product review

National Geographic KIDS – Review

We started the kids on a National Geographic KIDS subscription about 8 months ago. We were looking for a smart way to educate them through reading and naturally, learning about animals seemed like a nice option.

Is this for me?

Our three kids are still young, ages 2 to 6, and we got them started on the National Geographic Little Kids subscription. We have found them super fun and easy to read. The kids get to learn about several different animal species in each issue and participate in interactive fun games, such as Find the Differences, etc.

This subscription is geared towards pre-schoolers and do a great job at engaging the children in discussions. We have found that our kids learn from reading the articles and like to “teach” us about what they learned. National Geographic also does a really good job at including questions that spark discussions between parents and children.

While coming to the higher end of the age group, our Kindergartner has started enjoying the Little Kids edition on her own. With easy to read articles, she is able to practice her reading and understand most articles on her own!! Very fun way to learn how to read and build confidence in young readers!

 

Once your kids get a little older, sign them up for a National Geographic KIDS subscription. Geared towards children ages 6+, the topics discussed are closer to the ones presented in the adult version of the magazine. Older children will enjoy learning about animals, science, archaeology, geography, but also technology and pop culture.

The topics will bring your children’s natural curiosity out and allow them to explore new areas in a safe and child-friendly environment.

 

What does this cost?

Both subscriptions currently run for $15 a year. Your child will receive a magazine every second month. This is such a nice alternative to a toy for birthdays and Christmas. Consider it as birthday gift for little friends as well. We definitely find that our kids get more out of receiving experiences and subscriptions than traditional toys, which get forgotten soon after being received

What we like most?

  • National Geographic KIDS are ad-free. Children do not get distracted nor influenced by visually distractive ads
  • At $15 / year, or $2.50 / issue, the price point is attractive and fair for the quality of the articles and pictures included
  • The topics gravitate around animals, nature, plants, cultures, science and are relevant to the age groups targeted
  • With 35 years of experience, National Geographic does a great job bringing information to children in a fun and accessible way and we have used the magazines as inspiration for several school projects!
  • Our kids’ reaction when they pull a new magazine out of the mailbox!!

 

Share with us which other magazines your children have enjoyed reading and learning from!

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Portable Car Seat – Review

mifold booster

Ever rented a car after a plane ride with kids in tow? Or hopped in a cab with littles ones too young to legally sit on their own? While most airlines allow you to check in car seats free of charge, the whole traveling through airports with kids + car seats + luggages + hand luggages + strollers, can make your experience less than enjoyable… and if you don’t travel with your own equipment, the price to rent car seats is outrageously expensive… We have found the perfect solution to the problem: the portable car seat!

MiFold – Grab-and-Go Booster

For just under $40, MiFold offers a super cute and convenient portable car seat called “grab-and-go booster.” About the size of a stack of wipes, 10 times smaller than a regular car seat and just as safe, it is our favorite travel companion. We have loved being able to carry it in a backpack or the stroller and the investment is well worth it considering the savings in car seat rentals or trouble in finding taxis to accommodate our party in certain locations.

The MiFold will work for children 4 years or older and be safe for kids 40 to 100 pounds, or 40 to 57 inches tall. It has travelled with us across the United States and overseas and we never regretted not transporting the bulky seats with us on those short trips. It is an excellent solution when you know you won’t be driving for hours, or you’ll be in and out of several taxis while visiting a new area.

Have you experienced other good travel solutions? If so, please share!! We’d love to hear how you make traveling with kiddos safe, easier and simpler!

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Disposable Trash Cans

This is the product review of a wonderful invention: the Clean Cubes Disposable Trash Cans.

When we moved into our new home a few months ago, our kitchen was nowhere close to being finished. We ended up spending 5 weeks eating out of an old microwave. One detail that does not jump top of mind but that you quickly come to realize is that: no kitchen = no trash can.

Good friends of ours gave us 2 sets of 3 disposable trash cans. I had never heard of the concept before but let me tell you – this is genius! If you are to ever host a party, this is a must-have!

Clean Cubes Disposable Trash Cans

Clean Cubes Disposable Trash CansYou can buy sets of 3 or 12. All you need to do is to unfold the trash, prop it opened (little trick: push right in the middle of the shorter sides to keep the rectangular shape wide open), and dispose of the whole thing when done.

While they were a true life saver for us – we set some up in the main room but also in each bathroom – most people do have a proper kitchen and trash can. However, think parties and special events. We recently hosted a Super Bowl party and my husband did not want our 30+ guests opening our pull drawer to trash their beers. We set up 2 Clean Cubes disposable trash cans in the party area and disposed of them at the end of the game!

Note: we tested them with several dozens bottles of beer and they are totally leak-proof!!

Themed Trash Cans

My favorite part of the product might be the cute designs they come in. Forget the boring black trash can… Clean Cubes are themed for your events. You will still find the plain white for office parties for example, but they come in a variety of other designs. For our Super Bowl party, we had purchased the football edition. Other themes include: Christmas, birthday, fourth of July, graduation, Halloween, party, picnic, bridal / baby shower, road trip, and many more.

Based on the size of your event, they have several sizes from 4 to 30 gallons available.

We love using them and keep some stocked in our home. They make for the perfect trash can solution for parties, events, picnics, tailgating, boat trips, trade shows, etc.

Click on any of the links below to discover the different designs available: 

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WubbaNub Pacifier – Review

This is the product review of our all-time favorite pacifier: the WubbaNub Pacifier!

 I was one of those young women – I knew exactly what my child would be like, what she would and not do, how she’d behave, etc. There was one certainty: my child would not be sucking on a pacifier. I would find ways to put her to sleep and soothe her when she cried. That is until… my child was born. With her, came colics and endless cries. Nothing but my walking her around the house would make her feel b

etter. I remember her first 8 weeks – we’d go for walks 3 times a day, I’d bathe her twice, and the rest of the time, I would walk her in circles inside our home. I had a colicy baby who, day and night, would not stop crying. The poor child was in pain and uncomfortable, and there is nothing her Dad and I could do to make her better. We read all about it: learned massage techniques, put her on her back and had her bicycle with her little legs up, gave her belly time, gripe water, I removed cow milk from my diet, drank special teas for stomach comfort… We tried everything. Until one day… she had been crying for hours and I gave in. My child who would never be sucking on a pacifier, was given her first pacifier. We had gotten one from our hospital stay. I put it in her little mouth and within seconds, she stopped crying. That might have only lasted a few minutes but it gave me hope.

 

Which pacifier would be our pacifier?

Now that my child would be a pacifier baby, I needed to research which one would work best. Who would have known that so many different shapes existed? Clearly, I had some catch up to do. I found that the green Avent one from the hospital was

working well. She liked sucking on it, but it fell off her little mouth. The first night she slept with it, she would wake us up because she could not find it. Certainty #2: if my child was going to sleep with a pacifier, I would find one that would stay in her mouth. I was up 4 times a night to breastfeed her. The little bit of sleep in between feed was sacred!

After a good amount of searching, and remembering a friend’s daughter using them, I came across the WubbaNub Pacifier. Seeing that one-year old sucking on it, I had always thought that it looked big and heavy for her little jaws. I ordered a pack of 3 to give them a try. When we purchased ours, in early 2012, they did not have all the design choices they have today. We ordered the dog / giraffe / monkey set. They were the cutest thing I had ever seen.

WubbaNub Pacifier

 

More cute models under this link: WubbaNub Pacifier

Here is the greatest (and most genius) thing about the WubbaNub pacifier: the nipple is sewed into a little plush the size of an adult hand (about 6 inches long). The hands and feet of the plush are weighed with little pearls, preventing the pacifier from falling out of the baby’s mouth. All you have to do, after laying your child on his back, is to place the plush on his chest. We noticed that some of the new models do not have weighed feet and we recommend getting the one with weights. They are a lifesaver in those early weeks / months. The pacifier will usually stay in place and keep the nipple in their mouth.

As your child grows older, it will be much easier for him to find his own pacifier in bed in the middle of the night. The plush is not only the perfect size for their little hands, it prevents the nipple from rolling off and getting lost in the bed. The younger ones like to hold on to the legs and manipulate the soft animal. It is also much easier for them to learn to bring it to their mouth than a small binky.

The nipple – Soothie – itself is medical grade and latex-free. We could not tell the difference from the nipple we were given at the hospital. The entire pacifier is machine washable. We put ours in mesh bags and let them air dry.

Today, Mary Meyer designs lots of very cute animals for WubbaNub. You will find one for every taste. All colors and many animal choices are available. They also make the perfect baby shower gift, with many gender-neutral options! Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry

Let us know which one was your baby’s favorite one! We played with them and purchased a bunch of different designs. They were all a hit. I don’t think our babies turned out having a true favorite. They were just fun to use interchangeably!

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ZAQ Essential Oil Diffusers – Review

One of my friends got me hooked up on essential oil diffusers about half a year ago. Every time I’d visit her, not only would her home smell like a spa, I’d always feel at ease and peace. She pointed out her diffuser and shared some of her favorite oils with me. The view of the mist coming out and the very slight white noise it emits, seemed to have a calming effect on me. I love being able to chose different scents based on my mental or physical state and feeling – my all time favorites include either mint smells (mint, eucalyptus) or citrus smells (lemon, lemongrass, orange).

I purchased this one during Black Friday and chose some blended essential oils:

Today, I automatically turn it on when I enter my bedroom at night, set it to diffuse for 1 hour while reading or watching TV, and it turns itself off after an hour. I love mine for its large water capacity (200mL) and I can run it over a week at 1 hour each night, before having to refill it. It can be set on 1-hour, 3-hour, 6-hour, and steady modes. Another nice function, that I do not use (but my kids love playing with), is the 7 color mood lighting. It creates a nice ambiance and you can chose a specific color or let it run through all colors.

 

 

 

KID OIL DIFFUSER

We have been struggling with putting our 2.5 year-old to bed at night. She went from being a pretty good sleeper to taking forever to go sleep. She’ll stay up, play with her Duplos, go bother her sister… anything to not have to sleep. We’ve pretty much tried everything unsuccessfully and I told my husband that I would get her a nightlight and her own essential oil diffuser, and try to have our Echo Dot play peaceful nature sounds as she falls asleep. As I started researching, I stumbled upon the best surprise, and honestly, a genius product: ZAQ Sky Aroma Essential Oil Kids Diffuser LiteMist Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Humidifier – Starry Sky Projection (White)

 

It comes in 5 colors: white, pink, yellow, blue, and black. This diffuser is an essential oil diffuser and nightlight in one product. Once plugged, it will project colorful stars on the ceiling and can be set on a going-to-sleep mode. Over a 30-minute period of time, the projection brightness decreases until turning off, naturally motivating the child to fall asleep. All of that while diffusing your favorite calming oils. If the timer is not for you, the diffuser can stay on for up to 12 hours.

As added benefit, this ZAQ diffuser is also an ionizer, purifying your child’s room air, leaving it free of odors, germs, and dust.

We love this one! I love that it turns itself off so I don’t need to enter her room before going to bed. She points out to the star projection as we put her to sleep and she has been going to sleep much faster than she used to.

Click here for a list of more children essential oil diffuser!

Write a comment below to let us know your tricks and tips to putting your toddlers in bed! We would also love to hear which oils you recommend for your little ones!

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Baby Wipes – Review

We have had up to 2 kids in diapers at the same time and diapered non-stop for nearly 6 years. And while this Mommy is doing a happy dance for being done with diapers!!!, we continue to purchase and use baby wipes for face wiping, sticky / muddy / gooey hand wiping, butt wiping, dashboard wiping… the list goes on! My glove compartment and purse, are two of the places where you will always find baby wipes.

As with anything baby-related, parents are overloaded with options. We have tried several brands – some gave raw rashes, some felt dry, others too perfumed, but a couple stood out for us. We like non-fragrant wipes, which get the job done, do not irritate baby’s fragile skin, preferably do not leave a mess on our hands, and absorb well enough that you only need 1, max 2, wipes to get the job done.

Aldi Wipes

 

We are fierce Aldi shoppers, having lived in Germany and grown up with Aldi in our backyards. For those unfamiliar with Aldi, they are a private German grocery store. Their business model is based on savings passed on to their customers and you will mostly find private labels in their stores. A few years ago, they launched their own baby product collection, ranging from baby food, to baby diapers, wipes, soap, and formula. They are very competitively priced and we have loved their wipes from the first day. Their wipes are hypoallergenic, quilted for softness and durability and feature three layers to prevent tears. That pretty hit everything on our list! For this of you living abroad, we found the quality of their diapers and wipes to be equally good, not matter which country you live in! Click here for a link of Aldi’s baby products. Their brochure has everything you need to know about their products. If you have not been to an Aldi before, we highly recommend finding one near you and giving it a try!

 

Amazon Wipes

We once left our weekly grocery trip without wipes. Being an Amazon Prime member, and usually preferring to shop online anyways, I wanted to give Amazon’s own baby wipes a try. We went for the unscented type and ordered a box of 6. We have loved them ever since!! They just seemed to be perfect in every way – we found them to be larger than most wipes, strong, moist, very soft and gentle on babies’ butts. They have 3 choices: Sensitive, Unscented, and Fresh Scent. They come in flip-top packs, making them easy to use, close, and carry with you pretty much everywhere. I also loved the fact that some of the ingredients are sourced in the US. The aloe leaf juice, which soothes and moisturizes the skin, is sourced right around the corner from where we live, in Melbourne, FL! After ordering our first box of 6, we were hooked and sign up for Subscribe and Save. We set our delivery schedule at 2 months and never had to think about buying wipes again. With our growing munchkins finally coming out of their diapers, we adjusted to receive a box every 6 months, which works great for us!


 

 

 

 

For those of you who aren’t Amazon Prime members yet, please sign up for a free trial. Parenthood is busy enough and this one is definitely worth paying for. For $99/year, Amazon will not only ship millions of items free of charge to you, you will have access to unlimited streaming on Prime Videos, unlimited photo cloud storage on Amazon Photos, free Kindle books, special deals, etc.! We don’t like to spend money when we don’t have to, but we have never thought twice about renewing this membership. Give it a free 30-day trial and see whether this is for you:
Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Share your favorite wipes with our readers in the Comments box below!

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ROBOTIME DIY – crafts for kids and adults – Review

A good friend of ours got their daughter and ours a wonderful do-it-yourself miniature doll house for their birthdays – ROBOTIME DIY Dollhouse. We tend to always gravitate towards Legos and Playmobils, which are some of our household’s favorites, and this was a very refreshing alternative. I had never really thought about getting my 6-year old something to build that did not involve bricks. I probably should have since one of our kids’ most popular games is the building of houses, huts, forts, with chairs, blankets, cartons, and anything else the kids can get their hands on.

We received this little wonder of a toy and she started building immediately! We found the steps nicely detailed and the directions easy to follow. In our case, I would say that our not-overly-crafty / slightly-too-active 6-year old required a bit of assistance from us, but she was some of the most focused I had ever seen her. I loved seeing her attention to detail develop and creativity come out. She was definitely enjoying herself! She wanted to make this a close representation of the picture on the box and did a pretty good job! Directions, based on the model, estimate about 20 hours of building and it took her a bit longer than that, but made for a nice activity on the few cold weekends we had over the winter.

Ranging right around the $30, those make a high-quality gift for a reasonable price. I also love that they have a whole series with different rooms so you could build a whole house! I mean, seriously, some of the rooms are the cutest thing ever. Look at that greenhouse!! The amount of work and detail is very impressive and will keep kids and adults entertained for a little while!

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Balance Bikes – Review

We lived in Germany for three years, raising three young children there. While we had the most fantastic time, it was clear that German parenting was quite different than what we had gotten used to in the US. Even though my husband and I were born and raised in Germany and France, respectively, we evolved as parents every day, watching and learning a new way of raising children. We fell in love with many aspects of it, one of which being the freedom that German parents give to their children. Children, as young as 6 years old, are expected to walk/ride to school, un-accompagnied! You will see young kids riding the subway to school. Our village at 7.30AM seemed like a giant scooter matrix, with kids rolling themselves to school. Imaginable in many other western countries… Playgrounds are, for the most part, unsecured per American standards – yet, no Mom looks concerned and no-one falls… Children are allowed to try, fail, try harder, take risks, live their lives, be children!

One thing that you will notice in a German city, are tiny little children on bicycles. Many Germans will tell you that their kids never had to learn to ride a bicycle. They get on their Laufrad (balance bike) before they can walk. By the time they’re 3 to 4 years old, parents upgrade them to pedal bikes without training wheels, and children don’t have to think twice – they naturally know how to ride bikes. They have spent years and countless kilometers practicing their balance and cycling has become second nature to them.

So we went ahead and got our first child a balance bike. Germans swear by the Puky brand. They come in various sizes and the smallest one was a perfect fit for our 10-month old. She was not yet walking at the time and it took her 2 to 3 tries to understand that she could roll herself. We raised the sit as she got older, eventually upgrading her to the taller model. Quickly, she started taking longer leaps. Downhill, she’d raise her legs and free-roll for 6 or 7 seconds. Until one day, my husband took an actual pedal bike out of the car. While he was unpacking the stroller for her little brother, she’d taken the new bike and as we turned around, we saw her pedaling herself away. She never had to learn to ride a bike, she knew how to!

It is so much fun to go for walks with your 1-year old biking next to you. They gain confidence in their bodies, learn to balance, get competitive, and can independently keep up with your speed!

Think of balance bikes as a great gift for baby showers or your own little one!

While we have loved our Puky bikes and can vouch for their high quality, other respected brands offer the same great benefits at a lower price point:

We have loved our balance bikes and we hope you do too! Please share with us your little one’s successes in the Comments section!

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Chalkboard Paint – Review

I had always imagined my children playing in their rooms. They would spend time there, reading books, playing with building cubes, jumping on their beds eventually… it would their place, away from the parents, to be the children they wanted to be. Turns out, our kids never spent a minute in their rooms. Instead, transforming our living room into a battlefield, seemed much more enjoyable.

Then came the summer when baby #3 was old enough to add her madness to my living room, and enough was enough. Those kids would need to start playing in their rooms and I started researching the best ways to entice them to spend more time in their personal spaces.

They went to the local Montessori school time at the time. Having always loved the Montessori philosophy and seeing how much they enjoyed it as little students, I decided to re-create the playful environment. Many websites described the perfect Montessori bedroom with toys at children’s reach, open shelves, mattresses on the floor instead of beds… While I did not incorporate every single element in each room, our youngest daughter got the open shelves with her favorite colorful wooden toys and musical instruments widely exposed. When she first entered her bedroom, she was immediately drawn towards her toys and started playing. As per the Montessori guidelines, I installed a play area on the floor, made up of a rug, mirror, and baskets with hard cover books. She picked up a toy, naturally went to sit on the rug by the mirror and started to play. Every once in a while, she’d lose interest in her toys – I’d pack them up and bring out new ones. I had found an easy way for my 1-year old to play and entertain herself! Best part, I had not spent a dime. Re-organizing the space and re-purposing items we already owned is all it took to create a playful environment. Toys went from being forgotten at the bottom of drawers to being displayed in full-baby-sight and played with! Goal #1 was reached!

I then moved on to the harder task of creating a playful space for my 4-year old. Neither her, nor her 3-year old brother, had really ever played with toys. They’d use sticks and remotes, balls and clubs, but toys had never interested them. I started by creating a reading nook for them, using a mattress we did not need and adding customized pillows, leaving books in baskets for them to see and grab. That worked well but I was missing the “playful” I had in mind. Until I remembered a project I had always wanted to take on but never been bold enough to implement. I went and got Chalkboard Paint!

Oh my…

Using painters tape to create straight lines and double coating the paint, I created a giant chalkboard wall! I kept it all at the children’s level so they wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by a tall wall. We mounted a little black wall shelf, where we left their chalks easily accessible from their height. And off they went with their imaginations…. They spent countless hours scribbling, drawing, writing in their room. Once in a while, I’d use the wall to teach letters or numbers. Adults themselves quite enjoyed it too… 😉 and their little friends loved coming over to draw on the “black wall.”

                                                     

Miraculously, my children started playing in their rooms. We had created a little children’s paradise and we all started spending time in their rooms, role-playing, drawing, comfortably reading books. It all happened on a very small budget because we re-purposed items to make them work for the kids. As for the paint, we used this one and loved it:

I did prime first and double-coat for good results. Once the paint dried up, they also recommend chalking the entire wall once and wiping it off for best performance, which we did. The kids have drawn on their wall for almost 2 years, and once they’re done, we simply wipe it down with a hand towel. When it gets messy, I will use a wet towel to clean it all up!

A couple of other brands exist, which we have not tested:

                           

One version of the product is clear, instead of the traditional black, allowing you to write with chalk on an already colored wall, door, dresser, etc:

Have fun and share photos of your projects! Happy painting!

 

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SwimTrainer – Review

With 3 little water babies, we have been in and around pools with our kids for most of their lives. When our first born was just about 6 weeks old, we read dozens of product reviews to find the best swim aid / baby floater to help get her comfortable in the water. The search ended when I stumbled into the SwimTrainer at a store one day.

We have used it on all 3 of our children and let me tell you how amazing it has been to our family!

Fred’s Swim Academy offers 2 different sizes based on the age and weight of your child. We started with the red one, for babies as young as 3 months or 13 pounds, up to 4 years or 40 pounds. Securely strapped into the SwimTrainer, your little one will automatically be placed on his stomach, in the natural swimming position. Supported under his belly, the baby has full motion of his legs, while his head is supported by the front of the SwimTrainer. After a few pool outings, you will naturally find your child tapping his feet and little legs towards you (or other points of interest… sorry Mommy…)! Our kids went from this to swimming in no time, having learned to trust the water laying on their bellies and flapping their legs.

We have loved the SwimTrainer so very much and it has travelled the world with us. We bought just one and it served all 3 of our crazy kids. It is so durable that we have passed it on to some friends who love using it with their son.

Should you have a slightly older non-swimmer, go straight for the bigger model:

The Yellow SwimTrainer will teach your 4 to 8-year olds to apprehend the water and learn the joys of floating and swimming.

This was our 8-month old little one, enjoying herself and a bit of freedom in an Egyptian pool (supervised by Daddy right near by, of course!):

SwimTrainer Fred’s Swim Academy

 

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