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Dressing Up Has Never Been So Fun! Little Adventures Princess Dress Review {& Giveaway!}

LittleAdventures-Featured

We received two princess dresses and some accessories for our review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. And thanks to Little Adventures for providing the awesome giveaway prize! 

My daughter, E, loves to dress up. My boys dressed up a little here and there – they loved to be superheroes or ninjas – but having a little girl is just a Whole New World (yes, we’ve watched Aladdin recently – why do you ask?). She likes to dress up as characters to coordinate with the movie she’s watching, to play with her friends when they’re over, or just for fun while she plays in her room.

The problem with the frequency of her dressing up is that the clothes get worn out pretty quickly. The seams come undone, the fabric rips – or she might get a stain on the fabric, which is a pain since the clothes don’t always hold up well in the washing machine.

I know I’m not alone in how I feel about dress-up clothes. In 2002, when two moms discovered the lack of clothing-quality dress-ups and princess costumes available for their children, they decided take action. Jenny Harrison, mother of ten, and Heather Granata, mother of five, began their own little adventure by sewing and selling their very own dress-ups at local craft fairs. They made them soft and machine washable! They engineered them for everyday, all-day adventure! The brand Little Adventures was born, and I wish I’d discovered them years ago!

I’m not kidding you when I tell you that these are – by far – the best quality princess dresses we’ve ever had. There are no rough edges and itchy internal seams or fabric. Everything is soft and so well finished. Seriously, it’s such high-quality work that I would think these dresses were out of our price range (spoiler alert: they’re totally reasonably priced – I’ll tell you more about that in a bit).

We requested the Snow White dress and the Cinderella Butterfly dress – and we also received the fullness slip (which is super soft, not scratchy netting like many other dresses have), the soft gold crown, and the Cinderella accessory set.

The attention to detail is just impeccable. The fabrics feel luxurious, but they’re also durable… and washable. This means that these are dresses girls can actually play in.

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LittleAdventures_Cinderella

These dresses make it easy for girls to feel like they’re transported into a fairy tale!

Here are some of the details of the Snow White dress:

SnowWhite-Front

SnowWhite-Sleeve

SnowWhite-Skirt-Sequins

SnowWhite-Skirt

SnowWhite-Spinning

And here are some photos of the Cinderella dress and accessories:

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Cinderella_Headband

Cinderella-Skirt

Cinderella-Skirt-2

Heart-Cinderella

You can easily see that every aspect of the dresses are well-crafted. And these deluxe dresses are just $39.99 each! There are standard versions of the dresses, too, which are also really great and just cost $29.99. That’s seriously not much more at all than dresses you’d find at big-box stores, and the quality of Little Adventures dresses is just above and beyond any other dresses we’ve had.

I’ve got GREAT news for you –  well, two pieces of great news, actually! First of all, for the next 30 days I’m getting to share a code for 15% off all purchases at LittleAdventures.com. Just enter the code lapromo-fn at checkout. Remember, this code is only good through April 20!

And secondly, I’m getting to host a giveaway for a $75 gift code to Little Adventures! If you don’t have girls, don’t worry – Little Adventures has great items for boys, too. Just enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIY Summer Reading Program with Free Printable

When I was a child I participated in my library’s summer reading program. I read 100 books one summer, earning a trophy (which I still have today – see below) and a $50 savings account at the local bank. I remember loving that particular summer, going to the library as often as possible and reading as late as my parents would let me each night.

My "100 Books" trophy from my childhood can be seen in the white shelf over on the left of this photo.

My “100 Books” trophy from my childhood can be seen in the white shelf in this photo.

Because of my fond memories – and our desire to continually instill a love of reading in our kids – we decided to go to our local library and check out their summer reading program. They have a lot of activities kids can participate in at various branches around town, and each week children can come in to pick up a reading prize. I really appreciate how great our libraries are, but the program wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Kids receive prizes just for coming in each week. So you don’t misunderstand – I think it’s great to have incentive to go to the library on a weekly basis, and our kids love going in and seeing what prize they’ll get that week. I wanted a program for the kids that was more similar to mine, where there are prizes & privileges available based upon how much they’re reading.

I considered several factors when setting up our program. Our boys are 7 & nearly 9, and are reading at different levels. J, our oldest, reads very quickly – but he also reads thicker books. C is reading thinner books that inherently take less time than those J reads.

To keep things fair, I decided to create a system in which 20 minutes of reading earns 1 book buck. The book bucks are a currency the kids can spend on the prizes Brian and I have chosen for them to pick from.

I made book bucks to print out, and labeled a baggie for each of my kids to keep their “money” in. Click here – or on the image below – to download a free PDF for printing your own book bucks!

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Genius Uses for Kids’ Pools

In the summer, pools are the name of the game – they’re a great way to beat the heat whether you’re hitting up a hotel, visiting your community dive spot, or are lucky enough to have one in your back yard.

The only pool we’ve ever owned is a kiddie pool – but guess what? They’re good for more than just a little cool fun. Check out these uses for a pool that are outside the box:

Check out Unexpected Ways to Use a Kid’s Paddling Pool This Summer

by Bird Bird’s Party at Mode

Give Your Child a SmartStart With Schwinn

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This post is sponsored by Lunchbox but all opinions are my own.

I can still remember – vividly – the day I first learned to ride my bike without training wheels. I must have ridden up and down our driveway 20 times! And two years ago I got to encounter that magical moment in our oldest son’s life. It took some time, but once he’d figured it out he was so proud.

Now our middle son, C, is 7, and he has been wanting to learn to ride his bike without training wheels for months. He’s nervous, though, and has been putting it off. We’ve been trying to think of everything we can do to make learning to ride a bike as easy of a process as possible – and that’s where the Schwinn SmartStart bikes come in. Here’s why I love SmartStart bikes for new riders:

  • 16” wheel size – classic learn to ride size.
  • Easier to learn to ride-better balance
  • Safer because less wobble
  • Light-weight for stability
  • The seat is shaped and sized to fit a child
  • When a SmartStart seat is raised to fit a growing child, the distance from the seat to the handle bars increases. This increases the reach distance and will allow the bike to grow with them
  • The grips are smaller for smaller hands
  • The geometry matches the pedal width to a child’s hip width
  • Like all Schwinn bikes, SmartStart bikes have a limited lifetime warranty for as long as you own the bike

We went to Toys R Us to pick up the bike:

ToysRUs

C-Bike-TRU

C was super excited to try out his new bike. We got the Schwinn Burnout 16 Inch bike and he thought the colors were, and I quote, “awesome!”

C-Bike_Standing

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Sofia the First Cookies

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I mentioned earlier this month that we’ve started something new in our house – we’re scheduling dates with each of our kids using this chart. We rotate months so that Brian and I each get one-on-one time with the kids, and we also get time together as a family doing a specific activity.

For January I had a date with J, Brian had a date with C, and E got to pick a family activity for us to all do together. She chose – very specifically, I might add – that we would all make Sofia the First cookies. We don’t own Sofia the First cookie cutters, so we had to get creative. I also wanted to keep things simple, because this has been a busy month for us and I just didn’t have the energy to do anything too time-intensive.

Right off the bat I knew we’d need to make these cookies purple. Sofia’s dress is purple, and E is all about purple right now. We found a great sugar cookie recipe on allrecipes.com and followed it pretty directly, only modifying it to add a bit of purple food coloring.

CookieBatter-Mixing-Sofia

Next, we had to figure out how to make these cookies look Sofia the First-ish. We don’t own princess-themed cookie cutters, but guess what kind of cookie cutters work perfectly for a Sofia theme? Easter cookie cutters! Our set included a rabbit face and profile (who doesn’t love Clover the rabbit on Sofia, right? You’ve got to include him! Blue Ribbon Bunny was a favorite episode of E’s for several weeks), a butterfly (these have been present in many Sofia episodes, specifically Princess Butterfly) and two different flowers (Sofia and friends spend lots of time in the garden – we mentioned Vivian’s enchanted garden at her new castle, seen in All the Sprite Moves and E agreed flowers were perfect to include.

E-SofiaCookies-CookieCutter

Sofia-Cookies-Baked-NoFrosting

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Family Fun Night with Denny’s and DreamWorks… + Giveaway!

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This partnered post is brought to you as part of my Denny’s Ambassadorship. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We love family nights. We typically have ours on a Friday or Saturday night, and ending the week spending quality time together is just the best. It’s a time to unwind and talk about our week, and it’s a great time to reconnect after a busy five days.

I’ve got a fun plan for our upcoming family night, and I thought I’d share it with y’all in case you’d like to do this, too. It’s simple, inexpensive, and fun for the whole family – can’t really beat that.

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Get Summer Camp-Ready with Mabel’s Labels

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Note: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Mabel’s Labels. I received a voucher to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

MabelsLabelsLogo

Summer’s so close we can taste it – just a few days left this week and the kids are free, ready for a summer of fun. Our two boys will be attending a day camp where they’ll get to do themed activities and go on a field trip each and every week.

With all the different activities the boys will be doing, we’ll need to send various items with them – sunscreen, different shoes to change into, a swimsuit, a beach towel, and more. The point is, of course, that there are all sorts of small-ish items they’ll be taking with them that could easily be lost.

Mabel’s Labels provides the perfect must-have summer camp accessory by way of its limited-edition camp label pack, filled with all the labels you’ll need to keep your kids’ items clearly marked – and totally up your chances of getting things back at the end of the day or week.

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Gymboree Partners with Kiwi Crate & KaBOOM! to Make Sure All Kids Get Active Play!

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Note: I received a promotional item to facilitate this post. All opinions are honest and my own. 

With summer right around the corner I wanted to get some new clothes for the kids, so my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I headed off to Gymboree. I noticed a display of bright & cheery play clothes from Gymboree’s new Hop N’ Roll line, and found a ton of great items for E, our two-year-old. You can check out all the Hop N’ Roll clothes online, or find them in your local Gymboree.

HopNRollSign

When we went to check out, I saw a sign promoting Gymboree’s partnership with KaBOOM!, with a focus on giving kids the playspaces they need. I’m a firm believer that kids need play time for many different reasons developmentally and socially, so I absolutely love this!

KaboomSign

 

All the way through May 31, Gymboree will be supporting KaBOOM! with a series of programs and activities – including donating a percentage of proceeds from the Hop N’ Roll line and creating an exclusive arts & crafts box with Kiwi Crate – with the goal of raising enough money to build a place to play for 10,000 deserving kids in 2015. We tried out this special edition mini Kiwi Crate, and you’ll just have to see what craft we got to do, and how much fun the kids had:

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Take Your Kids on a Fun Journey into History with Jurassic Quest

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Note: We received tickets to this event to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and our own.

When the weekend arrives, it’s easy to fall into a rut with your activities – but every now and then it’s nice to change things up! If you’re looking for something unique and fun to do with your kids, keep an eye out for when Jurassic Quest will be heading your way. We recently had the opportunity to attend, and it was a great departure from our typical weekend activities! We went with some friends and it was a great outing for us all.

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Oriental Trading Makes Class Parties Easy & Fun!

Note: We received items from Oriental Trading to facilitate our post. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

We love Oriental Trading. It’s my go-to for party favors and decor when the kids’ birthdays roll around, but it’s also great for class parties, too. I love how affordable their items are, which makes it easy to purchase in bulk for 22 kids in a class.

This year I’m room mom for both my boys’ classes, and coordinating their Christmas parties was a part of my duties. I sent out notes to all the parents for contributing snacks and drinks, but all I had to do to cover the crafts, plates, and napkins was make a quick visit to OrientalTrading.com. The hardest part was deciding between all the craft options – they have a ton! 

I ended up choosing a snowman craft and a button wreath craft. The kids loved it, and I heard parents complimenting them, too.

OrientalTrading_Ornaments

One tip: a lot of crafts require glue, which can be messy and take time to dry. I went to the local craft store and purchased a roll of glue dots, which made it really quick and easy to complete the projects. Aren’t they so cute? We have ours hanging on our tree!

For the plates and napkins, I went classic with Santa & Rudolph; can’t really go wrong with that! They made for a cheery & festive atmosphere at the party.

OrientalTrading_PlatesNapkins

No matter what kind of party you’re planning for, Oriental Trading provides a wide variety of options to choose from. It makes purchasing party supplies an affordable and easy experience! For the next class parties I’ll be making a visit to Oriental Trading again, for sure.

Strider Bikes are the Perfect First Bike for Your Little One!

Note: We received a Strider bike to facilitate this review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post; all opinions are honest and are our own.

We have a 5- and 7-year-old that love riding their bikes, and they have a little sister who’s two and thinks she needs to do everything her big brothers do. Because of this, Brian and I have been thinking about getting E her own first bike for quite a while now.

With both of the boys, they had a hand-me-down little bike with training wheels, but Brian and I have wanted – for years, literally – to get a balance bike for the kids to try. With E being at the age she is, a Strider balance bike is the perfect fit.

But even though the bike will be for E, we plan to let our five-year-old use it too so he can gain a sense of balance and confidence to learn to ride his other bike without training wheels. That’s right – our five year old can use the bike that we’re giving to our two year old.

Since we’re planning to surprise E with her Strider bike for Christmas (it is a pretty perfect holiday gift idea… what child wouldn’t want to wake up to a great bike on Christmas morning?) I had our 7-year-old help me with photos. You can see that he’s at a quite comfortable height even for how tall he is, and this is with the shorter of the two provided seat bars:

Strider-Bike-7-year-old

 

And although J probably wouldn’t go with pink, E will be thrilled with the vibrant pop of color – Striders are available in seven different colors, though, so you can find one perfect for your child. Here are a few other things we love about Strider bikes:

Strider-Bike-Footrest

Unique, frame-integrated footrests are properly positioned directly below the saddle for natural bike balance. This position also fosters the advanced ability to stand while gliding.

Strider-Bike-Wheel

EVA polymer (industrial foam) tires are super light and durable yet offer a smooth ride. Best of all, they never need air and will never go flat.

 

Strider-Bike-AdjustableSeat

As I mentioned before, the seat height is incredibly easy to adjust. The durable, all-weather mini-saddle is designed specifically for beginning riders and their tiny hips. The Sport model, which we received, also includes a padded XL saddle and long seatpost to fit kids over 3 years and allows seat height adjustments up to 48cm (19”). The bike is high quality, which makes me feel good since I know it will get a lot of wear over the years.

I love the story behind Strider bikes, too. Ryan McFarland created the first Strider bike after seeing his young son struggle with propelling the weight of a standard bike. I have a lot of respect for products created by parents for kids, because parents understand best what kids really need.

We can’t wait to give E her Strider bike, and if you’d love to give your little one a first bike, head over to check out the options here. Strider also offers larger bikes for older kids, and even a bike for teens and adults learning to ride (ideal for special needs riders, as well).

 

 

 

Skylanders Trap Team Game Review: A Whole New Level of Fun!

Note: We received a copy of the Skylanders Trap Team game to review. We were not compensated monetarily and all opinions in this post are honest and our own.

TrapTeamBox-Kids

What you see in the photo above is the faces of two very excited little boys.

I have been hearing about Trap Team for months, so I was really thrilled when I got the chance to review the game. I didn’t tell them it was coming, and just surprised them when it arrived. I heard “best mom ever!” many times that day after school, especially since they got to play it on a school night.

For those of you not familiar with Skylanders in general (I’m sure there are maybe 3 of you), it includes a portal that hooks up to the system and allows kids to bring characters into the game by placing figurines on the portal.

The Trap Team game takes the fun even further by introducing traps, which allow kids to “trap” bad guys and play with them later in the game as good guys.

Starter Pack we received  retails for $74.99 and includes:

• Traptanium Portal™ – Place the Skylanders on the NEW Traptanium Portal ™ and bring the Skylanders to life
• Trap Master Skylanders – Trap Master Skylanders are the ultimate trappers with powerful Traptanium™ weapons
• All New Skylanders – The Skylanders each have their own unique abilities and powers
• Traps – Defeat and capture villains in the Traps and then use the villains on the side of good
• Character Collector Poster – Build the ultimate Trap Team – Over 60 Skylanders to collect and 40+ villains to capture
• Sticker Sheets with Secret Codes – Enjoy stickers of your favorite Skylanders. Place the names and codes on the Character Collect Poster to track your collection. The secret codes can be used in the Skylanders Lost Islands ™and Skylanders Collection Vault ™Apps.
• Trading Cards – Learn more about each Skylander’s powers and abilities

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The Trap Team figures are on the left, the portal is the large round center item, and the traps are the blue and green pieces on the right.

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Here’s the game packaging – our five year old actually hugged the case!

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The Trap Team poster – I can’t tell you how much time our kids spent talking about all of the characters on this!

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Tray to house your traps. The boys, of course, decided we need to fill the tray entirely.

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This portal glows when plugged in, and even has a speaker to hear the trapped characters talking!

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As you can see in the photo above, the characters sit on the portal; if you notice the little hexagonal hole in the portal, that’s where you put your trap when you’re playing with that.

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TrapTeam_OnScreen

The boys had so much fun playing with this, and our two-year-old even enjoyed sitting and watching!

We’re really pleased with this game. The boys have hours of fun on it, and there’s a lot of room for expansion with the various characters and traps. The game is available on tons of platforms, so you should be able to find it for one you own – it’s available for the XBOX 360, XBOX ONE, PS3, PS4, WiiU, 2DS and 3DS, and the Kindle Fire, too. The starter pack, like I mentioned above, retails for around $70-$75 depending on which platform you purchase it for. That’s a little pricier than a standard Wii U game, but it comes with all the extras of the portal, characters, traps, and poster, so I feel like it’s a good value for your money.

I know our boys will each be getting a Skylanders character and trap in their stockings this year (character pricing starts at about $9.99, and traps are typically just $5.99), and if you’re looking for a great gift to put under the tree, you won’t go wrong with Skylanders Trap Team. If our kids’ reactions are any indication, you’ll be parent of the year when they open it up!