Archive for Gift Giving

Beyond Monopoly and Candyland: Fun Games for Kids

Everyone who comes to our house comments on our board game collection.  We have shelves and shelves of games, and they’re way better than the old, tired, endless games from our childhoods.  Some board games go in and out of print quickly, but here are a few of our favorites that you can buy right now!  (Or forward the link to grandparents who need Christmas gift ideas…)

e2s board games

Go Away, Monster! is the first game our kids play, starting at age 2.  Players take turns reaching into a bag to pick out pieces to complete their little bedroom scene: a bed, a teddy bear, picture, and lamp.  But beware!  There are monsters in roughly the same shapes!  If a player picks up a monster, they yell, “Go away, monster!” and throw it in the middle of the table.  It’s really simple, taking 5-10 minutes to play, but little kids learn taking turns and how to strategize to find the missing pieces they need.  My three year old loves it and wants to play every night.

Catan: Junior is a kid-friendly version of the grown-up Settlers of Catan, the resource-gathering, trading, and building game that was the gateway game into Euro-style games for many of us! Kids collect resources like goats and gold nuggets and wood to build more pirate lairs and pirate ships that will help them build more things and win the game. My kids started being able to play on their own at around age 6. The younger ones play on a team with a parent or big brother.

My First Carcassonne is another kid-version of a great grown-up tile laying game, Carcassonne. In the kid version, players take turns laying tiles, and if you create a road with end points, you get to put your little colored pieces on every matching child on the road. First player to use up all their pieces wins. My five year old can play this, and I like that more advanced players can “help” out younger players by placing tiles where the little ones will get points. It’s easy to make sure no one gets too far behind.

Battle Sheep is sortof a take on something like Chinese checkers. Everyone has a stack of sheep, and you want to be the one to lay out the most sheep on the board before spaces run out. There is strategy to cutting other players off and how many sheep to use in each stack, so my seven year old doesn’t do too well at it yet, but my nine year old loves it and could beat me at age 8! The pieces on this one are particularly nice quality, and it’s actually fun for grown-ups, too.

Sushi Go! is our family’s current favorite game. Perfect for big kids and adults, you’re trying to get the most points by collecting different sets of sushi. Everyone has a hand of cards, you pick one, then pass it to the player on the left. By the time it comes back to you, someone else might have played the card you really wanted, so you’re making new decisions with each turn. My seven year old won the game her first time playing, and our nine year old has been hanging with us for a while.

Forbidden Island is our family’s favorite “cooperative game,” where everyone works together for a common goal, similar to the grown-up co-op game Pandemic. Each player has a special skill, and we all work together to collect certain treasures before the island we’re on sinks. Lots of strategy, but since we’re all working together and discussing, our seven year old can easily play her own role. Our little girls prefer to play on our teams and help turn over the tiles that are under water or rescued.

Forbidden Desert is the sequel to Forbidden Island, and this time we’ve crash landed in a desert and have to find the missing parts of our plane before we die of thirst or get covered in sand.  The game dynamics are a little more complicated than in Forbidden Island, but players still work together using different skills (someone can hold extra water, another might be able to clear extra sand each turn).  Again, if playing with advanced players, my kids can play their own role starting around age 7, but it’s fun with all adults, too.

Ticket to Ride is an adult game that our 9 year old started playing with us this year.  You all have train routes you’re trying to build across the country, and you have to collect the right color of train cars to build each segment.  There’s a lot of strategy in where you build your roads (especially if someone else builds where you were wanting to go) and what you collect, but an advanced kid can handle it.  It’s also a pretty straight-forward game to play when friends or family come to visit.  And now there’s a kid version available (see below)!

Takenoko has to be the cutest concept of all the games we have. You’re trying to grow bamboo to feed hungry pandas, achieving goals for types of bamboo farms, size of bamboo stalks, and colors of bamboo collected.  You’re building out the board and collecting resources, and the cute little panda gets to move around the board.  Our son started playing with us at 8, but the girls just love sit on our laps and play on our team since the strategy involved is definitely more for older kids and adults.

Zooloretto is another big kid to adult game. This time, you’re building a zoo, so you’re trying to collect the right kinds of animals and put them in trucks that you’ll end up taking to put in your own zoo pens.  Other people can steal your trucks as you’re filling them, though, so there’s strategy in how full to fill a truck, when to take it, and what kinds of animals to collect (because you don’t want all animals that other people are trying to collect).

And Target is getting into the board game space with some exclusives.  We picked up a kids’ version of Ticket to Ride last time we were at the store, and the kids loved it!

Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a simplified version of the adult game, with shorter routes and easier goals. A perfect introduction to the game that our seven year old played easily and our five year old played with a bit of help.

Most of these links (except the Target one) are to Amazon, and if you click through our links, we’ll get a little percentage of commission to help cover the hosting fees for the website.  However!  If you have a local game store, please go there and support them.  They provide such an important resource to go touch and feel a game and discuss it with knowledgeable (and always geeky) staff.  We buy most of our games from Valhalla’s Gate in Columbia, Missouri while we’re on vacation.  The staff there have been invaluable in helping us find the right games for our kids’ ages and interests.  There are many great game stores around, and Barnes and Noble actually has an increasingly decent selection, so I usually go there to buy presents for birthday parties since we don’t have a designated game store nearby.  

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Posted in Gift Giving | 3 Comments

Hidden Art Friday

ornaments E2S

I know it’s well after Christmas now, but I wanted to show you all the ornaments I made my husband this year!  I couldn’t show them off beforehand for obvious reasons.  Our tradition is to make each other handmade ornaments rather than buying a gift, and it’s always fun to see what the other has come up with.  This year, I took pictures of the kids against a light window, used PicMonkey to make the contrast all black and white, printed them off, and used them as a pattern to cut the kids’ profiles out of felt.  I was afraid a blanket stitch would efface the little details, so I just hot glued them onto another piece of felt which I sewed onto Christmas fabric backing.  It took me most of a day, but I am thrilled with the result!

I’m halfway through a month in the Midwest–spending time with my parents and my in-laws.  That means I’ve not been doing a ton of cooking or cleaning, my kids have been entertained by grandparents and uncles and aunts, and I’ve gotten to hang out with many dear friends from back home.  Other than the blizzards that radically changed our plans for this week (and cancelled a couple little road trips), it’s been great!  I’ve not had a ton of time online for obvious reasons, but here are a few links to explore…

I think a lot of us healthy-minded moms need to read this post on why Food is Not Your God.  In my neck of the woods, there’s a huge temptation to make Healthy Eating (in whatever iteration it might be) an idol.

I love that Auntie Leila has the same attitude about learning to cook that I do!  She says, “With the internet, I’m afraid that we’re just pinning recipes and wondering why our crockpot chicken is tasteless; and then buying the sexy cookbooks, which granted are adorable, and in general getting overwhelmed by the stark necessity of meals.”  If cooking/menu planning made its way into your new year’s resolutions, check out her post for more cookbook ideas (and revisit Elsa’s recommendations right here).

And to show you that I’m totally inconsistent in my healthy eating and quality cookbook snobbery, here are two cookie recipes I found via pinterest: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with a Salty Pretzel Crust (per commenter’s suggestions, I add 1/4 cup brown sugar to the crust to hold it together better).  Chocolate+salt=happy Emily.  And my sister-in-law is having to eat dairy-free, but we whipped up these Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies one night, and they hit the spot!

Have a great weekend!

Posted in Gift Giving, Good Food, Hidden Art Fridays | 2 Comments

Six Out-of-the-Box Baby Gift Ideas

Anna, Bethany, and I have all had new babies this past year, so I’ve been thinking lately of out-of-the-box baby gifts for those of us who already have kids (and all the necessary gear that comes with them).  The standard baby gift around here seems to be a cute outfit, but honestly, I’m already up to my ears in 3-6 month dresses and really didn’t need ANY more clothes for my third girl in a row!  I’m a pretty practical girl, so I tend to give diapers because I KNOW they’ll be used, but sometimes you just want to do something more personal or fun.  I love receiving diapers, but I’m also blessed to have friends who have come up with creative ways to celebrate the birth of each of my kids!  I thought I’d share a few ideas with you.

Baby Gift Ideas

1. Gifts for the mom.  Let’s face it, no matter if she just gave birth to baby #1, 4 or 6, she’s a pretty big deal.  With my last two babies, I’ve loved getting flip-flops, fun DVDs, a relaxing CD, and of course, chocolate.  If she’s breastfeeding, fenugreek and Mother’s Milk tea will be put to good use.  One of my more creative friends just sent me a big picnic-sized tote stuffed with healthy picnic type foods, perfect for a long day at the park (where the big kids can run off energy while I cuddle the baby on a shady park bench).  My best baby shower gift ever was when church ladies pitched in and got me two visits from a cleaning lady after #3 was born.

2. Books.  We all get tired of our children’s book selection at times, right?  (And by the time several children have gnawed the corners of our family favorites, it might be nice to get a fresh copy.)  If you’re sure the family already has classics like Goodnight Moon, go old-school with older favorites that are just coming back in print (like Gyo Fujikawa) or go cutting edge with the most recent Caldecott winners.  I firmly believe no family can have too many quality children’s books in their home.  And if you’re a classic literature lover, you do know about Baby Lit and Cozy Classics, right?  There’s nothing like introducing your friend’s daughter to Pride and Prejudice in Board Book form.  It makes me smile every time.

3. Sock-Ons.  I came across these amazing little accessories at a baby boutique in Chicago several years ago, and my kids never lose their socks when wearing them.  They don’t show up on a Babies R Us gift guide, but you can get them from amazon now, and I think every mom of a newborn should have a pair.

4. Month-by-month onesie stickers.  I try to get a picture of my babies at each month until a year.  That task is more fun with these stickers, which I was given for baby #3 by a friend who also loves monthly baby pictures.  I put mine against a white onesie and have a cute record of S’s monthly development.  I’ve paired them with packs of onesies for first-time moms or just ordered the stickers for veteran moms who already have more onesies than they know what to do with.

5. Orbit Labels for color-coding cups, water bottles, bottles, etc.  Our family plugged along with random cups until we got to three kids.  Then we simply had to color code to keep track of whose stuff was whose.  They’re my go-to “fun” gifts because it’s an easy way to get something personalized for the older siblings as well as the baby.  (Check to see what their color code scheme is first, of course!)

6. Finally, ask if any of your friends’ gear has worn out or expired.  We assume that a family with three kids has all the gear they need, but I’ve discovered that not everything will last through all my kids.  Even our nicer bibs have gotten ratty with three kids wearing them nonstop. Is your friend’s diaper bag worn to bits like mine was after six years of constant use?  Are their baby washcloths rough or lost?  Our infant carseat expired after #3, so we actually needed a new one for J.  I didn’t know what I was doing when I registered for babywearing gear back in 2006, so I was thrilled to receive a Pikkolo carrier this spring and finally be able to pass along the less versatile carriers that I’d been making do with for the first three kids.  (And you can still go for cutesy monogrammed stuff if that’s your thing—it doesn’t hurt J to use burp cloths, bibs, and towels with her older siblings’ names on them, but it’s nice for her to have some of her own things, too.)

For those of you who have more than one kid, what have been the best gifts you’ve received for subsequent children?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Posted in Gift Giving | 3 Comments
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