College Poor No More: Book of the Week

College. The simple word can strike fear in the hearts of parents everywhere when they consider the costs associated with a four-year degree. Whether you help your kids pay for college or not if they decide to attend college there are a lot of options they have to help cut costs and save more. That’s why I’m excited to share this week’s book of the week, College Poor No More. Author Michelle Perry Higgins shares sound advice for students who are considering college. It’s geared towards your students-not you, which is refreshing.

Even better? The proceeds from the book give back! 100% of the profits from this book will go to providing scholarships for deserving students.

College Poor No More

college poor no more

College Poor No More: 100 $avings Tips for College Students

In College Poor No More! Michelle Perry Higgins offers 100 ways to avoid money shortages that plague most college students, and teaches them how to get the most out of the dollars they have.

Slated for release on May 1, 2015 by New Year Publishing, the book is aimed for high school graduates, college students and a perfect gift from the parents and grandparents that love them.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon.

Book Giveaway

As a newsletter subscriber you can enter to win our book of the week each week and get tips and advice that are exclusive to our newsletter. Sign up for our email list and you’ll get info on how to enter to win.

About Michelle Perry Higgins

Michelle Perry Higgins

Michelle Perry Higgins is an award-winning financial planner, mother of two, and author of the Amazon best-selling books: The Everything Binder: Financial, Estate, and Personal Affairs Organizer and Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms: 7 Steps to a Balanced Life. Michelle is on the Wall Street Journal Expert Panel and is a much-in-demand contributor to such esteemed media outlets as CNBC, CBS, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, and the Los Angeles Times amongst others. Michelle serves on the Saint Mary’s College Women’s Leadership Council as it is her passion to give back by mentoring young women and helping to raise scholarship funds.

Happy reading!

Kelly

YouTube Kids App Review

YouTube is the video sharing website on the world wide web. It’s such a huge network that when you search Google for any given topic you’re sure to find videos in the results. The great thing about YouTube is that anyone can upload content to the platform. The bad thing about YouTube when it comes to kids is that anyone can upload content to YouTube.

Parents are often left trying to sort a way to help their kids watch videos on YouTube whether it’s those crazy popular unboxing videos or Minecraft tutorials without their kids stumbling on content that’s full of adult content or worse gratuitous cursing.

Finally, finally! Google has launched a new app for kids over 5 called YouTube Kids. The app is available now and it’s free on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

YouTube Kids Review

YouTube Kids App

We downloaded the app today and spent some time looking through the features and videos. Parents, this is exactly what you’ve been looking for-a video player that only features kid-friendly YouTube channels. Kids, you’ll like it, too-I promise.

Kid-Friendly Menu

YouTube for Kids Homepage

It has a menu that includes Shows, Music, Learning, and Explore. Recommended channels are under each header and include some your kids probably already watch like the LEGO channel, Stampylongnose, PBS Kids, TED Ed, storybots, and shows like Sesame Street and Peppa Pig.

Kid-Friendly Graphics and Audio

It features a fun intro graphic when you open the app, music that plays while the app is open, and fun noises when you scroll or switch channels.

Search

You’ll also find a search magnifying glass where you can search for content they already love.

Our Initial Thoughts

While I was skeptical that my 9 and 10-year-old would like the interface they surprised me by liking it. More so they like that I don’t have to be over their shoulders while they watch a new channel to make sure they aren’t hearing an f bomb every two seconds. I feel comfortable with hem exploring in the next room without worrying about them stumbling on content that is adult. I’m all for adult content-just not for young kids.

In addition to the easy to use interface there is an area for grownups only that allows you to turn on and off the sound effects, search, and even set up a timer. Unfortunately, this is easily accessed with a passcode on the screen. I’m hoping in future updates they will allow parents to sign in and choose a permanent passcode so that setting a timer and other settings can’t be adjusted by small people.

grownups area YouTube Kids app

I’ll be back to update this post next week with further thoughts.

Centsible Rating

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You can read the official statement here and click over to Google Play or the App Store to get the app now. For more apps I’ve shared in our tech section.

Kelly

All images are from the YouTube Kids app.

Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World Review

The Art of Animation Resort (also known as AoA) in Walt Disney World is a unique property at Disney. I got to see a sneak peek of the hotel in 2012 prior to its’ opening and was amazed I always am at Disney World by the level of detail. You can read my thoughts on that sneak peek here.Art of Animation

When it came time to book our next trip to Disney World I decided to look at prices on a whim. Walt Disney World often has sales on their rooms and a little investigating told me we could save big bucks by booking our vacation for January or February instead of waiting until Spring or Summer. Sure it would mean taking the kids out of school, but saving money and getting out of the cold weather, too? Sign me up!

Tip: Look for sales and special offers from Disney World here. If you sign up with a Disney travel agent you will often get these deals emailed directly to you. Full rate for Art of Animation varies but can be as little as $249 and as much as $458 plus associated taxes and fees. 

We opted to book at Art of Animation because I remembered how great the theming was from my sneak peek. It was also the most affordable option for our family of 6. Most Walt Disney World rooms hold 4 or 5 people, so finding a single room that holds 6 AND has two bathrooms to boot made this a no brainer.

If you’re not familiar Walt Disney World offers several different levels of resorts. The lowest cost resorts considered ‘value’ resorts are the cheapest, but also the furthest from the parks. Some of the older value resorts are also a little dated and cramped, but if you only need a place to rest your head and don’t mind traveling via the bus system at Disney World it’s not a bad deal. The theming of those resorts is fun and appeals to kids. Value resorts offer tons of activities for kids and families, affordable lodging, and cheaper meals with a cafeteria style restaurant.

The Art of Animation is a value resort. However, it is the newest and therefore the most well-kept resort of all the value hotels. The rooms are more expensive than the traditional value resort because they allow for 6 total guests to sleep in the room.

We stayed in a Finding Nemo suite, but you can also book a room in the Little Mermaid area, Lion King area, or Cars suites.

Art of Animation Resort Review

What we loved about Art of Animation

There’s a LOT to love about AoA.

Price

Saving hundreds of dollars is pretty exciting stuff in my house. This is the only resort that offers low value pricing with room enough for our family of 6. The other options are villas which are about 3 times as expensive.

Theming

We all loved the theming of the whole resort. From the landscaping that looked like underwater plants, the big blue pool, and the sketches in the front desk area we loved it all. The attention to detail always astounds me. The giant seagulls on the roof of our building even do a chorus of “Mine. Mine. Mine.”

Two bathrooms

Anyone traveling with kids knows one bathroom never seems like enough, and with 6 people we definitely needed two! We loved that the kids had their own bathroom space and we had ours (attached to the bedroom) so that we didn’t have to share or clean up after them.

Kitchenette

Unique to the Art of Animation there is a kitchenette area in the room. This was an awesome way for us to save big money on meals. The kitchen area is a small counter with a sink, shelves above for storage, a microwave, and a mini fridge below for storing drinks and food. We were able to make breakfast nearly every morning, pack sandwiches for lunch, and occasionally nosh on snacks in the room. You can take food into the park, so packing a PB&J and then saving our money for a dessert made the trip half as expensive for food costs. I’ll share tips on packing and purchasing food for Disney in another post soon.

Layout of rooms

The setup of the rooms can be seen at Disney’s Art of Animation page. Essentially it’s two living areas connected, a bathroom, and a bedroom with an attached bath.

When you come in the room to a living space that has two areas. One is the dining table/bed (SO COOL!), and the other is the kitchentte, sofabed, dresser and TV. This made two distinct areas for sleeping and activities which was just enough space for our family of 6 with kids ages 17, 12, 10, and 9. A family with younger kids would probably find it even more spacious. The bathroom for the kids was just off the dining area, and the sink was separate from the shower/tub and toilet. Off to the right there was a single bedroom with a queen sized bed, dresser, tv, hanging clothes area, and an attached bathroom with a shower. We loved that we had our own separate space with a door that closed (and locked!) as well as a separate shower.

The Big Blue Pool

What’s not to love about the biggest pool at Walt Disney World?! Not only does it offer a splash area for young kids, but it stays a somewhat consistent depth so most kids are comfortable and safe. As with all Disney resorts there are multiple lifeguards on duty at all times, life vests for swimming available free of charge, and pool games in the afternoon. The pool is also heated making it comfortable no matter how chilly it gets outside. Additionally, the kids loved the music! They pipe in music under the water so when you go under you can hear Nemo music! there are plenty of lounge chairs, tables, umbrellas, and a bar and snack area inside the pool area.

Cast Members!

I think this is pretty universal at all of Disney, but the cast members we talked to and met were all amazing! They all went out of their way to greet us, help with questions, and just be a smiling face as we passed by. At one point I walked by two people cleaning tables and noticed they were making Mickey art on the tables after they were clean! It’s that attention to detail and fun that everyone seems to have with their jobs that make Disney such a special place to be.

What we didn’t love about Art of Animation

Before you think it was all perfection, there were some downsides for us.

Bus System

We don’t mind the buses in general, but staying at a value resort means everywhere you go you have to catch a bus. That’s all well and good when there are many buses running, but you may find yourself standing up for the bus ride home at the end of a long day for 15 minutes or more. You may also find that you have to wait for the next bus when traveling at an odd time of day which adds an additional 20-30 minutes to your travel time. While every bus driver was attentive and enjoyable and the other passengers were all great, we just hate wasting time on the bus. To be fair we have stayed at Deluxe resorts previously where you can monorail or walk or boat into a park with ease, so we’re a bit spoiled. The tradeoff of course involves cost, so you have weigh if that will matter to you. Also of note this is the only value resort that offers a direct bus line with no other stops.

Tip: If you do stay at a value resort pad your departure times heavily so you arrive in plenty of time. It’s about a 20 minute drive to Magic Kindgom from AoA not including wait time and bus loading time which can take a while between people with strollers that need to be folded up and guests on scooters and in wheelchairs.  (During busier times guests are often told to take their kids out of strollers and fold them up before boarding, so if you’re traveling with young kids be prepared.)

Check out this travel calculator for info on how long it will take to travel once you board the bus.

Cafeteria dining:

I know some people love having all kinds of options and cheaper choices, but I found the cafeteria to be extraordinarily loud during busy times. My advice? Check out the menu ahead of time and have one person order for everyone. Also try to eat at off hours to avoid crowds, noise, and long lines at the register. The cost may seem cheap compared to some restaurants at the parks, but when my son wanted a hamburger and the only option was $12 I said no and pointed him towards pizza instead. Even being conscious of the cost and not purchasing drinks we could easily shell out $75 for the 6 of us. After one experience there for a meal we avoided it for most of the rest of our trip

Tip: If you need a quick meal to serve everyone consider getting a whole pizza from the cafeteria and taking it back to your room instead. The bar at the pool also has a case with some food, and you can grab items like bagels or peanut butter at the resort gift shop.

Amenities at the Art of Animation:

Many of the features available at AoA are also available other resorts. These are noted with an *.

  • Magical Express: Complimentary transportation from Orlando airport to your resort and baggage delivery. You should receive tags for luggage before you go, and your bags will magically arrive at your hotel several hours after you arrive. (be sure to pack essentials in a carry on).*
  • Free parking: If you drive a car or rent one you can park for free as a guest of the hotel.*
  • Arcade area*
  • On site dining options: Cafeteria (all value resorts), in room pizza delivery*, and items available in gift shop.*
  • Gift shop on site with souvenirs, clothing items, first aid and toiletry items, and more.*
  • Resort recreation includes movies under the stars*, pool party each day*, walking/jogging trail*, and playground.
  • Pools throughout resort.*
  • Free WiFi is available in room and in the main building. Our phones (AT&T) did not get service inside the buildings. You’ll also find free WiFi in the parks.*
  • Online checking.* I highly recommend checking in online, it saves time when you get to the resort.
  • Airline check in service.* Your boarding passes and Magical Express return trip info and time will be delivered to your door the day of (or before) departure. You can check in and hand over your bags for delivery to the airport. It’s a great option that means you don’t have to wrangle all your bags until you arrive home.
  • Laundry area or dry cleaning*: At AoA the laundry area is conveniently in the pool area, so while your kids go for a swim you can toss in the laundry. Dry cleaning is also available with bags in your room.
  • Merchandise Pickup and Delivery*: Disney makes it easy to get your purchases from the park to your room without lugging them around. They are shipped to your resort where you can pick them up later in the day (or the following day depending on when you purchase them).

You can check out more about Disney’s Art of Animation resort on their website. If you are a first-time visitor I highly recommend working with a Disney travel agent. There is no fee involved, and you’ll have someone to go to with all your questions about things as varied as Fast Passes, dining reservations, or where to find the best ice cream in Magic Kingdom (skip it and get Dole Whip!).

Centsible Rating based on ¢¢¢¢¢.

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Kelly

11 Tips for Teaching Kids About Money from Discover {sponsored}

Sponsored post disclosure
Teaching kids to be responsible with money and teaching them how to be fiscally responsible is a huge challenge. From the moment they are able to ask for things there are opportunities to teach kids about how to manage their money. It doesn’t matter if they’re 3 or 13 there’s always more to discuss.

As a mom of four I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve. Below you’ll find 11 tips to help you teach your kids about money.

11 Tips for Teaching Kids About Money

11 tips to teach kids about money

  1. Set family goals. Setting family goals will help you work together as a team to spend less, save more, and achieve family goals. Younger kids may have small suggestions like saving up to go to the movies while older kids may want family goals to be larger like saving for a week long vacation.
  1. Start a family piggy bank. From a young age kids love to find money, count it, and save it. Create a family piggy bank to save for something everyone wants like a swing set for the backyard or a trip somewhere special. We’ve saved for a number of family goals this way and even if the savings don’t cover the full cost it certainly helps!
  1. Teach kids how to find the best prices. Savings can be significant when you hunt down the best price. Help kids shop for the best price by starting at the grocery store. When our kids were preschoolers I gave them a budget for items like a snack food or a box of cereal. Then we could move on to back to school shopping or clothes shopping. They’ve learned to research and hunt for better deals on whatever they want to buy.
  1. Teach the difference between cash, credit, and checks. Since we use credit more than cash now the differences may not be as obvious to kids. It’s important for them to understand the benefits and drawbacks of all three.
  1. Show them your pay stubs. For older kids it’s important to share the nuts and bolts of managing money. While it may be unusual to show your kids your pay stubs it can be an important tool for teaching kids. Then they understand how much of your paycheck goes to some guy called FICA.
  1. Share the family budget. Likewise sharing the full family budget can be incredibly eye opening for kids. $1,000 may seem like a lot of money until they realize that you spend that much on your mortgage each month.
  1. Start a bank account for tweens and teens. Tweens and teens should have a bank account and an attached savings account to help them manage their own money. Check with your local bank and find out what options they offer.
  1. Share the magic of interest. The magic of interest can be a big motivator to save from a young age. Recognizing that money can grow can be a game changer for kids.
  1. Have kids track stocks. While it may not be financially sensible to actually purchase stocks, allowing kids to follow a stock and track its’ growth can be a great way to teach them about the stock market and investments.
  1. Talk college costs with older kids. College costs are rising and most families can’t keep pace with their college savings. It’s important to talk to your kids as they get older about what you can and can’t cover, options they may have, and their own thoughts on their education. There are many options and ways to cut costs, but the key is to be clear about what costs you can and can’t cover.
  1. Help your school teach fiscal fitness. If your school doesn’t currently have a financial curriculum in place share the Discover Pathway to Success program with them. You can help your school apply for a grant.

Resources to learn more:

Discover’s Pathway to Financial Success Program has great resources to help guide your discussion, teach kids, and a curriculum for schools, too. You’ll find videos on how to talk to your kids about money, resources for parents on being a good financial role model, games for kids to play, and suggestions for teachers and schools.

What tips do you have for talking to your kids about money?

Kelly

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Discover as part of the Discover Preferred Network.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Book of the Week

Do you love to read as much as I do? Starting now (as in today!) I’ll be sharing a new book each week. I often have requests from authors and their publishing houses to share and review books. If I said ‘yes’ to them all I’d be drowning in books! Instead I’ll be sharing info about the books, links to where to buy them, occasionally interviews form the authors themselves, and I’ll be giving away a copy (or more) of each book to email subscribers! (sign up for our email list right here)

The Opposite of Spoiled

When I started educating myself about personal finance it was only natural for my kids to catch on. Finding ways to teach them personal finance basics and help them learn to be savers is so important. I’m encouraging them to make mistakes now before the stakes are higher and more expensive. I’ve written about everything from allowances to birthday spending, but I haven’t covered it all. That’s where The Opposite of Spoiled comes in. Ron Lieber, a writer for the New York Times, crafted this must-read book for parents who want to teach their kids fiscal responsibility.

About the book & author

For many parents, conversations with their kids about money can be as awkward as talking about sex. The New York Times “Your Money” columnist Ron Lieber—a parent himself—says that if we have our kids’ best interests at heart, we need to shatter the taboos around talking with them about money.

The award-winning writer offers a persuasive parenting manifesto filled with solid, tested advice on how to help our children make better financial decisions, develop better habits, and acquire the tools they’ll need to grow into grounded young adults with good values and habits. With a warm, personal touch and stories drawn from families with a wide range of incomes, Lieber combines a practical financial primer with a foundation of values and virtues, tackling all of the basics: the tooth fairy, allowance, chores, charity, savings, birthdays, holidays, cell phones, checking accounts, clothing, cars, part-time jobs and college.

In the book, Lieber answers some of the most pressing questions that parents have about money, from the toddler years until their kids go away to college, such as:

  • Should you tell your kids how much money you make?
  • What’s the point of an allowance, and what should the terms be?
  • Should every child work — and pay for some of college themselves?
  • How do you explain why some friends have more money and some have less?
  • What’s the best way to make giving a family activity?
  • When does a child tip over into materialism, and what can you do about it?

Want a preview of what you’ll learn in the book? Read this thought-provoking piece from the New York Times, “Why You Should Tell Your Children How Much You Make.”

Enter the giveaway

Sign up for our email list right here and get learn how to enter to win.

Buy the book

Purchase The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money at your local bookseller or Amazon.com.

Kelly

25 Cheap Family Activities for President’s Day Weekend

President’s Day is on Monday and with it comes a brief reprieve from schedules and schoolwork. Most kids have a long weekend this weekend and our kids are no exception. In addition to having Monday off they also have off Friday and a short day on Thursday. It means we have a long stretch of time to fill without a schedule (yay!) and a lot of cold weather, too (boo!). It can be a recipe for boredom and frustration for everyone if we just try to stick at home and do our own things.

Instead of pulling my hair out in frustration we make a plan to have some fun alongside our downtime. It makes for a nice balance and even if things don’t go as planned at least we didn’t sit at home all weekend long. So while I made my own plans I’ve collected ideas for you and your family for those days off school, too.

25 Cheap Family Activities for President’s Day Weekend

free or cheap activities for president's dayPut on your thinking cap {educational ideas}

Learn about Black History month.

Black history month is a nationally recognized month is an annual celebration of the rich history of black and African-Americans. It’s a way to honor and learn more about the great achievements of black Americans. Here are just a few ways you can learn more:

1. Visit a museum that has Black History Month exhibits or a museum focused on black History.

2. Watch a documentary that focuses on the civil rights movement. There are many great movies and documentaries to watch. PBS offers an abundance of programming for Black History Month (local listings vary), and you can find a variety of documentaries and films on Netflix.

3. Use a homeschool curriculum for a lesson outside of school. Amiyrah’s curriculum is a great place to start.

4. Look for age-appropriate activities online to help teach kids from preschool to high school. Time for Kids has some printables and engaging online articles and more.

Learn about the U.S. Presidents

There’s no better time to talk about the history of America and learn about our presidents.

5. Why not walk where the President(s) did/do? You may live nearby a Presidential birthplace or close enough for a day trip to DC or Philadelphia where you can easily to find museums, parks, libraries, and more to visit.

6. Try to memorize all the US Presidents in order. I remember memorizing it in school but had trouble when one of my kids challenged me the other day.

7. Visit the website dedicated to helping kids learn about the Presidents. Here you’ll find research material, places to visit, and more.

8. Read a biography about one or more of the Presidents. There are a wide range of books available from simple books for 1st graders to in-depth biographies for teens and adults.

I like to move it {wear the kids out ideas}

Visit Local Attractions

It’s the perfect time to visit a local museum or attraction. While they’re sure to be packed with other kids on school break it’s a great way to spend the day.

9. Visit a local garden. While it may seem odd most gardens have indoor areas or have gorgeous views even in the winter months.

LG orchid-2013-room for crop

Longwood Gardens is a local garden we love to visit. They’ll be hosting an OrKID day on February 16th that includes; Very Vanilla Discovery Station, Who Lives in the Rainforest Exploration, story reading with puppets and finger plays, Orchid Sorting Game, and Conservatory Seek and Find.

10. Go to a museum. You can find all kinds of activities at museums from hands-on kids museums that are all about kids to art or cultural museums that have activities for kids.

Franklin Institute is hosting an exhibit by LEGO builder and artist Nathan Sawaya. It includes a variety works of art interpreted in LEGO for in an exhibit titled, Art of the Brick. Read more about the exhibit here.

Get Active

Burning off some energy is the name of the game here. Look for free or low-cost and keep the ids going until they’re ready to drop.

11. Visit a climbing gym.

12. Go for a hike (with weather appropriate gear of course).

13. Go geocaching. Read all about this fun outdoor scavenger hunt here.

14. Go swimming or visit the gym. If you’re not a member look into day pass prices.

15. Skate- you can go roller skating or ice skating.

16. Visit an indoor bounce house. These are a great way for kids to literally bounce off their energy.

17. Go to an indoor play space. This can be pricey, but if you pack your own food and stick to only the included activities you can save a small fortune.

There’s no place like home. {things to do at home}

Get Cooking (or Baking)

baking

Cooking and baking are great activities for when it’s cold outside. Having little helpers may mean it takes twice as long, but the memories will be priceless and eating the results doesn’t hurt either!

18. Look for free local cooking classes at places like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma.

19. Find a special recipe, go shopping for ingredients, and get busy cooking or baking. A great cookbook for kids who are preschoolers is Pretend Soup , and look for Honest Pretzels for elementary school kids.

20. Bake bread. Kids love to make bread and it’s a great thing to eat, give to a friend or neighbor, and eat. ;)

21. Look on Yummly for recipes to make.

Get crafty with it {craft ideas}

drawing

Crafting can keep kids busy for hours and hours. Just try not to worry about the glitter you’ll still be finding weeks later!

22. Look at all our fun and frugal craft ideas. You can make LEGO friendship bracelets, owl paper rolls, and more. Check out all our craft ideas for inspiration and ideas!

23. Visit a local craft shop and stock up-especially in the clearance aisle!

24. Go to a paint your own pottery place. It’s great fun and you’ll get a nice keepsake out of it.

Give back {volunteer ideas}

Why not spend some time volunteering this weekend? It’s a great use of your ‘extra’ time and is incredibly rewarding. Look for local animal nonprofits, children’s charities, food banks and more that accept family volunteers. If you can’t find a nonprofit to volunteer at consider all your other options. You could:

  • visit a nursing home,
  • volunteering at your school,
  • check in on local friends and neighbors who are senior citizens,
  • lend a hand to new parents,
  • or run errands or clean for someone dealing with illness.

What are your plans for President’s Day weekend? 

Kelly 

7 Non-Candy Valentines

Valentine’s Day is this weekend and with it comes adorable valentines that kids from preschool through elementary school will take to school. In many school districts candy valentines are not allowed, or like me you may prefer your kids not get loaded up on sugary treats. So I found some ideas (including the ones my kids are using) that are easy to make, don’t have candy attached, and a lot more fun than those boxed character valentines.

7 Non-Candy Valentines

7 non-candy valentines for kids

1. Yoda Best printable

I found this adorable Yoda printable on Nerd Family. It’s super simple and perfect for your Star Wars fan. Just download the free valentines, print them, have your little Star Wars fan sign them, and then attach a small glow stick to each valentine.

Find glow sticks at craft stores, dollar stores, or on Amazon.

2. Rainbow Loom Creations

My daughter is a master creator with Rainbow Loom bands. She’s made the basics like bracelets and necklaces, but has also made rings, charms, and more. Find instructional videos on Rainbow Loom and purchase extra bands at Amazon or Michael’s. Need some ideas on how to package them? Try this adorable idea from Style Me Pretty.

Find Rainbow Looms and bands at Michael’s or Amazon.

3. LEGO friendship bracelets

LEGO Friendship Bracelets

These adorable LEGO friendship bracelets are easy to make and everyone will love them! While Tonya made this post for party favors they will work great as valentines, too. Just include a note that says, “I can’t LEGO of you, Valentine.”

Find LEGOS and string at Amazon.

4. Scratch Off Ticket Valentines

scratch-off-ticket-valentines-teachmama.com_

What a fun idea! Amy from TeachMama.com shares a variety of scratch off valentines including tic tac toe and more.

See details on Amy’s site for all the supplies you’ll need.

5. Fortune Tellers

Fortune tellers are great for Valentine’s Day. My daughter hand-made her own last year, but you can also find printable versions like this one from DesignMom.

All you need for these is paper!

6. LEGO Mini Marble Maze

LEGO Mini Marble Maze Valentine for Kids

This one is part game, part LEGO awesomeness, and part Valentine. You’ll find a free printable and instructions on how to make it on the blog here.

You probably already have LEGOs, marbles, and paper on hand.

7. Paper Boxes

DIY Pretty Paper Roll Pillow Boxes

Fill these easy to make paper boxes with a love or friendship note and include a small trinket.

What non-candy valentines have you given out or received?

Kelly

How to Create a Disney World Surprise Word Puzzle and Riddle

We love to surprise our kids with fun and adventure, but sometimes you can’t surprise your kids completely. We had set plans that the kids knew about, but we still wanted to surprise them. We knew we’d be taking a trip to Disney World as part of the Disney Social Media Moms conference, but we didn’t want them to know exactly what or when we were going. The benefit of them knowing was that they helped us prepare, pack, and we were able to encourage them to save for their trip.

In order to keep the date and some other surprises under wraps they were given a false date for our departure. They had a countdown calendar and everything!

We wanted a way to surprise them on the way to the airport, so my husband landed on the idea of a riddle and word puzzle. The kids love them so it was a natural fit.

With kids that are elementary to high school age we knew we needed something more complicated, but wanted it to be easy enough for our youngest to get involved without making our older kids feel like it wasn’t hard, too. This fit the bill perfectly.

We sent them off to school on the morning of our departure, finished packing, and picked them up early for ‘a doctor’s appointment’. Somehow we managed to fool them long enough that when we handed them the clues they still had no idea what was going to happen.

Creating a Disney World Surprise:

Disney World Surprise Word Puzzle

It’s a simple concept-you create a riddle and then make a code they have to solve using a book as the key. The riddle is scrambled up so they have to sort out the sentences to be in the correct order. Lastly, there was a word puzzle with the answer. It’s a little time intensive, but only took us about a few hours to put together. My husband and I worked together while watching TV one night.

It goes like this:

Solve Code->Read Sentences->Unscramble Sentences->Read Riddle->Try to Solve Riddle->Get Final Answer Word Puzzle->Solve Word Puzzle->Read Word Puzzle->SURPRISE!

How it works:
It may seem complicated, but you can include all these steps or make it simpler based on your children’s ages.

Here’s how it breaks down: The riddle becomes the basis for the code. Each number in the code correlates to the first letter of on each page.

Each phrase is completed on a different clue, so the order of the sentences is mixed up. By doing it this way the kids don’t know what the order is until they have solved all the word puzzles.

Once all the word puzzles are solved they have to unscramble them to make the riddle.

After they solved the riddle they were allowed to guess, but then when they couldn’t figure it out we gave them the final clue-a word puzzle they had to solve and then figure out.

It was so fun! It took them about 30-40 minutes to figure it all out, and by that time we were nearing the airport! We had more surprises for them in store once we arrived in Florida and went to Disney World as well, so it really set the tone for our trip.

You can see a video of their reaction when they figured it out on YouTube. It’s embedded on the website, too.

How to make your own word puzzle surprise:

Whether you’re taking a trip to see our favorite Mouse or you’re headed on another adventure you can use this idea to create a fun game and surprise for your kids or adults alike!

Start with your riddle. Here is what ours riddle and the answer sentence looked like when completed.

Disney World Riddle Key

Download our riddle key here.

Since our key was very specific I’ve also created a blank one you can download below. Just make sure you keep it away from little eyes!
Disney World Surprise Riddle Key Blank

Download a blank riddle key here.
Next you need a book. Any one will do. We used a book we were reading as a family at the time, House of Secrets.

The instructions we gave verbally, but you can also write them out. They would say, “This book is your first clue. Use the below numeric code to find the letters. (if you want to add this you can) Use the first letter on the pages listed to read the riddle.”

The first sentence was in order from 1-4. The second sentence was completed by starting with clue 4 and then going in 1-2-3 order. It looked like this order: 1-2-3-4. 4-1-2-3.

Our clues looked like the below sequences.

Clue 1

149 | 39-222 | 39-17-195-39-149-3 | 31-105 | 88-39-V-105 | 222-246-97-235 |39-302-95-82-95-27-149-Z-105

235-88-105 | 39-210-97-31-105-195 | 235-88-149-97 | 195-149-3-105 | 3-95-105-97 149-210-V-95-82-V-105

Clue 2: 

You must work together.

222-95-222 | 39-210-3 | 3-39-3 | 88-39-V-105 | 97-95-222-105 | 82-149-105-97

31-149-82-82 | 235-105-82-82 | 235-88-105 | 235-195-246-235-88 | 95-17 | 31-88-105-210 | 149-235-97 | 3-246-105

Clue 3: 

The right order will rhyme.

235-95 | 3-149-97-210-105-191 | 31-95-195-82-3 | 149-210 | 17-149-V-105 | 3-39-191-97,

235-88-105 | 195-149-3-3-82-105 | 235-88-39-235 | 31-105 | 88-39-V-105 | 27-149-V-105-210 | 235-95 | 191-95-246,

Clue 4: 

The first one on each will solve.

149-97 | 210-95-235 | 235-88-105 | 31-39-191 | 95-246-195 | 97-235-95-195-191 | 302-82-39-191-97

235-88-149-97 | 149-97-235-88-105 | 302-46-Z-Z-82-105 | 191-95-246 | 222-246-97-235 | 97-95-82-V-105

Lastly, we used a visual clue for the last sentence.

Visual puzzle surprise

Download the visual puzzle here.

Disney Visual puzzle clues
Download the visual puzzle key here.

Have you ever created a surprise like this? If so how did you share the news?

Kelly

Deal Alert! Amazon Mom Discount for New Members

You guys know I’m a huge fan of my Amazon Prime membership, and while we don’t have kids in diapers anymore (hallelujah!) I know many readers do. So when I saw that Amazon was offering a great discount for new members of Amazon Mom I had to share.

New Amazon Mom members who join the program through February 10, 2015 will receive 50% off qualifying Huggins Diapers, Pull-Ups Training Pants and Goodnites Youth Pants. What a steal! You can’t find better prices anywhere.

Here’s how to get your discount.

Click here to go to Amazon Mom and sign up. Add the items you want to your cart. The discount applies to purchases made between January 27, 2015 and March 10, 2015.

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Sign up or read more about Amazon Mom.

Are you a member of Amazon Mom or Amazon Prime?

Kelly

Reindeer Lollipops

If you are looking for a last-minute gift idea that kids can make and gift this holiday season that uses mostly scrap materials (and a big bag of lollipops), then I’ve got the perfect one.

How to Make Reindeer Lollipops

reindeer lollipops

What you need:

  • scrap paper or card stock in brown, grey and/or black – it doesn’t matter if it’s not the same, as you can see different textures and patterns are fun to work with.
  • red lollipop
  • glue
  • googly eyes
  • scissors and an X-ACTO knife

how to make a reindeer lollipop for the holidays

Begin by drawing an oval shape on the back of a piece of paper and cut it out. It doesn’t need to be perfect and no two reindeer have to look alike and if they are more round, or even heart-shaped then that’s perfectly fine too, just remember you need to cut two identical shaped pieces per lollipop (a front and a back).

how to make a reindeer lollipop

Next, draw a circle in the middle of just the front piece and cut it out … adults may need to help here especially if using the X-ACTO knife for cutting.

how to make a reindeer lollipop for the holidays

Now, draw the antlers – as you can see, none of mine look alike. Glue them into place on the inside of the back piece of the reindeer’s head.

how to make a reindeer lollipop for the holidays

Glue the front piece over the top, allowing space at the bottom (about 2 inches) for the lollipop to be inserted between the two pieces of card.

how to make a reindeer lollipop

how to make a reindeer lollipop

Glue on your googly eyes. Set aside to dry completely, otherwise the front piece may start lifting off the back as you are putting the lollipop inside.

how to make a reindeer lollipop for the holidays

Once completely dry, pop your lollipop in to make Rudolph’s nose.

reindeer lollipop

Happy gifting!

Tonya