1. Toys that Teach

    Savvy parents are always looking for new and engaging ways to educate their kids. Whether your child is pre-school age or struggling in an academic subject, a little boost to enhance their learning experience is always beneficial. But how do you make it fun? 

    Many parents and kids have already discovered the value of learning through play. When you teach with toys, that most dreaded school subject becomes a lot less intimidating. Here are some of our favorite teaching toys:

    Scientific Playsets: Many of today’s great scientists can trace their interest in the natural world to a childhood science playset. Not only do such toys inspire young imaginations, they allow children to get some firsthand experience with the scientific method. Kids get to collect and record data, observe change over time, and begin to grasp the forces at work in the world around them. A science playset could turn your little one into a lifelong lover of science.

    Arts & Crafts Sets: Unfortunately, many of today’s school curriculums underemphasize arts education, so parents must take it upon themselves to develop their child’s creativity. A set of markers, paints, jewelry making supplies, or other artistic supplies can give your child a wonderful creative outlet. With the right art set, they’ll develop eye-hand coordination, the ability to think outside the box, and an eye for form and color.

    Building Toys: Industrious kids love Legos, blocks, K’Nex, and other building toys. These kind of toys involve some creative thought and some analytical thought, making them a versatile educational tool. Kids get to explore their imagination while learning about physics, engineering, and material science. What structures will your kids dream up?

    Adventure Kits: These toy sets are designed for exploring the outdoors. They often contain a camera, binoculars, a compass, walkie-talkie, and other adventuring equipment. Your child can observe nature, snap some pictures, and get some fresh air – all while having a blast!

    Word Games: Games like Scrabble and Boggle are a great way to expand your child’s vocabulary and improve spelling. They also force players to think on their feet. Your kids may be hesitant at first, but after a few games with you they just might get hooked. Before you know it, they’ll be the ones teaching you new words!

     

  2. The Best Loafers since Sliced Bread

    A good pair of loafers is essential for any young man’s wardrobe. The comfy no-lace design makes them an easy option for school attire, dressy events, and casual wear. But with so many designers taking loafers in exciting non-traditional directions, finding the right pair can be a challenge.

    Before choosing a pair, consider the need they will fill. Will they be the footwear for his school uniform? His casual summer shoe to slip on and off? Take a look at some of our favorite pairs for inspiration.

    This pair from Akademiks combines elements of a traditional loafer with some more modern touches, like a scuff-resistant perforated upper. The result is handsome but ultimately casual.

    This Goodfellas loafer is clean, simple, and comfortable. It’s a solid choice if he needs something to go with a school uniform or a go-with-anything dress shoe.

    This ingenious Lil Fellas shoe mashes up the loafer and the boat shoe for a win-win combination. It packs a dose of seaside style that can be dressed up with slacks or dressed down with shorts.

    This penny loafer from Kenneth Cole is as classic as it gets. Give your kid a couple of dimes or pennies to fit in the slot and – ka-ching – he’s in business.    

     

  3. Time-Out Alternative: Time-In

    When it comes to dealing with a child’s bad behavior, the time-out is one of the most tried and true tools in a parent’s kit. The prevailing wisdom is that it gives kids a few minutes to cool off, reflect about what they have done, and realize that their actions have consequences.  However, there are lessons a time-out doesn’t teach, like regulating your emotions, cooperating with your parents, or deescalating. Some parents are doing the exact opposite of the time-out and using a technique known as the time-in.

    A time-in is when you sit your child down calmly to comfort them and talk about the bad behavior. As opposed to a punishment, the time-in lets you find out what pushed your child to a certain behavior and create a cooperative plan to stop it from happening again. Most negative behavior doesn’t come from nowhere, so a time-in can help a parent understand what is going through their child’s mind. It also helps children reconcile and further examine their negative emotions.

    Many kids, when left to their own devices during time-out time, will blame others as opposed to really thinking about what they have done. Kids can have trouble sorting out their actions and their emotions. A time-in lets you, the parent, take control and say “Emotion X is okay, action X is not” and from there move the conversation to “What is a more productive way to deal with emotion X?”

    Another problem with the time-out is that it loses its effectiveness after a certain age. Are you really going to give your teenager a time-out? Probably not. By getting into the habit of talking through problems now, you establish a lifelong habit of talking through your child’s inappropriate behaviors.

    Many parents are skeptical of the time-in because they don’t want to feel they are rewarding a bad behavior. The first thing to remember is that a time-in is not a punishment, but it’s not a reward either. It’s simply a different, more proactive tool for dealing with problem behavior. Try it out – you may be surprised at the results. 

     

     

  4. Brand Alert: Sesame Street Watch me Grow!

    From Big Bird to Oscar the Grouch, most little ones know and love the Sesame Street characters – and can find their smiling faces on everything from bottles to sneakers.

    But this season, Sesame Street rolled out a new collection where the Sesame Street characters are nowhere to be found…

    It’s called Sesame Street Watch me Grow! And though you won’t find Ernie and Bert on any of the clothing, it’s still designed with the same development-friendly principles that made the Sesame Street TV show such a success.

    This romper shows a dumptruck dumping the letter D, providing a perfect opportunity to teach your little one about the alphabet.

    Look closely at the print of this bodysuit and you’ll see the numbers spelled out. The Count would be proud.

    Other sets are just plain sweet.

    Click here for our selection of Sesame Street Watch me Grow! It’s growing by the day!

    Love Watch me Grow! already? Check out their Facebook page! 

     

  5. 5 Ways to Maximize Family Time

    Spending more time with loved ones often tops a parent’s priorities list. It’s a simple goal, but how do you take practical steps to make it happen? Here are five easy tips for any parent looking to make more family memories.

    Family Meals

    Whether it’s a weekend brunch or a Tuesday night spent gathered around a pizza, mealtime can easily become family time. Gathering around food is never a tough sell, just make sure to inform all you family member ahead of time to clear their busy schedules for a sit-down meal. Maybe you’ll even get some mileage out of that dining room table!

    Charity

    Getting involved with a charity as a family can be greatly rewarding. It’s also a nice balance of family time and social time, allowing your family to spend time together while meeting others in your community. Scheduling can be difficult at first, but once you make it part of your routine, your family may find charity to be the most joyous part of the week.


    Chores

    No one wants to do chores, but they have to get done. And as the old saying goes, “misery loves company.” And even if chores aren’t exactly miserable for you, they’re a lot more fun if you do them with family. Try breaking off into teams to tackle various tasks. Put on some motivational music or just chat while you get to work.

    Rotating Activities

    If you designate a few hours a week for a planned activity, you can rotate which family member gets to decide what to do. You may find yourself playing your son’s favorite videogame one week and getting amateur dance lessons from your daughter the next. Don’t worry – you’ll get your chance to share your interests with your family as well.

    Sharing Screen Time

    Many parents complain that when they get home everyone in the household is glued to one screen or another. Why not all watch something together? With so much media at your fingertips, it should be easy to find a TV show or movie everyone can agree on. Whatever you end up watching, make sure to engage your kids in conversation after – that can be the best part. 

     

  6. Chillipop – Fun Spring Fashion for Less

    Chillipop’s spring collection is about reinventing wardrobe staples. From the polka dot sundress to the floral print top, you’ll always find new and modern details in the pieces.

    Though Chillipop’s looks are often more sedate during fall and winter, they always seem to turn up the color and volume on their spring and summer collections. Check out some of these pieces and you’ll see why her summer wardrobe just isn’t complete without some Chillipop. Plus – all pieces shown are under $15!

    This springy dress combines a classic polka dot print with silky poly construction. The result is a classic look that feels light and airy.

    A classic cut combines with a unique print to create a top that’s truly special. Effortless summer attitude.

    This adorable dress comes with the perfect accessory: a mustache necklace! Always nice to add a sense of humor to her look. 

    The long and slinky cut of this sundress never goes out of style. The details, such as the lace paneling at back and the bright stripes, are 100% Chillipop.

     

  7. Summers Plans Start Now!

    Summer is a few months away, but smart parents know that now is the time to start planning. During the school year everyone is busy with schoolwork, sports, and a host of other activities. Summer grinds all that to a halt. Many families enjoy the change of pace as it allows for more family time. But if kids don’t have stuff to do, they get bored. And if they get bored, they get cranky. And if they get cranky…well, you know the rest. No one likes spending summer days cooped up at home, so check out how you can start planning an activity-packed summer for your kids!

    When the temperature starts to rise, any place with a strong air conditioner is a treat to visit. If there’s an art or history museum in your area, chances are they have a program for children. These programs often reasonably priced, since most museums are non-profit organizations. Local libraries often put together reading and other activity groups for kids. Even if your child doesn’t like the idea of being in a “class” over the summer, encourage them to check out the list of programs with you. Many are way more fun than what they’d be doing in school, and can encourage their interests in a more personalized way than school.     

    Local pools, lakes, beaches, and other waterside attractions are perennial summertime favorites. But, like anything, if you do watersports, it’s worth doing the right way. If your children don’t swim yet, now is the time to sign them up for lessons. Look online for local pools and classes. Your children will thank you when they’re outswimming their peers.  

    Whether going on a hiking trip in the mountains or a jaunt to the beach, summer is the time to plan trips with the family. There are many low-cost options for outdoor trips, but whether it’s gas for the car or a new tent, family trips all end up costing something. If you start planning summer trips now, it’ll allow you to budget more effectively – which means extra money for ice cream.

    Even if you plan summer trips every weekend, you’ll still probably end up at home a lot with your kids. Stocking up on books, movies, video games, board games, and other in-home activities our kids can do when you’re not around is a smart move. What’s more, now is the time to get summer wear at the biggest discounts of the year. Swim trunks, anyone?

     

  8. Back to Basics with Swiss Cross

    By definition, basics are for everyday wear. That’s why a brand that can truly elevate boys’ staples like plaid shirts, cargo shorts, and hoodies is so impressive. Swiss Cross is just such a brand. At first glance their line looks a lot like any other collection of boys’ basics. A second look, however, reveals the subtle style and expert care they put into every piece. Plus, all pieces shown are under $15!

    The 100% cotton construction and tagless collar interior ensure this shirt is comfortable. The slightly heathered jersey gives it an understated appeal.

    A splash of color at the center is all it takes to boost this hoodie from something ordinary to something special.

    These twill pants are sophisticated yet down to earth. Dress them up with a button-down or go for something more casual with a T.

    You’ll be hard pressed to find cooler camo shorts. They have a variety of pockets that can fit almost anything, plus they’re durable enough keep up with his active lifestyle. 

     

  9. Let’s Get Gardening!

    Though spring’s full bloom is yet to come, those of us with green thumbs have already started gathering the tools and supplies we will need for our gardens. But did you know that gardening can be a great teaching tool for kids? Gardening lets them see firsthand the connection between the food they eat and the natural world around them. It also helps them develop the skills to care for another living thing.

    If kids become interested the biology and climate science of gardening, it can become a great tool for teaching science. Other kids are more enticed by the colors and flavors of plant life, which gives you a great platform for teaching about cooking and healthy eating. Gardening also teaches more general skills like responsibility and seeing things through. It’s a great way to show that a bit of effort and care every day will produce something worthwhile.  

    Besides the educational benefits, gardening is a fun way to spend some time as a family. Kids take great pride when the whole family sits around the table and eats something that has herbs or veggies they helped grow. Try letting your kids name the plants – that way, it’s easier to see them as living beings with distinct characteristics.

    And don’t think that gardening only applies to suburbanites with backyards; apartment dwellers can beautify their home with plants just as well. Anywhere with some space and sufficient light in your apartment can become a miniature garden. Windowsills, fire escapes, and roofs are all popular spots. Many herbs, such as mint, basil, oregano, and tarragon, and some vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, don’t require any specialized gardening skills to grow. All you really need is a bit of space, a planter, dirt, and a watering can.

    If gardening is not an option in your home, look into community gardens. These local cooperative food gardens are springing up in communities across the country, and have been endorsed my Michelle Obama and others. They’re a great way to dip your feet into the gardening world, meet some other parents and kids, and teach your kids some valuable lessons.

     

  10. Brand Alert: Twelve K

    Twelve K isn’t afraid to make edgy choices when it comes to coloration, wash style, and wear pattern. It’s this sense of boldness that makes everything in their spring collection stand out. Plus, all these pieces come in at under $20, perfect for anyone looking for unique style on a budget.

    Dip-dying adds a unique tri-coloration to this spring-ready vest.

    These jeans combine a flattering skinny cut with a statement-making sandblasted wash. Top it off with the matching vest to create an incredible outfit.

    This skirt is teased out and turned up thanks to some fun patches. Feel free to add some patches of your own!

    This topper is equal parts denim jacket and hoodie, making it unique and versatile.