Archive For The “Parenting Hacks & Helpful Tips” Category

Comcast’s Internet Essentials Is the Biggest Back-To-School Tool For Low-Income Families

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Family Scholastic Adventures is thrilled to partner with Comcast regarding Internet Essentials for this back-to-school season. While this is a sponsored post, the thoughts, opinions and content expressed herein is strictly our own, as always.

 

Image courtesy of Comcast Xfinity

With summer vacations wrapping up and Back-To-School sales popping up, it is easy to get lost in the flood of 1st Day of School pics and 49₵ packs of crayon deals. Returning our kids to class comes as a barrage of emergency forms, health physicals, club selections, classroom supply lists and fundraisers. And while we are printing schedules, emailing teachers, downloading registration forms, selecting classes, setting reminders, browsing coupons and pinning lunchbox ideas, it is clear to see how essential the internet is for the rituals of returning our kiddos to school.

Toward the end of last school year, our household PC died… which meant I no longer had printing capability. Mind you, I still had my smart phone, a tablet AND my laptop… but in all my genius, I couldn’t figure out how to print from any of those to my household printer, which left me running back and forth between the library and community center just to print things like my resume or the summer camp registration form. And while I had full access to my email, research, job banks, social connections… those few months left me highly frustrated, feeling like I was at such a disadvantage. I can only ½ imagine how difficult it must be then, to not have home internet at all. Fortunately, for six million Americans, they no longer have that frustration thanks to Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which offers highly subsidized internet connectivity and laptop/PC’s to low-income families across Comcast’s footprint. That’s millions of families who now have access to all things internet… healthcare options, job boards, email, government websites, and news. Students gaining access to school sites, research, tutoring and academic enrichment. YOUTUBE!!! Seven years ago, Comcast established the Internet Essentials program, which was designed to close the digital gap for low income families. This program has enhanced the lives of school-age children, families, those receiving HUD housing assistance and, as of recently, veterans, marking Comcast’s 2nd largest eligibility expansion.

Image courtesy of Comcast Xfinity

Image courtesy of Comcast Xfinity

As we head into the new school season, think of the academic paths for those children who qualify for this program. David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Comcast calls us all to action by saying, “Awareness of this program is the secret sauce.” By visiting http://internetessentials.com to learn more about the program and by sharing this article and link… we can help make a true difference in the lives of neighbors, students, single-parents, , veterans and more.

Image courtesy of Comcast Xfinity

It was a great honor to meet and sit with Mr. Cohen as well as U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando to learn more of their partnership and aligned goals in working with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. Having Monique and Jocelyne join David Cohen on a multi-city tour spreading awareness about Internet Essentials continues to drive home the twin’s collective message of “fighting for equality, in sports and life”, as stated by David Cohen during our media event.

There are millions of individuals, families and vets still without the same convenience of connectivity, the access to information we so readily have. Please share this information including the link to apply for this service at http://internetessentials.com/apply.
$9.95/ month plus tax for home internet service
No installation fee
No term contract
No credit check
Highly subsidized laptops/PC’s for purchase at affordable rates
Free learning resources (topics include online safety, employment resources, education)

Image courtesy of Comcast Xfinity

With such an amazing platform and mission, it is of no surprise that over 3,000 Comcast employees and counting have joined together to serve as volunteer Internet Essentials Ambassadors. During a recent Ambassador’s Appreciation employee event, four ambitious and dedicated ambassadors were honored for their excellence in spreading awareness and helping their local communities take advantage of the program. In honor of their recognition, they each received 10 laptops (along with 6 months of free Internet Essentials access) to distribute within their own local communities. While the ambassador program as it stands today is made up of Comcast employees, we can each be local contributors by raising awareness, sharing the link, and requesting the free printed materials to distribute within our own communities at no cost and with no shipping fees. It’s almost an unofficial extension of the ambassador program, whereby we can make a big difference in our small communities.

Image courtesy of Comcast Xfinity

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JBF Bargain Madness – Shop, Save & Sell

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JBF Just Between Friends
This post is sponsored by Just Between Friends of Mercer County & Western Gloucester County. And while we were provided compensation for the article, the opinions contained herein are honest and strictly our own. We have been long-standing fans of the JBF franchise and below is an account of our personal experience.

 

JBF Just Between Friends

Easter is quickly approaching and I don’t know about you but this soon after Christmas, I’m kinda looking for simple, inexpensive (preferably non-edible) basket fillers. We do practical stuff like socks, bath bombs and lip balm… but isn’t it fun to jazz it up a little too? The Western Gloucester County Just Between Friends consignment sale, early March is our perfect solution to finding and filling an affordable, fun Easter basket. This is what I will be seeking specifically:

  • Calico Critters
  • America Girl or Journey accessories
  • Bath salts, bath bombs or bubble bath
  • Socks – they always need socks
  • My Little Pony mini dolls/ponies
  • A journal
  • Shopkins
  • Chapter books

Navigating the JBF Sale

Here are my BEST suggestions for a successful shopping experience:

  •  Get the pre-pass!! Yup, it’s worth it to pay the admission ticket price or better yet, become a consignor with volunteer hours and get in early. Just be there EARLY.
  • Dress comfy. I wear a jacket that easily holds my phone and keys and debit card. No purse.
  •  Know what you are looking for. There is SOOOO much and it is easy to get distracted by an awesome deal that wasn’t on your watchlist, so know what you came for… and get it first.
  •  Budget your time. Expect to spend more time than you would a department store. With shoes, clothing, games, toys, sporting gear, outdoor play, infant supplies, furniture… this is kinda a “pop-up” department store. I would not expect to be able to adequately take advantage of the sale on a lunch break.
  •  Don’t forget the big ticket items.  It is easy to see all the toys and clothing and not think ahead about the potential big ticket or bulky items until you walk in. Have a back-up plan in case you come across a must-have heavy piece.
  • See something unique, priced too good to be true, or just calling your name… grab it… chances are it won’t be there by the time you walk back through. That being said, there are many items that are in multiples with lots of selection… for these I would consider the 1/2 off sale on Sunday. For instance, I look for shoes immediately but return on 1/2 off Sunday for costumes and books.
  • Make sure your trunk is empty – sounds silly but I’ve easily bought 3 trash bags full of stuff and thankfully had the room in my trunk but not because I thought ahead. I just got lucky.

Mark You Calendar

Not one… but two local sales. This means double the savings, double the shopping!

Just between friends consignment sale Just Between Friends Congsignment

Comparing Sales… there is NO Comparison to JBF

More options, better finds… less stress – JBF wins in my book. That’s not to say I’ll won’t shop Facebook yardsales, flee markets or consignment shops… of course I’ll be curious from time to time to stop by. I love the thrill of finding an incredible bargain, but I also know not to hold my breathe. With JBF, I can almost certainly count on being able to find new with tag items, which could be gift ideas, and terrific clothing selections, working toys and so much more… all under one roof that accepts credit cards and offers a holding station.

From Shopper to Consignor

Interested in making money instead of just spending money? Here are my top tips for consigning with JBF:

  • Designate a space to hold items you organically come across that no longer fit or are no longer needed/wanted
  • Review the JBF price guide
  • Invest in stain remover for all your children’s laundry – I seriously saved many, many clothing items from horrible stains, which then meant I could resell them.
  • Price and print 9-18 tickets at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed with tickets. Start tagging weeks in advance.
  • Invest in a couple of oversized totes to store items from season to season/sale to sale.
  • Invest in batteries – toys and baby gear must be in working order which includes working batteries. Shoppers look for toys that they can turn on – it totally makes sense.
  • Consider donating all or any of your unsold items to the charity Mercer County & Western Gloucester County JBF partnered with, The Unforgotten Haven. This is designated on your tags through the tagging system.
  • Consider using the Valet Tagging Team if you don’t have time to tag. This is a great convenience for those consignors on a time budget. Valet consignors make 45% of their sales (after a $20 consignor fee). The items are dropped off to a VIP tagger who does all the tagging work and brings them to the sale.
  • Volunteer and make a higher percentage of your sales… plus work along side the pros of the business.

Whether you are gearing up for spring sports, looking for Easter basket fillers, or just looking for a feel-good bargain… Just Between Friends of Mercer County & Western Gloucester County IS totally the place to be. Mark your calendars, set your reminders and invite your whole Facebook fan club. There truly is something for all kids. Grab a neighbor, friend or coworker and find me at the sale.

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Back To School Without the Big Budget

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This post is sponsored by Just Between Friends of Mercer County & Western Gloucester County. And while we were provided compensation for the article, the opinions contained herein are honest and strictly our own. We have been long-standing fans of the JBF franchise and below is an account of our personal experience.

 

 

While every school situation is different, classroom lists vary and the newest back-to-school trends parade in… one thing is certain: our children continue to outgrow the old and require the new. Shoes, tops, belts, pants and even sportswear all find themselves picked over as they grow tighter, inch shorter or fall out of style. They come and go, sometimes before ever being worn, because our ever-growing bundles of joy…  just… keep… growing.

Back-to-school shopping can be a labor of love while sifting through circulars for the best deals, listening to the whining of your (or other’s) children, and of course, falling in love with that item that’s not in their size. Of course it’s not all bad and I do enjoy taking my daughter out for that splurge item (or four) but that’s because we take full advantage of the Just Between Friends consignment sale in Gloucester County and Mercer County… and yeah, it is totally worth the drive!!

Couple years ago I was introduced to JBF and I’ve been super impressed ever since. The selection of items, the ease of consigning… and the checks!!!  Seriously, it is hard not to constantly log-in to watch your real-time sold items during the sale hours. Ok, ok… I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve had a few seasons of consigning and here are my tips for shopping the sale and my tips for consigning.

 

Okay shoppers, get your sneaks laced up… seriously, that’s tip #1: wear comfy shoes. You don’t want to miss a bargain because of blisters. This is what else I highly suggest:

  •  Get the pre-pass!! Yup, it’s worth it to pay the admission ticket price or better yet, become a consignor with volunteer hours and get in early. Just be there EARLY.
  •  Know what you are looking for. There is SOOOO much and it is easy to get distracted by an awesome deal that wasn’t on your watchlist, so know what you came for… and get it first.
  •  Budget your time. Expect to spend more time than you would a department store. With shoes, clothing, games, toys, sporting gear, outdoor play, infant supplies, furniture… this is kinda a “pop-up” department store. I would not expect to be able to adequately take advantage of the sale on a lunch break.
  •  Don’t forget the big ticket items.  It is easy to see all the toys and clothing and not think ahead about the potential big ticket or bulky items until you walk in. Have a back-up plan in case you come across a must-have heavy piece.
  • See something unique, priced too good to be true, or just calling your name… grab it… chances are it won’t be there by the time you walk back through. That being said, there are many items that are in multiples with lots of selection… for these I would consider the 1/2 off sale on Sunday. For instance, I look for shoes immediately but return on 1/2 off Sunday for costumes and books.
  • Make sure your trunk is empty – sounds silly but I’ve easily bought 3 trash bags full of stuff and thankfully had the room in my trunk but not because I thought ahead. I just got lucky.
  • Mark your calendar… yup, right now.
    • Mercer County Just Between Friends… Sept 15-17 at Robinsville Field House
    • Western Gloucester County JBF… Sept 29- Oct 1 at Total Turf Experience

Consigning vs Yard Sale 101

Not only do I personally shop the JBF sale but I’m a consignor. You should see my living room 2 weeks before the sale- yikes! But the good news is, that everything that hadn’t sold last sale is already tagged and ready to go this sale. I only really have to focus on the newest “good-bye” pile of clothing and toys. Keep in mind that the fall sale is for fall and winter clothing and the spring sale is for spring/summer clothing and items (with a few exceptions like baby clothing and maternity is fine all year round).

 

JBF makes sense if you have a lot of baby gear, children’s clothing, maternity, toys and games vs other household items. Consigning is my fate, for others it might be Ebay or flee markets or yard sales. For those that know me, know that I completely suck at Ebay. Logging on, taking pictures, creating captions… all while trying to avoid the temptation of buying somebody else’s stuff. The closest I’ve ever gotten to posting an item for sale on Ebay was the night my beloved husband proposed to me… in a former wedding gown intended to be sold online but alas never was posted. He was my destiny, Ebay never was. Flee markets are too random for my taste. There is just something about the flee market vibe that doesn’t make me feel like I would get the best value of my time or my belongings. I shop them, surely, but not interested in reselling my items for the haggled prices that are most definitely part of the experience.

And then there are yard sales…

Sure a yard sale is just out your front door BUT you don’t know what foot traffic your sale is going to get vs knowing that JBF Mercer/Gloucester County is definitely going to attract shoppers for children’s and maternity items. JBF also makes great sense if your items and clothing are in great condition and should sell for more than street change. Yes, the JBF sale is a bargain spot but you can price your gently used belongings at a reasonable price vs pennies on the dollar for a yard sale.  Consignment shoppers expect to pay a bit more than a flee market or yard sale price for the assurance that sale items are in great working order and clear of any recall issues.  And then there’s the weather. And oh… did I forget to mention that you have to man your yard sale but with JBF simply drop-off and pick-up your items… unless you choose to volunteer for an additional % of your sales.

More options, better payout… less work – JBF wins in my book. That’s not to say I’ll never have another yard sale… not true, but I won’t be selling kids’ books for 10 cents or Barbies for a quarter. #JustSaying

 

Taking consigning seriously… here are my top suggestions:

  • Designate a space to hold items you organically come across that no longer fit or are no longer needed/wanted
  • Review the JBF price guide
  • Invest in stain remover for all your children’s laundry – I seriously saved many, many clothing items from horrible stains, which then meant I could resell them.
  • Invest in batteries – toys and baby gear must be in working order which includes working batteries. Shoppers look for toys that they can turn on – it totally makes sense.
  • Consider donating all or any of your unsold items to the charity Mercer County & Western Gloucester County JBF partnered with, The Unforgotten Haven. This is designated on your tags through the tagging system.
  • Consider using the Valet Tagging Team if you don’t have time to tag. This is a great convenience for those consignors on a time budget. Valet consignors make 45% of their sales (after a $20 consignor fee). The items are dropped off to a VIP tagger who does all the tagging work and brings them to the sale.

Whether you are picking up back-to-school items, in need of sports equipment, getting a jump start to your holiday shopping or just looking for a feel-good bargain… Just Between Friends of Mercer County & Western Gloucester County IS totally the place to be. Mark your calendars, set your reminders and invite a friend or two. There truly is something for everyone and personally, I love sharing a great bargain source and encourage you to do the same by inviting your friends and family.

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Comcast Xfinity: Bringing Dream Homes Into Reality

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Many thanks to Xfinity for providing us a hands-on demo of products and services and sponsoring this post. While we were compensated for this article, the opinions and thoughts expressed herein, as always, are strictly our own. This post may contain affiliate links. #XfinityMoms #Hosted

We are IN the age of the future, you know… that Sci-fi picture with robots and gadgets and all. Yup, we’ve made it. Our cars may not fly yet but our homes are becoming more and more of the dream home with all technology to keep us connected and the fun gadgets to keep us fidget free. Dream home or real home… we all want to feel connected, feel secure. As part of my sponsored Xfinity tour of the Philadelphia Magazine Design Home 2017, I had a chance to explore these tech options that do just that… keep us connected; keep us safe.

From the #XfinityApp to #XfinityHome, and #X1 to the new xFi , security is a hot topic for Comcast Xfinity. In an all-out attempt to significantly improve customer experience and connectivity, Xfinity has integrated all their platforms for the ultimate tech experience, security and ease.

Photo credit: Comcast Xfinity

Xfinity Home provides multi-functional security features such as live feed surveillance (perfect for keeping an eye on pets for those long days going from work to the soccer field), real time notification (ideal to ensure our children come through the door after school), 24/7 security camera options, and thermostat, lighting or appliance remote adjustments.  All this at the convenience of an in-home touch pad, your X1 remote or via your mobile tech/online. Whether sitting on the field, stuck in traffic or lounging at the beach… you can stay connected to your home, pets and loved ones.

Xfinity Apps hosts a series of apps to take this tech on the go. We have actually used the Remote app to control our tv with our tablet when the batteries died in our remote (and we were too lazy to get up mid-show to change them). #TrueStory Features like turning outside lights on after dark and managing your Xfinity preferences are also convenient functions of the apps. If I had to choose only one, it would be Xfinity Stream to stream shows, movies and data to all your devices.  Individual apps allow you to download the exact functionality you need and save on device space. Here are the apps avail: 

  • Xfinity My Account – pay your bill, manage appointments, view or edit your WiFi Network name or password and troubleshoot your devices
  • Xfinity Stream – Delivers all of your TV, all in one place. Stream live TV and Xfinity On Demand contact on any device, at home or on the go. X1 customers can also stream or down their cloud DVR shows to your device to watch anywhere
  • Xfinity TV Remote and X1 Remote – Allows you to control your TV with your mobile devices
  • Xfinity Connect – Provides access to features including Comcast.net email; call logs and call forwarding, Universal Address Book; also includes complimentary Voice2go access, letting customers take Xfinity Voice with them on the go virtually anywhere
  • Xfinity Home – Allows you to manage and monitor your home security and control remotely
  • Xfinity WiFi – Shows a map of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots available in your area
  • Xfinity Mobile – Allows you to view data use and call logs in real time; manage payment options, switch back-and-forth between data options or add additional lines; upgrade, downgrade or order a new device anytime from within the app

Take advantage of Xfinity X1 for all your tv viewing pleasures. Check the weather, listen to music, catch the score while watching another program or browsing. This is probably the most well-know of the Xfinity products and services. We had written about X1 while preparing for summer last year and you can check out our summer tips with Xfinity X1: Ultimate Summer Survival Tool to include more about Xfinity.  The search feature is unique in that you speak into the remote control, searching by channel, actor, genre or program title. The Kids Zone program is specially designed to ensure parental controls around parent-specified appropriate content – and remains my favorite feature of all time.

Two new (and very exciting) Xfinity mentions: Mobile Service and xFi. With tv, devices and home security all buttoned up, the only thing Comcast was missing is mobile technology… but not for long. We are excited to share that Xfinity customers will soon have the option to select mobile service as well, with NO line access fee. And what’s more is that Xfinity Mobile will allow you the flexibility to switch between data options (at no cost / once per month, per line). This is the ultimate cost-effective family option not to mention the integration into the largest 4G LTE network utilizing Comcast’s 16 million WiFi hotspots nationwide. Coming soon!!

Photo credit: Comcast Xfinity

And the Xfinity xFi – the much needed tool to managing all of the above. Imagine all of these devices and all of these services integrated and talking to each other. Surely you could set features and notifications for different functions (outside lights on at dusk) but with xFi you can set profiles to manage different functions at different times. So for example, you can arrange for internet connectivity to be shut down for the night for your children but still have tv access on your devices, all by setting up profiles. Take a look at the video clip below of Jeff with Comcast Xfinity describing the new xFi technology and the conveniences it will provide.

All that and a giveaway too…

Click below to enter this fabulous GIVEAWAY sponsored by Xfinity. *** PLEASE NOTE: Winner does NOT need to be an Xfinity customer to use this Amazon Tap – however it IS compatible with Xfinity Home app.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you again to the Xfinity team for sponsoring our tour of the Philadelphia Magazine Design Home 2017. What a wonderful reminder to make our living space purposeful, no matter how large or small. Functionality of our homes has a lasting impact on our daily lives which includes that of our entire family and extends into our mental and creative spaces. Being mindful of such will ultimately have a positive impact on our children’s development, engagement and academia.

Xfinity partnered with me to bring you this post. Follow #XfinityMoms on all social media for more information and tips. Swing by the blogs of my #XfinityMoms fellow bloggers for their personal experiences and insight utilizing Xfinity services & products. Be sure to enter the giveaway which closes midnight on May 22nd, 2017. Good Luck!!

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4 Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

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Much gratitude to Xfinity for providing us a hands-on demo of products and services and sponsoring this post. As always, the opinions and thoughts expressed herein are strictly our own. This post may contain affiliate links. #XfinityMoms #Ad

xfinity-cookie

Well the holidays are here and maybe you’re done your shopping and left with the entertaining, wrapping, and cooking.  And maybe you’re done your decorating but still have Christmas pageants, crafts, and cleaning. Boy, these holidays are stressful… packed with never-ending task lists. But for all the work, they do provide some of the best memories.

Many thanks to Comcast for sponsoring this article with just a few simple holiday suggestions to keep things in perspective and rolling smoothly.

  1. Tackle the wrapping early. First first trick of the holidays is to decorate early and as part of the decorations, I wrap all the non-family gifts for under the tree. Wrapping paper is coordinated with the tree and decorations and then… it’s done. Tulle goes a long way for making packages look professionally wrapped. My second wrapping trick is to pre-cut paper. If I know I have 10 gifts that are roughly the same size and shape… I measure for one and then cut 9 identical pieces. I think of it in terms of an assembly line. 10 gifts wrapped, 10 gifts tagged, 10 gifts embellished. Done.
  2. Take a moment for resting. At some point, you have to come up for air, right? Why not take a deliberate break and catch a holiday movie with the family. Xfinity X1 has plenty of holiday cheer to catch On-Demand or though Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. If I may make the ultimate suggestion of a double feature… one for the fam and then a second for couple cuddle time. Actually enjoy the beautifully lit Christmas tree you slaved to unpack and decorate. Sneak a few Christmas cookies for self pleasure. Sure it’s the time of giving… but there is something to be said to giving back to yourself too.
  3. Manage those packages. Murphy’s law ensures that when things are at it’s craziest… something else go cray-cray. With #XfinityHome home security you can keep a close eye on those delivery packages, perhaps call a neighbor for a favor or run home at lunch to secure your deliveries. MIA packages is definitely no fun.
  4. Make a holiday calendar. Don’t try to do it all. Longwood Gardens will be there next year… heck they are still open and decorated for Christmas in January. Allow for a little “spill-over” into the new year or better yet… pass on a few things. Last year we had the pleasure of Disney On Ice, which was awesome but this year, we’ve opted for the Brandywine River Museum’s Breakfast with Santa. Whether it’s festivals, parades, or Christmas gatherings… set your limit. Be mindful in the activities you select and the memories will be all the richer for it.

A quick shout out to the Xfinity team for their continued support of Homeroom At Home. Their demos of Xfinity Apps, Xfinity Home and Xfinity X1, with all its features surrounding ease of use, convenience AND security is definitely something we want to share with our parental audience… we can use all the tips and tricks that come our way when it comes to managing children. Safety measures, include the Kids Zone online & search security and home security technology that allows parents to keep an eye on their children arriving home after school.

In the spirit of the holidays and a season of giving… we’re including this fabulous GIVEAWAY sponsored by Xfinity. *** PLEASE NOTE: Winner does NOT need to be an Xfinity customer to use this Nest Learning Thermostat – however it IS compatible with Xfinity Home app. Enter the giveaway below.

xfinity-comcast-giveaway-image-for-dec-2016

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wow, Xfinity has a lot more to offer families than I knew! A big thanks to them for sponsoring this post. Follow #XfinityMoms on all social media for more information and tips. Swing by the blogs of my #XfinityMoms fellow bloggers for their personal experiences and insight utilizing Xfinity services & products. Be sure to enter the giveaway which closes midnight on December 20th, 2016. Good Luck!!

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Tips for Managing Too Many Toys

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With the holidays approaching, here are a couple tips for managing the existing piles of toys that never seem to make it in toy box, while new ones are on their way. This article was republished to offer a refresher on these toy tips.

Thank you, Pley for supporting our blog and mission. This is a sponsored post by Pley although all the suggestions, opinions and text expressed herein are strictly mine.

Marissa with too many toys Profile Pic

Are you faced with toy box overflow while your munchkins circled everything thing in the Toys R Us catalog for this year’s holiday wish lists?  We’ve got solutions that go beyond donating old toys.

Marissa with toys Profile Pic

Now, don’t get me wrong… we love donating our outgrown toys to a variety of places like our local Ronald McDonald House Charity or our neighborhood thrift shop. I’ve passed down tons of cute things to smaller children in our family… but sometimes you’re just not ready to part with things.

Play time with parentSuggestion 1: The quarterly or semi-annual system. With different playsets, bath toys, puzzles and what-not, one winning solution for our house has been to select several items for use later. We’ve done this with Barbies, Playdoh, Strawberry Shortcake, crafts… pretty much anything that has a “long shelf life”. What do I mean by long shelf life for toys? I won’t put away a toy or play set with the intent to use it in the summer if after only a couple months my child could outgrow it. We know she’ll love barbies 6 months from now, and 15 months from now, so to collect them and put them in temporary storage (closet, bin, basement) for several months isn’t a wasted investment. Certain bath toys had a much shorter expiration date and weren’t put away while some of the mermaid barbies were perfect for this. The idea is that in a few months the older toys are brought out of storage and given new life. It felt like Christmas again when my husband pulled out the GI Joe’s from the yellow bag pictured above and the same for the blue bin with cards, games and such, pictured below.

bea's camera 1 350

Suggestion 2: Play with your child and their toys. When a parent literally gets on the floor to play Star Wars or Transformers with their kiddo –  the toys suddenly become new again. Along these lines… think up creative ways to play with old toys. Maybe Barbie and Polly Pocket are spectators for a Rock’em Sock’em Robots match. Or perhaps giving toys a makeover with Playdoh.  Dad and Via are playing Barbie theater in the picture below.

Barbie

Suggestion 3: Car caddy. Take some of the less popular toys (preferably non-noisy) and arrange into a toy tote for the car. Perfect for car inspection lines, bank drive-through, far away day trips, etc. Also handy for grabbing something to occupy for post office lines, waiting for a hair cut or the forever-long start of a parade… because goodness knows you need to arrive an hour early to secure a spot. *Sigh* Best part – at the end of the trip, with arms full of groceries, mail, packages, empty cups, loose shoes… the toys STAY in the car.

boy girl pleySuggestion 4: The rental system. Yes, rent toys instead of buying them. Amazing new concept with Pley.com that offers a whole new way to managing toy overflow. Pley is a subscription based company where for as low as $19.99/ month parents can rent toys. pley star warsThey offer fast turn-around and FREE shipping.  Create an account, select your toy list and once a toy arrives and is played with, just return it for another on your list. Pley offers a growing selection of toys to include over 400 Lego sets. Wonderful concept that saves money, cuts down clutter and is helpful for the environment. (Photo credit: Pley.com)

Suggestion 5: Re-purpose. Old or outgrown toys (or too much of a good thing) can be reused as decorative pieces. With a little hot glue, lots of magic can happen. For instance, take a favorite small toy or doll and create a shadow box to hang in your playroom. Outgrown character toys or mobile figurines are perfect for a decorative peg board for coats/bags.  The same can be done to jazz up a plain lamp or perhaps curtain tie-backs. You might want to resist the urge to go overboard and hot glue all the stuffies to the ceiling… true story – I was twelve.

Bottom line – toys are important and as much as we hate to stub our toe on them or threaten to throw them all away… we can’t. And shouldn’t. Instead we need to find variety in managing them. We need to teach our children to respect their toys (playing with them, cleaning them and putting them away). With just a few simple systems, our children can enjoy all the benefits – yes educational benefits – of free play and quality time with parents/siblings while we manage the toy surplus.

Pley

Barbie

With the holidays approaching, it’s the perfect time to consider your current toy box situation and the various solutions to managing clutter, new toys and sentimental belongings. Let us know what your toy trick is?

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Back to School Tips for Successful Grade School Year

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#Sponsored article from NCI International whereby we were compensated for this review and given a product sample for the purpose of reviewing the Super Wubble. Affiliate links are utilized in this article. All opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

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So now that we’re a week past the Labor Day holiday, we’re in the swing of this right? Well, mostly. Personally, I JUST finished all the Back-To-School forms and paperwork due on the first day. And we missed the deadline for buying lunch this month. Oh well, but with immunization charts up to date and sharpened crayons who can complain?

The first week back is always pretty much the same: couple of worksheets, cover the books, the ridiculous parent forms, box tops from the summer and half eaten lunches because the kids are too busy talking the entire lunch period. All good. Then the second week comes and it gets serious quick. As worksheets become workbooks and calendars fill with project dates, conferences, practices, games, meeting times, fundraisers and everything else we get flooded with in a 14 day time period, we need to work towards keeping grounded. Especially as our children grow into older grades and their responsibilities are greater, we need to be mindful of our household stress barometer. Surely some stress is good and sometimes we all need a swift kick in the rear to get over a hurdle, but everyday life should not hold this pressure. Setting the environment and the expectations is important for a healthy and successful academic year.

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind, now that the school year is back in full swing:

  1. Set a place for notices, signatures and forms. Keeping these items handy for reference and being able to quickly sign and return forms will elevate some burden and proactively keep the family on top of events and deadlines.
  2. Keep a family calendar. Ensuring everyone is on the same page will allow for better communication among family members. Perhaps if one child has an upcoming game, a sibling will be willing to cover his/her chore with the idea that later the favor is returned. Mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration are wonderful things to build into your household culture.
  3. Respect independence and independent needs. Each child will likely have very different needs when it comes to schooling, friendships, activities and home life. Knowing and respecting these differences will enable your household to run more smoothly and the respect reciprocated in terms of additional assistance, open communication and less resistance (we all know that preteens are prone to resistance).
  4. Lastly, keep your sense of humor. The power of laughter is hugely underestimated. Take time to listen to the funny things that happen in your child’s day. Make time to be light-hearted or silly with your children. Between running back and forth to practices and activities, homework and pet responsibilities… at the very least find a few minutes to truly relate to your children, whether it is through their favorite songs or some other means of being a kid again.

This article was sponsored by NSI International on behalf of the Wubble Bubble Ball. While compensated for this article, the opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. The Super Wubble Xpandium Bubble Ball provides one of the easiest and silliest ways to have fun with kids and let some stress go. The Super Xpandium Wubble is made of “super-thermo-stretchtacular stuff” to be quite technical but is food safe and medically safe, not that you would eat off of it or use it in the case of an emergency. It comes with a battery operated pump and blows up to 36 inches.

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What we love about Wubble: Unique and light-weight, this bubble ball is fun to bounce around the yard and toss to other players. Just a fun way to romp around the yard. It is easy to catch, throw, kick or bounce. Love the translucent material, kinda neat that you can see through it.

What we don’t necessarily love: It is marketed for indoor and outdoor play, but I’m not so comfortable with indoor play because the ball is so light-weight and a little unpredictable I fear something getting knocked over. And it entices some rough play… not great for my family heirlooms and decor. Take that play outside, please. Also, we had difficulty blowing it up with the enclosed battery-operated pump. Their website indicated that when this happens, the batteries may need to be changed… this is VERY likely our problem as we are super low on batteries and had to steal the remote control ones for this review. Sooooo I’m not surprised if the juice was a little low on those puppies. In any event, I had a manual foot pump (as part of an exercise kit) and it worked with no problem.

 

In any event, something like the Super Expandium Wubble Bubble Ball, could certainly add an element of fun and silliness to otherwise stress-induced time of year. And while keeping organized and informed is important, so is the concept of letting go. Cheers to a successful and happy return to school.

 

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Diary of Autistic Girl Provides Lessons for Us All

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How To Be Human

Wow – just wow… I was so taken back with How To Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl effectively demonstrated some of the differences between how other folks might perceive things and how someone with autism might. The little book did a lot to open my eyes. 15 year-old author, Florida Frenz, describes step-by-step the mannerisms to finding her way through the complex world of emotions and perspective. She diagrams her decision-making process outlining areas of following the school rules and making friends and many other life skills.

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I’m no medical practitioner and fortunately don’t have immediate family connections to autism… so as an “outsider” on the topic, I found How To Be Human to be very insightful. I particularly enjoyed the diagrams as it made the material visual for understanding better. I can only imagine how helpful this book might be for parents struggling to understand their autistic child or even a sibling. Children with autism might find relief in knowing that someone was successfully able to articulate many of the emotions, processes and sensitivities they too are experiencing.

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This is one worth sharing… so please mention How To Be Human among your friends, social media groups and definitely with those families impacted with this challenge.

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