Posts Tagged “playtime”

Cosplay To Enhance Playtime Experience

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Aeromax Space Shuttle & Astronaut Costume
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post whereby we received product in exchange for an honest review. As always, the opinions expressed herein are strictly our own. This post contains affiliate links.

 

Aeromax Space Shuttle & Astronaut Costume

During playtime, there’s something really cool about dressing the part. I remember playing teacher when I was little and wanting to wear extra long skirts and pretend glasses to imitate my favorite elementary teacher. I would line my dolls and bears up on the bed and give them instructions. Of course it took me three times as long to complete my homework this way… but I was in my happy place.

When introduced to Aeromax Toys, it immediately brought me back to my childhood. My brother and I would race our bikes around and around the house pretending they were race cars. How cool would it have been to be dressed as an actual race car driver or the mechanic… and yes even the occasional police officer pulling us over? LOL. These are some of my favorite memories with my brother. We would circle the house for hours, tying things to our bikes, making up story lines and the whole bit. It was the perfect scenario for childhood cosplay.

I look at my little scientist, Victoria, and see how dressing in her astronaut suit lifts her imagination. It’s perfect while she’s working on a kit or just playing. There’s something magical that happens to play when you can dress the part.

Aeromax has so many authentic looking costumes and play wear. Kids can be anything from a ladybug to a doctor, flight crew and magician. Costumes are also available for infants and adults… so everyone can join in the fun. Look for their accessories too, or perhaps be inspired to create your own.

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Ignite Imagination with Great Pretenders

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Disclosure: We are pleased to work with Great Pretenders to provide reviews in exchange for product samples. As always, the opinions and content expressed herein are strictly our own. This post contains affiliate links. #sponsored

 

Great Pretenders Colour-An-Apron

Love the customizable Colour-In-Collection by Great Pretenders! Between capes, crown, aprons and more, your child can design the look of their dreams. Each article comes with washable fabric markers. For more fun, consider beads, buttons, glitter and gems… but do keep in mind they may come off in the wash… so I recommend hand washing if you jazz it up.

 

We overlapped colors to make purple and different effects. It is really wonderful to be able to design the pattern.  I remember growing up coloring with my mom, something I now enjoy doing with my daughter. This apron was a special coloring project because it isn’t just a page we signed in a coloring book, but something she can wear, actually use in the kitchen… or pretend with in her own “kitchen”.

Great Pretenders really know how to put the wow factor into pretend play. And while so much of our children’s world is plugged in… it sure is a breathe of fresh air to find them running around with capes and crowns and wands in hand.

 

You will find both the Colour-In-Collection and Reversible Super Hero Cape set in our Holiday Gift Guide. Give the gift of imagination this holiday.

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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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Floof: Indoor “Snow” Activities for Any Season

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So we might not be quite ready to think about snow days… but this reusable Floof  “snow” is a great activity for any season.

Partnered with companies such as Play Vision offers the opportunity to share with readers the very “coolest” toys. While this is a #sponsored post (we received a sample product for this review), the opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

Floof Profile Pic

It’s the end of summer and we’ve been just a little busy with game reviews… so we’re super excited about Floof. No instructions!!  Just soft, snow-like material to shape and mold. Here we’ve been playing with the Mr. & Mrs. Snowman set which comes with  accessories to build a small family.

Floof Molding Resusable Toy
The girls really enjoyed the simple craft time. The Floof is so soft to hold and very relaxing to manipulate.

Floof Profile Pic 2

One bucket has enough to make several snowmen, but only has enough eyes, carrots for 2 figures. You can get creative with lego or barbie pieces to outfit the remaining snowmen if needed. Or use the leftover Floof to create a snow drift or snowy blanket floor.

Floof Reusable Molding Toy

As a mom, I must mention how simple the clean up was. After the girls put all the pieces and Floof into the bucket, I just took a wet paper towel to the play area and that’s how easy it was. I will mention though, that because Floof is water soluble make sure children have dry, clean hands when playing. Otherwise it gets a bit sticky (just wash hands and dry to resume play).

Floof Profile Pic 2

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4 Solutions for Busting Boredom

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Boredom Buster with Pley

Boredom Buster with Pley

We’ve all been there… wanting to do something but not knowing what. Or having only a few minutes to ourselves… or the opposite: having all day and not knowing what to do with it. Our children face boredom all the time too. Sometimes it is due to over-stimulation, having too much in front of them and too many options. That’s why my first suggestion for busting boredom is a huge hit.

1. One of the most effective things I’ve found to work is simply laying out an activity, make an executive decision and go all out. This technique is better received with younger children… but it is effective at all ages. Sometimes just getting starting with something is too daunting… we’ve all been there. Pre-select an activity like an art project, construction play, or a board game.  The key is to have all the materials set out in advance, so for Playdoh have those ridiculously tight lids removed and accessories displayed, for game play have the board assembled and game set for the first player’s turn (review the instructions beforehand), and for art projects have all the art supplies handy (and perhaps a couple samples for inspiration).

2. Here’s a suggestion that can be difficult to accommodate at times: play WITH your child. Work with her/him to create a super cool HexBug design or build out a 3D mega Lego scene. Playing dolls or racing cars with them really helps to stimulate creativity and engagement. I’ve found that just 20 mins of playtime with my daughter can often lead to hours of her continuing to play on her own. Something about starting that storyline and setting the stage that really takes off… even when I have to take off for other responsibilities.

Pley Solution for Boredom

3. Now, here’s one my husband is extremely good at… getting into character. Wow – does this take play time into another dimension. He’s creative with voices and sound effects, while I would be more in line with “dressing the part”. Either way, it totally enhances the experience.

Boredom busters with Pley

4. This last suggestion is the best “break through the boredom” solution. Pley.com is a subscription based service that affords your child the opportunity to try new toys over and over. We’ve done a couple campaigns with Pley, highlighting benefits like keeping clutter to a minimum and reducing a family’s carbon footprint by recycling and sharing toys… but seriously the best and main reason for subscribing to Pley is the concept of renting toys, turning over fresh play ideas and never getting bored… and of course saving yourself from the hassle of missing pieces forgotten at the bottom of the toy box.

While this is a sponsored post, we truly believe a relationship with Pley is an ingenious idea and solution to many aspects of parenting (including investing in toys that our children too quickly outgrow).  Pley offers a monthly or annual subscription service, super easy inventory management system, free return shipping and even an option to buy if your child absolutely falls in love with the toy. Keep the rented toy for as long as your child is interested in playing and return it to receive another item from your list. See… perfect for managing boredom and sparking an interest in STEM and construction building (they offer over 300 Lego variations, plus much much more).

breaking boredom with Pley

The infamous “I’m bored” is a huge pet-peeve of mine… so I’m always curious about successful ways to keep children engaged. Share with me your boredom busters below in the comments.

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Fool Proof Solutions For Managing Toys & Avoiding Missing Pieces

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We are very excited to be partnered with Pley, as this is a sponsored article. As always, the content expressed herein is genuine and of my own opinion. This article contains affiliate links.

Fool proof solutions for managing toys

The holiday season was a blast and with it, especially this year, came a variety of new toys and games. I think this was the most exciting toy year in a long long time. If you hadn’t seen our toy guide, be sure to check it out… it still makes a great resource for birthday gift ideas and such. So with the New Year started and that holiday toy rush behind us, now we must think about ways for managing toys and stay organized.

Regardless if you are a traditional “big” Christmas kind of family or one that keeps it simple, we can all agree that containing the “bits and pieces” can be something of a challenge. Taking a poll… how many new toys or games are already missing pieces???  We methodically plan our shopping lists, carefully stash the gift surprises, capture the unwrapping on four different devices, spend hours untwisting ties (not to mention reading instruction manuals, inserting batteries, etc) and then… misc pieces end up in the dryer, back seat of the van, my sister’s house, the sock drawer and goodness knows everywhere little bits and pieces are destined to make an appearance (and that’s if you’re lucky enough to find them at all).

We have a couple of solutions and so far, they have held up pretty darn well. (Disclaimer: We make no guarantees, as from time to time we still find items in a random shoe, under the couch and did I mention my sister’s? How did that get there?) Anyway, nothing is completely fool proof but nonetheless we think we’re onto a couple good ideas… check them out below and head over to our prior article on managing toy overload.

The Tray Rule

When my daughter opens or plays with a toy collection that has the tiniest of pieces (Mega Bloks Barbie) she must do so on a tray. It is easy for the pieces to get swallowed up in our shaggy carpet, or accidentally kicked across the room. The tray makes it easy to carry the toy to another room and makes for easier clean up because everything is forced to stay together. So far this trick has worked terrifically for a couple of years. Lego building sets are wonderful for this purpose, especially when you are just opening and assembling the kits.

Collector Tins

Fool proof solutions for managing toys.Lunch box tins make an ideal storage system when specifically selected for toys. My daughter has a variety of toy collections; everything from Spider Man to Monsters Inc and Strawberry Shortcake to Star Wars. We’ve found lunch box tins in each of these themes to hold those specific toys. Not only does this system make clean up super easy but also allows my daughter to very easily decide what she wants to play. We’ve found these tins at flee markets, Amazon, Hot Topic and department stores. Because they are rectangular in shape they stack nicely or sit side-by-side depending how you have them stored or displayed. Oh yeah, and they can double as playroom decor in your child’s favorite playtime themes.

Pley

Fool proof solutions for managing toys

Photo courtesy of Pley

Ok parents, here’s your chance to take all those little bits and send them away!! Okay okay, that sounds slightly mean, but truly Pley is a tremendous resource when it comes to containing clutter and keeping toys organized. Here is a company that rents out toys for a monthly subscription. Seriously. So once your child is done playing with or constructing a toy, you pack it back up and send it back with a new one on it’s way. Super easy to set up and super affordable, OH and no worries if you kiddo completely falls in love with something, you are purchase it through Pley and keep it (and all it’s little bits) forever. And PS, I would still suggest using the tray idea to contain all of the rented pieces and keeping them separate from other collections you own. Pley offers over 400 Lego, Knex and other building sets with more inventory added all the time.

Despite these pretty decent suggestions, we still have a few stray Barbie brushes, dishes and lost shoes, and as such we are always on the look out for more organizing tips. What solutions have you implemented to contain the eensie-weensie pieces? Please share below… you might just save the vacuum from another unnecessary toy meal.

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Playskool Playtime Proves More Than Just Play

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So who doesn’t love playtime and play dates?  We were invited to play along side of Mr. Potato Head at the Playskool Play Date in Philly a couple weeks ago.  Victoria had plenty of interactive fun as she explored some awesome summer playtime toys.  While this event was geared for the younger crowd, it is important to recognize the opportunities hidden in family play time for older learning fun.  Here’s an example… if your older child is taking instrument lessons, get the most out of the practices and instrument rentals by putting on a family show.  A good toy to help bridge the gap is the Sesame Take-Along Band Set by Playskool that we got to check out at our Playskool Play Date.

Incorporating your little ones’ playtime activities with your older child(ren) is particularly challenging during the summer when everyone is home together.  An effective way to use this to your advantage is to set up 20 minute sessions whereas your older child is facilitating an activity… preferably a learning activity.  Here are five suggestions:

1. Story Brainstorming – your older child asks the younger ones for suggestions in telling a story.  These ideas come together for a storyboard, play or puppet show.

2. Creative Building – little ones often just make tall towers of blocks for the sole purpose of knocking over.  Have your older children build more detailed structures (flat to lessen the likelihood of knocked over creations) and offer their younger siblings cars or people to travel paths between buildings or inside walls.  (Be sure to let the older kids know that this activity will require extra patience on their part!!)

3. Themed Toys – here’s an easy one.  Let’s use dinosaurs as an example and let’s say you take a couple days to really get into dinosaurs with your loved ones.  Maybe it was a movie or trip to Academy of Natural Sciences Museum that got you excited, but how to engage the tots on the same topic?  Toys. Seriously, it is that easy.  Not all learning has to be hard-core facts. Allow the free play between the children and watch what pieces of knowledge coming flying out… facts you didn’t even know they comprehended much less retained for playtime and sharing with smaller siblings.  The toys themselves don’t have to be museum shop specialties… in fact the Mr. Potato Head you see in our video below is great for this purpose.

4. Creative Crafts – Most children enjoy getting messy and what better way than through art.  When you recruit your older kids to help with the younger ones… it gives them a sense of purpose while participating in the activity.  Shark Week is a fun summertime theme, so let’s use this as our example.  While everyone is engaging in a simple shark craft, drop bits of information as you go.  Once the activity is completed for the younger ones, have the old child(ren) take those crafts to incorporate into a larger more detailed project.  Email me for specific ideas but think big or better yet… have your older kids think of the bigger project.

5. Scavenger Hunt – Everyone loves a good hunt.  Have your bigger kids create an easy tot find game, while you create some big-kid alternatives.  Everyone hunts together and discovers together.

While the summer can present its challenges, it also affords many opportunities. I hope these suggestions are helpful and would love to hear of any suggestions you have for bringing little ones and older ones together for learning fun.

This is a sponsored post, whereby we were either compensated or given products for review. The ideas and suggestions herein are strictly my own.

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Celebrating 90 years with Madame Alexander Dolls

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Oh the places you can take your doll and your doll can take you!! Recently, Victoria and I had the great pleasure of visiting, touring and celebrating with Alexander Doll Company in New York City.

HAPPY 90TH!!

Photo courtesy of Alexander Doll Company Inc.

This was a very special day (despite someone’s embarrassing meltdown moment). But first, let me mention how terribly excited Victoria was for her first train ride ever. She could hardly contain her excitement. Here’s a quick clip of our adventure from Princeton Junction to NYC.

She was too cute in that tutu… all smiles the whole way. When we got to Penn Station, she kept repeating “We’re in the city, we’re finally in the city!”

NYC Madame Alexander Dolls

The Big Apple

A short walk had us at the door of Madame Alexander’s new building. Once inside, we were greeted with warmth, smiles and goodies – yum. We had the opportunity to hear a quick demonstration of the Dollie & Me line and in fact they had a skirt outfit similar to Victoria’s fluffy pink tutu – her “city outfit”. The doll studio held several rooms for exploration before we went one flight down to the office area. More goodies and lots of collectibles for us to admire. But here’s where the meltdown began… prior to coming we received a catalog and as such we looked thru the pages sharing time looking forward to our trip. Victoria immediately spotted the Rapunzel doll in the catalog and knew to look for her when we arrived. She had the hardest time parting with one of her all time favorite characters. I remain a very very grateful mom for all the patience the staff demonstrated while I dealt with the little situation.  Madame Alexander’s collection offers a wonderful variety including classic literature characters like Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz and Annie, and new fun loving ones like Pinkalicious,

Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy.

Toys R Us in NYC, Madame Alexander Dolls

Shopping At Toys R Us, NYC

Soon enough, we were on our way to a small shopping spree… this was New York after-all. Victoria like a big girl, selected her purchase with much care, paid by herself and managed her own bag all the way back to Penn Station. Click on the video for a glimpse into Madame Alexander’s world and our shopping spree.

And like any girl who’s had the time of her life… she just had to phone a friend and tell her all about it.

Train to NYC, Madame Alexander Dolls

"I had the most wonderful day..."

Many many thanks to Alexander Doll Company for hosting this media event and inviting us. In full disclosure, the Alexander Doll Company offered us the below pictured blue dress doll for our giveaway. The opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine. This was a special event, shared between mother and daughter in our nation’s Big Apple.

Here’s some additional information (provided via a press release from Alexander Doll Company) you may not have known about this well-known doll company…

    • Madame Alexander was the first manufacturer to issue a doll based on a licensed character. The 1930 Alice in Wonderland doll led to the creation of dolls based on characters from literature and popular motion pictures.

    • Madame Alexander invented “sleep eyes” (the innovation that allows a doll to close its eyes when its head is tilted back) in the late 1930s.

    • In 1942, Madame Alexander created Jeannie Walker, one of the toy industry’s first “walking dolls.”

    • Madame Alexander brought all the pomp and circumstance of Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation to life in a collection of 36 dolls dressed in historically accurate costumes. Attention to detail was so strict; the cloth used for the dolls’ robes was obtained from the same mill that had produced the actual coronation mantles. The final result was so convincing that CBS television used the dolls to enact the ceremony for their viewers on air!

    • Madame Alexander believed in honoring the people who helped build the country she loved. Therefore, in 1976, the Alexander Doll Company introduced the First Ladies series. The first 14-inch set included Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolly Madison. Ultimately, there were six different sets, each with six first ladies in their inaugural gowns. These dolls had a brush with fame when featured in the 1990s on the CBS show “Murphy Brown” as decoration in Corky Sherwood’s office.

    • In 2000, a line of eight storybook character dolls from Madame Alexander was featured in the McDonald’s Happy Meal. These celebrated storybook couples included Cinderella and Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Alice in Wonderland and The Mad Hatter, and Hansel and Gretel. Each of the eight miniature Alexander Happy Meal dolls has “sleep eyes.” This was a “first” for a Happy Meal toy.

    • The Smithsonian Institute houses several Madame Alexander dolls in its permanent collection.

For more pictures of our day out together, be sure to visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HomeroomAtHome and look for the Madame Alexander album.

Now for the Giveaway details:

Madame Alexander Dolls, NYC trip

Giveaway ends June 21st

No blog comments required – but of course we’d love to hear which Madame Alexander doll you might have had growing up or gifted to your child.

To enter the giveaway you must simple “like” our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HomeroomAtHome).

Then for an additional entry – share the Facebook contest/link on your Facebook home page.

And for a third and final entry – leave us a comment on our Facebook Madame Alexander post.

Giveaway will be drawn at random on June 22nd with entries closed at midnight on the 21st.  That’s it.  We hope this will simplify our entry requirements and encourage your participation, as we’d love to hear about your favorite dolls and experiences. Facebook is not affiliated with this giveaway or liable in any way or connected to this giveaway. Best of luck.

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