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Parenting Resources

Bargain Places for Good Kids Clothes That Last

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There are a lot of options for inexpensive kids clothes these days, but not all of it lasts very long.  Many brands don’t hold up for the length of the time where my kid will wear it, let alone being in good enough condition for hand-me-downs for friends.  But at the same time, it’s hard to justify spending a lot of money at pricier clothing stores.

I’m always on the lookout for brands that offer both high quality and high value.  Here are some places to buy children’s clothes that will last without breaking the bank.

Sears

When I need to replenish my son’s wardrobe, often the first place I hit up is Sears.  They have good sales, excellent discounts if you join their rewards program, and a variety of brands.  They sell the ubiquitous Carters brand which is definitely budget-friendly.  Sears also sells their signature Toughskins brand.  Toughskins has been around for a long time and specifically promotes their durability.  The prices are good to begin with, but the deals are amazing when there’s a sale.

For slightly more expensive options, Sears carries Land’s End. While not as inexpensive as the other brands they carry, Land’s End has a great return policy, so if your childrens’ outfits start to wear and tear before they should you can return them easily, making them a solid option.

Old Navy

We do a bit of shopping at Old Navy, especially for pants. We love the fleece pants for the winter.  Old Navy has some fantastic sales and most recently we stocked up on those fleece pants for only $3.99 a piece. Their clearance section is usually filled with lots of goodies if you have the patience to sift through it. I’ve found shirts for less than a dollar.

Crazy 8

I always thought Gymboree had adorable clothes, but it was always a bit more than I was willing to spend for children’s clothes.  When I stumbled upon Gymboree’s sister store, Crazy 8, I was thrilled.  Crazy 8 is to Gymboree as Old Navy is to the Gap. The quality is a little below Gymboree, but it seems better than Carter’s.

There aren’t a ton of Crazy 8 locations right now, but they they seem to be popping up a little more.  Otherwise, their website has flat rate $5 for orders under $75 and free standard shipping on orders of $75 or more.  Crazy 8 has lots of good sales and coupons, so you can find even better deals.

The Children’s Place

The Children’s Place has nice jeans at a nice price! They’re adjustable, so if you have a slender kid you don’t have to worry about them sliding off. The regular prices for their jeans usually run at about $20, but they’re almost always on sale.

The Children’s Place is also great for underwear and pajamas. Their underwear prices are better than what I’ve seen elsewhere, even better than Walmart, and they hold up well – even through multiple accidents.

Costco

I’m a huge Costco fan and I use our membership there regularly. While they don’t have a huge selection of clothes in general, what I’ve found there is usually a great deal. I’ve gotten 3-piece outfits there for only about $12. You can find name brand attire, like Adidas track suits. In the fall, they have high quality outerwear, ranging from heavy winter coats to sturdy snow bibs. My whole family loves the socks they sell at Costco!   

I love shopping for children’s clothes for my son, friends, and extended family, but I definitely don’t like the price tags I see at some stores. Luckily, by shopping at the stores I listed above, I’ve been able to find plenty of long-lasting kidswear without it impacting our finances too much.

Categories
Parenting Resources

10 Learning Toys for a 5 Year Old

Sometime before the holidays, I was talking to a friend about the type of presents we were giving our children, friends, and family.  We were both talking about how we were trying to cut down on the flimsy, plastic trinket-type toys that kids play with for 2 minutes and then they end up either broken or forgotten about.  This year my holiday shopping focused on toys that were both educational and fun for my 5 year old and his similarly-aged cousins and friends.

Here are some of the coolest learning toys I came across during my holiday shopping last year.  Lots of these toys are almost as much fun for adults – and I’ve learned a bit from them, too!

  1. GeoSafari Junior Talking Microscope.This fun, talking microscope gives children the opportunity to get up close and personal with specimens and insects.  Your kids can even quiz themselves on what they’ve learned.  It’s the perfect learning toy for a kid who is interested in science.

  2. Magic School Bus Science Kits.  Did anyone else grow up reading the Magic School Bus books?  I loved them and it’s fun to see that the Magic School Bus has science kits now.  These are super fun for the budding scientist.  They have a variety of kits ranging from the human body to weather.

  3. Edu Science Young Explorer Illuminated Globe.  Globes are a wonderful tool for kids who want to learn about the world around them.  There are a lot of snazzy globes out there for kids nowadays, but I love just a simple globe like this one.  It does have a fun perk, though:  it lights up and you can see constellations.

  4. Erector Set.  This classic toy has entertained young engineers for generations.  The Construction System line is made specifically for little hands – it’s perfect for a 5 year old.  Kids can learn basic engineering and building principles and as a bonus, afterwards they can play with their masterpieces.

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  1. Legos. I love Legos for kids because, like an Erector set, they can teach kids basic engineering, building, and direction-following skills.  They can also be a totally creative toy, where kids can design their own buildings and vehicles.  Legos truly never get boring.

  2. Scientific Explorer’s Ice Cream Science Kit.  Learning toys are fun, but what could make a science kit even more fun?  Ice cream!  This science kit teaches kids about the science of ice crystals while they make a delicious dessert.

  3. Fire HD Kids Edition.  There are tons of tablets for kids on the market right now, but I like the Fire HD Kids Edition quite a bit.  I don’t want a tablet that my kid will outgrow next year.  The Fire HD Kids Edition has different interfaces, one for little kids, one for older kids, and one for adults.  It also comes with a very durable case and a 2 year no-questions-asked warranty.  You have access to the Amazon App store, which has lots of educational apps.

  4. LeapFrog Printing Dry Erase Activity Book.  These letter-tracing activity books are great for kids who are just at the beginning stages of learning to write or kids who need to work on making their letters straight and legible.  No more wasting paper, just wipe clean and start over again.

  1. See-Through Compost Container.  This is educational for both kids and adults.  You can put anything in this container and watch it break down!  There are three separate compartments that allow you to view the entire decomposition process clearly.  Learn what will biodegrade outside and what kinds of items won’t decompose.  It’s also a lesson on the environment and why littering is bad and recycling is important.

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  1. Record & Learn KidiStudio.  If you have a kid who has a passion to play music, this learning piano toy is a wonderful pick.  Children can learn to play their favorite tunes by following the lights on the light-up keyboard.  They can also get in touch with their creative side and record their own creations.  It’s great fun and a nice way to get a young kid interested in playing the keyboard.

There are so many excellent learning toys for 5 year olds available right now.  From science-related toys to helping kids learn to write, these toys make learning fun.  In fact, I’m pretty sure my husband is a bigger fan of the Legos and Erector Set than my 5 year old.

Categories
After-School Activities Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Fun and Active New Years Resolutions for the Family

Happy New Year! Top ways for your family to make the most of the coming year and stay active.

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My 5 year old son, Isaac, is the type of kid who can get stuck in his ways. Sometimes he is a little anxious about trying new things, so this year, we are resolving to be more adventurous. From trying new food to having new experiences, I’m looking forward to helping Isaac branch out this year while continuing to enjoy what we’ve learned to love over the past few years. New Years resolutions for the family are an excellent way to teach children about setting goals, personal growth and trying new things.

Here are our New Year’s resolutions:

Enjoy The Snow

I’m a big proponent of making lemons out of lemonade, which is why I don’t mind a Boston winter. Snow can be a blast and this year we’re going to try snow tubing, snowshoeing, and I’m looking into places where we can go on a sleigh ride. And, if finances allow it, my husband is dying to have Isaac take his first ever snowboarding lesson. I don’t know how to snowboard and my one and only attempt at skiing was a disaster (imagine me falling down the bunny slope each and every time; the next day I was so sore!) so I’ll be sipping hot chocolate in the ski lodge while providing them with moral support.

Get Sporty

Lots of places offer sports variety classes for preschool and younger elementary school aged kids. The nice thing about variety classes is that the format is a different sport each week. This is a perfect way to try new things because every week is an opportunity to try something new.

Another way to try out some new sports classes is to sign up for trial classes. If your child has an interest in a specific sport, give in a whirl and see how they enjoy the class. If he or she enjoys the trial class, sign up for a session.

Be More Artistic

I’ve always loved arts and crafts. Isaac does, too, and it’s really fun now that he’s older because we can embark on more robust projects together. I don’t have a lot of space in our house, so the kinds of projects we do at home can be fairly limited. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to get in touch with your creative side outside the home. This year, I’m resolving to do a lot more NEW art projects with Isaac.

Art classes can be really fun to get creative under the instruction of a professional, but it’s also great to find drop-in programs and facilities. Pottery and plaster painting places are abundant these days or there are also art studios geared towards kids. What’s nice about drop-in art studios is that it can be adapted for different ages if you have multiple kids. A 2- year-old could go wild with finger paint or clay or a tween could do an intricate project. The possibilities are practically endless!

On a budget?  Keep your eyes peeled for free art projects at places like libraries, Lakeshore Learning stores (if you have any nearby), and local events that might have craft activities for kids.

Spend More Time Outdoors

I am resolving to do monthly hikes/nature walks with Isaac. If the weather’s cold, we’ll bundle up in our winter jackets, mittens, and scarves. (See more tips on happy hiking with kids). If it’s the sticky dog days of summer, we’ll walk by the beach and bring plenty of hydration.

We might look for some more outdoors classes as well. I’ve seen nature classes available or classes at local farms where they can help with the animals or crop harvesting.

Stick With Swimming

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Isaac started swimming a few months ago and for this year, we’re resolving to continue with it. A big regret I have from my own childhood is that I never stuck with anything and I hope to encourage Isaac to continue to swim. I don’t expect him to become a competitive swimmer (unless he wants to be) but I do expect him to be able to stay afloat safely and confidently.

Stay Fit and Active

Staying fit and active is a resolution my whole family agrees on. My husband is a distance runner and lots of the races he does have kids fun runs. Even if you’re not a runner, most of the time kids fun runs are open to everyone and not just the kids of runners. Kids fun runs are really great because they encourage fitness in a really positive setting. At these events, all of the participants will  usually receive a finisher’s ribbon and sometimes there are other games, snacks, and prizes.

This was so important to us that my husband and Isaac started right away with a New Year’s Day 5K and fun run. I’m not a runner — I’ll stick to the elliptical — but of course I was there to cheer them on.

I hope everyone has a wonderful year filled with fun and enriching experiences!

Categories
After-School Activities Super Activities for Super Kids Uncategorized

Finding the Perfect Activities for a 5-Year-Old

Is your little one restless? One mom shares her tips for finding affordable, practical activities for a 5-year-old.

by Kristine Munroe

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Find Classes, Workshops & Camps for 5-Year-Olds Near You >>

5-Year-Olds Have Opinions

I’m not a homebody. As soon as I could find activities for my son, Isaac, I signed us up. It started off as new mom/new baby groups before Isaac could even sit up. Then we graduated to mommy and me playgroups. And after he grew more active, we both loved Gymboree. Living in New England, I particularly grew desperate for classes where he could get some exercise during the winter months. So, I would just pick whatever suited our schedule and sounded fun to me. Easy enough!

But sometime after Isaac turned 2, he started getting opinionated. I signed him up for Soccer Tots through our local community education department. At the time, I thought the idea of 2-year-olds playing soccer sounded adorable. And, yes, it was adorable, but getting my stubborn little Isaac to participate was a challenge week after week. His favorite part was the snack break midway through the class. It wound up being really exhausting just trying to convince him to kick the ball into the goal.

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After that, I realized that as Isaac left the baby/toddler stage, he was starting to develop his own interests. It was time to find activities that my soon-to-be 5-year-old would be enthusiastic about. I couldn’t necessarily just pick whatever I thought sounded cool anymore. Activities are supposed to be enriching, but above all, they should be fun — especially at the preschool age. The last thing I wanted was to drag him to weekly classes that he didn’t like. It would just be a waste of time, money, and the stress would suck the fun right out for both of us.

Trial Classes

Soon I discovered that many activities will allow you to do a trial class to see what it’s like. That was how we got hooked on Music Together classes when he was 3. Those classes were lots of fun. We’ve tried various trial classes here and there to see what would work. If we find something that Isaac loves, we usually will enroll for a few sessions.

Advice From Friends

We love to get advice from our friends, too.  Word of mouth is an awesome way to find out which classes are fun.  Ask around!

Looking for Deals

Price is also a big factor. Like many families these days, we’re on a budget. Activities can get expensive, but there are still plenty of options for reasonably priced activities or great discounts. I love to scour Groupon to see what deals I can find. I’ve seen Groupon deals for Gymboree classes, music classes, sports, ice skating lessons, ski lessons, and more. I’ve definitely taken advantage of these discounts. Often there are great sale prices, sibling discounts, and multiple session discounts on ActivityHero, too.

Community Rec Centers

Community recreation departments are other inexpensive places to find fun activities. From art to sports, they’re usually easy on the pocket book.  This past fall, we participated in a super fun farming class through a neighboring city’s community education department. The kids got to plant and harvest all sorts of herbs and hardy plants.

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Mommy’s Priorities

I like to keep practicality in mind as well. It was important to me that Isaac takes swimming lessons because of safety issues. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him going off to summer camp or even playing alongside the Charles River without him knowing how to swim. And since we live in New England, I’d like him to learn a winter sport — ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, or something — because it seems like everyone here knows how to do a winter sport except for me.

Look For Activities With Added Value

I try to look for activities with certain perks beyond the specific classes. Places like Gymboree and My Gym also offer open play times, which is an absolute lifesaver in a Boston winter. The open play times give you and your kid an opportunity for unstructured play in a safe, indoor environment, and it’s covered by the cost of your monthly membership.

We also joined our local YMCA. I use it as a gym, plus it deeply discounts activities. So far we’ve done t-ball and swimming there. Many YMCAs are not just for sports; you can find lots of classes ranging from arts to music to cooking. Our family membership is worth its weight in gold.  You can also use it for discounted prices on after school programs, summer camps, and camps for school vacation weeks.

As for Isaac? Right now we’re about to head out the door for his final swim class of the year at our local YMCA. These swim lessons have been one of his favorite activities and he can’t wait to start up again next year.

Find Classes, Workshops & Camps for 5-Year-Olds Near You >>

Swim Lessons Around the U.S.