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7 Creative Non-Toy Gift Ideas For Kids

It seems like many of the conversations I have with other moms lately revolve around the STUFF we are trying to get rid of.  

For the past year, I've been on a decluttering spree and a move toward simpler, more minimalist living and for the past few years, my mind always comes back to KIDS GIFTS AND TOYS.  I try to maintain some level of control over what comes into our home (within reason), and we donate old toys on a regular basis.  

I don't know about you, but my kids don't need much.  They play happily for hours with the simplest of things - what they really want is for someone to engage and interact with them.  I always cringe a little on the inside when I hear other parents talking about their playrooms full of toys that never get feels so wasteful. 

A few months ago, I started to look for creative non-toy gift ideas for kids and put together a Pinterest board with ideas that inspired me.

There are other posts out there with non-toy gift ideas for kids, but they all seem really generic, like "a zoo membership" or "a subscription".  I wanted to come up with some really practical, creative ideas that are a little more specific. My hope is that you find these inspiring, and that you can use some of these ideas for your own gifting this year. 

1. Make a DIY KIT set inspired by the child's interests.

My niece loves to make her own cards, so this year, I decided to give her a DIY card kit. I've been gathering many more DIY gift kit ideas from other blogs over on the Non-Toy Gifts for Kids Pinterest board, including puppet kits, art kits, cookie kits, dramatic play kits, science kits, sewing kits, fort kits and so much more!

2. Plan an outing to pick out a special new outfit. 

We gratefully receive 95% of our kids clothing passed along from other families that we know.  For me, this is fantastic because the clothes is all in excellent condition and we save a fortune in clothing costs.  However, it means that our kids don't go clothes shopping very often, making it a special treat.  This year, for NJ's birthday - part of her gift was to go to the store and pick out a special "birthday outfit".  She absolutely loved this.  I chose a store where I knew the clothing was affordable and she picked a new dress, shoes, hairband and sunglasses.  

3. Choose an affordable, engaging subscription

Our favorite is Petit Mail of course.  Many subscription boxes and services are a lot of fun, but can be QUITE expensive once you add shipping costs.  Petit Mail story card subscriptions cost $6 per month for Canada and US mailing addresses (a little more for International subscribers) and inspire imagination and creative play.  Each month, read along with the adventures of Oliver + Olivia and connect as a family with science projects, nature exploration, art ideas, dramatic play and more. Ideal for ages 3 - early reader. 

4. Dress Up Costumes

Dress up costumes could be store-bought or handmade.  Think hats, shirts, masks, animal tails, capes and more.  This gift could be one elaborate costume, or a whole dress-up box full of accessories.  Your gift will provide hours of imaginative, creative play.  You can find some DIY costume ideas on the Non Toy Gifts for Kids Pinterest Board

5. A custom-made piece of clothing, especially for them

Find a local dressmaker, or a maker that inspires you to make a custom piece of clothing for a child in your life.  OR, make it yourself!  This could be a dress, a hat, a costume of some sort (see number 4!), Make it into an experience that INVOLVES them in the process, not just something that you do behind the scenes.  Take them to a studio to get measured, have them pick out the colors or designs they like the best.  

6. Photo or Memory Albums

Our daughter  NJ (age 5) loves looking at photos of herself when she was younger. If you have a child in your life that you spend time with and regularly take photos of, don't underestimate the value of something like this, even for fairly young children.  

7. A sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight and book or movie

Need I say more.  You could also include a coupon for a sleepover at your house, or a night of camping out in the backyard.

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Free Online Yoga Resources for Busy Moms

I tell anyone who will listen about how important my weekly yoga practice is.  
It has been life changing.  
For the past 8 months or so, I have been practising yoga for one 75 minute class per week.  

This is my "me" time.
This is my stress release.
This is what makes me feel strong and fit. 

Sometimes though, I want to do yoga at home.
Maybe I'm having a really stressful day (like today).  I don't necessarily WANT to do yoga (in fact, I often resist it in my head), but if I can just get myself on my mat for 20 minutes, I feel so much better.

So here they are...

My 3 Favourite Free Online Yoga Sites 

1. Yoga With Adriene - Words cannot describe how happy I was to discover this resource.  Following along with Adriene is like doing yoga with your best friend. I seriously love her.  Plus she has EVERY kind of yoga you could possibly imagine, from beginner to weight loss.  Go check it out, I swear, you'll love it too. 

2. If you have a little more yoga experience, I regularly use local yogi Melanie Caine's YouTube Channel for my home practice and am an occasional visitor to the Nova Yoga studio (which I love!)

3. I used the Web site DoYogaWithMe for prenatal yoga at home.  There are a wide variety of online classes and instructors, so you have a lot to choose from.  

You are important.
Make time for yourself.
If you feel like you don't have enough time, schedule 20 minutes into your calendar and stick with it, even if you don't feel like it.
Find an accountability partner to remind you how much better you will feel after you practice.

Self-Care makes you a better Mom.
How are you making time for yourself this week?

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Finding the Quiet Moments: Notes from an Introverted Mom

When I tell people that I'm an introvert, they give me this LOOK, the kind of look like I'm telling them a bold-faced lie.

Here's the thing,
Introversion is not about being anti-social
It's not even about being shy (although some of us can be)
It's more about ENERGY and how we feel after sensory stimulation.  For me, high levels of social interaction (i.e parties, networking events, public speaking, a full day at work) need to be followed by some quiet time.

Society seems to tell us that there's something "wrong" with being an introvert.  I strongly disagree, but there are aspects of being an introvert MOM that I find difficult - things that I'm still working on, and will probably ALWAYS be working on.

One of my biggest personality challenges is how I feel when I transition from one thing to the next.

In my "ideal" world, I need some quiet time in between activities, to process what's going on around me and to prepare for the next thing.
To rest.

One of my biggest transition times has always been the hour (or so) after work, when I transition from the office to home. It can feel overwhelming at times.

Even before I had kids, I wanted downtime when I came home from my busy day-job at a local non-profit organization.  I would take 20 minutes or half an hour to unwind, think, process, maybe drink a cup of tea, maybe go for a walk.

They were uninterrupted moments that made a HUGE different to how I think and feel.

For anyone who doesn't experience this need, there is a both an internal and external aspect of this process. I can literally feel my body changing and relaxing during this time.  My mind slows.  If I have the beginnings of a headache, it usually goes away.

Enter children one and two.
I currently have a 5 year old and a 1 year old.

That hour after we get home from work is time for playing, supervising and supper prep.  It is also usually a time when both kids get cranky, whiny and upset (commonly known in parenting circles as, the "witching hour").
We haven't even added homework into the mix yet (help!)
My partner shares all of our responsibilities - one of us cooks, and one of us "parents".

It often feels like there is NO TIME for me to have my much-needed downtime.

This has been one of my biggest struggles as a parent.

So, how do I find the quiet moments?

1. I recognize how I FEEL when I need a parenting break, and I take one (even if it's just for 5 minutes)

2. I exercise during my workday (my lunch break or coffee break), no excuses. This helps me keep my stress levels down during the day, and usually feeling less of a need for "downtime" right afterward (there are always exceptions!)

3. I change out of my work clothes when I get home into something less formal and more comfortable.  This gives me a few moments to myself and helps me move from one thing to the next. I also often change from contacts to glasses during this time

4. I get outside. This isn't always possible - we live in a COLD climate, but when possible, I walk to pick up my daughter (5 minutes), we walk home.  Maybe we walk to the mailbox (I've written about that here).  It helps with the transition time between one thing and the next.

5. I talk to my kids about my need for quiet time.  They see and hear it.  I tell them, "it's important for Mommy to be alone for a few minutes, I will be back soon".  It helps them understand my personality and also teaches them patience.

6. I go to yoga class one evening a week.  religiously. It's my "me" time and it's very important to me.  I treasure my quiet time there and always come home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

7. I shift perspective.  I remember that if I can't find a quiet moment NOW, I just need to hold on, and there will be one SOON.  I remember to focus on what matters most, and that these moments might be the only quality time that I have with them today.  These moments are important.  These moments are real.  They are hardly ever perfect, but they are mine.

P.S. Are you familiar with Susan Cain's work at the Quiet Revolution? (great read!) Her TED Talk is also well worth your time to watch.

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Gardening With Kids

This month's Petit Mail story postcard theme is Olivia Plants a Garden.

Like you, I'm struggling to find quality moments to spend with NJ, especially during the week, and I want to make the most of our time together.  Now that the weather is FINALLY getting nicer here, we have an opportunity to get outside and explore.

Doesn't matter if you live in an apartment in the middle of the city, or in a home in the sprawling countryside, we can all find ways to interact with our kids using our Olivia Plants a Garden theme.
When your child's envelope arrives in the mailbox this month, here are some suggestions for simple activities to plan together after you read your story postcard.

1. Visit the Library to Look for Summer + Gardening Themed Books

A visit to your local library is a great activity for a rainy day.  NJ loves the library and does her thing, look for books, while I search for some books related to our monthly Petit Mail story card theme.  Here are some that we enjoyed for our planting a garden theme.

Gardening With Kids - Books for Inspiration

2. Plant a Seed or a Flower

Take a little outing to a local gardening centre or plant nursery.  There's lot's to see there! Pick up some seed packages or small plants - grow them in your window or a corner of your garden.  This year, we are trying carrots from seeds.  Follow the directions and have your little take responsibility for watering the seeds or plants as needed.

3. Gardening Set 

If you don't already have them - look for a small, inexpensive gardening play set.  I suggest a watering can, and a couple of child-sized garden tools.  These can be used for both indoor and outdoor garden play.

Plant a Garden With Your Kids

4. Make A Raised Garden Bed
Last year we took a leap and built a raised garden bed in our backyard.  It seems everywhere I look lately, families just like ours are trying their hand at urban gardening.

5. Visit a Botanical Garden
If you have a botanical garden in your area, make a weekend plan to go for a visit.  Many also offer children's programming and other fun ways to interact!

Get Inspired!
I regularly share inspiration for gardening with kids on my Gardening With Kids Pinterest board.  Be sure to follow me there for book ideas, easy planting and gardening ideas, garden crafts and more.

Inspiration to Garden with Kids

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Summer Bucket List for Kids in St. John's, NL

1. Hike/Walk on Signal Hill

2. Get an Ice Cream at Berg's

3. Visit the seals and touch tank at the Ocean Sciences Centre

4. Go to the Farmer's Market and pick out vegetables to plant in our garden

5. Have a picnic at Topsail Beach or Middle Cove Beach

6. Feed the Ducks at Kenny's Pond

7. Cheer for runners along the route of the Tely 10

8. Visit the Salmonier Nature Park

9. Go on a Photo Nature Walk on Rennie's River Trail (some other great and easy trails: Octagon
Pond in Paradise, Power's Pond in Mount Pearl, or throughout Pippy Park)

10. Go to the library to find books about SUMMER

11. Make a fruit smoothie

12. Paint Rocks

13. Write a letter to a friend - get inspired by our preschool pen pal exchange and find printable letter-writing templates for newsletter subscribers.

14. Go to the Strawberry U-Pick at Lester's Farm - don't forget to visit all of the animals

15. Ride your bike on a new route

16. Take a day trip and hike to LaManche bridge

17. Make your own Ice Cream  (there's a great tutorial for making ice cream in a ziplock bag here)

18. Visit a local site for free during Doors Open Days

19. Make S'mores

20. Paint a Walking Stick

21. Camp in Your Backyard or Living Room

22. Run the Canada Day Kids Race

23. Avoid the crowds and visit the concessions at the Royal St. John's Regatta the evening before for a sweet treat

24. Visit the Sunday afternoon family program at the MUN Botanical Garden - feed the ducks, do a craft, listen to a story and more!

25. Run through the sprinkler on a hot day

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