Monday, December 3rd, 2012
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. Rotbart is Professor and Vice 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 recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: Beautiful living room decorated for Christmas via Shutterstock.
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Friday, November 16th, 2012
Meet Esio! This countertop drink system serves hot and cold drinks with the push of a button. Its innovative E-Paks hold up to 14 servings of your favorite drink, from Maxwell House coffee to cool Crystal Light, in a tiny pack that’s easy to store. And now you can win it! To kick off the holiday season, we’re giving away one Esio and a bundle of E-Paks to a lucky reader. Enter now by leaving a comment below. We’ll pick a winner in a random drawing. For the full rules, click here. Goody luck!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., 21 years and older. Begins: 9:00 a.m. E.T. on November 16, 2012. Ends: 9:00 a.m. E.T. on November 26, 2012. Subject to Official Rules at www.goodyblog.com. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Meredith Corporation.
UPDATE: The contest is now closed.
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Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
If you’re stumped about what to get your loved ones for the holidays, fear not! We’re bringing you a special seasonal treat: Free gifts! To help spread cheer, we’re giving away a present every day this month from this year’s Parents Gift Guide! There’s sure to be a prize perfect for everyone on your list–even the babysitter. Click here to enter the sweepstakes and to see what awesome gifts you can score. Be sure to enter the sweepstakes each day for a new chance to win. Goody luck!
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Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
As if your kids didn’t already love LEGOs, the brand took the classic toy up another coolness level this year with superhero-inspired bricks. Featuring the most famous good and bad guys, the line includes mini figures, large buildable action figures (like Captain America, pictured here), and even whole play sets devoted to the Marvel/DC universe. Now your child can assemble his or her hero before saving the world! Click here to check out the toys.
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Thursday, October 11th, 2012
It’s that time of year again! You know, when Halloween hasn’t happened yet, but you’re already spotting Christmas stuff in stores. To help swing you into the holiday spirit a few months early, we’re giving away a plaything a day from our Best Toys of 2012 guide all month long! That’s right! You’ve got a chance to win a great gift every day to put under your tree! Click here to enter the sweepstakes and see what you can score today, tomorrow, or even next week. Goody luck!
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Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Three of the hottest gifts for the holidays are the Kindle Fire, iPhone 4S, and the iPad 2. These big-ticket items may be a little too pricey for your gift-giving budget for friends this season (If not, friend me on Facebook. *wink, wink*), but you can still buy an awesome accessory for these devices. If your sweetie, BFF, or Aunt Marge already owns (or is about to own) one, consider giving a cool case to protect it.
For the iPhone 4S:
Two cases stood out for different reasons. First, the Juice Pack Air from Mophie serves as both a protective case and as a battery charger. This is great for people who are always on the go–and it helps with that pesky little battery-life problem the 4S seems to have. Mophie is also releasing a RED version of the case, which gives a portion of the proceeds to the fight against AIDS.
The other one is the CandyShell Flip from Speck. It solves one of the most annoying things about cases: You have to remove a lot of them to be able to dock your iPhone. Not an easy task once or twice a day. But the Flip’s bottom half bends back (without coming off) for easy docking. Genius.
For the iPad 2:
Speck also has a stellar selection of iPad 2 cases at different price points. But our hands-down favorite is Speck’s innovative case for kids. The iGuy makes it easy for kids to hold and carry the device–and harder for them to drop and break it. Plus, it’s just adorable-looking.
For the Kindle Fire:
G-Form wins the “Most Durable” award for its Kindle Fire case (It also has sleeves for the iPad 2). It’s water-resistant, impact-absorbing, and great for that klutzy friend on your list.
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Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Yesterday, we shared some more of our favorite video games for kids, but today, we’re highlighting our picks for the adults on your holiday-shopping list. That’s right! Grown-ups can get some use out of their children’s video-game systems, too. Check out our top three for 2011.
For Your Stress-Out Friend: He or she can mellow out with Deepak Chopra’s Leela–yes, that Deepak! ($40 for Wii or Xbox 360).
For Your Fitness-Loving / Fitness-Phobic Friend: Get your groove on and take the pounds off with Zumba Fitness 2. ($30 for the Wii)
For the Life of the Party: Whether your friend (or you) likes the show or just to show off, Karaoke Revolution Glee: Volume 3 will rock any holiday party. ($40+ for Xbox 360 or Wii)
For an Awesome Splurge: Exercise equipment that works with your Wii? Yes, please! Make work-outs more fun with Cyberbike Magnetic Edition. ($200)
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Monday, December 19th, 2011
We featured our picks for the top 15 video games of the year in our December issue. Check them out by clicking here. But there are more great titles than we had space for. If you’re still looking for a great game, here are 15 more of our favorites for 2011.
Cool New Controller: uDraw Game Tablet with uDraw Studio: Instant Artist
Most Realistic (and Awesome) Game Play: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Perfect for Preschoolers: Team Umizoomi
Better Than the Movie: Puss in Boots
Fun for Families (with Little Kids): Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do
Fun for Families (with Big Kids): Twister Mania
Great Get-Active Game: Kinect Sports Season 2
Childhood Flashback Favorite: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
Best Crossover: Moshi Monsters
Multiplayer Pick: Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
Most Innovative: Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure
Smart Selection: Fortune Street
Visually Stunning Game: Child of Eden
Terrific for Tweens (Girls): Victorious: Time to Shine
Terrific for Tweens (Boys): Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion
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