Nov 17, 2016

Why We Choose to Do Kindness Elves and 30 Ideas for Holiday Kindness

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Christmas is my favorite holiday. One of the most exciting parts of being a mom is watching my children experience and learn to love Christmas! It is truly a joy! I have loved following the traditions with my boys that my mom did with us- decorating the tree, baking cookies, singing Christmas songs, reading The Night Before Christmas, and eating pumpkin pie for breakfast Christmas morning.

One of the newer "traditions" is the Elf on the Shelf." Before I even had kids there were things about it that sort of bothered me. First off, he's really creepy looking! I remember we had a similar elf that was my great grandmother's and my sister was terrified of it! I also don't like how he is supposed to spy on kids and report back. And I don't have time to make messes that I then have to clean up. I also don't think it lines up with our beliefs about Christmas- that Jesus was a gift given to all who would accept him; not because we earned it with our perfect behavior but because God loved us (imperfections and all). Add in the commercialization and ridiculous cost and I knew we would opt out.

That's why I love the idea of Kindness Elves. I discovered the idea on Pinterest. The Kindness Elves are the brainchild of Anna at The Imagination Tree. The idea is simple: cute little elves that leave ideas of kind things to do leading up to Christmas. I love that the Kindness Elves' focus is doing things for others rather than on "earning" presents with good behavior. They reinforce the values I'm trying to teach my little ones better.

Our Kindness Elves are two little vintage Elf ornaments that belonged to my mother. Yours could be any cute elves or you can purchase ones from I know that Target usually has cute little elf ornaments that are inexpensive.  I also found this cute set on Amazon.

I write the Elf notes on cute decorative post it notes. This year I happened to have little star shaped ones. 

Here is my list of ideas. Some do require a little bit of spending but many are free or nearly free. Again, the focus should be on spreading kindness and joy- not on consumption and buying. I hope you all enjoy!

  • Bake cookies for the neighbors
  • Donate a toy to Toys for Tots
  • Visit the Salvation Army Bell Ringers and drop a coin in the bucket. If it's cold you could also bring the ringer a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Make Blessing bags for the homeless
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter
  • Donate food to a local food drive
  • Bring coloring books and crayons to the Children's Hospital
  • Go Christmas Caroling at a Nursing Home
  • Call grandparents or great grandparents. Better yet- visit if they are close!
  • Make homemade ornaments for friends
  • Make a card for a recovering veteran and take it to the VA Hospital. Donations accepted at our local VA include magazines no more than 2 months old, phone cards, and gas cards. Note that you can no longer mail a card to an unknown soldier as they won't be accepted post-September 11th
  • Go through your toys and donate some to the Salvation Army or other charity
  • "Adopt" an Angel from an Angel Tree or other similar program
  • Sort through your books and bring ones you no longer read to the doctor office waiting room
  • Feed the birds- you could make a bird feeder if you don't already have one
  • Make gift tags for the presents you will be giving this year
  • Make Thank you notes for Christmas gifts you will receive- December 26 the elves can instruct the children to fill them out
  • Make a freezer meal for a new mom or soon to be expecting friend
  • Donate outgrown clothes to the Salvation Army
  • Leave coupons on products at the grocery store
  • pick up trash around the neighborhood or a park
  • Bring a gift basket to the local police or fire department
  • Make a card for the mailman
  • go to the park and invite other kids to play
  • Leave a note and some stickers for the next reader in a library book you loved
  • Say hello to every person you see that day and give them a smile
  • Bring school supplies to your teacher
  • Make cards for your friends telling them what you love about them
  • Send a care package to a friend serving in the military overseas
  • Do a chore for your sibling
What are some of your ideas for the Kindness Elves? I would love to hear them in the comments!
Nov 1, 2016

Gift Guide For Two Year Olds

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With Halloween officially over I can focus on preparing for Christmas- my favorite holiday! D is two now and I am so excited to see how Christmas morning is for him this year. I think this is the first year he will really get it.  I wrote last year about toys for the first year on this post.

So without further ado, here is my list of top picks for two year olds.

1. Play Kitchen and food- Daniel LOVES his play kitchen. I have a combination of Ikea and Melissa and Doug play food. He likes the Melissa and Doug Set better. He also likes his metal pots and pans better than the plastic ones (I think because he can bang them and make lots of noise lol).

2. Little People- We LOVE Little People in our house! It's one of the few plastic toys that I truly love. D has my farm from when I was a kid but I think the newer version is just as fun. We also love our Nativity Set. His Aunt got him the Disney World set last year and it still gets lots of play. He also loves his Car Ramp. This year we are getting him the Mickey and Minnie House combo for Christmas. I secretly wish he was into princesses so we could get the Disney Princess Castle but, alas, he's not. I might have to get it for my nieces!  I really don't think you can go wrong with Little People.

3. Play Tool Box- D loves to pretend to fix things so I am getting him this Hape Tool Box set. I like this one because you can actually build things with it. I'm hoping to ask one of the grand parents to get him this expansion pack with more parts. I love the quality of Hape toys and that they are mostly wood. This will be a toy that will grow with him.

4. Art Supplies- Art supplies are an awesome gift because they are CONSUMABLE! This helps cut down on toy clutter! I discovered the Ultra Washable Crayola Crayons this year and am in love! I can personally attest that they wipe off walls, furniture, cabinets, and wooden door molding with ease. I think they break a little easier but it's a small price to pay for crayon free walls! We have been using the triangular crayons to help with his grip but he's almost ready to move to the jumbo round crayons I think. I'm getting him a pack as a stocking stuffer. I also picked up a few new coloring books to go with them.

The other art supply set I picked out for him is a Crayola Color Wonder Markers Stow and Go Studio. Because he has an affinity for coloring on things other than paper I thought this would be good for when he wants to color and I'm nursing the baby or when we are out at doctor appointments etc since the markers only work on the special paper. I picked this one since all of the materials fit in the case which also acts as a clipboard for when we are out and about. I am also going to get him an extra paper pad.

5. Hot Wheels Cars and Garage- D plays with Hot Wheels Cars more than any other toy right now. I got him a small Melissa and Doug garage for his birthday and he loves playing with the Plan Toys garage at his friend's house. I think a few cars and a garage is a great gift for a boy or girl- his friends of both genders seem to love them.

6. Blocks - I think all kids need a set of Unit Blocks. Ours is by Melissa and Doug. I love unit blocks because they are an open ended toy and also last for years! I didn't mind investing more money for a nice set of blocks because I will keep them forever. In fact, when D goes to his grandparents' house he plays with a set that his Dad and uncles played with when they were kids.

7. Lego Duplos - Duplos are another toy that get a lot of play time in our home. D loves his Lego Table I built for him (check out the instructions here!). If you don't have any I recommend getting a basic box set. You can then add on for other gift giving occasions. I also have used the small, cheaper sets as potty training incentives.

8. Magna-Tiles- We actually don't have our own set of Magna-Tiles yet. This is on my list for Christmas this year. D loves building toys and has played with them at the museum so I would like a set for our house. There are a lot of different brands but Magna-Tiles are consistently the most highly recommended. Picasso tiles seem to be the preferred more economical alternative.

9. Shleich Dinosaurs- I have added to our Scheich Dinosaur collection little by little because they are a little spendy. I have been able to get some good deals on Amazon so I snatch them up and save them for holidays when I see the price drop. I prefer Schelich not only because of the great detail but because they are solid (so they stand up to rough play) and they aren't made out of cheaper plastic that off-gasses fumes like some of the China cheepies.  D loves dinosaurs and I have found the toys have led to him wanting to read his dinosaur books often. We use the toys to match with the pictures in his book which is fun. I got a good deal on Amazon for this Volcano Set which I think is a great place to start if you can get a deal since the volcano unzips into a play mat.

10. Gross Motor Toys- D is a constant ball of motion so anything that encourages gross motor play is a sure thing around here! A slide, balance toys, mini trampoline, climbers, or a swing set are all great for busy two year olds!

Let me know what you think of my list in the comments! I would love to hear what your top gift picks for two year olds are.