Let the countdown begin! Part of the fun of the holiday season is the preparation and excitement leading up to the big day. Advent calendars have a long, storied tradition as a classic and fun way to spend the days leading up until Christmas, and tots love checking off one day at a time, eagerly anticipating that early morning celebration on December 25.
Keep reading for a selection of stunning handmade advent calendars from Etsy that will make the waiting a little more bearable for eager lil ones.
How best to describe kindergartners? Tots with a lot of personality! No longer "lil ones," these 5-year-olds are at an age where they know what they want and they aren't afraid to tell you. Toys and activities that build on the skills they are learning at school will keep their hands busy and their minds moving.
FIJIT Friends ($40) may be one of the biggest sellers this holiday season with their ability to respond to different commands and dance moves that keep kids wanting to join in the party. If your child has control of your iPad, Angry Birds Card Game ($12) may be the ticket to giving them a break from the screen. Lego's line of city kits just keeps growing, and the City Forest Police ($80) is packed with enough things to build to keep fans busy for a long time. Bead Bazaar's My Butterfly Bead Kit ($23) is filled with more than 200 environmentally friendly, hand-crafted beads to make more than a dozen accessories. If your kid's going to be moving, why not make it an artistic experience? The Razor Graffiti Chalk Scooter ($74) features sidewalk chalk near its rear wheel so kids can look back on their path after they've reached their destination.
By 4 years old, tots know what they like, and they're already forming their own wish lists for the holidays. Chances are that many of the items on that list are the hottest toys of the season — including the LeapFrog LeapPad and the VTech InnoTab, Lalaloopsy, and Hot Wheels Wall Tracks. If mama's looking for a few new ideas, we've got her covered. Check out our favorite finds for these preschoolers!
The Orb Factory's StoryCraft The Frog Prince ($20) allows for creative storytelling, as tots add shapes and jewels to a 10-page story book about the Frog Prince fairy tale. LeapFrog keeps expanding its popular Tag reading system to do more than just teach tots to read. The LeapFrog Solar System Adventure Pack ($14) uses the Tag stylus to teach lil ones about the solar system — exploring planets and educating tots about life beyond Earth. Exercise doesn't feel like a chore with Diggin's Wobble Deck ($45), which plays music and games while tots try to balance on the board. Mini American Idol fans will love First Act's Voice Rockrz Mic ($25) that not only changes the singer's voice, but provides drumrolls and applause. Kids will rule the neighborhood with Fisher Price's Power Wheels Stinger XT ($250), a motorized car with room for two.
The holidays aren't just a time to stuff your face with home-cooked meals, it's also a time to reconnect with your family. Don't just huddle around the TV to watch the football game on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day — try getting the whole clan involved in some friendly video game competition. Who says family gatherings have to be boring?
- Wii Sports — ($30) — It's the hit that keeps on kickin! Wii Sports is still a crowd-pleaser at my house — and many others — during the holidays, since it gets everyone moving (which seems to help with digestion of a big meal). And as you'd expect, bowling is an age-defying favorite, but the other games, including golf, tennis, baseball, and boxing, provide endless hours of entertainment.
- Dance Central 2 ($50) — Just imagine Uncle Joe shaking his groove thang to Lady Gaga, and Auntie Sissy battling it out against you on the dance floor. This game is a lot of fun, and even more entertaining to watch.
- Wii Party
($34) — Leave the old-timey board game in the closet and play this game instead. Wii Party lets you use your Mii to compete in over 13 different party games and 17 minigames that are fun for the kids and grandparents alike.
- Mario Kart ($49) — Use your Wii controller or a special Wii wheel to race your friends and fam through courses set along Mario-themed tracks.
- Kinect Sports ($44) — Sure, there's a newer version of Kinect Sports, but the original is still a fave. The original features soccer, beach volleyball, bowling, table tennis, track and field, and boxing to get your family off the couch post-Thanksgiving pig-out.
LilSugar: With the holiday season upon us, how did you come to work with eBay on this project?
Debra Messing: The holiday season is a time when people are more inclined to give, and I just thought that eBay's initiative was so brilliant. They have this window with virtual gift tags with toys, and there are different donation amounts — there's $5, $10, $20 — you just scan your [smartphone] over the window, you're on the sidewalk, and instantly you're donating to Toys For Tots and 100 percent of the money goes to Toys For Tots. Being able to make things really quick and easy and meaningful is important.
LS: What family holiday traditions are you most looking forward to this year?
DM: We just moved back to New York, but have always had family here. We love to go skating at Wolman rink, and go see plays — musicals specifically. Waiting for the snow to come. Looking forward to putting on the snowsuit and stomping through Central Park.
LS: So much of the holiday focus is on kids. What's on your wish list this year?
DM: For me, there is no better present than a massage. Flowers are beautiful, but they die. Champagne is fun, but it's gone — very quickly. As a mom we're on 24/7, and if we're working moms, which most of us are, we're exhausted, and sleep deprived, and we don't take care of ourselves. We feel guilty if we take too much time for ourselves. It feels like an extravagance, but it really is a necessity for moms to take an hour to shut down, rejuvenate, and have someone to rub out the kinks from carrying the baby on your hip too much or whatever you're doing. My son's now at a place where he likes to jump on my body to wake me up at 6 in the morning, so I've literally got bruises all over my body.
Bring out the scissors, stock up on glue, and this year make a plan to craft your own holiday goodies with your kids. If the idea of setting up an arts and crafts project with your kids has you feeling like a deer in headlights, don't fret. I recently spent the afternoon with Martha Stewart's Darcy Miller and her Living in the Family Room bloggers to see just how easy it can be to craft with your kids. Surrounded by moms and kids in New York's Pins & Needles, I watched as tots as young as 3-years-old joined their siblings to create mini totes, gift tags, ornaments, and more. Check out the five easy crafts the lil ones created and get ready for some indoor fun with your own mini crafters!
Source: Photo by Mike Krautter. Courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Living in the Family Room Blog
When we asked if you focused on diet or exercise to maintain or lose weight, more than half of you said that both eating right and exercising regularly were essential for weight loss. Now, new studies confirm that even if you favor an unhealthy diet, regular exercise can minimize weight gain that usually comes from eating a fatty, high-calorie diet.
By tracking over 100,000 runners and 40,000 walkers, researchers found that those who ate more unhealthy diets — filled with more meat and fats than fruits — were still able to maintain weight or prevent significant weight gain because of their regular exercise routines. While most of these participants still gained a few pounds, it was much less than what was expected given their less-healthy eating habits.
What does this mean for you? Find out why regular exercise is so important for preventing weight gain, especially during the holidays, after the break.
What do you think of the new design? Will it be part of your lil one's holiday outfits?