was ‘all done’ – both times because she didn’t have anymore blocks left. Do you see my light bulb moment here?

This leads me to the other things they most often fight about. The biggest one, naturally, is the iPad. I’ve taken to putting Chloe’s Netflix shows on the regular TV (using the appleTV) and letting Leo have uninterrupted time with the iPad. Otherwise, it’s a pushing/pulling match with Chloe yelling and Leo pulling her hair. Another thing the kids have been fighting over lately is Leo’s new cozy coupe that his Aunt Katherine sent for his birthday. But there is no way we are fitting another one of those in the house, despite how much play it gets!

Anyway, this whole abundance thing really makes sense to me. Yes, kids should learn to share, but yes, providing an abundance of well-chosen open-ended toys also allows for meaningful benefits I hadn’t considered before. This is a parenting concept that sort of rocks my world.

 


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Family Portrait by Chloe, age 4

This is a drawing that Chloe made yesterday. I totally, totally love it. For the longest time she was mostly a scribbler. We never guided her drawing, but sometimes she would as us to draw something for her. Now suddenly she is starting to make all kinds of recognizable drawings. They are really fun to see, and sometimes come with imaginative scenarios or stories that blow me away.

The other photo shows her explaining the people in the picture: Daddy is in the middle. He is carrying her and Leo, one on each arm. He’s strong! Mama is in the back next to me, and Barkley (our dog) is the puffball in the corner under Leo.

The toy is a Fisher Price Kid Tough Travel Doodle Pro with Light. It’s been a great! I bought it for Leo to play with during our holiday flights to Colorado and Cancun, and also because he was always fighting over Chloe’s Toulouse-LapTrec from B. Toys (both definitely on my list of best toy purchases ever). The Travel Doodle has a little stowaway light the kids like to switch off and on, and turns off by itself (genius! why doesn’t anyone make a kids flashlight that does this?). For Chloe I pack her travel Aquadoodle which is much thinner and lighter, but mostly now she just draws on her ipad. We also have the large floor Aquadoodle that both kids can play with at the same time. All have been a big hit, and worth every penny.

PS. I just found out when getting the link to the Toulouse-LapTrec that all versions before 2011 have been recalled, which includes Chloe’s. Looks like they might send a new one. Hers is the chocolate brown version, but now it looks like they only come in olive green and red.

 


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Dress-Up Storage Organization

Screen Shot 2012-05-14 at 9.50.17 AM

Following up on the previous post, I realized I never shared the awesome dress up storage rack that Grandma Sandy built for Chloe (although I did mention it on Facebook – I need to figure out how to link to those status updates here, instead of my long unused twitter feed). Anyway, it is fabulous, and a really nice way to store and organize all the costumes, play clothes and accessories that Chloe has been given. It is just the right size, and a fraction of the cost of buying one pre-manufactured. I have some beautiful metal dragonfly hooks that I’ll attach to each side, and eventually get some vinyl lettering to personalize the front. I would say Chloe uses it almost every day. Here is the link to the easy-to-use plans we found on ana-white.com. We chose to do the shelf-on-top option, which I highly recommend.

Screen Shot 2012-05-14 at 9.45.57 AM


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Crafty Felt Fun

My friend Greta is literally about to pop with baby-girl number two, yet somehow she has found the time and energy to post about some amazing felt toys and accessories that she’s made for her two-and-a half year old daughter, Ava. I can’t help but find these objects beautiful, functional, and oh-so-inspiring! Click on the links for more details and photos on her blog.

Hair clip ribbon with leaf pocket for ponytail holders

Felt Roll-Up Play Mat

Felt Tea-time Goodies and other Play Foods


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Baby's First Toy

After Chloe’s first play date with Ava and Lorenzo, I thought it might be time to get her an infant-specific toy. I started looking at options online and really liked…

The wooden Anelina Rattle Teething Ring and the Tulpino Rattle, both by the German toy maker Selecta. I loved their simple design and materials. Unfortunately, neither of these seem to be available locally, so…

Instead, Daddy brought home a Rombino Rattle Ring (0+months). I was delighted to see her grasp the toy after I placed it in her hand, and then and bring it up to her mouth all by herself! Two other toys that Daddy couldn’t resist was a Chick-ita (not shown) and a Ballino. The Chick-ita sounds like a mini maraca and the Ballino is made of beech wood, with ecological, water-based, non-toxic lacquer. It is one of those really great structural toys that looks good just sitting on a desk – fun for adults too. 🙂

“Babies learn soon to comprehend the world around them: holding, observing, putting everything in their mouths – A baby explores their surroundings with all their senses…”


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Yard Sale Score

Our very first yard sale finds for the future nursery – a set of Pottery Barn Kids Wooden Alphabet Blocks (with a letter, a corresponding word, or image on each side) and 2 Pottery Barn white wood frames, all at a fraction of retail price. Normally, we wouldn’t even consider more Pottery Barn stuff, considering our history there, but these were an exception. There was lots of other baby/kids stuff, but not much that really suited our taste or aesthetic. But, you never know. We’ve been advised many times that yard sales (and craigslist) are the way to go for cheap and still-useful baby goods.

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