Tag Archives: holiday

playrooms for kids

Playrooms for Kids That Inspire Learning and Creativity

Photo by Kalon Studios featuring their Caravan Conversion Kit

Everybody needs a place to call their own. It could be an office, garage, bathroom, or bedroom, but wherever it is, we need a place where we can feel safe and comfortable. Often, for our little ones, those places are playrooms for kids.

A playroom is a place for our children to learn and grow on their own, a place where they can guide themselves and learn from their environment. Playrooms for kids are important places for a child and as such, special attention should be paid to items we put in our children’s’ playroom and how we set up the environment.

When designing a playroom, there are four main factors which should be taken into account: safety, educational value, fun and appearance. If done well, these factors can work together to become a great place for child to play and grow.


Make sure that the room is well lit and all outlets are covered. Book shelves and other items that could fall over should be anchored to the wall. It is important to leave space on the floor for the child to move around and not pack the room too tightly with so many toys that the child cannot move. This creates a safe environment for the child to play, but also allows the child to exercise and progress in their muscle control. Extra space also allows room for the parent to play with the child.

Educational Value

Make sure that the playroom is well stocked with toys and games that stimulate a child’s mind in a way that appropriate to their age and developmental stage. For infants and young toddlers, make sure that soft interactive toys with bright colors are available. Play mats and stuffed animals are good at this stage. For older toddlers, puzzles and blocks should be plentiful and easy to reach. Set aside a “special” section for reading which is pleasant and comfortable and spend time in this section reading with you kid.


Don’t spend all of your time in the playroom, instead make sure that the child wants to be in the room and engaged in play. Make sure the room has bright colors and toys the child enjoys.

Try your best to make sure that the kid can’t get into too much trouble in the room so that they think of it a pleasant place to spend time. This is done by keeping out items that the child should not be playing with, or items which you limit the child’s exposure to (such as iPads or video games). That way you don’t have to take the items away from the child in the room.


Make sure the room is pleasing to the child as well as adaptable to the child’s tastes and developmental ability. It is best not to pick a theme for the room (such as cowboy or princes). Instead, paint the walls brightly and as the child grows, adjust the room accordingly so that it remains fun and interesting for the child.

Shared Space

Finally, get in the room with the child. More and more research comes out that shows children benefit greatly from playing with their parents. Make sure the playroom is comfortable for both you and the child and get in there with them. Nothing will make the playroom a better and more inviting environment than your child knowing this is a place they will get to play with mom or dad.

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smartmom picky toddler

7 Holiday Foods your Picky Toddler will Actually Eat

Photo by The Red Balloon Photography

You work hard on holiday meals – they take lots of preparation and your family looks forward to enjoying them together.  But when your toddler refuses to eat any of the holiday fare you’ve made, that definitely isn’t festive. 

Here are seven suggestions from myself and a few of my friends for holiday items to add to your meal offerings to help your picky toddler (and you) enjoy your holiday meal.

Fruit or Veggie Platters

If you don’t already have them on the list, fruit and/or veggie platters are great snacks, and a fun way to make sure your kids get those servings for the day, when they might not eat cranberry sauce, green bean casserole or other holiday vegetables. You can even make them in the shape of a Christmas tree (broccoli for branches, cherry tomatoes or red peppers as lights/garland, yellow peppers or pineapple for a star, carrot sticks, pretzels or celery for the tree trunk and cauliflower for snow or something similar).

Sweet Potatoes

If your kids aren’t already fans, this might be a perfect opportunity to get them to love sweet potatoes, especially since many holiday recipes give you an excuse to smother them in marshmallows. You could even make them into dessert cupcakes. Many argue that sweet potatoes are much healthier than white potatoes.

Holiday-Shaped Sandwiches

One of my friends has a son that won’t have anything to do with turkey or ham and will only eat peanut butter and jelly, so she makes a few sandwiches for him each holiday (packs them in a small cooler if they go visit relatives) and to make them festive, she cuts them with holiday cookie cutters, so they become snowmen, Christmas trees and reindeer. Other friends have chimed in that this works well with deli meat, and most other types of sandwiches, too.

Zucchini or Banana Bread

My sister-in-law makes terrific zucchini bread, stuffed with not only zucchini, but carrots and other veggie goodies. Once my son called it “brownie bread” and they actually choose it over regular brownies given the choice. I don’t call it zucchini bread or mention that it is chock full of vegetables they would never otherwise touch with a ten-foot pole. Never underestimate the power of a cool name to draw kids to a food. Giving even plain jane foods cool names can up their appeal.

Party Meatballs

Although they seem more at home at a SuperBowl party, tossing some meatballs (ground beef or turkey) in a crockpot with some barbeque sauce can also be a kid pleaser.


Dips are a fun family treat for my family – we are always trying new versions with our favorite ingredients. Spinach and artichoke, ham and swiss, hummus, sausage – any ingredient your child likes, you can probably find a fun dip that incorporates it. Like the brownie bread – a cool name and a different delivery system can make protein and/or veggies go down easier.

Cheese and Crackers Platter

Although basic and no-frills, my friends still swear by the cheese and crackers platter if all else fails. Get the holiday cookie cutters back out, make some fun cheese shapes (you could add deli meat shapes too) and dress it up a bit. There is such a variety of crackers, pita bites and many other things to choose from that you can really come up with an unusual arrangement if the idea of plain old cheese and crackers seems too boring.

You know your child best, so plan ahead and make sure to incorporate some of their favorite items into your holiday meal so everyone can savor your delicious food. For more inspiration, search recipe sites like Allrecipes, Food.com or Food Network for items you can try with your child’s favorite ingredients. Even blogs like The Pioneer Woman or social sites like Pinterest can be good sources for ideas.

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7 Tips for New Parents to Simplify Christmas

7 Tips for New Parents to Simplify Christmas

Photo by Sarah Winthrop

There’s no doubt that baby’s first Christmas is special – everything is fresh and new. And having an addition in the family inspires new parents to start new traditions.  But it is important for new parents to simplify Christmas.

See, here’s the thing: as a parent, baby’s first Christmas is a little magical. But for your baby? Well, truth be told, it’s just another day. Don’t worry – the magic, thrill and excitement will come as they get older.  But this year, amid sheer exhaustion and diaper changes, simplifying your Christmas will make it great without adding stress.

1. Keep Presents for Baby to a Minimum

Honestly, I would love for that to read, “Don’t buy presents for your baby!” but I know how hard that can be to wrap your head around. So, instead, keep them to a minimum and think age-appropriate and need. Newborns don’t need much (other than love, food, diapers and cuddles), so a cute outfit, special wall hanging or painting or stack or board books for when they are a little older is really enough.

2. Decorate Less

Of course you want your tree (unless you are in a New York apartment – then it’s debatable). But the huge lighted scene outside, a candle in every window and garland and wreaths galore? When your child or children are older, they will love the festivity of it all – but this year, less is more. Remember – every decoration you put up has to be put away. With a baby in tow.

3. Accept Help

Whether it’s assistance with wrapping your presents, watching the baby so you can shower (and maybe go shopping) or something else, accepting help with your holiday to-dos is a smart simplifying move.

4. Take Advantage of Online Services

From card-order services that will also mail your holiday cards to online shopping, the web is filled with helping hands that will take some of the holiday pressure off you. Just say yes.

5. Take a Zillion Photos

While you don’t need to buy your baby tons of presents and decorations that can be seen from space, you should take as many photos as you can. Someday, your baby will love seeing photos of their first Christmas – and you will too.

6. Keep Food Easy 

If you are in charge of food (or bringing something!), don’t go crazy. Instead, stick to quick and easy recipes that you can prepare during naps – or just order from a fab place.

7. Celebrate at Home

Instead of packing baby up – along with all her gear and goods – plan a quieter Christmas at home. You can invite the family to join you, or celebrate as your little new family. Either way, it will be awesome.


Traditions are important and they don’t have to be overcomplicated. Here are some ideas!

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