Monday, November 5, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide for Preschoolers plus a Giveaway

This is the second in my series of holiday gift guides and this one is specifically for preschoolers.  Preschoolers have favorite characters and love to have things associated with them.  My two year old granddaughter is not brand sensitive but my three year old grandson loves Lightning McQueen and Paw Patrol.  This change happens when we aren’t looking and it definitely affects gift giving.  My list for babies and toddlers did not include any character branded types of items but this one does.  I also recommend some wonderful products that you have never heard of but are sure to be winners. This list doesn't have any break the bank items but there are a few pricey ones.  Sometimes those wind up on the grandparents list. The bonus is that this list also features a giveaway opportunity.  Read to the end to see the simple entry details.

About Holiday Lists at The Grandma Chronicles 
This unique guide is from a grandmother’s perspective. It is my HONEST opinion - no corporate PR. 
I go to toys shows throughout the year and I see thousands of toys. Usually I see them out of the box and I may see demonstrations of how they work. The items on this list are the toys that I think the kids will enjoy. And… there are some that you will enjoy playing with the grandkids.  This is how items make it on my lists.

Most of these pictures were taken by me at toy shows - not stock photos.  They may be less than perfect with other stuff in the background, but they show the real deal.
Five Little Fish game by Ravensburger 
Kids begin to play games once they are preschoolers. The Five Little Fish game is full of developmental activities as well as being fun.  Check out this short video to see for yourself.  There are many preschool games to choose from.  I am delighted to be offering Five Little Fish as a giveaway with this guide.  See the end of the article for entry details.

Magnetic Game Box -  Seasons by HABA
This game box opens up and sturdy magnetic cardboard pieces can be attached to the board to represent the various seasons.  This is a great item for travel or bringing to the grandparent’s house.  The box is also a sturdy carrying case.

Once Upon a Craft™ The Gingerbread Man by Educational Insights

This simple book and craft kit make an excellent grandparent and child activity to do together. Forget the picture – there is no cooking involved.  The kit includes a 24 page book, foam gingerbread man and stickers, and finger puppets ready to color.  Will you be spending time with young grandchildren over the holidays?  This will be be a good item to have in your bag.  If this activity is a hit, there are more kits in the series.

Pop-Oh-ver Stove Set and Counter Top Set by Pop-Oh-Ver

These toys were my special secret finds at Toy Fair.  Preschoolers love to play with kitchen sets.  However the big plastic and wood sets are costly and take up a lot of room. These cloth kitchen sets fit over an ordinary chair and transform into a kitchen stove and counter top.  They are washable and easy to fold up and put away when you are not using them.  If your preschooler is a frequent visitor to Grandma’s house or lives in an apartment, it is a reasonable investment to make at $39.95 each.  Other accessories including pots and pans, food and a chef’s outfit and tools are also available from this creative small toy company - Pop-Oh-Ver.

Paw Patrol Headband Headphones by Spinmaster

For many pre-schoolers you can’t go wrong with anything Paw Patrol themed.  There is lots to choose from.  Here is an item that is a little different.  It is a headband with headphones inside.  It provides clear, volume controlled sound.  The headband is washable. 

Deluxe Walking Spirit and Lucky Doll by Just Play

This may be one of those special items on a preschooler’s holiday list that is referred to grandparents who want to buy “that special gift.”  Spirit Riding Free is a very popular Netflix series and there are many toys based on this theme.  This set includes a 14.5 inch walking Spirit and 11.5 inch Lucky doll.  There is sound and movement.  Yes, it costs $50.  Yes, she will love it.

LEGO DUPLO Jurassic World T. rex Tower 

Calling all Jurassic World fans.  This set includes a T.rex lookout tower, a car, Owen Grady figure, a T Rex and other accessory pieces.  22 pieces in total.  This DUPLO set is great for all dinosaur lovers – not just the Jurassic fans. 

Heart Glows Grinch Plush by Just Play
The new holiday Grinch movie debuts on November 9th and will be heavily advertised.  If the grandkids see and love the movie you may want to spring for this extra special Grinch plush. This super soft Grinch's heart lights up, he sways to the music and says phrases from the movie. Pricey but very cute for Grinch lovers. This could easily be one of those most wanted hard to get items by Thanksgiving.

Giveaway Information
One winner will receive a Ravensburger Five Little Fish game.
The hallmark of The Grandma Chronicles giveaways is that it is easy to enter and there are two ways. Both ways count as an entry so you get two entries if you do both.  I need to be able to contact you if you win. If you enter -  email your email address to  I will not use your email address for anything except to notify you if you win.  Grandmother’s Honor.
Two ways to win:
Leave a comment here on the blog
Like The Grandma Chronicles facebook page - click here.

You can have two entries by doing both.  Deadline to enter: November 19, 2018 at midnight. This item can be sent to US addresses only.

Full Disclosure:  The reviews in this article are my own objective opinion.  I did not get paid to write these reviews nor I do I have a sponsorship/ambassador relationship with any of these companies.

All of the items in this holiday guide can conveniently be ordered from Amazon.  Just click on the icon below to go to Amazon.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Halloween Teal Pumpin Project Grows and Is Appreciated

Halloween and the days following too can be fun if children are not only safe from physical harm but also safe and healthy when they are rummaging through their Halloween bag.  I am a big supporter of the Teal Pumpkin Project offering non food treats and have been participating since the first year of the program.  I have seen it grow eevery year, with more parents noticing my sign and thanking me.  This year I had several boys and girls also thank me for being “allergy free.”  
It is so simple to do and I personally have to thank Moose Toys for making trick or treating so special at my house.  Our neighborhood has sidewalks and the houses are not set back very far.  It is the perfect trick or treating neighborhood and people drive to come here on Halloween. So we are always prepared for a large crowd.

This year we were also treated to a mild weather, clear evening so our door was open and no one even had to ring a bell.  Moose Toys made our place the “go to” house on the block.  Moose supports the Teal Pumpkin Project and provided me with single pack samples of Happy Places, Doorables, Pikmi Pops and Grosser Gang. These were such a hit!

So here is how I was set up for kids of all ages. I had containers to offer depending on age.  

For preschoolers – party size playdough or stickers.  Parents LOVE this that you have something other than candy for their little one.

For the 4 to 8 year olds – All the Moose surprise packs are an amazing hit.  They actually send their friends to make sure they come to our house.

For older kids, teens and the occasional dressed up adult -  Halloween themed pencils, erasers, notepads and stickers.  Yes the stickers are popular even with the teens. The little ones got the pumpkins and candy corn and the older ones got ghosts and bats.
Helping me with all this was my grandson after he completed his own trick or treating.  He took off this great costume before he got to work welcoming kids of all ages for a perfect Halloween treat.

The Moose surprise packs also make great stocking stuffers and party bag gifts.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Holiday Gift List for Babies and Toddlers

It is time to be putting together our holiday lists for the grandchildren.  In the past I have had 2 – 3 long diversified lists but this year I am going to do more lists with each one aimed at a certain age group.  

About Holiday Lists at The Grandma Chronicles
There are lots of holiday toy guides this time of year but mine is unique.  This is a guide from a grandmother’s perspective. It is my HONEST opinion -  no corporate PR.

I go to toys shows throughout the year and literally I see thousands of toys. Usually I see them out of the box and I may see demonstrations of how they work. The items on this list are the toys that I think the kids will enjoy and you may not hear about them elsewhere. And… there are some that you will enjoy playing with the grandkids.  This is how items make it on my lists.

Most of these pictures were taken by me at toy shows - not stock photos.  They may be less than perfect with other stuff in the background, but they show the real deal.

My first list is for infants and toddlers. Bonus – None of the items on this list are budget busters!

Pillow Pets Paw Patrol Marshall Sleeptime Lites by Nickelodeon
This item can be enjoyed by a toddler and older children.  It actually has three completely different roles.  During the day it is a soft plush of every toddler’s favorite character – Paw Patrol’s Marshall.  Undo the belt at night and it opens up to a pillow.  But best of all, once the bedroom is darkened, turn on the light and the ceiling will fill with stars.  I have spent some very pleasant quiet time with my grandson looking up at the stars on the ceiling then moving the lite to shine on the nearby wall.  He will run to touch the stars on the wall.  Great for sleepy time bedtime stories and cuddling.

Little Blue Truck and Plush by Yottoy

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas

The Little Blue Truck is a favorite board book series that infants and toddlers enjoy. There are seasonal theme books in this series which I love and if you get the gift set with the plush, your grandchild will enjoy cuddling with the plush with multiple books.

The Little Blue Truck Christmas book is a favorite book for my grandchildren and I love reading it with them. The Little Blue Truck delivers Christmas trees to his animal friends and at the end the lights on the tree light up.  This is the type of book that becomes a Christmas favorite to be read every year even after it seems the kids should have grown out of it. 

Mondoudou Miss Happy Panda Doll by Corolle
Mondoudou Elf Happy Panda
Doesn’t every grandmother want to give her granddaughter her first doll?  Well this is the one you want give her.  Corolle is a French company that makes high quality, beautiful dolls and this one is perfect for a baby.  Miss Happy Panda is only 9.5 inches tall and a perfect size for a baby and toddler. She is made of ultra-soft fabric and her pretty, realistic face is delicately scented with vanilla - a Corolle signature. I gave one of these to my granddaughter when she was a baby and at two years old it is still a favorite.  

Another option is the Elf Happy Panda.  The elf has a little bell inside which provides a soft jingle.  You can't go wrong with any item in this collection. The Mondoudou collection is designed and sized for infants and toddlers.  Everything in this collection is machine washable.

Welcome Little One - A Keepsake Baby Book by National Geographic
This is an excellent holiday gift for the expectant family or parents of newborns. The pictures are exquisite.  It is unlike the bland baby keepsake books that are most common.  It is unique, modern....captivating as it features striking pictures of baby animals throughout the book.  See my full review earlier this year here.

My Soft World – City by Edushape
These soft foam wood-like blocks are excellent first blocks.  Parents and educators give them rave reviews and toddlers love to play with them.   They are washable, durable and quiet.  One of my favorite accolades is that they can be thrown and not cause any damage.  The city set features, people, trees, cars, trucks and building pieces.    These blocks good for encouraging creativity and building fine motor skills.

Beatrix Potter Classic Plush Collection: Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Bunny, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle Duck by GUND
If your little ones enjoyed the new Peter Rabbit movie this year, or loves the Beatrix Potter books, this collection of 6.5 - 7.5 inch plush animals will provide lots of opportunity for imaginative play.  The plush are small enough to be easily handled by toddlers.  As always, they are a quality product if made by GUND.

Pull Along Duck by BRIO
This classic wood pull along toy is sure to be a favorite with toddlers.  The head moves and the wings flap when you pull it along.  BRIO is known for high quality products and this may be one saved and handed down for generations.

All of these items are available on Amazon and can be ordered by clicking on the icons below.  Also look for them in your local specialty toy and gift store.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

It is Fall... Time for Apple and Pumpkin Picking

My favorite activity in the Fall is apple and pumpkin picking at a farm.  We go to a large working farm, Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ.  If you are thinking of taking your grandchildren on this kind of an outing, do your homework and consider their age and how much outdoor activity will work for them.

My grandson is 9 years old and we choose Alstede because it is a good fit for older kids.  There is the giant haystack, a long hayride, apple, pumpkin and fruit/vegetable picking, a corn maze, a place for lunch, homemade ice cream stand, farm store and more.  If you are bringing a small child you may want to visit a smaller place with a playground for young children and a nearby pumpkin patch. 

This is a perfect grandparent and grandchild outing.  If your grown kids remember doing this when they were young they will probably also enjoy the day.  My daughter certainly does.

Our Day in Pictures

The day starts with my grandson climbing the giant haystack to the top...

Now we are ready for the tractor ride out to the fields...

First stop is apple picking and we fill my "Grandma is my name Spoiling is my game" bag...
My daughter and grandson both enjoyed choosing their favorite pumpkins...

And finally we are ready to hop back on the tractor ride to head home.  Everyone is still smiling which says everything about how much we enjoyed the day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Take Me Out to the Ballgame - NJ Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium

There is no better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a baseball game.  My nine year old grandson and I had a grand time at the last home game of the NJ Jackals that play at Yogi Berra Stadium at Montclair State University.  Wow, what a night!  Yes, this blog article is a little late –  the game was a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share the experience and encourage grandparents to consider this kind of local activity.  The stadium was very accessible, the cost was reasonable and the size and layout of the stadium allowed the kids freedoms and experience that they would not have in a major league stadium.

First of all the stadium was beautiful and immaculately clean.  Since it was on a “Fan Appreciation” night the hot dogs and sodas were $2 each.  It was a perfect weather night, and we got there early to take advantage of this super bargain.  We sat at the tables overlooking the stadium and got to see both team players warming up.  Then we bought popcorn and went to our first row seats overlooking first base.  We got the see every player who got to first base and those who tried and didn’t quite make it.  We also got an up close look at the first base coaches talking with the mostly young players.

But here was the best feature of this location.  The stadium's only bullpen that both teams use was just to the right of us and above it was a big grassy knoll.  Kids gathered there and once in a while the pitchers threw a ball up onto the field and the kids scrambled to catch one of these balls.  My grandson got a ball that popped up near first base.  What a souvenier to bring home.

And then there was more!  Since it was the last home game of the season there was a fireworks display that was fantastic!  Lighting up the sky after the seventh inning it was just a spectacular almost ending to the evening.
This night out at the ball game was great fun and a super value.  I can’t wait to do it again next year.  I recommend you check out one of these  league baseball teams for a old fashioned fun evening.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Summer Family Vacation at the Jersey Shore

There is a rule that if you live in New Jersey you MUST take a vacation at the Jersey shore in the summer.  I am very diligent about following this rule.  I have an almost religious fervor about the shore I must admit.  It raises my spirit, reduces my blood pressure, takes my mind to places of wonder, reflection and peace, and then it turns me on my heels and is just all out fun!.  I challenge you to find another place on earth that delivers all that.
So how does it deliver all that?  Here is a sample day.  We stay at a hotel with a pool just a block away from the boardwalk.  Each morning I walk the back way through the closed amusement park, up to the boardwalk and buy coffee and muffins for my husband at me at the Ocean City Coffee Company.  We sit outside at the hotel and enjoy the "Ocean City Roast Blend."  
Next I am off to the beach.  I walk the beach long distances in both directions – occasionally getting wet enough to cool off a bit. This is when I let my mind just wonder and wander.  It is both peaceful and exhilarating as I contemplate the waves one moment and enjoy all the activity at the shore's edge the next.   
The beach is crowded but it just seems right. There is enough room for all of us. In between walks I sit on the beach and take it all in…

Grandparents walking with grandchildren getting ready to keep a watchful eye as they go in the water

Strong looking lifeguards on duty….

Building sand forts, sitting at the water’s edge, strolling, wading, and jumping the waves…all within feet of each other…

Back at poolside my grandson never tires of jumping in the deep end…

And takes a moment to pose for the camera with Mom…

There are numerous opportunities to play miniature golf on the boardwalk.  I think this one is “Goofy Golf.”

After dinner it is time to hit the boardwalk -Wonderland Pier - and do the rides.  Grandma buys a big book of tickets and we are off to the races.

This one is a favorite….

Zach says that it is tradition to do the Crazy Submarine and so this is the last one of the night.  I thought riding the carousel together was the tradition but he skipped out on that one.

I don’t know how I missed taking a picture of both of us having a Kohr’s Frozen Custard but that is how we finish every night on the Boardwalk.

Of course there is the night that I have to myself on the boardwalk.  Yes, I shop, and sit and watch the waves at night and just enjoy taking it all in.  
Then I randomly chose to sit a few minutes facing the boardwalk and captured one of my favorite things about Ocean City, NJ.  This is a dry family resort town and it attracts a multigenerational crowd.  I am really into the multigenerational experience.  I look up and on my left is Fralinger’s.  They have been selling salt water taffy on the boardwalk since 1885.  

On my right are two newcomers to the boardwalk – a virtual reality and escape room experience.  I just sit and enjoy how both of these worlds over a century apart live so peacefully next to each other.

No matter where I travel in the world, this is always my favorite place to vacation.  What is your favorite place to vacation with family?  Please let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Toys with Educational Value

Summer is a special time for both adults and kids to kick back and relax.  But with all the extra free time parents and grandparents will be looking for some non-screen time toys.  Here are some great options with summer themes that the kids will enjoy and the bonus is that they have educational value.  You don’t have to tell the kids that.

All of the pictures here were taken by me at Toy Fair in February - no stock professional pictures.  Some were just in prototype stage then so they may be slightly different than these pictures. And indeed some of the pictures are less than perfect.  I saw thousands of toys and took over a thousand pictures and this is the best of what I saw. Most of the products are new on the market since May or later and are available on Amazon now.

I have listed something for every age listed from youngest to oldest.

VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Take Flight Airport

The VTech Go!Go! Smart Wheels sets are established favorites for toddlers and pre-school age children.  This airport set has six SmartPoint™ locations teaching letters, sounds, music and more. There are over 120 responses that include phrases, music and sound effects. The tracks can be used with other Go! Go! Smart Wheels® playsets and other smart wheel vehicles can be used with this set.  Note that this set only comes with the smart wheels airplane and does not include other vehicles. Taking your first airplane trip - check this out for sure.

LeapFrog Shapes And Sharing Picnic Basket

Toddlers love to play with play food.  This colorful picnic basket features picnic food and also serves as a dual shape sorter on the basket and on both plates.

Insect Lore Very Hungry Caterpillar Growing Kit

Young children may have experienced an Insect Lore Caterpillar set at school.  This is a new set with the Eric Carle Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.  The growing instructions and theme book feature the fabled character and will make this butterfly set extra enjoyable.  This is a new product just on the market now.

LEGO Minecraft Farm Cottage

Minecraft has super popular video and online games.  They also develop planning and strategic skills and are considered a top educational game.  The LEGO Minecraft line provides the opportunity to move seamlessly from the computer games to the hands on building.  There is a whole line of LEGO Minecraft sets.  I chose this one because it is brand new and has a summer theme.

PLAYMOBIL® Aquarium Shop Building Set

This set features an interactive pool which includes crabs and starfish and which can be filled with water can also be used as a box to store small parts. The shop sells working octopus water sprayers, souvenirs, and food and drink. Playmobil sets always encourage creative play and are made extremely well.  They are the kind of toys handed down for generations.  This new set has a summer theme and caught my eye at Toy Fair in February when I saw this prototype.

Learning Resources Beaker Creatures Bio-Home Toy

This is actually a collectible science toy – and we know that kids love collectibles.  How cool is this. Each pack comes with two Beaker Creatures collectibles: one that’s ready to identify, and one that’s encased within a mysterious Reactor Pod. After dropping the pod in water and triggering its colorful bubbling reaction, kids can use the included classification cards to count up their creatures’ physical characteristics and determine which of the 35 Beaker Creatures they’ve discovered. The set includes one Bio-Home, a habitat whose top also doubles as a magnifier that helps kids take a closer look and two double-sided mini-posters. Each poster has one side which features a quiz filled with amazing real-world science facts, while the other features images of the creatures.  There is a wider line of Beaker Creature toys also available.

Ravensburger Sneaker Underwater Design 108 Piece 3D Puzzle

Ravensburger has made this 3-D puzzle in various designs and its newest design features an underwater scene.  I made this puzzle featuring a flag design with my grandson a couple of years ago and he loved it.  You can use the finished product as a pencil container.

National Geographic Kids Absolute Expert: Dolphins

If you know a child who is interested in dolphins or you have a vacation planned where you may see dophins this is a perfect book for a child of any age – grown up ones too. You will learn everything you have ever wanted to know about them in this book. It features exclusive content from a National Geographic explorer currently in the field.