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Baby, it’s cold outside. And that means it’s the perfect weather for a hot cocoa bar. And eggnog… So why not combine the two?

Enter: a festive hot cocoa bar with spiced eggnog whipped cream. I’m a personal fan of whipped cream on cocoa, instead of marshmallows. And when you are going the whipped cream route, it HAS to be homemade.

To make the eggnog whipped cream, you will need: Read More

I don’t know about you, but around here December is a magical month filled with little surprises around every corner – whether it’s a new Christmas book from the library or an impromptu car ride to seek our some twinkly lights.

I’ve said before that, while I don’t regularly prepare bento-style lunches for the kids, I like to occasionally sneak one in here or there for a special (and healthy) treat… No doubt this easy-to-prepare lunch put together by our contributor Wendy will soon become one of our December surprises.

December has arrived and the excitement of the Christmas season has hit my home full-force. We’ve started our advent calendars, our decorations are going up a bit at a time and my kids are positively giddy from all the holiday fun. I enjoy the lead up to the big day as much as the holiday itself, and one of the ways I like to celebrate with my kids is to pack them fun Christmas lunches.

For this lunch, I included some of the icons of the season — gingerbread, Christmas trees and Santa — by making them from healthy and tasty ingredients. Here’s how to create one like it:

Thread sugar snap peas onto a bamboo skewer, then trim the ends to make a tree shape.

Begin by cutting two pieces of bamboo skewer to the same height as the biggest section of a divided lunch box. I’m using a PlanetBox Rover here, but you can use whatever lunch box your family prefers.

Thread sugar snap peas on one of the skewers. Start with a large pea pod and then add smaller and smaller pods until there is about a half inch of skewer left. The snap peas should Read More

photo source

Babies and young toddlers can be especially tough to shop for – it’s not like we can just ask them what they want.  Plus, kids develop differently and at different rates at this age.  Your best bet is to go for the tried-and-true toys that aim to build hand-eye coordination and fine and gross motor skills in an engaging but not over-stimulating way. Music is always good too.

Below you’ll find my top picks for babies and young toddlers. They’re not categorized like the other lists because they all cover a variety of developmental skills and ages but you should find plenty of options to make your baby or young toddler happy on Christmas morning!

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here!

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Developmental Toys for Babies & Young Toddlers (scroll down for full details on each):

  1. Lamaze Take Along Toys starting at $9.72 (0 – 2 years)
  2. Learn & Groove Musical Table $39.99 (3 months – 6 years)
  3. Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo $89.00 (babies able to hold their head up – walking)
  4. Caterpillar and Friends Play Gym  $39.99 (0 – 2 years)
  5. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill & Spill Soft Baby Toy $18.43 (6 months – 4 years)
  6. Haul and Ride Truck $34.99 (1 – 3 years)
  7. Geometric Stacker  $13.79 (18 months – 4 years)

Read on for 27 of my favorite developmental toys for babies & young toddlers, including:

  • Floor Toys
  • Riding & Walking toys
  • Music Toys
  • Toys for Developing Fine-Motor Control, Gross-Motor Control, Concentration and Hand-Eye Coordination

Special Note: In an effort to help you out as much as possible this year, I’ve included both prices and age recommendations for each item.  Please take the age ranges as just that – recommendations – you know you’re child best after all!  

Also, this time of year prices can fluctuate quite dramatically.  So if you see something a little outside of your price range, it might not be a bad idea to click over and check  it out anyway – you may get lucky and catch a sale.

Along those lines, I’m doing my best this year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items.  To be in the loop, be sure to follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

Ready for the big list? Here we go… Read More

Along with buying gifts and getting the holidays cards done and out the door, a big part of this season is getting your home spruced up and looking it’s best – especially if you’ll be hosting Christmas dinner.  I’ve been working on just that around here lately.

Along with hanging the garland and putting out some poinsettias, I’ve also turned my attention to the spot where our guests will be feasting; the dining room.

I showed you our new table, chairs, and hutches in my last Forever Home Project update.  Today I want to show you the new rug that has finally banished most of the unsightly Read More

We’re back with another installment of MPMK’s 2013 Christmas Gift Guides today. Building and construction toys, blocks in particular, are my absolute favorites for both my son AND my daughter. They are the ultimate open-ended creativity toy and I love that my children play with them for huge chunks of time, all while developing math, problem-solving, and spatial thinking skills.

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here!

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Building and Construction Toys (scroll down for full details on each):

  1. LEGO Duplo My First Set $24.14 (18 mos – 5 years)
  2. Magna-Tiles $120 (2 – 12 years)
  3. Melissa & Doug 60 Piece Standard Unit Blocks $50.99 (2 – 15 years)
  4. Battat Take-Apart Vehicle Series starting at $17.95 (3+ years)
  5. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Kits starting at $11.24, (age varies by kit, most start around age 5)
  6. Green Toys Tool Set $19.59 (2+ years)
  7. Designed by You Doll House with Furniture $82.09 (3+ years)

Read on for 30 of my favorite building and construction toys, broken down into:

  • Best Blocks for Open-Ended Play
  • Take Apart & Build Again Toys
  • LEGO Sets for Every Age
  • Dramatic Play Construction Toys

Special Note: In an effort to help you out as much as possible this year, I’ve included both prices and age recommendations for each item.  Please take the age ranges as just that – recommendations – you know you’re child best after all!  

Also, this time of year prices can fluctuate quite dramatically.  So if you see something a little outside of your price range, it might not be a bad idea to click over and check  it out anyway – you may get lucky and catch a sale.

Along those lines, I’m doing my best this year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items.  To be in the loop, be sure to follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

Ready for the big list? Here we go… Read More

Looking for an easy and fun treat to make with the kids this year for your favorite neighbors, teachers, and friends?  Look no further!  

This semi-homemade recipe relies on the goodness or Oreos, Teddy Grahamas, and some melted chocolate. Easy enough to make dozens at a time and a definite crowd pleaser.

These cute cookies are one of my favorite things to make around the holidays. They are darling, a nice combination of homemade and storebought, and make great teacher gifts.

More importantly, they are delicious. I don’t even really like Oreos (I know – my husband can hardly believe it either), and I absolutely love these cookies. I’ll warn you that they are a bit messy to eat, but an important half of this blog’s name is “Messy Kids” after all.

You’ll need:

  • Melting chocolate (or almond bark)
  • Oreos
  • Teddy Grahams
  • A fork
  • A baking sheet or cooling rack (or both, which is what I did)

Melt your chocolate according to the package directions (I microwaved mine for Read More

Happy Cyber Monday friends.  While you’re online shopping the sales today, we wanted to make sure you don’t forget about all the great handmade learning toys readily available to parents at the tap of a keystroke.

And good news! One of our favorite purveyors of just these types of toys, and also our newest sponsor, Mama May i is generously offering up a discount to MPMK readers. Read More

Happy Black Friday friends, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I got up extra early this morning to scope out the on-line sales and promptly sent my best finds off to my newsletter readers (sign up here to join).

Normally, I don’t share newsletter bonus material here on the blog but thought I’d make an exception today so you guys can get in on the deals too. These are 2013 Ultimate Toy Gift Guide selections that are on special Black Friday sales – which seem to be going on past Black Friday – so get ‘em while you can! Read More

Sometimes, you’re looking for a specific kind of Christmas book, but it’s hard to find one because the bookstore or library has them all just categorized as “Christmas.”

Whether you’re looking for a Santa story, a Christmas version of your child’s favorite book, or a sweet story to read together, this list will have you covered with suggestions for exactly the kind of book you want.

Yay! I’m so excited it’s time to talk about art supplies as part of this year’s Gift Guide collection. This is one of my favorites. But that probably doesn’t surprise you, huh?  You all know how much I love anything that promotes open-ended creativity… I believe that every house with kids has to have a stocked art drawer – if not an entire art closet!

I absolutely love gifting my kids art supplies because I know that while using them they’ll be flexing their creative thinking skills and likely spending a lot of time doing so independently.  Plus – big bonus – because these supplies get used up, they don’t contribute to a huge pile of toys that will inevitably lead to power struggles between me and the kids over clean-up time.

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here!

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks - here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Art Supplies for Open-Ended Creativity (scroll down for full details on each):

  1. Twistz Bandz Rainbow Loom $19.95 (8+ years)
  2. Playskool 2-in-1 Digital Camera and Projector $49.14 (3 – 7 years)
  3. Doodle Cook $12.46 (4+ years with some adult help or reading age)
  4. Ultra Thin Portable Light Panel $189.99 and Light Table Panel Blocks $19.99 (babies – 10 years)
  5. Perler Beads Multimix Bucket $8.90 (5 – 12 years)
  6. Play Doh Barrel $26.95 (3 – 8 years)
  7. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Alphabet Stamp Set $17.23 (3+ years)

Read on for 27 of my favorite Art Supplies for Open-Ended Creativity… Read More

Julee is back today with a seasonal addition to The Forever Home Project.  I love her easy-to-do ideas and I’m seriously thinking about picking up one of those bay leaf garlands – so gorgeous (see the Etsy link in the post). Without further ado, here she is…

I’m so excited to spend the holiday season in our new home that I started decorating the day after Halloween. A little crazy, I know! My first project to tackle was the fireplace in our formal living room.

We decided to place our Christmas tree in this room, which means it will be the center of our family togetherness during the holidays. Yes, I’m totally picturing the kids wearing plaid pajamas, reading stories and sipping hot chocolate by the fire.

The scene is beautiful in my mind, but the reality of our fireplace is not. Our home was built in the early 1980s, and nowhere is the glam of the 80s more apparent than in the black marble tile and shiny brass trim of our fireplace. We’re hoping to resurface the fireplace someday, but it’s definitely not in the budget this year.

In contrast to many of the design decisions that I’m making in our ‘Forever Home,’ this decorating challenge seems like an interim solution – one that I hope will change drastically by next year. The challenge is made even more difficult by the fact that we’re still purchasing furniture for the room, making it hard to want to spend money on seasonal decorations.

My approach: keep it simple, repurpose items I already own and mix in a little DIY. Read More

Thanksgiving is next week and I’m giving my thanks to all of you for being such loyal and wonderful readers with this FREE 24 page PDF download.  Put together by our friends at Relish!, it contains everything you need to make Thanksgiving fabulous this year including:

  • A full Thanksgiving menu complete with mouth-watering recipes
  • A complete grocery shopping list
  • How-to sections on defrosting, brining, carving and making the perfect gravy
  • Recommendations and descriptions of 6 “perfect for Thanksgiving” wines
  • An hour-by-hour prep and cooking guide so you’ll be on schedule all day long

Get it all with one click, right here: Thanksgiving Menu Planner. That’s it! No contests to enter, pages to like, or newsletters to subscribe to – it’s our gift to you. Enjoy!!

Everyday Freezer Recipes eBookP.S. If you like this guide, check out another collaboration from MPMK and Relish!

Our Everyday Freezer Recipes ebook is packed with 50 freezer recipes you prepare ahead of time so your family can quickly heat and eat on busy weeknights –  plus 10 full weekly menus, printable freezer labels and shopping lists.

Go here to purchase in PDF, ibooks, kindle, and nook formats for only$6.99.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Today I bring you one of my all-time favorite gift ideas EVER! The genius in this gift is that it has sentiment and thoughtfulness in spades but is shockingly easy to put together. This will be a gift for my mom that I know she will treasure as my “Nana” is no longer with us. You could easily knock several people off your gift list with this same idea in no time, especially with the free recipe card printable that’s 100% editable so you don’t have to worry about pretty handwriting.

Ready for the DIY? Read on for the full tutorial PLUS my Nana’s famous frozen pumpkin pie recipe.

Read More

With next week being all about Thanksgiving and December rolling around right after that, this is the perfect week to get your Advent calendar squared away.  Of course, we’re here to help with our list of 24 of our all-time favorite Advent activities for families.

We’ve included activities that fall all over the preparation level spectrum (although we definitely tended towards the less-prep side of things).  I also fully reserve the right to switch the day’s activity when my kids’ heads are turned and I highly suggest you do the same. That way you’re sure to have some real memory makers in the mix, but can also keep it simple if your day is already heading south by 10 AM.

And if you need something stylish to house your activities in, check out our DIY Advent Calendar (pictured above) – so chic and super easy to make with kids of all ages.

One final note – this time of year is supposed to be about enjoying your time as a family, not stressing over squeezing everything in.  If getting an activity done every day is too much, don’t stress! Just pick your favorites from the list and focus on those. If you still want to do an Advent countdown there are some pretty rad options on the market these days too.  Our favorites include:

Ready for your daily December activity list? Here we go…

With all the talk I’ve been doing on the blog about the importance of fostering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, I felt I had to include a STEM themed gift guide this year.

I just keep hearing over and over how important cultivating innovation is in our kids’ future success. So watching both my son and daughter excitedly engage with open-ended toys to construct, engineer, explore and experiment fills my heart with joy. I’m on a continued mission to find the absolute best toys to keep the innovations coming!

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here!

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Learning Toys for Fostering STEM Skills (scroll down for full details on each):

  1. Snap Circuits $45.07 (8 – 15 years) and Snap Circuits Jr $20.55 (5+ years with parental help, 6 or 7+ for independent play)
  2. 3D printer $1,199.00 (10+ years)
  3. Hanz Innovations Inventor’s Lab Building Set - $59.95 (8 – 15 years)
  4. Qwirkle $19.21 (5+ years)
  5. LEGO Mindstorms EV3 $349.95 (10+ years)
  6. The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity-Challenge the World Around You! $8.99 (8+ years)
  7. Hexbug Nano Elevation 3D Habitat $40.34 (3 – 15 years)

Read on for 40 or so of my top Learning Toys for Fostering STEM Skills, broken down into:

  • Engineering
  • Robotics & Technology
  • Chemistry & Life Sciences
  • Single-Player Math & Logic Games
  • Multi-Player Math & Logic Games

Special Note: In an effort to help you out as much as possible this year, I’ve included both prices and age recommendations for each item. Please take the age ranges as just that – recommendations – you know you’re child best after all!  

Also, this time of year prices can fluctuate quite dramatically.  So if you see something a little outside of your price range, it might not be a bad idea to click over and check  it out anyway – you may get lucky and catch a sale.

Along those lines, I’m doing my best this year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items.  To be in the loop, be sure to follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

Ready for the big list? Here we go… Read More