This was an amazing year for our bloggers, who wrote a mix of thought-provoking, poignant, helpful, humorous, and just-plain-fun posts.
Looking back, we’ve chosen to highlight each blogger’s most popular posts, along with their own personal favorites (the ones they loved writing). Read and re-read the posts (alphabetized according to blog names) below and share which post from this list is your favorite.
Back in April, I blogged about the deliciously funny and clever “Book People Unite” video from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). The video showcased various literary characters (Pinocchio, Curious George, Humpty Dumpty) along with media and music celebrities (Jack Black, Regina Spektor, LeVar Burton).
Reading Is Fundamental sent me the follow-up video below, an equally fun behind-the-scenes look at the making of the original. Several cast members are interviewed, including Raggedy Andrew and a very funny Big Bad Wolf, and there are snapshots of how the magical elements came together.
Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.
This year, consider an unconventional strategy for holiday gift giving. No, this isn’t an altruistic piece about charity and volunteering—although both are wonderful expressions of the holiday spirit—since reality is reality, and most of us use the holidays to give fun gifts to our kids. Instead of buying budget-busting individual gifts that end up gathering dust by Valentine’s Day, invest in inexpensive presents that will turn your home into the “go to” place for your kids’ friends. Parents’ time with young kids goes by fast, and once they become teenagers, it’s even harder to corral them, see them grow, and eavesdrop on their lives. So, starting in your kids’ pre-teen years, turn your home into a kid magnet.
When I was growing up, my best friend Steve’s dad bought a pool table for himself and his adult friends, but he let us use it as long as he was supervising or within earshot. Steve’s house became “the” house for our friends, and his dad had a front row seat as we turned into little pool sharks. My parents missed seeing me in all of my adolescent bluster on those billiards nights; my wife and I didn’t want that to happen to us.
So, when we stumbled on what seemed like the perfect holiday gift for our tweens at a garage sale years ago, we took a $55 chance; if it wasn’t a hit, we would resell it. But it turned out to be the find of the decade: an honest-to-goodness adult-sized poker table, with a felt-covered center and felt-lined cup holders on each of the six sides, priced at an amazing $25. And, for $5 each, we also bought the six retro orange vinyl chairs that sat around the table. Yes, the table and chairs had seen better days, but none of the cosmetic damage was beyond the cure of a little glue, tape, and paint. By the time my wife (the handy one in the family) finished the tune-up, the set was pretty cool looking, and it fit in with what was already in the basement: the indoor mini-basketball hoop (purchased for $12 at a previous garage sale), the shelves full of board games (including “Twister,” the ultimate game for the awkward tween years), the sports and national parks posters, and the makeshift ping pong table.
We never imagined the impact that poker table would have on our parenting experience. Our basement became the epicenter for our kids’ middle school and high school friends for the next 10 years, until our youngest left for college. Penny-ante poker, blackjack, Texas-hold’em, and “War” alternated at our table. There were Coke cans in the cup holders, chips (poker and potato) scattered across the table, and cards tossed about in celebration or disgust during wonderful weekend nights. Even today, with our kids in college and graduate school, they gather with their old friends over vacations to play poker in our basement! We never figured out what it was about a real poker table—versus a folding, kitchen, or ping pong table—that could create such a profound and prolonged attraction in our basement. But it was a joy to be “the” house that everyone wanted to hang out in, the place where we could eavesdrop on our kids’ very own “World Series of Poker” games, cater the snacks, and watch our kids grow up rather than watching them gravitate to their friends’ houses where the cool stuff was.
Should you buy the biggest TV on the block or the best video game system to draw kids’ attention? This is a very personal, and philosophical, decision. But for my money, the best activities are unplugged and get kids talking and laughing loudly enough that you can eavesdrop from the top of the basement stairs. Only you know your kids well enough to pick the perfect gifts for them and their friends, but pick ones that are age-appropriate. Here’s a short garage sale shopping list, in case you can’t find a poker table, for transforming your house into “the” house: foosball table, air hockey table, pinball machine, board games (trivia, strategy, wordplay, charades), electric train set, mini car racing track, construction toy sets, camping tent, magic set, homemade stage (for music, theater, puppet, magic, and fashion shows), wardrobe cabinet (stocked with cool old clothes, hats, and costume jewelry from your closet or the thrift shop), makeup table, doll house, and play kitchen. You may not stumble on the “find of the decade” on your first try, but with all the money saved by avoiding toy stores, you’ll be able to afford shopping garage sales again next year.
Happy holidays, and happy eavesdropping!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbartis Professor andVice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recentNo Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York TimesMotherlodeblog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: Beautiful living room decorated for Christmas via Shutterstock.
If you love Etsy.com and you live in the New York area, stop by the Etsy Holiday Shop in SoHo. Your favorite online marketplace has become a pop-up store featuring a well-curated and wide selection of artisanal and vintage gifts: art, clothes, jewelry, home decor, and paper goods.
You’ll discover thoughtfully displayed items, meet shop owners giving demonstrations of their handmade products, and also learn what unique gifts certain tastemakers (like Martha Stewart and teen blogger Tavi Gevinson) love. You can also RSVP to free daily events and workshops with limited seating.
Parents.com attended a press preview this morning and couldn’t help falling in love with a variety of baby and kids items: tongue-in-cheek onesies from The Wishing Elephant, Gnome baby dolls from Warm Sugar, fox and bear jumpers from Wild Things Dresses, canvas teepees from House Inhabit, paper mobiles from Gosh & Golly, face pillows from Vintage Jane, and colorful ties and bow ties from Handmade By Emy. (We even met Emy and learned how she got started making matching tie and and bow tie sets for adults and kids.)
The store lasts for 10 days only, running from Thursday, November 29 through Saturday, December 8. Hours are 10 am – 10 pm. Even if you’re not in the New York area, visit Etsy.com/HolidayShop to see a list of featured of shops and items to inspire your holiday shopping. (And even if you don’t know what to choose, Etsy gift cards are always available!)
Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, the holiday shopping season is still upon us.
For the past year, Parents.com has partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you resources on managing your family budget. To help you figure out how much you should spend, how much you can save, and how to utilize your credit score, LearnVest.com brings you these four helpful tools and calculators.
What to Buy When – a month-by-month tool that shows you the best items to buy (at a discount!) each month
The Purchase Appraiser – a rating tool that helps you determine whether purchases you have made (or are consideration) are worth the money
Encourage your child’s giving spirit for #GivingTuesday, “a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season.” The first-time campaign launches today (as an antidote to Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and hopes to spread a “great tradition of generosity.”
Visit GivingTuesday.org to learn more about the campaign and read about various non-profit organizations. You can also consider the child- and family-focused foundations below that various editors have mentioned before on Goodyblog.
Here’s a brief description of the special: The Cat in the Hat, Nick, and Sally are on a journey around the world to help a lost reindeer find his way home to Freezeyourknees Snowland in time for Christmas. On the way, the Thingamajigger breaks down, and they depend on a variety of animals — from African bush elephants to bottlenose dolphins to red crabs — and their remarkable abilities to help them.