Viewing category ‘Toys’

Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at

Shopping ideas for summer fun

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Elementary school kids, Managing stress, On the web, Toys, games

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Normally this time of year I’m buying a batch of Summer Survival Gear Treats. I like to buy a new CD for the driving back and forth to lessons and camp; a new outdoor toy or two; a new board game; some craft supplies; maybe a new video game.

This year, we seem to be all set. We’ve bought all the CDs, and/or the kids are too old for them now. (I’d like to get The Book of Mormon soundtrack because they’ve loved the few songs I’ve shown them on YouTube, but the lyrics to a lot of them are…not ones I want them singing absentmindedly next year in school.) We already own a Stomp Rocket and a plasma car and a hula hoop and some jump ropes and a scooter. We’ve got Skip-bo and Wits & Wagers and Scrambled States. Our video game shelf and craft bin overfloweth, and I just got a big bag of kid books from the library book sale.

I did buy one thing:

Webkinz Deluxe Membership (screen shot from, which gives access to a bunch of otherwise-locked games and merchandise and so forth on the Webkinz site. The tipping point for me was a sale: normally it’s $45 for a year’s membership, but June 10th-13th it’s on sale for $33.74. (If you want to get the 3-month one so it’s just a summer thing, it’s $11.24.) The year-long one comes with the ability to add other accounts for $5 each, so I got it for myself (*embarrassed cough*) and added the three kids who play Webkinz. It’s hard for me to explain how thrilling this has been for us, and in fact I find I’m reluctant to try to persuade you that this isn’t a very foolish thing to spend money on, and maybe we should just change the subject. But it was Very Exciting for four of us at my house, and the year-long subscription also comes with a free Webkinz pet (online version only, no plush version), a fawn I kept for myself. It also comes with a monthly batch of virtual money, so I am saving up for a Sun Fox. …Okay, NOW I’m too embarrassed to discuss it anymore. (SUN FOX FOR ME!)
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11 Gift ideas for Father’s Day

Categories: Crafts and activities, Electronics, Fashion, Fun stuff for grown-ups, Gifts, Guys, Holiday, Toys

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Last year I suggested we get together a list of what we’d resorted to for Father’s Day presents, so that THIS year we’d have more ideas to consider.

I continue to recommend the Click ‘n’ Dig Wireless Remote Finder (photo from We’ve had it a year, and Paul still says “Best. gift. ever.” about twice a week. One of the four sensor thingies broke after being dropped one (1) million times, but we still had a spare so we just replaced it. We keep the remote itself nailed to the wall so it can’t get lost. If we broke another of the little sensor thingies, I would buy another set without even thinking about it.

Last year, Alicia mentioned getting a travel coffee press/mug (photo from with fancy coffee, for good coffee at the office or on business trips.
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Non-candy Valentine’s Day gifts for kids

Categories: Crafts and activities, Elementary school kids, Food, Gifts, Holiday, Toys, games


I hope that this post will not give you the impression that I disapprove of candy at Valentine’s Day, or that I avoid it. FAR FROM IT. I give my own kids a candy gift, and I like that they come home with a little assortment of treats from school, too: it’s nice to have a candy holiday in between Christmas and Easter, just to keep the spirits up in the cold sad part of winter.

But I know enough from seeing/hearing OTHER people discuss it that not everyone is of the same mind. For those who are trying to avoid candy for various reasons but still would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a gift for the kids, here are a few ideas:

Sticky Mosaics heart box (photo from I have mentioned Sticky Mosaics often enough that you already know we’re fans at my house. This heart box is a fun project we’ve also given as birthday-party gifts.

Hide ‘n’ Peek Chocolates game (photo from If you look at the reviews, you’ll see that a lot of people thought this was a good Valentine’s Day gift for a child, and that unfortunately there is one main problem with it: the lid doesn’t fit on right. So it kind of depends on how important that feature is for the game to be a success. If you’re going to store it in a bin anyway (if you’re like me and wouldn’t want to assemble the toy every time you put it away, for example), it won’t matter—but it might be disappointing anyway.
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Gift ideas for a 1-year-old

Categories: Baby gear, Books, Gifts, Toddler gear, Toys


My nephew recently turned one, which is hard for me to believe but the evidence sits before me. Recently there were requests for gift ideas for a one-year-old, so I took notes at his birthday party.

Pewi YBike Walking Buddy and Riding Toy (photo from This is a very stylish looking riding toy. And if the child stands facing it, it’s also a sturdy walker.

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Gift ideas for a 7-year-old (or two 7-year-olds)

Categories: Baby gear, Books, Fashion, Gifts, Toys

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The twins turned seven, and for me it meant not just “O MY BABIES ARE GROWING UP” but also “O MAN THIS IS A LOT OF PRESENT IDEAS TO COME UP WITH.”

One of the more surprising successes was a calculator (photo from for Edward. He’d kept stealing mine, so I wondered if he might like to have one of his own—and although his first reaction was not quite the level of THRILL a person might be looking for in a birthday gift reaction, he’s played with it nearly every day since.

My parents bought LittleMissMatched socks (photo from for Elizabeth. I had the fun of choosing, so I chose all from the buy-3-sets-get-1-set-free section, to reduce the pain of paying THREE dollars PER sock PLUS shipping. This was a great gift idea for grandparents, because I KNEW Elizabeth really wanted the socks but I was having a hard time getting over the hurdle of the price (and the SUPER annoyance of not being able to use a free shipping code on an order containing buy-3-get-1). My mom: “Pish! They’re perfect! Let’s order them!”
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Long car trips: toys and other entertainments

Categories: Electronics, Entertainment, Managing stress, Toys, Travel


My friend Heather is moving across the entire country with children aged almost-3 and almost-5. If I were her I would say that as “ages 2 and 4,” to maximize the Pity Factor.

She is looking for ideas to keep the children entertained on the trip. If your first suggestion is “NO DON’T DO IT AT ALL! Fly instead!! With the children in animal crates!!” you can save your breath because I already tried it. They will be in the car at least six days, and that is final.

I suggest we see if we can make this easier for her in any way. Donations of prescription medications would be excellent too, but I was thinking more along the lines of travel tips and toy ideas.

My tip, based on taking two much-shorter trips (1.5-days in the car each trip) with a 2-year-old and a newborn, is to plan to stop at places that have a play area or a grassy run-around area, and include in estimated trip time the amount of time it would take for the kids to run/play/climb for 15 minutes or so at each stop. Plus assume triple the number of stops needed with adults. This makes the entire trip take much, much longer.

My second tip is to save some stuff aside and not bring out everything on the first day of travel, or else the children will play frantically with all the toys on the first day and be bored for the rest of the trip. (This is a pointless tip, because if it were me, I’d be desperate enough on the first day to bring out anything, ANYTHING I had.)

Now for things to buy:

1. Fresh TV/movies. Heather tells me that they already have a DVD player for the car, so I suggest buying several new DVDs. …This doesn’t seem like it’s brilliant enough to suggest, but that didn’t stop me from suggesting the kids could run around at rest stops. Blue’s Clues (photo from is one of the ones I got for the just-turned-2-year-old on my own trip, so it may be too young for the 2- and 4-year-olds—but anything, ANYTHING they would like that wouldn’t be intolerable for the adults.

2. Water-drawing thingie. The H-2 Whoa is the one we had. It’s two-sided, so by the time you finish drawing on the second side, the first side is mostly dry and ready to use again. But if I were buying now, I’d buy the travel-sized Aqua Doodle (photo from (In fact, I DID buy it, and we still keep it in our car. I like it less because it has pre-printed rainbows/grass on it, which can kind of ruin an outer space drawing. But it IS more sensibly compact.)
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Gift ideas for a 2-year-old

Categories: Gifts, Toddler gear, Toys


We were recently invited to a birthday party for a 2-year-old, and you know what I don’t remember? What 2-year-olds like. It’s funny how that was only three years ago and yet I had to go back into my journals to find out even what KIND of toy the kids were playing with at that age.

One idea we considered was musical instruments. Several of our kids were invited, so it seemed like a good way to bring a gift from each child: maybe one could bring this cool percussion toy (photo from, and one could bring bendy bells, and one could bring a harmonica and a kazoo.

Or maybe one kid could bring an instrument and one could bring a set of helping/digging garden tools (photo from
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Musical instrument toys for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers

Categories: Baby gear, Music, Toddler gear, Toys


Tara writes:

My daughter is OBSESSED with music (and noise in general), and currently her instruments of choice are two metal mixing bowls she drums on with bamboo spoons, but she also really loved a little piano at a friend’s house. We are celebrating her in June (when she’ll be 18 months), and I’ve been thinking about getting her some baby/toddler instruments! Any ideas (preferably that won’t cost me $1M)?

I bought a set of Schylling Musical Hand Bells for my niece for Christmas, and they have been a success. Each bell makes an actual note (the note is labeled on the handle with a sticker, which may need to be replaced by permanent marker), so an older child can use them for reals after using them for just-shake-those-bells-any-which-way play as a younger child.

My brother is very musical (I am more the sort who gets completely stumped as soon as flats/sharps are introduced), and I remember him asking for Music Eggs one Christmas. They’re a….rhythm instrument, I think.
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Supplies for a sick day

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts, Health and Safety, Life balance, Managing stress, Toys


This week a little virus sped through our household: sore throats and 103-degree fevers for everyone except me. If I ever wondered if I might have been a good and kind and angelic nurse in, say, an army tent with rows of patients, the answer is “Probably not.” Six people asking for more juice, more water, a blanket, the remote, maybe another piece of toast, was pretty much all I could handle pleasantly, and probably the adverb “pleasantly” is pushing it a bit, even in much nicer conditions and with much less upsetting illness/injuries than would be in an army tent.

There are certain things I keep in the house always, so I have them on hand when illness visits us and don’t have to add “running to the store” to my toast-fetching list:
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Birthday party gift ideas for a 10-year-old girl

Categories: Crafts and activities, Fashion, Gifts, Learning activities, Toys


William, Robert, and Elizabeth have all been invited to a birthday party this weekend, so I need to come up with three presents for a 10-year-old girl. I could use a hand, if you have a minute—and then we’ll have this later as a reference for the next time we need it!

She likes cats, and she likes anything cute or fuzzy. She likes Phineas & Ferb, and SpongeBob Squarepants. She likes crafts. She plays soccer. She’s William’s age and grade and is mostly William’s friend, but she plays with everyone when she’s here.

Normally I aim for about $10 for a party gift (in this case, from each of the three children), but I’d be willing to go a little higher.

First candidate: Aurora Plush Fluffee Fluffy Tails (photo from, about $9.00. Most households already have more stuffed animals than they can handle—and yet, the sight of this cat reduced our household to “OHHHHhhhhhhhhhh!!!”s of cuteness.
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