30 Gift Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers {That Moms Will Love Too!}

Gift Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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With three little ones, I often am asked for gift recommendations. Since my oldest is 4, my expertise pretty much ends at the preschool set. But I think I finally have it down as far as which toys get the most love and will be played with for many years.

I’m personally all about experiences over gifts, but sometimes that is just not something grandma wants to hear! She wants to see the look on her grand babies’ faces as they tear open the paper unveiling a new fun item. Understandable, I suppose.

So with that taken into consideration, I decided to put together a fun list of suggestions. These toys are low-tech and offer hours of fun, all the while developing skills or burning energy! Additionally, many of these are easy to find for great prices on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Be on the lookout!

30 GIFT IDEAS FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS

Inexpensive {$15 and under}:

  • Puzzles
  • Craft Kits from the dollar store {My kids love coloring those black fuzzy pictures}
  • ALEX Toys Early Learning Sets – These are great for helping children to learn how to cut, paste, and craft. They have a great variety of kits available for under $10. Alex Toys
  • Stickers! I especially love these big reusable sticker pads from Melissa & Doug
  • Books – You can never have too many ;)
  • Play-Doh and coordinating accessories
  • Animal action figures – I haven’t met a little kid yet who doesn’t enjoy playing with these. Bonus points if you get a great variety and provide a fun container for them to all go into! {This bucket set is super cute!}
  • Dot Markers – These are amazing for the mom who doesn’t have time to clean-up the mess paint creates. Great for helping little hands to practice ‘squeezing’ skills.
  • Bath Toys – Look for water scoopers and animals that can easily be cleaned!
  • Games – Favorites for this age range include Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and Cootie {These often can be found for $5 on Black Friday}
  • Mr. Potato Head – This toy never goes out of style. Many skills can be learned playing with it, too.
  • Fisher-Price Doodler Pro – This is an excellent toy for learning to draw, and it’s great in the car.
  • Sleds, or any winter fun items.

[Read more…]

Win A VIP Experience at America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit from Absopure {Giveaway ENDS 11/24} #DetroitParade

Absopure Giveaway

There are few traditions as deeply rooted in Michigan as America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit.

As a little girl, I have fond memories of waking up each Thanksgiving morning to watch the parade, getting excited as I saw a floating Elmo or Big Bird go by, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the big man in red.

As a teenager, I attended the parade on a few occasions and always had a blast watching the floats, interacting with the fun clowns, and nabbing breakfast at a downtown restaurant after.

As a parent, I look forward to the day I can take my kids down to the parade so they too can be mesmerized by the lights and beautiful floats.

Absopure {yes, the water people} is a Michigan-based company that also has deep roots with this beloved tradition. For nearly 20 years, they have provided water to parade marchers, volunteers, Turkey Trotters and event staff.

While you watch the parade, be sure to keep your eye out for the company’s classic Model T delivery truck. It will be leading the way during the Model T section of the parade, and is driven by third-generation owner, William Patrick Young. The vintage Ford Model T was the first automobile used to deliver Absopure bottled water the year it was founded in 1908. How cool is that?

GIVEAWAY

Because Absopure knows firsthand how much fun it is to attend this exciting event, they have partnered with me and Metro Detroit Mommy to give away a Thanksgiving Day Parade VIP experience to a family of four so they can create new memories this holiday season. The details are outlined below. [Read more…]

Pour It Forward and Help Hungry Michigan Families This Season #PourItForward

Pour It Forward

The post below is sponsored by The United Dairy Industry of Michigan {Milk Means More}. The opinions expressed are my own.

A recent conversation I had with my 4-year-old {pictured above}:

Me: “Did you know some children don’t have enough food to eat?”

Kinley: “You mean they don’t have cheese roll-ups and chocolate milk?”

Me: “No, they definitely do not have those things.”

Kinley: {Thinks for awhile.} “Mom, we should help those kids.”

I agree, kiddo. I agree.

In my pre-kids life, I didn’t have much money, but I had time and could often be found volunteering at local organizations in need. These days, I don’t always have the time to volunteer, but I am happy to give monetary donations when I can. My favorite organizations to give to are local ones helping my neighbors in need.

That’s why I love programs like Pour It Forward. It is an easy way for a busy mom like me to give back to my community, and have a wonderful lesson to teach my children.

The Pour It Forward Campaign is brought to you by Michigan’s dairy farm families, Milk Means More and all of the Kroger stores throughout Michigan. Through December 16, Kroger shoppers can purchase a paper milk gallon for an additional $3 at check-out. In turn, that money will help provide a minimum of one gallon of Pure Michigan® Kroger milk to a local food bank. Last year, the campaign raised more than 32,900 gallons of milk. This is a huge number because milk is something ALL of the food banks always need. 

[Read more…]

25+ Christmas Events in Southeast Michigan {Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint and Lansing Areas}

For me, Christmas officially begins with the music…then shopping…then purchasing a peppermint latte…and then I finally start to decorate {generally after Thanksgiving}. After all that, I’m ready to focus on the reason for the season, do some volunteering, and plan some rockin’ family outings.

Lucky for me, there are so many neat things to do in this area during Christmas, so I am starting to plan ahead since many of these events do sell out. Below, I’ve picked my favorite 25+ Christmas events in southeast Michigan that are sure to get you in the spirit of the season!

Christmas Events in Southeast Michigan

The Nutcracker Ballet {Various dates and locations}  Cities include Ann Arbor, Detroit, Lansing, Brighton, Farmington Hills, Flint, Oxford, and more. Link for shows: http://www.nutcrackerballet.net/html/michigan.html

Holiday Fun in Kerrytown in Ann Arbor {Various dates in Nov. and Dec.} – Visit this quaint area of Ann Arbor for lots of holiday fun, including a holiday market and children’s lantern parade. Santa will be visiting on select days as well! FREE. Link for more info: http://kerrytown.com/events-1/

Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic in Flint {Nov. 17 – Dec. 30} – Bundle up and visit during this special time when thousands of lights sparkle like tiny stars throughout the Village. You’ll find villagers making vintage crafts, shops full of great gifts and the beloved Huckleberry Railroad waiting to take you on a festive nighttime ride. Ticket prices for the village/train combo: Adult {ages 13-59} – $13, Senior {60+} – $12, Child {25 months-12} – $10, 24 mos. and under are free. Link for more info: http://www.geneseecountyparks.org/pages/christmas

Wayne County Lightfest in Westland {Nov. 20 – Dec. 31} — Lightfest features more than 47 giant animated displays and more than one million lights and is the Midwest’s largest light show. The complete route is more than four miles of Hines Dr. Lights run from 7-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Entry is $5 fee per vehicle. Link for more info: http://www.waynecounty.com/news/2889.htm

Silver Bells in the City in Lansing {November 21} — The premiere holiday event for the state of Michigan, which includes the lighting of Michigan’s official Christmas tree and a fireworks show over the State Capitol. 5-9 p.m. FREE. Link for more info: http://www.silverbellsinthecity.org/

Detroit Christmas Tree Lighting in Campus Martius in Detroit {Nov. 21} – Such a beautiful and FREE event! 5 p.m. – Midnight. Expect to pay parking fees. Link for more info: http://www.campusmartiuspark.org/events/

Wonderland of Lights at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing {Nov. 21 – Dec. 28} — Potter Park Zoo is transformed into a magical winter wonderland with thousands of holiday lights and extraordinary displays Thursdays-Sundays 5-8 p.m. Adults are $6/person, children ages 3-12 are $4 and children 3 and under are free. Link for more info: http://www.potterparkzoo.org/wonderland-of-lights

Festival of Trees in Rochester {Nov. 21-23} – The Downtown Rochester Festival of Trees is a holiday spectacular like no other, featuring beautifully decorated trees, wreaths, stockings, plus live entertainment, children’s activities, holiday treats and visits with Santa. $5/person, children 10 and under are free. Link for more info: http://www.downtownrochestermi.com/events/festival-of-trees/

Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak {Weekends, Nov. 22 – Dec. 31} — A million-plus LED lights cover trees, buildings and animal sculptures. Live entertainment, arts, crafts, ice carving and holiday train displays, too. $8 in advance, $10 at the door, children 2 and under free. $6 for parking. Link for more info: http://www.detroitzoo.org/events/wild-lights

North Pole Express in Owosso {Nov. 22 – Dec. 21} – Take a 4-hour excursion by train to experience the magic of Christmas. The train departs from Owosso and travels to the Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas.  While there, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, see reindeer, visit Santa’s Village and more. Lots included in the ticket prices, but book quick — these rides are sure to sell out. Tickets range from $35-$75. Link for more info: https://www.michigansteamtrain.com/north-pole-express/

[Read more…]

Sesame Street Live in Detroit Jan. 23 – Feb. 16, 2015 {+ Giveaway ENDS 12/1}

Sesame Street Live in Detroit Jan. 23- Feb. 16

Sesame Street Live is heading into The Fox Theatre in Detroit January 23 through February 16, 2015 and I have the scoop and a chance for you to win a family 4-pack! Sesame Street Live is a larger-than-life, musical touring stage production featuring Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie…and more. As I have mentioned before, Sesame Street Live is one of our absolute favorite kid shows — my girls LOVE them, and there usually is some adult humor sprinkled in to give us a laugh, too.

I wanted to make sure this information was shared now since tickets to the show would be a GREAT gift for children. {I’m all about giving experiences versus another toy!}

ABOUT THE SHOW

No matter where you’re from or where you’ve been, everyone is special – so join in! Elmo, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and their Sesame Street friends welcome Chamki, Grover’s friend from India, to Sesame Street. Together, they explore the universal fun of friendship and celebrate cultural similarities, from singing and dancing, to sharing cookies. Join the fun and make a memory with your friends and family!

Each performance is 90 minutes of singing, dancing and audience participation, including a 15-minute intermission. The perfect length for very young children!

TICKETS

Ticket prices: $15, $25, $35 {Gold Circle} and $65 {Sunny Seats}

Opening Night {Friday, January 23 at 7 p.m.} — All seats are $10 {excluding Gold Circle and Sunny Seats}. Additionally, group savings are available. Groups 10+ call 313-471-3282.

Get the ultimate fan experience with Sunny Seats! The Sunny Seats Package includes a VIP Seat and a pre-show Meet & Greet photo opportunity with two Sesame Street Live friends. Additional fees/surcharges may apply. To charge by phone, call 800-745-3000.

To purchase tickets, visit this link: http://www.olympiaentertainment.com/events/detail/sesame-street-live-3

[Read more…]

Big Hero 6 Review {A.K.A. I Want A Squishy Robot}

Big Hero 6

The other night, my 4-year-old {Kinley} and I had the opportunity to have a mom-daughter date night to see Disney’s newest flick, Big Hero 6.

I wasn’t sure what to think prior to the movie. I had thought the previews made it look cute, but I didn’t know if it would capture our attention.

Well, I was positively surprised. Not only did the animation blow me away, but overall, I really enjoyed this movie — and so did Kinley.

ABOUT THE MOVIE {FROM PRESS MATERIALS}

With all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, BigHero 6 is an action-packed comedy-adventure about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who learns to harness his genius—thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion—a robot named Baymax—and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action, Big Hero 6 is directed by Don Hall {Winnie the Pooh} and Chris Williams {Bolt}, and produced by Roy Conli {Tangled}. This film is rated PG.

[Read more…]

Flash Giveaway With Kroger and Shell Fuel Rewards {$50 Kroger OR Shell Gift Card} ENDS 11/10

Kroger and Shell

Remember a few weeks back how I discussed the Kroger Fuel Rewards program with Shell and gave away a $100 gas card? Well, I have another opportunity for you to win a gift card!

All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below so I have your email information, and then share a testimonial about the fuel rewards program in the comments for your chance to win a $50 gift card to either Kroger or Shell.

What I’m looking for:

  • 1 – 2 short sentences about how you are using the Kroger Fuel program.
  • Feel free to include how long you’ve been a member of the program, how much money you’ve saved over time or this year alone, or even mention of being able to go on a family road trip as a result of your Kroger Fuel Points.
  • For extra consideration, be sure to mention the program by name (i.e. Shell fuel rewards).

The folks at Kroger and Shell will be evaluating the testimonials and helping me choose a few winners, so do a good job ;) Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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When Your Child is “Behind” {Part II. Experience With Early On Michigan}

Awhile back, I stepped out on a limb and shared my parental concerns with my toddler, Karina. I discussed my frustrations with her language development and then spoke about the FREE statewide program I turned to — Early On Michigan.

In that post, I also mentioned how we would have the choice on whether we should re-screen her at age two if we weren’t seeing a lot of improvement.

Well, the time came. She turned two in July, and I was still feeling hesitant. Was she speaking enough? Were her words as clear as other 2-year-olds? She has a hot temper — was it because of her lack of expressive language? Or was hearing the issue?

Early On Michigan

This photo sums up Karina’s goofy personality pretty well!

First, I needed to tackle a hearing test. With hearing issues in our family tree, I was nervous that could be the case. Our health department was backed up so it took two flippin’ months to get an appointment. So, at 35 weeks pregnant with baby #3, I waddled in with the toddler and my 3-year-old in tow. It was a total disaster. They didn’t have the training to work with a toddler — she kept pulling out the ear buds — and she didn’t have the ability to sit still enough so they could perform the test. My eyes started to well up with tears as they explained how I would need to wait until she was older to perform the test. I was so frustrated when I was hoping to walk away with an answer.

Next, we had our 2-year-old well check with Karina’s pediatrician and I explained my concerns again. She graciously wrote me a referral to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor for the hearing test. I breathed a sigh of relief — these people would know what they are doing, right? Thankfully, they did. They knew exactly what to do to keep her entertained and check her hearing in the process. I was in amazement seeing them work with her. I walked away with tears again — but this time from joy. My daughter didn’t have a hearing loss. In fact, they reassured me she was very bright.

[Read more…]

Cirque Dreams Holidaze in Detroit Dec. 16-20, 2014 {+Giveaway ENDS 11/17}

Cirque Dream Holidaze - Giveaway

I have a partnership with Olympia Entertainment and will be receiving complimentary tickets to the show in exchange for promoting. All opinions expressed are my own.

With more than 300 costumes, 20 acts and 30 performers, Cirque Dreams Holidaze is sure to light up the holiday season when it returns to the Fox Theatre in Detroit Dec. 16-20. After sold out performances in 2009, 2011 and 2013, I can’t wait! I have yet to attend a Cirque show, so I have a feeling I’m in for a real treat.

From the press materials:

Cirque Dreams Holidaze is an original musical extravaganza of ornaments that re-imagines the holiday season and showcases an endless variety of imaginative, heart-pounding and gravity- defying feats you have to see to believe. Experience gingerbread men flipping mid air, toy soldiers marching on thin wires along with snowmen, icemen and penguins, balancing, jumping and spinning in disbelief. The show celebrates the most wonderful time of the year with singers, choreography and exciting production numbers. Performers twirl, bounce and soar thru the air to original music and seasonal favorites brought to life within a stage setting of gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering trees and soldiers creating a wonderland of amazement.

Sounds great, right?

Cirque Dreams Holidaze - Detroit

[Read more…]

Family Fun in Southeast Michigan in November 2014

Is it just me, or has 2014 flown by? I just can’t believe it.

With November comes talk of turkey and the start of Christmas cheer.

So here goes, a list of fun for the most wonderful time of the year!

Family Fun in Southeast Michigan in November 2014

RE-PIN HERE

FAMILY FUN IN SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN IN NOVEMBER 2014

November 1 — $5 Day at The Henry Ford {Dearborn} – $5 admission per venue: Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour or a traditional IMAX. $5/person per venue. $5 for parking.

November 7 — Cranbrook Institute of Science {Bloomfield Hills} — Visit this gem for FREE after 5 p.m. on the first Friday of the month courtesy of the MASCO Corporation Foundation.

November 7 – Harry the Dirty Dog with the Flint Youth Theatre {Flint} – Harry has everything a little white dog with black spots could want, but he hates taking baths. To avoid bath time he runs away and spends the day playing in the dirt. This new musical, based on the classic book, captures the whimsical humor and touching dedication to family. Show is at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10. Best suited for ages 3 and up. 

November 7-9 – Aladdin Jr. at Warren Civic Theatre {Warren} – All of your favorite characters from the hit Disney film – Aladdin, Jasmine, Iago, Jafar, the Genie, and more – are here in Disney’s Aladdin Jr., a musical adventure filled with magic, mayhem, and flying carpet rides. {Unsure of ticket cost as of now.}

Shrek the MusicalNovember 7-16 {weekends} – Shrek The Musical by Community Theatre of Howell {Howell Freshman Campus} –  In a faraway kingdom turned upside down, things get ugly when an unseemly ogre shows up to rescue a feisty princess. Full of songs, great dancing and breath-taking scenery, Shrek The Musical is part romance, part twisted fairy tale and all irreverent fun for everyone! $14 for students, $16 for adults.

November 8 — Family-Friendly Film at the Michigan Theater – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang {Ann Arbor} – Part of the Toyota Family-Friendly Film Series. 1:30 p.m. Adults – $10, seniors/children 13+ – $8. Free for kids 12 and under.

November 8 — Lowe’s Build & Grow Clinic {Nationwide} – Bring your child to Lowe’s to make a science lab! Register online in advance. FREE.

November 9 — FREE admission to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History {Detroit} – The Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History opens its doors for FREE, thanks to Charter One Bank.

[Read more…]

Snack Review: Harvest Snaps #HarvestSnapsFan {+Giveaway ENDS 11/13}


This post was created in partnership with Harvest Snaps. I have been compensated with product for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


I am a snacking queen. I love trying new, healthy snacks and being the first among my friends to build buzz with new products.

Therefore, I jumped at the chance to try Harvest Snaps when I was contacted by the company. I had seen them at Costco and Meijer, and always wondered what they tasted like. After checking out their fun social media presence too, I knew I had to give them a shot!

But dried peas and lentils as a snack? Would they even taste good?

I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I’m pretty sure they tricked my brain into thinking I was eating a chip, which was awesome. The snacks are baked, gluten-free, high in fiber and protein and low in sodium and fat — all things I was very happy to read as I try to get my family back on the healthy track.

Harvest Snaps Flavors

The six flavors include: Caesar {Snapea Crisps}, Tomato Basil {Lentil Snaps}, Onion Thyme {Lentil}, Lightly Salted {Snapea}, Black Pepper {Snapea}, and Wasabi Ranch {Snapea}.

[Read more…]

Michigan Drinks: Pumpkin Beers

Michigan Drinks Pumpkin Brews

One thing I have been wanting to explore and blog about is Michigan made beer, wine and spirits. So periodically, I will be having fun tastings and blogging about my discoveries.

I don’t claim to know a ton about beer and wine, so you won’t find me commenting a ton on the “hoppy notes” of beer or the “body” of wine. I simply am a girl with eclectic taste buds, an open mind, and a passion for Michigan. Supporting Michigan companies {and toasting to them} is an easy way I like to help our economy ;)

For this installment, I chose two pumpkin beers to test because let’s be honest, pumpkin-inspired coffee and candles are nice and all, but pumpkin beer is where it’s at this season! The two I tested are available state-wide at Meijer stores and beyond.

[Read more…]

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