family fun with educational insights + learning resources

This Christmas I wanted to focus on getting new toys and games that we could play as a family and also had an educational focus. The girls are getting to the age where they can start to understand simple board games, and it’s so much fun! While researching I kept coming across products made by Educational Insights and Learning Resources. They sent us over a few toys to try, and we have adored them both!

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The first one I want to share with you is The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game. This game is simple enough for Maddie Mae who is 2.5 and is not the most focused person I know, haha! Caroline picked up on it immediately. We’ve been playing it just about every single night since we’ve opened it. The basics of how to play are this:

  • A player spins the spinner
  • Pick up the color of acorn that the arrow lands on with the Squirrel Squeezer
  • The first person to fill their log with the five colored acorns wins IMG_2206IMG_2212As you can see in the pictures, this is so good for fine motor skills. The girls had to work pretty hard to pick up the correct color of acorn and also to place it in their logs! It wasn’t too tricky where they were getting frustrated though which can sometimes be the case with certain games. IMG_2193

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Besides being fun to play and a great way to bond as a family, there are also various developmental benefits as well!

  • Reinforces color learning
  • Develops strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and pre-handwriting skills
  • Encourages social skills and turn-taking
  • Practices memory and attention skills
  • Color matching game for all ages
  • Designed to teach matching, sorting, counting, and simple math skills
  • Great first board game for a child
  • Quick, fun game that can be played continuously in a short time
  • Easy setup and cleanup

You can find the game on Amazon here!

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The second product I wanted to introduce you to is a building focused toy called Gears! Gears! Gears!. I’ve mentioned before that we are big MagnaTile lovers and I knew the girls would love to have something similar for a little variety. I cannot rave about these enough, you guys! The girls played with them for three straight hours when we first opened them and have logged several hours since. These also are an excellent activity to encourage family bonding. Chris likes to build windmill structures, and the girls get so excited to “turn on electricity for the city.” If your kiddos aren’t quite at the age where they are ready for legos these are perfect! They also grow with them and highly encourage imagination at any age!
Here are a few of the amazing benefits and features:

  • Learning Style: Visual, Tactile
  • Skill Development: Counting, Sorting, Matching, Patterning, Problem Solving, Cause & Effect, Critical Thinking, Sequential Thought, Spatial Relationships, Creativity, Fine Motor, Eye-Hand Coordination, Visual Processing, Color Identification
    Includes:
  • 66 Colorful gears (blue, green, orange, red, purple), 36 square pillars, 31 six-way axles, eight pillar connectors, eight interlocking bases, two crank handles, one plastic storage tub, and activity guide.

 

These are a just a few of the incredible selection of educationally focused toys made by Educational Insights. Take a look through their website here!

I would love to answer any questions you might have about either of these so feel free to ask away and as always, thank you for stopping by!

 

xo,

Anna

play room tour

When we first moved it wasn’t in the budget to get exactly what we wanted for the girls play room area. We settled with some garage sale storage bench finds and inexpensive bins which worked for the time but it started getting too unorganized too often. The girls didn’t have a good system to put toys away therefore they would dump out EVERY storage bench and bin and when cleaning up they’d just throw everything together and it was a nonstop mess that I couldn’t handle anymore! So for Christmas we decided to invest in a system that will minimize the mess. We also put away a bin full of toys in storage that we will cycle through every other month or so. I’m excited to share the girls fun little space with you!

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Gold Bins – Target Dollar Spot // Wooden Boxes JaneMarie Handmade

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I searched high and low for the best option for toy organization that was both cost effective and functional. This cube storage wasn’t particularly my favorite but my research continued to lead me back to them. The game changer that caused me to go this route was finding these gorgeous wooden cube boxes. They add in such character and it’s a huge plus that they hide the toys so well. You can find them at JaneMarie Handmade! They are beautifully made by Halleigh and Brittney and also can be done in varying sizes and stains.

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Mountain Peak Bookends

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One thing we really wanted to incorporate was a comfortable reading spot. I was thrilled to have found these gorgeous floor pillows made by Elizabeth at Ochre Nest. Not only are they extremely comfortable but she hand painted the watercolor plaid which I was extremely impressed by! They’ve been well loved by us all in the short time of owning them. We love to cozy up as a family and read together or watch the girls play.

IMG_2066IMG_2082IMG_2059IMG_2062IMG_2038IMG_2031Previously we had a Teamson kitchen and Caroline was ridiculously rough on it and took off all the doors. I found this darling one on Craigslist for 50 dollars and couldn’t believe I ended up with it because the seller said she had over 20 emails of interest! It’s incredibly well made so I don’t think Caroline can take this one apart even if she tries, ha! What is a cute play kitchen without absolutely adorable play food?!  I could barely handle these boxed donuts and produce. You can find these items and several more made by Jennifer at Play Food Creative!

How do you organize toys? Have you found a method that you love or have you given into the mess all together? I always love to hear of new ways to organize and keep things simplified!

Thanks for stopping by!

xo,

Anna

 

lorena canals washable rug

If a washable rug isn’t one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard of than I don’t know what is. As I’m sure many of you know kids are ROUGH on everything. I noticed that our rugs had half the life in them once my kids starting walking and crawling. We ended up just throwing away a few of ours because having them cleaned was more expensive than buying a new one! I was absolutely thrilled to come across Lorena Canals gorgeous selection of washable rugs.

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The soft pink polka dot was the perfect addition to my girls’ shared room. It was subtle but delicate and lovely, exactly the theme I was going for. You can find the same style but in a grey here!

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Not only is Lorena Canals selection absolutely beautiful but they are so soft. As you can see, Caroline very much approves of the comfort level! It’s so incredibly convenient to just toss this in the washing machine when it starts getting a little dirty. I can’t recommend this brand of rugs enough. Grab your coffee and take a look through their amazing designs and styles here!

holiday looks with janie and jack

This post has been sponsored by Janie and Jack. All opinions are my own. 

I would describe our kid’s style (for the most part) as subtle and versatile. As much as we can, we move away from the loud, bright, distracting clothing and try to stick with pieces that won’t go out of style anytime soon. Janie and Jack hit all the marks when it comes to our favorite types of children’s clothing. They are classic, timeless, and sharp. You are guaranteed to get lasting quality and so many compliments when wearing them. I was thrilled to work with Janie and Jack and put together holiday styles for the kids this year.

For Jack ,I went with the corduroy suspender pant paired with the cutest little plaid bodysuit and layered it with the wool toggle coat in brown and wingtip crib shoe. I mean come on, can it get any cuter than this handsome look in a teeny tiny 6-12 month size?! No, the answer is no, it cannot!

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Bowtie

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For the girls, I couldn’t help myself and went with the full matching outfits. I love doing this for two reasons: 1 – It is extremely cute and 2 – If I really love a clothing item it’s nice that when Maddie grows out of one size she will get to wear it in the bigger size as well.

 

I have been absolutely loving the blush and cream combos right now. These outfits are perfect for a subtle holiday look that can also be worn into the Spring as well as Fall.

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Pom Beanie
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Velvet Purse // Hunter First Classic Rain Boot // Shimmer Rose Sweater

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Velvet Leggings  // Faux Fur Mittens

Now I have to share pictures of all three of the kids together because well.. I’m a mom I cant help myself. Also, I love the look of how the outfits compliment each other!

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Head on over to Janie and Jack to see their gorgeous selection and find the perfect holiday outfit for your little one! Be sure to let me know what you find!

xo,

Anna

toddler gift guide

Many of you are probably finished shopping for your kiddos Christmas gifts but for those of you that aren’t – here’s a list of great gift options!

I am a researcher so before I buy anything, especially toys, I thoroughly read reviews and try to get a good idea if it will be something that will last and also that the girls won’t get bored with easily. One of my requirements is that the toy can grow with our kids. I tend to think longevity with toy purchases, which might not be very common but it helps me to narrow down from the overwhelming options out there. I’m excited to share with you some of our favorite toys and also some of the gifts that will be under our tree on Christmas morning!

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s start out with the toys that are tried and true in our house. We’ve had each of these for over a year and they get played with daily.

  • Magna-Tiles 100 Piece Set – I’m sure just about every parent of young kids have heard of these by now. I can say, without question, that these are these toys live up to all the hype and then some. These encourage imagination in so many ways and kids all the way up through age 10 enjoy playing with them. My Maddie has never been one to focus for long periods of time on anything but with Magna -Tiles it’s a different story. One of my favorite sounds is the clicking of the magnetic pieces going together while my girls are quietly focused on their building.  I would also add that it is worth it to go with the name brand for these (the ones pictured and linked). Ours are still in perfect condition and haven’t lost their magnetic strength over time after being played with very roughly for over a year.

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  • Terra Animals  – Our kids are absolutely obsessed with little animals. The best quality ones that we have found are the Terra brand that are on the end cap off the Target toy aisles. They are durable and have pretty impressive details. I’ve linked to the Terra brand page on Target.com as an example but I would say the best place to buy them would be in the store.

Now onto some fun new items that I can’t wait to give to our girls!

 

 

 

 

  • Fishing Pole – Oh my goodness, this fishing pole you guys. It’s possibly the most beautiful and creative toy I have ever seen! A lovely husband and wife team hand make these (along with several other wooden toys) over at Papa Don’s Toys.   It reels very realistically, and comes with the cutest set of colorful fish that you can catch. I know my girls will will be fascinated with it!
  • Colorful Wooden Train – How darling is this set?! It’s made out of very sturdy, organic wood and I love the unique shape of it. You can find it at Pawoo Toys.
  • Elephant Jigsaw Puzzle –  This little organic wooden elephant puzzle is also made by Pawoo Toys and I can just imagine it being used in so many ways!
  • Wooden Lawnmower – This a great alternative to a plastic lawnmower. Not only is it beautiful, it’s made to last, has a subtle sound, and I think it could also be used as a pretend vaccum! This, like the fishing pole, is made by the husband and wife duo at Papa Don’s Toys.

Non-toy options:

 

 

  • Activity Play Mat – These activity mats by Tater and Frankie are adorable and great because you can easily store them. Anything that can minimize the clutter while still providing fun is instantly one of my favorite things. Use code INSTAFREESHIPPING for free shipping on anything from the shop!
  • Backpacks – Britni makes and designs these darling little backpacks at Benny and The Bear. I’m going to fill my girls’ with some fun chalkboards and craft supplies for them to open on Christmas morning.
  • Cozy Blankets – Caroline’s been begging for a soft blanket and I cant wait to give her this lovely lamb one with llama faux fur. Nicole at Tea House Studio has a great selection of unique fabric prints and backings!

 

Happy shopping, friends!

 

xo,

Anna

snow ice cream

After living in Florida for the last three winters to say we were excited for our first real snowfall may be an understatement. I had just gotten back from visiting my sister for the weekend and when the snow started beautifully falling Chris and I jumped on the opportunity for some family fun. He got to work bringing snow into the bathtub to build a snowman with the girls and I quickly looked up a recipe to make snow ice cream for the first time. The girls were bouncing off the walls from excitement and wonderment.

The recipe was quite easy and turned out delicious so I wanted to share it with you:

  • 1 gallon snow
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk

-Mix all ingredients together until it reaches desired consistency.

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As you can see Caroline approved and that girl appreciates some quality ice cream. Chris also requested that I take it away from him because he couldn’t stop eating it, ha!

Let me know if you give it a try and how it turns out!

xo,

Anna

 

 

dockatot review – is it essential?

It’s pretty incredible how quickly products come in and out of the baby world. What I considered new and essential with my first child just three years ago now seem very outdated. We used almost everything again the second time around because the girls were only 16 months apart. Well, when I was pregnant for the third time I realized just how many up and coming products were out there. One my favorite aspects of Instagram is being able to get a close and personal look at different baby/kid gear. It is so helpful to read other moms thorough reviews of the hot items before deciding to take the plunge and purchase them. I’m excited to share my honest opinion about one of the most popular baby items right now – the DockATot. I’m going to keep it simple with a pros and cons list from my personal experience after using it for about three months.

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Pros:

  • Easy to travel with – it was so nice to just throw the DockATot in the car rather than lugging around the pack n play which takes up about half our trunk!
  • Soft surface that lessens the risk of flat spots – Maddie had and still does have a very flat head. I wanted to do my best to prevent that from happening with Jack and I think putting him in the DockATot throughout the day has played a big role.
  • Comfortable – the Dock is significantly more comfortable then Jack’s crib mattress and I notice he seems to sleep slightly longer stretches in it.
  • Easy to take from room to room and put out of the way when necessary – I’ve loved this because it’s always nice to be able to put baby items out of the way when not being used.

Cons:

  • Not safe for overnight sleep – I’m a major rule follower and especially so in sleep safety. I have not felt comfortable enough to leave Jack sleeping in the Dock overnight in his crib, which I have seen many others do. I just don’t sleep as well (due to worry) if he’s not in his crib with nothing else in there with him.
  • I personally did not notice a significant difference in Jack’s sleep with the DockATot – He sleeps basically the same everywhere (crib, rock n play, floor, etc). Neither of my girls had the DockATot and both were MUCH better sleepers than he has been.

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So, is this highly raved about product an essential or non-essential? My honest opinion would be non-essential. I would classify it under a convenience product that does not make a drastic difference on sleep in the early months. Now this is from my experience and everyone’s will be different. I’ve heard some parents swear by it and I’m so glad that it’s worked wonders for them but that has not been the case for us.

What are your opinions on the DockATot? Would you say its an essential or no? I would love to hear your experiences!

xo,

Anna