kids gift ideas

Best Toddler and Preschool Toy Gift Ideas

It’s officially Christmas time and we are checking our lists twice.  I am looking for those good, tried and true gifts.  My emotional side wants the “wow factor” on Christmas morning while my practical side doesn’t want a ton of toys collecting dust by New Years Day!  I am sharing our favorite kid’s toys.
These are our favorites and worth the investment, most are quite affordable, and are played with all the time around here and stand the test of time!
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A tricycle is a perfect first bike for toddlers and preschoolers.  This classic radio flyer will stand the test of time.  We have had this tricycle for 10 years and it’s still going strong.  Find this one here.

Play Kitchen

A perfect place for kids to cook up a storm and let their imagination run wild.  Big siblings will enjoy playing with it too!   Shop the kitchen here.

Ice Cream Shop Set

After making dinner in the kitchen, kids can serve up some ice cream with this ice cream shop set.  (Find the ice cream set here)  Melissa and Doug toys are some of our favorite imaginative playsets.  Shop more finds by Melissa and Doug here.

Wooden Train Set & Motorized Train

Build a train track and get those trains moving.  Then, grab a motorized train and push the button and watch it go around the track you built.  Get the train set here and the battery-operated train here.

Doll Stroller with Basket & Small Doll

The basket is critical for little people to place all their treasures in while strolling around.  This stroller is perfect for toddlers because it isn’t too tall and comparable to an umbrella stroller size but WITH the basket.  Grab this 12-inch doll, it’s the perfect size for toddlers and preschoolers to handle realistically.

Grocery Cart

Perfect for early walkers who need a little assistance walking to preschoolers who want to tote around their beloved treasures.  This realistic grocery cart is not only cute but super well-made and fun too.  Get your grocery cart here.

Magna-Tiles Sets

I will save our set for our grandkids.  They are so versatile and truly are a toy so many different ages love to play with.  I was apprehensive due to the price but they truly are one of the most played with toys by all of our kids.  Find magna-tile sets here.

picasso tile race track gift idea for toddlers

We recently added this picasso tile race car track that’s also a fan favorite and a great addition to any picasso tile set you might have.

Purse & Wallet Playsets

This is a fan favorite among all our kids because of the fake phone, credit card and keys!  Perfect for a little person wanting to just like a grown-up!  Get your purse playset here.

Get your wallet set here.  The smart watch and phone are a fan favorite with everyone.

Play Vanity

Do you have a little one who loves to pretend to do their hair and make-up?  This play vanity is perfect for them.  It comes with pretend hair and make-up accessories.  Get the vanity here.

First Scooter

Give a little more stability to your toddler or preschooler with a 3 wheel scooter.  They will be speeding off down the sidewalk in no time.  Get the scooter here.


Puzzles are perfect at helping with fine and gross motor skills plus this set introduces colors, numbers, and letters.  Get the set here.


Duplos are just one of those classic toys that are fun to build together.  This starter set makes a perfect gift.

toy vacuum

Play Vacuum

All of my kids have loved pretending to vacuum if only that could handle the real one ;).  This little vacuum looks like the real deal and is perfect to pretend to clean around the house.  Get yours here.

6 Volt Ride-on Toy

My kids LOVE anything motorized that mimics driving a real car.  From power wheels to a motorized scooter.  This little police moped is perfect for a toddler and perfect for driving around the basement until spring!

There you go…

What are some of your favorite classic toddler and preschool toys?  Please, share in the comments.  I hope these ideas help you with your shopping for that sweet little one on your list.  These toys are sure to spark their imagination and provide hours of independent play!

Need a spot to organize all these gift ideas?

You Might Also Like These Gift Guides…

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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20 Best Tween Girl Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year where you start wracking your brain for gift ideas for those girls that are a bit past baby dolls but not quite adults.  What do you get a tween girl on your list besides just a gift card?  With my daughter’s help, I have rounded up the best 15 tween girl gift ideas for that hard to buy for tween girl on your list.

15 Best Tween Girl Gift Ideas

1.  Hair Accessories

Scrunchies are back and they are the coveted arm accessory.  It takes me back to my youth.  Get a huge variety pack here so your tween girl can have a scrunchie for every occasion.  Also, how about some foam curlers?  This rainbow set is perfect for adding some fun curls.  

2.  Electric Scooter or Hoverboard

Our son got an electric scooter for Christmas last year and it was a fun upgrade from the power wheels of his youth!  Our daughter loves to ride it too.   This hoverboard is the one we have and it’s a great price.

3.  Sherpa Pullover

Sherpa is having a major moment and tween girls love the trend too.  It’s a perfect cozy addition to any tween’s closet. My daughter loves hers.  You can find them everywhere from Walmart to this one on Amazon.

4.  Vivofit Jr. Fitness Tracker

This bracelet-like fitness tracker is perfect for smaller wrists.  It’s also waterproof while collecting steps.  If you want a few more features, try the FitBit Inspire.  I was super skeptical that my kids would use them but both have had them for over a year and love to track their steps and goals!

If your tween girl already has a fitness tracker, get her some new fun bands to switch up the look.

5. DIY Craft Kits

Give them the gift of craft time.  From pottery to friendship bracelets there’s a craft kit for every tween girl on your list.  This DIY window art set is on Vera’s personal wishlist.

6.  Art Cart

I wrote a whole post about how Vera has her art supplies organized in her personal art cart.  3 years later and it remains her favorite gift ever.  She uses it every day!  Read the blog post here and get aa tiered art cart here.


7.  Magna-tiles

If you have not invested in a set of these, you need to!  Across the board, these are our most used toys in the house for any age level.  It’s on every one of my gift guides for a reason.

8.  Duffel Bag

Get your tween girl a duffel bag for practices, slumber parties and trips away from home.  This style has lots of print options and folds away small for storage.

9.  Gel Pens

Gel pens are perfect for creating art, writing in a journal or penning the next great graphic novel.  This set is perfect for a stocking or add-on gift.  These would store away great in the art cart above!

10.  Echo Dot

An echo dot is the perfect wireless speaker for the next impromptu dance party for your tween girl.  It also works great as an intercom when you need to talk to her in her room.

11.  Fuzzy Sock Set

Nothing says cozy like a pair of fuzzy socks.  This animal sock set is perfect and can be mixed and matched for lots of new looks all week long :)!  Split it up and pop them in stockings or give them to your tween girl’s friends with a pair of nail polish.  Get the set here.


12. Bluetooth Wireless Microphone

Get ready for karaoke or American Idol with this Bluetooth wireless microphone.  Not to mention, the built-in lights, it’s a party in your tween girl’s hands!

13. Nail Polish

Who doesn’t love to paint their nails?  Nail polish is the perfect stocking stuffer or addition to a caboodle.  Get an Essie nail polish variety pack here.

14. Caboodle & Lipsmackers

These are both a blast from my youthful past.  My girls both want a caboodle this year and love Lipsmackers as well.  A perfect beauty accessory for every tween girl.  Get a Lipsmackers set here and caboodle here.

15. Babysitters Club Graphic Novel Set

Babysitters Club books got a graphic novel overhaul and they are a fan-favorite among tween girls.  Get the first 4 books in the series here.  

Check out this awesome list of book ideas if you love Harry Potter.

16. Bluetooth Ear Buds

Ear pods are very popular these days but if you are looking for a more cost effective pair that look similar, try these.  They have thousands of 5 star reviews.

17.  LEGO Dots Sets

LEGO recently launched this new line and it’s been very popular with my daughters.  There are lots of sets at various price ranges so they are perfect add-on gifts for stockings or there are bigger craft style sets like the one above.  Find them all here.

18.  Board Games

Always a fun idea for sleepovers and family game nights.  Check out our favorite board and card games here.

19.  Experience Gift Card

From canvas painting, to movies and bowling.  Give the gift of a shared experience to that tween on your wishlist.  Some more ideas include – DIY workshop, ceramic painting workshop, manicure, ice skating, or snow tubing.

20.  Room Decor

My daughter recently got a room refresh as she marches into the tween years.  Think new bedding, throw pillows, desk chair and comfy reading chair plus a comfy cozy faux fur blanket to throw on her bed like this one.


20 Gift Ideas for Tween Girls

I hope these tween girl gift ideas get you thinking about great gifts for those tween girls on your list this year.  Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life so you can do what matters most with those that matter most!

Need help organizing your holiday gift lists?

You Might Also Like These Gift Guides…

Advent Calendar Ideas for Every Age


Awesome Books for the Reluctant Boy Reader


Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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20 best gifts for tween girls

Harry Potter Helped My Son Fall in Love with Reading + 17 Books Series to Read After Harry Potter

Harry Potter Helped My Son Fall in Love with Reading

When my son started second grade, he didn’t love to read.  I was the same way as a kid so I totally got it however as a grown-up I knew how important it was for him to become a proficient reader.  Just like anything in life the more you practice, the better you become so it was essential I helped him fall in love with reading but how?

I was talking with my sister who also didn’t love reading as a child and she told me that Harry Potter made her fall in love with reading.  I knew my son at the time might not have the reading stamina it would take to read it independently (hello 700+ page novels) but as a trained early childhood educator, I knew the value of reading to your children for as long as they would let you.  So, I started reading Harry Potter to my son.

It’s been 18 months and we have read almost every night together before bed.  It not only has proved to be a simple but purposeful way to spend time with my growing son but Harry Potter, indeed, helped my son fall in love with reading.  This past weekend we wrapped up the series and the next day, we both said, “I miss Harry.”

So, what do we read after Harry Potter?

I don’t mean to sound dramatic but I don’t believe any book series can quite compare to Harry Potter.  It’s been 20 years since he first appeared on a bookshelf and the series produced several blockbuster movies, a dedicated theme park, and lines of products like legos, clothes, games – you get the idea.

However, I needed some ideas so I did the only logical thing and I went to social media. I did some crowdsourcing and my community (Facebook & Instagram) delivered some great recommendations.  Of course, sharing is caring so I am going to share the top picks for what to read after the Harry Potter series.

Psst…I also have a fun printable you can get in case you want to print it and take it to the library with you and you pint-size reader!  You can sign-up to get access to it and my printables library here.

Top 17 Series to Read After Harry Potter

The number one recommended book series to read after Harry Potter was Percy Jackson.  Author Rick Riordan wrote the book series when his son didn’t like to read to help him learn about mythology and fall in love with reading.  Let me know what books or series you would recommend in the comments. Don’t forget to download your printable booklist by signing up here.

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

The Magic Thief Series by Sarah Prineas

Diary of a Wimpy Kid By Jeff Kinney

Dogman by Dav Pilkey

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

Prince Warrior Series by Priscilla Shirer

Chronicles of Narnia Series by C. S. Lewis

Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Treasure Hunter Series by James Patterson

Magic Misfits Series by Neil Patrick Harris

Swindle Series by Gordon Korman

The Wild Robot Series by Peter Brown

Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull

Complete Roald Dahl Series

Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary

More Recommended Books to Read After Harry Potter

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

What would you recommend?

Now, we know nothing will compare to the Harry Potter series and if you are reading this and haven’t read it yet, stop right now and order it (HERE)!  Seriously, I don’t love fantasy or Star Wars (sorry!) but I loved Harry Potter!

Then, when you are finished come right back here for some more great recommendations.  Now, go snuggle up with your kids and help them fall in love with reading one book at a time read together!

Pin this for later!


Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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Linking up with Becky and Andrea

10 Family-Favorite Valentine Gift Ideas

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  I love a good reason to celebrate, especially mid-winter.  We celebrate as a whole family!  What about you?

We often order a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy’s which all stems back from Scott’s and my first Valentine’s Day.  We ate at a local pizza place and they served us heart-shaped pizza.  The tradition continues with our tiny valentines now!   

Check out these simple Valentine’s Breakfast Ideas and 12 Valentine’s day family activities.

favorite Valentine's Day gift ideas

1. Valentine’s Attire

My girls especially love getting holiday-themed clothes and pajamas.  Check out this CUTE Mister Irresistible Shirt and this darling heart dress with a little tutu detail, both can be worn long after Valentine’s day!

2. Cupid Farts

I saw this bag of Cupid Farts and instantly thought of my son!  I know he would laugh so hard!  The price is a little high but would be sure to bring lots of laughter to your little or big Valentine.  Bonus, it’s edible ;).

3.  Hearts Game

We have a couple other games by this brand and so I picked up the game of Hearts for a family gift this Valentine’s Day. We love to play games together so I thought this was perfect.  Here are more by this same company.

4.  Scratch Off Cards

I just got these scratch off cards for my kids so I can write their special dates I have planned on them.  It comes with 24 so I can use them for other special occasions too.  I thought it was a fun way to reveal their gift of time with mom and dad.  Solon and I are going ice skating and Vera and I are going to get our nails done.  I am not sure what Scott has cooked up for his dates with the big kids.

5.  The 5 Love Languages Quiz & Book

Take the love language quiz and have your spouse do so as well.  We often give love how we like to receive it but that’s not always how our spouse receives love.

You can take the quiz here.  Then, talk about your results on your Valentine’s date together.  The book is a good read to learn more about yourself and your spouse.  There’s a kids quiz too which I think it so helpful in knowing how to love your kid well.

6.  Jewelry

I love these bar necklaces and I think they are perfect personalized with your kid’s initials, your wedding date or the coordinates for your home.  The options are endless for personalization.    How about this simple initial necklace?

7.  The Book Of Us

Scott got me this book years ago (before we were married) and you fill in 150 questions about your love story.  It’s a great way to celebrate your love for one another and a sweet keepsake.  Ours is still unfinished ;).

8.  Love Monster

This book is darling and a best seller on Amazon.  It would make your tiniest valentine so happy this year.  All my kids love this book!

9.  Shrinky Dinks

I picked up a set of Valentine-inspired shrinky dinks at the Target dollar spot for $3.  The kids love to color and decorate them and then you pop them in the oven and they shrink and harden.  You can turn them into charms or whatever you like.  I found this set on Amazon too.

10.  Karen Katz books

Our kids have loved these books and there are lots of Valentine inspired options.  If you kid loves peek-a-boo, her books are perfect.  Here are some Valentine-inspired titles.

You might also like –

12 Easy Valentine’s Day Ideas
5 Valentine’s Day Breakfast Ideas

How do you celebrate?

Do you celebrate your big sweetie or all of your sweeties, big and small?  Do you do gifts? Candy? Flowers?  I am not a huge rose fan but spring flowers are my absolute favorite!  However, you choose to celebrate, just remember it doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun and heartfelt.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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Best Kid’s Picture Books to Read Aloud

Some of my favorite moments as a mom are snuggling in with my kids and reading books.  Lucy often signs more and says “more books”.  She knows before nap and bedtime, we will read books together.  We have several favorites around here that we read over and over and over again.  I just love seeing my older two read to each other and pick up a book and enjoy the story for themselves.
We love to gift books around here for every holiday – birthdays, school celebrations and Christmas included.  I love getting recommendations from others, especially those that their kids read on repeat. So today, I am sharing 16 of our current favorites.  These rarely make it back on to the bookshelf before getting pulled right back out again.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 

1.  Dance

We love Matthew Van Fleet books and the fun ways he makes his books come alive by pulling or pushing a tab.  By far, this is Lucy’s very favorite book about a group of animals that’s trying to teach a little chick to dance.

2.  Mercy Watson to the Rescue

This is great for your older readers to read to you.  It’s a chapter book with plenty of illustrations for those readers still building their reading stamina with longer books.  I read this to Vera and Solon read a chapter to me a night.  Mercy, the pig, “saves” the day or does she mean to?  It’s up to you to decide.

3.  Owl Diaries

My friend Karie let us borrow these sweet little chapter books about these little owl friends.  They are super cute and really fast to read through.  Your kindergartner – 2nd grade girls would love these books.  We will be getting more when we complete this first set.

4.  He Came with the Couch

This is a funny book about a little “friend” that came with the couch and how they try to get rid of him.  Our kids love this funny book, the illustrations make the story!

5.  Dinosaurs Love Underpants

Need I say more beyond underwear in the title?  Our kids love seeing all the printed undies on the dinosaurs in this funny read on how dinosaurs came to love underwear.

6.  Tickle Monster

If your kids love to be tickled, they will love this book that prompts the reader to tickle throughout.  We have the deluxe version that includes the tickle mitts.

7.  The Good for Nothing Button

This is part of a 4 book series from Elephant and Piggie Like Reading.  It has the same humor as the Elephant and Piggie and Pigeon books we love (and also read over and over and over again).

8.   Dragons Love Tacos

Our kids love tacos and so do dragons.  This is a funny read about how dragons like their tacos.

9.  Press Here

This is another fun interactive book for kids.  They press different circles and when you turn the page something happens as a result.  This book is falling part, we have read it so many times.

10.  The Berenstain Bears 

We love, love, love the Berenstain Bears at our house.  They were my favorite as a kid so I love reading them to my kids too.

11.  Peek-A-Moo

Our beloved child librarian reads this every week at baby storytime and Lucy loves lifting the flaps to see which animal is beneath based on the sound they make!

12.  The Book with No Pictures

This book will make your kids laugh.  It makes the reader say different things as you read and as the title suggests there are no pictures.  Don’t let that deter you, this will quickly be a book your kids read again and laugh every time.

13.  Ribbit!

This is a sweet story about friendship and being kind.  It will warm your heart!  It’s one of Lucy’s favorites.

14.  The Whale in My Swimming Pool

This is another book that the illustrations make the story.  It’s a cute and funny read.  There is a whale in the little boy’s wading pool.  Lucy laughs overtime and now has parts memorized ;).

15.  Barnyard Dance

We love Sandra Boynton.  Every single book of hers is great.  We especially love Barnyard Dance and Snuggle Puppy.

16.  Toes, Ears and Nose

We also love Karen Katz.  If you kid loves lift the flap books, you need some of these books.


So now that I shared, will you share a favorite author or book with me?  I am collecting ideas for Christmas this year.  Scott and I will gift the kid’s new slippers and a new book to open on Christmas Eve and I would love to get them one they each love!  Don’t forget to pin and share this with others!

You might also like…

Best Family Board & Card Games

Book Series Like Harry Potter

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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Best Board Games for Families

Who doesn’t love playing a good game?  One of our favorite ways to spend time together as a family is playing board games.   I thought it would be fun to share our favorite board and card games to play since it’s always fun to add new games to the collection!  If you have a favorite game, please share in the comments.  You always have the best recommendations!  If you are looking for a birthday gift idea, games make great gifts!


If you are looking for a great game for preschool+, this is the game.  It comes with little pads that you step on when the prompted tells you to go to a specific item like an animal, color or shape.  Lucy loves to play with us too!  It doesn’t take too long either and it’s a great wiggle release!
2.  Snipe
The object of this game is to hide your opponent’s snipe creature and then be the first to find your snipe and return it to the nest. The creatures begin to chirp and then light up as time passes.  It can be played one on one or as teams and inside and outside.  This is a great party game and great for ages 2+.
We love Ticket to Ride, now there is a kid version.  Collect colored train cards and build to claim your route.  The first person to claim 6 routes win.  Solon loves to play this game.  Ages 6+.
Once again we love the adult version, Settlers of Catan.  In this version, you are earning commodities with the roll of a dice and then trading them in to build ships and lairs.  The first person to build all their lairs wins.
Are you sensing a theme?  We love Sequence but now there is Sequence for kids.  Collect cards and work to place your chips on the board.  When you get 4 in a row, you win!
6.  Memory
A great classic family game that never goes out of style.  If you have younger kids, you can modify by just pulling out 1/4 to 1/2 the matching cards.  You will be surprised how good your kids are at remembering!
Push the hot potato and then pass them either shouting the person’s name or in a circle.  The person holding the potato when it buzzes and they are out!
Spot It is a fast paced matching game. Place a circle card in the middle and then distribute the rest of the cards to the players.  Then each player flips a card and races to yell the matching animal their card has to the one in the middle. Play continues until a player runs out of all their cards.
10.  Old Maid
11.  Qwixx
A fun dice game where you are crossing off numbers and working to fill your card.  Kids young and old will like this fast paced fun game.
A pirate version of the classic crazy 8’s.  You can”t help but say “ARRRRGH!” when you play!
Each player gets a set of cards and they try to place them on their opponent’s area and then fill their opponent’s area with a moose.  The person with the most moose loses!
15.  Bellz
Take turns trying to grab your bells (of various sizes) with a magnet wand.  The first person to get them all wins.  You can’t grab any bell but your own so you have to be careful!  It’s harder than it looks.

Here are a few more favorites – 





Rivers, Roads, and Rails



Left, Center, Right







Games are a great family gift.  If you are traveling, some of these will fit right into your suitcase.  All these games are sure to create laughter, fun and some special family time with those you love.  What are your favorite kids’ games?

You might also like…

Best Family Board & Card Games

Book Series Like Harry Potter

Favorite Kids Toys

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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