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Vendor Spotlight: Kinderfeets

May 30, 2017

Back in March, Kitty and I had a wonderful time attending Toy Fest West in Las Vegas.  We saw a lot of familiar faces, touched base with manufacturers we’ve been working with for ages, and checked out some exciting new items.  Today I want to share a brand new favorite with you all – Kinderfeets!

As we were walking through the convention, the Kinderfeets booth immediately caught our attention.  Their children’s bikes were simple, made of beautiful stained wood, and just adorable – especially the tiny bamboo trikes!  We struck up a conversation with Oscar and Carlijn, the owners.  Oscar is the designer behind the beautiful bikes; he created the first prototype after searching, to no avail, for the perfect push bike for his little son Sebastiaan.  Carlijn joined Oscar when the business got too big for just one person, but even though Kinderfeets has expanded to multiple countries, the two of them still run the show by themselves!  They are both so passionate and excited about their bikes, it was a joy to talk with them.Screen_Shot_2015-12-15_at_5.17.14_PM.png

Ever since that first bike, Kinderfeets has been expanding, and they now have a lovely collection of push bikes.  The Tiny Tot line, which includes the bamboo Tiny Tot in the picture above, is designed for littles as young as 12 months, and the Classic (pictured below) is usually best for ages 2-5.  Seat height is adjustable on all bikes.

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And they’re not just beautiful, they’re also designed and built with the environment in mind.  The tires are airless and made of biodegradable rubber, which is good for the earth and safer for your little one – no flat tires!  The bikes are built from sustainably harvested birchwood, from a renewable source.  Kinderfeets uses minimal and completely recyclable packaging, and the laquer they use to finish their bamboo bikes is non-toxic.  And – this is my favorite part – Kinderfeets plants a tree for every bike they sell, in partnership with https://trees.org/.

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What I really love about this business is that they’ve thought of everything from the kid’s perspective and the parent’s.  Not only are the bikes easy to ride, they’re light and easy to carry as well.  The chalkboard finish makes them moving canvases for little ones, with almost no mess to clean up.  And the accessories (basket or crate) are so much fun for kids to carry their things around in, and they’re also completely adorable!

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At the conference, Kitty and I were also lucky enough to see two new prototypes that aren’t for sale just yet!  No spoilers, but let’s just say Kinderfeets is branching out – not just bikes anymore.  We can’t wait to share them when they come out!  Sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar to be notified when they do (and get a $10 coupon)!

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Have any questions about Kinderfeets?  If you own any of their bikes or accessories, what do you like about it, and what do you think could be better?  Let us know what you think!

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5 Ways to Tear Kids Away from the TV this Summer

May 11, 2017

So, the weather’s finally warming up, the trees and flowers are going bananas, it’s a gorgeous day – and where are the kids?  Sitting on the couch watching tv while playing doodle jump on their phones?

It isn’t easy to break through the fog, but here are some quick tips to help draw those kids out and encourage the kind of old-fashioned, real-world play that broadens minds, encourages creativity and social interaction, and creates lovely memories for years to come.

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It sounds counter-intuitive, but it can be helpful to start by considering what your little ones love about technology.  What looks like sullen unresponsiveness might be, to your son, a moment of connection with an old friend as he texts someone he misses.  For all of us, but especially kids, life is really confusing – doesn’t it make sense that a few minutes playing a game with clear rules and a simple goal is comforting and relaxing?

Of course, there’s not always a good reason behind technology use – but it can be helpful to remember that kids’ social and emotional lives today take place, at least in part, online.  They’re not on their phones because they want to hurt you!  Remember that we’re all only human, and nobody’s perfect.  Show compassion, even while you’re setting limits; invite kids to help you write up technology rules that the whole family is going to follow.  Ask them how they feel, and what they think is good and healthy.  You don’t have to follow their advice, but if they feel considered, heard and appreciated, you’ll have an easier time with those limits you want to set.

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Before summer (or anytime throughout the year), sit down with your kid and create a list of ideas for activities they think they’d enjoy doing during their free time.  Then, have them refer back to it when they complain of boredom, or have been watching TV for hours.  If you ask them to choose their own activities (go on a hike, plant a garden, bake cookies – activities can be big or small!) then later, you don’t have to frame your encouragement as “do this because I say so” – instead, you’re just reminding them of their own ideas.  “Remember you wanted to ride your bike this summer?  Now might be a great time to do that, we don’t have anything planned!”

I especially like this idea because it can be useful for us adults too.  I know if I don’t plan to do the things I love in advance, an hour of relaxing in front of the TV can turn into an afternoon, can turn into all my free time for the week gone before I know it.  Help your kids build those self-motivation skills now and they’ll thank you later!

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This one’s a little bit of a gimmick, but I’ve seen it work wonders, especially with younger kids.  Does your kid love Guitar Hero?  Why not see if they’d like an actual guitar to try out?  (Kid-size ones can be surprisingly cheap!)  If they like to draw but have a hard time motivating themselves to do it, encourage them to draw their favorite characters or scenes from a show they like.  You could also try to find a real-world board or card game that’s similar to their phone game – Kaboom is pretty much exactly like Angry Birds, but you get to all play it together!

Obviously this one won’t work for all games/shows, but it doesn’t have to be as literal as these examples either.  Sometimes a less direct approach works better.  Try engaging your kid in conversation about what they like or don’t like about the games they play and the shows they watch.  (This in itself can be a really interesting opportunity to get to know your kids better, and encourage self-reflection!)  If you find out that part of what they like about a video game is exploring different landscapes, maybe invite them to come walk around a new part of town with you – or if they like following the rules of the game to a satisfying conclusion, suggest baking something together from a recipe.

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You know that your attention is one of the things kids want (and need) most as they’re developing – what better way to encourage them to get their heads out of their technology then to offer to join them in an activity?  If you and the kids are all on your devices in the same room (it happens all the time!) and you notice it, offer something fun to do that you can do together.  Invite your kids to help you with your projects and hobbies, and when they figure out what activities they might be interested in, encourage them and join them in those too!

This way, it doesn’t have to be a “put your phone away or else” fight, which always leaves kids grumpy and uncooperative – instead, you’re learning and doing something fun together, and nobody notices you haven’t looked at your phones in an hour.

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The absolute biggest thing you can do to help your kids limit their screen time – and this isn’t just me saying this, the experts agree – is to model what you want to see in your own life.  It isn’t easy, but those little ones look up to us, and they’re smarter than we often give them credit for.  They don’t respond well to a “do as I say, not as I do” approach!

Nobody’s perfect, and I’m certainly not saying you can never watch TV or check your phone, but if you often find yourself choosing phone games over interacting with your kids or doing other fun real-world activities, you bet those kids are going to learn a lot from that.  And on the flip side, if you’re doing the activities you love and inviting them to join you, and encouraging them and joining them in the activities they gravitate to, they learn from that too!

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Do you have any tips you use to get your little ones up and moving?  Let us know in the comments below – we love hearing from you!

Live Event Recap: CCPPNS Convention and the Wistaria Festival

April 7, 2017

One of the hardest things about working for an online toy store is that you’re curating this collection of beautiful items, things you’re really excited to share with your audience, things you’re sure kids and anyone who loves kids will really get a kick out of – but in-person events are the only time you get to actually hand a toy to a kid and watch their face light up.

That’s what makes these live events so exciting for me – let me tell you, did I see faces light up!  I played about 500 rounds of multi-level tic-tac-toe, taught a teenager how to use a yo-yo, made little dun-da-da-da! noises as I placed winning snails on their little podium, answered countless questions, built and rebuilt and rebuilt our Twig and Tegu displays, balanced monkeys, ate shave ice, and all around had a fantastic time 🙂

Our first event of the weekend was the CCPPNS Convention (that’s the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools – a mouthful, huh?), and like all event days, it was a long one.  We got to the location at 7:30 to say hi to lots of busy nursery school teachers and parents and start the process of covering all available real estate with toys.

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I look forward to all our live events, but this particular one has a special place in my heart.  I attended the Sierra Madre Community Nursery School, and I keep thinking back to that school and all other schools founded on similar principles when I need to remember why the toy business is not only fun, but also important.  Parent participation nursery schools are nonprofits, founded on principles of mutual support, community and cooperation.  They encourage imaginative, kid-driven play and learning; they work to build empathy and a sense of community responsibility, and allow kids the time to be kids.  It’s a mission I really believe in.

So you can imagine, it’s a privilege to come table at their yearly convention!

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Kitty and I had an absolute blast talking to everyone and showing them the toys we brought.  It’s so much fun talking with people who believe in expressive, open-ended play and natural child development the way we do.  I’d link to our bestsellers at this event, but most of them are sold out!  There are a few that are still available on our site: the Katamino block puzzle, Vroom Vroom the snail racing game, and the lovely Plan Toys tea set that’s front and center on our table in the photo.  I’m already thinking about what we’ll bring next year.

That night we packed up, drove back down to southern California, caught a few hours of sleep, and headed out early the next day to set up for the Wistaria Festival!  We were exhausted, but even at 6:30 in the morning, setting up our tables, I was excited to do it all again – with the help of a little coffee, at least.

This event was a first for Heirloom Wooden Toys; though most of us had attended the Wistaria festival before, we’d never been a vendor.  And I have to say, as much as I loved CCPPNS the day before, the Wistaria festival had one big thing going for it: kids!  We set up a little play area on a rug…

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…and I got the rewarding job of telling eager toddlers making a beeline for our booth (and the nervous parents following them) that, yes, this is all to play with, go to town!  🙂

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Oh, the kids were so cute.  We had a games station on one of our tables, and I played game after game after game of Vroom Vroom, Kaboom, Suspend and Gobblet Gobblers.  One of the things I love about kids is that they’re so unselfconscious, they just are exactly who they are.  If they wanna yell, they’re gonna yell – if they wanna toddle away clutching the little wooden snail game pieces, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.  Some of them wanted to know all about the rules of the games, and some couldn’t care less.  I was playing the same games over and over, but each time was a completely different experience.

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I loved the small-town feel of Sierra Madre, where this festival is held every year; we met plenty of lovely, chatty parents and grandparents, said hello to lots of beautiful dogs, and had an incredible iced coffee from a local cafe.  The toy business seemed like an afterthought – we were just hanging out, chatting with people about what was on our tables, or about the weather, or about their families.

 

 

 

 

At this event, the Suspend game got a lot of attention; it’s something of a showstopper.  It’s a big balancing game that’s fun for older kids (it takes a little more patience) – I found myself toying with it when I was looking for something to do.  But in terms of sales, the clear winners were the Tegu and Twig sets.  We put some of each out on our play rug, and plenty of passers-by of all ages sat there for quite a while, absorbed in experimenting with the different combinations of blocks.  One of these days I’ll need to do a post about those two sets and the different directions they take to expand the possibilities of block sets – but for now, I’ll just say that the amount of attention they commanded a this event spoke for itself.

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By the end of that second day, boy were we exhausted – but we had so much fun, I started researching other events we could attend just a few days after we got back into the office.  It sounds cheesy, but those in-person interactions, when we get to make kids’ faces light up and see them enjoy playing – that’s what really makes this business worth it.

Leave us a comment!  Have you ever been to one of these events?  Did you enjoy it?  Should we come back next year?  Or maybe you know of a different event we should come out to!  Let us know…

Classics

December 22, 2011

Classic toys never go out of style.  They are the toys that our parents played with, our grandparents played with, and our children love, too.  So many classics are found in wooden toys, from the rocking horse to building blocks.  Classic toys tend to stand the test of time, being loved and cherished by generations- and they can stand up to being played with.  So many toys today are expensive and flashy, but don’t hold up well and require endless batteries and repairs.  In time, your child may become bored with his or her pricey and much touted educational toy- and how much are they really getting out of it while it sits gathering dust?

In today’s economy, you have to consider how and where to spend your money.  Investing in classic, well made toys that will stand up to a child’s play (and in most cases, be able to be handed down to the next sibling or cousin, perhaps even longer) is a wise choice that will provide your child or children with endless hours of playtime.
A play kitchen costs about as much as the latest gaming system – but you won’t need to buy a new system or update it in a year.  It’s compatible with everything, and works well with other brands of toys.  If grandma buys a different brand of play food?  Your toy kitchen will not reject it!  The same just can’t be said for most modern toys, especially electronics.  A teddy bear, a tea set, a train – you just can’t go wrong with the classics.

Not to mention the wonderful fact that most wooden toys have less or even no exposure to chemicals and toxins, making then a healthy and safer option.  Toys should be safe for kids, and also safe for the planet.  You can find eco-friendly toys, great wooden gifts harvested from a renewable resource rather than plastic, which can wear out, crack, and break – and fill up landfills.  Why not find products that use formaldehyde-free glue, nontoxic paints and lacquers, or use packaging made from recyclable paper and water or soy based inks?   A healthy, simple, and classic wooden toy will give a child hours of meaningful play without overstimulating them.  A child can be creative and learn (more easily, sometimes!) without all the noise and flashing lights.

Since traditional wooden toys are natural, simply designed and continually appealing to children, they will never go out of style, so these toys will be lovely for now and for the next generation as well. Experience the joy of creating your own family heirlooms, and handing down your child’s rocking horse to your grandchild.

10 Unusual Holiday Gift Ideas

December 19, 2011

Santa drawingThat cozy, festive and fun time of year is here again! The holidays are always memorable but the preparation for them can be energetically and financially draining. Those endless shopping trips and mounds of questionable gifts can be a downer, not to mention an anti-lesson on the joy of giving. What kind of lesson does it teach our kids to see us rushing around and combing the stores for objects that clearly hold so little intrinsic value? Groan. Is it possible to give meaningful gifts and teach your kids that gift-giving doesn’t have to be expensive and stressful? Here’s some ideas from a mom on a budget who wants to get creative.

  1. Handprint/footprint ornaments

Throw together flour, water and salt and you have homemade clay, ready for rolling and molding.  Ready-made kits are available but for a fraction of the price, you can whip clay up in your kitchen!  Use your cookie cutters or just make them free-form.  Don’t forget to make a hole for the yarn/ribbon to turn the baked and finished piece into an ornament.

  1. Photo calendar

Here’s a great idea for you shutterbugs who have tons of great pictures with too few admirers.  It’s never been easier to put together a personalized calendar with your choice of photos from the past year.  If your home computer doesn’t have this program, one of the many on-line photo sites (Shutterfly, Zazzle, etc) will have this feature.

  1. Kid-designed cloth shopping bags

Encourage your loved ones to carry reusable shopping bags to the store with a one-of-a-kind cloth shopping bag.  Go to your local craft store and purchase fabric paints, decals or patches and let your creative juices flow.  Perhaps you have a child who would love this project, which lets you off the hook completely!

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  1. Kid-painted picture frames

Do you have any old funky frames in the closet that are too ugly to use? Buy some acrylic paint (and glitter if you’re really feeling fancy) and let your inner artist out.  Another great project for the budding artists in the family.

  1. New Year seed kit and planter

It’s always a pleasure to see a new life growing. You and the kids can make these New Year seed kits to give to family and friends. Consider purchasing coffee mugs as planters for a two-in-one gift.

  1. “Mixed Tape”

Do you too still have those old mixed tapes from the 80’s? They’re precious little collections of songs and fortunately the practice of putting together a mix of special songs doesn’t have to be relegated to 80’s romance. It’s never been easier with a CD burner to make a musical gift that will last a lifetime.

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  1. Donation to a charity

Don’t know what to get for the brother (or sister) who already has everything? In this so-called season of giving, why not give to those truly in need.  Search for an organization that is aligned with the gift recipient’s ideological beliefs or else be prepared to weather an awkward moment or two!

  1. Gift certificate for housecleaning

I’m pretty sure this isn’t just my personal fantasy. Get a recommendation for a trusted local housecleaner in your area, pay up front and make your own personalized gift certificate. This could be a magical post-Christmas experience for a busy family.

  1. A tree planted in honor of… someone

There are so many places that need the life-giving presence of a beautiful green tree.  When you make a contribution of $25 or more to TreePeople, they will plant a tree and send a beautiful card to the family or person that you designate.  When you contribute $100 or more, TreePeople will plant a grove of five trees and send a certificate to your designee. For an additional $25, the certificate will be placed in a handsome wooden frame made from recycled and reclaimed materials.

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  1. Homemade Spa Snuggler

Ahh, nothing like a warm heat pack over those aching shoulders to take the chill off a cold and hectic day!  Buy a pack of colorful cotton socks, add long grain rice, a few drops of essential oil (lavender is a good one for relaxation) and tie the ends with ribbon or yarn (recipe from www.livestrong.com). It is recommended that when heating your spa sock that you also set a cup of water in your microwave to prevent fire.

Whatever your holiday traditions, we hope you have a joyous and relaxing season with your loved ones!

Free Activities for Kids: Beyond Summer

December 15, 2011

With older kids in school, the little ones are left behind without the company of big brother or sister, and looking to you for some action!  It can be difficult to cope without the structure of school, and without scheduled activities for kids.  However, just because you want to stay busy and active does not mean your wallet has to stay empty.  There are plenty of activities with kids in mind that won’t cost you a dime.

Books and More Books

The local library is always a good place to start when looking for things to do in summer and afterwards.  Not only are there plenty of books and movies to keep you and your children entertained (and keep your children’s mind’s active, engaged, and reading!) but most libraries offer many programs, from summer reading, to movie nights, story time, arts and crafts, and much more.

Our library even had a Lego evening, where we were able to build cities together with a Lego Master Builder!  You can also gauge your child’s interest, and see what kind of activities to pursue from there.  Books are always a great jumping off point for exploring new interests!

Play Outside with a Purpose

Nature walks are fantastic, fun, and free!  Reconnect with nature, unplug for a while, and spend the day in the sun or among the autumn leaves.  Remember to keep hydrated, of course, and don’t forget the sun protection.  There is so much for a child to discover – trees, plants, animals, and never underestimate the power of bugs!  Bring along a magnifying glass, binoculars, whatever will help your little explorer feel more adventurous.

My son loves to bring along his special canteen, and his bug magnifying jar to check out the little critters before setting them back where he found them.  Take along one of the library books you found on bugs, nature, trees – whatever is your child’s preference.  You can spark your junior biologist’s imagination by identifying and classifying the local flora and fauna (shh!  don’t tell them they are learning while they are having fun and getting some exercise!).

Create Art from Family Life

Make a collage of found objects from your nature walk, or if you are more of a city walker, a collage of objects from your home and magazines.  What did you see on your walk?  Cut, paste, color, glitter- whatever your heart desires!  You can always do some pencil or crayon rubbings on leaves, as well, and talk about the differences you can see.  If you are making a collage from magazines and household objects, the same ideas apply.  Have fun with it!  Maybe you can make artwork to show off your last vacation, or the one you are soon to take.  Document your child’s last school year or birthday party – anything you like.  Get creative and have fun.

Channel Julia Child

Cooking shows are as varied and available as are food choices; we all have our favorites.  Create your own show, right in your own kitchen!  Find a recipe you like, and can reproduce with your child.  Keep it safe, and keep your child’s age and any limitations (height, dexterity, etc.) in mind.  Then, roll film!  You can either record it or not – either way, your child will have great fun “playing chef” with you.   Make sure you serve the dish to everyone when they return home that night, and let the little cook bask in his or her glow of praise for a job well done.  Read on for more ideas for bringing your kids into the kitchen!

Challenge Yourself: Spend Nothing for One Week

See if you can come up with four or five days’ worth of activities for your preschooler that don’t require any additional outlay of cash.  Need more ideas?  Most areas have local magazines and websites where they will list a calendar of events, and you can see what is offered in your vicinity.  Don’t limit yourself due to budget constraints, or feel the need to spend a fortune to have a good time.  Make the most out of your free time – the deepest part of winter will be here before you know it, and your little ones won’t be little for long.

Enjoy what really matters – your family!

For more ideas and some great tips, subscribe to our email newsletter, and tell us how you’re keeping your preschoolers busy on Facebook!

Travel Toys for Kids: How to Keep Your (and Their) Sanity

December 12, 2011

The holiday travel season is right around the corner.  Add the uncertainty that inclement weather brings, and you can be sure you’ll be stuck somewhere, sometime!  When it comes to travel, entertainment while in transit is a major consideration when children are along.  Whether you’re taking a road trip or traveling by plane, travel toys for kids are a must have for any parent who would like to maintain their sanity – and that of their kids and fellow travelers.

Keep ’em Occupied

If your children are old enough, there are some fantastic travel games to be found, from adorable educational toys like a Magnetic Board (fewer lost parts!) to classic games like Connect Four.  Educational games for travel are stimulating for your child, and will keep them both busy and learning while you get where you are going.

Some parents feel they need to resort to hand held video games and portable DVD players for even very small children when traveling, and while they can come in handy, it’s great to have other options available to you.  Your child can be entertained with a more classic style of toy that won’t need a battery every other hour, and won’t make a lot of background noise you have to hear while driving (or other passengers have to hear while flying).  Coloring supplies, easy-to-carry playsets, and small toys that can be collected in a small backpack work just as well.  Your child will feel that he or she is a “big kid” if they are allowed to carry their own small piece of luggage – a carry on or a backpack.

I like to keep a stash of small toys, books, snacks and surprises in my own bag.  Then when the inevitable happens and my child is tired of everything in the backpack, I can reach into the bag of tricks for something fresh.  These can even be old favorites from home that haven’t been used for awhile, the idea is that it’s different from the stuff she chose to bring.  Use these sparingly – only when necessary – so you won’t run out before the end of the trip!

Share Books

If you’re traveling by car or train, try reading aloud from a classic family book, like Charlotte’s Web, Black Beauty, or one of our holiday favorites, The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry.  Choose something appropriate for the youngest children, but still engaging for the older ones.  Take turns reading aloud, use lots of energy and imagination in your voice, and the time will fly!  You’ll also be helping to turn your kids into enthusiastic readers.  This is one of our absolute favorite ways to enjoy a road trip and we’ve read some amazing books as the kids grew.

Pack Plenty of Provisions

Don’t forget the snacks and drinks!  You want to make sure that your child won’t get hungry or thirsty, since we all know how children react and behave when the hungry-monster arrives!  For airplane trips, it is best to check with your airline carrier for regulations, rules, and restrictions.  If you are traveling by car, the world is your oyster!  Snack cups are great, because they can be refilled, and snacks changed as desired with no waste gathering up and messing your car.  Choose ones that are mess-resistant or mess free to minimize the shrapnel that may fly.

Plan Ahead when Potty Training

If you are traveling by car with a potty training or newly potty trained child, consider bringing along a small potty and some sanitizing wipes (keep them accessible!) for times you may not make it to the nearest rest stop.  Keep a change of clothes at the ready.  Nothing is worse than traveling with a wet, dirty child and a wet, dirty car seat, with your washing machine and bathtub miles away!

You’ll be Happier, Too!

When you travel as a family, keep your child occupied, entertained, fed, and stimulated, and a more enjoyable experience will be had by all.  Yes, it takes some planning and it’s way more work for you than plugging them into a DVD player.  But trying to travel with a tired, bored, and hungry child will get you all frustrated fast, and will quickly put a damper on the trip.  Anticipate needs ahead of time, prepare, and remember that you will be at your destination soon.  One day, you will laugh about all of this!

For more ideas, sign up for our email newsletter (get a $10 coupon!) and be sure to tell us about yourself on our facebook page; we love to meet our customers!