Tag Archives: educational

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

 

2018 has been a wonderful year and there is no better way to show your loved ones how much you care than to get them gifts they will truly love!  Here are a few of my favorite suggestions, separated by category for our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: 

 

Top Gift Ideas for Kids

Top Gift Ideas for the Homeschool Family

Top Gift Ideas for Busy Moms

Top Gift Ideas for the Crafters & Artists

Top Tech & Gadget Gift Ideas 

Gift Ideas for Your Young Paw Patrol Fan

also head over and check out my friend Ashley’s Gift Guide for Book Lovers

Top Gift Ideas for the Home School Family (2018 Holiday Gift Guide)

Gift Ideas for the Homeschool Family (Holiday Gift Guide 2018)

 

As a homeschool mom myself, I came up with a list of what I think would make great gifts this Christmas.  They are mostly practical and encourage education or physical activity, while also being fun!  Take a look and let me know what your favorite idea is or if you have something else to add to the list!  

 

 

Flybar iPogo Jr – more than just a basic pogo stick, you will find that this one counts your child’s jumps and encourages them to keep going!  Recommended for ages 5+ and 40-80lbs.  The Aero 2-Wheel Scooter and Pogo Ball Trick Board are also great gift ideas to encourage physical activity.

 

Minecraft Workbooks by Skyhorse Publishing – Make learning extra fun this year with this themed workbook!  Available for grades 1 & 2 and 3 & 4.  For those who are reading youth chapter books, check out The Unofficial Minecrafters Mysteries Series Box Set

 

 

Casio 61 Key Keyboard with App Integration – my own 2nd grader started having much more interest in music this year while learning some basic tunes on our keyboard.  It is absolutely amazing how he has taken to it and I can’t wait to see his musical skills grow.  Having a keyboard in our home has been a wonderful experience for our family and I highly recommend it.  I received my first as a 6 year old on Christmas and I have had a love for piano ever since.  There are many to choose from with varying prices for every budget.  

 

 

Thinkfun Math Dice JR (or the original Math Dice) – I have been eyeing these dice for a while now and I think this is the year I will finally get them for my kids since both are old enough to play the Junior version.  They will be a great way to practice math while still having fun!        

 

 

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Cash Register – another fun way to add math to daily play is this cash register.  My kids love playing grocery store (or toy store), exchanging play money, while not even realizing the educational value it is to them.  

 

 

Lil Gadgets Headphones – kids with tablets or laptops will be excited to have their own pair of headphones!  Lil Gadgets has wired and wireless options, as well as earbuds.  All are volume limiting and durable.  My boys have had the Untangled Pro for four years now and love using them as they complete online lessons or games.  

 

Crayola Create ‘n Carry 75 piece art set – every year, my kids tell me they want more art supplies for Christmas.  You can really never have too much :)  This set is great for kids to take with them on-the-go or around the house and keep their supplies together. 

 

 

3Doodler Start Essentials 3D Pen Set for Kids – this STEM inspired gift idea is made especially for ages 6 – 13.  It is safe to use with no hot parts.  Your creations are only limited to your imagination! 

 

Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet – the Fire tablets have come a long way.  With 1 year of FreeTime Unlimited (giving access to over 15,000 popular apps, games, books, and educational content), this affordable tablet is a great option for any budget.  There is also a great replacement guarantee for accidents.  

 

 

Boogie Board 8.5″ LCD Writing Tablet – rather than dry-erase, chalk, or classic paper and pencil, this LCD writing tablet is a fun way to get kids to write and draw.  The drawing will stay until you simply press the button above the screen to make it disappear.  There is no need to charge it or connect it to anything.  The Scribble & Play or Play & Trace versions are great options for the younger children ages 3+.  

 

 

Wall Pops USA Dry Erase Decal – this 36″ x 24″ poster decal would make a fantastic gift for elementary or middle school aged kids. It is easy to read and works great with dry erase markers.   The dry erase monthly calendar is a great option too for older students or the homeschool parent.  

 

 

Book of Paper Airplanes – my boys have a similar book and have so much fun trying to create the different paper planes.  While they think they’re having fun, they’re actually learning about physics! 

 

 

Grow Your Own Crystal Mini Worlds Kit – while learning science and Chemistry, your homeschooler can create 3 projects: a dragon’s cave, a unicorn’s forest, and a seahorse’s coral reef.  

 

 

Blank Comic Book – bring out your child’s imagination and drawing skills with this fun Blank Comic Book.  This is perfect for girls and boys alike as they can create stories to their heart’s desire.  

 

 

Genius LEGO Inventions with Bricks You Already Have – inspiring STEM creations, this book will take the LEGO bricks you already have and show you how to get even more creative with them. 

 

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition – I highly recommend adding a smart speaker to your home, whether it is an Amazon or Google device.  There are many fun activities, free music (I personally enjoy Piano Guys while my boys study) and even Audible Books available through these speakers.  The Echo devices connect to each other, allowing you to even use them as an intercom system throughout the house.  

 

Homeschool Mom Shirt – Don’t forget the homeschool parent too!  I just love this and so will the homeschool mom in your life.  Got a homeschool dad instead?  I recommend looking around on Etsy.  There are a lot of fantastic options on there as well! 

Royal Kingdom Adventure Castle (by Lakeshore Learning)

Epic Christmas Gift Idea - Lakeshore Learning Royal Kingdom Adventure Castle

 

Before becoming a mom of two, I never imagined all the toys that I would be excited for, but this castle is definitely one!  Lakeshore Learning’s Royal Kingdom Adventure Castle is a site for epic battles and tons of imagination.  It even is a winner of the 2018 National Parenting Product Award!  

This toy is great for boys and girls alike, and recommended for ages 3-6 but both my 2 and 9 year old nephews had a lot of fun checking it out.  

The Royal Kingdom Adventure castle is quite impressive with all its features and standing at 10.25″ tall.  It is big enough for lots of entertainment but small enough for even apartment living.  And great news for the parents – it is pre-assembled and ready-to-go out of box! 

 

Included in the castle are:

  • explorable chambers
  • stairs to scale
  • watch Towers
  • dragon’s lair
  • working drawbridge 
  • dungeon door

 

The set also contains the following:

  • king and queen figures
  • wizard
  • 2 guards
  • 4 knights
  • dragon
  • 2 flags

 

My 6 and 7 year old boys are going to have hours upon hours of fun with this toy.  As a homeschool family, I think we are even going to put together a unit focused on castle and royal life.  

I highly recommend adding the Royal Kingdom Adventure Castle to your holiday shopping list.  It will be such a fun present for your child to open under the tree on Christmas morning! 

 

Fun places to take your family in northern Illinois

Fun Places to Take Your Family in Northern Illinois

My family recently relocated from central Illinois to northern Illinois so we have had a blast searching down new and fun places to take the kids.  We’ve found an abundance of state parks and museums and I can’t wait to share some of our experiences with you! 

Rockford/Stateline Area 

  • Rock Cut State Park
    • canoeing on Pierce lake
    • Olsen beach swimming in summer
    • hiking trails
    • recreational opportunities
    • great place for fall family photos
  • Discovery Center Museum
    • children’s museum with large outdoor play place
    • water tables, dress up / pretend areas
    • several interactive educational exhibits, events
    • membership available (totally worth it if you ask me!)
  • Burpee Museum
    • award winning exhibits including a young t-rex skeleton
    • 4 floors of exhibits
    • admission varies by age
  • Anderson Japanese Gardens
    • beautiful gardens to visit with the family
    • evening and weekend events
    • closes for winter
    • donation days
  • Nicholas Conservatory
    • third largest conservatory in Illinois
    • sits next to the Rock River
    • 11,000 square foot plant exhibition
    • tickets available online or at the door
  • The Pottery Lounge
    • located in CherryVale Mall
    • paint pottery pieces or canvases in store (paint and cleanup included in price of piece!)
    • in store parties available
  • Carlson Ice Arena
    • skating and hockey
    • public skate
  • Sapora Playworld
    • indoor play structure for ages 5-12
    • smaller structure for ages 4 and under
    • admission fee varies by day/age, discount days
  • Magic Waters Waterpark
    • water slides, wave pool, lazy river, and more
    • area for ages 6 and under
    • cabana rental available
  • Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
    • year round garden
    • handicap accessible path
    • snow shoeing and cross country skiing in winter
    • butterfly garden in the summer
    • admission fee varies by age
  • Belvidere Parks
    • this smaller town near Rockford has some beautiful parks along the Kishwaukee River that I recommend checking out
  • Byron Forest Preserve
    • hiking, sledding, and star gazing are among the options you have in this quiet forest preserve, just outside of Byron
  • Parks along the Kishwaukee River
    • head south of Rockford and you will find an abundance of parks and nature preserves just off of the Kishwaukee River
  • See more (including event calendars) at Go Rockford

 

Oregon Area

  • Blackhawk Statue
    • located in Lowden State Park, you will find the iconic Blackhawk Statue.  This statue is impressive with its size and serves as a great family trip.  There are nearby hiking areas as it overlooks the river. 
  • Lowden State Park
    • Enjoy scenic views of the Rock River from the Blackhawk Statue or hike the four mile trail!  Campsites are also available. 
  • White Pines Forest State Park
    • Lodge in one of the cute little cabins at White Pines Inn and check out the teepee on the grounds.  Enjoy wildlife watching along one of the park’s two steams, or hike one of the seven hiking trails. 
  • Castle Rock state park
    • A beautiful place to practice photography, Castle Rock State Park is also a fantastic place to take your family on a hike or enjoy the serene scenery.  The views are amazing! 

 

Chicago Area

  • Shedd Aquarium
    • indoor aquarium with 32,000 aquatic animals
    • changing special exhibit (your visit will always have something new!)
    • ticket prices vary, membership available, EBT cardholders receive free admission
  • The Field Museum of Natural History
    • one of the largest natural history museums in the world
    • 65,000 exhibits including temporary traveling exhibits
    • tickets available online and at the door, $3 admission via Museums for All (EBT) program
  • Museum of Science and Industry
    • over 2,000 exhibits in 75 major halls
    • 3,500 foot fall model railroad
    • domed space theater
    • relics from the Titanic
    • tickets available online and at the door, limited tickets for free via Museums for All (EBT/WIC cards)
  • Adler Planetarium
    • three full size theaters
    • space and science exhibitions
    • antique collections
    • Doane observatory
    • tickets available online and at the door, basic pass available for those with EBT or WIC cards through Museums for All Program
  • Navy Pier
    • landmark with 50 acres of attractions including outdoor Ferris wheel, restaurants, cruises, IMAX theater, park, and more
  • Millennium Park
    • outdoor ice rink (winter)
    • outdoor art and theater
    • famous “Bean” sculpture
  • The Skydeck
    • located in the Willis tower (formerly known as the Sears tower)
    • glass viewing area on the 103rd floor with glass floor
    • open all days of the year
    • tickets available

 

Schaumberg

  • Woodfield Mall
    • LEGO store
    • fun eateries including Dave & Busters and the Rainforest Café
  • FireZone
    • anything and everything firefighters…just for kids!
    • check the activity calendar for “drop in” times as some times are reserved for events
    • admission for children (1 adult free per child)
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center
    • play zones
    • 4D cinema
    • rides
    • tickets available online and at door, discounts for homeschool weeks
  • Pirates Cove Children’s Theme Park
    • open June – August
    • 18th century pirate ship you can climb aboard
    • children’s paddle boats
    • Castle playground
    • rock climbing
    • admission fee for ages 1-9, adults are always free

 

Bloomington-Normal

While this is more “central” than northern Illinois, I wanted to include Bloomington-Normal because there are some fantastic places to visit here.  Maybe you’ll pass through the area on your way to or from northern IL, or maybe you will just want to take a day trip to check out these places.  Regardless, I couldn’t leave them off the list. 

  • Discovery Museum
    • three floors of hands on exhibits for toddlers through preteens
    • paint wall (just washes away when you are done!)
    • Ag area, water table, and more
    • admission for ages 7 and up, works together with membership of some other museums
  • Grady’s Family Fun Park
    • 18 hole mini golf, go karts, kiddie rides, batting cages, adult/big kid rides and more
    • price varies depending on activity, wristbands available
  • Pepsi Ice Center
    • hockey and ice skating classes, free skate
  • Miller Park Zoo
    • wide variety of animals including wolves, reindeer, Sumatran tiger, and river otters
  • Upper Limits Rock Climbing Facility
    • 20,000 feet of climbing space indoor and outdoor
    • 110 feet tall routes
    • Classes, parties, membership, and day passes available

 

Other activities and places to visit in northern Illinois

 

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