My Favorite Sleepsack: Merino Kids Review

Peter is 9 months old. Where does the time go? I’m registering my oldest for Kindergarten and mentally preparing for my baby to be 1?! Crazy. He’s had a huge growth month. He’s crawling (which would make him our first kid to crawl), sitting up, pulling up to stand, and standing independently for a few seconds at a time.

These milestones have also wreaked havoc on his sleep. And he wasn’t the best sleeper to begin with. The biggest issue we’ve had is that he rolls over and sits and then isn’t willing to lay himself back down. But, I’ve recently been putting him in the awesome sleepsack by Merino Kids and it has helped his sleep a ton, and seems to keep him from sitting himself up. If I had known about these when Thomas was at this stage, I would have never had to buy another sleepsack again. And good news! Merino Kids is offering imperfect readers $20 off their cute polka dot sleepsacks!

IMG_1428 [Read more...]

Stress-less Christmas: Have a Plan to Avoid Panic Shopping

Every year, I have a goal to have the majority of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. Or at least to have a plan for my shopping before Thanksgiving. There are certain things that I know I’ll hold off on until I’ve checked Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, but I always feel better if I have a plan. But somehow, ever December, I suffer from “We might not have enough-itis” and throw random budget breakers in my cart in fear of forgetting something. The things that usually get me? Stocking stuffers and last minute gifts for friends and neighbors.

[Read more...]

Toy Recommendations

It’s that time of year! I have from time to time done round-ups of the kids favorite toys at any given stage. I’ll do a round-up as soon as they finish their Christmas lists of what we’re thinking for Christmas this year, but I thought I’d share our past favorites in one post for anyone who needs ideas!

 

Our Favorite Games

Christmas Ideas for a 6 Month Old

 

Favorite Toys for 1 Year Olds

Favorite Toys for Toddlers: 12- 18 Month Old

Favorite Toys for 18-24 Month Old Boys

Favorite Toys for 2 – 3 Year Olds

More Favorite Toys for 2 Year Olds

Christmas Ideas for a 2 1/2 Year Old Boy

Favorite Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Favorite Toys for 4 Year Old Boys

Favorite Toys For 4 Year Old Boys

Every year after the kids’ birthdays, I post about the toys they are loving. When I first found out I was pregnant with Thomas five years ago, I was determined to keep plastic and baby stuff to a minimum. Well…that is laughable now. BUT, I do try to limit the toys to things that are truly loved and (when possible) higher quality toys that will last through all of our children. When possible, we gift experiences and time rather than things to our children, but sometimes, you just need an idea of what to get a kid. So, that’s why I do these lists.

We really struggled when Thomas’s birthday came around this year with what to get him because he had a lot of the “big” gifts that we would normally have gotten him for his fourth birthday already – hand-me-downs from friends, etc. We ended up getting him a new bike helmet, a new swimsuit and towel, and a Fisher Price doctor kit (not on the list below, but he and Nell love it, so maybe it should be). Not exactly a “big” birthday, but some years are like that. I try to remind myself that not every birthday needs to be some big production and that gifts are such a small part of a birthday experience. So when it came time for me to put together a list of things Thomas has loved over the last few months, I struggled. So finally, I just asked him what his favorite toys were and we put together this list (as always, these are just regular old links and not affiliate links, so click away!). Disclaimer: Thomas loves to be outside playing and is obsessed with sports – playing them and analyzing them – so if you’re kid is not a sports fan, this list is probably not going to help you out.

 

4 Year Old Toys

1. Sports Guys. We gave Thomas Football Guys for Christmas last year and it was a hit. He plays with them every single day. So, for his birthday, he asked my parents for Baseball Guys and Hockey Guys. And those are equally as loved. I step over sports fields all day long, and I’ve just accepted it as a way of life.

2. Going along with the Football Guys, Thomas also got these mini NFL football helmets last year for Christmas. They don’t get put away during football season, and every weekend Thomas sets up the teams that are playing that week. This weekend with much of the NFL on a bye week, he lined them up across our entire family room in rank order of his first favorite team (Broncos, obviously) to his least favorite team (the Seahawks).

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3. Fisher Price Triple Hit Baseball.  This was a favorite for the whole neighborhood this last Spring and Summer…Thomas calls it his Pitching Machine. It’s a lot of fun – we use it simply for pitching and not as a tee, though you can do both.

4. Nothing new here, Plasma Cars continue to top our list. They are just so fun – kids and adults love them. T got his for his second birthday and it’s a coveted toy by many kids who come over to play.

5. Gears. One non-sports oriented toy on the list. This has been really fun, T likes to build lots of different gear designs, and it’s something to make him think differently, which we like. B is an engineer, and though Thomas does not seem particularly engineering geared, which is just fine, we do like to have a couple things around to encourage him to look at things differently.

6. 12″ Bike with the training wheels discarded for transitioning from a Strider (link is to a similar bike – the one I was planning on purchasing before we received one as a hand-me-down). Thomas was ready to pass his Strider bike down to Nell by the time he was 3.5. I was still going to hold off until his birthday, but after doing a ton of research about what bike to move kids to after a Strider without much help, I finally just asked my friend whose twin boys never used training wheels. Her answer, “An inexpensive 12 inch bike, just take the training wheels off. I bought ours at a consignment sale and the boys are done with them, you can have one.”  This was the best advice ever (and the hand-me-down was great, too). Thomas will be ready for a bigger bike by the time he’s 5, so I’m glad I didn’t invest a lot of money in a 12″, but I think it was really important to keep Thomas on the small frame (Strider’s are about the size of a 12″ bike) for him to get used to pedaling. It took a couple days of working on balancing the heavier bike in the street and he was off and pedaling about a month before his 4th birthday – and thinking he was the king of the road.

So that’s what Thomas is loving these days in the toy department. He also loves all kinds of books and someday I’ll get together a roundup of our favorites, but honestly, his favorite reading material is a Fantasy Football magazine my dad gave to him. Weird. I know.

A few more past toy posts:

Toys for 1 Year Old Girls

Toys for 12 – 18 month Old Girls

Toys for 2 Year Old Boys

Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Our Favorite Games

Do More Knowing Your Child Is Safe: The Ayden Video Monitor (and a giveaway!)

I recently had the opportunity to try out the new Levana Ayden baby video monitor…and it’s awesome. Click through to read my review of the monitor and to enter for a chance to win one of three baby monitors Levana is giving away! [Read more...]

Toys for 2 Year Old Girls

It’s that time of year – my big kids had birthdays a couple months ago, so I can tell you what they’re loving now that we’re a few months into their new ages. Let’s start with Nell because finding things for Thomas was tough this year! No affiliate links, just sharing what we love, so click away!

 

2 year old toys

Nell is a baby doll girl. And when it comes to baby dolls, you have to go Corolle. Ok, you don’t have to, but they’re my favorite. They’ve been around forever – my two favorite babies were Corolle babies, and Nell plays with mine. My aunt bought Nell her first Corolle baby, and for her birthday, we got Nell a Corolle doll that is water safe. The body is soft, not hard like you’d expect, and my water loving girl loves giving her baby a bath. But, this is also Nell’s go-to baby right now for just general play. I’m telling you, Corolle dolls are the best.

 

Doll stroller. Most doll strollers don’t have front swivel wheels, which makes them a pain to take anywhere, and especially to push around the house. We bought a Graco one for Nell this winter and it just didn’t cut it for our circle floor plan – so for her birthday, I found this only slightly pink stroller on sale on Amazon (I think I paid $20 for it) and it’s been a hit. Note: The Amazon reviews aren’t great because someone thought this was a Maclaren stroller. It is made to look like a Maclaren, and we’ve loved it. Sometimes reviews are helpful, sometimes – like this time – they’re not.

Play kitchen. Santa brought this play kitchen to Nell in December. Santa specifically picked this one because it’s gender neutral since Nell had a big brother (at the time just one, but I was hugely pregnant with Peter and didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl – good choice Santa since we’re now a male dominated household). Honestly, Thomas loves playing here just as much as Nell.  Santa did leave B and I a note letting us know that it was a bear to put together, so keep that in mind should you be thinking of asking Santa for one for your little one this year…give Santa lots of extra time.

Play kitchen food. This is what I tell eveyrone to get Nell when they ask for ideas – play kitchen food and accessories. My favorite food is by Learning Resources – these healthy baskets are great because the baskets store the food, but the kids also like playing grocery store. My aunt got Nell this Farmers Market set from Learning Resources for her birthday, and it’s a hit. The kids play market and grocery store – and love it.

And I didn’t even move the water table off the picture from last year’s round-up, because it continues to be a favorite (Nell’s 1st birthday gift). I cannot tell you how many cups of morning coffee I’ve finished before 10am because of the water table. We use it outside Spring – Fall. I store it in the garage, but bring it inside every few weeks in the winter for the kids to play with like a sensory table. I bought ours at Costco for Nell’s 1st birthday – and they tend to carry a new one every year, but buy early, because they sell out by June!

So, that’s what Nell’s loving these days. What about your kids? I’ll get Thomas’s post together soon…if I can figure out what to put on it!

Here are my past toy posts:

Toys for 1 Year Old Girls

Toys for 12 – 18 month Old Girls

Toys for 2 Year Old Boys

Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Our Favorite Games

 

The Games We Play: Preschool Edition

B and I love games. We play Gin Rummy together frequently. Bananagrams. Scrabble when we have hours. We adore playing games with friends, too. So when it came to playing games with our kids, we were all about it. But, because B and I are game people – we wanted to like the games we play with our kids, too. From my babysitting days, there are plenty of games that kids love (and that I loved) that are a bit tedious for adults. Candy Land comes to mind…

So anyway, here are our current favorite games to play with Thomas, who is 3 and a half. Nell, at one and a half, “plays” some of these too.

favorite-games-for-preschoolers From top to bottom (no affiliate links, just linking for your convenience):

Uno Moo: This is just fun. Thomas loves this game and is obsessed with skunks suddenly as a result of it. Nell also loves the game – she plays with us and on her own, but one of us helps her by giving directions like, “Nell, play your yellow chicken now to knock out Thomas’s blue chicken”.

Spot It, Jr: Santa put this in Thomas’s stocking and it’s been a favorite since Christmas. There are a couple different games you can play with it, and it goes quickly. B and I have played a couple nights after the kids are in bed, too. This is also our go-to gift for Thomas’s preschool classmates.

Zingo: I bought this based on Sarah at Clover Lane’s suggestion at Thanksgiving to play with Thomas and my nieces, and it’s a definite family hit. I couldn’t figure out what was so great about it from the description online – sounded like a fancied up bingo (it is). But way more fun than Bingo, plus it’s quick and just competitive enough for little kids without overwhelming them or making you “go easy” on them.  And I feel like my kids are now going to have a leg up on their nursing home buddies in their old age. Preparing them for life right here. Preparing them for life.

Alphabet Memory: I’ve mentioned before that we play a shortened version of this game. And honestly, Memory is not my favorite. But it’s so good for kids – it teaches focus. We pull out the letters of Thomas’s name when we play most of the time, and every now and then will do the whole alphabet, but that’s still a bit complicated for him.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel: Since I mentioned this over a year ago, I doubt it needs much explaining, but it’s a really fun game, and goes relatively quickly, too. Thomas received this for Christmas when he was 2.5, but Nell can play this one by herself with very little direction from us, too, so it’s nice to have a game that the four of us can play together since so many of the games are a little beyond Nell right now.

Sequence for Kids: This is our newest game acquisition, and it’s Thomas’s current favorite. He loves “blocking” us from winning, and it teaches strategy – which is beyond Thomas right now, but something we talk about and work on. We play this at least once a day right now.

So those are our current favorites, what about you? Any great games you’ve played lately (kid or grown-up, I’m always up for suggestions in either category!)?

What You Really Need For The Hospital

*I just switched hosting companies for the blog, and other than the switch eating all the comments on yesterday’s post, I think everything is up and running. If you run into any trouble though, please let me know!

We’re 6 weeks out from the baby’s due date, which means that I’ve started to accumulate a small pile on a shelf in my closet of things to throw in a bag when I go into labor. I refuse, this time around, to pack a bag 4 weeks in advance because, let’s be honest, McKevitt babies take their sweet time – and often require encouragement – to make their way into the world. But if I were one of those girls who had a few contractions and headed to the hospital barely in time to even discuss pain medication let alone make a decision about it before the baby arrived, I might have a bag packed by now. Or not.

But, one thing I AM good about doing is packing only things you need for the hospital – in the heat of the moment or not. So, here’s what is on my mental list of what I took when Nell was born (when Thomas was born we still needed to lug our laptop with us because our blackberries certainly weren’t sufficient for posting the big news to Facebook…oh how times have changed). Most of these are things I wear daily, so as long as I have my list of what I need, I’ll do a quick load of laundry if necessary before we head to the hospital and we’ll be good to go.

what you really need for the hospital For Labor: Flip Flops. Sports Bra. Maternity Tank. Yoga Pants. Headband. Phones and Chargers.   After Delivery: V-Neck Jersey Dress. Maternity Leggings. Socks. Pretty Robe. Nursing Pillow (cover here). Camera. Going Home: Bamboo Belly Bandit. Glamourmom Long Top. Maternity Leggings. Aden and Anais Swaddling Blanket.

 

Early Labor: Okay, for labor, this is what I actually show up at the hospital in – rather than pack in my bag. Maternity (or not – I didn’t buy maternity this go-around) yoga pants, a sports bra (which I wear in the labor tub at our hospital), a maternity tank, flip flops, one of my favorite headbands and our iPhones and chargers for communicating with the fam. Being that this baby isn’t going to come in June like I’m used to, I’ll probably throw a zip up hoodie on over the tank top before we leave.

For the late stages of labor and delivery, I just use what the hospital has – their gown, etc. They get gross, you don’t want to deal with that, and they give the docs the access they need to check you. With Thomas I labored in a tank top and sports bra, and then had them cut off of me before my emergency c-section. Just use the hospital’s stuff.

After delivery, I immediately changed out of the hospital issue gown into a deep v-neck jersey dress. It was as comfy as pajamas, but gave me easy access for nursing and skin to skin time. The dress pictured is a nursing dress, but I’d add a sleep nursing bra to the mix, too. I’ll throw in a pair of leggings just in case it’s freezing, but probably won’t wear them because, if I remember correctly, the checks are frequent and pants just get in thew ay. A pretty robe for pictures is a nice touch and keeps you warm if your room is chilly. And definitely socks – whatever variety you prefer, but my feet get cold and I like socks. The hospital where I delivered Thomas was “Baby Friendly” (just not Emily friendly), and they provided nursing pillows, so the Boppy I’d packed went unused and I didn’t bring it when we had Nell. But the Emily friendly hospital where Nell was born doesn’t provide them and I sent B home for it the morning after Nell was born, so maybe something to check before you pack it. I do think it’s nice to have that extra arm support in the hospital – for gazing at your sweet baby on your lap, but also to help with nursing positioning. And of course, the real camera – I don’t need high def pictures of me in labor, but I definitely need them of my newborn. Not Pictured: A small toiletries bag. Toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant (pack your husband’s, too), a brush and any makeup you need. I keep it pretty minimal.

Between delivery and the time I’m discharged, I use whatever the hospital will bring me. Their disposable underwear, their pads,  their ice packs, their diapers, their swaddling blankets, their baby shirts and hats, everything. Gotta get that deductible’s worth :) .

 

Going Home: It’s hard to accept, but news cameras are not going to be camped outside of the hospital for weeks waiting for the first glimpse of me, B and baby Peyton Manning McKevitt. So we’ll leave looking fabulous 24 hours after delivery to Kate Middleton. I will leave the hospital in maternity leggings, my very favorite nursing tank, and the sweatshirt/cardigan that I’ve lived in since September.  And my bamboo belly bandit. I don’t bother with the Belly Bandit until I’m discharged, because the nurses come check you all the time, but this thing is indispensable to me in the first few weeks after delivery. I bought it after my C-Section with Thomas and think it was monumental for my quick recovery – and used it after my VBAC with Nell to get that postpartum belly back in shape sooner. The baby will wear jammies home from the hospital (and for the first many weeks of its life) – I bring two outfits, one for a boy and one for a girl. We install the car seat about a week before I’m due usually, and we just leave the car seat in the car while we’re at the hospital and B runs out to get it before we leave. I also bring one of my beloved Aden and Anais swaddling blankets for the ride home. We also leave the hospital with as many free diapers as we can stuff in our bag.

So, that’s what will go in my hospital bag. Because we live close to the hospital, I just have B throw some sweats and a change of clothes on top of my stuff last minute. He always comes home at least once to shower – so much nicer than the hospital – and to check on things on the home front, so we don’t worry too much about what he has.

Holiday Gift Guide: Toddlers

I’m back with my toy and book recommendations for toddlers. This is a harder category for me, especially because my current toddler has an older brother, and so many of his toys are her favorites. But here are some tried and true things Nell has loved in the last few months (I’d say starting around 15 months for many of these):

Holiday Gift Guide Toddlers

*No affiliate links are used in these recommendations, and I am not sponsored by any of these companies to recommend these products. Just sharing what we love.

Melissa and Doug Fill & Spill Picnic Basket - Nell could happily put things in and out of containers all day long. She loves this picnic basket (and a similar purse), so any fill & spill type toy would be a huge hit for any kid. This was a favorite for Nell beginning shortly before her first birthday, and continues to occupy her time today.

Let’s Go to the Zoo (and most Lift the Flap Books) – My BFF Emily gave this book to T for his first birthday, and it saved us on several plane trips. We had to replace it when Nell was ready because it was so well loved, and I’ve accepted that we’ll just need to buy another copy when McKiddle #3 is about 1, too. The kids learn their animals and animal sounds reading this book (multiple times a day every day). I don’t know what it is, but this book (and other lift the flap books) just hook the kids in.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Piggy Bank - We don’t actually own this toy ourselves, but my kids both play with it everywhere they go, and when Thomas was in physical therapy, his Physical Therapist always pulled this out for him to practice fine motor and gross motor activities (the kid wouldn’t move if a boulder was rolling at him, but put a fake penny in front of him and he was motivated…and honestly, he’s still money [fake or real] motivated to this day).

Baby Lit Books – These are just fun for me (my sister gave them to Nell for her birthday, but she and I geeked out over them for a good 20 minutes together), but Nell adores them. They were the first books my little mover and shaker would sit still for, and whenever I need her to just calm the eff down, I pull out Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. If I had to guess now, I’d put my money on Nell being a high school English Teacher. She loves herself some Jane Austen, can muster up energy that no one else understands, and takes absolutely none of our – or anybody else’s – crap. Qualities every high school English teacher needs, I’d say.

Hide and Squeak Eggs – I do not understand why, but these are enchanting to babies and toddlers alike. That’s all.

Green Toys Shape Sorter – I’ve tried just about every shape sorter out there, and this is my favorite. We have a ball one that is really great starting around age 2, but this one is perfect because it sits flat for young toddlers to manipulate, but isn’t too uncomplicated – it still keeps their interest. Such important fine motor skills in shape sorting (and it’s always fun to watch your kid get it for the first time) and great for learning shapes, too. For the record, we have the Melissa and Doug box shape sorter which I assumed would be awesome and I loathe it (purchased two years ago, so it could have improved in that time) – the lid comes off too easily, and the shapes are too complicated – and many of them too similar for young toddlers just beginning to develop the fine motor skills and shape recognition necessary for shape sorting. This Green Toys one is perfect – like I said, complicated enough, but not frustratingly so.

For more favorite toys for the 1 – 2 age set, check out Toys for 1 Year Olds written after Nell’s birthday this summer.

What’s on your toddler’s Christmas list this year? Anything you highly recommend that your own toddler has loved lately?

Holiday Gift Guide: Preschoolers

It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it’s November. And while I’m firmly in the “No-Christmas-Music until December 1st” boat, I’m also firmly in the “wrap up as much of my Christmas shopping as I can before Thanksgiving” boat. So, I thought I’d do a few posts this week on the things my kids have been loving over the last six months or so. I always find holiday and other gift guides so helpful – if not for a specific toy than for an idea or genre of toy or book I hadn’t thought to explore yet, so for those of you wanting to get an early start on your Christmas shopping, these posts are for you!

Let’s start with my preschooler. These are some of our tried-and-true since his 3rd birthday. A lot of these really work for either preschool boys or girls, but keep in mind I have a 3 year old boy when reading these recommendations, and that he’s an All-American boy in terms of loving sports, cars, construction and all things letter and number related.

 

Holiday Gift Guide 3 year olds

 

*Please note, no affiliate links are used in these recommendations, and I have no affiliation with any of these companies, just sharing what we love:

Magformers - If I could only recommend one toy for this age group (and honestly younger and much older), these would be it. Last year I was planning on joining the Magna Tiles craze and getting those for T as a Christmas gift, but on our road trip out east Mr. B’s aunt gifted Thomas these Magformers to keep him entertained at her house, and then to take home with us. B and I are addicted to these – I could sit on the floor and build extravagant magnet structures for hours with the kids (Nell tears them apart, but I’m working on being okay with it). T has always enjoyed them, but has become particularly fond of them in the last six months. I think at some point me might still add Magna Tiles (or just more Magformers) to our playroom mix, but these are a bit more affordable and so much fun.

Activity Cones – Talk about a multi-useful toy. These are everything from an obstacle course, to football uprights in the backyard, to clown hats, to peg legs, to construction cones. Easy, inexpensive, imaginative fun.

Blutrack – This was how I bribed Thomas to potty train back in April (he’s a stubborn one, so he got a BIG gift for using the toilet the first time – I knew that was going to be our biggest hurdle so I took him to pick it out, and told him he could open it when he peed on the potty for the first time. It took two hours for him to decide toilets weren’t so bad, he wanted that race track so much). But anyway, I keep this put away most of the time, and pull it out on extra cold days or for playdates. A bucket full of match-box cars provides at least a solid hour of entertainment. And T’s face lights up when I get out his race track.

Bowling Set: Thomas received this from our old neighbors’ when Nell was born, and he has loved it for a year and a half. In the last six months though, this has been a favorite toy of T’s to pull out when he has friends over. Now that he can set up the pins himself, I like it more, too. Great for hand-eye coordination and beats the hell out of wearing borrowed shoes (though I’m sure a real bowling alley visit is in our future).

Garbage Truck and I Stink! – This is a great combo gift. I’ll be honest, the book took some adjusting to for me and Mr. B, but T and all of his preschool boy buddies absolutely adore it – and the more we read it, the more we understand why. T got the book from his birthday from a friend (after he repeatedly checked it out at the library, I suggested it when asked for ideas), and Nell gave him the garbage truck for his birthday, too. They’re both huge hits around here – and I’m pretty sure most boys would love this book with any type of garbage truck.

Mini Micro Scooter- Thomas was adamant about wanting a scooter for his 3rd birthday after watching kids scoot around all spring in our old neighborhood. He tried out a friend’s scooter and I wasn’t that thrilled with it – it didn’t turn well, it was tippy. So I started my research and settled on the Mini Micro Scooter. It’s the only preschool sized scooter we’ve actually owned, but having watched Thomas ride other scooters, this one is hands down the best out there. It’s a daily internal struggle for T to decide if he’s going to scooter or ride his strider bike on our walks and park outings, and he rides it up and down our street with the older neighbor kids all day long. This is a bigger ticket item (but under $100), but I can’t recommend it highly enough.

For more Toddler and Preschool gift guides, check out my recap of Toys for Boys Ages 2 – 3. All of these items are still solidly in use daily at our house almost 6 months later, but repeating them felt redundant, so feel free to consider that list for this age group, too! Tomorrow I’ll share the toys Nell’s been loving lately for all of you with a young toddler.

What are your preschoolers loving these days? Anything you already have on your kiddos Christmas lists?