This week we are doing 2 bonus posts. Today is a post for all the guys who are looking for inspiration as they shop for goodies to stuff the stockings of the women in their lives (formatted for easy forwarding!). And Friday, we will post favorite stocking stuffers for kids and teens.
1. Food delivery gift cards (Dining In, Dine-1-1)
3. Cozy socks
4. Ear buds (and many other options at many price points)
6. A favorite lip balm (Burt’s Bees, Origins, Kiehls)
8. Book light
10. Sleep mask
We hope you found some good ideas in last week’s “most used” toys post for your holiday shopping lists.
This week, it’s books. Once again, sorted by age: 3 and under; 4-5; 6-7; 8-9; 10-11; 12-13, 14+ so scroll down to find your target age (and peek above and below depending on your kids!).
Where possible we’ve provided links for easy exploring.
3 and Under
CAT Book about trucks with Sounds
4 and 5 Year Olds
6 and 7 Year Olds
Lucy Walks the Dogs
Roal Dahl Books (BFG, James &GP)
8 and 9 Year Olds
Roal Dahl Witches
Stone Soup (Magazine)
10 and 11 Year Olds
Kids Discover (Magazine)
Naruto (Manga Series)
Stone Soup (Magazine)
12 and 13 Year Olds
People Style Watch (Magazine)
We asked, you answered! Here’s what our readers’ kids have been playing with this year. We’ve organized this “most played with” list by age, and where it made sense, by gender. Next week, we’ll post results of favorite books.
We’ll let the data speak for itself, but true to our list-y origins, here are three things we noticed as we compiled the results:
1. Rainbow Loom appeared across many age groups.
2. Lego continues to be a time tested “most played with” toy.
3. Not surprising, technology in many forms (devices, gaming consoles and apps) made the list in quite a few spots.
MOST USED TOYS FROM 2013
** Connotes items with multiple mentions
3 and Under (Boys & Girls)
Melissa and Doug Velcro Ice Cream
4 and 5 Year Old Boys
64 Crayola Crayons
Lego** (City Series, Duplo)
4 and 5 Year Old Girls
American Girl Doll
Memory Matching Game
6 and 7 Year Old Girls
Markers Pens Paper, etc
Sewing Machine (Brothers Project Runway)
American Girl Accessories
American Girl Doll
6 and 7 Year Old Boys
Star Wars Mini Figures
8 and 9 Year Old Girls
Little Pet Shops
8 and 9 Year Old Boys
Lego** (Regular, Architecture Series)
Street Hockey Set
10 and 11 Year Old Girls
10 and 11 Year Old Boys
Electric Lincoln Train
FIFA 14 soccer app
iPad / iPad Mini**
Museum of Science Membership
Over the door bball hoop
12 and 13 Year Olds (Boys & Girls)
Let’s Create Pottery App
14 + (Boys & Girls)
Over the next few weeks, many of us will be spending time at gatherings with extended family and friends. These events, loaded with emotion and expectation, can overwhelm in the best–and worst–kinds of ways. While we plan and pack and think through contingencies and brace ourselves and gather ingredients for a favorite dish, I want to suggest taking a moment to shift the focus, and reflect on memories from each of our own family gatherings as kids. And what were – and can be – the components that lead to lasting memories.
When I was young, we spent some holidays at my grandmother’s small house in Braintree, MA where my mother had grown up. One of my most lasting memories of those times was Granny offering us orange soda, which she called “tonic.” At our nightly table it was always “water or milk,” we didn’t have soda at home, and probably it was an indulgence for the holiday for Gran as well. Too-sweet orange soda has always since tasted like my grandmother’s attention and my parents relaxing with family. I’m glad now that my parents weren’t being the big bummers saying, “no, you can’t have that, it’s not healthy, there’s too much sugar, etc. etc.” A reminder that there may be no better time than the holidays to say yes when you can.
My other favorite memories from times at Granny’s all came to be because, well, the grownups were ignoring us. We kids had that funny thrown-together time when we just hung out with one another and figured out stuff to do, both as a group and, in quieter times, each on our own. I remember a cousin finding a pack of off-brand cookies in the pantry and sharing them with all the kids in the garage; lining up a shell collection in a hundred different ways from the baskets on my grandmother’s porch for hours; eating pink wintergreen Canada mints from a bowl in Gran’s bedroom–like 20 at a time with my brother–so that we walked around smelling like Ben-Gay; reading through old dusty children’s picture books we found in a shelf; trying to tune our aunt’s discarded guitar we discovered in the back of a coat closet that only had 5 strings; and spying on the adults, thrilling at snippets of overheard grown-up conversation about taxes, travel, or employment until we got bored and moved on.
These days, there is often so much focus on the children. This over-focus on the kids–what they are doing, how they are doing–takes away these kinds of opportunities for them. More good reminders for us parents taking on family gatherings with children: to embrace possible boredom, let discovery happen, and let them make their own fun. -t
Last week Nina shared her family’s Hannukah ideas as they bust out their bags to gear up for the holiday. This week it’s my turn to share a holiday gifting twist from our house. (For those with very young children, this may be an idea better tucked away for few years down the road.)
The idea that I share today is that of Categories. Here is how we did it: we began with a brainstorm and then settled on 5 categories. Each person would receive one gift from each of the categories (5 total) from a single other person. We randomly drew names to determine who gave to whom. Where someone got stuck, or if someone else had a great suggestion for another, we helped each other out. Sure, there were some pricey prezies – like winter bike tires – but mostly we spent more thought and creative energy than money, and on Christmas morning, it was so much fun to watch a gift being opened and see how each giver interpreted the category and adapted it to fit the recipient.
Last year our categories (and some examples of gifts) were:
Begins with “B” (brunch, blue pants, bandaids)
Something foreign (a novel in translation, gift card to an asian restaurant, Japanese candy)
Comes in a bottle (favorite roadside beverage my daughter found on a family vacation, bubble bath, a craft beer)
Something round (small hoop earring for a single piercing, bike tires, cd)
Something printed (a book, money, a framed favorite photo)
We’re now in the process of determining the categories for this year…Something fuzzy? Comes in a pair? Grew out of the ground? Ah, the possibilities are endless!
I will add here that some in our family thought 3 categories might be a better number than 5, which we may shift to. This could also be a fun twist (with a single category) for a yankee gift swap at work or a larger family gathering. -t
Take this idea, make it yours, let us know how it goes. Speaking of gift ideas, it’s time for our Annual Holiday Survey. For those who didn’t participate last year, it’s simple: you share your kids’ favorites in the survey, we compile ideas, and share them back in the coming weeks.
Hanukkah is very early this year, starting the night before Thanksgiving, just two weeks away – eek! Today I have two ideas to share for those of you gearing up for a flurry of gifting. First, to save on wrapping (and time) each of my kids has a gift bag that we reuse nightly. It has become their Hanukkah bag year after year, a friend for the season. Secondly, select a theme for each night. Now an annual and much beloved tradition in our family, our kids eagerly anticipate the announcement of the themes. (For those of you that were reading last year at this time, you’ll remember that I shared the idea of creating a theme for each night of hanukkah.)
When the kids were small, we started with basic, descriptive themes (e.g. Books, Music, DVDs, Games, Puzzles, Socks). Now the themes have evolved: “Create”– art supplies, crafts, legos; “Think”– puzzles, brain teasers, 3D puzzles; “Play”–a session at a batting cage, a round of golf at the local 9 hole course, a board game; “Share”– make a small donation to a charity of their choice, “Design a Day”– where ever and with whomever they choose (within reason, of course). As the kids have grown, the themes and gifts within them have become more abstract. I share this again, because in our very planned, often prescribed and busy schedules, taking some time to put a creative twist on something–here, our holiday traditions–is so much fun and makes them more uniquely ours.-n
In our book we talk about the value of asking good questions of kids in order to get better information and to help them think about different perspectives. Many times over the last week – as my kids have encountered bumps in homework and relationships with friends, teachers, or coaches – I’ve offered them answers and advice. Offering solutions and sharing my thinking is one of my roles as a mother, and I do so gladly and I hope, for the most part, with balance and insight.
But I’ve also been working on balancing suggesting solutions with asking questions. And here is why: questions help kids explore options and become better problem solvers. Even when the solution might be clear to you, there is great value in your child being able to consider a problem and possible solutions with you as a guide.
“What else have you tried?” “What might happen if you make that choice?” “What other information would be useful here?” Compare these types of questions with what a child learns when you offer “Just go play with someone else” right out of the gate.
With questions, you also communicate your confidence in your kid’s ability to problem solve, and give him responsibility in finding a solution. You help him anticipate outcomes and evaluate choices. Your role isn’t one of rescuer, but facilitator.
Yes, facilitating is harder work. Every parent wants to stop the hurt, frustration, or complaining as quickly as possible, and engaging a child in wading through it all, in the short term, prolongs it. “Just ignore him when he’s being that way” can feel a lot more expedient than “How would you like him to treat you?” and following the conversation where it might lead. “That’s not the kind of friendship you need” takes much less time than the discussion that might ensue from “That’s a complicated relationship. What are the good things that you’re getting out of it? What is challenging?”
Of course there are many times that I so clearly and passionately want to take my kids’ side, and my instinct is to get right up there with them when they are indignant or hurt and be the Mama Bear, growling and gnashing at whatever offends. While that retaliatory roar is really gratifying (and maybe sometimes the right response), grinding through the occasional messy problem solving doesn’t mean that you’re not taking their side. In the long run, it fortifies and deepens their own problem solving skills, enhances self-knowledge, and promotes self-advocacy. You’re standing next to them in the stream and teaching them how to fish. -t
It’s become common in our culture to over-emphasize and exaggerate the work we have, even feel that to be so burdened is laudable; that suffering and forbearance is somehow virtuous. But here’s something to think about: the result of this tendency to exaggerate workload has consequences. First, it can be self-defeating. No one wants to spend all weekend doing laundry. And while laundry, by nature, is intermittent and takes time, how many hours of actual hands-on time needs to be spent? 20? 17? 5? Does it serve any good purpose to magnify our tasks and responsibilities? Making these statements alone compounds a feeling of being overwhelmed, and coupled with a sigh of exasperation, all the more can drag us down.
From the parenting angle: what effect does this have on our kids? Likely, it leads them to follow suit and over-exaggerate their workloads, too. Should we be surprised when they exclaim “I’ve been working on my homework all day!”?
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and tempted to fall into exaggeration, pause for a moment and “right-size” the scope of how long something really took. In addition to shedding light on time management and setting a practical example for our kids, it’s amazing how much better this simple shift can feel. -t
Last week we heard Jon Kabat-Zinn speak about mindfulness in education.
One of the things he pointed out is the language teachers often use in speaking to students that can undermine their intent. These are directives that begin with “I want you to —.” Dr. Kabat-Zinn suggests a simple shift to “Let’s—.”
For example, for a child who is upset, instead of saying “I want you to calm down,” try “let’s calm down.” Rather than “I want you to take some time away,” “let’s take a break from this for a moment.” When “we” are in something together, not only does it serve as a reminder for me (the teacher or parent) to avoid escalating, it short-circuits the power dynamic that often compounds stress with an expectation of compliance or respect.
The goal is to help the child calm down so that she can move on. Full stop.
While our choice of language is important, even more so our disposition and state of mind. As parents, there are times in which we’ve asked children to calm down or stop yelling while, ironically, we ourselves are yelling.
Rather than raise a voice to tell a child to stop yelling, be that calm presence and quiet voice. Slow it down, pull the energy in. In any overwhelming situation, a harbor in the storm is what is needed. The way to provide that for our kids is to be calm and centered ourselves. When we can successfully provide that harbor, something in both our kids and ourselves – as well as the relationship between us – grows in a positive way. -n&t
This weekend I walked by a guy playing music on the street in Cambridge. Street musicians are a common site in Harvard Square, but the difference this time was that it wasn’t guitar or violin, or even that famous urhu I heard, but a piano. The piano was part of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” project by artist Luke Jerram, an installation that’s been travelling internationally since 2008 putting whimsically painted pianos in public spaces for anyone to play and enjoy. There have been 75 pianos around the greater Boston area over most of the past month.
I really love this piano project–I mean, pianos! In random places! Outside! What’s not to love!? And I really loved seeing and hearing this guy play, and not because he was particularly impressive or exceptionally talented. He was about 30, on his way to or from somewhere that required the backpack at his feet. His eyes were closed, he was smiling, and he was playing a tune. Nothing I recognized, but some tune. He wasn’t commanding a crowd of admirers, but he was totally into it. And it totally lit up my day. I loved that this guy was playing in a very public space just because he wanted to. And it got me thinking about how there’s not enough of that kind of “just do it” spirit, particularly among us adults.
When our kids were little, we encouraged almost everything creative they did–plunking out notes, tapping out a rhythm, mixing colors with paint, drawing pictures of family or favorite animals–and being “good” at these things was simply not relevant. We applauded the effort, and we were able to see the joy they got simply from the exploration and expression.
But somewhere along the line, for many of us, artistic pursuits became connected to talent, tethered to achievement. If you weren’t good at something, couldn’t produce something worthy of sharing or display or admiration, it was just kind of embarrassing to keep at it. Why play if you couldn’t draw a crowd? Somewhere along the line, for so many people, they get the message that it’s a waste of time to continue to play. And that is really, really sad.
We play because it’s therapeutic, because there’s something inherently important and healthy in different kinds of expression. We play–or paint or draw–because it is fun, which is it’s own reward.
So I’d like to thank that 30-something dude for reminding me to think about things worth “just doing,” where engagement alone brings joy without the need for particular talent or set goal. And from the parent perspective, I am grateful for the fine reminder about how to think about our kids’ activities and interests, and where value lies. -t