How To Make The Most Giftable Holiday Treats…From Cookies To Fruit Cake!

Oh baby, it’s cold outside! And that means it’s time to do your best, festive aprons, roll up those sleeves, and get cooking with the kiddos to create some edible memories. From layered hot chocolate jars that make the perfect gift to customizable shortbread cookies and fruitcake truffles, there’s something for every sweet tooth this holiday season.

The hard part will be parting with your treats once they’re done!

Layered Hot Chocolate Jars

These pretty jars are layered and ready to give, with a whole lot of TLC. Just add milk, heat, stir, and serve – simple and delicious!

  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ¾ cup icing sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup milk chocolate mini chips
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes
  1. In a small bowl, whisk unsweetened cocoa powder with icing sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Pour this mix into a 2 cup preserving jar with a lid.
  3. Top with a layer of mini chips, followed by crushed candy canes.
  4. Tie a festive ribbon around jar lid with a note that reads: Every 2 tablespoons of this mix, combined with 1 cup of warm milk, makes 1 tasty mug of hot chocolate. Garnish with either mini chips and/or crushed candy canes and real whipped cream. Enjoy!

Fun & Festive Shortbread Cookies

Who doesn’t love a good, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie around the holidays (or any time, for that matter)? These are super simple, can be dressed up any way you like, and make the perfect, pretty gift box for anyone on your “nice” list!

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Optional add-ins: white or dark large chocolate chips, food dye, sprinkles, crushed candy canes
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer until texture is fluffy.
  3. Add salt, vanilla, and flour in two batches and continue mixing just until the dough comes together. At this point, you can dye half the dough (or all of it) a festive red or green using 3-6 drops of food coloring.
  4. On a flour-dusted workspace, tip out the dough and roll into a three-by-three inch log.
  5. Wrap the dough log in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm.
  6. Slice log into 3/4-inch cookies and place on cookie sheet.
  7. You can press in a chocolate chip or two into each cookie, add your sprinkles on top, or garnish with crushed candy cane pieces.
  8. Bake for 16-18 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
  10. Box, tie a bow, and gift to whoever is lucky enough to receive this festive treat!

Fruit Cake “Truffles”

These chocolate truffles traditionally include rum- or orange-based liqueur, but to make them kid-friendly, we swap out the hard stuff for vanilla essence and orange juice, and no one’s the wiser. Plus, they taste great and even little hands can get in on this no-bake treat.

  • 3 cups pre-made fruit cake, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup of good quality chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional coatings: cocoa powder, crushed walnuts, icing sugar, coconut flakes
  1. To get fruit cake crumbs, get chunks of fruit cake and pulse in your food processor until you’ve got your crumbs. You’ll need three cups. (Hint: There’s no shame in buying pre-made fruitcake from the grocery store for this step!)
  2. Add chocolate and butter to a small, heat-proof bowl. Put in your microwave on 20-second intervals on high until melted. Stir between each heating. This could take 4-5 intervals.
  3. Add orange juice, vanilla, and chocolate mixture to your cake crumbs. Process until you’ve got a “dough” that comes together.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for one hour until fully chilled.
  5. Shape into bite-sized balls and roll on the coating of your choice: cocoa powder, crushed walnut pieces, icing sugar, or coconut flakes that you’ve set out on to a plate.
  6. Package and refrigerate until ready to gift or gobble down!
December 19, 2018
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New Holiday Traditions To Start With Your Family

No matter what holidays you celebrate, fall and winter celebrations typically involve family gatherings, feasts of holiday-specific food, and reflection, all of which means these times offer perfect opportunities to create fun new traditions with your family. Family traditions give us a sense of belonging and say a lot about the beliefs and customs we value. So get creative and choose something meaningful that reflects your unique family culture.

To get you in the right frame of mind, start by thinking about the holiday traditions you and your spouse loved growing up.

  • Did they involve games or activities?
  • Sweets and storytelling?
  • Holiday dinners at a specific relative’s house?

You may want to incorporate some of those things into your new traditions. Also, consider how you already like to spend time together and the values you live by.

If you’ve never thought about your family values before, now is a great time to figure them out! It helps to begin by imagining what kind of people you hope your kids will become when they’re adults. Here are some common values that are important to cultivate in families: honesty, empathy, generosity, patience, creativity, humor, financial stability, a commitment to social justice, tolerance, curiosity, and perseverance.

Need some concrete ideas for new traditions that help teach values and make great memories? Below are some of our favorite suggestions:

Give Gifts Beyond The Family

Most holidays have some component of gift giving. Instead of (or in addition to) the usual present exchange, wrap some toys and other items to donate to organizations working on issues that you’re passionate about. Or forgo gifts entirely and organize a fundraising party to help support people who need it. Even better, make this a year-round tradition.

Keep A Family Journal

Every year, each person writes down their annual reflections and hopes for the new year in a notebook. And each year, the evening begins with people reading and ruminating on their responses from the year before. Once you have a few years’ worth of responses in there, it’s pretty interesting to see the changes and similarities.

Brainstorm New Traditions

Ask everyone in the family to brainstorm some ideas for a new tradition. Schedule a meeting to discuss and choose one. Then you could do it annually, or every year come up with a whole batch of new ideas and pick one (making the brainstorming and decision making the new tradition).

Celebrate Others’ Traditions

Every culture has its own holiday traditions, with both unique and overlapping themes (after all, many winter holidays originated from Winter Solstice celebrations). There are so many you could learn about (and cook a holiday treat from a different culture every year until the kids are out the house!) and not even come close to covering all of them.

Try anyway! You’ll be rewarded with rich stories, a broader historical and cultural view of the world, and a cornucopia of delicious food–jerk chicken, chicken groundnut stew and sweet potato pie on Kwanzaa; latkes on Hanukkah; baklava and tharid (pieces of bread in a vegetable or meat broth) on Mawlid el-Nabi; chocolate coins and tangerines on St. Nicholas Day; sweet and savory tamales on Las Posadas Navideñas; and Yule pig and wassail on Winter Solstice.

Whatever you choose, holiday traditions are ultimately about spending time together and creating memories with family and friends.

December 14, 2018
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A Professional Organizer Shares Secrets To Hosting A Holiday Party For Kids

You want to believe the holidays are the most magical time of the year, but they’re often the most stressful. There are gifts to buy, trees to decorate, cookies to bake, and, somehow, a budget to maintain. Oh, and a kids’ Christmas party to throw!

Luckily, professional organizer Michaela Santen of Simple Sweep shares her no-fail tips for hosting a successful kids’ Christmas party so you won’t break the bank or lose your sanity.

Kids’ Christmas Party Ideas

The best kids’ Christmas party ideas have two criteria: minimal stress for you and maximum enjoyment for the kids.

“I keep it simple and create a theme with just one color,” Santen explains. “A great holiday theme is a Winter Wonderland party. It’s easy and inexpensive to decorate for this party – it’s all white!”

For decorations, you’ll need:

  • White Christmas lights
  • Clear vases
  • White balloons
  • White streamers

“Fill the vases with white Christmas lights and place them throughout your home,” she recommends. “Either blow up the balloons yourself to cover the floor or get helium balloons that float on the ceiling. Tape white streamers to the ceiling so they hang over the children’s heads. Everything is all white with twinkling lights, and it’s a lot of fun!”

Kids’ Christmas Party Games & Activities

With organization and advanced planning, the kids will have a blast.

The perfect Christmas party game is a candy cane hunt throughout your home. For younger kids, place candy canes in low, easy-to-find locations, but older kids must search harder and look higher.

When it comes to activities, keep it simple. Younger children can decorate a gingerbread house or holiday cookies, while older children can transform a white T-shirt into a holiday theme and have their friends sign it.

“Cover the activity table with butcher block paper first,” Santen advises. “They can get it as messy as they’d like, and at the end, you just roll it up and throw it away. Then, create a station for each child. For younger kids give each one a small paint palette filled with pieces of candy and other decorations. Put the icing in condiment squeeze bottles, and place them at the end of the table. For t-shirts, purchase puffy paints, metallic permanent markers, and cardboard for between the shirt.”

Kids’ Christmas Party Food

One of the biggest stressors for a kids’ Christmas party is the food. It gets everywhere!

Create a food station where kids can serve themselves throughout the party. Serve food that matches your theme, such as popcorn, white M&Ms, yogurt-covered pretzels and white chocolate chips.

“Give each kid a personalized, reusable Chinese food container,” says Santen. “Put the food in large bowls, and place a scoop in each one. For drinks, write their names on the cups in advance or buy personalized water bottles. Having their own containers eliminates a lot of the mess.”

If you plan to serve a cake and/or pizza, do so during the last 30 minutes of the party.

Christmas Party Favors

The party favors are given throughout the party – no need to buy more! Guests will go home with their personalized Chinese food containers and water bottles, their decorated activity and a balloon.

Plan Ahead

Send out invites one month in advance and allow people two weeks to RSVP, giving you enough time to buy everything you need:

  • Personalized food containers and water bottles
  • Food and drinks
  • Balloons, vases, streamers
  • Activity supplies and containers
  • large bowls, scoopers, and pitchers, if you need more
  • Trash cans for each station
  • Butcher block paper

Organization = Stress-Free Cleanup

By keeping everything organized, your cleanup will be quick and simple.

“Just like keeping an organized home, when you are hosting a party you have to work at it throughout the party,” Santen advises. “I’m not hovering, but I am cleaning throughout the whole party. I’m not just leaving everything for the very end.”

One last tip: Place a wardrobe rack near your front door and make sure you have enough hangers. This way, everyone has a place for their coats and handbags. “It’s an easy in and out for everyone. They know exactly what to do.”

December 6, 2018
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Making Holiday Ornaments & Decorations With Your Kids

If the mood to “deck the halls” has you wondering what to make with your kiddo this year, we’ve got just what the elves ordered! From tree ornaments to window decorations, you don’t have to have Santa’s budget to add customizable whimsy and make merry this year. Here are four affordable, kid-friendly, do-able ideas to put some ho-ho-ho in your holiday!

Cookie Cutters Two Ways

Here’s an idea that’s as adaptable as it is fun, Mom. Start by buying some inexpensive, holiday-themed cookie cutters (think snowmen, gingerbread people, mittens, candy canes and the like) and some pretty ribbon that you and your little crafters choose together. Whether sparkly, red-and-white striped, or snowflake-flecked, all you have to do is wrap each cookie cutter tightly with ribbon, fastening each end with some hot glue. Then hang with a loop of raffia or thin ribbon in a complementary color.

If your little one leans more toward glitter and glam, try this version of the cookie cutter ornament instead: paint each cookie cutter using craft paint (in their favorite, festive colors) and sprinkle glitter over the still-wet paint. Let the ornament dry over parchment paper in a spot that’s dry (and pet-free), and finish by looping some ribbon at the top. It’s perfect for hanging on a tree, on a garland over the banister, or even on door handles if you’re feeling fancy!

Paper Perfection

If you really want to keep it simple, there’s nothing like creating a paper-based ornament that’s pretty. Make cardboard stencils of extra large Christmas tree ornament shapes. Use those same stencils to cut out the same shape using festive scrapbooking paper, kitchen foil, or leftover holiday wrapping.

Cover both sides of your sturdy cardboard with the pretty paper of your choice by gluing them in place. Once dry, trace the cardboard edge with white craft glue and sprinkle some glitter around the edge. Let this dry. Next, punch a hole at the top, tie a long ribbon, kitchen twine (for a more rustic look), or heavy yarn through the hole, and line a window with your family’s creations.

Customized Baubles

If you have really small hands wanting to create their own masterpiece, buy inexpensive, plastic and paper-mache round/ball ornaments plus a selection of fun, pretty Washi tape, and colorful acrylic paints. Your kiddos will love decorating the round ball ornament with strips of tape or splashes of color, creating a holiday ornament that speaks to their creativity and artistic vision.

The holidays are a fantastic time to do arts and crafts together. These ornament ideas are just a jumping off point — let your imagination run wild!

December 4, 2018
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How To Choose Great STEM Holiday Gifts For Kids

Chances are with the holidays in full swing, your kids are telling you (every couple of minutes!) what they’re putting on their wish lists.

More and more often, those asked-for items might be STEM toys, ones that help children develop their science and technology skills while having fun. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and is generally used to refer to toys that promote one or more of those skills in age-appropriate ways.

Many STEM toys focus on computer skills and coding, but that is just the starting point of what they can offer children. There are great toys that run the skill-building gamut, from chemistry and biology to architecture and robotics, all in ways that kids will find fun and engaging. The best STEM toys help children learn new information or skills, building their cognitive thinking abilities, and require them to participate instead of passively getting information or results.

Read on to see which science gifts you might want to wrap up for your children, of all ages, this holiday season.

Coding Gifts

Coding is essentially computer programming, the process of using specialized computer languages to tell machines what to do and when to do it. Coding teaches children about reason, logic, pattern building and identification, and cause and effect — and it’s an increasingly sought-after job skill, so getting started early makes sense!

Coding toys can be simple or highly complicated, and there are some that teach the skills of coding without using any computers or robotics at all. The Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar uses a cute caterpillar to encourage children to create their own sequences and patterns. Older kids can enjoy simple circuit-building kits and cute code-based robots like Cozmo or Boxer. And children who are really interested and want to learn a simple coding language like Scratch will enjoy kits from Kano.

Math Toys

Your kids may not realize it, but there are several childhood favorites that help them develop their math skills. The abacus is a centuries-old classic, of course, and something that even babies can enjoy. Board and card games that require children to count and use simple arithmetic can help them become more confident with those skills. Monopoly Junior and Sushi Go are two options that work for a variety of ages and don’t require literacy of all players. And many preschool-aged kids are fascinated by calculators. Put one in their stocking and they’ll feel like they have their very own mini-computer.

Building Toys

There’s one enduring popular STEM toy that you probably played with as a kid: LEGOs. That’s right, this classic construction toy teaches children about geometry, engineering, and problem-solving. After all, children have to sort out how to follow directions to build complicated sets or use trial and error to see how to make their creations stable. Other construction-based toys and even classic wooden blocks have similar benefits.

Dumping a pile of plastic blocks in front of a kid is not a passive activity. LEGOs require their own action and creativity for fun, and it’s a beneficial toy regardless of whether your child is one who likes to follow the instructions exactly or one who gets creative and mixes sets together. As a bonus, children tend to stay interested in LEGOs for years — it’s a toy with staying power.

Puzzles & Games

Many toys encourage STEM skills without having a single motorized or computerized component. Puzzles are one great example, as they require children to think logically to solve a problem — a lot of computer programming is essentially puzzle solving. You can start with basic puzzles with just a few pieces for young children, and gradually increase the complexity as they get older. Large, complicated puzzles are a great family activity, too! Even young kids can participate by finding and putting aside all of the pieces of a certain color.

Classic Science Toys

Plenty of science toys were available long before the STEM label was trendy. Think about toys you likely had as a child: a chemistry set, a kid-friendly microscope or telescope, or an ant farm. These toys all help your children learn about disciplines like chemistry, biology, and astronomy while encouraging them to experiment and explore the world around them.

Several companies make microscopes and telescopes appropriate for a variety of ages. There’s a wide assortment of science experiments for kids available in kits, from straightforward chemistry sets to ones disguised as kits for making candy or bath bombs — you can really cater these to your child’s particular interests. Even the slime-making kits that kids are crazy for right now teach basic chemistry skills.

STEM Toy Subscriptions

If you receive your own subscription box in the mail, you know how nice it is to have a little treat show up every month. There are several STEM toy kit subscription services that can give your kids that same excitement to check the mailbox.

The STEM Club Toy Subscription is aimed at three different age groups. Children aged 3-4 might get a simple construction set, while those aged 8-13 could receive a circuit-building kit. Other science kits go all the way up to age 16 and focus on skills like engineering and experimentation. And Bitsbox is one of several subscription box services that focuses on a specific STEM skill, coding in this case.

Science toys were never so fun!

November 30, 2018
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What Do The Stars Say: December 2018 Horoscopes For Kids

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21)
Happy Birthday to your little archers, Mom! And just in time, Jupiter, your child’s Sun sign ruler, is arriving at your kiddo’s house of friends. Your fun-loving child will want to mix and mingle with other children and adults — anyone really who inspires them with a “big picture” outlook that sparks their imagination. In the background, however, the lesson-bringer of the zodiac, Saturn sits in your child’s 8th house of change, which means that you need to remind them that the best approach for being inspired is to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. Help your kiddos check their plans and big ideas so that they’re doable and attainable. Oh, and have a slice of cake for us!

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)
With Jupiter in your little goat’s 10th house, creative or artistic opportunities abound at the beginning of this month. Your kiddo might be reticent to give this a whirl, but encourage your cautious child to try something new or different. Now’s not the time to put the brakes on what could be a great outlet or possible career choice. Give your kid room to decide for themselves though; you know, little Capricorns really don’t like being pushed. You never know, your child might just pull off their own “Christmas miracle” and knock your socks off by doing something so wonderful and uncharacteristic, they’ll surprise even themselves!

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19)
Hooray! This month you’ll see new interests and even talents start to emerge for your little Aquarius, Mom, which will reveal themselves more fully over time. This could have something to do with their water bearer’s 6th house, which is highlighted this month. This has to do with a possible direction they’ll take as they grow up and any health-related issues. Be there to help problem-solve, especially with anything health based: help start or continue an exercise routine or refocus their diet so that they’re able to feel their best. This way, they’ll be able to jump-start 2019 with all they’ve got!

PISCES (February 20-March 19)
The first week of the month, Jupiter arrives to help form a creative, helpful pact with Neptune, who rules little Pisces’ Sun sign. This is good because the combination brings all sorts of fantastic opportunities for your little fish. Mom, help your kiddo develop strategies to harness their creative spirit and to use their innate sensitive nature for healing. Teach them not to sweat the small stuff because they’re so much bigger and better than that!

ARIES (March 20-April 19)
Whether big or small, Aries-born people are all about energy. This month, there’s plenty of it for little rams to harness and that’s where you come in, Mom. Jupiter brings good fortune into the picture, but not if your kiddo pushes too hard and loses perspective. Teach your tireless rams to work on patience, especially with others, even when Mercury retrograde throws a wrench into the mix. By the 25th of December, and just in time for the holidays, Mars arrives to give these little ones the opportunity to choose tolerance (and patience) over self-importance. And as you know, Mom, little rams have been known to surprise you in big, happy ways – so keep your eyes peeled for an unexpected “present” this year.

TAURUS (April 20-May 21)
The stars are mixing things up for your little Ox this month. There’s an energy surge that peaks around the 8th to the 10th of December when the Moon takes a spin through Scorpio. If you notice your kiddo really digging in their heels and taking a more passive-aggressive approach to any challenge, step in and help course correct. The good news is that retrograde Saturn, in Taurus’ house of communication, is helping your little one articulate what’s going on in that fascinating mind of theirs and what their dreams are for the future. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of how to get “there” that’s also got your child feeling uncertain, but you can support them by distracting them with a fun activity and reinforcing all of the things they excel at — something they may need at this time.

GEMINI (May 22-June 21)
Sometimes, your very expressive little twin does a lot of talking/sharing but forgets the other side to this coin: the listening part. Maybe you got a note from the teacher or coach suggesting your kiddo stop and listen more? Don’t worry, Mom- this is how your little Gemini is learning this crucial lesson. Between now and Spring, you can support this growth period by creating a solid game plan to bring your child’s talents to the fore, and work on those things that need a bit of work. It will make a huge difference in the long run, and your creative child will thank you ten-fold. Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving!

CANCER (June 22-July 22)
It’s good to encourage your little dreamers, Mom, but to also remind wee crabs to take it one day at a time. Help them chart out what needs to be done first, because this month, their personal to-do list might be a bit unwieldy. As the holidays approach and family gathers, however, your kiddo is at their happiest surrounded by those they love. Take time to nurture this love of family, home, and friends, build memories, celebrate traditions and remind your child they are an important part of your happy clan. That’s likely the best Christmas present you can give them!

LEO (July 23-August 22)
As with most signs, December for little Leos is all about communication and new ways of thinking. You’ll notice your kiddo start to probe some bigger questions or deep dive into a subject they really want to know about. Help them get the most out of this curiosity and explore new, creative frontiers at school or at home. And if you see your little lion picked up a bug at school, don’t brush it off, Mom. Make sure that if something’s not right, you seek professional advice ASAP because who needs to be sick around the holidays?

VIRGO (August 23-September 22)
It’s the most magical time of the year, especially for little Virgos! There’s a surge of inspiration early on this month to rev up your kiddo’s creative fulfillment engines, even for those children who are surprise adverse (and some wee Virgos are). You might be running on fumes with the holidays coming up, Mom, but do try to slow down and listen to your excited kiddos share their new discoveries or explain their latest claymation project. It’ll be as important to them as whatever is under the tree.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22)
Are the scales leaning towards the philosophical for your little Libra, Mom? That’s because Jupiter is hanging out in your child’s house of communication, and will be for the next 10 months. It’s a good time to help your kiddo prepare a presentation for class, the school recital, or make a list of those things they’ve been meaning to do but haven’t yet. All of this planning and preparation will help smooth things out in your sometimes self-critical little person’s mind, which is a big gift in and of itself.

SCORPIO (October 23-November 22)
Is your little scorpion swinging between being super confident one minute and a nervous ball of anxiety the next? Don’t sweat it, Mom. Ups and downs can be stressful on your kiddo (and you), but these changes can help them grow to appreciate what they’re able to do and to work harder on the things that don’t come super easy to them. This month, you might also find your child experiences a physical growth spurt to accompany the psychological one. Help your little one be patient during this roller coaster ride because being flexible is often the key to being happy at any age, right?
November 23, 2018
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Tips On Hosting The Funniest “White Elephant” Gift Party For Kids

What kid doesn’t love parties? And what kid doesn’t love gifts? While “White Elephant” parties tend to be held among adults working in office settings, it’s totally easy to turn this fun tradition into a memorable event for the kids!

All you need to make this gift party a success is a few kids and a simple plan. White Elephant works best when at least seven players participate. Encourage the younger children to play, even if they need an adult to assist them. And remember – The more gifts, the livelier the game!

How To Play The White Elephant Gift Game with Kids

Each kid brings one wrapped gift to contribute to the pool. A fun way to add an exciting element to the game is to set a gift theme. Some inclusive, kid-friendly gift idea themes are Costumes, Favorite Books, Favorite Snacks, Arts & Crafts, or Favorite Board Games.

If you want to really shake things up, you could choose a funny White Elephant gift theme like – Things That Are Green, Smelly Items, or Something Shaped Like A Circle. And Make sure to also set a price point so everyone leaves the game feeling like a winner.

Here’s how to play:

  1. The players’ names go into a hat and the organizer draws them in the order they will take their turn. Instruct the players to sit in a line or circle, in the order that their names have been drawn. Make sure to place the pile of gifts where all the players can see them.
  2. The first player selects a gift from the pile and unwraps it, showing it to the entire group.
  3. The second player now has a choice to make. They can either choose to take a wrapped gift from the pile or “steal” the unwrapped gift from the first player. If the first player’s gift gets stolen, they get to choose a new gift from the pile and unwrap it.
  4. The third player has even more options. They can choose to take a wrapped gift from the pile, or “steal” an unwrapped gift from the previous players. Every time a player’s gift is stolen, they get to choose a new gift from the pile and unwrap it or steal another player’s gift. A gift can only be stolen once per turn. If a player wants their stolen gift back, they need to wait for another turn to try and take it back.
  5. The game progresses this way until the last player in the line or circle has taken their turn.
  6. After everyone has taken their turn, the lucky, first player gets the last chance to trade the gift they ended up with for anyone else’s unwrapped gift. Any player whose gift is traded gets to choose a different player to trade with. The cycle continues until a player decides to keep the gift they have and declines the choice to trade. The game is finished and everyone goes home with a new gift!

To help your White Elephant gift party run smoothly, here are a couple extra tips:

  • Explain the rules of the game to the kids beforehand. Emphasize the fact that White Elephant is an exciting game of swapping and surprises so that no one is shocked when the gift they chose to unwrap is “stolen” from them a few turns later.
  • Place a limit on the number of times, per turn, swapping is allowed, otherwise, the game could drag on for hours. Three swaps per turn is a fair number and will keep the game moving along and the kids interested.

Have fun playing this great holiday game!

November 21, 2018
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How To Involve Kids In Thanksgiving Prep

Hosting Thanksgiving involves several days of cooking, cleaning, and organizing to pull off that casual “it was no trouble at all” appearance. But why should you be the only one checking off that multipage to-do list? Get the kids involved! There are numerous Thanksgiving activities for toddlers and kids to lighten your load. After all, Thanksgiving is a holiday about family.

Thanksgiving Decorations, With A Twist

Looking for a Thanksgiving activity for kids that keeps them busy? Let their creativity flow by giving them the task to make unique place cards to match each guest’s personality. Or send them outside to gather a variety of branches, acorns, pine cones and colorful leaves for a “forest-to-table” centerpiece. At home, let your children create an abstract work of art for your table.

Thanksgiving activities for toddlers are a bit more tricky, but not impossible. A handmade “tablecloth” will keep your toddler busy and serve as a great conversation starter. Roll out enough butcher board paper to cover the length of your table, hand your toddler a box of crayons or washable markers, and put them to work while you cook.

Everybody Brings A Dish, Including Your Kids

Hosting a potluck Thanksgiving? Your kids can join in! There are many easy Thanksgiving recipes, and what you choose all depends on age. A great Thanksgiving project for toddlers is to put them on “mashing” duty. There are regular or sweet potatoes, apples for applesauce, and even cranberries if you prefer a smoother consistency. But first, designate your largest bowl as the official “mashing bowl” and only mash half at a time – the kids aren’t helping if you have to clean the walls!

For older kids, encourage them to select an easy Thanksgiving recipe and add their own flair to a dish. For example, they could include their favorite fruit in a cranberry sauce, serve their mashed potatoes with their favorite cheeses as toppings, or build their very own hors d’oeuvre platter.

Create A Memory Book

If you’d like to create a Thanksgiving activity for the family, consider starting a new tradition. Instead of saying what you’re thankful for during the meal, create a memory book. Set aside time before Thursday for your family to create the pages – you’ll need a package of construction paper, several scissors, glue, and some markers. Each family member should decorate several pages for the book, guaranteeing there will be enough for every person at the table, plus extra to write memorable stories and paste pictures from the day.

As guests arrive, ask them to write down what they are thankful for on a pre-decorated piece of paper. Once complete, collect the pages and either staple them together or punch several holes down the side and tie with a ribbon. After the meal, a family member should write down any memorable moments. Later, print pictures from the day and add them to the empty pages at the end.

Make The Perfect Thanksgiving Desserts For Kids

Little hands were made for turkey-shaped decorations, including cookies. They’re a fun addition to the traditional apple, pumpkin, or pecan pie. Plus, this easy Thanksgiving recipe is a great activity for toddlers and kids.


  • Sugar cookie dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • Royal icing (homemade or store-bought)
  • Brown, black, and red food coloring
  • Small, colorful candies, sprinkles, or edible glitter
  • Cardstock paper

Trace your kids’ hands onto pieces of cardstock and cut them out. Roll out your cookie dough and use the cut-out hands as a guide. Place the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and bake according to directions.

Once the cookies have cooled completely, cover each one with brown icing, then decorate! The thumb will serve as the turkey’s head. Place a dot of black icing for the nose and a small sliver of red icing for the wattle. Sprinkle candies, sprinkles, or glitter across the other fingers for multicolored feathers. At the bottom of the palm, draw the legs and feet with black icing. To personalize them, write each guest’s name or initials in the center.

Clean Up

Need some help with the dishes, too? Place your pots and pans in the tub, add your kids and a couple of sponges. Then, let your personal dishwashers get to work while you snooze off that turkey — you deserve it!

November 6, 2018
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How to Survive & Thrive During Black Friday & Cyber Monday Shopping

Black Friday and its virtual companion, Cyber Monday, are great days to secure deals on holiday gifts as well as many household needs. While the previous generation may have only had a store circular and a thermos of coffee to guide them as they waited in line for a coveted Cabbage Patch Kid, today’s parents who are looking for Black Friday deals for kids (as well as Cyber Monday deals for kids) have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

Using these pre-shopping planning strategies, you’ll be sure to maximize your holiday dollars as well as your time and energy.

Make A Shopping List

Going holiday shopping without a list is like going to the grocery store hungry. You’ll come home with too much and forget important gifts. Before even looking at what the stores will have on sale, make a comprehensive list of all the presents you need to buy and your anticipated budget. Organize any kids’ wish lists in order of their most desired gift down to the less desired gifts.

Do you have clothing on your list? Don’t forget to write down everyone’s sizes. Even if the Black Friday kids clothes are for your own children, save yourself the brain power and record their sizes. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to remember the shoe size of your youngest while racing through the aisles of their favorite shop.

Gather Store Ads & Emails

Now that you’ve narrowed down what you’re looking for, sifting through the store and website emails will be a lot easier. Using your list, note which stores have the best price for your desired purchases as well as any additional offers such as an additional percentage off for spending over a certain dollar amount, or a free gift with purchase. Consider these bonuses when making your shopping strategy, because while another store might have a better price on one item, combining your purchases at the same store could save you more money.

Take note of which stores begin their deals on Thanksgiving night, and decide if you are willing to go out after turkey in order to take advantage of them. Big-ticket items such as televisions and gaming systems are usually heavily discounted on these nights, but only in limited quantities.

Prepare For Your Shopping Adventure

Half of the battle of a successful Black Friday outing is being ready. If you plan on going out for the evening/all-night shopping, make sure you’re well-rested. Carry water and high-protein snacks. Consider meeting up with a friend to make the trek more fun. Do you have to bring along any of your kids? Make sure you’ve powered up their tablet and brought along snacks and activities so they don’t get bored and cranky. Always keep in mind that the happier your tiny companions are, the more successful your trip will be. And don’t forget to schedule small breaks while you’re shopping. Your feet will thank you.

Online Shopping Tips

Cyber Monday deals are also a great way to save money on gifts and clothing, provided you do some legwork. Most websites will tease their promotions, although some may keep them a surprise for the day of the sale. In order to learn as much as possible, look up last year’s promotions for a guide. Additionally, sign up for emails from websites you like and follow them on social media as brands will often provide more information for their loyal customers.

Shopping for holiday gifts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday can seem overwhelming, but by following our planning and preparation tips, you are well on your way to saving money and time.

November 1, 2018
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What Do The Stars Say: November 2018 Horoscopes For Kids

SCORPIO (October 23-November 22)
Is your little scorpion swinging between being super confident one minute and a nervous ball of anxiety the next? Don’t sweat it, Mom. Ups and downs can be stressful on your kiddo (and you), but these changes can help them grow to appreciate what they’re able to do and to work harder on the things that don’t come super easy to them. This month, you might also find your child experiences a physical growth spurt to accompany the psychological one. Help your little one be patient during this roller coaster ride because being flexible is often the key to being happy at any age, right?

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21)
This month, Jupiter brings happy times and good luck to little archers. You might notice more enthusiasm and optimism in your kiddo than usual. They’ll be extra keen to experience all the good stuff, and that includes cultures from around the world. Give that a boost by going out for dinner at a new place to sample foods from other countries, pick up an atlas and discover the wonders of a new country, or watch a movie together shot in another city. These little sponges will soak it all up right now, and you can give them the gift of an experience they won’t forget, Mom.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)
This month can be full of ups and downs for your little goat. And Mom, you know young Capricorns don’t like displeasing you or Dad. Here’s what you need to keep repeating to your kiddo: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They’ll need to hear that this month because your cautious child hates making mistakes and getting it wrong. But you’ll show them that this is how we all learn, and letting loose to play, laugh, and make mistakes is really A-O.K.

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19)
For young water bearers, this is a happy, healthy and optimistic time when things can come more easily. And that’s all good, but Mom, you know your kiddo excels most when they have something to look forward to, right? So ride this high with them and push the envelope a bit by upping the ante. Talk about the future and offer an incentive – anything from “If you get an A in math, we’ll get you a new bike” (or whatever is appropriate). Chances are, they may double down and go for straight A’s!

PISCES (February 20-March 19)
Slow and steady wins the race for little fish this month. Your little one will start to take on a more responsible attitude – in school and at home, with friends and with family. And that’s amazing, but remember, these are sensitive kiddos who can sometimes feel confused by their own strong emotions. Keep the family rules clear so that your little Pisces feels safe, Mom, and don’t forget them yourself or your little one won’t trust quite as easily the next time.

ARIES (March 20-April 19)
November is a feel-good month for your little rams. The usual challenges and stresses seem to melt into the background, so encourage your child to make the effort to get ahead and harness this confidence-boosting time to the max. Your clever kiddo, if they choose to take advantage of this opportune time, will find that pushing harder will pay off – be it in class, on the field, or socially. Encourage them to broaden their horizons and try something new, Mom. They won’t regret it.

TAURUS (April 20-May 21)
Good news for your little ox, Mom – this month is all about growth and good fortune now that Jupiter retrograde is over (yay!). Are there travel plans in the works? It’s a great time for a weekend family getaway. Immerse your child in some cultural enrichment, learn about a different environment or geography, or even try new foods. If you’re not going anywhere physically, try watching a culturally-enriching and fun documentary together, making food from another part of the world, or encouraging your kiddo to make friends via a pen pal from far, far away. Their inner adventurer will thank you.

GEMINI (May 22-June 21)
For some little twins, having Mercury retrograde floating around this month can wreak havoc on everything – from how they communicate to how their electronic toys work. Shore up your patience, Mom, because sometimes your kiddo will be prone to reacting quickly with sharp words, especially when they don’t see eye to eye with you or if they feel provoked. Gather your little one in your arms and help them take a break from the hectic pace. They just need to recalibrate a bit and you’ll be there to make sure they do.

CANCER (June 22-July 22)
There are all sorts of really neat opportunities that open up for the curious little crab who wants to take them this month! And the icing on the cake? Your kiddo feels satisfaction for a job well done in class, on the canvas, or in the gym. This achievement also nets the usually shy crab social influence and popularity. Be there to encourage them to have fun, Mom – getting out of their shell sometimes is really good for the soul.

LEO (July 23-August 22)
Your little lion loves attention, though you already know that if you run to their side every time there’s even a whiff of a problem, you might just end up with a demanding little diva. So this month, when their temper flares — and it just may, thanks to some planetary realignments — teach your kiddo to work through minor problems on their own. These are some creative kids, and what they come up with might just knock your socks off (in the best way possible).

VIRGO (August 23-September 22)
This month, the planets give your little Virgos that extra push they need to make some great progress on whatever it is that’s been challenging them lately. Are you noticing your kiddo wanting to explore new horizons? Try new things? Have more fun? You can help them do all of that, Mom. Going with the flow is great, and having fun while doing it is even better, though sometimes, there’s too much of a good thing. Fortunately, you’ll be there so that they don’t spread themselves too thin.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22)Are the scales feeling a bit unbalanced right now for your little Libran? Are they feeling a bit discouraged or challenged by teachers, coaches, or family? Lend them a hand by guiding them to find their sweet spot; patience and persistence will see them through this temporary rough patch. Once they realize that adversity doesn’t mean the end of the world, they’ll find more strength and enthusiasm to tackle whatever comes their way down the road. Bravo!
October 23, 2018
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